Saturday, June 29, 2013

#149 Vietnam's phở Sài Gòn

Saturday is here, after a crazy busy week. It's time to rechannel my energy and connect to home, where the heart is. Time to relax, and gives lots of hugs to the ones I love that's near, thoughts and prayers to a dear love who is thousands of miles away, and praise to the Almighty who makes things okay in the end. And it's the time I make my plans on what to make for the next week, do some grocery shopping and go the farmers market. Ingredient hunting has become one of my favorite things to do. Cooking so many different dishes introduced me to a new perspective in life, I feel more connected to nature. Now each ingredient is no longer viewed as just a spice, meat, or a vegetable, but each has it's own character and is special. I marvel at man's intelligence, how each of these ingredients were discovered, and I thank to God for being alive in this day and age, because everything is just so convenient to make, which makes it easy for everyone to forget how special every single living or non-living thing is, in this lifetime.

I made  phở Sài Gòn, or beef soup. And what a great dish it was. Soup brings me great comfort, and it is easy to feed to others who are hungry, especially the little ones, and simple to make too. :) I cannot get over how good this beef phở was. Unbelievable. I usually go to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, there's lots of places to enjoy a good beef pho in this area, but this time, I wanted to learn how to make it.  I was introduced to many new ingredients and a special way to make soup using the recipe I found online. I've been planning to make this soup since the inception of, and I am so happy I finally did! Oh my, what took me so long? This is one of the best soups I have made in my entire life. In the Philippines, we make broth based beef soup also by boiling the meat with bones for long periods of time. It's a national favorite and it's really good, but what makes this beef phở better in my opinion, is the blend of the herbs, and the spices, absolutely amazing.

I needed to make this right the first time so I made sure I also bought the  cheese cloth. It is very important, because it is what you use to wrap the spices before adding it in the water to cook with the meat. I also made sure  I bought star anise also (pictured below).  Illicium verum, commonly called Star anise, star aniseed, or Chinese star anise is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor, obtained from the star-shaped pericarp of Illicium verum, a medium-sized native evergreen tree of northeast Vietnam and southwest China. The star shaped fruits are harvested just before ripening.Star anise is grown in four provinces in China and harvested between March and May. It is also found in the south of New South Wales. It has been used in a tea as a traditional remedy for rheumatism, and the seeds are sometimes chewed after meals to aid digestion, in traditional Chinese Medicine,  star anise, as a warm and moving herb, is used to assist in relieving cold-stagnation in the middle jiao, which refers  to the midsection of the body and includes the Spleen, Stomach, Gall Bladder and Liver organs. Read more

Cinnamon, I love it's scent, and little did I know  what great flavor it brings when added to soup. Fragrant, it is referred to as the "real cinnamon", most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, which are also referred to as "cassia" to distinguish them from "true cinnamon". It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god: a fine inscription records the gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Though its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, to protect their monopoly as suppliers, cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malabar Coast of India and Burma.

Allspice berries are the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant. The fruit are picked when green and unripe and are traditionally dried in the sun. When dry, the fruit are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The plant is dioecious, meaning plants are either male or female, hence male and female plants must be kept in proximity to allow fruit to develop. Read more

I read many recipes for  beef phở before I even bought the ingredients, I was confused which beef cut to use, and got all the more confused because there are so many variations and recipes you can find online! After going back and forth, and asking myself out loud at the grocery store "Why is oxtail so expensive?", my little girl said: "but Mom, the more expensive it is, the better the quality"...LOL. She's right on that, and.. there's only 1 oxtail in 1 cow, I took that long to figure it out? duh..basic economics!  I am such a natural bargain hunter, and my brain does not operate like that in stores.  I don't know if her knowing that this early is good or bad?! :) So after I bought the oxtail, I was $14 poorer, it is a highly priced commodity for making beef broth. I learned that in the past, the price for oxtails was nowhere near this expensive, it is when a chef extraordinaire like Anthony Bourdain let out secrets of whipping up great food made of oxtails that the price started soaring high. I tried not to visualize a live cow, which was hard because oxtail does not look like a regular meat, this is a body part of a cow that moves, and I always notice it when I look at cows...and  then peeled, and cut. But guess what, if I got over that stage and cooked it, and enjoyed it, you can too! :) And now I know why it's expensive. The broth was delicious, and not as fatty as the regular cuts. My best friend A came over and saw this too, and he said "holy cow, I did not think oxtail had that much meat?!" :)

Daikon radish is a great vegetable for clear broth based soups. They're  huge, so I just used half of it, and half of which I sliced thinly and snacked on it.

