Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tiramisu Cake Made Easy

Happy Happy Birthday, my Son! Sometimes I could not believe that it has already been eight years since my baby was born. He grows up too fast his height now reaches my chin. Soon, I know he will grow taller than his mother.

He has always been a sweet baby. He still has a sweet and happy disposition. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he simply said a small birthday cake from me. He even specified a round cake that is "this" (and made gesture with his hand) tall. But I am not good at baking cakes! He said that I am a food blogger now. I should learn to make one, besides that is the reason why he was asking only for a small cake. I think he thought that a small cake is easier to make than a bigger one, which is partially true...

Yesterday I started to check out my baking books for an easy cake recipe to do. My problem is today is a weekday. I do not really have all the time in the world. Then I saw a recipe for Tiramisu Cake that looks yummy and easy to do because it uses a cake mix. I love Tiramisu! Son loves Tiramisu (specially the cream cheese icing) This seems to be a perfect cake to do. I know, I know, I am not being fair to my kid by not baking from scratch. But still, it is a home-made cake baked and decorated with love.

The recipe is taken from Betty Crocker's Cookies Bars and Cakes, Vol7 No1.

for the cake:
1 box supermoist white cake mix (sorry, I did not use Betty Crocker brand)
1 C water
1/3 C vegetable oil (I used Canola oil)
1/4 C brandy (I used Kahlua coffee liquor)
3 egg whites

for the espresso syrup:
2 T instant coffee granules
1/4 C boiling water
2 T corn syrup (I substituted brown sugar)

for the topping:
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 C premium whipping cream
1 T unsweetened baking cocoa

1. Heat oven to 350F (325F for non-stick or silicone pans) Grease bottom of 13 x 9 pan with shortening or cooking spray. I used 2 pcs of 9-inch round pan. (Because my son wanted a round cake.) With 2 cakes, I was able to make layers with cream cheese in between.

2. In a large bowl of the electric mixer, beat cake mix, water, oil, brandy, and egg whites on low speed for 30 sec. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into the pans.

3. Bake 26 to 30 minutes until totthpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes.

4. While waiting, make the espresso syrup. In a small bowl, stir coffee granules and sugar with the boiling water, until mixed. With long tinned fork, pierce top of cake every 1/2 inch. Brush top of cake with espresso syrup. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

5. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar with electric mixer on low speed until mixed. Beat on high speed until smooth. Gradually beat in whipping cream, beating on high speed for about 2 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

6. To assemble cake, place one cake on the cake stand or a serving plate. Spread some cream cheese mixture over the top of the cake. Place the other cake on top of this. Spread the rest of the cream cheese mixture on top and around the whole cake. Sprinkle with cocoa powder. Store in the refrigerator.

My son had the honor of slicing his cake...

See the cream cheese filling in the middle? I know, I know... most people would say a real Tiramisu uses Mascarpone cheese! But this is not a gourmet food blog. For this cake, I only have one major customer - a little boy who loves cream cheese. So, for this family, this cake really tasted like what Tiramisu should taste like. It just had the right amount of sweetness - not too sweet for us. It has the coffee and coffee liquor flavor that we love. I will definitely make this again next time. The next time however, I promise to bake the cake base from scratch - a sponge cake or a butter cake perhaps...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Matter of Taste

I got an email written by a British journalist stationed in the Philippines. I just had to share this with you because it relates his observations regarding food and eating habits in the Philippines. Though this was written in 1999, his hilarious observations still do ring true!

This is so funny...take time to read all the way to the end.

Matter of Taste
By Matthew Sutherland

I have now been in this country for over six years, and consider myself in most respects well assimilated. However, there is one key step on the road to full assimilation, which I have yet to take, and that's to eat BALUT. (Note from me: for more info on Balut, please click here)

The day any of you sees me eating balut, please call immigration and ask them to issue me a Filipino passport. Because at that point there will be no turning back. BALUT, for those still blissfully ignorant non-Pinoys out there, is a fertilized duck egg. It is commonly sold with salt in a piece of newspaper, much like English fish and chips, by street vendors usually after dark, presumably so you can't see how gross it is.

It's meant to be an aphrodisiac, although I can't imagine anything more likely to dispel sexual desire than crunching on a partially formed baby duck swimming in noxious fluid. The embryo in the egg comes in varying stages of development, but basically it is not considered macho to eat one without fully discernable feathers, beak, and claws. Some say these crunchy bits are the best. Others prefer just to drink the so-called 'soup', the vile, pungent liquid that surrounds the aforementioned feathery fetus...excuse me; I have to go and throw up now. I'll be back in a minute.

Food dominates the life of the Filipino. People here just love to eat. They eat at least eight times a day. These eight official meals are called, in order: breakfast, snacks, lunch, merienda, merienda ceyna, dinner, bedtime snacks and no-one-saw-me- take-that- cookie-from- the-fridge-so-it- doesn't-count.

The short gaps in between these mealtimes are spent eating Sky Flakes from the open packet that sits on every desktop. You're never far from food in the Philippines. If you doubt this, next time you're driving home from work, try this game. See how long you can drive without seeing food and I don't mean a distant restaurant, or a picture of food. I mean a man on the sidewalk frying fish balls, or a man walking through the traffic selling nuts or candy. I bet it's less than one minute.

Here are some other things I've noticed about food in the Philippines:

Firstly, a meal is not a meal without rice - even breakfast. In the UK, I could go a whole year without eating rice. Second, it's impossible to drink without eating. A bottle of San Miguel just isn't the same without gambas or beef tapa. Third, no one ventures more than two paces from their house without baon (food in small container) and a container of something cold to drink. You might as well ask a Filipino to leave home without his pants on. And lastly, where I come from, you eat with a knife and fork. Here, you eat with a spoon and fork. You try eating rice swimming in fish sauce with a knife.

One really nice thing about Filipino food culture is that people always ask you to SHARE their food. In my office, if you catch anyone attacking their baon, they will always go, "Sir! KAIN TAYO!" ("Let's eat!"). This confused me, until I realized that they didn't actually expect me to sit down and start munching on their boneless bangus. In fact, the polite response is something like, "No thanks, I just ate." But the principle is sound - if you have food on your plate, you are expected to share it, however hungry you are, with those who may be even hungrier. I think that's great!

In fact, this is frequently even taken one step further. Many Filipinos use "Have you eaten yet?" ("KUMAIN KA NA?") as a general greeting, irrespective of time of day or location.

