Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Morsels of Love

Lavender-infused leche flan.
Roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash with garlic and rosemary.

Roasted ducks.

Doing thanksgiving for a family group of 15 or more can normally make me nervous. Of course, any host would want it perfect. I am not beyond that, I am part of that group of hostess/cooks. Yes, I have double roles. I want to make sure that folks enjoy the meal, but also to create an environment where folks can be who they are, but still play, have fun, enjoy or simply cuddle in a corner with a book in the library. It is any which way you want to be, to a certain extent. Since of course folks are coming for a group meal, I do would like to hear their stories, how it has been for them throughout the year, without being obtrusive, without interrogating, but just simply being with them.

So, there, I have declared my intentions of why I host Thanksgiving, it is my favorite holiday of the year, for I do have a lot to thank for, especially this year, when most of my dreams for the year got manifested and became true: starting with electing Pres. Barack Obama, a trip to Paris, cooking classes in Provence, a trip to see the tulips in Kuekenhoff, a moment to whisper gratitude to Oprah for what she does for all of us, and now, an interview that simply converged all these experiences together, an interview with Thumbelina Designs, Inc. , which I will be posting in my other blog shortly. Shortly, meaning a few weeks from now after it is published.

I rearranged the rooms, because I wanted a community table, one where all can sit down and just hear stories from one another, instead of vanishing the vintage adults in one room and the younger adults in another. This year, I wanted us all together.

I made a list of tasks to do. It took me two days to decide on the menu: Theme is using oranges and fall's harvest from the gardens: oranges, lemon grass, calamansi, lemons, mandarins.

mini quiches
duck a' la orange ( crispy skin is desired )
pork lechon with liver sauce ( crackled skin is desired )
guacamole salad
cheese bread from La Maison du Pain
sotanghon ala Sarah
roasted fall veggies
lavender infused leche flan
pecan tart
lemongrass tea with cinnamon and calamansi

Day 1.
It started on Sunday, Day 1, when I bought all my flowers: leesyanthus, white and red casa blancas, no sunflowers this time as the sunflowers from last week are still good, a bunch of wild flowers, the deepest blue purple I found. I was so busy going from stall to stall with my flowers, that I did not notice two bouquets of casa blancas were lifted from my cart. So, I went back to Jeff, said a prayer for the flower thief and offered him/her a prayer that perhaps h/she had a higher need. Jeff wrapped the bouquets of casa blancas and as I was paying with a check, he said no, but I insisted, he took my pen and wished me Happy thanksgiving. Now, even with a bad incident, for Jeff to turn it around and make it for more wishes of good thanksgiving, I got in the right mood. I will for sure bake him a loaf of banana bread with raspberries and orange zest.

So, anyway, back to buying my produce, I went to Doug Powell's stall at the Farmer's Market, and I picked my butternut squash, sweet potatoes, shallots, potatoes all for my roasted fall' s harvest. His daughter, oops, her name escapes me at the moment, gave me a pumpkin and wished me a happy thanksgiving.

Day 2.
Even my trip to Trader Joe's was uneventful, I got all that I needed, no traffic, and no lines, of course, it was a Monday at 10 am, a vintage woman with platinum hair even helped me with my questions: will sharp cheddar cheese work with aged gruyere cheese for mac/cheese dish? She said yes, it would, but I decided that mac/cheese is a daily offering in any restaurant or cafeteria, it may not be that special. So, no mac/cheese.

This day, I made leche flan, lavender infused. You are wondering where is the recipe? It is in a prior posting on my blog, but to make it easier for you, the readers now, here it is.

1 can of condensed milk
1/2 can of water
6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of sugar - put on the mold, caramelize the sugar, meaning, heat the sugar over low flame until it turns brown. No need for water, just watch it carefully until it browns. Then, with the brown liquid, swirl it around until the flat bottom of a mold is fully covered. Set aside to cool.

In a low flame, add 1 can of condensed milk, 1/2 can of water ( using the empty condensed milk can as a measuring cup ), add two tablespoons of lavender flowers. Boil over low flame. Then, filter over a strainer to remove the lavender flowers.

My initial taste of the liquid is muted lavender taste. So, I made lavender syrup. When I plated the leche flan, I poured lavender syrup on the plate first, then, unmolded the leche flan.

Day 3.

It is the day for preparing orange sauce and lavender syrup. It took me most of the morning. But, it is so worth it. The orange flavors are coming through, or should I say, the flavors are present.

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups orange juice
2 tablespoon shallots
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
4 oranges, sections cut from membrane
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon orange zest ( use the zester, rub it against the orange peel, they come out shredded in texture or peel the orange and slice the peels to desired size, I minced mine. )

Boil sugar and water, until syrup caramelizes a golden brown. I did not do golden brown, just light brown. Add sherry vinegar, careful with this step as the steam starts to form. Add shallots, water is what I used as I wanted it muted, not too rich. Stir in orange sections. Simmer until reduced to less than a cup. Add butter and a one tablespoon orange zest. Set aside. This will be my accompaninent with the crispy duck.

When I made the orange sauce, I made a mistake, instead of stirring in the orange sections and orange zest just before serving, I boiled them and that left a pronounced bitter taste. The preferred sauce for the roasted duck became the Mang Tomas Lechon Sauce.

Let us offer some good wishes that the duck comes out crisp as intended.

The idea is to have all the flavors, but not too rich. I learned self-restraint as the other day, I made this wonderful seafood soup, it was good, but it was so rich, that after four spoonfuls, I stopped. That is what rich tastes does, it satiates you fast and that is not good for me these days. I want folks to linger with their food, where surprise flavors wake up in the back of their tongue as they chew and swallow. So restrained in flavors and muted in placing different flavors to my dishes is a new theme for me.

Day 4.

I baked banana bread with raspberries and orange zest. It turned out okay but, it is kinda low in raspberry flavor, as half of the tub of raspberries had to be thrown out.

After baking four batches, reserving most as thanksgiving presents, for drop-in friends, I was invited to see a screening of Delhi 6 by Janet Nepales. First, we went to lunch at Spago's and the menu was extensive:

When I got home, I was so inspired, I started marinating the two ducks, using sage, thyme, lemon zest, orange zest and salt. Then, I made slits on the pork loin and inserted garlic cloves, and seasoned it with adobo seasoning ( only the Goya brand, I tested the others, they do not compare to the Goya ), garlic salt and lemon zest. I baked it at 325 F and after an hour, the pork loin was done. I tasted a slice and it was so right on..just enough citrus, just enough garlic and just enough salt.

Then, I refrigerated the ducks to dry overnight in the refrigerator and tomorrow, they will cooked using the rotisserie.

Day of Thanksgiving.

I offered a prayer first that all turn out well. I prepared the vegetables and salad mix. The roasted vegetables were flavored with rosemary and minced garlic and sauteed with olive oil. After searing all the vegetables, I baked them to fully cook at 350F for another 30 minutes.

Using residual heat from the oven, the roasted vegetables got cooked some more. I reheated the roasted pork loin and inserted a thermometer to make sure that the pork was well done at internal temperature of 165 F.

As to the roasted duck, the rotisserie plan worked out well and the ducks were roasted at 300F and after two hours, two 5 pound ducks were done. I decided to crackle the skin at 500F for another 20 minutes.

