Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Merry Christmas !!!

Just letting you know, I'll be taking a holiday break from blogging. Will be back in January! Meanwhile, please feel free to browse through the archives for tried and tested recipes! :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thai Stir Fry Chicken with Basil (Gai Pad Grapow)

I met a friend at the supermarket the other day. She was recommending me to buy a cut of chicken meat called "Chicken tenders." Accordingly, the cut is already boneless and the meat is truly tender. Ideal for kids. Most mothers usually use it to cook their own chicken nuggets. Of course it is more expensive than the regular whole or cut chicken. But I figured, if it does not include any bones, and if the meat is truly tender, it can be worth the price. I bought half a kilo to try, without really planning what recipe I will use to cook the chicken. My kids are not really crazy about chicken nuggets, so that would be out of the picture.

I decided to use it in a Thai dish because the cuisine we're trying this month for Regional Recipes is Thai. We love Thai food in restaurants. But the most I did at home is the Tom Yum Soup. I was quite surprised myself. Because I know Thai food is not difficult to do, specially since I am a little familiar with the cuisine and the herbs and spices used in Thai cooking. Maybe I will start exploring more Thai cuisine next year. :)

This is an easy Thai stir fry dish you can prepare in 15 minutes or less.

1/2 K chicken tenders (or chicken breast fillet) cubed
fish sauce, pepper and cornstarch

4 slices fresh ginger
4 T garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 C fresh thai basil leaves
2 T fish sauce
3 pcs finger chillies (substitute chili padi for more spice), sliced

1. Add some dashes of fish sauce to the chicken meat. Season with ground black pepper. Add in some cornstarch. Set aside.

2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok, or cooking pan. Saute the ginger until fragrant. Add in the onions and garlic and saute until fragrant but not burnt. Add in the chicken.

3. Stir fry for a while. Add in the chillies and the fish sauce. Add in some water if it gets too dry. Cover until chicken is cooked. Stir frying and checking once in while. This should take less than 10 minutes.

4. When chicken is cooked, add in the basil leaves. Cook until basil leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

This is an easy weekday dinner dish. Fuss-free, tasty and delicious.

Sharing this Thai chicken dish with the Regional Recipes community, with this month featuring Thai recipes. Regional Recipes is launched and hosted this month by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. To see last month's delicious Japanese dishes, please check out the round-up done by Wandering Chopsticks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mushroom and Cheese Omelet

The secret ingredient for this month's Weekend Wokking is a fungi! A very good fungi at that... it's the mushroom! The Asian people, specially the Chinese, love mushrooms. When I was young, I thought it was simply the flavor. But apparently, it has a lot of healthy benefits as well. Mushrooms has no cholesterol, no fat, no sodium. It is rich in Vitamin B. It is a rich source of potassium, almost equal to banana in that aspect. It is also mineral rich: selenium, copper, iron, etc. Mushrooms have started to grow in popularity among the health conscious. In fact, modern science are studying the possible cancer-fighting properties of mushrooms.

Mushrooms, in this country is considered a delicacy. It is an expensive ingredient. Especially the dried varieties which had to be imported from Hong Kong or China. However, there are some organic farms that are starting to grow frresh mushrooms, so mushrooms are slowly becoming more and more available.

I found some fresh shiitake mushrooms at the supermarket and thought of using them in a special dish. However, the following morning, I simply came up with an omelet. But take note, Hubby loves omelet. For this family, an omelet in the morning is a luxury dish, since making a real good and fluffy omelet would really take slow cooking. And I think you would agree that time is very short in the mornings. :)

I made two versions. The one pictured above is made using mushrooms, mozarella cheese and tomatoes.

Here's the ingredients:

2 eggs, well beaten
2 T fresh milk (or cream)
mozarella cheese, grated (as much as you prefer)
2 tomatoes, seeded, cubed
4 pcs shiitake mushrooms, sliced
some fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the sliced shiitake mushrooms in an oven tray. Spray or brush the slices with olive oil. Sprinkle some chopped fresh dill. Roast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes until fragrant.

2. Add the fresh milk to the eggs and beat well. In a non-stick pan, heat up just a little oil. Pour in the eggs. Let the eggs cover the pan. Lower fire. Let the eggs slowly cook.

3. While slowly cooking the eggs, arrange the sliced mushrooms on top of the (still cooking) eggs. Add the cheese and tomatoes, and some salt and pepper to taste. Wait for the eggs to set. When cooked, flip the half of omelet over, or serve the omelet open-style as I did.

