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Preview: 80 Breakfasts

80 Breakfasts

When life hands you lemons...stick them in your San Pellegrino!

Updated: 2018-03-02T23:35:29.810+08:00


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


My daughter has just told me that she does not like nuts in her cookies.My head whips around, my eyes wide and disbelieving.  What??  For one horrible split second I imagine endless days and months and years stretched before me, a long lifetime without nuts in my baked goods.  I remember the melancholy of having to bake nut-free for my brother, who didn’t like them either.  I remember the bliss of getting married, moving out, and realizing I could now bake everything stuffed to the gills with nuts, as much as my nut-loving heart wanted.  My freezer is home to at least three different kinds of nuts at a time.  At least.How could my own flesh and blood not like nuts in her chocolate chip cookies.  How??And what is she talking about?  She actually eats nuts.  Walnuts specifically (my favorite kind as well).“But you eat nuts!”, I wail pathetically.  She gives me an exasperated look.  “Yes, but I eat nuts alone.  I eat chocolate alone.  Not together.”My eyes narrow.  What kind of nit-picking is this?  Is little diva this for real?  I don’t think my eyebrow could reach the heights that statement warranted.And so the final word (for now at least): “Little C, mama likes nuts in her cookies.  We need the nuts to balance the sweetness of the chocolate and of the cookie itself.  We are making cookies with nuts.”And besides, these cookies here?  They are ultimately more awesome with nuts (walnuts specifically – my favorite).  Trust me, mama knows best.Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies(Only slightly adapted from Averie Cooks) 1 large egg1/2 cup unsalted butter1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed1/4 cup granulated sugar2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/2 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats3/4 cup all purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking sodaA pinch of salt, optional and to taste1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips1/2 cup chopped walnuts- In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment combine the egg, butter, sugars, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute or less.- Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and then add the chocolate chips and the nuts.  Beat on low for about 30 seconds, just to incorporate everything evenly.  Do not over-mix.- Using a tablespoon (Averie uses a 1/4 cup measure but I like my cookies smaller), scoop a heaping amount of dough into your hand and roll into a ball.  I like Averie’s tip of strategically placing a few chocolate chips on the top of the cookies -- that way they look nice.- Place the dough balls in a food safe container (in one layer, so use some kind of tray or plate), cover, and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days (or alternately freeze for up to 4 months).  Do not bake unchilled dough as the cookies will spread too thin.- When you are ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350F.  Line a cookie sheet with baking spray, a Silpat, or (my personal favorite) baking parchment.  Place the cookie dough on the sheet at least 2 inches apart.  Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until the edges are set and the tops are just set.  They may look a little soft in the middle but that’s fine.  Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for about 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. I love oatmeal and I love chocolate, so a joining of the two is definitely something that I’m going to try.  How happy I am that I did!  This cookie is everything that it promises to be: soft, chewy, with a nutty-hearty bite, and the lovely melting chocolate all throughout.  In the original recipe there is the option to add raisin or nuts.  I suppose you can guess what I added.  But in my defense, I think the walnuts are perfect here.  They are, as I insisted to my daughter, the perfect counterpoint to the sweet chocolate and the chewy cookie.[...]

Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp


Whew.  It’s been two absolutely hectic weeks and I feel like I’m coming out of a long and rather challenging gauntlet.  My boss was here from overseas (Yes, I have a boss! So when I say I am a worker bee I really do mean it!) and we had a series of intense meetings.  That’s not to say that all this lay heavy on my shoulders.  Intense yes, but rewarding and exciting nonetheless.  Onward troops (as I like to say)!Whatever the case though…I am feeling a bit raggedy around the edges but glad to find a spot of time to click-clack away at my keyboard and share some thoughts and a recipe with you.Before the all the meetings commenced, a couple of weeks ago, we went on a lovely holiday out of the city to a little town called Urbiztondo in San Juan, La Union.  San Juan is a surfer’s town, a seaside gem of a place with fierce waves, long sandy shores, and friendly people.  I had never thought of exploring La Union before…simply because, well, not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t surf.  And if you know me, you will know that the only kind of surfing I will ever be inclined to do is couch-surfing with a good book.  But then I saw this post from a blog-friend and I was smitten.  To get me on a surfboard would be an insurmountable task but to get me to a bougainvillea-swathed cottage by the sea?  That wouldn’t take any convincing at all.If I had been smitten by a few photos, the reality of this place enchanted me.  That white cottage right by the sea, fuchsia blooms crawling crazily up its sides.  A deck where we could dry our wet and sand-speckled swimsuits.  The airy veranda where we would laze around on white canvas covered sofas and native wood recliners while the children played in the garden, a ton of nooks and crannies to explore.  The long dining table where we had meals of grilled fish and pork belly al fresco.  The white picket fence that opened up to a wide shore and an untamed sea.  It was like another life, in another time…and perhaps it was.And that sea, that sea so different from other seashoresI had seen before (and we live on an archipelago so we have seen a lot).  Wild and careless, waves crashing, and in their wake the strong pull of current, sucking at my feet as I stood entranced before it.  It had a certain “edge of the world” feeling, so different from the mild, baby blue long shallows I was used to.  I could stand there and watch it for hours (or what seemed like hours), this seemingly untameable beast/beauty.  Something to be respected.  A surfer’s sea I suppose.  And me, not a surfer, but someone who easily falls under the spell of nature’s art.  Which this certainly was.And the people – the friendly, warm locals who were so welcoming.  We came knowing nothing and no one but soon, even in our short time there, fell into their pleasant rhythm.  Yummy meals at the colorful hostel next door, and drinks and casual music there one night.  The sweet surfing instructors who taught Little C to surf (Yes!! Definitely a proud mommy moment!).  Impromptu beers after coming in from the water.  The children making new friends almost everywhere we went.  The adorable coffee shop that we kept going back to…admittedly not just for the friendly staff or their excellent “dirty white” (espresso dripped over cold milk on ice…life changing in this heat!), but the divine indoor s’mores (a heap of chocolate and marshmallows melted and browned in the oven, serve with grahams to dip and dig into the blissfully molten mess).  The kids loved it…sitting together on makeshift stools, sticky with sugar, leftover sunblock, and sweat, thinking of nothing but the next sweet mouthful.  And me watching them, for once not letting my mind skip two or ten paces ahead, but instead thinking of nothing but the next sun-kissed moment.Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp500 grams peeled and de-veined large shrimp1 tea[...]

Caramel Croissant Pudding


Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed caramel, croissants, and rum in the morning?  Don’t we all just have days like that?  When only sugar, booze, and French boulangerie, will help?Well, if you are better able to manage your feelings, going out for a run or finding peace in your yoga class instead of calories in your pantry, then absolutely more power to you.  I wish I were that virtuous and disciplined.  But, just like the lady from where this recipe originated, when I feel up against it, it is carbs I crave.  And I have no qualms indulging myself.It’s been quite a hectic past two weeks.  Work has been a wringer, the nanny was on holidays (yes, I have a nanny…I need help to balance family, home, work, friends, and me…and I am fully not opposed to procuring this help in any way I can or can afford to!)Another thing I do when I am stressed, which is actually directly related to this dish, is watch old Nigella Lawson videos on Youtube before I go to sleep.  Don’t judge!  I know we aren’t supposed to be taking our gadgets into bed with us, and I’ve promised myself time and time again only books at bed, but when the day has been a particularly tough one, nothing sets me right like listening to her gorgeous voice talk about food and life and indulgence and not having enough time to brush her hair.  She just makes life seem beautiful in her very perfect imperfectness.  Or maybe I’m the only fool that sees that.  But fool or no, after watching her putter around and put together a meal, I close my eyes with a contented sigh, ready to face the day to come.This recipe comes from one such video.Caramel Croissant Pudding(adapted very slightly from Nigella Lawson)2-3 stale croissants (depending on the size of the croissant)100 grams sugar2 tablespoons water125 ml cream125 ml full fat milk1-2 tablespoons rum (depending on how boozy you want it to taste, 2 tablespoons will give you a good kick)2 eggs, beaten- Tear the croissants into pieces and put it in a small gratin or baking dish of about 2 cups capacity.- Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and swirl around to start dissolving.  Place this on a hob over medium high heat.  Caramelize the sugar by letting this bubble away, without stirring, until it turns a deep amber color.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.  Caramel can go from bronze to burnt in seconds so do be vigilant about watching it.- Turn the heat low and add the cream, whisking as you do, being careful of the spluttering.  Keep whisking and add the milk and rum.  Take off the heat and add a little of the caramel to your eggs whisking it in.  Add this mixture back into your saucepan, continuing to whisk.- Pour, what is now essentially a caramel custard, over your waiting croissants.  You can leave this to steep for 10 minutes if your croissants are especially stale.- Place in a pre-heated 350F over for 20 minutes and then enjoy with abandonment!The video of Nigella making this caramel croissant pudding is one of my favorites.  I’ve probably watched it a million times.  It’s perfect before bed because it is set at night…when she comes home from one totally sophisticated drinks part or other, looking as lovely as usual, dressed all in black, a bottle of Maker’s Mark in tow.  She tosses her heels and jewelry aside and sets about making her post-party supper…this pudding.  Everything about this video I love.  The way she looks beautiful and happy and confident sans skinny figure and designer ensemble.  The way she makes caramel in the late hours of the night.  The way she slugs the bourbon into the mix.  The way she takes the pudding with her to enjoy cozily in her bed.  It comes as no surprise then that I had to give it a go.  I had two stale croissants rattling around my freezer so the timing was perfect.  The only thing I changed about this recipe was using rum instead of b[...]

