Monday, March 31, 2008

Dove Chocolate Bar Mini Squares Assortment: a photo album

I love love love Dove chocolate. It is incredibly silky to the palate and, understandably so, quite addictive. My cousin brought a bag of Dove Chocolate Bar Mini Squares Assortment when they came to visit from the States last January. As far as I know, this is not available in the local shelves. In fact, my sister and I only knew about this from a US magazine ad. So imagine our glee when my cousin left her bag of these delectable chocolate treats for us to finish. It's a good thing my sister and I do not share the same preference in chocolate. She likes milk chocolate, I like my chocolate dark.

Dove Chocolate Bar Mini Squares Assortment bag

Dove Chocolate wrapper

Dove Chocolate Bar Mini Squares Assortment

Dove extra dark chocolate

Food Notebook's Chicken Parmigiana

An hour before lunch time a couple of days ago, I found myself staring at the open ref again. There was half a chicken marinating in the fridge so it was clear that we were having chicken for lunch. As for how it was going to get cooked, it depends on whatever I was in the mood for and of course, on whatever was available in the ref and pantry. Inspiration and necessity my tools for innovative cooking. Sure, there are failures once in a while but the good meals are always worth it. This chicken dish is one of those pretty good meals.

I had pesto, a block of Ques-O cheese, tomato sauce, some tomatoes, and sourdough baguette. Inspired by Life Coffee and Tea's Chicken Parmigiana, I set about making my own version of this Italian dish.



Food Notebook's Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients

1/2 chicken, deboned
2/3 cup soy sauce
juice of 4 calamansi
4 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper

1 egg
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flour

oil for frying

1 cup Del Monte tomato sauce
1 tomato, sliced into discs
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1 cup grated Ques-O cheese

Procedure

Mix together soy sauce, calamansi, ginger, salt, and pepper. Divide deboned chicken into approximately 4 fillets. Marinate chicken overnight in soy sauce mixture.

Combine 1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour mixture.

Beat together egg and water. Blend in flour, mix together until batter is smooth. Dip dredged chicken fillets in batter until well coated.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Fry chicken until golden brown.

Slather about 1/4 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish. Arrange fried chicken fillets on top of tomato sauce. Cover chicken with remaining tomato sauce. Spread pesto sauce on top the tomato sauce layer as evenly as possible. Lay tomato slices on top of pesto layer, about 2 tomato slices per chicken fillet.Cover generously with grated cheese.

Bake chicken for about 30 minutes. Serve with warm sourdough baguette slices.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ensaymada by Heaven in a Box and a day at Dessert Haven

A few posts back, I said I was going to check out Dessert Haven at TriNoma. It was not as grand as I expected it to be. The desserts there was hardly "overflowing", as how it was announced at ClickTheCity.com. Then again maybe I am really just a creature of excess and "overflowing" for me means I get to go home with an embarrassingly large number of desserts at the end of the day. I didn't. I had hoped that they invited more home bakers or baking hobbyists, who are the source, albeit secret, of the most amazing desserts you will ever taste. More specialty baked goods and dessert stores (not as secret but still not as in-your-face as the bigger more commercial establishments) wouldn't have hurt, too. And on that point, it would have been great if suppliers of baking equipment and ingredients had spots as well. Add baking demos by celebrity chefs or artists, and that's what I would call a fantabulous dessert haven. As this was the first Dessert Haven, I assume that there will be more of this in the future and by then I wish it would be a lot better. Or not. But hey, we are all allowed to dream sweet dreams, aren't we?

What I did buy from Dessert Haven though was a box of ensaymadas by Heaven in a Box. They come in two flavors, quezo de bola and ham and cheese (both at Php35 each). Heaven in a Box's ensaymada struck an admirable balance between the flavorful but overly rich and dense specialty ensaymadas and the good old light and airy ensaymada you get from the corner bakery which oftentimes however tastes like paper. Kudos to the bakers behind Heaven in a Box who were able to take the good qualities of the two kinds of ensaymadas that we have grown to love and successfully marry them together to make heavenly ensaymadas.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken inasal marinade in a bottle anyone?

