Light Tropical Fruitcake

Brother E has been baking up a storm, using the master loaf recipe. He’s tried the ones I suggested and has even come up with a few of his own – avocado, honey and almond, banana-honey, squash… and he is thinking of some others such as salted caramel…

as for me, I thought of making it fruitcake… a white fruitcake.  Why fruitcake? and why white?

Well, since the fire that engulfed my mom’s recipes, I have been in a frenzy to find the copies that I took home with me a long time ago.  As I find them, I encode them (again) to save them… I came across a recipe for white fruitcake with the title “Cely’s White Fruitcake”.  I am presuming that it refers to her sister, my aunt, Cely.

Of course I have no permission to share that recipe but I thought I could adapt my master loaf recipe to make a white fruitcake.  And it was a success!

How did I do it?  Well, first I used butter instead of oil.  Then I substituted some of the sugar with honey.  I added cinnamon and a dried fruit mix which was soaked in my favorite rum!

The first thing to do – soak the fruits in rum… a good 3 hours before making the fruitcake, but preferably the night before.  A note on the fruits – I like a dried fruit mix instead of glazed fruits but it is the baker’s choice!  So you could use whatever fruits you like – mix dried fruits and glazed fruits… add some chopped nuts… like I said, baker’s choice!  (for this I used a tropical fruit mix – pineapple, papaya, coconut, mango…)

150g dried fruit mix (about 1 cup)
75g pitted dates, diced
3 to 4 tablespoons rum

For the fruitcake itself –

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Beat the butter and sugar together, add honey and vanilla. Mix well then add the egg. Beat a couple of minutes.

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
zest from 1 orange, optional
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add to butter-egg mix alternately with

¼ cup milk

Fold in the fruit mix.

Place in a greased and lined 7×3 loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 325*F oven for about 55 minutes. Tent with foil if the top gets too browned.

Brush the loaf with rum and more rum.

The loaf can be aged with rum (keep in fridge, wrapped in foil; brush with rum once or twice a week) or it can be enjoyed sooner – immediately, that is once it has cooled.  Frankly, hubby can be impatient so I cheat.  What do I do? I slice the loaf and brush the slices with rum before serving!

Yummm!

Advertisements

Reduced Sugar Oatmeal Chippers

It is no secret that my favorite cookies are Peanut Butter Cookies.  What is not so widely known is my next favorite – nope, still not Chocolate Chip Cookies – it’s oatmeal!  But not with raisins, or chocolate chips… I like my oatmeal cookies with dates!

But… for this baking project, I gave in to a (supposedly) win-win-win situation – win 1 for me – oatmeal, win 2 for the kid – chocolate chips, and win 3 for hubby – calorie reduced… so I went to my cookbook library and pulled out an old favorite cookbook –

bhg_cookie book

(seriously, I have a collection of BHG cookbooks!  I have at least 4 for cookies alone!)

and decided to use the recipe for Oatmeal Chippers…

oatmeal chippers recipe

with (as usual) some modifications.

To be honest, hubby and the kid were not impressed by the cookies.  They said that the cookies were bland, with a particular texture that they did NOT find appealing.

I shared some with BFF, who shared some with her officemates, and according to them, they were delicious!

So I choose to believe BFF!  hahahaha!

For the recipe –

I used a sugar-stevia baking mix (I found in the baking store), in place of the sugar.  Actually, the instructions on the packet directed using only half of the baking mix in place of the whole sugar amount.  I omitted the nuts (the kid and hubby prefer a no-nut cookie).  I also halved the recipe!

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter compound
6 tablespoons sugar-stevia (sugar substitute mix)
(original is 3/4 cup brown and white sugar mix)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour and baking soda.   Beat butter compound and sugar substitute together; add egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  Stir in flour, in 2 additions.  Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

Using a 1-oz cookie scoop, drop cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 375*F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.  Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or so, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The half recipe made around 30 cookies.

Next time I am going to try the Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chip Cookies by Martha Stewart!

Steamed Chicken

The problem with my mom’s recipes is that they need decoding!

