Oven-Roasted Lechon (Not for people with high cholesterol!)

Lechon is roasted suckling pig, usually skewered on a stick and cooked over charcoal. The term originated from the Spanish word "leche" meaning milk.

Typically, when lechon is cooked, the first part that goes is the skin as everybody wants a piece of that delicious, crunchy part. However, if cooked properly, the whole pig is as good as the skin.

Obviously, we don't have a lechon pit, and we can't buy a whole pig here, so we just tried cooking a small slab of pork lechon-style.

What you need:
  • 3 pound cut of shoulder roast pork; picnic style
  • Water
  • Around 2 tablespoons salt
For the dip:
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp chopped onion

What to do:

Fill a large pot with water enough to cover the pork and add salt. Let it boil for an hour and a half (depending on the size of pork you have). Remove from the water and let sit for a couple of hours.

Pre-heat your oven (convection) to 375 degrees F. Put a cooling rack on a baking tray and place the pork on the cooling rack. This is so the oil will drip away from the pork. Insert a probe thermometer on the thickest part of the meat. Keep an eye on it, as we want the internal heat to reach between 165 to 170, depending on your preference (in this case, around 1 hour and 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Just combine all the sauce ingredients in a container and let it sit for a while so the liquids would absorb the flavor of the sugar and the onion.

When the thermometer reaches the desired internal heat, remove from the oven, let the pork cool a bit, and enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you don't have a convection oven, use the regular bake setting but set it at 400 degrees F. Also, you might have to turn the pork halfway through cooking to get some crispiness on the skin.
2. If you don't like the dipping sauce, use distilled vinegar with a little bit of salt and crushed garlic.
3. Don't throw away the broth you made when you boiled the pork - it is a good base for soup. (Just add water if it is too salty)
4. Don't have a cooling rack? Just line the baking tray with aluminum foil and put the pork there.


Christmas Leche Flan

There's really nothing "Christmassy" about this flan, except that I made it on Christmas Eve and got to enjoy it on Christmas Day. In fact, we had it for breakfast because I thought I want to start the day with a sweet note.

Leche is Spanish for milk. It is one of the main i
ngredients of the recipe, aside from eggs. Flan is defined as an open-topped pie, usually savory but mostly sweet. I personally think it is just a glorified version of custard. :-)
What you need:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 14 oz evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

What to do:

Put 1/2 cup of sugar in an 8-inch round mold or cake pan. Place the pan on a burner on very low heat and let the sugar melt. The time i
t would take to caramelize would depend on how thick your pan is. Better keep an eye on it. If it reaches a runny consistency, swirl it around to coat the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, evaporated m
ilk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Mix gently, don't use a whisk as it will create bubbles in the mixture. Use a strainer while pouring it into the pan with the hardened sugar. Cover it with aluminum foil to prevent the steam from escaping while cooking. Put it on your steamer and steam in medium heat for one hour.

Leche Flan pre-flipping

Remove from the steamer and let cool. Run a br
ead knife on the sides to loosen it up, then flip it on a plate large enough to hold the flan and the caramel. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Add some lemon zest in the egg mixture for an extra zing to the flavor.
2. Add a few drops of water to the caramelized sugar while stirring to prevent it from burning.
3. Hardened caramelized sugar will crack upon cooling so don't fret if you see this happening.
4. If you want more caramel with your flan, increase the amount of sugar to caramelize.
5. To flip it correctly, hold the pan in an upright position and cover it with a big-enough plate face down. Hold both tight, then very gently but with one quick swoop, flip it. If you didn't coat the sides enough with caramel, you might have to give it a little jiggle before it drops to the plate.


Corn Soup

Corn soup has been my favorite soup since as long as I can remember. I loved how my grandmother would cook it, with the wisps of egg white swirling on the bowl staring at me and inviting me to take a big heaping spoonful. She used to only make it during family gatherings, so it felt like a treat whenever we had it.

My aunt makes terrific corn soup too, and every person cooking it adds a different flair to it. This is my version of the soup, and nothing makes me feel better than a sip of this hot, steaming goodness on a cold winter day.

What you need:
  • 3 pcs. chicken breast, boiled and shredded
  • 1 can (14.75oz) Cream Style Corn
  • around 5 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. rice wine
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch diluted in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • chopped green onions
  • hard boiled eggs (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of sesame oil

What to do:

In a pot, bring to a boil the chicken broth, cream style corn and rice wine. Meanwhile, whisk the egg until frothy. Stir in the cornstarch mixture until smooth. Set aside.

