Halloween Spiders

I couldn’t let the little girl down.  Not when she was excited about Halloween… well, let’s just say, she is partially excited.  She doesn’t like the horror side of it, but she definitely loves the getting treats part!

But the truth was, I was not prepared for Halloween.  Because she had repeatedly said she did not like Halloween – too scary, she said.

Then, at the last minute, she wanted something for Halloween!  I suspect it had more to do with the treat part!

So for her Halloween treat this year… I made a short-cut.  I had seen a pack of gummy spiders – perfect I thought!

The little girl refused to eat them!!!  The spiders were too creepy…

So we took the gummy spiders off and after that she was fine with eating the cupcakes!

What is the recipe?  Easy (did a shortcut too!) buy regular cupcakes, “draw” a continuous circle and score with a toothpick to make a web design.  Then plop a gummy spider on top!



Personally, I thought fruitcakes are just bricks.  But maybe that was because most commercial fruitcake were, well… hard… too sweet… tasted weird…

Until my mother’s fruitcake.  And even then I ate sparingly.

Just my luck that the person that’s the center of my life loves fruitcake!  And apparently, so do many others…

So this year, I have decided I will make fruitcake.  Oh, not the fruitcake that I came up with especially for hubby (that one is a bit complicated) but one that I adapted from my mother’s recipe, which was rich in glazed fruit and raisins and nuts.  My adaption consists of using considerably less glazed fruit and raisins and more mixed dried fruit, which includes dates, apricots, candied cherries, prunes, dried mango and walnut!  My mother also fed her fruitcakes brandy, but for me?  Nothing but my best rum!  (Sadly, though, I do not have her permission to reveal her recipe)…

So, I have soaked my fruits for at least 2 nights, in… yep, you guessed it, rum (!) and this long weekend break, I am ready to make my fruitcake!  They will feed on rum for at least 6 weeks, after which, the lucky recipients will get their Christmas gift!



No-Knead Bread

Like I said before, I stayed away from bread-making because it was my mother’s turf.  But she hasn’t baked in years, and has, in fact, given me virtually all her baking equipment, including her loaf pans and bread rack…

So I started baking bread.  And although I did not bake everyday or even every week, I had fun kneading (I liked knowing by how it felt when it was done) and quite disliked doing it by mixer.  That was, until my RSS struck back with a vengeance.

My last major attack was in my twenties… a good 20 years ago!  But I suppose age has a way of digging its heels in and as minor attacks got more frequent, I baked bread less because I could no longer knead by hand very well.

Enter a new discovery.  Well actually, it appears I already had the book (thanks K!) but did not read it for a couple of years.  Then one day, friend T casually mentioned that she’d been making fabulous bread without kneading (and actually passed the standards of her German husband!)  And, I actually got a taste of it some days ago when I dropped by her apartment for a visit!

Well, then, as soon as I got home I got out my copy of of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François and had a field day in the kitchen!

The recipe can be found here.

Short video:

Yay!!!  I can bake bread again!  No pain too!








Happy Birthday Hubby!

It is tough when a person’s birthday falls on a work day. Celebrating gets a bit tricky. Trying to squeeze in a surprise cake? Nearly impossible with an excited kid threatening to reveal the secret!

Anyway, hubby almost always challenges me with his birthday requests. This year, hubby requested dulce de leche! And, I aim to please… and more…

The cake almost did not make it on time. I had to wait for hubby to go to his meeting, and even then, I only had a window of about two and a half hours! Talk about photo finish!

Then we had the problem of where to hide it so he wouldn’t see it… but that became moot when the kid virtually led him to it. Oh well… it was about an hour to midnight, so might as well!

Happy Birthday Sweetie! Whoever said “I know there are good men because I married one” echoes my sentiments!

Boozy Food for the Gods

I grew up looking forward to eating Food for the Gods at Christmastime.  As far as I was concerned, it was tradition.  I hadn’t realized that it was only in my part of the world that it was called that.  Apparently, in most of the world, these bars are called… Date-Walnut Bars.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried many recipes.  Some were too sweet, others were too dry.  Still others were too soft.  I always go back to the family traditional recipe… which is a family secret.

In any case, I still had to try improving the original.  So, taking a leaf from friend T’s book, I added booze!  My favorite rum, that is!


Result??? Astounding success!

(pic shows the bars in a box [bottom], and wrapped bars in a treat bag [upper left].  the other treat bag contains wrapped Fruitcake Round Bites [upper right].)

Banana-Rum Jam

Yes, another jam!  And I am beginning to like a bit of booze in my jams!

I followed the basic recipe of 1 kilogram bananas and 300 grams of vanilla sugar (although I found it a tad too sweet) and adding a couple of tablespoons of my favorite rum!  And, following friend T’s advice of adding lemon or lime to jam, I harvested a couple of dayap (native lime) and added it in as well.  (Don’t forget the pectin!)

