Dads will be back soon!
At the end of every year, our family get together would not be complete without our traditional Christmas dinner. Most of us were raised by parents and grandparents who loved to cook so our palates have been used to eating good food. Our Christmas dinners then meant Chinese ham coated in sugar, Marca Pina Quezo de Bola, lechon, pancit, fruit salad, and fruit cake.
However, as we got older and having moved to other parts of the world, our concept of Christmas dinners have also evolved.
Although my cousin still prepares Pinoy macaroni salad and ham, living in North America also meant adapting to some of the dishes that are usually served during special occasions. Similarly, our family has evolved from being mostly Pinoys to a multicultural clan so perhaps, the safest way to satisfying our discriminating palates is to go potluck.
Potluck appears to have originated in North America, where bringing food for communal meals go back to the practices of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the United States (also referred to as potlatch, a gift giving feast which has an interesting kinship multicultural origin) or the Irish where anyone who comes to dinner brings food that is meant to be shared.
This practice works well for our family since we all have different needs when it comes to food (halal, vegetarian, vegan) not to mention diet restrictions (e.g., peanut and dairy allergies, no red meat and pork). Despite the seeming complicated food preparation and considerations, the variety of food allows us to learn more about the new members of our family and our new home; let alone enjoy the meals that we share.
For example, my niece’s roasted leg of lamb which she prepared for her husband who prefers only halal food was so delicious! Or my nephew’s soy chicken was so tasty that a lot of us were begging for some more.
For those who were more health conscious, I prepared Pepper Maple Salmon and Sauce while my wife made Apple and Mild Italian Sausage Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette.
For appetizer, my niece prepared charcuterie, a Filo Greek Pastry filled with Brie cheese, caramelized onions and fig jam and mushroom pate, which was too die for!
Of course, my chef nephew did not disappoint the red meat eaters when he cooked his version of Porchetta stuffed with Wild Boar Sausage. The crispy skin reminded me of the lechon of time past, when my cousins and I would then get bits of crispy lechon skin and dip it in liver sauce.
Like most of our recent Christmas dinners, this was truly a feast! We all capped the night with a choice of coffee or tea and traditional Pinoy panghimagas (dessert) such as pitsi-pitsi, leche flan, buko pandan or ginataang halo-halo or North American pastries such as cranberry pie, caramel cake and gingerbread cookies.
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!
Time does fly when you’re having sun…er, fun! We’re moving towards the end of summer and for us, the end of summer means that my daughter’s small garden is now teeming with nature’s bounty. Since she was five, she has looked forward to this time of the year when she would usually harvest her vegetables. I can only guess that she gets a kick out of pulling the carrots, picking the cherry tomatoes or plucking the basil leaves.
But more than the excitement, it is the annual ritual of sowing the seeds during spring and harvesting the fruits of her labour during summer that has taught her so many virtues. For example, she had this realization that the food that she eats entails a lot of hard work. She appeared to have gained some sense of responsibility by consciously watering her plants daily and occasionally checking for weeds. She learned to be more patient and caring (she read stories to them almost every day!); realizing that growing food takes time.
And when I cooked our beef stew, she also knew that the delicious stew had her share when we added her fresh basil, tomatoes and carrots! Indeed, food preparation and cooking can sometimes be a family affair and teach our kids life’s important lessons!
Harvest Beef Stew
(Adapted from Crock-pot: The Original Slow Cooker)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of beef for stew
Fresh cherry and roma tomatoes (or 32 ounces of canned or stewed tomatoes)
10 pcs of baby carrots
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
8-10 pieces of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup all-purpose flour (optional)
½ warm water (optional)
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Brown stew meat on all sides. Drain excess fat.
3. Before serving, thicken gravy, if desired. Combine flour and warm water in small bowl stirring well until lumps are gone. Add mixture to liquid in CROCK-POT slow cooker; mix well. Cook 10 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.
