Saturday, August 28, 2010

collecting seashells

Weekend mornings usually start really slow for us at home... but this particular Saturday is slower than usual. as I am home alone! With my husband out of the country, my daughter back to Berkeley and my two other kids out enjoying the last days of summer, I felt lost in the deafening silence of my home.

 Is it noon yet?  I quizzed myself,  I opened the blinds in my room, and the rays of the searing sun blinded me.  Yes, it must be noon... The glass jar on the shelf filled with seashells glistened as the sun's rays struck through it. I smiled, remembering how I gathered those shells on the Atlantic coasts when we lived in a coastal town in Florida. It felt strange how our 6 years of stay there was seemingly reduced to a jar filled with seashells. A jar that continuously remind me of family and friends whom we miss terribly.

A thought popped in my head:  Hmmm I should just go walk on the beach today...but before I could put my flipflops on, I said nah, I can't go to the beach alone!... so pop goes the balloon in my head as my thoughts drifted to think about my friend Roushel..  Was it because I am home alone and I am trying to draw inspiration on how she copes living alone? She inspires me constantly... On how she could go places and do things solo:  on how she goes salsa dancing until her feet are sore... on how she drove to Neverland Ranch during Michael Jackson's death amidst the sea of fans. On how she could drive long distances to visit her husband... how she discovers the world and pursues her  dreams. And oh, don't let her age fool you, this woman knows how to live.

I met Roushel in a peculiar way. I was still in Florida when she interviewed me on the phone for a job in southern California.  She hired me on the spot, asked me to come over to the West Coast to start my training. Amidst packed brown boxes and a long list to do, I dropped everything and flew 3.000 miles to meet her.  However, her decision was stopped by some corporate politics.  You think that would be the first and last time I'd see her right? Wrong... a few months after settling in San Diego, I already had a job and I was just starting to find new friends, I called her up.  As it turned out, she was hiring.

"How did you know I am hiring?" she asked.

"No, I' m just calling to say let's do lunch".

She hired me again that day.  And this time, the hiring went through, We parted ways a few months after when she went on to pursue her dreams and take up Nursing.  I was her cheerleader, beaming with pride that she knows what she wants and she's on her way to get it...

As I look into my jar of seashells, I realized Roushell is the first shell I collected on this side of the Pacific rim. She has always inspired me to do what I love and no matter how many plans and dreams I share with her, I would always hear her say: "Go for it, I'm rooting for you!" with her usual warm smile and a hopeful look, she's definitely a precious shell to keep.


In the Philippines, corned beef is usually served for breakfast.  As I discussed in my recent post Let's talk breakfast this is usually served with silog (garlic fried rice) but since today is my alone-day and it's way past lunchtime, I decided to jazz up my usual corned beef meal.  So this is how my corned beef meal started:

Let me tell you what was on my plate:


On the upper left is a sweet brioche, which we Filipinos call ensaymada.  But sorry folks, I still have to convince my aunt to share me her recipe.  Of course we have the egg, sunny side up, the sauted corned beef and my home fries.  I spent less than 15 minutes gettting this plate altogether... so let's begin:

Corned Beef:  I just opened a can of corned beef (I prefer the brand Palm).  Sautee it with onions, garlic, tomatoes and green peppers.  Add a dash of sugar (yes sugar, that's my hubs' secret.. so shhh!), salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Home fries:  You could boil the potatoes first or if you want it on the fly just like I did, microwave the potatoes for 4 minutes.  Slice into big chunks, then brown the sides.  Add some onions and parsley, salt and pepper.  Done!

But then, I tried to jazz it up a bit... something that may frown upon... so here:

I stacked them up together on an ensaymada.  See how flaky the ensaymada is?
Then I went further...

I drizzled some honey mustard...

The result? A sweet and savory jazzed up corned beef on a brioche.  Being alone has its benefits.  I could have my food  just the way I want it.. . right Roushel?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In a Hawaii State of Mind

I am completely mesmerized with how an instrument as small as a ukulele could bring forth a magnitude of joy and happiness. It's tucked under the bed for months, but when the summer breeze blows, it comes to life again.  

The thin strings of the ukulele vibrate into the walls of our living room, amidst the giggles of my children. They try to learn a song or two. It brings so much joy to my husband and myself.  Was it the ukelele playing, or was it too much beer that made him whisper to my ear: "I'll take you to Hawaii soon!"

