Tag Archives: cooking

Mango

Mango

It is no secret that I love mangoes–I love them green, I love them yellow.  I will eat them in whatever form and shape—ripe and golden, green and tart with bagoong, and manibalang (almost ripe, but not quite).

I love mango ice cream, mango cake, mango mochi, mango gelatin, mango shake, dried mangoes…the list goes on.

Nothing compares to Philippine mangoes, and that is a fact!

But rather than wait until I visit the Philippines, I make do with what is available.  Mangoes imported from Mexico can be sweet, but it is just not the same as the ones from the Philippines (Cebu, Zambales or Guimaras)!

Beggars cannot be choosers, so I make the best with what I can get.  For merienda (snack) and dessert, I make sweet rice with mangoes.

Sticky Rice with Mangoes

1 1/2 cups of sweet glutinous rice (malagkit)

1 1/3 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup demerara sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 ripe mangoes

Cook rice in a rice cooker.  In a pan, combine coconut milk, sugar, and salt over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over warm rice in a mixing bowl, and let stand until the rice absorbs the mixture.  It can be  served warm or cold topped with cubed mangoes.

(Rice can also be steamed.  Soak rice and line the steamer with a cheesecloth.  Cover tightly and steam for about 25 minutes.)

Bistec Tagalog

I always looked forward to visiting my lolas (grandmother) on Sundays. My lola and her sisters lived in Lipa, and we would visit them almost every weekend.  They would always have treats waiting for us when we came.

My favorites were:  Sundot Saging (skewered bananas fried in brown sugar), Pilipit (steamed ground sweet sticky rice, fried and then dipped in caramelized sugar), and Pastillas (sweet pastilles made with cow’s milk and rolled in white sugar).

Although I loved the sweet treats, I enjoyed the special savory dishes more.

For Sunday breakfast, Tita Nena would cook Bistec and serve it with pandesal (bread roll) or fried rice rice and sunny side up.

My lola’s Bistec is topped with raw Vidalia onion rings.  I love onions, but I don’t like them raw.  So, I tweaked the recipe and cooked the onions.

This is one of the few dishes that my children  don’t mind eating with brown rice.

Bistec Tagalog

1 pound of thinly sliced sukiyaki beef

1-2 onions cut into rings

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 lemon

pepper to taste

olive oil

Cook garlic with olive oil until golden brown.  Set aside.  In the same pan, add olive oil and caramelize the onions  (around 4-5 minutes).  Set aside.  Still using the same pan, add a little more olive oil, and cook the beef.  Sear the beef in batches to ensure that pan is always hot.  Once all the beef slices are cooked, put the garlic and caramelized onions back in the pan.  Add soy, water, sugar, pepper, and lemon.  Let simmer for 2 minutes.  Serve with rice.

     

Breakfast

School started for all of us this week.  If you are running a household without any additional help (aka a maid), then chances are you are in the same boat as I am.  You too wake up a bit earlier than you want to, so you can prepare a healthy breakfast, and pack snack and lunch for the kids.

I have several favorite breakfast fares.  The food becomes my favorite if:  it is easy to make, can be prepared ahead of time, and has grains and protein.

(Sidenote:  My daughter was asked in preschool to sort the food in the play kitchen.  She sorted the plastic food according to grains, protein, milk and milk products, fruits, and vegetables. Teacher was impressed.)

 

Frittata is one of my favorites.  I can throw in any vegetable that I have in the fridge.  It takes 7 minutes from the time I crack the first egg, until I put the hot pan on the table.  Pretty good, I think.

Spinach Frittata

5 large eggs

2-3 cups fresh spinach

½ cup milk

2 Tbsp water

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup-1 cup cheese to sprinkle

olive oil spray

Heat oil in a large ovenproof pan over medium heat.  Wilt the spinach in the pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs.  Add milk, water and pepper.  Pour over the wilted spinach and wait until the eggs set, around 3 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Sprinkle the top of the frittata with cheese (cheddar or parmesan) and put under the broiler.  Cook until the top is golden brown, usually 2 minutes.  The frittata will look fluffy. Be careful not to overcook the eggs.  Cut into 8 slices and serve with toasted baguette.

