Udon with Meatballs

I miss the New Year celebration in the Philippines. As early as 9pm, you'd be scared to walk down the streets due to the firecrackers being thrown left and right. The smoke would also be enough to gag you and make you stay in the comforts of your own home. Loud music can be heard from houses, and neighbors would be trading home-cooked meals with each other. It was chaotic and crazy, but it was fun.

Growing up, I remember a couple of things that we never go without for Media Noche (midnight meal). They have some sort of novelty meanings so my mother always made sure that we have them on the table at the strike of midnight. They are: 12 fruits symbolizing the 12 months of the year, sweets so that the coming year would be "sweet", and noodles with egg (or anything round)  symbolizing long life and good health.

I made this dish a week ago, but hubby loved it so much so I am planning to make it again for our New Year meal. Noodles for long life and meatballs for good health. ;-)

What you need:

For the soup:
  • 2 bundles Udon noodles
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • dash of sesame oil
For the meatballs:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 carrot, coarsely minced
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

What to do:

Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients and mix well with your hands to distribute evenly. Get about a tablespoonful of the mix and shape it into a ball. Continue doing so until you have used up all of the meat/mix.

Cook the udon noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. Heat a pot over medium-high and add a dash of sesame oil. Saute the garlic and onion for about a minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Gently drop the meatballs in the stock (careful - you don't want it to splatter on you!) and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat.

Add the cooked udon noodles and adjust taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Substitite water with bouillon for chicken broth. You can also try beef broth!
2. Don't beat the egg - I noticed that regular egg does better in binding the ingredients than beaten eggs.
3. Use other type of noodles like vermicelli or soba.
4. Garnish with toasted garlic or chopped parsley.

Happy New Year!

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Beef, Broccoli and Baby Corn

I've always had beef and broccoli growing up, but sometimes, we add other veggies to liven up the plate. Today, I added carrots and baby corn to the (supposedly) beef and broccoli dish that I was gonna make. I must admit, though - veggies are great for adding texture and nutrition to this recipe, but the real knock out was the sauce. It was so delicious that after our meal, I couldn't wait to have the leftovers!

What you need:
  • 1 lb beef (top blade)
  • 1 head of broccoli (florets only), steamed
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup  of beef broth
  • 5 cloves of garlic, coarsely minced
  • 1 whole yellow onion, sliced (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cooking sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch

What to do:

Heat about 5 cups of water in a pot. Add salt, half the yellow onion, and the beef. When it boils briskly, lower the heat and let cook for about an hour, or until the meat is fork-tender. Save the broth. Slice the beef into desired size.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of beef broth to a small bowl. Add cornstarch and mix well. Set aside.

Place a wok over medium-high heat and add the sesame oil. Saute the garlic and the other half of the yellow onion. When the onions are translucent, add the beef. Cook for about a minute, then add the broth, carrots, pepper, sugar, oyster sauce, sherry, and cornstarch mix. Let cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the steamed broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir well to distribute the sauce evenly. Serve over hot rice.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You can use frozen (steam in the bag) broccoli for less mess.
2. I sliced the baby corn in half. 
3. Use other veggies like snow peas or water chestnut.
4. If it is too thick for you, add more beef broth.


Godiva Flourless Chocolate Cake

This decadent cake was what we feasted on a few days ago. It arrived on Christmas eve, a gift from the best mother-in-law in the world. The cake was so rich and dense, you could hardly finish a slice. But by golly, finish it we will!

Some Pacman action happening here!


Pretzel and Chocolate Treats

Here's a fun treat to make for Christmas (or any time for that matter). This does not only look pretty - it also tastes great! The saltiness of the pretzel blends well with the sweetness of the chocolates. I couldn't stop eating them!

What you need:
  • 30 pieces salted pretzels (whatever kind you want)
  • 30 pieces Hershey's Kisses chocolate
  • 30 pieces m&m candies

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the pretzels on a baking tray. Remove the wrappers of the Hershey's Kisses chocolates and place them on the center of each pretzel. 

Put in the oven for about 1 or 2 minutes, just until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven and press an m&m on top of the Kisses while they are still soft.

Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

A bit dry and cracked, but nonetheless delish!

 Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use any type or variety of Kisses you want!
2.  Make sure NOT to burn the chocolate! Keep an eye on them.
3. I made 30 pieces - but make as many as you want!

Merry Christmas!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests. ~Luke 2:14

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Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups

I got this recipe from the September 2010 edition of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine. It looked so yummy and delectable that I wanted to try it immediately. I didn't have a large muffin pan, though, so I had to pester my husband into buying me one wait till I get one. 

As I was browsing through recipes, I realized that most of these dishes were so common, but presented in a different light. I mean - bread, bacon and eggs? Aren't those staples in your fridge already? But putting them in a muffin pan to add pizzazz to the presentation is pure genius! Makes you wanna say "D'oh! Why didn't I think of that?"