Home-grilled Chicken Inasal using Claude 9 Inasal BBQ Marinade

The number of inasal restaurants mushrooming all over the place is testament to the growing popularity of this famous Bacolod specialty. My father is Ilonggo and I have been familiar with the smell and flavor of tanglad (lemongrass) my whole life so liking the inasal way of cooking chicken is what I would consider a predisposition.

My first taste of chicken inasal however, would take place only during my graduate school days. It was during one of those eat-outs where my blockmates and I would have lunch together as a class at a restaurant of choice. One of those choices was Chicken Bacolod along Katipunan Avenue.

I immediately took a fancy to Chicken Bacolod's pa-a chicken inasal. I had always been a chicken thigh-part kind of girl. You couldn't make me eat chicken breast unless it is absolutely necessary to put me on a diet (again). Speaking of the "D" word, have you ever tried mixing chicken fat with your rice? A friend of mine introduced me to this wicked wicked practice during that lunch out at Chicken Bacolod. She asked the waiter for chicken fat, which they gave out for free if you asked for it. It comes in a little bowl, bright amber in color and looks potentially hazardous to health. Turns any innocent cup of white rice into an extraordinary gastronomical treat. But who are we kidding? It's pure fat! Just think of all of it going straight to your waist and your heart. It was fun for a while. But now, I feel dizzy just thinking about it. If you're one for trying everything at least once in your life though, then make sure to chalk this one up.

Now let's talk about making your own chicken inasal at home. You can mix up a marinade out of tanglad, vinegar, atsuete. But if you are not confident about the proportions or just plain don't care for the hassle, you can always get the inasal marinade from a bottle. Try Claude 9 Chicken Inasal BBQ Marinade. Works pretty darn good. Credit goes to my brother who found this at Makati Supermarket in Alabang Town Center.

Want healthy? Pair your chicken inasal with organically-grown Romaine lettuce from Gourmet's of Tagaytay and a "controlled" portion of their honey-mustard dressing, and voila! Your very own Southbeach diet meal.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pesto! Presto!

You have a recipe that calls for nothing more than oh, say, about three fresh basil leaves. We all know short of secretly plucking basil leaves from a bunch in the fresh produce section of the supermarket, you will be stuck with lots of fresh basil leaves in the ref after the last billow of smoke from what you cooked dissipated.

If you were like me, you wouldn't want those fragrant greens go to waste. So what do we do with left-over basil leaves? Make pesto, of course. Pesto is a versatile sauce you can use on pasta, bread, and just about anything you can think would work, plus it's quick and easy to make. Just mix everything up, put it in a jar (any container really), store it in the fridge or the freezer (in the latter case you may want to use a plastic container, or an ice tray), and use it whenever you need it. Here at My Food Notebook, we're all about improvising and not letting good food go to waste. So we are happy with pesto.

There's a lot of pesto recipes online you could choose from. Including mine(!) So you can't go wrong with this. Just pick one that works for you. I use a hand blender to make my pesto because that's what I have but you can use any regular blender, a food processor, or a mortar and pestle, just like how it was traditionally made. Pesto normally calls for parmesan cheese but I didn't add parmesan cheese because I didn't have any at the moment, and I figured, it's easy to mix the cheese in later when it's time to use it. (Plus, maybe, that helps to keep the pesto longer?)

