Thursday, December 31, 2009

What are you doing now?

Aahhh. So the dinner is ready, and a nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon is uncorked and is being allowed to breathe. Outside, the streets are getting a bit foggy because of the fireworks and in here at home, there is nothing to do but sit and wait for midnight to come.

Ours is not a loud and crazed celebration. Friends are off celebrating with their own families and it's really just Allan and I. It's been quite a year for us. It's been quite a year for me.

I look back and I realize that this year I got, lost and got a new job. I've handled several clients and actually like working for myself and surprisingly, I am thinking of doing it more in the future. But most importantly, I'm feeling a stability that I have not felt in the first year I was here. I feel like I'm generally getting some traction and I like it.

I gave trust and got tired of trusting some friends, but what the hell. Isn't that what life is all about? Lessons learned, life experiences gathered and I can proudly say that I am not just some girl who goes to work 8-5, Monday to Friday and be lazy and spend all my time on Skype and Facebook over the weekends. I feel like my world is becoming bigger, rather than smaller because I desire so badly to try new things so I can participate in life more, so I have lots of things to talk about and share, so I don't just wrap my world in some guy I may or may not end up marrying. Life experiences, that's what I want to have. In the end I don't want to be the most decorated employee, or the dowdiest housewife or the smartest apple on the tree. At the end of the day I don't want to be accomplished, I want to be experienced.

At lunches with new people I want to be able to make new friends and carry the conversation along and not just be pa-cute and talk to the people I ALREADY know. I want to make the most of myself. And although relationship is very special to me, I don't want to define myself as just "Allan's girlfriend" or someone's wife. I don't want to appendage -Evangelista to my name unless I really am in possession of a marriage license. Not because I don't want to be associated with him or marriage, but because I don't want to be clingy and dependent on marriage or the promise of forever for happiness. There's more to life and love than that.

This was 2009 for me. It was filled with annoying realizations that say "Ay, hindi nga pala talaga ganun ang buhay." Yet I feel happy and challenged for 2010. Two of the better people I know are coming (and two of the dumber people are ALSO coming) so I know the start of my year won't be anything less than interesting.

So I raise my glass to you for making it! And since this is a pseudo food blog, I will also share a couple of cocktails that you can make out of the leftover bubbly and red wine you might have at home. Salud!

picture from

Pinoy Mimosa

1 part calamansi syrup
-one part sugar, one part calamansi juice
2 parts orange juice
2-3 parts champange
, depending on how strong you want the liquor taste to be

First, begin with chilled or super cold ingredients. Take a shaker, or a jar (with all the nata de coco and kaong jars you inevitably have after the holidays, you'll find one stashed somewhere) and pour all in the ingredients in. Shake until well blended. Serve in champagne flutes, or if it's just you and some friends or family, you can serve it tall breakfast glasses.

Some variations include shaking the mixture with ice (for who really has the time to chill everything down?) or serving it with ice. It depends on your taste preferences. Mimosas are typically served with brunch, when it's already a bit acceptable to have something alcoholic (midmorning) but not really that cool to have something hard yet.

Firecrackin' Sangria

2 parts ginger syrup

-one part water, one part sugar, one part grated fresh ginger
2 parts lemonade/lemon juice
-lemonade if you want a sweeter drink with just a hint of citrus, lemon juice if you want a tarter drink. Lemonade powder may work in a super cinch but fresh is best!
4 parts dry red wine
Sliced fruits of your preference

-or you may just want to skip the fruits altogether

Chill the ingrdients. Mix in ginger syrup and lemonade/lemon juice and shake in a shaker or jar. Doing this will make sure that the thick syrup will incorporate nicely into the drink. Add the dry red wine into the mix and shake. Pour in a pitcher with sliced fruits. Serve in big fat glasses so the sliced fruit will fit.

Again shaking it with ice or serving it with ice in the pitcher are variations. You can also add 1 part of sparkling/soda water. Or if you really don't like the taste of fresh lemonade/lemon juice and you don't have lemonade powder handy, go grab a Sprite and use that instead of the lemonade. The main objective of wine cocktails is to water it down a bit to make it a bit more pleasant for those who aren't into wine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rice Pudding

I love porridge of all persuasions. One of the best I've had is rice pudding, which is really just lugaw with cinnamon, cream and brown sugar. I think the trick is the brown sugar and cinnamon combination. It always works.

I've never had rice pudding when I was a kid, so I don't have those warm childhood memories associated to it. But what the hell? This is not about childhood memories, is it? I mean, I never even actually saw what a real cinnamon bark looks like until high school. But if you think that's sad, well, I know someone who didn't even KNOW that cinnamon came from bark. I dunno, maybe she thought that it came from heaven or something. Kidding. Or maybe not.

