Grouper with Mushrooms

This might be the last seafood entry for a long time, as we are wary to buy fish due to the Louisiana oil slick. Thankfully, we bought this fish a few days before the accident happened.

The original recipe from Food Network Magazine used striped bass, but I used grouper, and tweaked the spices to suit our taste. If my research is correct, Grouper is "Lapu-Lapu" in Tagalog. I couldn't really tell, as it was already filleted and skinned when we bought it.

What you need:
  • 2 medium-sized Grouper fillets, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 oz white mushroom, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup rice wine
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 stalks green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish

What to do:

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the green onions, red onions and thyme and cook until the red onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in another large skillet over medium-sized heat. Add the fish and cook for around 3 to 4 minutes then transfer to a plate. Add the wine and the mirin to the skillet and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Boil over high heat until syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer to thicken slightly for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the cream sauce over the mushrooms in the skillet, then add the fish. Simmer until the fish is just firm and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Tips, tricks and tweaks:

1. Try other firm-fleshed fish for a different flavor profile.
2. Use non-stick pan or skillet (I learned that the hard way!)
3. If you don't have rice wine, use dry white wine.
4. Wash mushrooms by wetting them under running water and wiping them dry with paper towels.
5. If using fresh thyme, use about 2 sprigs.


Sesame Pork with Broccoli

Did you know that broccoli is considered a super food? Oxford dictionary defines "super food" as "a natural food regarded as especially beneficial because of its nutrient profile or its health-protecting qualities." It's no surprise that broccoli made it to the list, as it is chock-full of cancer-fighting nutrients such as Beta-Carotene, Vitamin C, nitrogen compounds and sulforaphane.

This recipe is delicious, easy to make and very good for you.

What you need:

1 whole head of medium-sized broccoli, cut into florets
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into bite-size pieces
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 stalks green onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
2 tablespoons sesame seed, lightly toasted

What to do:

Combine chicken broth, cornstarch and soy sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Stir in the green onions; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, then toss in the pork. Stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Remove pork from the wok and keep warm. Stir the broth mixture and add to the wok along with the broccoli and red bell peppers. Cover and simmer over low heat for around 8 to 10 minutes. Add cooked pork to the wok and just until mixture is hot, stirring frequently. Serve on a dish (or over rice) and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Substitute red bell pepper with sliced and drained pimiento.
2. Try beef instead of pork!
3. Instead of toasting the sesame seeds in the oven, I just put it in a non-stick egg pan (no oil!) and cook over low heat for about 2 - 3 minutes.
4. Sesame seeds have high oil content so they easily turn rancid. Take them out of your pantry and store them in your fridge where they will keep up to 6 months.


Cashew Nut Butter

We have been wanting to make this recipe ever since we saw it in an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats. The problem is - cashew nuts are so expensive! So when Emerald's Nuts went on sale at our local grocery store, I grabbed 4 containers and happily got busy in my kitchen!

This recipe is a great alternative for people with peanut allergy. It is so good that once you taste it, you will think twice about buying regular peanut butter!

What you need:
  • 2 cups roasted cashew nuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil

What to do:

Put the honey in a small microwave-safe bowl, and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds. Remove from the microwave and add the peanut oil to it. Set aside.

Meanwhile, put the nuts in a food processor, cover it, and pulse for around 5 seconds. Then, while the processor is running, slowly drizzle in the honey and oil mixture. Process until the mixture is smooth, which will take about a minute (depending on your food processor). If the mixture seems to thick, add a little bit more oil.

Transfer to an airtight container. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. I used salted cashews so I didn't add salt to it. If you are using unsalted cashew nuts, add half a teaspoon of salt when you put the nuts in the food processor.
2. Lessen the honey if it is too sweet for you. Try different types of honey for a slightly different taste. We used wildflower honey.
3. Make a little fondue (like the picture above). Serve with carrots, bananas, chocolate crackers, etc. But really, the thing that goes best with it is a spoon!
4. Alton Brown used walnut oil instead of regular peanut oil in his recipe.



