Dec 31, 2012

Festive Quinoa

I am truly Quinoa's number 1 fan nowadays! I love cooking it and enjoy it as my new found rice replacement. I thought it would be great to make it for the holidays. I experimented cooking it with some spices and see if it would work. I also added dried cranberries and raisins, pomegranate seeds and cilantro to the mix. I was truly happy with the result.  The raisins and cranberries added sweetness to the quinoa and you taste just a little hint of the spices. The pomegranate seeds gave extra crunch and the lovely cilantro added some lemony-mint flavor too! It was truly wonderful! The flavors just worked together so well. You can serve this warm, room temp or cold - whichever you prefer. I think it's great as a side dish for Roasted Turkey or Chicken. Needless to say - it's colorful and festive enough for the holidays! So, without further ado - here's our latest Quinoa creation.


1 cup uncooked Quinoa (I used a blend of the white and colored quinoa)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped


First, rinse the quinoa. Place the 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a fine sieve or strainer. Using cold running water, rinse it for about a couple of minutes. Drain really well.

Place the drained quinoa into the rice cooker or a sauce pan (big enough to accomodate about 3 cups of liquid). Stir in the cranberries, raisins, the spices and salt. Mix everything.

Pour in the 2 cups of water. Give it a gentle stir.

If using a rice cooker - how easy! - Cover then push the cook button and then leave it to cook. It will automatically turn to warm mode when it's done. Turn the cooker off and let the quinoa sit for about 10-15 minutes.

If using the stove top - first, bring to a rolling boil using medium heat. Once it begins to boil hard  (watch out 'cause you don't want liquid spilling all over) turn the heat to low. Cover then continue to simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the quinoa is tender approximately 15-18 minutes. A timer would be handy so you don't forget. Turn off the heat. Remove pan from heat and let it sit covered for about 10-15 minutes.

Fluff the quinoa gently with a fork to separate the seeds. You can transfer the quinoa to a bigger bowl to make mixing the rest of the ingredients easier. Mix in the cilantro and half the pomegranate seeds.  You can serve it as is or if you wish, you can form the quinoa mix into a mound - see photo below. Sprinkle the rest of the pomegranate seeds (and perhaps some extra dried cranberries and raisins)  around the mound. You can sprinkle a few more chopped cilantro on top to even the colors. Serve with your main dish. Yummilicious!

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Dec 28, 2012

Chicken and Cashew Nuts Stir-fry

Probably one of the earliest dish that I have ever made since I got married is this Chicken and Cashew Nuts Stir-fry. It's been a household staple since then. When we have guests over, I usually prepare an Asian meal and unless, a Nut allergy has been made known to us beforehand, this is usually a part of the meal.

It complements Pansit (Filipino Noodles) - they are like sisters! I always have them together and no one has ever complained so I have never changed the pairing!

The only thing difficult (if you can even justifiably call it "difficult" - it may be a stretch....) is the preparation - the actual cutting up of the ingredients. Thankfully, the ingredients are not that challenging to cut or chop. Ok, it's never fun to peel garlic but just be happy there's no onions to add to your agony.

The actual cooking itself takes about 5-7 minutes, depending on how fast your reflexes are - or if you have properly prepared the ingredients in advance. That is a must!

The result is an amazingly flavorful dish considering that it doesn't cook that long; well, it is a stir-fry after all. Anyway, before you make it and you should - your guests would surely be wowed! - just make sure that all the ingredients are ready, ok? That's it! Enjoy!


3 Tablespoons Peanut oil (Vegetable oil is fine, if you can't have Peanut Oil)
4-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (or minced, if you prefer)
1 lb skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into finger-size strips
1-2 Red Bell Peppers (2 if they're not too big), cut into strips
3 Tablespoons Rice wine or dry Sherry
5 Tablespoons Hoisin sauce (or to taste)*
1/2 cup Roasted Cashew Nuts (you can also dry roast them quickly on the stove-top)
5-6 scallions (Green Onions), cut into 1-inch lengths
A few drops of Sesame oil, to taste

*Use a gluten-free Hoisin sauce if you wish to make this fully gluten-free.