So I made rice pudding today, and I hope you will soon too!

For rice pudding, you will need:

1 can of heavy cream
a few pieces of cinnamon bark
-You can use cinnamon powder, but just like pepper, it tastes a world better if you grate it fresh.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
-egg is optional, it will make the pudding bind a bit better. But if you're using malagkit, there really is no need
1/2 vanilla bean or a few drops vanilla extract
-vanilla pods are available in upscale supermarkets like Rustan's or Rockwell and they taste so much better than that lame liquid flavoring. But it's expensive (the pods I mean) and buying it for rice pudding is weird. I only have leftover vanilla pods because I made leche flan and panna cotta for Christmas eve dinner, so I used them.
1 cup malagkit rice


1. Wash the rice and add around two cups of water to it. Add half the can of cream and mix it even before putting it on the stove. Once it's all mixed, put it on the stove and heat it up, stirring every now and then to make sure that non of the grains stick.

2. Once the mixture becomes sticky and the rice begins to cook, grate maybe a teaspoon of cinnamon into the pot and stir.

3. Add the remaining cream after simmering for around 10 minutes. Stir to make sure it does not curdle.

4. Add the sugar. Add more cinnamon if you like.

5. Stir until you get the consistency you like. I like mine real thick, like biko.

6. Stir in the vanilla while it's still a bit soupy and allow the rice to cook completely and set.

You can serve this hot or cold but it's gorgeous hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Get the good stuff, spending a bit on Haagen Dazs once in a while won't hurt.

Spaghetti Puttanesca: Pasta Bitching

A lot of stories make up for what is supposed to be Puttanesca's origin. But why do you think it's called PUTTAnesca?

The spicier, and I think more exciting reason behind Puttanesca is that it is the pasta most associated with women of easy virtue. But I call a spade a spade and 'women of easy virtue' are whores, and thus Spaghetti Puttanesca can loosely be translated as "whore's spaghetti." This is from the root word puttana, which primarily means prostitute but can sometimes be interpreted as "trash" or "garbage" but you get what I mean. That's probably a run-in sentence, but that's what I'm feeling now, a bit run in.

Why not? Naples, the area where this dish came from is said to have quite a lively flesh trade and the ingredients of the dish is nothing opulent or expensive. It is also quick and easy to make but is absolutely filling.

However, you can choose to believe the other stories (people came into a restaurant, famished, and just ordered the chef to serve anything he had. Chef had nothing but tomatoes, preserved olives and anchovies, so he just cooked it up) but it sounds a lot like the way Cesar's Salad was created, so it didn't appeal so much to me.

Anyway, here's my recipe for my absolutely bitchin' pasta dish.

5 medium tomatoes, diced

-Tomatoes here in the Philippines is generally a lot more tart than the imported ones, so try to get the reddest and softest tomatoes you can find, without choosing the spoiled ones, of course. If you can get imported tomatoes in your area, go get them, the extra expense is worth it!
1 medium white onion, minced
6 big cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 anchovy fillets

-If you like anchovies, like me, this is indispensable. But if you don't like the saltiness of it, you can substitute it with bottled Spanish sardines. It also works, and I often use it if Allan will join me for dinner.
1 small pack tomato sauce
-You can also use canned whole tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes, just mash it before adding
1 small pack tomato paste
about 10 pieces olives, chopped roughly
-You can use green or black olives, as long as they're not stuffed.
about 3 tablespoons capers, chopped roughly
chili flakes/powder, to taste

-You can use fresh or dried, to taste
pepper and salt (although I skip the salt whenever I make this because the fish is salty enough)
olive oil
around 300g spaghetti, cooked

Heat up your pan, and let's do it!

1. Heat olive oil and add garlic, onion, anchovies/sardines and fresh tomatoes. Don't wait until your oil is too hot. Just pile it on. Simmer and pound on the tomatoes a bit.

2. Mix up the spices in a small bowl and sort of spoon it around to agitate the oils.

3. Add the spice mixture into the simmer, add the capers and olives and yes, simmer some more, maybe another five minutes.

4. Add the tomato paste and sauce. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. I just like to really cook the tomatoes because it just tastes better that way.

5. Add the pasta and toss. Garnish with parsley either chopped or not. Serve!

Remember, a good puttanesca must taste like tomato and fish (in a good way) and not at all salty. The salt should be there to cut the sourness, not exactly to salt the dish. If you can, simmer the sauce maybe an hour or so. Tomatoes really taste better when cooked for a long time!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Two Homey Recipes

Gata Sitaw and Okra with Dried Seafood

I love gata. I love adding it into different recipes and it always makes it taste a little bit more special. This is just sitaw (yardlong bean) and Okra braised in gata. I grilled some dried squid and dried fish and added it into the stew for added smokiness and flavor. With lots of white rice, this is sure to be a winner!

