Saturday, August 18, 2007

Baked orange chicken

I got a recipe from and adapted it a little. Here it is:

1 pack chicken drumsticks (8 pieces)
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried thyme

Citrus Mix:
2 tbsp calamansi juice from concentrate (mixed)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1-1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp ginger root, crushed
2 tbsp melted butter/margarine or olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the ingredients for the citrus mix and mix well. Baste chicken pieces generously with the citrus mix. Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and thyme.
3. Bake chicken uncovered in a baking dish for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from oven. Turn over chicken pieces and baste generously again, with the rest of the mix.
5. Return chicken to oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until done.

Serves 3.

(For a slightly healthier dish, remove the chicken pieces from the sauce when cooked, and just pour a little of the sauce over the chicken to serve.)

The dish was okay, except it was a little difficult to get the chicken cooked just right (I had to put it back in twice). Also, Mike said it was a little too gingery.

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Monday, August 13, 2007


Via was asking what Mike and I eat for breakfast .... I find it funny that I've written so little about breakfast, considering that Mike and I take our breakfasts quite seriously! When we go grocery-shopping, choosing our breakfast food is often a high point of the trip.

I like heavy breakfasts, since I need to have a lot of energy when I'm in the classroom, so a traditional Filipino breakfast--i.e., a rice breakfast--makes me very happy. The rice is usually either sinangag (last night's leftover rice, fried with lots of garlic) or freshly steamed. I grew up in a Batanguenyo household, where we poured tsokolate on our steamed rice in the morning (I learned from my friend Jan that Ilonggos do this too), so sometimes I do that as well. (Mike thinks it's strange, but then, he's not Batanguenyo.) Alternately, I sprinkle furikake (rice seasoning--one of the best Japanese inventions!) on my rice for some extra flavor. (You can sometimes find furikake in the Japanese aisle of big supermarkets.)

Our ulam for rice breakfast meals is usually something easy to cook, with zero preparation. Sometimes we have pre-marinated beef tapa (our favorite is the one from Lapid's--yes, they do tapa too!), sausages or cold cuts (we are fans of the very affordable but very yummy products from Earl's delicatessen), tuyo or daing out of a jar (we like Connie's Kitchen), chicken nuggets, beef franks, or something out of a can like corned beef or Spam Lite. Another favorite breakfast ulam of ours is Sarangani's tinapang bangus. It just needs to defrost a little after you pull it out of the freezer, then you just heat in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes.

And of course, it isn't a true Filipino breakfast without egg. I love scrambled eggs the way my mom taught me to make them: I beat them very well with a generous amount of milk, and I continue to beat them (or more like mix them) in the pan so they get as fluffy as possible.

Sometimes, instead of rice, we have bagels with ham and cream cheese. Yummy and quite heavy.

When we're in a rush and we don't have time for a heavy breakfast, we each have a bowl of cereal and milk. Shopwise has wonderful cheap cereals (P80 to P120 a box). Sometimes we each chop a banana into our cereal bowls so it isn't too light.

On weekend mornings when we have more time to cook, we make ourselves a generous, sinful omelette oozing with cheese and either bacon or ham. Other times, we'll have pancakes or French toast.

And finally, on really lazy weekend mornings, when we wake up late, I'll sometimes just make a banana smoothie for each of us, then we save our appetite for brunch. :)

I promise to give more details about our breakfast meals in future posts. :)

Thanks for the idea, Via!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Beef Stroganoff, 2

We made another beef stroganoff for lunch today, tihs time following a recipe from an excellent cookbook: Mike's parents' compilation of recipes. We made a few adjustments, and here it is:

250g beef stroganoff, seasoned with salt (or meat tenderizer) and pepper
1 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped finally
1/2 cup beef broth thicketned with 1-1/2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine
1 tsp Worcestorshire sauce
1/2 can mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream, yogurt, or cream
salt and pepper to taste

Sautree onions in butter. Add beef and sautee until brown. Add beef broth, mustard, wine, and Worcestorshire sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes (longer to tenderize beef). Five minutes before serving add mushrooms, sour cream, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve on spaghetti pasta or rice.

Serves 2.

Yum! This version was a lot thicker than my last attempt, because of the flour; I realize that when serving the stogranoff with pasta (which is what we did), it's important to have thick sauce, so that the sauce coats the pasta properly. With rice, the flour isn't necessary, methinks.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Moussaka, with eggplant

We tried to put together a moussaka again today, this time with the eggplant. Here's what we did. Updated on August 27th. We tried it again, this time with a bechamel sauce. It's optional, though, and you can just do it with a regular cheese mix. I've listed both options below.


