Friday, January 30, 2009

Stir-fry Beef with Orange

I specifically planned this dish for Wandering Chopstick's Weekend Wokking event. The secret ingredient for the month is orange! It would be easy to create a sweet dish or dessert from lovely and sweet oranges. But for a change, I was thinking of creating a savory dish instead. I checked the internet and so far, I have seen pork and chicken dishes with orange. But not with beef.

So, you can say that this dish is my original creation, inspired by the recipes I have encountered on the net, of course. But I have modified the marinating and the cooking sauces.

When Hubby tasted this, he declared it the best beef stir fry he had ever tasted!

The meat is tender and oh-so juicy (because of the marinade), there is the wonderful fragrance of sweet orange, but it did not turn out to be an overly sweet dish. It has the right amount of salty and sweet with the spicy kick.

In fact, it is so delicious, I decided to contribute this dish to the BloggerAid Cookbook. So, if you are interested in the recipe, you have to purchase the Cookbook in November. It is for a good cause, by the way. The proceeds from the sale of the Cookbook will go to the World Food Program of the United Nations. You can read about all the details in the BloggerAid site. Do you know that you can have your recipe published as well? Just submit your original recipe, (you do not have to be a member of BloggerAid,) and you will see your name in the book! And for a good cause, too!

Sharing this dish with the Weekend Wokking community, a world-wide food event, launched and headed by Wandering Chopsticks, to celebrate the many different ways we can cook one ingredient. The ingredient for this month is Orange! This month's hosts are the creative sisters of Eating Club Vancouver. To see the past round-ups of different ingredients, please click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coffee Alamid - Philippine Civet Coffee

My family and friends know I love, no, I am crazy about coffee. I should have gotten this habit from my dad, but instead, I got it just 8 years ago from our friend, A, who would always let me taste different kinds of coffee and brews at his house every week.

It is a good thing that latest researches show that coffee is good for our health!

Nowadays, my mornings are not complete if I do not have my cup of coffee. And no instant please, only freshly brewed. No sugar, just cream.

Hubby loves tea. But he surprisingly indulges my coffee habit. He bought me a coffee siphon (upon the recommendation of friend A). He is also the one who is more adventurous in choosing different kinds of beans. While I am already happy with my home blend of Benguet and Arabica beans - medium roast.

Here is his latest coffee adventure for me - the Philippine Civet Coffee. Locally known as the Alamid.

According to an old BBC article (April 11, 2006), Philippine Civet Coffee is “one of the world’s most expensive and coveted kinds of coffee”. Only 500 kg of it are produced in the Philippines every year. Once roasted, the coffee beans sell for more than $115/kilogram.

Are you ready to find out what makes this so very rare? To quote the BBC article:

"The Philippines has recently discovered it produces one of the world's most expensive and coveted kinds of coffee. But it comes from an unusual source - the droppings of a nocturnal, cat-like animal called the palm civet.

Civets, related to the mongoose, are usually seen as pests in the Philippines and hunted for their meat. But their droppings are worth their weight in gold.

Known locally as alamid, civets are carnivorous but they also have a taste for the sweet, red coffee cherries that contain the beans. The beans pass through the civet whole after fermenting in the stomach and that's what gives the coffee its unique taste and aroma. "

Yup, you read it right. The Philippine Civet Coffee comes from wild civet droppings. During coffee season, these are gathered very early in the morning by forest dwellers who climb the mountains and pick the civet droppings on the forest floors. The coffee beans are separated, cleaned, roasted, and packed. For many many years now, the mountain people have been gathering, cleaning, and brewing these half-digested beans. It is their best-kept secret. Now that this secret is out, we have the opportunity to taste it. (This is, by the way, already exported to many countries around the world.)

The question is, will we be brave enough to try some? :D

The bottle contains whole coffee beans which we have to grind. The instruction says to use 7 gms of beans, per cup. Using coffee siphon or french press is recommended to bring out the full flavor.

