Friday, November 28, 2008

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake

Hmmm... Dulce de Leche "Sweet Milk" made into a cheesecake. The ultimate sweet for this family. This is another cheesecake made by my fourth and fifth sisters. I will take the advice of my sweet friend Wiffy at Noobcook, she says, "eat first, diet later" just for this delicious sweet treat. :)

To ease guilt: the only guilty ingredient in this cheesecake is the sugar! Cheesecake and milk are good sources of calcium and other vitamins and minerals found in dairy. Ok, I am convinced. :)

Dulce de leche is a milk-based syrup, that can easily be prepared by slowly heating up sweetened condensed milk to create a syrup that is similar to caramel. Wiki-How gives us complete step by step instructions and several methods on how to prepare Dulce De Leche. Sisters used the first method, same as what they did when they made Banoffee Pie.

To make the dulce de leche. Remove the label from a large can of condensed milk. Boil and simmer the whole unopened can covered in water for 3 hours. (To economize, you can boil several cans at the same time. And use the other cans for the next recipe requiring dulce de leche.) When you open this "boiled" can of condensed milk, it becomes the creamy dulce de leche!

To make the cheesecake crust, mix crushed graham crackers with melted butter. Press this mixture into the spring-form pan. Press it well and up to the sides. Set aside.

For the cheesecake:

3 packs (8 oz each) Cream Cheese
1 C sugar
2 T flour

2 t vanilla
3 eggs
1/3 C fresh milk
1/2 C Dulce de Leche

more Dulce De leche for topping, as desired

1. In an electric mixer, combine softened cream cheese with the sugar and the flour. Beat very well.

2. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add in the milk and vanilla. Mix well.

3. Combine the half cup of dulce de leche with half cup of the cheesecake batter mix.

4. Pour the plain batter into the crust. Swirl dulce de leche-cheesecake mixture into the plain cheesecake batter using a fork.

5. Bake 325 F on baine marie (water bath) for 45 to 55 minutes or until it tests done in the center.

6. Cool for at least 20 minutes before topping with more dulce de leche.

7. Refrigerate before serving. It is actually best served the next day.

Am sharing this deliciously sweet Dulce de Leche with Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen who is celebrating her first year in blogosphere with the Sweet Celebrations event. Happy Bloggerversary Aparna! May your kitchen continue to churn out yummy and healthy dishes throughout the coming years! Looking forward to more bloggerversaries to come!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Clams in Noodle Soup

Clams are one of the more affordable live seafood available in this tropical country. At fifty to eighty pesos a kilo (roughly US $1 to $ 1.50) , its tasty and flavorful meat can feed 5 to 6 people or when we add extenders, maybe even more.

I know many people do not like to eat clams because clams are known as the scavengers of the sea. With many bio-toxins polluting our seas, many people believe that the clams are full of bio-toxins as well. That is why it pays to know where your clams are sourced.

We do not often eat clams. But sometimes we do get a craving for its tasty and flavorful meat. And when we do, we prefer the Palawan clams (a local variety of shell) because we believe that these are cultured, and hopefully, "cleaner" than those harvested from the seas.

My grandmother, and my mother believe that clams should be cooked fresh and while they are still alive. That means - no to frozen or canned. But I think if the clams are fresh frozen (without shells) and cooked properly from its frozen state, the clams are still edible and may even be as delicious as the fresh ones.

Clams are delicious and nutritious. As with the other seafood, it is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals like iodine and zinc.

But the problem with fresh clams is the cleaning!!!

Since clams bury themselves in sand or underwater soil, they are full of grits. These grits, you have to brush off from each and every one of the shells -- this job really takes a lot of patience. Then, after cleaning the outer shell, the vendors would recommend to soak the shells in tap water for several hours so that the clams would spit out the sands and grits they have in their inside digestive system. For the Palawan clams that I buy, my (suki) vendor would always tell me that she had already soaked them and that they are ready for cooking.

For this batch of clams, Hubby wanted me to cook the clams in soup, with tofu and mustard greens. Yummy! Perfect for the rainy evenings we are having nowadays. Then, I mentioned that I needed a pasta dish for my weekly Presto Pasta Nights events, and it is nearly the Friday deadline... so we agreed to add noodles to our soup. Hubby loves noodles, he does not refuse any dish with noodles. With the addition of noodles, this clam soup became a filling one dish evening meal for all of us!

It was then that I realized that Wow! That is how much I love blogging and blogging events! It is starting to influence what dishes we are having on the table!!! Is this good or bad??? :)

1 kilo fresh clams, cleaned
5 slices of fresh ginger
5 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
3 C water
4 pcs crabsticks, sliced
3 packs of instant Japanese ramen noodles
salt and pepper to taste
sesame oil, optional

1. Saute the ginger in a little oil until fragrant. Add onions and garlic and saute until fragrant but not burnt. Increase the temperature of the cooking, add in the clams and stir fry immediately.

2. Add in the water, cover and cook in high heat. When the water boils and all the clams are opened, remove all the clams to a plate or bowl with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

3. Boil the clam soup again, add in the ramen noodles (we were able to buy ramen noodles made in Korea. Hubby loves the texture of these noodles.) Cook until the specified time (ours was 3 minutes.) Add in the crabsticks. Add back the clams. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve immediately and add some drops of sesame oil, if preferred.