Lemon Butter Chicken


So many new places to eat are opening up these days.  Not just in my neighborhood (in which there are a lot of great new places to explore and turn into hangouts…yay!) but all over.  Our local dining scene has never been more vibrant.  It is truly a diners market where one has a dizzying array of choices.  There are those maverick independents whose delicious and creative offerings are the work of a brave soul armed with just his (or her!) passion and the desire to share it.  Then there is the multitude of seeds being sowed by big gutsy restaurant groups – whose fruit seems to be sprouting like wildflowers one on top of the other, both local concepts and exciting foreign franchises.  And every delicious drop in between.It’s almost magic…that little trill of electricity that goes up and down our spine when we whisper that auspicious question: “Where do we eat?”Often though, despite the glittering siren song of dazzling new dishes put together by fancy chefs and daring cooks, what we crave for is a little closer to home.  Right at home actually, to be exact.  The homely looking, the unsophisticated, the familiar tastes and comforting flavors, those dishes that look frumpy and plain and unready at all for an Instagram feed.  Those dishes, homemade dishes, lovingly put together in our favorite pot, stirred through by our worn wooden spoon, scorched in parts and frayed in others, served directly in the cooking vessel, a tattered trivet slipped under it.  The nights when we can all gather around the table, saying a grace, or having the little one say it even if we don’t understand half of what she carefully mutters.  Slippers hanging on feet.  Little C, feet off the chair please!  My plate is chipped and I’m thinking, “When will we ever get another set?”  We tuck in, ladle food out onto waiting plates.  Contented sighs. Simple joys.  Lemon Butter Chicken(Slightly adapted from Damn Delicious)8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton de La Vera)Sea salt and freshly ground pepper3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided3 cloves garlic, minced1 cup chicken broth1/2 cup heavy cream1/4 cup freshly grated ParmesanJuice of 1 lemon1 teaspoon dried thyme1 cup basil leaves- Season the chicken thighs with paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.  Set aside.- Place a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the chicken pieces in one layer, skin-side down.  Sear on both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside.- Drain excess fat from the pan then place the pan back on the heat with the remaining tablespoon of butter.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).  Stir in cream, Parmesan, lemon juice, and thyme.- Bring to a boil then reduce heat.  Cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the basil, stir until it is evenly distributed in the pan.  Add back the chicken, tucking the pieces in around the basil.- Bake the chicken in a pre-heated 400F oven for about 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.  Serve immediately. We cook some iteration of baked chicken regularly at our home.  Chicken thighs or leg quarters are a mainstay in our freezer for just that reason.  A tray of baked chicken is simple and frugal to prepare and can be dressed up or down with whatever you have right now in your pantry.  It also pretty much cooks itself – tucked away in the oven while you go about doing other important things.  Essential when you are a busy parent with two (oops, 3, the hubs counts too!) hungry mouths to feed.  Equally essential when you are single and need meals that don’t feed a battalion – baked chicken is so easy to scale down!  Here’s a single tip (from my own slightly swinging and single [...]

Garlic Mushroom Quinoa


Hi!  How have you all been doing?  Good I hope.  I’ve been under the weather this past week.  One of those nasty, unidentifiable bugs that make you feel generally lousy (runny nose, itchy throat, achy body) but not lousy enough to render you totally bedridden.  And if I’m not feeling lousy enough to be bedridden, then you know where I am…doing everything else but.  Slogging through work, going to meetings, cooking for my home (and for my blog…which incidentally is really the same sort of cooking), running errands, and then going to bed at night feeling spent and pitiful.  I wake up the next morning feeling just a measure better and think I can do it all over again.  Sigh.  Not the best of habits admittedly.  You feel lousy for a reason…your body is telling you that you need to slow down, catch a breath, and reboot for a bit.  But do I every listen to my body?Only when it tells me to go out and buy a pain au chocolat.I know…I’m hopeless.But I’ve come to accept my own special brand of hopeless hopefulness.  And it is liberating.  In my 40 years on Earth, that is the shining nugget of wisdom I can share…accept yourself, love yourself.  You are amazing.  And so is everyone else.  Let’s high five and hang out!If only we all did that a little bit more maybe we would all be in better moods…and think more of the next pain au chocolate instead of the next political move or the next bomb to drop.Or maybe I am just hopelessly naïve.  What can I say…hopeless hopefulness right?In any case, if we need a something a little more virtuous to eat, because hopeful or no perhaps it isn’t such a good idea to subsist solely on French boulangerie, here is a little something that may fit the bill.Garlic Mushroom QuinoaOlive oil300 grams mushrooms (I used Swiss brown mushrooms)4-5 cloves garlic, finely choppedSea salt and freshly cracked black pepper2 tablespoons butter2 cups cooked quinoa2 sprigs of parsley, leaves picked and chopped- Heat a couple of swirls of olive oil in a pan or skillet.  When the oil is hot add the garlic and sauté just until the fragrance hits your nose.  Do not let the garlic brown.- Add the mushrooms to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing in the garlicky oil, until they start shrinking and releasing their juices.  Sauté further until they reabsorb all their juices and are soft and cooked through. - Add the butter to the pan and toss just until the butter has melted and the mushrooms have become slick and shiny.- Add the quinoa and mix gently, cooking for a couple of minutes until the quinoa has absorbed the flavors of the mushrooms.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add the parsley, toss, and remove from the heat. As I have said many times before, I do not eat anything solely for its nutritional benefits.  If I eat something, it is because I actually like it.  And I like quinoa, truly.  It’s got a pleasant bite and a nutty flavor, is a great carrier of other ingredients, and, as a bonus, may put less on you waist that its equivalent in white rice.  Add some woodsy mushrooms and a touch of garlic and it is the perfect accompaniment for any kind of roast meat.  Although it is great on its well, or maybe with a fried egg on top.  Let’s try to ignore that I just had to go an add two tablespoons of butter.  It’s worth it though.  Trust me on that. I had dinner with an old family friend last week, a psychologist, and he looked at me and said, “Your father was an old soul, your mother and brother are old souls, but you are a young soul.”  I didn't know whether I should have cheered or been ashamed.   Had I no wisdom?  God, I knew I should have been cultivating more sophistication in my free time instead of eating through[...]

Double Chocolate Pancakes


When it’s time to do the grocery I always (ideally) like to fly solo.  When the whole brood comes along, things no doubt get crazy with all sorts of stuff mysteriously appearing in the cart by checkout time.  And don’t think this is solely from the little ones.  C always sneaks in some contraband – Vienna sausage, Spam, and his beloved instant noodles.  As far as little C goes, the aisles are both a treasure trove and a minefield…sugary snacks lurking in every corner and, gasp, again, the instant noodles.  As for the littlest one, although he has yet to learn how to demand for treats, he does his own damage trying to run amok and tear everything from the shelves (I exaggerate…but not by much).Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not some sort of health food fundamentalist.  Far from it!  I am pretty relaxed when it comes to food (if you haven’t noticed by now), just as I am about life.  I like to generally eat mostly whole, “real” food, generally avoid junk food and artificial ingredients, and generallyendeavor to lean towards homemade versus processed.  I say generally very, well, generally.  Do I eat junk and processed food?  Yes.  Do my kids?  Yes.  Sometimes.  And I don’t stress about it.  I try for the majority of our food to be wholesome, so I don’t have to crack the whip when my child asks for a Yan-Yan as a treat while grocery shopping (raise your hand if you know what Yan-Yan is!).  And I certainly will not deny my husband his “emergency stash”.Solo grocery trips are definitely more efficient, and more frugal, but also very much a luxury.  With our busy schedules often keeping us away from the little ones, we can’t resist the round pleading eyes when they clamor to come along.  So we pile ourselves into the car and off we go.In one such grocery trip, when I very formally tell little C (like I always do) that she can choose one treat (just one!), she chances upon a box of chocolate pancake mix.  She holds it up and says, “Can I have chocolate pancakes?” I hesitate, as I always do when straddling the fence between virtuous-everything-all-natural-mom and cool-anything-goes-mom.  Then the brilliant idea. “Mama will make you chocolate pancakes!!”  She thinks for a beat, and then…"Can I help?”Of course baby, of course.Double Chocolate Pancakes(adapted from Cooking Classy)1 1/2 cups flour1/3 cup granulated sugar1/3 cup light brown sugar1/3 cup cocoa powder1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 cup whole milk1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk so I used yogurt thinned out with milk and it was fine)2 large eggs3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extractAbout 1 cup chocolate chipsButter for the pan- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.- In a separate mixing bowl whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla.- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredient mixture.  Whisk together just to blend – do not overmix.  The batter will be lumpy and that’s fine.- Heat a skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, add a pat of butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add a ladleful of batter.  Generously sprinkle on some chocolate chips.  Allow to cook until bubbles form on the surface, about one minute, then flip and cook the other side.  Repeat with the rest of the batter.The original recipe had a chocolate sauce and was served with bananas and strawberries, which sounds absolutely wonderful, but I was low on fruit and did not have the energy to make a chocolate sauce so I opted to add chocolate chips to the pancakes themselves.  Suffice to say my chocolate gremlin, little C, loved them!  She had them for breakfast, and every snack and dessert thereafter.&[...]

