Archive for June, 2011

I’ll Be Back.

For the next three weeks, I’m going to be on the road, traveling from California to Vancouver. I might not be able to get a proper post in while I’m on the road so you’ll have to forgive me for being quiet. In the meantime, here are some photos of where I’ve been cooking for the last few days…

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The Family Room

From my sister's kitchen.

Whenever my sister asks me what I want to do during my US visit, I say, “Nothing.”  Forget all the touristy places, all I really want to do is catch up with family.

My sister's toddlers.

My brother's youngest.

My brother's eldest, long boarding and growing up too fast.

In my family, catching up means lingering in the kitchen and exchanging stories over home-made food. Cooking comes second nature to all of us so it is natural that we convene in a place where we are all comfortable in. I find so much joy in watching my siblings prepare their own specialties. I am currently entertained by my brother’s cupcake making skills.

My brother, in his kitchen, making red velvet cupcakes. His are a lot better than mine.

My sister in law, Corina's coffee cupcakes!

Being in the kitchen is also bittersweet as it makes me wish that my Mom and Dad were here. I can imagine my Mom hovering over everyone’s pot, giving unsolicited culinary advice, while my Dad would pick from all the plates, telling his tall tales. Mom is the original head chef in the family and Dad was always the willing sous chef. I know it made them extremely happy to see everyone gather around food that they’ve made.

Daddy and Mommy, the original cooks in the family

Sinigang, everyone's favorite Filipino food!

So when I’m here, I don’t bother to make plans to go to tourist attractions. Where else can we have the best Filipino food, have the kids run around freely and be as loud as we want to be? The kitchen is all we need to make us feel at home.

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Quality Time and Quality Eats

Salad ingredients sans the lemon

Since I arrived in California, I’ve been preoccupied with only two things – family and myself. I am loving every moment of my slow-paced holiday as I catch up with my brother, sister and all their kids. I could not be happier about being here and am filled with gratitude and contentment.

I am also thrilled that I am able to focus on myself. I’ve been catching up on sleep (aka jet lag), eating healthily and working out. I am happy to report that I have already logged in two runs and intend to work out five times a week. Since there isn’t any work to do, I don’t see why it can’t be done. I am also making a conscious effort to try to eat as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.

Speaking of healthy eats, have you tried eating quinoa? Quin-what, you say? Quinoa is a grain that originates from South America. It looks a lot like couscous but has a different texture. Unlike couscous, it is not filled with starch and is in fact, very high in protein. I made a quinoa salad yesterday to accompany my sister’s fried fish and it was absolutely delicious! It’s always a delight to discover such delicious and simple food and I’ve been very excited to share it with everyone. So here it is…

Quinoa salad with fish. Yum!

Quinoa Salad

1 cup, cooked quinoa 
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
3 tbsp. chopped parsley
fresh lemon juice, according to taste
1 tbsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate. I find that the longer it marinates, the more delicious it becomes.
This salad can be eaten on its own or as a side dish. 

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Pass It On: Jamie Oliver’s Beef and Ale Stew

Jamie’s (Oliver) Food Revolution is one of my favorite cookbooks. Other than the recipes, I support his advocacy to educate more people about healthy cooking and eating. In this day and age where fast food dining has become an unhealthy habit, it is important to give people better options. Jamie Oliver’s plan reads,

“I need you to get personally involved in pass it on by pledging to learn just one recipe from each chapter of this book. Master these in your own home first, and then pass it on by teaching at least two people (preferably four) how to cook them, too.  Make it fun by having a bit of a cooking party where you teach your friends, family, and other guests some brilliant new skills in the comfort of your own home. Then, most importantly, you need to get your guests to promise that they’ll pass it on to more people and get those people to pass it on and on and on… It’s easy.”

So as a way of participating in his advocacy, I would like to pass on the recipe for a beef and ale stew. I followed Jamie’s basic stew recipe but made some minor modifications as well. It is a simple and delicious recipe that can make anyone feel like a pro in the kitchen. You will easily learn to love this recipe which, I hope you will share and pass on.

A page from Jamie's Food Revolution. I tried to copy the photos it didn't quite turn out the same 😛

Jamie Oliver’s Beef and Ale Stew Recipe

3 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 pound diced stewing beef
2 cups brown ale, Guiness or stout
2 stalks celery
2 medium onions
2 carrots
olive oil
1 heaped tablespoon all purpose flour
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
If using the oven to cook your stew, preheat it to 350 degrees F. Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel the carrots. slice lengthways, and roughly chop. Put a Dutch oven in medium heat. Put all the vegetables and your chosen herb into the pan with 2 lugs of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes. 
Add your meat and flour. 
Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes.
Give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring it to a boil, put the lid on, and either simmer slowly on your cooktop or cook in an oven for 3 hours. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering and cooking and add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry. When done, your meat should be tender and delicious. Remove any bay leaves or herb stalks before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper. 

It tastes better than it looks, I promise 🙂


Sign Jamie’s petition.

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Reality (and) Bites

Yesterday was an interesting day. I met Martin, a friend that Mike made on a dive trip to Palau. Martin was in transit and had 10 hours to kill in Manila. Martin is one of the most open-minded people I have ever met. From the moment we shook hands, I instantly felt his genuine interest to get to know me and the nonexistence of judgement. It seems that that is a trait common to travelers who are so used to, and almost impervious to cultural differences. It is something that I admire in people and wish to emulate. The few hours that we got to spend with Martin were so enjoyable and refreshing and I truly hope to cross paths with him again.

Mike, Martin and LT, catching up in Manila

I told Martin that I thought he was lucky to be able to travel so much. He smiled and replied, “I’m not lucky. It’s just good karma.”

Today, on the other hand was not so great. It was my first full day at home and I did not get the lazy day I was hopping for. Instead, I did errands from the  couch and managed to stress myself out silly. Dealing with a bank, an airline and an embassy (find complete account of embassy ordeal here) put an emphasis on the reality that I am, in fact, a grown up. Reality bit me pretty hard today.

I tried distracting my distraught self by writing blog entries and cooking, as usual. I’ve had a bag of french beans waiting to be made into a salad so for a good 15 minutes, that’s all I did. There’s nothing like some quiet time in the kitchen to soothe one’s worried soul.

So here’s to new friends, simple food and hopefully, approved visas. Tomorrow will bring better things, I am sure.

French Bean Salad Dressing

2 tbsp. deli mustard 
2 tbps. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. Japanes mayonnaise (or any good mayo)
salt and pepper
your choice of fresh or dried herbs
Toss dressing with blanched french beans. Serve chilled. 

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