Mar 26, 2006

Ginger Snaps

Fibisco Ginger Snaps. My all-time favorite. The day we first met in the UP Coop, Ginger Snaps cost me P18.00. From thence it has become a staple feature of my study table (well, next to the study lamp, of course) and has seen action in many dorm night studying and chattering. :)

After that love affair in college, Ginger Snaps and I went our separate ways. We did see each other in the snack aisle from time to time, but my kids wanted Oreo and Chips Ahoy and so I passed up many occasions to reconnect.

Then I noticed Ginger Snaps went 'missing' from supermarkets for a long while, and found myself actually wishing we could see each other again. So then imagine my delight when, on a chance drop-in in a hospital cafeteria (to buy a bottle of water) there it was, sitting on the shelf and gloriously calling my name. I lost no time and shelled out P40.00, almost ripped the wrapper open and took one golden brown cookie. :)

Why do I like it?

This, according to the package:

Dip it, dunk it or simply bite into it. Fibisco Ginger Snaps will surely make tea time, milk time or coffee breaks something to look forward to. Discover many ways of enjoying this classic biscuit made from an interesting blend of flavorful ingredients -- enriched wheat flour, syrup, oil of lemon, refined cane sugar and of course, ground ginger! For the gourmet in you -- Fibisco Ginger Snaps.

Plus this, according to me:

It's not as sweet (and I presume, not as fattening) as chocolate chip cookies; not as predictable as butter cookies; and definitely not as soft and crumbly as oatmeal raisin. In other words, it's in a class all its own. :)

One weekend I excitedly brought it home to share with mom as we watched TV. She took one cookie and attempted to take a bite, but the cookie 'fought back,' and she said, "Kaya pala Ginger Snaps ang tawag diyan...magsa-snap ang ipin mo sa tigas!"

Hehehe. It really would help if you soften the cookie first by dunking it in coffee, tea or juice. Back then I enjoyed it always with a glass of Tang.

Or you can nibble on the edges and let the delightful interplay of flavors from the cookie play with the tip of your tongue as the cookie slowly softens and deliciously yields to your bite. :)

Mar 25, 2006

Yasai Itame

Forgive my predilection for using octopus in my recipes. That's but a reaction to my husband's predilection for buying them. :) In my freezer are trays of baby octopus (like the ones used here), boiled octopus, smoked octopus, and even large octopus balls, which he buys from the Cold Storage section of Shopwise.

Well, if you're wondering, the taste and texture of octopi is just like that of the more commonly accepted squid. And since it's lower-priced (P95.00 per kilo compared to P120.00 per kilo for squid), the octopus may have well been substituting for squid in the squid balls that you eat. And if you've eaten Takoyaki balls, then you have eaten octopus. Tako is the japanese term for octopus.

Now here's a recipe making use of my frozen stash of octopi, a dish I never fail to have when we eat at Ramen Tei or Teriyaki Boy. The Yasai Itame in both restaurants use squid by the way. :)
The real recipe calls for cabbage, but since I have Kailan I decided to use it (in the process made the dish more colorful and photogenic). The recipe also commonly uses pork, but in deference to my Lower Mike's Cholesterol project, I've done away with that. :)

Yasai Itame with Baby Octopus

What's in it?

100g baby octopus (cleaned, heads sliced open, tentacles separated from head)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Sake (rice wine)
1 big carrot (thinly sliced)
1 big onion (thinly sliced)
10 stalks/leaves Kailan or ½ small cabbage (sliced)
250g bean sprouts
1-2 green peppers (sliced)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. fresh ginger (grated)
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Kitchen Conjugations:

Marinate the octopus in 1 tbsp. soy sauce and Sake. Heat oil in a pan and stir-fry ginger for 3 minutes on high heat. Add marinated octopus, stir fry for 30 seconds, then add vegetables according to how long they take to cook: first the carrots, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts, peppers last. When the vegetables are half-cooked (crisp tender; sweating a little), add in the marinade, and season with pepper and salt.

Mar 18, 2006

"Hurray It's Summer!" Kebabs

It's summer! Woo-hoo!!

Pretty soon, when school's off, it's time for road trips, hikes, beaches and....barbecues! Yey!!
(And oh yes...time for my garage sale, too!)