I confess I have not tried this yet. :D Reviews say it has a fruity aroma, with strong, sweet, dark chocolatey taste. I promise I will try this and post my review. I am looking forward to this rare treat.

Sharing this unique coffee with A Taste of Terroir over at Anna's Cool Finds. This event features food, food products or recipes that are unique in our own area and location. Please check out her blog on January 31 for the round-up of interesting unique food, and produce around the world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Braised Fish Fillet in Chilli-Black Bean Sauce (Tausi)

I prepared this fish fillet, took a photo of it and presented it to Hubby. He declared it the best braised fish I ever made! So, I started writing about this dish today. Only to discover that I have a previous post on braising fish in black beans. I used another kind of fish then, of course, and the I am adding more ingredients this time like the green chilli pepper (siling haba), a little chili powder and cilantro. But the main flavoring ingredients - the salty black beans and the tomatoes are basically the same.

The braising of fish in black beans and tomatoes is a comfort food for this family. This dish is very healthy. Anything made with tomatoes is healthy, right? Less oil is used. It is also very versatile. You can pair it with rice, with congee or with bread.

When braising with a whole fish like the seabass I used previously, it is not necessary to pre-cook the fish. You simply cook the fish with the sauce. But this time, I used fish fillet, so I had to brown the fish in a little oil (in a non-stick pan) so that the meat will hold together in braising.

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.

2 pcs large fish fillets (I used Red Snapper - Maya Maya)

4 T cooking oil
5 slices ginger
5 T garlic, minced
1 onion, quartered
5 large tomatoes, chopped
2 T black beans
2 T soy sauce, optional
3 pcs green chillies (siling haba)
a bunch of cilantro, wshed, chopped
dash of red chilli powder
sesame oil
salt and pepper

1. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on both sides of the fish fillets. Add some flour to cover both sides as well. Heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet or wok. Pan-fry the fish fillet until just browned. So, the fillets are still half-cooked. Set aside.

2. In the same skillet or wok, in the same oil, add in and cook the ginger slices until fragrant. Add in the onion, and stir fry until softened, about 2 -3 minutes. add in the garlic. When fragrant, add in the tomatoes and black beans. Add in the green chillis. Let this mixture simmer for a while, around 3 minutes to let the flavors come out.

3. Add in the fish fillets. 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 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add in the chilli powder, as much as you prefer. Add in soy sauce if you prefer more salty.

5. Drizzle with sesame oil just before serving. Serve hot.

Sharing this healthy dish with Heart of the Matter food event, this month focusing on slimming recipes. Fish is a slimming food. It has less fat and more nutritious than red meat. This month's host is Ilva of Lucillian Dleights. For more healthy treats and heart-healthy recipes and more information about eating healthy, please check out the Heart of the Matter blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Abalone Steak

Today is the first day of the year of the ox! Happy Chinese New Year! To begin this year, I want to share with you this luxurious delicacy - the abalone!

Abalones are medium to large edible sea snails, according to Wiki. Actually, I thought they were giant sea-shells like clams or oysters. But apparently, I was wrong. :)

Abalones are known as Bao Yu in Chinese. This seafood delicacy is quite rare and expensive; it is usually made into a dish that is a common part of the Chinese banquet. Like the shark's fin soup and the bird's nest soup, it is considered a symbol of wealth and prestige. Therefore, it is always reserved for special occassions like weddings, new year and other celebrations.

However, the availability of commercially farmed abalone has allowed more common consumption of this once rare delicacy. Here in the Philippines, with our more than seven thousand islands, abalone farming is thriving. I am fortunate to have a friend who is into this business, so we can access cheaper (though not that cheap) supply of abalones. He makes canned abalones for export. So I get my abalones in cans.

For our new year's eve dinner, we had abalone steaks. Recipe is once again courtesy of brother-in-law (Ah-pe). He recreated the recipe based on the abalone dish served at the famous sharks fin restaurant here in Manila.