Some foreigners think Filipino food is fairly dull compared to other Asian cuisines. Actually lots of it is very good: Spicy dishes like Bicol Express (strange, a dish named after a train); anything cooked with coconut milk; anything KINILAW; and anything ADOBO. And it's hard to beat the sheer wanton, cholesterolic frenzy of a good old-fashioned LECHON de leche (roast pig) feast. Dig a pit, light a fire, add 50 pounds of animal fat on a stick, and cook until crisp. Mmm, mmm... you can actually feel your arteries constricting with each successive mouthful.

I also share one key Pinoy trait ---a sweet tooth. I am thus the only foreigner I know who does not complain about sweet bread, sweet burgers, sweet spaghetti, sweet banana ketchup, and so on. I am a man who likes to put jam on his pizza. Try it! It's the weird food you want to avoid. In addition to duck fetus in the half-shell, items to avoid in the Philippines include pig's blood soup (DINUGUAN); bull's testicle soup, the strangely-named "SOUP NUMBER FIVE" (I dread to think what numbers one through four are); and the ubiquitous, stinky shrimp paste, BAGOONG, and it's equally stinky sister, PATIS.

Filipinos are so addicted to these latter items that they will even risk arrest or deportation trying to smuggle them into countries like Australia and the USA, which wisely ban the importation of items you can smell from more than 100 paces.

Then there's the small matter of the purple ice cream. I have never been able to get my brain around eating purple food; the ubiquitous UBE leaves me cold.

And lastly on the subject of weird food, beware: that KALDERETANG KAMBING (goat) could well be KALDERETANG ASO (dog)...

The Filipino, of course, has a well-developed sense of food. Here's a typical Pinoy food joke: "I'm on a seafood diet. "What's a seafood diet?" "When I see food, I eat it!"

Filipinos also eat strange bits of animals --- the feet, the head, the guts, etc., usually barbecued on a stick. These have been given witty names, like DIDAS" (chicken's feet); "KURBATA" (either just chicken's neck, or "neck and thigh" as in "neck-tie"); "WALKMAN" (pigs ears); "PAL" (chicken wings); HELMET" (chicken head); "IUD" (chicken intestines), and BETAMAX" (video-cassette- like blocks of animal blood). Yum, yum. Bon appetit.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches"-- (Proverbs 22:1)

WHEN I arrived in the Philippines from the UK six years ago, one of the first cultural differences to strike me was names. The subject has provided a continuing source of amazement and amusement ever since. The first unusual thing, from an English perspective, is that everyone here has a nickname. In the staid and boring United Kingdom, we have nicknames in kindergarten, but when we move into adulthood we tend, I am glad to say, to lose them.

The second thing that struck me is that Philippine names for both girls and boys tend to be what we in the UK would regard as overbearingly cutesy for anyone over about five. Fifty-five-year- olds colleague put it. Where I come from, a boy with a nickname like Boy Blue or Honey Boy would be beaten to death at school by pre-adolescent bullies, and never make it to adulthood. So, probably, would girls with names like Babes, Lovely, Precious, Peachy or Apples. Yuk, ech ech. Here, however, no one bats an eyelid.

Then I noticed how many people have what I have come to call "door-bell names". These are nicknames that sound like -well, doorbells. There are millions of them. Bing, Bong, Ding, and Dong are some of the more common. They can be, and frequently are, used in even more door-bell-like combinations such as Bing-Bong, Ding-Dong, Ting-Ting, and so on. Even our newly appointed chief of police has a doorbell name Ping. None of these doorbell names exist where I come from, and hence sound unusually amusing to my untutored foreign ear.

Someone once told me that one of the Bings, when asked why he was called Bing, replied, "because my brother is called Bong". Faultless logic. Dong, of course, is a particularly funny one for me, as where I come from "dong" is a slang word for well; perhaps "talong" is the best Tagalog equivalent.

Repeating names was another novelty to me, having never before encountered people with names like Len-Len, Let-Let, Mai-Mai, or Ning-Ning. The secretary I inherited on my arrival had an unusual one: Leck-Leck. Such names are then frequently further refined by using the "squared" symbol, as in Len2 or Mai2. This had me very confused for a while.

Then there is the trend for parents to stick to a theme when naming their children. This can be as simple as making them all begin with the same letter, as in Jun, Jimmy, Janice, and Joy. Or rhyme, as in Biboy, Boboy, Buboy, Baboy (notice the names get worse the more kids there are-best to be born early or you could end up being a Baboy).

Even better, parents can create whole families of, say, desserts (Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Honey Pie) or flowers (Rose, Daffodil, Tulip). The main advantage of such combinations is that they look great painted across your trunk if you're a cab driver.

That's another thing I'd never seen before coming to Manila -- taxis with the driver's kids' names on the trunk.

Another whole eye-opening field for the foreign visitor is the phenomenon of the "composite" name. This includes names like Jejomar (for Jesus, Joseph and Mary), and the remarkable Luzviminda (for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, believe it or not). That's a bit like me being called something like Engscowani" (for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Between you and me, I'm glad I'm not.

And how could I forget to mention the fabulous concept of the randomly inserted letter 'h'. Quite what this device is supposed to achieve, I have not yet figured out, but I think it is designed to give a touch of class to an otherwise only averagely weird name. It results in creations like Jhun, Lhenn, Ghemma, and Jhimmy. Or how about Jhun-Jhun (Jhun2)?

How boring to come from a country like the UK full of people with names like John Smith. How wonderful to come from a country where imagination and exoticism rule the world of names. Even the towns here have weird names; my favorite is the unbelievably named town of Sexmoan (ironically close to Olongapo and Angeles). Where else in the world could that really be true?

Where else in the world could the head of the Church really be called Cardinal Sin?

Where else but the Philippines!

Note: Philippines has a senator named Joker, and it is his legal name.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shrimp in Red Curry

I confess I am not an expert on curries. In fact, I do not remember enjoying curries since childhood. Because of this bias, I have not tried cooking curry dishes. In the groceries and supermarkets, I walk past the curry aisle with nary a glance. That is, until now. What made me change my mind? Seeing the yummy curry dishes on the blogs of fellow foodies! Besides, as a new food blogger, I should be more willing to expand the horizons of my taste buds and try out new dishes.

So, as I set out on my curry culinary adventure, I discovered many condiments related to curries! As a beginner, I settled on two. I bought a Thai red curry paste and a yellow curry paste. There is another - the green curry paste which I did not buy. I'm sure it would also be yummy, but I chose the more "colorful" ones first and see if I will get more inspired after trying out dishes with these two kinds of curries.

This Thai curry series made it easier for me to experiment. I got this recipe directly from the back of the packaging. Since this is my first experiment, I halved the recipe.