When the broth is already boiling, add the meat and stir to make sure that the meat doesn't stick together. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then bring the heat back up to medium and add in the egg mixture to the soup in a thin stream while stirring until well blended.

Taste and add salt and pepper according to your preference. Serve in soup bowls garnished with green onions, hard boiled egg and a splash of sesame oil.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use ground pork or shredded crab meat if you don't like chicken. Make little meatballs if using ground pork.
2. Wash the green onions thoroughly, especially since you are gonna consume it raw.
3. Feel like it is too much egg? Skip the hard boiled eggs.


Oriental Crab and Noodle Salad

Hubby loves this simple and easy to prepare noodle dish. It is light, delicious, and is a complete meal - carbs, protein and veggies included!

What you need:

  • 10 ounces Ramen noodles or vermicelli
  • 1 package (8 ounces) flaked imitation crab meat
  • 1 cup fresh snow peas
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp (or more) minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

What to do:

Bring around 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes. Add the crab meat and snow peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Drain the noodle mixture. Add the noodle mixture and bell pepper to the prepared dressing. Toss to coat. Arrange on salad plates or bowl, and sprinkle with green onions.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use Chinese curly noodles instead of ramen. Or experiment using egg noodles.
2. Real crab meat is not advisable as it has a very strong taste and might overpower the other spices. (Not to mention it is very expensive)
3. Use dark sesame oil for a deeper, richer taste.
4. Feel free to add more ginger, garlic, etc. depending on your taste preference.


Plush Gang Funnies: Christmas Stockings

Apparently, nobody told Little Monkey that you're supposed to hang Christmas stockings... not wear them!


Product Review: Nutella

I have never paid much attention to Nutella when we go to our local grocery store. After all, we love our regular (Smuckers) peanut butter. That is until a kid told me that it's like a holiday when his mom buys Nutella. That got me curious... so I pestered hubby into buying me a bottle.

I didn't waste any time. Upon opening it, I smashed the foil cover and dug my spoon in it. The first thing I noticed was how thick it was. And how yummy. It also tasted vaguely familiar. Then I looked at the bottle and under the product name was the word "Ferrero." Realization struck - it is the same chocolate they use in Ferrero Rocher.

Nutella (originally called Pasta Gianduja) was act
ually made in loaves and wrapped in tin foil, so it could be sliced and placed in bread for mothers making sandwiches for their children. But many children would throw away the bread and just eat the Pasta Gianduja. Hence they saw the need for making a spreadable version of it. And so Nutella was born.

Once you open the bottle, you smell the nutty and chocolatey aroma. It is also thicker than it looks. Creamy and light, it seems like a more flavorful version of chocolate spread. Only made with hazelnuts - not peanuts. Dieters beware, though - it has 200 calories per serving. But as usual, you'd have to have a payback of some sort for something as decadent as this.

Funny thing is, the label says "An example of
a tasty yet balanced breakfast is a glass of skim milk, orange juice and Nutella on whole wheat bread." It is as if you can undo all the calories you get from Nutella by putting it on wheat bread and drinking all those healthy beverages. And besides, who can eat just one? I usually eat two open-face sandwiches with Nutella and a cup of joe.

The best part - it feels like I am eating Ferrero Rocher for breakfast. Now that's the perfect way to start your day.

Spread thickly!


Candied Ginger

I was looking desperately for "candied ginger" to put in the brine that I will use for our Thanksgiving turkey. Unfortunately, the ethnic section, nor the regular section of our grocery store does not carry it so I decided to make some from scratch.

What you need:

1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

What to do:

Put the 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Drop in the ginger and let simmer for around 20 - 25 minutes.

Strain afterwards and dry. Then sprinkle with sugar. Good enough to be a dessert!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Make sure to dry the ginger before sprinkling with sugar. Otherwise, the sugar will just be absorbed.
2. If you don't want to discard the syrup, store the ginger in it. Sticky, but yummy!
3. Adding a few pieces of chopped candied ginger to lemon ice cream will give it a zing!


Alton Brown's Thanksgiving Turkey

We decided to try Alton Brown's Thanksgiving Turkey recipe, and I must say, this must be the most labor-intensive turkey preparation ever! But then again, nothing that tastes this good can really be rushed - especially if it concerns a humonguous bird!