250g sitaw, cut into 1-inch lengths
200g okra, tender parts only, cut stem end
250mL gata (coconut milk)
grilled dried squid
grilled dried fish
salt (only if fish and squid will not be salty enough for you)

Boil coconut milk with ginger and onion. Add grilled seafood. Allow flavors to meld. Add vegetables and cook until crisp-tender. Serve hot.

Kilawin na puso ng saging

I'm not very sure why we call this "kilawin" when we actually cook both the banana heart and the resulting salad...maybe because it's primarily flavored with vinegar. But anyway, it's a great side dish for salty things like dried fish.

1 large banana heart, quartered (take away all the red layers, leaving only the pale yellow colored core. Quarter the core)
2 cups vinegar (I use tuba vinegar, but my mom used to use Datu Puti, so whatever vinegar you use)

Boil banana heart until tender. The color should change to a somewhat gray color. After that's done, douse with cold water and take away the central ridge (the core that hold the "leaves" and blossoms together. All you should have left should be the blossoms and the "leaves" of the banana heart. Using your hands, mash them all up and squeeze out the sap. Repeat this step twice to make sure all sap is gone.

Season the squeezed out banana heart with the vinegar and salt and vetsin. Heat up a pan and sautee the garlic and onions. Add the banana heart mixture and stir until it absorbs the oil. Taste the mixture. If it's too sour, add some salt. Serve with dried or fried or grilled fish.

Sandwich Days

I am a rice eating person. Even if I feel like I'm being robbed for it. But I also like making sandwiches and sometimes I get weird with my creations. Up top is leftover tuna cabbage wraps in a pan de sal with some grated cheese. It was quite a yummy discovery. But then again, tomato sauce is good with anything.

Then I also made this sandwich out of sliced ham, tomato, mayo and cheese. Good for lunchboxes. We had this for dinner though.

Then there's spicy Spanish sardines with vinegar marinated white onions and hot mustard. Or corned beef with mustard and coleslaw. Basil with tomato and cheese. Grilled cheese. Tuna melt.

What's your favorite sandwich?

The Twin Rice Holders

We usually consume one kilo of rice per week. That's not a lot because we only cook rice once a day, and only for two people. So whenever we buy rice, usually around payday (every two weeks) we buy two kilos.

We're also long grain, white rice lovers. We tried doing a brown rice stint once, but decided that it's not enough to float our boat. We usually get the best rice variety the supermarket has (since we buy two kilos lang naman, not very pricey even if the per kilo price is higher than normal). So sometimes we get Premium Jasponica rice or sometimes Premium Jasmine. Most common is Organic Ifugao rice since we most commonly get our groceries from a neighborhood Ever Gotesco.

A couple of weeks ago, we cooked more rice than the usual and ended up with just half the container with around a week to go til the next big grocery day. I went to buy one kilo of what is labelled "Premium Jasmine" in Trinoma's Palabigasan. It was I think around Php60. When I went home, I noticed that the leftover Organic Ifugao (at Php50/kilo) was exactly the same as the Premium Jasmine I bought. I felt robbed.

We should have a grading system. We should have clear boundaries as to what is Jasmine, Premium Jasmine, etc. We should NOT have overlapping names for rice and Trinoma Palabigasan, YOU SHOULD NOT OVERCHARGE!

I have a WHAT?

Gross photo alert. You have been warned.

About a month ago, I woke up with a really stabbing, bloating pain in the upper right area of my stomach. Because I was stupid, groggy and utterly in pain, I took Mefenamic acid. The next day, I had red spots all over my arms and fingers and a couple on my lips. They were itchy and burning and I thought, "what the hell did I eat this time?" I thought it was a food allergy and even if I cannot really recall eating Shiitake mushrooms (my only food allergy) the itching was so pronounced that I thought it's the same thing.

Enter Virlix. Virlix is my antihistamine of choice. Always works. By noon the spots where mellowed and as if fate was really trying to piss my off, my tooth started to hurt. Now this was the same tooth that's giving me trouble for a long time now. Dentists want to save it, but everytime they try to close it up, it begins to hurt. Like that day. So I took mefenamic acid and amoxicillin for around four days. After the very first dose, the faint red marks where my supposedly food allergies, became darker. As in dark red. I thought they were drying up. On day four, they were purple enough to scare me. I sought professional help:

The spots on my lips grew from two to four. The worse one, the one on the right side of my lower lip (even gross-er) got blistered and peeled off. Every time I smiled, laughed or even chewed, it hurt. Every time it effing stretched, it hurt. The ones on the upper lip where also starting to blister until I went to the doctor.