1 can abalone (contains 3 pieces)
1 head of brocolli, cut, washed,

1 C chicken stock
1 T Chinese cooking wine
2 T dark soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
a dash of ground black pepper

4 T cornstarch, dissolved in 5 T water

1. Pour the contents of the entire can, abalone meat and broth into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, until meat is warm.

2. Blanch the cut brocolli florets in boiling water for 1 minute, drain.

3. Boil all the ingredients for the sauce. When boiling, add the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce.

4. Arrange one abalone meat on a serving plate, add some brocolli florets. Pour some sauce on top. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wonton Soup

knights of the round plate :D

Happy Chinese New Year, Everyone!

This past week, the children have been busy doing a lot of Chinese arts and artworks at school. They were making red paper lanterns, cutting out red Chinese characters, coloring, cutting and pasting the 12 different animals of the Chinese astrology. I have given and received a lot of sticky rice cakes (Nian gau in Chinese Mandarin; tikoy in Filipino). It is work as usual for everybody here, of course, as Philippines do not really celebrate the Chinese new year officially. But for the small Filipino-Chinese community here, we still do celebrate the tradition, in our own way, as our parents and grandparents have done so in the past years.

The Chinese New Year (Xin Nian) or the Spring Festival (Chun Jie) is one of the more important holidays in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and probably Malaysia or Singapore. They have a week-long holiday over there. This holiday is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The New Year's day being the first day of the first lunar month. That is why it falls on different dates of our Gregorian calendar. This year, the new year's eve falls on Sunday, Jan 25 and new years' day on Monday, Jan 26.

Goodbye year of the rat, welcome the year of the ox! Inspite of the recession and depression many people around the world are having, I think we should all feel more positive and "bullish" this year. :)

How do we celebrate the Chinese new year?

Quite simply, with food! :)

We have a family dinner, usually with fish (yu) because the Chinese word for fish - "yu" sounds like (homonym) of the word that means "left-overs". So having fish symbolizes good wishes that we will have more than enough (that is why we have left-overs) for the year. We will have noodles. Traditionally, it is the misua (thread-like flour noodles) with eggs. This is to symbolize long life. Although, these past few years, we have replaced misua with other kinds of noodles, sometimes even pasta like spaghetti. As long as these noodles qualify as long :) We usually have Dumplings (Jiao Zi) as well. In China, it is customary to make dumplings for the new year. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese tael (ancient Chinese money).

We usually simply buy our dumplings. However, last year, I had the privilege of witnessing how real homemade Dumplings were made. This was made by the mainland Chinese members of the Mandarin Fellowship of our Church. They made the dough from flour and water, kneaded them by hand. They made the fillings. I simply watched and acted as translator between them and the other non-Mandarin speaking people. I found out that even different regions in China have their own flavor of dumpling filling! But they all taste great just the same! And do you know that they start making dumplings by dinner time, and eat as the dumplings are cooked and then they make again, (talking and bonding while cooking) and eat again...and again... up to past midnight! Wow! A great way to celebrate, don't you think?

And so this year, I set out to make Dumplings (Jiao Zi) myself for the Chinese New Year. And ended up with wontons. :) Why? Simply because I did not try to make the dough!!! I thought it was too much work - the kneading, that is. Although I can use the pasta maker. But you see, I get no break from work, so I thought using store-bought wrappers would cut my cooking preparation in half! Wrong move on my part. The fillings tastes great but the wrapper made the supposed-to-be Jiao Zi into wontons.

Dumplings are not to be confused with wontons. Dumplings have thicker, chewier skin and a flatter, oblong like shape. They are often steamed and eaten with soy-vinegar dipping sauce. Wontons have thinner, sphere-like shape and are usually served in broth.

I made the first batch (see the first picture above) and still tried to steam the dumpling-wontons, hoping for the best. But the thin wrapper could not hold the shape up. So, I had no choice but to cook them in broth. Next time, I am REALLY going to make my own wrapper!