The second version here is made using mushrooms, feta (goat) cheese and dill. The method is basically the same with different topping ingredients.

2 eggs, well beaten
2 T fresh milk (or cream)
grated feta cheese (as much as you prefer)
4 slices fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced, roasted as above
fresh dill, chopped

I have written a post before on how to make good and fluffy omelets. You may want to refer to that page here.

Here are some more mushroom recipes:

Spiced Mushrooms in Olive Oil
Prawn and Mushroom Quiche
Pork Bones with Ganoderma (LingZhi) Soup
Pork Stew (Adobo) with Mushrooms
Shrimps with Mushrooms and Bell Peppers
Cream of Portobello Mushroom Soup
Grilled Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms
Shrimp Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Sharing this healthy mushroom dish with the Weekend Wokking community. Weekend Wokking is a world-wide food event launched by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate many different ways we can cook up one ingredient. This month's host is Marija of Palachinka. To see last month's delicious ways to cook broccoli, please check out the round-up done by Wiffy of Noobcook.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cheezy Beefy Twirls

Last week, I bought a bottle of cheese Ragu for the first time. I thought of making good ol' Mac and Cheese with the cheese Ragu. Daughter would love it for sure. I have not done Macaroni and Cheese for a long time. Before, I would use cottage cheese or cheddar cheese. This time, I just wanted to try this bottle. Ready made ragu is supposed to be easy to use. Simply pour over cooked macaroni and it is ready to eat. But then, I woould not blog about it if I made it that simple. :) Actually, I simply added beef for more protein, and bell peppers for colorand vitamins, and voila! it became a yummy dish!

I discovered these colorful veggie twirls in my pantry. This is how they looked after boiling. The colors did not fade away! Woohoo! I used these instead of macaroni.

1 package veggie pasta twirls, cooked according to package directions

1 (32 oz) bottle cheese ragu
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded, chopped
250 gms lean ground beef
ground pepper to taste

1. In a little oil, saute the onions until caramelized.

2. Add the beef and saute until cooked. Add the bell peppers and the cheese. Let boil. Add ground pepper to taste. (I did not add salt as the cheese was already flavorful.

3. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve immediately.

See? Easy peasy Macaroni and Cheese made more nutritious!

The above is how it looked with the sauce poured on top of the spirals.

The photo under is how it looks when the sauce is already tossed with the spirals. It may not look good, but it certainly is flavorful. Daughter even asked for the leftovers to be her lunch the next day!

Sharing this cheezy twirls with the Presto Pasta Nights community, headed by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. This week's host, the last edition for the year, is C of Foodie Tots. To see last week's delicious pasta dishes, please check out the round-up wonderfully done by Marye of Baking Delights.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mediterranean Angus Beef Steak

Angus Beef has certainly been popular in steak houses around town. Accordingly, it is more tender than other breeds of cattle because of the marbling on its meat. Actually, nowadays, Kobe beef is slowly getting popular as well, but that's another story. Angus beef steak is quite pricey in restaurants. Unless you are well-heeled, you cannot really afford Angus beef steak, except of course, when you want to splurge on special occasions. :)

I was very happy to have stumbled upon angus beef tenderloin at a popular membership shopping store. It is, of course more expensive than other kinds of meat but when I roughly computed how much it would cost per serving, it sounded more attractive. It would cost me around only 25 percent of how much it would cost me if I order this dish in a restaurant!!!

Because we rarely eat steak, I want to make this extra special. I chose to add olives and olive oil.

Olives are little fruits popularly grown in the Mediterranean region. We do not grow olives here in the tropics. The Greeks once considered this fruit sacred, a symbol of goodness and nobility. I think even today, the branches of the olive tree are symbols of peace. We all know that this fruit is loaded with monosaturates which is good for our health. Olives also contain substances that are believed to help us ward off cancer.

Someone has told me that the fresh olive fruit is not palatable. I cannot really confirm this because what I have tasted are those that are bottled or in cans. :)

Olive oil is a delicious source of antioxidants. Because of its high level of monosaturated fats, it can help lower our bad cholesterol and is good for our overall heart health. This is the oil I love. Not just because of its healthy benefits, but I also love the scent. I always choose the extra-virgin dark colored ones. More pricey than regular oils, but I guess, it is worth to splurge on something healthy.

2 pcs angus beef tenderloin steak
salt and pepper
dash of olive oil

Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Add some olive oil to coat. Grill on high heat until desired doneness. Arrange on individual serving plates.

