Tuesday, May 29, 2012

an ode to a friendship | orange lychee sorbet

"Thank you for being a friend...", she sang playfully, referring to the Golden Girls theme song.  My friend Kelly was teasing me, as I clutched my purse, seemingly holding it like a weapon to defend myself from the camera.  Kelly was interviewing me for a TV segment and I was feeling vulnerable.  So I hugged tightly on my purse, only to be called out by my friend.  Kelly told me to relax and be myself, and to get rid of my weapon - so I put my purse down.

No matter what age we are, we always need a friend.  Although Kelly sang the Golden Girls tune in jest, it gave me the message of the show - that women always fare better with their girlfriends by their side.  And oh how I appreciate Kelly's friendship.  She has motivated me in a variety of ways, from getting me to work out even when I don't feel like it, to sparking a fire in me to go after what I want most with my career.  Kelly is a successful anchorwoman on TV.  So she has inspired me to strive and do my best.  Just as what a girlfriend should do.

I took that inspiration in my kitchen and I made an orange lychee sorbet.  The sorbet help us cool down over this scorching holiday weekend and even more. It evoke the new friendship; like a ray of sunshine that lifted my spirit, Kelly made me hopeful and excited as I walk down this unfamiliar road...

 Thank you Kelly, I am glad you are my friend... girlfriend!

Orange Lychee Sorbet (adapted from My Recipes)

1 1/2 c orange juice (about 2 oranges you could opt to include the pulp)
1 cup water
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp zest
1/2 can lychee (drained from the can)

Combine water, sugar and orange zest in a saucepan.  Let it simmer for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.  Let it cool.

Using a food processor or blender process the lychee into bits (you could process until smooth but I prefer bits) Set aside.

When the sugar mixture has cooled down, mix all the ingredients together. Freeze until slightly firm.   Pour it back to the food processor and  pulse it until smooth.  Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for about 2 hours before serving.

The orange lychee sorbet is so refreshing and healthy too and not to mention, it's super easy to make at home... come on don't be scared to try, you'll be surprised how simple it is to make... and this is step one to win a friend.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

well hello summer | creamy potato salad

Summer is here.

It has been hitting the 90's here in STL for the past few days.  And it will get even warmer over this long Memorial Day weekend.  Summer excitedly showed up... the hot temp, the humidity, and of course cooling down by having Ted Drew's frozen custard, all reminders of the change in season here in the Midwest.

Maybe I am still in denial that summer is here... but there's no stopping it... So to help you cool down and enjoy your Memorial Day party, I am sharing my Creamy Potato Salad.  This is the perfect side dish with your grilled faves.  And if you are looking for a barbecue inspiration my Barbecue Ribs ala St. Louis  is featured on DailyBuzz Moms Top 9 Yummy BBQ Inspiration. Thank you for the feature Daily Buzz Moms!

Creamy Potato Salad with Orange Zest

3 large potatoes (boiled and cubed)
3 pcs eggs (boiled, peeled and sliced)
3 tbsp rounded mayo
3/4 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 stalk celery (minced)
1/2 onion (chopped)


Mix mayo and sugar thoroughly in a mixing bowl.  Add celery and onions.  Mix them well together.  Add potatoes and eggs.  Mix until the potatoes are well coated.  Sprinkle orange rinds.  Mix well and refrigerate.  Serve cold.  It's that simple, yet it's definitely summer in your mouth!  Enjoy!

This post is on Top 9 (May 28) on Foodbuzz.  Thank you Foodbuzz!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

C'est Si Bon: Salon Beauvior

C'est Ci Bon by Eartha Kitt filtered through my speakers, as my thoughts brought me back to Manila. It was as if I was back, waiting for my turn at the salon, sitting on a giant French provincial sofa as I revered at the sparkling chandelier above me. Upholstered in rich deep magenta, the French inspired sofa lends a vintage elegance to the place. Although I was nowhere near Paris, I felt this was a refreshing escape from the heat and traffic of Manila. The place: Salon Beauvior.

The salon is staged with opulence and style that would definitely spell out the whole salon experience as L-U-X-U-R-I-O-U-S!  Posh, tres chic -- these stylish words came to mind, but without the intimidation. I felt welcome as I was greeted with warm smiles from the staff.  You can't blame me for trooping back to the salon 5 times during my short visit in Manila. 

