Sunday, December 23, 2012

a simple song and a simple recipe


I know everyone is busy at this time of the year...and so I'm offering this simple song and this simple recipe to bring you the holiday spirit.May the magic of Christmas be yours...Merry Christmas!







Ginger Pizookie with Pineapple Custard

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup sugar
1tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup crystalized ginger
1 cup milk

Directions:

Pre-heat oven at 350 F.

Grease a round 9" pan with butter.


In a mixing bowl,  mix together flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add in the ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, crystallized ginger.salt and sugar.

In another bowl beat the eggs.  Pour in the milk. Add the flour mixture little by little.  Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

Pour into a baking pan until 1/3 full. (you could opt to have a thicker pizookie by pouring more cake mixture) 
Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until a toothpick com Let it cool.


For the Pineapple Custard: (you could use the custard on your ice cream, waffle, etc.)

1 can condensed milk
2 eggs
3 tbsp cream cheese (full spoonfuls)
2/3 cup heavy cream (I use a small can of Nestle's cream)
1 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt
1/2 can pineapple tidbits (you could use fresh pineapples too)

Using a whisk combine eggs and condensed milk and vanilla.  Cook in the top of the double boiler, stirring constantly over slowly simmering water until thickened.  Remove from heat immediately and let it cool.

On a another bowl, cream the cream cheese until soft.  Add heavy cream  Pour the custard mixture and mix them together.  Add a pinch of salt.  Add pineapple tidbits.

Spread the Pineapple Custard over the ginger pizookie and voila you will soon enjoy a delightful holiday treat.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sweet Memories | Orange Banana Polvoron

"This is the first year we are celebrating Christmas without Mommy Dory."

The tone in my sister in law's voice reveals that she misses Mommy Dory.  I do too. Who wouldn't miss her especially at this time of the year? I know if she were still alive, Mommy Dory (my hubs maternal grandmother) would be busy in the kitchen making traditional Filipino Christmas sweets and savory dishes.  

At this time, she would already have wrapped dozens of polvorons, (soft and crumbly Filipino shortbread cookie) with colorful "papel de hapon" (Japanese paper).  These irresistible, melt-in-your-mouth polvorons disappear fast on the table.  Every time someone walks by, they grab one haha! So she packs a few pieces in small boxes and keeps them in the small fridge in her room. She labels the boxes with our names for us to take home after our yearly Christmas reunions in Las Vegas a few years ago.

Yes, Christmas evokes sweet memories and oh yes, definitely food memories.  


We are grateful that Mommy Dory left us with loads of them...


Her anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom never fail to make us laugh... and even make us shed tears as we smile. 


Although to tell you honestly, I'm not sure how she will like the nontraditional polvoron flavors I created... All I know is, I thought about her lovingly as I made them.

You could check out Mommy Dory's Polvoron here, but today I'm going to share with you:

Banana Orange Polvoron

Ingredients:
2 c flour
1 c powdered milk
1 c melted butter (allow it to cool)
2/3 c sugar
2 c banana chips (pulverized)
3 tsp orange zest


Directions:

On a pan (Mommy Dory would say, make sure the pan is thick enough!) toast flour in medim heat stirrimg constantly (she could actually tell by the smell of the flour roasting when it's good enough) until light brown.
Transfer the roasted flour in a bowl right away to avoid further cooking.

Add the powdered milk and sugar into the mixing bowl  and mix them together. Add the pulverized banana chips and orange zest.

Add the melted butter (she would repeat that the butter should be cold enough)

Mix it thoroughly and make sure there are no lumps.


Using a special  moulder shown above, fill it with the polvoron micture and press  it hard then release it,  Add more butter if the mixture in not firm enough.

Wrap it in cellophane or in my case I used gift wrapping tissue paper.  (while waiting for the powdered mixture to cool down, Mommy would cut the paper uniformly... and yes wrap the polvoron one by one). But sometimes, the polvoron won't even get the chance to be wrapped, because kids and adults alike would come around and grab a molded polvoron right away... hmmm ... YUM!