Guava Bars


So, I’ve been walking lately.  A brisk morning walk several times a week, as well as walking wherever I can vis a vis taking the car.  Although I have always espoused a life of decadence (i.e. rationalising my laziness), a pain au chocolat in one hand and a good book in the other, cozily ensconced in a mass of duvet covers, I can’t deny that time takes its toll on all of us unless we do something to counter it.  And so, a little movement is in order to get this old ticker in some semblance of satisfactory shape so I will be able to one day walk my now-little-ones down the aisle or take care of some grandchildren.I’m being dramatic.No, I’m not.  Listen here young and not-so-young parents…our health will one day be one of the best gifts we give our children.  They (and we) may not realize that now, when she cannot see past the My Little Pony shelves in the toy store, or the rubber ball he is determined to break apart with his teeth, but one day they will.Anyway, enough contemplation for now.My morning walks...I do love them.  Really.  And coming from someone who cannot abide by any physical activity whatsoever, that is quite an admission.  The inside of a gym literally makes me faint (as does the insides of sports stores fyi…the smell, it’s that weird smell of rubber).  Sports are even worse for me because they combine two of my least favorite things in life…physical activity and competition (ironic that both my husband and my best friend are avid sportspeople who thrive in competitive environments).  I knew I needed to get moving though, but the only times I actually don’t mind physical effort is when I’m shopping, exploring, dancing, or otherwise “just living”.  And so, I’ve decided to build my “fitness plan” on just that…"just living”.  Incorporating more activity into what I already do, or need to do: Turning my regular market trips into “marketcizing”, walking to pay my bills, using my feet instead of my car to pick up my daughter from pre-school.  So many things can turn into a walk, just as so many things can turn into an adventure.  Yes, doing this has injected more activity in my life and has (fingers crossed) made me a bit stronger (heart and lungs…I mean you!), but it’s also yielded some pleasant surprises: corners of my city I see with new eyes, my daughter’s love of our “little walks” that are now our own mini-adventures, and the amazing cobweb-clearing quality a good walk in the outdoors seems to possess.And of course, there is that carbon footprint decreasing.It must be said that I have nothing, absolutely nothing, against organized exercise.  My husband is wildly in love with biking and has also just started a passionate affair with cross-fit.  This is on top of his lifelong devotion to football.  And he is one of my favorite people in the world.  So more power to all that I say.  But I know that it is not for me.And truly, I am well aware that this sort of thing is not going to land me washboard abs or the ability to wear a short skirt.  I am satisfied with the extra activity my heart (and lungs!) is getting…which will hopefully help me avoid keeling over on my next trip up some stairs.It hopefully also gives me a little extra leeway for a few treats…like this one.Guava Bars(adapted from Simply Anne’s)215 grams all purpose flour140 grams rolled oats1/2 tablespoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt200 grams butter300 grams brown sugar1 cup guava jelly - In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside. - With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the mixture of dry ingredients.  Continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bow[...]

Sesame Soba Noodles


I was at our neighborhood coffee shop yesterday morning.  I woke up a just a tiny bit earlier so I could sneak a solo coffee before I went to market.  Which I suppose is a funny thing to do on Valentines, but I love it when I have time to grab a cup of coffee before heading to the market on Saturdays, so there you go.  Just me, my flat white, doing my little (and I do mean little) market list, and watching my neighbors.  A little bit of calm before the weekend bursts upon us.I sat there, like I have done many Saturdays before, sipping my coffee, looking around.  I let everything wash over me.  The deep comforting smell of the coffee, the way the cup’s fat lip touched mine, the multitude of conversations happening all around me, the soft green of the succulents they like to put on every table.  And I felt a kinship with everyone there, although they were all strangers.  Does that sound odd?  You know those times when you think the human race is going to hell in a handbasket?  Well, this was the complete opposite of that feeling.  I felt like, at that moment, I was connected to everyone.  And they to me.  That we were all trying to be humans together.  The breathless and hopeful and tenuous and fleeting beauty of it.At that moment, I loved everyone in that coffee shop.  The old man in the maroon felt fedora, smoking a cigar and holding his cane and looking like he had a million mysteries running through him.  The group of three in the table in front of me, two foreigners and one local, talking about UNESCO heritage sites and other such important matters.  The young family with their baby in a stroller, an iPad propped up so he (or she) could watch Hi5 while they had their breakfast, making me feel (gratefully) less guilty about my own loose protocols on TV and gadgets.  The couple on my right, older, all briskness and business, their formality hiding a fondness and familiarity, that I felt anyway, even through the way he said “let’s have the French toast stuffed with dark chocolate” as if he was conveying the bottom line of a financial statement.  The couple on my left, younger, who held hands across the table and would not let go, through earnest conversation topics, shifting of positions, and ordering of coffee their hands linked, stretched and knotted but wouldn’t break – that day they did not seem trite or corny, but reassuringly endearing, so much so that when their order came and their hands parted I almost felt the pain of it.  Even the waitress across the room, who seemed to understand what I needed with just a softly mouthed “water” from a distance, her lips echoing “water” before coming over with a tall bottle to refill my waiting glass.Glorious humanity. I felt you. I felt the goodness.  This has nothing to do with noodles, except that noodles too are good, and sometimes glorious.Sesame Soba Noodles(adapted from Savory Simple)70 grams noodles (I used somen but you can use soba if you have it)3 tablespoons peanut butter1 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil1 tablespoon soy sauce1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili oil1/2 teaspoon honey1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame seeds3 tablespoons pasta water- Prepare noodles as per package instructions.  Rinse in cold water and set aside.- In a small bowl whisk together thoroughly the peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili oil, honey, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, and the pasta water.  Taste and adjust – if you want it to be saltier add a little soy sauce, if you want it to be sweeter add a little honey, if you want more heat add more chili oil.  You are looking for a balanced flavor.- Toss the noodles and sauce together.  Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds before serving.I had been sitting on this recipe for a while now.  It’s been hanging a[...]

Quick Blueberry and Chia Seed Jam


Did I ever tell you that my father was a photographer?  If not by profession then definitely by heart.  Long before the arrival of digital cameras, he lugged his (what seemed to me then) huge camera everywhere.  I had to pose for so many photos.  “Look up…look left…look down…chin up…”  I obeyed like the dutiful daughter that I was (still am actually).  And then there were the photos that weren’t posed…which where much worse.  Did I ever tell you that I am an ugly sleeper?  Well, we have the photos that prove it.  As we do the “just about to take a bite of food” photos and the “in the middle of disagreeing with someone” photos.I remember thousands (or what seemed to me then like thousands) of flower photos, many of which looked exactly the same to me.  I remember the old school slideshow viewer that he was so excited to get.  The meeting of the slideshow viewer and the (thousands!) flower photos was a purgatorial day for my brother and me.  Click-shuck, click-shuck…flower # 784.  My father pointing out minuscule details for my brother and my untrained eyes.I remember our first European holiday as a family, with my brother winning the dubious honor of being my dad’s photographer’s assistant.  He carried heavy bags and tripod without too much complaining.  Difficult to complain when you are in Europe.  Even with my dad lying on his back beneath the Eiffel Tower so he could get a photo from under her “skirt”.  Our whole trip was soundtracked with his shutter release button.  I remember when I whined to him how my little digicam couldn’t produce the same kinds of photos on other food blogs…and pretty soon a D-SLR appeared on my doorstep.  And this blog got a facelift in the photo department.That very same DSLR suddenly decided to go on strike last week.  Something or other jammed and a part now needs to be replaced.  I don’t really understand what this entails except for the part where the replacement could take a couple of months to arrive.  I looked at the guy at the Nikon service center, lips pursed, trying not to let the overly dramatic words out of my mouth – “But my blog!!!”Well…did I ever tell you that my father was a photographer?  His cameras and other photography paraphernalia have been sitting at my brother’s flat, waiting for a good moment for us to go over them.  Had I been putting it off?  I’ll never know.  But this was as good a time as any, I thought, I do need a camera.  So we gathered over five and some bags filled with cameras (some still film!), and lenses, flashes, and other odds and ends of which I don’t even know the use.  Then there are the tripods and lighting equipment.  At the end of it all there were around a dozen lenses standing like soldiers on my mother’s bar, and I had a new/old camera on my lap.  But not just any camera.  My dad’s camera.  As I put my fingers on the worn rubber pads, I think to myself, I hope I can do this justice…not just in skill, but also in passion.  Because my father was passionate about the things he believed in, about the things he loved.He also made jam.  Did I ever mention that?Quick Blueberry and Chia Seed Jam150 grams blueberries100-120 grams sugar1 tablespoon chia seeds4 tablespoons water- Place all the ingredients in a small pot.  Place over low heat and let simmer, stirring now and again, until it thickens.  This won’t take long, about 20-25 minutes.  You want it to be thick but still pourable.  It will gel further as it sits.- Place in a clean jar and, when cool, store in the fridge.This is one of the easiest jam recipes ever.  You just dump everything in a small pot and let it bubble away[...]

