Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pork Marsala

I've always loved Chicken Marsala, but I never knew what Marsala was until much, much later. Marsala turned out to be this wonderful Italian wine which you use in this dish. Since I came to know what it is (a few years back), I've used the wine in my dishes a lot of times.

Well today, I did another variation of the Chicken Marsala by using pork loin chops. After searching for a recipe, I found one that I thought was right up my alley. Here it is. I would say my dish is an adaptation of this recipe. I made a couple of changes for mine. First, I added mushrooms. I thought that the meaty, earthy taste of the mushrooms would help boost the wine's flavor. Secondly, when I added the onion, I also added 2 tablespoons of flour with a tablespoon of butter to make a
roux as I prefer my sauce to be thicker. Thirdly, I increased the amount of the sauce by adding 1/3 cup of chicken stock and 2/3 cup of wine. I'd recommend increasing the amount of sauce in this dish like I did - if you're the type who likes lots of sauce in your food. Remember, the liquid evaportes a little bit as you let it simmer, so a cup of liquid should make enough sauce.

I served the dish with steamed rice as suggested and garnished it with chopped italian (flat-leaf) parsley. Pasta would definitely be good too if you prefer to have it. My hubby mopped his plate with bread - that's how good this dish was.

Note: I used dry wine for this recipe. I always use dry wine for cooking, unless the recipe specifies using sweet.

Awesome Twosome

There are things that are meant to be together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Coffee and creamer. And yes, grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.

This was my husband's craving once again. He said that he hasn't had it in a while. And it was a good time too since the temperature dropped and we had the coldest weather in 2008 that day.
For my sandwich, I wanted a firm bread that can withstand grilling, so I decided to use sourdough bread. I melted some butter and added some garlic cloves. Then I brushed the outer sides of the bread with the melted garlic-infused butter. For the sandwhich, I had deli-bought turkey and ham. I cooked a couple of strips of bacon and I added it in too, just for a smokey flavor in the background. As for the cheese, I used three different kinds - provolone (my husband's fave), guyere (swiss cheese) and parmesan cheese. Oh don't panic, I didn't put a lot - I just grated and mixed 3 different kinds of cheeses, ok?
The cheese melted beautifully. And the bread was toasted to perfection. Sourdough turned out to be an excellent choice. I don't have a panini press so I did what Asians would do... I got some good ol' foil for cover and laid some heavy canned goods on top of the sandwiches, hence the beautiful grill marks.. tadahhhh.. isn't that what you call resourcefulness?

As for the tomato soup - Mr. Campbell did it for me. I just added some julienned fresh basil leaf to it for flavor (another twosome - tomato & basil). I am a good wife but not that good. I wouldn't want to start making tomato soup from scratch when American Idol is coming on in a few minutes. Gotta have priorities, ya know?! Hahahahha... (Hubby, you're still my #1. Luv ya!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Left-over Do-Over

Chicken carbonara is one of my favorite dishes. And I had the opportunity to make this for dinner recently because we had some left-over roasted chicken. I've tried making this dish before using the fresh skinless/boneless chicken breast. It was good too, but using roasted chicken just makes a whole lot of difference in the taste.

Carbonara, as you might know, is made from whipped cream and cheese - so it's not a dieter's food. To balance the richness of the sauce, I thought that I should use the healthier
organic whole wheat pasta - which I already had in my pantry. (I'm just trying to play some tricks with my own mind, you know ;oD )
I had to cut down the recipe that I had for this as I'm cooking only for 2 people. Problem was, I overlooked the fact that whole wheat pasta absorbs more liquid than the regular one. So as you can see, the pasta didn't have the desired amount of sauce as it should have.
But inspite of this, the pasta still came out tasty (thank God!). The roasted chicken, creamy sauce with parmesan cheese, the hint of lemon in the background plus the crunch of walnuts were a nice balance of flavor.

If you want to try this dish, pls. check out the recipe here. I followed most of what the recipe calls for except that I added shallots to the garlic, used bacon instead of pancetta, and like I said, I had to cut it down and used whole wheat instead of the regular pasta.

So remember, if you want to use whole wheat pasta like I did, increase the amount of liquid so you'll have a good amount of sauce in your dish. I promise you, it's going to be yum'oh!

