Monday, February 28, 2011

spring rhythm

It’s March 1st already? Really?

Wow, how time flies. And with the world famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, already predicting spring to arrive early this year, the beginning of March signals a glimmer of hope for most of us suffering through this brutal winter. Hey, we even had hail and ice fall down upon us in supposedly-sunny San Diego over the weekend. So we can’t wait for spring to be here.

So let's put some music on, put on our dancing shoes and dance with me (yes I'm in Spring Rhythm) as we welcome Spring! As I make some announcements, let's set the mood right...enjoy the music, like my current favorite tune from the Plain White T's, the catchy Rhythm of Love. Listen and you'll know why I have the Spring Rhythm in my head all the time.

I also wanted to let you know that I created a Facebook page for my blog. I was kind of shy to create one for myself, but I finally conquered my hesitation and have finished the FB page. I am grateful to all those who "liked" the page and I hope we can swap stories and recipes - Facebook style. To celebrate my new page and to welcome spring, my friends at CSN Stores are helping me get you on the same Spring Rhythm as I am enjoying.

Let me introduce to you my giveaway sponsor. Did you know that CSN Stores have 250 specialized online stores? Their tagline says it all: EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR YOUR HOME AND LIFE. I shop (and window shop) with my finger tips, and shhh... I'm giving my husband some hints that it would be great to get these adjustable bar stools for my kitchen. And for those who know him, please point out that the white glide barstools will match our kitchen perfectly... haha!

Now for the giveaway, CSN Stores is giving away a $50 dollar gift certificate. Yes, $50 dollars, and I'm sure it will get you into a fun spring rhythm. Here’s how you can get a chance to win this giveaway:

1. Be a follower of this blog, (all those who "follow" me before needs to click on the follow button again       since my URL has changed)
2. "like" my facebook page
3. Tweet this giveaway announcement and make sure to let me know about it or tweet me
4. Go to the CSN Stores and help me pick modern adjustable bar stools for my kitchen.

You could do all four options too, and leave a comment for each, this way you get more chances to win the giveaway...

This contest will end on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm (EST). It is open to US entrants only. If you are outside the US but have a local US address, why not, join in the fun. All entries must be given by then. I will announce the winner shortly thereafter.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in this giveaway.  This giveaway has been closed and a winner has already been awarded $50 gift certificate.  Til  the next giveaway folks!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Oftentimes, food cravings can be a great source of inspiration for a new dish. 

Today, I had an intense craving for daing na bangus (marinated milkfish) with tomatoes on the side.  I knew that I had milkfish in the freezer.  I patiently waited for it to thaw then prepared it the traditional way: marinating it with vinegar, fish sauce, garlic and pepper, then hurriedly fried it.  

I was ready to enjoy the freshly fried fish with a heaping bowl of fried rice when I realized that I didn't have tomatoes.  "How could I not have tomatoes?" I quizzed myself.  My disappointment caused me, albeit temporary, to suffer severe mental anguish, hahaha.  I stood there staring at my fridge, trying to find my tomatoes (I was in denial, haha!).  A bottle of sun-dried tomatoes glistened on the side of the fridge as if saying "get me" instead.  It was like ideas flew out of the bottle...  a gift of improvisation I guess??? ... I decided to make sun-dried tomato sauce instead.

The dish was a winner. It totally made me forget about my initial craving for fresh red tomatoes.  Indeed, I had quite a delightful meal.

Daing na Bangus with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Milkfish (deboned, butterfly cut)
1/4 c Vinegar
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 cloves Garlic (minced)

Mix vinegar and fish sauce together with garllic and pepper.  Marinate the milkfish.  Drain and fry it on a large skillet for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp green olives
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp monterey seasoning  (or you could use seafood seasoning)

On another skillet, add olive oil.  Saute the garlic.  Add sun dried tomatoes and green olives.  Season it with Monterey seasoning.  Pour it over the fried bangus.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

a box of friendship

A box of friendship came in my mailbox the other day.  It came with a card, which my friend Cathy scribbled on to say how much she treasures our friendship.  She remembers how I make her laugh... how we used to eat lunch together by the Atlantic coast and how she misses me since I moved out west.

She sent me a book, a book that helped her realize her priorities.  She learned to "love yourself so you could love more".  I felt my face light up as I thought the timing was perfect.  Her words captured the moment I'm in right now, her words are like darts hitting my heart.  

 Also in the box was a beautiful necklace.  Now, each time I wear it, people would ask me where I bought it.  I am in awe of how a necklace would make such a grand statement, even if I am in my plain black shirt. Pardon me if it sounds like a product endorsement, it's just because I am so proud (as much as my friend Cathy is) of her daughter, a designer in NYC with her own jewelry line, Arms and Armory .

But what I most cherished in the box is that it came with her friendship.  A friendship that has passed the test of time and distance.

The other day, I saw a picture posted on her FB wall.  She prepared dinner for their anniversary.  She rarely cooks yet she took time to cook and set a romantic dinner for her husband.  She tagged me in that picture and she said that I will be proud of her for going the extra mile for their dinner date.  Yes Cathy you've made me proud.  And in honor of our friendship, I dedicate this dish to you, a savory dish that you could easily add to your repertoire.