What you need:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 slices sandwich bread
  • 12 slices of bacon
  • 6 large eggs
  • coarse salt and ground pepper

What to do:

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

Lightly butter 6 standard muffin cups. With a knife, cut the crusts of the bread. Flatten the bread slices with a rolling pin, then press 2 halves into each muffin cup, overlapping slightly and making sure bread comes up to the edge of the cup. Use extra bread to patch any gaps. Brush bread with remaining butter.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, until almost crisp, about 4 minutes (it will continue to cook in the oven). Lay 2 bacon slices in each bread cup and crack and egg over each. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until egg whites are just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Run a small knife around cups to loosen toasts. Serve immediately. 

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Try crumbled sausage in place of bacon!
2. Make a vegetarian version by using sauteed spinach.
3. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese would dress things up.


Comfy Lizard

Click for larger image

This lizard seemed to be getting a break from the cold weather by taking respite in a dried rolled-up rose leaf.

And yes, it was alive. It blinked when the camera flashed. ;-) 


Buckwheat with Chicken and Spinach

I am always looking for ways to incorporate veggies in our otherwise carnivorous diet. I didn't like veggies much when I was a kid, so I am trying to catch up with "lost time" and eat better.

This recipe is a complete meal - with starch, protein and veggies in one dish. Don't you just love dishes like this? ;-)

What you need:
  • 2 bundles buckwheat noodles
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 stalks green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

What to do:

Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, shredded chicken, and green onion. Cook for about a minute or two. 

Add the drained noodles and spinach to the skillet, and toss until the spinach wilts and the noodles are warmed through. Add soy sauce and sesame oil, and toss again to combine. Serve with a dash of lime juice.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use other kinds of noodles like lo-mein or soba.
2. Add tofu for a healthier variety.
3. Chicken can be substituted by pork or shrimp.


Bistro Fries

This recipe was included in a coupon for Morton's Seasoned Salt. Since I had all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try.

It was good! So good that I had to make another batch because it was gone in a blink of an eye. Well, who doesn't love fries? ;-)

What you need:
  • 8 oz french fries, frozen
  • 1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Morton's Season All Seasoned Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

What to do:

Prepare french fries according to package directions.

In a bowl, mix seasoned salt and parmesan cheese. While still warm, toss the fries in the bowl with the cheese-seasoned salt mixture.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If using fresh parsley, double the amount (dried herbs always have stronger flavor than fresh ones).
2. Lessen the amount of cheese if you find it too salty.


Sesame Beef

Curious thing, this sesame seed. So small and (almost) insignificant, yet huge in flavor. Especially sesame oil. I couldn't really tell the difference in taste between buns with and without sesame seeds, but it is very easy to tell if a savory dish has sesame oil.

Here's an interesting information. Some texts claim that the phrase "Open Sesame" is reflective of the fact that the pods of the sesame seed plant tend to burst open with a sharp pop when it reaches maturity. Ain't Ali Baba smart to reference that? ;-)

This recipe was generously adapted from the December 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine. So far, every recipe I tried from that magazine was delicious!

What you need:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 pound  top blade steak, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced coarsely
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

What to do:

Heat a pot of lightly salted water over high heat. When it starts to boil, add in the meat and lower the temperature. Let simmer for about an hour, or until meat is tender. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sherry, sugar, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring, until peppers are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. 

Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk the soy sauce mixture and add to the skillet, along with the steak. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in the sesame seeds. Serve over rice.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Garnish with green onion if desired.
2. You can skip boiling the meat. Just cook it in canola oil before adding red bell pepper.
3. Use other cuts of steak, such as New York strip steak or skirt steak.
4. For a saucier dish, add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of beef broth.


Oleander Caterpillar

Found this oleander caterpillar on the wooden deck. He was so camera-shy... it took me about 20 shots before I could get a good one. Of course, it didn't help that he was a fast-mover.

I did some research and found out that the adult stage of this caterpillar is the Polka-Dot Wasp Moth. So pretty... but I'd rather admire from a distance than go near it.

Photo Credit
How beautiful are the works of the Lord! 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. - Psalm 19:1


Strawberry Milkshake

There's something about this cold weather that makes me want to eat cold food. Weird, huh? So I decided to one-up my vanilla ice cream by adding fresh strawberries to it. Yummy!

As I was reading about milkshakes, I found out these interesting facts:

1. A British newspaper was credited to be the first to reference a milkshake. The original recipe called for a shot of whiskey!

2. McDonald's milkshakes used to be 40 cents. 

3. Milkshakes maybe blended or shaken. (I really don't care as long as it goes straight to my tummy!)

4. September 12 is National Milkshake Day in the United States. Hurrah! I'm gonna mark my calendar now...

What you need:
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup hulled and sliced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey

What to do:

Put all the ingredients in a blender and process for about a minute, or until it reaches your desired consistency. It might be thick because of the ice cream, so try pressing pulse instead. Garnish with a strawberry and enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Add more honey if your strawberries are tart.
2. You can also use frozen strawberries!
3. Try it with exaporated milk for a creamier taste.


