Saturday, December 28, 2013

Video Blog | How to Make Leche Flan

Are you ready for 2014?

Yes, I can't wait. For I know that a new year brings in fresh starts, new dreams, new plans... oh well should I dare say that includes new diet plans? haha!  

But before we embark on a new diet plan, let's indulge for a few more days before the new year commences shall we?  How about a creamy, delicious, rich leche flan? So, I am excited to share a new video blog featuring my brother in law, Dick.  If you've been following my blog I have featured him in so many blog posts in the past.  But I'm so happy that this time, he agreed to do a video with me and for sharing one of the most raved recipe that he makes: LECHE FLAN.

I hope you will enjoy the video.. and I would like to wish you a...Happy New Year!

Leche Flan ala Benedict
(double recipe for 2 pans of flan)
16 egg yolks
2 cans of evaporated milk
2 cans of condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, rind
1 c sugar

Watch the video here:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 25, 2013


A table  showcasing the ingredients for a roasted turkey at the grocery store made me realize that the Holidays are here again. You see, I have mixed emotions about the holidays. One is that it's the most "merry" of times, while it also reminds me of holidays past--- and yes it makes me miss home a lot!

One of the ways where I could bring myself closer to home is revisiting my mom's old recipe notebook. It never fails to evoke warmth  and  love. Seemingly it triggers powerful and pleasant memories. So today as I leafed through its fragile pages,  I came across my mom's recipe for Home-made Ham.  I felt like it  called my name. Instantly it gave me the inspiration to make another video... so voila click away to watch another episode of my MODERN ASIAN COOKING SERIES.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

One with Tacloban


Enough of just sitting down in the comforts of my home watching the news. I cry as I watch a mom making a desperate plea, begging for food and water, and shelter for her young children. I am stoic as I hear a mom wailing frantically as she searched for her three missing children as the camera pans to the bodies of her three other children who drowned in the typhoon surge.  I get goosebumps hearing stories upon stories of families separated. Families losing everything they own.  Families losing their loved ones.

Yes, I am saddened, which is an understatement.  The devastation caused by the Super Typhoon is haunting.  Apocalypse seemingly crafted for the movies suddenly comes alive as I see the rubble and the massive destruction.  


It's time to roll up my sleeves, no our sleeves, as we all need to do something.  I know we all leverage our special talents for a good cause.  And for me,  I hope to launch my One with Tacloban project

I am booking small dinners where I offer my cooking class and/or cooking services for free.  I will create a customized Filipino inspired menu for each party.  All donations collected from the gathering will go directly to the Philippine National Red Cross.
I have booked 4 dinners so far.  I hope to get more.  Please if you are in the St. Louis area or if you know anyone in the area who is willing to experience  fellowship over a Filipino-inspired meal, please contact me.  I will be excited to discuss with you this opportunity to host and tell you more about the project.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lavander Encrusted Chicken with Blueberry Glaze

We just harvested our sage. Would you like a bunch?

I'm on my way, was my reply to my friend, Ralph C, the creative mind behind Verdura Botanica. Frankly I'm a fan of his.  There is nothing this guy can't do.  He concocts soaps, crafts bags, upcycles, just everything that I want to do.

And so that evening, I dropped by their house, and the aroma of roasted chicken greeted me.  The faint music echoed into the house and the amber hue of the glasses of red wine never looked so refreshing.  There was a pot filled with veggies and chicken carcass simmering. I felt like walking into an European kitchen. I was escorted to their backyard and saw their harvest of sage and lavander. Lots of them.

"I use these lavander to make my soaps"  he said.

"Feel free to get some" Jeff chimed in.

You may want to put lavender with salt and it will make a good rub" Ralph suggested.

As I was about to step out,  Jeff handed me a bottle of Himalayan salt.  "Here use this for your rub"

I stepped out, so inspired and charmed!  I went  straight to my kitchen, opened a bottle of daiquiri, and voila, I made exactly what Jeff and Ralph inspired me to make.  I've never used lavander in my cooking before but I fell in love instantly.  Yes, I think I overdid it, because I had a week of cooking with lavander like crazy.  Europe felt so close!

So here I share with you, Lavander encrusted chicken with blueberry glaze.  I sprinkled some Gorgonzola cheese to amp it up.  A bed of fresh spinach was a great contrast to the sweet glaze. It is so simple to make but yet this dish has several layers of flavors.  Enjoy!

