Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#12 Indian Lentil Soup

Many of our friends celebrated "Diwali" or "The Festival of Lights" last week. It was a happy day. My little one's classmate's mom wore a beautiful traditional dress and gave us a present at her school. As she inspected her present in the car on our way home, she asked me a lot of questions about India. I promised that we will "visit" India soon :) I am glad we did it on Monday this week. It was great! Oh, how I truly miss a good home cooked Indian meal. I am now a big lover of Indian Cuisine because of my dear friend Rekha, my former good boss, Usha and former wonderful neighbor, Ashwini. They always made good food. It's delicious and so healthy. Growing up in a home where the pantry had only the following sauces and seasoning all year: soy sauce, fish sauce, bay leaves, salt, pepper and vinegar, Indian cooking can be too complicated for me. I will definitely need a lot of practice to master the art of mixing different spices, and to make a great Indian dish without using measuring cups and spoons. Thanks to recipes online!

We found this recipe by André Grisell for



1- 1/2 cups red lentils
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cardamom
2-3 curry leaves or bay leaves
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsps. vegetable oil
2 tsps. mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & pepper
1 lemon


1. Rinse the lentils.

2. Bring to a boil with the stock, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, cardamom & curry/bay leaves.

3. Let simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are very soft ( 30 minutes).
4. If using bay leaves, remove them now. Curry leaves can be left in the soup.
5. Mash the beans with a laddle.
6. Sauteé the garlic and mustard seed in oil and add to soup.
7. Let simmer for another 5 minutes.
8. Add salt, pepper and squeezed lemon to taste.
9. Serve hot.

This recipe is SO good! So inexpensive to make and so filling.

 Image via

We enjoyed reading about the wonderful meaning of the celebration, and we looked at so many beautiful photos of the "Diwali" and of India. Up next, we made ROTI to go with this soup. We had fun.  ^__^

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#11 Philippine's simple BISTEK TAGALOG

What a busy 7 days we had! Most days since my Mother's arrival 5 days ago, we dined at good restaurants. Last weekend , we didn't cook at all. On Thursday last week, we managed to make Bistek Tagalog, as our welcome dinner for my Mama. Bistek Tagalog is a very quick, very simple Filipino beef recipe.


1/2 lb sirloin beef, thinly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 piece large juicy lemon
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced into rings
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 pieces bay leaves
chopped cilantro (optional)
salt to taste


  1. Marinate beef in soy sauce, garlic, lemon and pepper overnight.
  2. In a non-stick pan, heat olive oil in medium heat, then stir fry the onions until slightly soft. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, stir fry the marinated beef (without the marinade) for 3 minutes- I like it just enough to brown the meat and leave some pink inside. Remove the meat from the pan and then set aside.
  4. In the same pan, pour in the marinade and bring to a boil.
  5. Add in the stir fried beef and turn off the heat. If you are using an electric stove, it's best to remove the pan from the heat completely.
  6. Remove bay leaves before serving. Add salt to taste. Serve hot over steamed brown rice. Top with chopped cilantro leaves (optional).

She was very excited to see Grandma again after many years! So even before we picked her up from the airport, we started talking more about the country where I grew up and lived for 27 years. It was so much fun searching for information on the natural wonders back home. I bragged about how beautiful it is there. :)  The power of the internet. So easy to find heartwarming photos!  The pictures of the Mayon Volcano caught her attention and we talked more about it while waiting for the 9:15 p.m. arrival of our special holiday guest. 

Never got to see this up close, always been my favorite for it's perfect shape.

As for this recipe, it's very simple. Tangy, easy to eat and appealing to my family, so there was no need to ask every one to try it :)

Here's our Bistek Tagalog volcano :) 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#10 Italian weekend: Minestrone

I love soup. Of course I wouldn't let  the week end without making a delicious Italian soup! Sunday night was the perfect night. Lately we've been enjoying warm November nights here in the South Bay, but Sunday was so chilly! So we made the classic Minestrone to warm us up.


2 tbsps. extra olive Oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1/3 pound green beans, trimeed and cut into small pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper
1 can crushed tomatoes
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 cup pasta
grated parmesan cheese
2 tsbps. chopped fresh basil


1. Heat olive oil and sauté onions until translucent, then add the garlic.

2. Add the celery and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the green beans, dried oregano and dried basil, salt and pepper to taste, cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the crushed tomatoes and the chicken broth and bring it to boil. 
5. Once boiling,  reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the kidney beans and pasta until pasta is cooked.
7. Add more salt according to taste.