Fresh clams are already super flavorful and tasty, you do not need any broth or extra flavoring. Just salt and pepper is enough. Clams are also perfect as soup base for any noodles, again because of its superb flavor. I know a friend who uses clam broth as their broth for soups instead of pork or chicken bones. Actually it makes sense because clams are easy to cook (saves on gas with less cooking time) and it is indeed flavorful enough to stand alone as a soup base. Plus, it has no fat, less calories than chicken and pork. Hmmm... I might be a convert, too!

Sharing this tasty dish with the Presto Pasta Nights community, headed by Rith of Once Upon A Feast. This week, the host is Daphne of More Than Words. To see last week's delicious pasta dishes, please check out the round-up done by Nilmandra of Soy and Pepper.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Steamed Milkfish En (Faux) Papillote

I just love the phrase "en papillote." Sounds more sophisticated than "wrapped in parchment paper." Don't you think so? :) Since this fish is wrapped in foil, I had to put the word "faux" because I did not use parchment paper and I do not know the French term for foil. :)

Cooking "en papillote" is a method in which you seal the food in a pouch and bake (or grill, or steam, as what I did.) The food essentially steams and cooks in its own juices. Making the dish naturally tasty. Fish, having delicate meat, is perfectly suited to this technique. The method is also incredibly easy and has the added benefits of being a low fat method of cooking and easy to clean up. Healthy and easy are synonymous with this kitchen.

En Papillote usually uses parchment paper. But in my grandmother's kitchen, we have always used foil, which is convenient, spill-proof, and leak proof.

Some secrets to a succesful en papillote cooking are:

1) Always use fresh ingredients. The fish or meat will be cooked in its own juice, so if it is fresh, the dish will taste fresh. If the fish is not so fresh, the dish might turn out to be "fishy."

2) Use various fresh herbs and condiments that will naturally compliment the fish. This will bring out the natural taste of the fish and enhance instead of overpower the taste.

3) Adding white wine and olive oil would add a different dimension to your fish, though these are optional.

Here is what I did:

1) Cut a foil big enough to wrap and cover the whole fish.

2) Begin by laying out the deboned milkfish (you can use any kind of white fish fillet, or whole deboned fish) on the pre-cut foil.

3) Please refer to the topmost picture, sprinkle sea salt and red chilli peppers on the fish. Spread some chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic. I also added freshly cut dill from my balcony garden. Splash with 2 tablespoons of semi-dry white wine.

4) Close the fish, with all the herbs inside. See the second picture above. Fold the foil and close the edges together.

5) Steam in medium heat for around 15 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of your fish).

6) Serve immediately.

Result? Very, very tasty, naturally flavored, soft and flaky fish. Hubby declared it the best milkfish dish he had ever tasted.

Sharing this tasty and healthy dish with the Grow Your Own community. Grow Your Own is a twice a month food event headed by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes, to celebrate the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. This edition's host is Rachel of The Crispy Cook. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please check out the round-up done by yours truly!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Broccoli and Parma Ham Quiche

This is my continuing love story with Quiche :)

You may find this quaint or worse, weird... that I am making a big deal out of making quiche. I know quiche is something ordinary in western kitchens. I hope you understand that this is an Asian kitchen, where it would be easier and simpler to stir-fry the parma ham with broccoli. This is also a tropical country, where the tropical heat will affect the texture of the crust if I do not work quickly... But for Wandering Chopstick's Weekend Wokking, where we present different ways to cook an ingredient, I try to make it something more special, something different, something I do not normally do.

And I love quiche. :) I love the flaky, buttery crust. I love this all-in-one complete dish, perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I love broccoli, too. For my family, broccoli is considered one of the super-veggie. Packed with all anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals incomparable to other veggies. To see the complete nutritional value of Broccoli, please hop over to NoobCook's site. She did a thorough research on the healthy benefits of broccoli.

So the marriage of broccoli and quiche in a dish is just perfect for me!!!

Can you tell I am biased for broccoli? Of course! I had the honor of picking the secret ingredient of the month! :)

This month the Weekend Wokking community will explore different ways we can cook broccoli. If you have any broccoli dish that you would like to share, please join us and submit your dishes to the newly crowned master chef who cooks a lot - Wiffy of Noobcook, who is hosting this month. Email your dishes to weekendwokking (at) noobcook (dot) com.

For the crust recipe and the tips on how to get the flaky, buttery crust, please see my previous quiche dish here. Although, this time, I experimented and and substituted 1 cup of plain four with 1 cup of soft whole wheat flour. Here is the final ingredients I used for the crust: (Instructions and baking tips here.)

1 C soft whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 C plain flour
1/2 t salt
1 C cold butter, cut
1/3 C cold water

After the dough is ready, roll out dough on the quiche dish. Press the dough to conform to the shape of the dish. Prick the dough with a fork. Prebake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Chop up some parma ham, onions, garlic, bell pepper and broccoli and spread out on top of the pre-baked crust. See the picture above? Isn't it very colorful? You may add in as much (or less) ingredients as you like. This is what makes the quiche a versatile dish - you can add in whatever ingredient you have in the fridge. :) But since the Weekend Wokking event is featuring broccoli, I added lots of healthy broccoli!

