15 Bean Soup


I know, I know. I shouldn’t be eating beans too much, but I just can’t help it – I love them! And so does hubby. Surely, once in a while would be OK, right?

So here’s a funny story. I called hubby at work and proudly told him that we were having 15 Bean Soup for dinner that day. His answer was, “15? I thought it was 16 Bean Soup. Did you remove one kind of bean from the packet?” Hahahaha. I don’t think I would go that far as to weed out that packet of one certain type of bean. Apparently, when he was growing up, there were 16 kinds of bean in that package or so he remembers. Now, its only 15. Aaah, inflation. ;-)

This would have been perfect with ham bone (a.k.a. “the gift that keeps on giving”) but I think we gave our dog the hambone. Doggone it! (pardon the pun!). By the way, I followed the recipe at the back of the package (with some minor tweaking) -  it already came with the seasoning so might as well give it a try! Semi-homemade much? 

What you need:

1 pound pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper
*seasoning packet included in package

What to do: 

Place beans in a large pot, cover with 2 quarts of water. Allow beans to soak overnight, or at least  8 hours.

After soaking, drain water and add anther 2 quarts of water. Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.

Melt butter in a skillet and saute garlic, onion, carrots, and pork loin over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. Add this mixture, and the flavor packet to the beans. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes, or until beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Add other veggies like celery or potato.
2. Not a pork fan? Use chicken instead.
3. Sausage is a great addition too!
4. Want a thicker soup? Reduce the amount of water.


French Macarons and A Cappuccino Mousse Cup

I have been searching for French Macarons for quite some time now, but apparently, there are no French bakeries in our sleepy little town. I considered ordering online, but since macarons are made of egg whites and are quite fragile, I suspected they wouldn't travel good. 

Well, who would have thought that I could find them at Whole Foods market?! Sadly, their macarons are so tiny - not like the medium-sized ones I am used to having. I still gave them a try, but at $1.20 apiece, I just bought my two favorite flavors - lemon and chocolate. They were good, but there was something in them that I couldn't put my finger on... maybe wheat germ or something organic like the stuff that Whole Foods sell? Not quite sure.

The cup is the best part!
Then there was the Chocolate Cappuccino Mousse Cup. It was $2.50 for a small treat, but worth every penny. The cup itself was dark chocolate, and it was filled with delicious mousse. I had to fight off hubby for a bite. ;-)

By the way, hubby said that the macarons reminded him of pretty patties. What do you think?

Spongebob's Pretty Patties! Photo Credit


Four Seasons - Winter


Ah, winter. I hate don't like it for several reasons - frigid temperature, it gets dark early (gotta love summer - still daylight at 9pm), our plants wilt (or die!), driving with fogged up windshields, etc. The only thing I like about it is that people look good during the winter - we get to wear our nice coats and boots and those pretty scarves! But other than that, I would rather have the other 3 seasons.

This drink is my version of Four Seasons - Winter. As always, I used fruits that are abundant during this season. Hope you like it!

You gotta love Chiquita Bananas and their quirky one-liners!

What you need: 

1 banana
1 clementine orange
1 pear
1 apple
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups crushed ice
2 tablespoons fruit juice (I used V8)

What to do: 

Slice fruits into bite-sized pieces and put them in your blender. Add honey, juice, and ice. Blend until desired consistency (I like mine a bit runny than chunky).

Pour in glass and serve.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Add more honey if you like it sweeter (but personally, the apple and banana makes it sweet enough!).
2. Use any kind of fruit you want!
3. Some people like adding milk to their fruit shake.


Watermelon Surprise

Look what I found growing in our yard...

 A watermelon!

I didn't plant it. I don't even know how it got there... from the bird feed, perhaps?

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Semi-Homemade Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

The glaze runneth over

Am I sending out too much "Sandra Lee vibe" with all the semi-homade dishes I make? I promise, I am not doing it intentionally. I am just trying to save money and time by using available resources. That being said, I used a boxed yellow cake for this recipe, and the Meyer lemons from my neighbor's yard (tee-hee!). Hey, I asked permission. ;-)

What you need: 

1 Meyer lemon
1 box (15.25 oz) Super Moist Cake (Butter Recipe Yellow)
1 cup +2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup Canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

What to do: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray your Bundt pan with nonstick spray.