5 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
5 T capers, cut in half
10 pitted olives (in can), sliced
salt and pepper

1. Heat up a little olive oil. Add in the onions and garlic. Saute a little bit until fragrant but not burnt. Add in the capers and olives. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.

2. Add this mixture on top of the steak. Splash in some fresh olive oil on top.

Hubby loved this special treat, of course! :)

Sharing this olive-laden treat to the holiday edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, headed and specially hosted this time by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. To see last week's delicious dishes, please check out the round-up done by Chriesi of Almond Corner.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicken Soup with Green Papaya and Malunggay (Tinola)

When December hits, everything becomes topsy-turvy - at least in my part of the world. Everybody becomes so busy with buying gifts, wrapping presents, delivering presents and enduring the horrendous traffic as well... writing letters to friends and family abroad, attending neighborhood parties, office parties, once-a-year reunions, etc. All of this on top of the regular work and home routine...

And dinner... I still have family to feed. Where am I going to get some more extra time to prepare dinner? I don't. So my best solution is an easy to prepare one-dish filling meal to go with rice.

This is a perfect dish to prepare for this cold December weather, too.

1 kilo chicken, washed, cut to bite sized pieces
1 pc green papaya, peeled, cored, cubed
5 slices fresh ginger
4 T minced garlic
1 bunch moringa or malunggay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
4 C water

1. Saute the ginger in some oil until fragrant. Add the ginger and saute until fragrant. Add in the chicken pieces. Stir fry for a while until it changes color.

2. Add in water and papaya. Boil and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked, around 15 to 20 minutes. Add in the malunggay leaves just before turning off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Actually, you can just throw in all the ingredients in a pot, let boil and cook. Sauteing the chicken in ginger first before adding the water is a Chinese thing to do, I guess. At least, that was what my grandmother always did.

See? This is a simple, warm, tasty, comforting soup dish that can be easily prepared on a busy night. I don't know why, but the comforting soup calmed me down as well. :)

I thank my next door neighbor W, for the malunggay leaves. She has this malunggay tree that has grown tall - over a storey high, so a portion of the branches and leaves invaded my side of the fence (which is an open parking space). She was apologetic about it, and offered to cut off the invading parts. Of course I told her I am a plant lover, too! No way am I going to waste those precious nutrients! So, I asked her permission to harvest some leaves (at least those that are on my side of the fence) for my cooking instead. We had a deal!

The Moringa tree or Malunggay is a common plant here in the city. It can thrive in the harshest tropical weather and even in poor soil. Which is a good thing because here in the Philippines, it is considered a miracle vegetable. Why? It contains a lot of nutrition and health benefits. Mothers who have just given birth are always required to eat this vegetable everyday. To see the complete health benefits, please check out this article written by a doctor of our Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

Sharing this nutritious and comforting soup dish with the Grow Your Own community, headed and hosted this week by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. To see the yummy treats in the previous edition, please check out the round-up done by Rachel of the Crispy Cook.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sicilian Style Spaghetti - With Lots of Meat and Garlic

I shall never look at Spaghetti the same way again.

Not after reading Lily Pryor's La Cucina : A Novel of Rapture, for the Cook the Books Novel Book Club's challenge this month.

You see, Spaghetti for the Filipinos is a dish for kids. This is a common dish in children's parties. The Filipino version is sweet style with sliced hotdogs and lots of sauce. And the kids really love it!

However, the La Cucina book is definitely R rated - definitely not for kids.

The book is sensual, sexy, sensous, earthy, passionate, emotional, intense, livid. Lily Prior is a very good writer. She writes with such passionate words that the reader cannot help but "feel" the book. She brings you to intense emotional highs and lows, so exciting that you cannot put the book down. You will be eager to know what happens next...

However, I think this book is for mature women (and men) who understands that this is pure fiction. While reading the book, you feel the excitement of the character Rosa, her ups and downs, her experiences, her world of reality and fantasy. That is how you suspend your disbelief and enjoy the book. After reading the book, you go back to the real world, your real kitchen, real family, real life; then you start to think as you go back to the details of the book, is that how real people in Italy live? Is that how they behave? Do all the values, and morals presented in the book the same as the values people in Italy have? Are the mafias really like that? Is the Italian farm life really like that? Is that really their way of life? Is that how they really cook?

I cannot argue with the cooking part. We, who love food, do cook with the passion and intensity as Rosa does. What about the others? I am a foreigner peeking inside a part of Italian culture. However, where do I draw the line between fantasy and reality? Wouldn't my perception of Italy be influenced by the pictures and scenes of the book?