*I usually serve the stew without the gravy but my wife cooks her own gravy and adds this to the cooked stew. Her ingredients include 2 tablespoons of melted butter then add 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk and add some of the broth from the stew. Season with Lea-Perrins Worcestershire sauce then add these to the rest of the stew and mix.
Named after Daddy Robert’s son, this chicken rice porridge is a combination of simple ingredients: spring chicken, ginger, garlic, onions, safflower, salt and pepper. My idea was to keep the ingredients basic and all-natural and avoiding the addition of chicken bouillon or fish sauce.
Arroz caldo (literally hot rice) or lugaw (in Tagalog) is a well-known Filipino dish that serves as a complete meal, a merienda (snack), or as soup. It is a comfort food for Filipinos, usually during cold or rainy weather. It is an elixir for those who are feeling under the weather. Its preparation and ingredients are akin to the Chinese congee and other rice porridge dishes in Asia.
Antonio’s Arroz Caldo
1 whole young chicken (spring chicken)
½ cup medium grain sticky rice and ½ cup Milagrosa rice
4 cloves of garlic, chopped and minced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into strips
4 hardboiled eggs
1 onion head, finely chopped
1 tbsp. safflower (Kasubha)
1 scalion, cut diagonally
1 tbsp. ground pepper
3 tbsp. canola oil
6-8 cups of water
1. After washing the chicken, chop the chicken into appropriate serving portions.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. Sauté garlic and ginger until light brown. Add chicken pieces and stir to allow the chicken to absorb the garlic and ginger. Add salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is golden brown.
*The secret to delicious arroz caldo is deglazing and good chicken stock. As mentioned earlier, I tried to maintain all-natural ingredients (salt, pepper and herbs) without having to add chicken bouillon or fish sauce. You can make the chicken stock in advance but for this one, deglazing the pot then slow cooking the porridge allows the flavours of the chicken and herbs to blend and gives the porridge a delicious taste.
For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.
The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.
Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!
(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.
5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.
6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.
7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.
Living in a fast paced city in North America coupled with the demands of work, sometimes, leaves dads and moms compromising a healthy meal for their kids, like eating in a fast food. Ironically, people’s preference for fast food seemed to have declined recently , with food industry giants reporting slipping profits last year. According to a recent report , younger consumers are more concerned about what they eat (compared to the previous generation) and their preference for healthy food has seen a decline in sales in fast food. This has prompted food industry giants to rethink and revisit their strategies when it comes to selling their food products.
But apart from city life, recent economic issues have forced our family to watch our budget for almost everything, including food, but mindful of ensuring our kids that we are all still eating healthy and enjoying good food. Apart from setting aside certain food preparation practices from our home country (think of cooking pancit!), these times also call for more healthy and quick alternatives. Part of this is to rethink and revisit some of the food we used to prepare but have often referred to as a snack or even fast food and not associated with the usual home cooked meal. This brings me to looking at sandwich as a healthy yet quick alternative.
A quick check on the sandwich’s etymology tells us that the word was originally a family name from Kent, England; which literally means ‘sandy harbour’ or ‘trading centre on sand’. The real inventor of sandwich was not John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich*, but most probably his cook whom he instructed to prepare his food in such a way that he would not have to be interrupted during a gambling marathon. Foodtime.org wrote that Montagu copied this from his trips to Greece and Turkey where he saw locals grilling pita bread as an appetizer (also called mezes).
On the other hand, the Nibble astutely pointed out that ‘edible plates’ to hold roasted meat or fish from hand to mouth were made from unleavened breads and most likely started in 9000 B.C.E.! Interestingly, sandwiches were also associated with men who ate it during late night parties but the first person who wrote a cookbook for sandwiches was a woman, Charlotte Mason!
