"Clean Out the Fridge" Omelet

The name of the recipe might sound weird, but hubby managed to whip up a delicious concoction while "cleaning out the fridge." By using whatever available produce in the chill chest, he not only created something very healthy, but saved me money and time I should have spent sorting out our fridge.

What you need:

2 eggs
a sprig of parsley
1 slice of cooked ham, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
half a vine-ripened tomato
dash of salt and pepper
dollop of sour cream
pat of butter, or non-stick cooking spray

What to do:

Put out the eggs, set aside. Wash and chop the ingredients. After doing so, crack the eggs in a bowl and beat. Add some salt and pepper, and continue beating until thoroughly mixed.

Lube up your skillet by using non-stick cooking spray, or a pat of butter. Put over medium heat and pour eggs in the skillet. Add in the garlic. Wait until the eggs firm up. Using a spatula, lift around the edges to test firmness. As it begins to firm, throw in the rest of the ingredients, spreading it out evenly.

When the omelet reaches right firmness and it is cooked through, do a three-corner fold. Let stay for around 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Take out of the heat and slide in a serving plate. Garnish with desired toppings (in this case, tomato and sour cream).

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Bringing eggs to room temperature creates emulsion. You can do this by letting it sit out a few minutes prior to cooking, or by submerging it in lukewarm water.
2. Use mild-flavored ham, such as boiled ham from the deli. Strong-flavored ham will overpower the taste of the egg.
3. You can use other cheese such as mozzarella or feta. Other ingredients such as mushrooms, bacon, or chorizo would be good as well.
4. For fluffier eggs, you can add a bit of milk. But lower your cooking temperature.
5. Tomatoes can sometimes be runny, so we used it as a garnish. Salsa or guacamole could also be superb with it.


Plush Gang Funnies: Having breakfast

Can I have some milk on my Cheerios, please? :-D


Chicken and Mushrooms Fried Rice

In making fried rice, typically, there are the basics - rice, garlic, oil. But in our home, it is always a smorgasbord of whatever is in our kitchen and pantry.

This dish is called Chicken and Mushrooms Fried Rice. We had left-ove
r rotisserie chicken and some Portobello mushrooms, and I thought it would go well with the day-old rice sitting in the fridge.

It might look like an overload of mushrooms, but believe me, those mushrooms would be reduced to near nothing faster than the Chairman could say "Allez Cuisine!"

What you need:

2 cups of cooked rice
1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken
2 cups of Portobello mushrooms, caps sliced and stems discarded
1 bunch green onions, cut horizontally
1 large carrot, diced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 eggs, scrambled
1 tbsp. soy sauce

dash of Five-Spice powder
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil, for frying

What to do:

Heat around 2 - 3 tbsps of olive oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the garlic, saute until aromatic. Add the mushrooms and the carrots. Let the mushrooms reduce to half their size, then put in the chicken. Stir for 1 minute.

Put in the rice. Add more olive oil (we used sesame oil) if it looks dry and starts sticking at the bottom of your frying pan. Throw in the scrambled eggs and green onions. Spice it up by adding the soy sauce, a dash or two of Five-Spice powder, and some salt and pepper. Continue stirring until the rice is heated through. Serve hot!

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks:

1. You can opt to omit the Five-Spice powder if you don't like the distinct Chinese taste and aroma it gives.
2. If you don't have chicken, any cooked meat will do - hotdog, ham, shrimp, pork chops... just cut it into small pieces.
3. Make sure to clean the mushrooms THOROUGHLY. Wash them and dry with paper towels. Individually.
4. For texture, you can use other veggies like snap peas, water chestnuts, green peas, etc.
5. Cook the rice ahead of time and refrigerate. When cooking, it is best when cold and separated (through mashing), as you don't want lumpy fried rice.
6. Make sure your pan or wok is big enough to hold all the ingredients!


Back to Basics: Pork Chops

One of my favorite dishes is Pork Chops. It brings back memories of my childhood, as my aunt cooked it regularly. The smell of the frying chops is always a welcome aroma, the tangy scent a happy portent of a soon-to-be delicious meal. My brother and I would rush to the table, hoping to get our favorite parts, and simple as it may seem, when we eat pork chops, we feel like we are having the best meal ever!

I have tried different recipes of pork chops, some with fancy ingredients and marinades, but this simple recipe would always be one of my favorites.