The rest was laid out at the table with help from family members. I got so excited to have a table of 13 happily seated at the table, but what gave me inner satisfaction was the roundtable exchanges of " what I am thankful for ".

And what are they? Lord, we are thankful for: our mother's health, for our lives, for our spouses who allow us to go camping by ourselves, for our mothers and fathers for enabling us a debt-free college education, for our own health and no emergency hospitalizations for a change, for our jobs, for our community, for being able to stay rent-free at parents' house, for being supportive of our higher education goals, for keeping us in college when some of our friends could not afford to continue, for giving us photography jobs, for giving us jobs in doing make-up for others, for our education courtesy of the military, for our jobs, for teaching so our children can go to college, for going to work to support our family, and lastly for the generosity of folks who allowed dreams to come true: to visit Paris, Amsterdam, Provence, Philippines and to see Oprah in person.

Not content yet to end the night, my daughter suggested to go see a movie, " The Blind Side ", starring Sandra Bullock. Our 94 year old mother-in-law, mother, grandmother agreed to come. Imagine that! She had the energy to simply go along. At the theater, she was so wide awake and stayed engaged. We all had a great time!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A fall-inspired Sunday dinner for 2

Yup, it is dinner for 2. Regardless, I like to do it as if our table is an empty canvas to be filled with sensually appealing colors, flavors and textures. Tonight, I went with what is available in the farmer's market: broccolini sprouts, arugula and romaine mix, wild salmon and jumbo shrimps. And of course, baguette from our favorite bakery's La Maison du Pain.


Salmon and Shrimps with Olive Oil and Garlic ( I want to call it vampire shrimps and salmon, because I use lots of garlic, a whole bulb enough to kill a vampire. ) I have no scientific proof for that, only old wives' tales.

olive oil, 3 tablespoons
butter, one tablespoon
goya adobo seasoning
a whole bulb of garlic, skinned and macerated cloves

Heat up the cast iron pan. When fully hot ( unable to touch, but the heat can be felt three inches high from the pan ), add olive oil and butter, and quickly, the macerated garlic. Add the shrimps, when they turn pink in their shells and the meat inside is no longer raw, about 3 minutes ( do not overcook ), they are ready. Set them aside.

Take the salmon fillet and apply generously Goya adobo seasoning on both sides of the fillet. I chose wild salmon, the preferred in our family, and luckily they were available at the Farmer's market. I took it home, with a bag of ice, as fish is a perishable product, that needs to be refrigerated. In lieu of refrigeration, a bag of ice is an alternative. Well, that also goes for the shrimps..., with bagged ice as its partner in transport.

Sear the salmon, skin first, over medium heat, in the cast iron pan with olive oil and butter. Folks ask me why the combination - because by itself, butter will burn, so will olive oil and the worst taste is burnt oil. But the combination allows a higher temperature to be attained without burnt oil taste. Searing is done when you can move the salmon with a tong with ease and it can be turned over and ever so gently please so as not to ruin the fillet. Sear the other side.

Observe the sides of the fillet, you will see a change in translucency. Why is that observation important? It will be the visual indicator of how fish cooks, without overcooking it. Observe the raw salmon's color, and notice the color of the fish as it cooks, just before the sides of the fish turn white, remove the pan from the stove.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F, and finish cooking only long enough until the salmon flakes off. Turn off the oven. Why? Residual heat from the pan and the oven's give the fish additional cooking time. It would be enough to finish the cooking of the fish, without the risk of overcooking.

My hubby of course complimented the salmon as done just right! I do not live for his compliments, but it is nice to hear it especially since I try to make a masterpiece of my cooking each night, well sometimes, I only manage colors and textures, and flavors will be off. That happens when I am in a foul mood. So, when I am in that funky mood, I do not like to cook.

Garlic Parmesan Bread

Baguette from La Maison du Pain
Three cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of butter or more, if needed
Parmesan cheese ( two thick slices )

Use a small processor, a 4 cup size. Add mashed garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 slices of parmesan cheese and grind into a paste. Break open the baguette and apply the paste. Place in a pre-heated oven at 375 F for 5 minutes, enough to melt the butter. This cheese is not mozarella, so it will not melt completely, and there will be bits and pieces when you bite into the baguette. But, this is just the yummiest garlic bread you would have tasted.

How do I know?

Well, Steve came up with this recipe, we watched him melt the butter, add the garlic and grated parmesan cheese as he prepared the garlic bread to go with the gumbo. I decided to tweak his recipe and not melt the butter, and just allow it to happen when the bread is heated in the oven with garlic, butter and parmesan cheese paste. My hunch was right, and I saved myself an extra step of melting butter in the microwave. And it is so good!


Arugula and Romaine Mix
Jicama, skinned and cut up into pieces
Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced
Persimmons, peeled and cut into quarters
Broccolini Sprouts, raw ( a handful )

Dressing: Use a processor and mix in 12 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon seasoned, gourmet rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar with raisin syrup, salt and pepper. If a bit sour, add a teaspoon of sugar. It is slightly sweet, citrusy, light dressing. Add the dressing to the salad mix.

We decided our dessert is either cinnamon/lemongrass tea ( which my hubby makes from scratch, using lemon grass from the backyard and cinnamon sticks - he has a precise formula that after boiling them together, a very tasty tea that is not too sweet and slightly lemony in taste) or brewed colombian coffee.

The entire meal took me 20 minutes to cook, including preparation time. It was gone in less than 10 minutes.

I wish sometimes for the European way of eating, three hours at the table, prolonged conversations, so much laughter and of course two glasses of wine at dinner time.

Except, for me, only my hosts get to drink, as I am allergic to wine!

Ha, ha, I am actually okay with the American efficient way of eating, I get to blog afterwards and feel like I am preserving the family's recipes for the next generation.

Actually, I love blogging what I cook and what I create. It keeps me motivated, particularly when readers stop me at events and tell me they read the blog. I just wish they leave the comments on this blog instead.

Bon Appetit, till the next one!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Uphill Climb to Organic Lifestyle

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Caramelized Shallots
Eggs Josephine ( Poached Egg over Crabcakes and Spinach with Rosemary Potatoes

View of Los Angeles from Runyon Canyon Park in West Hollywood
Runners and Walkers going Uphill to Runyon Canyon

I started at the bottom of Runyon Canyon and already, my heart was pumping fast. It is such a steep climb that by the time I got to the entrance of the park, I felt my chest about to burst. Not giving up, I walked up some more, with sweat running down my forehead. The climb uphill to the first bench and a few feet beyond got me going and my heart got used to it.

I just had to stop a number of times to soak in the view of Los Angeles. I am posting the photos so you can have a sense of that day.

Yes, it is beautiful day in Los Angeles! The dogs were unleashed and they were running up the canyon. Some of the hikers are so fit, they took the more steep climb uphill. As for me, I just modestly walked up the first part of the canyon, inching my way up to the top. But, today, did not quite make it. I was too tired to go on and started my walk downhill.