My mom writes her recipes in weird ways.  Most of the time, there are no instructions; instead there are groups of ingredients with a brief sentence at the end.

Like her recipe for steamed chicken… there are 3 groups of ingredients and a short sentence at the end – Steam for 10 minutes.

Hmmmmm….

Someone else would (probably) throw this recipe out the window but it’s a good thing that I know my mom (pretty) well and can speak her “language”…  As she explains to me, it is deliberate on her part so that her recipes remain her secret.  (As I mentioned before, she rarely shares her recipes!)  So, given her preference, I will not (well, I can not) share her recipe.  I can, however, share mine (even if it is based on hers, it is NOT the same…)

750 grams boneless chicken thighs, skin on, rinsed and dried with paper towels

Slice the chicken thighs into serving pieces (if the thighs are large, cut into 4). Mix together slices of ginger, 1 tablespoon EACH of sesame oil, oyster sauce, and light soya sauce, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon rice wine.  Marinate the chicken pieces in this mixture for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile start boiling water in the steamer.

Prepare:

5 stalks of leeks, sliced at a diagonal, separate the white and green parts
ginger, slice into thick matchsticks
about 12 slices of lotus root, parboiled then drained
about 80 grams fresh black fungus (tenga ng daga), sliced into strips
re-hydrated banana blossoms, thick hard end/s removed

In a round Pyrex dish (a deep pie plate works), scatter the white parts of the leeks. Arrange the lotus root at the base of the pan.  Scatter the black fungus on top, then the banana blossoms.  Arrange the chicken thighs, skin side up, and stick the ginger pieces in between the chicken thighs.

When the water in the steamer boils, put the plate in.  Steam for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken pieces); start counting minutes when the water reboils.

Before serving, garnish the top with the green part of the leeks.

Note – the dish has a delicate and mild taste, should you wish for a stronger flavor, adjust the seasonings as desired, or add slat and pepper, according to personal taste.

Three Crabs and Rice

The good news is I have more of my mom’s recipes that I thought.  The “bad” news?  I am becoming more compulsive in finding more…  And worse…  The more I find, the more I want to make, cook, and bake everything!

The first dish that I wanted to make was her Crab Rice… but as always, I want to do things my way!  So, while her dish is steamed for an hour in a steamer, mine is cooked in my rice cooker!!! I like the convenience of a dump-everything recipe.

I also varied the recipe somewhat… because I could not find live mud crabs, but I had crab meat from blue crabs, talangka (Asian shore crab) and soft shell crab!  Why, you may ask, do I have those???  Well… it seems that I bought them at one time or another and they kinda got stuck in freezer.  By “stuck” I mean it got relegated to the bottom and it only surfaced when the freezer broke and we had take everything out!

So, this dish is based on my mom’s recipe but it is uniquely mine too!

(Note – using 3 kinds of crabs is a bit complicated. The easier way to do it is to simply use 3 to 4 pieces of crab, live mud crabs to be specific.)

1-1/2 cup rice (I use “young” denorado variety)

100 to 150 grams liempo (pork belly strip), sliced into matchsticks, optional
6 pieces (small) soft-shell crabs, rinsed and patted dry
200 grams talangka, cleaned
1/4 to 1/2 cup crab meat
8 pieces dried black mushrooms, rehydrated, reserve soaking liquid

several slices of ginger
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small violet/red onion, minced

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 2 tablespoons reserved mushroom soaking liquid
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

3 cups cold water, more or less depending on the variety of rice used

flour for dredging soft shell crabs

leeks or spring onions for garnish

Place the cold water in the rice cooker pot.  Set aside for the meantime.

Saute half the ginger, garlic and onions.  Add the crab meat; stir lightly to break up the meat but not so much – leave the mix chunky.  Add the rice grains and stir lightly, just so the rice grains are coated in oil.  Pour this mixture in the rice cooker.  Put the rehydrated mushrooms in the rice cooker pot as well.

Saute the remaining ginger, garlic and onions.  Add the sliced pork belly and stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the talangka and seasonings.  Cook a couple of minutes then dump the mixture in the rice cooker.  Give a quick gentle stir to mix everything.  Switch on the rice cooker and cook.