Peking Pork Chops


If you are thinking that much of what we eat at home is Asian food, or at the very least Asian-influenced food, then you would be absolutely right.  My pantry is packed with everything from soy sauce (regular and dark) to sesame oil (Chinese and Korean), oyster sauce and hoisin, Shaoxing wine, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, mirin, fish sauce, coconut milk, various chili pastes (with and without soy) hailing for different Asian countries, plum sauce, sweet chili sauce, and probably a few other items that I can’t recall at the moment.There are two very good reasons for this.  One, the most obvious, that I live in Asia, and am Asian.  And two, that I absolutely and unequivocally love Asian food.  All Asian food.  Yes, all.  And although I do love cuisines from other continents as well, none have a hold on my heart the way Asian food does.  I’ve said this one too many times that I am sure there is someone (or two or more) out there who desperately wants to shut me up (or whack my head at least).  But there it is.  I can’t deny it nor stop waxing obsessive about it.  Asian food is just this side of criminally awesome.  Nothing can match it when it comes to its crazy range of flavors.The great I think I may be raising two more Asian food lovers as well.  My two gremlins are just as happy with their sabaw (Filipino for soup), adobo, and fish steamed with soy and sesame, as they are with fried chicken and spaghetti.  Little C in particular has recently discovered the joys of Korean food.  And don’t get me started on the excitement when she sees a whole steamed fish (almost at par with mine and C’s…almost).So you will forgive me for having yet another Asian recipe to share I hope?Peking Pork Chops(amended slightly from Rasa Malaysia)250-300 grams pork steak or pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch slicesOil for frying1 egg1 tablespoon cornstarch1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine1/2 teaspoon salt1 tablespoon ketchup1 teaspoon plum sauce1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili paste1/4 teaspoon hoisin2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce1 tablespoon black vinegar1 tablespoon sugarA pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder1 tablespoon water1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish- Pound the pork with a meat mallet to flatten and tenderize.  I like to do this in between two sheets of baking parchment for easy clean-up.  Set aside.- In a bowl, whisk together the egg, cornstarch, Shaoxing wine, and salt.  Add the pork slices to the mixture and turn everything to make sure all surfaces of the pork are well covered in the marinade.  Set aside and let marinate for 30 minutes.- In a separate bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients: ketchup, plum sauce, chili paste, hoisin, Worcestershire sauce, black vinegar, sugar, Chinese five spice, and water.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.- Heat a skillet or wok over high heat.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the pork slices in one layer.  If they can’t all fit then do this in batches.  Fry the pork on one side until golden brown, turn and repeat on the other side.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Don’t overcook the pork or it will be tough.  Set the pork aside and drain on paper towels.- In the same skillet or wok, wiped down, bring the sauce to a boil and let this bubble for a bit, just a few seconds, and then add the fried pork.  Stir until the meat is well coated with the sauce.  Remove from the heat and serve sprinkled with the toasted sesame seeds.  This recipe was adapted from Bee of Rasa Malaysia.  I love her recipes and her magical way of making all Asian dishes seem easy and within reach, even in my flat’s little kitchen.  I have her cookbook as well an[...]

Bulgogi Korean BBQ


My little neighborhood has been getting spiffier by the minute.  I still remember when I just moved in, my pregnant belly swaying before me, excited to be in the heart of the city (that’s me…the city girl), eager to explore my new home.  There were definitely some gems already in place back then, but lately it seems like the gastronomy gods have been smiling down at me.  Almost one on top of the other, lovely new places have sprouted, like so many answers to my fervent prayers: my favorite bakery/cafe that is going to be the death of me (they make a mean kimchi fried rice too), the absolute best flat white ever, a fantastic local brick oven pizza place(that makes their own burrata and stracciatella!), a store selling all kinds of natural and local products, a rustic home store (that I have yet to visit but looks oh-so-promising), an excellent ramen bar (long lines but life changing ramen), a crêperie (because really, who wouldn't benefit from having crêpes nearby?), and a couple of other places that look like they would be perfect for a post-work cocktail or two (or three).  To add, in the interest of my husband, I’ll also point out that a nice looking bike shop has opened.Anyway, moving right along.One of the old standbys though, that has been here before the hoopla of all things hip decided to grace us with their presence, and a place that has seen me through many an emergency, is our neighborhood Korean grocery.  It goes by the unassuming name of Kang’s, it’s a bit crowded, and certainly not as swanky as some of the new places here.  But oh boy is it ever a treasure trove.  Packed to the gills with Korean goodies (as you can imagine a Korean grocery would be) but also all kinds of other things that you (or at least I) find yourself running out off –garlic, canned tomatoes, cereal, ketchup, chicken fillets, pororo crackers.  It is also great for when you suddenly realize you’re out of vegetables and need produce in a pinch (like green onions to make the recipe below).  They also have gochujang…that Korean chili paste which I have fallen madly in love with.  And is used in this.Bulgogi Korean BBQ(adapted from A Spicy Perspective)1 tablespoon canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil)300 grams thinly sliced beef (see note below)3 tablespoons soy sauce1 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon brown sugar1 tablespoon sesame oil3-4 cloves garlic, very finely minced1/2 tablespoon grated ginger1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 – 1/2 teaspoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)4 stalks green onions, sliced, white and green parts separatedToasted sesame seeds, for garnish- In the dish where you wish to marinade your beef, place the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, black pepper, the white parts of the onion, and the gochujang.  Whisk well to combine.  Add your beef slices to the marinade and turn well to make sure all the beef is coated in the marinade.  Let this marinade for 30-45 minutes.- Heat a wok or a large skillet over high heat.  When hot add the canola oil.  When the oil is hot add the beef, making sure not to crowd the pan.  Do this in batches if necessary.  Sear the beef on one side and then the other, until just done.  Since my beef was sliced so thin this took less than a minute per slice.  Repeat until all the beef is done.- Pile the beef on a serving place and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and the green parts of the onion.  Serve immediately.Gochujang is a Korean chili paste that is made with fermented soybeans and chili (and other such goodies) that has wended its way into my heart ever since the first bulgogi recipe I tried.  It is spicy, savory, and pungent, and, although perhaps not as often used as my other Asian ingred[...]