For the egg mixture:

6 eggs
1 C cheddar cheese
2/3 C all-purpose cream
1/4 C fresh milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
dash of nutmeg, optional (tip from my German missionary friend)

Whisk all the ingredients together and pour into the quiche dish (with prepared crust and broccoli and parma ham). See the picture above? The broccoli looks as if they are swimming... :)

Bake in the preheated 350F oven for 60 minutes or until it tests done in the center.

Sharing this yummy, tasty and healthy dish with Weekend Wokking, created by Wandering Chopsticks, to celebrate the many different ways we an cook one ingredient. The ingredient for the month is broccoli, hosted by the lovely Wiffy of Noobcook. To see last month's delicious ways to cook the pumpkin, please see the round-up presented by yours truly! Check out the previous round-ups (featuring different ingredients) here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stir-Fry Chinese Spinach (Polunchay) and the Secrets to a Chinese Vegetable Stir-Fry

I confess Hubby is the real vegetable lover in this family. He has healthier eating habits ( and exercises) more than I do. As I have mentioned several times before, he has to see "greens" on the table with every meal. This means I have to serve vegetables with our every meal. I have learned to love vegetables as well, since we got married (many, many years ago) and I am happy that our kids learned to eat vegetables while they are still young. I did not have to "train" my kids to finish their vegetables. I suppose it happens naturally if you serve it everyday, every meal. And of course, we have to serve it in different delicious ways. :)

The vegetable featured today is the Chinese Spinach. We call it Po Lun Cai in Fookien Chinese. It contains significant amounts of Vitamins A, B and C. And when I googled about Chinese Spinach, I found out that it contains twice the amount of iron than the regular or Western Spinach. Thus, this vegetable is highly favored in Asia. Again, as with most leafy green vegetables, it is recommended that we do not cook the polunchay too long or the dish will lose most of its nutritional content. That is why, a quick stir-fry is a perfect cooking method with most vegetables.

Through trial and errors, through various experiments, I have discovered a variety ways to make our stir-fry vegetables more delicious and tasty. If you have kids, you would understand the need to make your veggie dish more attractive and flavorful... Here are some of them:

1. If you are particularly worried about vegetables containing pesticides, and other industrial chemical contaminants, a quick 2-second blanch in boiling hot water is recommended after washing the vegetables. This would also give you a " brighter" and "greener" vegetable dish.

2. Use good quality peanut oil or grapeseed oil, in the cooking. And add some drops of sesame oil after the cooking. Do not cook the vegetables in sesame oil, as the sesame oil changes its smell and taste when subject to high heat.

3. Add lots of garlic in your stir-fry, as much as your taste buds can take it. Garlic is healthy anyway. It would add more flavor to the dish. And do not let garlic burn when sauteing, as it will turn bitter.

4. If you are not adding any meat or seafood to flavor your vegetable, instead of flavoring with MSG or bouillon cubes, add a spoon or two of Chinese cooking wine to remove the "green" or "herby" taste of the vegetable.

5. Always use high heat, hot wok (or cooking pan) when sauteing and with quick hands, stir, stir, stir, all the time. It would only take a minute or two, so you will not really get tired. This is to mix all the flavors in the shortest time possible.

5 T peanut oil
300 gms Chinese Spinach (Polunchay)
5 T minced garlic
2 T cooking wine
1 T soy sauce
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar, optional (my kids just like their veggies sweeter)
dash of sesame oil

1. Clean and blanch the spinach.

2. Heat oil in wok, and saute the garlic until fragrant but not burnt. Add the cooking wine and soy sauce and sugar. When the mixture boils, add in the spinach. Stir fry and mix everything up to allow the spinach to absorb all the flavors. Turn the heat off.

3. Adjust taste with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil and serve immediately.

Result? A very quick dish (5 minutes - max) that is tasty, flavorful and nutritious!

Sharing this dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging Community, supervised by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's host is
Scott of The Real Epicurean. To see last week's array of wonderful dishes, please check out Siri's Corner.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moist Pumpkin Quick Bread

One thing I have benefited from doing food blogging is to try to go out of my comfort zone... albiet slowly. I try to cook, prepare, or bake dishes that I have never tried before, and probably would not dream of creating if I do not have this food blog. Need I say Hubby is very happy with the variety of dishes I prepare? :)

Things I have challenged myself to do (but not yet tried):

1. Bake a cake from scratch, complete with icings
2. Bake a yeast bread
3. Try and taste the different fruits and veggies that is not readily available here in this tropical country; and prepare dishes using these "rare" ingredients
4. Prepare those sweet and savory pies I keep seeing around the blogging world
5. Make and prepare and cook dishes I have never tried before, starting with Greek and French dishes :)

Things I have done so far:

... well, you can check out the blog for the complete list :)

This quick bread is an example of something I would not have done if I am not in the food blogging world. For one, pumpkin is not a usual ingredient in this tropical country. We have squashes, but no pumpkin ! (Though they belong to the same family.) I started exploring the world of pumpkin when I hosted Wandering Chopstick's Weekend Wokking featuring pumpkins, last month.

And now, Val of More Than Burnt Toast, who spearheaded the World Food Day event with Ivy of Kopiaste, tagged me to participate in another very worthwhile event Breadline Africa.