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lunch in a Hurry | Pan Fried Thinly Sliced Beef

We all need a dish on the fly in our repertoire- especially when everyone expects that we are THE wizard of pots and pans.  For this reason, I love to stock up on seafood (they are ready in 5 minutes, ok uhh maybe a little exaggeration) and thinly sliced beef (whoah they never fail to deliver a delightful meal).

Like  you, there are times when my husband comes home from work earlier than usual. And when he does, he announces that he is so hungry.  When I hear the words "I'm so hungry",  I wish that I had a magic wand where I could just swirl and point to the table where food magically appears... or I dart to the kitchen, grab my thinly sliced beef and cook lunch in a hurry.

Well I'm sure you know that magic wands don't work. Clearly this is where a pack of thinly sliced beef comes in handy.

Pan Fried Thinly Sliced Beef


Ingredients:

1- 1.5 lb beef thinly sliced
2 tbsps fish sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk of green oinon, sliced (divided)
2 tbsp chili oil (optional)
1 serrano pepper

Whisk all of the fish sauce and brown sugar and garlic together.When the brown sugar is dissolved, add the beef  and half of the green onion slices.  Mix thoroughly. Heat up a skillet,  when it's hot enough, place one layer of beef and pan fry each side.  You will hear it sizzle.

You should keep an eye on it as it carmelizes easily.  You may want the edges to be brown and crunchy but not burnt.  Add more green onions and minced garlic and serrano pepper.  Give it a quick stir and voila, it's ready.

Transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle with chili oil or you may opt to put it on theside.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Take 5 | Arroz Caldo (Rice Porridge Soup)

"Turkey left-over is now an endangered species"  said our beloved local weatherman on KSDK Channel 5, Chester Lampkin.  

Maybe that's the case in most households, but not in ours.  You see as soon as our Thanksgiving dinner ensemble were washed and tucked back in the upper shelf of our cupboard, I divided my turkey left-overs in small storage containers and kept them in the freezer.  


So instead of living out the weekend with endless left-overs and suffer the unequivocal turkey coma syndrome, I just grab a container whenever we feel like it.  With the temperature down to the 20's and with some sniffles to cure, I grabbed one container in the freezer and  magically transformed it to a wonderful bowl of comforting Arroz Caldo. The steam from the ginger lent some homeopathic remedies to the sniffles.

I hope all's well on your end :)


Arroz Caldo (Rice Porridge)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ medium onion
3 slices of ginger (thumb size and pounded)
Tukey lef-over bone in ( Use 8 pcs. Chicken - drumsticks/thigh or if you prefer white meat do so)
1 c  rice (soaked in water for about 30 minutes but is optional)
5 cups chicken stock (add if needed)
A dash of safflower
green onions

Directions
Heat pan. Saute garlic until light brown. Add onions and ginger. Add the turkey slices and bones. (Use chicken in lieu of Turkey).  Add the rice and give it a quick stir. Add 5 cups of chicken stock and a dash of safflower. Cook for about  30 minutes (if using lefovers and 1 hour if using raw meat). Cook longer if desired.  You want the rice to be soft and mushy.  Add chicken stock as you go.

For garnishings: Toasted garlic-annato oil  and soft boiled egg.  (you could use hard boiled egg if desired) Sprinkle some green onion leeks. Enjoy :)


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Video Blog | How to Make Camaron Rebusado


Yes, I finally got my newest youtube video up.

Ok, it's not professionally done and refined as I hoped for, but I did  put in a lot of time editing this video.  Ask my husband, who saw me go crazy throughout the process - from the video shoot, to downloading the music, to addressing the problem of my "possessed" laptop.  Thank you to my hubby for helping me and putting up with all my questions and request.  So after a week of editing, here it goes.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Please comment if the techniques and tips I shared are helpful.  So here's my video on: How to make Camaron Rebusado.





Camaron Rebusado


Ingredients
1 lb shrimp, deveined
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp lemon-pepper powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
salt to taste
1 egg slightly beaten
3/4 c ice cold water

Procedure
Pat dry the shrimp with paper towel.  Season with lemon-pepper powder and salt.

Mix the dry ingredients first: flour, cornstarch, lemon-pepper powder.  Roll the shrimp iver, This will allow the water to be absorbed by the dry ingredients. 

