Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 : Make it A Regular Habit and Some Tips for Cheapskates Like ME

Earth Hour 2009 was last Saturday, March 28. This global event organized by WWF or the World Wide Fund for Nature requests all people of the earth - whether households or businesses or governments - to turn off their lights and non-essential household appliances for one hour. One hour means a lot. This is your personal vote and statement that you want to actively participate in, and do something about climate change.

I am happy to report that the Philippines topped the Earth Hour participation as 647 cities and towns or over 15 million Filipinos were estimated to have joined in the hour-long lights-off at 8:30 - 9:30 PM local time. This was followed by Greece with 484 cities and towns participating, and Australia with 309. (source:

This report is not surprising. Philippines, being in a tropical country, is one of the most affected by climate change. For the past several years now, we have noticed drastic changes in our weather. Either it is too wet and our streets become flooded, or too hot and dry, that our lands become parched. These conditions are not the same conditions during my childhood. Fishing and harvests have been affected the most, of course.

The Earth Hour event will be held annually on the last Saturday of March. But I think all of us should make Earth Hour a regular habit. Make this everyday instead of just annually. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Turn off all non-essential electricity-consuming appliances when not in use. This simple act will not only save the earth, but also your wallet.

Since this is a food blog, let me list down some things we can do in our kitchens, to help save the earth, save energy and save some money as well:

1. Eat at home, with meals that you cook yourself. It is cheaper than eating out. You save gas and money. Most of all, home-cooked meals are more hygienic, more nutritious and delicious! If you say you do not have time, there are so many dishes that can be prepared in just 15 to 30 minutes. Check out this blog and many other delicious food blogs in the net for recipes.

2. Eat real food. When you go to the market or to the grocery, Check out the fresh produce, not the canned or pre-packaged 'manufactured' foods. Recent health studies have shown that processed meats, and processed food, which are loaded with preservatives, are not exactly good for us.

3. Eat the produce of the season. They are fresher and cheaper. And while you're at it,

4. Bring your own shopping "bag." When I was young, my lola (grandmother) would always bring a bayong (bag made from buri mat) to the market. Nowadays, we use disposable plastic bags that pollute our lands! Eco-friendly shopping bags are slowly becoming fashionable now, so go out, buy one and use it!

5. Have your own backyard garden, as much as possible. I do not have space in my house for a real garden, but I have lined up our small balcony with pots of herbs and plants. Of course I have killed several plants in the process (due to my inexperience and not-so-green thumb) but I persist. Why? because I know that these plants will add the much needed fresh oxygen to my home, plus, I can use my small harvest for my cooking!

6. Choose products with minimal packaging. Don't you just hate it when you have to peel off several layers of plastic or cardboard or styrofoam just to get your product? Plus it is a waste of resources! With food, we can buy in bulk to save on packaging. It is cheaper as well. Just separate into portions before freezing and thaw when needeed.

7. Recycle, recycle and recycle. There will always be new uses for everything. For example, the plastic grocery bag can be reused as a trash bag. The empty milk can can be reused as a flower pot. You would have less trash plus you will be saving money as well. Be creative! The internet has lots of available tips if you have time to browse. And of course, eat your left-overs, or transform your left-overs into a new dish!

8. Save water. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth. Turn off the water when you are soaping. You waste less and you will also have less water bill.

Actually, there are a lot more things you can do to save energy, save the resources of our earth. You have to do your part. This is the only planet - the only home we have.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Easy Peasy Apple Crumble

Maybe you are laughing at the picture. How can I present a dish (in this case, a dessert) to you on paper plate??? Here's the story...

My daughter has just graduated from elementary school (primary school) recently. (Ahem, as a proud mother, allow me to brag a little here, she graduated top 10 of her batch, awarded with excellent star medal. To God be the glory!!!) Her honors class celebrated their milestone by having a swimming party!

And this easy-to-prepare dessert was what she requested me to bake as her contribution to their potluck. Of course I had to prepare the crumble in several big trays. (Please see pictures below.) I was not able to cut a slice for my blog picture. The picture above was taken by my daughter during their party. (Isn't it sweet of my daughter to do this even while enjoying her party?) And well, the only plates available at the party were paper plates! :)

6 large apples, cored, sliced
1/2 C water
1/3 C sugar
dash of cinnamon

2 C all-purpose flour
1 C quick cooking oats
1 C butter, softened, or at room temperature
2/3 C sugar

1. In a large microwavable bowl, mix the water, sugar and cinnamon. Add in the sliced apples. Microwave for 3 -4 minutes on high.

