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!

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