Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Red Velvet Brownies: A Christmas Hangover

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting
After having a very heavy roast beef lunch for Christmas, I got a hankering for brownies. My last attempt at making brownies was a disaster, just as bad as the one before it. So I kind of stayed away from making brownies for a while. 

Then I tried making date and walnut bars, a.k.a. food for the gods, thinking I would have better luck with it, and it is  sort of like a brownie, so if I do well with it, I will eventually get better at making brownies. (Trust me, inside my brain, that makes sense.) THAT was a disaster, too.  I took it out of the pan and the thing just collapsed. The top was decidedly hard but everything underneath was goo. I did not know what to do with it. I think it sat in the fridge for quite a time while I thought about it. I never figured it out.

After that I decided I was not good at making any sort of bars. Maybe I do not have the right pans. Or I could not get the temperature right. Or I over-mix my batter. Or I am impatient about letting them cool before cutting. Whatever it is, it is getting in the way of me making an edible brownie.

For some reason, yesterday, I thought I could make a good brownie. Ok, that reason is-- I thought Christmas is a magical day. It is that day of the year when anything that proved to be impossible the rest of the days of the year becomes possible. And that day, I believed I could make not just a brownie, but an awesome Red Velvet Brownie. It is Christmas after all. I am going for broke.

I halved the original recipe to fit my 8 x 8 pan, used metal rather than a glass pan, buttered and dusted the pan with cocoa powder (per Martha), and added a cup of walnuts in the batter, but I followed the rest of the recipe to the letter. I also hovered around the oven for a good 40 minutes to make sure the oven temperature stays at a constant 350 F. And when I stabbed the brownie with a toothpick and only moist crumbs stuck to it on its way out, I took it out of the oven to rest on a wire rack until completely cool. I mean it. I left it there on the rack, went to the mall with my family (spent a horrible 2 and a half hours there thanks to the hoards of people who take pictures of themselves in the middle of the busy halls and who push and do not understand the meaning of maximum capacity in elevators and a restaurant staff that dished out service so bad it was unbelievable), and took out my red velvet brownie from the pan only after I got back home.

Red Velvet Brownies
It was perfect. I knew it the very moment I cut into it. It was thick, dense, moist, just slightly sweet, delicious, and quite stunning to look at. The smattering of generous chunks of walnuts was a beautiful touch, I am glad I added it. I also frosted some bars with cream cheese frosting (see recipe here) and because the brownies were not so sweet, they went wonderfully together.

Red Velvet Brownies
adapted from Smells like Home

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 oz red food coloring (optional)
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 9 X 13 clear glass baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in food coloring (if not using food coloring add 4 T of water or milk) and vanilla, mix until the color is fully incorporated. Mix flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the flour mixture being very careful not to over mix.. Do not over mix. The batter will be very thick.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl. You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. 35 minutes for a thin crust on top and gooey underneath. Set aside to cool, cut into bars and serve.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Waiting for Christmas

Coconut Biko
Biko is a traditional Filipino delicacy that is enjoyed in our house come the holidays. It is made by Kuya Iyong, our jack of all trades handyman, who harvests the coconut component of the delicacy himself from the trees that grow around our house. Biko is made with equal parts of glutinous rice, coconut milk, water, brown sugar, and garnished with latik. Kuya Iyong made this latest batch of biko a bit more special though, one bilao with coconut shreds and another with langka. It makes waiting for Christmas Day a whole lot more yummy.

Langka Biko
Wishing all of you joy and fantastic food this Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dips and Crisps at Cafe Republiq

Spinach and Parmesan Cheese Gratin
Yesterday I had the audacity to plan to go watch the Lantern Parade in UP Diliman. It was a ridiculous proposition, I knew that, because in addition to the fact that the UP Christmas Lantern Parade attracts hordes of people every single year, that same day was 1) payday Friday; 2) the inauguration of the monorail in the UP Diliman campus; and 3) a perfect candidate for Christmas party schedule. But I had not seen the Lantern Parade since I graduated from the university a couple of years ago and I truly, madly, deeply, wanted to go this year.

Alas, as expected, traffic was a disaster. And no matter how early I thought I was leaving the house, it was not nearly early enough to avoid the brewing traffic nightmare. Traffic was bad not only in Quezon City, but the entire Metro Manila. Worse, by the time I realized that I will not see the Lantern Parade again this year, traffic going home was likewise in a standstill.

