Sunday, August 31, 2008

Photography Practice 2 : Dalandan Plus a Tag

Dalandan is the Filipino name for Kahel oranges, one of the many varieties of oranges. It has a shiny bright green skin, even when ripe; and equally stunning bright orange pulp and juice. Dalandan now comes in seedless forms, so that is the kind I bought.

The kids love Dalandan juice. It is so easy to make, you do not need a juicer. Wash the whole dalandan first. Even if we are not eating the skin, I am particular about cleaning the fruits thoroughly. (I am conscious of the pesticides and other chemical sprays on the produce.) Cut the dalandan in half. Simply squeeze the dalandan with your clean hands into a pitcher. Double up the amount of juice with water. Add sugar and ice cubes. Enjoy!

Kitchen Flavors tagged me with 6 quirky things I do, so here they go. Just please do not laugh if you find my habits too wierd :)

1. The first thing I do when I wake up is to get my cel phone and text my textmates.

2. Before I go to sleep, I have to play Zuma (its an old game) on the computer. It makes me feel sleepy.

3. Like Kitchen Flavors, I also do not eat when Hubby is not home. Well, when I become too hungry, I do not cook, I just get biscuits or cookies... :)

4. I personally tutor my kids. Though they go to school, I always add my lessons. I tell their teachers not to give them assignments/homeworks anymmore because they already have lots of homework to do with me.

5. I always have to drink hot coffee (double cream, no sugar please) with my breakfast.

6. I cannot go out without powder on my face :)

I would love to tag everybody who reads my blog. Just link back here so I can read about your quirks too. :)

It is fun to play! It is also a great way for us to know more about each other!
Some tagging rules:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you - that's me.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the blogger's blogs letting them know they have been tagged.

Hmmm... I would love to tag a lot of bloggers,

Aaah! Let me go take a sip of this refreshing juice first... :)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stir Fried Eggplant wih Miso

This is what happens when I submit an entry to a food event at the last minute. Since everybody is cooking the same ingredient, I have to think of a different way (different way from everybody else, that is,) to cook this ingredient. I am talking about Wandering Chopsticks' Weekend Wokking, by the way. The featured ingredient this month is the eggplant. Of course there are many ways to use the eggplant, but as usual, I wanted this ingredient to be the main feature of a dish.

So far, I have seen that there is a Vietnamese-Chinese dish, a Sichuan dish, a French inspired dish. I have made a Filipino eggplant dish before. You may want to check out my Tortang Talong or Stuffed Eggplant. So, I have decided to make the dish today Japanese inspired. I have adapted this recipe from the Japanese food site.

4 pcs eggplants, sliced into 1/4" pieces
5 T minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, seeded, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced
3 T miso (soy bean paste)
1 and 1/2 T mirin
1 and 1/2 T sugar
2 T canola oil

1. Soak eggplants in water for 10 minutes and drain. Dry on paper towels.

2. Mix mirin and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a skillet, saute garlic until fragrant but not burnt. Then fry eggplant in medium heat until softened.

4. Add bell peppers and stir fry for a while.

5. Add mirin mixture and stir quickly. Add the miso last. Turn off the heat, still mixing the egglants to incorporate the miso flavor. (I have read somewhere that miso is better not cooked, so as not to lose its many vitamins and minerals.)

Miso is a traditional Japanese thick soya paste made from fermenting rice and soy beans. This is commonly used for miso soup. But it is a versatile flavoring ingredient as well. I have made Grilled fish with Miso Glaze that is not only flavorful but healthy as well. Miso is high in protein, minerals and vitamins. So, I want to experiment more and use miso to flavor foods.

This is the first time I cooked this Japanese-inspired dish. My verdict? It is flavorful, and a bit on the salty side. Maybe I will lessen the amount of miso next time. This dish is delicious paired with a steaming bowl of Jasmine rice.

This is my entry to Wandering Chopsticks' Weekend Wokking event, where we celebrate different ways we can cook one featured ingredient, this month being the eggplant. This month's host is Marija of Palachinka. Please check out her blog on Wednesday, Sept. 3 for the round-ups.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Secrets of Making a Good Omelet

The picture above was actually taken in January, during my early days of blogging. It was an early attempt at food styling. Original post here. Whether we, food bloggers admit it or not, we do take a whole lot of effort to present delicious food pictures for the blog. Which is not often the case when we present everyday food for our families. Shhh, don't tell. :) Anyway, one thing good about blogging is that now, I am trying to present food "beautifully" to my family, to encourage the kids to eat more; whereas before, I would just dump all the food in the serving plate... :)

Back to Omelets. Do you know that I used to spell Omelet as Omelette? And I thought that was the correct spelling, until the spell-check function of blogger informed me that was wrong. Maybe that is the way French spell it? Does not "omelette" sound more sophisticated than "omelet?" :) Anyway, since this blog is in English, I better stick to Omelet.

Omelet is a very versatile food. If you cannot decide what to cook, just cook an omelet! If there are left-overs in the fridge, cook them in an omelet. At least that is what my grandmother used to do. That is why we always have trays of eggs in the house at any given time.

How do you prefer your omelet? What do you consider a good omelet? For my family, there are two factors. One, the filling should be healthy, a combination of meat and vegetables. Two, the egg should be soft, moist, fluffy and tasty; not hard nor dry.