Heat up the oil using medium-high heat in a wok or a large frying pan. Saute the garlic quickly. Just let it sizzle for a few seconds but without letting it burn. Add the chicken strips and cook just until they change their color about 2 minutes more or less. Add the bell peppers and continue to stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.

Pour in the rice wine or dry sherry and the Hoisin sauce. Coat the chicken and peppers with the sauce as you stir-fry and cook until the chicken is tender.

Stir in the cashew nuts, scallions and the sesame oil. Serve immediately. Perfect with rice.

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Dec 27, 2012

The Philippines and Leche Flan


As I was writing this, snow was falling hard outside and though I like looking at the glistening snowflakes they made me think of the warm tropical climate of my archipelago. The shivers down my spine made me long for the sunny days in Manila. Since I needed to write a blog post about Leche Flan I thought I would tie it with some lovely photos of the Philippines.

Of course, when I think "warm" the first thing that comes to mind is the white sandy beaches of Boracay. It's not really warm there - more like "hot!" But the beach which has been named one of the world's best a few times is the main attraction. White and fine as talcum powder, the sand makes walking on the beach not only ideal but truly romantic. Imagine the glorious sunsets and Boracay is well known for that too.

We love Boracay so much that we decided it would be our first stop on our honeymoon tour. 

We went there for our honeymoon in 2003. It wasn't just us though, we brought the entire English entourage including Mark's mom and aunt. Fancy that?  It was fun though! From right to left - Mark, Mark Ellis, Janet (Mark's Aunt), John Rayner, Paul Priest, Margaret (Mark's mom), Abby (me) and the manager of the resort where we stayed in Boracay. We thought that seeing as they had flown that far to attend our wedding, we should take them to Boracay as well!

Another photo of Boracay taken by Mark. He is such a good photographer. He just knows how to capture the right angle and shot.

The two photographs below were taken in Tagaytay where Mark and I got married. It's about an hour drive outside of Manila and is a favorite place to visit during summer for its cooler climate.

This is Taal Lake and Taal Volcano in the middle.

With our first and secondary sponsors during our wedding in Tagaytay overlooking Taal Lake. What a happy day!

Here are just some photos of the place where I spent my childhood. Our town is called Gasan and it is in the province of Marinduque, one of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines.

This is Gasan shoreline, our house is located behind the palm trees in the foreground. When I was growing up I remember my mom buying the first catch of the day from fishermen who just came back from their overnight fishing. Fish straight from the can't get any fresher than that! Sometimes in the afternoons either after class or during summer time my friends and I ride these little bancas (outriggers) around the shore until the sun sets. Needless to say there was lots of swimming though I must admit I never really learned how to swim properly and almost drowned twice. One time, a friend and I got caught out of our depth. I was able to swim myself but my friend was pulling me under. I really thought that I was going to drown. All I could do was pray - "O Lord, please save me". Thankfully, my father arrived right on time and rescued us both. Amazing. It was in that same ocean where I almost drowned that I was baptized a few months later.

The island you can see in the photograph above is Gaspar Island one of the three islands that belong to my town. Every summer we go to this island for swimming, snorkelling, barbecues and to have some fun!

This is the sand bar that you land in as you approach Gaspar Island. The water is so clean and clear here as you can see. Our little island Marinduque is truly paradise in itself. It will always be my home.

Now about the recipe, Filipinos have a sweet tooth and we always love to eat, too! And one of our favorite desserts is Leche Flan (Creme Caramel) - a classic Filipino dessert. Traditionally, Leche Flan is steamed but here I am baking it instead so it's much easier.


For the caramel topping:

6 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons water

Don't forget the llaneras or custard molds/ramekins. I use 2 llaneras (Pinoy oval-shaped tin molds) for this recipe. Have them at hand.