"Talk is cheap"  I joked "I'm taking you to Hawaii right now,", as I went to my kitchen and prepared this ukelele inspired dish.

Now i leave you with my daughter's version of a song she likes that we applauded and loved. Oops, sorry I don't know how to embed a video so just click on this link my daughter's ukelele  as I leave you with the recipe of my amazing Aloha Chops... for you to enjoy a Hawaii state of mind just like it did to us that one summer night. 

Aloha Pork chops

1 can tomato sauce
1 can sliced pineapple rings
Onions, diced
Garlic, minced
Carrots, sliced
Worcestershire sauce
 2 tbsp Olive oil

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil on a skillet.  Brown both sides of the pork chops.  Set aside.  Using the same skillet, sauté onions and garlic.  Pour in the tomato sauce.  Pour the juice from can of pineapple rings.  If you want it a little sweeter, you may add 2 tbsp of sugar. Put back in the pork chops.  Cover and cook until the sauce is reduced.  Add worcestire sauce.    Now if the pork chops are not tender yet, you may add more water or soup stock.  Let it simmer, adjust the fire into medium, and have the sauce reduced .  Caramelize the pineapple on the same skillet or you may use another pan.  Voila you are in Hawaii in no time.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

lost in irvine

I have a confession to make: I am very bad with directions. Even in a place like Irvine, CA, one of the best planned cities in the US, and with a GPS and my daughter acting as my navigator,  I still couldn't find my way around town. I still managed to make a countless number of U-turns as my GPS says : "calculating route."   Maybe it was Friday the 13th and the GPS was playing pranks on us???

It was quite an interesting adventure getting lost and making all those detours in Irvine. In such a small city, the food scene is busy.  We didn't mind getting lost at the  Diamond Jamboree Plaza, a corner Plaza that has an upbeat atmosphere.  There was a variety of places to eat and each place had its own artsy architecture and playful interior design.

Our best discovery of the day was this

It's a sushi pizza from Tokyo Table.

It's a warm bed of sushi with a refreshing blend of crab meat, light mayo, a hint of wasabi, green pepper and hoisin.  It feels like eating a pizza but tastes exactly like sushi. Tokyo Table as our server describes is "a modern Japanese Restaurant,  it is encouraged that the plates be shared family style."

The most raved place in this Plaza is 85 C or 85 degrees.  The line extends into the parking lot.  We lined up just like everybody else to experience what the rave is all about.  Verdict?  Well it was well worth it.  Their pastries are flaky, soft, and chewy.  My family's favorite is the milk pudding.  It's creamy in the inside and the bun is soft and sweet.  Oh and the taro bun is another favorite.  It's filled with taro goodness.  Best thing about the bakery is that, their bread and buns are  freshly baked-- straight from the oven to your serving trays.  The smell of butter lures you, and nothing could seal a love affair as sweet as that.  .

Our stash of bread and buns
 We also went to  Thai Ritz Cuisine. I would say it was a safe choice. I  like the very playful and youthful interiors. Their serving plates are also modern and sleek. Subtle details such as these always make dining more fun and delightful.

My daughter comments that their Panang Curry  was very similar to my own cooking.  Hmmm that's a compliment  right?  But then again she's my daughter haha! So here's my recipe and be the judge.  .

Panang Curry

3 lbs of pork (you could opt for beef, chicken or shrimp)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
2 cans of coconut milk (you could use 1 can but i prefer mine to be thick and creamy. Also make sure you buy a good brand since some brands are diluted. Suggestions: Arroy-D or Chaoko 
1 medium can of bamboo shoots
1 medium yellow bell pepper
green peas
curry paste 

pineapple tidbits
thai basil leaves


Saute the pork wih garlic and onions. Let it cook until pork is slightly brown. Add the first can of coconut milk. Continue to cook until the coconut milk is reduced. Add the curry paste. I normally put 1/2 can first (around 2 tbsps). You may add more if you want. Add the vegetables. Pour in the other can of coconut milk. Again, wait until it's reduced to  a creamy texture. Season with fish sauce.  It's that easy, yet you 'll have a satisfying Thai dinner in no time! YUM!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

all aboard the reality train 2: the drama

It was a fresh new morning. I was sipping my delightful orange mango viviano, feeling relieved that I did not have to drive to LA. I found a seat at the corner of the train car near the exit. The cushy seat caressed me back to sleep. What a blissful train ride, just as I had anticipated...