"Iced tea, water or coffee?" asked the young lady while I was leafing through a magazine.

"Iced tea please," I answered. And the young receptionist's warm, youthful smile and loose, shiny black hair made me wish that after leaving the salon, I would magically transform like her, haha!

During my first experience at this salon, Pam was assigned to me to evaluate what I needed to do with my hair. "Salon evaluation" usually scares me but with Pam's expertise, who wouldn't feel comforted? She was trained as a stylist in the U.K. and was a hair stylist and make-up artist for the royal family in Brunei. Her gentle approach and generous beauty tips made me feel as if I was visiting a friend for afternoon tea.

So on my last day in Manila, guess where I went to spend the afternoon? At the salon, of course. I was actually torn whether to go to the salon or meet up with my friends for the last time. Solution? I did both. The salon has VIP rooms that you could use to meet up with girlfriends. To go along with the French motif, my friend Tina brought some crepes and macaroons. I had my hair relaxed by one of the salon's senior stylist, Sam, with Girlie assisting him. The process took about two hours, but I had the best of both worlds. I was with my friend Tina, and Sam was transforming my frizzy hair into smooth and silky straight hair. On top of that, he was very entertaining with his funny anecdotes about his travels around the world. Boy, was I impressed by him, as he speaks 6 languages and also carries 26 years of experience as a stylist.

A guest celebrating her birthday at the salon with her friends.
Check out their FB page for promos and next time you want to meet your girlfriends, the salon is a perfect place to host a cocktail SPArty, or to celebrate special occassions, or to just hang out. Their friendly coordinators would love to work with you for your next event. It's definitely C'est si Bon!

The recipe I'd like to share with you today follows the theme... LUXURIOUS well calorie speaking that is.. haha.  Well let's indulge, so here's my  Crispy Bacon Nutella Crepes ...

Crispy Bacon Nutella  Crepe
We need:

Crepe batter (This is my basic crepe recipe.  Make it ahead of time.  I usually make them before dinner and refrigerate it.  While everyone is still at the dinner table, make the crepes so it's hot and fresh.)

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 c milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp butter, melted

Mix flour and eggs together.  Add the milk and stir it together.  Gradually add the water and stir well, removing lumps until you get a smooth batter.

Pour 1/4 cup of batter into a hot pan.  Make a circular motion to spread the batter thinly and evenly.  When the sides turn light brown, flip it on the other side and cook it for another minute. Don't get intimidated.  It's easy, all it takes is practice to come up with a perfect crepe.

Crispy Bacon

To assemble:
Spread crepe on a flat surface.  Spread a generous amount of nutella.  Fold crepes and top with crispy bacon slice.  Bon Apetit!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

finding your oasis

Oh how peaceful.

We all need our little oasis where we could sit, relax and be still until we hear our  heart murmur. Until we can feel our breathe under our nostrils and the stillness around us whisper into our ear like soothing music.  It's calming, almost magical... we feel renewed, and the best thing is that it's free.

I used to have my own little oasis in San Diego.  This place is where I go to when I feel like I'm carrying the burden of the world.  I sit and marvel at nature's beauty... The mystic sound of the ocean resonate like music from the frets of a guitar ... while the sun's gentle rays and the subtle breeze caress me until I have calmed down and feel warm and fuzzy inside. The bonus is this seaside spot was only 5 minutes away from where I lived.

So I am euphoric when here in STL I found my new "home". There's a secret garden that revealed itself to me slowly.  It is a serene garden hideaway.  Slowly I realize that beneath the lush green leaves, there is a small pond and down the steps, it reveals itself.  Oh how serendipitous indeed! I heard my heart sing!

While it's true that the terrain in California is a lot different from St. Louis, I believe that I have to embrace my neighborhood and most importantly make it my own.  Although I miss the spring flowers and the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, I also found a beautiful place in St. Louis. I see GREEN: green lush trees, green ponds, green grass...everything glowing GREEN!