Korean Beef Stew...and I'm back


Hi.  I hope you’re still here.  Because I am.  I always have been in a way.  All throughout these past months of little sleep, of no respite, of tiredness and sadness.  Of trying to get by, trying to make sure everything was at least a decent amount done.  Of squeezing in work, and children, and food, and a household…while watching my father leave this world.  As I knew he was.  As I always knew.  Even when people gathered around with extra loud voices – as if the volume of it could somehow push the sickness away – I stood by and did what I needed to do.  I watched, I spoke to doctors and nurses, I updated family members.  Rinse, repeat.  I whispered in his ear that I loved him, because I felt that was the most important thing he needed to hear.  If everything else was left unsaid it was ok, that I loved him was enough.  I cherished each time when he would respond, and say it back, and told my heart that it was ok if this was the last time.  So when it was really the last time, and the days to follow held no response, no “saying back”, it was ok.  And I continued to do what needed to be done.  In companionable silence.  And people’s foreheads knitted in worry, hands were wrung, and tears were spilled.  I looked at them almost as if watching from afar.  Shook my head and went about my business.  There were things to be done, and I did them.  Until the end.  And truth be told, until now.Grief.  They say it comes to us in different ways...and it’s true.  I have certainly shed some tears.  But how do we measure our grief?  Is it in tears?  In the days we can’t get out of bed?  The days of being inconsolable?  I can’t say.  There are things that need to be done, and I do them.  I feel sadness like an old wound, humming a bit every now and then.  Is this grief?  I used to go to bed in fear, that I would wake up and “real grief” would arrive, and attack me with a vengeance.  Punishing me for having let others cry in my stead.  But I’ve stopped being scared.  There is too much life yet to be lived.  If there is one thing that my father has taught me it is to live life to the fullest, and to follow your passions.  So I go on, doing what I do best, which is doing the things that need to be done.  And if one day, weeks, months, or years from now, the grief arrives, big and dark and monstrous, then I’ll deal with it then.Meanwhile, there are booboos to be kissed, books to be read, trips to be taken, birthdays to be celebrated, food to be cooked and to be eaten.  There is work to be done, and a new year to experience.  There is life to be lived.Korean Beef Stew(from Trissalicious, with some changes)1 kilo beef short ribs2 tablespoons vegetable oil2 tablespoons dark soy sauce2 teaspoons sesame oil5 spring onions, chopped5-6 cloves garlic, chopped1 tablespoon grated ginger2 tablespoons brown sugar2 tablespoons mirin2 cups water1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, to serve2-3 spring onions chopped, to serveOptional: 1 tablespoon cornstarch diluted in 2 tablespoons cold water - In a small bowl mix together the dark soy sauce, sesame oil, 5 spring onions, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and mirin.  Set aside.- Bring an oven-proof pot to medium high heat then add the oil.- Season the beef ribs with salt and pepper.- When the oil is hot add the beef to the pot, making sure not to overcrowd the pot.  Do this in batches if needed.  Fry the meat to sear until golden brown.- Once done, return all the meat to the pot and add the sauce mixture and the two cups of water.  I like to almost cover the [...]

Fight Food Waste -- Love Food Don’t Waste


Hi folks…you still there?  I hope so, because I've been a bit pensive lately, a bit meditative, and usually, when I surface from these states, I have a thing or two to share.  And where else would I share it but here…a space where no one can interrupt me and I can ramble to my heart’s content.  So apologies in advance in case I am a bore!For those of you who are wondering, after this post, my father is a little better, although the general condition has not changed.  Right now, all we can do is make sure he is as comfortable as possible.  Emotionally I don’t (can’t) really delve too deeply into it all.  Not if I want to be able to look after his care efficiently and effectively.  I suppose am in a state of “automatic pilot”.  I am lucky.  I have a family who is supporting each other through everything.  Although of course, it can’t be helped, every once in a while, driving home from the hospital at night, or hearing a familiar song, that you feel alone.  But I get home and am greeted by the noisy ruckus from my two wild things, and a warm solid hug from my steadfast and stalwart husband, and I am ok.  I am beside my dad as I type, having fallen into the steady rhythm of being in a hospital.  I watch him in his sleep as maybe he once watched me.  Where did the time go?  I know it sounds corny and trite and overused, but really, cherish each moment you have and enjoy it to the fullest.  Now…I've promised you some practical advice...I wanted to share with you some things I have put together to make use of leftovers (and those odds and ends that lurk in most of our fridges).  All of this is part of an endeavor that is close to my heart and that is to fight food waste.  By no means am I an expert in this department…I would be a liar if I said I've never wasted food.  That being said, fighting food waste has been a little personal project of mine for a while, and it is one that I would like to share with you as well.  We could all benefit from learning tips and tricks on how to effectively use leftovers, avoid fruit and vegetables going bad, and using up the bits that we usually toss.Healthy Options, a store I turn to for quinoa, steel-cut oats, and different varieties for flour (and Green & Blacks I confess!) has been running an advocacy campaign for food waste awareness for a year now.  It’s called Love Food Don’t Waste.  Which really, is something that could have easily come from my own mouth!  So when they reached out to me to help spread the word I was glad to pitch in.  They have put together some great informational videos on food waste and tips to avoid it.  To get started, take a peek on Why We Waste Food.  And before the food actually gets to us we should Shop Smart.I've placed other videos below together with my own tips on avoiding food waste.From the photos here, top left onwards:** Love Food Don't Waste: Love Your LeftoversThis is one of my favorite things to do with leftover tomato-based pasta sauce (or any tomato based sauce…even a bit of leftover stew with the meat shredded).  You know that little smidge of sauce left in the fridge...too small an amount to make another bowl of pasta from, taunting you, challenging you.  Well, this is how to make short work of that last little bit.  Heat the sauce in a skillet.  I like to add a few extra drizzles of olive oil just to make it a bit rich.  When this is hot and bubbling crack an egg in the center.  Cook until the egg is done to your liking.  Eat straight out of the pan with a couple of thick slices of rustic-looking bread for an awesome breakfast.** M[...]

Hi, Hello.


Hi there.  I know I’ve been away for a bit.  I know it’s been a little quiet over here.  I wish I could tell you (as I usually do) that work, Halloween planning, big school decisions, friends, life, and a million and one everyday things kept me too busy.  I wish.  I wish for the insistent demands of the many mundane things that usually vie for my attention.  Vie for all our attentions.  That steady, sometimes tedious, sometimes dull, sometimes frenetic, yet steady thrum of normalcy.  I wish.My father is sick and has been in and out of the hospital for the past few months.  He was diagnosed in May and it’s been a locomotive out of control since then.  There have been bright spots…of hope, of fight, of a light seemingly just within reach.  But a lot of it has also been uphill, bleak, worry, dread.  Some days I don’t know which way is up.  I don’t know what I’m doing really, or where this is going.  I do know though to put on foot in front of the other and keep going.  One foot in front of the other.  One day at a time.  Get as much information from the doctors as possible.  Relay this to everyone concerned.  Get work done every free second I have.  Be happy in front of dad, even if right now he is mostly asleep.  Check that the kids don’t run out of food.  Call the laundry to get our clothes picked up.  And, most importantly, tell dad I love him every time I catch his eyes open.  Check, check, check…have I done everything?Rinse, Repeat.(Also: Why couldn’t I have been born one of those people who lose their appetites in times of anxiety?)It goes without saying that not much cooking has been happening around these parts.  The yearning I feel to put my hands on food, to chop vegetables, to massage a marinade into meat, is so palpable it’s almost physical. Not for anything else but that cooking is one of my best therapies.  So, maybe (definitely) this will happen soon, but until then I’ll be sharing with you some ways to fight food waste and make the most of leftovers…a cause very dear to my heart.  And something I’ve had to do a lot these past weeks as I cooking has taken the backseat.  That will be up here soon – I hope you will find it as useful as I do. In any case, I am back here simply to tell you that I’m still here.  That this isn’t just a food blog but a place where I go to for sanctuary.  My own personal space, since the day I put up that first hopeful post, and until now.  So I’ll be back, that is for certain.  Writing here, without rules or deadlines, cooking and sharing recipes, sharing ideas, sharing life…puts me right.  So this is just a little note to say “hi, hello” and “I hope you stick around because I need a virtual hug right about now”.Wishing you a good weekend...hug as many people that you can![...]

Buttery Broiled Sole


I was flipping through a parenting magazine a couple of days ago, reading all the articles packed to the brim with how-to’s and good advice and words of wisdom…and I felt a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Familiar because I realized, surprised, that I always feel this way when I read parenting magazines – like everything I’m doing is not exactly right and that grave consequences will surely follow.I realized further, although fashion magazines get a lot of censure for giving girls negative body image, and impossible (and quite limited) standards of beauty, I have never, ever, in my whole life of reading fashion magazines, ever felt as insecure as I do when I read parenting magazines (and I am nowhere near svelte so I'm a prime target for fashion magazine victimization).  Which was quite a revelation really – one would think that the opposite would be the case.  But truth be told, not even a thousand skinny models with perfect skin and impossibly smooth hair could make me feel as, pardon the term, crappy, as a parenting magazine.And it’s not the features on the immaculate “supermoms” who can manage to have their children eating with chopsticks by 5, reading Jane Austen at bedtime, with enough time for regular ballet classes and play dates…no, it’s not them.  It’s the articles.  The articles about the “5 things you should never say…” or the “10 things every parent should know…” or “how to get your toddler to have better manners/not throw tantrums/clean up their rooms/play the kazoo”.  It’s those articles that make me want to throw myself on the floor with my hand flung tragically to my temple and cry out, “no more!”.Why?, I wondered.  I think it’s because parenting is so much more personal than dress size (well at least to me).  We are so much more emotionally invested (naturally) in our children than the fact that, say, we can’t wear a certain cut of jeans because, um, baby’s got back.  It’s our kids, our babies…we’ve only got this one shot (pulls hair out in dramatic gesture)!  And of course, that sneaky, horrible mantra that weasels its way into our brains despite our best efforts...Am I a good mom?So, like those who have sworn off fashion magazines, I am swearing off parenting magazines.  I’ll focus on having fun with my little ones, trying to keep my finger of the pulse of their needs, making life a little brighter, giving them what I want them to remember when they’re older.  If I say the wrong thing, or use the wrong words, then we will just all have to live with that.  And if I find myself once again in that treacherous juncture between not knowing what to do and feeling totally unsure of myself, I’ll take a deep breath, looking into their eyes, and into my heart, and hope to find the answer there.  So...I haven’t read a parenting magazine (or any parenting articles) for three whole days and I am feeling splendid!  Don’t you wish all life’s problems could be solved that easily?  In any case, if you need something that won’t make you feel the least bit inadequate, try this sole.  Five minutes under the broiler and dinner’s ready!  You will feel totally competent!  And it's delicious.Buttery Broiled Sole(adapted from the Broiled Rainbow Trout with Hush Puppies in Saveur magazine, Aug./Sept. 2013 issue)2 sole fillets (about 450-500 grams total weight)1/4 cup butter, softened but not melted1/2 teaspoon paprika1/2 teaspoon oreganoSea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste- Pre-heat the broiler in your oven to high.  Mine doesn't have any temp[...]

