November 15, 2014

calamansi marmalade

Below are pictures and notes documenting my calamansi marmalade project from start to finish. Having harvested a bunch this year before the onset of cooler weather, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try making marmalade with them. I found a few helpful tips and recipes from other foodblogs and websites I read which served as my guide.

The finished product taste test as shown above. The canning jars, lids and rings were washed thoroughly with warm soapy water then sterilized in boiling water for 10-15 minutes before using. I let them air dry on a wire rack while cooking the marmalade. Served with some crackers and toasted slices of French bread, the calamansi marmalade had a good balance of sweetness and citrus flavor with a slight bitterness from the strips of calamansi peel. The distinct calamansi flavor in this marmalade was unlike any other citrus marmalades I've tried.

washing the calamansi under running water

Using a small knife, slice and juice the fruits removing the seeds (above). I separated the segments from the peel, however, this step is optional. Slice the peel into strips next. I later found out that it was better not to slice the peel too thinly as they almost melted while cooking. Add 3/4 cup of water to every cup of fruit. I simmered the juice with the peel and the pulp segments in two separate pots for 10-12 minutes. Then I strained the pulp into the juice to get maximum pectin. Refrigerate the mixture preferably overnight.

The next day, pour the refrigerated mixture into a bigger pot before adding the sugar. The bigger pot ensures that the mixture doesn't boil over during the cooking process. Add 1 cup of sugar to every cup of the mixture. A tablespoon of butter may be added to prevent foaming. I learned that a candy thermometer is most helpful to precisely determine the correct temperature (ideally 220F) for the marmalade to properly set. The calamansi fruits contained lots of pectin eliminating the need for Sure Jell, a dry pectin product used for jam and jelly making.

the jars all filled up with the hot mixture

Hand tighten the lids and rings onto the jars then process them in boiling water bath for 10-12 minutes, as shown above. Using a jar lifter gadget, carefully transfer the hot jars to a towel-lined tray or cutting board. As the jars start cooling down, they will pop and seal. Jars that didn't seal properly must be refrigerated. Sealed jars may be stored in the pantry.

Homemade marmalades and jams make great gifts from the kitchen for the coming holiday season. Label them with the date they were made then wrap them in clear cellophane, as shown in the example above. Tie with a pretty ribbon or raffia.

October 20, 2014

calamansi muffins

Bright sunny days make me think of these citrusy muffins. I usually make them with lemons but now that we're having a steady supply of calamansi, I thought about using them instead of lemons in the recipe. Do not underestimate these tiny citrus fruits when it comes to flavor and juice content :-) They're extra juicy with a good balance of tartness and sweetness.

As soon as these muffins came out of the oven, I dipped the tops in melted butter then quickly rolled them in sugar forming a crust, as shown in the pictures below.

The highlight of every bite was the calamansi flavor which was as bright as the sunshine outside :-) These muffins will surely be a nice breakfast or snack treat for citrus lovers out there. I'm thankful for warm summer days and for our yearly fresh calamansi supply. I look forward to another harvest season next year.

For the recipe...

October 15, 2014

calamansi harvest 2014

For many years now, it has been a tradition for me to feature our calamansi harvest. It has been a bountiful summer once again for our potted calamansi, shown above.

Harvest time is always a happy time for me :-) I gladly welcome these citrus fruits every summer. This year turned out to be an extended season for them. It's October now and I'm still harvesting! This may be due to the freezing temperatures we had last winter. Somehow it took them awhile to start flowering. Summer just wouldn't be complete without them. Calamansi citrus fruits may be substituted for lemons and limes in many recipes.

October 5, 2014

chicken soba noodle soup

The sudden drop from warm to cooler fall temperature this weekend made me long for some good comforting soup. I wanted something different from the usual creamy chicken noodle soup I make which we call "sopas" in the Philippines. I went online again to search for alternatives and found this Korean version in Maangchi's youtube channel. She made the noodles from scratch but I decided to use some healthier soba noodles which I already have. Instead of adding garlic cloves to the broth, I toasted minced garlic in sesame oil and served it as a condiment instead. The clear chicken broth enhanced with flavors of sesame oil and a touch of garlic was just what I had in mind. The soba was a healthier option to elbow macaroni. My version was actually more of a Korean-Japanese fusion as I also added some mirin (Japanese rice wine) to the broth. We also have a Filipino version of this simply called "chicken mami" which is often paired with "siopao" or steamed buns filled with pork or chicken.

