Baked Linguini by BFF!

I love cooking and baking for others.  Hubby even jokes that even if I have no recipients for the goodies I make, I will still bake and give them to any Tom, Dick or Harry on the street, or to just about anyone who would accept them!

But.

When someone makes something in their kitchen for me… That is when I feel blessed… extra special… and, super loved…

Thank you BFF for the special treat!

Merry Christmas!!!

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Death by Chocolate Cheesecake

I admit it. I have been obsessed with chocolate lately. I’ve made bourbon brownies, 2 toned chocolate and choco chip cookies, in addition to the usual, standard stuff I make. And I’m not yet done. Still on my list are Kladdkaka, Tableya Cupcakes, Creme de Cacao… and this Chocolate Cheesecake, which has been dubbed Death by Chocolate Cheesecake.

For this one I delved deep into my cookbooks. Both hubby and the kid are chocoholics, and both are very particular when it comes to chocolate – they have discerning tastes! They prefer a deep, complex, nuanced chocolate flavor. I finally hit the jackpot when I found this recipe in a special edition “magazine” of Fine Cooking.

I started with a ready-made, off-the-grocery-shelf Oreo cookie crust. I know I could have made my own chocolate cookie crust but having a ready-made one DOES give me more time to concentrate on the filling, which I believed was more important! The downside though is that the ready made crust could not contain the full recipe for the filling. So I had to polish my math skills and scaled the recipe to about 2/3 – even then I was afraid that the batter would spill over in the oven. But all is well that ends well, the batter puffed up during baking but settled in nicely upon cooling…

The recipe did not specify a topping but I had in my mind a chocolate masterpiece with 6 layers of chocolate! I imagined (1) chocolate cookie crust, (2) double chocolate cheesecake filling, (3) silky ganache topping, (4) dark chocolate curls, (5) chocolate syrup drizzle, and (6) chocolate ice cream on the side!

For the silky ganache topping, I wanted a “softer” consistency, so instead of a 50-50 mix of chocolate and whipping cream, I used a 40-60 proportion, using a bit more cream than chocolate.

For the chocolate curls, I finally used the gourmet dark chocolate bar that my brother-in-law gave as a present.

While I had envisioned the 6 layers, I ended up with just 4 because hubby decided that it was overkill (pun intended!) to go beyond the chocolate curls. (The kid happily doused her slice in chocolate syrup though, but skipped the ice cream so at least for her it was 5 layers!)

The verdict? HEAVENLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, just like that, I am the kid’s hero again! I just love hearing her proclaim – Mommy you are the best cooker and baker ever, ever! (Her exact words)

Paella Negra

While mine was delicious, it did not look like the ones served in restaurants.  Those were really black while mine were, well, a bit brownish greyish…

And I used real squid ink too.  From about 700 grams of squid, I was able to get more than 1/2 cup of squid ink.  Perhaps I could get better results if I use commercial squid ink paste?  Then again, I don’t know where to get it!

The recipe –

1/4 cup olive oil, or more as may be needed
350g shrimps
700g squid, cleaned, sliced, black ink reserved

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion medium, finely diced
1 medium pimiento, sliced or diced
3 small tomatoes, diced
2 cups, approx 500g raw rice, rinsed
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup squid ink
1 1/2 cups fish or shrimp stock
1/4 cup hot water with a pinch of saffron

2 boiled eggs, sliced into wedges

lemon slices for serving

(In a paella pan) heat half the olive oil. Stir fry the shrimps and squid for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add remaining oil in the pan and saute the garlic and onion until soft and translucent. Add the diced tomatoes and pimientos.

Add the rice and stir fry a couple of minutes. Add the white wine, squid ink, stock and hot water with saffron. Stir lightly then cover. Cook on low, low-medium for 20 minutes approximately, stirring occasionally. Check once in a while if more liquid is needed. Likewise, check the seasonings, if needed.

Mix in the shrimp and squid (top decoratively with a few, if desired) and cook another 5 minutes. Garnish with boiled egg slices. Serve with lemon wedges.

Date Walnut Cake

This is a version that I specifically made for a special order five or six years ago.  Someone asked me if I could make a healthier version for her mom who loves dates and walnuts but has issues with fat/cholesterol, sugar… the usual culprits that make the lives of the elderly difficult.  After several experiments, this was the winner!

So, this cake – no egg, no butter or oil!  NO CHOLESTEROL!  Low is sugar, except for the inherent sugar in dates… AND, AND…  IT HAS A BEAUTIFUL TEXTURE (very moist!) AND GREAT TASTE!

Check out the (estimated) nutritional analysis –

date walnut cake nutr 1

6 years ago, I made about 60 of these (in addition to some others) in ONE day!  To be honest, the baking was not the part I found tedious.  It was the packing and washing.  You see, I DO NOT have 60 or so pans to bake in.  At most I have 8 or so (maybe 10 max) so the waiting time is tedious and then I have to wash up (and dry!) before I could use the pans again.  THEN!  I had to fold boxes (although the kid and hubby helped a lot) and tie ribbons, etc. etc.

