Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sesame Spinach With Oyster Sauce

This dish is actually my re-take on the cold Korean Spinach side dish. The original Korean version uses soy sauce. I added oyster sauce for more flavor. I omitted the hot chillie peppers as I want to serve this as a vegetable dish and not as an appetizer.

Though my family loves vegetables, we seldom eat spinach. We know spinach should be a super veggie because of Popeye's endorsement but we did not enjoy this vegetable because it tastes dry when cooked using the stir-fry version. It tastes bland when steamed. And it most definitely does not taste good when added to soups! This was before I discovered this Korean version and found out that this vegetable needs a lot of oil for it to taste better.

Using a lot of sesame oil is good for the health. Sesame oil, which is extracted from sesame seeds is a source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, which means it helps lower cholesterol. Sesame oil contains magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B6. Copper provides relief for rheumatoid arthritis. Magnesium supports vascular and respiratory health. Calcium helps prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine and PMS. Zinc promotes bone health. Sesame oil also contains a lot of polyunsaturated fats - which is a very good kind of fat. (source:wikipedia).

After giving birth, most Chinese women are given dishes cooked with sesame oil as it is believed that sesame oil contains therapeutic powers, for the mothers to regain their strength after childbirth. Sesame Oil is believed to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory agent. For more information about sesame oil and it's health benefits, please click here and here.

350 gms young spinach, washed
1/4 C sesame oil
5 T garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T oyster sauce
dash of ground pepper
sesame seeds, optional

1. Blanch the spinach in boiling water for a few seconds, just before it starts to wilt. Drain in a colander. Immediately dunk the drained spinach in cold water. Drain very well. Cut into bite sized pieces if preferred, set aside.

2. Heat a little portion of the sesame oil in a wok or skillet. Add the minced garlic. Stir fry until just fragrant. Do not let garlic burn or it will turn bitter.

3. Add the soy sauce and the oyster sauce. Immediately add the spinach and turn off the heat. Mix everything well, letting the sauces coat the spinach leaves thoroughly. Add the rest of the sasame oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Mix well before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using.

The featured Sesame Oil (and sesame seeds) is my first entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging event. Aside from being a healthy food, it also perks up the flavor of a lot of dishes. Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly event started and sponsored by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week, the event is hosted by Anh of Food Lover's Journey.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Maja Blanca Salad

This is one of Daughter's favorite salad. That is because it has lots of sweet corn and she loves sweet corn. When I made a big batch and shared with the Couples@Work Fellowship people, it got good reviews. This dessert makes a good meal-ender. It satisfies our sweet-tooth without being cloyingly sweet. I got this recipe from a local food magazine. It is actually quite easy to make because it makes use of canned and ready-to-go ingredients.

1/3 C unflavored gelatin powder
2 (400ml) cans Coconut milk + water to make 5 C of liquid
1/2 C White sugar
1 can whole corn kernels, drained
1 C All-purpose cream
1/2 C Condensed milk

1. In a saucepan, disperse the gelatin in coconut milk and water. Let stand a few minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom. Add sugar. Cook over low heat until gelatin dissolves completely. You do not have to wait for it t boil.

2. Transfer to a container and chill until firm. Cut into half-inch cubes. Transfer to a large bowl. Pour in the corn.

3. Pour cream and condensed milk over the corn and gelatin mixture. Toss gently. Chill well before serving.

Contrary to previous studies, coconut, coconut oil and coconut milk are actually healthy. Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is a unique and different from most all other fats and possesses many health giving properties. It is now gaining long overdue recognition as a nutritious health food. The Coconut is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral nut! For more information on the benefits of coconut, please visit the Coconut Research Center here.

Coconut milk is a sweet, milky white liquid we extract from the meat of a mature coconut. It should not be confused with coconut water (coconut juice), which is the naturally-occurring liquid found inside a coconut.

There are two grades of coconut milk: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is what you get when you first squeeze grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. My mom would still use the old-fashioned way of squeezing coconut meat. It may sound daunting, but it is actually easy to do. However, I am quite comfortable in using the canned versions. For one thing, they keep well. The fresh one gets spoiled in a day. My mom however insists that freshly squeezed ones tastes better. I have to grudgingly agree. But the canned versions are a lifesaver to busy moms who does not really have time to squeeze a coconut. When using the canned version, I use Coconut Cream if I need the thick grade, such as in cooking curries. I use Coconut Milk for the thin grade. For this Maja Blanca dessert, I used the canned Coconut milk.