Mung Bean Soup

This is a common Filipino dish that is probably the equivalent of lentil soup here in the United States. It's made of mung bean or "monggo" as we say in our language.

The soup is very easy to make, except that the beans take a while to cook enough to be mashed.


1 c mung beans, 2 c water (more may be added when boiling), 1 clove garlic, 1 small onion, 1/4 lb meat (whatever you prefer), 1 c veggetables (spinach is suggested but you can use whatever you like)


Boil the beans for about 30 minutes. When they're fork tender, mash them up. This will make for a creamy soup.

When the beans are ready, in another pan sautee garlic, onion. When the onions have turned transluscent, add the meat. (I added ground meat to mine.) When the meat is cooked, add the vegetables. (I had left-over broccoli slaw in the fridge so that's what I added in). Continue sauteing for 2-3 mins. and when the veggies have softened up, add the entire sautee mixture to the boiling soup and stir. For more flavor, I added chicken stock to my soup but this is not done tradionally. Season with salt and pepper. Just simmer for another 3 minutes and your soup is done! This soup is very versatile, as most soups are. In my country, we usually add to it a certain leafy vegetable called "kangkong" - very similar to spinach. Some even add a bit of coconut milk for a creamier soup.

The soup is served with steamed rice, to be eaten at best when it is warm.

This is a healthy soup, my ultimate comfort food. Luckily, Mr. J likes it too. Reminds him of the Philippines, he says... (of course!!! )

Berry Good

Sunday morning, I woke up with a craving for freshly baked cookies. Then I remembered that I picked up some blueberries from the grocery the other day. I intended to make blueberry pancakes with it, but hmmmnn.... blueberry cookies would be a nice alternative.

With hubby still in bed, I started preparing the cookie. I wanted him to wake up to the sweet aroma of baking cookies, you know, just to surprise him a little bit too. But unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way since he got up before I was able to pop the cookies in the oven. :o(

These cookies are the soft kind, more cake -like, with a texture similar to that of scones. Aside from the blueberries, the cookies have almonds and lemon zest in it too. But here's my secret (well, not anymore) - I added an
ameretto liqueur (almond-flavored liquor) into it. Actually, the recipe called for almond extract, but since I didn't have any, I used the liquor instead - which I believe was what gave this cookie a unique almondy taste (is there a word "almondy"?). The amaretto and the lemon zest are the perfect combination.

Not only did we enjoy the cookies for breakfast, but we took some to our bible study group that night and our friends enjoyed them too. They are delicious!

For Moms out there - don't worry, these cookies are still kid friendly. The alcohol cooks off in the heat, so what you are left with is really just the concentration of flavor. You may want to try this as an alternative to chocolate chip cookies? Check out the recipe here.

Oh question -- why are the blueberries called blue when they're really purple? They should have been called purpleberries...hmnn.. I wonder...maybe I'll do a little reseach on this.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend Dinner

We had a busy weekend. The hubby took on his bathroom project, while I did some grocery, cleaning and laundry. Yep, multi-tasking begins at home :o) Since we were both pre-occupied, we ended up skipping lunch. Not that it mattered since we had a good brunch that really filled us up. But by 5:00pm, both of us were already starving, especially my hubby who got some work-out on his project.

For dinner, I decided to do my hubby's all-time favorite - rib-eye steak. Having done rib-eyes so many times before, I wanted a new take on it. I remembered watching Giada de Laurentiis in Everyday Italian do some rib-eye steak with black olive vinaigrette. It looked so good, so I decided to try it.

My hubby grilled the steak and he did a good job, as usual. The meat was tender and juicy - just perfect. The combination of the steak with the black olive vinaigrette came out really well. This recipe is definitely a keeper. I suggest you try this yourself.

To go with the steak, I made some savory popovers and caesar salad. This was my first time to do popovers and I would say it came out good. For me, the popover is a cross between a yorkshire and a quiche. They were a bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside (yeah, like mentos..hehehe). The popovers are made of eggs, milk, a little bit of flour, parmesan cheese, parsely, salt and pepper. You won't believe it, but the very thin batter did rise up a lot - thus the name. Just remember to heat your pan up before pouring the batter (Emeril's tip). This will help make the batter rise even more.