Kisses wontons made by Daughter

For the dough (which I did not make)
for every 5 cups of flour, add 1 egg, a pinch or two of salt and just enough water to hold the dough together. Knead or pass through the pasta maker several times and roll flat into 4 inch size round discs.

For the filling

1/2 K lean ground pork
1/2 K napa cabbage, chopped very finely, water squeezed out
5 -8 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, chopped very finely
5 T minced garlic, optional
1/4 C chopped green onions, optional
salt and pepper to taste
1 t sesame oil

Mix the filling ingredients very well. Scoop out a tablespoon into the wrapper. Dab a little water into your finger, pat on one side of the wrapper, press together to close, crimp the edges to decorate. (As you can see from the pictures, I made short-cuts again :) Steam for 15 minutes and serve with soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

But as you can see, mine did not turn out to be dumplings. So, I made another batch and boiled them in Chicken broth. Added some napa cabbage and green onions. And they still turned out to be delicious wonton soup! Hearty and filling and warm, perfect for the windy and cold nights.

Xīnnián kuàilè!

Gōngxǐ fācái!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Street Food Bangkok

In a post last week, I showed a very interesting, portable ice popsicle maker. (You may want to read about it here.) I asked readers to guess where it might be found. Jescel of Spice of Life, Wiffy of Noobcook and Rita of Mochachocolatarita got it right. I'm sure Wiffy and Rita had been to Bangkok because they got the answer right down to the specific market where the ice popsicle maker can be found!!!

Chatuchak market in Bangkok, Thailand boasts to be the biggest open-air weekend market/bazaar in Asia. It is actually quite an enormous place. We were not able to finish the whole place in a day. But it is also probably because of the heat. We started out in the morning. Shopping at that time was quite enjoyable. There was a little breeze. However, by noon, it was becoming unbearably hot. Take note, this is December. It is winter there. :) I wonder how hot it will get in summer. :) We opted to stay in the shade by this time, so, we were not able to see other interesting things. After lunch, there were a lot of people. As shoppers know, if a place is crowded, it is not that enjoyable to shop anymore. :) But the atmosphere is festive. Chatuchak sells a lot of things from clothes, to antiques to pets, flowers. Thai people claim that they have whatever you need in this market.

Of course, there were lots of food!!! Here are some of them.

Barbecues, barbeques everywhere you look!

Fried shrimps, fried quail eggs
(see the little sunny-side ups on the left?),
fried this and that...
enough to send our cholesterol high up the record...

and all of these are fried right there for people to see.

These are so "un-Thai" because they are so "Japanese" -sushis!
colorful, delicious, and filling!

The noodles are cooked right on the spot.

You can choose from the different flavored hot soup to add to your noodles.

Of course, the best part is the dessert!
Homemade coconut ice cream
with peanuts and fresh coconut meat.
This item sells a lot because the weather was quite hot.

Slices of the fragrant jackfruits.
Take note of the interesting, pyramid-shaped, plastic food cover.


The last picture might jolt the sensibilities of some people.
My kids were so shocked that they were selling these for food!!


Yes, I'm a coward. I can eat balut
(fertilized duck egg with fetus inside)
but I can never eat these insects and larvae and worms. Eeeww!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dou Miao (Snow Pea Sprouts) Stir Fry with Fish Fillet

It is the time of the year again, when we would have our taste of Dou Miao (snow pea sprouts/shoots). These Dou Miao that I am referring to are not the regular ones that look similar to mung bean sprouts, which are full of stem, crunchy but hard to chew. I am talking about this type of Dou Miao that has more leaves and known for its delicate taste. They look like this:

photo courtesy of

This kind of Dou Miao is only available during winter. Because of its unavailability, it is considered a delicacy here in Asia. Last year, I made a stir fry dish with dried scallops. Recipe here.

Dou Miao with Dried Scallops Stir Fry

This year, brother-in-law (Ah-pe) came over our house and cooked a special dish for us: Hong Kong style Stir fry Dou Miao with Fish Fillets. Here's his recipe.