These days, I am so relieved to find a baking pan and gift package in one!  The base is made of thick cardboard and is coated with some sort of film.  The cake is baked in it (the store said it was a direct-bake package) and cooled in it.  The cover is a clear plastic that fits perfectly.  It saves time, effort and money (the whole package costs less than a cake box and cake board)!  I love it!!!

 

 

Pasko na Talaga!

(It really is Christmas Already!)

It is a (good-humored) joke that Christmas in our country begins with the “ber” months. The malls begin playing Christmas songs and start putting up Christmas decorations. For me, Christmas begins when I see my favorite Christmas ham in the stores. But it is really IT for me when my kitchen starts churning out goodies that we are giving out to friends!

My kitchen opened early, sometime in July, when I started trying out new fruitcake recipes… but official production just recently began… with Cheese Pimiento!

The bulk of the fun is baking, cooking, and having fun in the kitchen, but part of the fun is the Christmas packaging! In fact, half the living room gets transformed into a mini production site littered with ribbons, boxes, tags labels, glitter pens, stickers…

It’s tiring but so very enjoyable!

Hello Christmas, here I come!

Chinese-style Fried Rice

I grew up with rice.  In our corner of the world, bread was not the carbohydrate of choice (although it is growing exponentially in popularity).  We had rice for breakfast, rice for lunch and more rice for dinner…  This means that we always have leftover rice, in one form or another.

In the morning, leftover rice would become garlic fried rice (Filipino-style).  For lunch or dinner, we would have the Chinese-style fried rice.

When I was way younger, I would watch my mom make fried rice.  (My dad would occasionally make sinangag, but for Chinese style fried rice, mommy was the cook.)  I remember that the egg went in the pan last and it would make the rice look yellowish.  But that meant there were little, if any at all, egg bits in the fried rice.  (and I wanted lots of egg bits!)

Later on, I noticed that she would make scrambled eggs BEFORE the frying the rice and then add it last, stirring everything together and breaking up the already scrambled eggs.  And that’s when I saw my preferred egg bits!

Another thing about fried rice, especially those in Chinese restaurants, there are usually vegetables such as diced carrots, corn, green peas, and even shredded lettuce, and definitely spring onions.  In my version, I usually skip the veggies, except for the spring onions (and of course the standard garlic and onions).  Almost always, though, there’s some form of meat – shrimp almost always, and pork or chicken, or the famous Chinese sausage!

Also, I don’t really have a recipe for fried rice.  It was one of those things that we learn “by feel”, and by estimation… trial and error, if you will.

Frist thing to do is get out a Chinese wok – it is the best to cook fried rice in!  Heat it until smoking before adding some oil.  Pour in 2 beaten eggs and stir to scramble, remove from the pan (it’s ok it it slightly undercooked).

Heat the pan again and add some oil.  Saute minced garlic and onions, until they are soft and fragrant.  Add the protein you prefer – my favorites are shrimp and Chinese sausage (diced, in chunks, or sliced, whichever you prefer) and stir around the pan for a minute or two.  (if you like some vegetables, this is when you add them too – diced carrots, peas and shredded lettuce are most common.)  Add day-old rice (2 or 3 cups worth?) and a light dash of light soy sauce (not too much because I find that the rice tends to get mushy, as well as get an unappetizing color).  Stir-fry until done, season with salt as preferred.  Add the scrambled eggs back in, stirring lightly to break up the curds.

Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with spring onions and serve!

 

Orange-Blueberry Baby Bundt Cake with Blueberry-Vanilla Rum Sauce

I recently found a “baby” bundt cake pan. It was perfect for my little electric oven. By ‘little’ I mean my oven is only slightly bigger than a toaster oven, and this means I have some difficulty finding pans that fit!

Anyway, the pan was about 6 inches across and could fit a recipe for a medium (8×4) loaf pan. I thought of using the orange loaf recipe and spiking it with rum instead of triple sec. Then, because I had some leftover blueberry filling, I decided to ‘make’ a tunnel of blueberry in the ‘baby’ bundt cake.

It baked up quite beautifully!

Then I thought it looked a bit plain.  It was fine by itself already but I wanted to gussy it up even more… so…

Since I still had some blueberry filling left over, I decided to make Blueberry-Vanilla Sauce that was spiked with rum to pour over the cake.  Of course to make the slice ever prettier for the picture so I laid the vanilla pod I used on top!

The recipe for the Blueberry-Vanilla-Rum Sauce –

Place about 1/3 cup of blueberry filling, 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons butter, and a vanilla pod (split and scrape the “caviar”) in a small, thick saucepan. Heat over a low flame until butter is melted and the mixture is barely simmering; remove from flame and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rum.

 

Sabaw Itim

When my brothers and I were kids, we called this dish “Sabaw Itim”, literally Black Soup.  To our very young minds, we called it as we saw it – soup because it was so liquid-y and black because it was so dark in color.

sabaw_itim_02

It’s actually chicken braised in soy sauce with mushrooms and boiled eggs.