On a separate bowl, whip egg and  ice cold water together.  Pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well.The batter should be very cold so that when it hits the hot oil, the reaction causes the batter to inflate, making it crispy and fluffier.




To fry, fill a deep pan approximately half full of oil. Heat to 350F to 375F. Place 3 to 4 pieces at a time.
The rebusado floats as soon as you drop them  but continue to cook, turning until all sides are slightly golden brwon.  Remove from pan and put the shrimp on a plate lined with paper towel to drain

Enjoy with sweet chili sauce



Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday | Left-over Turkey Rice with Pineapple and Bagoong (Shrimp Paste)

I  hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

While most of you enjoyed your Black Friday shopping, I sit here writing a new post. What's up with that?  Haha!  But oh well, since I am already here and I already got your attention, I'd like to share what just came off of my skillet (no kidding, we are just about to have this plate).

I'm sure with the plethora of turkey left-over recipes out there, you already have an idea what to do with yours. Turkey sandwiches, casserole, soup or even paksiw na pabo (in lieu of lechon), are excellent dishes to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers.  But wait, let me introduce you to my take on a Turkey left-over recipe:  Fried rice with turkey, pineapple and bagoong (shrimp paste).  It gives you a very different flavor profile from the original dish.  It is a dish more similar to yang chow fried rice.  And if you are an adventurous eater, you're in for a wonderful (or better yet - a sweet and salty) surprise.

Leftover Turkey Fried Rice with Pineapple and Bagoong (Shrimp Paste)
My husband has been on a pineapple rice binge lately - from Thai to Vietnamese style fried rice, he has savored and obsessed with lately.  He challenged me to make a plate that should be as good as the one that he orders from his favorite restaurant.  Well, he said my version was way better... LOL.  The secret really is to use day-old rice.  Day old rice is dry and that's what you need to avoid soggy fried rice.

Another secret that I used here is bagoong (shrimp paste).  Well, if you cringe at the idea of using shrimp paste, you can substitute it with fish sauce or salted fish or just plain salt, but no soy sauce please.  Keep an open mind and you are in for a wild adventure!




Ingredients:
1 turkey leg, de-boned and sliced
or 3 medium slices of white turkey meat (which is healthier)

1 medium tomato, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 medium carrots, sliced, jullienne
1 stalk green onions, sliced
1 tsp bagoong (I use the Barrio Fiesta brand)
1/3 cup pineapple slices
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups day old rice

Procedure:
Saute garlic and onions until wilted.  Add tomatoes, stir and mush the tomatoes.  Add bagoong,stir for a minute.  Add rice and cook for about two minutes.  Or until the steam from cooking begins to sweat the rice Dig a hole in the middle and pour the slightly beaten egg.  Stir altogether.  Add veggies and pineapple.  Enjoy!




Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving | Buko Fruit Salad

I got an invitation from Luwen of APartnership, an award-winning NYC based advertising agency specializing in reaching Asian American consumers. I was asked to write a blog article about my own Asian Thanksgiving recipes and represent Filipino cuisine.

 She writes:

With Thanksgiving coming in one more week, Asian families all over the U.S. will be gathering together to celebrate what is a traditional American holiday. We’re interested in learning and helping Asian families with creating an Asian Thanksgiving. We know that some Asian American families not only prepare the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, but also prepare traditional Asian cuisine, because as we all know,  culture is a significant part of Asian identity here in the U.S., and brings a sense of pride and uniqueness.

Thanksgiving is an American tradition and I want to keep it that way.  I wish I had a bucket full of memories to share, like grandma's recipes to make during this holiday. But unfortunately I don't.  For over ten years I've lived here in the US, I could count only a few times that I have actually prepared a whole Thanksgiving spread.  Luckily, American families always invite my family to partake in their tradition.  And so when I accept, I always bring a dessert.  Yes dessert because as I've said I want to keep their tradition of turkey, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.  Well at least with dessert,I can add more variety of delicious desserts for my hosts to try.