I believe that writers have an obligation to the world and to the next generation. What picture of reality do you present to your readers? Look at the television. They present violent and immoral stories. They aim to sell, to titillate. They present extreme situations and extreme stories. Such that the next generation think it is normal to be violent and ammoral. Same thing with literature. A writer presents a sensual picture, you associate it with the culture. Of course, we can always argue that readers know this is fiction. But even fiction has some basis in reality, unless the setting is in the outer space or in another dimension.

I believe that writers should not just titillate the senses in order to sell their books. If the writers present the idea that it is justified for this person to kill his own son just for what? and that a husband (or wife) cavorting with the farm helper is a common occurrence, then people would get desensitized to immorality as well. Writers should present the good side of the real world. If the readers feel that the world is right and good, they would also follow and do right and good. The good part is the author was able to present the consequences suffered by those people.

I know that sounds lame and old fashioned. But that is the only way to make this world a better place. Because of television and mass media, the world had gone violent and immoral. Families have become dysfunctional. Is this the right way to go? This is not an attack on the book. I confess I enjoyed reading the book myself and my imagination had gone wild with the scenes and numerous edible possibilities. But then we have to qualify that this book is for mature readers only.

I confess that if not for the Book Club, I would not read this book. This type of novel is not in my usual reading list. I apologize if that came out as snotty. It is just that because of the demands and pressures of my job(s), I do not usually have time to read books simply to enjoy them! Thanks to the Cook the Books, I got to experience a new kind of literature.

I finished the book in one sitting - probably two to three hours. This book is a light read. Have I let out a secret? I'm a nerd. Specifically a book-nerd. I love books. I devour them. I would want my kids to have the same passion. I apologize if this post became somewhat of a long sermon. My kids read my blog. Their friends and classmates read my blog. I have an obligation to show them what is the right way to go.

As for the challenge, I cooked the spaghetti that L'Inglese cooked for Rosa at his house. Do you remember the scene? That is why I cannot look at Spaghetti as a kids' meal anymore. He made it with lots of garlic and meat, just like the way Rosa taught him. I would love to make the oysters, but I do not know how to shuck fresh oysters. :) I would love to complete the menu with veal (We do not have veal meat accessible here.) and the lovely dessert...

I used the homemade pasta that I made. That is why I have "flat" spaghetti instead of the regular round noodles. Recipe and how to make your own pasta here.

For the sauce:

4 T olive oil
5 tomatoes, chopped
2 heads garlic, peeled, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
1/2 Kilo lean ground beef
16 oz tomato sauce
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
3 T sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, grated

1. Heat up the olive oil in a deep pan. Saute the onions until caramelized. Saute the garlic until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and let it cook for a while until soft and juices come out.

2. Add in the ground meat. Cook until it changes color and fully done. Add in the tomato sauce and sugar (if using). When the sauce boils, add in the bell peppers and basil. Cook for a while. Adjust seasoning to taste.

3. To serve, top the sauce over cooked pasta. Grate parmesan cheese on top.

Also sharing this homemade pasta dish with the Presto Pasta Nights community, headed by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. This week's host is Marye of the delicious Baking Delights. To see last week's delicious pasta dishes, do check out the round up here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Taiwanese (Japanese?) Style Cold Tofu with Century Egg

Pardon me for the title. I was not sure of the nationality of this dish. Here in Manila, this is known as the Taiwanese style cold tofu. Actually, this dish is only available in Taiwanese-style restaurants. So we have always called this Taiwanese tofu.

Then a Japanese chilled Tofu dish called Hiyayakko came out in the Round-up of Regional Recipes #2 featuring dishes from Japan. It makes sense actually, for this dish to be Japanese. It is very simple and elegant, very easy to prepare, all distinct qualities of a Japanese dish. The ingredients used - the tofu and bonito flakes are also Japanese.

So maybe we should call this Asian Cold Tofu instead. :)

Or perhaps, what made this dish different from the Japanese tofu is the addition of century eggs. True enough, when I googgled for century eggs, Wiki explained that this version of chilled tofu with century eggs is the Taiwanese version of the Japanese one.

Get it? Without the century eggs, the nationality is Japanese. With the century eggs, the nationality is Taiwanese. :)

What a big difference the simple addition of century eggs can make.

