Monday, October 28, 2013

Caramel Cake

No recipe this time.  Just wanted to showcase this cake for hubby's birthday. 

I love chiffon cakes... take a peek inside the cake...


Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Sabaw Itim"

When my brothers and I were little kids, we called this dish "Sabaw Itim", literally Black Soup. To our very young minds, we called it as we saw it - soup because it was so liquid-y and black because it was so dark in color.

It's actually chicken braised in soy sauce with mushrooms and boiled eggs.

It was a real favorite and we had it at least once a month!  In those days, the dish was so much more soupier (after all we all wanted the soup/sauce on our rice!) and the chicken pieces were various cuts from 1 whole chicken.  These days, chicken is available by specific parts, and boneless, no less!  My favorite part?  boneless, skinless chicken thigh!

The recipe:

about 600 to 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 pieces)


2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
a small thumb of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 pieces large bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1/4 cup light soy sauce
dash of shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

150 grams small fresh shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces
(or 60 grams dried shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces)
4 to 6 pieces boiled eggs

1/2 to 1 cup water (or mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock)

Mix marinade ingredients together; set aside for a while.

Clean the chicken pieces and slice each piece into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size desired (remember that meat shrinks upon cooking so adjust accordingly).

Pour marinade over chicken and let stand for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water until softened; drain but keep the soaking liquid. Cut the stems off the mushrooms (fresh or dried ones). Rinse lightly to remove dirt and grime, if there is any.

When we were younger, this dish was cooked on the stove-top in a clay pot; it was soupier too. The way I make this dish now is with the magic cooker and with a lot less liquid.

The traditional way:

Smash some more garlic and saute them over low fire until lightly browned and deliciously fragrant! Then dump the chicken pieces and all marinade into the pot. Throw the rehydrated mushrooms in too (IF using fresh mushrooms, add them after 15 minutes of simmering.) Add enough liquid to barely cover the chicken pieces; mix to combine everything. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces (smaller pieces cook faster). Top up with more liquid if the sauce is reduced too much OR if a soupier dish is desired. About 5 minutes before putting off the stove fire, add the boiled eggs. Adjust seasonings to desired taste. Off fire, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

The magic cooker way:

Just dump the chicken pieces and marinade into the inner pot. Throw in mushrooms and boiled eggs, too. Add 1/2 cup of liquid; mix gently to combine everything (and not mutilate the eggs). Adjust seasonings. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (start counting when liquid starts bubbling). Place inner pot inside the outer chamber of the magic cooker. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes.  Just before serving, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

DISH VARIATION - Use firm tofu instead of mushrooms, or use a variety of fresh mushrooms - shitake, button, Korean king oyster, straw, etc.


The soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms is very flavorful, but some find it too strong, in which case use only 1/4 of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup or more of water or stock. Or omit the soaking liquid altogether.

If using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the sauce of the dish will have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. If using fresh mushrooms, the dish has a more subtle, delicate flavor. It's delicious either way. Using different kinds of fresh mushrooms gives more dimension to the dish.

The original recipe (from my mom's files) has 1/2 tablespoon sugar as an ingredient in the marinade but I've always skipped it.  Also, dark (and salty) soy sauce was traditionally used but I'm happy with my light soya sauce (and hubby is ok with it as well) which is less salty and does not impart a dark brown (almost black) color.

Monday, October 21, 2013

More Cookies!

I've been experimenting with the basic drop cookie recipe that I (accidentally) personalized.  I wanted to find out if I could make it my permanent go-to recipe and just add other specifics to make other cookies.

The verdict?  Success!  I found that the recipe was so versatile I could make it easily into chocolate chip cookies (and other candy variants), green tea choco chip cookies and fruitcake cookies.

The chocolate chip cookies are easy enough, just add about a cup to a cup and a half of chips (bittersweet, dark, milk, mint, strawberry, butterscotch, or a wild combination of some or all!