To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a shallow pan in medium heat. Stir the mixture and cook until the sugar melts and begins to boil. When it starts to really thicken, immediately pour the sugar on the tins/mold.  Divide it evenly between the molds (if using more than 1). Spread it until it covers the bottom of the molds. The caramel should harden immediately. Set aside.

For the custard:

7 egg yolks (8 if your yolks are quite small) - separate them well from the egg whites
1 cup whole milk (2 % milk is fine if that is preferred)
3/4 of a can of condensed milk
Zest of one lemon or 1/4 tsp lemon extract (2 tsps of lemon juice also work)


Preheat the oven to 375 F/ 190 C.

Whisk together the egg yolks in a big bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
Pour the mixture in the prepared custard molds or ramekins. Place the molds in a baking dish big enough to hold all. Fill the pan with hot water (hot water from the tap is fine) up to half the height of the molds.

Bake for about 30-35 mins. (Adjust the time depending on the size of molds being used). For my llaneras, 35 minutes is just right. The custard should have set nicely at this point. It will firm up more as you leave it overnight in the fridge.

Cool completely on a rack and then refrigerate. Overnight refrigeration is recommended.
To serve, run a thin knife around the mold and then invert onto a plate. Enjoy such creamy deliciousness! By the way, I used a heart cookie cutter to achieve the heart shape but you can of course use a heart-shaped mold if you have one.

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Dec 17, 2012

Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake (with Raspberry Coulis)

On a bi-monthly basis, we get a copy of the Urban St. Shore West magazine which features articles about local shops and happenings in West Michigan, particularly, our own city, Holland, MI. I always look forward to the magazine which can be found all over the shops in Holland. Every publication features a couple of really wonderful recipes from chefs, bakers or just wonderful cooks from the area. The magazine, thankfully, is also free and that's why I always get a copy! I also use it to keep track of the goings-on in our little town so that I am aware of any parades, shows, sales, announcements, etc. since I am always on the look-out for activities to bring my kids to.

For the Dec/Jan 2013 publication I chanced upon this lovely recipe for Flourless Cake from Chef Howard Norris. I have been on the look out for a good flourless recipes for awhile now since Mark began a gluten-free diet so that he can still enjoy some yummy treats without worrying if there's any gluten in it. So when I saw this and read that it was not difficult at all to do (and assumed that it must be good - it came from a local chef!) I thought, why not try it? I am so glad I did and there's no turning back from this recipe at all!

The first time I made it, I must admit I used baking chocolate albeit a very good quality one - Ghirardelli (60% cocoa). After I baked it and tasted it, I thought it just tasted like a very decadent and fudgy brownie (which is not at all an insult to the recipe for it tasted really good...just not what I expected) but when I left it overnight - something must have happened - the taste and texture improved dramatically and before I even got the chance to take some photos of the cake - it was gone - all gone! Can't really blame them or myself for eating it all too quick - it was so good!

So, I decided I need to do it again but this time with a proper chocolate bar - again using Ghirardelli (60 % cocoa) and oh I tell you - it was the probably the best flourless chocolate I ever had! This time I guarded the cake well and made sure I take some photos as proof of how yummylicious it looks - we eat with our eyes first, don't we? This time, I also made some Rasberry Coulis to go with it and of course to make the presentation complete - covered it with chocolate ganache and then placed a few raspberries on top! Wow, over the top delish! The cake is not very sweet - never really liked very sweet cakes anyway! - but it's pure chocolate goodness! Most of all, what a very easy recipe this truly is...anyone can do this, if I can, you sure can!

So here's the recipe - as is...the only adjustment I made is with regard to the Raspberry Coulis - I added a little more sugar since the cake wasn't very sweet. My only other contribution is the chocolate ganache - it's my own but feel free to make your own version. I only made it with two ingredients - chocolate and cream - didn't want to add any more flavoring and I think it really worked well with the cake - chocolate heaven, indeed!