Purple stemmed basil? Yes and with flowers too! This is Thai basil, tastes very much like the regular basil, but it's prettier don't you think? Also called  Asian basil (húng quế in Vietnamese) is a type of sweet basil native to Southeast Asia that has been cultivated to provide distinctive traits. Its flavor is more stable under high or extended cooking temperatures than that of sweet basil. Thai basil exhibits small, narrow leaves and purple stems, with a mauve (pink-purple) flower. One cultivar commonly grown in the United States is 'Queen of Siam'. Read more

I bought this mint from the Asian market, and not only did I notice the bigger leaves compared to ones sold at whole foods, trader joes or nob hill, the packets are also much bigger! for a fraction of the price!

So can you imagine this soup's flavor with all the spices and herbs pictured above? Hard to explain, but once you taste will know what I am trying to say. And that beautiful blend of flavor? Fresh cilantro ties them all together. When I ate it without Cilantro, it was great. But a generous amount of it added to the soup, made it perfect!

And beef  phở is not perfect without mung bean sprouts as part of the garnish. Great flavor! You see,  making this soup was not just plain cooking for me, it was a discovery, a great adventure to the unknown, and a great joy.

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat. It is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world. Pho is primarily served with either beef or chicken. The Hanoi and Saigon styles of pho differ by noodle width, sweetness of broth, and choice of herbs. The origin of pho and its name is a subject of scholarly debate.  The style in which we made ours is called, phở Sài Gòn,  a variation of pho that originated from the Southern part of vietnam. The several regional variants of pho in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, are called phở bắc or "northern pho"), and southern pho (Saigon, called phở Sài Gòn). Northern pho tends to use somewhat wider noodles and much more green onion, and garnishes offered generally include only vinegar, fish sauce and chili sauce. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese pho broth is slightly sweeter and has bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs. The variations in meat, broth, and additional garnishes such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (Eryngium foetidum), húng quế (Thai/Asian basil), and tương đen (bean sauce/hoisin sauce), tương ớt (hot chili garlic sauce, e.g., Rooster Sauce) appear to be innovations made by or introduced to the south,also called Pho Sai Gon ("Saigon Style" Pho). read more from source.

Are you ready to make yours? Here's how:

Yield: serves 6
phở Sài Gòn 

5 pounds beef knuckle, with meat
2 pounds beef oxtail
1 white (daikon) radish, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 ounces whole star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 slice fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 1/2 pounds dried flat rice noodles
1/2 pound frozen beef sirloin

chili pepper sauce or chili pepper paste
hoisin sauce
thinly sliced onion
chopped fresh cilantro
bean sprouts (mung beans)
sweet Thai basil
thinly sliced green onion
limes, quartered

  1. Place the beef knuckle in a very large (9 quart or more) pot. Season with salt, and fill pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 hours.
  2. Skim the fat from the surface of the soup, and add the oxtail, radish and onions. Tie the anise pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice berries, peppercorns and ginger in a cheesecloth or place in a spice bad; add to the soup. Stir in sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low hear for atleast 4 more hours (the longer, the better). At the end of cooking, taste, and add salt as need. Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Discard spices and bones. Reserve meat from the beef knuckle for other uses if desired.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water until soft, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Slice the frozen beef paper thin. The meat must be thin enough to cook instantly.
  4. Ladle soup and meat in a bowl, and add toppings to your desired amount. Squeeze limes in soup before serving. 
Recipe adapted from here

Add freshly squeezed juice of lime, it's heaven on Earth!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#148 Flank steak with Bok choi

