June 12, 2015

summer cakes

My favorite past time this summer, staying cool while enjoying these light and fruity cakes :-) I'm still baking despite the seriously hot and humid days we've been having even in the early mornings. Instead of making regular banana bread, my over ripe bananas went into this banana chiffon cake, shown below. I found a good banana chiffon cake recipe at Chew Out Loud website.

One of the first chiffon cakes I learned to bake was pineapple chiffon cake, shown below. It has been my personal favorite for many years. The white mountain frosting may be optional but it just works so well with cake. I very seldom omit the frosting when I make this cake :-)

a slice of the light & fluffy pineapple chiffon cake

This Japanese strawberry shortcake version with a basic sponge cake base was just perfectly refreshing for summer. However, in Japan, this is called Christmas cake. It's traditionally made or sold during the Christmas season. I've seen pictures of other versions of it online. I also learned that the cakes in Japan are usually less sweet. The bakeshops get very creative with the fruit toppings. They use cantaloupe, honeydew melons and other fresh colorful fruits.

Japanese strawberry shortcake 

May 31, 2015

weekend sandwich idea

Every now and then, usually on weekends, I throw caution to the wind and just succumb to the most comforting guilty pleasure meal like this loaded BLT/clubhouse sandwich we recently had at home :-)

I've never turned down a BLT sandwich and I've never had one that I didn't like either. I have to admit, it's one of my classic favorites. This wasn't totally unhealthy with the addition of avocado :-) The sandwich was definitely an oversized stack of crispy bacon, mortadella, havarti cheese, tomato and avocado slices.

I had no problem finishing it :-) It was exceptionally good with chewy La Brea telera rollsNot available in grocery stores in our area, the rolls have always been a special treat when we get them.

May 30, 2015

more celebrations in May

The pistachio sansrival I made for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day this year, shown below. It turned out crispier than I intended it to be, but I was glad she liked it :-)

Our Memorial Day weekend picnic at home :-)

We had our favorites, burgers and hotdogs with a few sides to complete our meal.

The tart, salty and slightly sweet corn relish, tomatoes and sliced cucumbers provided the right balance of flavors we needed.

May 1, 2015

a birthday request

This was the second time my husband requested burgers and fries for his birthday. I was just happy to make his favorite birthday meal again this year. Ordering burgers and fries from the nearest burger joint in town may be the most convenient option, but we really prefer making them at home.

birthday meal set-up
For the burgers, I like to use lean ground beef mixed with minced mushrooms and onions. To make them tastier, season with salt, pepper and a little worcestershire sauce. It may not be traditional to season the ground beef for the burgers here in the US, but our family in Manila makes burgers this way. Homemade hamburger buns, fries, vegetable and cheese slices completed this make-your-own birthday treat.

Light and fluffy Japanese cheesecake, which I've made a few times before, was his birthday cake this year. I'm glad to finally learn how to make this, thanks to some very informative cooking videos I found on youtube. It was a simple but very enjoyable celebration.

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.