Buko Fruit Salad is an iconic dessert in every Filipino holiday.  You could find this in fiestas, birthdays and   holiday celebrations.  I also want to bring it to the Thanksgiving table, while keeping the "American" stamp on it with the turkey and sides.  Buko Salad (young coconut) dessert adds an authentic Filipino touch for a Thanksgiving celebration.


This dessert may look so simple, but believe me each bite is delightful. After all, Thanksgiving is not about a fancy spread. It's about enjoying your time preparing food with your family; it's about being grateful for all the blessings you've received.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Buko Fruit Salad

2 large cans of Fruit Salad
1 small can of cream (use Nestle cream)
3/4 can condensed milk
3 tbsp cream cheese
1 cup kaong (sugar palm)
1 cup nata de coco (coconut gel)
1 pc. young coconut (shredded) you could also use the shell for serving



Kaong and Nata de coco 
Procedure:
Drain the fruit salad, kaong and nata de coco.

Mix the condensed milk, cream and cream cheese (yep cream cheese is the key ingredient here) altogether.  Toss the fruits, kaong and nata de coco.  Let it chill... and voila, you're done!

Oh by the way, aside from this post, APartnership has also invited me to host a 30 minutes Twitter chat on Tuesday at 3 pm EST.  Follow the hashtag #asiantgiving.  I hope you could join me @malou_nievera.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Love You Sabado | Home Fries

Good Morning!

Don't you love Saturdays? I do! After a long Friday at work, I look forward to Saturday mornings. I am just like a kid who is anxiously anticipating Christmas morning to get a look at the gifts. Saturday is a day when a whiff of java coming from my kitchen greets me in the morning.  It's when I tiptoe to my kitchen and hear the sound of a sizzling pan, running water, clicking plates and yes my husband busy taking over my turf... that makes my heart dance.  Or sing.  I'm disarmed.  I tell you, I just love the idea of  him doing the cooking. Breakfast on Saturday is his self proclaimed turn to be the master chef  in my kitchen.

I leave the kitchen totally to him.  He cooks with precision and is very methodical. The simple task of cooking soft boiled eggs is done with a timer, water measured with a measuring cup.  When he brews our coffee, he lifts the coffee pot to check the water level like I would imagine him preparing liters of buffer solution. Did I tell you that I am married to a scientist (haha...  I love saying that, much to his chagrin)

" Breakfast is ready!" he announces chirpily.

And voila breakfast is ready!  I hope you have a Happy Sabado!

Home Fries
Ingredients:
2 large potatoes
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic salt

Procedure:
Boil potatoes (make sure it's still firm)  You could also just microwave the potatoes too (wash the potatoes, prick the surface with fork and cover it with a wet paper towel and microwave for 4 minutes) Slice the potatoes and set aside.  Make sure the potatoes are not hot when sliced.

Heat a pan.  Add the oil.  Put the potatoes and brown its sides.  Add onions and cook it for a minute.  Season with garlic salt and pepper.  Add parsley.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Izzy Lovin'| Puto (Steamed Muffin) Two ways: Mascarpone and Sundried Tomato

I just ate the tomato simmered pork that you sent. Makes me feel like I'm home.

After hearing this from my daughter, a gush of joy suddenly swept over me like the light peering from the morning sun. I smiled on the other end of the line, because the truth is that was exactly the plan... *wink *wink. 

The truth is, I seldomly send care packages to my kids.  But this time I overdid it.  Never mind if my jaw dropped when the postal worker told me how much it costs to mail the package.  All I want is for Izzy to have a box filled with 21 pieces of home cooked food and baked goodies.  It's her birthday week and the last thing I want her to worry about is food.

Did I say 21?  Yes my second daughter turned 21.  I know it's a big deal for her to reach this milestone in her young life, just like everyone else.  I am even amused by the thread on Facebook showing how her older sister will take her bar hopping when they next get together.  But as a mom, I realize 21 years is like a lifetime. 

Where did the years go? 

That night, my husband and I went through her baby albums.  And just like any other mom, I tear up.  You miss the times you held them by the hand as they learned how to walk.  Or the times you played peek-a-boo and their laughter resonated through the whole house.  But it's all good, as I am comforted by the fact that my baby is on her way to reaching her goals. She's actually working very hard and burning the midnight oil to get to where she wants to be. This is something we parents dream of, something that we pray for their continued success...Hoping, worrying, waiting and worrying some more.  Until they're all grown up with their own career and a family of their own. 