The Wagyu Bacon Giveaway...We Have a Winner!!


How is everyone doing this wet and windy Friday?  Another typhoon has hit our shores and, as I've seen report after report on the news, floods abound and power is already down in some areas.  Now is the time to stay home and hunker down with your family...or with a good book and a bowl of something extra yummy.  Others are not so lucky, so do check out relief operations nearby.  I know San Antonio Parish in Makati has already started accepting donations -- just look for this hashtag on twitter:

On other news, rain or shine, I promised one of you some Wagyu bacon today.  And I deliver on all my promises.  So without further chitchat the winner of the Wagyu bacon giveaway is...Cheekeegirl!!

Cheekeegirl I will be in touch with you through email to sort out the details of how we can get your bacon to you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  For those of you who want to snag some for yourselves just check out Baba's Kitchen -- she has a lot of goodies, not the least being her chili garlic oil, which is dangerously addicting.  But that's for another post and another giveaway.

Meanwhile, the husband is cooking tonight...his special tuna pasta is almost ready.  Little C helped, choosing the noodles (tri-color farfalle that she picked out herself in the store).  Work was called off and so was school.  For the work-at-home work force though it is business as usual, so the rest of the family is preparing dinner for me tonight.  I have a lot to be thankful for, of that I am most aware.  So I am off to enjoy C's delicious pasta and all the simple things we sometimes take for granted.  I hope you are all safe and dry, and with people who make your life wonderful!

It's Friday....and some bits & things for the weekend!


It's Friday and I'm down with horrid bug.  It's been going around these parts, first with the little girl, then with the little boy, and then finally with mama...where it has settled with some vengeance in the form of achy bones and a really painful throat.  Not much of a Friday night for certain but I'm burrowing down with my family and that, above all, gives me great comfort.Between managing the sickies and work there hasn't been much time for puttering in the kitchen.  As such, I thought I'd share as some of the delicious food (and drink!) I have been enjoying in and around the city.  These are by no means the latest hot tickets (I leave that to actual restaurant bloggers) but they are good and I am loving each and every one of them.If you are looking for something to eat or drink this weekend may I suggest these? From top left onwards: ** Crispy sisig at Manam - a cross between sisig and chicharon.  For someone like me, who is both a sisig and chicharon lover, this is absolute heaven.  Manam is located at Greenbelt 2.** Braised tendon at Peking Garden - Soft, unctuous, and sinfully rich.  But strictly for tendon lovers!  Rice is a must.  Peking Garden is located at Greenbelt 5.** Sloe gin at The Curator - I love having a place like The Curator nearby, where I can go with friends to have a thoughtfully made cocktail and feel like an adult.  Sloe gin, introduced to me by a friend, is my current new love.  Made with gin and sloe berries it tastes of a sticky prune cake infused with booze.  Which is really just up my alley.  The Curator is located on the corner of Legazpi and C. Palanca Streets, in Lagazpi Village, Makati (you'll need to go inside Cyrano first).** Fresh ankimo at Tsumura - Ankimo is made of steamed monkfish liver and is, simply put, incredible.  I am not too fond of liver but, like foie gras, ankimo is different.  It is smooth and luxurious, with a slight hint of the sea.  In a lot of Japanese restaurants they use canned ankimo (which is not bad at all, let me just say), but in Tsumura, when the season is right, they have it fresh.  It is well worth seeking it out.  Tsumura is located at the 2nd floor of 88 Corporate Plaza, Sedeno corner Valero Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati.** Sweet corn agnolotti at Wildflour - If you, like me, like a little sweet with your savory, then you (like me) will love this.  Pillows of sweet corn pasta nestled in a creamy sauce topped with prawns and wild arugula.  My new favorite.  Wildflour is located in V Corporate Center, 125 LP Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati.** Órale has re-opened! - My husband is a big fan of Mexican food and Órale is his favorite Mexican restaurant.  It has been under renovation for about a month now and he has been waiting with bated breath (and a tad impatiently truth be told).  He dragged me, quicker that a fox in a hen house, as soon as we found out it had opened its doors again.  We are currently loving the soft tacos (barbacoa and lengua) and the grilled corn (I love corn, what can I say!)...which I had cut off the cob (I'm a lazy wench!) by the kind waitstaff.  Órale is located at the Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.I also want to add that my Wagyu bacon giveaway is still ongoing.  Yes, you still have time to win yourself some decadent Wagyu bacon!  Just head over to this post to find out how!Have a wonderful weekend ahead!  Armed with medicine, multivitamins, and lozenges I will attempt to do just that as well![...]

Breakfast #72: Wagyu Bacon & Eggs, Indulgence, and A Giveaway!


I left you last week while I was bemoaning my sorry state of having been reduced to wearing all flats…my heels gathering dust as they no longer fit my post-pregnancy feet (not to mention my post-pregnancy lifestyle).  What is a girl to do?  Do I resign myself to the fact that tottering around, 3-5 inches off the ground, my less-than-perfect legs feeling like a million bucks, is no longer in the cards for me?  Do I accept the fact that I can no longer say “fashion before comfort” with as much youthfully brash confidence as I did before I had children?  Do I start investing in (sigh) “practical” shoes?The obvious answer, for a responsible, almost-40 mother of 2, is, of course, no.  No, there won’t be any “resigning to” or “accepting the fact”.  What do mature grown-ups like me, who obviously know better, do?We go out and buy ourselves some high heels.  As God is my witness, that is exactly what we do.  And that is exactly what I did…marching into the store and declaring, “Get me everything with heels in a size 9!”As I walked out with my shiny, black, peep-toe heels***, dreaming about the ultra-red pedicure that was going to go perfectly with said peep-toes, I knew I did exactly the right thing.Because we need to indulge ourselves sometimes.Because we are mamas and are usually indulging everyone else.  Because we schlep ourselves to the office 5 days a week.  Because we work hard to make ends meet.  Because we sleep a fraction of the time we used to.  Because we just noticed our first white hair, or our 100th. Because the pediatrician just gave us the biggest lecture in the history of parenthood.  Because we are tired and haven’t had time for that massage we keep promising ourselves.Because we deserve it.Whether you are a mama, a papa, single, married, or somewhere in between…you work hard, you do what needs to be done, you dig your heels in and stay the course, you recognize when change is needed and make a stand.  You deserve it friend.  So indulge a bit.  If a little indulgence puts a spring in your step, there will be one happier human in the world.  And God knows the world needs that.And, as we are talking about indulgence…Wagyu bacon.  Yes, Wagyu bacon that comes to take your breakfast of bacon and eggs to new heights.  I won’t share a recipe here, as I am sure you don’t need me to tell you how to get some bacon and eggs on your plate.  I will share some of this bacon with you though!This comes from Baba’s Kitchen, a purveyor that I sometimes go to for steaks and her wildly addicting chili garlic oil (more on that one day soon!).  When she started carrying Wagyu bacon I knew I had to try it, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Just like Wagyu steak, it is marbled with fat, rich and, since we are on the topic, absolutely indulgent.  It is already seasoned (made with love by “Baba’s” aunt with no harmful chemicals), so all you need to do is fry them up.  Don’t expect smoky bacon flavor though, as beef and pork are, obviously, two different creatures (although both delicious).  Wagyu bacon is another thing entirely flavor-wise and should be enjoyed as such.  Also, and healthy-lifestyle people may lynch me for this, but when I eat Wagyu bacon I am reminded once again of that age old fact…that beef fat is truly the tastiest fat there is.  Although I have had this, so far, the same way I would have bacon, I can imagine it also working well using it the same way you would use beef – in a stir-[...]