The fillings are easy enough, you can just combine whatever ingredients you have on hand, season them according to the taste you prefer. If you're an omnivore, add lots of meat. If you're a vegetarian, you can limit your fillings to your veggies. That is how versatile this omelet is!

The secret of making a good omelet is in the cooking of eggs! That is, if you want soft, moist, fluffy and tasty eggs...

For reference, the original recipe of the Ham Omelet can be found here.

Secret No 1. Before cooking, add a dollop of cream or milk into the beaten eggs, and beat like crazy. :) The more air that is incorporated into the egg, the fluffier it is going to be. Cream makes the eggs, well, creamier, richer, tastier and moist.

Secret No 2. Slowly cook the eggs. Cook the eggs in low fire, scatter the filling ingredients on top of the "still-cooking" eggs and wait for the omelet to set. This might take as long as 15 minutes, but it is going to be worth the wait, I assure you.

Secret No 3. Since we like our omelets to be cheesy, choose good quality mozarella cheese. This will provide the chewy, gooey texture. Omit this step if you do not like cheese.

That is our family secret recipe, handed down by my grandmother. She still has some more egg recipes that I want to share (So please watch out for those!)

This post (with the original post here) will be joining Sangeeth's 101 Omelet Recipes. If you have omelet recipes you want to share, please check out her invitation to the 101 Omelet Recipes. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fish Fillet with Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Hubby declared this to be the best fish fillet he had ever tasted. Many thanks to the two sisters of Eating Club Vancouver, where I got the recipe. They in turn, got the recipe from Bittman's How to Cook Everything or The Best Recipes in the World. This dish looked easy to do, they had good reviews of this dish so I knew I just have to give it a try.

Again, some tweaks:

I used Dory fish fillets instead of Trout that JS and TS used. I could not find trout fillets in this part of the city.

JS and TS did not specify the amount of ingredients, I just "imagined" how it was supposed to taste like, and proceeded to cook it.

I did not add water to the Fish Sauce anymore.

I sauteed the onions and leeks separately from the fish. (See instructions below.)

I added the Japanese red chilli powder with sesame seeds, well, because it's my newest seasoning baby (favorite).

2 pcs Fish fillets, cut into serving sizes

1/2 C water
1/2 C brown sugar
1 T Fish Sauce
4 -5 slices of fresh ginger
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1 stalk green onion leeks, chopped
sprinkling of Japanese red chilli powder with sesame seeds
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1. Combine water and sugar in a wok or cooking pan. Let it boil and cook until the mixture changes to a caramel color.

2. Add in the fish sauce and ginger. Everything will sizzle a bit.

3. Add in the fish. Wait for a few minutes until the bottom part changes color. Turn the fishes over. Cook the other side until all done.

4. Ladle the fish fillets into the serving plate, leaving the sauce in the cooking pan.

5. Cook the onions in the remaining sauce until softened, just a few minutes. Then add in the onion leeks. Just before turning off the fire, add in the cilantro.

6. Pour the sauce (with the onions and stuffs) over the fish fillets. Sprinkle with red chilli powder. Serve immediately.

It is very easy to prepare, easy to cook, and yet delicious to the last bite. Daughter said the more chilli powder, the more these fishies taste better! Eating Club Vancouver said, "The caramel sauce was neither fishy nor sweet (for something that was made from the combination of fish sauce and sugar). It had a great depth to it from the caramelized sugar. Yet, it was actually quite delicate and the flavour of the (trout) fish came through and shone." I could not have said it better! :)

This mouth-watering dish joins Bookmarked Recipes, a food event that features dishes we have bookmarked and cooked (or baked) from a magazine, a cook book or from another food blog. Created by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments, this is the 20th edition already! To see last week's delicious recipes, please click here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Prawns Misua (Flour Noodles)

Misua or Mee Sua is the Chinese name for this thin type of noodles. I am not sure if they have equivalent English name. The word literally means "Flour Threads." Wikipedia said they are made from wheat flour. Probably with salt too, because if you add misua to any dish, it will become salty.

So far, I am familiar with two kinds of misua. The first one is the one pictured below, the one used for this recipe. It is white, super thin, very thread-like, fragile, and is always used for soups. It softens and is cooked immediately when added to boiling liquids. The second one is a bit thicker than the one in the picture, sometimes white or off-white, or yellow; and is usually used for stir-fry (guisado). Although some cooks would use the thicker one in soups as well, if they are not used to cooking the thread-like ones.

I prefer to use the thread-like ones. Primarily because of the taste - it is cleaner, purer. Also because of the texture, it is softer. Especially for the kids.

Misua is a celebration dish for the Chinese. It signifies long life, thus you will find this dish on every table during the New Year or the Chinese New Year. And of course on every birthdays. This dish is always served with boiled eggs, which symbolizes new beginnings.

This dish is so easy to cook, and is a comfort food for the family. I cook this dish even when there is no occasion at all. :) These past few days have been damp and wet (It's the typhoon season here) and having a steaming hot bowl of misua made everybody feel warm and good.

To make four bowls, you need:

2 bunches of misua (flour thread noodles)
8 C broth (you can use chicken or pork or shrimp)
some minced garlic
1 chopped onion
a few slices of ginger
4 T canola or any cooking oil
4 pcs shiitake mushrooms, sliced
a handful of black seaweed ZiCai, optional
4 large prawns, steamed
4 eggs, boiled and shelled
spring onions, chopped

1. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok or a deep cooking pan. Saute the ginger until golden brown. Add in the onions and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add in the broth. Let boil, then add in the mushrooms and the seaweed.