But I digress. The sandwich as a meal does not stop from putting meat and spread between two pieces of bread. Although we do have our own favourites (My siblings and I used to enjoy butter with condensed milk on a warm pan de sal and Reuben sandwich) sandwiches have certainly evolved from slices of white and rye bread to using baguette, croissant or even pita and tortillas . Apart from its varying cultural influences and variety, sandwiches have changed to healthy meal alternatives that can be quickly prepared and enjoyed. For our family, a sandwich lunch or dinner is something we all look forward to. Here’s a simple sandwich that all of us help prepared. Except for the potato chips (unless you go for baked ones!) :-D, the rest of the ingredients are good and yes, healthy alternatives. Enjoy!
(Ham, Egg, Lettuce, and Tomato)
2 slices of whole wheat or light rye bread
1 slice of roasted forest ham
1 free-range egg
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 tbsp of skimmed milk
1 leaf of Romaine lettuce
4 slices of marble cheese
2 slices of tomato
Some lite mayonnaise and mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Prepare all ingredients: slices of tomato and cheese, a piece of forest ham, lettuce and bread.
2. Preheat oven to 270 ‘ F.
3. In a small bowl, whisk one egg and skimmed milk then add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a small pan over medium heat. Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is cooked.
5. Spread butter on the two slices of bread then place the ham on one side of the bread and the slices of cheese on the other piece. Warm both pieces in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until the cheese slices have melted.
6. Remove the warm bread pieces of bread and immediately spread some light mayonnaise and mustard on the ham.
7. Place the egg on top of the ham then add the tomatoes and lettuce over it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with the remaining piece of bread with cheese.
8. Put two toothpicks in the middle of the bread and slice the bread using a bread knife. Enjoy!
*Earl is a title in the Old English period for a person of noble class or rank that may be serving as a leader (or governor) for a division in England.
*Sandwich is a historic town in Kent, England. The town still exists to this date. The first English celery was grown here and salt was taken from its salt marshes. Presently, Sandwich has cafes and restaurants within this historic town including seafood restaurants, Greek, Italian, Indian, a sandwich shop (of course!) and two Thai restaurants, among others!
For sandwich cornucopia, check out this sandwich glossary from the website, The Nibble.
Sandwich photos by Ana Saplala.
I have been exploring how to make quick and delicious breakfast meals after my friends requested me to prepare my lemon buttermilk waffles. This was a variant of the orange buttermilk pancakes I prepared for the June 1 blog, only that I realized that using lemon for buttermilk is best for waffles. Incidentally, the recipe was also featured in the July 2014 issue of Appetite magazine.
(Photos courtesy of Toots Manuel)
In any case, I checked Food Network to look for Eggs Benedict, a rich breakfast sandwich consisting of ham or bacon, poached egg, and Hollandaise sauce. Apparently, it was allegedly made as a cure for a hangover and the first Eggs Benedict was made south of the border in New York City (it’s American after all!). Checking the trusty old Wikipedia, Eggs Benedict has a lot of variations based on the meat that goes with it: Eggs Blackstone (uses steak instead of ham or bacon), Huevos Benedictos (uses Mexican chorizo). Interestingly, I also read that the dish is called Eggs Benjamin in some parts of Canada (uses smoked salmon) and yes, a Filipino version of Eggs Benedict (replacing the English muffin with a Pinoy sweet bread called ensaymada)!
To give the dish a Canadian twist, I thought of using Canadian Peameal Bacon (which an American friend of mine refers to as ham) and I stumbled upon Tyler Florence’s recipe, which includes Hollandaise sauce that’s easy to make. I did not alter the recipe, except I thought of adding lemon zest to the Hollandaise sauce. It took me about 20-30 minutes to prepare two dishes, assembly included! And the Hollandaise sauce was almost perfect! Not bad for a first timer! 😀
What about my kids’ verdict? Well, one of my daughters said she wished I prepared two sandwiches for her. Here’s Tyler Florence’s link to the Hollandaise sauce recipe and how to assemble the Eggs Benedict. Check it out and enjoy!