Lavander Encrusted Chicken with Blueberry Glaze

4 pcs. chicken fillet 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp  lemon juice
2 tbsp lavander leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For the blueberry glaze
1/4 cup fresh blueberries 
1/4 c red wine
1/4 butter
1-2 tbsp honey
1 vanilla stick

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 all the other ingredients to make the rub.  Rub gently into the chicken. Set aside.

Heat butter (around 2 tbsp) in a skillet.  Allow the butter to melt then brown it for about 2-3 minutes.

Put the chicken into 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.

Make the glaze by pouring all the ingredients into a saucepan.  Let it simmer.  Reduce the sauce until it is a little thick.  Set aside.

Lay the chicken on a bed of spinach.  Sprinkle the glaze and you may add fresh blueberries as well.Add some Gorgonzola cheese.... ENJOY!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tita Bess' Heirloom Guava Jelly

As a child, I loved visiting the farm.

My late father would bring us to the farm on weekends to immerse us into "farm life."  But now that I am in the business of food writing, to experience "farm life" again brings it to a different realm.

"They just gathered dozens of baskets filled with guavas and we are going to make guava jelly, would you like to come?" asked Tita Bess (my brother-in-law's mom) one morning. 

The invite appeals to me. I have featured Tita Bess previously, here and here. She's a great resource, especially for heirloom recipes. I appreciate  her generosity  to share the process of how their family's heirloom guava jelly is being made. At the same time I am excited to visit my brother in law's farm, which he tended to before migrating to the US.

The winding dirt road takes us to a vast farm blanketed by a green carpet of tropical trees:  mangoes, santol, guavas. We were greeted by two large vats filled with simmering guavas. Each vat, filled with a boiling mixture of yellow and green guavas, was a sight to behold. Like golf balls swimming in a large vessel full of water, the air quickly fills with the sweet aroma of guavas. And with the sound of the crackle of the blazing firewood and the rustling of water poured into the vat, I start my immersion to this charming "farm life". My senses are overwhelmed.

The vat has been simmering for 3 hours when we get there.  We arrive just in time, as they are about to strain the guavas.

Then a second step of straining is done, until the guava extract is free from seeds and other particles. While this is done, freshly picked calamansi is also being juiced.

The guava extract is poured to another vat, sugar is added along with calamansi juice.

And we watch patiently, as the guava extract turns into jelly over a period of three hours.

So three hours gives me the chance to know the members of the crew...  

Meet Dummo, I call him the silent worker.

This is Tinong... he's been with the clan for ages... I call him the loyal worker.

And this is Fer, the master mixer.

Three hours may seem long, but I am distracted by the charm around me...

The serene surroundings make me appreciate life in its simplest form...

 And as soon as the temperature reaches 230 degrees F, it has reached its gelling point.


Or they use the ball test:  drop some jelly in a bowl of water, if the jelly forms a ball it's time to stop boiling but if the jelly spreads, continue to simmer the mixture

Now it is time to skim off the bubbles collecting at the surface

then pour them into jars...

then skim off any remaining bubbles...

Now its ready for sterilization...

Soon enough, these sweet bottles of guava jelly will be distributed among friends and relatives...  and each bottle will bring smiles and joy.  Because they know that this is a heirloom recipe passed on to generations from more than 60 years ago.

For me, it is a sweet experience to be on the farm: being able to scoop a spoonful of freshly made jelly onto warm bread; being able to partake in guava jelly making with the crew and being one with nature. Sweet memories indeed... And the charm never wears off being at the farm.  

Thank you Tita Bess for the sweet experience.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Being on Feast TV | Pan Seared Lamb Chops in Tamarind and Lemongrass Reduction

I  told  you in my last post, how ecstatic I was being featured in three magazines in August right? But September just kicked in and it gets more exciting! You see,  I'm blushing as I write this post.

For the September issue of Feast Magazine  I am featured as one of the five STL bloggers talk about their favorite gadget and share a recipe (of course) on the article Go Gadgets Go,  What's more thrilling is the fact that I am featured twice, as I am also on Feast TV, (launched in April and is  Emmy nominated on its maiden show).


