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Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Food | 0 comments

Making Flan

Making Flan

We always tend to remember food from our childhood where a few recipes stand out and stay as lifetime favorites.  For me as a kid, one of my all-time Filipino/Spanish desserts is flan or leche flan, as Filipinos often call the dish.  I like my flan a certain way — sturdy (not soggy or runny), right shade of yellow (not too bright or too pale), and not super sweet.  Picky, you might say…

Not too long ago, I decided to take up the challenge of making my own flan, partly because I wanted to see whether or not I can make one that’s as good as those that my aunts made when I was kid.  While I cannot objectively tell you how my flan turned out, I can honestly say that my girls devoured them — an overall positive sign.

To make flan, I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe, which is as follows:

Flan with Condensed Milk

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
One 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1  1/2 cups of water
Zest of 1/2 Lime, removed in large strips
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of Salt
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2 – Prepare caramel by combining in small heavy saucepan without stirring the sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Do this over medium heat, swirling the pan gently as the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should not boil until sugar is blended. Increase the heat to high and bring syrup to a rolling boil, cover the pan tightly and boil for two minutes. Uncover the pan and cook until the caramel darkens. Gently stir once again and cook until caramel turns into deep amber color. Then, coat 2 to 2 1/2 quart mold with caramel.

3 – Combine in a saucepan the milk, 1 1/2 cups of water, lime zest, cinnamon stick and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer gently for five minutes.

4 – Remove from heat, cover and let stand until just warm. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup with pouring tip.

5 – Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Gradually whisk into the milk mixture. Pour into the caramel-lined molds (see #2).

6 – Bake in a warm water bath until firmly set in the center, about 45 to 55 minutes for individual cups or 50 to 70 minutes for a single dish.

7 – Cool and unmold the flan.

This dish is pretty easy to make with the caramel preparation as most challenging step. If you feel like adding a little Spanish/Filipino touch to your dessert menu, I highly recommend making this dish.  Yes, it’s indulgent but oh so good…

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Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Food | 0 comments

The Odd Beauty of Queimada Tradition

The Odd Beauty of Queimada Tradition

A few weeks ago, we were invited to a friend’s house for a traditional Galician/Spanish dinner. While we knew we were in for some delicious Spanish food, we didn’t know we were going to be treated to a conxuro da queimada finale. Have you heard of it? It’s basically the equivalent of a witchcraft’s brew and it’s a Galician tradition that dates back to their Celtic roots.

Here’s a link to a recipe I found online for the brew.  Basically, like any witchcraft’s brew, it’s designed to ward off any evil spirits.  Nowadays, Galician showcase this tradition at festive lunches and get togethers in an elevated art form. Sometimes, they hire individuals who perform this whole act.   My friend, for instance, had this tradition featured at her daughter’s wedding where local actors reenacted the brew concoction along with the actual chanting that goes with it.

As for the actual brew, I actually really like it a lot.  It’s similar to an after-dinner drink, such as grappa or calvados, which does a pretty good job in cleansing the palate and capping off a good meal and evening of merriment.

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 in Food | 0 comments

Easy Birthday Cake

Easy Birthday Cake

For Chiara’s birthday two weeks ago, I made Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, a super easy-to-make, indulgent dessert.  The girls and Richard liked it so much that I’m planning to do it again this Saturday when we have a belated celebration for the birthday girl.

We’re new to the tween party hosting so we’ll see how it goes.  The girls are pretty much just hanging out at the house with games and movie on hand.  I plan to do a low-key dinner fare with pizza and pasta, some lemonade and sparkling water bubblies, then the chocolate fudge cake for dessert.  Instead of doing party favors, I’ll just have a candy/chocolate bar where each guest can fill their goody bags with their chosen sweets, which I’ll have in various clear mason jars.

Let’s just hope I make it through the night without having to take too many Tylenol pills after hearing several girls squeal and giggle for a few hours.  Have a good weekend, everyone!

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 in Family and friends, Food, France | 0 comments

Bûche de Noël, French Yule Log

Bûche de Noël, French Yule Log

This past Sunday, we were fortunate enough to get lessons on how to make a French Yule Log, Bûche de Noël, with the girls’ French tutor, Aurore. On a busy December weekend, she patiently showed us how to make the cake, its filling and frosting.

I read somewhere that the Yule Log originated from an old pre-Christian tradition in France of burning logs in the fireplace or hearth during winter solstice. Then, in the 1800s, a French pastry chef came up with the idea of replacing the real “Yule” Log with a cake that’s log shaped.

I don’t think there’s really a more typical Christmas French dessert than the Bûche de Noël, which today comes decorated with classic meringue mushrooms on top as well as more modern variations like Aurore’s cake with its milk chocolate stockings as topping.  Our finished cake was so delicious and indulgent that one of the girls’ friends (who does not like sweets) said, “Aurore, this is the best dessert I’ve ever had.”

I’ll be serving this cake tonight for the special Christmas Eve meal that Filipinos call Noche Buena. Cannot wait to share it with everyone in my family. In the meantime, I wish you the best of this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël and Maligayang Pasko!