To officially herald the start of summer I decided to have a barbecue for lunch. For a more festive touch I made Kebabs, using the chicken breasts I marinated originally for Turbo Chicken. On a whim I threw in some Chorizo de Cebu that's been lingering in my freezer. :)

Here's to a great summer. Hope you get things smoking one weekend! :)


What's in It?

1 kg. chicken breast fillets, cut into bite-size cubes
1 pack McCormick Zesty Garlic chicken marinade*
1 med. cucumber, cubed
2 med. bell peppers, cubed
1 large onion, cubed
1 med. can pineapple tidbits
1 small can cut young corn
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon Knorr seasoning (or soy sauce if unavailable)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Marinate chicken in the zesty garlic marinade for at least 20 minutes, following package instructions. (For best results, marinate overnight in the refrigerator.)

Thread chicken cuts onto the skewer alternately with the vegetables and pineapple. (While doing this, have someone start the grill already.) Make sure to save about 1/2 cup of the pineapple juice/syrup.

Combine pineapple juice/syrup, cooking oil and Knorr seasoning.

Grill kebabs on hot grill, turning frequently to avoid scorching (grill about one minute each side), brushing lightly with the pineapple juice-oil mixture. Since chicken cooks quickly and it's best to leave it juicy, keep cooking to about 5 minutes only.

Serve with hot steaming rice. Masarap ya-an! :)


Kebab is a Turkish term which means "grilled meat," but non-Turkish cooks (like myself) have since turned kebab into a "grilled anything" dish, which means that apart from chicken, you can use firm-bodied fish (like tanigue, tuna, labahita) pork, shrimps or tender beef slices. And as I did, you can also kebab-ize whatever's in your freezer. The Chorizo de Cebu didn't need any marinating by the way. :)

If you want a marinade from scratch, combine pineapple juice (from the tidbits), 2 T sugar, a pinch of black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cloves garlic crushed and minced, and use this instead of the McCormick marinade. (As I said, I've pre-marinated the chicken, for something else.) Then, after you've skewered the meat, combine this marinade with the cooking oil and use it for brushing.

Mar 16, 2006

Sneaky Mom's Nuggets

I'm a sneaky mom.

Whenever I can, I sneak health into my kids' meals. I add chopped carrots into spaghetti meat sauce; I put minced banana blossoms into burger patties (oh yes!) and there are disguised chopped greens when I make meatballs. I do many other things besides that, in the pursuit of healthy eating.

This recipe is another sneaky tactic.

Gambel doesn't like fish; he likes chicken. And horrors, he doesn't eat the flesh, preferring the crispylicious skin. (He won't eat chicken cooked any other way than fried. If I serve tinola, he'd just have the broth.)

One time at McDonald's though, he got curious about the Chicken Nuggets I was eating and snagged one bite. To my surprise, he liked it and ate the rest of my meal. he would eat chicken meat that way pala. Ting! (Idea bulb flash!)

So for dinner one time I decided to make nuggets, and decided to push my luck further by using Tanigue (Spanish Mackerel) slices (which I later deboned and cut into nuggets). To aid the disguise, I served gravy on the side.

I know the guise worked when both my boys ran down the stairs excitedly saying, "I smell chicken!" and ate with gusto. The guise was perfect until JAM discovered a fragment of fishbone in one of his nuggets and declared, "Ay, mommy alam ko na ito..." I had to flash him a meaningful glare so as not to reveal my sneaky secret to Gambel...

Anyhow, we've had Sneaky Nuggets for three or so times more since then, with Gambel still having no clue of this fishy deal.


What's in it:

1 kg fish fillets (Tanigue, Blue Marlin or Lapu-Lapu), cut into nuggets
2 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
2 packs McCormick Fish Nuggets breading mix
cooking oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)

Kitchen Conjugations:

1. Heat cooking oil in a deep pan.
2. Dip the fish nuggets in the beaten egg mixture, then coat evenly with the breading mix.
3. Fry in hot oil for 3 minutes, or until the coating turns golden brown. (Do not overcook, as the fish will lose all juice and harden.)
4. Serve with Mang Tomas gravy, tomato catsup or sweet chili sauce.