What you need:

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the Brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tsp candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil

What to do:

Combine all the brine ingredients (except the iced water) in a large pot. Set over medium-high heat, and stir occasionally to dissolve solids. Bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from heat, cool to room te
mperature, and refrigerate.

On the night before you would eat the turkey, y
ou should start the brining process. Combine the refrigerated brine and iced water in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (giblets removed) breast-side down in brine. Make sure it is fully immersed, cover and set in a cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Place the bird on a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, a
nd a cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir around a bit, and put everything in the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage.

Get a large aluminum foil (large enough to cover the back of the bird) and shape it in the form of a triangle. Wipe it down with some canola oil. Do the same w
ith the skin of the turkey. Fit the triangle on the back of the bird and gently press it down to mold it to the shape of the turkey. The triangle foil will serve as a "tent" for the bird later so the skin won't burn.

Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast. Roast the turkey on the lowest rack of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F afterwards. At this point, put the triangle foil on top of the bird to prevent it from browning too quickly. Keep an eye on the thermometer as you want it to reach the perfect temperature of 161 degrees F. It should take around 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. But since different ovens have different settings, I suggest you trust your thermometer instead.

When the desired turkey temperature is reached, let it rest for around 15 minutes before carving. Delish!!!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:
1. Can't find candied ginger on the supermarket aisle? Make it from scratch! Click here for the recipe!
2. Use ground cinnamon if you don't have cinnamon sticks. Or try it with anise seeds instead.

3. It is best to brine the turkey in a 5-gallon ice chest similar to an Igloo cooler. You can also brine it in a stockpot, but remember to put a towel under it as it will sweat.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling poultry!
5. To thaw a frozen turkey, leave it under cold running water for... oh, a couple of hours! If it seems to be wasteful, just put it in cold water. But make sure that the turkey is fully submerged! Change the cold water every 30 minutes. Using this method, it will take approximately 30 minu
tes per pound to thaw the turkey.
6. Fit the triangle foil on the back of the bird - then insert the probe thermometer. That way you won't damage the foil, or mess up the shape.
7. For gravy - just put the pan drippings in a fat separator. Put the grease back in a pan and add flour (about 1 1/2 tbsp). Whisk, then add the drippings and some chicken stock. It is delicious - you can actu
ally taste the apple and cinnamon from the turkey aromatics!

That's one gorgeous bird!


New Iron Chef - Jose Garces

Congratulations to Chef Jose Garces for winning the much-coveted title the "Next Iron Chef." Mario Batali's contract was not renewed by the Food Network so I am surmising that Chef Garces will be replacing our Italian jolly guy (with his trademark orange Crocs) in Kitchen Stadium. He will be sharing the title with Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Masaharu Morimoto, and Cat Cora.

I will surely miss watching Chef Batali's antics (e.g. dancing with the gigantic opah) in the kitchen, but am also looking forward to see more of Chef Garces' offerings. Kudos!

Picture Credit: Food Network website


Steamed Salmon with Lemon

Salmon is my favorite fish - be it raw (sushi), grilled, marinated, etc. Here is one of our favorite preparations - steamed salmon. It is light, fresh, and 100% delicious!

What you need:

  • 1 large salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 - 3 stalks of green onion, cut horizontally
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, cut in matchstick sizes
  • 1 lemon
  • A dash of sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

What to do:

Rinse and drain your fish, being careful not to da
mage the skin. Pat it dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

Meanwhile, in a shallow container, mix soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Place the salmon in the soy sauce-vinegar mixture and squeeze half of the lemon over it. Slice the other half into strips and set aside. Allow the fish to marinate in the fridge for around 15 minutes.

After marinating, p
lace the fish in a lined steamer. Put the ginger slices, lemon, and green onion on top of the fish. Pour the marinade on top for extra flavor. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes, then drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with hot rice. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. As with other cooking devices, it is advisable to have a layer of steamer that is used only for seafood. Especially if using a bamboo steamer.
2. Line your steamer with parchment paper for easier cleaning. However, cut slits on the parchment paper to facilitate better steam flo
3. I like to use a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil as a dipping sauce.


Plush Gang Funnies

A cat has very strong maternal instincts...