So for my glowing green season inspired dish,  pandan leaves came in handy for me to whip up a dessert called Buko Pandan, a refreshing sweet dessert made of pandan jello and buko (young coconut) laced with the creamy goodness of cream cheese and condensed milk. The trifecta of the jello, buko and cream will reveal a beautiful symphony of goodness in your mouth.  Trust me, your feel good hormones will kick in, haha!

 Buko Pandan 

5 pieces pandan leaves
1 pack unflavored gelatin
2 packs frozen buko (young coconut)
1 bottle nata de coco
1/2 can condensed milk
1/2 c heavy cream
2 tbsps cream cheese

Thaw out packs of frozen buko.  Drain and set aside.

Prepare the jello as per package instructions.  When boiling water, put the pandan leaves, then add the jello.  Remove pandan leaves and pour the jello in a flat pan.  Let it cool.  When the jello solidifies, slice the pandan jello into small cubes.

Mix the condensed milk, cream cheese and heavy cream together.  Add buko pandan jello and nata de coco .  Gently mix the salad altogether.  Refrigerate before serving.


Here are some snapshots around my "green" city of St. Louis:

I hope you have enjoyed touring around my piece of heaven... may  you find yours!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

What's for breakfast? TAPSILOG

I was literally stuck.  I was staring at my laptop, not knowing what to write for my next post. Until I saw this post on the page of The Breakfast Store.

For the child in all of us...

“When you wake up in the morning, (Winnie the) Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "Oh it's the same thing," he said.

Oh the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh, of course breakfast is always exciting!  And oh how apt, as the dish I'll share with you today is a breakfast meal.  This plate is what I served my husband when he asked me that question "what's for breakfast?".

I answered: "Tapsilog!", a Filipino term for a breakfast meal composed of tapa (marinated sweet beef), sinangag (garlic fried rice),  and itlog (fried egg).

"Can you make the tapa taste like Cow Label (dried beef or beef jerky - which was popular during the 80's in the Philippines)... you know that sweet and spicy kind, but minus the tough beef?" he said.

So here we go, I'm sharing tapsilog - inspired by the prompt given to me by my husband.

Tapsilog (Breakfast Beef TIps) ala Cow Label

1 lb beef (sirloin beef is best sliced thinly)

1 tbsp beef bouillon powder
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp brown sugar (opt to add more if you want it sweeter)
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together.  Marinate for 30 minutes or preferably overnight.  Heat the pan.  Coat the pan with a thin layer of cooking oil or you could use cooking oil spray.  When the pan is hot, put the beef and spread it on the pan.  Allow it to cook for a minute.  Flip the strips of beef and cook for another minute.  By this time, the sugar from the marinade should be caramelizing. 

Garlic Rice

2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
cooked white rice (use a day old rice from the fridge, not 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.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Celebrating Motherhood

I miss my mama.

It doesn't matter how old I am, having my mom beside me (or just thinking about her when I seem like a million miles away) never fails to bring warmth and joy to me... her embrace is like a solace, a haven for me to always feel safe and for me to return to when I seek comfort.

Happy Mother's Day to my Mama... whose love transcends time and distance.  She has taught me lessons of love and faith, keeping me grounded, serving as a guiding voice throughout my journey of motherhood. Her daily trips to the market to get the best and the freshest food nourished me.  Memories of going with her to the market I sort through my mind like love letters from home, touching my heart. Even as I call her today from half a world away, I try to convey my love for her and my wish to be closer to her.

To Mama Bernie, my fabulous mother-in-law, her penchant for life and beauty inspires me.  Her meticulous and organized approach to family's parties and events have served as templates when I host my own. Her elaborate spread during family get togethers is something we all look forward to.  It is from her where  I learned how to celebrate life's happy occasions.   Every time I do my plating and styling, I hear her in my head saying: "this is half the battle in wining the hearts of people to love the food you serve".


Thank you to Mommy Dory, who played an enormous influence in our marriage, and who continues to serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration.  She was my Wikipedia of  cooking traditional Filipino recipes.  Her memory lives on in every dish that comes from my kitchen and the joy we partake in sharing God's blessings.

