April 28, 2015

lunch ideas for weekdays

I've been trying to think of more creative but not too complicated lunch options now that my husband has been coming home for lunch everyday. Last year, his office moved to a better and more convenient location that's very close to our home. Shown below are some lunch ideas I've made recently.

Whole wheat clubhouse sandwiches with scrambled egg, sliced ham, Swiss cheese and dijon mustard, shown above. I found the best 100% whole wheat bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website that  I bake often. I make it with either molasses or honey but the molasses gives it a darker color and a deeper flavor.

A simple and light omelet made with sauteed mushrooms and grated cheese, shown above. I also make a lighter version with chopped tomatoes and spinach.

For the creamy pasta shown above, cook 1 cup shell pasta then drain. Brown sliced sausage in a skillet then add 1/4 cup chopped red onions and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the cooked pasta with a little of the pasta water. Add some frozen peas if desired. Remove from heat then mix in about half a cup of sour cream. Stir until well mixed. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

April 24, 2015

rice paper rolls

Right after my sous vide experiment which I posted previously, some leftover steaks made it into the beef summer rolls, shown below. Sliced very thinly and layered with julienned carrots, cucumbers, red radishes, red bell pepper and lettuce leaves, they were refreshing and light, perfect little appetizers for hot and humid summer days. I also like cooked vermicelli noodles in them, for additional texture, but always optional. Dried rice papers, sold in most Asian markets and grocery stores, are handy to have in the pantry. To make the rice paper pliable, soak it briefly in warm water then lay it on a clean towel or wood cutting board to get rid of excess water before rolling.

Another version I made later on was with a combination of thinly sliced ripe mango, cucumber, red bell pepper and surimi or imitation crab sticks layered and rolled together with flavored vermicelli noodles. Thanks to the recipe by Chef Hylton Le Roux which I found on youtube. Glad to discover his Market to Master series which I've been watching lately. He's a chef based in Manila who also travel around the country in search of the best regional dishes and food. I get so many tips and ideas from the episodes.

surimi flakes, red bell pepper, cucumber and mango 

Shown above, the seasoned vermicelli noodles and the package of imitation crab I used. The noodles were soaked for a few minutes in boiling water until they softened then drained. Toss with chili sauce (for a spicier version, use sambal oelek), rice vinegar, sesame oil and mirin. The seasoned vermicelli was very tasty and I may never go back to using plain vermicelli for these rice paper rolls. Serve with honey-soy dip.

For the recipe...

April 20, 2015

sous vide at home

Just a little taste of molecular gastronomy at home :) My husband recently got one of these sous vide (French term for "under vacuum") gadgets for us to try at home. Anova is just one of the many sous vide immersion circulators in the market now. Shown below is our set-up.

On my first attempt, I chose a recipe from the Codlo Sous Vide Guide cookbook. Codlo is another brand of immersion circulator in the market. I found the illustrations in the cookbook as well as the easy-to-follow recipes very helpful for a sous vide novice like me. As suggested in the recipe, I used rump roast cut of beef which I sliced into 1" thick steaks. First step was to set the time and temperature on the Anova. As soon as the desired temperature was reached, I placed the steaks in vacuum-sealed plastic bags and submerged them into the pot of water. It was as easy that. A quick sear on a hot cast iron pan was all that was needed and the steaks were ready to serve.

seared steaks ready to be sliced and served

The sous vide steaks, shown above, were evenly cooked medium rare. It will definitely take a few more tries to learn more about this method of cooking but it's good to know that it's much easier to do this at home now, thanks to these smaller and more affordable sous vide gadgets.

April 3, 2015

ube pandan birthday cake

Another year older, another reason to bake a cake :-) I still remember how much I loved my ube birthday chiffon cake last year, so I thought it would be nice to recreate it with a little twist for my birthday this year.

