Archive for April, 2011

Love, the Island

Okay, so I’m not as incommunicado as I thought I’d be. The boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to bring a laptop, just in case. The resort now has wifi so I am able to blog while listening to tiny waves lapping against the shore. There is nothing to complain about.

My plans of getting certified for an advanced diving course fell through since Jamie developed an ear infection. I think King Triton sensed my insecurity about taking the course and put something in his ear. I was actually relieved when Jamie told me we couldn’t go through with it. So instead, the boyfriend and I went diving around the house reef, waiting for Mr. Turtle to come out.

I’ve made some new friends here. My favorite is Jacob. He is six years old and loves to hide medicine dispensers in the sand. Every now and then, he comes and asks me to take a look at his new tree-climbing trick and I happily oblige. I am completely smitten with this one. We’ve been going around the beach looking for hermit crabs and are obsessed with finding the largest one. His parents, who happen to be the boyfriend’s co-workers, are wonderful as well. We’ve been chatting about work as Dad used to be an MYP Tech teacher (the subject that I teach) and had a lot of interesting ideas to share. There is one other resort guest who is also a teacher and works with the boyfriend’s brother in Hong Kong! Talk about connections in such a remote place.

Mike, off to spear some crown of thorns.

The boyfriend is out diving and spearing crown of thorns with Nikki. I am eagerly awaiting dinner as it promises to be an excellent one. Spring rolls, seared marlin and chicken curry are on the menu. Last night’s dinner was equally incredible. Kinilaw was on the buffet, along with some pasta and kalamansi chicken. Nikki, who used to cater for the Glastonbury Festival, has developed a menu that is simple and sophisticated. Her exposure to music is also reflected through her eclectic playlist which she plays at night. Here at Kookoo’s nest, the nightly buffet is something to look forward to.

I am completely happy and content over here.

Two more days. Please slow down.

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Deconstructed Beef Stroganoff with Potato Cauliflower Mash

Sounds fancy, right? Looks fancy too, but this recipe is so simple that any newbie can make it. Promise.

THE MEAT

This meal was unintentional. I really planned on making the regular stroganoff recipe, using pasta as my carb. But as I mulled over how to go about it, I realized that the recipe was a little too blah. So I tried to change it up a bit by marinating my beef strips in some wine. I have to admit that it wasn’t good wine but I really just wanted to get rid of it. It’s been in the ref for over 24 hours, marinating nicely with a few fresh sprigs of thyme. I was actually getting worried about over-marinating, so I pan fried a piece this afternoon and I tasted a lot of potential! The plan is to drain the meat, dredge it in flour and fry to give it a nice crunch. With my meat ready to go, up next was the sauce.

THE SAUCE

This Russian dish always comes with a cream-based sauce. Some recipes mix tomato paste or mushroom sauce with it. I decided to make a red wine roux (rue?) infused with thyme. To make this, I used some of the marinade and sauteed a teaspoon of minced red onions in it. After which, I added a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of organic rye flour (any flour will do). You want to incorporate these two ingredients with a whisk to prevent clumping. Mix in 1/4 cup of milk and whisk away! I, again, added a few sprigs of thyme to echo the beef’s marinade. The roux tasted good but it needed something more. It was just too rich and one dimensional. So I decided to add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar and I think it tasted pretty good. Roux experts, what do you think? Am I even using the term correctly?

THE STARCH

Last but not the least, the starch. Beef stroganoff is usually served with noodles but since I was on a roll, might as well reinvent the entire recipe. Rather than the simple mashed potatoes, I made a potato cauliflower mash. It’s basically a combination of both, adding a different texture to your regular mashed potatoes. Taste wise, you do get the cauliflower taste but that also depends on your proportions. I still wanted mine to be predominantly made of potatoes so the ratio must have been 1 part cauliflower and 3 parts potato. I also added 2 bulbs of boiled (not roasted) garlic to add more flavor.

I’ve been patting myself on the back for this dish. I conceptualized it all on my own, only to find out through Google that about 10 other people had thought of it before. Oh well, I still think mine rocks 🙂

Can you tell which is which?

THE VERDICT

Everything turned out as expected except for the beef strips. I planned for it to be crunchy but I may have overdone the dredging. The 2 tablespoons of oil that I used for frying may have affected the texture of the beef, too. It turned out saucy and creamy from the flour but it still had good flavor to it. I also remembered why I stopped making Beef Stroganoff. I always end up with tough meat! Considering that the cuts are thin, they never come out tender. I only cooked it for about 10 minutes on a low flame so, should I have cooked it much longer? Maybe.

I was extremely happy with the sauce/roux. I loved the hint of vinegar in it and the sweetness from the onions. That recipe is a keeper!

Will be incommunicado for the next four days as I will be out of town. I will be getting certified for my advanced diving course in Dumaguete. Woot! Woot!

Have a restful and peaceful holy week, everyone!

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Kookoo’s Nest

Last December, I was introduced to a place that would eventually become my favorite destination in the Philippines. Forget Boracay or Caramoan. Whenever I need to get away, this charming place in Dumaguete is what I dream of.

I fell hard for Kookoo’s Nest. From the moment I laid eyes on the quaint cottages and the secluded cove, I knew it was going to be a wonderful 4 days of chatting, eating, diving and sunbathing. I haven’t stopped thinking of that place and have been telling everyone about it.

