Category Archives: Cooking and baking

My simple taco recipe for Christmas Eve

My taco recipe comes from last year’s Noche Buena menu.

Usually, during Christmas Eve, we prepare food that we can serve the next day. It’s for random people who visit our house for the usual “pamamasko.” But, last year, I was too busy with my new work. So, my mom and sister decided to “outsource” our Noche Buena feast for that year.

Despite that, my sister still insisted that I should at least prepare two dishes. It’s like her request for me to cook her favorite food. I obliged, since it’s always been my tradition for us to cook our family dinner anyway. She wanted ttaco recipe Philippinesacos and fried chicken. My mom knew my ingredients for fried chicken so all she had to do was to put everything in the turbo broiler.

My taco recipe is also simple. If you’ve been reading my posts, you’re now aware that my sister is a picky eater. Anything fancy would come under tight scrutiny. The more simple the dish is, the more she’ll appreciate it.

It’s ok to combine ground pork and beef if you so desire. That’s what I do on ordinary days, as it’s cheap and tastes almost the same. But, on special occasions, I’d say you can splurge a little and use 100% ground beef.

So here’s the recipe for my Simple Taco. I’m going to use 1 kilo of beef here, but if it’s too much for your family, just make the necessary adjustments.

Ingredients

Taco shells (soft or hard)
1 kilo ground beef
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (substitute: EDEN cheese)
1 medium size onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Grated EDEN cheese or any cheese that you fancy (for Christmas, since we had an abundance of queso de bola, I combined EDEN cheese and queso de bola for the topping)

Procedure

In a bowl, mix the ground beef, salt and pepper and the 2 T of grated parmesan cheese. Remember, since we’re putting in cheese, you might try to put just a little amount of salt at a time. You can always adjust it as you taste. Then sauté onions and garlic until they turn translucent. Add in the beef, cook for about 15 minutes or until the beef is tender. You can add a few teaspoons of your taco sauce if you want, but I prefer to keep it simple.

The rest of the ingredients will be assembled by the diners. This is why eating tacos is fun! It’s like building your own castle. But don’t overdo it, especially if you’re using the hard taco shells. Your taco skyscraper will just spill all over you. Oh, and a word of advice: use a plate or have a tissue in hand when eating a taco 😉 Hope you enjoy my Simple Taco recipe at your Noche Buena!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Puchero a la Perlita, my mom’s puchero recipe

The name is my mom’s because she thought me her own version of puchero, and I’m quite satisfied with it that I didn’t bother looking for other versions.

I like puchero because it has everything in it. It has protein, vegetables, and fruits. It’s filling but at the same time, you won’t feel guilty because it’s a fairly healthy dish.

My mom doesn’t put artificial coloring because my sister doesn’t like the taste of food color and or achuete. So we really just rely on tomatoes. We actually use both the fresh tomatoes and a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce.

I have to warn you, I don’t put water in my puchero. The sauce will come from your tomatoes, vegetables and your protein. I use either pork or chicken. Sometimes I combine both, just because I’m really not fond of pork in my puchero but my dad and sister love it so much.

Ingredients:

1 Kilo Pork (you can use either ribs or liempo. Just make sure there’s some fat to it)
**same amount for chicken, and when it comes to parts, any part of the chicken will do.
1 regular size cabbage (cut into 8 parts)
3 bundles of Bok Choy or Pechay (make sure to clean them properly)
1 bundle of Beans
3 pieces medium size tomatoes (cut into 4 parts)
1 medium size potato (cut into cubes)
3 regular size Saba Banana (cut into 1/3 inch)
A few table spoons of Tomato sauce
Garlic, oil, salt and pepper

Note: This might look daunting because of the number of ingredients involved, but it’s really worth the taste.