250 gms peeled shrimps (tails intact)
2 T red curry paste
a handful of sweet basil leaves (harvested from my balcony garden)
2 small eggplants, cubed
2 pcs dried kaffir lime leaves
2 pcs bird's eye chillies (Siling Labuyo)
1/4 C Coconut cream (I used the canned version)
2 T sugar
1 T fish sauce (Patis)
1/4 C water

1. In a wok or a cooking pan, dissolve the curry paste in the coconut cream while bringing the mixture to a boil.

2. Add the shrimps, eggplants, kaffir lime leaves, bird's eye chillies, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to boil and simmer until cooked, around 10 minutes. Add water, depending on how you prefer the consistency of your sauce. We prefer it a bit watery, so we can spoon the sauce over our rice so we added more water.

3. Add basil leaves just before turning the fire off. Adjust to your desired taste by adding salt or sugar.

My family was pleasantly surprised. This dish is quite unexpectedly yummy, sweet, flavorful and fragrant. It is probably because of the added fragrant herbs kaffir lime leaves and sweet basil. Or probably because of the combination of spicy, sweet and salty tastes. With dishes like this, we will truly be inspired to be more adventurous in our kitchen experiments.

This dish is submitted to Grow Your Own, a twice-a-month food blogging event, created by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes to celebrate the food ingredients we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we cook with our own produce. The host for this edition are Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi.
Please check out their blog in a few days to see the round-ups.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SeaBass in Black Bean Sauce

First, let's talk about the fish. Locally, it is called Apahap or Seabass. It is a freshwater fish gaining much popularity nowadays. It is mostly available in half-kilo sizes per fish, if not smaller. It has a tender, melt in the mouth texture. It is so yummy and fragrant grilled. It can be steamed with simple ginger and soy dressing.

This time however, I decided to cook it with Black Bean Sauce (Tausi) just like how my father-in-law used to cook it. Everybody knows about the wonderful pairing of black beans with garlic. But, my father-in-law's secret? The wonderful pairing of fermented black beans and fresh tomatoes.

When we talk about black beans in Asia, this refers to the fermented or salted black beans. We are not referring to the fresh or dried black beans that you add into soups, chilies and burritoes. The black beans we are talking about here are small, black soybeans that have been preserved in salt. Also known as Chinese black beans or salty or salted black beans, they have a very strong, salty flavor.

Many people say that the black beans have to be soaked for a half hour or so in fresh water before being added to a dish. But I never did this when I cook any dish using the fermented black beans. I usually add it straight from the bottle, and sometimes, during cooking, I even mash some beans to release more flavor.

Fermented black beans are quite versatile. Once I ran out of soy sauce, I used some black beans to flavor a stir fry dish. It is not the same thing as the black bean sauce, or the black bean paste, although you can use either one as a substitute for the other, too. Fermented black beans (tausi) is widely available here in Manila. In your country, maybe you can look for it in Asian Markets and groceries.

1 whole sea bass (around half kilo)
4 T cooking oil
5 slices ginger
5 T garlic, minced
5 large tomatoes, chopped
2 T black beans
2 T soy sauce
1 bunch green onion leeks, chopped
sesame oil

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

2. Add in the tomatoes and the black beans. Saute for 2 -3 minutes until juices come out and flavors are melded together.

3. Add in the fish. Cover for a few minutes. Turn the fish to the other side. Add some water if needed, or if you want more sauce. Cook the fish covered until cooked. Around 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Add soy sauce if preferred. Add in the leeks.

5. Drizzle with some amount of sesame oil just before turning off the fire. Serve immediately.

This dish and the featured fermented black beans is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food event celebrating the herbs and unique plant ingredients and the dishes we make using these ingredients. Weekend Herb Blogging is launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Kelly from Sounding my Barbaric Gulp. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please check out Archana of Archana's Kitchen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Greek Salad

I think this is one of the easiest salad to prepare, (Look ma! No cooking required!) It is one of the most flavorful and one of the healthiest, too! Aside from the vegetables, it has olives and olive oil. Olives and olive oil are known to be high in monosaturated fat (good for you!), iron, vitamin E and dietary fiber.

This is also a no-recipe salad; meaning, there's no specific measurement for each specific ingredient. You can add in or lessen each type of vegetable, depending on what you have available or depending on what you prefer to eat. As long as the basic ingredients are there, of course, that identifies it as "Greek." Basic ingredients include feta cheese, the balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing, oregano.

Purists prefer this salad to have no lettuce of whatever kind. So, I made the original version first. (See the first photo above.) But I know my family. Salad is not a salad for them if they see no "greens" in their salad. So I had to add some romaine lettuce. (See photo below.)

For this version of Greek salad, I used:

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, cubed
4 large tomatoes, cubed
1 large onion, cubed
1 green bell pepper, seeded, cubed
several pitted black olives (or green olives, if preferred)
a handful of romaine lettuce, cut to bite sized-pieces
250 gms marinated feta cheese
several fresh oregano leaves
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

1. Wash all vegetables very well and cube or cut, according to desired serving size.

2. Arrange the romaine lettuce on the bottom of the salad plate. Add the rest of the vegetables on top of the lettuce. Top with the olives and feta cheese and oregano leaves.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve as is.

This is one of Hubby's favorite salad. It is colorful, tasty and heart-healthy.

However, I got a mild surprise when I learned from a friend that the balsamic vinegars commercially available are not the real balsamic vinegar. Even if they come labelled from Modena. Accordingly, the real balsamic vinegar, which are made from white grapes that are aged for many, many years, are labelled "Traditional." This long fermentation or aging process then produces the "musk" and concentrates the flavor. However, the commercial ones we have here are simply oridnary wine vinegars with added coloring and sugar! Gasp! So, unless I source my balsamic vinegar elsewhere, I will not be able to taste the real balsamic vinegar... :(

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tomato and Cheese Bake

It's the month of Tomatoes! Well, at least for Weekend Wokking. :) Here in this tropical country, tomatoes of all sizes are available year round. It's a good thing for us too because we love tomatoes! We love everything about tomatoes - the way it looks, so round and plump and so tantalizing red... the way it feels, soft, yielding, yet firm to the touch... and the way it tastes, sweet, crunchy yet juicy. Best of all, it is very nutritious, packed with Vitamin C and the all-important Lycopene needed to boost our body's immunity.

I didn't have to tear my hair out like TS and JS of Eating Club Vancouver :) but I think I did add some wrinkles to my forehead because I thought long and hard on what dish to prepare for the featured ingredient this month :) Again, like the previous Wokking event, I want to present the chosen ingredient - the tomato as the main feature - the star of the show, so to speak. Of course the tomato is so very versatile you can add it to every dish you cook (which I often do.) But I want the tomato to stand out. I do not want the tomato featured as a sauce (like in a pasta dish), or as a flavoring or extender. And so, I came up with this... I apologize this dish does not look impressive. I am just a trying hard, amateur home-cook, who cannot quite copy the works of professional chefs and good looking blogs out there...