4 oz fine quality bitter-sweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used fine white baking sugar)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder; plus additional for sprinkling (if not frosting)


Preheat oven to 375F and spray an 8-inch round baking pan with Pam. Line bottom with a round of wax paper or parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. (I didn't do this but it probably helps in removing the cake, 'cause mine nearly broke but thankfully I frosted them so it didn't matter).

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering waterm melt chocolate with butter, stirring until smooth. Remove top of double boilers or bowl from the heat, and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the over for 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in a pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Dust the cake with additional cocoa powder and serve or frost with ganache. (Cake keeps in an airtight container for one week - if you can manage to stay from it that long....I doubt it!) :-)

Chocolate Ganache

4 oz heavy whipping cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate pieces (I used Ghirardelli again) 

Place the heavy cream and chocolate in a small pan together. Melt the chocolate using low heat and by stirring until it becomes very smooth and shiny. Remove from the heat and spread it on the cake.

Begin by pouring the ganache onto the center of the cake. Slowly, tip the cake from side to side to allow the ganache to flow off the sides. Stop when you have covered the entire cake. Do not touch the ganache with any utensil or tool or even your finger, or it will not have a smooth finish.

Allow the ganache to fully set before serving.

In the meantime you can make a Rasberry Coulis to go with it.

Raspberry Coulis

1 pint fresh raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp arrowroot (dissolve with 1 Tbsp water)

Puree the raspberries with sugar. Strain juice (to ensure there are no seeds getting into the sauce) into a sauce pan and bring into simmer. Thicken with the dissolved arrowroot. Allow to cool before use. See photo on how you can use the coulis.


Dec 14, 2012

Chocolate Oatmeal with Cranberries and Granola

It's Christmas soon and I have been inspired to make dishes with either some holiday theme or that which uses holiday flavors and colors. Of course, when Christmas is just around the corner - the prominent fruit you'll always see are red cranberries so I thought I ought to use some cranberries for a breakfast dish.

Of course, there are dried cranberries in store-bought granolas but that's cheating 'cause it's already made for you. The only effort you expend is opening the cereal box and pouring some milk on a bowl. I want to do something a bit more challenging than that. Make a breakfast that's easy to whip up for when I am in a hurry (especially with the holiday rush and all) and yet something that tastes great too (despite exerting less effort - though a little more than opening a cereal box!).

Then I remembered one of our friends from Facebook mentioning that she puts some cocoa powder on her oatmeal to give it that yummy choco taste. And of course, there's my chocolate rice porridge - if I can use cocoa powder to flavor my rice - why not oatmeal? After all, oatmeal soaks up flavor so well and definitely cooks faster than rice (especially the quick cooking variety). But, I didn't want a baked oatmeal this time though (I want something quicker and been there, done that) - so it has to be something that can be done on the stove top but will still achieve great flavor as if it was baked!

So using pretty much the same ingredients as my baked oatmeal (milk, vanilla extract, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg except butter and eggs), plus some cocoa powder, I tried cooking the oatmeal with all the other ingredients on the stove top. It took literally just minutes and yet I came out with a beautiful chocolate flavored oatmeal which almost rival the champorado (chocolate rice porridge). I then added some dried cranberries to the cooked porridge (oh yum!) and it was heavenly already. To make it over the top delish - I included some granola to the mix (the store bought kind!) to add more texture and flavor. And voila!  The result is a delicious, I'd dare say - even fancy - breakfast treat that looks like you fussed over it but actually did not! Try it and am pretty sure you'll love it. My hubby (the taster) love it even without the granola but as usual I like it with the granola so follow your instincts (and palate too)! Have a great breakfast!


3 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons, vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons, unsweetened Cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups oats (quick cooking or old-fashioned)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup granola or muesli (homemade or store-bought - optional)


In a saucepan (big enough to accomodate about 4 cups of liquid) over medium heat, combine milk, vanilla extract, cocoa, the spices and brown sugar. Blend the ingredients by using a whisk. Bring to a simmer. Add the oats and cook, stirring constantly until tender (slightly mushy). Quick cooking oats will probably just need about 2-3 minutes while the old-fashioned ones will take a few minutes longer. It all depends on the kind of consistestency you want the oats to have.