8. Top with parmesan cheese and fresh basil before serving.

Sunday nights are very mellow for us. We loved the soup, and after dinner, we enjoyed reading more about Italy. I pointed it's location in the European continent. We read the news about the flood in Venice. She also saw many beautiful pictures of the city. I pointed at something in the picture and said, "Look at those little boats".."Gondola, Mom", she corrected. :) We read more about the remarkable architecture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and learned that during World War II, it was used by Germans as an observation post. A US Army sergeant, sent to confirm the German troop's presence, was so enamored with the beauty of the Cathedral and the tower, that he refrained giving orders to strike to spare it from destruction. :)
It was a great weekend. We enjoyed immersing ourselves in a healthy Italian diet, and most importantly, learning more about the beautiful country.

She predicted  that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will be straight when we visit someday. ^__^

Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger for the Food Network Magazine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#9 Italian weekend: Tiramisu - without the eggs & alcohol

Since it was an Italian weekend for us, we made Tiramisu. Due to allergies, we omitted the eggs. And the alcohol as well. 
Tiramisu, literally "pick me up", never fails to make me smile.  There are many accounts as to the origin of Tiramisu. Some say it originated in the city of Siena, where a group of confectioners were said to have created it in honor of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III in the late 1600's to early 1700's. Others say it originated at Treviso near Venice on Christmas Eve of 1969.  Many thanks to whoever first created it. This is one of the easiest to make, and most delicious dessert.


1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons baker's sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso granules


1 block (8 oz.) of fat-free cream cheese
1 box (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese(I used a tiramisu flavored one)
1 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup baker's sugar 

3 packs (24 pieces) cakelike lady fingers
unsweetened cocoa powder
bittersweet chocolate, grated


1. Heat water in a sauce pan  over medium high heat and combine all 3 ingredients for the espresso.
Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool.

2. Combine cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and sugar in a bowl.
3. Beat until smooth 

4. Split and arrange 12 lady fingers in a rectangle baking dish

5. Dip each lady finger in espresso for 1 second. ( You can dip for 3 seconds but I don't like to soak the entire cake with coffee), then put it back to the dish in the same arrangement.

6. Spread filling over espresso-soaked lady fingers. Use only 1/3 of the filling since you will have 2 more layers.

7. Repeat procedure with remaining lady fingers and filling.

8. Sprinkle cocoa powder evenly over top of filling.

9. Grate bittersweet chocolate on top of the cocoa powder. Chill for atleast 2 hours.

Every Sunday is our dessert day. We call it, "Sweet Sundays". We've made this a house rule a long time ago, to help curb our cravings for sweets. We eat foods with sugars during the week, like fruits, crackers, cereals- which is already loaded with sweetness. But we say no to all pastries overloaded with sugar and to ice cream. It was a difficult challenge in the beginning, but we survived! Now we don't care very much for sweets until the big day. The smell of  delicious baked goodies and other sweets we make on Sundays fill every corner of our home. I remember when we first started, we all binged! :) Now we're better. Sugar is sweet, sweet is yummy; Life is short but don't make it shorter by eating too much sugar! :) 

Well, she did not like the coffee taste and asked for chocolate ice cream instead. Next time I will make it with chocolate powder instead of the coffee granules. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

#8 An Italian weekend: Insalata Caprese

Since Saturday, we've been eating Italian Food ^__^. We had a weekend of good, light cooking. Italian food is easy, inexpensive to make and the flavors are oh so good!

Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri), is fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh young basil. We love mushroom,  so we sauteed sliced cremini mushrooms in olive oil and topped each pile. Loved it! Delicious food does not have to be complicated :)


large, fresh tomatoes
mozzarella chese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup fresh young basil
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
ground black pepper
mushrooms (optional)
balsamic vinegar (optional)


                            1. On a platter, overlap the tomato slices, basil leaves and fresh mozzarella slices.
                            2. Drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Sliced cremini mushrooms, and sauté in olive oil for 3 minutes. 
Let it cool. Then add on top of the mozzarella cheese.
Drizzle the platter with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.

