Jan 29, 2006

Gulaman Candles

Ok, so this isn't really a Kitchen Conjugation in the sense that it is not a recipe nor a restaurant review, nevertheless, it's still something I cooked up in my kitchen as well an idea you might like or find useful. This post appeared originally in my other blog, http://www.annethology.i.ph, in October 2005.

I made Gulaman Candles for Mike's birthday party last month. Candles, because I wanted something 1) functional (we had the party at our equipment yard; I could use additional lighting) and 2) 'neutral' (it's a guy's party, there'd be drinking and singing, flower centerpieces are out of the question! ;)

I wanted unique and colorful candle centerpieces, and I initially thought of immersing votives in colored water. A stroke of inspiration came from the want to have as many colors in my jars and the need for something to make the candles spill-proof, easy to make and cheap.

Gulaman (Agar) was the answer! Six jars of gulaman candles cost me about P60.00 (P26.75 for 6 votives, P20.00 for 2 packs of Mr. Gulaman, the rest for water and gas)! The jars are technically cost-less, mostly from the growing stash of reusables in my kitchen, and some given by friends and neighbors who were curious to see how my latest project would turn out. :)

The candles turned out well, as you can see (at left and above), and I managed to make 15 jars for the party.

Jan 24, 2006

Mongolian Barbecue

My cooking style is eclectic. But basically, it's that I want the most flavor, in the shortest possible time, after the easiest of steps, and of the least possible cost. That's not to say, however, that I settle for less. (You get creative and innovative when there's plenty of constraints... and I like challenges. :P )

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite stir-fries. It's a favorite because it's flavorful, has a lot of vegetables (a great way to sneak in some health!), the ingredients you can prepare ahead
and the dish you can whip up at the last minute.


  • 250g. beef sirloin, stroganoff or sukiyaki cut, sliced further into 1'' strips
  • 250g. takoyaki cut octopus*
  • 250g. carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 250gg. baguio beans, julienned
  • 4 stalks leeks, sliced diagonally into 1/2" strips
  • 1 med. red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 med. jalapeno pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 med. cabbage, washed and sliced into strips
  • 250g. mongo sprouts, washed and cleaned
  • 5-6 pcs. dried mushrooms (chinese or woodear), soaked in hot water and sliced into strips -- optional
  • 1 scallion (red onion), sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb ginger, sliced thinly (optional)
  • 3 T Oyster Sauce
  • 1 T Hoisin Sauce
  • 2-3 T brown sugar (optional)
  • a dash or two of sesame oil

In a pan or wok, pour 3 tablespoons of cooking oil over high heat. Saute garlic, onions and ginger (if using) for a minute, then add meats. Stir fry for three minutes.

Add the seafood, stir frying for one minute. Add in all the vegetables, starting with the hard ones (carrots and beans), followed by the leafy ones. Stir fry for one and a half-minutes more. Pour in the seasonings/sauces, and stir fry to coat for 30 seconds to a minute.

That's it! You're done. Serve hot and merry. :)


PS1: You may add rice, sotanghon or chapchae after adding the vegetables, as extenders. For more spice, add in a dash of hot sauce.

PS2: By all means substitute chicken, fish or squid for the meats, if you like. :)

PS uli: I'm proud of the shot of the finished product (that's up there, in the red bowl), which I took using my Sony Ericsson S700i, a humble 1.3 megapixel cam. (Nice, di ba?) At that time while I've already acquired a higher-resolution cam, I have not found the time to master the features, so I stuck to what's familiar.

Jan 1, 2006

Holiday Heft

Here's what NOT to do if you're trying to lose weight:

#1 : Cousin-Bonding over Merienda y Cena

On the 30th, my cousins drove from Quezon City, Makati and Merville and declared a post-Christmas assault (",). My ever-reliable-when-it-comes-to-time cousin, Michelle, said they'd come after lunch, so I made merienda. But they arrived at 6 pm, so merienda became dinner.

We had Penne with Mexican-Bolognese sauce (that's just my fancy term for meat sauce laced with taco flavoring, hehehe), Mike's Turbo Chicken, and Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches. (Check out the recipe under my post of the same title.)

For dessert (and later, coffee) we had Banana Nut Bread and Vanilla Cream Cake, both from PriceSmart. [Yup, I do let up once in a while. ;)] Both are very good, I swear. :) And so reasonably priced, too! (In fact, we bought 15 more of the Vanilla Cream cake and gave them out as a New Year's Eve gift to our staff.)

To burn off calories we had a videoke showdown after dinner. I had to open the floor a la J. Lo, singing Let's Get Loud, with the kids as back-up dancers. Later I graduated from AIM (Ayaw Ipasa ang Mic), and passed on the singing to Michelle, who sang The Corrs' Runaway; Ate Leslie, who after much prodding, finally sang "Don't Give Up On Us." The gents had their turn too. Mike sang two Engelberts, Robinson sang a Tears for Fears ditty, while Jeff did a Santana number, Smooth.