Bok choi (one of the vegetables pictured below) is a green leafy vegetable,  it has white succulent stalks and is highly nutritious. It is also called chinese cabbage, pak choi, or bokchoy. You can find plenty in Asian markets and in the leafy green section of your favorite grocery store. We grow it also in the Philippines and we call it Pechay, or Petsay. It is really easy to grow, my Mom has a garden full of it. Ever wonder what you can make with bok choi leaves?  There are many ways to enjoy it! We add it in clear soups and stir fries. This recipe by Lisa Bell that I found years ago in a Cooking Light magazine is just one of many dishes that you can make using bokchoy, she added shiitake mushrooms, but I omitted it. You can add about a cup of sliced shiitake, and cook it with the bell peppers and onions, it tastes great! I have tried making it with shiitake many times, I just did not have any on that day. What I love about this recipe? It's quick cooking and inexpensive, low in fat since very little oil is required, and the use of a leaner cut of beef: the flank steak. Bok choi contains just 13 calories per 100g. It's a delicious dish that will allow extra calories to consume for the day. :)
Yield: serves 4

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound flank steak, trimmed and thinly sliced
Cooking spray
1 cup thinly vertically sliced onion
1 cup red bell pepper strips
4 cups sliced bok choy (about 1 medium head)
1 cup less-sodium beef broth

  1. Combine ginger, garlic, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, oil, and crushed red pepper in a large zip-top bag; add steak to bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray, and add onion, and bell pepper to pan. Cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; transfer to a large bowl. Add bok choy to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until slightly wilted; add to bowl; keep warm.
  3. Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add half of steak mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl; keep warm. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add remaining steak mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add to bowl; keep warm.
  4. Combine broth and remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, stirring with a whisk. Add to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Return steak and vegetables to pan; toss gently to coat.
Recipe adapted from: Lisa Bell, Cooking Light, 2005

Flank steak is a lean, flavorful, boneless cut favored in Asian cuisines. This thin, flat steak comes from a well-exercised part of the cow, as evidenced by its striated muscle fibers and connective tissue.

Eat up your bokchoy!  Here are the nutritional benefits of this low calorie vegetable:
  • Bok choy is one of the popular leafy-vegetables very low in calories. Nonetheless, it is very rich source of many vital phyto-nutrients, vitamins, minerals and health-benefiting anti-oxidants.
  • 100 g of bok choy contains just 13 calories. It is one of the recommended vegetables in the zero calorie or negative calorie category of foods which when eaten would add no extra weight to the body but in-turn facilitate calorie burns and reduction of weight.
  • As in other Brassica family vegetables, bok choy too contains certain anti-oxidant plant chemicals like thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zea-xanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates. Along with dietary fiber, vitamins these compounds help to protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers and help reduce LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels in the blood.
  • Fresh pak choi is an excellent source of water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin-C (ascorbic acid). 100 g provides 45 mg or 75 % of daily requirements of vitamin C. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
  • Bok-choy has more vitamin A, carotenes, and other flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants than cabbage, cauliflower, etc. Just 100 g of fresh vegetable provides 4468 IU or 149% of daily-required levels vitamin A.
  • Pak choi is a very good source of vitamin K, provides about 38% of RDA levels. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone metabolism by promoting osteotrophic activity in bone cells. Therefore, enough vitamin K in the diet makes your bone stronger, healthier and delay osteoporosis. Further, vitamin-K also has established role in curing Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
  •  Fresh bok choy has many vital B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that our body requires them from external sources to replenish.
  • Further, this leafy vegetable is a moderate source of minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Potassium is an important electrolyte in the cell and body fluids that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for the red blood cell formation.