Tonkatsu is pork cutlet in Japanese. Fancy name, but it is just breaded pork chops. The difference lies in the marinade. I was a bit hesitant to make this at first, thinking that son wouldn't eat it because of the soy sauce marinade, but decided to do it anyway. Much to my delight, he loved it. Hubby loved it too, saying that the pork chops weren't dry, and they're very tasty.

What you need:
  • 6 pieces thinly-sliced pork chops
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup (or more) Panko breadcrumbs
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • vegetable oil for frying

What to do:

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil. Mix well. Add the pork chops and let them marinate overnight, or at least an hour.

Prepare three bowls. Beat the egg in one bowl, then add milk and garlic powder. Set aside. In the other bowls put flour in one and Panko breadcrumbs in the other, making an assembly line of sorts.

Heat around 2 to 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Take a piece of marinated pork chop and dredge it in flour, then in the egg mix, then the Panko breadcrumbs. Put it in the hot pan. Do the same with the remaining pork chops. Cook for about 1-2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your pork chops. Keep an eye on your meat as the breadcrumbs burn pretty easily.

Drain on a cooling rack and serve hot!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Make sure that the oil is hot before you put in the meat, otherwise the Panko breadcrums will absorb a lot of oil.
2. You can also use thick-sliced pork chops, but I find that thin-sliced ones are better since they absorb the marinade more.
3. Add more red pepper flakes if you want some heat in your chops.
4. Hoisin sauce makes for a good dip!

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Stuffed Pepper

I love using peppers when cooking, but I have never used yellow nor orange peppers (save for the orange-colored habanero). So out of curiosity, I bought a yellow bell pepper (along with my yuletide-colored ones - green and red) for a relleno recipe.

The smaller the pepper, the spicier it is, so I didn't have any problem gobbling up the bell peppers. The yellow pepper was good, I don't think it tastes sweeter than the other varieties, but there is a fruity undertone. Red would still be my favorite, though.

What you need:
  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sweet peas
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

What to do:

Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees.

In a pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef. When done, drain the oil and set aside.

Wipe the grease from your pan or skillet and melt the butter in it. Saute the garlic, onions and tomatoes for a minute, then add the ground beef. Put in the chopped onions and sweet peas, and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool.

After it has cooled, add in the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and mix well to distribute evenly.

Meanwhile, wash the bell peppers, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Spoon in the ground beef mix inside the bell pepper halves, making sure to press down a bit to fill in all the cracks and crevices. Continue doing so until you have used all of your ground beef (or bell pepper halves). Sprinkle with a little bit more Parmesan Cheese.

Put your filled pepper halves on a non-stick dish and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until it has reached your desired doneness.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Try using a melon baller to scoop out the seeds of the pepper halves.
2. Not a big fan of Parmesan Cheese? Use mozzarella for a lighter flavor and stickier texture. You can also try grated Cheddar for a stronger cheese taste.
3. Slice your stick butter in its container by tablespoon before putting it in the fridge so you can get just the amount you need without melting the entire block.
4. You can use yellow, red, green, or orange bell peppers. Or any color bell pepper you can think of! ;-)
5. For bigger stuffed peppers, instead of cutting the pepper in half, just slice the cap part and remove the seeds.


Product Review: Nonni's Soft-Baked Tusconi

Being a fan of Nonni's Biscotti, I was delighted to see this new product on the market stands - Nonni's Soft Baked Tusconi. Of course, I grabbed the Double Cioccolato (Double Chocolate) variety instead of the Classico (for some reason I always tend to gravitate towards the worst or unhealthiest kind).