The doc, a dermatologist, had the most perfect skin. Sitting there with a fat, mahapdi lip and purple stains all over my arms, I felt as small as that bubble mascot in the Surf commercial after he plunged into the ground in between the men with dirty white shirts. (segue why do construction workers wear white shirts in soap commercials?)

And then she said it: "My dear, hala...that's not food allergy. Drug eruption yan." AKA Drug allergy. Allergic to mefenamic acid and/or amoxicillin. It was odd, I told her, because I took these meds before and I ended up fine. Two reasons, she said: Either the brand of meds I took (generic) had substances in them that caused me to become oversensitized or my body chemistry at the time I took those meds were configured in a such a way that the meds reacted (pretty violently) against it.

Either way, she said, I had to stop the meds. She prescribed Claricort for antihistamines and Triamcinolone ointment for the spots. The ointment is anti-inflammatory and is so goddamned effective. After the first time I used it, the mahapdi lip really mellowed and the spots lightened up. After three days, the swelling was completely gone. I can eat again! I'm still using the ointment til now though, because even though the swelling is gone the marks don't fade so quickly so I still apply it twice a day.

I went to Dr. Rizaela Nicolas. Find her in Medical City Trinoma and Medical City SM Fairview. Call them for her skeds. I have it in her prescription somewhere in my messy desk, but...

She also has other services on offer...Skin whitening and stretch marks treatments and stuff like that.

Napoli's Pizzeria

Uh, that's Allan. If you thought that was me, then you're probably more drunk than you think you are.

And if you ARE drunk, what best thing to have but tomato soup? We have been raving about Napoli's Pizzeria for the longest time but it's only now that I remember to post a couple of pictures from the joint. The best thing about Napoli is value for money. Large servings usually good for 2-3 for the usual price of one. For example, this tomato soup (which large-ish shrimps, buttered bread and sour cream) set us back Php125, but it was large enough for four small bowls or two large servings. And it's thick, creamy, warm and freshly made. None of that thin, watery nonesense other places serve. Imagine! Php125!!

And the tomato soup is really good. It's very comforting and malinamnam. It's also quite filling. I have to constantly resist the urge to douse all the other orders with the soup. Aglio Olio with tomato soup, pizza with tomato soup, coke with tomato soup. Kidding. I don't usually give this title to restaurant food, but this definitely falls under the I-can-eat-this-stuff-everyday category.

There's pizza, pasta, sandwiches and salads. But we usually just order soup and something else, because that's all we can finish, really. This is a "small" all-meat pizza. Good for the two of us. Actually, we had to get someone to bag the last 2-3 pieces because we can't eat any of it anymore. Other favorites are Aglio Olio, Puttanesca, Chef's salad and the uber yummy artichoke dip. If you want to really taste a lot of the food, come in large groups or maybe 5-6. That way you can order more and finish what you ordered!

Just as a blurb, this marching band of Nutcracker mascots were making rounds in SM North. SM North has this rather new strip of hangout places called, I think, Sky Dome? The usual display of SM's architectural taste...or lack thereof. But it's a place where you can find a spot to drink or hangout with friends.

Other than SM the Block (SM North) You can find Napoli Pizzeria in equally unappealing SM Fairview. The main branch is in Tomas Morato.

Afritada..Or is it Caldereta?

Can someone tell me what Afritada is? How different is it from Caldereta? Some meat stew made with tomato sauce, but Caldereta seems to be more associated with beef or chevon (goat meat) while Afritada is more chicken and pork. Is that the only difference?

Anyway, I love anything in tomato sauce, with tomato sauce or just tomato sauce or plain tomato. I love tomato soup (I'll feature the best tomato soup I've had so far in the next post) and tomato salads. I love it sliced for pizza topping or for braising meats. It's very versatile, and what more, it's very cheap.

And who can resist tomato with salted egg? With or without the tinapa, this combo has saved me from many nights of starvation, especially if I'm only cooking for one (Allan on the nightshift).

But let's go back to Afritada. Or Caldereta. This for me is something made only during fiestas or special occasions. I find that weird because chicken is pretty cheap and so are the other ingredients, but I guess the special-ness of the entire thing is reserved for special times only. So whenever I prepare this dish, I go all out, not only in the prep (whole block of cheese, carrot flowers) but with time. I use a slow cooker for this and cook it for 2-3 hours on low, just to allow the chicken to soften and release it's juices. By the time I serve it, the potatoes and the chicken will be tender, and the sauce thick and delicious. Never had complaints so far.