Chocolate-Dipped Banana

I was thinking of something creative to do with the banana sitting on the counter, so I decided that the best way to eat it is with my favorite thing - chocolate!

What you need:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • Chocolate ice cream topping
  • A handful of peanuts, crushed
  • Chopsticks

What to do:

Put the banana in the freezer for an hour or so (trust me, it will make your job easier!). Afterwards, cut the banana in half and skewer it using chopsticks. Now here's the tricky part - pour some chocolate topping on the banana while slowly rotating it for even coating. You have to do this fast as the topping will slide off your fruit. Sprinkle it with crushed peanuts. Put it back in the freezer for another hour or so. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Chopsticks are best to use rather than metal or thin wood skewers. The wider the surface is for the banana to grip on, the better.
2. When pouring chocolate topping on the banana, have a plate under it to catch the drips. You can scoop it and use on the fruit.
3. Try lightly salted crushed peanuts. The subtle contrast of sweet and salty is delightful!
4. Microwave your chocolate topping for about 5 seconds to make it easier to pour.
5. Don't try to make it easier by dipping the banana in the chocolate topping bottle - it will be almost impossible to get it out!
6. If you are not a fan of chocolate topping, try it with Magic Shell!


Buffalo Wings

I have always wondered why there is a serving of celery sticks whenever we order Buffalo Wings in restaurants. Later on, I found out that it is to cut the searing heat of the spicy wings. It is no surprise, then, that when I made my own version of Buffalo Wings, I also put a side of the sticks. I fried these wings cause I like the contrast of the crunchy skin to the juicy meat of the chicken.

What you need:

20 - 25 pieces chicken wings
2 cups seasoned flour
oil, for frying

For the sauce:

1 tbsp. butter
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
4 tbsp. garlic chili sauce
6 tbsp. barbecue sauce

What to do:

In medium heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic cloves, saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Put in the honey and brown sugar, and wait for the mixture to be heated through, around 1 minute. Add the barbecue sauce, garlic-chili sauce, and the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally for a minute or two. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat oil in your deep fryer. Dredge chicken wings in seasoned flour and put them in the deep fryer (in batches). Fry until golden brown and let drain on a cooling rack.

Transfer the wings to a large mixing bowl and add in the sauce. Make sure to coat each wing by giving the bowl a slight toss. Serve with blue cheese dressing.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you can't handle the heat, reduce the amount of chili-garlic sauce.
2. Substitute chili-garlic sauce with Sriracha or Sambal-Oelek.
3. If you don't have ready-made seasoned flour, click here for a recipe. Still too complicated? Just add your favorite (dry) spices in a cup or two of flour.
4. Keep your fried wings crispy (before adding the sauce) while you fry the remaining wings by putting it in a 150F oven.
5. Add an ounce of Bourbon with the brown sugar and honey for a twist.
6. Don't like the grease? Bake your wings instead. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Preheat your oven to 400F and bake for about 45 minutes, turning the wings over halfway for even cooking.
7. For easier coating, put the wings and sauce in a covered container and shake vigorously.

Labels: ,

Beef Pares / Mami Pares

"Pares" is literally "pairs" in Tagalog. This dish is called such, because when eating, it is paired with rice, or more commonly, noodles. It takes a long time to cook, as you have to ensure that the beef is perfectly soft and tender, but I promise you, it is worth the wait!

What you need:

2 to 3 lb boneless beef chuck roast
a splash of vegetable oil
3 bay leaves

2 star anise
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup beef broth

For the sauce:
3 tbsp (or more) light brown sugar
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup water
a splash of sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Add around 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan and brown the beef on all sides. Meanwhile, put the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves an
d anise in your crock pot or slow cooker. Put the browned beef on top of it. Mix the remaining ingredients together (except the sauce ingredients) and pour it on top of the beef. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 hours.

After such hours have elapsed, remove the spices by straining it, and putting the sauce in a separate bowl. Remove the grease by putting it in a fat separator. Boil the grease-free sauce. Adjust the taste to your liking usi
ng the sauce ingredients. When it comes again to a soft boil, turn off the heat and add a splash of sesame oil.