3. When the soup boils, add in the misua, slowly dispersing each strand by mixing the misua in the soup. You have to disperse the strands or they will form a lump, which is not good... in texture and taste. The misua will cook very fast. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. When the pot boils again, you can ladle into soup bowls.

4. Top with one egg and one large prawn for each bowl. Sprinke with chopped spring onions. Serve immediately.

This misua is very versatile. You can use different meat and flavors for the misua. I used prawn broth and used the prawn meat as the topping. You can use chicken broth and use the chicken meat as topping. You can use various seafood, or pork or mutton or whatever ingredients you have. I think there is even a vegetarian version with tofu and mushrooms and various veggies.

Sharing this thin flour noodles dish with the Presto Pasta Nights food event, created and hosted this week by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. To see last week's delicious pasta recipes, please check out Kitchenetta's dairy-free zone Got No Milk.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Banana Crumble

Happy Birthday Grow Your Own!!! Grow Your Own is a foodie event, started by Andrea Meyers of Andrea's Recipes to celebrate the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. This event is quite close to my heart primarily because I am a trying hard gardener, with no garden, (just pots of soil,) with not-so-green thumbs, but lots of love for anything green growing from the soil. Growing your own food is not only practical, and cost-saving, it ensures that your food is organic and fresh. With the added bonus of exercise and the proud contentment you feel when you serve (and eat) something you have grown yourself!

Such ugly bananas, you say!? Lest you mistake these for rotten ones (they are not!!) These are the real organic plantain bananas!! Many a knowledgeable housewives here in the Philippines would choose these bananas over the "regular" yellow ones. Bananas can only look pretty when they are sprayed with insecticides, so that no insects or birds will touch them. They are also sprayed with preservatives to maintain their deliciously beautiful bright yellow colors. These ugly (reminds me of the ugly duckling) bananas are super sweet and pretty on the inside, not like the bright yellow bananas which are oftentimes bland... which is another example of the common cliche, "Real beauty is not what you see on the outside, but it is what's inside that counts!"

I do not have a banana farm. But my next-door neighbor has. (I think she also has other fruits and plant produce.) Oooh! I'm so blessed! Last year, we just moved in to this new townhouse complex near the children's school. Naturally, most of our neighbors have students studying in the same school. My next-door neighbor, E, has a boy the same age and grade level as my boy! They usually play together and cause troubles together :) When I make the children's snacks, I usually make some too, for E's kids. (She is usually at work when her kids come home from school.) Whenever they have banana harvests, they usually share their bounty with us. Thank you, E!

I also reciprocate by baking her some goodies from the bananas she gave me. This time, I made Banana Crumble.

For the bananas:

1 bunch plantain bananas (around 16- 18 large pieces), sliced
1 C sugar
1 C water

1. Boil water and sugar together in a pot.

2. When the mixture boils, add in the sliced bananas. Boil and simmer until bananas are tender, around 15 minutes.

3. Arrange in a baking pan. (I used a disposable foil pan as I intend to give this as a gift.)

For the crumble:

1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C quick-cooking oats
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the softened butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Top over the prepared bananas.

3. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven or until top is lightly browned.

4. Serve warm, topped with ice cream if preferred.

But in my case, I put the nicely golden dessert in a pretty box and sent it immediately to my next-door neighbor...

... and virtually sending this to the First Anniversary edition of Grow Your Own. Please check out Andrea's site after the end of the month for the round-up. To see the previous round-up, please check out the fun read Finny Knits.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy

Aren't these babies adorable? A whole Bok Choy stalk fits snugly in my hand. I have not seen such fresh babies for a long time. At least, not here in Manila. Maybe now, there are some innovative farms that are starting to plant these babies. The last time I have seen these veggies were in Taiwan many years ago. If I remember right, it was called "Spoon vegetable" Tang Zhr Cai in Taiwan. Maybe we have to confirm wih Tigerfish... I am really thrilled to receive these babies from my pretty neighbor :) Many thanks J!

Bok Choy is actually derived from the Cantonese Chinese name. In Mandarin, it is often called Bai Cai or Qin Jiang Cai. There are of course several varieties of Bok Choy, but we love all of them! Simply sauteed or stir-fried, they taste mildly sweet and crunchy. It is the first vegetable that my kids learned to love.

And baby bok choy are pretty darn irresistible. Aside from being cute, (which is a big factor for my kids,) these babies are more tender, and milder in taste. They have more leaf than stem ( which is a big factor for Hubby who like to see more greens.) They are also easier to prepare. You can cook them whole.

Bok choy, which belongs to the cabbage family, contains the cancer-thwarting compound common to cruciferous foods. It is also a viable vegetable source of beta-carotene, calcium and folate. Again, like most veggies, nutrients are lost when you cook them for a long time. That is why, it is important to shorten the cooking time to one or two minutes. Besides, veggies are yummier when half-cooked!

around 300 gms Baby Bok choy, washed
3 T canola oil or peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices ginger
3 T dried shrimp-fry (Hebi), soaked in hot water for 1 hour
1 T soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok or skillet. Saute the ginger until fragrant and turns golden. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add in the soaked shrimp fry (discard water). Add in the soy sauce. Mix up everything in the pan.