When the oatmeal is cooked, stir in the cranberries or raisins and the granola/muesli until well-mixed.
Pour in more milk as needed.

Serve immediately in individual bowls. Serves between 4-6 people.


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Dec 12, 2012

How to Cook Quinoa

I love rice!!! I am Asian and Filipino so, my country men and myself, normally eat rice 3x a day and that is not a joke! We have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention as a snack (think - Bahaw - cold rice) and when you add a little sugar/sweetener (like honey) with it - yes, it becomes dessert. While, I will forever be loyal to both brown and white rice - I have been looking for an alternative to them for variety's sake. Also, if  you're not careful with rice - you can honestly gain a lot of pounds - and not so much because of its high carb content but because (based on my experience) anything you eat with rice - especially curry! - you tend to eat more. It's like sugar - you always crave for more. Because rice is such a wonderful side dish that pretty much can be eaten with any main dish - yes, including noodles (we Filipinos are known to eat spaghetti with rice!) then chances are you'll eat more.

So, enter Quinoa - now my rice alternative. I will not go into the details of how much of a super-food Quinoa is or even debate whether a quinoa is a grain or a seed - you can google all this and find more information elsewhere. All I know is that I found a healthy option for a side dish (apart from rice and potatoes) which I actually like and enjoy! It's not as soft as rice but to me it has more of a couscous feel about it and quite nutty too, but when you cook it properly (no more funny taste) it truly absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce or dressing you add to it and that is such a big plus for me. This way it is similar to rice so it's my perfect rice alternate.

Anyway, here's how I usually cook my Quinoa. Just like how you cook rice actually - except that I add something to it to make it taste better or at least not have a funny after taste. I learned this through a friend who told me this is how to have a better tasting Quinoa. After she made it, I was sold to Quinoa. Now, I can experiment and add Quinoa to salads or just make it into a simple dish without any further enhancements - just like plain old rice. So next time, I fancy a stew and don't want to have rice with it - I have my Quinoa to the rescue!

A rice cooker would be so handy for this - it cooks on its own pace and turns off automatically when it's done so you don't have to monitor it every minute as it cooks. But if you don't have one it's fine, the stove top is always a good place to cook this too!


1 cup Quinoa (Take your pick - white or golden, red, or black or a combo)
2 cups water
Rind/Peel of one orange, chopped or if you want extra citrus flavor - grate the rind of 1 orange and just stir the orange zest in.
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

Note: The ratio is 1:2 - 1 cup Quinoa to 2 cups water - just remember this when you want to increase the Quinoa to more than 1 cup. One cup of dried quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked. If you want a crunchier quinoa though - you can decrease the water by half a cup. Like my rice I like my Quinoa soft rather than crunchy but it's a matter of preference. :-)


First, rinse the quinoa. This is quite an important process so don't omit this. I am not saying that the store-bought Quinoa is dirty but it is good to rinse the quinoa well to improve its taste. Rinsing the quinoa helps in removing its natural coating called saponin which gives the quinoa that funny bitter taste!

Place the 1 cup quinoa in a fine sieve or strainer. Using cold running water, rinse it for about 1-2 minutes. Rub the quinoa between your fingers to assist in removing the saponin. Drain really well. Others recommend toasting the quinoa after this on a dry pan to remove all excess water but I find this to be unnecessary based on my experience. As I said, I don't mind if the Quinoa is a little softer rather than crunchy.

Place the drained quinoa into the rice cooker or a sauce pan (big enough to accomodate about 3 cups  of liquid). Pour the 2 cups of water. Insert the chopped orange rind - they will float, but that's not a problem or stir in the orange zest. You can season it with a little salt if you wish. No big deal, I actually don't season it, so it's fine.

If using a rice cooker - how easy! - Cover then push the cook button and then leave it to cook. It will automatically turn to warm mode when it's done. 

