Tag Archives: dessert

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering cream, sugar, and gelatin. Fresh fruits usually top this dessert.

Although this is not of Philippine origin, this can easily be tweaked to highlight Filipino flavors.

Mangoes are the fruits that first come to mind to flavor this dessert. They are abundant in the Philippines (and they are my favorite!)  It is also a fruit that can easily be pureed and incorporated into the mixture.  Diced golden ripe mangoes would the perfect topping.

I made this dessert for our New Year’s Eve meal.  I would have loved to use mangoes, but mangoes are not in season.

So, I did what a good cook does– use what is in season or what I have readily available.  In this case, I had raspberries and blueberries (not in season either, but I had them in the fridge.)

If you are going to flavor the cream with real mangoes, puree 1 cup of ripe mangoes and mix with the cream mixture after the gelatin and sugar have been dissolved.  And instead of using two packets of unflavored gelatin, use three packets.

Panna Cotta

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups half and half or whipping cream

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
2 cups assorted fresh berries

Place the milk in a heavy saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Over medium heat, dissolve the gelatin being careful not to boil the milk, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt.


Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. (Add the pureed mango at this point if you are making Mango Panna Cotta).

Pour into 6 flute glasses or clear bowls, so that they are 1/2 full. Cool slightly. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.

You can speed up the molding process by putting in the freezer for 45 minutes.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Spoon the berries (or mangoes) on top and serve.


This is a recipe that can be played around with.  Obviously, the higher the fat content of the cream, the richer the dessert would be.

I have substituted half and half with whipping cream, and it still tasted delicious.  I have also used only 2 cups half and half and 2 cups whole milk and it was still good.

My point is you can make this dessert as rich (use whipping cream) or as less fatty (use low fat milk) and it will still come out fancy.


Cookies with Butter

Before I left Manila last year, I went to a deli along Katipunan to buy pasalubong for my children.  One of the many things that I bought was Lengua de Gato— thin strips of cookies sold in packed airtight containers.

Lengua de Gato literally means cat’s tongue.

This light dessert is perfect when paired with piping hot coffee (or hot cocoa if the kids were to eat it).  It is tasty as a snack and even better as an end to a heavy meal.  We had a family party last week and my cousin who just came back from Manila had a jar of Lengua de Gato from Good Shepherd.

I decided to do a little research and make my own Lengua de Gato to give to neighbors and friends.

IMG_1151Wrapped in cloth napkin with a Christmas decor accent, this gift looks elegant.

Lengua de Gato

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

1/2 cup superfine white sugar

3 egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour *

1/4 cup pecans (coarsely chopped)

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper (makes it easy to take the lenguas off).  Cream butter with superfine sugar (superfine sugar is regular sugar that was pulsed in a food processor, this is different from confectioner’s sugar). Gradually add the egg whites to the mixture, and continue to beat at high speed until everything is combined. Fold in chopped pecans.


Scoop the mixture in small bag and snip one corner (a piping bag can also be used).  Pipe a narrow strip (pencil thin) two-inches long.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Once it cools, serve or store in an airtight container.


    IMG_1148Two different ways of making lengua de gato

If you make the strips thicker, the finished product will have cookie chewiness to it (like Madeleine).  If you prefer crunchy, pipe the strips thinly.  Either way, it still tastes good.


*The recipe I saw used all- purpose flour; I used whole-wheat pastry flour and it was delicious.  The pecans were my twist to the regular lengua de gato recipe.



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.)

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!


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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.


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.

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