Mar 14, 2006

Arranque Adventure a.k.a. Something Fishy

I like going to Arranque Market (in Sta. Cruz, Manila), and we go there every Sunday when we can. I enjoy each trip because, as Bryant puts it, "It's like being in a Hong Kong Wet Market--only that you understand what people are saying!" :P

It's like being in a Hong Kong market because Arranque is a treasure trove of chinese vegetables, fresh fruits, herbs and spices and the fish varieties one doesn't find in town markets. Finding so many food items gets me excited with the kitchen possibilities. :P

Last Sunday, as usual, I bought a week's menu -- I bought Polonchay, watercress, spinach and Kai-Lan or Gai-Lan (Chinese Broccoli) and Wan Soy (Coriander). I also bought some tofu, tokwa, tausi and ngo-hiong (Five Spice) and chinese Fish Balls for Tom Yum or Fish Ball Soup, whichever I later fancy.

And as usual, we bought some 3 kilos of sweet, juicy, creamy caimito (star apple), my summer favorite.

Something Fishy

From the fish section we bought Espada, Dapa, some giant squid and a kilo of Halaan (Clams). As we waited while the fish was cleaned and sliced, I asked aloud "Ano sa English 'yung Espada? Swordfish?"

Mike answered, "Hindi. 'Yung Swordfish, matulis at mahaba ang nguso." (I was a fish ignoramus before I met Mike, familiar only with Bangus, Tilapia, Hasa-hasa, Salay-salay, Dalagang Bukid and the lowly galunggong. It was Mike who acquainted me with the bigger varieties-- Lapu-Lapu, Labahita, Talakitok, Tanigue... so on. So I had to take his word for the Swordfish thing.)

Yet his fish familiarity aside, we were at a loss for a translation for Espada and Dapa. Writing this blog I was tempted to say "we bought Quasi-Swordfish and some Get-Down." Tee-hee-hee. :P

Uncomfortable as I am with ignorance, I researched and found that Dapa is actually the local term for all fishes that are flat, but that there are 7 families of flatfishes, with over 540 separate species. (More info: Market Manila.) I learned later that what we bought is known in English as Indian Halibut.

Then as it turns out, Mike is right about the difference between Swordfish and Espada. Espada in English is Cutlass Fish (the silvery variety) and Black Scabbard (the black variety, predominant in Madeira islands, wherever that is... ) For our education I'm posting both pics -- the Swordfish at left, and the Cutlass, at right. :)

Anyhow, I made Halaan Soup for lunch (shellfish is best cooked fresh), and we had the Dapa/Halibut for dinner. Recipes follow. :)

Steamed Halibut with Tausi, Tofu and Kai-Lan

First, the tips and notes.

This dish is composed of 3 steps -- steaming the fish, making the sauce, and blanching the Kai-Lan leaves. To simplify, you could opt to cook this dish while you cook rice, as I did. I piled up the Kai-Lan in the rice pot as the rice was on its final stage of steaming. That way, the vitamins from the Kai-Lan steeped onto the cooking rice, I cut one step and saved on LPG. :)

You could also opt to deep fry the fish instead of steaming it, but steaming is the healthier option. :) Also, as I did in this recipe, you can use some of the water in the steamer pot (which has the fish drippings collected from steaming) for the sauce. This way, you still get the important Omega 3 and fish oil in, and not waste water! :)

Steaming will take about 10-15 minutes. You can use that time for slicing and preparing the sauce ingredients.

I used olive oil for sauteing, but that's because I am watching our cholesterol levels. If palm oil is what you have in the house, by all means use it!

And now, the recipe.

What's in it?

1 Indian Halibut (Dapa), about 1.5 kgs., cleaned and sliced
4 cups tap water
3 tablespoons olive oil, or canola oil
1 thumb ginger, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, sliced into small cubes
1 small green bell pepper, sliced into small cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons tausi (salted black beans)
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 block tofu, sliced into cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
spring onions cut into 1/2" lengths for garnish
half a bundle of Kai-Lan, washed and separated into individual stalks

Kitchen Conjugations:

Boil water in a steamer pot (or a wok). Brush fish slices with a little oil then arrange them on the steaming plates (or grill, if using a wok). Cover and steam for 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, blanch kai-lan leaves (by arranging them in a bowl and pouring boiling water on them; or follow my suggestion above). Do not overcook; they should still be a little crunchy and green. Remove from heat and arrange on serving platter. Set aside.