Good food that is really easy to make!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#147 Greek Inspired Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken is one of the  easiest dishes to  fix for dinner and it is healthy too. I made this Mediterranean inspired Greek Roasted Chicken. We had a jar full of kalamata olives and so I decided to make a rub using it. Herbs were a plenty since it was on sale for $.99, grocery discounts always make me happy, especially if they sell herbs for  half the original price, organic herbs  can get pricey but it is essential in good cooking and in my opinion, must never be skipped. I've always wanted to start planting my favorite herbs, and will do so very soon. Finally I will have a small herb garden, I need to :)  as you can see in the photo below, I used lots of fresh herbs! I actually overstuffed the poor bird! But I think I will be forgiven, because it's main purpose is to nourish another form of life, not only did it nourish us, it gave us joy. :) I wanted to find out if  using all the herbs will add a strong unbearable flavor to the chicken, but the result was quite the opposite! It was delicious, the flavors were not shy, yet far from overwhelming. It was a perfect blend of the fresh and dried herbs, lemon, garlic and the kalamata olives.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Whole roasting chicken
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup jarred kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 lemon, quartered
1 onion quartered
sprig of fresh thyme
sprig of fresh sage
sprig of fresh mint
sprig of fresh rosemary
sprig of fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry all over with paper towels. Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken, generously add salt and pepper into the cavity, and return the giblets. Squeeze the lemon in the cavity, then add the lemon itself, pushing in each half gently. Insert quartered onions, garlic and all the fresh herbs: thyme, sage, mint, rosemary, basil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine:  1/4 cup butter, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint,1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Gradually working your fingers under the skin to gently loosen it so it does not tear. Rub the mixture under the skin, and all over the chicken. 
  3. Gently slip chopped kalamata olives under the skin.
  4. Truss the chicken and place it breast side up, on a rack if you like, in a large baking pan. Roast in the center of the oven until the bird is golden on the outside and the leg joint moves easily when you rotate it, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven, add pepper generously all over. Flip the  bird onto the breast side and let it rest, uncovered for at least 15 minutes and as long as 30.
  6. Carve the chicken and arrange it on a warmed serving platter. Cut the giblets into thin slices and arrange them on the platter. If a substantial amount of cooking juices remain in the baking pan, place it over medium heat and bring to boil. Scrape up any browned bits, stir in 1/2 cup of water, and pour the juice over the chicken.
So if you are not gentle in adding the rub in between the meat and skin of the chicken, you will tear the skin, just like what happened here.
I added more kalamata olives in the roasting pan and some parsley too which cooked great with the chicken. We loved it! Roasting chicken at home is fun and it tastes so much better!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#146 We made our own Flour tortilla

Since the day I started making breads, I have been dying to make my own flour tortilla. I am so glad I found this recipe.  Because of our food allergies, we cannot buy food from her school's cafeteria, so cooking in the morning and packing lunch is an absolute must for me. We like to pack tortilla and quesadilla, and we  buy flour tortillas from the grocery stores to make it. Well, after I learned how easy it is to make a home made tortilla using organic flour, I will not be buying for a long long time, or maybe, even never! :) This recipe does not require lard nor shortening, which is a great plus, it is very quick and easy to make, soft, really good for quesadilla. 
Yield: 12 medium sized tortillas


4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups warm water ( not HOT) 

  1.  Mix the dry ingredients. 
  2. Add oil and mix with hands. 
  3. Mixing with your hands, add water a little at a time, until you get a soft dough. 
  4. You should be able to mix in all the dry ingredients, but the dough shouldn't be sticky. 
  5. (You can add in more flour if you add too much water.) On a floured surface, knead the dough for 2- 4 minutes, adding flour if the dough is sticky. 
  6. Form dough into a ball, cover with towel and place upside down bowl over dough. 
  7. Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes. NOTE: the dough will not rise, this just rests the gluten. 
  8. Heat ungreased griddle to medium-high. 
  9. Break off golf-ball sized pieces of dough and flatten into 5 inch circles. 
  10. On a floured surface roll out tortillas using a back and forth motion, turning the tortilla 1/4 turn after each roll. 
  11. Flip the tortilla at least once. 
  12. Place tortilla on hot griddle and cook till bubbles rise (20-25 seconds). 
  13. Flip and cook on the other side 20-25 seconds. 
  14. Finished tortillas will be speckled with brown. 
  15. Place cooked tortilla in a bowl covered and lined with a towels.
Recipe adapted from Stacy Diaz featured on an article in San Jose Mercury News

A tortilla (or flour tortilla to differentiate it from other uses of the word "tortilla") is a type of thin flatbread made from finely ground wheat flour. It originated in Mexico and  has been a staple food of the Mexican region since pre-Columbian times. Read more from our source.
I learned that wheat flour tortillas have been used on many American spaceflights since 1985 as an easy solution to the problems of handling food in microgravity and preventing bread crumbs from escaping into delicate instruments.
Below is hilarious line from the funny and smart movie I recently watched: One Day; in the movie, Emma (Anne Hathaway), who was working in a  restaurant in London, educates a customer:
"A tortilla is either corn or wheat. But a corn tortilla folded and filled is a taco, whereas a filled wheat tortilla is a burrito. Deep fry a burrito, it's a chimichanga.Toast a tortilla, it's a tostada. Roll it, it's an enchilada." :)

