Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Spring Day that Inspired a Dinner!

Happy Spring!
Spring Calla Lillies


Garden Roses

One Spring Morning, quite early for me, I went to downtown Los Angeles to buy some flowers.   I got distracted taking photos and kept clicking away.  The result was like being immersed in a palette of colors that stayed with me throughout the day.  Someone was teasing me as I had so much energy, I did some gardening, then, did some housecleaning, and even a trip to Trader Joe's.  Whew, I did not get tired..oh yes, I did, but it simply took me a few minutes to re-center myself.  

Flowers give me their innate nature's energies.  They inspire me so much.  I witnessed so many beautiful wreaths that surrounded my father's casket that I told my family, I prefer to get my flowers now, rather than later when I am six feet under.  So, my good hubby gives me the best looking orchids for our wedding anniversary and my birthday.  Once, my cousin, Alfred teased him and said, you mean Kuya your love is only seasonal?  Ha, ha...do  jokes have their underlying subtext of truth or not?  Well, I have gotten flowers for over three decades now, so there is an enduring sweetness to that.

Inspired by that thought and recalling memories of flowers for three decades,  I created my husband's dinner tonight, which included me of course, using colors.  Yes, I love colors for my meals.  

Here is what I created.

Ravioli with Arugula and Cheese in Olive oil and Sage, with Snap and Sweet Peas and Shaved Parmesan

Boil ravioli until they emerge to the surface.  Set aside.   In a separate pan, boil for few seconds, the sweet peas and snap peas.  

I love the combination as the snap peas have the crunch, while the sweet peas have the sweetness.  Harvest them after a few seconds, they turn from raw color to bright green cooked color; set aside in a platter.

In a hot pan, add a combination of olive oil and few dabs of butter. You need to combine oil and butter to prevent the burning of olive oil by itself or burning butter by itself, but together, they mellow each other out.   I suppose that might be true for how a person mellows out when with a partner, as the partner mirrors to the other, her strengths and weaknesses.  

Okay, back to the sauce.  Add the sage leaves and herbes de provence to the heated oil/butter combination.  Add the cooked ravioli and toss lightly.  Plate the ravioli in your favorite platter, and surround it with sweet peas and snap peas.  If desired, add parmesan cheese shavings.

My side entree was pan - roasted brussel sprouts in garlic and olive oil, pictured below, that was then baked for a few minutes until done.  Keep an eye on brussel sprouts, if overcooked, it tastes not just soggy but slightly bitter.  If cooked just right, they taste somewhat sweet and a bit crunchy.  If undercooked, they taste inedible.  

So, keep an eye, it is about patience when cooking, patient to wait till the flavors mellow into one another.  It cannot be rushed, for the flavors are raw and have not quite marinated well together. 

I suppose that is like life, or nature, one cannot rush the ripening of fruits or for veggies to be harvested at a given moment.  Instead, with careful investment of labor, water, attention, weeding, the fruits of the tree are ready for picking!  

Happy Spring to all of you! 

Brussel sprouts, pan roasted with garlic in olive oil, then, baked till cooked and served with shaved parmesan cheese.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rainbows on Our Dinner Plate!

Prosy's Provencal Salad

What happens when health becomes wealth?  I had experienced the depths of inconsistent self-care, brought on by indulgent meals while vacationing in the Philippines. Yup, I was fed well, but also since there abound so many sources of triggers for allergens, my asthma was so out of control, but life-threatening, when combined with flu and allergies in 2007.  I thought I would remain so hooked to inhalers to get relief for my asthma. 

But, my husband, Enrique Delacruz,  was so determined to strengthen our immune systems. He experimented and came up with his formula for our morning breakfast, juicing nine varieties of fruits and vegetables.  In my old archives of blogs, the juice recipe appears.  But to make it easier on my reader, here it is

Then, we incorporated more exercise into our daily lives.  The regimen kept us away from major bouts of diseases and illnesses. But, not quite yet on reaching the peak of health is wealth.  We are still on our journey.  Being healthy is not just about the absence of illnesses.  It is the condition of one's body which fully supports the rigors of one's life.  Until I got to where I felt I could move around without aches and pains, I did not consider myself healthy.  

Mind you, I have logged in 214 days of exercising since 385 days ago as of today, March 28, 2011.   The rigor of the routine is pretty intense, walking uphill to the summit, alternating with two days of kettle bells, now lifting 53 pounds and while holding this heavy kettle bell, sometimes with one hand, sometimes with two, I have to do swings.  

Then, on cardio days, it is a triset, with no rest in between three different sets, more like continous that by the end of the third set of exercise, you feel like so deprived of oxygen, which you won't be, if you had remembered how to inhale and then exhale with each move.  It does not come that easy, but I persist, because the reward, the payoff is a deep, deep sleep!

Another payoff is the ability to write, to have a clear head, to be able to think and to compose my essays. This way, my editor, I like her, as she does not mince language on me, she says like it is, she uses no poetry to deliver that my work needs editing, and then she comments that her editing work can  sometimes become " karumal-dumal. "

Look up that word and you will see that she paints it precisely.  But, after working with her for a year now,  I believe we are more receptive to each other's feedback.  But mind you, she can be sparse with good tidings.  Of course, our interpretation is no news is good news.  As long as I have one reader, yes, just one reader affected, influenced or impacted by my writing, I am content.

Back to health is wealth.  So, with exercise, with juicing, nothing changes in my body.  It seems to hold onto to every pound of fat I have.  Of course, I love my fat grooves, but as I grow older, I wish there can be more muscular grooves.  After all, I work so hard exercising and eating nutritious foods. 