Happy 21st birthday my Izzy!
_________________________________________________

Since it's my daughter's birthday and since it took me 5 days to get a new post up, I am going to share with you two recipes... well, almost.  The basic ingredients are the same, so here it goes:

Special Puto (Steamed Muffins): Puto Marscapone and Sun Dried Tomato Puto

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
3/4 c sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp melted butter

For topping:
Mascarpone Puto:  1/2 c Mascarpone (you could also use cream cheese)
Sun Dried Tomato :  2 tbsp drained and chopped sun dried tomatoes

Procedure:

Get your steamer ready. Line the muffin cups with paper baking cups.  Coat the baking cups with cooking spray.  Whisk together flour and baking powder and sugar. Dig a well in the center and add the egg, milk and butter.  Mix them all together until smooth.

Fill each cup with the batter.  Swirl in a tsp of mascarpone  (or sun dried tomatoes).  Steam for 15 minutes or until a toothpick come out clean when pricked in the middle.  Let the puto sit for a few minutes before serving.  Enjoy!
       

Ingredients:

Friday, November 9, 2012

an autumn oasis | hot and sour soup

Two weeks!

Yes it's been two weeks since my last post. I wish I have an alibi to tell you why I couldn't be here. Sadly, I don't. I just needed a break.  

It was like facing a labyrinth, I needed time to find my way through.  I struggle with so many aspects of my blog; there is so much focus on SEO, proper photography techniques, and to constantly engage followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook, respectively.  For the past two weeks I struggle for the reasons why I blog.  On why I sit in one corner of my room writing, even as there are chores to do, nooks to decorate, new sights to behold.  That's when I thought I needed to stay away from my blog. 

Last weekend my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble, where I usually gravitate towards the cookbook section (where else haha) while he goes to the stereophile aisle.  That morning, I went straight to the decorating magazines instead, grabbing the first 4 magazines I see and start leafing through them for inspiration.  Suddenly, my husband sneaks up out of nowhere and hands me a new cookbook- The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  Smitten Kitchen is a popular blog (remember Babble's Top 100 Mom blog list where I ranked 48? Well she's ranked #1).  But as soon as I saw it, I felt my face warm.  I didn't know how the magazines dropped out my hands or how they magically went back to the shelf.  All I know is that I am totally "smitten" by this new cookbook.

There's something in the cookbook that got me back here.  There's no stopping me now.  I'm here to write about food, family and friends.  This is my space to be me. No platforms nor templates to follow.  Just me and you reading it.  Even if I know you are silent, I know you are there... and that's all I need to know... and that's all that I have to be thankful for.

Hot and Sour Soup
When I served this last night, my husband told me that I should post it here.  It is even better than what he usually gets from his favorite Chinese take-out place.  Way better!  The bowl was a "pick-me up" bowl for a chilly evening.  It will literally get you fired up!

Ingredients:
5 cups broth (you may use chicken or beef broth)
5 black fungus (soaked or parboiled)
1/3 small can bamboo shoots
1 egg (slightly beaten)
5 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chili sauce (I used Mae Ploy)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 block tofu sliced
1 stalk green onions sliced
1/3 tsp chili oil (optional)
1 tsp sesame oil


The procedrure is easy.  Pour all ingredients in a stockpot (except for the egg)  Let it boil.  When boiling stir in the beaten egg.  Add sesame oil.  Garnish with green onions... enjoy




Friday, October 26, 2012

Reasons | Ukoy (Shrimp Fritter)

Things happen for a reason. 

I've been missing my kids the past few days and I wish they are still home with me. Was it worth it having them all go away for college? I struggle with the thought of what could have been if we all stayed together?  What if we didn't leave the Philippines?  What if I had just asked them to go to school in the same city I'm in?  What if I tried to hold on to them as long as I can?