And then, we had our favorite Caesar salad. I didn't do a whole lot on this except cut, wash and dry the lettuce and put all the ingredients together. I had a store-bought dressing but I'd love to try making a caesar salad dressing from scratch one day. By the way, just a little trivia for you. Do you know that caesar salad dressing has anchovies in it??? Yep, that saltiness you taste in the dressing isn't from the salt - it's the anchovies. You would never have guessed it, right?

Anyway, to the lettuce I added the foccacia croutons, roasted sliced almonds, freshly grated, good quality parmesan cheese.

So that's our early weekend dinner. We truly enjoyed this meal.


On Friday, we were invited to our friend Vicky & David's son's 2nd birthday party. Derwin made pizza from scratch. There's nothing better than home-made pizza! Kudos to Derwin for the great job!
The pizza was a meat-lover's dream with the sausage and peperoni underneath that thick layer of mozzarella cheese...Yum! Eating it was an indulgence for sure. It was definitely good but pizza, in my opinion, should be eaten once in a blue moon. This food is simply not figure and health-friendly. To borrow a friend's term, this food is a perfect "cardiac-delight".... get the joke?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tex-Mex Fun

My idea of a fun meal is something that requires the most minimal of cooking. And tacos fit the description. Ground meat is really the only thing you need to cook for this dish, and it doesn't take long to do so. Since the rest is basically salad, it's a no-sweat meal. Yeah, there's a bit of chopping/dicing involved, but with just the two of us, I don't need to chop a whole lot.

Tacos, I'd say is good to eat if you're watching your diet, that is, if you don't add tons of sour cream and cheese in it. It is a very versatile food in that you can easily substitute the ingredients to make the dish healthier, or simply to suit your preference. For instance, you can use whole lettuce leaves instead of the taco shells. That there will save you some calories. Or you can omit the sour cream and just use salsa. That would definitely be healthier.
My husband wanted ground beef this time around, but we've tried this with ground chicken and turkey too. We even had tacos one time using the vegetarian "meat" (it's made of tofu and alaskan fish meat - but it tasted like beef, I swear).

I have the taco seasoning that I bought from the grocery but due to the sodium content in it, I used only about a teaspoon of it for the meat. I also added garlic, onion and green peppers , a dash of worcesteshire sauce, red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper and Emeril's Essence seasoning to the meat for added flavor.
For the veggies, I chopped lettuce, tomatoes and seedless cucumbers. I also added diced fresh avocadoes in it (instead of guacamole, which is healthier). Just a dallop of sour-cream light, salsa and a bit of cheddar cheese... and that's it... an easy and fun Tex-mex meal for us!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dinner Impossible?

If you watch Food Network, then my title would ring a bell. It is one of my favorite shows where the Chef, Robert Irvine, is sent on a mission : to see what gourmet dishes he can can come up with given an extremely limited resources and time. The food is usually to be served to a large crowd.

Well, I felt like him today -- in a microscopic kind of way except that I'm not preparing my food for 300+ guests. I was on a mission when I went to the grocery. Without no idea nor plan on what to prepare, I proceeded to go to the supermarket to look around and see if something will strike my fancy, so to speak.

My feet somehow carried me to the fish section where I saw these beautiful, very fresh tilapia filets. I stood by the counter contemplating on what to do with them. With just a second of deliberation, I went home with 2 pieces.

At home, still not knowing what to do, I surveyed what I have on hand. Finally, I decided that tonight's theme would be:
Herbes de Provence.

Tilapia is a fresh-water fish, its flesh is firm but bland, so it needs a bit more seasoning for flavor. The idea that I came up with was simple. It is just to bread the fish using Egg Beaters (egg-whites) and store-bought breadcrumbs with a dash of my Herbes de Provence. (You can totally omit the breading for a healthier version).

Then as topping for the fish, I decided to sautee some onion, garlic and grape tomatoes with, of course Herbes de Provence, in extra-virgin olive oil and a tablespoon of butter until the veggies sweat. I then added a splash of white wine and chicken stock to it for reduction, popped the pan into the oven for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes were roasted and soft, the onions caramelized.

I didn't have the desire to do rice (I had it for lunch) nor pasta for side dish. I found a pack of store-bought
gnocchi in my pantry and so I decided to cook this with a simple alfredo sauce (cheese sauce made with mixed italian cheeses, heavy cream, finished off with parmesan cheese). I wasn't sure about the combination, but hey, thank God we have food. Hahahah....
So, I'd say this was a successful mission... my Dinner Made Possible........My husband enjoyed it, especially the roasted grape tomatoes. The fish was tasty and light and to keep it this way, I served only a little bit of the gnocchi on the side (gnocchi, being made from potatoes, can settle heavily on your tummy).