Anyway, here's my Tomato Cheese Bake. It is so easy to do, easy to cook. I think it is perfect as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to cocktails.

1. Cut up some tomatoes in half. Remove the seeds.

2. Drizzle some drops of olive oil inside the tomatoes.

3. Tear up or shred some fresh basil leaves (dried leaves will also do.) Put some inside the hollowed portions of the tomatoes.

4. Shred or grate some cheese and fill up the tomatoes. I tried 3 kinds of cheeses, from the left to right, mozarella, fresh parmesan, and quick-melt cheddar cheese.

5. Bake in the oven at around 200C for 5 to 10 minutes until cheeses melt.

This is how the tomatoes looked after I got them out of the oven. I think the mozarella cheese melted perfectly. The parmesan cheese looks ... so not there. So, I didn't include them in the garnishing...

6. You can serve as is. Or for a cocktail party, cut up some cucumber, and put one baked tomato on top of a slice. Decorate with fresh basil leaves.

Tomato and cheese tastes so wonderful together! You can also experiment with other kinds of cheeses. It just so happens that I have these three kinds on hand.

Daughter said they look like teacups! I just have to figure out how to put in the handle :)

This is my entry to the WeekEnd Wokking event, hosted this time by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok! This event was launched by Wandering Chopsticks, to celebrate many ways we can cook one ingredient. The featured ingredient this month is ... the Tomato! Please check out Darlene's round-up by August 6 to see different ways we can cook the tomato and to see next month's featured ingredient!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

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

Do you know the English word for santol is wild mangosteen? I confess I didn't know that until I have to write this post and "google" about it. This just shows that no matter how old we are, we can still learn new things everyday and blogging about food helps us learn in a lot of ways too!

Supermarkets seem to be teeming with Santol nowadays. There must be an oversupply because even the Bangkok Santol variety (the bigger ones) are on sale. The price? 14 pesos a kilo! (around 25 cents U.S.) Being the cheapskate that I am, with the big lure of "SALE!," I really had to give in to my impulse and buy some. It is high in Vitamin C anyway... As expected, Hubby and kids turned up their noses at the sourness of santol! The problem now is, how to finish my entire supply of santol without suffering from extreme acidity of my tummy?

I seem to remember reading a post from Market Manila (a food blog that talks about food, recipes, ingredients, restaurants and markets here in the Philippines and around the globe) that talked about Santol, and another about making it into Sinigang. If you are a regular reader of Market Manila, you will know that MarketMan is trying to cook all versions of our famous Sinigang. So I am sure he will have the santol version in his archives. I checked into the archives, and he had indeed cooked the Sinigang na Bangus sa Santol ala Marketman, July 27 of last year! Please read the entire post here.

Instead of small santols that he used, I used the bigger ones. And I cooked an entire fish, not half. Other than that, I followed his instructions to the letter.

1 whole boneless milkfish, cut into 4 pcs
2 pcs large santol (Bangkok variety)
3 cups water
salt to taste

1. Prepare the wok or cooking pan by adding water.

2. Peel the santol skin using a knife. Discard the skin. Cut the meat into sections. Add the meat and seeds into the water.

3. Boil water with the santol and then simmer for around 15 minutes. During the last few minutes, mash some santol meat to extract more flavor. The soup will turn milky white at this point.

4. Add the bangus fillet. Cook for a while, around 5 minutes until fish is done. Do not overcook the fish. Season with salt. Serve immediately.

Simple and tasty. The kids love the natural sourness of the santol soup. They declared it the best Sinigang ever, even better than the Tamarind version.

This dish will definitely come back to the dining table next time around - sale or no sale of santol... Maybe next time, I can add Siling Haba (Finger Chillies or Jalapeno chillies) and KangKong (water spinach).

This dish is my first entry to Bookmarked Recipes, an event where foodies can talk about dishes and food they made from the recipes of other blogs, magazines or books. This event is a truly great idea. Even before I found this event, I have been featuring recipes from other blogs already. Thanks to Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments for this weekly feature! Please check out her blog on Monday for the 15th edition (already! wow!).

Other recipes I have bookmarked and cooked before today:

Baked Eggs from A Scientist in the Kitchen

Brocolli and Cheese Egg Bake from Kalyn's Kitchen

Chicken with Mango from Wandering Chopsticks

Cucumber Salad with Creamy Soy Ginger Dressing from White on Rice Couple

Golden Banana Cake from Market Manila

Japanese Salad Dressing from

Mango Muffins from Wandering Chopsticks

Korean Bulgogi from Cooking for a Cause cookbook by Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spicy Minced Pork With Long Beans

See the little slices of bird's eye chillies (Siling Labuyo) on the dish? That's a warning for you... this dish is very, very hot! And we like it that way. Bird's eye chillies are the small, tapered, red or green chillies that are pungent and very very hot! Do not be deceived by its small size (around 1 inch in length), it packs a lot in the hotness scale! Once when we treated a Korean friend to a Filipino dinner, our table was given an assortment of condiments for us to pour and mix ourselves. There were bottles of fish sauce, vinegar, calamansi and of course the bird's eye chillies. Our Korean friend asked what the small chillies were, after we told him the name, he promptly popped one into his mouth! We did not even have time to warn him. We know Koreans are used to eating hot dishes but still, this friend was so shocked by the hotness of the bird's eye chillies, he had to gulp it down with a cool drink.

Sometimes, we crave for a hot, spicy dish. Are we masochists or what? Eating a spicy dish in this hot tropical weather that will make us break out into sweat!? But it tastes good, specially good when paired with a bowlful of warm fragrant rice!

Of course, you can always tone down the degree of hotness of any dish by decreasing the amount of chillies you put in or change bird's eye chillies into finger chillies or even bell peppers!

1/2 K lean ground pork, marinated in
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
2 T cornstarch

1 bundle (around 200 gms) long beans (aka Baguio beans), trimmed, sliced
1 carrot, peeled, julliened
3 - 5 pieces bird eye chillies
1 can coconut cream (or make coconut cream -Kakang gata - from scratch)
4 T cooking oil
2 slices ginger
4 T garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up some oil in a non-stick wok or cooking pan. Saute ginger and garlic until fragrant but not burnt. For a fiery dish, you can add chillies at this point or you can add it later.

2. Add in the marinated ground meat. Stir fry for a while until cooked.

3. When meat is nearly cooked, add in the long beans, carrots and chillies. Stir fry for a while until vegetables are nearly cooked. Add in the coconut cream. Let boil.

4. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rice Noodles Stir-Fry (Bihon Guisado) - A Leftover Delight

Be forewarned by the title. This dish is simply a medley of leftovers.

Is it just me? Or do you also experience leftovers? Do you sometimes have a small amount of leftover cooked foods that are too small to be considered one serving? And, by left-overs, I do not just mean left-over foods that we cook ourselves, or from take-outs, but also a little of unused ingredients, here and there. For example, you buy a bundle of carrots, only to use 1 or 2 sticks for a recipe then, stuff the rest in the refrigerator until they languish into oblivion?

Long before the "going green, zero waste" revolution, my grandmother would practice zero waste in her kitchen. This is probably because she has first hand experience of World War II (sounds so long ago?), and the difficultly in rebuilding life in the aftermath of the war. She knew how it hard life could be, such that even when we were already living in the times of plenty, she would train us to be cheapskates and not to waste anything - specially food!

Thank God for grandmothers! Now that the world is experiencing a food crisis, I think my grandmother's training is worth it! I am trying to be more conscious of our food choices, food portions, food management and definitely, food left-over management. I have to be more creative: how to transform leftover foods to leftover delights.

Here are some little things from my refrigerator this weekend: 1 stick of carrot, 2 small bell peppers, a small amount (probably around 1 cup) of leftover pork stew (adobo) with bamboo shoots, the meats (laman) of a Soup No 5 (this is a popular soup here with 5 major ingredients. Will do a post on that soon!), some Bok Choi (pechay) leaves ... definitely Bihon Guisado material.

Bihon is a type of thin rice noodles (Pancit) very popular here in the Philippines but definitely it has Chinese origins. The name itself came from the Chinese words "rice flour." Guisado literally means stew, but in this case, it is used loosely for stir frying as well. This dish is easy to cook, and very versatile. You can use any kinds of meat or seafood. You can use any kinds of green leafy vegetable. That is why any leftovers can be used. If you do not have any leftovers, you can simply add fresh ingredients. The flavoring sauce are simply made from soy sauce, fish sauce (patis), and the finished dish is sprinkled with calamansi (Philippine lime).

I made the dish extra special by adding a can of Chinese Pork Leg Stew, and some slices of shiitake mushrooms.

1 pack (around 250 gms) Rice noodles, washed, soaked for around 10 minutes
1 C leftover meats (or fresh chicken meat, or seafood)
1 can Chinese Pork Leg stew
5 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water to soften, sliced
1 stick carrot, peeled, sliced
2 bell peppers, seeded, sliced
1 bunch Bok Choi (pechay)
4 T cooking oil
4 T garlic
3 slices ginger
4 T soy sauce
1 C water
salt and pepper to taste
slices of calamansi

1. In a wok or cooking pan, heat up some oil and saute ginger until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add the Chinese pork leg stew and mushrooms. Add in all the leftover meats as well. Stir around for a while. Then add the carrots and bell pepper.

3. Add in the cup of water and the soy sauce. When the mixture boils, add in the softened rice noodles (drain and discard the soaking water!). Mix everything up, making sure that all the rice noodles are mixed evenly with the sauce.

4. Continue stir frying and mixing once in a while until the noodles are cooked. Add in some amounts of water if the sauce dries up.

5. Serve warm with calamansi slices if preferred.

Because I did not have seafood in this dish, I did not flavor the dish with fish sauce (patis). Otherwise, the fish sauce would have added more flavor. Instead of bell peppers, you can also use cilantro or leeks.

Maybe somebody should start a Leftover Blogging event... any takers? :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chicken with Mango

This is my version of Chicken with Mango, inspired by Wandering Chopstick's Chicken Mango. Her Chicken Mango looks so delicious, I knew I just had to try it.

I used the commercially available white chicken, since the flavorful native chicken is hard to find. But the mango and fish sauce were able to add in full flavor to the chicken well. I also did not have bell peppers on hand, so I substituted with green onion leeks instead.

1/2 Kilo Chicken, sliced
2 mangoes, seed removed, meat sliced
3 T cooking oil
2 slices ginger
3 T garlic, minced
2 T fish sauce
1 T cornstarch
2 T water
1 bunch leeks, sliced into 1 inch length
salt and pepper to taste

1. Marinate chicken meat in fish sauce. Add in cornstarch just before cooking.

2. Heat up the wok. Add in the cooking oil. Saute ginger and garlic until fragrant but not burnt.

3. Add in chicken slices. Stir fry for a while. Add in a little water. Continue stir frying until meat is cooked. Add in the mangoes. Stir fry a little more, this time gently so that the mangoes will not be squished.

4. Add in the leeks. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dish up. Serve warm.

The result? It may not look as good as Wandering Chopstick's Chicken Mango, but it surely tastes good. Hubby and kids finished everything in one sitting!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seafood EggDrop Soup

My family loves soup. Don't you? We love all kinds of soup. It can be clear soup or thick soup. It can be cream soup or Sinigang (Sour soup) or Chinese soup or Japanese soup or Filipino soup... Of course a soup can be comforting on a rainy wet day. Do you find it wierd that we also love to have hot soups in the middle of summer? But we do love soup regardless of the weather! I'm sure almost every Filipino and Chinese have one kind of soup or another with all their meals, rain or shine. We do not consider the soup as a mere starter. For us, the soup itself is already a viand (ulam). We spoon the soup over our rice and eat the contents - usually meat and veggies (laman) with our rice.

Here is another easy to do, nutritious thick soup. Need I mention it is flavorful and yummy?

200 gms fresh shrimp meat, chopped
300 gms fresh fish fillet, cut into small cubes
5 pcs kani sticks, cut
a bunch of chinese spinach (polunchay), washed, chopped
2 eggs, well beaten
4 slices ginger
4 T garlic, minced
4 C water
salt and pepper to taste
3 T cornstarch dissolved in 3 T water

1. In a lightly oiled wok or pan, saute ginger until light brown. Sute garlic until fragrant but not burnt.

2. Add in the seafood. Stir fry for a while. Then add the water. Cover and let boil. Simmer until the seafoods are cooked.

3. Add in the spinach. Stir the dissolved cornstarch into boiling liquid until thickened.

4. When the soup boils again. Add the beaten egg while slowly swirling the laddle in the soup to spread the egg around. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

This easy to do and delicious warm soup with its high protein seafood and eggs is another entry to this month's Eat Healthy:Protein Rich event launched by Sangeeth of The Art of Indian Cooking. Please check out her round-up of healthy recipes by the end of the month.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stuffed Eggplant

Hubby does not particularly like eggplants (also known as aubergine or talong). For him, a vegetable should be leafy and green. And the eggplant is neither leafy nor green! In a way, he is partially correct. The eggplant is not a vegetable. It is a fruit! It belongs to the berry family, distantly related to the tomato. The eggplant is the glossy, deep purple fruit that grows on vines. It is almost always available throughout the year.