Maja Blanca is actually a pudding-like dessert made from coconut cream and corn. To learn more about the real Maja Blanca, please click MarketManila here, and Pinoy Cook here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Avocado Trifle

My dad (and family) and his brother (my uncle is a bachelor) live beside each other; in different houses separated by a fence. This kind of living arrangement is very ordinary here in Asia. Each family lives in their own houses but relatives live beside or near each other. This way, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, all grow up close together, know each other and support each other.

Not everything is rosy under such arrangements, though. Sometimes, frictions arise as well. Like in the case of my mother's avocado tree.

An avocado tree stands tall in my mom's garden. Oh, we children love this big tree. Here in this country, there are two familiar varieties - the green one and the purple one. The purple one is the sweeter of the two. It is just too good that our tree is of the purple varitey! It is around 3-storey high now. Every summer, it produces lots and lots of avocado fruits that we children love to eat. Even after I got married and started my own family, mom would send me lots of avocados from this tree every summer.

Unfortunately, the avocado tree grew taller by the fence in between my dad's house and my uncles' house. It's thick branches and leaves spread over a big canopy over my uncle's balcony. Just several months ago, my uncle hired some men to chop off the branches and the leaves, at least on his side, I think. But it was the time when the tree was just starting to blossom. My mom heard the electric saw first. She rushed out of our house just as she saw the men chopping off several of the avocado tree's branches. She shouted and literally shooed the men away. Oooh! When my mom is angry, even my uncle cannot do anything about it. The chopping incident was averted. Thanks to my mom who saved the tree in the nick of time, we have ripe delicious and healthy avocados to enjoy the whole summer!!!

Here is a simple dessert recipe using ripe avocados. This is so easy to make, even my children can do it by themselves.

1 ripe avocado fruit
2 T sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C crushed graham crackers
2 T fresh milk, or whipped cream (whatever you prefer)

1. Wash avocado well. Halve the fruit lengthwise. Remove the seed. Using a spoon, scrape off the meat into a clean bowl.

2. Using the same spoon, mash the avocado meat. Add the condensed milk and mix well.

3. Spread some graham crackers at the bottom of dessert cups. Spoon avocado mixture on top of the graham crackers. Chill. Top with whipped cream or fresh milk before serving. And sprinkle with leftover graham crusts or crushed cereal if preferred.

I would usually add fresh milk, as I think it is the healthier option. Adding the whipped cream though, would make this dessert more creamy, and yes, a richer dessert. If you are using tall dessert cups, you can make layers of graham-avocado-graham-avocado, just top off with whipped cream. That would be super delish! I think the texture would even be better! If you do not have sweetened condensed milk, you can use sugar, or any sweetener you prefer and add as much as you please. Then, you have to add more milk or cream. Alternately, you can just put all the ingredients in a blender, add more fresh milk, blend everything for a minute or two, and you already have an avocado smoothie. Please click here to learn more aboout avocados. Coffee and Vanilla did a thorough post about this wonderful fruit.

This is my first entry to the Grow Your Own food event, hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. I do not have a big garden like my mom. But I try to plant tomatoes, lemongrass, basil, and other herbs in garden pots, which I placed at the balcony of my house. Living in a Metropolitan city does not excuse us from having our own little plot of soil to grow our food in.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More on Bok Choy

Pardon me if I want to share with you more information on Bok Choi. It is one of our family's favorite greens.

Bok Choy is the more international known name, derived from its Cantonese name. Locally, it is known as Pechay, derived from its Fookien name. This is not surprising since most of the Chinese people here in the Philippines come Fookien province in China.

You should have no trouble finding bok choy at the market all year round. There are several varieties but the most common in this side of the globe is pictured on the right. Bok Choy tastes clean, slightly sweet, and mild, without the 'earthy' taste and feel of other kinds of vegetables. That is why it is tasty in itself when cooked with simple soy sauce or oyster sauce. It is also very crispy when cooked properly. This is one of the first vegetables my children learned to love.