Now remember, I always cook only for one or two, so this recipe will only serve that many people. Maybe even three, if you keep the portions smaller. But you can easily double the recipe.

500g chicken (I usually use the thigh/leg part with the bone in, breast is blah tasting)
~300mL tomato sauce
1 block of cheese, grated (Some use cheez whiz, I find that gross. Just sayin')
200g baby potatoes (You can cut them in half if they're bigger than bite size. Or you can cube regular sized potatoes)
1 carrot, cut into florets (you can cube them, haha)
1-2 cups peas (As much as possible, buy them fresh and shuck them yourself. Tastes MUCH better than frozen or, dear me, canned)
the garlic-onion sautee combo
2 bay leaves
cooking oil

Let's do it!

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear on high heat for two minutes. This part gives the chicken a nice caramelized crust and also preserves the juices within.
2. In the same pan, sautee garlic and onion, add the baby potatoes and carrots. Add the tomato sauce.
3. Put chicken back in and stir until chicken is covered in tomato sauce. Add bay leaves.
4. Transfer to slow cooker, cook on low for 2-3 hours. Alternatively, you can choose not to transfer to a slow cooker and just simmer it in the pan for about 45 minutes. After half the time (1.5 hours on slow cooker, around 20 minutes in stove top) add ALL the grated cheese. The sauce will lighten in color.
5. Season to taste. You may not need to add any more salt, but that's up to you. Leave to simmer for the remaining time.

While the chicken is cooking, let's sit down and let me tell you about my slow cooker. I bought it in a Japanese surplus shop for, like, Php500 and it can cook enough for ten people. It's really a great addition to my kitchen arsenal. I love those little surplus shops. Next I'm eyeing a nice electric griddle/pan/teppanyaki plate where I can grill stuff. Only around php400 I think. And it's teflon!

So, enjoy your chicken dinner. Don't forget the rice.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Strawberries Three Ways

Who can resist strawberries? They're luscious, juicy, sweet and tart all at the same time. It lends itself perfectly to chocolate and caramel and even bacon. Haha And what about that rich, red color? Only the best from Mother Nature.

I found some strawberries in the market the other day, for just php35 per container. They were not as huge as the php600/kilo ones flown in from California found in Rustan's, but the flavor is quite powerful. I bought a couple of these and hulled them, rinsed them and took a picture. Visually appealing, if you ask me.

But flash back to three years ago, this is the only way I get my strawberry fix. I know, lame.

Bottled jam and buttered toast. Tasty, but the jam does not do the fruit justice.

I think it's best if you enjoy these things au naturel or with the best raw honey you can find. It's not expensive to buy raw honey, it only takes some patience in finding vendors.

Rich, sensual but utterly healthy!

Pasta with Spanish Sardines

There are pasta days. Days when I do not want to think of what to cook for ulam. I boil some water, add some salt and plunge my pasta in. The dressing or sauce need not be fancy. I can just sautee garlic in great olive oil, add pepper flakes and parsley, maybe some bacon and I have pasta dressing in less than 10 minutes.

This recipe is pretty simple. Just cook some pasta to al dente, and set aside. Slice some olives and a tablespoon of capers, squeeze half a lemon over it and mix it with some high grade tuna or in this case, Spanish sardines. Toss with pasta while it's still hot. Drizzle with the best olive oil you can afford. With some table wine or even just lemonade, this is a great dinner when cooking for one. Or two.

Mac and Cheese

I was stuck with a pound of Fusilli without knowing it. I was going to get some good old Swiss Miss from the pantry to fix a coupe cups of cocoa when I found the bag crammed in one of the corners of our rather overweight pantry. After cursing at myself for forgetting this colorful salad pasta for almost a year, I then decided to use it tonight for Noche Buena. I wasn't "feeling" a pasta salad, so I made mac and cheese! Or more appropriately, fusilli and cheese. Haha

Our mac and cheese adventure is quite colorful as well...just like the pasta. Actually, Allan is not a big fan of homemade mac and cheese because those blasted things in the box just taste a lot better. So one time, I told myself I'll make a mac and cheese that will rival that wretched nuclear orange variety found in the box. When I finalized my recipe, Allan said that "it's super! Not like wannabe carbonara anymore. More like cheesy doritos mac and cheese." HA! The final recipe is:


