Dads Cook Good Food

For dads who enjoy cooking for their families

Archive for the category “appetizer”

Antonio’s Arroz Caldo

arroz caldo

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
Lemon wedges
Salt (kosher)
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.

3. Add rice and mix with the chicken and herbs until rice is well coated.

rice soup
4. Deglaze pan by adding water slowly. Once deglazed, add the rest of the water until chicken is covered.

5. Stir occasionally to prevent rice from sticking on the pot and until you get a smooth consistency. Do this for about 40 minutes.

6. Add kasubha for colour and flavour then add scallions and cook for 5 minutes.

7. Finally, add hardboiled egg. Serve with toasted garlic, lemon wedges, fish sauce and sprinkle with more scallions if desired. Enjoy!

*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.


W’cha Like A HEaLThy Sandwich?

helt sandwich2

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.  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!

HELT sandwich

HELT* Sandwich
(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.

Multicultural Sawsawan*?



After a long and harsh winter, seeing the first signs of spring gives one a certain sense of joy. Other than experiencing the obvious sights and sounds of spring (read: green leaves, blooming flowers, birds chirping, longer days), the local markets are also teeming with life; things like more fresh fish, more choice of veggies and less people stocking up on food! 😀 This is why when I noticed I saw the red juicy tomatoes and green English cucumbers at the market, I had a ‘eureka moment.’ I thought of combining all these ingredients to match our fried tilapia; an obvious attempt to find an alternative to the green mangoes and bagoong (shrimp paste) that I missed. Cucumber when mixed with tomatoes (or even roasted eggplant) then added with lemon juice makes a good substitute for the more expensive and least-likely-to-be-available green mango. ;-D

Being Pinoy, my kids have never forgotten the taste of this dipping sauce (which they call salsa) and coupled with any seafood; like boiled shrimps, fried or broiled fish, or any shellfish. Interestingly, the thought of combining English cucumber and Roma tomatoes with bagoong is also a clear sign that our world is indeed multicultural. But in truth, it’s our ingenious attempt to adapt to whatever available ingredients we have just to have a sawsawan. Harharhar… 😀

1 pc. English cucumber, diced
2 pcs. Roma tomatoes, diced/ 1 pc eggplant, roasted and peeled
2 tbsp. bagoong (shrimp paste)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Pepper to taste

1. Mix all the vegetables. Add pepper and lemon juice then toss.
2. Finally, add the bagoong, 1 tbsp at a time. Toss then add the final tbsp. of bagoong.
3. Serve with fried fish.

* A multicultural dip

Storing food for the winter: Achara (Pickled veggies)


Together with our families,  we thought of cooking and bottling our own pickled vegetables (achara in Filipino) for the winter season! One of our children also designed the label while others helped in chopping the vegetables or preparing the syrup. Truly, it can be a worthwhile activity that can involve everyone in the family. 🙂


The pickled vegetables was adapted from Vanjo Merano’s food website, Panlasang Pinoy, with some modifications in the ingredients; such as the use of apple cider vinegar, which gives giving it to a sweeter taste, thus reducing the amount of sugar added to the syrup. The veggies we used for this one included papaya, bell pepper, carrots, onions, garlic, and ginger.  Care was also observed in sterilizing the jars (mason jars were used for this one) and Sue Riedl demonstrates, through a Globe and Mail website, how to do it properly.


Although it’s quite challenging to chop or slice all those vegetables-not to mention the time spent for dehydrating the julienne papaya and squeezing out the juice by using a cheesecloth-getting help from other family members helped us a lot. Likewise, making the achara evoked memories of our childhood, particularly Christmas day when our grandmother would give us a jar of achara (hers was a bit dry but sweet and crunchy). 


Nevertheless, achara goes well with most fried, broiled or boiled seafood (fish, calamares, oysters, shrimps) and probably even stewed or preserved meat (adobo). Try out making one for yourself and enjoy!

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