With our support, Breadline Africa can convert shipping containers into locations for food production and distribution to the poor people in South Africa. These sustainable community kitchens will not only provide foods such as bread and soup to those in need, but also opportunities for skills development within these poor communities. So, they are not only aiming to give them bread, but also to teach them skills so that they will be able to earn their own bread as well.

Breadline Africa launched the Worldwide Blogger Baker Bake-Off Challenge aiming at raising $ 1 M in funds. This bake-off gives us baking bloggers the power to make a difference in this world. What do we do? Bake bread. Give Dough. Feed Africa. Vals says, "You can sign up for the campaign, make a donation, upload your bread recipes and document your culinary adventures in the media center to spread the word. You don't have to donate money but simply just mention the campaign and create awareness."

The following is quoted from the Breadline Africa Bake-Off site:

On 15 October, we launched The Breadline Africa Worldwide Blogger Bake Off.

The Blogger Bake Off is an online campaign that challenges bloggers to get involved by baking bread, and then acting by donating to end poverty. And then, challenge their readers and five other bloggers to do the same.

With the money raised, we will be supporting grass roots community projects aimed at ending poverty and hunger in Africa. We’ll be placing container kitchens, vegetable gardens and more in poor communities, sending emergency food relief where needed and helping these poor communities to help themselves.

The rules for bloggers are outlined below:
  1. If you are tagged, copy and paste the rules into your post.
  2. Bake bread, do something you wouldn’t normally do, and blog about it. Upload your picture and recipe.
  3. Give dough, donate to Breadline Africa and help us end poverty.
  4. Tag five bloggers, and ping us so we know you’ve done so.

The person who raises the most funds will get to name a Breadline Africa community kitchen and win $500 Amazon Vouchers. There are also three minor prizes of $250 Amazon vouchers for people who receive the most votes in the following categories: Most Unusual Recipe; Most Nutritious Recipe and Most Traditional Recipe.

For this worthwhile event, I decided to bake a quick-bread. My apologies to the other participants. I am not really an experienced baker. You can call me a scaredy-cat baker. I am always fearful of the unexpected in unknown territories :) So, I think this bread qualifies as something I do not normally do (see No 2 rule). I decided to make this pumkin bread - an ingredient I have used only once. And also because, well, I have leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge that I better put to use before it starts to grow molds. :)

Recipe taken from

1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C Vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1/3 C water
2 C pumpkin puree
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 and 3/4 C plain flour ( I used 1 C whole wheat flour and 3/4 C plain flour)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t pumpkin spice

1 T butter
1/4 C brown sugar
3 T milk
1/4 C pecans (I substituted walnuts)

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium size bowl, beat eggs and mix with sugar, oil, water and pumpkin.

3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients only until just blended. Do not overmix.

4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 min. Check with a toothpick or cake tester for doneness.

5. For the topping: melt butter in a small saucepan. Add in sugar and milk and mix well. Boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly until sugar melts. Immediately drizzle on the baked loaf. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and press the nuts lightly on top.

6. Wrap and store until the next day for serving. This will keep moisture inside.

Readers of Recipezaar gave this recipe a 5-star rating. I do, too! It is a fool-proof recipe, even novice bakers like me can prepare. It is easy to do and the result? Truly moist flavorful bread made healthy with the addition of pumpkin, walnuts, and whole wheat.

I am tagging the following bloggers:

Deborah of Taste and Tell
Jin Hooi of Smell and Taste are My Memory
Lesley of Beachlover's Kitchen
Usha of Veg Inspirations
Yasmeen of Health Nut
Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments
Sangeeth of The Art of Cooking Indian Food
Lubna of Kitchen Flavours

With the holidays approaching you may not have time to bake your own bread but a mention of this worthy cause on your blog would spread the word..... and even if you haven't been tagged feel free to join!!!

Sharing this bread and the invitation to this food event to the Bookmarked Recipes community, headed by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. Please feel free to join in!!! Bookmarked Recipes is 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. To see last week's delicous round-up, please click here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stir-Fry Mung Bean Vermicelli (Sotanghon) with Beef

This is vintage 1950's recipe.

That's what it says in the book "In My Basket: The Cookbook" where I got the recipe. The author Lydia Castillo has been a food section contributor in the local newspaper The Philippine Star, so I have been a regular follower of her column. Naturally, when her cookbook came out, I just have get myself a copy.

This recipe sounds very easy to prepare. We love mung bean vermicelli (sotanghon). Mung bean vermicelli is different from the regular Chinese egg noodles, and rice noodles. As the name suggests, this vermicelli is made from green mung bean starch. It is transparent, this why sometimes, it is also called cellophane noodles. It is more firm and chewy than the other kinds of noodles, which we prefer. My mother-in-law believes mung bean vermicelli is healthier because, well, it is made from beans!

Here is my take on the recipe:

200 gms lean ground beef, marinated in
a dash of pepper
2 T soy sauce
1 T cornstarch

100 gms vermicelli noodles (sotanghon)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 T cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 T fish sauce (patis)
ground pepper, as desired
1 large bell pepper, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 stalk leeks, chopped
1/2 C water or broth

1. Soak vermicelli noodles (sotanghon) in water for 15 minutes. Cut to 2-inch length. Marinate the ground beef in pepper, soy sauce and cornstarch.