These questions lingered in me.  Until I visited each of my kids' Facebook account. I go through their recent photos, my eldest daughter had a busy week entertaining a visiting high school friend.  They went around Berkeley and San Francisco and had a blast.  My second daughter had a busy October at school but still manages to attend her pre- health organization's meetings and events at UCLA.  My son in Cornell also has been busy with school work and had a lot of fun with his Filipino-American student organization's event of hosting a comedy workshop.

Finally, I read a conversation among the three of them, with my eldest daughter leading the way, on how they should catch up on Google Hangout.  All three of them promise to update their planners so they can arrange a meeting, hoping to do this bi-monthly.  This thread was so heart-warming for me.  I guess my greatest fear is we are all so busy that we lose connection to each other.  But that connection can no longer be broken.  

No matter how busy our schedules get, how far away we are from each other, we are still the same.  Our connections have been built through all the years we were together.   We started early, raising the kids in an active and creative environment, making sure they played a sport and a musical instrument in elementary school.  It continued by demanding from them the highest grades possible but at the same time asking them to do extracurricular activities.  Getting them involved in research and internships in high school.  And asking them to be the best person they could be when they leave for college.  Things happen for a reason.  My kids are all away from home to get the best education and experience for them to prepare for the future.  And now I am just riding along until I get to be with them again.
___________________________________________________________________


Ukoy (Shrimp Fritter)
Ukoy is a popular street food in the Philippines.  I've been wanting to make this especially at this time of the year when pumpkins are everywhere.  Squash is one of the ingredients and I wanted the streaks of squash to show, but it turned out like it blended with the batter.  My husband said it didn't look like the traditional one, but whatever it is he said, it surely tasted great... LOL!


Ingredients:
1 lb shrimp, deveined
1 cup squash, shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 stalks green onions sliced
(you could also add mongo sprouts or potatoes)
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp lemon-pepper powder
3/4 water (pour it slowly, making sure that the batter is still thick)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
salt to taste


Procedure
You don't like a soggy shrimp fritter, so I'm sharing a technique which I learned from America's Test Kitchen on PBS. The solution is to dry the ingredients (veggies and shrimp) with a paper towel first and mix them with the dry ingredients.  The dry ingredients absorbs the moisture of the veggies and shrimp.
Mix the dry ingredients first: flour, cornstarch, lemon-pepper powder.  Toss the veggies and shrimp.  This will allow the water to be absorbed by the dry ingredients.

On a separate bowl, whip egg and water together.  Pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well.

Heat cooking oil in a pan.  Scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter.  Quickly drop them in the hot oil.  Cook each sides for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with vinegar with pepper and onions but you could also use the sweet chili if you'd prefer.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn: a photo, a poem and a plate

I posted a picture of fallen leaves on my Facebook page, and Maria Theresa, one of the subscribers attached a few lines from a poem by Maureen Kwat Meshenberg of Heart's Calling

When I saw your fallen leaves photos I thought it would be a perfect visual accompaniment to that line of poem, Maria Theresa writes.

With the help of Theresa, (thank you :) )  and with the permission of  Maureen Kwat Meshenberg of Heart's Calling (Maureen, thank you!) I am sharing the poem in its entirety below. If you love the poem, (which I'm sure you would) visit Maureen's Facebook page Heart's Calling for more poetry.  You will be enthralled by the magic of her words.

So for today's post, I am sharing with you Autumn:  a photo, a poem and a plate.  May you also find inspiration in unexpected places... Happy Wednesday!




In this day,
in this morning-
I clothed my soul,
with autumn's dawning.
Beautiful colors
to fabric me-
rest to be, so freely...
touching my life,
with possiblities.
For in this breath of morning,
comes to me with beauty-
I choose how they hold me,
to wrap around me.
Breath to my waking,
I see sometimes breaking-
but spilling out of me,
are my colors to just be.


Lemongrass Pork with Shitake Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1- 1 1/2 lbs pork, butterfly sliced 
2 stalks of lemon grass (sliced and crushed)
1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 lime - add the lime juice
4 clove garlic - minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 cup soup stock
Cooking oil for frying
2 pcs carrots, sliced
1/2 c bamboo shoots (I used the canned one)
4 large dried shitake mushrooms (soaked in water then slice when soft)
1/2 cup straw mushrooms (I used the canned one)
1 stalk celery, sliced

Season pork with salt and pepper.  Dredge the pork in flour (also seasoned with salt and pepper).  In a wok, fry the pork in batches until slight brown. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine: hoisin sauce, fish sauce, soup stock, lime juice, sugar and chili garlic sauce. Whisk to blend.