I was eager to eat breakfast and try my new find the next morning. Well... I wasn't very thrilled with it. Let's just say it was not "love at first bite". Here are my thoughts:

What I liked:
  • It was individually wrapped.
  • Low calorie. Sort of. 160 a pop.
  • Ribbons of dark chocolate on it. Yummy.
  • The flavor was good. It wasn't fantastic or stellar, just OK.
What I didn't like:
  • The fact that it was soft - almost like a brownie.
  • High fructose corn syrup content. Whatever happened to good, old fashioned sugar? Sure, it has honey on the list of ingredients, but it was listed towards the end after Maltitol Syrup (whatever that is. Quick reminder, the ingredients on the package labels are listed from the highest to lowest content).
  • The almonds were thin slivers. If I had braces, I would have a hard time with it.
  • I couldn't dip it on my coffee like I sometimes do with my biscotti. :-(
The verdict:

Nonni's Tusconi is good with coffee, if you are looking for a chewy brownie-type breakfast. However, I would say that Nonni's Biscotti is still the better product. I like the crunch and texture that the harder biscotti offers. I might consider the tusconi for dessert, though it isn't that sweet. Would I recommend it? Not really. Would I eat it again? Not when my good old biscotti is around.


Tilapia Teriyaki

I used to not like tilapia, but since I am desperate for fish (my fish consumption has decreased by 80% in the past 2 years), I have learned to accept and love this readily-available and easy to find fleshy white fish.

This recipe is simple, fast and delicious. And suited for people who likes onions (really? I couldn't even tell.) I felt like Claire Robinson doing her 5-Ingredient Fix show as I was preparing this dish as it only has a few ingredients!

What you need:

2 medium-sized tilapia fillets
1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced finely
2 to 4 tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
A dash of Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

What to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onion for about 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, season the tilapia fillets with Old Bay. Place them in a non-stick baking dish and pour the teriyaki sauce on top of them. Add the sauteed garlic and onion in the baking dish as well. Stick it in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it reaches your desired doneness.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Old Bay Seasoning has a very strong taste so go light on it.
2. Don't like Old Bay? Use salt and pepper instead.
3. Use some non-stick spray on your baking dish if it is not non-stick.
4. Increase or decrease the amount of teriyaki sauce to suit your taste.


Pearl Balls

They are supposed to be pearly white, but my camera didn't
capture the "shimmering effect" on this shot!

Pearl Balls are called such because this appetizer "hides" the meat and turns pearly white when cooked because it is coated with rice. I would say it is a kind of dumpling. Hubby and son dumped it in their mouths and asked for more. :-)

It is very easy to make, and delicious too!

What you need:

1.25 pounds ground pork

1 carrot, diced finely
6 stalks green onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup uncooked glutinous rice
1 teaspoon salt
dash of ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine

6 pieces dried mushrooms
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

What to do:

Soak the glutinous rice in water for about 30 minutes to an hour. Afterwards, drain them and place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for around 10 to 15 minutes. After rehydrating the shrooms, cut the stems and discard them.
Slice the caps into smaller pieces.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients (including the mushrooms) except the rice. Mix well to distribute the spices evenly. Use your hands if you need to. Take about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the ground pork mixture and form into a ball. Then roll it lightly on the rice. Do the same with the rest of the ground pork mixture.

Put the pearl balls on a bamboo steamer and steam for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with soy sauce and sesame oil or sweet and sour sauce.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use sushi rice or premium short-grained rice if you can't find glutinous rice on your local Asian store.
2. If you find the taste of dried mushrooms too strong for you, use fresh shiitake mushrooms.

3. I usually line my bamboo steamer with parchment paper but I cut slits on it so the steam could go through (especially when using double-stack steamer).
4. Add ground shrimp for more flavor.
5. They aren't as good as left-overs because the rice gets a bit hard and would sometimes fall off the meat.
6. Try adding water chestnuts for some crunch.
7. Hubby finds it better to make smaller
balls that you can just pop in your mouth in one bite.

Ta-da!!! The shimmering effect!


Chicken Pastel

I have been wanting to make this dish for the longest time, but I always thought that it is so laborious and hard to make. Turns out, it is only half true (haha). My friend Nadine inspired me to finally make this dish, as she made me hungry describing this same dish that she recently made.