By the time I got down, Activate folks were giving away their berry, orange, fruit punch and lemon lime drinks. It is kinda a cool drink, with liquid vitamins stored on the cap and several twists to the right releases the vitamins into the drink. So, it felt like you were interacting a bit more with your drink before gulping down the liquid. As to their vitamin claims, I leave that up to you, the consumer, to make sure they are substantiated to be true. At any rate, a free drink at the base of the canyon after a vigorous climb is so so welcome!

With hungry tummies, La Maison became our breakfast stop. Surprisingly, when I ordered La Maison breakfast, Rio surprised me with a new entree, Eggs Josephine: poached egg, crabcake and sandwiched in between is sauteed spinach, with a side entree of rosemary potatoes. It was so so good that my hubby remarked " a sexy entree " and all I could say was fabulous! It was so worth every bite and every dollar we paid for both. On Saturday, cheese roll was available and I grabbed my half dozen. While waiting for breakfast, Sienna came with Cayden and their mom, Bettina and it became such a reunion of neighbors. Bettina even split up a pecan tart with me, so yummy!

After a fruitful day of exercise, a good breakfast and a reunion with good neighbors at the bakery, I got home and wrote some more. Tonight, I am blogging for I felt like experimenting with fall harvest: sweet potato, butternut squash and shallots. The inspiration came from seeing our First Lady Michelle Obama become first farmer in harvesting sweet potatoes with middle school children. A wheelbarrow full of sweet potatoes, some 700 pounds of produce were harvested from about $150 worth of treating the soil, seeds and plants. A great bargain when you think of it, aside from being good to Mother Earth.

When we are good to Mother Nature, as the folks in Gaviotas did in Colombia, after planting 6 million trees, they turned a desert into a rainforest with a thriving economy from rainwater processed into bottled water, with plastic packaging like legos, that are used as toys later; and paint thinner, and other cosmetic raw materials harvested from the barks of the trees.

We may not have to harvest from the barks of our trees, but in our back yard, we can plant, just like the First Farmer/First Lady, and then, from that harvest, experiment with making soups, which I did tonight.

It is called Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup. Okay, do you want to know how I did it, it is so simple...

2 Shallots, sliced thinly ( slice them thinly to caramelize them and use them as garnish when serving the soup. )
2 Sweet Potatoes ( peel and slice into cubes )
1 Small Butternut Squash ( peel and slice into cubes )
Fresh Ginger ( slice thinly a few pieces )
Ground Ginger ( one tablespoon )
6 cups of water or chicken stock

Heat up your pot. Add olive oil and few tablespoons of butter. When the oil is heated, add sliced shallots until they turn brown. Set aside some as garnishes. Add ginger and when the oil is infused with ginger ( smell the waft of ginger from the oil ), remove the ginger. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash. When browned, add ground ginger and salt. Add 6 cups of water. Boil until the vegetables are soft. Use the lowest flame and do slow cooking. As you cook the vegetables, a sweet organic aroma fills up your house. Then, you know fall is here.

Before serving, use a potato masher to blend in all the vegetables, or a processor or a hand blender. I prefer to use no electricity and to only use the masher, as if I am cooking in the countryside. It also helps to conserve energies so as not to add to global warming.

Serve with cheese bread. Two bowls of soup and we were done!


It was a great day of walking up the canyon with my hubby. And a nice quote from him as well " Appreciation comes from knowledge of contrasts. " EBD.

Indeed a knowledge of contrasts allows me to appreciate an active lifestyle. I know what it was like when I was sick, bed-ridden in a university infirmary, fighting for my life when asthma, influenza and allergies all converged to weaken my immune system. And my only prayer to God is what gave me strength, the antibiotics and even the oxygen tank took three days to work on my weakened body. The good care and companionship of my new friends in Visayas State University kept me sane and whole, even if with a weakened body. And my hubby had to walk, take the jeepney several times to purchase my medications. On the third day, I was released, but only after meditating for my vitals to be normal. At 6am, when the nurse checked me, my vitals were abnormal and I was not going to be released. Three hours later, after prayers, meditation and journaling, my vitals normalized that I was released.

Since then, it took two years of juicing every day for my immune system to be stronger, thanks to the experimentation that my hubby did to find a formula that works for both of us. By the way, I do have the power juice recipe in this blog if you want to try it.

No claims will be made though, just to share that I found myself getting stronger with juicing, exercising, and eating organically! Of course, that comes with a good night' s sleep and lots of laughter, courtesy of my friends, Josephine and Carmen at La Maison du Pain, and if Bettina walks in, she would get into the rhythm of our conversations for the day, and all four of us would be laughing.

Beginning Sundays, until Dec. 31, visit La Maison du Pain, they will be serving hot chocolate, sweet crepes and Eggs Josephine. I cannot wait for tomorrow to be! Are you coming to have breakfast with me? C'mon now, mix and mingle!! I sent out invitations to folks in Facebook, and let us come in droves and make this a happy neighborhood!

So, going up the canyon, walking in the sun, even if my chest feels like giving up, and as long as I can still breathe, even with a bit of discomfort, I prefer being active. And I nurture that wellness by eating organic, or less preservatives, less chemicals, and more of Mother Nature's harvests!

And while I use more of Mother Nature's harvests, I invent, I create, and I find that just listening to my instincts, I can actually come up with recipes, my own form of culinary arts!

It helps that I buy these organic produce from the farmers each Sunday. And sometimes, they too get to taste my banana bread that I bake when Maura visits me.

So, from Mother Earth to the farmer who tends the soil and the harvest, and from my table to yours, bon appetit is what I greet you today. It is indeed a good day and night this last day of October 2009, Halloween!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Creating Pasta without pasta, instead spinach!

Concealed and Revealed I Painting by Benedicto Cabrera

Yes, you guessed it, I am at it again. I am feeling brave, more like taking good natured risks in my cooking. Why? Well, after viewing Ben Cab's exhibit and falling in love with his painting called Concealed & Revealed I, which I am posting the image here, it got my inner child going. I consider my inner child the source of my artistic instincts. We all have them, as being creative is what gives our spirit life and it keeps us connected to our Higher Source. Some folks do it with palette of paint colors, some do it with music bars, some do it with written words, I happen to do it with organic harvests from the earth.

My philosopher hubby is so funny, he said if he ate anymore organic, he will be reduced to the soils of the earth. I laugh so hard. Why, because our refrigerator is literally filled with vegetables and fruits, and then on our table, more fruits, and around this time of the year, the colors are so vibrant: red from pomegranates, orange from persimmons, green from limes, and of course yellow-orange green kabocha squash.

Do you see how BenCab's art resembles the colors of nature during the fall season? Hmm, it is so breathtaking, there is a certain drama about his painting, it invites you to inquire some more and see what the painting's soul is about. Do you get the feeling?

Even the flowers get the feeling that I am talking about. Flowers this time of the year are bursting in red, pink and burgundy colors. It reminds you that Christmas is just around the corner. Or Valentine's in another few more months...

Okay, here is what I did...

I used spinach to replace pasta ( steam over double boiler ). Do not overcook, and as soon as the leaves get wilted, take them out and place on a platter.

Of course, the meat sauce has to be prepared first. I did decide to post it last as it requires me to share more instructions. Just the same, we had our carbs by having toasted cheese bread from La Maison du Pain, buttered of course.