Chocolate chip cookies -

Nutrageous-stuffed Cookies (they were pretty good but the Snickers Peanut Butter ones are still unbeatable!) -

Strawberry and Chocolate Chips Cookies (incidentally, this is the little girl's favorite!  she did choose the strawberry chips, after all!) -

Butterscotch and Chocolate Chips Cookies -

For the green tea cookies, I added some matcha tea powder but realized soon enough that the resulting cookies had too mild a green tea taste.  But it was not bad, I figure I just have to add more matcha powder next time!

The fruitcake cookies was probably the best of the lot!  I added some spices (mostly cinnamon and nutmeg) and a cup of chopped mixed dried fruits (raisins, apricots, apples, pears, peaches) and about half a cup of glace orange, lemon and lime.  Hubby declared it delicious!

A friend suggested that adding a splash of rum or brandy to make the Christmas-y feel/taste of the cookies more pronounced... and I just might do that for my next batch!

In any case, I think this will be a permanent addition to my recipe collection...

Hmmm... what other flavors can I make?  Chocolate or cocoa?  Date-Walnut?  Coconut-Macadamia?  The possibilities are (nearly) endless...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pork with Barbecue Sauce in Mini Ciabatta Rolls

Hubby asked me if I could make snacks for his get together with friends.  It was for about 20 people and I had little time.  He needed it tomorrow and all I had in the freezer were sukiyaki-cut pork!  I also had mini ciabatta rolls and some lettuce.  So I guess it was pork in ciabatta rolls for their snack.  The question was how the pork would be seasoned.

I thought the easiest and fastest would be to marinate the pork overnight in a barbecue sauce.  In this particular case, a homemade sauce is NOT necessary.  In fact, I used a store bought sauce for this recipe...

Easy, peasy recipe...

Marinate 1.5 kilograms of pork sukiyaki in 1-1/2 cups of barbecue sauce, at least an hour, preferably overnight.

The next day, slice 2 to 3 BIG onions and saute them until softened, not browned.  Add the pork and stir fry until done, with the sauce reduced to almost nothing but a thick clingy mass attached to the pork strips.  (Hint here, it may be a good idea to cook in batches so that the pork remains soft.  Too big a batch results in uneven cooking.)  After cooking, mix the pork together and toss with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup more barbecue sauce.

To make the sandwiches, toast the ciabatta rolls.  Line with lettuce and stuff with pork.

And here they are:

I got about 36 sandwiches (although the rolls were of varying sizes).  I'm also happy to say that the sandwiches were a big hit!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Not My Usual Crab Sotanghon

The usual crab sotanghon (mung bean noodle) that I cook (and that hubby likes) is a creamy, saucy concoction.  This time, however, circumstances forced me to stray from the usual.  The culprit?  The absence of a crucial ingredient.

The result?  A different, but still delicious, dish!

The recipe:

300 to 400 grams sotanghon, softened
1 kilo crabs, cut up (cleaned)
4 to 5 thin slices of ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 stalks leeks, sliced, white parts separated from green parts
350 grams ground pork
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 liter chicken stock
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt, pepper and chili flakes, to taste

Saute the ginger in hot oil.  Add onions, garlic, and the white part of the leeks.  Stir fry a few seconds and add the pork.  Stir fry until almost cooked.  Add the crabs and mix around a few seconds and season with oyster sauce and soy sauce.  Add the chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper (and chili flakes, if desired).  When the stock boils, add the sotanghon.  Swirl in the beaten egg whites.  Let simmer until the sauce is fully absorbed by the sotanghon.  Toss with sesame oil (adjust seasonings, as needed).  Serve hot, garnished with the green part of the leeks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Basic Drop Cookies, stuffed with Snickers Peanut Butter Squared

We have a lot of Snickers Peanut Butter Squared.  Why?  Because I love Snickers and I love peanut butter (I also like the dark chocolate variant).  In fact, while I am not much of a candy or chocolate fan, it is the one candy that I cannot say no to.  The problem is we have too much that I can't finish them all!!!  (Hubby is not a fan of peanut butter...)

Solution?  Convert them into something else...  cookies!!!