Food Notebook's Pesto

Ingredients:

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Using a hand blender, pulse together garlic, basil leaves, and extra virgin olive oil, just until all the components are coarsely combined, not liquefied. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the container and stir the mixture a little. Add walnuts and pulse until walnuts are are incorporated with the rest of the ingredients, until the mixture resembles a gritty paste.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oven-roasted Tanigue with Onions Tomatoes and Celery: another seafood recipe

With Easter Sunday over, the Holy Week ends. That doesn't mean though that feasting on seafood should also stop. Here's another ingenious way to cook Tanigue. I concocted the marinade using the basic ingredients of Teriyaki sauce- soy sauce, ginger, and sugar. Ordinarily, just the marinade would do. Great for either grilling over hot coals or roasting in the oven. For this dish, I threw in the vegetables to crank up the aroma and flavor-value of the fish while it cooks in the oven. It's wonderfully flavorful and yet quite easy to prepare. Here's my recipe:

Oven-Roasted Tanigue with Onions Tomatoes and Celery

Ingredients:

3 Tanigue steaks
3 tomatoes, halved
1 onion quartered
2 celery sticks, minced
salt and cracked pepper, to taste
olive oil

Marinade:

1/2 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp minced ginger

Procedure:

Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, and ginger until sugar is dissolved. Marinate Tanigue steaks in the mixture for 30 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, set the oven to "roast". Pre-heat to 200 degree celsius.

Combine onion, tomatoes, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and toss together until all the vegetables are well-coated with oil.

Arrange the Tanigue steaks (with marinade) and vegetables in an oven-proof dish or pan. Drizzle Tanigue with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Oven-roast for about 30 minutes.

Kinilaw sa Mangga na Tanigue recipe

Kinilaw na Tanigue for Black Saturday. For this, I practically begged Mama to look for fresh tanigue in the wet market. Where will I get tanigue at this time of the week? She protests. I had a feeling the craving will not wane easily. Knowing my mom, she will find tanigue somewhere, somehow no matter what holiday it is. I insist.

It was tanigue or nothing for me because I will not have kinilaw in any other way. This white, fleshy fish makes perfect kinilaw. We (Robin especially) prefer this over the red meat of tuna, purely for aesthetic reasons, I guess. I have heard reports about other people actually eating kinilaw na tuna and lived after all.

Mama makes a wicked kinilaw using the outrageously sour juice of green mangoes to "cook" the fish instead of vinegar. Believe you me, green mango juice makes a tremendous difference. To get the juice, grate the flesh of the green mango and with your hands, squeeze the juice from the grated mango until you are left with only a fistful of dry mango pulp. In the event that you make the unfortunate mistake of mincing the mango instead of grating it (experience tells me it can happen), all is not lost if you have a juicer. Otherwise, you will have to get a new mango because squeezing minced green mango for juice is VERY HARD.

Kinilaw sa Mangga na Tanigue

Ingredients:

1/2 kilo fresh tanigue, cut into cubes
juice of 1 green mango, reserve some pulp for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
1 red pepper julienned
1 ginger julienned

Procedure:

In a bowl, combine the tanigue cubes and the green mango juice.

Season with a pinch of salt and a dash of fresh cracked pepper.

Chill in the refrigerator and let it marinate for about an hour to let the acid of the juice "cook" the fish. Make sure that all the fish is well coated with the juice. Toss once in a while, as necessary.

Fresh tanigue meat has a translucent quality to it. Once the flesh turns opaque white, the tanigue is ready.

Add the red pepper and ginger and toss all the ingredients well. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper according to taste. Chill for another 30 minutes.

Garnish with a little mango pulp before serving.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fresh Tagaytay vegetables: a photo album

Good Friday, we journeyed to Tagaytay to hear mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church. As expected, there was a considerable amount of traffic on the way there. As we waited in line to the parking lot, the food vendors along the side road to the left of the church caught our eye.

Tagaytay Fresh Vegetables

There were a couple of vegetable stalls selling beautiful farm-fresh vegetables.

Pristine White Radish

The radish there was the cleanest and whitest I have ever seen. Cheap at 20 bucks per 6-piece bundle where in my mom's suking tindahan, it's normally 5 pesos per radish, and they're nowehere near as fresh and clean as the ones in Tagaytay.