Meat Sauce:

hamburger ( 1 and 1/2 pounds )
leeks ( two bunches, only the white part, use the green part for soups )
heirloom tomatoes ( three whole ones )
Goya adobo seasoning
Rufina patis
plenty of crushed garlic cloves

Heat the pan. Place olive oil in the pan. Add garlic and leeks. After the garlic smell is released, add the hamburger meat. Brown the meat, add Rufina patis, goya adobo seasoning. After the meat is well browned, add goya adobo seasoning and the heirloom tomatoes. Use slow heat and cover the pan. After a few minutes and when the tomatoes are getting cooked, turn off the flame, keep the pot covered and allow the residual heat to further the cooking. Serve on the platter with the steamed spinach and toasted cheese bread.

Well, the verdict, for me, I wiped out my plate clean. My hubby, he opted for a lighter meal but kept me company just the same. Those are moments I am grateful for, good company during dinner time or any meal of the day! There are not enough years to squander as I am part of the aging generation of baby boomers and we are all approaching more than half a century.., yes, more than five decades, and with platinum highlights, we are getting up there. And getting up there means that one cherishes what life is: joy, love, art and good food!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julia Child Remembered one Los Angeles Morning!

The rains have passed. The grounds are drying up. The bougainvilla plant bloomed with purple flowers. You can hear the birds chirping in the background, as if a constant orchestra accompanying you for the morning. The sun is mild in its rays, safe for a morning run for my hubby and daughter. The plumeria plants are rich with white and pink flowers. Even the calamansi tree is bursting with green and orange ripe fruits. The persimmon tree is full of fruits, I had to give some away and kept some for juicing. Life is good!

Several friends have left the house beaming with smiles as they carried their bags filled with persimmons, pears, apples, kalamansi and sweet potato leaves. Tonette joyfully called it " her farmers' organic loot. " I call it God's blessings shared with friends.

Today, I decided to prepare breakfast early to fit the busy schedules of my hubby who teaches and my daughter who goes to law school fulltime.

This is what I call Delilah Breakfast on the Run! ( Named after my daughter's beautiful dog, who also goes on her morning run with them. When she got to the house, she was so thirsty, she drank from our indoor fountain until we found her and stopped her. In a few days, she gets her grooming and I get a special visit from her coming home from her dog salon. Oh what a joy to see her as she struts her body filled with pride. Do dogs have pride or am I projecting my emotions on him? )

Okay, back to Delilah Breakfast on the Run!!

Cheese bread ( from my favorite bakery La Maison Du Pain ), slice them thick into servings ( I am preparing four for 4 folks )
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Basil Leaves, sliced like ribbons
Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes ( I chose Yellow to match the sunny weather. I even bought a pot of yellow mums to match, it is getting me to smile more. )
Olive oil

In a separate pan, over boiling water, break open jumbo eggs and poach them, ala Julia Child taught us. Use fresh eggs and wait until done, not too well, just when the white of the egg is softly done and the yolk is over easy. Gently scoop out each egg and season with pepper and a bit of salt.

In a cookie sheet, lay out the four slices of cheese bread, sprinkle some olive oil, add a sliced heirloom tomato, add basil and grated parmesan cheese. Bake at a preheated oven of 400 F for 5 minutes or until slightly brown. Scoop the poached egg on top, sprinkle more fresh basil and add shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with three thin slices of ripe avocado..and of course plating is as important.

It is such a great breakfast, but one serving is enough and it is balanced, you have your carbs, good fats, dairy, protein and vegetables. You just need some fruits, and ours was in our power juice. Then my naughty hubby read something in the Los Angeles Times and read it loudly to me, we both laughed, it is a private joke so I can not share this one. It is so funny we said we would revisit it. He left, my daughter left and now, I am blogging and keeping the public in suspense over that LA Times article. Find that interesting one and read it to your special someone and you will know all is right about the world today!!

Good morning Los Angeles, as we remember Julia Child this morning. But, I am not Julie by any means, I want to create my own recipes and this one was inspired by what Carmen shared in preparing breakfast for her family. Take care one and all and till the next one, I will blog about Chilaquiles with Maura!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Step Chilaquiles

I created this recipe when I got frustrated in not getting my usual chilaquiles at a local farmer's market. The vendor got married that Sunday and I went home empty handed. It has been a ritual for me to have chilaquiles, it felt like a good start for the entire week and it was a good breakfast/lunch which lasted for four hours, sometimes longer.

I like cooking and lately, the inventions have kept me going back to my stove more often. Of course, the cooking tires me out physically but somehow, after the creative dish is plated, well how presumptous of myself to label it creative, but it truly is for me, as I do it without recipe.

Here goes..

Green Onions
Adobo Seasoning ( only the Goya type, others are poor imitations, trust me on this as I have tried them before I discarded the other brands. Goya is a winner and I get no royalties or fees for truthfully sharing this. )

First: prepare the shallots, dice them. Set aside. Slice thinly the green onions and leeks. Cube fresh tomatoes and one zucchini. If the zucchini is a large one, use only half.

Heat up the cast iron pan. Add olive oil and add shallots, leeks, and green onions, sliced rib eye steak or ground meat. Brown the meat completely. When shallots are partially glazed, add zucchini and tomatoes. As soon as they all change colors, add goya seasoning ( mixture of garlic, oregano and salt ), a bit wilted ( definitely not brown ), add goya seasoning and cilantro. Keep it under heat for another ten seconds. Plate it and set it aside.

Clean up the pan and add olive oil. Add a handful of tortilla chips, add Pace Picante Salsa, Mild or Medium, be generous to coat most of the chips. Add shredded mozarella and after semi-melted, turn off the heat, add more green onions, if desired. Plate them.

Now, you are ready to serve both plates. Keep the salsa handy just in case folks want more salsa. I like to keep the chips a bit crunchy so as soon as the sauce coats the chips and cheese partially melted, I plate the chilaquiles and serve with the precooked zucchini with tomatoes. I then sprinkle the cilantro as garnish. Serve with sliced or cubed avocado. Happy eating!!

PS: I like making this dish as it only takes me at the most ten minutes...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our Organic Entertaining Style: Artisan Cooking with Friends as Sous Chefs and Special TasteMakers.....

Artists are considered trend setters and tastemakers. Chefs are the same. They invent using food as their paint palletes and the seasonings as their hues varied. The more I involved my friends are with my cooking, the less tired I become and more able to enjoy their company.

It used to be that I did it all: menu planning, marketing, cutting, slicing, dicing, cooking, plating, and hosting. Well, those were the days, when I was barely twenty or thirty with twice or thrice the energy reserves that I have.

I recently found a way of balancing my love for entertaining friends with teaching culinary arts to others, as well as learning from other skilled artisan, organic cooks. Of course, since I am hosting, I like the idea that I am coordinating the efforts of many artisan chefs, and I am in charge of menu planning.

For tonight, as always, since my friends are gaining in wisdom, and gaining in platinum highlights ( my polite way that we are all graying baby boomers ), I want to indulge in vegetables.

So our menu consisted of:

a. Garden mix of vegetables, a fusion of opposites: the theme of the salad was a fusion of opposites: circles with cubes, and an array of colors and a mix of red leaf lettuce and dandelion leaves. Red leaf lettuce has a neutral, bland taste, so I decided to blend it purple green dandelion leaves that are a bit bitter, almost like arugula, except a heightened version.