So instead I found myself in Resorts World, Cafe Republiq to be precise, where I drowned myself in Spinach and Parmesan Cheese Gratin and nacho chips. The gratin was warm, creamy, and comforting in its deliciousness. Something I needed to make me feel a little bit better for missing the Lantern Parade. While I can imagine how much the cheese made the dip utterly sinful, the fact that it had spinach in it easier for me to convince myself that I was munching on something healthy. I had to believe that, see, because I munched through those chips and dip like there was no tomorrow.

Cafe Republiq-Newport Mall is located at  2/F Resorts World Manila, Newport Mall, Newport Blvd, Domestic Airport, Pasay.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Dinner Ideas and The BIG Holiday Outlet Sale (A Giveaway!)

December is the season for fabulous feasts. That time of the year that we go on a diet for. You know, to make room for all the food that we will partake of during all those parties and reunions that we will go to.

Nobody goes on a diet on December. The two words, while they start with the same letter, is simply antithetical. That is why every year, I rack my brain to come up with recipes that will knock everybody's socks off during Noche Buena and Media Noche. Of course there will always be roast beef, but it's always nice to have something new and exciting on the table next to it.

Next to food, family, and friends, it is also the season for shopping. Every year, I seem to forget how frenzied the crowd gets in the malls and it never fails to amaze me. Never mind if the sales come in before and after December and everything on the shelves is at full price, people seem to always do most of their holiday shopping in December. Those people, unfortunately, includes me. It's a good thing that my friend (the new mom), Mossy, told me about this huge 3-day sale starting on December 21, 2012, dubbed as the BIG Holiday Outlet Sale 2012
WHEN: December 21-23, 2012, 10a-9p
WHERE: SMX Convention Center, Hall 4, Mall of Asia Complex
WHAT: Sponsored by BPI Edge, SM Cinemas and e-PLUS
  • Up to 80% off on select merchandise from major brands
  • Free entrance to BPI + e-PLUS cardholders (w/ valid ID)
  • Hourly raffle draws for BPI Edge cardholders (1 raffle coupon per P1000 minimum receipt)
  • New Brands!
  • Havaianas, Vibram Fivefinger, Oakley, Skechers,  Levi's, Dockers, Technomarine, Hush Puppies, Sebago, Cushe, CMG (Celine), Melissa Shoes, Ipanema, Grendha, Adidas, Maldita, Space, Speedo, Uratex, Ikea, McJim Leather, Digital Walker, Rudy Project, JBL, Sennheiser, Creative, Ray-Ban, Homedics, Parker, Giordano, Suki Shoes, Daniel Hechter, Robe di Kappa, Case Logic, JB Music, Guerlain, Shiseido, Majolica Mallorca, JB Sports, Polo Leather, Rustan Marketing, Paul & Joe, Nike Golf, Bridgestone Golf, And-1, Gola, Ryka, Pollywalks, Switch, Philips, Triumph, Jockey, Babolat, and SO MUCH MORE!
I love love love outlet stores and just thinking about event makes me feel all giddy inside. So naturally, I plan to do the rest of my Christmas shopping there. Entrance to the event is Php50. But for everyone with a BPI credit card or those apply for one during the event, entrance is free. Not eligible for free entrance? Let me make this outlet sale sweeter for you...

My Food Notebook and Malibu Enterprise, the good folks behind the BIG Holiday Outlet Sale, are giving away FREE tickets to the event. Just send an email with the subject, "TBHOS" to  and in the body of the email, write your first and last name  and help me figure out what to serve along with my holiday roast beef by completing the sentence:

My favorite holiday food is _____________________.

The first 20 email senders get 2 FREE entrance tickets each to the BIG Holiday Outlet Sale.


Monday, December 10, 2012

My Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Recipe

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Having made fresh basil pesto recently inspired me to make pesto out of what remains of my big jar of olive oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes. "Red pesto," others call it, owing to the beautiful deep red hue of the sun-dried tomatoes with which it is made with. It is so easy to make, but the ease with which I was able to whip this up belies the utter deliciousness of this pesto. I learned that the very second that I licked clean the spatula that I used to scrape out the sides of the blender where I made my sun-dried tomato pesto. It tastes of summer, if that makes sense at all.

At first, I just wanted to use the sun-dried tomato pesto on my new pack of rigatoni. But my recipe yielded a lot, good for more than two-servings worth of pasta, so I got creative with the remaining pesto. It makes for such an elegant dip for melba toasts, for one. Combined with cream on the other hand, it results in a pasta sauce so sinful, you will forget about all the health benefits of sun-dried tomatoes.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons walnuts
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Pulse together sun-dried tomatoes, chili powder, cheese, basil, walnuts and garlic in a blender until combined. With machine running, gradually add olive oil and blend until smooth paste forms.
Makes about 3 cups pesto.
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