1 pack (around 250 gms) Dou Miao, washed
2 T cooking oil
5 T minced garlic
1 stalk leeks, chopped
3 slices of ginger
1 c chicken broth

2 pcs fish fillet, sliced thinly
salt and pepper, to taste
some cornstarch
1/2 C cooking oil

1. Heat up cooking oil in a wok or a cooking pan. Saute ginger until fragrant. Add in the garlic and chopped leeks. Stir fry for a while until fragrant, around 2 minutes.

2. Add in the Dou Miao. Stir fry until partially wilted. Add in the chicken broth. Cover and let boil. Stir frequently so that the vegetables may absorb the flavor of the broth.

3. When cooked, scoop up the vegetables onto a serving platter. Discard the broth.

4. Prepare the fish fillets by sprinkling salt and pepper (amount according to taste) on all sides. Then, sprinkle some cornstarch onto all the fish pieces as well.

5. Add oil to a hot wok or non-stick cooking pan. When heated, quickly stir fry the fish fillets. When done, ladle on top of the cooked Dou miao. Serve hot with jasmine rice.

Healthy and delicious!

Sharing this nutritious dish with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, headed and supervised by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week, the event is hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte. To see last week's delicious dishes, please see the lovely round-up done by Cook the Books chief Rachel at the Crispy Cook.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carbonara Pasta with Bacon and Leeks

When the going gets tough, the tough has to cook fast!!! Really! Easy to prepare dishes and those with simple recipes are needed by busy moms. Pastas are great time-savers. They can be one-dish nutritious meal for the whole family.

Here's one of those presto pasta I tweaked myself. So simple, it uses just 5 ingredients, all readily available in your pantry.

1 pack (300 gms) linguini, cooked to package directions

1 can (15 oz) cream of mushroom soup
12 pcs button mushrooms, sliced
200 gms bacon, chopped
2 stalks leeks, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the bacon in a cooking pan until browned. Set aside half for topping, leave half in the pan.

2. Saute the leeks with the bacon bits inside the pan until softened. Add in the chopped button mushrooms and the cream of mushroom soup.

3. Using the empty can, measure 1/2 to 3/4 can of water and add into the cooking mushroom soup. Let boil, mixing well until the canned cream of mushroom soup is well-dispersed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Arrange some linguini in a serving plate, top with the sauce and sprinkle the bacon bits on top.

The sauce is flavorful because we let some of the bacon meat boil with it. And the bacon bits topping gave the crunchy texture, and salty surprise to the pasta. Not bad for a dish made in a hurry. :) In fact, Daughter declared it yummy! If my diners are happy, then the busy chef is happy, too!

The parmesan cheese!!! I forgot the parmesan cheese! :)

Sharing this presto pasta dish with the Presto Pasta Nights family, headed by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. This week's host is the untiring World Food Day event and BloggerAid chief, Ivy of Kopiaste.

If you would notice my sidebar has this BloggerAid widget for several months now. I am a proud member of BloggerAid. BloggerAid is a network of bloggers who would like to help in the alleviation of hunger worldwide. We, food bloggers always have food on the table. We blog about it. And yet, there are millions of hungry and starving people out there, not just in Africa, in famine-stricken lands, or in war-torn lands. Hunger is also present in our own neighborhood, even in the first world. BloggerAid aims to increase awareness about world hunger and do something about it. Would you like to join this worthy cause? Please drop by and visit BloggerAid.

The most concrete project we have is in making a cookbook! (Did you notice I have another new widget on my sidebar?) The proceeds and earnings of the cookbook will go to our selected beneficiaries at the World Food Program of the United Nations.

Who will the writing the cookbook? All of us, food bloggers, that's who. Each one of us can easily contribute a recipe. Together, we can make this a successful endeavor! Would you like to have your recipe published? Join us and be a part of this cookbook team while helping to feed the hungry people of the world. Just click on the widget on my sidebar or here on BloggerAid to read more about the details.