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Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Food | 0 comments

Trying Out Fall Desserts

Trying Out Fall Desserts

To get ready for several holiday and dinner parties that we’re hosting in the next few weeks, I decided to try a new dessert recipe with my little helper, Ines, over the weekend. This particular dish, Apple Crostata from Ina Garten, is a nice change from the traditional apple pie and relatively healthy in contrast to other desserts. Plus, the recipe is easy to follow and the actual crostata only needs to bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

I do have a confession to make….I did cheat on Ina’s recipe a bit. Instead of making my dough, I just used a store-bought puff pastry sheet. While I’m sure that making your own dough is well worth it, I think the ready-made wasn’t too bad either.

So, here’s the recipe:

Apple Crostata

Pastry Dough – I used Pepperidge Farm’s Puffed Pastry Dough. We rolled out one sheet and cut it to the size of a dinner plate.

For the Filling:

1 1/2 pounds Macintosh Apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Roll the pastry dough into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

For the filling, peel, core and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into three chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and allspice in the bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apple, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool for five minutes, then use two large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Food | 0 comments

Coconut Bread Pudding with Pineapples

Coconut Bread Pudding with Pineapples

Before I get started baking apple pies and other heartier dishes, I made coconut bread pudding last week in the hopes of making summer last a little bit longer at home. This dish is definitely an ideal end-of-summer treat, easy to make and relatively healthy for everyone to indulge in. So I am sharing the recipe here so that you can try it at home before we hit fall-like temperatures. Enjoy!

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Serves eight people

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups of low-fat milk
1 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups French baguette, cut/sliced into 3/4 inch quarters
2 ounces of semisweet chocolate morsels
2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 – Preheat the broiler. Place the coconut in a baking pan and broil about five inches from the heat for one minute until lightly browned. Transfer the coconut to a plate to cool. Then, place the pineapple chunks in the baking pan in a single layer and broil for about two to three minutes. Take the chunks out and transfer to a plate to cool.

2 – Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, sugar and salt until combined. Blend in two cups of milk, coconut milk, and vanilla. Stir in bread cubes and let sit for 10 minutes. Add toasted coconut and pineapple; pour into a 7 x 11 inch glass baking dish. Bake until the pudding is puffed and lightly browned, about 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly.

3 – While baking the pudding, mix in a one-cup glass pyrex the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, the chocolate, and cocoa. Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir until well blended. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the pudding and serve.

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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Food | 0 comments

A Spaniard’s Easy Paella Recipe

A Spaniard’s Easy Paella Recipe

For the last five years or so, I have been meeting up with my French conversation group to practice French and talk about all sorts of stuff. The group is made up of one Californian, a Frenchwoman, a Spaniard, and me, the token Filipina. I’ve come to look forward to meeting with this woman regardless of how hectic my Tuesdays get. Throughout our meetings, we manage to have such lively conversations as we discuss topics that range from Governor Christie’s mishandling of different local issues to financial troubles plaguing the European Community. But from time to time, we do venture into fun topics, such as cooking and travel.

One of the fun things we did recently was get together for lunch to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The Spaniard in the group, who is an excellent cook, thought she’d give us an easy Paella 101 cooking session. Of course, we all jumped at the opportunity to learn from a “local (at least to the recipe)” who’s willing to share a tip or two on how to make the dish.

So here’s my Spanish friend’s easy paella recipe that I hope you’ll try:

Easy Paella Recipe
Serves 4-6 individuals

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of mussels
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips
3 garlic cloves
6 to 7 pieces of chicken tenderloins, cut in large cubes
1 cup of rice, Arroz de Calasparra recommended
1 teaspoon of canola oil
2 saffron sachets (about a handful)
1 rosemary branch
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables (small peas, carrots, corn, string beans)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 bowl of clams in shells
1/2 lb of prawns or large shrimps

1 – Cook the mussels the day before you’re to prepare the paella. Put enough water (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups) to cover the mussels. Add the bay leaf and sea salt. Boil the mussels until the shells open and the actual mussels are a little orange in color.  Discard the ones that remain closed. Keep about two cups of the mussels broth, which you’ll use for the paella dish. Drain the mussels. Take them out of shell when cool and refrigerate for use the following day.

2 – In a wok or a special paella cooking dish at medium-high heat, add the canola oil. Once warm, add garlic, red peppers and chicken tenderloins.

3 – Once the chicken starts to turn white or light brown, add rice and two cups of mussels’ broth made from the day before.

4 – Add saffron and rosemary. Make sure not to cut rosemary; it’s only used to enhance paella flavor.

5 – Add the mixed vegetables and chicken bouillon.

6 – Add clams and prawns or large shrimps.

7 – Let the dish cook at medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the broth is almost absorbed. Make sure to take out rosemary halfway through the 25-minute time period.

8 – Add mussels when water is almost absorbed.