Century eggs are preserved eggs, made by wrapping duck or chicken eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice straw straw for several weeks to several months. At least that is what they do traditionally. Nowadays, the traditional method is still being used, but modern production have discovered certain curing methods can be used to imitate the chemical process used to produce century eggs. This can speed up production to as fast as ten days. That's a great improvement - from a hundred years to ten days! Seriously, it does not take a hundred years to produce century eggs, not even when made traditionally. :)

To think that when I was young, I refuse to eat century eggs. There was this persistent rumor that century eggs were made by soaking the eggs in animal dung. And it is easy to believe this rumor, century eggs have a strong odor when opened... not exactly a bad one.

Century eggs are almost always served as appetizer. Even if their color is not exactly appetizing. It can actually be eaten as is, straight from the shell. Well, wash the egg for a while to remove the odor. Or maybe it is just me :) It can also be added to Chinese barbecue dish like barbecue pork and slivers of jellyfish. Yes, the Chinese eat jellyfish. It is quite yummy, too. But that will be for another post. Century eggs is usually added to tofu as in this dish.

This a a very easy to prepare, no-cook, healthy and fuss-free dish. Very nutritious and delicious.

1 block Japanese silk tofu
1 (or 2) century eggs, shelled, sliced
sprinkling of bonito flakes
soy sauce ( I used the thick Kekap manis, but any good quality soy sauce will do)
dash of sesame oil
green onions, chopped

Just arrange all the ingredients on top of the tofu. Serve.

Tofu or Beancurd is touted as the protein of the future. It is definitely Chinese in origin, though Japan, Korea and other countries also produce their own tofu. Here in the Philippines, there are generally 3 kinds of tofu. There is the Japanese soft and silken tofu. There is the Chinese or Asian tofu which is a bit firm. The third is the dried tofu, which is more firm and is often used for frying.

Beancurd is made by coagulating soy bean milk and pressing the curds into blocks. Sometimes, pre-made soy milk can be bought and made into tofu, but more often than not, most tofu producers begin by making their own soy milk, which is produced by soaking, grinding, boiling and straining soybeans. Of course modern processes can speed up the process. Machines are available for making soy bean milk and tofu.

Tofu is low in calories, contains fat and no cholesterol. It is full of good protein making it an ideal food. It has a high amount of Vitamin B and Calcium. It is soft, and easy to digest, making it a good food for kids and elderly. Though, some people are known to be allergic to its components.

Sharing this tofu dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, now headed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's host is Chriesi of Almond Corner. To see last week's delicious dishes, please click on the wonderful round-up done by my friend, World Food Day event and BloggerAid chief Ivy of Kopiaste.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Paksiw Bangus - Milkfish Stewed in Vinegar

This is a very simple Filipino dish. One major ingredient (the fish) and only 5 everyday spices, making 6 ingredients in all. Almost everybody can cook this with their eyes closed (or half-closed :) Yes, it is that easy, even kids can cook this. Cooking time is 5 minutes tops. Yet, this is one the most flavorful Filipino dishes ever. When Daughter was 2 (the terrible toddler years), she would request to eat this everyday!!!

This is also the ultimate comfort food for most of us. Spicy, hot, sourish, tasty fish. Perfect to go with a warm bowl or plate of Jasmine rice!

1/2 K deboned milkfish belly
1/2 C good quality rice vinegar
5 slices fresh ginger
1 T salt
5 pcs long green chilies (siling haba)
1 t crushed black peppercorns

Just put everything in a cooking pan. Bring to a boil. Simmer for around 5 minutes or until the milkfish has changed color and is cooked. Add a little water if it gets dry. Do not overcook the milkfish or it will turn tough. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately with rice.

Yup, it is that simple.

Just like our other national dish -- the Adobo, the Paksiw also has several variations. You can of course, change the type of fish. Or even change it to Lechon (Roasted Pork) . You can even use other souring ingredients. Though, most often used is of course - the vinegar. Several months back, I have several friends arguing over the spices used in a true vinegared paksiw. One said only ginger is used. The other said you can add garlic and onions. Yet another one said you can only add onions... :)

Whatever spices used, the long green pepper is a mainstay in this dish. You can add much as you want (or less if you prefer less spice), and slice the peppers for more spicy kick. Peppers, like all gifts of nature, are healthy. They are full of vitamin C and B.