Two of my friends came early to be my sous chef. Since they own an organic rice farm, I thought they would enjoy harvesting what we will use today. So, we harvested our pears, our apples, the calamansi fruit, and persimmons. Manny asked me for a knife. He started to eat the fruits that were partially eaten by the birds. Of course, I immediately remarked, " My husband does the same, he takes out the parts eaten by the birds, and then, partakes of the uneaten parts. This way, I am assured it is the best fruit on the tree, he would emphasize. " Imagine that, taking our cues from Mother Earth.

So, I assigned them to cut the following, of course that included me: I cut the persian cucumbers in 1/2 inch circles, Angge peeled the jicama and sliced them into cubes. Then, we carefully arranged them in a tupperware: cucumbers ( green ) in one side, jicama ( white ) in another side, cherry tomatoes ( red and yellow ), grapes ( blue gray ).

We prepared the dressing. I like to experiment when there is company, it is like a performing stage artist on theater, who improvises what they do and varies the lines each night. I do the same, I am inspired by the presence of folks surrounding me. So, tonight, without any inkling as to how it will turn out, I decided to trust my instincts.

Yes, instincts, as i have been cooking since age six, and after five decades, I kinda know the general principles. So, combining acids is a lesson and an artsy way of flavoring dressings, without making them piquant or too acidic. So, what did we combine: a tablespoon of freshly squeezed Calaman-C juice ( harvested from our backyard ), a tablespoon of gourmet, seasoned rice vinegar, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar flavored with raisin syrup. We macerated two cloves of garlic, added a pinch of salt, the three tablespoons of acids, and twelve tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Plating is as important as the flavors inside the bowl. I decided to use my handcrafted wooden bowl that my college classmate, Reme B. bought for me, made by artisans from the Benguet Mountain. It carried a special significance for me, as you could feel the bowl had a life of its own, the multiple hours of labor of someone etching the curves on the piece of wood, until it became a bowl. I carefully laid a bed of red leaf lettuce mixed with dandelion leaves and now carefully laid on opposite sides of the bowl: the jicama, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, the persimmons in the middle, slices of heirloom tomatoes, slices of avocados, blue gray grapes.

The theme of the garden mix of salad: fusion of soft and hard textures, a fusion of circles and cubes, a trio of citruses, and a palette of colors. I have always believed, as others that one feasts with one's eyes first, then, taste follows and of course, the mouth has to crunch a lot to feel satisfied. And it was a success, folks came back for seconds of the salads..

b. Filet mignons - marinated in crushed garlic, lemon zest, juice of one lemon, Kimlan soy sauce. I marinated the filet mignons in a container, and kept them marinated for the whole day inside the fridge. When the guests arrived, I heated up the cast iron pan. I added olive oil, seared the filets on each side until well browned. The key to testing it if well browned, if the meat is no longer sticking, it is time to turn it over. Then, the rest of the cooking was done inside a pre-heated oven at 350 F for 5 minutes.

The result: folks raved about how tender the meat was, with juice still oozing and medium rare but well flavored.

c. Side entrees were brought in: steamed asparagus with shredded parmesan cheese, Piave cheese brought by Lucita and Giorgio, which blended so well with La Maison du Pain's cheese bread that I bought of course from my favorite bakery. The bread was well-heated and kept warm by a well heated pizza stone. The cheese was simply the best but nothing like pairing it with good cheese bread from La Maison du Pain.

d. Dessert was carefully planned. It was sauteed apples, sauteed pears with a side serving of chocolate rice risotto. Hmm...I think I will leave the dessert part kinda a surprise to tease the readers so they would leave me comments, if they want the recipe. And the combination of the two surprised me as well for it was a hit. The sauteed apples and pears were used the next day as topping for Greek Style plain yogurt.

e. Drinks were mojitos with Beringer Red Wine brought in by Tonette and Nick. Hmm, simply the best tasting drinks to go with the dinner.

f. Mung bean and ube hopia, directly from the Philippines, courtesy of Tess and Fred, which were heated in a toaster oven, with cups of organic coffee....

After dinner, we sat around the oblong table in the library and it became an impromptu sharing. Len started with sharing a piece she wrote at a writing workshop with 80 year old Jewish young artists, who shared their lives with candor: some with discreet love affairs, still while married, some divorced, some in very happy, unmarried relationships. She shared about the exercise: to write about their First Kiss.

Len decided to write about her Last Kiss, as she is about to be divorced. She shared the piece and we all could feel the intensity of that last encounter. Strangely, what I remember is the crush, crush, crush of the plates that were broken that night. I cannot even excerpt the story here as it is still under embargo until Len decides she is ready to share it with the world. We encouraged her that this is her path, to conduct writing workshops with folks and publish their works.

It turns out she recently edited and had published a scrapbook, actually a book of essays about Fr. Abe, a Jesuit priest who died and left such an imprint on other folks lives, including his valiant attempt to survive Stage 4 colon cancer, using his own alternative treatments of meditation, raw foods, massage, and managed to outlive another family friend with a similar ailment who undertook surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, by three more quality years with lucidity and sharpness of mind.

The lessons we had for the night: fellowship from friends and family overtakes all, love always conquers all. Love precedes, love transcends, and love will be eternal.

And for my readers, here is my offering of photos for the evening....it was truly a night to remember, like all nights when there is good food, wholesome fun, friends and genuine friendship!!

By the way, for the evening, we were joined in by 93 year - old Felisa, my husband's mother, who shared her love for God through a prayer before the meals and it was so touching and endearing....and she set the tone for our togetherness for the evening, we are all God's children and may the loving hands who prepared this food, partake of it that they may become not just nourishment for our body but for our spirits!!

And a special rendition of live violin music by my very own Mozart in residence, who played music from Constancio de Guzman. The evening was so perfect: food, wine, good violin music and authentic stories written by three artists/writers. Amen!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seasonal Fruit Spread

I was feeling so helpless watching the news feed about Typhoon Ondoy. After all, the streets that got flooded: Katipunan Avenue, EDSA, C-5 highway, all these were familiar routes to me. Why, we just passed through them coming and going to visit friends, relatives and the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City. So, when I heard 5,000 folks were waiting out in Trinoma, I was feeling sad. Not because they were in danger, but because Trinoma has all the things you would want for the day and night: spa, movies, restaurants, hair salon, atrium, all kinds of American, European and Native shops. This quickly became our favorite when we vacationed in July and August. That was just a month ago, and to hear that folks are now wading in a waterworld, this was so hard to believe. The rains were non-stop and in six hours, the lakes were formed, where formerly were streets, roads, beautiful gardens, and now: mud, bent lamp posts, and vehicles that should be on the ground, now are floating. Floating like play cars in a bathtub. This not playing. This is real life.

So, instead of feeling helpless, and continuing to repost calls for help on Facebook, thank God for Facebook, which helped saved lives, and thank you for the inventors of Facebook - this social networking tool brings people, resources and quick ground floor photos and news. I decided to make some fruit spread and bake my standard banana bread recipe.

