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…

Creamy Tuna Spread

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

This came about after hubby made a request for a tuna hand pie.  Confession time, though, this is not the first time I tried to make a tuna pie that hubby will like… so far, my attempts have been… ho hum at best.

But, this one, hubby is very happy about.

My usual tuna spread for sandwiches has the usual ingredients – tuna, minced onion, pickle relish, salt and pepper, and of course, mayonnaise.   But that was good for a sandwich but not as a pie filling… pie filling should be thicker I guess and, as hubby says, must have a cheesy component…

Well, in experimenting, I decided that I was not so fond of the raw onion taste so the first change I did was to cook the onions with the tuna.  Then, because hubby is not so fond of pickle relish, I did away with it.  Then, he wanted cheese, so he got cheese – I used some quick-melt (which I added to the onion and tuna cooking on the stove).  I had some grated carrot, so that went in too… for salt I used celery salt… and of course, mayonnaise!!!

Saute some minced onion (about 2 tablespoons) and 2 small cans of tuna (drained of course)… smash the tuna so no large pieces remain.  Add about 1/2 cup of shredded quick-melt cheese and cook just until the cheese is melted.  Then, let the mixture cool to room temperature.  when the tuna mixture is no longer hot, mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons grated carrots and about 1 cup of mayonnaise (use more mayonnaise if you want a creamier spread).  Season to taste with celery salt and pepper (take it easy on the salt, though because the cheese has a bit of saltiness already).

A final note – since hubby likes spicy food, I actually halved the tuna (and in effect the recipe) and added a ton (figuratively) of chili flakes for his share.

I used some puff pastry to make tuna hand pies with his half of spicy tuna spread…


Steamed Pork with Salted Eggs

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

This dish is pretty common in Chinese households.  My ancestry is Chinese but I was born a citizen of my country.  So I have an affinity with food in both cultures…

But, the funny thing is, this was not at all common in my mom’s kitchen.  I first had a taste of this in a “small” food center in the unofficial Chinatown in our city, specializing in Taiwanese cuisine.  This is the first time I would be trying to make this dish.  I tried looking in my chinese cookbooks but somehow I did not see any recipe for it.  So I went to the internet and I found this site so I am basing my dish on it.  I increased the proportion since my ground meat (packed from the market) was at 400g (of course I did not want any leftover meat…)

The original recipe did not add ginger or onion to the meat mix but I always, always add it to all my meat dishes…  A note about the salted eggs, so far I have not found raw salted eggs locally – they are usually boiled and cooked already so I had to use the whole salted duck eggs instead of just the egg yolks, and to replace the salted egg white in the meat dish, I added a regular egg.

400g ground pork with about 15% fat
grated ginger
minced onions
splash of rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 salted eggs, cubed

Combine and mix everything, except salted eggs, by hand. Fold in diced salted eggs.

Place into an oiled glass bowl/lidded plate. Steam 20 to 25 minutes, longer if the plate/bowl is “tall”, internal temperature of the pork should be 160*F.

It was a hit with the family!  The steamed pork was soft and creamy and the salted eggs provided a salty pop (notice I did not add salt anymore to the meat)

Chicken with Pechay

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

If there is one thing I noticed about my cooking while under quarantine, it is that my stews are more saucy that usual.  For one thing, I like sauce on top of my rice, and so does the kid… and it is an easy way to “extend” the dish…

10 chicken drumsticks, cleaned, rinsed, patted dry
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Marinate the chicken, about 30 minutes to an hour.

1/2 head of pechay (bok choy), sliced into 3-inch pieces

handful of ginger slices

Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the ginger slices until the ginger exudes its fragrance. Add the chicken and cook until browned. Add enough water to cover the meat (or some more).  Let the stew boil then simmer about 45 to 60 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Add the pechay pieces, let simmer until the veggies are cooked but still crunchy. Adjust seasonings as preferred.

Serve over hot rice.