#145 Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad)

With no lettuce nor other leafy greens and using only fresh plump tomatoes and other equally fresh, crunchy vegetables, kalamata olives, a simple vinaigrette, and sprinkled with feta cheese before serving,  this recipe makes a simply delicious Horiatiki Salata or Greek salad. Horiatiki means village-style. This is how I ate salad back home in the Philippines since we did not have an abundance of lettuce, but without the olive oil and cheese. After I tried this for the first time, I fell in love with it and now  Greek Salad is a must have at least once a week for me. It's one of my favorites.  I did not remove the cucumber seeds as per instructions, because for some odd reason, I cannot eat cucumbers without the middle part, it ruins the taste for me. I also added radish because I like it very much, adding radish to Greek salad was introduced to me by a former co-worker of mine, who always shared her Greek Salad with everybody every single day, and it was always delicious. Simple, flavorful and with feta cheese, it's heaven!
Yield: Serves 6

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large-diced
1 bunch of radish, peeled and halved,  or cut smaller if you like
1 pint fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half-rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

  1. Place the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
  2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. 
  3. Add the feta and olives and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten's Greek Salad here

I omitted the onions, but I highly recommend not to, because onions add a great flavor to it. 
It's your personal call. It's yummy either way. :)

#144 Spiral shortbread

We found a children's baking book by Sara Lewis in the library and we instantly fell in love with the spiral shortbreads featured in the book. Of course we had to  make it and we had so much fun! A very simple recipe, we loved the pretty pattern after we cut the roll. We both liked how it was not overly sweet like the regular cookies. We made different shapes from the scraps, marbled butterflies and hearts. :) This is a really good recipe to bake with kids. We will make many more in the future.

Yield: 16 pieces


2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa pwd
1 tbsp boiling water
1 cup butter - at room temperature
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water until smooth.
  2. Mix the butter, flour and sugar into a crumbly mix. Divide equally between 2 mixing bowls.
  3. In one bowl, add the vanilla extract. Knead well and set aside
  4. Add the cocoa paste to the other bowl and knead well, until the chocolate blends well into the flour mixture, the more you knead, the darker the dough color will be.
  5. Roll out the two doughs between 2 sheets of parchment paper into 8 inch squares each.
  6. Carefully place the cocoa dough over the vanilla dough. Roll the two together as tightly as possible.
  7. Chill for 15 mins. In the meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 F degrees.
  8. Cut the rolls into about 16 slices. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet before serving.

Shortbread is a classic Scottish dessert that is made with flour, butter and sugar and is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning. It was an expensive luxury and for ordinary people, shortbread was a special treat reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year. In Shetland, it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the threshold of her new home. It has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who in the mid-16th century was said to be very fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavoured with caraway seeds. Read more from our source here


#143 We made delicious Donuts for the first time! Move over, Krispy Kreme!

Goodness,  how delicious it was! I am craving for it.  My advice to first time donut makers who will use the recipe I will share? Eat in moderation (if you can) or say goodbye to your low fat diet. Lol. This recipe yields many, soft, sweet, tempting and  amazing donuts. It is easy to make, but requires patience since it is yeast based, so it will take a few hours to finish, but well worth the wait! I learned that a gap of at least 2 inches is needed between the donuts during the second proofing. Mine grew too big and stuck with each other so I had to punch it down and formed it again before adding it in oil. I didn't think it would turn out alright since I did that last minute dough punching, but it expanded once it is fried and huge donuts came floating before  my eyes. It was a happy dance moment. And another thing, do not fry it in temperatures more than 350 F degrees, a candy thermometer is not expensive and it's worth getting or you could end up with a burned donut that is uncooked inside, or  too crispy ones for frying it too long.  I am also posting the recipe for the glaze, I skipped it and used sugar instead, which is how I like my donuts. "Yay, we made our very own donuts", said my adorable fan. It was a great first try, and this recipe will  save me long drives to the donut store whenever she wants it. They say we become our mothers, I totally agree, but I do  feel like I am becoming my grandma Ina Anselma too, my grandma and my mother are two of the most hardworking women I know; Ina, was super creative and made very delicious soft pilipits which she sold in the streets at one point in her life, and she made it everyday. Pilipit is a Filipino twisted fried bread that tastes like donuts. Sometimes it is crunchy on the outside, sometimes really soft. So I always call it twisted donuts. I am nowhere near Ina Anselma's baking skills, I tried making pilipit using this dough but it was so difficult! I need more practice! I am glad I used this recipe for making it the first time, the donuts were excellent, even better than Krispy Kreme! I'm sure if I made the glaze too it would have tasted beyond incredible...isn't this generation so spoiled? we can make any food we want if we are willing to work for it; I cannot imagine living in my grandma's era in her youth, how did she learn to make fantastic donuts and pilipits? And the energy she had to make it every morning!,  kneading by hand before the sun rises so she can sell to the streets in the morning, is amazing. We are very blessed with so much information and technology, and I never forget to give thanks everyday.  :) 