I would serve this dish to a hungry stranger who would come visiting at my door. Why? This is delicious, healthy, easy to prepare in the shortest possible time. (How can a hungry person wait so long?) Fish is easy to digest, and healthy. Because it is flavorful, the hungry person can eat lots of rice with it. :)

So, I am sharing this easy to prepare dish with BloggerAid -- Because WE CAN HELP! World Food Day event, headed by Ivy of Kopiaste, Val of More Than Burnt Toast and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen. This month's event is hosted at Equal Opportunity Kitchen, where bloggers can share dishes they would cook for a visiting hungry person.

BloggerAid is a social network of bloggers, who are working together to bring awareness about world hunger and also raise funds for the World Food programme, which is the United Nation's frontline agency to fight against global hunger. We, as food bloggers have more than enough food on the table. But there are others who don't. So, maybe it is time for us to share our bounty with others. Join BloggerAid and learn how you can help. Maybe individually, our contribution may be small, but together, we can make a difference.

Giz and Psychgrad at Equal Opportunity Kitchen are selling handmade food charms made by Giz herself! The income would be contributed to the World Food Programme. Please contact them if you are interested.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Autumn Apple PorkChops : A Recipe

I know for most places on earth, apples are associated with autumn. So the scent and aroma of this fruit brings warm comfort during cooler days. But here in this tropical country, we do not have autumn season. Apples are always associated with the holiday season though, starting November and December. Markets and supermarkets would be brimming with bright red apples. And who can resist these juicy and crispy temptations?

I remember when I was a child, apples would be a real treat. Why? Apples do not really grow in a tropical country. At that time, importations of foreign goods and foods are limited. Imported goods like apples are quite expensive. Nowadays though, because of globalization and free trade policies, we have access to most products around the world. Our kids can enjoy apples, grapes, pears, etc., anytime they want. Does more choices mean progress? :)

Now, that would take a long discussion, so let us go back to the recipe. :)

Here is an interesting recipe I found at the site. This recipe sounded interesting as I have not tried cooking with apples before. It also looks so easy to do, and easy to prepare. Easy and healthy are synonymous with this kitchen.

I basically followed the original recipe, except that I left the porkchops brined overnight. My kids are quite picky about their pork chops. They want their meat super soft. I thought if we can brine turkey, I am sure we can brine pork chops, too! So I tried brining the meat first in salt and pepper solution. I also used a real apple, which I grated instead of using apple juice. Here's my retake on the recipe:

4 pcs pork chops, brined
1 T flour
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, skin removed, cored, grated
1/2 C water
2 T sugar, optional

1. Lightly flour the pork chops. Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet. Brown the chops on one side in the butter. Turn the chops to brown the other side.

2. Stir in the onions, grated apple, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Result? Tender juicy chops that the kids find interestingly delicious. It might not look colorful and pretty. But it is flavorful and fragrant.

Another discovery. We added chopped cilantro. What can I say? We just love cilantro! And we discovered that cilantro pairs beautifully with apples!

This is my entry to the Cooking Club Challenge this month, featuring fall favorite recipes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kokoras Krassatos Me Chilopetes - Greek Style Coq Au Vin - Chicken Stew in Red Wine With Pasta

You do know Ivy of Kopiaste... To Greek Hospitality?

She is one untiring lady, taking time to visit all our food blogs, befriending us, organizing and hosting lots of foodie events. Of course I already knew of Kopiaste, and would visit (lurk?) her site from time to time. I would also participate in her food events. But I got to really know her when I joined the World Food Event, where she is one of the brains and organizers, along with Val of More Than Burnt Toast and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen. This is one of the food blogging world's more worthier events as it aims to bring awareness to our readers about the problem of hunger in the world. Now, this monthly food event has now expanded into Bloggeraid -- Because We Can Help. This is a social network of bloggers uniting to aid in the allevation of hunger. We're not just going to talk about hunger but actually do something about it!!!

Because World Food Programme of the United Nations and BloggerAid and what we can do to help is a worthy topic to discuss, I will write a separate post about it. :)

When I hosted the Grow Your Own food event featuring dishes with ingredients we have grown or raised ourselves, Ivy even in the middle of her vacation, sent over this delicious looking home-raised chicken dish with ingredients that sounds flavorful. Isn't that soooo very nice of her? What was exciting was that I had all the ingredients immediately on hand! (Well, except the cherry brandy, which Ivy says is optional) I was on my way to making my first Greek dish!