Apple Pie

We moved to our house blessed with three mature apple trees. They sometimes leave a lot of kalat on the ground that my husband, by himself, always picks up.  By himself.  Because I don’t help him pick the apples.

But on rare occasions that I do help, I go outside with a bag in hand and pick from the tree.  Then I make delicious apple pies, and applesauce.

Three summers ago, we had plans of building a deck and removing the apple trees.  When we found out that the cost of a deck is as much as two trips to Manila for four people(!), you can guess what we decided to do.  I am still making apple pies, right?

Apple Pie

½ c unsalted butter

3 Tbsp Purpose flour

¼ c water

½ c white sugar

½ c packed brown sugar

8 granny smith apples—peeled, cored, sliced

  1. Preheat oven at 425F.  Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in flour to form paste.  Add water, sugar, and bring to a boil.  Reduce temperature, and let simmer.
  2. Place bottom crust in a pan.  Fill with sliced apples.  Cover with lattice pattern to make top crust, or skip the top crust.  Gently pour sugar-butter liquid over the apples.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350F for 35-45 minutes, until apples are soft.I got the recipe online years ago and I just love it.   It is a very easy recipe to follow; I can even use any apples I have.  I can add a bunch of stuff in it and it always comes out delish.  I have added a splash of liquor, cinnamon, even fresh mangoes.  Yum!

Barbecue

Filipinos have the reputation of preparing excessive food during parties.

They want to have more than enough so when guests come back for seconds, or even thirds, they still have plenty to offer.  For a Filipino host, it would be very embarrassing to say to a guest, “Sorry, I ran out of it”, or in Tagalog, “Ay, naubusan na.”

Hiya is feeling of embarrassment one gets when he perceives himself as socially unacceptable for whatever reason.  It is a Filipino trait with emphasis on fear of losing face. –from Dictionary of Filipino Culture and Values by Tomas D. Andres

Recently, I made a rookie mistake of ordering 60 teriyaki barbecue skewers for a party for 20 people.  I allotted 2 sticks per person, and added a “little extra” for our own future use.

I couldn’t say that I ordered too much dahil baka mapahiya at maubusan (for fear of embarrassment that I may not have enough food); I ordered too much because I simply do not know how much food a person can eat.

Guests would have eaten them all–if not, for the other dishes, and 3 different desserts.  In the end, I still had 50 sticks that I quickly wrapped in foil to send home.  Even then, I still had enough leftover to make Vietnamese spring rolls, Vietnamese pho salad, and quesadilla for a month.

For those trying to figure out what to do with leftover barbecue, here is my recipe for Vietnamese spring roll.  I usually use shrimp or Chinese sausage, but I quickly discovered that barbecue pork and chicken work just as well.  It is the easiest to make because it requires little to no cooking.

Basic stuffing to the spring roll

Rice noodles

Mint leaves

Lettuce

Cucumber

Pickled radish

Carrots

Rice Paper

Choices for protein filling are: cooked shrimps, barbecue pork or chicken, beef slices, even pan fried Chinese sausage.  The beauty of this dish is you can put whatever you want in it–including leftover meat.  Dip rice paper in warm water to soften, and be creative.

Dipping sauce

1/2 cup fish sauce (good quality, unfortunately, Rufina patis does not work well, Thai brands work better)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp lime juice

1/2 cup water

1 -2 crushed garlic gloves

Thai Chili

Mix well together.

Coffee

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After cooking up a storm in the kitchen, I like to make my dessert simple and easy to prepare. After all, who would want to labor for dinner, and then labor some more for dessert?

Coffee Jelly is one of the easiest desserts to make. The ingredients are always in any well-stocked kitchen: unflavored gelatin, coffee, and Vanilla ice cream.

During my dating days in Manila, coffee desserts at Dean St. Café were my favorite. It has been so long, but I think the dessert that I always ordered was Vienna Velvet.  It was a thick drink concoction– coffee jelly in a tall glass with soft vanilla ice cream.

Those who still remember Dean St. Café, and know what I am talking about, please drop a comment and set me straight.  After all, it has been more that two decades since I set foot in that place.