2. Arrange the cooked apples on the tray. Add in the sugar-cinnamon liquid. (See the photo above.)

3. Mix the flour, oats, and sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Top the apples with the flour-oats mixture, making sure that all the pieces are covered. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a 375 F preheated oven or until top is lightly browned.

5. Serve warm, with ice cream, if preferred.

You can halve the recipe for a family-sized serving. But this is so yummy, a whole tray will be gone in no time. :)

Sharing this apple dessert with the Regional Recipes community, headed by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. This month features American food. And well, in this part of the world, anything that has got to do with apples is considered American... ha ha ha!!! This month's hosts are TS and JS of Eating Club Vancouver. Please check out their blog after the 15th of April to see delicious American dishes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stewed Pig's Blood with Beef and Tamarind Leaves (Dinuguan)

I know, I know the picture and the title (and hence this dish) is something straight out of "Fear Factor." I also apologize to those who are observing lent. But this dish just came in from Hubby's friend and office mate M. Happy happy birthday M!!!

Here in the Philippines, perhaps, because we are a poor country, we do not waste any part of the pig's body (or beef or chicken). We cook the head and ears (yummy sizzling sisig), we cook the intestines, the heart, the brain, and yes, we even cook the blood. And we come up with creative ways of cooking these parts. Dinuguan or stewed pig's blood is always a mainstay in menus even if it does not look appetizing. Why? Because it is delicious and healthy. You have got to try it!

I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the diversity of Filipino dishes. This dish is an example of how a different region can cook the same dish. Here in Manila, we usually cook this dish by stewing the pig's blood with pork meat. Then, we add vinegar and chilli. But this dish adds tender beef and uses tamarind leaves as the souring ingredient. According to M, whose mom cooked this delicious dish, this is the only way they (from the Batangas region, south of Manila) would cook this dish.

I confess I have not cooked pig's blood yet. The reason is that being here in mega Manila, we do not know the source of pig's blood that are available in the market. M's mom would only cook this dish from freshly slaughtered pig. This is the only way to ensure that the blood is clean.

But theoretically, I think I know how to cook it. Tenderize the beef meat by boiling and simmering in water for an hour or two. Saute some garlic and onions, add the tenderized beef, and the finger chillies. Then add the blood while passing the blood through a sieve. A lola (grandmother) told me that this is to ensure that there will be no clumps of blood in your dish and the resulting sauce will be smooth and thick. Finally add the tamarind leaves and salt and pepper to taste.

This dish tastes different from the regular dinuguan (stewed pig's blood) we are used to in Manila. It is richer, tastier. Thanks, M!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chicken and Mangoes in Coconut Cream (Ginataang Manok at Mangga)

Joan of Foodalogue is taking a virtual culinary tour around the world, tasting each country's cuisine, learning a little bit of different cultures. All these to raise awareness about hunger in the world for BloggerAid. This week, our tour's destination is the Philippines!

Welcome, everyone, to this beautiful Pearl of the Orient! This is the land of warm white sands, clear blue waters. This is the land of Chocolate Hills, Rice Terraces, majestic waterfalls and rapids, the Palawan Underground River, and numerous seas where you can swim with dolphins and tortoises. This is the land of the world's smallest volcano (Taal) and the volcano with the most perfect cone (Mayon). We also have several of the best diving sites in the whole world.

This is also the land of the most resilient and patient people (we have to be, with the kind of government we have... ha ha ha!) The Filipinos are also known for their hospitality, and their kindness. Do you know that if you come and visit a Filipino home, you will surely be treated to a feast? Even if the family is not financially well-off, they will give you the best of what they have, they will make sure that you will be fed and fed, again and again... :) It is the culture. :)

I think I do not make a good travel writer :) Did I make you want to come and visit?

So, let's talk about food instead.

Philippine food is as diverse as its seven thousand and one hundred islands. Really! Each region, each locality always have their own version of a dish. And each dish is as tasty and delicious as the next one.

We have many delicious dishes to choose from. We have our famous sour tamarind soup (sinigang) , our fragrantly grilled (inihaw from charcoal) food, to roasted (whole) pigs (lechon) and chicken (inasal), to bopis (pig's lungs), dinuguan (pig's blood) and of course, our infamous balut (boiled fertilized duck eggs.) And this list barely scratched the surface yet... :)

I chose to feature a dish in mango and coconut cream (gata). As I have written in a post before, Philippine mangoes are really popular around the world. I may be biased, but a lot of people agree with me when I say (or rather write) that Philippine mangoes are the best in the world! Aside from mangoes, Philippines is also famous for its coconuts. We practically grew up drinking fresh coconut juice everyday! It is healthy and refreshing!