Zest your lemon and squeeze them, reserving the juice for later use.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, 1 cup buttermilk, oil, eggs, lemon zest, and about 4 tablespoons of the reserved lemon juice. Beat with an electric mixer on low for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat again on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the poppy seeds and mix until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan.

Bake in preheated  oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of the cake comes clean. Cool the cake in the pan or on wire rack. Turn cooled cake over on a serving plate; gently lift pan to remove cake.

Make the glaze. Stir together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons lemon juice until a smooth, glaze consistency. Drizzle over top and sides of the cake. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. No buttermilk? Make some! Put a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a (1 cup) measuring cup, then top with regular milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Voila! Buttermilk!
2. If you don't like your glaze too tart, reduce the amount of lemon juice.
3. Don't make the same mistake I did - wait for the cake to cool first before putting the glaze!



I have to admit - I have wanted to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because of the butterbeer. Well, that and the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride. And the quaint shops and curios. Ok - maybe I like everything about it - except the long queues. 

Anyway, we couldn't justify the $80 ticket (a bit cheaper since we are Florida residents) and $15 parking fee just to satisfy our Butterbeer cravings, so I had to improvise. In essence, I was desperate - I have to find a way to get my hands on Butterbeer without the hefty price tag.

For non-Harry Potter fans, Butterbeer is a beverage that, according to the book, tastes like butterscotch. It has a slight "wizard alcohol" content that can make house elves drunk (so Dobby and Kreacher - you better not be trying this). But don't worry - the Butterbeer that we regular people enjoy is non-alcoholic.

As I have mentioned in my previous H.P. post, you can get it for $12 in a commemorative stein, or $3.99 (I think - can't really remember how much we paid) in a regular cup. But the commemorative stein could be a good investment - it holds a bit more than the regular cup, and you can bring it with you on your next visit to the park. They will fill it for the price of a regular cup. As for our steins, we haven't gone to the theme park enough to get my money back haha.

A website sells these steins for $13.95! Ridiculous!
So, I have scoured the web and tried several Butterbeer recipes, and this is the closest I can get. In fact, I think it is almost perfect. Of course, I have to give credit where credit is due, so I have to mention that I got this recipe from the Orlando United website. They are not claiming that their recipe is an exact copy, but only very close to the real thing. And believe me, after trying it, I can say that it DOES taste so much like those you can buy from the theme park!

By the way, as an update to my previous H.P. post, I WAS able to buy Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans on my recent visit. But alas! It came with every flavor, but Vomit! And I have to say, the Soap flavor was pretty nasty. 

Photo Credit

What you need:
Cream Soda

2 bottles IBC Cream Soda
1 tablespoon Butterscotch Syrup (or more, if desired)

For the top foam: 

1/3 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons regular sugar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do: 

Combine all the foam ingredients in a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form (sort of like icing consistency). Set aside.

Pour the cream soda and butterscotch syrup in a stein. Mix well, or until syrup dissolves. Top with a dollop of foam. Let foam rest on top of the drink for about 20 seconds for the soda to carbonate it. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Don't worry if your foam doesn't turn out the consistency you like. Trust me, if you put it on top of the drink, only the taste matters!
2. The foam would actually stay good for a week or two - refrigerated, of course!
3. You could use any kind of cream soda - but IBC works best!
4. Tweak the amount of butterscotch syrup. Butterbeer from the theme park is very sweet - if you want that same taste, add more syrup!


Meyer Lemon Compote

The lemons I used in this recipe are courtesy of my very generous neighbors. The branches of their tree were drooping because of the abundance of this yellow fruit. I asked if I could have some and they told me to help myself. Yay!!! Hurrah for great neighbors and growing your own food!