Two stations later, however, a couple hopped into the train carriage. As luck would have it, the seats across me were vacant. Then, drama began to unfold right before my eyes.

Their voices were louder than the sound the train makes when it rumbles down the tracks.The LQ (lover's quarrel) was ugly; I felt awkward sitting there in the booth with them. I looked around, trying to figure a way out of the carriage, looking to see if suddenly cameras would appear with Ashton Kutcher saying, "you're punked, Malou!" It was so surreal for me to be watching a drama scene straight out of a tele-novela.Their argument went on and on and on, until it was no longer funny.

As soon as the train stopped and the doors flung open, I rushed out.  I went through the rhythm of the LA morning rush -- the clicking of heels, the jostling of elbows. I made my way through a tunnel with a sea of people, and amidst all that chaos, Union Station still felt like heaven for me. I was glad I was drama-free, and I continued to enjoy a brand new morning.

This train incident made me reflect on my relationship with my husband. It's true that everyday is not always a romantic one, and yes -- we do have our own moments. While it's also true that work (and life) gets in the way, it's still important to make time for the two of you, even just to sit down and to enjoy the simple things in life together.

So one Sunday afternoon, I tried sitting with him while he was watching ESPN.  He was watching oh so attentively, while I was starting to get bored. "Spend some time with him" I made a mental note to myself.  But then I had an aha moment, so I went to the kitchen and fixed him this simple appetizer. It took me only 20 minutes to prepare this dish, but yet the smile on his face was absolutely priceless!

Asian Twist Mushroom Caps

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp of sesame oil
Celery (finely chopped)
Cashew nuts (finely chopped)
Green onions
Baby bella mushrooms
sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  (You could use the toaster oven , it's more convenient and energy efficient)
Remove stems and carefully scoop the mushroom caps.  Chop the mushroom stems finely.   In a mixing bowl mix all the seasonings together:  ketchup, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chopped celery, cashew nuts and the chopped mushroom stems.
Fill the mushroom caps generously with the stuffing that you just made.  Arrange them in a greased baking sheet. 
Bake for about 15-20 minutes. 
Serve it on a platter.  Add some sesame seeds, dots of hoisin sauce and green onions to top the caps... you'll be enjoying the appetizer in no time... It goes well with a glass of Pinot Grigio, the popular but often times scorned imported wine.  The most popular Pinot Grigio sold in the US is Saint Margherita, my favorite.  Cheers!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

let's talk breakfast

Come on in. Grab a chair, sit down and let's talk breakfast...  Usually, you would be offered breakfast with two slices of toast, eggs sunny side up (or scrambled, or overeasy) and some slices of bacon or sausage.. but isn't that too common?

Now, how about breakfast with fried garlic rice? Yummy; now we're talking... but wait a minute! Rice? for breakfast?! Yes, fried garlic rice for breakfast, because we're having a Filipino breakfast, which looks like this:

I guess we Filipinos took the saying "eat breakfast like a king" too seriously!  Let's take a closer look, shall we?

What you see is a serving of longsilog. Let me teach you some key Filipino words. Longsilog is a play on words:  Long is from "longganisa" (sausage), si is from "sinangag" (garlic fried rice), while log is from "itlog" (egg). The great thing about this compound word is how it sums the dish up: sausage, garlic rice and sunny side up eggs. If we were to translate it to English, we couldn't just say saugarsu... so you just have to remember the term longsilog.

This breakfast spread is typical back home. However, since moving to America, we enjoy this sumptuous breakfast only during weekends.  So this weekend, I was in the mood for our -silogs, I made my homemade sweet beef longanisa complete with eggs and garlic fried rice!

If you like this post, stay tuned! I will be sharing with you how to cook other -silog meals, tocino or sweet cured pork, tapa or dried/cured beef and corned beef, for you and your family to enjoy.