Note: food was garnished with fresh thyme

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Comfort Food

I have adjusted pretty well to eating american foods in that, I don't have to eat rice in every meal, everyday anymore. But nevertheless, I gotta have my comfort food once or twice a week, at least. This means rice, or something else that's familiar to me.

So last night, I decided to do a dish that I grew up with. This dish is what we call "lumpia" (pronounced as loom-pya) in our vernacular, or a.k.a. spring roll to the rest of the world. This dish and "pansit" (Filipino noodles) are the staple of every Filipino party. Go to a Filipino gathering and chances are, you will find this dish served on the table.
In the Philippines, there are 3 kinds of lumpia - the vegetable lumpia (veggie spring roll), the lumpia shang-hai (meat-filled spring roll) and the fresh lumpia (veggie filled but using a crepe-like wrap). As you can see, this time I chose to do the the meat-filled spring roll.

I learned to make this at an early age and have made this with my mother a countless number of times with her in the past. For this version, here's my recipe:

Lumpiang Shang-Hai
1 lb ground meat (beef,pork,chicken,turkey)
1/2 lb shrimp
1 med onion, chopped
1 med carrot, grated
1 pc red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsps black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 (16 oz) package spring roll wrapper
1-1/2 quarts canola oil, for frying
Cilantro (optional)

1. In a large bowl, combine the meat, carrot,onion, red bell pepper, garlic. Mix.
2. Gradually blend in the eggs, soy sauce, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.
I suggest you get down and dirty and mix with your hands. Do not overwork the meat though. Just mix until ingredients are evenly distributed.
3. Lay out the spring roll wrapper on a flat surface. Put a leaf or two of cilantro (optional)and scoop about 2 tbsp of the meat mixture place it down in the center of the wrapper. Pat meat to form it into a line. Make sure the meat is no thicker than your thumb.
4. Take the bottom of the wrapper (nearest you) and fold it towards the center.
Then take the left and right fold them towards the center as well. Roll it like you are making a cigar. Moisten the edge of the wrapper with a bit of water to seal. Repeat the procedure for the rest of the wrappers.
4. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or heavy skillet to 250-300°F. Fry 3 or 4 lumpia at a time so that you will not bring the oil temperature down too much. Lumpia will be cooked through when the wrapper is golden brown,about 4-5 minutes.
5. Cut in half and serve with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, or with vinegar.
Traditionally, the meat used for this dish is ground pork. But in an effort to somehow lessen the fat (because this is deep fried), I used ground chicken - but with a twist. Because chicken needs a lot of flavor, I thought of adding shrimp to the mixture.

This is a labor intensive dish. Rolling the wrap takes a long time, especially if you're making a bunch of them. So to free myself from all the chopping and mincing, I threw in all the veggie (garlic, onion, carrot, red & green bell pepper, red pepper flakes) and shrimp in the food processor for a few quick pulses. This would also make for the same texture as the meat which is important so that the filling cooks evenly.

And then for yet another flavor, I thought of laying a few fresh cilantro leaves down on the wrap with the meat before rolling each one up. Then as a side dish, I made an Asian salad which was inspired by Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa. I just took some elements from her salad and made my own from there :

Bean Sprout Salad
1 c fresh bean sprouts
1/2 c fresh shredded carrots
2 stalks spring onion, chopped s
1/2 c ugar snap peas, blanched in hot water for 1-2 minutes

1/3 c soy sauce
2/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 rice wine vinegar
1/8 tsp of ginger
1-2 tbsps sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine everything except for the oil. Mix. Gradually pour in the vegetable oil while whisking. (Pls. adjust the combination of the dressing according to your preference. All measurements are my estimations as I was just eyeballing everything. )

Toss vegetables with the dressing. Serve.

The lumpia dip is store-bought, my favorite sweet and spicy dip from Thailand.

Note: It is important to fry the spring roll in low fire (maybe medium-low heat) to allow for the cooking of the meat. If the heat is to high, chances are you'll end up with a burnt wrap and a half-cooked meat.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Friendship Bread

Have you heard of the Amish Friendship Bread? Well, this is it.