“…The intoxicating scent of fruit woods wafting through the air…as smoke lightly kisses a pork shoulder for hours until it has turned…into a savory, achingly tender cut of sheer deliciousness…” – Bobby Flay, Barbecue Addiction
Summer is on its way to a gracious exit but the sudden onset of humid temperature the past week feels like Mother Earth has reserved a memorable last hurrah. Over the weekend, for instance, the storm clouds suddenly drifted away which probably led “me to give in to my family and friends’ request to grill a meal. To paraphrase an old adage, “Now, there’s the rib!”
To my knowledge and based on media exposure, Bobby Flay seems to have set the benchmark when it comes to grilling food. And so when I decided to take the challenge of grilling ribs, I turned to Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, a book which I got for Father’s Day. After trying some of his recipes, I’ve also ventured into coming up with my own but adhering closely to his suggestions. For example, with the exception of the maple apple barbecue sauce, most of the ingredients and directions for the barbecue rib recipe below were adapted from his own recipe, Grilled Rack of Pork with Sherry Vinegar Barbecue Sauce. I’ve tried this recipe twice and on both occasions, my family and friends said that the ribs were masarap (delicious), with enough juice and flavors oozing from the meat. But as I mentioned earlier, I thought of tweaking the tomato-based barbecue sauce by adding apple sauce (since fall is just around the corner?) and maple syrup (to make it more Canadian)! 😀
Cheers to Summer 2014!
Preparing the Maple and Apple Barbecue Flavored Sauce:
½ cup apple sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup tomato ketchup
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp paprika
1 cup chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 white onion, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat a saucepan in medium heat. Pour oil and sauté garlic and onion for a minute.
3. Pour broth, ketchup, tomato paste, apple sauce, thyme, paprika and maple syrup and stir gently. Cook mixture until it thickens and when it is reduce in half (about 10-15 minutes). If necessary, add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cool mixture completely before using.
*For barbecue rub ingredients, please refer to Grilled Rack of Pork with Sherry Vinegar Barbecue Sauce or Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction.
Cooking the brine and grilling the ribs:
1. Prepare the ingredients. Wash the pork ribs in cold, running water.
2. To make the brine water, mix 8 cups of cold water with brown sugar, chopped onions, peppercorn, mustard seeds, fresh or ground thyme, and salt in a pot. Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar dissolves in water. Cool the brine completely before adding the pork ribs.
3. Cover and refrigerate the ribs in brine for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. Bobby Flay explains that the brine ensures that the pork is moist and flavorful.
5. Since I use charcoal, prepare the barbecue grill in advance. I try to do this at least 20-30 minutes before grilling. Check if the center of the grill has an even layer of charcoal and the outer edges of the grill have less charcoal for indirect grilling. Also, the best advice I got from Flay was never use lighter fluid but to use a chimney starter instead.
6. Once the grill is prepared, brush the ribs with canola oil and rub with the spices then sear the pork on both sides over high heat about 5 minutes per side. Wait for each side to form a lightly golden brown crust.
A word about flare ups: Because there is a tendency for fats to drip on the charcoal bed which can serve as fuel for flames, one needs to be extra careful. To avoid flare ups, make sure that your grills are clean and free from fat. Also, before grilling, trim the ribs off excess fat. When flare ups happen, carefully move the ribs (if you can) to the cooler side then cover the grill to extinguish the flame. Always have a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy. Worse comes to worse, call 9-11.
7. Move the pork ribs to the cooler side of the grill for indirect heat, brushing with the barbecue sauce every 5 minutes and do the other side of the rib as well. The meat should instantly register 140‘F, which according to Flay, takes about 30 minutes.
8. Remove the ribs from the grill, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
It’s only a week away before the new school year starts. From our homefront, the kids are not really excited about the end of their summer break. For instance, one of them noticed that the trees’ leaves are turning yellowish orange. Another chimed in saying that the earlier sunsets and cooler evenings herald the impending turn of the season. This also means trying to go back to a routine of waking up early and fighting off the sleepiness that is further aggravated by bed weather.