Fresh Pinipig

Have you ever seen fresh pinipig? Not the toasted crunchy ones you see in your halo-halo. Fresh pinipig is actually green, not to mention sweet, soft and chewy. This is such a rare find, I could not have asked for a healthier snack to munch on throughout the car ride. 25 pesos gets you a small cup of fresh pinipig, 35 for medium, and 50 for large.

Sayote

There was a box of big shiny sayotes. Saute sayote with a little garlic and beef and you have an easy and healthy meal. Cooked this way, sayote becomes wonderfully crunchy and juicy.

Hydroponics Technology-Grown Lettuce

A must try- hydroponics-grown live lettuces, still in the soil and pot they were planted in. Can't get fresher than that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Seafood Pasta Recipes

My Mama went home this afternoon with half a kilo of excellent shrimps, large and fresh as can be. She got it from the wet market for 200 pesos, she says. Astounding. Considering how much shrimps are sold at supermarkets these days, 400 pesos for a kilo of shrimps is a good deal. So there I was, expecting a dinner of steamed beef franks and carrots and beans, until all of a sudden I started craving for a fancy shrimp dinner.

I decided I wanted my shrimps peeled tonight. Recipe-wise I had a myriad of possibilities. So as soon as I peeled the last raw shrimp, I rummaged through our pantry and the refrigerator to narrow down those possibilities. There was an almost full bag of linguini, a couple of tomatoes, squid intended for calamares the next day, crab fat left over from yesterday's steamed rock crabs (alimango), fresh basil, a small block of cheese, and a can of milk. Recipes started churning out from my head for about a fleeting minute until finally I decided on two seafood pasta recipes.

These no-guilt recipes would be my contribution to this year's Lenten Season menu.

Spicy Seafood Linguini is a recipe I intended especially for my Mama. During her most recent medical check-up, she said her doctor expressed concerns about her putting on too much weight so her doctor suggested that she take a fancy to French/Italian cuisine. Olive oil, lean meats, fresh vegetables, that sort of thing. This recipe, inspired by a recipe at the back of a San Remo pasta package (angel hair, I think), in my humble opinion passes for "Italian cuisine". It was quite spicy, nevertheless, the whole family, not just my mom, finished this pasta dish in a jiffy.

Spicy Seafood Linguini

Ingredients:

250 grams San Remo linguini, cooked according to package instructions
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, minced finely or coarsely chopped
1/4 kilo large shrimps
1 medium size squid, cleaned of ink and cut into rings
1/2 cup fat of cooked crab
1 or 2 chiles (labuyo), minced
pinch of salt
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping

Procedure:

Saute garlic in olive oil. When garlic starts to brown, add tomatoes, basil leaves, shrimps, squid, crab fat, and chiles. Season with salt and pepper. Stir fry until shrimps turn pink. Add cooked pasta and toss until all the ingredients are well-incorporated. Serve with parmesan cheese.


Shrimps and Creamy Pesto Linguini is a spinoff of a recipe for creamy pesto pasta that Fam, a friend of mine, taught me back in college. We cooked this in our dorm and shared it with our dorm mates. We got rave reviews for it so I'd been making it ever since, save for some variations I occasionally made. Pesto, according to onlinedictionary, is defined as "a sauce typically served with pasta; contains crushed basil leaves and garlic and pine nuts and Parmesan cheese in olive oil". I haven't really tried to crush basil leaves for my pesto recipes though. I am not really a purist and fresh basil either minced or chopped works fine for me. Definitions aside, here's my recipe:

Shrimps and Creamy Pesto Linguini

Ingredients:

250 grams San Remo Linguini, cooked according to package instructions
2 tbsps. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 kilo large shrimps
pinch of salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
3/4 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup Ques-O cheese, grated

Procedure:

Saute garlic in olive oil until it starts to brown.

Add Shrimps and season with salt and pepper.

Add basil leaves and saute shrimps until they start to turn pink. Add milk.