Procedure:

Fry your potatoes and bananas first, just enough until they soften up. Set aside. Then, sauté your protein in garlic, tomatoes, and oil. While doing that, splash a little fish sauce. Keep your heat on medium and let it simmer for a few minutes. If you’re combining chicken and pork, cut your pork a little bit smaller than that of your chicken because chicken cooks faster than pork. You don’t want to end up with pulled chicken and pork instead of puchero. This process usually takes 15-20 minutes. Then, add your vegetables. Add first the vegetables that take a while to cook, then your cooked potatoes and bananas. Try adding one tablespoon of tomato sauce at a time until you’re able to achieve the color you want. Simmer again for a few minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. As for seasoning, try not to overdo it, especially on pepper. Since you already added fish sauce in the beginning, taste your dish first before adding more.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

 

 

How to cook Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare recipeKare-Kare is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I can eat it everyday without getting bored or wanting anything else. What’s not to love about it? It has vegetables, peanut butter and oxtail. Though when we choose to make some at home, we opt to use Pata (pig’s leg) because oxtail takes a while to cook, not to mention quite expensive.

Since I’m only home on the weekends, we see to it that we prepare dishes that our family will enjoy. Hence, on one weekend, we made Kare-Kare. My sister has her own bagoong because she doesn’t like the kind that’s being purchased in ordinary markets. But I always believed that it’s really up to you on how you cook your bagoong. That way, you could make it to your own taste and liking.

Here’s my family’s own version of Kare-Kare.

Ingredients

1kb Pata (cut into smaller portions)
Pechay
String beans
Eggplant
Peanut butter
Garlic, a cup of water, salt (fish sauce if you want)
Powdered atsuete (half a teaspoon will do, just to add color)

Procedure

My family's Kare-Kare recipeHeat the pan with a few table spoons of cooking oil. Saute the pata in garlic and atsuete powder. If you don’t want to use atsuete, then you can omit that. Put the cup of water and let the meat simmer until it’s tender. Halfway through the cooking process, put in the string beans, since they will take time to cook. When the meat and string beans are tender, put in the peanut butter. On this I can’t be specific because the amount of peanut butter is really up to your taste. Some people like a lot of peanut butter, while others would opt for a milder taste. I suggest you take a separate bowl, get some sauce from your dish, then mix a few teaspoons of peanut butter. You can always add if you think you need more.

After adding the peanut butter, you can add in the pechay and eggplant. Salt or fish sauce is necessary but you DON’T need to put a lot, since you’ll be using bagoong later. I just want you to season it well because food spoils easily when they’re not seasoned right. Let it simmer for a few minutes, or until the eggplants are cooked, then you can serve it with white rice. If you’re on a diet, then maybe half a cup or rice will do?

Enjoy!!!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to clean fish: fish fabrication for beginners

I can’t forget the day our school taught us how to fabricate fish. I already knew the basics of fish fabrication—the culinary term for butchering or cutting the fish into the desired parts you want—because at home, if the househelp’s not there and my mom forgot to have the fish fabricated before bringing it home, I have the duty to remove its gills, scales, and insides.

At first, the smell was unbearable.  I had to wash my hands multiple times, even to the point of taking a bath just to remove the fishy smell.  If you have a weak stomach, then this job isn’t really for you.  Good thing I was used to these kinds of things.

raw fish fabrication
Whoa smelly

That day in school, when all of my classmates had to fabricate a single fish, I ended up doing two.  I was so confident in doing the first one that I really took my time, from scaling it to removing the bones.  My instructor happened to be very strict.  He even counted the bones, because some fish have specific number of bones in them.  I actually took the wrong fish! What I fabricated was the fish that we’ll use for our dishes and not the fish that’s supposed to be our test.  I only had a few more minutes left, and had to redo the whole thing :O

On to today’s lesson: for the beginner, my first advice is to get yourself a sharp knife.  Actually, if you’re really interested in cooking, good knives are worth the investment.  I collect some myself because they make my life a lot easier at the kitchen.  There are other tools that you can use when scaling a fish, but I still do the old method, which is to use the back of the knife and rub it on the opposite direction of the scales.

Try practicing too on fish like tilapia and milkfish.  They’re easy to fabricate and you don’t really need to remove a lot of things, unless you’re filleting them.