1 block of cheddar cheese, grated
1 block mozzarella cheese, grated (patience with grating. but you can slice if you want)
250 grams grana padano, grated
1 cup milk, grated (kidding)
1 tetrapack cream
250 grams bacon, cubed
Water, depends on how gooey you want the cheese sauce to be. Can use pasta water
Pepper (no salt, since the bacon and cheese are salty. But if you're a salt fiend, pile away!)
1 teaspoon secret ingredient (more on this later)
500g pasta, cooked

First, render the fat from the bacon. I like mine crispy, so I let it cook longer than the usual. Once it's rendered to your liking, lower the heat and add the milk. This will also deglaze the pan. After deglazing it, add the cheddar cheese and grana padano (adding the mozzarella now will only make this messy to handle) and stir until it partially melts. Add the cream to thin out the mix. Add the pepper and secret ingredient. Add mozarella and stir, stir, stir. Like polenta or any old porridge-like glob of liquid, it can pop and cause minor burns, so make sure you're properly clad.

You'll end up with something like this:

Good for nachos! But...

Cook your pasta and when you drain it, leave some of the water in. Add the cheese mixture and toss until the pasta is covered. Allan and I love it this way, but you can also go further and top this is EVEN MORE cheese and bake or if you're snazzy, torch the top. You're kids will love this, swear!

Ready for the secret ingredient? Drum rolls...

FAJITA SEASONING! It's a healthy mix of spices like cumin and red pepper and really livens the dish. It makes a rather flat tasting cheese dish into a yummy and malinamnam treat. McCormick has a fajita seasoning and that's quite great, but you can make your own fajita seasoning. Here's my recipe:

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 red pepper/chili (not flakes)
1/4 black pepper
1/8 garlic powder (Aji-sho is ok)
1/8 onion powder (Aji-sho, again, is ok)

You can tweak it around to your liking, but this combo is the BOMB! You can sprinkle it over fried rice for an added flavor dimension, or as marinade for steaks or fish. You can add it to mayo for a veggie dip or as seasoning for vegetables your kids don't like eating. Cheers!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pepsi Twist

Whatever happened to Pepsi Twist? I love adding lemon to my soda!

What I really wanted to share is a recipe for lemonade. It still is quite better to have it freshly made from real lemons that just to get it powdered. It's really simple too. Just squeeze 4-5 lemons (yield is around 2 liters) and make a simple syrup of 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water. Mix, add water and ice. Yum!

Ginataan Mais

One thing that differentiates my tastes to Allan's? Love for gata. I love gata. I love to add it to a plain veggie sautee or in Champorado and in this case, Ginataan Mais. This is not a big hit for Allan. But well, that only means more for me. Haha

In Zamboanga, I would make this with native white corn. It contains more starch and will definitely give a thicker soup later on. However, I cannot seem to find white corn here, so instead of using yellow corn which has lesser corn milk (which has starch) I tried creamed corn.

My recipe for Ginataan Mais: 1/2-1 cup malagkit rice, 2 cups water, 1 can creamed corn, 2 cups coconut milk and sugar. First, cook the rice with the water to make a really thick porridge. When that's done, add the coconut milk and the creamed corn. Cook this over low heat until the corn becomes really well incorporated into the rice porridge. Add sugar to taste. You wouldn't need much because the coconut milk is already sweet and so is the corn. Serve hot.

Tip: If you do find white corn, use 2-3 cups of that and you may omit the rice because it will be starchy enough. But if you want to add rice as an extender perhaps, it'll work just as well.


I fell in love after second bite. With a persimmon. I have been seeing this fruit in groceries and I've always been curious about how it tastes. I'm always in the hunt for new stuff to eat, so persimmons easily became a new target.

I came across these fruits in our recent trip to Binondo. They were all around. I think the Chinese love them because just like ponkans, they are round and orange, signifying prosperity.

A kilo of persimmons weren't very expensive, only around ~150 or so but I wasn't very sure about how they taste like so I picked out only a couple of them. I chose Fuyu and a Hachiya. The picture up top is a Fuyu. Fuyus are squat and look like small pumpkins and Hachiyas are elongated. They look like very orange chicos. I thought that they just tasted the same thing and can be eaten the same way, however, that isn't the case.

The chinese dude who was selling the persimmons raised an eyebrow at my meager buy and asked if I would like to get more. I told him that I will if I like it and he cut up a Fuyu and offered me a segment. It was sweet and very, very slightly tart. The flesh was like an apple and you could eat the skin if you like. It's also as crunchy as an apple when it's still hard, although he said that it will taste much sweeter and custardy if I eat it soft after a few days. I sort of hinted that I wanted to taste a Hachiya as well, but he said in that distinct hyperactive Chinese way: "No, no, no. Hachiya eat very very very soft only. Fuyu can eat when hard or soft, but Hachiya only good soft."