Coffee Jelly Ice Cream

1 pack of unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp hot water
2 cups strong black coffee
2 tbsp sugar (optional)
Vanilla ice cream

Brew strong black coffee. In a shallow pan or Pyrex, mix gelatin with hot water. Gradually mix in hot coffee. Stir to completely dissolve the gelatin. Sugar can be added at this time. Put in the refrigerator until set.

Cut the gelatin in cubes. Soften vanilla ice cream in a tall glass, and gently fold in the cubed coffee gelatin. For fancier presentation, serve with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Hands are for…

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My children are very fond of eating with their hands.  If given a choice they would opt for food that could be eaten without the use of silverware–tacos, sandwiches, spring rolls, siopao (steamed buns), even sushi, if we make it at home.

Rice and meat can be eaten with hands.  And there is a correct and efficient way to do it too.    It seems very easy, but I have seen people do it in weird and very awkward ways.  I have to say, that it is not similar to how toddlers  do it– using just two fingers and picking food a morsel at a time.

The proper way to eat with hands involves using the tips of all five fingers.  The fingers act like The Claw (you know, the electronic game found in arcades).  They gather the food together–a chunk of meat and a kumpol of rice, and in one motion, the clump of rice and meat go in the mouth.

The whole hand does not even have to get dirty, just the fingertips.  Fingers do not have to go inside the mouth too.  The fingers just touch the lips and the food gets pushed inside.

Trying to eat every last piece of meat that fell out of his taco

Anything can be eaten with hands, but the easiest to eat would be dry food.

Kamayan is best recommended for eating seafood.  Peeling shrimps, getting meat out of crabs and lobsters, and picking fish bones are just best done with fingers.

I honestly have not taught my kids how to eat rice with their hands; I don’t think they have seen me eat rice with my hands either.  The opportunity has just not presented itself.  But, I have been preparing food that can be eaten with  hands.

Souvenir

Pasalubong is a Filipino tradition of giving a homecoming gift after a vacation or a trip.

It can be fancy and expensive—on a trip to San Francisco in 1994, I splurged on a Lladro piece for my mom to add to her collection.  And, it can also be something affordable yet appropriate— lip-gloss for my nieces who are in their tweens.

When I was younger, my father would have pasalubong even when he just went to work.  Not all the time and nothing extravagant, but he would bring home something that he would pick up from the school cafeteria– usually, candied peanuts or meringue.

When he would travel around the Philippines (and he did it a lot!), the only thing I would ask from him as pasalubong are the packets of milk, sugar, and coffee handed out in airplanes.  Never mind the dried mangoes from Cebu, pili nuts from Bicol, durian pastilles from Davao, or strawberry jam from Baguio. I go straight for the powdered sachets!

The whole idea of the pasalubong is to make the recipients know that you thought of them while you were away.  Pasalubong can be store-bought or homemade.  Hands down I prefer homemade treats over key chains, snow globes, and teaspoon souvenirs.

Here is a perfect pasalubong recipe that was shared by a blogger-friend. The recipe can also be found in a bag of Rolos (a chocolate caramel candy). I have packaged them in big tin cans for when we visit friends. I have handed them out in clear cellophane bags as party tokens. I have also served them in candy dishes.  These rolo pretzels are always a party hit!

On a trip to Manila, I brought all the ingredients and assembled them there.  I have to warn you though that these treats are very addicting.

Rolo Pretzels

 bag of rolos ( approx 50 pcs in a bag)

Pecans ( or walnuts)

bag of pretzels ( I prefer the unsalted petite size)

Preheat oven to 300F. Lay single layer pretzels on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper (or foil). Unwrap the rolos and put a piece on each pretzel. Bake for 4 min.  Take out the tray and place 1/2 a pecan on the warm melted candy.  Completely cool (put in the fridge to speed up the cooling process).  Keep in an airtight container.

                               

                       

Recipe for Kids

Polvoron is a traditional Filipino dessert that is very easy to make.  The main ingredients are flour, sugar, and powdered milk.  Butter binds them all together.  Philippines was colonized by Spain for 300 years, so it is no surprise that this tiny cake has Spanish origin.