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!  🙂

Chicken in Milk

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

The first time I made this dish was a good 5 years ago.  I was at a second-hand bookstore when I found a second-hand copy of Jamie Oliver’s “Happy Days with the Naked Chef”.  I flipped through the pages and was intrigued with his Baked Chicken in Milk.

That time I used fresh sage from our garden… this time around I no longer had the sage plant – let’s just say the doggies found it an interesting toy and shredded the poor plants into smithereens!

What I used instead was my marjoram.  And I placed some thin potato slices under the chicken (in the milk).

Still yummmm!



(#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.



Steamed (Not!) Glutinous Rice

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

It was day 20!  Then, only a third of the quarantine period left… IF it is not extended by the authorities… at the time there was no announcement yet so…

Anyway, the dish, as it is written/titled in my mom’s black book is Steamed Glutinous Rice… but I am feeling lazy so I tried it via my rice cooker.

Let me insert a short note here – my family is not a big one – we are 5 in our household and only 1 or 2 is/are heavy eaters.  So my rice cooker is a small one.  But once in a while I find a need for a bigger one, especially when extended family or friends comes to visit, so when BFF (some years ago) asked me what I wanted to a birthday (or was it Christmas) gift, I did not hesitate to say – A BIG RICE COOKER!!!

So, here is the rice cooker in action!!!

And no, we have no guests (quarantine remember?) but I over calculated!  By that I mean I forgot to scale down my mom’s recipe (her recipes are tailor made for a family of 6 with 4 voracious eaters, which essentially means her recipes are good for at least 8 normal people!!!!!!)

Anyway, I (still) cannot reveal her recipe but when I made this it turned out to be a far cry from her recipe since I had to make do with whatever I had on hand.

500g glutinous rice, soaked overnight in water, then drained

250g country-style pork liempo (belly), fat trimmed, cubed
2 pieces Chinese sausage (臘腸), sliced into thin slices
12 pieces dried shitake, rehydrated, stems removed, sliced in half
(reserve 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid)
12 pieces shrimp, shelled, cleaned

minced garlic
mince onion
smashed ginger

1-1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons dark soya sauce
dash rice wine
dash sesame oil

Saute garlic, onions and ginger until soft and fragrant.  Add the pork cubes and stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the sausages, mushrooms, and shrimp.  Stir fry several seconds.  Add the seasonings. Add the rice; stir to cover the rice in the seasonings.

Transfer everything to the rice cooker.  Add the mushroom water, another 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups water.  (A warning here, rice to water ratio is tricky and depending on the rice, it could be more or less – use your best judgment.)

Switch the rice cooker on and let it do its thing.  When it turns to “keep warm” open the lid partially and let it sit for another 10 to 15 minutes.

As it turned out, this dish was spectacular that we finished it off in a single seating!!!

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!


Chicken & Tofu Rice Bowl

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

A friend recommended the tofu made by one of her clients.  We trusted her judgment so we bought 3 packs!  I thought it prudent since tofu is easy to cook, and the kid really likes it.

For some reason I was feeling lazy (maybe it was the heat?  the imposed quarantine?  whatever…) and I was not particularly looking forward to staying in the hot kitchen for a long time… fast and easy solution?  Stir-fry bonesless chicken pieces and tofu… tada!  fast and delicious lunch in about 20 minutes!

400g bonesless, skinless chicken thighs
1 block tofu, cubed
minced garlic and onions
smashed ginger
soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
cornstarch/cornstarch slurry

Marinate the chicken in a tablespoon of soy sauce and half a tablespoon of cornstarch for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic, onions and ginger until soft and fragrant.  Add the chicken thighs and cook about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add a splash of water (the frying pan will be a bit dry and sticky) just enough so the pan is not dry.  Add the tofu and stir with a light hand so the tofu does not disintegrate.  Add just a splash of soy sauce.  If you like a saucy dish, add more water (or chicken stock).  Cook until chicken is done.  Season to taste.  Thicken a saucy dish with cornstarch slurry if needed.

Lunch in 20 minutes… DONE!