So yeah, okay. I bought half a kilo of Fuyus and another of Hachiyas. I decided to put the still hard (and therefore unripe) Hachiyas in a paper bag and stored them in a cupboard, like the man said. But I enjoyed the Fuyus right away. There were a couple left and they got softer after two-three days. Indeed the flesh tasted sweeter, creamier and much richer. It's like a very fruity and very light pumpkin. When the Fuyus were hard, I ate even the skin but I prefer the Fuyus peeled when they were already soft.

A word of advice, wait for the Hachiyas to soften. Remember, very, very, VERY soft. Case in point, I tried a Hachiya when it was as soft as a ponkan (still not soft enough) and upon biting into it, I felt like I drank 20 cups of uber strong Lipton tea without sugar. If you end up being impatient like me, your persimmon experience will not be memorable in the way it should be. So WAIT. The other Hachiyas that ripened (as in cottony soft) and, voila! Persimmon heaven.

To eat, you can just cut them up, or you can take the top stem off and eat the insides. You'll love it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Even Cacti have Feelings

This still is a blog, and a blog about the things that are happening in my life right now. I am trying to do some stretching in the cooking department. The women in my life, mother, aunts and grandmother are all great cooks and we sort of pride ourselves of being such great people in the kitchen. We, of course, really means just THEM, for I am not only a rather boring person in the kitchen, I also do not have a FULL kitchen to work in. I am that person who watches all the cooking shows in the world, but never really had the chops to get out that mixing bowl and whip up some muffins.

But lately things are starting to change and I am learning to do things my own way, much dependent on the kitchen memories I have had with my mother and grandmother. I have not yet quite mastered what seems to be a no-brainer dish called adobo. I shudder at the fact that the ones sold in jollijeeps taste better than the ones I have stressed over. But there are other things I am pretty good at, and I am proud of that, some of which are chronicled here in my blog, just so I can remember them. If you ever get the feeling of wanting to try any of my dishes, try at your own risk. :)

Everything, however, is not as simple as it all looks. For one, it's really hard to live (and therefore eat) with someone so different. There are days when he'd just jab me with what feels like a knife when he'll say:"Why can't we just buy food outside instead" while I am sauteing what is the beginnings of a wonderful caldereta, my recipe for which calls for a half block of cheese. It hurts maybe because my answer for it will be because I am trying to be a good partner, here, dude, instead of a dingy roommate who wouldn't care if you ate ramen until your hair turns into noodles. Essentially, it hurts because I am not appreciated. It's kinda hard for me to balance home AND work while trying to be a superstar in both, so when I do try (even if I may be trying too hard) a little smile, a thank you or even silence (!) will do my self esteem some good. Don't you think?

I feel weird just about now.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ayala Triangle Park Light Show

Ayala made this wonderful park in the Ayala Triangle. It's clean, fresh and simply beautiful. That's one thing I love about the Ayalas - they care about the environment and are not always about the money. The park barely makes income, and eats up a rather huge chunk of change because Ayalas have music piping there almost the whole day, aside from the fact that this land area can be enough for another profit-gaining building/establishment. There is definitely more to be gained in building another structure there instead a park, but they wanted a little pocket of green to beautify the area even more. I love it.

For the Christmas season, they wrapped the trees with thousands on LED lights and they have light shows every night, from Monday to Friday, every 30 minutes from 6:30pm to 7:30 pm. Here's what Allan took from the very first light show. I have a much better video (hehe) but I cannot seem to convert it. So anyway, this will give you an idea of how fab the light shows are.

Libreng Sakay

Makati is the first city to have electronic jeeps (ejeeps). And I am very happy with the effort that the city is making in terms of being more eco-friendly. These ejeeps are 100% emission free and are pleasant to ride on. They make this cute iiiiiiiiiiing sound of a small engine that I find terribly funny. The best part is, as of right now, rides on these ejeeps, whenever you can catch them, is absolutely free. There aren't many of them, and you may have to wait a little longer before one comes along, but if you're not rushing, it's a great option. They're open for franchise so I'm assuming that franchised ejeeps will charge passengerss fare.

One more thing I like about ejeeps? They are driven my Makati police. Therefore, you don't have to worry about safety. For the two times that I have been on one of these ejeeps, the service is courteous and the driving easy. If you ever get the chance to ride on one of these, go do it!


I once watched this documentary on chocolate--how it's made and what makes one variety different from the rest. Now, I do not want to say that I am a cocoa connoisseur but if there's one thing I learned from that documentary, is that no one can say your mouth is wrong. Even the finest chocolate will not taste good to you and that does not mean that you are cheap. It's like telling a red-green colorblind person that something is orange and not yellow (which is what he most probably can see, since he can't distinguish red).

