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?


Plush Gang Funnies

The cat likes to read before bedtime. (Note the red dragon creeping from the corner) ;-D


Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

Stir-Fry is a perennial favorite in our household. It's easy to make, you can use a variety of ingredients, and it is very healthy for you. With all its different colors and flavors, it is very appealing to the eyes and the tummy!

What you need:

2 pcs chicken thighs, boiled and pulled from th
e bones
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 carrots, julienned

1/3 Vidalia onion, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

around 10 pcs Baby Bella Mushrooms
1 can of baby corn
1 small can of water chestnuts
2 cups of Broccoli florets, blanched
1 tbsp of Olive oil (plus some more, if needed)

What to do:

Wash the veggies and cut accordingly.
Blanch the broccoli florets and put in an ice bath. Prepare the sauce by whisking the chicken stock, soy sauce, corn starch and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard the stems and cut the caps lengthwise. Pull the chicken from the bones and let cool.

Pre-heat a large wok over medium heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, crank it up to high heat. Throw in the garlic, onion, and ca
rrots. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add in the rest of the vegetables and cook for about 2 - 4 minutes more or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add more olive oil if needed.

Put in the chicken and the sauce (remember to whisk
the sauce again before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients!). Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Serve immediately!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. I can never reiterate enough the importance of cleaning your mushrooms thoroughly.
2. Don't be afraid to use a lot of mushrooms - it reduces a great deal when cooked. You wouldn't even notice that you had mushrooms there in the first place!
3. When blanching the broccoli, watch the color. If it turns a bright green, it is ready.
4. Soak broccoli in lemon/water mix for 5 - 10 minutes for thorough cleaning.
5. Placing the broccoli in an ice bath would stop the cooking process and help maintain the fresh appearance.
6. When you are planning to use chicken stock for a dish, boil the chicken with everything - bones, skin and all. They will add more flavor to the broth. Just discard the stuff you won't eat before pulling the meat.
7. If you salted your broth, use a low-sodium soy sauce for the broth-soy sauce-cornstarch mix.
8. Substitute water chestnuts with Jicama or bamboo shoots.
9. Stir Fry is always done fast and in high heat to seal in the juices.


45-Second Dessert

Inspired by Sandra Lee's "Semi-Home Made" cooking, son and I decided to make a dessert that would be easy enough for him to create, and would satisfy our sweet tooth in the shortest time possible.

After rummaging through the fridge, this is what we came up with - the 45-second dessert.

What you need:

Brownie Bites

Chocolate Whipped Dip
Fresh Raspberries

What to do:

Wash raspberries and set aside. Spoon some whipped dip into a ziploc bag, seal tight and cut a small piece at one of the end corners where the dip will come out. (Voila - instant piping bag!)

Squeeze ziploc bag and "frost" the top of the Brownie Bit
e whichever way you want. Top with raspberries.

Amazingly, easy and fast as it was to make, devouring it was even faster!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You can substitute the raspberry with any fruit such as blueberry or strawberry.
2. We used store-bought brownies, but you can bake your own and slice it round or square.

3. Buttercream topping would taste good, too!
4. Put on top of ice cream for a more decadent dessert.
5. Drizzle with chocolate or strawberry syrup for an extra kick.

Son made his using crushed chocolate/mint cookie toppings. It took a bit longer though, as he had to crush the cookies, but it tasted superb as well!


Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs

Ground pork is a "hit or miss" item in our local grocery store. Most of the time, all they have available is ground beef, so we either stock up when we see it on the shelves, or ask our butcher to grind some for us. I could have used ground beef in this recipe, but "we love the pig" as my father-in-law always says.

What you need:

500 grams ground pork
1 tbsp. rice wine
2 tbsps. corn starch

1/4 cup water
a handful of green beans, cut into smaller stalks
1 small carrot, julienned
1/4 of a large onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup frozen corn
2 tbsp. olive oil

regular oil for deep frying

For the sauce:
3 tbsps. sugar
3 tbsps. vinegar
3 tbsps. soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

dash of sesame oil
dash of Sriracha

What to do:

Mix all the sauce ingredients in a container with a lid. Stir, cover, and shake well. Set aside.