Next problem?  What recipe to use?  My requirements are simple... I want... 1. a soft and chewy cookie... 2. a really easy and fast recipe... 3. a cookie that's not too sweet since the candies are sweet enough...


Basic Drop Cookies, stuffed with cut-up Peanut Butter Snickers -


The cookies out of the oven and cooking on the rack -  (the smells from the kitchen were magical!!!)

The original recipe estimated a yield of 4 dozen.  Frankly, I don't know how all of that would be consumed (even assuming that I was giving half away!!!) so I used only half the recipe and added a little less than 2 cups of chopped up Peanut Butter Snickers!

Yummmmyyyy!  I was done in less than an hour and the cookies were soft and chewy!  The peanuts in the candy provided the crunch while the caramel and nougat in the candy bits provided just enough sweetness!  I got about 30 cookies from half the recipe.  I'm definitely making these cookies again, and trying out its many variations! 

The original recipe is from this book:

The recipe can be found here, with a couple of its variants.

PS - I have just discovered that due to my poor Math skills, I made a mistake in halving the recipe... be that as it may, the outcome was surprisingly good!  Hubby brought the cookies to a get-together with friends and everyone wanted more!!!  Hehehe, I guess not all mistakes have "negative" impact.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ham and Cheese Quesadilla

It's actually very easy to make!

Just take a flour tortilla, top it with ham slices and shredded mixed cheese (I like mozarella, parmesan and cheddar or quick-melt cheese).  Top with another flour tortilla.  Toast in a hot, non-stick pan until lightly browned then flip to brown the other side.  The cheese should start melting by then.

Slice into wedges.  Top with sour cream and tomato salsa!


Or just serve the sour cream and salsa on the side...

Fast, easy and delicious!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

3 Cup Chicken

I got home earlier than expected, which meant I had a lot of time to make dinner.  Unfortunately, a quick look in the fridge and freezer yielded only a pack of boneless chicken thighs (yes, time to go to market!) and some shitake mushrooms.

Off I went to look for a recipe.  There were actually lots to choose from, but I wanted to pick a recipe from one of the Chinese cookbooks (a Chinese or Asian published Chinese cooking cookbook, that is) but given the limited ingredients I had in the kitchen, there really wasn't much choice.  I'd almost given up hope until I saw this recipe for 3 cup chicken.  It was relatively simple, and cooking time was just 20 minutes or so!

The dish was so named due to its 3 major ingredients, which, if tradition is believed, to be a cup each of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine.  Personally I think a cup of each is too much unless the meat component is truly plentiful (a couple of kilos at least!) after all it would take too long to cook for the sauce to reduce if that were the case!

Anyway, here's my dish:

The recipe is from this book:

It's from my mom's collection, published in 1989 in Taiwan.  Apparently my mom bought it from National Bookstore for Php169.75 (the sticker was still stuck to the original plastic covering)!  The book is still in relatively good condition but the plastic covering had shrunk so I had to take it off to keep the front and back book cover from warping.  And when I opened the pages, the binding had "weakened" so I took out my handy-dandy glue and tried to fix it (in my amateurish way).

Anyway, while I was pretty faithful to the recipe, it has an ingredient (a Chinese herb) that I had no idea about so I just skipped it.  Here is what I did:

1.  After defrosting the 1 kilogram of skinless chicken thighs, I cleaned, trimmed, and rinsed the pieces then patted them dry.  Then I sliced them into bite-sized pieces, about 3 to 4 cuts per piece.

2.  Then I sliced 10 thin slices of ginger and smashed 1 whole head of garlic - not chopped just smashed whole, skins removed, of course.

3.  I also sliced a stalk of leeks, green part only.  And got out 3 pieces of dried chili.  And a large handful of shitake mushrooms (about 15 small pieces thereabouts).

4.  Then I measured the 3 major ingredients... sort of...  I thought a cup of each was too many so I tried 3/4 cup of each.  Except that my sesame oil only came up to about 1/3 cup so I filled the rest with canola oil.  I also used glutinous rice wine, and for the soy sauce I used partly thick soya sauce and partly light soy sauce.