Here is the fruit spread:

15 nectarines, cut up into small pieces
3 whole calamansi fruit, washed, uncut
1 basket of green figs, cut up in halves
a handful of blackberries
a handful of raspberries
Juice of one orange
1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar - make into a sugar syrup, by boiling together
2 drops of peach liquer

Cut up the nectarines. Add the calamansi fruit, add the cut up nectarines and figs. Boil over slow fire, and fully attend to it. It is almost therapeutic, to just keep stirring the mixture, smell the smells of fresh, organic, seasonal fruits. Then, as the mixture thickens, add the sugar syrup. Taste it. If too sweet, add the juice of an entire large orange. Keep stirring, until you have the consistency you want. I want mine not too thick, but spreadable. I added the blackberries and raspberries for color. Amazing to see that blackberries when cooked lose their black tinge and almost became deep ruby red.

You see, this is why I put so much labor of love in my cooking, I watch and observe the colors change, my sense of tastes and smells satiated and my oh my, a new surprise for me -- I looked at the fruit spread, and knowing we will not consume all the fruit spread, I decided to use half of the fruit filling into my banana bread.

So, as I finished the fruit spread, I set aside the banana bread. I poured the mixture into the small loaf pans, half of it only, then, spread the fruit fillings, and then, poured the next half of the mixture over it. Oh my, oh my, the smells of banana, mixing in with the fruit spread really made one feel like this is still summer. It is not summer. In fact, today is Sept. 29, 2009, but there are still floods and typhoons. So, in celebration of the seasons, to keep my attitude going to help out other folks by posting relief information in Facebook, I completed my task for the day: organic nectarine, fig, berries spread. Do you have a cute name for it? Let me know...

The verdict: My hubby finished up half a loaf to himself. Maura, my cleaning lady was so happy with the loaf she took home for her husband and her to eat the next day. I did the same, devoured half a loaf with my morning juice.

Check the juice recipe in my blog - that was created by my hubby. A lot of what we eat, we create recipes for, it is just part of good living, I think, to interact with your senses, to put your mind into it, to put masipag technology in your cooking, and sprinkle it with lots of love for others to be satisfied with. After all, it is about enjoying life! And you cannot enjoy life without food!

PS: I do not like posting photos of the created recipes, for I want you to imagine them, and be persuaded that there is nothing better than creating your own experiments with good food dishes! Sometimes, I do, as my mentees will suggest, please post our photos and the food. So, I make an exception. Next time, I will post farmer markets' produce.....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 6 - Power Juicing with Vegetables and Fruits

I goofed, I said I gave you the recipe for the juice. Well, I made a mistake, when I scrolled down my blog, it was not there. It was in facebook that I shared the recipe with Soji. Okay, so forgive me, my readers, here is the recipe of juice.

It is pictured here on the left side of the chilaquiles, with our favorite read: Sunday's New York Times.

Something about this juice, this connects me with my hubby of 30 some years, actually 32 of being together. He helped me in regaining my health and wellness, after a bout of asthma, allergies and influenza all at the same time, and finding a wonderful doctor in the Philippines, who did his research and prescribed the medications that are efficacious. Wow, I can now breathe and have more energies.

Okay, I admit I got distracted. I was talking about juicing. This is why my hubby at times gets annoyed listening to me, although he keeps it under wraps in deference to not annoying me in turn. He developed this formula, mimicking the organic way we were eating: mostly fresh fish and fresh vegetables and fruits when we vacationed in the Philippines. I know, I know I said, the juice. So, here is the story behind the juice and FDA folks, I am not doing a commercial sale here, I am just sharing, so I am not violating any rules of fairness in trading and fair business practices, as I am not selling juice.

Buy your produce of course at a reputable store, we buy ours at a Jewish store near our house.

Use the masticating type of Juicer which masticates the vegetables and fruits, rather than the centrifugal juicer, which ends up defeating the veggie fibers and you end up struggling with extracting their juices.

Tips in using oranges, lemons: remove the peel and donot use the white pith - trust me, they are bitter. It would be like adding dandelion leaves, yuk, that is what I had today in my juice and my husband lovingly justified it was good for me, and in deference to my palate, he only added two leaves, but yuk, it tasted like 20 leaves.

Fresh, Natural, Uncooked, P-8, P10 or P-11 juice ( the name depends on how many fruits and vegetables you want to combine )

1 apple - cut up in 8 pieces to fit into the funnel of the machine
1 lemon or 1 orange - peel removed, as well as the white pith
1 cucumber
1 zucchini
1 bunch of parsley - my Jewish American Doctor, who will remain unnamed shared that parsley acts as an antibiotic, removes the bacteria in your system. So when our stomachs are grumbly, we make it two bunches of parsley to normalize us once more.
1 bell pepper - cut into 8 pieces to fit the funnel
1 carrot - my cousin noticed the "orange color" in my hubby's hands, so she suggested we lessen our carrots or make it one carrot every other day. So there, the disclaimer has been shared. Too much of a good thing becomes a poison.
1 cup of spinach leaves - more than a cup makes it yukky...trust me, I am the guinea pig on this one, and my husband makes juice almost daily and I have tasted at least 100 yukky juice days. I love it when he gets it so right and I savor each drop of juice as I drink it.
1 stalk of celery - do not add more than 1 stalk, as celery has salt and if you are prone to salt levels in your body system, you can feel a change in your body condition. It happened to me, I am one of those folks...so, instead of energizing me, it wilted me.
1 bunch of grapes - my favorite, when he adds this -- oh boy, the juice is great!
1 slice or two of jicama - this gives the juice some body.

Secret weapon: The juice of four kalamansi fruits ( small green or yellow citrus fruit, sometimes called citronella by French folks ) -- this is really the kicker as the juice gets tasty because of this.

Okay, the recipe is not complete if I do not share that greens have to be juiced first. My hubby shared that the other day, as the green extracts of parsley, spinach have to be washed down by the later addition of the hardy ones, like carrots, jicama, apple, oranges and grapes. Depending on how you juice it, and the moisture in the fruits and vegetables, we normally get a yield of three 10 oz. glasses. So, we can have a full glass all to ourselves.

The best part of juicing is I have become less susceptible to colds. The bad part of overjuicing and using the wrong ingredients, like raw beets, is you develop allergies. All of a sudden, you are needing anti-histamines. 

So there, I have fully declared our energizing mornings of juicing and we pair that with my experimentation on banana breads and egg-centric hollowed-out olive breads.

Come to think of it, when we are "eccentric" and focused on just ourselves, like " ego-centric ", we actually become more hollowed - out, feeling used-up, vacant and irrelevant. 

That is my belief, so I stay engaged with the community. That is my zany reflection for the day! Ala Julie on Julie and Julia, did you see that movie? I even bought the book, My life in France by Julia Child, oh I just love her zest for life!! And I love Meryl Streep for portraying her brilliant vibrance!

Happy juicing everyone and the net effect of juicing for a year for me: no fevers, no prolonged colds, no prolonged bouts with influenza and of course, I believe God's blessings are with us, because we treat Mother Nature with care and respect. By the way, we compost the extracted fibers and seeds, so the soil becomes fertile for the Holland bulbs I just planted. And it keeps my marriage on solid footing, instead of diseased foundations because of wrong breakfast foods like sugar and caffeine!