She said: "Italy is so beautiful!" and on Saturday was undecided on what to draw. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#7 A taste from the Kingdom of Morocco

I really like the taste of Moroccan cuisine.  We skipped the couscous since we did not have it. It's a great meal for a cold thursday night.  We liked it very much!



1/3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 whole chicken legs ( drumsticks and thighs), skinned
2 tbsp (s) olive oil
1 onion, halved, cut into strips
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes in thick puree
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can organic chicken broth
2/3 c jumbo raisins
1/2 c pimiento stuffed olives
1/2 c chopped cilantro


1.  Mix the first seven ingredients in a baking dish. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture.

2. Coat chicken all over. 

3. Heat oil in medium heat. Brown chicken in 2 batches, 5 minutes per side until well browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.
4. Add carrots, onion, garlic to drippings in a pot; sauté for 5 minutes.
5. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, raisins and olives. Breaking up tomatoes with the side of the spoon.

6. Return chicken to pot; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken is tender. 

7.  Sprinkle cilantro before serving. 

I suggested Morocco on Thursday. I showed her where it is, and she discovered that it is in North Africa, and that they have a King. We did a quick search and we found the picture of a beautiful red haired princess, the wife of King Mohammed VI: Princess Lalla Salma.

She asked, "Does she eat Moroccan food only?"; "I'm sure she likes Moroccan food but like us, she must be willing to try different tastes and flavors from everywhere", I replied. Then she stared at the Princess' photos and said, "Yes the princess and I are the same, we like to try different foods from all over the world." In my thoughts: Oh wow. Did my princess, who is an extremely picky eater  just say that? I was so happy!  :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

#6 A dish from the happiest place on Earth

I asked her to pick from a list of countries in Central America.  She chose a great one. According to the New Economics Foundation's Happy Planet Index, COSTA RICA is the happiest place on Earth. It must be paradise! It ranks as the 5th greenest country in Central America, and unlike it's neighboring countries, it has not endured civil war since 1948.  The country has no military.

Costa Rica which translates to "rich coast" has a tropical weather year round, and beautiful beaches. The citizens hate pollution, are very diplomatic, highly satisfied with their lives and their food is delicious.

Last night, we made "Gallo Pinto". The dish is mainly rice and black beans,  seasoned with three fragrant spices:  ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground ginger. She made the trio smile :)

Here's the rest of the ingredients that we used:

canola oil
onion, finely chopped
garlic, minced
cooked white rice
cooked black beans
worcestershire sauce
black pepper
organic cilantro

It's not much more expensive that the non-organic, so why not buy organic?

I soaked the black beans before boiling. 

Here's how we cooked the Gallo Pinto:

Sauteed the garlic and onions, then added the happy spices trio.

Then we added the cooked rice, the cooked beans and the worcestershire sauce.
Mixed well. Then some salt and pepper to taste.

We learned where the beautiful Costa Rica is.
We saw lots of beautiful pictures.
It's capital is San Jose. She said" "What? There are two San Joses?" :)
I told her that San Jose, Costa Rica and San Jose, California are sister cities too.

I really liked this dish. Very easy to make. It's delicious.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#4 & #5 Tasting Japan

Japanese food is, hands down-- my favorite. I love how Japanese restaurants are found in every block in the Bay Area. And it must be also true in all major cities around the world.  I don't think I will ever get tired of it. I love making different Japanese dishes myself, because it is truly an enjoyable experience for me every time. It's quick, healthy, artful and very delicious!Tuesdays are always busy for us. So soup & sushi were the top choice. My ballerina was tired last night after two hours of dancing so, she didn't even bother to choose :)

For the soup:   clear soup with prawns & spinach
Sushi:  my version of  "California Roll"



6 uncooked prawns
baby spinach leaves
3 strips lemon rind
1 L of primary dashi
2 tsp light soy sauce

1. Shell & devein prawns, leaving tails in tact.Cut a small slit in the middle of each prawn. Push tail through the slit.
2. Cook prawns in small saucepan with enough water, do not cover the saucepan. Cook for 1 minute.Drain. Set aside.
3.  Boil water in a pot and then add the spinach. Once slightly wilted, remove from heat. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain & set aside.
4. Cut slits along both long sides of the lemon rind starting at opposite ends, but don't cut all the way. Leave about 5% to keep the strip of lemon rind intact.Then gently pull & twist to form a triangle.
5. In a saucepan, boil the Dashi and then add the soy sauce.Note: I boiled a separate soup water for the ballerina since she is allergic to seafood.
6. In a serving bowl, arrange the spinach and the prawns, with tails facing up. Pour the boiled Dashi, and top with the lemon rind triangle.