3. Make sure the wok or pan is very hot. Add in the baby bok choy. Stir fry quickly, around one minute until all the bok choy are coated with the sauce. Dish up immediately and serve hot.

If you do not have the dried shrimps, you can substitute with a little ground pork, or even fresh shrimps or any meat or seafood to flavor the dish. Or even adding some dashes of oyster sauce or fish sauce can already make this dish superb. Baby Bok Choy can stand alone in taste and does not require much seasoning. This yummy veggie can be a side dish to a meat entree or this can already be the main entree (ulam) paired with fried or plain rice.

This is my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide foodie event where bloggers can feature herb or unique plant ingredients and the dishes we cook with them. Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen launched this popular foodie event, and this week's host is Katie of Thyme for Cooking. To see last week's beautiful round-up, please check out Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Photography Practice: Green Tea Latte

The latest "hot" drink in town is the Green Tea Latte. Green tea, as everybody knows is good for the health. It contains anti-oxidants and according to many news articles, it helps boost metabolism and helps you burn more fat and thus lose more weight.

I love green tea. When I saw packs of green tea latte (made in Korea) being sold at the supermarket, I did not hesitate to buy some. They were a bit pricey though... The verdict? I love it! It truly has that green tea flavor. It is creamy and smooth, though you have to continue stirring to maintain the smoothness. It is not too sweet, just the way I like it.

One day, I promise to make Green Tea Latte, from scratch and not from a pre-made pack.

I paired it with a savoury cheese bun from the neighborhood bakery. The pair made a yummy snack.

I'm sorry there's no recipe since yesterday. I have (oral) Translations duty tomorrow - from Chinese to English. So, I am a bit giddy... will be back on Monday. :)

UPDATE: Aug. 27, 2008

Mikky of My Finds was asking yesterday about the brand of the Green Tea Latte. I thought everything was written in Korean so I decided to take a picture of it. (Again, for practice :) It was only then that I noticed the small white circle at the upper left corner of the box - Damizle, with the letters spread all over the small circle. If Mikky had not told me it was Damizle, I don't think I would know it was Damizle!

I bought this box at the Landmark Supermarket in Trinoma. It costs 192 pesos for a box of twelve sachets. Mikky bought it at the WOFEX (World Food Expo) for 180 pesos. Sayang, I was not able to attend the Food Expo.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spicy Honey Chicken

I just bookmarked and cooked a dish somebody bookmarked! :)

As I was reading the round-up of Ruth's Bookmarked Recipes two weeks ago, I found this dish by Tina of Wycked Sweets. She, in turn, bookmarked this from Cooking Light Magazine. We (Hubby, kids and I) are spicy and sweet food lovers, well, actually, we love anything flavorful. (And healthy please!) And this spicy honeyed chicken sounds perfect for my little family.

Some tweaks:

I used chicken thigh and legs with bones. We do not have easy access to deboned chicken thigh and leg meats in local markets. We do have deboned chicken breasts available. But Hubby prefers the thigh and leg cut, which is more tender and succulent.

I did not actually measure the seasonings. I just covered the chicken pieces in each powder, marinated the chicken pieces overnight, and used the Turbo Broiler.

Because I am Asian, I used turmeric powder instead of cumin. I also added some Japanese red chilli powder with sesame seeds.

1 kilo chicken, thigh and legs cut (skin removed)
garlic salt
cayenne pepper
Japanese red chilli powder with sesame seeds
turmeric powder
2 T rice vinegar
6 T honey

1. Sprinkle garlic salt, paprika, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper and red chilli pepper all over the chicken pieces until all the meat are covered.

2. Add the rice vinegar and honey. Spread to coat all the pieces evenly. Cover and marinate overnight in the refreigerator.

3. When ready to cook, take out the chicken from the refrigerator and arrange in the Turbo broiler. Brush meat with marinade before cooking. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces, brush with the remaining marinade and cook for another 5 minutes. (Not 10 minutes as I did.)

4. Serve immediately while hot and tender.

I overcooked my chicken by 5 minutes! So, it did not turn out as juicy as I wanted it to be. But it was expectedly very flavorful - spicy sweet, just the way we love it. I think marinating the chicken made this dish even more flavorful. This is a dish worth repeating, only next time, I will carefully mind the clock!

I paired this grilled chicken with a simple Mango Salsa. Just cut up some juicy ripe mangoes, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Drizzle with some good balsamic vinegar. There you have it, a nice flavorful colorful family dinner. Thanks to Bookmarked Recipes.

This dish is submitted to Bookmarked Recipes, a food event created by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments, where anyone from anywhere can blog about a recipe they had bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website, from TV etc, make it and submit it to a weekly roundup. To see last week's array of recipes, please click here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pork Chop Noodle Soup

Two kinds of noodles (Mami) are usually served in local Chinese restaurants : there is the dry Noodles and Noodles in Soup. There is not much difference actually. The soup is just served separately in the dry noodles version. Sometimes, the dry version has some kind of sauce or gravy drizzled on top of the noodles, for a more flavorful plate. When you only tell the waiter "Chicken Noodles," or "Beef Noodles," chances are, he might serve you the dry version. More often than not, the more service-oriented waiters will clarify if you prefer your noodles in soup or not. Because they know, in this tropical country, most diners prefer their noodles in hot soup.

