Simple Mango-Mint Lassi

My garden is growing beautifully, and I just love to eat out of it! The weather is perfect for cultivation, and since we live in a tropical state, most of the plants we grow are "heat resistant" (like my Solar Flare tomatoes!). The cactus has some pithaya fruits, but the birds usually beat me to them. My mint is thriving too, in fact I have seen baby sprouts shooting out (makes me sooo happy!).

Sweet Mint
And since it is summer (and parts of the country are roasting experiencing a heatwave), I thought I'd cool ourselves down with this drink, using some mint leaves that I snipped from my plant. The drink is called a "lassi" because of the addition of yogurt, but traditional South Asian lassis have salt and other spices added to them. I might try a traditional one next time, but for now, I want to stick with the good ole "American" type. 

Hubby said that I used too much mint, but I thought it was perfect (of course I love mint). So exercise your own judgment when using ingredients.

What you need: 

flesh of 1 medium-sized mango
12 pieces mint leaves, chopped + a bit more for garnish
3/4 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons wildflower honey

What to do: 

Easy peasy. Just combine everything in a blender and pulse intermittently (about 5 seconds each) until you get your desired consistency. Pour in a glass and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Start with about 7 mint leaves, and add more if you wish. 
2. Yogurt is a bit tangy, so add more honey until you get the balance you like.

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Beef Soup with Soba

Soba, or buckwheat, is a type of thin Japanese noodle.  Udon, on the other hand, are thick wheat noodles. Truth be told, I haven't the vaguest idea what buckwheat was until I started playing the game Harvest Moon. Actually, I learned a lot by playing that game, and now even my husband is hooked to it (and yes, son too!). 

But this post isn't about the game (although I would gladly tell you more if you're interested!).  Its about this delicious dish that I got from Women's Health Magazine. And around the time I was making this dish, I saw a rerun of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" where he featured a person making noodles the "traditional way." According to the show, he is the last person to do so, as it is a dying art. I can't blame them... it is painful to even watch. It consist of kneading the dough by mounting on a bamboo pole and... uhmm... well, just watch this to find out (wait for the 1:58 mark). But remember, I warned you!

Back to the recipe (I have been sidetracked so many times!). It calls for shaved beef, so I used my trusted mandoline slicer to slice the beef ever so thinly. BIG MISTAKE. My arms hurt like I just played tennis with Rafael Nadal! Next time, I would stick to having our local butcher shave the beef for me. The dish itself was very easy to make, it was the prepping that took some time.

Shaved beef

What you need: 

4 cups of beef broth
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 oz shaved beef
1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 oz dried soba noodles
1/2 cup green onion, slivered
1/2 cup carrots, shredded or shaved
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
4 lime wedges

What to do: 

Boil about 8 cups of water in a big pot. Add the noodles and cook per package instructions.

In a separate pot, combine water, broth, and soy sauce over medium heat. Add the beef, then  let simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, divide noodles into bowls. Ladle beef broth into individual bowls and top with beef slices. Garnish with carrots, cilantro, lime, and green onions.

My bowl. Hubby got the fancy red one. ;-)

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. If you are gonna shave the beef, do not thaw it completely - it would be easier if the meat is still a bit frozen as you can handle it better.
2. To make shaved carrots, just wash them thoroughly, then run a peeler on the skin. 
3. You can use other noodles for it - udon, somen, whatever you have!
4. No lime? Use calamansi!
5. DO NOT try to make noodles like the guy in the video. Or if you do, let us know how it turned out! ;-)

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Chicken-Macaroni Salad

This is one of those recipes that came about due to some left-overs that I didn't want to throw away. We bought a whole rotisserie chicken one afternoon, and we had a ton of extra! So the next best thing was to make another meal out of it (hurrah for austerity measures!).

I used two types of pasta (guess why!) in this dish - rotini and conchiglie. As usual, they were whole grain for that extra jaw exercise chewiness. It was tasty and filling. And I was glad to have used the leftover rotisserie chicken for another meal.

What you need: 

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 cups rotini pasta
2 cups conchiglie pasta (seashell)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 carrot, cubed
6 stalks green onion, sliced into rings
1/4 cup pineapple chunks
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

What to do: 

Cook noodles according to package direction. Drain.

In a big bowl, combine all the ingredients by mixing and gently tossing. If it looks dry, add more mayonnaise. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. It does not always have to be rotisserie chicken - you can use leftover fried chicken, or any kind of cooked chicken you have.
2. Have you tried Kraft's Mayonnaise with lime? It is soooo good. You can omit the lemon in this recipe if using said type of mayo.
3. Don't like pineapples? Try using dill pickle relish instead.
4. Add hard boiled eggs to your salad.
5. Shrimp can also be used in lieu of chicken.


Hear that, dogs?

Apparently, you are not allowed to bark in the fire lane. (Seen at the parking lot of a local grocery store)


The Lady's Cheesy Mac

Fresh off the oven!

Hubby requested for Macaroni and Cheese one day, but he had something specific in mind - he said he wanted "very cheesy" mac and cheese. I thought I'd copy Paula Deen's recipe (the queen of Southern cooking, who else?) and see if its any good.

Well, the recipe was great - it was cheesy, creamy, and had a wonderful flavor. I used whole grain pasta so it wasn't as smooth (hey, I was trying to be healthy!) but I kinda' liked the extra chewiness that whole grain pasta offers - I feel like I am burning calories as I eat them! Haha.