If using the stove top - first, bring to a rolling boil using medium heat. Once it begins to boil (watch out 'cause you don't want liquid spilling all over) turn the heat to the lowest setting.  Cover then continue to simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the quinoa is tender approximately 15-18 minutes. A timer would be handy so you don't forget. Turn off the heat. Remove pan from heat and let it sit covered for about 10 minutes.

Thereafter, remove the orange rind if this is what you used and then fluff the quinoa gently with a fork, and serve.

Cooked quinoa is so versatile and can be used as ingredient for salads, even as a porridge or in making pilafs and as a regular side dish, much like white rice because it absorbs the flavor of whatever you put into it! Perfect!

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Dec 11, 2012

Ground Beef Barbecue Pizza

Ground Beef Barbecue Pizza

Before we decided to go on a more gluten-free diet, we really were big Pizza lovers and we still are though we make it more of an occasional treat nowadays. This particular recipe is a favorite of my little boy - William. He was only about 4 or 5 years old (he's 7 now) when I first made this pizza recipe but even at that young age this already became his favorite. Mind you, he's been eating curry too even at that age so his taste buds are quite use to diverse taste and textures! This picture tells you a lot about how much he loves this pizza! Surely, his favorite!

The inspiration for this recipe came from a cook book which I have read once at Barnes and Noble. We often go there as a family as my kids love reading so naturally that's a place for us to hang out during Friday afternoons, after class hours. My kids will check out the books they love (Sophie heads to the Princess' section as usual and William to any corner with books about Lego or robots - every little boy's favorite nook  I am sure!). Me? Of course, I always browse the Cook Book section, not so much to buy but just to get inspiration for new recipes to try, perhaps learn a thing or two about new ingredients and even check the latest culinary trends. Now I found this book, and I cannot recall what the title is (otherwise I would have heartily given credit to the author/s)  - perhaps it's a book about ground beef recipes (that's the most I can remember) and this particular recipe which I discovered there I cannot forget. It was not difficult to recall because the recipe was pretty easy to do and with only a few ingredients to remember. So armed with whatever was left on my memory bank, I tried to re-create this simple but quite delicious Barbecue Pizza Recipe. Am pretty sure your family will enjoy this and especially MOM! - after all, the ingredients are pretty much pantry staple (well, if you keep pizza dough at hand all the time!). So here's a quick  Barbecue Ground Beef Pizza for those nights when you fancy Pizza but want to make one at home. I use the store bought pizza crust for this but no one will stop you if you want to make your own too! :-)
 Ground Beef Barbecue Pizza


1 lb / 1/2 kilo ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (10-12 inch) pizza crust, store-bought or homemade
1 cup barbecue sauce (your choice)*
2 cups of grated cheese (mozarella or sharp cheddar or a combo of both - this is good for 1 pizza crust)
*I often use Sweet Baby Rays but you can use your favorite barbecue sauce or make your own.


Preheat the oven according to the pizza manufacturer's instruction.

Spray some non-stick cooking oil on a heated frying pan. Brown the ground beef. Crumble with a fork as you brown it to separate the meat. Stir in the chopped onion and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the barbecue sauce. Stir it in to ensure that all the beef are coacted with the sauce. Simmer on low heat uncovered for about ten minutes. Drain the beef if necessary.

Divide the beef mixture into two (if using two crusts). I usually freeze half of the sauce for later use and only do 1 pizza since we are only a small family of 4.

Spread all but 3 tablespoons (set it aside) of the beef mixture on the pizza crust. Sprinkle the cheese all over the sauce. Use the left over beef as topping for the pizza.

Bake in the oven according to the pizza manufacturer's instruction (approximately 10-12 mins with a temp range between 400F - 450F).
Enjoy a slice or two! Lovely with some salad on the side!