As a last resort,  I listened and I even applied my creativity to what my coach suggested for my nutrition for the week: lean meats and veggies, no dairy, limited good fats, no whites ( sugar, flour, pasta, etc. ) What made it easier to stay on it is the allowance of one cheat day while doing six days of nutritious eating.  Fruits are forbidden, well limited, and since this salad was more yummy with mango, I added it and ate few chunks.  He was so convincing, he was ready with his science to explain why white rice, white sugar, white flour, white pasta all become sugars in my body.  So, when he explained it that way, refined carbs became a once a week guest in my meals. 

So here goes Prosy's Provencal Salad. I called it Provencal, as the dressing was inspired by my Provencal master teacher in cooking, Tessa.   

2 blood oranges, peel then, cut in semi-thick circles
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 avocado, sliced into serving sizes 
1 or 2 tomatoes, quartered
Radicchio, sliced
1 Mexican mango, cut up into serving sizes, like the avocados ( you can slice it the way you want )
Balsamic Blanc
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pour the balsamic blanc and olive oil into the salad, a ratio of 12 parts of olive oil to 1 part of balsamic, depending on your taste.  I have lessened it to 6 parts to 1 part and both my husband and I like that combination. 

I serve this salad with smoked milkfish or tinapa, or steak or porkchops or sometimes fresh crabs or garlic sauteed shrimps.  Tonight we had it with pork.  The salad leaves a satisfying feeling first, in your mouth: textures are both crunchy and smooth, and second, the eyes are so satisfied, looking at all the vibrant colors on the plate, it feels like you are eating rainbows on your dinner plate.  It is a period, a high five, a slam dunk for both of us!  It is light enough, and it has plenty of fiber to keep us not quite so hungry until the next morning's breakfast!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Care of the Soul begins with Right Eating of Right Foods

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are, says a wise nutritionist.

One glum, dark, gloomy day when rains were robustly coming down, I wanted to infuse some life into my home.  Well, I could not turn on anymore lights.  But, I wanted my home to feel like it is lived in, populated by energetic, vibrant folks.  Well, we are vibrant, we are energetic, but when we work out so hard, we feel so weary and tired, almost without any energy left to make meals.  Not a right attitude, as we pay for it in terms of aches and pains. So, after resting quite a bit, I decided to pull out the frozen beef shank and make a soup called bulalo. But, then, I just went to the produce store, so I had leeks, two ears of corn, purple potatoes, green cabbage, and saba bananas.  So here goes:

1 beef shank, cut up into cubes, like beef stew serving sizes
1 leeks, chopped finely
chervil leaves, chopped
1 young garlic bulb with leaves, chopped finely
a whole garlic clove ( mince the segments and over heated olive oil, brown them, and set aside )
purple potatoes, cubed and do not bother to peel
corn on the cob, remove the husk ( that is the outer skin ), split into half
saba bananas ( they are like plantains, but smaller and tastier ) - remove the peel and cut in half
green cabbage ( slice in 8 wedges )
bok choy
asparagus spears ( 8 )

Yes, it feels like the beef shank is merely an accessory. It almost is, except the fragrant marrow is the big star, as it gives the soup its unique flavor. So, get your big pot, heat it up. Add olive oil and then add right away the leeks, young garlic bulb, some garlic.  Caramelize the leeks and add the beef cubes and shank. Brown the meat and add fish sauce and salt to taste.  After the meat changes color from raw to somewhat cooked, add four cups of water. You might need more as you tenderize the shanks to a texture of easy to chew.  Taste the broth, is it to your liking?  If it is, leave it alone to boil at the slowest, lowest flame.  Keep at it for several hours until you taste the flavors blending out to mellow out each other.

The veggies before they were added to the puchero/bulalo stew: Corn on the cob, leeks, purple potatoes, bok choy.
Then, a series of cooking the veggies.  Cook asparagus, it takes a few seconds, as soon as the stalk changes color from white to almost green, remove and set aside. Add potatoes and when it is semi-soft, remove.  Add the cabbage and it takes a few minutes, do not overcook as overcooked cabbage taste soggy and somewhat bitter, while cabbage that is somewhat crunchy still is kinda sweet.  When cooked to your liking, set aside.  Add corn, and when all the kernels are cooked to your liking, remove and set aside.  Add bokchoy, it only takes a few seconds to cook this vegetable.  Set aside.  Then, cook saba bananas or plantains, and set them aside.

Keep boiling the beef cubes and the shank.  At some point, you will notice the meat tenderizing. When fully cooked to your satisfaction, take a good bowl, layer it with the vegetables or surround the meat with the vegetables.  Serve with hot bowls of rice or without, as in my case, since my trainer forbade me from eating refined carbs. I settled into eating two cubed potatoes, a quarter of a whole potato that is.  Remember to place the brown garlic chips over the serving plate.

This is the key, as the garlic smell plus the well made soup and the blending of all different colors: brown, purple, green, yellow makes this such a delectable, tempting soup that brightens any rainy day.  Do not forget to thank the chef who labored to get the veggies, the meats, chopped them and cooked them with all the loving details.

Okay, let me know how it turns out, but this is really a hybrid of Sunday's meal that my mother, Asuncion Abarquez used to serve us, puchero, and because I love bulalo so much, I am using beef shank. This way, I get the best of both worlds, remembering my mom's cooking and doing my own version.  Now, I am also leaving this in my blog for my family and friends to also try.