Happy juicing everyone! The formula was developed by Enrique Delacruz. I just documented his practices and he has the last word on this, as he developed the formula, so ask him directly. You can leave me comments on your own experiences.

Juicing is like cooking, it is personal and it is what works for you, so find the right formula that works for your family, this formula works for ours!  I wrote this in 2009, it is now 2011 and we are still juicing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 5 - Coconut Leche Flan or Coconut Creme Brulee

I have been cooking for five days now. Is my inspiration coming from the lotuses that are displayed?

Today, my creative self wants to experiment with coconut milk and coconut oil. Why? Josephine gave me two cans of coconut milk and Celia gave me a bottle of coconut oil. So, what is the plan, I asked myself?

Of course, the first thing a cook does or even a baker, is to scout if all the ingredients are available. And what are we cooking today?

Coconut leche flan in a heart-shaped pan

6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon sugar ( caramelize over hot flames, until brown in color, let cool in container )
1 can of condensed milk ( Lechera brand is the less sweet of all the varieties I have tried )
1/2 can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of vanilla

Whisk the egg yolks, careful not to overbeat and careful not to introduce too much air. Add the condensed milk, 1/2 can of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Strain into the heart-shaped pan with cooled caramel. Cover well with foil, so that steam or excess water is kept out and not allowed into the mold. Prepare the steamer and add water.

When boiling, add the foil-covered mold and steam for 45 minutes in high heat. When done, set aside. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, run the knife by the edges and corners of the mold or heart-shaped pan, and unmold into a plate. Serve a tablespoon at a time with a scoop of ice-cream, preferably vanilla, or a flavor that synchronizes well with coconut leche flan, therefore, I suggest no chocolate, but if your palate desires the combination, go for it.

The verdict, when I shared with friends: the coconut flavor was robust, but a bit sweet. I think I will add a tablespoon or two of water next time to just dilute the sweetness. Try the recipe first as you might find it pleasing to your palate before adding water next time. Bon Appetit, as Julia Child would say!! Kain na, I would say!

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 4 - EggCentric Olive Bread

Today, for breakfast, my daughter, Corina and hubby, Enrique went for a hike at Runyon Canyon, with Delilah, part chow, and a very sweet dog. They were gone for more than an hour.

I decided to surprise them with a homemade breakfast, after all, my hubby had a busy day ahead of him, teaching for over six hours and my daughter had a full day of classes for her law school. So, I looked at what I have. The saying goes that the test of a good cook is how she uses the available ingredients and most recipes are stumbled upon by mistake or accidents. Well, for me, it is not by accident or mistake, it is by intention. My inntention is to memorialize my choice recipes for my children, and for them to refer to, even in my absence.

Hopefully, I succeed to entice others to eat organically. It really makes sense to me as my palate is so satisfied, am not munching at all, and I do not get hungry until after four hours.

Eggs-Centric Olive Bread

4 Hollowed out Slices of Olive Bread from La Maison du Pain
Olive Oil
4 Eggs
Parmesan Cheese Shavings
Pesto dill Spread
Parsley snips

Spray cookie tray with olive oil. Spread the slices of hollowed-out olive bread. Break open the eggs in the center of each slice of bread. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Spread pesto dill on the surfaces of the bread. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for 11 minutes. Keep an eye on the egg, sometimes it cooks for less, depending on the size of the egg and the temperature of the oven. Remove from the oven and serve on a platter. Top with shavings of parmesan cheese and decorate with parsley snips. Toast the hollowed out pieces and serve with slices of nectarines and the P-8 or P-10 juice. I provided the juice recipe in an earlier blog post. Okay, this is a hearty breakfast, it keeps you full for at least four hours. Happy walking!!

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 3 - Beef Steak Filipino Style using Filet of Tenderloins

It was a surprise visit from my Tita Lydia, who arrived from the Philippines to bond with her grandchild that inspired me this day. She and I have not seen each other for years. So, a visit from her with my cousin, Olet and his son, Jio was most welcome. Why? She is a mighty good cook. And my favorite was her pancit. Before getting a haircut, free that is, she would feed us her newly cooked pancit. We were spoiled by her generosity. And the best part of getting a haircut from her, she also shared her wisdom generously, so instead of staying angry or having teenage issues, she taught us the duet of generosity and understanding.

It was ten am, and they just came from church. And we are now in Los Angeles, no longer in Manila where she fed us then her pancit. They have not yet eaten breakfast. So, I hurriedly thawed out some filet of tenderloins. It took ten minutes, soaked in water. So let me walk you through this recipe. And the best part is they stayed till dinner so we had a complete day of bonding that can last us for awhile until the next reunion.

Filet of tenderloins, Filipino Beefsteak Style

3 filets of tenderloins, seasoned with adobo seasoning, and calamansi juice ( this is Philippine lemon, which I picked from the tree growing in our backyard. )
1 onion, diced
1 garlic head, minced ( Filipinos eat a lot of garlic which is a good anti-oxidant. It just so happens that our recipes call for a lot of garlic )
Juice of six to eight kalamansi fruits
lemon zest ( zest entire lemon, that is the yellow peel of the lemon, not the bitter white pith )
Olive oil

Marinate the filets with diced onions, minced garlic, kalamansi juice and two tablespoons of low salt soy sauce for a few minutes, I did mine for fifteen minutes as folks were hungry, so I had to do this dish in less than thirty minutes, just like Rachel Ray.

Heat up the cast iron pan, with no oil yet. Turn on the stove at 375 F.

Heat the pan well on the stove, as it is important for searing the meat. After the pan is sufficiently heated, add olive oil. Add diced onions. Caramelize the onions, as if partially charred, the sweet flavor comes out. Add the minced garlic that was used for marinating. Then, sear both sides of filets, at least 3 minutes each side. Add the sauce used for marinating the filets. Add some lemon juice if needed, and season it to a balance of sweet, salty and pleasing to taste. Add a bit of water to make sure enough sauce is left for the second part of cooking, which is baking.

Put the cast iron pan inside the oven, to finish cooking the steaks. Keep an eye on the steaks, it just needs another five to seven more minutes to fully cook. Do not overcook especially for those folks who like their steaks medium rare. That is why it is important to touch the middle part of the steaks, if tender to touch, it is done! Remove from the pan, and serve with charred onions. There should still be enough sauce left to flavor the filets. Steaks should be tender to touch in the middle, and the sides are browned well. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed rice.

Side dish of Roasted Potatoes

Quartered Potatoes
Minced Garlic
Olive Oil
Rosemary herbs, remove from stems and chopped...

Heat up cast iron pan, add olive oil and garlic. Once the whiff of garlic smell, add the quartered potatoes. Sear the potatoes. Add chopped rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake at 375 F until done, about 25 minutes or more. Potatoes are cooked if you can pierce with a fork and it feels tender.

Much of my cooking is done by sensual observations, rarely by time, as potatoes and other ingredients are biological in nature, they have varying levels of moisture and therefore behave differently, but one thing I know for sure, smell of cooked ingredients is different from the smell of raw ingredients. Once your nose gets used to this kind of cooking, you seldom need to taste the sauce before serving. Your nose can be trained to have a whiff of a good balance of sour, sweet worthy of a balanced, platinum palate.