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Ground Beef Barbecue Pizza


Dec 6, 2012

Baked Spinach and Eggs

A low-carb, gluten-free breakfast dish that can keep you going for hours! Healthy and delicious and can be made in individual portions. #baked #spinach #eggs #breakfast #brunch

Have I already mentioned that I love hot cooked breakfast? Perhaps just a million times! I am a creature of habit, that's why. I grew up in our island of Marinduque having cooked breakfast all the time. Everyday. It was the norm. We had rice for breakfast everyday - almost always accompanied by eggs and with some meat cooked in a variety of  ways (pork tocino, beef tapa or perhaps even some left-over fried chicken) and yes, even fish - whether smoked (Tinapa) or fried (Daing - first comes to mind)! Of course, I should not forget the Ma-ling (Chinese Spam) or the more expensive Spam! I won't mind having them everyday though I will probably gain a few pounds if  I do so. :-)
But that's just the way it is, I assume, in most houses in the Philippines. Breakfast is almost like dinner in the sense that people still eat together whenever they can. Kids have to be up early for school and parents need to prepare for work so it makes sense for everyone to eat together. Well, at least it was like this in our house when we were growing up. There's only one cook - whether it was my mom or a helper who makes breakfast so it's impractical to cook each breakfast dish on piecemeal basis. If you want to eat a later breakfast, you may, but it would be a cold one. We usually gather at a certain time and though we would leave some food for anyone who wakes up later than usual, the food would have gone cold. My brother can attest to this! When we were young we didn't have a microwave so nuking the food to reheat it was not an option. Even nowadays, not many people in the Philippines use the microwave though already readily available.
Anyway, talking about hot breakfasts and eggs - here's a very easy dish that you can prepare in minutes. Love this breakfast anytime!


6 cups firmly packed baby spinach or 1 (10 oz or up to 1 lb) bag fresh baby spinach*
4 eggs (can increase to 6 if you are using more spinach)
Salt and freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp crumbled Feta Cheese for 1-2 eggs (about 2-3 Tbps in total)   
Baking spray or a little oil for greasing

*You may use frozen spinach too.


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray or grease with a little oil individual ramekins or other small oven safe dishes that can accomodate 1-2 eggs. See photo above. Set aside.

Place the spinach in a deep skillet or a large frying pan. Add a little water (2-3 Tablespoons). Using medium heat, cook the spinach just until wilted, roughly 3-4 minutes. Use either your hand or a spatula to pack in the spinach. Drain the excess water well especially if you are using  frozen spinach.

Distribute the spinach evenly among the prepared ramekins or oven-safe dishes.

Crack 1-2 eggs on top of the spinach. Season lightly with salt and pepper - lightly because Feta cheese is pretty salty on its own. Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese on top.

Place the baking dishes or ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15-18 minutes or until the eggs are set/cooked (whites are set and yolks look firm on the edges) to your liking. I like mine well-done but some like eggs that are a little runny. Whatever you like as long as the eggs are susbtantially cooked inside, it's fine.

Serve with some toasted bread or rice on the side and tomato juice! A healthy breakfast that will keep you going for hours! Enjoy!

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Dec 4, 2012

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

I love peanut butter! In the Philippines, one of my mom's co-teacher make homemade peanut butter ever so often and we always made sure that we place an order so we get a jar or two of this favorite spread of ours! It's the  kind of Peanut Butter that I always imagine Peanut Butter should be - creamy, a little sweet and of course with the peanut oil floating on top to characterize its genuineness. For me, that's still the best peanut butter I have ever had and will always crave.

I have never thought though that the day would come that I would not only use peanut butter as a spread or for cooking (which is pretty common in the Philipines and most of Asia) but as an ingredient for a beverage. I can't drink peanut butter. Sounds awful, doesn't it?

But I have seen quite a few Peanut Butter Smoothies around and I have been intrigued ever since. So today to finally put this doubt (as to whether you can use peanut butter in a beverage or not) aside, I made my very first Peanut Butter Smoothie. I love texture in food so I used the crunchy Peanut Butter and yes, the kind with the floating oil on top!

My reaction - how could I have waited this long? I thought the only good smoothies are the pure fruity ones - mango, bananas, strawberry, avocado, soursop or a combo of any of these, just to name a few. Now this Peanut Butter smoothie has truly gone up the list and has knocked down one or two fruit smoothies in the process!