2. In a cooking pan or wok, saute the garlic, onion, tomato in the oil. Let the tomatoes cook for a while, then add the marinated meat. Season with fish sauce, and ground pepper. Cover to seal in the flavors. Simmer, stirring every few minutes.

3. When meat is cooked, add the noodles, bell peppers, celery and leeks. Add the water or broth. Stir and mix so that all the noodles will absorb the meat and the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may use salt, soy sauce or more fish sauce.

4. When cooked, transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

This is a different take on the usual Filipino vermicelli stir-fry (sotanghon guisado) dish. It uses a tomato based sauce that is made flavorful with fish sauce and beef. Even the combination of beef and fish sauce is quite unique. The result? Very flavorful noodles dish that will surely be a mainstay in my kitchen.

Hmmm... I should have added cilantro. :)

Sharing this dish with the Presto Pasta Nights people, headed by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. This week's host is Nilmandra of Soy and Pepper.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oyster and Spinach Stir-Fry

Do you want to look young and feel young? Do you want to feel more beautiful and alluring? Do you want to have softer, smoother skin?

No, this is not an ad for lotions or potions. :)

According to one of the health newsletter that I subscribe to, the food we eat affects the condition of our skin. I believe so, because food naturally contains vitamins and minerals that will keep our body healthy. The newsletter recommended several food that keeps our skin healthier and younger looking.

One of the good skin food is oysters. Oysters are low in fat, and calories and yet they contain high amounts of essential minerals. I do not know why oysters (and shrimps) have the reputation of having high cholesterol content. I thought most seafood are healthy! When I googled, I found out that oysters contain the same amount of cholesterol as any white-fleshed fish, and less cholesterol than poultry. Oysters are an excellent source of vitamins A, B1 (thiamin) B2(riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C (ascorbic acid), and D (calciferol). As a skin food, oysters contain a lot of zinc, which aids in skin cell renewal. It also keeps our nails, hair and eyes healthy. If our skin, hair and eyes look healthy, we look younger.

Spinach, considered one of the superfoods is also a good skin food. It is rich in nutrients and is a rich source of anti-oxidants (that fights the causes of aging). It contains high amount of Vitamin B, C, E, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids. It also contains lutein, which keeps our eyes healthy and sparkling. However spinach has to be cooked only for a short time, or it will lose most of its nutritional value. That makes stir-frying one of the best method to cook this super veggie.

200 gms fresh shucked oysters, cleaned
300 gms fresh spinach, washed
5 slices fresh ginger
1 onion, chopped
5 T garlic, minced
2 T Chinese cooking wine
2 T soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
sesame oil, optional

1. In a wok or cooking pan, saute the ginger in some oil until fragrant. Add the onions and garlic and saute untl fragrant, but not burnt.

2. Make sure the wok or cooking pan is very hot. Add in the oysters, cooking wine and soy sauce. Cook the oysters until desired doneness. We cook our oysters just until they change color.

3. Add the spinach. Quickly stir fry and mix everything up so that the spinach leaves are evenly covered with the oysters and the sauces. Turn heat off when the leaves start to wilt. Continue to stir until everything is thoroughly mixed. The remaining heat will continue to cook the spinach. Adjust taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with sesame oil (optional) before serving.

This is a delicious and tasty way to be beautiful. :)

Sharing this stir-fry dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, headed by new chief Haalo of Cook Almost Anything At Least Once. WHB is a weekly food event that features herbs and unique plant ingredients and the dishes we cook with these ingredients. This week's host is Siri of Siri's Corner. To see last week's delicious round-up, please check out Heather of Diary of a Fanatic Foodie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do You Like My New Header?

Do you like my new header?

It is a bit whimsical. Very girly pink. You know why?

Because my 12-year-old Daughter made that for this blog. She understands more of these techie stuff more than I do.

I welcome your suggestions and comments. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grow Your Own # 20

Grow Your Own, the twice-a-month blogging event launched by Andrea's Recipes, is close to my heart. Why? Because I am a trying hard, not-so-green-thumbed gardener. It is really my heart's desire to have a lush garden, full of fruit trees, filled with the sweet scent of herbs and healthy vegetables and beautiful flowers. I can only drool with envy when my blogging friends Wandering Chopsticks and A Scientist in the Kitchen talk about the produce they have in their own gardens and the dishes they make with their produce. But I live in the heart of a mega-city, where heat, traffic congestion and pollution is a way of life. Space is precious, and the weather is not conducive to growing green life. So that dream remains a dream. :)

But still, I persist. In my limited space, I have grown some pots of lemongrass, screwpine (pandan), sweet and thai basil, leeks, coriander, tomatoes, eggplants, tarragon, and my newest babies are mint and dill. Not much, right? Maybe you are saying these are insignificant little efforts. But I promise you, the joy of seeing your plants grow inspite of the harsh conditions they are in, is truly incomparable! (Of course the grief when you see your plants wilt is another story.) Plus the bonus of not having to go out and buy these seemingly little ingredients needed when preparing a dish, is really worth the effort.

I am also a proponent of going green. Earth needs more "greens" in this time of global warming. We need more greens to counter the worsening air pollution as well. So for our own health, please try to plant more greens, wherever on earth you are living. More greens mean less carbon dioxide (to counter global warming), and less air pollution. Any kind of greens is alright. In my limited space, I just opted to grow edible greens that I can use in my kitchen. Isn't it practical as well?