Transfer the beef in a serving platter and pour the sauce on top. Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks:

1. Add dried orange peel in the crockpot for a hint of citrus flavor.
2. Don't have a fat separator? See the Tips, Tricks and Tweaks section of this recipe to make an improvised version of a fat separator.
3. When adding the cornstarch-water mixture,
do so in a slow stream while stirring.
4. The leftovers are perfect for mami-pares! Just shred the meat or cut in small cubes. Use beef broth and egg noodles, then garnish with hard-boiled eggs, roasted garlic and chopped green onions.

5. You can also make it as a filling for siopao (steamed buns). The possibilities are endless!


Pancit Canton

Hubby loves noodles! We always stock our pantry with an assortment of it... oodles of noodles, so to speak.

Noodles are a staple in the Philippine kitchen, especially during festivities. The long strands symbolize "long life" and as such, a person celebrating his or her birthday would always have pancit (noodles) on their special day.

Pancit Canton is noodles made of egg or flour. You can cook it dry or a bit soupy. We prefer it somewhat in the middle.

What you need:

  • 25 - 30 pcs. of shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 kilo of pork tenderloin, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 of a big onion, sliced thinly
  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 small carrots, julienned
  • a handful of cauliflowers, blanched
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • dash of pepper
  • splash of sesame oil

What to do:

Heat a wok or skillet and pour in the oil. When hot, add in the garlic and onion. Stir for a few seconds, then add the pork and carrots. Continue stirring, then add shrimps and blanched cauliflowers. Cook until the shrimps turn orange. Pour in 2 cups of broth, and season with soy sauce and pepper.

Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the 1/4 cup broth. Stir well and add to the vegetables in the wok. Put in the oyster sauce as well. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles and mix well to distribute ingredients evenly. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Remove from heat and add a splash of sesame oil. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use different vegetables - cabbage, snow peas, celery, etc. Whatever is available in your fridge.
2. If using chicken instead of pork, be sure to boil and shred it.
3. For a soupier variety, add more broth.
4. To make more out of your shrimps, cut it in half lengthwise.
5. Remember NOT to thaw your shrimps by leaving it on the counter. Put it under cold running water, instead.
6. Allergic to shrimp? Substitute it with Chinese Chorizo or shredded scrambled eggs.
7. Before serving, squeeze lemon or lime on it to give it a little tang.


Plush Gang Funnies

Skip-Bo, anyone?


Camaron Rebosado (Breaded Shrimp)

Camaron Rebosado literally means "overflowing shrimp." How it became breaded shrimp, I can only guess. Lost in translation, perhaps? However you call it, this dish is something you won't get enough of. Instead of the traditional flour and cornstarch breading though, I used Panko to give it a twist.

Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs. It gives a c
rispy coating to fried foods, such as tonkatsu. American-made Panko are also available (such as those made by Progresso). The difference, I noticed, is that Japanese Panko is a bit finer than the coarse American ones.

I also included the sweet-sour dipping sauce in this recipe. Hubby loves it so much, that he puts the shrimps in it and ladles it like a soup.

What you need:

  • Around 25 - 30 pcs of shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • seasoned flour
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp. vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • Sesame oil

What to do:

Put flour in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, be
at together the egg, milk and dried parsley. Put Panko in another shallow bowl. Position the three bowls like an assembly line - flour, egg mixture and Panko. Dredge the shrimp in flour first, shake off the excess flour, then dip in the egg mixture, and finally coat with Panko.

Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet. When hot, add the coated shrimp in batches so as to not overcrowd them in the pan. Fry shrim
ps until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to drain the oil.

To make the dipping sauce, just combine all t
he sauce ingredients except the sesame oil in a sauce pan. Set over medium-high heat until it thickens and the cloudy appearance disappears. Remove from heat and add a few drops of sesame oil before serving.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Unless you are sure that the shrimp is freshly caught, use frozen shrimp.
2. The best way to thaw shrimps is to put them in a colander and let cold running water run through them. NEVER thaw using hot water (as it will partially cook the meat) and NEVER let them thaw on your cou
nter as temperature above 40 degrees F is not safe for raw food and might harbor bacteria.
3. When dredging shrimps, some flour and egg mix might create a build-up on your fingers. Don't be apt to wash it away so quick
ly as it may serve as "gloves" that would protect the tips of your digits when you put the shrimps in the oil (holding the tail, of course). You can use tongs too, but chances are, the metal tongs will scrape the coating off your shrimps.
4. Panko burns easily, so make sure your heat is not super high, but not super low either.
5. You can use fresh chopped parsley instead
of dried ones.
6. Place papers under your cooling rack to catch the dripping oil.