The cooking part is easy too...

5.  Place a flat casserole dish on the stove.  Layer the ingredients:  ginger first, then garlic, then mushrooms, then chicken pieces.  Pour in the oil, rice wine and soy sauce.  My liquid ingredients covered everything.  Toss in the chili pieces.  Cook over high heat (uncovered).  When the pot boils, lower the heat and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes, until sauce is greatly reduced (I've seen this dish in restaurants with virtually no sauce but we like our dishes saucy, simply because we pour sauce over our rice!!!).  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Serve hot, garnished with sliced leeks.

I liked it, but hubby commented that it was a bit too "soy sauce"-ish.  Hmmm... maybe next time I'll just use the light soy sauce and skip the thick soya sauce...

But this is a dish that I will definitely make again... perhaps with squid next time...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Homemade Apple Pie Spice

When my mom made her apple pie many, many years ago, she used apple pie spice that she got abroad.  There simply wasn't one available in the local market.  Many things have changed throughout the years, but today, I still cannot find apple pie spice locally.  (In fact, there were spices available before that are no longer being sold these days, perhaps due to lack of popularity or marketability... but that's a different story).

The next best thing?  Make your own!

Here's mine -

And what's cute is the tool that I mixed it with.  A whisk is popular enough and there's lots in the market.  But this is what I found in one of the boxes of my mom's stuff - a "baby" whisk!  I say "baby" because it really is little, so much so that a spoon is bigger!  And I remember it well from my tween years (if I remember correctly my mom had several of them!) and I've never found a practical use for it (except to beat eggs but honestly, I just use a fork!)

These days, however, I realized how useful that little tool could be.  It was absolutely perfect for mixing together a batch of spices to make my proprietary blend of apple pie spice!

Anyway, here are some apple pie spice recipes that I followed - here's one, another one, and yet another one.  Sometimes I add more of one ingredient or less of another, depending on my particular mood.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, you can pretty much blend your own depending on your personal taste!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dexter's Chicken and Apple Biscuits

In another attempt to find a doggie treat that Dexter will like... this time with the little girl helping me out (I sure hope she doesn't get tired of helping me...)

I found a recipe in one of my doggie cookbooks and made some major adjustments.  The original recipe called for ground beef and diced carrots.  While Dexter likes carrots, he can't have beef - for some reason beef makes him ill, seriously so.  The last time (years ago) that we made the mistake of giving him beef, he was hospitalized for a week and the vet was afraid he wouldn't make it (I was worried out of my wits!!!)  Anyway, since then his diet is largely vegetable with chicken meat, or sometimes (not really that often) minced pork.

I also omitted the baking powder and salt (vet orders - Dexter is on a no fat, low salt, low carb diet) and and substituted whole wheat flour for the plain flour. 

What I did -

1. Preheated the oven to 325F.

2. Sifted 1¼ cups fine whole wheat flour and ¼ cup skim milk powder together.

3. Added an 1 egg white and 3/8 cup cooked ground chicken and 1/4 cup diced apple (diced in very small dices).

4. Mixed the mixture with my hands.  The goal was to have the mixture resemble pie dough.  Not too dry but not wet either, just moist enough to roll out.  (I thought the mixture was a bit dry so I added about 1 to 2 tablespoons chicken broth and mixed until I got the consistency that I wanted.)

5. Rolled the mixture out to about 1/2-inch thickness (use a floured rolling pin on a floured surface) and used my doggie bone cutter to cut into shape.  The little girl placed the cut out dough shapes onto a paper-lined cookie sheet.  We actually stuck the pieces very close together since they wouldn't be expanding anyway.

6. Baked them for about 22 to 25 minutes until the cookies were dry.  Dexter prefers chewy over crunchy so we baked them just about 20 to 22 minutes.  For a crunchy cookie, bake a little longer.  Take care not to burn them though.

7. Cooled the cookies on a rack.

Dexter loved them!!!