I am sharing with you the video clip here but before we do that, allow me to thank Liz Miller, the managing editor of Feast.  When she initially emailed me regarding the article in June, I was ecstatic. After a series of emails and a meet up, I then got another email from her, saying that I will also be featured on Feast TV too. Whoa. I was floored because I know that it's going to be huge. I also would like to thank the video tandem Hannah Radcliff and Edward Calvey, if you watch the show, you'll be impressed at their work, and I mean REALLY impressed!  Also Kristin Brashares for making me at ease with the camera.  I guess the team's energy infected me with calm-ness and it made the whole experience really FUN! 

A special thanks to my good friend Ralph Cordova, who is a professor (in his normal life he says) but is also the creative force behind Verdura Botanica,  He is the reason why I was oozing with self confidence, as he designed my diva-usque apron! (He designs and makes leather bags, crafts soaps, I tell you he is multi talented and I'm so lucky to have him as a friend-- hihi).

So here's the clip and oh, btw it will also air on KDNL ABC St Louis on Sunday, at 9:30 am.Please click here to watch.

I shared a recipe I developed using my favorite gadget, an immersion blender.  I used two of my favorite ingredients: tamarind and lemongrass.

Pan Seared Lamb Chopsin Tamarind and Lemongrass Vinaigrette Reduction

Friday, August 30, 2013

On reaching a milestone and going on a trip back home | Chicken Satay Skewers

I move my body from side to side as I struggle in my seat and adjust my seat belt. I am on a trans-Pacific flight heading home to the Philippines. I am simultaneously uneasy and ecstatic.  I tilt my head to lean on the plane's window, unsuccessful in my attempts to manage the mixed emotions flowing through me.  I worry about my family back home, but I also feel pumped up by the good news that my recipes are featured in three - sorry, I still can't believe it! - in three publications. So, I try to focus on the positive and decide not to worry about anything. I am trusting that things will go well.

So, instead, I focus on the reasons why I celebrate: I am visiting my mother, brothers, family and friends.

In addition, I now know how it feels...

- to score a hat trick! In the month of August, three of my recipes are featured in three different magazines. 

- how Angelina Jolie must feel whenever she is featured on magazine covers! 

But all jokes aside, I am grateful to the staff and writers who I have worked with to make these features happen. From the magazine Missouri Life, to my good friends Betty Ann Quirino and Nina Puyat - I thank you for featuring my sliders and spaghetti (Missouri Life), Adobo Burger (ABS-CBN's Food Magazine) and Pancit Batil Patung (Appetite), respectively. I've enjoyed working with you all. I have reached a major milestone since the beginning of my food blog.

To celebrate, I am sharing with you my take on Chicken Satay.  This dish is full of flavors, and the kicker... it's in the peanut sauce.  Enjoy!

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce 
2 lbs boneless chicken sliced thinly.
1 tbsp red curry paste (coriander, cumin, turmeric, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, galangal, chili, lime)
1/2 c coconut milk
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium size galangal, grated (ginger could be used as a substitute)
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
3 Thai chili, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Bamboo skewers
Banana leaves/ Romaine Lettuce for serving

Make the satay marinade by mixing  coconut milk, garlic, curry paste, galangal,  fish sauce, thai chili.  Season with salt and pepper.

Marinate the chicken in the fridge preferably overnight or at least for an hour.
Skewer the chicken and grill until cooked and slightly charred, about 3-5 minutes per side.

Serve with peanut dipping sauce.  I am sharing 2 variations of the dipping sauce.

Peanut Sauce 1 - with red curry and coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili sauce (or to taste)

2 tablespoons peanuts roasted and chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a pan.  Let it simmer until it’s thick and creamy.  You could also use the marinade itself.  Just add sugar and peanut butter.  Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts.

Peanut Sauce 2
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili sauce (or to taste)
2 teaspoons garlic, grated (optional)
2 teaspoons ginger, grated (optional)
2 tablespoons peanuts roasted and chopped

Mix everything in a sauce pan over medium heat to round out the flavors.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Garden Herbs Project | Chocolate Sticky Rice

Seldom am I compelled to write a post like this. 

A few weeks ago, I received a message from my kababayan Manny Barrias.  I've known Manny since we were kids as we both grew up in Tuguegarao.  Manny is a practicing physician here in the United States and he has started The Garden Herbs Project. The project aims to support poor children during the important stage of development of a child's brain, the first 3-5 years. I'd like to share his message - so that it may touch your hearts as it did mine:  

I am running a new project in Cagayan. It is a preschool wellness project, based mainly within barangay (village) daycare centers. The project aims to monitor for developmental delays among children ages 3,4, and 5 enrolled at the centers. It includes a feeding program, sports program, etc. and also includes an annual well child exam by physicians to screen for illnesses. It is called the Garden Herbs Project.