Meanwhile, dredge the soft shell crabs in flour.  Then, fry it until it is cooked.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside until the rice cooker finishes cooking.

When the rice is done, put the fried soft shell crabs on top.  Garnish with leeks then serve!

If using a single variety of crab,  get about 3 to 4 pieces of crab.  Parboil the already clean crabs until partially cooked.  Lift the crabs out, reserve the liquid left behind.  Leave one crab whole, and chop the rest into smaller pieces.  There will be more liquid coming from the crabs, save it as well.

Put everything in the rice cooker except the whole crab.  Don’t forget to put in the crab liquids.  Give a quick stir to mix everything up.  Switch on the rice cooker.

Halfway through, put the whole crab in.  Cover and continue cooking until done.

Garnish with leeks or spring onions and serve!

Note about the pork – go ahead and skip it.  I find that it interferes with the overall dish!

Final note – my mom’s recipe specifies glutinous rice but I had none and used our usual denorado instead.

E’s Baking Day, Pandesal…

E has been baking up a storm – of loaves!

But this time around he wanted to learn how to make pandesal.  Of course I was more than willing to oblige.

Pandesal is bread that we grew up with.  Back then it seemed that all the neighborhoods had a panaderia that churned out freshly baked pandesal throughout the day.  In our neighborhood, it was about 3 blocks away.  It was open 24 hours everyday and during the school year, we would buy pandesal at 5 o’clock in the mornng.  But when school was out, we would take our dogs for a walk around the neighborhood at midnight and head to the bakery!  Aside from pandesal, I would buy Spanish bread and ensaymada!

Pandesal, literally, means salted bread.  It is ironic, though, because pandesal is actually a bit sweet.

I couldn’t find a no-knead recipe for pandesal so I improvised by using the basic no-knead recipe I’ve using but I added sugar!  I also substituted part of the water with an egg.

It was a success!  At least for my half of the dough… as pandesal I mean…

When E realized that making the pandesal was more complicated than he thought, he decided that his half of the dough would be baked as a boule!

He did say that he found it a bit weird because it tasted like pandesal but did not look like it!

Anyway, going back to the recipe, it is basically the no knead bread from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” with sugar added and egg substituted for part of the liquid.  I halved the recipe, which makes about 20 to 24 pieces.  The beauty of it is, first of all, no knead!  Secondly, I can simply bake enough pandesal each day and store the dough in the fridge for the following days.

1-1/3 cups water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted shortening
7g instant yeast
1 teaspoon fine salt
3-1/4 cups bread flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
breadcrumbs

Mix everything together in a large container with a vent in the cover.  Leave the container at room temp for about 2 to 3 hours, until the dough rises and the top is flattened.  Store in the fridge overnight.

The following day, take out 1/3 or 1/2 of the dough with floured hands (cut with scissors).  Roll out and form a long cylinder.  Roll in breadcrumbs.  Slice the log into 8 or 12 pieces.  Arrange on a baking sheet that is oiled and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.  Leave to rise for about 30 to 60 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 400F.  Bake pandesal about 10 minutes.  To make sure bread is done, inner temperature should register 195F when tested with an instant thermometer.

 

 

 

THE Brownies!

I was ten years old when I started baking.  My favorite?  Peanut Butter Cookies.  My siblings’ and mom’s favorite?  Brownies.  My mom liked a particular kind of brownies so much that we (although it really means just me) experimented for several years to get it the way we (she) liked it.

And this is IT.

A not-too-sweet, dense, fudge-y, deeply chocolate-y brownie, with a thin, crispy top layer.

Everybody liked it.  I even made tons of it (figuratively) to sell at Christmastime.  I had determined that my last baking day was the 22nd, but I kept getting orders all the way up to New Year’s!

We were always getting requests for the recipe.  My mom wouldn’t give it (even now she refuses to share her recipes!) except for very close relatives.

How is it relevant today?

Well, basically it is because my mother and I have a complicated relationship.  But we found a common ground in cooking/baking.  From there, we developed a workable relationship.  Even today, when we have misunderstandings and breaks in our relationship, we usually reconnect over matters involving cooking and baking.