Using the same wok, saute garlic and onions until fragrant. Add the lemongrass and pork. Pour the sauce mixture. Cover and let it simmer.  When pork is tender, add the mushrooms and vegetables.  Cover for a few more  minutes and voila it's done! Enjoy!



I'm sharing  more photos I captured around St. Louis for you to enjoy...










Monday, October 22, 2012

Impromp-tea | Cayenne Spiked Autumn Tea


"Do you have any plans for lunch today?" asked my friend Vivian.

"No, I don't have any" I blurted even if I was in the middle of cleaning.

"I just cooked up a storm and I was wondering if you'd like to come over"

Cooked up a storm???  "I'll be there in an hour" came my instant reply.

Let's be honest. There are times when friends invite you for an impromptu meet up and our perfidious mind would fabricate excuses to avoid going.  We are caught up with our own fictional "busy world" that we cannot afford to lose a few hours of connecting with friends.  But chilax, impromptu get-togethers  usually end up wonderfully. Saying "yes" to Vivian  turned out to be one fine afternoon; enjoyable, fun and relaxed. Amidst laughter and heartwarming convos, we both knew that we should do "lunch" on a regular  basis from now on.

Happy Monday!

Cayenne Spiked  Autumn Tea
I understand, one of the hesitations of saying yes to an invite on the fly is not having anything to give. I myself wouldn't want to appear at my friends' door step empty handed.  But don't be caught up with this because bringing simple things are equally appreciated.  In my case, with just an hour to finish my chore of cleaning, showering and making something, uh well I had to make something quick. 

I've been making beverages of tea at gatherings so I thought I'd make a jar to bring. It was a cold Autumn day, so I spiked the tea with cayenne powder, to give it a kick.  And true enough, even when the beverage was served cold, the contrast of the hot spice of cayenne made a perfect beverage for a chilly October afternoon lunch.


Ingredients:
5 individual tea bags 
5 cups water
2 pcs (thumb size) ginger peeled and pressed
3 pcs. dried orange peel
3 pcs dried lemon peel
2 tbsp agave syrup
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp cayenne powder



In a kettle, mix all the first five ingredients together.  Brew for about 5 minutes or until the water boil.  Cover the kettle and let it cool.  Stir in orange juiuce, agave syrup and cayenne powder.  Please adjust to taste.


Pour it over a glass with iced cubes.  Garnish with apple slices.  Enjoy!


Thanks Vivian, and I'll see you next month!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

With a smile | Seafood Kare-Kare Noodles (Seafood Noodles in Peanut Sauce)


On the last day of my 10 day catering gig, she came and gave me a tight hug and said: Thank you!

The truth is I should be the one to thank her.  I wanted to tell her how grateful I am to see the strength of a woman facing pressing issues and her being positive a midst a difficult situation.  Her dainty look, well kept hair and light make up,  even her infectious laugh will never reveal her story.  I saw her at church with her family, I saw her wake up in the early morning on a weekend to attend a 5k run.  I saw her with her children, always with a smile.  Such is the strength I've seen. 

I was commissioned by her friends to cook for her and her family.  For ten days, I found myself chopping, stirring pots, running around an unfamiliar kitchen, but I was extremely inspired.  I can't believe how much joy I had cooking. 

And yes, I am most grateful for being part of a group of friends stepping in to help a friend in need.  And the song "that's what friends are for" played over and over in my head, while I cooked.  I thought I was in my zone.

Seafood Kare-Kare Noodles (Seafood in Peanut Sauce Pasta)
This was one of the recipes I developed especially for the family.  I took the familiar flavors of a traditional dish (Kare Kare) and tossed them with unfamiliar bedding.  


