January 1, 2015

celebrating 2015

Just like in Manila where I was raised believing that food on the table on New Year's eve ensures a bountiful and blessed year, our celebration this year was as traditional as in the past years. Continuing the food tradition, we happily welcomed 2015 with a toast and enjoyed our quiet New Year's eve dinner at home.
Happy New Year to all !!!

a good start...a toast for another good year!

some round fruits for good luck

pandesal (Filipino rolls), cheese and my traditional sandwich
more round food ~ lumpia (springrolls) and sausage balls (below)

baked macaroni with bechamel topping
our New Year's eve table

brazo de mercedes dessert is shown on the bottom right
a slice of heavenly brazo de mercedes :-)

December 8, 2014

2014 holiday travels

It has been a busy holiday season for me. We spent a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with my husband's family for a yearly traditional family gathering. As soon as we got back home, I just had three days to do chores and other errands before I left again for Memphis to visit my aunt and uncle. It was also a good opportunity for me to see my brother before he left for Manila.

a few of my aunt's colorful Christmas decorations

a cute elf holding an apple garland
As soon as I got there, my aunt, with the help of my cousin, got busy decorating the house for a potluck dinner with her close friends. It was also a farewell party for a special guest, a well-known singer from the Philippines, who graced this year's Fil-Am Christmas Ball in Memphis. We had fun preparing for the party as well as meeting the special guest that evening. We were not informed that she's a dedicated vegan, so her options were limited, but the other guests were quite pleased with the menu.

As shown above, we had Christmas ham, pandesal (Filipino dinner rolls), whole wheat challah bread with sliced queso de bola (aged edam cheese popular in the Philippines during the Christmas season), a healthy salad assortment with quinoa, legumes and vegetables from Whole Foods (brought by one of the guests), my version of chop suey (chicken and vegetable stir-fry), crispy springroll wrappers drizzled with honey (my cousin's specialty) and fresh fruits on the dessert table. It was a happy event with family and friends.

December 1, 2014

baked chicken fajita

One of our dinner mainstays is fajitas. Whether it's made with beef or chicken, it's one of those quick no-fuss home cooked favorites. This was the first time I tried to bake fajitas and it proved to be even less work. I just marinated about 1 lb of chicken breast strips (chicken tenderloins may also be used) with a combination of minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, lime juice and 1 teaspoon salt for about an hour. Store-bought taco seasoning may also be used.

Slice up some red onion, red and green bell peppers into strips. Toss the vegetables with the marinated chicken strips. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. The vegetables retained their nice colors after baking. Garnish with sliced green onions.

The baked chicken fajita as shown above served with corn tortillas, avodacos, sliced japapenos, chopped fresh cilantro and more sliced green onions. Any dinner time can be turned into a Mexican fiesta with this meal :-)

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...