Yield: 39 pieces



For the donuts:
3 (1/4 ounce / 7g) packages yeast
1/2 cup (120ml) water  (105-115F / 40-46C)
2 1/4 cups (530ml) milk, scalded, then cooled
3/4 cup (169g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup (113g) shortening
7 1/2 cups (940g) all-purpose flour
canola oil for frying

For the glaze
1/2 cup (113g) butter
3 cups (375g) powdered sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
6 -9 tablespoons (90-135ml) evaporated milk (can substitute regular milk or water for milder flavor)

  1. Proof your yeast by adding it to the warm water.  Mix it up and let it rest
  2. Scald the milk in your microwave or on top of your stove, and let cool.  I learned from a baker that the reason you scald the milk is because regular milk has an enzyme in it that will kill the yeast. If you don't scald it first to kill the enzyme, your donuts won't rise.
  3. Combine yeast, milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening and 3 cups (375g) flour.
  4. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly.
  5. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
  6. Carefully, stir in remaining flour until smooth.
  7. Cover and let rise until double for 1 hour
  8. After the dough has risen, turn dough onto floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour.
  9. Gently roll dough 1/2-inch thick with floured rolling pin.
  10. Cut with floured doughnut cutter, or using your hands, form a round ball, flatten it, make a hole in the middle and shape it into a donut. (I made mine using hands.) 
  11. Cover and let rise until double, 30-40 minutes.  
  12. Make the glaze: Melt the butter and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add milk (or water) until desired consistency is reached.  To make chocolate glaze, melt 6 ounces of chocolate along with the butter.
  13. Heat your oil to 350F (180C).  A thermometer makes this part fool-proof, and you can monitor the heat to make sure it stays in this prime frying range. Even after you take the donut out of the oil, the remaining oil on it is hot enough to continue cooking it! Carefully place the donuts in the oil.  Cook on each side for about one minute.  Use chopsticks to flip the donuts and remove them from the oil.
    Place donuts on a rack or paper bags or paper towels to drain.
  14. Dip them in the glaze and set them on a rack to dry. Or you can coat them in sugar just like what I did.
Recipe adapted from here

 Donuts originated in the United States. Read more

No need to buy donuts! :) This is perfect!

Friday, June 14, 2013

#142 Philippines' Fish Paksiw

The last one of the three Bear Valley Springs trouts given to me by the Mckays, succumbed to my Paksiw craving. I badly wanted something sour or tangy, which I frequently do; I cannot live without lemons, limes, or vinegar, it's an acquired taste after over 30+ years of consuming many many sour young mangoes, sour grapefruit, and back home, dark green balimbing (starfruit) and the peeled meat of santol or faux mangoustanier in French, I don't know how to say that, but that sounds so much nicer than "santol" :) .. and you know what I use to  dip these sour fruits in?  vinegar and salt, yes more sourness until my lips turned pale! Paksiw is deliciously tangy,  so it more than satisfied my craving.  It is a Filipino way to boil and spice up fish,  with much emphasis on tanginess, so vinegar is generously poured in the mixture, olive oil and spices for flavor, and of course, not without salt. It is an easy and a really healthy way to cook fish, one of my favorites, for it's tangy and delicious flavor, it excellently pairs with rice and white wine too, and it is dangerous for the weight watchers because it is very appetizing- I tend to eat lots of rice with it. The vinegar pickles the fish, and the spices give it a nice balance; now I understand what my Tita (Auntie) Jasmin told me years ago that she loves paksiw that is flavored with spices and herbs rather than  MSG. I was an Ajinomoto MSG monster back then so I did not understand how a good flavor is achieved without monosodium glutamate, but for 7 years, I have not used it in my cooking, and we very rarely eat processed foods too,  I know it is found in many foods and some restaurants use it too so I cannot say that my body is 100% MSG free. But we do try to steer clear from it. I am not going to start a debate here whether MSG is good or bad, but I realized 7 years ago that it would be better and fun to cook the food and achieve a good flavor naturally by proper blending of herbs and spices, rather than from a sprinkle of (what I was told, which scared me, but correct me if I am wrong, please): a brain stimulant which tricks you that the food tastes so much better than it really is. For years, I have been making good Paksiw sans MSG, and only use peppercorns, garlic, onions, a good balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, vegetable base and pickled pepper. I get you now, Tita, it definitely tastes so much better. This dish is inexpensive, especially when the main ingredient is lovingly given :) and quick cooking too, great for a busy weekday schedule.
Yield: 2-3 servings