The certified Videoke Queen of the night was my cousin, Iris, (a.k.a. Ice) lead vocalist for the band Advent Call, for her rendition of "Through The Fire," and "Tell Me Where It Hurts."

#2: Welcome the New Year with a Full Plate

Observing family tradition, the dining table had to be full and laden with food. Mom says it's for abundance. I should have guessed I was setting myself up for failure. (Whoever dieted during the holidays and actually succeeded?)

Anyway, the table had our New Year's Eve staples : Pork Barbecue and pancit, which I varied this year to Seafood Pancit (with Smoked Octopus, yum!). To compensate for the cholesterol intake of the night before, I made some Tacos. (As if!) Then for the kids who wouldn't sit and eat, Cheese Sticks and Lumpiang Shanghai. We also had some Lechon (home-cooked and given to us, all 3kgs., by one of our mechanics, Tata Raul), and of course, another showing of Banana Bread and Vanilla Cream Cake. :)

#3: Go Fishing on New Year's Day

Waking late for staying up late the night before, we spent New Year's Day just lounging around (and cleaning up, and recycling the L'Os of the night before) and getting more sleep.

In the afternoon, we decided to get a change of scenery and drove off to Roxas Boulevard. Fishing rods in tow, my boys went down to the breakwater, while I enjoyed and took pictures of the sunset. Fishing rods in tow half an hour later (and no fish, they must have gone on a holiday too), we hauled our hungry stomachs back to the car and planned on going to Dencio's for dinner. But the traffic jam by Star City foiled our plans.

We ended up at the area at the back of HK Sun Plaza, where we discovered a seafood market and paluto restaurants. (And hurray! There's plenty of parking space!)
We were glad to find a branch of our Dampa suki Julie's, yet the other restaurants (Trinity, Josefina's, Balanghay, Lola Ina's) looked inviting as well. (Mike and I decided to try them out later.)

At Julie's we hauled our pinamalengke and waited as they were cooked. As usual, we took pictures of ourselves while we waited. :)

When the food--Halaan Soup, Lato (Seaweed) Salad, Chili Butter Prawns and Spicy Oyster Crabs arrived, I barely mustered the zeal to take pictures. Gutom na e. Galit-galit na! :)

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

Before I married Mike I hardly treaded on vegetable territory. Wala lang, my mom just never forced us to eat vegetables.

Midway through this 10-year marriage though I found myself wanting vegetables. The first time I cooked Mike some Beef with Ampalaya, Mike exclaimed, "Himala! Uso pa pala ang himala!" His surprise is mainly due to the fact that it was I who bought the vegetables; and that I cooked them and ate them without being told. Since then I've been initiated into this acquired taste. :)

One time on a date with my 'sis' Claire, we ate at Figaro, and looking for a sandwich to balance the meaty Carbonara we were having, I saw Grilled Eggplant sandwich on the menu, and decided to give it a try. It has been my favorite since.

As you know I always try to replicate my favorite eat-out items. I served Grilled Eggplant sandwich (to complement the Penne with Mexican-Bolognese sauce) when my cousins came to visit two days ago. Here's my recipe. :)


1 large or 2 medium eggplants, washed and sliced thinly, into 3" lengths
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t iodized salt
1/2 t finely ground black pepper
1 med. red bell pepper
1 med. lettuce, shredded (salad style)
2 salad tomatoes, sliced into rings
1 med. cucumber, sliced into rings
1 med. onion, sliced into rings
cheddar cheese, sliced
1 loaf oat malt paton (or foccacia, or whichever bread you prefer)

Marinate eggplant slices in olive oil, salt and pepper for at least 30 minutes. While waiting, slice bread lengthwise and then into individual slices, crosswise. Set aside. (Better to cover with cling wrap to prevent hardening.)

Grill eggplant slices and bell pepper on stovetop or charcoal grill for about 15 secs. each side.
While waiting for the rest of the eggplant slices to cook, slice the red bell pepper into thin strips.

Afterwards, assemble sandwiches: spread some mayonnaise on the bottom half of the bread, put about two or three shreds of lettuce, top with a slice of cucumber, tomato and onion and about 2 strips of bell pepper. Top with 2-3 slices of grilled eggplant (depending on the width of your bread) and a slice of cheddar cheese. Squirt a little mustard, another slice of lettuce (if desired.. you can't have too much greens!) then the other half of the bread. Pierce with cocktail toothpick to keep them together.

Makes about 15 mini (2" x 3") sandwiches. Enjoy! :)