Have I convinced you to Grow Your Own? If not, maybe these dishes will!

Here are the dishes Grow Your Own bloggers have made this past forthnight, from the produce they have grown or raised in their own backyards. (Presented in the order they were received.) Fresh, organic and all drool-worthy. Thank you everyone for sharing these delicious food! Thank you Andrea for this opportunity to host and to learn many interesting herbs and dishes from everyone!

Ella (Philippines) of the sunny and cheerful Everything's Herbed shares with us her birthday fare, featuring her favorite dish that her loving father cooked - Chicken in Coconut Milk (Chicken Adobo sa Gata). This ultimate Filipino comfort food uses organic, native chickens their family raised in their own backyards!

Bee and Jai (Northwestern US) of the beautiful Jugalbandi share with us lots of awesome pictures and lovely quotes, food for thoughts, and oh, this refreshing Fresh Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Herb Salad. It is better than sex. Go check it out. Now.

Jennifer (Georgia, USA) of the warm and comfy Northside Food shares with us these deliciously intriguing Fried Green Tomatoes I have been wanting to try for a long time! She made these from the green tomatoes from her garden that will not ripen because of the cooler weather.

Gay (Philippines) of A Scientist in the Kitchen shares with us this delicious Old-school Pork Chops with Apples and Tarragon. Made with freshly picked tarragon growing profusely in her garden. She says the lightly fried apples are perfect paired with the rich pork chops.

Abby (London, UK) of the fresh and lovely Eat the Right Stuff shares with us these beautiful and I bet, wonderful tasting Rhubarb Schnapps. This healthy drink (if you drink moderately) is made with fresh rhubarbs gathered from her friend's garden.

Grow You Own chief Andrea (Virginia, USA) of Andrea's Recipes made Roasted Acorn Squash with Apples, Nuts and Sage. The roasted squash is deliciously sweetened with apples and made fragrant with fresh sage harvested from her garden; that her boys couldn't wait to taste it!

Let's give a warm welcome to Deepika (India) of the Diabetic-friendly Recipe for Dee-saster. For her first entry to Grow Your Own, she made these intriguing Steamed Colocasia Rice in Coconut Yogurt Gravy. She says this is a famous Karnataka dish that we ought to try once in our lifetime.

Rachel (NY, USA) of the glutten-free The Crispy Cook made this hearty and healthy Creamy Brussel Sprouts Soup. Made from harvested brussel sprouts from her garden. Rachel says of this soup, "it was quick to make, tasty, easy on the wallet, outstandingly healthy."

Johanna (Melbourne, Australia) of graceful vegetarian Green Gourmet Giraffe made these deliciously intriguing Spiced Yogurt Rice with Nectarines. This rice dish is made with mints from her garden. She says this dish is "pleasingly creamy, spicy with chunks of nectarine and refreshing with the taste of mint."

Ivy (Greece) of the sweet, friendly and informative Kopiaste shares with us photos of her lovely trip and a Greek version of a popular French Dish - Kokoras Krassatos me Chilopites (Coq Au Vin With Chilopites Pasta). This flavorful dish is made with home-raised roosters and xynomizithra - a local soft white cheese. Can't wait to try this out this dish myself!

Kim (USA) of Live:Love:Laugh:Eat made this red hot Homemade Tabasco Sauce, made fresh from her harvested tabasco peppers. She gives us one piece of advice: Don't sniff the sauce. It's that hot!

My (Manila, Philippines) own entry is Prawn Pot Pie made with fresh harvested dill from my balcony garden. This is the first time I made a pot pie and I found out that it was not hard to prepare a pie. The dish very delicious, hot and comforting! I just might make this more often!

There you have it, 12 delicious dishes from 6 countries, using ingredients they have grown and raised on their own. Do you grow your own, too? Join Grow Your Own, a blogging event that celebrates the dishes we create from foods we’ve grown, raised, foraged, or hunted ourselves. Next month's host is the lovely book-lover Rachel of the Crispy Cook. To participate, please send your entries to oldsaratogabooks (@) gmail (dot) com. For more information on Grow YOur Own, please visit the Grow Your Own Homepage.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Banoffee Pie

Here is a slice of the yummy, sweetlicious banoffee pie my 4th and 5th sister made. Maybe they are not good in food photography, but they are better than I am when it comes to baking and making sweet desserts. That is because they are allowed to indulge while I am fighting the "bulge." Hee, hee, sorry, I could not resist the rhyme :)

Really, I also have a sweet tooth, just like almost everybody. But I have to resist these temptations because, well... I am not getting any younger, I have to start healthy eating habits if I still want to see my grandchildren. And I am confessing : I lack exercise!!! Yup! Guilty as charged! I have aerobic exercise, one hour once a week. And Hubby says that is not enough. I always tell Hubby, I do not have have time because of all the things I have to do. But then, time is a flimsy excuse, because I know with proper time management, I can easily insert an hour of exercise everyday. Hubby says if I exercise everyday, then I will be allowed to eat all the sweets I want. Now, I have a dilemma. Which is easier : to exercise or to restrain myself from sweets? :)

If I am eating from my kitchen, it would be easy to limit my intake of sweets. I simply do not buy or bake any sweets for myself. (My latest baking endeavor - NY Style Pumpkin Cheesecake I made went to my neighbor J). However, it is hard for me to resist the sweets that my sisters make and send over for me to taste!

