October 31, 2006

apple crisp

juicy gala apples

The many glorious varieties of apples in the market today make it so difficult to choose. Fuji, Granny Smith, Gala, Golden Delicious, etc. If only I can have them all. A very informative website, Apples & More, is dedicated to this popular fruit and it's many varieties. In celebration of the season for juicy apples, I made this sweet apple dessert for my husband's company picnic today. My cousin got this recipe from my aunts in Chicago and she shared it with me. I've seen this recipe featured in magazines and cookbooks but there are a lot of variations. Some require the addition of oatmeal or granola for the topping, for a crunchier texture. I followed my cousin's recipe without altering it ( which I find myself doing more often now ).

I made this not too long ago using the available peaches I had ( see above photo ) when they were season and it worked out as well. I finally bought a bag of gala apples after a tough decision at the supermarket. I went with the freshest and shiniest looking among the batch out there. But that was just my deciding factor, I'm sure almost all of them were the best kind for the recipe. Turned out quite well, although I should probably have used Granny Smith apples, which are tart and perfect for apple pies. The tartness would have been a good balance to the sweetness of this dessert. It may be served warm topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

the apple crisp just before baking ( above )

October 26, 2006

corned beef quiche

This recipe was from one of the series of cookbooks we have where I mostly get recipes and new ideas from. So far everything I have tried from this cookbook turned out well. Corned beef is a pantry staple for me. I use it for omelets, pasta sauces, etc. This is just another good idea. The piecrust and filling for this quiche may be made ahead, even a day ahead, kept chilled in the fridge until ready to use. It's convenient to do them ahead so all that needs to be done is the assembly and the baking. The piecrust may even be rolled out and ready in the pan to fill and bake. There's no need to prebake or blind bake the piecrust unless a crispier crust is desired.

For the pie crust:
Start by lining a pie pan with non-stick foil or use a tart pan with removable bottom.
Preheat the oven to 350F ( or 190C ).
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup each shortening and butter
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1/2 cup iced water
In a large bowl, combine and blend together flour, butter and shortening.
Add the parsley and enough water until mixture binds together in a dough. Chill for 15 mins. Roll dough out to about 1/4" thickness and transfer to the pie or tart pan. Set aside while making the filling.

For the filling:
1 cup hash brown potatoes or diced waxy potatoes, pan fried until cooked then transferred to a paper towel lined plate
1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
13 oz canned corned beef
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onions and garlic for about 8 minutes over gentle heat, until transluscent. Turn out the corned beef into a plate and break it up with a fork. Blend the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Spoon the onions and garlic into the prepeared piecrust and cover with the corned beef. Top with the hash browns or pan fried potatoes. Pour in egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and the filling has set.

Recipe derived from The Book of Quiches and Savory Pies by Mandy Phipps - HPBooks (photo above)

sweet potato in skewers ( camote cue )

I may be away from Manila but just thinking about life there instantly brings me back and reminds me of the many things I miss about it. The small towns where I was born and raised are both in the outskirts of busy downtown Manila. Growing up in a quiet town, I was never exposed to city life. I experienced it only when I went to a university in the heart of downtown Manila. The sights and sounds of Manila will stay with me forever. Who can resist and forget the sweet aromas coming from the countless corner snack stands? Manila streets are incomplete without two of these most popular sweet snacks. Banana and camote cues are usually made fresh on the spot and sold in makeshift stands by hardworking vendors almost everywhere. Turon or those crispy sweet bananas I discussed in an earlier post, is also a favorite. And these are just the sweet stuff. There's a long list but some are for the more adventurous. Deep fried in oil, these sweet snacks may not be too good for our health, but these days almost everything is bad for us anyway. I tried to make this snack with the sweet potato variety available in groceries here. Compared to the kind we have in Manila, the most common sweet potato here is best for sweet potato pie but not as firm for deep frying. I learned from this link that there are several kinds available here in the US but so far I have no luck finding the rest. And so my quest continues and I will be on the lookout for the white or yellow variety ( described as waxy ) since this is the best kind to use for making camote cue. However, the flavor of the orange variety was exceptional combined with the caramelized brown sugar. For my next attempt, I will try to make turon with some boiled and mashed sweet potato, another version we also used to make.