Coconut cream is different from coconut juice, though. The coconut juice is the water we get from young coconuts. The coconut cream is what we squeeze out/extracted from mature coconut meat. Nowadays, we have gadgets that extract the coconut cream from the meat, so we do not have to manually do the extraction at home. :)

1 kilo chicken, cleaned, chopped, skin removed
5 T canola oil
5 slices fresh ginger
4 T minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 T shrimp paste (bagoong)
3 pcs finger chillies (siling haba) whole or sliced, according to taste
1 can coconut cream
2 mangoes, deseeded, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok or skillet. Saute ginger until fragrant. Saute the onions until soft. Saute the garlic until fragrant.

2. Add in the shrimp paste. Stir for a while, then add in the chicken. Mix for a while until chicken changes color.

3. Add in the finger chillies, coconut cream. Cover and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Do not overcook chicken as the meat will harden.

4. Add in the sliced mangoes, season to taste and serve warm.

Sharing this dish with the BloggerAid community's Culinary Tour Around the World over at Joan's Foodalogue. Please visit BloggerAid and help stamp out world hunger. And please visit Fooadalogue aroound March 25 to see the round-up of delicious Philippine dishes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pepperoni Pizza

Hubby and kids were very much surprised (or maybe a little shocked). For the first time ever, we did not have rice for dinner. We had pizza!!! And it is not take-out or delivered. Everything, including the dough is home-made!

This is an Asian kitchen, where it is customary to eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. :) Why? It had always been a belief, or at least this is what the elders say, that we need to eat rice in order to feel full, and to have energy needed for the day. But since I am learning to bake bread, I have removed rice from our breakfast and changed our breakfast staple to bread - mostly made from wholewheat and whole-grains. I have discovered that this kind of home-made bread (not the airy, soft and fluffy commercial bakery ones) is filling and healthy. If I use these bread to make sandwiches with cheese and healthy proteins, this really makes a complete, and balanced breakfast meal.

So, I have learned to be more flexible with our food staples because of blogging! :D

Pizza for dinner! Daughter was thrilled, actually. She loves pizza.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is actually for the basic pizza dough. I got the recipe from the label of the pizza pan that I bought. :) Surprisingly, the pizza crust turned out to be tasty. It is even better than the thick-crust pizza of a famous pizza chain :)

newly kneaded dough, before rising

3 C all purpose flour
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 T granulated sugar
1 C warm water (110F or 45C)
1 (.25 oz) package active dry yeast (I substituted 1 and 1/2 t instant dry yeast)

1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add oil and warm water. Mix to form a dough.

2. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place kneaded dough in a greased (I used olive oil) bowl. (See the photo above). Cover loosely with an oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled (See photo below.)

3. Grease the pizza pan (I also used olive oil). Tip the dough over to the pizza pan, and use hands to spread and shape the dough to cover the pan. I have read somewhere that using a rolling pin would alter the texture of the pizza crust.

4. Top with desired flavor. Let rest for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 20 to 25 minutes. Slice and serve.

You can choose to top your pizza with any filling. I chose to top our first pizza with tomato sauce, pepperoni, tomatoes, onions, ham and cheese because that is Daughter's favorite. I added olives (on the half portion of the pizza) because Hubby loves olives.

Depending on your cheese, you can add the cheese before baking. What I have on hand is quick-melt mozarella cheese, so I had to add the cheese during the last 5 minute of baking.

Sharing our family's first home-made pizza with the "Bake Your Own Bread" community, over at Sandy's At the Baker's Bench. Like Sandy, I encourage you to bake your own bread. It is healthy, nutritious, delicious, and it is not hard as you think. :) Check out the round-up at the end of the month! :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shrimp Veracruzana

I have this recipe in my old recipe notebooks (pre-blogging days) but I have not tried it yet until now. I am truly sorry that I do not remember where the recipe came from. Before food blogging, I never bothered to write down the sources of my recipes, because I thought it was only for my personal use. Nowadays, I truly take care to note down the recipe source. Because I know, if I am sharing the recipe with the world, I have to acknowledge the source. And now, I am sharing a recipe with you, which is not mine and I do not know where I got it. :(

But I do know that the recipe originated from Veracruz, Mexico. Because that is the name of the dish! :D

I know we associate chillies and beans and tacos with Mexican food. So, this recipe (with a little amount of jalapeno peppers) is a delightful find. Since Veracruz is a large port city, they have lots of ocean-fresh seafood. Seafood with jalapeno is one of this region's trademark dishes.