Layer the cooked soba noodles, vegetables sauteed in sesame oil, sliced green onions and shredded chicken in a bowl as shown above. Bring the chicken broth to a rolling boil and slowly pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and enjoy the unique flavors of this Asian chicken noodle soup!

Additional sliced green onions, toasted garlic with sesame oil, chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds may be served on the side. For a spicy hot version, add sriracha or red pepper flakes.

For the recipe...

September 23, 2014

glazed Italian cookies

There was an "instant party" feeling the minute I started glazing these cute cookies and topping them with pastel-colored candy sprinkles :-) 

I think I should rename them happiness cookies

These were supposed to be anisette cookies but I ran out of anise flavoring so I substituted amaretto flavoring instead. It has been awhile since I made them and this week, I was craving Italian cookies so I thought about baking them.

They can be left simple and plain without the powdered sugar glaze but the glazed cookie wins everytime in our taste test at home. It just brings them to another level and even with the added glaze and the sprinkles they're still not super sweet.

The never-fail recipe makes delightful delicate round cookies with crispy edges and cake-like interior. These cookies are so addictive that it's impossible to eat just one :-) They make my tea time so much more enjoyable!


3/4 cup shortening (I combined 1/4 cup butter & 1/2 cup Crisco)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
4 tablespoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons anise or amaretto flavoring

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Cream together shortening and sugar for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Continue mixing until mixture is smooth. Add the flavoring. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Measure the dough using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon then form into balls. Arrange them about 1" apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes about 45 cookies. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack. Spread with powdered sugar glaze. Decorate with your choice of colorful candy sprinkles.

For the powdered sugar glaze, just mix sifted powdered sugar with a little water to make a spreadable glaze. I've tried a recipe using melted butter and milk but this simple powdered sugar and water combination worked for me.

cross section reveals the light cake-like crumb
the cookies look cute inside a covered cake pedestal

September 17, 2014

Korean braised short ribs

Browsing the meat section at the grocery store one day, I found some flanken-style short ribs which instantly made me think of Korean kalbi and Korean braised short ribs. I've made kalbi once so I decided to try cooking this Korean braised specialty (shown below). Regular cut short ribs may also be used if flanken style is not available. I also mixed in a pound of boneless short ribs for extra meat. Marinating overnight works best to add more flavor before cooking.

I'm glad I used the Instant Pot (shown below) to make this dish. The meat got infused with so much flavor and fall-off- the-bone tender. I've used it many times now.

It's funny when my husband surprised me with this Instant Pot pressure/multi-cooker, I was totally speechless. I've never heard of it before so I was clueless about it. To be honest, I've never pressure-cooked anything before. I remember when I was a kid, my aunt sent my mother a pressure cooker from the US. She never used it but it remained on our kitchen shelf until now. The avocado green finish has become dull and the rubber seal got brittle and broke over the years but it still sits on its permanent spot. I was even hesitant to use a pressure cooker for fear that it may explode. This modern pressure cooker is so much easier to use and it makes the best stews and soups in minutes.

A bowl of sauteed sliced cabbage and carrot strips with sesame oil and a platter of soba noodles completed our meal. Steamed rice may also be served.

For the recipe...

September 16, 2014

summer drinks

We're supposed to feel the onset of cooler fall weather by now but it's still hot and humid where we are. We may have a few more summer days left to enjoy these cold summer drinks :-) I've just discovered bubble tea (also known as boba milk tea in Asia) and we've also been trying to make Vietnamese coffee lately. We still have to perfect it though.

I've been curious about the popularity of bubble tea. I finally got to try mango bubble tea at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant recently. I just love the chewy black tapioca in the bubble tea. They sell the quick-cooking kind at the Asian store which takes only 5 minutes to cook. Thai instant milk tea is the stuff I use for my bubble tea at home. Other flavors like taro, green tea, honeydew and mango are also available.

Vietnamese iced coffee
This Vietnamese drip-style coffee press (shown below) can be tricky to use. As of now, I'm still figuring out the proper way to regulate the flow. It has to trickle slowly for about 4 minutes to achieve the correct intensity of coffee flavor. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of condensed milk in a tall glass. Pour the coffee over it and stir, then add ice to make a refreshing iced coffee drink. Based on my husband's research, Cafe du Monde is the best brand to use for this.