Three Cups Chicken


I swear.  I look around and realize that I have, suddenly and frightfully, reached the depths of un-sophistication.  Ok, I’ll be honest, maybe not so “suddenly”.  But most definitely frightfully.  I was puttering around one morning, organizing my shoes (puttering?? organizing my shoes?? Why am I not out changing the world? Or at the very least sipping a gin & tonic at that swanky new place?), and I realized…they are all flats!  I have nothing against the occasional ballet flat, especially in animal print, but to go from stilettos to 99% flats is a bit troubling.That’s not even to say anything about my shameless stay-in-bed fixation, cold a/c and soft warm duvet, ratty pyjamas and e-reader.  And the difficulty in which I drag myself to wear make-up, or at least get myself some proper cleanser and moisturizer for my face (although I have to share, I am getting better in that department…in small increments, Rome wasn’t built in a day after all!)!And the supermarket fetish.  Oh the supermarket fetish.  Since when did this pass for a respectable after-office event?  What happened to happy hour??In truth, I’ve always loved going to the supermarket, I think from the very vestiges of my early memories, when my mother took me.  I remember standing in the midst of the butchery section taking it all in and loving it (yes, I loved the meat section as a child).  I, of course, also remember the treats she would allow me to place in our cart, only one per trip.  My favorites were Yan Yan and those little packets of Nutella, the kind that came with it’s own little spoon.My whole family has this supermarket obsession I suspect, so it’s not just me on this point of nerdiness.  How do you explain my husband so willingly taking me most of the time?  It can’t be just that he’s a good husband (although he is I promise you!)…and I know this because of the Spam and Vienna sausage and cup-noodles that mysteriously appear in our cart whenever he is pushing it.  Little C loves it too, primarily because of the treat – I’m continuing my mom’s tradition (choose just one sweetie!).  Little H couldn’t care less at the moment…as long as there are possibilities for wrecking havoc then he is happy.And what do I sneak in the grocery cart?  Lately it’s been more items to complete my Asian pantry: Shaoxing wine, soy bean paste, various chili pastes (speaking of, can anyone share where to get some good doubanjiang?) and chili oils, that savory sweet condiment Kecap Manis, which I used to make this.Three Cups Chicken(adapted from Rasa Malaysia)500 grams chicken thigh fillet, each fillet cut into two2 tablespoons dark sesame oil6 slices ginger, peeled6 cloves garlic, peeled1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine1 1/2 tablespoons dark sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)A bunch of Thai basil leavesOptional: 1 tablespoon baking soda (to tenderize the chicken)- If you want to do the tenderizing step, sprinkle the baking soda on the chicken and toss with your hands to coat.  Let this marinate for 10 minutes then rinse thoroughly with water.  Make sure all the baking soda is completely rinsed off.  Pat the chicken pieces dry and set aside.- Heat up a clay-pot (if you have one) or a wok over high heat, and then add the sesame oil.  Add the garlic and ginger to the oil and stir-fry until aromatic.- Add the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.- Add the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and Kecap Manis and toss.  L[...]

Breakfast #71: Golden Granola


I’m back from a weekend away with my work-mates that I mentioned in this post (where I also mention lots of chocolate so do head back there!) and we are now smack in the middle of a new week.  Catching up with everything left behind does that I suppose.  But I am invigorated, or should I say re-invigorated, and ready to seriously boogie…whether it is at work or at play!Our company has had a team building every year, as most companies do, but this year I wanted something a bit different.  Work is certainly never a walk in the park (maybe for some lucky people but not for most) and even in the most dreamy of jobs there are moments of stress, deadlines to be met, goals to be achieved, overtime hours to be clocked in. Let’s be honest, most of us are in, what we might consider to be, “regular jobs”…not the dream jobs of our fantasies (traveling food taster/pig farmer/professional napper needed? anyone?).  But I thought, how do we inject motivation into work?  How to we inspire vigor and enthusiasm in the workplace?  How to we create exuberance on the job?I realized…the answer is we don’t.We create it in life…and then it will spill over everywhere.It starts with the individual, on a personal level.  Not really with the “team”, on the “work” level.  That is what I wanted to find for these intrepid, valiant folk with whom I work.  Yes, I certainly wanted a lot of bonding and actual “team building” but I also wanted it to be something more, something that involved getting people to think about themselves (their unique selves!) on a personal level, about purpose and strengths and living life and about where their joy comes from.  And maybe it wasn’t as grand or far-reaching as all that.But I think we came close.  I think we may have struck a little gold…at least I hope so.So here’s a little something to celebrate (and to atone for all the food I ate!).Golden Granola2 cups old fashioned oats3/4 cups walnuts, very chunkily chopped (one walnut half chopped in two or three)1/2 cup pecans, very chunkily chopped (one pecan half chopped in two or three)1/4 cup butter1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup1/2 cup sliced dates1/2 cup golden raisins- Mix the oats and nuts in a bowl.- In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the Golden Syrup to the butter and take off the heat.  Whisk briskly with a wire whisk until the butter and syrup become a homogenous, dangerously sticky, alluring substance.  Like this.- Pour the syrup mixture onto the oats mixture and stir well until thoroughly blended.- Place the mixture on a foil-lined cookie sheet and spread out flat and even.- Place the pan in a 180-190C oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes, taking the pan out to stir the oats about thrice during this time. Remove from the oven to cool (I like to transfer the granola to another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to cool).- When the granola is cool add the fruit and toss until combined. Store in a clean, dry, and airtight container.I mentioned my new favorite granola supplier before. And believe you me, I love to always have a bag on hand.  But that’s not always possible (to busy to drive out!), and I am a big proponent for making granola at home, so I decided to make a batch myself.  I was going to turn to my basic go-to recipe but decided to substitute the honey with Lyle’s Golden Syrup (of which I have a couple of tins that I greedily hoard).  Since I was going in that (decadent) direction anyway, I decided to nix the oil [...]

Double Chocolate Brownie Bites


Never enough hours in the day!  I often find myself thinking this, wishing for a magic wand or time-management fairy godmother to grant me some extra hours to get just a little bit more done.  Finish off a couple more emails, take the kids to the park, go through just one more extra report, cook a big pot of Bolognese in advance so my family will have something to eat when I’m at meetings.  Just a tiny spot of time more.Oh why didn’t I clean up my inbox instead of sleeping in for two extra hours last Sunday (well, because it was Sunday…for starters)?Sigh…the constant tug of war among the myriad of “things” that just need to get done, this minute, this second.  Slow down life, there are roses meant to be sniffed and wines meant to be savored.So, I do the best I can, managing the to-do list (still hand-written in a notebook…yup, I love ticking things off that way!), balancing home and work and the little ones and husband-date-time and friends and me-time.  Things sometimes fall to the wayside, or dinner is late (or take-out), or it’s midnight and I am trying to squeeze in as much as I can into my final moments of lucidity before I fall upon my pillow...and even in my weariness my head spins with a dozen dashing thoughts until they finally relinquish me to sleep.  But even then, even now, even in the most frenzied of times, it is all worth it.  My baby’s saliva-smelly onesies, my daughter’s raggedy toenails, how they run to me when I open the door, my husband’s high-fives when we have a particularly stellar meal at home, our cozy bed, clacking away at this blog, chronicling our meals, and the satisfaction of a (day) job well done…all worth it.  I wouldn’t give up a single one of these things, even if it means being a little frayed around the edges sometimes.But.  But. There are important events for which time needs to be carved out.  Like making brownies.  Particularly making brownies with my headstrong little helper who won’t always be so little, or have so much time to help her mama.Double Chocolate Brownie Bites(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch chunks, divided into two portions (5 ounces each)3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped6 tablespoons unsalted butter1 cup sugar3 large eggs1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1 cup sifted all-purpose flour1/4 teaspoon salt3/4 cup chopped walnuts (marked as optional but not for me)- Butter and flour 3 mini muffin pans (I used 2 and a half, making about 30 brownie bites).- Place the 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water (or use a double boiler if you are lucky enough to have one).  Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth.  Resist the urge to dive right in.  Set this aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the chocolate mixture and sugar at medium speed until well combined, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  To this add the eggs and mix until completely combined.  Beat in the vanilla, and then add the flour and salt and mix until just incorporated, taking care not to overbeat.  Stir in, by hand, the other 5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and the walnuts.- Scoop batter into the prepared mini muffin pans just until 3/4 full.  Bake in a pre-heat[...]

It's Friday...and some links for the weekend!