This fruit is commonly cooked as a vegetable, as it cannot be eaten raw. It is so versatile it can be cooked in a lot of ways. It can be stewed as in the French ratatouille or the Philippine Pinakbet, or it can be made into a parmigiana. It can be roasted where the pulp can be used for a varitey of dishes or sauces and chutneys. It can be sliced, battered, stir fried, mashed, etc. Because of its versatility and availability, most people just take it for granted!

Do you know that studies have shown that the eggplant is effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol? It can block the formation of free radicals, as it contains phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties. It helps in preventing cellular damage that can promote cancer; and lessening free radical damage in joints, which is a primary factor in rheumatoid arthritis. It is a source of folic acid, potassium, Vitamin B1 and B6 and fiber. For more information on the eggplant, please click here.

200 gms ground lean beef
4 pcs long oval eggplants
2 T minced garlic
2 T chopped onions
2 T soy sauce
2 T corainder leaves or cilantro
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil eggplants in water until wrinkled and softened. Remove or peel off the skin. Flatten each eggplant by open the eggplants into half, and spreading the meat out.

2. Marinate the ground beef in soy sauce and pepper.

3. Heat up a wok or a skillet. Add some cooking oil. Saute the garlic and onions until softened and fragrant but not burnt. Add in the ground beef. Stir the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and more soy sauce (if preferred). Cook until done.

4. Put some meat mixture onto the flattened eggplant. Dip into the beaten eggs. Lightly skillet fry in some oil until egg is cooked. Dish up and drain in some paper towels to remove some of the oil.

5. Serve warm garnished with chopped leeks or parsley.

Although stir frying or stewing are easier ways of cooking eggplants, my picky eaters prefer their eggplants cooked like this. Hubby and kids are more willing to eat their eggplants this way because it is now made more flavorful by beef. Maybe my repertoire of cooking eggplants are limited. Do you have any flavorful ways of cooking eggplants?

This is my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, a word-wide foodie event launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen to celebrate different herbs and vegetables available around the world and the dishes we cook using these ingredients. This week's host is Archana of Archana's Kitchen. Please check out last week's round-up beautifully done by Simona of Briciole.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Native Chicken in Four-Herb (Sibut) Soup

I am very honored when Katie of A Merrier World invited me to join her food event: Let Them Eat Chicken. This event aims to raise awareness about the broiler rearing systems of commercial chickens, and help us make informed food choices. Please check out her site if you want to learn where your chicken comes from. She gave an informative post on this topic.

For some time now, I have been aware that our commercially available chicken - the chicken meat we serve on the dinner table are called 45-day chickens. These chickens reach the desired weight and size by 45 days, hence the name. They are fed with anti-biotic laced poultry food mix. They are kept in unsanitized cages, where light, heat and ventillation are controlled to limit movement and maximize weight gain. I have also heard that often times they are deliberately made blind or crippled so that the chickens in the cage will not fight, or hurt each other (lest their meat be bruised.)

Truly sad. But we have accepted the reality that these chicken were bred specifically to satisfy our demand for meat, healthy meat at that. Since everybody considers white chicken meat a good source of complete protein (without the skin, of course, which is full of cholesterol.) But if you think about it, how healthy could they be if they are eating artificially prepared food laced with anti-biotics? Would we not ingest these things as well?

Another sad reality is that in this city, in most markets and supermarkets, only commercial white chicken are available. If I need a native chicken (this is what we call the free-range chicken), which we consider healthier and more nutritious, I have to go to a specialty market in downtown Manila (quite far, and heavily congested) or to weekend markets where farmers from the provinces come up and display their goods - only during weekends.

I remember when I was still a young girl, my grandmother would often buy a native chicken, dress it herself and cook it in soups. Maybe the native free-range chickens were more available then, since farms are closer before. Now that more and more agricultural land near mega-Manila are being converted to cities or industrial use, the farms are getting farther and farther. Hence, we have less access to native chickens.

Grandma would usually cook the native chicken in soup because their meat is tougher, and would take a long time to get tender. She believes that the native chicken is very nutritious and very flavorful. (Just proves grandmas know better.) If we add herbs to the native chicken, and then simmer the soup for a long time, the healthy benefits will increase. So, more often than not, we would get Chicken Soup with Chinese Herbs. I would usually associate this nourishing soup with my grandmother. So, whenever my own family now is experiencing some stress or if we need some nourishment for the whole body, I would go out and hunt down a good native free-range chicken (from the specialty market, of course :) and serve this comforting soup to my family.

This is Grandma's favorite Chinese herb formula composed of these four herbs designed to invigorate the blood, and nourish the whole body. I think these herbs are readily available in Asian markets, and Chinese groceries.

Angelica Sinensis or Tang Gui. this root tonifies and invigorates the blood.

Ligusticum/Cnidium or Chuan Xiong. this root also improves the blood as well as alleviates pain, so sometimes it is used for treating headaches.

Peony Alba or Bai Shao. the root of the peony plant can be used to treat various blood imbalances, poor blood circulation. It is used to stop bleeding and prevent miscarriages.

Chinese Foxglove/Rehmannia or Shu Di. This is blood and yin-tonifying root that is used to treat symptoms of pallid face, palpitaions, insomnia, excessive bleeding, night sweating, dizziness and irregular mentruation.

1 whole native or free range chickens, (around 1 kilo,) chopped to serving sizes
5 slices ginger
5 T minced garlic
1 pc Shu Di or Chinese foxglove
2 pcs Tang Gui or Angelica Sinensis
several pieces of Chuan Xiong or Ligusticum
several pieces of Bai Shao or Peony Alba
a handful of Chinese wolfberry or Guo Qi Zi
8 C water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the chicken pieces very well. Wash the Chinese herbs too. Set aside.

2. Heat up some oil in a big pot. Saute the ginger and garlic until fragrant but not burnt. Add the chicken pieces. Stir fry for a while until the meat changes color.

3. Add the water. Let boil. When it boils, add all the Chinese herbs. Simmer until tender, around 2 hours.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dish up. Serve hot.

Alternately, you can put all the ingredients in a crockpot or slow cooker. Cook it in the morning and when you come home, you already have a warm, nutritious, and nourishing soup waiting for you!