The owners, Jamie and Nikki Ingram seem to be content about the fact that not that many people know about their little treasure. Although I’m sure they’d like to maintain their resort’s quiet atmosphere, they are most welcoming to everyone, from couples wanting to honeymoon or large families trying to escape a harsh winter.

In two days, I am off to my happy place with my blue-eyed boy, and I just can’t wait! It’s wonderful to be with someone who shares my love for the outdoors and who can enjoy wading in the water just as much as I do. It’ll be a terrific escape from the past months that have been utterly exhausting.

Meanwhile, I am left to daydream about the things I look forward to…

No sunset is ever the same at Kookoos

Kinliaw! I think the boyfriend is more excited for this than I am.

That was my favorite spot on the beach.

Excited for the food! Especially my favorite pumpkin curry soup!

Nikki, the resort owner, with Bellas babies. I cant wait to meet them!

As my students would say, two more sleeps. 

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Fish N’ Chips, SMB Style

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. I’ve always loved his laid back style of cooking and his choice in ingredients. I’ve also been mentoring a student who has chosen Jamie Oliver as her notable for a 6th grade project called the Night of the Notables.

The Night of the Notables is a yearly event that the students take on, where they choose one individual who they believe has made a great impact on society. This project requires a lot of research and writing, which shocks the newbie middle schoolers in terms of the workload. It’s like an acid test and I always remind them of how enduring the process will form and build character.

Reading and editing my student’s work has made me pick up Jamie’s cookbooks more often. I have three of his cookbooks but Jamie’s Dinners is my current favorite. I’ve tried several recipes from this book and have loved all of them. This was also a gift from a dear friend, JessMo, which makes me love the book even more.

Yesterday, as I tried to hide from the city sun, I stayed in the kitchen and made an afternoon snack and dinner. Snack was just homemade basil pesto and tomatoes on bruschetta, which I found in this cookbook. Done and devoured in 60 seconds, the boyfriend and I both loved it. But I was very excited to make dinner – fish and chips! The lone piece of dory resting in the freezer would finally serve it’s purpose.

frying excites me, especially when it turns golden brown

I don’t always follow a recipe. Instead, I use it as an inspiration. For this recipe’s batter, I used organic rye flour, San Miguel Light Beer, baking powder, salt and pepper. About 40 minutes later, I was ecstatic about the success of my first attempt at fish and chips. The flavors from the rye flour and beer complemented each other and there was a distinct malt taste to it. There was so much left over batter that I was so tempted to just fry it and eat it on it’s own. Fear of being judged by the boyfriend stopped me 😛

beautifully speckled batter

I can’t wait until I can make this recipe again. I may even use it to make corn dogs and fried chicken. Frying party, anyone?

I was a little sad about the "chip" on my fish's batter but it still tasted so good!

Fish and Chips Batter Recipe

1 cup flour
3/4 cup SMB Light 
2 tsp. baking powder
salt and pepper
 
Whisk all ingredients until smooth. According to Jamie, batter’s consistency must be similar to semi-whipped heavy cream. Coat your fish generously with batter and fry fish for about 5 minutes.

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Saturday Morning Frittata

Three months ago, my weekend mornings looked a lot different. I was usually on a long run or recovering from it. But after the Condura marathon, I’ve been finding myself glued to the couch, searching for excuses not to run. Since Condura, I’ve only run a total of 4 times or about 22 KMS. I told you I was in a rut. I keep repeating that I don’t want to run anymore but the truth is that I miss it a lot. So why can’t I bring myself to run again?

I know that if I keep at this that I’m going to start packing on the pounds. Somebody, help!

Since my weekends have been so uneventful, I’ve had so much more time to cook and eat. I usually head over to the weekend market but today, I decided to use up whatever was left in the ref, which was not much. Potatoes, eggs, some herbs and a small slab of picnic bacon. What do you get?

Voila!

I’ve consumed half of this frittata and am stopping myself from eating the other half. Now what can I do to burn off all those calories?

Potato Frittata

2 medium potatoes, grated
3 small eggs, beaten
picnic bacon, cut into small strips
herbs
salt and pepper
 
Toast you bacon strips in a non-stick pan. The rendered fat from the bacon will serve as your oil. Toss in the grated potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add in beaten eggs and cook on low flame for 5 minutes. Transfer pan to a 350 degree oven and leave for another 5-8 minutes or until the top looks toasted. 
 
 

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Here We Go

August 10, 2010. That’s the last time I posted on this blog. My excuse was that I moved out of my mom’s place (finally), into my own apartment with a kitchen the size of a phone booth. If I blogged from that kitchen, it would all be about toast and microwave dinners. No good.

But since then, some changes have occurred and I now have access to a much larger kitchen (more on that on another post) and I’ve actually been on a cooking roll. So, no more excuses. I am back.

So whether you are new to my blog or an old friend who just happened to stumble onto my page, here are some things that have happened to me in the last eight months –

  • moved into my own apartment

 

I told you my kitchen was small

  • running around like crazy

  • travel

Cagayan de Oro

Camiguin

Dumaguete

Sagada

More of Sagada

Scallops in Singapore

  • my second marathon

my second marathon and probably my last

With all that’s happened in the last eight months, I’m finding myself in a rut. I haven’t been working out and have been feeling uninspired and unmotivated. I’ve been cooking a lot though, but with the absence of exercise, might not be a good thing. So am hoping that writing will allow me to get a move on things.

So, here we go.

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