Buckwheat Noodles with Egg

If you have ever played the farming game "Harvest Moon" on the Wii, the title of this recipe might ring a bell for you.

Soba is native Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour. Of course, we didn't know that when we saw this authentic-looking noodle in our local Asian store. But, you learn something new everyday!

What you need:

  • 1.5 oz dry Soba noodles
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 3 stalks of green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • eggs, fried

What to do:

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and the noodles. Cook until soft, around 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat small pan and add sesame oil. When it starts to get hot, add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Saute for a few seconds, then add the soy sauce. Remove from heat, pour over noodles, add the green onions and stir to coat. Top with the fried egg. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you can take the heat, up the measurement of the red pepper flakes to 1/4 teaspoon instead of just a dash.
2. Do NOT undercook the egg. We don't want Salmonella, right? However, do not cook it till it dries up, either. The runny yolk will help cut the heat of the dish.
3. If using powdered ginger, use only half a teaspoon.
4. Wash the green onions (aka scallions) thoroughly. Did you know that they are one of the dirtiest foods?


Slow-Cooked Korean Beef Ribs

Every once in a while, I like to cook these kinds of dishes just to make sure my Crock Pot is still working. Not to mention, I love Korean beef!

What you need:

  • 2 pounds beef short ribs
  • 3 stalks chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsps. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsps. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted

What to do:

Cut ribs in single segments, then place in sl
ow cooker. Combine green onions, soy sauce, broth, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well and pour over ribs. Cover; cook on low 6 to 7 hours or until ribs are fork tender.

Remove ribs from cooking liquid and cool slightly. Let the liquid stand 5 minutes to allow fat to rise. Skim off fat. Stir sesame oil into the liquid and return to the slow cooker. Cover and cook again for around 15 minutes or until the mixture is hot.

Serve with rice and garnish with sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Make sure your cleaver or knife is sharp before cutting your meat. It is always better to slice meat that is partly frozen so you
get clean cuts and better grip of the meat.
2. If you don't have broth, substitute with water.
3. If you have tamari in your pantry, use it instead of soy sauce. (Tamari is made with more soybeans than ordinary soy sauce, resulting in a smoother, better flavor).
4. It is easier to skim fat using a fat separa
tor. But if you don't have one (like me), just put the liquid in a ziploc bag, seal tightly, and cut a tiny hole on one of the ends. As you pour it, the fat will rise and you'll get all your liquid - minus the grease.

Yes, this is the amount of fat I got from that seemingly innocuous slab of meat!

5. If you have more green onions, garnish the meal with it before serving.
6. Do not garnish a meal with something that you won't eat (i.e. decorative flowers, etc), nor with anything that won't enhanc
e the flavor of the food.
7. Not fond of rice? Serve this dish with pasta instead!

This is how I had mine!


Sesame Chicken Salad in Wonton Cups

This is chicken salad with a twist! Aside from making it look like they're in miniature purses, the baked wonton wrappers also gave added texture and crunch to it. The mango garnish also provided a tangy contrast to the savory salad.

Despite the elaborate (bah!) appearance, this appetizer (which turned out to be our dinner) is very easy to prepare. Son even helped in making the wonton "purses."

What you need:

  • 12 (3-inch) wonton wrappers
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 large boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut diagonally into 1/2 -inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsps honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (Cayenne)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Strips of fresh mango (for garnish)
  • Green onions, chopped (for garnish)

What to do:

Boil the chicken for around the 10 minutes. Keep time, as you will need to add the green beans approximately 7 minutes after the chicken. Afterwards, drain, let cool and finely chop the chicken.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray miniature muffin pan with cooking spray. Press 1 wonton wrapper into each m
uffin cup, and spray again lightly with cooking spray. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack before filling.

First picture is before it went in the oven. The bubbly and wet stuff on the muffin pan
is the cookingspray. Second picture is when they were cooling on the rack

Place sesame seeds in a pan and toast on low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts popping, take it out off the pan immediately.