Please check out Kate's A Merrier World in a few days to see many different ways we can cook the nutritious native chicken. We should start making healthier choices for ourselves and our family.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lemongrass Tea

These are the lemongrass plants growing profusely in pots of my balcony 'garden'. This fragrant plant is easy to grow, I have more than enough that I need for everyday cooking. I often share with family and friends several stalks at a time or else, the pots would not be able to hold all the leaves!

I am happy I have this plant so that I can easily get them fresh. Most of what are available in the market are already dried ones. They do not lose their flavor though, so even the dried lemongrass can still be used for cooking.

Usually, we use the stalk, the white part near the root (where there is more concentration of the citrusy smell) as flavoring for cooking soups, curries or stews. It is used for stuffing roast chicken, for pounding into sauces. What about the leaves? Sometimes, we include those into cooking as well. But more often than not, we infuse the leaves into tea.

It is very simple actually. I use 10 leaves, cut them up into 2 to 3 inches. Wash them well and boil them in a liter of water. The resulting liquid is very fragrant, rich lemon gold in color, very refreshing!

You can drink it hot or cold. (I prefer it hot, no sugar added.) You can drink it as is, or add a simple sugar syrup, or add a sugar substitute such as stevia, if preferred.

To make sugar syrup, just boil 1 cup water with 1 cup whit sugar until sugar is melted and the liquid turns a little syrupy consistency. Add to any of your preferred drinks.

Last week, a friend forwarded to me an email citing a study done by the Ben Gurion University at Negev, Israel. The study shows lemongrass can be a cure for cancer. Read the full transcript here. The study says that lemongrass contains "citral" the component that gives lemongrass its citrusy scent and aroma; and that this component causes the cancer cells in our body to die. The cancer cells die while the healthy cells live, thus helping the cancer patient to be healed.

Hubby and I tend to believe that the anti-cancer properties of the lemongrass is true, not just because of the testimonies of many people but because we believe that God has indeed gifted us many natural herbs and medicines that can be found in nature, in plants. Further studies are being conducted to confirm this initial findings. Meanwhile, we can enjoy this delicious, refreshing lemony tea that may have healing effects on our bodies as well.

This is my entry to Grow Your Own, a twice-a-month blogging event that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. This event is launched and hosted by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. Please check out her blog after the 15th to see the delicious round-ups.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Roast Pork Soup with Chinese Herbs

I have posted a recipe for Pork Soup with Ling Zhi and Chinese herbs before. But the focus of that post was on Ganoderma Lucidum or Ling Zhi and its anti-cancer properties. This time around, I want to present the other ingredients which are also very nutritious. Chinese herbs are known to have medicinal properties, if not for treating illness, herbs can be used for maintaining wellness.

Chinese Wolfberry
Gou Qi Zi

Qi Zi has been renowned in Chinese herbal cooking for its potent tonic and aphrodisiac properties. It is used for treatment of general weakness and impotence. This is my mother-in-law's favorite herb because she believes this not only increases our stamina, but also nourishes and brightens the eyes, strengthens our lungs and nourishes our liver and kidneys. It is mildly sweet. This 'neutral' herb can be added to a variety of soups without affecting the taste or smell.

Chinese Red Dates
Hong Zao

Red Dates are considered a tonic for the spleen and stomach, so this herb is used for improving digestion. It also increases available energy, so it goes very well when added with Qi Zi. Red dates are known to be effective in countering fatigue, anaemia and low energy. They are commonly used for building up strength and blood. It has a naturally sweet taste.

Red dates can be made into teas; or added to chinese wine and kept for a long time to enhance the flavor of wine. This wine is good for drinking or it can be used to flavor dishes.

Chinese Wild Yam
Huai Shan

This is one of the children's favorite Chinese herbs. It is crunchy even when cooked and simmered for a long time. Wild yam is known for enhancing the immune response, so it a good herb for the whole family. Recently, I found out that it also boosts hormone production so it benefits women greatly when taken during mentruation, or menopause and for those who needs to boost their fertility. It can also relive morning sickness.

We had some leftover Lechon or roast pork. The meat, we can make into Paksiw ( a stew made with vinegar and the Lechon sauce). But the bones from ribs and legs parts are also tasty as well. What better way to 'recycle' them but to cook them in soup!

around 1 kilo roast pork bones with some meat

a handful of Chinese wolfberry or Qi Zi
4 -5 pcs red dates or Hong Zao
5 pcs Chinese wild yam or Huai Shan

10 C water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the water in a pot. When it boils, add in all the ingredients.

2. Simmer for 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Or alternately, just throw everything in the crockpot or slow cooker in the morning. When you come back for dinner, you already have a nice, hot, nourishing soup waiting for you!

This warm, nourishing soup filled with the goodness of Chinese herbs is submitted to Weekend Herb Blogging, a foodie event featuring herbs and unique plant ingredients around the world. This event was launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Simona of the Italian Briciole. Please check out the delicious round-up last week done by Pam of Sidewalk Shoes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sweet Potato Greens (Camote Tops) Salad

Many people are familiar with sweet potatoes - the tuber we use for cooking, baking or making desserts. But do you know that the leaves of the sweet potato plant can be eaten as well? The leaves are not only edible but nutritious as well. Its nutritional content is said to be comparable to the spinach. Sweet potato leaves contain dietary fiber, lipid, and essential minerals and nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, aluminum and boron. They are also important sources of vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid. The leaves are high in protein - making it a perfect dish for vegetarians.

Sweet potato tops are excellent sources of antioxidants, mainly polyphenolics, which may protect the human body from many diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. There are also many anecdotal testimonies that the sweet potato tops are the cure for dengue fever (infammatory, hemmoragic fever caused by a specie of mosquito common in Asia). Information here.

Here in the Philippines, we call the leaves Talbos ng Camote or Camote Tops. Camote is the Tagalog word for sweet potatoes, and Tops, well, because the leaves grown on top! We usually use the leaves for soups and salad. It is an easy plant to grow. It can be harvested several times a year. It is also abundant in all markets and groceries.

1 bunch (around 300 gms) Sweet potato (Camote) Tops, washed, cut into bite sized pieces
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 C rice vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar)
1 T sugar (or more if you prefer a bit sweeter taste)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Blanch the leaves in boiling water. Drain. Immerse in cold water bath. Drain again.

2. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper together.

3. Arrange the sweet potato leaves on a platter. Top with tomatoes and onions. Drizzle with the vinegar-sugar mixture.

This is the basic salad recipe. For variation, we can add fruits such as mangoes, avocadoes or watermelon cubes.