Sweet Beef Longanisa

2 lbs  ground beef
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
minced garlic ( i like mine with lots of garlic)
2 tbsp sugar

In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together: hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and sugar.  Mix well, allowing all the seasonings to fuse together.  Add the ground beef amd mix it by hand.  Start forming the longanisa into an elongated shape.  I usually freeze it for a few minutes before frying.  

In a pan, spray cooking oil spray.  Brown all sides of the longanisa.

Garlic Rice

2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
cooked white rice (use a day old rice from the fridge not the freshly cooked rice as this is sticky.)
Salt to taste


In a wok, add cooking oil and garlic at the same time.  This way the cooking oil will slowly heat up and the garlic starts to brown, this way you won't burn the garlic.  Add  rice. Mix well and then season it with salt. Again, do not use sticky/very moist rice.  It should be dry and it's best to use the refrigerated left-over rice from the previous day.

Enjoy your breakfast with a sunny side up egg, tomatoes on the side plus dip the longanisa with sweet chili vinegar... Enjoy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

special request

sshhh...  let's talk about a special dish, well maybe an unhealthy one... literally a heart stopping one (and Onie if you are reading this and think that I copied your words, yes I did) because there's no other way to describe this dish.

Seriously now, I'm talking about a pork dish or "pulutan" (a Filipino term for an appetizer that usually goes with beer and drinking) previously seen in Anthony Bourdain's show featuring food from all over the Philippines.  Bourdain enjoyed a few beers at the road side eatery where this dish was, if not created, at least perfected.  It started in the central Luzon province of Pampanga and for us Filipinos, this mouth watering pork dish is called SISIG.

At this point, I want to issue a warning: IF YOU  FIND OFFALS DISGUSTING, STOP!  SKIP THIS POST AND MOVE TO THE NEXT! You might find the ingredients too disgusting.  But if you are Andrew Zimmerin-usque, adventerous and bold, continue reading it.

Yes Sisig is made of  pig's offals:  cheeks and ears.  Preparing this dish takes three steps, or maybe four if you include stir frying on the hot plate when served.  I rarely make sisig because:  a) for its high cholesterol content (hence it's heart stopping classification), and b) it's tedious to make (as mentioned it takes 4 cooking processes plus the chopping).  But how can I say no when I was requested to make it by my husband's youngest brother, Gerry. He just turned 27! (*wink wink I know huh, my husband stopped counting at age 27 too!) and he called to say he's celebrating his birthday here in San Diego, and yeah with a request that I make sisig.

The first time I met Gerry was when he was 11 and I remember he had a naughty smile when he met me for the very first time as he was not used to seeing his Kuya (older brother) with a girlfriend. He had a cast on his arm due to a soccer injury and he asked me to sign it for him.   When my husband and I got married, he would hang out with us in the basement, and yes he taught me how to play Mario Bros. on the Nintendo, back in the days.

Two decades later,  he still plays video games but now with his two cute  little boys.

didn't i tell you they're cute???

Being the youngest of five children, I guess it's what makes everybody loves Gerry.  If there's a show called Everybody loves Raymond, we have "Everybody loves Gerry" (ask my mother in law; haha!) and it continues, more so now that he has his own family.  We see him as such a doting father and a loving husband.
Happy Birthday Gerry... Cheers!



Pig's cheek, ear
1 cup pure calamansi juice, (lemon or lime is fine)
2 tbsp mayo
2 onions, chopped
maggi seasoning
fresh hot chili peppers (depends on how much "chili" you could take)


In a stockpot, throw in some peppercorns, bay leaf, celery and 4 cups of water. Add the pig's cheek and ear. Let it boil until tender.  Let it dry.  Grill the pig's ear.  I used  George Foreman griller but if you grill it with charcoal it's a lot better.  Now deep fry the pig's cheek until crispy. The crispy bits will give an interesting crunch to it as you take a bite.

Chop them into uniformed slices.  Mix the chopped onions, calamansi and season it with maggi seasoning. Add the mayo.  Now on a stove top,  heat an iron cast grill pan.  Let the sisig sizzle before serving.  Or you can use a cast iron serving plate.  Serve it while it's still sizzling, include hot sauce (Mother's Best brand from the Philippines or Louisiana hot sauce) or tabasco sauce on the side.  For sure it's the talk of the party... have fun!

for more legit looking sisig, serve it with a cast iron sizzling plate

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