Prep-up sauce ingredients. [If you're done with that, go watch TV or something. :)]

If fish is cooked, remove steaming pot from heat, and carefully transfer the fish slices from the steamer plates onto the bed of Kai-Lan leaves.

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute ginger, onions and garlic for one minute. Add tausi, sugar and the bell pepper cubes and stir fry for 30-45 seconds. Add in tofu, stir fry for half a minute, then add 2 to 3 cups of fish stock (from the steam pot) or water. Simmer for about a minute, then check seasonings. (If mixture has become too salty, add a teaspoon of vinegar and let simmer for 20 seconds more.) Add in cornstarch mixture and continue simmering and stirring until sauce thickens.

Pour sauce over fish slices and garnish with spring onions. Enjoy with steamed rice or batard (if you've given up eating rice) or wheat bread. And some White. Hehehe. :P

Mar 8, 2006


CALDERETA is Mike's favorite dish. And it's become even more so after he's tasted my version, he said. :)

Anyway, wanting to free up space in the freezer (the block of beef ribs measured about 8" x 12" x 6") and since we haven't been eating meat for a while (Mike has been very supportive of my diet), I decided to make Caldereta. (This was about a month ago.)

The secret to great-tasting, tender beef, which cannot be substituted, sorry -- is slow cooking. So as we planned to go attend an auction for a few hours I let the beef ribs stew in a pot, told the maid to watch it and replenish the stock from time to time, and to turn the stove off when the beef becomes tender. (Siempre may explanation pa ng what I think and what she should think as tender.) Then we left for the auction.

When we got home at 6 pm that's when I peeled and quartered potatoes and carrots and prepared the rest of the ingredients (bell peppers, scallions, liver spread, ground peanuts, siling labuyo, tomato paste, green peas, grated cheese and my special secret orasyon...hehehe).
Dinner's at 7, and while there was a huge grin of excitement and anticipation on Mike's face, the kids were saying, "Mommy, puede cheesedog sa 'kin? (JAM)" and "Mommy, gusto ko sabaw. (Gambel)"

Mike broke in, "No, kumain naman kayo ng iba. Try n'yo itong Caldereta ni Mommy. Promise makakalimutan n'yo'ng pangalan n'yo pag natikman n'yo 'to."

Gambel said, "Daddy, ayaw kong makalimutan ang pangalan ko." And Jam said, "Spicy 'ata, daddy." To which Mike simply said, "Sige na, kumain na lang kayo."

So, tentatively at first, the boys doused their rice with some sauce from the Caldereta.

Later though, I was seeing repeated thumbs-up signs from Jam. And from Gambel, between mouthfuls: "Congratulations, Mommy," and "Nice taste, mommy. You're the best mommy ever, ever in the world." and "I love you, Mommy!"

To which Mike said, "O, ano, bayad ka na?"

Ah, I love cooking. But better than that, I love cooking for my family. :)

Here's the recipe for when you wanna try it out:


1 1/2 kilo beef short ribs, chopped to individual slices
2 T garlic, minced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 foil pack Del Monte tomato paste
5 T ground peanuts or 5 T chunky peanut butter
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
2 cans Purefoods liver spread
1 red and 1 green small-sized bell peppers, sliced and seeded
2 medium-size potatoes, peeled and quartered (or cubed)
1 medium-size carrot, cubed
2 T soy sauce
3 pcs chili pepper (siling labuyo)
1/2 c sweet pickle chips
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c cooking oil

Wash beef ribs and season with about 1 teaspoon of salt, set aside. Heat cooking oil in a frying pan, then stir-fry potatoes and carrots for a minute or until they are half-cooked. Remove vegetables, then saute garlic, scallions and bell peppers for about a minute. Add-in the ribs and fry each side for about one minute, or until both sides are brown.