This recipe was given to me by an office mate, along with the starter kit .

The starter kit is simply a mix of flour, milk, sugar and yeast left to sit on the counter for 10 days while it ferments. And you are not supposed to refrigerate the mixture, nor are metal bowl and metal utensils recommended for this particular recipe as cold temperature kills the yeast.

I tried it the first time because I was curious. Then after 5 days of squeezing the mixture (in the baggy) and with it sitting in the counter, it became bubbly and it started giving off a "sour" smell. I started to have serious doubts about it. But my researched assured me that the bubbles and the smell were a part of the fermentation process.

After 10 days, you will end up with 5 more starter kits out of the original one you have. The idea is to pass on the kits to your other friends to "spread the love". Well, I ran out of girlfriends to hand the starter kits to, so I froze the rest of them - which is an excellent idea because when I feel like making the bread, i just pull one kit out, and........ tadaaahhhh! A very good cinnammon bread in ten days!
The batter is actually a good base that you can use to make many different kinds of breads. I have tried making this as a carrot bread and apple bread before. This time though, I decided to add a cup of walnuts, 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and the zest of an entire orange. Hmmnnn... cinnammon, chocolate and orange - isn't that a heavenly combination or what?

The bread came out looking a little well done on the outside. I had to leave it in the oven a bit longer than called-for because the cake was still a bit moist in the center when I pulled it out. Besides, I wanted the top to be crunchy as I sprinkled cinnammon sugar on it. Yummy! For me, it'sthe best part of the bread! The bread is not too sweet ...perfect with coffee. With a breakfast like this, my day is done!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hubby's Request

It was shortly before five this afternoon when I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner (as I usally do). He told me he was thinking of chicken parmesan. I had planned on doing some asian food for tonight but since hubby wants chicken parmesan, then chicken parmesan it is. I don't mind though, since I love the dish and I had not made it in a while too.

Thankfully, I have all the ingredients except for the chicken breast (skinless, boneless). So that was the only thing I made a quick stop in the grocery for..... and oh, some fresh basil too.

Chicken parmesan is a complicated dish to make but I learned some short-cuts on how to do a quicker but still delicious version of it.
Chicken Parmesan
3 tablespoons olive oil plus for frying plus 2 tbsp for the chicken
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 (3-ounces each) chicken cutlets
1 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce or purchased marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup teaspoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsely, for garnish

For the breading:
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pound chicken with a mallet until it's about 1/4 inches thick. Carefully do this so as not to tear the meat.
3. Stir the oil and herbs in a small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the cutlets with the herb oil.
4. Heat an oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tbsp of butter and 3 tsps of olive oil.
5. In another bowl, combine your ingredients for breading, then dredge your chicken with it.
6. When oil/butter is hot, start sauteeing your chicken. Cook until golden brown. (If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, then this is the time to transfer the chicken to your GREASED baking casserole)
7. Then spoon marinara over and around the chicken. Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheese atop the cutlets. Cut up the remaining 1 tbsp butter into small pieces and scatter them over the cutlets.
8. Transfer your skillet into the oven and bake chicken until cheese melts and cooked through, about 10 minutes. At the last 2 minutes, set your oven to broil inorder to brown the cheese. Watch it closely.

9. Serve garnished with chopped parsely.

To be honest, I usually make my own marinara when I make this dish, but since tonight was unplanned, I had to have a little help. But I did add fresh herbs and and a little bit of parmiggiano reggiano (real parmesan cheese) to make the sauce "my own". Since the dish is already rich, I decided on a simple pasta to pair it with - Aglio Olio. I thought that the egg noodles (yolk-free) would be good since it's much lighter. I just sauteed the noodles with garlic, olive oil, 1 tsp butter, fresh flat-leaf parsely, lemon zest, a touch of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Another option that you can do to make this dish healthier is to grill the chicken instead of breading it. I chose to bread it since its the way we like it.

So there you have it folks, my own take of chicken parmesan. My husband absolutely loved it!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Lunch Time...

I made this pasta salad specifically for my husband to bring for lunch. This is really a very simple, everyday dish. I saw the recipe in Foodnetwork but I made my own variation to suit our preferences.