Noodles in hot soup are easy to prepare at home. You basically need some kind of noodles. Egg noodles or ramen noodles will be fine. I even used angel hair pasta several times. You also need a soup base. I either use pork broth or chicken broth. Then, you need the topping of meat (can be pork, chicken, beef) and vegetables (bok choy is often used.)

I have some left-over stewed spicy pork chops. But there was no more sauce because the kids finished them off by spooning the sauce over their rice. What to do with the left-over meat? Add them to sandwich buns (nah! we're not exactly sandwich people!) , or make Pork Chop Noodle Soup! Yes! Easy to prepare, perfect for a rainy day dinner.

2 packs Japanese instant ramen noodles
2 pcs stewed pork chops
4 C pork broth, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
several stalks of baby bok choy, blanched briefly
spring onions, chopped

1. Cook ramen according to package directions. Arrange on 2 large soup bowls.

2. Top each bowl with a slice of pork chop. Preferably add in some left-over stew sauce. Arrange some bok choy leaves on top too.

3. Ladle in hot pork broth into the noodles. Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro leaves, if preferred.

This is my first entry to the Presto Pasta Nights, created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. This week's host is Kitchenetta of Got No Milk. Please check out her site in a day or two for the round-up of pasta dishes prepared and cooked around the world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Easy Broccoli with Garlic & Oyster Sauce

Broccoli is one of the family's favorite vegetables. I try to serve it often, not just because the family loves it but because it is one of the most nutritious vegetable available. For us, the broccoli is a super-vegetable. It is full of vitamins, calcium, selenium and other minerals our bodies need. Science has shown that it contains anti-cancer nutrients, it reduces coronary heart diseases. New research even shows that it can heal peptic ulcers!

However, all these nutrients would be lost if the broccoli is cooked for more than ten minutes. It would be the best if we can eat the broccoli raw so that we can enjoy the full benefits of the nutrients. But for those who are not comfortable with eating raw food (due to sanitation and hygienic reasons), blanching the broccoli pieces briefly would be the answer.

This is how I usually cook and serve broccoli to my family. It is very simple, easy to do, uses only a few ingredients, and yet flavorful and tender-crunchy even the kids love to eat them.

1 head broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 T canola oil
2 T oyster sauce (use a good quality brand)
5 T minced garlic

1. Blanch the broccoli pieces in boiling water briefly. Drain and arrange on a serving plate.

2. In a small skillet, heat up some oil. Lower heat and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant but not burnt. Add the oyster sauce. Turn off the fire immediately after.

3. Drizzle this warm garlic and oyster sauce on the broccoli pieces. Mix up a bit before serving.

I am submitting this high calcium dish to the Eat Healthy Food event, this edition features Calcium rich foods. Sangeeth of the Art of Cooking Indian Food launched this event to encourage everyone to cook healthy food at home, with dishes that are easy to prepare. This event runs until September 24, so you still have time to prepare dishes that are rich in calcium.

Women should particularly focus on having enough calcium in our diets. Specially since our bones grow weaker in time. We will have increased risk of bone fractures when we reach menopause. Of course calcium supplements are available as well, but nothing beats the natural form of calcium in our food because dietary calcium does not cause kidney stones.

Let us eat more healthy food, life is too short to eat bad food.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Winged Beans Stewed in Coconut Milk

Do you know what this is? It is a type of legume that grows in hot and humid countries like the Philippines. It is called Winged Beans. Primarily due to the "4 wings" or the frilly edges of this bean. The picture above is a cross-section cut of a bean pod. Sometimes, it is called Asparagus pea, or Four-Cornered bean, or Manila Bean. In Chinese, it is called Yi Dou. In Filipino, it is the Sigarillas/Sigarilyas. Studies have shown that this bean is comparable to the soy bean in protein and nutritional content.

The whole Winged Bean plant is edible. The shoots, flowers, roots, leaves, pods and even the seeds can be eaten. I have not tried the other parts though, I have only cooked and tasted the pods. The pods, which can be green, or purple are four-sided and flare from the center into ruffled ridges or "wings." I apologize I do not have a nice picture of the whole pod. You can click here to see what the whole pod looks like. I think the Winged beans may be found in specialty produce markets and some supermarkets. Choose small beans with no sign of discoloration. Because the shorter ones are more tender. If you get the longer ones, the cooking time might also be longer. Wash and trim before using.

500 gms winged beans, sliced cross section (as above)
500 gms lean ground pork
2 T fish paste (bagoong)
3 slices ginger
4 T minced garlic
2 -3 finger chillies (sliced thinly), or more if you prefer it more spicy
1 T rice vinegar
1 C (330 ml) Coconut Cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. In the skillet or wok, add a little oil, saute ginger until golden brown. Add garlic, and saute until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add in the lean ground pork, and saute until the meat changes color.

3. Add in the fish paste and vinegar. Stir around a little.

4. Add in the winged beans and finger chillies. Mix everything up so that the beans can absorb the flavors of the meat and fish paste evenly.

5. Add in the coconut cream. Cover and simmer until meat and beans are cooked. Around 20 minutes. Add in some water if you prefer more sauce.

6. Adjust seasoning. Serve hot with plenty of rice.

I know this is an ugly picture. In reality, it is also an ugly looking dish. But I assure you it tastes very good. It is flavorful and spicy. I started cooking this dish because Hubby would rave about this dish served in his office canteen - even when it contained loads of fat. At least if home-cooked, I can choose to use the leaner cut of meat.