So for me, I like my chocolate dark. Uber-dark, for that matter. So when Allan presented me with this bar, I knew that I would love it (aside from the fact that he rarely ever buys me anything, the mere effort of getting something for me is mind-boggling). It's Ecuador chocolate that contains 70% cocoa. It's dark, sensual and bittersweet. When you bite into it, it does not have a metallic taste or a too sweet note. It tastes like pure chocolate, decadent yet simple.

I didn't bother sharing this bar with Allan, except when he yanks a piece right out of my hand. I don't know if this bar is expensive, but if it is, it was truly worth it.

Bacon Wrapped Things

Who doesn't love bacon? I wrap bacon with anything and so far I have not been disappointed. I wrapped bacon with asparagus and hotdog for a nice, calorific dinner the other night and it worked so well. I fried these dogs, but if you have an oven, even just a small toaster oven, you can pop these in for about 10 minutes. The fat from the bacon will render better and the hotdog is cooked better, too.

Buying a bacon wrapped hotdog from a hotdog stand will cost around Php50-60. This is much more cost effective because buying 500g of jumbo hotdog is around Php125 and 200g bacon is about Php100 and that yields eight hotdogs and some bacon leftover for wrapping veggies. That costs HALF than the ones sold in hotdog booths in malls.

Beef with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Many mothers complain about picky eaters, and even if I do not have kids, I've had my share of stuff-it-down-the-throat moments that mainly feature vegetables. My picky eater is my partner, Allan.

So I try to avoid stress as much as I can. Instead of forcing him to eat more vegetables, I feed him more of the vegetables that he DOES eat. Since he likes asparagus and mushrooms, I try to add it as much as possible in our food. This dish is so simple, but is packed with flavor..."ta hila gat kanun" would be my mother's term for it.

First, cut the tender tips of the asparagus and slice the mushrooms. Sautee garlic and onions until fragrant, then add ground beef or beef strips in a little olive oil until the pink is gone. Add the vegetables and season with oyster sauce and pepper. Add salt only if you think that it's not salty enought. Stir around and simmer til the asparagus softens. Serve hot with rice. Yum!

Embuelto/Tuna Cabbage Wraps

Embuelto for me is grandmother food. It's something my grandmother would slave over and it looks really good and also tastes fantastic. She only makes this for special occasions and she's pretty OC about taking the hard parts of the cabbage, positioning the wraps just so it'll absorb the most tomato sauce as possible. Today I made embuelto for dinner, only I made it with tuna. I got inspired after seeing this version in a local cooking show. Allan also requested for this, so...

First,(and the most excruciating part for me) you have to prepare the cabbage. Cut the cabbage from the core so you get the entire leaf intact. Get only the biggest leaves and for the inner ones, take off the entire rib and make it the second layer of the cabbage wrap. Make sure that for the big leaves, you have to peel and thin out the heavy ribs, like peeling the hard part of a broccoli. Tedious work. next you dice a carrot and a couple of potatoes. Soak those in water.

Drain a couple of cans of tuna. For one medium head of cabbage, two cans is enough. If you're using more than a pound of cabbage, maybe you can use one can more.

Next step is to blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water and wilt them. Just wilt the leaves and DO NOT make it mushy. After a few seconds in the boiling water, take the leaves out and plunge in ice water to stop the cooking process. After that, sautee the carrots and potatoes then add the tuna. Season with salt and pepper.

After that, take the mix out of the pan and start stuffing the cabbage. One or one and a half tablespoons would be enough per wrap. Seal with a toothpick, or if you're old-school, use twine. Set aside.

After making the wraps, the next step is to make the sauce. Sautee garlic and onions and if you have any leftover stuffing, add that with some tomato sauce, bay leaves and salt and pepper.

Then, after boiling it once, take about a half cup of sauce and set it aside. You'll need it to cover the wraps in a little bit.

Put the wraps back in and cover with the sauce. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve! It'll work with rice and even better, with some good al dente pasta. This recipe will serve 3-4.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Haleya is very homey for me. It's something I associate to lazy sundays. So I made a small jar of it. It's the easiest thing to do. Just put coconut milk, cream and brown sugar together and stir until it thickens. That's it!

It pairs exceptionally well with boiled unripe saba bananas or with suman ibus. There is something wrong with this batch though. I used canned coconut milk and cream and the end result, while completely edible, is not very smooth and sort of jelly-like in consistency. My theory is that the gum and agar stabilizers used as preservatives to maintain the body of the coconut milk/cream is to blame. Next time, I should use freshly squeezed milk.