Right now I am raising funds by selling rice products from the Cordilleras imported into the US. These rice varieties are grown in the Banaue rice terraces. www.heirloomrice.comThe project earns from the sale of these rice products.

The project is straightforward:  buy 1 pack of rice and you get to feed five children a day.  Please visit the Garden  Herb Project website here.

With just a few clicks, my order was completed. There is a special feeling once the box came in the mail. First, the different rice varieties are heirloom rice from the famed Banaue Rice Terraces; second, I know deep down my small gesture could bring smiles and joy to 5 children.

As I swirled my hand around the rice while washing it, I felt a connection with the farmers and to the children. I want to get involved in this project. That said, I will be developing a series of recipes using the different varieties of heirloom rice. So for today's recipe I used the Ifugao Diket (medium grain sticky rice) variety.  Please click here to read its description.

Chocolate Sticky Rice

1/2 can coconut milk 
2.5 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 can coconut milk
3/4 c brown sugar (you could add more if you want it sweeter)


Wash the rice 2X-3X with water.  Remove small pebbles if present.  Cook the sweet rice by filling up a stockpot with the rice, 1/2 a can of coconut milk and 2.5 cusps of water. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. Set aside.

While the rice is cooking, let's make the coconut crumbs or latik. Latik is the residue formed by the reduction of coconut milk. Just pour the whole can of coconut milk in a thick saucepan.  Bring it to boil (on medium heat) and continue to stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. The milk will begin to change its color to slight brown and begin to solidify. At this point add the brown sugar. Continue to stir until the sugar caramelizes. Once it has caramelized, stir in the cooked sweet rice (mix well). Let it cool. Refrigerate for an hour.  Form into 1 inch balls.

For the ganache
8 ounces of chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 stick of butter

Place chocolate pieces in a large bowl on a baine marie (hot water bath). Stir continously.  Add butter and stir again. Remove from heat. Adjust according to your preferred thickness. Using two spoons, roll the balls into the ganache.  It will be a sticky situation (pun intended) - gooey and decadent... Enjoy!

Notes:  Make sure that the rice balls are firm. They will not roll well into the ganache if it's soft.
In making the ganache, you could also use the microwave. Microwave the chocolate chips for 20 seconds. Stir then put it back to the microwave again for 20 minutes. Stir in the butter. Voila, you have a wonderful ganache.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Missouri Life Magazine Feature | Sesame Beef Sliders

Okay... it's been a month since my last post.  And a few of you have asked me what's up, why the delay in posting my next piece?

It's just that there are too many new developments coming in... some good ones, and some unfortunate ones.  But isn't that what life is about?  The good time mixed in with the bad?  As Ellen Degeneres said: “My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.” LOL! And  I would add the yin and yang - how contrary forces are related and interconnected.

But fine, let's tackle the things that are good - as I am so grateful with all the wonderful opportunities coming my way... Well in the current August issue of  Missouri Life Magazine, I am featured in their Back to School Beef article.  The Missouri Beef Council co-sponsored the article about moms preparing meals for back to school time.

Here an excerpt of what Tina, assistant editor wrote:
When Malou Perez-Nievera's three children would open the front door on weekday afternoons, savory smells would wash over them like an ocean wave.  "Preparing good food is always at the center of a close-knit family, at the dining table where the food is shared and stories are heard" Malou says.  She shares recipes and reflections on her family-centered blog Skip to malou and teaches the Modern Asian Cooking Series in the St. Louis area.

"I would think that in the age of frozen dinners and takeout, it's still important to have some kind of sense of cooking good food--- food that comes from the heart" she says.  Malou's meals are robutst and creative: grilled lemongrass beef, oxtail and tripe stew in peanut sauce, and corned beef sinigang (sour soup). New twists on solid staples spell adventure for her family, and she hopes to ignite that fire in others"

I'd like to thank the staff of Missouri Life Magazine for the write up and for the whole enjoyable experience:  special mention to Tina Casagrand, assistant editor, your article is well written... and Bob Holt for the stunning pictures.  Also Jonas Weir and Danita Allen Wood, the editor in chief and co-owner of the magazine.