Submitting this dish and the featured Winged Bean to the Weekend Herb Blogging, a worldwide food event produced by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen to celebrate herbs and unique plant food and the dishes we make using these ingredients. This week's host is Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please check out Marija's Palachinka.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pork in Watermelon and Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Baboy sa Pakwan)

What kind of Kitchen CEO are you? Do you...

(1) Plan your meal for the week ahead, balance all the needed carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins of all the dishes you plan to cook, vary the type of cooking you are going to do (i.e. one day stir-fry, baking the next, stewing the following day...); buy the ingredients needed for those dishes and cook accordingly?

or do you...

(2) Just go out to the markets and/or supermarkets and check out the produce, which looks good and fresh, buy them and only after that do you think of what dishes to cook with those ingredients you bought?

I confess, I am a number (2). Which is a big no-no for organizing people like my Hubby. He is not happy when I cook a dish with one (or two) ingredients are missing. For me, it does not matter as long as the overall taste is not affected. And sometimes, using substitutions with other ingredients I have on hand turned out to be a surprise. (The dish featured today, for example.) He is not happy when I suddenly disappear from the house, just to run to the nearest neighborhood grocery to buy a little of this or that. This one, I concede is not practical anymore now. A major disadvantage of this non-organization is of course, the time consumed thinking of what dishes I will cook... :) I do not like ingredients to go to waste, so I really have to cook them all...

I bought a huge watermelon from a big supermarket chain. It was labeled "seedless." Of course I prefer to buy seedless because it is easier to feed children the seedless fruits, and it is less messy too. I am willing to pay a little bit more just to encourage my kids to eat more fruits. Imagine my dismay when I cut open the fruit and found lots of seeds inside! Grrr...

Hubby and I consumed almost half of it. What to do with the other half? I remember there was a recipe is the Food Magazine, Philippine edition, many years ago about Sinigang sa Pakwan and I really wanted to try it. This left-over "seed-full" watermelon is my chance. Usually the fruits in this household get consumed fast, specially cooling fruits like melons and watermelon. But this time I have a lot of watermelon left to try this recipe!

This recipe adapted from Food Magazine, published August 2006, pp 36 - 37. The Recipe was shared by Krip Yuson.

Some things I tweaked from the original recipe:

(1) The original recipe called for beef short-ribs with pork belly. I only used pork spareribs.
(2) The original recipe did not add water. Its juices must have purely come from the tomatoes and the watermelon. But I used my induction cooker, so I had to add water or the bottom of my pot will be burnt.
(3) I did not add okra or radish to my soup. For one thing, I did not have these on hand, and my kids does not like to eat them. But I don't think this made any changes in the taste.
(4) I added the taro roots early in my cooking because I prefer the taro roots mushy, and I can mash them into the soup to make a thicker soup consistency.

1 and 1/2 Kilos watermelon, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
2 C sliced tomatoes, seeded
1 K pork spareribs, cut into chunks
2 pcs large taro roots (gabi), peeled, sliced
1 large onion, quartered
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
4 pcs finger chillies (siling haba)
1 bundle string beans (sitaw), cut into 2" long
1 bundle Swamp cabbage or water spinack (Kangkong), trimmed, washed
Salt or fish sauce (patis) to taste
200 gms tamarind, boiled, softened in 1 C water

1. Extract the tamarind juice by passing the water with boiled tamarind through a sieve and squeeze juices more out.

2. Blanch the pork spareribs in a pot of boiling water. This step is to remove the impurities.

3. In another clean pot, arrange the watermelon at the bottom. Then add in the tomatoes, taro roots, then the blanched spareribs. Add in the tamarind juice and around 10 cups of water. Cook over high heat until boiling, then simmer until meat is cooked and the watermelon are soft and mushy. This will take around 1 hour.

See the soup boiling furiously, deliciously and colorfully?
The veggies rose up while the meat sank down...

4. Start adding the vegetables starting with the finger chillies and the string beans. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are crisp tender.

5. Add in the onions and stems of the water spinach. After about 1 minute, add in the leaves of the water spinach.

6. Season with salt or preferably fish sauce to taste. Serve piping hot with lots of rice.

Hubby commented that we had two days of Tamarind soup - different flavors but still sour soup. He was not complaining. In fact, he enjoyed it. It was delicious! A little sweetish sour, delicately spiced. He was just saying that we tend to eat more rice with tasty/spicy dishes. And he wanted me to start dieting... :) Oh well, I just thought that having hot soup is good with the rainy weather we are experiencing right now.

I also want to use up whatever ingredients we have in the fridge. As I have said, I am a number two. Don't we all experience that feeling sometimes? We have some odd and ends in the fridge that need to be cooked, a little of this, a little of that. What I do is, I search for recipes that will use the ingredients I have on hand! Of course I do not want perfectly good food to go to waste, plus, I do not want to contribute anymore trash to our limited landfill. (Just a little effort to save Mother Earth.)