When you start fabricating a fish, try doing it in running water.  Make sure the water’s not too powerful, just strong enough so that while gutting the fish, all the blood and other remnants will easily come out.

Removing the gills takes some force.  It’s a little bit tricky because you might pull the whole head of the fish in the process.  Feel it first.  If the fish is fresh, you’d still see the gills and its whole diaphragm.  After feeling it, give it a one pull.  If not, then you can put it in running water and just remove whatever’s left inside the head.

Cutting the insides of a fish is easier than you think.  Just make sure you have a sharp knife and cut a few centimeters away from the stomach itself.  With milkfish, avoid cutting too near the stomach because there’s fat around it, which is a favorite among Filipinos. Again, you’ll need to feel the insides of a fish.  Insert your hand into the tiny, slanted cut you made and locate the intestines, liver and stomach content of the fish.  If you’re able to do so, make sure that in one pull you’ll be able to take out everything.  But in case something bursts inside, like maybe the liver, don’t worry, because you can always clean it with running water.

After removing the insides, and scaling the fish, the last thing you’ll have to do is cut the fins (wings).  I like to cut them because when you fry a fish, they spread and I don’t like the look of it.  There are some people, though, who like to eat them,  so it’s really up to you.  But seriously, just cut a few centimeters off and it’ll make the fish look prettier.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Learn to cut your own chicken

Before I attended culinary school, I always bought pre-cut chicken. First, because I could choose the parts that I like, and second because I really didn’t know how to cut a chicken up. But when I went to culinary school, they taught us how to do it. It looked easy at first but it was difficult for me. So, I practiced a lot, inspired as well by chefs who’d cut chicken as if it were a piece of cake. If they can do it, so can I! I told my mom to but whole chickens instead of those cut ones. Believe me, in the beginning, my family made fun of my chicken proportions.

But I slowly learned how to cut them properly. The thing about doing your own chicken portions is that you can control the size of your chicken. Not that you can do so much, but you know what I mean.

Caution: Raw chicken contains salmonella, so I advise that you use a separate cutting board for you chicken, wash it thoroughly after use, including your knife. Make sure to cook your chicken properly.

How to cut up a chicken

You need a knife (a sharp one please) and a separate chopping board.

  1. Remove the parts that are hanging, like the head, neck and the wing tips.
  2. Then, cut off the chicken tail. Foreigners don’t really eat this part, but we Filipinos love this. You can set it aside, or you may choose to not cut it yet and include it when you cut one of the chicken breasts.
  3. Cut the skin between the thigh and breast area. Then pop the bone connecting to it. This will give you access to where you would have to cut through the skin to separate the breast from the thigh.
  4. Cut at an angle between the drumstick and the thigh. The knee joint has a bone, and that’s where you have to cut.
  5. Cutting the wings is easy; all you have to do is spread it and cut where the wing ends. (Again, you need a sharp knife for this.)
  6. Cut down the middle following the chicken backbone. You could use a pair of scissors to cut through it, but a knife will do too.
  7. You can proportion size of the chicken breast you want, then just cut through it.

For beginners, I suggest you cut the chicken first into two. Then, you remove one by one the parts. The reason why I didn’t mention this as my number one is because as time goes by, and you’ll get used to it, and it’ll be easier to remove the parts first before butchering the whole chicken.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

 

Rainy days and the Pinoy dishes that match

Last week was hell week for me. I got stuck in the office for four days straight and I had to shop for extra essentials because I couldn’t work while smelling like yesterday’s news.  My body was practically running on coffee—news was everywhere so work at the media firm I work in just kept on piling up.  Add that to the fact that there was really no room to sleep in, so I just ended up taking multiple naps.

But if there’s one thing that I was overwhelmed with during the calamity, aside from flood water, it was food.  Inasmuch as I feel for the victims who were stuck in their rooftops, my officemates and I were constantly hungry and had to refuel as needed.

Do you notice that whenever it’s raining you feel like you’re always craving for something? Some people crave for food, while others have this feeling of snuggling on a sofa with just a hot coffee or cocoa.  If I could indulge on a rainy day, I would cook something, anything! I don’t usually eat after, but the smell of food in the room calms me. I guess food really has that effect on me.  I don’t really have to eat it, i just have to see it.