Look for a plant with firm stalks that is free of brown spots. Wrapped in paper towels or newspaper and stored in the vegetable crisper section of the refrigerator, bok choy should keep for up to a week. But you would want to consume it immediately because young ones are more tender. The older it gets, the more chewy and less tasty it becomes.

There are many ways to cook bok choy. You can add it to soups. You can simply steam it and dip it in desired sauce when you eat it. In my family, we usually stir fry it with soy sauce and lots of garic. Then we add a dash of sesame oil to make it more fragrant.

Before cooking a full-sized bok choy you'll want to separate the leaves from the stalks, as the thick stalks have a longer cooking time. You stir fry the stalks for a few minutes before cooking the leaves. You should cook the leaves until just wilted. Do not overcook this vegetable or it will lose its crispiness.

Alternately, you can blanch washed bok choy in a boiling pot of water then immediately dunk the drained veggies in a bowl of cold water before stir frying. This hot-cold treatment will give you 'greener' leaves and ensures the crispiness as well.

The Bok Choy is one of the easiet vegetable to cook. It is also one of the more delicious and nutritious too. For a bok choy recipe and more information on Bok Choy, please refer to my previous post or simply click here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sauteed Baby Bok Choi With Fresh Mushrooms

Hubby is a great fan of vegetables. He can have his meals without meat but there should be green leafy things on his table every meal time. It has been a family joke that he can sleep happily on any bed made of vegetables. Guess what his favorite green is? The Bok Choi! I can serve this everyday and he will not complain. And that's good news because the Bok Choi is a good source of beta carotene, calcium and folate.

What's even more good news is that since Bok Choi belongs to the cabbage family, it contains cancer-fighting compound common to cruciferous foods (source: Washington Post). Widely considered to be healthy foods, they are high in vitamin C and soluble fibre and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium (source: Wikipedia).

It was really a surprise and a great delight to find baby Bok Choi vacuum packed in bags at a local grocery (The Landmark Grocery at Trinoma). In this corner of tropics, Bok Chois are common and not expensive. But it is rare to find baby ones. Of course I grabbed several bags knowing that the baby kind will surely be tender and milder in taste than the regular ones.

Bok Chois are so easy to cook. Just saute in hot oil and lots of garlic. Add some soy sauce to taste and you would already have a nice green plate on your table. But for this baby Bok Choi recipe, I added dried scallops and fresh shiitake mushrooms to make it truly special.

This easy-to-prepare dish is truly a must include in your meal planning. Mushrooms, according to many studies also contain cancer-fighting compounds. They contain polysaccharides, especially Lentinan, powerful compounds that help in building immunity. They are a source of Beta Glucan. They also have a protein called lectin, which attacks cancerous cells and prevents them from multiplying (source:

3 T canola oil
5 T garlic, minced (lessen amount if preferred)
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 C dried scallops (soaked in hot water for an hour, then shredded)
1 bag (around 300 gms) Baby Bok Choi, washed
1/4 C sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 T soy sauce ( or to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
dash of sesame oil (optional)

1. Heat up oil in a wok or a skillet. Add the onions. Saute until softened, then add the garlic. Saute until it turns a little golden brown, but not burnt or it will turn bitter.

2. Add the shredded, softened dried scallops. Stir fry for a while. Then add the mushrooms.

3. Add the Baby Bok Choi. Stir fry for a while, around 3 minutes. Season with soy sauce and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

The children love it because of its "cuteness" factor. Hubby loves it because it is green. I love it because it is easy to cook and super-duper healthy.

I am submitting this recipe to the Cooking to Combat Cancer food event. Almost all the ingredients in this dish (Bok Choi, Mushrooms, Garlic) are cancer-combatting foods. I am practically a newbie in food blogging, having started only in November 23, 2007. Today is a record first. This is the first time I am joining a food blogging event. I am excited to join Cooking To Combat Cancer launched and hosted by Chris of Melecotte, herself a successful cancer survivor. It is a pleasure to be a part of this special food bloggers community who aims to bring more awareness to this dreaded disease. Let us blog together to eat healthier!