Other Sinigang recipes I have made:

Milkfish in Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Bangus sa Sampalok)

Milkfish in Wild Mangosteen Soup (Sinigang na Bangus sa Santol)

Prawns in Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Hipon sa Sampalok)

Pinoy Tom Yum Prawns (Thai inspired Sinigang na Hipon)

This hot and tasty soup is my entry this week to Bookmarked Recipes, a food event where anyone from anywhere can blog about a recipe they had bookmarked from a cook book, food magazine, food blog, food website, from TV etc, make it and submit it to a weekly roundup. This delicious idea was concocted by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please click here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pinoy Tom Yum Prawns

Is this Pinoy (our local term for Filipino) Tom Yum Prawns or Thai-inspired Prawns Sinigang? However you would want to call it, it is a simple dish to prepare and cook. It is quite different from your regular Sinigang (the famous, everybody Filipino's favorite sour soup), and not quite the regular Tom Yum (Thai sour soup) either. It is tasty and fragrant. Hubby and kids love it. They each finished their own bowl!

The soup base is made from boiled tamarinds with the sour juice extracted. Just like how we make it for the regular Sinigang. But I changed the "greens" (vegetable and herbs) added to the soup. The regular Sinigang would have tomatoes, KangKong (water spinach), maybe some long beans and okra. Since I do not have these vegetables, (with the rising gas prices, it is just not practical to drive over to the nearest market or grocery to pick up a few items.) I just got some herbs from my balcony "garden" pots - specifically the lemongrass stalk and cilantro; and added them to the soup. The lemongrass and cilantro gives this soup the Thai flavor without the heat and spiciness of Thai soups.

200 gms tamarind, boiled and softened in 1 C water
400 gms prawns, shelled, tails intact
4 C water
5 slices ginger
2 stalks of lemongrass (the white part only), cut into 2", pounded with back of the cleaver
4 T minced garlic
8 button mushrooms, sliced
4 finger chillies (siling haba)
salt or fish sauce (patis) to taste
1 bunch cilantro or coriander leaves (wansuy)

1. Extract the tamarind juice. Discard the pulp and the solids. Or just use ready made packets of Tamarind extract (Sinigang mix).

2. In a pot, boil the tamarind juice with 4 C of water. Add the ginger, garlic and lemongrass stalk.

3. Let boil for 2 -3 minutes. Then add the finger chillies and the button mushrooms. You can cut the finger chillies if you want your soup spicy. Leave it whole if you want the soup less spicy.

4. Add the prawns. Soup is cooked when all the prawns change color. Add fish sauce or salt to taste. Adjust amount to your preference. Serve hot with lots of rice.

My other Sinigang (Sour Soup) recipes:

Milkfish in Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Bangus sa Sampalok)

Milkfish in Wild Mangosteen Soup (Sinigang na Bangus sa Santol)

Prawns in Tamarind Soup (Sinigang na Hipon sa Sampalok)

This dish is my entry to the Grow Your Own, a twice-a-month food event, started by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. This event features plants and produce we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we cook with these homegrown fresh produce. Host for this edition is Jessica of Finny Knits. To see the previous array of produce and dishes around the world, please check out Jugalbandi's beautiful site.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Truly Thrilled!

Today is another posting celebration day. (Another red-lettered post :) Wow! I am absolutely thrilled! I just celebrated my over 100 posts mark the other day, and now my first awards! Thank you Sangeeth! Thank you very much! It is such a wonderful surprise!

Receiving these awards feels like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It feels like I have travelled along the rainbow path for a long time and finally - a treasure, or rather, the treasures found me! But then, a rainbow really never ends, so I should continue walking this path some more. I will continue blogging. Thank you for the encouragement, Sangeeth!

Actually, I never thought people I do not know would read my blog. I thought only my mom reads my blog! :) I do not feature gourmet recipes. (Just easy to cook, healthy recipes, thank you.) My pictures are not particularly attractive. (I'm still learning how to take good pictures.) I am not even a prolific or an amusing writer. That's why these awards are an encouragement to me. I got to "know" Sangeeth when I joined her Eat Healthy food blog events. So far, I have only participated twice. The second time, one of my recipes - the Grilled Chicken with Herbs was chosen to be one of the top 15 recipes (out of 170 entries). That in itself is already an honor.

Am passing on the Brillante Weblog Award to:

Wandering Chopsticks and Eating Club Vancouver

I truly enjoy reading and learning from your blogs!

Am passing the Beautiful Site award to:

Noob Cook and Teczcape

I enjoy the simple designs of your layout that brings out the beauty of your pictures!

Am passing the Best Blog Darts Thinker to:


I enjoy reading your witty take on life and food!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Banana Muffins

We all love parties. Especially when there's lots of food! Do you know the food blogosphere is having a party this week? A kiddie party at that! Dhanggit is hosting a party for her super-cute baby girl Mayumi, who is turning one! You're all invited to bring delicious party recipes to her Perfect Party Dishes blog event. :)

Here in the Philippines, a party is a family event. The whole family is usually invited - from the grandparents to the grandchildren. The party host then, has to prepare two menus, one for adults and another for the kids. Of course the guests can always "cross-over", if adults see something they like from the kid's menu, they are free to help themselves! :)

I wonder if Dhanggit will have kiddie guests because this recipe is usually for the kids at the party...

I chose to present the simple and humble Banana Muffins because (1) They are easy to prepare. With so many dishes to include in the menu, we have to choose those which can be prepared with ease or can be done in advance. (2) They are easy to eat. Specially for kids, the less messy food we present for them to eat, the better. We do not want the party site to be littered with sauces or drippings, do we? (3) I chose bananas because this will highlight baby Mayumi's cultural roots. Although Mango muffins would also be perfect! I have done a post on Mango Muffins here.