The Meyer lemon is a hybrid of a true lemon and a common orange. They are significantly bigger and juicier than a true lemon - in fact, I thought at first that my neighbor's tree was an orange tree. I did a bit of reading and found out that it was primarily a decorative houseplant in China. (Just like the calamansi here - Americans don't eat it. They just let them hang on trees.) Since Martha Stewart started using Meyer in her recipes, there was a spike in sales and more people are propagating this type of lemon. 
size comparison - real lemon (above) and Meyer lemons
So thanks to my neighbors for providing the lemons for this recipe. It was very good and went so well with my pork chops. The consistency is that of mango chutney or soft jelly, and the tartness paired well with the savory meat. There was also an underlying sweetness provided by the date. Just delicious. Credits to NPR for this recipe! Tweaked by moi to suit our taste, of course. :-)

 What you need: 

3 Meyer lemons
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
2/3 cup white wine (I used Riesling)
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup chopped dried dates
salt and freshly ground black pepper

What to do: 

Trim the ends of the lemon and discard. Cut into 1/8-inch rounds, picking out seeds as you go. Cut the rounds into quarters so they're about 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.

So maybe a wooden chopping board is not ideal when cutting lemons...

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook until very soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add wine, lower heat and simmer until reduced by about a third.

shallot vs Vidalia onion

Add sliced lemons, sugar, and dates. Simmer until wine is completely reduced. Remove from  heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in the mint leaves. Serve with your favorite meat.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Use any kind of sweet wine, if available. If not available, use cooking wine.
2. Garnish with more mint before serving, if desired.
3. Serve with meat, or with bread as a spread.
4. Don't like lemon rind?  Peel lemons before cutting.


Date Fruit

Dates were on sale at our local grocery store. And I am using the term "on sale" rather loosely. The package you see was about $6. On sale. Still a bit too steep for conscious buyers like me. But then again, considering the fact that this is just something we buy every once in a while, I guess it was OK.

The word "date" came from "daktulos," the Greek word for finger. It is because of the fruit's elongated shape. There are three major group of dates - soft, semi-dry, and dry. The variety we got (Medjool) is soft. It is very sweet - in fact, you'd think it was processed in sugar. On the contrary, there is no added sugar in this product.

Dates must be one of the oldest fruits ever. It is mentioned several times in the Bible, and has a lot of medicinal properties. 

It is just amazing to realize that modern-day people are enjoying one of the fruits that Jesus Himself, and the people in His times ate. How cool is that?

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"Americanized" Batchoy

The pork cracklings make it so good!
Old habits die hard. Hence, I still follow old "New Year" traditions that we used to do as a child. A lot of them had to do with Chinese beliefs that became meshed with Filipino practices. Remember when our grandmas would tell us to wear something with polka dots to celebrate the New Year? Or to have 12 different kinds of round fruits that would represent prosperity for the coming 12 months.

A tradition that I couldn't forget was to eat noodles and boiled egg in the New Year. Noodles for long life, and egg... well... the round shape of the boiled egg has the same meaning as the polka dots. Last year, I didn't really prepare much so I just had ramen and egg. But this year, I wanted to make La Paz Batchoy.

After reading all the ingredients of La Paz, I decided that I couldn't make it - I just don't know where to get the pig innards needed for it. More importantly, I don't think my family would eat it. 
 So I had to do the "Americanized" version and take out the offals and innards from the recipe.

A more traditional version includes pork organs, crushed pork cracklings, shrimp, vegetables, chicken stock, chicken breast, beef loin and round noodles. Of those ingredients mentioned, I think only pork cracklings made it to my dish. I didn't have any complains, though. It was delicious. Really delicious.

What you need: 

1 lb pork loins
1 lb miki noodles, boiled
4 hard boiled eggs
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 quartered Vidalia onion
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon soy sauce
7 cups water
1 pack pork cracklings, crushed
1 head of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil

What to do:

In a large pot, boil water. Add pork, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, onion, shrimp paste and soy sauce. Let cook until pork is tender, about an hour.

Meanwhile, cook minced garlic in oil until toasted. Drain in paper towels and set aside. 

Remove pork from broth and let cool. Shred or slice into strips.

Arrange noodles in a bowl. Top with pork slices and egg. Ladle broth into the bowl. Garnish with crushed pork cracklings and toasted garlic. Serve hot!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. When cooking pork, make sure to remove the scum that rises to the surface.
2. Use green onions for garnish!
3. Some people prefer egg-drop type batchoys.
4. As always, go with taste. If the broth doesn't taste ok for you, tweak it!

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