Tag Archives: food


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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.

About Fruits

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There is a variety of fruits that are abundant in the Philippines that are thankfully, also available in our local grocery stores.

I always buy Mexican mangoes (Manila mangoes are not available), saba (bananas similar to plantains), papaya, pakwan (watermelon), and pinya (pineapple).

On my recent grocery trip, I bought rambutan, langka, lychee, and sampaloc (tamarind) for my children to sample.

I remember our langka tree in our backyard in Manila that bore only one huge fruit.  What was sold in the local store was probably just an eighth of a whole fruit.  Although inexpensive at $4, I would not have bought it,  if not for my children who I am sure would be thrilled to see such a spiky fruit.  Langka (jackfruit) is not a favorite of mine.

My daughter tried half a fruit, and graciously declined the rest. My son finished one, and ate two more.  He was eating the whole time with a confused look on his face.  He said that he liked it because it was sweet, but couldn’t quite figure out if he liked the after taste.

Rambutan, a favorite of mine, was an instant hit.  This fruit was much more expensive though.  About 20 pieces of the sweet fruit cost just as much as a pound of cherries.  They could not get enough of this.

Another hit was the lychee.  They have only tasted the canned fruit from the toppings at frozen yogurt places.  I am glad that they love the fresh fruit more.

Sampaloc was the fruit that they were excited to eat.  They found the brown shell interesting.  “If it is ripe, it is sweet”, I said.

They cracked the shell, tasted the fruit, and said, “This is not ripe”, and then left the poor half open sampaloc on the table.

When life was less complicated, I had the idea of making my own *sinigang mix.  I pooh-poohed the mix that was sold in stores.  I bought a bag of fresh sampaloc and boiled it.  Who would have known that if you cook sampaloc too long, it would turn into jam.  From then on, I embraced the sinigang mix.

*Sinigang is a Filipino soup that usually uses tamarind for the sour flavor.

How to set the table

For Filipinos, preparing a meal is a time to gather around the kitchen to help each other cook, and catch up on the day’s events.

This is also the children’s first introduction to cooking. It has been said that when young children participate in food preparation, they will more likely eat and enjoy the home-cooked meal.

My very first job in the kitchen was setting the table. When I was old enough to hold a knife, I graduated to prepping the food. After I’ve learned the secret recipes and the shortcuts from my parents, I became the head chef. By this time I didn’t have to cook a lot, I was only cooking for me, my parents, a couple of siblings, and sometimes, a guest or two.

Preparing a meal requires everyone’s help.

I cook.

My children set the table.

My husband does the dishes.

It is a project in which everyone in the family participates.

Here’s a refresher on how to set the table:


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.

What is Adobo?

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Adobo is a Filipino dish of which every Filipino family has a recipe. The basic recipe calls for cooking meat or vegetable in soy, vinegar, garlic, and pepper.  The way I cook my  adobo is a cross between how my Papa cooked it and how my father-in-law prepared his.

I love adobo for its versatility.  Leftovers are used for adobo rice, omelet, or as filling in bread dough.  My kids simply love the salty-sour-aioli taste. They eat adobo either with sauce, or dry and crispy.

In Manila where I grew up, we always ate adobo with boiled monggo (mung beans).  My children are not huge monggo fans, so I serve radish, their favorite, as a side dish instead.  They have no problem consuming a whole platter of brown rice with this combination.

Now the new tradition in my household is crispy adobo with labanos (radish) doused with vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and salted egg is also an alternative side dish.


4 pcs of chicken breast

1 cup cane vinegar

1/2 cup light soy

1/4 cup water

3 heads garlic crushed

2 bay leaves

ground pepper

oil and 2 cloves of garlic for sauteing

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Simmer until the chicken breast is fully cooked, about 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken breast and save the adobo sauce.  Using 2 forks, flake the meat.  In a different pan, put oil and brown chopped garlic with chicken flakes.  Put the pan in a broiler oven to make the meat dry and crispy.  Serve the the adobo dry with sauce on the side.

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