Thank you to my wonderful kids who have made me a proud mom.  Their achievements are highly commendable.  Although I can't take credit for it, it makes me cherish the sweet fruits of the sacrifices planted throughout these years.  Preparing home cooked meals is a passion for me because of their constant appreciation... the hugs and kisses they freely gave with every meal is uplifting and truly fulfilling.  I admit that I miss them so much, especially today, as I miss how they pamper me and do all the work in the kitchen (albeit in their own chaotic manner).... I cherish those moments and it never fails to touch my heart.

To all the moms... please stand up, as I gently place my hand behind you... as you deserve a pat on the back... For the home cook- moms, may  you continue to find the inspiration and the joys of cooking at home.  Now if you don't cook,  I hope you find the encouragement to do so and allow yourself to make mistakes in the kitchen but hopefully along the way you will enjoy the fruits of your labor at home. 


For mother's day, I am sharing with you a beef stew that is one of my family's "special" dish.  I hope your family will enjoy too.  

2-3 lbs beef (cubed)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tbsps liver pate
green olives
pineapple chunks
green bell pepper
Olive oil or butter
Bay leaf
black pepper
2 pcs. potatoes (wedged)
2 pcs carrots, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 large lemon
3 tbsp soy sauce

Marinate the beef overnight with soy sauce, lemon and pepper.  (You could also shorten this part... marinate it for 30 minutes instead and it should be fine.).  

In a pan, brown the potatoes and carrots.  Set aside.   You could use the same saucepan to saute the beef with garlic, onions.  Add black pepper and bay leaf.  Cook beef to almost dry.  Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and soup stock Cook it on low fire until tender.  Add soup stock or water if the meat is not tender yet.

Add green olives, pineapple and green bell peppers.  Thicken the sauce using liver pate.  Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to enhance the taste.  You could also use butter if you prefer so. 

This will surely give your family a reason to squeeze you tight... and I'm pretty sure, nothing beats that feeling in the world.. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The grass is always greener...

"The grass is greener on the other side of the fence." 

This is what this image seems to say to me when I walked to the park today.  Of course I was on the side of the fence with all the concrete, hahaha. When I posted this pic on Facebook, my friend Rowena commented that it is human nature to always think that way.  

This applies to many facets of our lives, Rowena went on, like our relationships, career, health, etc.  Instead of always looking at the other direction (out of curiousity, discontentment, uncertainty), why not stay focused on what is at hand and make the most of what we have.

Bravo, very well said Rowena!

My husband and I come from different regions in the Philippines.  Growing up, I always wanted to live in the city, while he always wanted to live in the province.  Life throws some humor in our lives that yes, we had lived on both sides - experiencing life in the city and in the province. We learned how to appreciate the beauty of a simple, provincial life in my hometown and also the fun and excitement of living in the city.

So I was thinking out loud on what to cook tonight and he suggested, Why not make dinakdakan?
I was surprised with the request, for dinakdakan is a dish common in my hometown but not in the city.  It was endearing because it felt like my husband grew up with the dish, like it was very familiar to his palette.  

Guided by my husband's suggestion, I made dinakdakan and paired it with a simple veggie dish of dinengdeng.  Both dishes are simple staples from the small town of Tuguegarao.

Dinakdakan is an Ilocano (although I am not Ilocano, but Ibanag) dish made of grilled pig's ear and face laced with pig's brain.  Ok, before you fall off your chair, no I didn't cook my version that way.  Instead I used pork steaks and added mayonnaise in lieu of the soft nervous system organ.  You could use pork belly too if you'd prefer.  Dinengdeng is a simple vegetable dish that is cooked in fish sauce broth.  You could use a variety of veggies but in my version I used spinach.


2 pcs pork steak (belly, butt could also be used)
1 tsp pork bullion (the powder one)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 whole white onions (sliced)
green onions chopped
1/4 c calamansi (lemon or vinegar could be used as an alternative)
2 tbsp mayo

Mix garlic powder, onion powder and the bullion together.  Rub it on the pork steaks.  You could grill it but for me, I pan seared the pork steaks on a cast iron pan.  Cook both sides for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the lemon and mayo together.  Season with salt and pepper.  (Note: not too much salt as the pork steaks are already seasoned with the bullion)

Let the meat rest for five minutes.  Slice meat and coat it with the mayo mixture.  Sprinkle a generous amount onions.

