Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup

Thank goodness for unpredictable Colorado weather!  It got warm enough for Spouse and I to indulge in a pint of another untested flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

This time we decided to try “Peanut Butter Cup” and were not disappointed.

My first spoonful reminded me of “Choc-Nut”, my favorite Philippine sweet.  Choc-Nut was the reward I got from the sari-sari store owner off 11th Street?in New Manila. My yaya would take the day’s pig slop from my grandmother’s household to the store owner who had her little pigpen in her backyard.  I was just a toddler but remember accompanying my yaya and being handed a Choc-Nut or two when we said our good byes.  I have always loved Choc-Nut.  I found it in a Filipino store here once but was disappointed to find the Choc-Nut had gone old and stale. Continue reading “Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup”

Super Foods for the New Year

According to published reports and because another new year has just began, someone has again come up with a list of Super Foods which are all supposed to be G-R-E-A-T for you.

Not unlike the Super Heroes of our youthful fancy, they are supposed to fight the evil cancer-causing whatever it is that causes cancer by supplying your body with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Alrighty… I can believe that.  My mother always told me to eat my vegetables when I was a kid.  This kid was smart enough even then that before Momma could shove it down this little carnivore’s throat, I would gulp down a few greens now and again – chewing and tasting it was another thing though.

And so here I still am – a not so rundown forty-something.  Please don’t ask proof of this last statement – just take my word for it.  Please.

But do these Super Foods TASTE good?  Now that is the question we shall seek to answer today.

First of all, what are these foods and what do they do for us? Continue reading “Super Foods for the New Year”

Organic

AmpalayaSmall

This is a photograph of an ampalaya (bitter melon or bitter gourd) vine grown organically by my newly found cousin, Pito Garcia. We’re second cousins actually and we connected through a website on geneology my maternal relatives have just discovered.  It’s the coolest thing to find relatives online and meet them for the first time in person.  If not for the internet, our paths may not have crossed for a long time.

His farm is located in a beautiful spot surrounded by gentle hills in the Zambales town of San Antonio.  It was a stormy day when Spouse and I went to visit.  You can probably tell by the dark clouds over the hills that more rains were on the way.  The rain and winds came in bursts, strong and surrprising…an amazing display of nature’s power and beauty.  I’m getting all poetic because it was a truly awesome experience.

Pito is currently  experimenting with organic farming. He’s been growing vegetables commercially for about three years now. Going organic is the next logical step. When you’ve lived the life of a farmer, enjoying the clean air, healthy lifestyle, and beautiful, beautiful surroundings that no man can build, going organic is the only way to go.

Watch out in the coming months, the unofficial cook might just turn into the unofficial farmer!

Kam-met

Does it sound like a bad word? It’s not. It’s Ilocano for eating with your hands. There are certain dishes that just beg to be eaten with your bare hands. Inihaw na isda, pritong isda, dinengdeng, pinakbet, adobo, sinigang na hipon, kilawin, fresh seaweed salads, fern salads, roasted eggplant salads, anything guinataan or anything you can get your hands on….

And please, it’s not a savage practice of uncivilized people. It’s an art you have to learn.  Besides, it’s fun! I mean… it really is. No Pinoy picnic would be the same if they handed you a silver spoon, fork and knife. Besides, you tend to lose all sense of inhibition when you’re sitting fully-clothed on a creekbed with graceful bamboo leaves swaying  over you and the bamboo table you’re eating from virtually floating over the gentle, streaming water.  Not to worry, the guys would have tied it down to something. The food is staying on the table….but not for long.

Not only is it fun, but eating with your hands takes a lot of skill. You don’t just moosh things in your palms and shove them into your mouth. Actually, you only use your fingers when eating with your hands. Oh gee, that sounds sooo NOT right…but it’s true!  You pick up your food using your fingertips and scoop it up, not in your palms, but on the very tips of your fingers.

The ultimate in skill is eating a whole fried or grilled fish (yes, with the head on) with rice and other dishes one-handed….with no problem separating the flesh from the bones mind you.   If that isn’t what you call skill, I don’t know what is..

See….you have to keep one hand clean so you can use the serving spoons for the other dishes on the table….or do something else like pick up the abaniko (Filipino leaf fans) and drive away the flies hovering around attempting to share your food….or some other things youneed to do at picnics in the Philippines.

The Christmas Turkey

turkey08

Here’s the Christmas turkey our family had for Christmas this year.   Everyone looks forward to having it on Christmas surpassing the more traditional ham that would take days to prepare.  So, I’ll keep making this until something new catches our fancy.

When Spouse was carving the turkey, 3 sets of hungry little boys’ eyes were carefully watching him.  Soon as a piece of the skin came off, it went straight to my 4-year old  nephew’s mouth.  He had turkey for lunch and turkey yet again for dinner.

Recipe to follow…

Bibingkang Galapong

bbngkatop

It’s Christmas everywhere and in the Philippines no other treat says Christmas more than this rice cake.  It’s available year round in most places.  During the Christmas season, churches everywhere will have vendors setting up shop in the wee hours of the morning.  These vendors will be selling  bibingka or puto bumbong and cooking them right in their stalls.  The Catholic faithful who hear the early morning novena mass before Christmas all flock to these stalls for their bibingka.  It makes a perfect breakfast with your coffee or hot cocoa.

The best way to cook these cakes is in shallow pans made of clay  lined with banana leaves set up over hot coals with more live coals on a movable tin cover to cook the top.  My version is oven-baked for convenience.  This was my first time to make this and I was not all that impressed by how it turned out.  When I took it to my mom’s for merienda however, they all liked it.  Youngest Sister even said the only thing missing was the distinct smell when you cook something over live coals….something we always called “charcoal smell.”

The toppings may not be readily available.  The salted duck’s eggs can be homemade but it will take a couple of weeks to cure.  The Filipino quesong puti is similar to the Mexican queso fresco or queso blanco.  The Philippine version uses carabao’s milk and thus,  richer.  As for the coconut milk, there’s nothing like fresh since it has a natural sweetness you can’t get from canned coconut milk.  If you are in a pinch, use cow’s milk or the canned/powdered coconut milk. Continue reading “Bibingkang Galapong”