Place the finely chopped chicken in a medium bowl. Add green beans and remaining ingredients, and mix lightly. Spoon lightly rounded tablespoonful chicken mixture into each wonton cup. Garnish with mango strips
and green onion.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Don't throw away the broth - it could be a delicious base for soup!
2. When adding honey, spritz your measuring spoon with cooking spray so it won't stick on the surface of the spoon.
3. Avoid using a cooling rack that you use for non-pastry items. It is better to have a rack that you use solely for pastries.
4. You can bake the sesame seeds instead of toasting it in a pan. Just put it in a shallow baking pan and stick it in the oven for 5 minutes.
5. Chopped fresh cilantro can also be used as a garnish!


Tubular Vermicelli Soup

We saw a package of "tubular vermicelli" at our local Asian Mart, and as with anything that looked authentic to us, we bought it without really thinking what it was. Upon doing a little bit of research, I was convinced that "tubular vermicelli" is just a fancy name for "fat sotanghon noodles." And I was right.

The difference is that tubular vermicelli is hollow in the middle (sort of like a very thin straw), and it grows five times larger than the regular vermicelli when soaked in liquid. It is also very slippery when cooked.

So since I surmised that this is just a fat cousin of our regular vermicelli, I went ahead and cooked it like I would a regular vermicelli!

What you need:

200 grams tubular vermicelli
Meat of 2 chicken breasts, boiled and flaked
7 to 8 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 a head of garlic, minced

1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
8 pieces Chinese mushrooms
chopped green onions
1 tbsp. fish sauce (patis)

What to do:

Soak the Chinese mushrooms in hot water for about 15 minutes. Remove excess water by squeezing it out gently. Discard the stems and slice the caps horizontally.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a pot. Saute garlic and onion (low heat) until aromatic. Add in the carrots and stir for a minute. Add chicken meat, mushroom and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add chicken stock afterwards and bring to a boil. Drop in the tubular vermicelli in the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes or until noodles are tender and cooked. Check every once in a while as you don't want the vermicelli to absorb all the broth.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with chopped green onions. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you don't like the smell or taste of fish sauce, substitute with salt.
2. Adding more liquid would cause the vermicelli noodles to swell and get bigger - so add sparingly. Only when it is almost dry.
3. Chinese mushrooms have a very distinct and strong taste. If you wish not to use it, feel free to substitute with regular mushrooms. Just don't soak it in water and put it in with the carrots.
4. In soaking the mushrooms, the water should be really hot and make sure that the 'shrooms are submerged, or there would be portions that would be hard.
5. Don't forget to keep the chicken stock when you boil the chicken breasts!
6. For easier eating with a spoon, break the noodles into shorter pieces before cooking it. If you want to keep it long, use chopsticks.


Banana-Chocolate Smoothie

I noticed that I haven't posted a drink recipe, so I am posting my favorite quick fix - Banana Chocolate Smoothie.

What you need:

1 banana
6 ice cubes
1/3 cup of milk
3 tbsp. of Nesquik
1 tbsp. of Karo syrup

What to do:

Cut banana into thin slices and drop in your blender. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Pulse around 4 times (5 seconds per pulse), making sure that the ice cubes are being crushed. When all ice cubes are crushed, blend for 10 seconds, or until all the ingredients are well distributed.

Pour in your favorite glass and enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Add or subtract from the number of ice cubes, depending on your preference.
2. You can use sweetened condensed milk, but skip the Karo syrup.
3. If Karo syrup is not available, substitute with honey or sugar.
4. Try Milo or Ovaltine instead of Nesquick for a deeper malt taste.


Test Your Culinary Acumen!

Try this quiz that I made for you! (Don't forget to click the "View Answer" link to see explanations for your answers!)


Only in Florida

I have seen a lot of these signs in Tennessee:

And a lot of these in Virginia:

But this, I have only seen here in Florida!


Product Review: Ben & Jerry's Creme Brulee

I am slowly making my way to trying all of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream flavors, but I think I stumbled on a gold mine here! My new favorite from Ben & Jerry's is Creme Brulee (Phish Food is a close second).

Creme Brulee is custard ice cream with a crunchy caramelized sugar swirl. So much caramelized sugar that you can taste the crunch in every bite. Not that anybody is complaining! Although it made me wonder how they managed to pack all those delicious caramelized sugar bits without making the ice cream overly sweet.

The only bane of this product is that it is not for people watching their diet. A 1/2 cup serving packs a whopping 310 calories and 17g fat! (Errr... how about doubling your time on the treadmill, then?)

This flavor is so good that I didn't bother putting toppings or any other accoutrements on it. I just have one question: Where did the blow torch go?

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