As I write this, a dear friend of mine from college days is on my mind. I attended the funeral of her mother last week. Her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006. They were not blessed to have enough money for the treatments until last year. By then, the cancer had spread to the reproductive system. Her dad became deppressed because there seemed to be no hope. Her dad was then diagnosed with lung cancer end of February, 2008. Even when the doctors gave him more months to live, he died only a month later. Her mom followed 2 weeks after that. The entire family is devastated.

There is ample scientific evidence that negative thoughts and feelings can be harmful to the body. This should be a wake-up call for all of us to stay happy, be optimistic and always look at the positive side of things. Laugh! When you do, you pump more oxygen into your lungs, improve blood flow and boost your immune system.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Homestyle Gambas

I have heard this advice from some Aunties: we should buy prawns and shrimps when it is near, after, or around the 15th day or the 30th day of the lunar month. From their experience, this is the time when the harvest is at their freshest, the catch is at their biggest and the prices then, are more reasonable. Something to do with the cycle of the moon, but I did not catch the reason why. My attention wanders when I am given long explanation (adult ADHD?) There is a scientific explanation to all these. But then, as long as I can buy fresh shrimps and prawns twice a month at reasonable prices, then I am already happy.

My daughter and I love prawns. Although many people are allergic to prawns and shrimps, I am extremely happy that no member of my family is allergic to them. So I have no excuse not to serve them. Prawns and shrimps are an extremely good source of protein, yet are very low in fat and calories, making them a very healthy choice of food compared to other kinds of protein.

Although shrimps and prawns have a high cholesterol content, they are low in saturated fat, which is the fat that raises cholesterol levels in the body and is bad for you. Is this another of my excuse to eat more prawns? ;-)

Shrimps and prawns do contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, and these fatty acids are good for you and help prevent against heart disease, circulatory diseases and many other types of illnesses. Prawns and shrimps also contains high levels of vitamin B12, zinc, iodine, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and iron and have smaller quantities of calcium, magnesium and sodium. Many of these vitamins are essential for healthy skin, bones and teeth.( Yay! More reasons to serve prawns!

These are the medium-sized prawns I found at the market yesterday and I cooked it simply as to bring out the true flavors of prawns.

1/2 K medium sized-ptawns, shelled, deveined, tails intact
5 T garlic (I really like lots of garlic in this dish.)
1/4 C extra-virgin Olive oil
4 pcs Jalapeno peppers (finger chilies), sliced (add more for more spice)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped spring onions for garnish

1. Heat up a little olive oil in the skillet. Add garlic.

2. Cook garlic for a while then add the finger chilies.

3. Add the prawns and stir fry until the prawns change color.

4. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add the remaining olive oil. Mix everything up.

5. Dish up. Sprinkle with spring onions. Serve immediately.

In most restaurants, this dish is served as appetizer. But here in our home, we eat this served with lots of rice. Yum!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tomato Anchovy Linguini

I have a confession to make. This is actually a recycled dish. But I can assure you this does not taste recycled. In fact it is so delicious that I made a second batch using new ingredients! This pasta is so simple to make, the ingredients used are healthy, you will not think twice serving this dish again and again.

I had leftover Anchovy dip from last night. Recipe here. Of course we cannot waste such wonderfully tasting healthy sauce. So I simply chopped up some more fresh tomatoes, and some fresh basil; mixed everything up and added some pasta. The secret to this recipe is to use really good virgin olive oil.

1 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 C fresh tomatoes, chopped
4 T anchovies, mashed
4 T garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 C fresh basil, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pack Linguini, cooked al dente, according to package directions
grated parmesan cheese

1) Heat up some olive oil in a pan. Add onions and garlic. (For some reason, we prefer our onions and garlic semi-cooked in a pasta dish. If you prefer them cooked, then you can saute them for a while longer.) Add the mashed anchovies.

2) Mix everything up for a while, then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir fry all these some more. Cover and cook in low fire for about 5 minutes.

3) Add the chopped basil. Mix everything up again. Turn off fire. Add all the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4) You can opt to toss the pasta into the pan for easier tossing or you can serve
the pasta on a plate topped with the sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese before serving.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dulong Omelette

Found some really fresh Dulong (they're eensy weensy fishes. Alamang is to shrimps while Dulong is to fishes) at the market yesterday afternoon. I do not know why the market at my area becomes alive in the late afternoons instead of the mornings. Seafoods and fishes are at its best and freshest in the afternoon - - which is actually good news for insomiacs like me who wakes up late because we sleep late.