What you need:

cane vinegar
garlic, crushed (depends on how much you want)

kosher salt (or rock salt)
pork chops
vegetable oil (for frying)

What to do:

Put the pork chop in a deep container. Cover it with vinegar (cane vinegar works the best) and sprinkle a bit of salt. Put in the crushed garlic and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Place the pork chops in the oil and fry for about two minutes, (careful, it splatters!) depending on the doneness that you prefer. Discard the marinade, but add the garlic in the frying pan for added flavor. Flip the pork chop to cook the other side. Remove the garlic before it chars. When the meat is done, remove from oil and drain on cooling rack. Eat with hot rice!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You can use apple cider vinegar, but it would make the meat look a little bit darker, and will give a tangier taste, with a little hint of sweetness
2. If you don't like garlic, you can discard it along with the marinade.
3. You can use paper towel in draining, but sometimes the pork chops stick on the paper so I use a cooling rack.
4. Always have a cooling rack that you use only for meat. Avoid using said cooling rack for pastries or other stuff.


Product Review: Land O' Lakes Triple Chocolate

The first time I saw this product, the words that caught my eyes were "Brimming With Chocolatey Flakes." That is enough to make a chocoholic like me drool. The picture is so enticing, too - the cup of hot chocolate looks like it is glowing and magical. I couldn't wait to try it.

For my optimum drinking pleasure, I used milk instead of hot water. Oh, it was a delight! So creamy! AND - there really were chocolatey flakes. Yes, they delivered on that. It was so thick, rich and delicious. I had to stir constantly as it thickened so fast. It was just pure hot chocolately goodness.

Only problem - I put a lot of it in my milk and it became almost too sweet. I suggest not to follow the instructions at the back and tweak it according to your personal "sweetness threshold." By doing so, you could also get more from the package instead of just the "10 glorious servings" indicated on the front. Trust me, you would want this to last a looooong time.


Super Fiery Limey Salsa

Hubby is a big fan of Mexican food, so we have to have nachos at least once a week. It is not your regular nachos, though - it is meatless, and the salsa is fiery! It can literally bring tears to your eyes! Over the months, hubby has developed a tolerance for spicy food and so he enjoys this tongue-scorching dish.

What you need:

3 medium-sized tomatoes
1 lime
1/4 of a large red onion
3-4 stalks of green onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 habanero pepper

1 fingerhot pepper
a dash of garlic powder
a dash of red peppe
r flakes
a dash of salt
a splash of vinegar
1 avocado

What to do:

Gather all the ingredients and wash thoroughly. Cut the red and green onions, and the peppers in smaller pieces. P
ut them in the food processor to grind. Add in a dash of garlic powder, pepper flakes, salt, and a splash of vinegar. Squeeze the lime (careful not to put the seeds in).

Next, cut the tomatoes and add it to the fo
od processor. Press pulse a couple of times, just enough for the tomatoes to mix in with the rest of the ingredients, and voila! A salsa so fiery you'll need to eat it with a glass of milk by your side!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. We used garlic powder instead of garlic cloves because raw garlic has a very strong taste.
2. If you want a thinner salsa, use juicier tomatoes like beef steak or vine-ripened tomatoes.
3. For a stronger lime flavor cut some of the pulp after squeezing in the juice and add to the mix.
4. Remember to use precautionary measures when cutting the peppers!!! If you don't wear gloves, make sure not to scratch your eyes.
5. The oils in avocado and cheese will help reduce the potency of the peppers. That's why he piles it on top!

6. After cutting the avocado in half, you can then cut criss-cross while still in the shell. Be careful not to press hard, though, or you may cut your hand.
7. Adjust the heat to your liking by adding more or less peppers of any variety. Other favorites include Serrano and Scotch Bonnet peppers.
8. All ingredients can be substituted, measurements re-calibrated and tweaked according to your personal taste.

His and Hers. :-)


Plush Gang Funnies

So this is what they do when we're not around...



We had friends come over, and I thought I'd cook something Asian for them. I decided on making Shu-mai (or siomai) since it is Oriental, and it is something that most Americans would recognize (of course, they call it dumplings here). I will "shu-mai" friends the Asian way of doing it. Ha ha ha. (A dry attempt at comedy).

Although the recipe might look complicated, it is very easy. Our friends even helped us do it. The only requirement - you should not be afraid of getting your hands dirty!

What you need:

1 lb. ground pork
1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. rice wine
1/2 tsp. oregano, chopped finely
1/2 tsp. cilantro, chopped finely
a few pieces of Chinese mushroom, soaked in hot water and chopped into small pieces
green peas (for garnish)
wonton skins

What to do:

Put all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Use
your (clean) hands to mix them together really well. (Squish warning!) Spoon 1 tbsp. or so of filling in the middle of the wonton skin and gather the skin around the filling.

Put one piece of green pea on top as garnish (awww, isn't that pretty!). Repeat until you have used up all the fillings or wonton skins.