Of course, Peanut Butter is not complete without its sparring partner - the banana which add to the creamy flavor and gives it the smooth finish!

What a delightful smoothie! Use this recipe as a guide and then adjust as you please. I usually never measure a smoothie and depend on my taste buds for taste and texture.


2-3 ripe bananas (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup  Crunchy Peanut Butter (or to taste, I ended up adding more!)
Milk (begin with 1/2 a cup and then add more as needed)
1 Tbsp Agave nectar (or your favorite sweetener)
Ice (eyeball it)
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

*If your bananas are frozen, you probably don't need ice or only a few cubes. Just chop the bananas first so it's easier for the blender to break it down.


Combine all the ingredients in a blender. If bananas are frozen, I place them on the bottom of the blender just like I would put ice (if using) on the bottom too. Process till everything is smooth and to your desired texture or consistency. I use the Smoothie/Milkshake button on my blender. Adjust the sweetness to your taste. Enjoy!

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Dec 3, 2012

Almond, Coconut and Choco Chip Cookies (Gluten and Egg Free)

These gluten-free and grain-free cookies were inspired by the Indian ball-shaped sweet treats called Laddoo/Laddu. When I looked at the ingredients for this - Almond Chocolate Laddu - I was thrilled to discover that they were gluten-free. Perfect! My hubby is on a gluten-free diet and to ensure that he doesn't miss out on sweets (which are almost always a gluten-fest) I always try to experiment on new gluten-free desserts! 

So I made the Almond Laddu based on the recipe and I actually fell in love with it! It was really yummy! Looking at these sweet balls they reminded me of cookie dough (although these ones you can eat right away) so, guess what? That gave me the idea of baking them and treat them like a true cookie dough and then see what happens.

I was not very optimistic at first. After all, there was no flour in it, not even eggs! How can this work? Yet, it was chewy and gooey enough and I thought it may be worth a try!

Boy, am I glad I tried it - it was even better cooked! Most of all - it's not only gluten-free, it's grain-free too! My hubby was very pleased and this has become one of his favorite treats - how can you not like it - almonds, coconuts and chocolate chips all rolled into one delicious treat! I can have this anytime!

By the way, the inspiration came from this lovely site - Simply Delicious - Almond Chocolate Laddu. I converted her measurements to American and used ingredients that I had available. I used almond meal and didn't make it from scratch. I can't remember exactly how many cookies I made 'cause half of them I made into Laddus while the other half I baked into cookies. I will note next time. I just know they are cute little nibbles that are oh so delicious! I will probably increase the measurement too so I can get more cookies out of it. In the meantime, here's the basic recipe which you can tweak to your heart's content! :-) 


3/4 cup  Almond flour/meal  (like Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like the dark chocolate variety)*
1 /4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp regular milk
1/2 cup grated coconut (I used the unsweetened variety)
A few extra choco chips

*Use a gluten-free brand if you wish a completely gluten-free version otherwise, regular chips will do.

Place the almond flour into a mixing bowl. Add the grated coconut and mix well.  Set aside.

In a small sauce pan combine the chocolate chips, condensed milk and regular milk. Melt the chocolate and mix well with the milk on low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate melts.

Pour into the almond mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, mix again by hand and shape into balls. While you are shaping the dough into cookie balls, preheat the oven to 350F.

Place the cookie balls (I did flatten them a little bit with a fork) in a cookie sheet (greased or lined with parchment paper). You may want to place a few chocolate chips on top for that extra chocolate flavor!

Bake for approximately 6-8 minutes.They're pretty small so they don't need a lot of time to cook, depends on how chewy you want them to be. Just do not overcook it unless you want a crunchier cookie. I think it's perfect at 8 minutes but since oven heating and temps vary, adjust the time accordingly.

In fact, if you want to stick with the original Laddu concept - you don't need to bake them at all - you can eat them as is and they're so yummy too!


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