Tag Archives: food

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.


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.



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!

Learning Language

At the beginning of summer, I had a goal: to encourage my children to speak Tagalog. Now that summer is beginning to wind down with me going back to work today, and the children going back to school in a couple of days, the teacher in me can’t help but evaluate if I was able to achieve my objective.

I am grading myself on two things:  the number of new Tagalog vocabulary words that my children know, and my children’s ability to form coherent Tagalog sentences.

My daughter started the summer knowing just a few words.  She can easily translate Tagalog words to English, but was challenged with finding the right Tagalog term for many English words.

She has a notebook where she writes new Tagalog words. In her notebook, she wrote:  Parts of the House, and Parts of the Body.  When she started this activity, she only knew at most, two words for each category.  After a whole summer, she has filled the the pages with at least 10 Tagalog words.  Progress, don’t you agree?


Before the summer, my children would only speak in complete Tagalog sentences when prompted.  I would like to think that with my determination (a.k.a. kakulitan), now they are able speak Tagalog  with greater fluency and frequency.  Obviously, knowing more vocabulary words helped.

In the last couple of weeks, they would ask, “Nanay, pwede pahingi ng mainit na (gatas na) tsokolate?”  (Mom, may I have hot chocolate milk?) Not bad.

Last Friday, we were in a Filipino restaurant and ordered Halo-halo ( a dessert with shaved ice and an assortment of candied or fresh fruits and sweet beans, and doused with  milk).  We also ordered the restaurant’s special dessert, Bobo Chacha, a tall glass of vanilla ice cream, coconut milk, cubed sweet potatoes, topped with pinipig.

After sampling a little of both, my son said, “Mas gusto ko ang Halo-halo (kaysa) sa Bobo Chacha.”  (I like Halo-halo more that Bobo Chacha.)

I think my biggest achievement is not that they are speaking Tagalog more, but that they are more receptive in learning Tagalog.  It is a huge victory when they no longer ask me why I keep on talking to them in Tagalog.

Children’s Party

Jollibee and McDonald’s are the popular venues for children’s birthday parties in Manila; at least that was how it was when I still lived there.  Sometimes parties would be celebrated at home, if the hosts don’t mind dealing with the mess.

Birthday food would vary depending on the budget, but there would always be some sort of noodle dish.  Filipinos believe that noodles represent long life.  So to wish the celebrant this good fortune, a noodle dish is consumed on the special day.  It can be pancit (chow mien) or spaghetti (long pasta), or both.

As I am preparing for my  children’s birthday party, I can’t help but think of what it would be like to celebrate in Manila again.  We have only done it once–for my daughter’s first and my son’s third.  (My children are born two years apart, but share the same birth date.)

I remember that birthday party as being tiring, but fun.

I don’t know what possessed me, but we had the party from 2pm until 10 pm. The kids had their swimming party from 2-5 pm, and adults stayed on to party until 10.  Between family and friends, we had around 100 guests.  We had spaghetti, tacos (from Pancake House, yum!), cotton candy, taho (sweet tofu),  “dirty” ice cream, pritson (roasted pig with sweet dough bun), and much more.

That party was a huge production.  We even had matching luau outfits for all of us.

The train cake I made.

Party stress aside, I enjoyed it and would love to do it again…on a much smaller scale.  Thank you to my siblings, nieces, friends, and in-laws for helping out!   Nothing compares to celebrating birthdays with family and friends.

Planning a children’s party here in the U.S. is much easier, I think.  No one expects four different main courses, unless a lot of Filipinos are invited.  The secret to a successful children’s party:  keep the children busy.

We were invited to a morning birthday party in a park once, and we were served bagels, watermelon, and cupcake.  The kids went home with  little loot bags of bubbles and couldn’t be happier!  The party was over in an hour and a half.

So, the plan for this year’s birthday?

Guest list is 20 kids max. No catering necessary, but I have to order pizza and pancit in keeping with the Filipino custom. My children and I will make jello with gummy fish (swimming theme again), and vanilla cupcakes.  We’ll have frozen yogurt and fresh fruits.  The party is from 12-2.  I think I am evolving!


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



Pickled radish


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.