2 T olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 onion, cut into eights
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced (more or less, depending on taste)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 kilo shrimps, peeled, tails intact
2 medium tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a non-stick wok or skillet. Add onion, and cooked until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, jalapenos and cook for about 3 minutes until tomatoes are softenend.

2. Stir in the shrimps. Cover and cook until pink. Stir for a while, season to taste. Remove from fire, remove bay leaf and serve while warm.

Sharing this dish with the Regional Recipes community, launched by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. This month's recipes features Mexican dishes. Host of the month is Wandering Chopsticks. Please check out her site after the 15th for the round-up of delicious Mexican dishes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whole Wheat Loaf - Part 2

Since baking my first bread (you can read about the whole-wheat loaf experience here), I have been baking all our breads. Believe me, it is not hard to do at all. I am so very happy I conquered my fear of yeast baking. Contrary to what you might think, it does not take a long time either, well, at least the preparation and kneading part is not that long. The time that might be considered long is only the waiting time for the dough to rise (an hour or two). But while waiting, you can do some other chores like cleaning the dishes or sweeping the floor. The last time I waited for the dough to rise, I was able to wash all the children's (one week) school uniforms! :D

I realized though, that I have not posted my progress. From the first baking experience of the bread loaf, I learned that I used the smaller recipe for my big loaf pan. So, now, I am posting the larger recipe, which I am now using for my loaf pan. This time, the dough rose up beautifully over the rim, making my bread look more like a square loaf, more like it is "professionally" done. :) And it tastes oh-so-good!

Recipe from The Bread Book by Sara Lewis

2 and 1/4 C whole wheat flour
2 and 1/4 C all-purpose flour
4 t caster sugar (or fine white sugar)
1 and 1/2 t salt
2 and 3/4 t fast action dried yeast
3 T canola oil (can substitute olive oil)
1 and 3/4 C warm water

1. Mix the flours, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the oil and gradually mix in enough warm water to make a soft dough.

2. Knead well on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put into a greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour. (Sometimes, while finishing some other chores I leave it for more than an hour, but not more than two.)

3. Remove the clingfilm and bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 30 - 35 minutes. Check for doneness. Bread is done when top is browned and sounds hollow when tapped with fingertips. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Sharing this simple homemade bread loaf with Homemade #2 featuring Breads, over at Ben of What's Cooking? Please check out his site at the end of the month for the different kinds of homemade bread we can all try to make!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mango Yogurt Parfait : Delicious Dessert or Diet Food?

We know summer is nearly here when you see lots and lots of deliciously sweet, and lusciously juicy mangoes in the market. The prices are cheaper, too. (By the way, summer here in this tropical country is from March to May.) Mangoes are my children's favorite fruit. And knowing this, my mom would always give us a couple of kilos of mangoes every week!

Do you know that the Philippines has the best tasting mangoes in the world? You have not tasted a real mango until you have tasted one produced here. I am not bragging. I am simply stating the truth. Even mangoes coming from a certain country south of America has to put "Manila Mangoes" on its label in order to sell. :) Copied but never equaled. So, you better read the fine print when you buy your mangoes.

Anyway, the real Manila mangoes are naturally sweet, and very fragrant. When choosing your mangoes, choose the ones with no blemishes or black marks. And smell the head (the one where the branch was broken off). That spot should be fragrant. If it is, the fruit will be sweet.

Because we have a lot of supply of mangoes, I have taken to eating the mangoes for breakfast. I simply add a healthy cup of yogurt, which is a good source of calcium and healthy bacteria that helps our digestive system and improve our body's immunity against disease. The delicious mango is packed with vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants. It has very few calories, and fats, making it a very good diet food. It also replenishes salts, vitamins, minerals and energy after exercise.

This is my healthy breakfast -- diet food or delicious dessert??

The first picture of the mango parfait with my favorite rattan place mat is my entry to this month's CLICK photo event with wood as the theme. Do you agree that the rattan mat enhanced the tropical flavor of the mangoes? Please check out Jugalbandi's site for numerous drool-worthy, eye-catching, wonderful pictures and food.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Where's the Milk?

I know in many countries, children often drink fresh milk. Here in Manila, farms are not accessible. Fresh milk is not always available. We often give our children powdered milk.

For several years now, I give my children this brand of powdered milk. It is very expensive. But I thought if it has complete vitamins and minerals, it would be worth it. The milk is advertised as a complete food. It can be used for intravenous feeding. Accordingly, 3 glasses of milk a day would be enough to meet all the daily requirements of protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Lately, the milk can had changed its packaging. This was when I paid more attention to the label. Imagine my shock and indignation when the ingredients listed as such:

hydrolyzed corn starch
high oleic sunflower oil
sodium caseinate
soy oil
medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil

minerals and vitamins (long list)

I did not list down the names of the vitamins and minerals. Ok, let us assume the vitamins and minerals are complete. But for me, this part is irrelevant because these can be supplied by any brand of children's multi-vitamins.