Another project BloggerAid has is holding monthly food events aiming to increase awareness on world hunger. This month, Joan of Foodalogue is taking a tour around the world (different countries) and tasting each countries' dishes. Next month, I'll be hosting the event! So, please watch out for that. If you would like to host an event, please check out BloggerAid again. :)

Here's an interesting news article I found: "World Food Program Targets Mindanao." Mindanao is in Southern Philippines, where battles between the government and insurgents take place. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Hunger and malnutrition remain the biggest health risk worldwide. They even surpass AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, claiming one life every 5 seconds, according to World Food Program (WFP) statistics.

The Philippines is not spared from this global problem, which is particularly rampant in Mindanao. As of WFP’s latest assessment mission, 60 percent of Mindanao households have very poor access to food, while 30 percent take life-threatening risks to meet daily food needs.

It was in this light that Pizza Hut and Taco Bell teamed up with WFP and National Ambassador Against Hunger KC Concepcion in a donation drive for afflicted areas in Mindanao. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut accepted donations that would provide rice to nearly 187,000 students in 800 schools, and hot meals in 277 schools and day care centers serving 16,000 children.

You, too, can help WFP spread awareness about hunger. Check out their website to see other WFP programs that will benefit those suffering from hunger in Mindanao.

It is surprising to learn that our Philippine national ambassador against hunger is KC Concepcion. She is the very pretty and talented daughter of the mega-star (singer and actress) Sharon Cuneta. She comes from a well-to-do family. In fact, she studied in Paris. And yet, she is also doing her part in helping alleviate hunger in the world. You should, too!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Apple Tart (Tarte Aux Pommes)

Here in Asia, when you say French cooking, it is either associated with wine as an ingredient in cooking, or the methodology is as complicated and as difficult as the dishes' pronunciation. :)

So, I set out to find recipes that have no wine, and very simple to prepare. As always, this blog would like to focus on easy-to-prepare recipes that are healthy; delicious and yet takes only a fraction of the time it would take to prepare complicated so-called-gourmet dishes. Another reason to find simple, fuzz-free recipe is that, admittedly, I do not have as much free time to experiment (like last year). :)

3 pcs apples, peeled, cored, sliced
3 T butter
1 T sugar

for the pastry, I halved the pate brisee recipe I used here.

1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 C cold butter
2 T cold water

1. Melt butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and apple slices. Simmer gently until softened.

2. For the pastry, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or a large tinned fork until mixture resembles a coarse sand. Sprinkle water evenly over the mixture and toss gently a few times until the dough holds together.

3. Roll the pastry out flat and put in a tart pan. Crimp the edges. Prick the dough with a fork.

4. Spread the apple slices on the pastry, reserving the syrup (from cooking the apples). Bake in a hot oven (400F) for about 20 to 30 minutes, until apples and dough are slightly golden brown.

5. Pour the remaining syrup from cooking the apples on to the tart and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

6. You can serve the tart on its own or with creme chantilly (whipped cream). Or with scoops of ice cream like what I did. :)

Result? A lovely and impressive dessert that is easy to make. The kids devoured it in no time. :)

Sharing this delicious dessert with the Regional Recipes community, headed by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. This month, featuring French dishes, is hosted by Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork. To see last month's delicious Thai dishes, please check out the round-up here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oven Baked Zucchini Fries

We stopped eating French Fries when news came out that they are full of transfat. Actually, we generally avoid anything deep-fried nowadays. Ok, ok, perhaps once in a while, but I promise, only very rarely. What to do when you crave for fries? Instead of giving in immediately, look for substitutions.

I have heard of Zucchini Fries. Zucchini is a vegetable (though technically, it is a fruit, according to Wiki). So, Zucchini must be good. It is low in calories, contains some folate, potassium and Vitamin A.

I googled for the recipe, but most have a tempura-like batter. And deep fried. I got some ideas here and there, and here is what I came out with:

1 medium-sized zucchini, julienned
salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C cornmeal

olive oil for spraying

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a cookie sheet or large baking pan with olive oil.