It was a real favorite and we had it at least once a month!  In those days, the dish was so much more soupier (after all we all wanted the soup/sauce on our rice!) and the chicken pieces were various cuts from 1 whole chicken.  These days, chicken is available by specific parts, and boneless, no less!  My favorite part?  boneless, skinless chicken thigh!

The recipe:

about 600 to 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 pieces)

Marinade:

2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
a small thumb of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 pieces large bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1/4 cup light soy sauce
dash of shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

150 grams small fresh shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces
(or 60 grams dried shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces)
4 to 6 pieces boiled eggs

1/2 to 1 cup water (or mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock)

Mix marinade ingredients together; set aside for a while.

Clean the chicken pieces and slice each piece into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size desired (remember that meat shrinks upon cooking so adjust accordingly).

Pour marinade over chicken and let stand for about 30 minutes.

sabaw_itim_03

Meanwhile, if using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water until softened; drain but keep the soaking liquid.  Cut the stems off the mushrooms (fresh or dried ones). Rinse lightly to remove dirt and grime, if there is any.

sabaw_itim_04

When we were younger, this dish was cooked on the stove-top in a clay pot; it was soupier too. The way I make this dish now is with the magic cooker and with a lot less liquid.

The traditional way:

Smash some more garlic and saute them over low fire until lightly browned and deliciously fragrant! Then dump the chicken pieces and all marinade into the pot. Throw the rehydrated mushrooms in too (IF using fresh mushrooms, add them after 15 minutes of simmering.) Add enough liquid to barely cover the chicken pieces; mix to combine everything. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces (smaller pieces cook faster). Top up with more liquid if the sauce is reduced too much OR if a soupier dish is desired. About 5 minutes before putting off the stove fire, add the boiled eggs. Adjust seasonings to desired taste. Off fire, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

The magic cooker way:

sabaw_itim_05

Just dump the chicken pieces and marinade into the inner pot. Throw in mushrooms and boiled eggs, too. Add 1/2 cup of liquid; mix gently to combine everything (and not mutilate the eggs). Adjust seasonings. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (start counting when liquid starts bubbling). Place inner pot inside the outer chamber of the magic cooker. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

DISH VARIATIONS – Use firm tofu instead of mushrooms, or use a variety of fresh mushrooms – shitake, button, Korean king oyster, straw, etc.

Or, use pork cubes or ribs instead of chicken.

00_sabaw itim

PERSONAL NOTES –

The soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms is very flavorful, but some find it too strong, in which case use only 1/4 of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup or more of water or stock. Or omit the soaking liquid altogether.

If using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the sauce of the dish will have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. If using fresh mushrooms, the dish has a more subtle, delicate flavor. It’s delicious either way. Using different kinds of fresh mushrooms gives more dimension to the dish.

The original recipe (from my mom’s files) has 1/2 tablespoon sugar as an ingredient in the marinade but I’ve always skipped it. Also, dark (and salty) soy sauce was traditionally used but I’m happy with my light soya sauce (and hubby is ok with it as well) which is less salty and does not impart a dark brown (almost black) color.

 

Almond Butter Choco Chip Loaf

I have a list (several lists, actually) of goodies that I want to bake.  The list, or lists, just keep getting longer because it seems like I just want to make everything!!!  And it seems like I don’t have enough time…

But with the crazy weather these days, I got “stuck” at the house a few times when it rained rather heavily.  I decided to shorten my list, at least by one.

I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Quickbread interesting (I am sorry though, because I must have forgotten to write the source of the recipe) but silly me, I discover too late that we had no peanut butter and no buttermilk!!!

What I did have is almond butter (the natural kind) and regular whole milk… so I made substitutions and crossed my fingers that it would work…

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup natural, unsweetened almond butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup milk

It kinda worked… The problem was the taste was not appealing to the family or the rest of the household.

I guess next time I will stick to peanut butter!

🙂

Two Toned Cookies

As they say, why mess up a good thing?

Well…

If it is to make it better, then, sure, why not?

My go-to recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies is the good ‘ole Nestle TollHouse recipe, although I always use half a recipe…

Anyway, I had visions in my head of a two-toned cookie – a hybrid of a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate cookie studded with peanut butter chips!

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it… the chocolate chip cookie part was not the problem… the chocolate cookie was the question – and I am actually quite lazy, I mean I love baking so I will bake any chance I get, but I don’t particularly like washing dishes!

Anyway, to solve my issue, I halved the batter (without chocolate chips yet) by placing approximately half in another bowl.  I added half a cup of chocolate chips to one bowl and 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa and half a cup of peanut butter chips to the other bowl.

Drop half a teaspoon of each batter side by side (or top and bottom) then bake.

The little girl saw me baking and requested that the cookies be dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.  I thought it was a bit overkill but then, what they hey, why not?

We ended up with cookie pops that she brought to a playdate… it turned out that one of her playmates was having her birthday celebration that day!