I basically stuck to her original recipe except that my dish does not have cherry brandy. I used white chicken instead of organically-raised chicken making the cooking time is shorter. I used home-made whole wheat pasta instead of the chilopetes pasta. (Please see my post on how to make home made pasta to learn more.) And before adding in the onions for sauteing, I added some slices of fresh ginger. I suppose that is just the Chinese thing to do. We always saute our chicken (and seafood) dishes with ginger. :)

1 Kilo chicken legs and thigh, washed, chopped to serving sizes
4 T olive oil
4 slices fresh ginger
1 onion, chopped
5 T minced garlic
1 C dry red wine
2 C water
1 bay leaf
1 pc cinnamon bark
5 pcs large tomatoes, chopped
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the homemade pasta in water for around 2 minutes or until al-dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Saute the ginger in the olive oil until fragrant. Add in the garlic and onions, and saute until fragrant but not burnt.

3. Add in the chicken pieces. Stir fry for a while until meat changes color. Add in the wine. Let boil. Wait for a while until the alcohol evaporates. Add in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, bay leaf and cinnamon bark.

4. Let boil and simmer for around 15 to 20 minutes until meat is soft and sauce has thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste.

5. Remove the chicken meat with a slotted spoon reserving the sauce in the pan. Toss in the pasta to coat the noodles with the sauce.

6. Arrange pasta in individual serving plates. Top with chicken pieces. Top with grated parmesan cheese (as I do nor have the Greek myzithra cheese :)

The chicken may not look pretty (I remove the chicken skin for health reasons), but I promise, this is one of the more flavorful chicken dish we have tasted. Actually, this dish tasted so similar to our very own chicken adobo (where we use rice vinegar instead of wine in stewing). It is salty, sweet, fragrant, flavorful at the same time. It is also amazing to discover that we have similar tasting dishes even if we are halfway across the globe!

Sharing this Greek-inspired dish with the Bookmarked Recipes community, headed and hosted by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. This is a weekly 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. To see last week's delicious dishes, please click here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's So Easy to Make Your Own Pasta! Plus Wonton Noodle Soup

This wanton noodles soup in chicken broth is not the star of the show today. But for those of you who are interested, it is so easy to put a comforting warm bowl of noodle soup dish like this together. Boil several cups of chicken broth (made from scratch, please), throw in some store-bought pork and shrimp dumplings, add some green veggie of your choice (this time I added chopped napa cabbage), season to taste, add the noodles and serve piping hot. It is truly a comforting dish this time of the year :)

The star of the show today is my new toy -- my newest baby -- my very own pasta maker!!! Can you hear the happy shrieks of this proud mama? :)

Hubby gifted me with a pasta maker. This is not surprising of course, because this family eats pasta every week if not twice or thrice a week or as much as we can! He figured making our own pasta would be healthier because it would not contain any preservatives of the store-bought ones. And we can be creative and add more healthy ingredients to our pasta. My head is already brimming with possibilities, I can add carrots, or basil, or spinach...

See the first picture? the noodles used in the wonton soup? Those are made from half plain flour and half whole wheat flour. Now, isn't that healthy?

The pictures below were taken the first time I made pasta. Since it was the first time, I followed the exact recipe written with the instruction manual of the pasta maker. I used plain flour and halved the recipe.

On a clean surface, measure 2 cups of flour. Make a well in the center and add in 2 eggs (room temperature). The proportion is one egg for every cup of flour. Whisk the eggs with a fork. Then slowly incorporate some flour while beating. Keep incorporating more flour until you cannot whisk anymore. Using a dough cutter or your hands, knead the dough until it comes together into a smooth ball.

At this point, it was hard for me to keep the dough together. The flour just would not stick together! I cheated and added 2 tablespoons of cold water ( I figured 1 tablespoon for every cup of flour) and it worked! :) I just took the idea of adding cold water from making a basic pate brisee pie crust :) And it worked! The dough formed easier...

Divide the dough into smaller balls. Let rest, covered for at least 30 minutes. I did not get this part of the instruction from the manual. I got this from the internet. The purpose of this resting is to allow the gluten to relax. Actually, another site said that we should allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator. But somehow, I forgot the refrigerator part and just left the balls on the kitchen counter. I didn't think any harm was done. We have cooler weather nowadays. :)

The dough should not be sticky. Otherwise it will stick to the rollers. Add more flour if the dough sticks to your fingers. It should not be too dry that it is falling apart either.

Set up the pasta maker. Set up the two smooth rollers at position one. Cut the balls into half (or smaller parts) and with 1 piece at a time, pass the dough into the two smooth rollers while turning the handle. Repeat this several times. When the dough has taken a regular shape, pass this dough over at position 2, several times, then on to position 3 and so on until your desired thickness.