The muffins do not look good unbaked, right? They look like globs of goo... :) But they are already fragrant with the sweet banana smell... Anyway, the recipe is taken from Market Manila's Golden banana Cake. He, in turn got the recipe from Francois Payard's Sensational Dessert book. I have made this Banana Cake before. It was moist, fragrant, and flavorful. Daughter declared it to be the best Banana Cake ever. For the muffins, however, I had to adjust a little bit. I added the amount of baking soda and baking powder because I wanted fluffier muffins.

1 C all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 C ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1.5 T olive oil
2 ripe lacatan bananas, peeled, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare muffin liners.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda.

3. In another mixing bowl, using the electric mixer, mix butter, olive oil and sugar at low speed.

4. Add eggs one at a time and beat at higher speed until fully mixed.

5. Add mashed bananas. Add flour mixture and stop mixing soon after. Do not overbeat.

6. Fill each muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins come out clean. Cool and decorate.

** Double, triple or quadruple the recipe depends on how many guests you're expecting. This recipe makes 16 medium-sized muffins.

I do not know how to decorate a cake, or in this case, muffins, with any kind of icing, so I did a Rita and used colorful decorations instead. :)

Another tradition here is that after the party, guests get to take home some kind of sweets. For kids, it can be loot bags filled with candies, popcorns and lollipops. For adults, it can be a muffin or two wrapped up or boxed. I wrapped up each muffin in clear plastic, tied them up with a pretty ribbon... and here you go, a perfect adult "loot" bag :)

From Princess Penguin to Princess Mayumi, Happy Happy Birthday!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Snow Fungus with Red Ginseng

Today is a posting celebration day. (That's why this is typed in red.) I just realized that I have passed the 100th post mark. Actually, this is the 103rd post. (I must be half-asleep last week when I did the 100th post...) Wow! More than a hundred recipes. And I'm still learning! This is also the time to reflect... Have I stayed true to my purpose? Have I shared recipes which are healthy, and yummy? Are my recipes easy to prepare and made with easily available ingredients? Have I presented recipes that reflect this generation's Fil-Chi (Tsinoy) culture?

The recipe today features another popular Chinese dessert. I remember many years ago, when my Hubby (at that time, my Boyfriend) and I were still dating, I would visit his family. Believe me, it pays to know your Boyfriend's family before tying the knot. His mom, (now my Mother-in-Law) would prepare this snow jelly dessert for us. Us, meaning for my Third Sister and I. (I would never visit Boyfriend's house on my own! Tell me, was I a prude? :) Up to now, Third Sister, now a doctor practicing in America, would fondly reminisce about this dessert.

No problem, Sis, this dessert is so easy to do. It just consists of three main ingredients boiled together: the snow fungus, red dates, and red ginseng root.

The SnowFungus is also known as the white fungus or the silver tree-ear fungus. Of course when you hear "fungus," you would think it is something bad or inedible. But actually, it is just a type of jelly mushroom that is off-white in color and often transluscent. Our family calles it Bai Mu Er (or White Wood Ear.) Other Pinyin names are Xue Er (Snow Ear) or Yin Er (Silver Ear). This is how it looks like.

It looks dried because this product is often purchased dried and must be soaked before use. It is not expensive. It is available in most Chinese Delis and groceries. The Snow fungus is actually tasteless in itself, but it is enjoyed for its jelly-like texture as well as its supposed medicinal benefits. White fungus contains much iron, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. The fat and gum-like protein in it is especially nourishing to the body. It is considered a good supplement to the body. It lubricates the colon and stimulates peristalsis. White fungus is also said to be effective in nourishing the lungs, healing dry cough and clearing heat in the lungs. Those who have weak lungs catch cold easily. Eating stewed white fungus with rock sugar and red dates helps strengthen the respiratory system and thus, helps prevent cold.

Just soak some dried snow fungus in water. After an hour or two, it will bloom like this. It is now ready for cooking.

4 C soaked Snow fungus, water discarded
4 C clean water
2 pcs red ginseng
5 pcs dried red dates
a handful of rock sugar (according to your taste preference, or even use sugar substitute)

1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot.

2. Let boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Or alternately, you can just throw everything in the slow cooker and let it cook until you come back from work or shopping :)

Easy to do, isn't it? This can be served hot or cold. This recipe serves approximately four people. And this is of course the easy way, and I would call - the modern way. I remember my Mother-in-Law would steam each cup (each serving) for 2 hours or so. That's the traditional and authentic way. That is also how traditional Chinese Herbs should be properly cooked. But I find boiling all the ingredients together also serves the same purpose. :) I wonder if I will get a scolding from M-I-L?

Another major feature of this dessert is the Red Ginseng. Red Ginseng is believed to be a powerful herbal tonic that gives heat, thus disperses cold and calms the body. It is good to be paired with Snow fungus. I am not sure if Ginseng is considered a stimulant and aphrodisiac. I will have to do another post to feature the Red Ginseng next time.

Actually, if you do not have ginseng, you can omit it. The basic ingredients are just the white fungus and rock sugar. You can even substitute dried longans for the red dates. I added the red ginseng because that is how my Mother-in-law makes it.

This delicious dessert and the featured Snow Fungus is my entry this week to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food event launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen to celebrate unique herbs and plant foods and the dishes we create with them. This entry is submitted to this week's host Marija of Palachinka. To see last week's array of wonderful dishes, please check out Divya's Dil Se.

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