When milk starts to simmer, lower the heat, then add cheese. Cook in low heat until sauce starts to thicken.

Add pasta and blend well. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Serve with sliced French baguettes.

*Thanks to Robin for the great photos in this post.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Coffee Bun by Roti Mum

Whenever we walk along the second floor of the department store side of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA), I try twice as hard to remind myself that I am on a diet. Two words: coffee buns! Call it smart marketing, the Roti Mum store in MOA bakes their coffee buns on site which guarantees that once the smell of freshly baked coffee buns lures you to their shop you will not be able to resist getting at least one coffee bun for yourself.

Before they're baked, the coffee bun dough balls are allowed to rise and then a sweet and creamy topping is piped on the dough in a dainty spiral which melts into the dough during the baking process. Fresh out of the oven, these coffee buns are hot, flavorful, and delightfully soft. Once, I took mine home where I intended to munch on it along with a mug of my favorite brewed coffee. A Roti Mum store clerk recommends popping the cooled coffee bun in the toaster to replicate fresh-baked goodness.

Roti Mum boasts to be the best coffee bun in Singapore. " 23th January 2005, The Sunday Times did a rating for all the coffee bun sellers in Singapore, and ROTI MUM ® was undisputedly ranked the BEST, with a rating of 4 ½ stars out of a perfect 5 !!! " No arguments here. Looking as innocent as a baby's bottom, Roti Mum's coffee buns are devilishly addictive once you get a taste of it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Desserts Galore at Dessert Haven

A dessert expo will be held at the TriNoma mall on March 13-16 (mall hours). I can just imagine all those chocolates, sugar, cream... the best of them all under one roof. I've always been amazed at how I can find wonderful little treasures in expos, stuff that I otherwise won't know existed. So yes, Dessert Haven is definitely one event that I won't miss for the world.

I hope to find more wonderful desserts to gush about there. I know I've already been doing that a lot but like chef Jacques Torres once said: "There is always room for dessert."

For more info on Dessert Haven, click here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mango Torte by Cuerva Bakeshop

The first time I laid eyes on this dessert, it was love at first sight. That fateful day, however, I had to go to a party and I was informed that this torte should be kept frozen until ready to eat. Trying to force the issue, I asked the saleslady how long it can be kept at room temperature. The unfortunate answer was, "one hour". Wonderful.

I dreamed about this torte every night since then until I finally got the chance to get back to the shop*. It was definitely worth the wait, so forget the diet (It's fruit. Vitamin C trumps calories). Light and crisp meringue topped with balls of the Philippines' legendary mangoes and trimmed with whipped cream, Cuerva Bakeshop's Mango Torte should be decreed our national dessert.

*Paz Reyes-Cuerva Bakeshop, Petron Service Station, Dasmarinas Village, EDSA cor. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City; Tel. Nos. 844-0966, 844-8278, 817-0200

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Starbucks Cafe Estima Blend

Described by Starbucks as:

"Velvety smooth and balanced with a roasty-sweet flavor this blend of coffees is a product of the relationships formed between Starbucks and the farmers who grew them. Starbucks is committed to paying fair prices to help give farming families a better life and ensure coffee farms are protected for the future."

Cafe Estima is one of our favorite beans. Sad to say that in a coffee-producing country such as ours, it is very difficult to find good beans in our local supermarkets. In fact, Robin and I have to go all the way to Tagaytay to get our coffee beans. But when we can't go to Tagaytay and we are out of coffee, rather than waste our time in the supermarket, we normally go straight to our friendly Starbucks coffeeshop to get a bag of Cafe Estima.

What I really love about Cafe Estima is that it is not bitter and has an almost chocolatey taste to it, not like most other coffee beans out there in the market. I don't know if it's just me but I can even tell when it is Cafe Estima brewing just from the aroma. But one thing's for sure, one cup is not enough when it's Cafe Estima brewing in the coffee maker.
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