Truth be told, this dish did not taste like the mac and cheese we had at The Lady and Sons (Paula Deen's restaurant). Not in a bad way though. Most of the food there were greasy - extremely delicious, but very greasy and buttery (I guess that's why it was delicious). They probably use a different recipe (trade secret?) for mac and cheese. But we loved it as well!

What you need: 

4 cups whole grain pasta shells
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup milk

What to do: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, then place in a large bowl. While still hot, add the grated cheddar cheese. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, sour cream, butter, salt and milk. Mix well, then add to the macaroni mixture.

Pour into a 9X13 glass baking dish, and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and top with additional grated cheddar cheese.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Use regular elbow macaroni for a smoother texture.
2. Add cooked chopped bacon before baking - more grease, less healthy, but I bet it is super delicious!
3. Try using evaporated milk instead of regular milk. It would add a hint of sweetness to the dish.
4. Always buy a block of cheese and then grate it yourself - it might mean more work, but I promise, you can taste the difference!
5. Do not overcook it - it will turn dry and the egg will curdle! Keep an eye on your pasta and make sure it is cooked to your desired consistency.

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Pancit Canton 2

As always, whenever I take a peek inside my pantry, I find something buried or long forgotten - case in point, the pack of noodles that has been sitting there since who knows when. I did the "expiration test" to determine if it was still ok to eat. And what a dangerous test it was - I had to break off a little piece of noodle and nibble on it... Had it been stale, I would have been doubling over in pain by now. (NOT!)

So I decided to make pancit canton, but using only pork this time. My previous pancit canton entry had shrimp for protein.  We still haven't bought shrimp since the last oil spill. But I really want to. Maybe tomorrow. ;-)

What you need: 

1 1/2 pounds pork loin, cut into strips
3 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
2 medium-sized carrots, coined
5 - 6 pcs Shiitake mushrooms,
8 oz pack canton noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon Canola oil

What to do:

Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for about 10 minutes. Remove the stems and slice the caps into small strips.

Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion for one minute. Add the pork strips and cook, stirring, until meat is brown. Add carrots, snap peas, and water chestnuts and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Season with soy sauce and oyster sauce. Add the mushrooms and cook for a minute, then add the broth. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Adjust taste.

Serve with a spritz of lime or lemon juice.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Chicken can also be used in this dish. Remember to use chicken broth instead of beef, though.
2. Try other veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, or celery.
3. Adding chorizo will make it tastier! 
4. Serve with a few drops of sesame oil.
5. On a serious note, this is where I go to determine the shelf life of things: <- very helpful site!


Ducks on a Tree

Ducks on a tree. Preposterous! 

The first time hubby told me he saw ducks on our tree, I just dismissed it and thought he might have seen a bird that resembles a duck. After all, ducks on a tree sounded ridiculous, right? (Sort of like snakes on a plane - but that's another topic!). But when hubby hurriedly dragged me (camera in tow) out of the house one morning, I was stunned beyond disbelief (and mildly amused) because there were INDEED ducks on our tree!

On a side note, let me tell you that the "woodpecker-tenants" of that tree were making atrocious sounds and that ruckus attracted the attention of my husband. Apparently, they were not very happy about these uninvited guests. ;-)

So I took several shots (while chuckling) and reined in my dog while she tried to scare the poop out of the misunderstood poor ducks.

Click for larger image
Research told me that "ducks in a tree" are not uncommon at all. These ducks are called Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, and are very fond of perching on trees, hence earning the nickname "Tree Ducks." They are very beautiful - with their reddish bills and brown plumage. I was kinda' sad to see them go (I bet the woodpeckers were very happy, though!)

Click for larger image

I want to end this post with this video from Sesame Street Classic. I couldn't help but sing this after that tree duck episode. Do you remember this skit?


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Blueberry Crumb Bars


I brought this treat to school a few weeks ago, and I kid you not, they were gone in a flash!  The kids have this smile on their faces, sort of like the pudding face we see in ads. Thanks to my friend who went blueberry-picking and gave me all those delicious fresh blueberries! 

These blueberry bars were great, and I especially loved the "fresh from the oven" texture of the crumbs. I got the recipe here.

What you need:

1 cup + 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 (8 oz) sticks of cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups of blueberries
4 teaspoons corn starch

What to do: 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 X 13 pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup of sugar, 3 cups all-purpose flour and baking powder. Add in salt and lemon zest. Using a fork, blend in the butter and egg. Dough should be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently fold in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting in squares.
Gimme those crumbs!

Tips, Tricks or Tweaks: 

1. You can use any kind of berry for this recipe!
2. Best served warm with ice cream.
3. Frozen blueberry can also be used - just thaw them before mixing them in.
4. Adding a teaspoon of vanilla to the crumb mixture will bring out more flavor.


Hannah's Slow Cooked BBQ

One of the perks of being an educator is having "mommy-friends" that are so generous and shares with you all most of their culinary secrets. Before the schoolyear ended, our class moms gave us a collection of their families' favorite recipes, and this is one of them.

This recipe is really so easy and tastes so good. We actually enjoyed eating it over and over, as it was also awesome as leftovers! We will definitely have this again soon!

What you need: 

1/2 can Coca Cola
3/4 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
2.5 pounds pork (picnic cut)

What to do: 

Put pork, cola, and BBQ sauce in slow cooker. Cook over low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove from heat, let cool and shred (or pull) before serving.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Original recipe called for a whole can of coke and bottle of BBQ sauce. I tweaked it a bit because the BBQ sauce that I used was sweet - I didn't want it to get overly sweet with the addition of the cola.
2. Pork shoulder is also a good cut of meat to use.
3. Use the leftovers in tacos or gorditas! (Like what I did)

Yummy gordita!

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