Place the shu-mai pieces in a steame
r and steam over high heat for 45 minutes. Serve with your favorite dip!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Instead of green peas, you can garnish it with a slice of hard boiled egg or a shrimp.
2. Make sure your mushrooms are soaked well and tender. Remove the stems if necessary.
3. You can omit the oyster sauce if you don't like its taste. Just replace it with an egg that will act as a binder for the ingredients.
4. You can line your steamer with parchment paper so the shu-mai won't stick on the surface of the steamer. Perforate it, though, so the steam could seep through. Don't use wax paper - it gives an unpleasant taste!


Birthday Palabok

For my birthday, I decided to make Palabok. It was the second time I made it, the first first one was a few months ago and it was a labor of love. I couldn't find the right ingredients, and as such, I had to do with substitutes. I had to use rice stick noodles because I couldn't find thick noodles, fish flakes instead of real smoked herring, and lime due to the unavailability of calamansi here.

It was a success, though. Hubby loved it, and I had my fill of (Jollibee) palabok craving, at least for the time being.

What you need:

1 pack of rice stick noodles
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 lb. ground pork (browned)
1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined
1 pack Palabok mix
1 pack pork rinds (chicharon), crushed
hard boiled eggs
half a pack of fish flakes (remove the small fish bones)
fish sauce
toasted garlic, crushed
green onions, chopped

What to do:

Boil the noodles and set aside. In a separate pan, roast the pork rinds for a few minutes and set aside, then the fish flakes. Set aside as well. Put the browned ground pork and shrimps in a wok, cook for 1 minute (or until the shrimp changes color), then add the palabok mix (prepared as per packaging instruction). Stir constantly, until it thickens and becomes smooth.

Top your noodles with the sauce, garnish with fish flakes, toasted garlic, hard boiled eggs, pork rinds, and green onions. Yummy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Cut the shrimps lengthwise (down the spine) to get more.
2. You can add some of the cooked fish flakes and pork rinds to the palabok mix for more flavor.
3. You can also use squid and mussels for a seafood palabok.


Garlic Pork Adobo

The adobo is considered the national dish of the Philippines. Simply put, "adobo" means stewing in vinegar. There are lots of variations around and they are all delicious. Hubby likes it, and if he goes a long time without it, he acts like he's suffering from a relapse.

This is my version of adobo. Note that I used a ton of garlic - just as we like it. The way I cooked it was very laborious since I used only one wok.

What you need:

1 lb. of pork tenderloin, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 head of garlic, peeled and crushed

1/3 cup vinegar
3 tbsp. soy sauce (or more, if desired)
2 bay leaves

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
peppercorns (how much or how little you want)

What to do:

Put the pork tenderloin, vinegar, soy sauce, peppercorns, half a head of garlic, and bay leaves in a pot or wok. Bring to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of water if it looks dry. Cover the pot and simmer until almost all the liquid is gone. Afterwards, transfer everything to a bowl. Bring the wok back to the heat and add the vegetable oil. Saute the remainin
g one whole head of garlic. Add the meat and fry for 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the adobo sauce and simmer for 2 minutes.

Best served with steaming, hot rice.

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks:

1. You can use chicken instead of pork. Just make sure to simmer the meat until it is soft.
2. You can also omit the frying part. If you want a saucy adobo, you can dish it up after simmering.
3. I used cane vinegar for the recipe. If you are going to use distilled vinegar, use 1/4 cup instead.


Home Cooking and America's Romance with Restaurants

America seems to have this love affair with eating out. Be it greasy diners, or posh restaurants, there seems to be an endless, insatiable craving for fast-prepared food. Not that I blame them. I also have my share of eating out and I enjoy the food tremendously. But that makes me wonder… what ever happened to good ole’ home cooking?

I am a home cook. Luckily for me, my husband loves what I make. The bolder I get in experimenting in the kitchen, the more he likes it (OK – I admit – he didn’t like the dish with tripe. But to his credit – he ate it!). And luckily for him, I am fond of tinkering in the kitchen, making crazy concoctions and trying out dishes.

We are regular customers of the Oriental Stores in town. We sometimes buy ingredients that we can't even pronounce. If we think it’s authentic or interesting, we stock it in our pantry and hope that someday we will be able to use it in a dish.

I am quite pleased at the outcome of The Next Food Network Star, as the winner (Melissa) is a home cook and have had no culinary training. Much as I like the other candidates, I am happy for her, and I kinda’ see myself in her. Cooking for survival.

Of course, the clean-up is always frustrating, but nothing makes me feel better than hubby enjoying the meal I cooked for him (and of course the occasional “his turn to clean up” nights).

So the next time you plan on dining at your favorite restaurant, think twice. You might just enjoy whipping up your own meal. Now if only I can learn how to make sushi…

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