As a teacher, I love making this in class because the only cooking involved is toasting flour that can easily be done days beforehand.  After all the ingredients are measured, the only thing left to do is to mix and mold.  If you’ve had any experience with children, you know why making this dessert with them is always an instant hit.

My mom used to make big batches of this “short bread”.  She would mix peanuts, cashews, or toasted pinipig (flattened immature glutinous rice) to give texture to the otherwise, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.

The trickiest part of this dish is knowing when the flour is toasted just right.   Over do it and the flour will taste bitter; under cook it and it won’t have the nutty taste of toasted flour.  My mom would say that the “nose knows” when the flour is cooked just right.

Aside from the flour turning golden brown, flour toasted perfectly would have a great smell that would spread through the whole house. She would ask me to go up to the second floor hallway of our house and stand just outside my bedroom door;  if I could smell it there, then the flour is ready.

My contribution to this traditional polvoron recipe is adding freeze-dried mangoes.  The hint of mango reminds me of summers in Manila.  I can’t enjoy  Zambales, Cebu, or even Guimaras mangoes (because we don’t get them here), but a hint of mango in my small polvoron cakes can tide me over until my next trip back to Manila.

Mango Polvoron

1 1/4 cup toasted flour (whole wheat or all purpose)

1 1/2 cups powdered milk

1/4 cup sugar (white or demerara)

1 cup butter, melted

generous 1/4 cup pinipig or rice krispies

1.7 oz or 48 grams freeze dried mangoes, crushed

Toast flour in a pan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to even the browning.  It may take around 45 minutes. DO NOT walk away while the flour is toasting.  Transfer toasted flour in a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour melted butter 1/3 cup at a time.  You can cut back on the butter once the mixture sticks together.

To shape the mixture into tiny cakes, use polvoron molder or a regular tablespoon for a simple finish. The polvoron will be less crumbly if refrigerated for about 10 minutes.

*The original recipe asks for 1/2 c sugar, I scaled it down to 1/4 cup because of the natural sweetness of the freeze dried mangoes.

On Cooking: I Can Do That!

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For a couple of weeks last December, I had to take an unplanned trip to Manila.  My children were still in school, so I went by myself. Thanks to Apple’s Face Time, I was always in the loop.

The first night I was away, I got a detailed account of the children’s first morning without me:  At 6AM, a full hour before they usually wake up, they went to the kitchen and started cooking scrambled eggs.  My 7-year old was already plating his dish when my husband discovered what he was doing.  I was told that my daughter, 5, had her bowl of beaten eggs, and was waiting patiently for her turn to use the frying pan.  I heard that they were both beaming with pride!

After I calmed down from the initial shock of the children firing up the stove (it was electric), I thought about how thrilled they must have been of accomplishing a task without an adult. They were hungry, they wanted eggs, and so they cooked eggs. The excitement in their voices, when they told me about their accomplishment, told me that they were just as proud of themselves as I was of them.

They made a statement: They are independent.

I quickly thought about why they would think that they would be successful in cooking– they are comfortable working in the kitchen, and they know the safety rules.  I think that they attempted to cook on their own because they know they can.

Encouragement and support do play a huge role in fostering independence.  They are my proof!

Their cooking repertoire has expanded to include French Toast, and a bit more since then.  On weekends now, my two children take turns making breakfast.  My son would alternate between French Toast and Champorado (see earlier post for recipe) and my daughter would make pancake.

As long as the enthusiasm to cook is there, I will keep on encouraging them.  I would hate for this to turn into a ningas cogon (aka an interest that starts with great intensity, but fades quickly).  Sadly, a trait that Filipinos are known to possess.

French Toast

8 slices of any dense bread (challah or brioche works best)

1 cup milk

½ cup condensed milk

3 eggs

pinch of cinnamon(optional)

butter or cooking spray

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except of the bread. Dip each slice of bread long enough to absorb the custard, but not too long that the bread becomes soggy.  Put on a well-buttered pan and cook on medium heat until golden brown.  Flip to cook the other side.

Serve warm with topping of cottage cheese, fresh fruits, and maple syrup.

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