1 medium sized fish, like milkfish, trout, golden pompano
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
1 teaspoon peppercorn, ground
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon vegetable base
3 inches long ginger, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 cup sliced jarred pickled jalapenos or pepperoncini
vegetables: eggplant, bittermelon, or okra (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper, boil and simmer covered until fish and vegetables are cooked. Salt and pepper to taste, discard bay leaves. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#141 Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I have a really good pancake recipe, but I am always looking for more. When I found this, I was curious! Lemon Ricotta Pancake sounds fancy, so I had to try this recipe. I like Ricotta cheese, it was my first time to try to make something with it,  we bought a small tub from the store, it's flavor is bland almost, with just a little hint of sweetness, but soft and just pleasant that I'm sure it will go well with anything sweet, breads, maybe even great on a pizza! This pancake recipe is not low in fat and  calories, but it is worth it. It's delicious! Although I wouldn't make it every morning, I plan to make it atleast twice a month, it's too good to forget. The refreshing taste of the lemons, and the moist the ricotta cheese brings are just perfect! So fluffy! We loved it!
Yield: about 16 medium sized pancakes


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for coating the frying pan and serving
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon packed finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 to 3 medium lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
Powdered sugar, fruit, or maple syrup, for serving (optional)

  1. Place butter small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until butter has melted, add the milk; remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; set aside.
  3. Place egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in a quarter of the milk-butter mixture (this will temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling), then whisk in the remaining milk-butter mixture until smooth.
  4. Add the reserved flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined (do not over mix); set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks (they should bend like soft-serve ice cream; make sure the bowl and whisk are perfectly clean with no traces of grease, or the whites will not whip properly). Halfway through whisking them, sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using the rubber spatula, fold the whites into the reserved batter until just combined.
  6. Gently fold the ricotta into the batter, being careful not to break down the texture of the cheese (the batter will be lumpy and streaked with ricotta); set aside.
  7. Heat a large nonstick frying pan, griddle, or seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot, about 4 minutes. Test to see if the pan is hot enough by sprinkling a couple of drops of cold water in it: If the water bounces and sputters, the pan is ready to use.
  8. Lightly coat the pan’s surface with butter, then use a 1/4-cup measure to scoop the batter into the pan. Cook until bubbles form on top of the pancakes, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until the bottoms are golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately with powdered sugar, fruit, butter, or maple syrup. 
Recipe adapted from here

Ricotta (Italian pronunciation: [riˈkɔtta]) is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep (or cow, goat, or Italian buffalo) milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Learn more from here. 

Let me share  David Lebovitz's recipe for home-made ricotta cheese that I found here. Looks uncomplicated! :) Will make this soon too.
Yield: Makes 2 cups.

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

  1. In a large pot, bring the milk, yogurt, heavy cream (if using), vinegar, and salt to a boil. Very gently boil for one to two minutes, until the milk is curdled.
  2. Meanwhile, line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set it over a deep bowl.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the strainer and let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid.
Storage: Homemade ricotta is best served slightly warm, although it can be refrigerated for up to three days, if desired.

We didn't need to use maple syrup, just a sprinkle  of powdered sugar on top. (^^,)