The results were fantastic!!!



Homemade Sinamak

How could I not have thought of it before?

Actually, I did not think of it at all. The idea came from A-te J. After trying out the various kinds of suka (vinegar), and figuring out which I like best, and then deciding to buy Sukang Tuba (native coconut vinegar) and Sinamak (native spiced vinegar) on my next supermarket day, A-te J told me to make my own. And when she told me, I actually smacked my forehead!

After all, how hard would it be to make your own spiced vinegar???

A cursory look at the label made me realize that it was totally doable! After all, if I could make my own vanilla extract, surely I could make sinamak. A-te J, who hails from the southern regions where sinamak is popular, told me that it was as easy as placing ginger, onions, garlic, peppercorns, green and red siling labuyo (or similar) in a bottle and pouring in my suka of choice (tuba, of course!) and waiting a couple of weeks! In her home province, they mix their own all the time (they ferment their own suka, too!). And here’s the best part, A-te J says that when their bottle runs low on the suka, they just top it up with more suka and it’s good to go!

As for the recipe? According to A-te J, just dump in matchstick slices of ginger, garlic, and onions into a glass bottle. Add black peppercorns (I added white peppercorns also) and birds eye chilies (or the local labuyo) with the stalks removed and pour in the suka (vinegar) of your choice (mine is obviously tuba).

(my proportions – Stuff the following spices in a liter bottle – 1/2 cup chopped labuyo (bird eye chilies), 1/8 cup thin ginger strips, 8 smashed cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons cracked black and white peppercorns, 1 small onion, sliced thinly into strips.  Pour in sukang tuba (native coconut vinegar) and give the bottle a shake or two.  Leave it in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks.  The longer the time, the spicier the it gets!

Now all I have to do is wait!

Inasal na Manok

Hubby is predicting that our electric bill is going to skyrocket, with the baking I am doing with the small electric oven!

But I am just soooo excited!  And I’m having fun with it.  Especially the rotisserie function.  Here’s my second chicken project – the Inasal Chicken.

Inasal Chicken is a local dish of Bacolod, in the Western Visayas (Panay region) and its neighboring provinces.  The chicken is marinated in native vinegar, calamansi, achuete and pepper, then roasted, in pieces on a wooden skewer, on a charcoal grill.

My chicken inasal, at least for this occasion, is not grilled over charcoal.  Instead I cooked it rotisserie style.  I really like the rotisserie function of my ovenette – it enables me to multi-task.  I put the chicken in and leave it to roast.  I go and do whatever else that needs to be done and violà, an hour and a half later, we get to eat!  Isn’t that wonderful?

The recipe –

1 whole chicken, about 1.2 kilograms, cleaned and patted dry

8 cloves garlic, grated
1-1/2 tabelspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup sinamak (spiced coconut vinegar)
1/3 cup pure calamansi juice
2 to 3 stalks tanglad (lemon grass), white part only, smashed
reserve the green part
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh coarsely ground pepper
a pinch of annatto powder

Clean the chicken and pat dry.  Place the chicken inside a ziplock bag.

Combine the marinade ingredients together.  Pour into the ziplock bag containing the chicken.  Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 48 hours, turning the chicken every 4 to 6 hours.

Skewer the chicken on the rotisserie rod, stuff the cavity with the reserved green part of the tanglad (lemongrass) and (as I prefer) tie the chicken securely.  Roast the chicken at 240C for about 70 minutes.  Check the inner temperature of the chicken.  It should be between 75C to 77/78C.  Alternatively, chop into pieces, skewer on wooden sticks and cook over charcoal.

I got my recipe from a friend who claims to have gotten it from a native of Bacolod.  She says that the secret is using sinamak, the native spiced vinegar.  Sinamak is also the condiment served with the chicken.  Sinamak can be purchased at the supermarket but it is not difficult to make your own!  (Recipe coming up in the next entry!)

Ovenette Brownies (!)

Ever since we got the small electric oven, I have been obsessed with finding a brownie recipe that was no fuss, fudgy, and “small” enough to fit into the oven… you see, the largest pan that can fit the oven is about 7 inches deep and 9 inches wide… and that’s cutting it close since there is barely enough space on the side for the air to circulate…


Most brownie recipe is for an 8-inch square, or an 11×7-inch pan, or the bigger 13×9-inch!  None will fit my tiny oven…  but today I think I may have it!

I have a 6×9-inch pan, which is not standard but I am ecstatic to say fits the oven perfectly!  After a couple of experiments, I may just have the recipe for the pan and oven!


1/3 cup butter-margarine blend
150 grams 60-70% bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter-margarine blend and chocolate in a double boiler.  Cool slightly.  Meanwhile, sift together flour, cocoa and salt; set aside.  Line a 6×9-inch pan with greaseproof paper and leave an overhand of at least 1 inch all around; set aside.