Having noticed these changes and adjustments and knowing that school is just around the bend, I thought of experimenting on a breakfast meal that might give their lethargic bodies a right jolt. Two weeks ago, I happen to see Michael Smith‘s recipe book, “Family Meals,” at a local supermarket and saw a breakfast idea that reminded me of how pinipig is prepared by my grandmother. It never occured to me that oatmeal, which is traditionally cooked as a hot breakfast, can be ‘cooked in cold milk.’
Called Overnight Oatmeal Jars with Last-Minute Stir-Ins, this breakfast idea simply cuts down on the morning stress of preparing breakfast and the hassle of ensuring that the kids would be packed with enough nutrients to sustain them throughout the day. Having quick-cooking oats sitting in our cupboard for quite some time and extra mason jars supposedly for storing more fruit jams, I thought of giving the recipe a try. I made two; one for my wife to try and whoa! We both love it!
I also found out that there are a lot of ways of enriching the flavours of the oatmeal: Smith adds yoghurt, fruits, and nuts and Monica Matheny adds cocoa powder or peanut butter with banana to the oats. This made me more excited because my kids, who seem to be getting tired with our usual corn cereal with milk, can look forward to something new.
The recipe that I am sharing below is based on my memory of Smith’s suggestions and tweaked to my own taste. As well, you may have other ideas re tweaking this recipe so feel free to post your suggestions. You may want to ask your kids to prepare this one too. Enjoy and bon appetit!
No-Cook Oatmeal Surprise
6 tablespoons of Quick-Cooking Oats
1/2 cup of whole or skim milk
1 tbsp. plain yogurt
¼ tsp. cinnamon (or ¼ tsp. vanilla or lemon zest)
1 tbsp. brown sugar (or 1 tbsp. of honey or maple syrup)
1 tbsp. mixed nuts, chopped* (almonds, cashews, or walnuts)
5 pcs. medium-sized fruits, sliced (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches or apples)
*You may omit the nuts if your child is allergic to nuts. Likewise, you can substitute whole or skim milk with soy or almond milk if your child is lactose-intolerant.
When I was a kid, I recall my parents reminding me often that kitchen was off limits to children. The warning came with a threat that if I don’t watch out, I’ll end up getting burnt by the hot stove (mapaso ), scalded by hot vegetable oil (matalsikan ng mantika) or boiling water from the tea kettle (mabanlian ng tubig sa takore). Those constant reminders did not stop me from getting curious. My siblings and I still ended up going to the kitchen but mindful enough not to touch the stove or the oven. We continued to open the refrigerator (it’s cold anyway!) and gobbled up whatever we found edible. Eventually, as older kids, we were exposed to cooking food ourselves; from boiling eggs and saba in a palayok to frying tuyo (dried fish).
Things have changed since then. Our kids are still off limits because of the limited space we have at the kitchen. But this doesn’t mean they cannot be involved in preparing our food. Last week, for instance, one of our kids harvested some carrots and lettuce from our small vegetable garden while my older daughter baked blueberry muffins. Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse came out with recipe books for kids that my kids use whenever they cook. They have helpful reminders for kids how to be safe while preparing, baking, or cooking food in the kitchen.
Supervision is still a key since five-year-olds, for instance, are still beginning to master their fine motor skills so mashing dough and putting toppings encourages them to be involved in food preparation but with fun.
Similarly, encouraging kids to grow vegetables teaches them to be patient, persistent and mindful of where food come. Gradually, as they get older and acquire more skills, they can be taught to be in charge of other matters in the kitchen. For example, when my older kid was four, she started with washing vegetables, mixing and sifting flour, and bringing out ingredients from the counter.Then as she grew older, she learned to be more independent in preparing food that involved more complex skills, such as using the mixer for beating eggs and heating food using the microwave, properly and carefully using a knife to cut vegetables, and eventually preparing a simple dinner.
Sure, there were still some accidents along the way (e.g. she scalded herself when frying fish once) but apart from reminding her to more careful and mindful, we cheered her on and encouraged her to take those experiences as moments that can make her a better cook!