Loaded Mashed Potato

I have never really appreciated potatoes until a few years ago. When I was growing up, I thought that a potato was a potato. It's that thing from the ground that you add in stews or cook in oil to make french fries. I didn't know that there was a whole world of potatoes waiting to be explored, starting from the various colors, shapes, sizes, and taste. I felt like Will Smith's character J (no pun intended) in MIB when he kicked that door at the last scene of the movie (which turned out to be a locker door leading to a bigger universe). 

Over time, I have learned that like humans, some potatoes are good for some dishes, and not so in others. Say for example, red potatoes are high in moisture and low in starch, therefore they are great for stews and casseroles. Russet (or brown potatoes) on the other hand, are high in starch and dry, but turn light and fluffy when cooked - great for baking!

The dish we originally wanted to make was twice-baked potatoes, but since that was too time-consuming (and our tummies were already grumbling then), we decided to just make mashy taters and top it with the loaded potato accoutrement! Delicious and easy - and we didn't have to do all the fussy baked potato stuff!

What you need:
  • 3 medium-sized Russet potatoes
  • 6 strips of cooked bacon, cut into bits
  • 3 stalks of green onion
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • sour cream

What to do:

Wash and peel the potatoes, then cut them in wedges. Put a pot of about 4 cups of water in high heat and add a pinch of salt, the wedged potatoes and garlic cloves. When the water is briskly boiling, turn the heat down to low and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the spuds are tender. You can test the tenderness by poking it with a fork. Drain on a colander and return to pot.

Using a mixer, whip the potatoes in medium speed for a minute. Add the butter and milk, then whip again for another minute. Gently fold in the bacon, green onion and shredded cheese, but save about 1/4 of these for toppings.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and top with the topppings that you set aside. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Yukon Gold is the best variety of potatoes to use for mashing, but you can use other types.
2. Adjust according to your preference - add more bacon, cheese, etc. 
3. Some people don't peel potatoes for mashing - just make sure you wash them well!
4. Turn it Mexican - have it with a bit of salsa!

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Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie


The first chocolate chip pecan pie I ever had was from Mimi's Cafe. It was so good that the thought of having another one never really strayed far from my mind. So when I saw Emeril's recipe of chocolate chip pecan pie in the November 2010 edition of Everyday Food Magazine, I just had to make one! Of course, tweaked to suit our sweet tooth!

It was delicious! Save for the one piece that I gave to my mother-in-law, hubby and I devoured the whole pie in a matter of days! We would have finished it faster, but with 580 (+++) calories per slice (not including the ice cream and caramel on the side), we had to exercise some restraint in gobbling up this delicious treat.

What you need:
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • pie crust in a deep dish 9-inch plate
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus more for coating chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
The word "light" did not offer any comfort.

 What to do:

Preheat oven to 375°F.Spread pecans in the crust. In a small bowl, toss chocolate chips in about a tablespoon of flour to coat, then scatter evenly over the pecans. 

Snug as a bug in a rug!
In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, butter, and flour until well combined. Pour filling over pecans and chocolate chips.

Bake until filling is set and crust is browned, about 70 minutes. If pie browns too quickly, loosely tent with foil. Let cool on a wire rack at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Dive in!!!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. This pie is best eaten with a drizzle of caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream on the side. And a glass of milk.

2. I used a store-bought pie crust, but you can make one from scratch. I just don't have that patience. :-)
3. Watch the oven - you don't want a burnt top! If it gets dark too fast, tent it!


Roasted Duck Legs

Upon scouring the web for a recipe for crispy duck legs, I found out that duck is usually paired with waffles. Wow. I never saw that coming. But surprisingly, things that may seem weird together actually works well. Like pork chops and applesauce (never tried cooking them, but had them one too many times when dining out).

I didn't try to make waffles with my duck legs, I just simply roasted it and enjoyed it with Hoisin sauce (hubby slathered it with "toyomansi" haha). 

What you need:
  • 2 duck legs
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • five-spice powder
  • kosher salt

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350°F. 

Rub the duck legs with salt and the ground ginger. Dust with some five-spice powder. Place the duck legs on a roasting tray and cook in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the doneness you prefer.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you don't have a roasting tray, you can cook it on a regular pan, but make sure to drain or spoon away the excess fat every 20 minutes.
2. Don't skimp on the salt - it pulls away moisture and would make the duck skin crispy.


Linguine Carbonara

One of my favorites - pasta carbonara. I didn't make it heavy in sauce but I added lots of bacon! Yummy!

What you need:
  • 8 slices of bacon, fried and cut into bits
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • dash of parsley flakes 
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • linguine pasta (enough for 3 - 4 people)

 What to do: 

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk eggs, parmesan cheese, parsley flakes and half and half. Set aside.

When the pasta is done, drain and place in a lightly greased pan over very low heat. Add the egg mixture, bacon, and season with salt and pepper. Toss all to combine. Garnish with more parmesan cheese before serving.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You can use other types of pasta if you don't like linguine.
2. It is important to keep the noodles and egg mixture moving because you don't want the eggs to be scrambled.
3. Use pancetta for a more traditional carbonara.


Pinoy Breakfast

Daing na bangus (pickled milkfish) with salted duck eggs, tomatoes and hot rice for breakfast. Looks like its gonna be a great day!

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