9 – Turn off heat and cover the wok or cookware with a dish towel to let steam and moisture blend flavors together.

10 – Et voila, you have nice summery dish to enjoy!  Serve with a nice sangria or rosé.

 

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Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 in Food, Travel | 0 comments

Five Favorite Restaurants in Miami Beach

Five Favorite Restaurants in Miami Beach

When we decided to spend the girls’ Spring Break in Miami Beach, we chose it because it was a quick getaway — simply three hours on the plane, and voila, guaranteed sun, beach and warm weather. And while we did do our share of basking in the sun, I felt like what we did most was eat. The restaurant scene in the general South Beach area is so dynamic with restaurants offering cuisines that are just not delectable but also eclectic. We saw a lot of Latin dishes served with an Asian twist, akin to what Filipino food is like.

So, if you’re in the Miami Beach area, here are some of the restaurants we checked out and loved:

1 – Pubbelly – Located in the Sunset Harbour section of Miami Beach. Must not miss the mofongo, probably the best one I’ve ever tasted. This classic Puerto Rican dish made of plantains is cooked with pork belly bits and served with Asian umami-broth. Too die for.

2 – Khong River HouseTop Chef master Patricia Yeo’s newest project. Try the Lemon-Glazed Spareribs, Drunken Rice Noodles and Cambodian Yellow Curry, they do not disappoint. For dessert, we had the mouth-watering fried wrapped pineapple dish.

3 – Tongue and Cheek – Great brunch place. The Cuban Sandwich and Shrimp and Grits were excellent.

4 – Yardbird – Can’t miss the Lettuce and Mango Salad, Chicken Biscuits, and anything with Fried Chicken.

5 – Ceviche 105 – Peruvian cuisine with a Japanese touch. Try the Octopus Ceviche for your entrée and Cuatro Leches for dessert. Their Pisco Sour cocktail drink is just perfect after a lazy morning or afternoon by the beach.

I think I gained about five pounds from the few days we were in Miami but I don’t regret any of my indulgences. Everything I tried was just worth the extra calories.  Now back to the gym!

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Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Family and friends, Food, France | 2 comments

Crêpes 101 with a Breton Dad

Crêpes 101 with a Breton Dad

One of the things we love to do in the winter is eat crêpes…actually, scratch that, we love to eat crêpes pretty much all year round. Crêpes are a French regional specialty from Brittany where Richard grew up. He has always regaled us with stories from his childhood, how he and his brothers would compete on who can eat the most crêpes. Given that my husband is the oldest and probably a little more costaud than his siblings, he won most of these crêpe-bingeing affairs that his mother would lovingly prepare for her boys.

So with the impending blizzard coming to the Northeast of the US as well as la chandeleur on February 2nd, I figured I’ll share with you our crêpe recipe that serves 10-12 portions.

1 – Combine in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/4 cup lukewarm water, 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter, 1 1/2 tablesppons of sugar, a pinch of salt.

2 – For a more full-bodied and slightly indulgent crêpes, add a splash of vanilla extract and beer. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes.

3 – We like to use vegetable oil instead of butter on the nonstick pan. Butter burns fast and there’s nothing worse than burnt butter to ruin the look and taste of you crêpes. So pour oil in a bowl and dip a paper towel lightly in the oil. Then, spread the oil from paper towel to the pan, allowing for even and light application.

4 – Pour about two tablespoons of the crêpe mixture. Carefully rotate the pan to ensure that you have a thin and even layer. Cook until the bottom is golden and flip over. Cook the other side until it’s light brown.

5 – Serve the crêpes immediately. We like them with the following fillings: butter and sugar, Bonne Maman blueberry jam, and Nutella. Or if you’re my daughter, Ines, you may like Nutella with a sprinkle of sugar.

As you can see in the photos below, we are preparing the next generation of crêpe makers as Chiara took the rein in making them with Richard this weekend…

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Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Family and friends, Food | 2 comments

Calm and Quiet Christmas

Calm and Quiet Christmas

How are you enjoying your holidays so far?  Our Christmas was quiet and low key, pretty much what we were anticipating, with just sister and hubby as guests.  We tried to keep some of our usual traditions like the Filipino custom of going to mass before Christmas Eve dinner.  The true Filipino tradition is really having dinner, noche buena, after Midnight Mass.  Since the girls are still young, we can’t pull this tradition quite yet.  Instead we went to the 4PM service and had dinner around 8PM.  We tried a few new things this year — a Beef Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding and Butternut Gratin — along with some staples like Smoked Salmon Canapé, Mushroom Risotto, Baked Ham and Crème Brûlée.

Unfortunately, as much as we were trying to keep things simple this year, Chiara did not feel well on Christmas.  She had laryngitis that got progressively worse so that I finally had to take her to see the pediatrician on Saturday.   Luckily, she’s feeling much better now and we were able to keep our plans to visit Washington DC before the New Year.

Hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve! Wishing you a year full of love, hope and kindness! I’ll be back next week with some photos from our trip and of the New Year.

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