(#43 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

About a week before the deadline of the extended enhanced community quarantine, the announcement of yet another extension came…

The first thought in my head – I know that it is for my own safety but I am finding it more and more difficult to cope.

Well, when I am stressed… I do one of 2 things – I eat, or I cook/bake.

This time I baked and I looked for something that I really felt as comfort food.  And I remember in my youth how I loved Taisan.  I would buy it from the local (famous) bakeshop until my mom and I found a recipe for one that we were happy with.

I hadn’t baked it in at least 25 years!  And somehow, I don’t see it in the bakeshops these days…

Thing is, I tried looking for a recipe in my cookbooks.  I did find a couple but it is not come out the way I wanted.  Then it occurred to me that the first place I should have looked in was my mom’s recipes!!!  (Crazy of me, right?)

So there it was… in the middle of my mom’s clearbook!

(Sorry though, as always, I do not have her permission to share…)

Anyway, with the wonderful scent of the Taisan wafting throughout the house was comforting!

Ampalaya sa Malaat na Itlog at Adobong Dilaw na Baboy at Atay

(#40 & 41 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

It’s certainly not the first time I cooked ampalaya.  It’s the second time!  simply because I DO NOT LIKE BITTER GOURD, which is what ampalaya is in English… as the name says, IT IS BITTER!!!

I’ve been told so many ways to reduce the bitterness but at the end of the day, it is still bitter!  But, because hubby loves it… I give in once in a while and cook it.  His favorite style for cooking ampalaya?  Stir-fried with salted egg!

Of course that meant I had to cook another dish otherwise I would not have any lunch!!!

Adobong dilaw it was!  Because Lola harvested some turmeric we had planted in our concrete garden…

And because adobo (all the many ways it is cooked) is a comfort food for me…

Sabaw na Kalabasa

(#33 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The first time I tasted this kind of soup was on a date with (then boyfriend) hubby.  But on the menu, it was named/described as Cream of Pumpkin Soup.  I remember asking hubby… meron bang pumpkin dito sa atin?  (do we have pumpkins locally?)  and he replied – pumpkin, squash, kalabasa yan…

Since then we’ve tasted many versions – thick, thin, chunky, sweet, and yes, even awful ones!  The best I think was one from a Chinese gourmet restaurant where they called it Seafood in Pumpkin Soup – it was thick, creamy, and chock-full of seafood bits (fish, squid and shrimp!)

Anyway, my first attempts at making a homemade version were dismal failures, sad to say.  I could never get the proportions right, I suppose.  Well then, I kept on experimenting until I realized, or learned, or discovered… that…

1. the kind of squash is important… in local terms, the best squash to use is the one referred to as malagkitsticky… my indicator is a dark orange color (as opposed to a yellowish one)

2. use minimal water… add just enough to barely cover the cubed squash.

3. a hand blender is a great blessing!  when the squash is cooked and soft, turn the heat to low and let the hand blender work its magic.

4. add cooking cream with a light hand.  the star of the show is the squash!

5. season with salt and pepper… then add a couple of turns of fresh nutmeg from the grinder…

Lastly, if adding chopped seafood, precook (saute) the seafood then add to the soup right around the time the cooking cream is added.



(#32 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

Menudo, Filipino-style of course, is a regular in our household.  It doesn’t make as many rounds as adobo but it is a favortie nontheless.  Of course during this time of quarantine, some modifications were made due to existing circumstances but it remains mostly faithful …

My recipe…

800 grams pork shoulder, skin and fat trimmed off
200 grams pork liver, cleaned and trimmed
2 thin slices of ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, minced
3 largish tomatoes, sliced
1 can pimientos, sliced
2 medium sized potatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce (optional)
3 pieces dried bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Dice or cube the pork and liver in roughly the same size (I like the pieces in 1-inch cubes). Marinate in a little soy sauce for about 10 minutes.

Saute the ginger and flash fry the liver. Remove from the pan and discard the ginger.

Saute the garlic and onion until soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and pimientos. Stir fry several minutes then throw in the pork and stir fry a couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce, if using, and the potatoes. Pour enough water or stock to barely cover the meat and potatoes. Season to taste. Throw in the bay leaves. Let simmer until pork is cooked and sauce is slightly thickened and reduced. Put back the liver and remove from heat once the mixture comes to a soft boil.

Serve on top of steamed rice!

The main difference from the previous versions is that this time around, I deliberately made the dish saucier.  The reason?  To extend the dish!  🙂

Happy 83rd, Lola!

(#28 & 29 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

Life goes on even if quarantine is in effect.  I know a lot of people who celebrated (or who will celebrate) their birthdays and Lola N is one of them.  Of course, birthdays have to have cake!

But since most establishments are closed, there really is not a lot of options for celebrants.  I even saw an FB post where the celebrant stuck a candle in a cup of whipping cream and that was it – that was her cake!