This highly nutritious, absolutely yummy, totally vegetarian dish is my entry to the Healthy Cooking foodie event. Head over to Mansi's Fun and Food blog to learn more healthy and yummy recipes. After all, we have to eat well in order to live well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Brocolli and Cheese Egg Bake

This is such an easy breakfast or brunch dish to prepare. Very tasty and healthy too! I got the recipe from South Beach proponent and Weekend Herb Blogging chief Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, original recipe here. Of course her picture is much prettier than mine. :)

I did the oven toaster version. Also, I think my oven toaster is much smaller than hers. I couldn't find a small baking dish for my toaster so I used a disposable foil baking dish. With one small head of brocolli, I was able to make 3 small casseroles. Here's my retake on the Brocolli and Cheese Casserole. Recipe for 1 serving casserole.

3 eggs
3 T fresh milk
a bunch of brocolli florettes
1/4 C grated cheddar cheese
salt to taste
some dashes of ground red pepper
some dashes of onion, ginger and chive seasoning

1. Blanch the brocolli florettes in boiling water. Drain immediately and immerse in cold water bath.

2. Lightly spray or coat the baking dish with butter or cooking oil.

3. Arrange the blanched brocolli in the dish. Top with grated cheese.

4. Beat the egg with the milk, salt and pepper and the onion-chive seasoning. Pour this egg mixture over the brocolli and cheese. This is what it's going to look like.

5. Bake in the oven toaster on high power for 10 to 15 minutes. Check for doneness. It is cooked when browned and slightly puffed up. (But it will deflate when cooled...)

You can use any kind of cheese you have on hand, or even a combination of cheeses will do. I think mozarella cheese will be perfect, but I didn't have any on hand. Hubby called this a quiche without the crust. But I think the texture is different from a quiche. However, I think this can be as versatile as the quiche. I think we can add and/or change the brocolli to mushrooms or bell peppers and we can probably add seafood or ham. Hmmm... many possibilities to do next time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grilled Chicken With Aromatic Herbs

The kids love chicken. Everybody in my family loves chicken. Which is something good, because chicken contains good protein - it has all the essential amino acids in the correct proportions required by the body for optimum growth of lean, calorie burning tissue. Chicken is a very healthy food only if you remove the chicken skin, of course. If you check out the pictures and recipes of the chicken dishes in this blog, you will see all the chicken skins removed. Why? Because the chicken skin contains all the saturated fat and cholesterol. So, when you cook chicken dishes, make sure to remove all the skin.

Grilling is a healthy and easy way to cook a dish. This way, the fats contained in the meat will drip down (discard the oil), and the remaining meat will be healthier. The secret to making good grilled chicken is in the marinade. This is where your creativity comes in. You can use a lot of different spices, condiments, seasonings and herbs.

For this dish, I mainly used some of the herbs from my garden to include in the marinade. This is such an easy recipe to do, if you have food processor, that is. If not, you simply have to pound the herbs to make the paste/marinade.

1 Kilo chicken pieces, skin removed, washed and chopped to serving sizes

2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
a handful of coriander leaves
3 - 4 pcs bird's eye chillies (use more or less according to your preference)
4 T garlic
1 stalk scallions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 T canola oil
1/2 T turmeric powder
some sugar (if you prefer it a little sweet, this is optional)

1. Pulse all the marinade ingredients (all the ingredients listed, except the chicken) in the food processor. Or pound them together to make a paste.

2. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours or more (covered, in the refrigerator).

3. Grill the chicken over hot coals, electric grilling machine, or like me, simply use the Turbo Broiler (15 minutes). Chicken is cooked when juices run clear if meat is pierced.

Easy to do, isn't it? If you're anticipating a busy day ahead, you can make a big batch and store in the freezer. Take it out when needed. Hubby and kids declared this dish yummy! It is fragrant, aromatic, and when cooked at the right time, the meat is soft and tender juicy. Nothing brings satisfaction to a home-chef but to see your dish finished with gusto.

This is my entry to this month's Eat Healthy event featuring protein-rich dishes. This event showcases dishes that are healthy and easy to prepare. Head over to Sangeeth's Art of Cooking Indian Food for the round-up at the end of the month.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Steamed Kang Kong (Water Spinach) with Mango Salsa

This salad is highly recommended for everyone. It has vegetable - the KangKong. It has fruit - the mango. It is tasty. It is healthy. There is something special about the pairing of these two ingredients. The kangkong is considered a poor-man's vegetable while the mango is considered the queen of Philippine fruits!

The vegetable is known by many names : Water Spinach, Swamp Cabbage, Eng Tsai (Hokkian), KongXinCai (Mandarin Chinese), KangKong (Filipino), KangKung (Indonesian, Malay)...

The Kang Kong is a popular vegetable here in Asia, primarily because it flourishes naturally in moist watery areas and does not need much care. It is also one of the cheapest vegetable around so it is used extensively in cooking. Kang Kong is usually stir fried in shrimp paste, garlic and chili; or to make a vegetarian dish, it can be stir-fried with fermented tofu. Either way, stir-fried kang kong can already be a stand-alone flavorful vegetable dish paired with a steaming bowl of rice. It can be added to soups like the Sinigang. It can be added to noodles. It can be made into a salad like this recipe.

The fruit - the mango - the queen of Philippine fruits - is fortunately available year-round in this tropical country, though it is particularly abundant in summer. It is one of our family's favorite fruits. There is something wonderfully intoxicating about the aroma of a ripe mango. And the sweet taste of a ripe mango is incomparbale to other fruits. When buying sweet mangoes, make sure the color is even throughout the flesh, and the part near where the stem was broken off should smell sweet.

3/4 C diced ripe mangoes (or use a melon baller to make round mango bites)
1 C diced, seeded tomatoes
1/4 C Chopped coriander
1/4 C brown rice vinegar (or white rice vinegar)
1 T sugar
1 and 1/4 t salt
dash of pepper
1 bunch (around 300 gms) Kangkong, cleaned, cut into bite-size pieces, steamed

1. In a medium bowl, gently mix mangoes, tomatoes and coriander.

2. In another bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over the mango salsa, stirring lightly.

2. Arrange the steamed Kangkong on the serving plate. Spoon mango salsa over the Kangkong and serve.

You may chill the Kangkong with salsa for 10 minutes to make a cold salad. However, please serve the salad within an hour of preparation otherwise the mangoes will absorb the vinegar and lose their sweetness.

This is my first entry to the Monthly Mingle foodie event, hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey? This month's feature is the beautifully golden-yellow, wonderfully delicious, sweet ripe Mango.

With this entry, I want to focus on the versatility of the mango. The mango is not only used for savory sweets and desserts like cakes or tarts or ice creams. It can be used to enhance dishes (stir fried beef with mangoes, for example) and to make a salad like this one stand-out exceptionally. It is true. It was the mango bits in this salad that gave the flavor, aroma and sweetness to an otherwise blah dish.

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