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 2 - Christmas-Motif Pasta

Tonight, I decided to experiment with scallops. Why scallops? I had them in my freezer and since my friend, Gil is going fishing, he told me to make room for some tuna or red snapper on Monday, that is next week. He goes fishing in San Diego aboard a chartered fishing boat and mostly guys have this privilege. It is not exclusively guys, the tough women who know how to bait their fishing line and know how to reel in their fish are allowed to come, and of course the fee. It used to be a hundred dollars for a weekend of fishing, including meals on board, but since gasoline skyrocketed in price, it is close to four hundred dollars.

So, let us go through this recipe.

Scallops with Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

1 bag of jumbo scallops ( Trader Joe's brand )
Balsamic Vinegar Blanc ( sweet type, with raisin juice, I bought this bottle in Provence, France )
head of garlic, minced ( reserve half for the spinach )
red pepper flakes, a pinch ( I like it with a bite or a sting, but not fiery that suffocates )
olive oil
cherry tomatoes ( 6 to 8 )
roasted tomatoes ( remove skin and diced them )
1 tablespoon butter ( yes, butter the real one to flavor the scallops before serving )

Heat up cast iron pan. Add olive oil, immediately add garlic and red pepper flakes. Olive oil darkens when heated up, so add the garlic to prevent this. When you get a whiff of garlic smell, add the diced tomatoes. Add scallops, and flavor with two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, blanc, pepper and a dash of salt. Go easy on the salt as scallops are fruits of the sea.

Cover the pan and add cherry tomatoes. The heat will burst the tomatoes. Scallops are done when it changes color from raw flesh to cooked flesh. You will see the change in colors, from opaque to solid white flesh. Do not overcook scallops, they become hard. Add 1 tablespoon of butter before serving. You can also turn off the flame after cooking the scallops and allow the residual heat for the last five minutes of cooking. This way, you do not overcook the scallops. Set aside.

Before serving, pop into the microwave with the bed of spinach and heat for less than a minute. There is nothing like a hot entree over newly steamed cup of brown rice.

Side entree of Spinach
1/2 head of minced garlic
olive oil
3 cups of spinach

Heat the pan. Add the olive oil. Then, add minced garlic. Add spinach. When semi-wilted, after sauteeing, serve on a dish. Use this bed of spinach to top with the scallops.

The verdict - my husband really loved it. In fact, I loved it too and the entire bag of jumbo scallops was mostly devoured, except for a few for tomorrow's lunch. Honestly, it was good! And the dessert, we split a red velvet cake from La Maison du Pain in 5373 West Pico Blvd. LA, 90019.

Inspired Week of Cooking - Day 1 - Chocolate Risotto

Red Borong Rice

Okay, it is almost the end of summer and somehow, I found my inspiration this week. As to how, I am not sure. Maybe it is the new purple, fragrant orchid flowers which got me going. Or maybe the violin music that I play each night before I sleep. Or it could Oprah's magazine by my nightstand. Or the Balikbayan Magazine published by Asian Journal with breathtaking photographs and literary stories written well. One of my favorites was a story about Nick Joaquin by Joel Pablo Salud.

Enough of the introduction. Here are my recipes that I remember. I cook by instincts, smells and what my heart dictates. So, I really do not follow recipes. But this is what I recall...

Chocolate Risotto aka Champorrado

3 cups organic red borong rice ( obtained from Angge's Organic Rice Farm in Zambales )
16 cups of water
1 can of lechera condensed milk ( I like this brand, as the other brands are too sweet for my taste, this is the less sweet variety )
1 chocolate disc ( tableya, is the local name )
1 cup of Ghiradelli chocolate powder
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon vanilla flavor
pinch of salt

Combine water, condensed milk, chocolate disc, cinnamon sticks, salt and red borong rice. Since this is organic rice, it is best cooked using masipag technology. Impatience is not welcome. So, patiently stir the granules of rice in the liquid mixture until it is almost cooked. You will notice the transition from raw to almost cooked, just by looking at the kernels. Then, before it is fully cooked, add chocolate powder and vanilla flavor. Keep stirring. When you notice that there are no more raw kernels, and rice is almost cooked, turn off the flame and cover the pot. Allow the residual steam and heat from the covered pot, without any flame to finish the cooking of the rice. Oops, I forgot to give you my secret. Email me and I will disclose it.

Oh, this recipe is so good. How good? Well, I shared a small pot with my friend who has a platinum palate and she gingerly apportioned it for breakfast each morning. She would add pure cream, heat it up in the microwave for about a minute, or even less, and then, she sits down at 4am enjoying her breakfast of chocolate risotto or champorrado. How to pronounce it? Chum...po ra...do....

This is also good with smoked fish, or bacon, depending on what part of the globe you are in. For me, I had it with my P-1o juice, made from zucchini, bell pepper, carrot, apple, orange, kalamansi, spinach, parsley, cucumber, celery. Sometimes it is called P-11 as we add grapes to it. The best part of drinking this juice is you need not worry about eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables. By juicing, you get your entire nutritional need in one 8 to 10 ounce glass. It is best to juice this fresh every morning.

Now, the hard working folks might say, who has time to do all this? Well, I figure I have a choice. I can do this for my body every morning or I can stay in a hospital bed, taking pharmaceuticals. When that choice is presented to me, I find the time to treat my body right.

Okay let me know how the tsamporado recipe turned out for you. If you do not have red borong rice, you can use California sweet rice. This recipe can feed a whole neighborhood, almost ten people and there are some more left. Happy eating!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Banana Bread Recipe

Banana Bread 
ala Delacruz Family's taste buds..

1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. shredded carrots
1/8 spear of zucchini, chopped fine
2 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup nuts ( preferred is walnuts )
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cream butter. Add sugar. Add eggs, one at a time.  Mash bananas. Add sour cream.  Add flour, sugar and the mashed bananas last for optimum flavor.  If desired, add another banana.  Bake at 325 F for 35 minutes or longer until the toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the banana bread.  Do not overbake.  It is baked when the toothpick comes clean and slightly brown on top.  

This recipe is so much improved by adding veggies...
Variations of this recipe can be made by adding chocolate chips.  Or for another occasion, raspberries and orange zest with mediterranean greek style yogurt ( three tablespoons ).  For another occasion, add strawberries.  Experiment with your seasonal fruits, and experiment with the sugar levels as it will vary in taste depending on the acidity or sweetness of the fruits. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trying to be high tech with Kevin

I am humbled that I do not know much about loading photos and inserting videos. Let us now try. I am learning to be in the 21st century. Lovely, the photo is now uploaded.

I am part of the old world. I grew up using the typewriter, correcting ribbon, and not much else.

Well, now to learn I-pod, cell phone, computer, flickr, bluetooth, digital cam, blogging puts a   frustration overload on my brain. Lucky for me, a 22 year old UC Berkeley graduate, Kevin Hamano took the time to care and to extend his professional help to get me out of this.  

And I am now more adventuresome using these high tech tools. Thanks to Kevin for bridging this generational-tech gap! I am moving away from frustration into more adventure.

I can now post photos, blogs, and even recipes!