Of course in lola’s case, I she could have her cake of choice because I would bake it!  It would be smaller than usual since I have to conserve resources.  It’s my smallest (but tallest) mocha cake ever – 7x4x4-inches.

I thought it would be a plain one but I found the acrylic happy birthday sign we used for F-I-L’s birthday so i re-used it.  Then I was lucky to find some sugar flowers so at least the cake wouldn’t be plain!

The other thing that a birthday celebration should always have, at least in our household, is noodles.  My personal preference for birthday noodles is cha misua (or misua guisado or stir-fried wheat noodles).  But of course, it is the celebrant’s choice that’s important on her birthday…

Lola’s preferred noodle is sotanghon!

Sotanghon is a mainstay in our household but for a birthday, no ordinary sotanghon is allowed.  Instead we have celebration sotanghon!  What’s the difference you may ask?  Well celebration sotanghon has a whole lot more sahog… ingredients such as shrimp, chicken, red bell pepper, cabbage, 2 kinds of mushrooms, scallop shreds…

HBD Lola!



(#27 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

My mom calls this dish Valenciana but when I was in college, I heard many call it bringhe… in any case, the description is more or less the same – Filipino version of paella, or the worse depiction – poor man’s paella.

As you may have guessed, there is no saffron in this dish, instead to achieve the golden orange color turmeric is used.  Then there is rarely any seafood used (seafood is expensive you see), but chicken is a mainstay.  Usually chorizo is also used.

This particular dish, however, is not the usual, even for valenciana or bringhe.  Why?  Well, we care stuck at home so we make do with what is available.  We can’t go out as we please even to the supermarket and even assuming we manage to go to the supermarket, the selection these days are rather thin…

500g glutinous rice, soaked overnight, drained

minced garlic and onions
1 piece red bell pepper, julienned
1 whole turmeric, skinned and sliced
1 piece Chinese sausage, sliced thinly (in lieu of chorizo)
300g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into serving pieces
1 wedge of squash, dubed
400ml coconut milk
150ml water

Saute garlic, onions and turmeric in some hot oil.  Add the sliced chorizo and chicken.  Stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the cubed squash, stir fry some more.  Add the rice and stir several seconds, until rice grains are coated.  Add the coconut milk and water.  Season to taste, with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Transfer the mixture into a rice cooker and set the rice cooker to cook.  Double check the rice to see if it needs more water.  When the rice cooker switches to “keep warm” setting, leave the rice in the pot another 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

A more authentic version that I made before can be found here.



Good Friday Spaghetti

(#26 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine) 

Fasting and abstinence are common religious traditions during Lent but we’re not so strict about such traditions except for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  On those days, I only cook for 1 main meal and no meats.

For almost 20 years, it had been our personal family tradition to have some form of spaghetti on Good Friday… and always with fish and/or seafood.  In more luxurious times, we used shrimp.  In austere times it was sardines…

This year it was sardines.

The recipe I used throughout is the one my mom dictated to me almost 4 decades ago… except for this one, I used a ready-made spaghetti mix, specifically DM Italian Spaghetti sauce…

Saute minced garlic and onions.  Add sardines (packed in oil and drained) and the ready-to-use spaghetti sauce; mix gently to avoid crushing the sardines.  Add a fistful of Parmesan and season to taste.  And then it’s done.



Ginataang Manok, Kalabasa at Malunggay

(#20 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

This was not the first time I made this dish.  The first time I made it, I did not really know that such a dish existed (although I realize that the combination is plausible as are many others) – it just so happened that I was thinking of making chicken curry with coconut milk but then it turned out I was out of curry and frankly I was too lazy to grind spices!

There was squash on the kitchen counter and the malunggay (moringa) plant in our concrete garden was dense and needed a bit of trimming… and I was getting a bit desperate since I had guests to feed… so

This time though, I cooked this dish on purpose.  For one thing, the kid likes both squash (kalabasa) and malunggay (moringa) leaves.  For another, during this time of quarantine, one of the longer lasting vegetables available is – squash; as for the malunggay, our plant downstairs had been busy growing!

7 to 8 pieces chicken thighs, trimmed and cleaned (about 1.2k)

1/4 of a large squash, cubed (around 200 to 300 grams)
minced garlic and onion
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 to 2 pieces long finger chilli
handful of malunggay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Rub the chicken thighs with sea salt and coarsely crushed black pepper; set aside.

Saute minced garlic and onion several seconds. Add chicken to the pan, skin side down and pan fry a couple of minutes. Turn over and pan fry another 2 minutes or so. Pour in coconut milk (if necessary, add water so that the chicken is covered), add the finger chilli. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Add the the cubed kalabasa and cook another 10 to 15 minutes. (Do not overcook the kalabasa, otherwise what happened to me will happen to you – my kalabasa crumbled and got mixed in the gata so my sauce turned orange-y). Add the coconut cream; let it come to a soft simmer. Season to taste. Add the malunggay leaves; simmer, covered, 1 minute more.