For those of you who doesn't want raw onions do this:
On a pan, put 2 tbsp butter.  Add onions.  Stir fry the sliced meat with the mayo mixture.  Stir for a few minutes until onions are wilted.  Enjoy.


1 bag of spinach (Use any leafy vegetable)
2 tbsp fish sauce (the black one that's called Bagoong Balayan)
2 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup water

Put the water, vinegar and fish sauce altogether in a pan.  Allow a few minutes to simmer.  Add the onions and the leafy vegetables.  As soon as you dropped the veggies, switch off the stove.  Allow a few minutes for the veggies to cook but remove it at once.  You don't want to overcook your  veggies.

This duo is usually in a family's dinner repertoire.  If you try it, it will give you a glimpse of how the people in the Northern part of the Philippines have their family dinner... and for this reason, I would like to submit this post for this month's Kulinarya hosted by Betty Ann or Dudut.  I didn't quite follow the "theme" but these dishes definitely have my hometown stamp on them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Midnight Mercato

It was almost midnight when O, our host, took us to a food enclave called Mercato Centrale located in Bonifacio Global City, Philippines.  Visiting the weekend market for the first time, it looks like an ordinary big white tent from the outside but once inside you are transported to an enchanting world of food magicians.

And so the food trip begins.

The market place gives a glimpse of the whole gamut of Filipino food: street food, home cooked food, chef-created dishes and culinary delights. And for balikbayans like us, the food stalls were calling our name.  I was in a daze... seriously, as I felt like a kid in a candy store.  It seemed that all four of us felt the same.  We scattered in different directions and would meet in the middle to check out our food finds.  It was comical to see my brother in law carrying several dishes from different stalls, urging us to try each one.  But we all enjoyed it.

I was surprised to see the multitude of food hawkers, even as it was nearly midnight.  Well it is called a night market but I guess I've never been to a crowded tent like this with people's faces lighting up as bright as the sun and I'm sure our faces showed the same aura too... haha!

Chicken and Pig's offals skewered in bamboo sticks took me back to the streets of Divisoria sans the heat and the smog.  This is a very impressive selection of authentic Filipino street food.

Now who could miss all the street food - as they were brightly displayed, it intrigued my palette.  To be honest, I've never tried anything like this before...

So I took a closer look and I thought "should I even try?" But sometimes there's a voice inside you that you cannot drown out and I thought "tonight is the time to let go."

So I followed my instinct and indeed did let go.  My favorite among the skewered barbeque "thrill" was the pig's ear.  I thought that the sweet barbeque glaze made it  palatable ... haha!

The sizzling sisig was one of my favorites too. At least I was familiar with the taste and it didn't "shock" my taste buds.  

Except for the egg tray used as a serving tray(?), these little cuties were delightful.  They are called taclings, made of fried wanton pastry in a cup, shaped like a tiny taco shell.  The yellow ones had beef on it while the  green shells had tuna + mushrooms.  I just loved them.

I must have been away from the Filipino food scene for awhile, as I didn't know which drink to choose.  The flavors are mostly new to me and healthy options are widely available.  

I guess when you see foodies (I don't like to use the term but I can't help it) you know that there's a connection right away.  And rightly so - meet my new foodie friends.  They are pastry chefs from Texas who are temporarily based in the Philippines.  Too bad, their shelves were empty when I got there.  Their most raved about cheesecakes sell like hotcakes (well what can I say?) I was told that their lager beer cheesecakes is the bomb.

There was so much food to try. One stall caught my attention - it's called Off Beat and they sell burgers... Well not on a bun but between two donuts - oh how delightful.

One of the best finds I had was this dessert table by the wall.  They sell pastries by the slice and it reminded me of my favorite pastries from a neighborhood bakeshop in Makati.  But alas, I was hypnotized by the thick creamy sauce the owner (sorry but I forget her name) was slowly pouring over the slice of Brazo de Mercedes.  Let's just say this dessert didn't find its way home... haha! 

Next time you're in Manila and you want to go on a Pinoy food trip visit Mercato Centrale and you will have great start to your journey.

Thanks for taking us there O!

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