Remove beef ribs and garlic-onion from the pan and transfer onto a stock pot or pressure cooker. Add water to cover, about 5 to 6 cups. Boil over high heat for 5 minutes, then simmer for 30 to 45 mins or until the beef is almost tender. (Cooking time is less in a pressure cooker; count about 10 mins from the time the hissing starts. Be sure that all the pressure has been vented before opening the lid.)

When beef is ready, add in the tomato paste, liver spread and pickle chips. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add in chili pepper, potatoes, carrots and grated cheese. Continue simmering until the potatoes and carrot cubes are fork-tender.

Garnish with olives (if available) and red bell pepper slices.

Kangkong On Fire

AMONG THE MANY THINGS I do, I love COOKING the most. Some say it's the Nepomuceno, kapampangan blood in me. My lola on the other hand says mana ako sa kanya.

Cooking, actually, is my therapy, a kind of 'me, alone, on creative, production mode' time. I can spend hours in the kitchen, or cook to feed an army. Corollary to that, I love replicating dishes I tried or tasted while eating out. I like the thrill of experimentation and getting the taste right (meaning nahulaan ko, just by tasting, what the ingredients were). I am thrilled to find a better, faster or cheaper way of doing the dish. 'Babaw ko ba?! O kina-career lahat ng bagay? :P

I've actually worked-out a lighter on the pocket version of Carbonara (sorry, can't share the recipe, secret... hehehe) and I'm close to perfecting my version of the Starbucks Banana Bread (the color's still a bit off...Starbucks' is dark brown, mine's still light... but I've perfected the taste and the texture).

Anyway, one dish I liked on an eat-out night, and which I replicated at home, is Kangkong On Fire, from Siam Taste in Festival Mall. It's basically a spiced up version of Kangkong with Oyster Sauce. It's very simple, I'm sharing the recipe here in case you want a change from your usual vegetable fare and wanna try it out.

And may I add, the dish costs P95.00++ at the restaurant. You're spending only half of that with my version. :)


3 bundles Kangkong [in English: Swamp Cabbage]
3 tablespoons Oyster Sauce [see note below for substitutes]
3 to 4 pieces siling labuyo, chopped [for us Bicolanos, the more, the merrier!]
1 small shallot (red onion), sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups tap water
Optional: 1 pork broth cube
Leftover lechon kawali, Crispy Pata or store-bought chicharon - if available
In a medium sized wok, boil the 5 cups of water. Meanwhile, wash kangkong. Cut leaves and the stalks into 3" pieces, discarding the hard, lower portion of the stem. Soak in a bowl of water to keep them green and fresh.

Slice onions, chop garlic and chili. Set aside.

Blanch cut up kangkong in the wok. (That's dip and boil for 30 seconds to a minute.) Remove the wok from the fire, take the kangkong out and lay out on serving plate. Set aside. Pour about 2 cups of the green (chlorophyll-rich), boiled water from the wok and discard the rest.

Put wok back on stove. Pour cooking oil. Saute scallions first* then garlic for about 30 seconds each. Add chopped siling labuyo. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds.

While waiting, dissolve the oyster sauce (or soy sauce-sugar-cornstarch mixture) and pork cube (if using) in the bowl of green, hot water. Add mixture to the saute. Let simmer for a minute (stirring if you used the substitutes), until the mixture thickens.

Remove from fire. Pour sauce over the kangkong. Top with Lechon Kawali or crushed chicharon if desired. Serve hot (literally and figuratively). :)

Cost: Kangkong - P15.00; Oyster Sauce - P14.00 (or Soy Sauce,Sugar, etc - P10.00); Pork Cube - P4.00; Cooking Oil, Water, Sili - P5.00; Chicharon (with plenty left over to use for Ginisang Munggo or to munch when you've got nothing to do and want to hike up your bad cholesterol levels) - P5.00

*Shallots cook longer than garlic, and garlic leaves a bitter taste in the oil if burned/left frying for too long. So saute the scallions first and add garlic when the scallions turn soft!:) BTW, onions will do, but not as well. Pero puede na din. I just like the exotic taste of shallots better. :)

Oyster sauce may be substituted with : 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 1 tablespoon brown/washed sugar + a pinch of ground pepper + 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water.