As a proud “promdi,” there are certain foods that we like to cook when it’s raining, or what I like to call “bed weather”.

  1. Suam na mais – For some people, the sabaw of choice is sinigang because it’s hot and sour, good for rainy days.  But I love the stickiness of the corn, sautéed in shrimps, garlic and onions. Then top it off with chicharon.  Any fried food will go well with it, but I prefer fried fish like tilapia or galunggong.  If they’re fried super crispy, you can actually eat even the bones.
  2. Champorado – Need I say more? Chocolate rice pudding: you can eat it either hot or cold.  I like it hot, then pour some milk over it.  Good to eat when cuddled up in the sofa with a big blanket while watching TV.  My mom and my grandmother like to pair it with tuyo, but I don’t eat tuyo so I always skip that part.
  3. Turon – I know turon with ice cream is a summer thing, but when it’s raining, my family usually has nothing better to do so we end up in the kitchen, cooking whatever is available in the pantry. This is one of the things we often whip up for ourselves.
  4. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and suman – This I can eat over and over again.  I wait for at least a day after buying the suman before frying them and then submerging them in hot chocolate.  Yummy!
  5. Chicken sopas – I have to be honest, I don’t normally cook this because I’m the only one who’s fond of it at home.  But whenever I’m out and it’s raining, if a restaurant we’re in serves it, I’ll definitely order it from their menu.  I just like the comfort it brings when you drink in the milky soup.

I hope you guys stay safe and dry.  I heard there’s more rains coming.  Stock up on food, batteries and don’t forget to just enjoy life.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Missing the kitchen… and my baon!

No kitchen in my dorm!
No such kitchen in my dorm! 😦

I don’t like it when I can’t cook, or when I’m staying in a place without a kitchen. Cooking’s always been my “escape”. I cook when I’m happy, when I’m sad, and when I just feel like it.  So imagine if I have to stay somewhere without a spatula or even a fridge?

My life’s been turned upside down for the past month. I started work with this special project, its grown-up stuff… meaning, boring and really, not related to cooking.  I moved back to my old dorm and even though I feel comfortable in it, there’s one thing missing: the kitchen. My dorm don’t allow any form of cooking, well, aside from the instant cup noodles that you just pour hot water in, there’s no way I could sneak in a portable stove without them noticing it, or smelling it.

Every day, I feel like I’m in a scavenger’s hunt for the food that I want to eat and bring to work.  Yes! I prepare my baon because my schedule is weird and when I work, I usually don’t like being bothered.  I live near a university, so food is really abundant.  But I’m also wary of the many possibilities that these foods are not properly prepared.

So, every day I try to look at the food, not caring if the customer next to me is annoyingly tapping her foot while waiting for me to finish my order.  I make a mental note of the food they offer that day, and if I decide to go back the next day, I’ll look at their menu and see if it’s a re-hash of yesterday’s offering.

I’m really not picky, but I do know the look of food when it’s fresh and it’s already been a day’s old.  I remember when I was still in high school. I don’t like bringing lunch boxes to school. I had that period where I wanted to look cool in front of the other students, so I would line-up in the cafeteria and scout for whatever piping hot food they had to offer.

For moms out there, maybe it’s added work if you pack your kids’ lunchboxes, but it’s always better to be safe than be sorry later.  I know cafeteria food is not as bad as it seems, but there’s just too much junk food available to your kids, and you’re not always there to regulate how much of it they take in. So, I suggest give them something nutritious to combat whatever junk they’ll put in their mouths come lunch time.  A packed lunch with some protein, carbs and a little amount of sweet will help your children get through the day.

Don’t worry, it might take time for kids to get used to having packed lunches, and they might even say that “it’s so not cool” bringing lunch kits at school, but believe me, they’ll get used to it eventually.  And if they’re hard-headed, just bring out your “mothers know best” card. I’m sure they can’t argue with that.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.