I love alamang and dulong. I love any small fish. I believe they are nutritious, full of calcium, phosporus, iodine and other essential minerals. And they really taste great! They are very flavorful and sweet. Of course, we are talking about really fresh here. So I did not resist the temptation of these really fresh Dulong. The shiny moist grey mound was literally screaming "Buy me! Buy me!" I did not even bother to haggle with the vendor (sorry Mom!) I was really determined to buy the loot.

And so, I had this tasty breakfast today. I made garlic fried rice, from the leftover rice last night. I also made a relish of sliced green mangoes, tomatoes and onions, sprinkled with some dashes of Thai Fish Sauce (Patis). The Dulong, I made into omelette.

1/2 K Dulong
3 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1/4 K monggo bean sprouts (togue)
1/4 C sliced leeks
salt to taste
dashes of S & B Japanese red chili powder
dashes of S & B sesame oil with chili
2 T flour
3 eggs, beaten

1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. Fry in batches in hot oil.

3. Drain on paper towels when cooked. Serve immediately.

Hmmm... I paired this breakfast with a cup of brewed Benguet yummy. I should do this more often.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Those of you with children will surely agree that children are the true rulers of the kitchen. Consciously or unconsciously, mothers try to include the food that the children want to eat. It makes dinner time less stressful. We do not have to nag them to finish their favorite food. Plus, there is less food waste. Often, we have to "hide" or disguise the nutritious food into the cooking or baking in order to get them to eat the food that we want them to eat. For example, when I want my family to eat oats, I have to include the oats in Dark Chocolate cookies which they devour in minutes. Recipe here.

On the other hand, we should also teach our children to eat well-balanced meals that include all spectrum of good nutritious food. Their food intake should not be limited to meat and sweets; but should also include seafood and vegetables.

I am glad that Daughter has learned to eat vegetables at an early age. This is probably because Hubby is also a veggie lover. We always have some kind of greens during meal time. The Son however is quite picky with his vegetables. He usually wants them jullienned thinly, and added to his soup. If stir-fried, he only picks the small cuts. That was why I was so surprised when he requested me to cook Ratatouille. Yup! It is due to the profound influence of the media on children. He was so curious about what a real Ratatouille is, and why Remy, the Rat, was able to transform the opinion of the dreaded food critic simply by cooking this common peasant French dish.

And so, I have to search the internet for a do-able Ratatouille recipe. Ratatouille seems like a simple dish using whatever vegetables and herbs that are in season. Since we live in a tropical country, the vegetable produce we have might be different from that of France. After searching and reading countless food sites on Ratatouille, I came up with this version. In the original recipes, each vegetable has to be sauteed in olive oil separately. I did not do this. I stir-fried the vegetables together and simmered them a bit to make the flavors meld together. Is this not the technique in cooking our own flavorful Pinakbet? I also added thin slivers of ham for a bit of flavor. The original versions use only pure herbs for flavor. Then, I baked the veggies topped with mozarella cheese. The resulting dish? A very delicious-looking, colorful dish that is every bit as flavorful as it looks. I think it is important that we use really fresh vegetables and good olive oil for this recipe. See the approval of Remy in the picture above? Thank you to my Doctor-sister in America who sent Remy the doll through one of her Balikbayan boxes.

1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large onions, sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, mashed coarsely
1/2 C chopped ham ( I used leftover Christmas ham)
1 C fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 large bell peppers, deseeded, sliced into rings
2 large zucchinis, washed, sliced into rings
4 large tomatoes, deseeded, sliced into rings
4 eggplants, sliced into rings
salt and pepper
shredded mozarella cheese

1. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook until softened. Then add garlic. Stir fry for a while then add the chopped ham.

2. Add the tomatoes when the ham is cooked. Simmer for a few minutes. Then add the eggplants. Cover and simmer for around 5 minutes.

3. Add the bell peppers and zucchinis. Stir fry for a few minutes more. Add the basil and turn off heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Pour everything in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with mozarella cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F, unril cheese melts, around 15 minutes.

5. Serve warm.
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