According to sisters, it is very easy to make this no-bake pie in our own kitchens.

1. Make the dulce de leche first. Remove the label from a large can of condensed milk. Boil and simmer the whole unopened can covered in water for 3 hours. (To economize, you can boil several cans at the same time. And use the other cans for the next recipe requiring dulce de leche.) When you open this "boiled" can of condensed milk, it becomes the creamy dulce de leche!

2. Make the pie crust with crushed graham crackers mixed with melted butter. Press this mixture into the spring-form pan. Press it well and up to the sides.

3. Slice the sweet (lacatan) bananas and spread covering all of the graham crust. Drizzle some dulce de leche on the bananas. Add another layer of bananas, drizzle with dulce de leche again. Add more layers, as much bananas as you have or as high you want your pie to be.

4. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Chill before serving.

I tell myself, bananas are good. Bananas are healthy. Bananas are rich in Vitamins B, Potassium and Magnesium. So, it convinces me to ease the guilt of eating a slice of this yummy Banoffee pie :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Basil (Rice) Risotto-Stuffed Tomatoes

When I saw this dish in the Yummy Magazine, June 2008 edition, I knew I really have to make this! It has all the ingredients that we love! The tomatoes, basil, olive oil and rice!!!

But before I share the recipe, I'd like to mention that I am sharing these tomatoes stuffed with rice to the World Food Day - Time to be Thankful event, hosted this time by Ivy of Kopiaste. World Food Day is a monthly food event launched by Ivy of Kopiaste, and Val of More Than Burnt Toast. They are joined by Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen with the aim to bring awareness to our readers about the hunger problems that exist around the world and which seem to be getting worse day after day, after this huge worldwide economic crisis. The theme for this month is Being Thankful.

I already have a previous entry, but I'd like to share this rice dish as well. You see, rice is a staple food of all Filipinos (and of most Asian people as well.) Maybe it is hard for a foreigner to imagine, but we eat rice three times a day, and a meal is not complete without rice. Most often, the rice we eat at a regular meal is simply plain white rice. It is only on special occasions when we cook special rice dish such as paella, bringhe, yang chow fried rice or risotto.

That is why when there was a worldwide rice shortage early this year, the price of rice actually doubled!!! (There was a greater demand than supply.) The government had no choice but to provide rice at subsidized prices. But just this past week, when I visited the market, I found out that the prices of rice has lowered a bit. Still higher than the prices last year, but significantly lower than the price in May. I think this is because it is harvest season and there are many new rice available. This is good news, a welcome news, in fact, as there will be lots of festivities in the coming holiday season.

For all these years, my family always have rice on the table. For that alone, I am thankful. My grandmother would always tell stories of her life during war (World War II) , when they cannot find any food, any rice to eat. Even when she had money, there would be no rice to buy. And if she does not have money, well... that's another story. So, as children, we would always be required to finish off each grain of rice on our plate. For my grandmother's lesson, I am thankful. I am instilling this same discipline to my kids as well. My mother-in-law would also share that she would extend the rice supply she has by cooking porridge (gruel) all the time. She says they have hot, filling food. That was enough. Even my young son said that he is happy and thankful that he is born now, in this time, instead of during the war, or when our immigrant ancestors were living a poor and hard life.

I am thankful, grateful, in fact, to our brave, hardworking immigrant ancestors who came to this land to start, to rebuild their (and consequently, our) lives. I remember their stories. I am grateful for the values and character they instill in us. I hope the stories will continue on as I retell them to my children, and hopefully to my children's children. May we who are living in the time of plenty never forget the lessons and history of our people.

3 large tomatoes
1/4 C finely packed basil leaves, washed, chopped finely
1/4 C olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 C Japanese rice
3 T tomato paste
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 T pine nuts
3 C water or chicken stock
parmesan cheese, grated, for topping
salt and pepper to taste

1. Core the large tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and inner flesh. Discard the seeds and chop the inner flesh and the tomato meat from the top. Set tomatoes aside.

2. Add some of the olive oil to the chopped basil leaves.

3. Saute onions in the remaining olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until wilted. Add the rice and saute in the oil. Add the tomato paste, bell pepper and pine nuts.

4. Pour in the chicken stock. Let rice cook, covered, until mixture is almost dry, thick and creamy. Add the basil mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.

5. Arrange the hollow large tomatoes on a greased baking sheet. Brush the sides of the tomatoes with olive oil. Stuff each tomato with the rice mixture. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove tray from oven. Top each tomato with parmesan cheese. Bake for 5 minutes more. (Guess what? I was too lazy to fire up the oven again. I used the oven toaster and it worked just as well.)

Result? Flavorful, creamy, yummy rice that is sure to impress your family and guests. Hubby said if only for this dish, he is willing to buy fresh, large tomatoes every week for me to cook!

Also sharing this dish with the Bookmarked Recipes community, headed and hosted by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. Bookmarked Recipes is a weekly food event that features the dishes we made from a blog, a cookbook, or a magazine or a cooking TV show. To see last week's delicious round-up please click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fish Tofu Soup

Here is a no-frills, warm bowl of nutritious, clear soup. It is very easy to prepare. It is very filling. Perfect for those chilly nights when we crave for something simple and something comforting.