My question is where is the milk? The main ingredients are cornstarch and sucrose!!!

Have you checked your children's milk lately?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Roast Pork with Potato Noodles Soup

On busy weeknights, noodle soup is one of my favorite dishes to make. It is easy to prepare, as long as I have broth. Everything comes together easily. Just boil the broth, add the noodles and the cooked meat (or seafood), and lastly the vegetables. It makes for one satisfying dinner.

That is why I always have home-made broth on hand. Pork bones, chicken bones are cheap. I buy them weekly and make a big batch of broth once or twice a week. I freeze the soup in portions. I simply take out a portion or two when needed.

However, the soup or the roast pork is not the main star of the dish today. The soup is made from homemade pork broth. The roast pork is simply our left-over take-out from a Chinese restaurant. The star today is the potato noodle. Have you heard of potato noodle?

It looks like the Japanese ramen cooked or uncooked. The packaging of the noodles when I bought it also looks similar to the Japanese ramen, but the label says it is potato noodle. Since the other words in the packaging were in Korean, I could not confirm if it is indeed noodles made from potato flour. I have a strong suspicion that it is.

The difference is in the taste and texture. It is not salty like the ramen, and the texture is chewy, more like the chap chae (Korean glass noodles). Hubby, who loves noodles declared this the better quality noodle. It is certainly worth buying and cooking again and again.

3 packs (350gms) potato noodles (Korean)

4 C pork broth (substitute with any broth you have available)
250 gms roast pork, sliced
3 pcs shiitake mushrooms, soaked, sliced
salt and pepper
green onions, chopped

1. Boil the broth in a dutch oven or wok. When boiling, add in shiitake mushrooms
and roast pork. Let boil for 15 - 20 minutes until mushrooms and pork are softened.

2. Add in the noodles and cook for 4 minutes (according to package directions). Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into individual serving bowls and top with chopped green onions.

Sharing this potato noodle dish with the Presto Pasta Nights community, one of my favorite food events, because we do usually have pasta every week. (Though, I cannot post the same recipes all over again :). I was feeling lousy when I missed the 100th edition of the Presto Pasta Nights but I am here for the event's second birthday!!! Yippee!!! Congratulations to Ruth of Once Upon a Feast for one of the food blogging world's long-running weekly event!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Curry Carrot Soup with Wasabi Cream

I got this interesting recipe from a health e-mail newsletter I receive regularly. I am sorry I do not remember which one (which is to say, I subscribe to several :)

What makes this recipe interesting for us Asians is that we usually do not add curry to our cream soups. I think adding a bit of curry to flavor soups is a common thing among western cuisine. I remember posting about a cream soup last year and a reader suggested I add a bit of curry. I also remember a lunch I had with our German missionary friends, where the soup they cooked had a tinge of curry in it. I remember it was delicious! So, I deemed it about time to add some curry into our soup!

Another interesting angle of this recipe is the addition of wasabi cream and mirin. A western soup with an Asian twist! I love this recipe already!

500 gms carrots, peeled, sliced thinly
3 T butter
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 C mirin
4 C chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth to make this truly vegetarian)
2 T grated ginger
1/2 T curry powder
1 - 3 T honey (according to taste)
salt and pepper
1/2 T wasabi powder
1/2 C sour cream
a stalk of green onions, chopped

1. Melt butter in a wok or large soup pot. Add onions and cook until soft. Add the carrots and wine and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth, ginger and curry. Bring to a boil.

2. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until carrots are very tender. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Working in batches, pour soup in blender (or use immersion blender) and process until smooth.

4. At this point, you can stir in the salt, pepper and honey and serve the soup as is. But we prefer our soup hot, so I returned the creamy soup into the pot to boil again. When hot, laddle into individual soup bowls. Top with a tablespoon of wasabi cream and chopped green onions.

5. To make wasabi cream, blend wasabi powder to the sour cream in a bowl. (I prepared the wasabi cream while the soup was simmering in step 2).

The whole family loved this soup! It is colorful, flavorful, and delicious and filling. The kids cannot even taste the vegetable in it. I love it because it is made from carrots, which everybody knows is a healthy vegetable.

Sharing this healthy and flavorful soup with the Souper Soup Challenge of Running with Tweezers. Check out her blog for more lovely and healthy soup recipes!
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