Here's the recipe I shared for the back to school issue:

Sesame Beef Sliders

2 lbs. ground beef
1 tbsp liquid seasoning
3 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 stalk green onions (chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsps sesame seeds
1-2  tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, put the ground beef.  Season with salt and pepper.   Mix all the remaining ingredients together.   Since this is for back to school fare, some kids don't like garlic or onions, you could use the powder garlic and powder onions instead.  Gently mix the beef together and remember not to over mix the beef.

To make sure that the beef mixture is well seasoned, pan fry a teaspoon full of the beef mixtures and taste.  Adjust the seasonings if needed.

Now we’re ready to form our patties. Grab a chunk (like a the size of a golf ball) of  beef and gently form a patty. This recipe yielded 12 patties.  Pre-heat a cast iron pan on high heat. Add patties and cook it for about 2- 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top. Let it rest.

Grill the buns on the same cast iron pan.  Then play around with your flavors. For the dressing, I mixed mayo with chopped garlic, a little soy sauce and a little sugar.  If Rachel Ray has her EVOO, I have my SO (sesame oil) so go ahead, sprinkle some sesame oil on your mayo mixture.

Let's build your sliders. First, slice the bun in half, grill both sides (facing down)  Spread the mayo on the toasted bun add the grilled burger. Add a tomato slice, cucumber slice and spinach.  and add the top bun. Finish off with a slice of strawberry on top.  The kids will love the heart shaped topped sliders... ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chicago Weekend | Ensaladang Talong con Lechon Kawali ala Bonni (Eggplant Salad with Crispy Pork Belly)

Chicago has become one of our favorite cities.  

Luckily, it's a short drive from St. Louis so a weekend in Chicago is a welcome respite.  I thought of sharing some pictures I took during our last trip... so here it goes:

Oprah's Lake Point Tower, is an iconic building located by Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. You can't miss it especially if you are at the Navy Pier (a popular tourist destination) It looks like a giant perfume bottle haha, but it has become our "inside joke" among friends that this is our next residence- NOT, lol!

Chicago skyline is a beautiful site to behold... don't you think?

It was a lovely day, so riding the Water Taxi was a lot of fun.

The center building is Trump Tower.  Remember Bill Rancic?  He is the first winner of The Apprectice and he managed the construction of the tower.

Luckily we had our friend Bonni with us who served as our tour guide.
"The middle structure is the Wrigley Building at Michigan Avenue.  The Wrigley building was modeled after the Giralda tower of  the Cathedral in Seville.  The Wrigley Building  once served as the headquarters of the Wrigley company" he says.

This is the Marina City Complex, says Bonni again.  The two cylindrical towers by Chicago River has a unique shape, the towers are locally known as the corn cobs."

We were there on a Sunday, so were pleased that The Union Station was not as crowded.

We know that Chicago has a dynamic food scene but for now, let me share with you one of  the dishes that our host prepared.

Yep, this is Eggplant Ensalada con Lechon Kawali (Eggplant Salad with Crispy Pork Belly), knocked my socks off.  The pungent taste of bagoong (shrimp paste) plus the soft and rustic flavors of the grilled eggplant and the decadent crispy pork belly got me.  With Bonni's permission I would like to share the recipe with you.

 Eggplant Ensalada con Lechon Kawali ala Bonni (Eggplant Salad with Crispy Pork Belly)

Lechon Kawali (chopped into bite size)  Get Lechon Kawali recipe here.
2 medium eggplant (grilled and charred skin removed)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)

Put the grilled eggplant on the bottom of a serving dish.
Then layer it with the chopped crispy pork belly.
Meanwhile, saute the onions and tomatoes.  Quickly, add the shrimp paste.  Toss additional tomatoes (Bonni said, you want the tomatoes to be crisp and not mushy).
Pour the sauted tomatoes on top of the dish.  Toss them altogether.
Serve immediately while the pork belly is still crispy.  Enjoy!

And oh, lastly, this is  Cloud Gate also known as The Bean.   It is an amazing piece of art located at the Millenium Park.  Initially I thought it looked like a helmet (I actually called it The Helmet--haha).  

It's whimsical... magical...

Yes it's a silver bean sculpture which has become a popular tourist destination.  If you make it to Chicago, it's a fun (and free) thrill.  Enjoy!

And again, Bonni, thank you for the recipe.  You and Priscilla are awesome hosts... til next time!

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