2. Season the julienned zucchinis with salt, and peppers. Let rest for 15 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and cornmeal. Add in the marinated zucchinis, coating all pieces. Lay each piece of coated zucchini on the tray. Do not overlap. Bake for 20 mintes or until golden brown.

The result? Delicious fries! Crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside. Just serve it while it is fresh from the oven. When cooled, the crunchy crust becomes soft as well...

Sharing these delicious, healthy crunchies with the Weekend Herb Blogging community, headed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. This week's host is Rachel of The Crispy Cook. To see last week's delectable dishes, please check out the round-up done by Pam of the Backyard Pizzeria.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ice Popsicle Making Cart

If I did not write the title, I bet you would not know what these are. Many wooden sticks (thinner than chopsticks) stuck inside bright and colorful gel-like mixture inside small tubes. The (1-inch diameter) tubes are attached to this big drum filled with ice.

The vendor makes the popsicle right on the spot. He pours liquid-y concoction inside the tubes, shakes the drum occasionally. But we did not dare to buy and taste these. We do not know where the vendor got his water or his liquid syrups. Look at the bottom picture where he keeps his water and syrups. :)

This is a street scene from the country we visited last December. From this contraption, can you guess where we went? :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chinese-Style Cream of Corn Soup

This is a perfect soup for these windy and chilly nights. Warm, and nourishing. This is also so easy to prepare. Perfect for these busy days, which I am going through nowadays!

This is also a very easy and simple recipe. Just three ingredients. But full of flavor. Son said this is one of his favorite soups. Hubby says this soup would have been healthier if I use real corn instead of the canned creamed corn. But I am not shucking real corn when I am in the middle of a big project. :)

1 can (15 oz) creamed corn
100 gms bacon (use low fat), chopped to bits
2 eggs, well beaten

4 T minced garlic
1 and 1/2 can of water
salt and pepper to taste
4 T cornstarch dissolved in 4 T water
sesame oil, optional

1. Cook the bacon in a non-stick wok or cooking pan until cooked and browned. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.

2. Add the creamed corn. Use the empty can to measure one and a half can of water. Add water to the cooking pan. Let boil. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes.

3. Add the cornstarch mixture. Let boil while stirring all time. The soup will thicken.

4. Add in the beaten eggs, slowly stirring the soup until the eggs are cooked. Sprinkle with sesame oil, if using. Serve hot.

Thick soups like this with beaten eggs are always known as Chinese-style soups in this country. Another trademark of Chinese soups is the use of the fragrant sesame oil. Sesame oil is known a a "hot" food, so it is very appropriate to add some to your dishes and soups during cold season.

Oh, if you have more time, you can use boiled, real corn instead of the canned ones. :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fruit Cake Bars

To start the year right, I offer you -- fruit cake bars -- these are sweet, so that you can always look forward to a good and nice and sweet year ahead. These are full of fruits, so that your year may be "fruitful" or bountiful. The taste is mellow, so that you may have a peaceful year ahead.

This recipe is far, far different from the traditional heavy and dense fruit cake. It tastes like fruit cake, with fruits soaked in liquor, but the texture is softer and lighter, and a bit crumbly and moist, just the way we like it. Daughter was crestfallen when she learned that I was giving most of the pieces away (boxed as Christmas gifts) to friends. But of course I made several batches and there were lots of leftovers :) for her to enjoy.

I got the recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine.

1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 C brandy
5 cups assorted dried fruits (I used raisins, dried mangoes, dried jackfruit, dried cranberries, dried apricots
2 C packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar, for dusting

1. In a saucepan, heat brandy until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in fruits. Cool to room temperature. Toss brandied fruits with 1 C flour.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush a 9 x 13 baking pan with butter. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

4. With the mixer on low, add in the remaining 1 C flour, and salt. Mix until just combined. Fold in fruit mixture, transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth top.