So, these brownies…

(Sorry I don’t have permission to share the recipe)

it’s special because it was the beginning…

 

Congee? Lugaw? Arroz Caldo?

When I was a kid, we regularly had congee… on most Sundays we had lunch at a Chinese dimsum restaurant and the main meal was either noodles or congee.  My favorite was Lean Pork and Century Egg Congee, sans the fresh egg!

Sadly that restaurant no longer exists.  But my favorite congee variant is pretty common and can be found virtually in any Chinese dimsum restaurant!

At the same time, we had lugaw too.  As I knew it, lugaw is a plain, no flavor, thick but at the same time watery rice that was usually served to me when I was not feeling well.  Needless to say, I do not have nice memories of lugaw!

And then, there is arroz caldo… rice gruel that is savory and deliciously seasoned – with ginger strips, chicken or beef tripe, spring onions, fried garlic!

What’s the difference?  Darned if I know!!!! all of them are rice porridge/gruel dishes.  As far as I am concerned, lugaw is straight-up rice and water and nothing else… great for calming an upset stomach or relieving a headache…

As for congee and/or arroz caldo, I feel they are the same just with different flavor profiles.

In any case, we all know that the secret is to keep stirring the pot, otherwise the rice sticks to the bottom and the dish would be ruined.

But I am too lazy to stand by the stove and stir, so I make mine in my magic cooker (thermal cooker)… which I truly believe is the easiest way to make congee.  It does, however, take a certain amount of time, so I always begin the night before.

8 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 3/4 cup rice

1 large thumb of ginger
1 small onion, whole, skin peeled off and ends sliced off
spring onions, sliced finely

800 grams chicken, cleaned, chopped into serving pieces
50 grams fresh enoki mushrooms
50 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms

salt and pepper, to taste
sesame oil, to taste
toasted garlic or fried garlic

How easy is this recipe?  Well, it is as easy as dumping everything (not including the condiments – salt, pepper, sesame oil, garlic) in the inner pot and letting it boil for 15 minutes before putting the inner pot into the magic cooker and letting it sit overnight.

The next morning, I just reheat the pot (the pot looks very much undone when it is first opened but a few minutes on the stove and the magic is seen!), give the dish several stirs and the congee is done.  What is left is to season, garnish and serve the dish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seafood Pasta Paella

Sometime ago I was given a largish packet of saffron. I knew it was expensive so I used it sparingly. Until the other day when I saw that its expiration date was drawing near. It would have been more wasteful if I just left it to expire, so I set about to cook with it!

My first project? Paella of course!!! But not with rice, with pasta!

I planned to serve this to “the boys” – hubby’s friends who come to the house twice a month or so.  They were polite enough to rave and gush at my cooking!

*smile*

400 grams spaghetti

2 tablespoons hot water
large pinch of saffron

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, smashed and minced
4 large tomatoes, sliced into large dice

4 pieces small crab
6 pieces large shrimp
4 pieces large mussels

1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
chili flakes, to taste

5 to 6 cups of fish stock or water

Get 2 pots ready on the stove – one for the spaghetti (with salted water) and the other for the paella (I took out my paella pan!!!)  Start the water boiling for the spaghetti and heat the paella pan.  Meanwhile, steep the saffron in the hot water.

When the paella pan is hot, quick fry the bell pepper; remove when it is almost done.  Toss in the garlic, onion and tomatoes.  Stir-fry several minutes.  Add the saffron and the infused water.

(At this point, check the other pot, the water should be boiling, in which case, throw the spaghetti in and cook until halfway done, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.)

Add the crab, then remove when almost done.  Add the shrimp and the spices (paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper and chili flakes, to taste.  Add about 4 cups of fish stock.  When the mixture simmers, add the half-cooked spaghetti and cook until almost done.  Towards the end of cooking, add the mussels and crab.  Add stock or water as necessary.  Season to taste.  Do not over-cook!

Before serving, arrange the seafood decoratively on top of the pasta.