August 15, 2016

plates of lunch for everyday

It's fun to get a little creative to make everyday lunch plates more appealing without going too fancy. Most of the time, I just make sandwiches served with a few extras to add color and variety.

homemade sesame seed roll, deviled eggs and green olives
a little twist to the classic ham and cheese sandwich :-)
dipped in beaten egg then pan-fried in a little butter
bento box ham and egg sandwich,
fruits, black olives and cucumber slices for
a well-balanced meal
bento box clubhouse sandwiches, Fuji apple and green olives

omelets are quick and tasty to make
served with whole wheat bread and cucumber slices

two kinds of cheese, fried egg, toasted bread, ham,
salami, fried egg and shimeiji mushrooms

clubhouse sandwich with crispy bacon, ham, egg and
cheese, avocado, tomato and cucumber slices
Sandwiches and salads are ideal to have for a quick lunch break. They can also be made ahead and kept refrigerated in to-go lunch containers or zip lock bags. There are so many ideas for sides to make them more colorful and flavorful. At home, they can be made light and healthier with the addition of all kinds fresh ingredients, dips and dressings.

July 25, 2016

wholesome 10-grain bread

Perfect for sandwiches and simple breakfast toasts, it was surprising that this whole grain bread did not turn out heavy at all. The crumb texture was light and springy with a very good whole grain flavor. The recipe suggested 7-grain hot cereal mix but I used Bob's Red Mill's 10-grain mix which I already have. Either one is good to use. I used a bread machine to knead the dough but it can be done by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook as well.

The dough wasn't too sticky so it was fast and easy to shape them into logs (shown above). The dough was divided into equal parts (I like to weigh them using a kitchen scale to get equal portions) then rolled tightly into logs. Brush the tops with beaten eggs. Sprinkle oats evenly on a cutting board then dip or roll the logs on the oats for an even coating.

Cover them with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel. A good tip I found was to use new and clean shower caps. They're the right size and fit most bowls and pans plus the elastic band works great. Set them in a warm place until they rise to about 1" above the rim of the pans. They rise very well for about an hour.

Freshly baked loaves of bread are shown above and below. I made a previous batch sprinkled with just plain water but the oats adhered to the tops of the bread brushed with beaten eggs better.

For the recipe...

July 20, 2016

classic Vietnamese favorites at home

Split yellow mung beans in the light batter made these Vietnamese crepes or banh xeo quite unique. Traditionally filled with shrimp, other meat like chicken and pork may be substituted. I also used sauteed ground pork cooked with coconut milk. As with many Vietnamese specialties, these crepes were served with beansprouts and fresh herbs like Thai basil and cilantro.

Vietnamese crepe assembly

To complete our Vietnamese meal, I also tried to cook Vietnamese pho for the first time at home. I didn't feel the need to cook it at home before because we used to go to a very good Vietnamese pho restaurant but lately we haven't been there much. I do miss and crave the taste of this popular Vietnamese soup.

A platter of herbs, lime, jalapenos, beansprouts and mushrooms to complete a bowl of pho (shown above). The mushrooms are not traditional but it was a nice addition.

I got 3 pounds of beef marrow soup bones at our local grocery to make the pho. I also got some lean round beef cut for the thinly sliced rare beef that was also essential to complete a bowl of pho. Fresh ginger and a whole onion are usually charred on a hot grill or roasted in the oven. Spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves were also added to the water. I used the Instant Pot pressure cooker for the broth. I later learned that the broth was best made a day ahead and refrigerated to intensify the flavors. The extra fat was skimmed off the surface before reheating. It was a bit time consuming to make but the result was a full-flavored soup broth.

The most important part of pho is the broth. It's just not right without the classic combination of flavors. Before serving time, simmer the broth. Soak the rice noodles in warm water for a few minutes to soften them. Pour boiling water over the noodles or place in a colander and dip in boiling water for a few minutes until fully cooked. Drain well. To serve, place the cooked noodles in a serving bowl, arrange a few slices of very thinly sliced beef on top then ladle the hot broth into the bowl. Top with beansprouts and lots of fresh herbs. Serve with lime and sliced jalapenos.