Add sugar to the chocolate mixture and beat until sugar is incorporated.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.

Stir in the flour-cocoa mixture.  Do not overbeat.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Place the pan in the center rack of the preheated oven.  Bake for 10 minutes then rotate the pan.  Bake another 10 to 12 minutes.

(Notes:  There simply is no place to put an oven thermometer so I just rely on the oven setting for cupcakes.  Also, it is important to put the pan in the center rack with only the bottom heating element on; I have discovered that with both top and bottom heating on, the brownies come out weird… and if the pan is placed on the bottom level, the bottom gets dried out FAST.)

Check for doneness with the toothpick test.  Toothpick should come out with a few crumbs sticking to it.  If the toothpick is clean, the brownies are overdone!

Cool completely before cutting.

I got 24 pieces, roughly 1-1/2-inch squares.


Rotisserie Chicken

Rotisserie chickens from the grocery store or the neighborhood “iwahan” (grillers) are life-savers! Whenever I am pressed for time (or feeling lazy), I just buy a rotisserie chicken and serve that for lunch or dinner. Extra bonus that leftovers (rare as they may be) can easily be transformed into other dishes!

I have long wanted to try and make my own rotisserie chicken. But for me to do that, I needed a rotisserie! And I didn’t have one because it was bit too much to buy a rotisserie for that specific purpose, and it would take too much space in the kitchen.

So I would roast the chicken in my big gas oven… and I would worry about the gas consumption!!! and truth be told, the oven is way too big for a single chicken cooking inside (the oven can actually fit a small piglet for lechon!)

Fast forward to the present when our microwave exploded (yes, it kinda did when it sparked, put out a soft “boom” and died). We don’t really need a microwave (we only got one when we were displaced by Ondoy and lived elsewhere) so I thought of getting a small electric oven instead. But even then I never got around to buying one although I went around looking.

Until I found a small electric oven that had a rotisserie and grill function… and a very reasonable price!

Guess what the first thing I did after getting the oven?

Yep, I went out and bought a whole chicken!  And as my mother taught me, smaller chickens are more tender and flavorful.  So I never bought a whole chicken that weighed more than 1.2 kilograms!  Besides there’s just 4 of us plus a little kid who does not like eating… so a small-ish chicken is good enough for us.

As for the marinade, I found several in my mother’s recipe files… here is the first one I tried:

1 whole chicken, about 1.2 kilograms, rinsed, cleaned and patted dried

1 cup Sprite (or 7-Up)
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (optional)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh, coarse ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons sea salt (not iodized refined salt)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Mix the marinade ingredients together.  Place the chicken in a ziplock bag and pour in the marinade.  Here is the secret – leave the chicken to marinate for 3 whole days!  Yes, 3 whole days!  Just flip and massage the chicken every half day or so.

Then, AFTER the 3 day-marinating period, skewer the chicken on the rotisserie rod and, if desired, tie the chicken securely (this is so the chicken stays put while the rotisserie rod goes round and round).

Roast the chicken at 240C for about 70 minutes.  Check the inner temperature of the chicken.  It should be between 75C to 77/78C.

If you like a bigger chicken, then the same marinade can be used for a chicken up to 2 kilograms, but it would be necessary to turn the chicken more often.  Roasting time is about 80 to 90 minutes.

If you don’t have a rotisserie, the chicken can be roasted in an oven.  But I have discovered that if it is to be roasted in a roasting pan in the oven, it is better to butterfly the chicken so that all of the skin is browned evenly.


(My next chicken project is… Inasal Chicken!!!)




Ube-stuffed Sour Cream Cupcakes

Ube is purple yam.  It is a starchy root vegetable, like potatoes, taro, sweet potatoes, but it is NOT a potato, taro or sweet potato.  And, although it is a root crop, we use it more often in sweets and desserts – ube jam or halaya, ube cake, ube bread, ube rice cakes, ice cream, candy, etc.  My personal favorite is stuffing it in cupcakes… then frosting the cupcakes with more ube infused frosting!

Ube Cupcake half

For the cupcake, I used a vanilla-sour cream cupcake – a super easy recipe that was shared by a friend a long time ago –

Stir together 2-2/3 cups cake flour, 1-1/2 cups vanilla sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Add 3 super jumbo eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup whole milk, 2/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup canola oil.  Mix well.  Scoop into 24 paper-lined cupcake tins.  Drop a teaspoon of ube halaya onto each cupcake.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 22 to 26 minutes.  Watch the cupcakes because they brown fast and if overdone, the top with be crusty instead of soft.  Cool in pans about 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Ube Cupcakes

For the icing, cream 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy.  Add 3/4 to 1 cup ube halaya, by tablespoonfuls, mixing well after each addition.  To make stiff, add powdered sugar.  To thin, add milk.  In my case there was no need to add powdered sugar but I had to thin the mixture a bit.