Insert the already thin and long dough into the cutters. I have 2 sizes of cutters included in my pasta maker. One for fettucine (wider noodles) and one for spaghetti (though the noodles came out flat and not round). Slowly turn the handle while letting the dough be "cut" and catch the resulting pasta with your other hand.

In my case, the kids were so eager to turn the handle, which they call "cranking up" the machine, so I let them do the turning while I have both hands on the dough. :)

The instruction manual says to lay these noodles on a clean table cloth and leave it to dry for at least an hour. I hanged the noodles on a clean clothes hanger instead. An hour after, it is ready to cook!

Nothing beats the taste of homemade pasta. You'll never go back to eating store-bought pasta again. (Though I have to finish the stocks I have left in my pantry :) It is easy to cook (ours took only two minutes!), it is cheaper, it is definitely nutritious and it has the al-dente quality that we are looking for in a good pasta.

Tomorrow, I will share another wonderful dish I made using homemade pasta. So, stay tuned!

Sharing this pasta making experience with the Presto Pasta Nights community headed and hosted this week by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. To see last week's delicious dishes, please check out the round-up wonderfully written by Daphne of More Than Words.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chinese Preserved (Salted) Mustard Vegetable Stir Fry with Eggs

This is one ingredient that brings back memories of my grandmother's kitchen -- the Salted Mustard vegetable, we call Kiam Chay in Fookien Chinese.

There are actually many kinds of Chinese preserved vegetables. Some made of mustard greens, some made from cabbages, some from radish. And then different spices for preserving the vegetables are added, some are pickled in heavy brine, some has lots of chillies added. But one thing is common, they all undergo some kind of fermentation process that preserves the vegetables without need for refrigeration.

My grandma says life in China during her time (she was born in the 1920s) was hard. It was difficult to grow plants as the soil were not rich. They did not have modern technology then. They do not even have refrigerator back then. It is an old Chinese tradition to preserve the vegetables they harvested during the summer for the winter season or for lean months when they do not have food to eat.

Nowadays, we have preserved vegetables not for lean season, but for the taste. I have to admit preserved vegetables may smell a little pungent. What do you expect after the fermentation process? But the taste is something you would be looking for again and again. Specially since this ingredient is connected with good memories of the days in grandma's kitchen.

This salted mustard green is the simplest preserved vegetable to make. Simply add tablespoons of salt to raw whole mustard greens and leave it (covered) to ferment for a few days. When ready to use, simply wash off excess salt, chop to bite-size pieces and it is already ready to eat!

That does sound a little bit crude for the modern generation. What about the germs and other health concerns? Well, grandma would say, simply wash it several times... nobody got sick eating preserved vegetables... :) Maybe science will say that salt preserved the vegetables that no bacteria nor germs can thrive in such environment. But grandma could not explain it that way. She just had years of experience to prove her claim!

Anyway, if you do not want to make your own salted mustard, you can simply purchase some from any Asian groceries. It is a common ingredient and is not expensive.

In its simplest form, these bite sized pieces can simply be viand to a simple bowl of hot steaming congee. Oooohhh! This is the ultimate comfort food for many Chinese!

But if you really want to cook these greens, to be sure your food is totally hygienic, salted mustard greens can be used in a lot of dishes: from soups to stir-fries to flavoring hotpots.

This is one simple stir fry you can do with the preserved greens. With this dish alone, you can eat up a bowl of congee or a plateful of rice :)

1. Wash and chop some salted mustard greens.

2. Chop up garlic and some green onions as well.

3. Beat 2 to 3 eggs well.

4. Heat up some oil in a non-stick pan. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add the chopped salted mustard greens. Stir fry for a while.

5. Add the green onions and eggs soon after. Stir and push the eggs around to get a scrambled style dish. It is done when the eggs are cooked. Serve immediately with congee or rice.

No need to add salt as the preserved vegetables are already salted. However, I love to add dashes of powdered red pepper for some spicy kick. This is entirely optional, of course.

I still have some salted mustard greens left. I was thinking of frying them up with bacon. That is how versatile these salted greens are. Will do another dish and another post on salted greens soon!

Sharing this Chinese traditional dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging Community, where we feature herbs and unique plant ingredients and the dishes we create using these ingredients. WHB is now supervised by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Last Once. This week's host is my dear friend and blogging inpiration - Ivy of Kopiaste. To see last week's delicious dishes, please check out Scott of the Real Epicurean.
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