It's Friday...finally!  The weekend leans close enough for us to touch, for us to get a whiff of her entrancing perfume.  The smell of fresh sheets, cookies baking, lime in an icy gin & tonic, and warm buttered popcorn in a darkened cinema.  Hours to fill with anything you want...sleeping in (a personal favorite), riveting books, making a slow-cooked stew while it drizzles outside, being with the people you love best, taking your high heels out for a spin.  Anything really.  Monday may seem to always arrive mercilessly soon, but until then...enjoy!!So, if you've got a few of those extra hours that are looking to be filled, here are a few suggestions:** Have you seen the August issue of Yummy magazine?  I share a roasted asparagus salad in my column...and little C makes an appearance in their first Kids issue (it's on the back cover)!** If you follow me on Instagram you have probably already noticed the nauseating amount of breakfast photos with which I shamelessly pepper your feeds (sorry). My current favorite breakfast staple is Gratitude Granola -- locally and lovingly made fresh everyday in small batches.  Follow them to keep abreast of the flavors they come up with day to day.** I am beyond excited that one of my favorite bakery/cafes has opened right in my neighborhood!!  Visit Wildflour for their delicious breakfasts and addictive kimchi rice...but stay for their wonderful baked goods.  My favorites are their kouign amann, pain au chocolate, bacon sticky buns, cranberry walnut bread and, pictured above (lower left) the blueberry amann far.  Drop by and we might even bump into each other! :)** My not-so-guilty midnight secret shopping site, Seek The Uniq, is a treasure trove of well curated finds.  I love their caftans and cover-ups.  But if you see something you like, click fast...these goodies go fast!  I am currently waiting for this gold pineapple (don't's love!) that I was too slow to snatch.** I am so going to try this!  I have heard that there is delicious truth to the one-pan pasta myth...let us see!** Maybe a spot of afternoon tea with the girlfriends?**  Get smarter!  Well, why not?Wishing you a wonderful weekend!  Hope it's filled with delicious things and amazing people![...]

Lapu-lapu with Cantonese Style Steamed Fish Sauce


Although I live in the city, you can’t take the island girl out of me.  I think everyone that lives here is, essentially, an island person.  We are, after all, living in an archipelago with over 7,000 islands. And, technically, I am on an island myself…just a very large one, and living nowhere near the shore of it, surrounded by buildings.  But, hey, I am not going to quibble about these small details.  We are island people, and I for one intend to reap the benefits…even from my little flat in the urban jungle.One of those benefits, and one of my favorites at that, is fresh seafood.  Now, don’t think my table is laden with the bounty of the sea every day, not at all.  But just having the opportunity to buy a whole fish, some prawns, or a couple of crabs, almost any time I want, is a boon I am always and forever grateful for…especially since my husband and I love seafood so much.  Clams and mussels are a bit tricky now with the rains, but still relatively easy to procure from a wet market.Steamed fish is one of our best-loved preparations whenever I get my hands on a lovely specimen of lapu-lapu (grouper or garoupa).  Just stuffed to the gills (literally) and fairly buried with Asian herbs and aromatics, then drizzled with a mix of Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing), soy sauce, and sesame oil, and then a brief steaming – this is absolute heaven for us.  In fact, I’ve already posted a recipe before over here.So what is the difference with this steamed fish?  Although the fish is cooked with some flavorings, the actual sauce is added after.  The recipe for the sauce is from Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes, a book of which I am such a big fan.  I cannot say enough about this book and how it makes favorite Chinese restaurant classics suddenly seem so within reach in your own home kitchen.Lapu-lapu with Cantonese Style Steamed Fish Sauce(Adapted from Succulent Steamed Fish Fillets in Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low)1 whole lapu-lapu (or grouper, garoupa, rock cod) weighing about 1 kilo, gutted and descaled5 (Asian) leeks, sliced on the diagonal1/2 lemon, sliced1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine or sherry)2 tablespoons soy sauce1 teaspoon sesame oilWaterCantonese Style Steamed Fish Sauce3 tablespoons soy sauce1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine or sherry)2 tablespoons water1/4 teaspoon sesame oil3 dashes white pepper2 tablespoons rock sugar (I didn’t have any so I used brown sugar instead)1 tablespoon oil4-5 green onions, sliced1 bunch cilantro- Make your sauce: Mix all the ingredients for the Cantonese Style Steamed Fish Sauce in a small bowl and set aside.  Heat a small saucepan over medium to low heat.  Stir in the sauce and blend well.  Once the sauce starts to bubble and boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool.- In the bottom of a large baking dish (preferably one with a cover) that will fit the whole fish, strew the leeks, placing more in the middle.  Arrange a few of the lemon and ginger slices in the middle of the pan as well (leaving some to dress the actual fish).  This is where the fish will rest upon.- Place the fish atop the leeks, ginger, and lemon.  Stuff the cavity of the fish with the remaining lemon.  Divide the remaining ginger between stuffing the cavity and laying on top of the fish.  I also like to take som[...]

Asian Style Garlic Mushrooms


The wet pavement outside my window, the gray skies, the wind that ruffles the (few) trees on my city streets…these are the things that make me want to entrench myself in the kitchen and make things like soup and stews and braises.  I have a slab of pork belly in the freezer from a new purveyor that I am itching to roast long and slow, and to attempt to finally get the crackling right.  This weather makes me want to roast a whole chicken in my cast iron pot, tucked into a milk bath with some sage and lemon.  I want to make banana cake, or a messy apple galette, and eat this warm out of the oven.These are the things that run through my head when the weather takes a melancholic turn.  When, really, I should be thinking of (finally) getting some proper rain shoes…or paying more attention to remembering to stick an umbrella in my car.Anyway.  Warming, slow-cooked, hearty meals will need to wait because one's workload does not necessarily listen to the weather reports.  Deliverables don’t realize that the rains just beg for a 7-hour shoulder of lamb to be lovingly cooked.  And as I rush back home to a mountain of emails, a grossly over-sized to-do list, and 30 minutes to get something on the table, I know (with much regret) that these drawn-out, dawdling dishes will just have to wait.If you find yourselves in similar situations, as I know a lot of working mothers do, then this is for you.  It is a simple and easy (and delicious!) stir-fry that is ready in minutes.  It can be paired with almost anything.  And it can be later built upon to make other dishes.Also, as a bonus, mushrooms still do seem like “rainy day” food, calling to mind wet forests and cozy hiding places.Asian Style Garlic Mushrooms2 tablespoons canola oil8-10 cloves garlic, finely chopped250 grams Shiitake mushrooms250 grams Oyster mushrooms250 grams Shimeji mushrooms1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice1-1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce1 teaspoon sesame oiloptional: sesame seeds for garnish- Bring a skillet or wok to medium high heat.  When hot add the canola oil and swirl the pan.  Add the garlic to the pan and let this sauté a bit, just until they release their fragrance but before they brown.  - Add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat with the garlicky oil.  Fry for a couple of minutes then add the oyster mushrooms.  Toss and fry for a couple minutes more then add the shimeji mushrooms.  The pan may seem dry, and if so just add a tablespoon or two of water.  And make sure to keep tossing the mushrooms around so they all get evenly cooked.- When the mushrooms have softened, add the Chinese 5 spice and mix well.  Then add the soy sauce and sesame oil and mix thoroughly.  Remove from heat and garnish with sesame seeds if you have them around.When I made this we had it with fried bangus (milkfish) on one day and as a side for steak on another.  But really, it can complement a plethora of dishes, or, on its own piled on some brown rice, or atop some soba noodles, maybe with a squirt of chili oil, serve as a tasty vegetarian main course.  Another thing you can do, if things are extra busy, is make a double batch and use it throughout week in different dishes.  Here are some ideas:- Heat some of the mushrooms with cream in a pan to turn it into a pasta sauce- Fold some mushrooms into egg for a tasty omelet- Pile on toast a[...]

The Singapore Cooking Cookbook Giveaway...We Have a Winner!!


I hope everyone is having a great Friday, and looking forward to an even greater weekend!  Before we all go off into our own weekend shenanigans though I wanted to finally announce the winner of my latest cookbook giveaway!

As mentioned in this post, I, along with the generous folk at Tuttle Publishing, are giving away a copy of Singapore Cooking by Terry Tan & Christopher Tan to one lucky reader.  I've already made some delicious Kari Ayam from this book and I'm looking forward to cooking from it even more...especially making spice pastes from scratch, as well as pretty much everything under the "Marinades, Chutneys, Sambals, and Achars" chapter!!

So, without further delay, the winner of the Singapore Cooking cookbook is....Midge of Midge in the Kitchen!  Congratulations Midge!!  I just know you are going to make good use of this cookbook and I can't wait to see what you whip up.  We can compare notes! :)

I'm off now to get things, doctor's appointments, and all the rest.  I'll be back next week with an easy mushroom dish you can prepare quickly and then use in so many ways.  Until then, wishing everyone a fabulous weekend!