This particular recipe for Pressure Cooker Pho from The New York Times was my guide for the ingredients and process to make the pho.

earthy shimeji mushrooms from the Asian market

July 10, 2016

frozen raspberry cake

Frozen fruit cakes, popularly known as "raw cheesecakes" sparked my curiosity from the time I saw them at Maka by Mana, a restaurant in Maui that became our favorite when we there. Unfortunately I didn't really get a chance to try them there. However, seeing them on some vegan food websites actually brought back my interest in them. Cashews (labeled "raw" at the store) were soaked for a few hours or overnight then processed with some of the water they soaked in.

a slice of raspberry frozen cake

date-walnut crust and processed cashew filling

For me, the crust was the highlight of this frozen cake. It was easy to press the sticky mixture of ground walnuts and dates into the bottom of a 7" springform pan. A food processor works best for this task. The soft dates (medjool dates were recommended but I just used Sunsweet brand pitted dates).

Fresh or frozen raspberries may be used for the cake mixture. If using frozen berries, they should be thawed out first before using. The pureed cashews and fruit were combined together then poured into the prepared crust. Freeze for a few hours until set. I was happy with how this refreshing and fruity summer dessert turned out :-)

tropical papaya version shown above
I used this Raw Raspberry Dreamcake recipe from My New Roots as my inspiration to create my version. I replaced the almonds with walnuts in the crust.

June 20, 2016

vegetarian fresh lumpia

Aside from Filipino adobo, there are other traditional dishes and snacks that deserve a prominent place in Philippine cuisine. Lumpia is one of them. Unlike the crispy deep-fried lumpia that most people know and love, this type of lumpia is a more of a vegetable dish. Yes, there's a fresh lumpia version and this is the actual filling that goes inside it. I hope this will not be confusing to those who are more familiar with the crispy type of lumpia.

This vegetable lumpia filling may also be served wrapped in fresh lumpia wrappers similar to a savory crepe. I like it both ways but the fresh wrappers are hard to find and I've never been successful making them. Served minus the wrappers, this dish is called "lumpiang hubad" or "naked lumpia" much like the term "naked burrito" when served in a bowl without the tortilla wrap.

This was my version of a vegetarian lumpia (shown above) which had tofu. Cut a block of tofu into 1/2" thick slices. On a tray or plastic cutting board, arrange the tofu slices side by side on a clean towel or sheets of paper towels. Cover with more paper towels and place a cutting board on top. This process will get rid of excess water and prevent splattering when frying the tofu. Dice the tofu and pan-fry in a small amount of oil until lightly browned.

Pork, chicken or shrimp may be added but it's also traditional to add small dried shrimps (called hibe - pronounced as hee-beh) for a more distinct flavor. Rehydrate the hibe in hot water before using. The slight orange color was from annatto seeds  or achuete.

For the recipe, please refer to my 2010 post for Lumpiang Sariwa.

June 15, 2016

seafood night

As far as I'm concerned, I can eat seafood almost everyday :-) Coming from a country of many islands, I was introduced to fish and shellfish early on. My mother's favorite were blue crabs. She would just steam and serve them with a garlicky vinegar dip very much like what I served with these Alaskan crabs.

Alaskan King crabs served with garlic vinegar dip
salmon escabeche 

Another one that instantly brings me back to my childhood is Escabeche, as shown above. Back in Manila, our preference for this dish was "tanigue" fish or Spanish mackerel.

May 18, 2016

white chocolate torte with fresh fruit

I had fun making this cake, although it was a bit complicated. I was inspired by those tall Japanese cream cakes that I've been seeing online mostly in the Japanese food and travel videos I love to watch :-)

The special occasion cake looked impressive and colorful with an assortment of our favorite fresh berries and fruit all piled on top. To start off, the cake itself wasn't too sweet. The fresh fruit and toasted chopped nuts (I used macadamias) made the frosted cake even less sweeter. There was a complete balance of flavors - sweet, creamy and slightly tart. This torte will make an attractive centerpiece for any special celebration.

I plan to make this with a basic sponge cake next time. Perhaps more like a fluffier strawberry shortcake than a dense torte.

The torte was baked in two 9" round cake pans then split to make four layers (shown above). Butter, melted white chocolate and confectioner's sugar were mixed together for the frosting that went along the sides and top. Fresh whipped cream went in between the layers and was also piped on top. I may just try an all whipped cream frosting next time.

The cake recipe was adapted from Land o'Lakes White Chocolate Raspberry Torte. Fruits in season are great to use, however, I may do a tropical version of this cake next time with mango, pineapple and papaya or other available tropical fruits.