The marble chiffon cakes I've made it the past were always with chocolate and vanilla. Just one of those basic chiffon cakes my mother taught me to bake. The idea of combining ube and pandan flavors was an experiment. The pandan flavor was light and not overpowering. I still need to learn better techniques to achieve a nicer marbled effect and try to improve the light green pandan color as well for better contrast.

We were happy with the ube, pandan and coconut combination of flavors in this chiffon cake. However, I was a little disappointed that it didn't rise taller and wasn't as light and fluffy. I ran into a problem with the cake batter. As soon as I started mixing it, I immediately noticed that it had a much thicker consistency. It was supposed to flow like pancake batter. I tried to add more liquid but I guess the harm has been done. It has been awhile since I baked a chiffon cake so I completely forgot to sift the cake flour before measuring resulting in a heavier batter. In baking, one single missed step can be disastrous. Everything has to be precise.

Glossy and fluffy white mountain frosting worked very well for this cake. The pastel sprinkles made it look more festive and reminded me of Easter. I'm glad I had a chance to make marble chiffon cake again. I look forward to many more combinations to try.

Enjoy the blessings of EASTER!

For the recipe...

March 30, 2015

green salad days

Now that spring time is officially here again, the warmer sunny days made me think of colorful refreshing green salads. I love using a combination of baby greens, sometimes adding other varieties like romaine, spinach and arugula. For starters, I like serving green salads for lunch or dinner most days now.

Very fresh Greek salad, shown above and below, is one of the easiest to put together and one of the healthiest too. The combination of crunchy salad greens and other vegetables, salty feta cheese and olives tossed together with a light vinaigrette, is something I truly crave. The vinaigrette may be mixed ahead and stored in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend well. 

Another one of our regular favorites is Cobb salad, which is more filling with the addition of ham or other deli meats. I used pastrami for my version then added more crunchy vegetables and avocado which is usually present in traditional Cobb salad. Shown from left to right in the picture below, shredded red radishes, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, diced feta cheese, diced tomatoes, sliced red onions, pastrami strips, avocado slices and sliced black olives were arranged over a bed of romaine and spring salad greens.The dressing may be a simple ranch or other creamy mixtures.

March 25, 2015

pork carnitas

Using the same basic cut of pork and the same braising technique, I just have to say that pork carnitas can very well be the Mexican version of Filipino adobo :-) The flavors are quite different though but both dishes are very easy and quick to make.

I like that the carnitas were broiled in the oven and not pan fried in oil like with certain versions of adobo. I'm afraid I made these carnitas more Filipino than Mexican because I even had it with steamed jasmine rice rather than with the more traditional tortillas :-) The convenience of using a slow cooker for this dish makes it even more appealing for everyday meals.

I just had to take a closer shot of the tender chunks of pork

Served with thinly sliced jalapenos, serranos and another kind that resembled habaneros but were red and not orange, shown above. Sliced green onions and some cilantro were served on the same plate.

March 23, 2015

strawberry cake

I recently baked this fresh strawberry cake to celebrate and welcome the coming of spring. Fresh strawberries have been showing up at the grocery stores, some were still on the tart side but they were perfect to use for a sweet cake like this. Thanks to Once Upon a Chef for the idea. All I did was follow her exact recipe and instructions. The cake turned out lovely, as shown above. 

Even less than perfect strawberries may be used, just wash and dry them thoroughly and slice. Set aside the strawberry halves while mixing the cake batter.

I used about a pound of strawberries to top the cake before baking. Just lay them out evenly on top of the thick cake batter. They don't really have to be pressed well into the batter, as I later found out, some of the strawberry halves got buried inside the cake. I used a 9" round cake pan which worked out just fine. I made the sides taller with extra strips of parchment paper just in case the cake rose higher. It turned out I didn't have to do that after all.

I like that the batter was thick so it was easier to arrange the strawberries on top and yet the texture of the cake turned out moist and fluffy. Just avoid overmixing the batter. For the recipe, just head to Once Upon a Chef website and search for Simple Summer Strawberry Cake recipe.

a slice of the sweet strawberry cake