Pan Seared Chicken Breast

4 pcs. chicken breast
1 cup flour
2 tbsp garlic salt
1 cup milk/heavy cream
1/2 c lemon juice
1 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

For the white sauce
1/4 c chicken broth
1/4 c white wine
1/4 butter
2 tbsp cornstarch dispensed in water

On a flat surface, pound the chicken meat with a mallet.  You could use a saran wrap on top of the chicken to avoid splatters.  Also another handy dandy tip, wet the saran wrap for easy pounding.

Mix milk, garlic salt in a bowl. Marinade chicken breasts preferably overnight.  If not, 30 minutes will be ok.  Make sure to refrigerate it.

Heat butter  and oil in a skillet.  Dredge the chicken breast with flour.  Shake off excess flour.   

Put the breaded chicken on the skillet.  Cook it for about 4 minutes by not moving it.  Flip and cook the other side for about 3 minutes.  You'll have a perfectly cooked chicken in no time

For the white sauce:

Using the same pan, deglaze it with white wine.  Get all the brown bits goodness of the pan.  Add chicken stock, milk and butter.  Let it simmer, then add the cornstarch mixture.

Garnish chicken with buttered vegetables.  The colors of the vegetables will cheer up the dish.  It looks fancy and will definitely delight your family

Saturday, February 5, 2011

winter blues

I've always wanted to feature very unique dishes from my hometown. The current wave of cold weather hitting the US, including here in SoCal, has covinced me to share this recipe to my readers.  This is comfort food perfect for this cold winter spell.  Also, it never fails to hit the spot and pick me up whenever I am down.  This is actually a pair of dishes very popular in my homeown of Tuguegarao, usually served as merienda (snacks). I would lke to present to you sinanta and pinakufu (noodle soup and sugar coated fried rice flour).

I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, from the recipe to the reasons why it is served together.  For the sinanta, I called up my mother, who still lives in Tuguegarao after 77 years.  She gave me a recipe shared by her and our trusted kusinera (cook), Letty.  My brother-in-law, Benedict, also gave me his version of sinanta, which he got from Cirilo, their kusinero of 50 years. The pinakufu recipe is from Benedict's mother, Mama Bess, whose passion is cooking.  A trip to Tuguegarao isn't complete without being invited to her home for dinner.  She makes everything from scratch, even her desserts, which are just amazing!  Thank you to my family for sharing their recipes.

For the reasons why sinanta and pinakufu are paired together, I posted a poll on Facebook.  One of my cousins, Erick, said it best, "You can't have Batman without Robin, that is how we think of sinanta and pinakufu".  The saltiness and soothing warmth of the noodle soup blends well with the texture and sweetness of the pinakufu.  In other neighboring provinces, they pair the noodle soup with royal bibingka (rice cake with cheese).  It was unanimous, everyone agreed that these dishes should always be served together.  

Thank you to all my friends who commented on the Facebook poll.  I hope you all enjoy Sinanta and Pinakufu, superheroes we can readily call on to pick us up from the cold Winter blues. 

½ kilo neck bones (for richer broth)
½ kilo pork boiled and diced
½ kilo chicken breast boiled and diced
6 cups clams (tulya or mussels)
boil and remove shells
250 grams Sotanghon
250 grams Miki or Flat Noodles-- (I used extra wide flat egg noodles found at the pasta section)
4 tbsp. achuete seeds (annatto seeds) -- I used annato powder
½ cup Hibi (dried shrimps) soak in water
3 tbsp. Patis (fish sauce)
1 tbsp. garlic chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
3 tbsp. cooking oil
1 cup chopped green onion for garnishing

Boil together neck bones, pork, and chicken in 10 cups water. You should have 10 to 12 cups of broth including the clam broth
Boil Clams in 2 cups water!
Remove shells from clams. Add clam broth to your meat broth.
Soak achuete seeds in ½ cup water for 1 hour. Rub achuete seeds to extract red color. Strain. Use juice extract to add color to your sinanta. (Since I used  annato powder, I skipped this ingredient).
Saute garlic and onion in cooking oil.
Add the chicken, pork, clams and hibi.
Season with patis and the broth and achuete extract. Allow to boil.
Add the sotanghon and miki when you are about to serve the sinanta to prevent drying.
Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with chopped green onion. Serve Hot.

And the verdict? I was waltzing with my bowl as I got the authentic taste that I was looking for.  The secret ingredient?  Ta-dah!  Clams. 

My Mama was right.  She asked me if "ala" (clams)  is available in our market.  I was delighted to buy Manila clams from our local ethnic store. It gave a rich flavor very distinctively Ybanag (what we o folks from Cagayan are called).

2 cups Glutinouos rice flour
1 cup brown sugar
cooking oil for frying

In a mixing bowl pour the flour.
Add water little at a time to form a thick mass.
Knead to form a ball.
Divide the "malagkit" or dough into small balls. (ping-pong size balls)
Roll to an oval shape and flatten between the palms of your hands.

Fry in oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel or colander.

Boil 1 cup brown sugar in ½ cup water.
Boil until big bubbles form and syrup becomes very thick.
Add the fried malagkit and lower flame to medium.
Stir continouosly until evenly coated and sugar begins to dry up.
When dry remove from pan and serve.
Make sure to follow the last few steps, as it will give you the texture and the authentic look. It's like you got it shipped straight from Tuguegarao.  Enjoy!

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