Note – To be honest, I like my kalabasa on the squishy side and I love it when the squished kalabasa infuses the coconut sauce… so it was quite on purpose that I let my kalabasa over-cook!


Mommy’s Loaf Bread

There’s one good thing about my mom’s being OC about certain recipes… OC is a mild term since she would make the recipe over and over, week after week, month after month (!) until she got it perfect… the good thing being that when I make one of her “perfected” recipes, it is bound to be good!

I’ve mentioned before that I started bread baking late because bread baking was my mom’s passion, well, I found her recipe for loaf bread and found the best opportunity to make it – when my brother requested me to bake some bread and bring it over!

As always I halved her recipe (hers made 4 small loaves!!!) and because I had some ube halaya in the fridge, I made one of the loaves an ube-swirl loaf.

Needless to say, it was a hit! both for our household as well as for my mom and brother! In fact, I had just arrived when my brother started eating the bread and within minutes, it was gone!!!

The kid, once again, proclaimed me the best baker ever, ever. I had to be honest and revealed to the kid that the recipe was not mine but her a-mah’s (grandma). Her reply – never mind, mommy, it’s still good!


Adobong Atay na may Chicharon

Adobo is something we make and eat on a regular basis. It is, after all, the country’s (unofficial) national dish!

There’s a million and one ways (it is said) to cook adobo but for adobong atay ng manok (chicken liver), I only make it one specific way… with the chicken livers marinated in the adobo “sauce” for about 4 hours then pan frying them until almost done and then reconstituting the final dish by cooking the marinade and pouring it over the livers.

300g chicken liver – Clean, rinse and pat dry. (Usually the chicken hearts are attached to the liver, so remove the hearts and weigh just the livers. Remove any whitish stuff.) Marinate in the sauce –

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sukang sasa (native vinegar)
4 large garlic cloves, smashed,
(reserve 1 clove for sauteeing)
1 medium to large laurel leaf
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

chicharon pieces, optional
hard-boiled quail eggs, optional

Saute the garlic in a little oil until fragrant – use tongs and lift liver pieces and place in the pan in a single layer (cook the liver in batches if necessary). Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes then flip them over. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes (outside should be cooked, inside should be pink with no blood). Remove from the pan.

Pour in the marinade and heat to a soft boil, stirring occasionally. If adding/using chicharon or boiled quail eggs, add them to the marinade and return to a soft boil again. Pour the sauce over the livers or add the livers back to the sauce to cook a few more seconds (otherwise the livers will over-cook).

Serve immediately.

It is best to make a small batch because if there are leftovers, the livers will become tough when it is reheated, hence no longer “at its peak”. It is said (and hubby prefers it that way also) that chicken livers are best when they are done ever so slightly underdone (outside cooked, inside pink with no blood) because their texture is creamy. When the livers are overcooked, the texture becomes grainy and unpalatable.

Kinilaw na Gusô

Are seaweeds vegetables? I don’t know but I think that seaweeds are plants in water, hence, they are more like vegetables than meat or something similar.

The seaweed that I am familiar with is the latô – which I know to be called sea grapes because they look like small grapes. And, at the specialty seafood market south of the metropolitan city, there were several vendors offering the latô for sale. I was, in fact, about to buy some when my eyes chanced upon the sole vendor with something different for sale – gusô – another kind of seaweed. The term “guso” however is a local dialect’s word, Visayan to be specific. I don’t know what it is in English or Filipino.

In any case, the recipe to make gusô salad is the same as the latô – basically a kilawin, which is in a marinade of vinegar (a special spiced vinegar such as sinamak) and tossed with lots of ginger, red onions, tomatoes and chilies.

It is important, however, to blanch the gusô in boiling water and the immediately plunging the gusô in ice water before letting it sit in the kilawin mix.

I loved the salad so much that I went back and bought some more!!!

2019 Food for the Gods

I’ve written previously that this treat exists only in our country – elsewhere it is known by its real name Date Walnut Bars.  It’s available all year round, but its abundance multiplies exponentially during the Christmas season!

I suppose each baker has his/her own secret recipe for these bars. It is certainly true for my mom and me. But at the core of it all, it is a basic bar stuffed with a lot of dates and walnuts. What I found to be a big variance is the amount of sugar a recipe contains. I’ve even seen a recipe for an 8-inch square pan with 3 cups of sugar in it!

In any case, even if we have our own secret recipe, I still try out other recipes… like this one –

2/3 cup butter
1-1/2 cups muscovado sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100g dates, coarsely chopped
100g walnuts, broken

Cream the butter and sugar for at least 7 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Combine flour, soda and salt. Stir into the butter-egg mixture; take care not to over-mix. Fold in dates and walnuts.

Instead of placing the batter into a baking tray/pan, I scooped the batter into a silicon pan with rectangular cavities and baked them at 325*F for about 12 minutes.

I sent the gift box to my mom and younger brother. When I asked my brother how they were, his reply was ours (referring to our secret recipe) was better, but this was good enough!