October 22, 2006

burgers for dinner

The summer season is once again over and soon I will miss the warm and sunny days. Having grown up and lived in a very tropical environment, I would say that I prefer even extreme hot and humid days to the cold winter season. I'm thankful that we live in a more temperate than colder zone and there's absolutely no reason for me to complain. Summertime in Manila reminds me of trips to the beach or escaping Manila heat and driving to the cooler climate of Baguio City in the Northern part of the country. Of course there's also simple summertime picnics at a nearby park or right in the backyard. I think an all time favorite backyard picnic food here in the US is grilled hamburger. I take the time to make these hamburger buns using the basic recipe I have for rolls. I just shape them into hamburger buns and sprinkle sesame seeds on them before baking. For the hamburgers, I usually add some finely chopped onions and minced mushrooms to the ground beef and season it with salt and pepper. I've found out that the addition of the onions and mushrooms makes the burgers more tender with a lesser tendency to overcook and dry out. But this is just how we like our burgers. Dinnertime hamburgers are so easy to fix. A grill pan works great and cooks the burgers really well. I must say we haven't bought fast food hamburgers since we started making our own burgers at home. I usually have lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber slices with an assortment of condiments on the side for this very simple and enjoyable meal.

October 17, 2006

pasta puttanesca

Almost everyone I know, with the exception of a few who still continue to have the amazing willpower to stick to a low carb diet, love pasta. There are numerous outstanding pasta recipes out there, but in my personal opinion and taste, I would readily include pasta puttanesca ( click on the link to read more about the interesting history and story behind it's name ) in my list of unforgettable classic pasta dishes. In this small area where we reside, there are many Italian restaurants serving very good authentic Italian food and all seem to be doing good business, proving the popularity of the cuisine. Watching an episode of Emeril Live the other night reminded me of how good this light meatless pasta dish is. Lots of minced garlic and red roma tomatoes sauteed in extra virgin olive oil with the flavors of black olives and capers were simmered together. Fresh chopped parsley or basil leaves were added last. I've made this with or without anchovies and I must say it's not a big issue. Any kind of pasta works, from angel hair to fettucine to penne. I guess it's all a matter of personal tastes and preferences. The sauce may be made ahead, even a day ahead, which is another thing I like about it, then reheated before tossing with fresh pasta and freshly grated parmesan cheese. The addition of thick tomato paste was an excellent tip I learned from Emeril to give the sauce a richer texture and flavor. Served with some buttered garlic bread slices, pasta puttanesca makes a hearty and satisfying meal.

October 16, 2006


Tried my best to resist the temptation to sleep in on this rainy Monday morning. With the onset of the cooler fall temperature, comes the inspiration to dig into my collection of forgotten recipes and attempt to revive them. This meatball soup we call "almondigas" is a favorite which we regularly cook in Manila. It's a meaty and filling soup best enjoyed on rainy and cooler seasons. Ground pork is commonly used but a combination of ground beef & pork works as well. Mixing the ground meat for the meatballs is the first step, simply seasoning it with salt & pepper. I always make sure to sprinkle a small amount of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice and worcestershire sauce directly on the meat before mixing. For the binder, a very fine and delicate flour noodle we call "miswa" is usually crumbled and mixed in in place of breadcrumbs. Then the meatballs were rolled in more of the crumbled "miswa" and set aside. Step no. 2 is to saute some minced garlic, finely sliced onions, and sliced tomatoes in some olive or vegetable oil. Chicken broth is added next for the broth. Then the soup is seasoned with salt, pepper and some "kasubha", a much cheaper version of the Spanish saffron flower, commonly available in Manila. Both "miswa" and "kasubha" are sold in most Asian and Filipino markets here in the US. The meatballs were then dropped into the broth and simmered until cooked. Finally, a few more strands of the miswa were added. It takes only seconds to cook the miswa so it's best to turn off the heat after adding the miswa. Serve the almondigas steaming hot with some chopped green onions.

October 14, 2006

pumpkin bread

It has been weeks since I posted anything new. Time just zooms by so fast. Sometimes it's hard to believe that the fall season has began and it's now October! Soon we will all be wondering whatever happened to the year 2006. It's the season for pumpkins again. Seems like it was only yesterday when I've seen those pumpkins for sale at the nearby produce market. The fall season still amazes me. The cooler fall weather is such a welcome change. Inspiring people to get out and enjoy the outdoors more. I also associate fall with holiday cooking and baking. I just tried this new recipe for Pumpkin Bread straight from the new fall issue of Everyday Food magazine. Mixing the ingredients together didn't take long. Overmixing must be avoided or it will produce a heavy bread texture. When the bread has cooled down a bit, powdered sugar glaze was drizzled over it.

a slice of the pumpkin bread