5 C chicken broth
1 block soft tofu, cubed
350 gms fish fillet
100 gms mustard leaves
2 T Chinese cooking wine
salt and pepper to taste
sesame oil, optional

1. Marinate the fish fillet in some salt and pepper and dust with cornstarch.

2. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the Chinese cooking wine. When it boils again, add the fish fillet pieces. Let the meat boil for a while until just cooked. Add the tofu. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sesame oil just before serving.

See? Simple to prepare, yet the hot soup tastes clear and refreshing.

Can you tell I'm feeling melancholic today? I promised myself that I am not going to rant and complain in this food blog, so I am restraining myself. Why?

Because I always believe that food we serve our family and friends should always be cooked with love. Therefore food blogs should "feel good" as well. There is a saying here that dishes turn out delicious if the cook is happy. And it turns not-so-good if the mood of the cook is sour. Do you believe that?

Besides, happiness is a choice. I choose to be happy because there are a lot of reasons to be happy about. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prawn Pot Pie

Probably making pot pies is no big deal for other kitchens. But for this Asian kitchen, whose specialties are stir-fries and soups and stews, pot pies are a whole new world of cuisine to be conquered.

I got this recipe from the Periplus Mini-Cookbook I mentioned before. But then, again, I made a lot of tweaks. This is what I did:

1/2 K medium-sized prawns, shelled
2 T butter
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium potatoes, cubed
1 medium carrot, cubed
7 pcs button mushrooms, sliced
1 T all-purpose flour
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C all-purpose cream
1 T dijon mustard
1 stalk dill (from my balcony garden), chopped

1/2 portion pate brisee, basic crust recipe here
egg wash (egg whites, beaten)

1. Prepare the dough for the crust and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400 F.

4. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Cook the garlic and the leek until fragrant but not burnt, around 2 minutes. Add the prawns and cook until prawns turn pink. Remove the prawns and reserve.

5. In the same pan, stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and wine. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes, mushrooms and carrots. Simmer for 10 minutes or until most liquid has halved. Stir in the cream (The book says to let the cream cook, but I do not like the cream to curdle so I did not) and add back the prawns, mustard, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

6. Arrange all these mixture in a round baking dish. Ideally, use 4 pieces single-serve souffle dishes. But this is the first time I am making a pie, so I figured, I should make one bigger one (only one pan to cover with crust, get it?)

7. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator. Prepare the table by dusting it with flour. Use the rolling pin to flatten the dough into 1/8 inch thick round crust. Pick the flattened dough up with the rolling pin and gingerly cover the top of your baking dish. Trim off the excess.

Daughter said I look like Snow White (remember the cartoon classic?) making pie

8. Prick the top surface with fork. (Am so amateurish, I just made all the holes in a line and did not make any designs...) Brush top of crust with egg wash.

9. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden and crisp.

Believe me, the crust is so crispy and crunchy. The contents are so hot, creamy, and delicious! The pictures do not give the dish justice at all!

Sharing this dish with my new home-grown baby - dill, with the Grow Your Own community. This is a twice a month food event that features food we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our home grown products. The host for this edition is ME! If you would like to participate, please send me an email with a link to your entry. I'll be waiting until Nov 15 for all your delicious entries!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nutella Oatmeal Whole Wheat Bars

These are "trying-hard-to-be-healthy" sweet dessert bars. Trying hard because it contains whole wheat flour, instead of the regular white milled flour. It has loads of oatmeal, which we know is one of the super-healthy food.

Ok, I confess the ingredients that are not-so- healthy are butter and sugar. You can always lessen the amount (but who would want to?) And Nutella, mmmm, yummy Nutella. Who can resist Nutella?

Again, this is one of those easy-to bake desserts that a novice baker like me can do. It also has very few ingredients, I suppose most of which are easily available in your pantry. And the result are simply irresistible dessert bars you will not think twice of munching over and over again.

1 C whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 C quick-cooking oats
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 C softened butter


1. In a large bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients. Press half of the oatmeal mixture in a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

2. Spread nutella on this pressed mixture. Add in as much as you prefer.

3. Top and press with the remaining half of the oat mixture.

4. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 25 minutes or until the top turns golden. Cut with a wet knife into bars.

Result? Yummy bars that even my kids cannot resist. My kids refuse to eat their oatmeals in the morning. So, I have to think up new ways to serve oatmeals. Why do I insist my family eat oatmeals? Because I know oatmeals are good and healthy food!

Many studies have shown that oatmeal lowers cholesterol levels, and reduces high blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. It may also lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. The fiber in the oats help control the blood glucose level. And oats contain more soluble fiber than whole wheat, rice or corn. Oatmeal also contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, making it an anti-cancer food as well.

Sharing these sweet bars containing loads of healthy oatmeal with the Weekend Herb Blogging Community, a foodie event that features herbs and unique plant ingredients and the dishes we make with these ingredients. The event was created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Now, under the able management of our new chief Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's host is Heather from Diary of a Fanatic Foodie. To see last week's delicious and wonderful round-up, please check out Wiffy of Noobcook.
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