It is very similar to Chicken Pot Pie. I guess they just call it different names in different places. This recipe is also semi-home made as I used store-bought pastry dough. I didn't have time to make my own pastry dough wanted the rich taste of ready-made dough so I used it.

What you need:

  • 1 pound chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 pieces hotdogs, sliced vertically
  • 1 to 2 pieces Chinese chorizo, sliced vertically
  • 4 pieces red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms, caps only (sliced in small pieces)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 cup sweet peas
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of half a lemon

What to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine the juice of the lemon and soy
sauce. Add the chicken pieces and let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

In a wok or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter or
margarine over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and put them in the wok to brown (about 3 minutes). Set aside.

Wipe out the wok and re-heat. Add the other tablespoon of margarine. Saute the onions, bell pepper and mushrooms for about a minute or two. Add the broth and milk and let boil. Toss in the potatoes, carrots, sweet peas, sausages, hotdogs, and grated cheese. Simmer for around 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust taste by adding salt. Transfer to a baking dish and let cool for a bit.

Once it has cooled down, top it with the quartered hard boiled eggs. Cover it with the pastry dough, and if possible, pull the doug
h to the sides of the baking dish to ensure coverage of all the parts. Use a fork to press the edges to the dish, and punch holes on the top to allow steam to vent.

Put in the preheated oven and bake for 30 m
inutes. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Since we are dealing with chicken, I must stress the importance of cleanliness. Always wash your hands after handling poultry. Use a separate cutting board for poultry and for the other meat ingredients, if possible.
2. Roll the lemon around on the table or counter before cutting it to extract more juice out of it.
3. Lemons with a thicker peel have less pulp and juice. So always go for those with thin peels.
4. Instead of quartered eggs, use hard boiled quail eggs. Their nutritional value is 3 to 4 times higher than that of chicken eggs.
5. If you want the dish to be juicier, use 2 cups of chicken broth.
6. Avoid marinating the chicken in the soy sauce-lemon mixture for longer than 30 minutes, as the chicken will become too tangy.
7. Try to make the ingredients about the same size as possible for even cooking.


Egg Foo Young

I tried making Scottish Eggs for an Easter entry, but it failed miserably so I decided to try an easier egg dish - Egg Foo Young or Chinese Omelet. There are probably a thousand and one ways to make it, but I tried this recipe as it seems "Westernized" (from the Food Network Magazine, nonetheless) and the mushrooms reminded me of Jollibee's Burger Steak. As usual, it is tweaked to suit our preference.

It was chunky, delicious, and it took a lot of my willpower to stop eating it. Definitely a must-try. Egg Foo Yeah!!! ;-)

What you need:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 6 ounces white mushroom, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons soy sauce, or according to taste
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 pieces hotdogs, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

What to do:

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and saute until golden, around 3 minutes. Add the broth and 2 teaspoons soy sauce.

Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water; stir into the skillet and boil until thickened about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside. This is your mushroom gravy.

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the onions and garlic. Put in 1 teaspoon sugar and saute for around a minute. Then add in the diced bacon and sliced hotdogs and cook for around 2 minutes, or until the meat are done. Add the peas, half of the scallions and around 2 teaspoons soy sauce and cook for another minute. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the beaten eggs.

In a non-stick pan, add about a teaspoon of oil (or spray with non-stick oil) and add one fourth of the egg mixture. Cook on one side for about a minute, then flip or fold then turn to the other side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat to make 3 more omelets. Add the sesame oil to the mushroom gravy and pour over the omelets. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you decide to fry the bacon before making the recipe, save the grease and use it to saute the onions and garlic. You can also use it instead of spray oil. Makes for a yummier omelet.
2. Garnish the dish with scallions or green onions.
3. Experiment with other veggies like carrots or sweet corn.
4. The original recipe from the magazine calls for Canadian Bacon. I just used regular bacon.


Plush Gang Funnies - Easter

Hoppy Easter, everyone! From Cat (masquerading as the Easter Bunny) and Monkey!

And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. - Romans 1: 4-5

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