Dissolve the salt and cornstarch in water, add the rice wine. Mix well and add to the meat. This will be the binder that will hold the meatballs. Form into about 1-inch balls. Deep fry the meatballs until golden brown. Drain on a cooling rack and set aside.

In a separate skillet or wok, heat the olive oil. Stir fry the garlic and onion for around 30 seconds, then throw in the carrots, corn, and green beans. Cook for 1 minute (a little bit more and the carrots would be limp). P
ut in the meat balls and add the sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for around a minute or two.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You can use jicama or water chestnuts to add a little bit of crunch to the texture. Add it along with the carrots.
2. If you want a hotter sauce, add more Sriracha to the sauce and set aside longer.
3. Substitute Sriracha with Sambal Oelek, Chili Garlic paste or Tabasco. Whatever you have in your pantry!
4. You can use regular oil for the stir fry. However, olive oil is healthier!
5. Stir fry is always done on high heat to seal in the juices! Be careful of splatters, though.


Best Ribs Ever!

This is probably the best home-cooked ribs ever! My cousin gave me this recipe, and since I tasted it, I never saw ribs the same way again. They are so tender that the bones literally fall off the meat. Tender enough that you can even eat the bone! (The soft bones, that is!)

What you need:

Pork ribs (however much you want)
Beef broth (enough to cover the ribs in a pot)
Salt and pepper
Your favorite ba
rbecue sauce

What to do:

Cut your ribs into sections of 2 bones. If this is too arduous a task for you, you can buy pre-cut ribs (which will cost more) or have your butcher cut it for you. (This is why you need to have a good relationship with your local butcher - quality service and good meat!).

Season each rib section lightly with salt and pepper. If you are going to use water instead of beef broth, put more seasoning.

Transfer to a pot and cover with beef broth. If you don't have enough broth, add water. Bring to a boil. When it reaches boiling point, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Check the ribs periodically as you may need to add more water or stir them around. Afterwards, remove from heat and let them cool off for about 30 minutes then transfer to a baking tray lined with foil. If they are still hot, let them cool a little longer on the baking sheet, and then put them in the fridge to firm up overnight. (Hey, I said it was delicious! I didn't say it was fast!)

Before putting them on the grill, slather them with your favorite barbecue sauce. Be sure to cover all nooks and crannies!

Cooking is fast - if the grill is hot, just let the ribs stay for around 5 minutes on each side. If the heat is medium to low, 10 minutes per side. Remember, the meat is already cooked as it boiled for 3 hours. Just put them on the grill long enough for the ribs to have those grill marks or charring on the surface.

Perfect with baked beans and grilled veggies!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you are cutting the meat, make sure your cutting board is big enough to hold the meat. Same is true with the pot. Also, your cleaver (or knife) should be sharp!
2. St. Louis style cut is best, but in this recipe, we used spare ribs so we had to trim the tips for an even cooking time.
3. This recipe works with any rib, but pork is tastier!
4. It is better to prep this recipe the night before so the meat would have time to firm up in the fridge. Firm meat = easier handling!
5. Avoid flipping the meat too much, as the surface would stick on the grill and you would lose the delicious exterior!
6. Don't throw away the broth - it is very tasty and is a great base for soup!


Product Review: Simply Cookies

There is probably no other product most befitting of the name "Simply." This cookie is a no fuss, no frill, pure fun treat! No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. "Simply" brought me back to the time when my grandma us
ed to bake cookies from scratch using only the freshest and finest ingredients - only, my grandma's kitchen didn't smell as good as mine did when I baked these cookies.

Preparation is a whiz too - just break, put on baking sheet, stick in the oven and it is ready in minutes! I was suspecting that eating would take longer cause I would want to savor all the morsels of goodness. Yum!

Simply cookies are available in two flavors - peanut butter and chocolate chip. I tried the chocolate chip and loved it. I only wish there were bigger chunks of those chocolates.

Perfect with milk. Pun aside, it is "Simply" delicious.

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