5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1 hour.

6. Using the paper overhang, lift out of the pan, transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

7. Remove paper. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Cut into squares with a serrated knife.

Dried fruits are the main feature of these cake bars. Drying the fruits preserves the fruits, even without refrigeration, thus prolonging their shelf life. However, I think many people enjoy dried fruits because of the flavor. Since they are dehydrated, the fruit flavor becomes more intense. Like fresh fruits, dried fruits still has their Vitamin B and mineral content. However, vitamin C is usually lost in the drying process.

You can actually use a variety of dried fruits, in any flavor and in any combination you prefer for your fruit cake bars. Just have a total of 5 cups of assorted fruits. At the beginning, I thought it was way too much, but it turned out just right. If you noticed, I added lots of dried mangoes and dried jackfruit. These two fruits added the tropical touch to my fruit cake bars. Philippines is of course famous for our dried mangoes. It is often brought as a pasalubong (welcome gift) to friends and families abroad.

Sharing these delightful fruit bars to the Weekend Herb Blogging community, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, but now headed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once. This week's host is Pam from the Backyard Pizzeria. To see last week's delicious herbs and dishes, please see the round-up done by Haalo here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year! and my 200th Post - Strawberries in December

Happy New Year everyone!

This is such a happy coincidence!

My first post for the year and my 200th post! Wow! When I started this blog, I never thought I would reach this far. Thank you to all my friends, fellow food bloggers, and readers who make blogging very worthwhile! Thank you very much for your encouragements, inspirations and support. :) From the bottom of my heart.

Actually, I have come home for the New Year, but since my little family was not around during Christmas, we had to spend a lot of time with our extended families (aka grandparents) and friends. Plus, the catching-up work and things that I had to do... so I am able to return to the food blogging world only today. And I still have a lot of blog-reading to do! So, please forgive me if I have not visited your site yet. :)

Ooohh! I have lots of plans this year! More dishes and recipes to post! First up tomorrow is the Fruit Cake Bar that I made before we took our vacation. Watch out for that. :)

Then, I am also going to share some foodie experience we had on our vacation. I am not yet telling where we went. You have to stay tuned. :)

I am also looking forward to participating in the Cookbook that the BloggerAid community will be publishing. The proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will directly go to the World Food Programme of the United Nations! Now, isn't this a worthwhile cause to join in? Please do check out BloggerAid.

And now, for the strawberries... aren't these lovely?

Sorry, I did not remove the (2) dried leaves. I just wanted to show you how they looked when I received them. These lovely, fresh, and sweet strawberries were gifts from my friend and co-worker at Couples@Work Fellowship, J. Her family spent a few days in Baguio City (a city built on a plateau north of Manila, 7 hours away by car) and brought and shared these delicious treats with us.

Maybe you are wondering what's so special about these strawberries. You see, Philippines is a tropical country. We don't really have strawberries here, except in Baguio City (where everybody goes during summer). There at the mountain top, the weather is cooler, and more conducive to growing vegetables, flowers, and strawberries, of course!

Since we were kids, I remember we would only have fresh strawberries once a year, usually during summer (that's April or May), when somebody we know would go up to Baguio. But this time, we had strawberries in December! I didn't even know Baguio grows strawberries during December. (It is the coldest time of the year.) I thought strawberries are annual plants? But then, maybe modern plant productions have discovered how to grow them even when out of season.

Strawberries are good fruits. They are full of vitamin C and like all berries, contain flavonoids, which are important for their anti-oxidant properties.

Thanks J for our dose of fresh berries in December!

Submitting the first photo (topmost) to Click, a monthly food photography event by Jugalbandi. This month's theme is Red! Which for the Chinese, is a very appropriate auspicious color for the new year. This is the first time I am joining this photography event. I feel that I still have a lot to learn about food photography. The photo entry above was taken by my 12-year old daughter. I simply want to encourage her photography skills by entering her photo in the event. :)
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