Ingredients:

1/2 package rice stick noodles (you could also use linguine )
2 tbsp annatto oil (if you don't have the annatto oil, use cooking oil and add annatto powder as you saute)
1 package of seafood
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp peanut butter

1/2 c crushed peanuts
4 cups of shrimp stock (boil shrimp heads. Extract its flavor by pressing the heads)
cornstarch dispersed in water



Procedure:

Soak the noodles in a pan filled with water.  Leave it for 30 minutes.  If you are using linguine, please prepare it according to package instructions.

Sear the seafood on a pan.  Using the same pan saute the garlic, onions and seafood with annatto oil. Sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. Stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar.  Add peanut butter. Stir in tofu. Transfer half of the cooked seafood on a plate. Set aside. (the idea is not to overcook the seafood)  

Using the same pan add shrimp stock.  Let it boil. To thicken the sauce pour the cornstarch mixture. Add the noodles (do not add the water wherein the noodles were soaked in).  Cook until al dente.  Add the remaining seafood topping and give it a quick stir.  Drizzle the sesame oil.  Stir for another minute or two.  Season with fish sauce. Sprinkle  crushed peanuts.




Friday, October 12, 2012

BFFs | Biko (Sweet Rice Cake)


Friendship is a wonderful thing.

My friendship with Mariel spans three decades. We sat side by side sharing a wooden desk in grade school. We lived on the same street and we would walk home after school together. She climbed the guava tree at my house (since I cannot climb myself) and we sat by our terrace to enjoy the soft warm yellow guavas. We wore the same blue and white uniform in high school (although I wore mine shorter while she would wear her's down to her ankles). Years later, we drove on the same interstate highways (when I lived in Florida a few years ago) and got to see each other on special occasions   And you bet, BFF is an apt description for our friendship.

Melo is another BFF since high school.  As a bright boy from another town, he didn't come to his new school unnoticed. He sat in Mariel's class during the first year, then he was in mine for the next 3 years.  He now lives in Florida too - he is finishing up his Ph.D. in Psychology this semester.  He might not know it (or maybe he does?) but my constant phone conversations with him often times turn into free  psychological assessments (and sometimes unsolicited as he could read between the lines)... He must be the reason why I'm still sane these days...LOL! 

"Let's make deko (in Ibanag, our native dialect word for biko or sweet rice cake) when you visit..."  Melo excitedly said upon learning that I was going to Orlando.




And so we did.

We made deko - a sweet treat we all enjoyed during our childhood days And what came with it was the recollection of funny adventures that still warms our hearts. We laughed so hard until our bellies hurt. We forged new memories as we stirred the warm sticky rice but yet cherished the old ones that came with our blue and white uniform. The laughter and stories echoed - just like as we had once did in the gray concrete hallways of our high school.  And we know we have more stories to tell and reminisce about in the years to come.

I'm sure you have stories about your BFFs that resonates the same way - indeed friendship is a wonderful thing.  Happy Friday!



Biko (Sweet Sticky Rice with Caramelized Coconut Cream)

Ingredients:

5 cups of sweet rice
2 cans of coconut milk (I used Arroy-D)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar (you could add more if you want)
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla
lemon zest

For the topping:
2 coconut milk
1 can heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp butter

or you could also use the following for the topping:
1 coconut milk
1 condensed milk
3 tbsp butter
lemon zest

Procedure:

Pre heat oven to 375 F.

Pour 2 cans of coconut milk and 3 cups of water in a pot. When it's starting to simmer add the sticky rice. Stir the rice continuously while cooking. After 10-15 minutes check the water level and if the rice is cooked (it should be soft but still firm). If it's not, add more hot water (if needed) and continue to stir. Stir in butter, salt, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest. Set aside.

Pour  the cooked rice into a baking pan lined with banana leaves. I used 3 circular ones, but you could use a 9 x 12 baking pan. Leave room for the topping (about half an inch)

For the topping:

Pour the ingredients on a pan. Cook until the cream is thick enough. This may take up to 30 minutes, but it's all worth it. Pour the topping on top of the baking pan with rice. Bake @ 375 oF for an hour or until top is golden brown. Broil for 5 minutes but make sure to keep a tight watch as you don't want to burn the top. Enjoy...




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