I also found out that this soup can be paired with cooked beef slices instead of the prawns- she enjoyed it! And since we had rice, she poured rice on her soup. Great thinking!


cucumber slices
avocado slices
crab meat or imitation crab meat
japanese rice
sushi seasoning
sheets toasted seaweed (yaki-nori)

1.  Cook rice.  
2. Once cooked, let it cool down in a bowl, then add the sushi seasoning. 
3.It's sushi roll time. (There are so many sushi making videos you can check out online). This is the easiest way for me to roll (nori on the outside), California rolls are made inside-out. But I like rolling mine the traditional way. It's easier.
4.Wipe knife with a damp cloth. Slice through the roll, wiping knife between cuts.

In the 1970's, a sushi chef named Ichiro Mashita based in Los Angeles began experimenting with replacing tuna with avocado. After he discovered that the texture & taste of avocado is a great substitute for tuna, the Califonia Roll is born. He eventually made the roll with rice on the outside because the Americans did not like how the nori looked on the outside :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#3 Chowmein (炒麵, "fried noodles") from China

So this was an easy choice last night. We always like our noodles. Chow mein which has many variations is, in my opinion, best when cooked with crisp vegetables, not soggy and not too salty.

Here's my recipe for our own version of chāu-mèing

green onions
red bell pepper
bean sprouts
toasted sesame seed oil
olive oil ( you can use peanut oil, we're allergic)
dark soy sauce
chicken base
skinless chicken breast
chow mein noodles
chili sauce (optional)

  1. In a ziploc, put a spoonful of cornstarch. Add the slices of skinless chicken breast. Shake to mix and coat the chicken.
  2. Saute´ garlic in olive oil in medium high heat. Add chicken.  Then add the  dark soysauce. Let it cook. Set aside without removing from the pan.
  3. Add the chow mein noodles in a large pot of boiling water and let it cook for 3 minutes. Careful not to over cook it. Remove the noodles from the water once cooked and then quickly drain it.
  4. Microwave half a cup of water  in high for 1 1/2 minutes, then add the chicken base. Stir well.
  5. Put the chicken back to medium heat. Add the noodles to your garlic & chicken.
  6. Add the chicken base liquid to your chicken and noodles.
  7. Mix well but gently.
  8. Turn off heat.
  9. Add your vegetables, mix well and then cover. If you are using an electric stove, take the pan off the stovetop after 1-2 minutes if you want your vegetables to be crisp.

I like eating vegetables raw, crisp and crunchy. Over cooking kills the natural flavors for me. This dish is very similar to the Philippines' Pancit Canton. I like this one, especially because it's very simple, light and every one finished a plate full :)

Chow Mein noodles

We like using organic chicken 

Green Onions

Celery & Bell Pepper

I love celery.

I like buying my oils & spices from Trader Joe's
I love the store. It's inexpensive & very easy to eat healthy

Crisp veggies lay on top

Somebody was busy drawing again :)
"Ni- hao", she writes.
She asked me to find Chinese writings, we read about 10 short sentences and it's translation.

We learned where The Peoples' Republic of China is.
It's population, it's languages and dialects. 
They have a great history that we will learn in the near future.
We saw pictures of it's amazing cities and of the Great Wall.
We also thought the Giant Panda Bears are too cute.

And that chow mein is actually an English Speaker's pronunciation of  'chāu-mèing' ,
as pronounced by the Taishanese immigrants from China to America.
We also learned that on the East Coast, the term "Chow Mein" refers to crispy noodles or "Hong Kong Style". The steamed style noodles is called "Lo Mein".
On the West Coast, the term "Chow Mein" is always the steamed style, while the crispy style is called  "Hong Kong style". I would love to get a feedback on this :)

Here's our Chinese dinner.

And here is a picture of us dining outdoors somewhere in Beijing. And we both wore purple. (^.^)