As called for in the recipe, I used fresh pasta (found in the freezer section, Buitoni brand) but you can use the regular pasta, of course. I chose the three-cheese tortellini with parmesan, provolone and romano cheeses in it. Yum! Artichokes , smoked red pepper, red onions, and sun-dried tomato make up for the rest of the salad. The recipe originally has baby spinach in it, but my husband does not like spinach so much, and I did not have it on hand too. So to add a green color, I thought of throwing in the roasted asparagus which was a left-over from dinner earlier.

I made the salad dressing as well. The dressing has fresh garlic (made a paste out of it by smashing it with salt), thyme, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. (the ratio of acid to oil in dressings is approximately 1:3.)
So that's it... a simple but filling lunch for both my hubby and myself. Colors and textures are important especially in salads. They say you eat with your eyes first, so make your meal pretty even if it is simple.

Hope you like it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Quick Dinner

Yesterday was particularly a draining one in the office. Not physically, but mentally. I was dealing with numbers for the most part of the day. If you know me, Math isn't my forte at all. But I like doing something that is challenging. And getting the numbers to reconcile was a major brain stimulant. It's for a huge project contract in thousands of dollars, so obviously, I have to get all my numbers right.

So on my way home that afternoon, I wanted a good but easy to whip-up meal. And in days like this, my go-to food is fish.

I thought of preparing a mustard glazed salmon for dinner. It needs only few ingredients which most of it I already have in my pantry. Above all, it takes less than 30 minutes to cook - and it's healthy.

I broiled the salmon for a total of 2 minutes, then applied my glaze on to the fish and broiled it again for another 5 minutes. Easy isn't it? The glaze consists of dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, fresh rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil.

The asparagus took longer to cook than the salmon. I suggest that you do this first. I roasted them directly in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. The veggie was coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder and my secret ingredient - a dash of turmeric. It's a spice that's commonly used in Indian cooking. It gives a slight smokey taste, much milder than cumin does and I love it in my roasted vegetables.

This dish is so easy and delicious. It is just the right one to do when you are hungry but too tired to spend time in the kitchen. Try it.

Meditteranean Palate

We had this dish the other night but I just wanted to post it here.

I'd been planning to try this recipe from Rachel Ray for days. It is a knock-off of the Morrocan chicken tagine.
You might not like this dish if you've not tried Middle-eastern, Mediterranean or Arabic food before. This dish has so many contrasting flavors going on such as the sweetness from the dried fruit, the tanginess from the olives, the spices from cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon and smoked paprika. Your first bite might seem strange but as the flavors marry in your mouth, the food actually tastes better.

I served the dish on a bed of couscous (ground semolina pasta, a staple of North African /Middle Eastern countries) as the recipe suggested.

If you want to try this recipe, check it out here. The only change I made is adding a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little heat. I used apricots for the dried fruit because I wanted a mild flavor. But on hindsight I think that dates would have added a much better flavor. Or maybe, a mix of both dates and apricots would be a nice balance. Oh well, next time.

Spice Of Life

Cooking is much like life. Different ingredients are needed inorder to have what one may consider a "good" life. Those ingredients are the “spices of life”, the variety which makes life interesting, fun, sometimes excruciating but nonetheless, an exciting journey.

I am originally from the Philippines - was born and raised in Cebu, the place touted to be the Queen City of the South. But my mother came from the culinary center of my homeland, the region of Pampanga, in the northern part of the Philipines. My mother loved to cook and was good at it. Even at an early age, my Mom trained me how to cook. I remember standing on a stool next to her in front of the stove, so I can do the stir-frying. That's how she cultivated within me the love for cooking.

And then as God would have it, I got married to a wonderful man who happens to have a passion for cooking.

Neither my husband nor I have gone to culinary school. My husband, though, has had 14 years of restaurant experience. As for me, cooking is just a result of my appreciation for food, even more so triggered by watching Foodnetwork, subscribing to food magazines and collecting cookbooks all through these years.

This blog is meant to chronicle our adventures (and misadventures) in the kitchen where east meets west, so to speak. It is also my way of giving you a glimpse of my homeland's cuisine accompanied by little anecdotes about our people and our complex but nevertheless interesting culture. Finally, it is my hope that this blog will inspire you to create something from your kitchen.

So here are a few recipes, for a homecooking made simple.

Welcome to my blog.