250 g lean ground beef
garlic salt
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/8 cup red wine
2 tbsp English brown sauce (ketchup will also do)
2 tomatoes, diced
olive oil
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
dash of Tabasco
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 an eggplant (we don't like eggplants much, so we kept it to a minimum), sliced

Cheese Mix/Bechamel Sauce:

For an easy cheese mix: 1 egg, beaten and 1-1/2 cups quickmelt cheese, grated

For bechamel sauce, also add:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tbsp flour
1 additional egg, beaten

1. Chop eggplant into small pieces and put in a cup with salt water. Allow to sit.

2. Mix the tomato sauce, brown sauce, red wine, garlic salt (to taste) and pepper (to taste) into the beef.

3. Caramelize the onions in olive oil. Add the beef until brown. Simmer until dry.

4. While beef is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius.

5. Rinse the eggplant pieces, then fry the eggplant in olive oil in a separate pan.

6. Prepare the easy cheese mix by beating the egg and mix in the grated cheese. To make the bechamel sauce instead, heat the milk and add the flour little by little, stirring constantly. Mix in the cheese and eggs, stirring until sauce has thickened. Remove from fire and allow to rest.

7. When beef is done, season with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and Tabasco. Mix in the tomatoes.

8. Place a layer of the eggplant on the bottom of a baking pan. Pour beef as the second layer. Top with the cheese mix/bechamel sauce.

9. Bake for 20 minutes.

Yummy! Tastier than our last attempt, and cheesier. We didn't simmer the beef enough, though, so next time we'll dry the beef better. It took more work, but this is probably more authentic because it has a proper sauce. Nonetheless, it's also good with just the simple cheese mix.

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The village where we live has implemented a composting policy. The garbage men who come to our village will no longer collect our biodegradable garbage: residents are encouraged, instead, to compost all of our biodegradable trash.

For P600 each of us can buy a composting bin and 25-kilo sack of special composting soil. The composting bin is a plastic drum with the bottom cut out and holes drilled into the body, meant to be placed in the garden. However, any container can actually take its place; some people just use a circle of wiremesh (the wire improves air circulation) in their garden. The soil has some fertilizer and microorganisms in it already, to make the decomposition process happen more quickly, but again, regular soil can also be used. Some people don't use soil at all, but without soil, it might be slightly more difficult to find the right mix of organic trash to activate the decomposition process; moreover, one has to be a little more judicious about what kind of organic waste to compost (see below).

What can be composted? Technically, anything that's organic, although websites I consulted recommend that manure and urine from carnivorous animals (such as dogs and cats), diseased plants, and ash from charcoal not be home-composted, because the heat of home composting piles rarely reaches the intensity necessary to kill pathogens that can spread disease and illness to other plants or, if the waste seeps into water sources, to humans. When soil isn't used, it's also a good idea to avoid using meat, milk, dairy and fish products, as rodents and other animals may come and try to dig these out of the composting heap. Those planning to use the compost to fertilize vegetable patches might also want to avoid adding weeds to their compost pile, so the weeds don't spread to their vegetable patches. Wood scraps (from untreated wood), ash from untreated wood, food scraps, fruits and vegetables, garden trimmings, shredded black and white newspaper, shredded clean (unwaxed) paper, shredded toilet paper, manure from vegetarian animals, shredded cardboard rolls, shredded cardboard cereal boxes (if unwaxed), coffee grounds and filters, cotton or wool (i.e., natural) rags, lint from driers and vacuum cleaners, crushed eggshells, hair and fur, nut shells, tea bags, sawdust, and dead leaves all can be composted without problems.

The composting process is simple. First, organic trash needs to be cut into small pieces to hasten decomposition. It is best if the bottom of the composting heap is well-aerated, either by using a composting bin with holes in the bottom, or by putting an initial layer of wood materials and scraps that can allow air to pass through. After this, the bottom layer of the heap should be a two-inch layer of soil or nitrogen-rich garbage ("green stuff" such as fresh grass clippings, kitchen vegetable scraps, manure from vegetarian animals, or [brace yourself for this] a bit of human urine). The next layer (no thicker than two inches) can be any kind of organic garbage (this is the layer where carbon-rich waste is concentrated: "brown garbage" such as dead leaves, newspaper, and wood scraps), followed again by a two-inch layer of soil or nitrogen-rich garbage. As trash accumulates, this process of layering continues. It is helpful to keep the heap covered so it doesn't get too wet with rain, and so rodents or animals will not try to dig through the composting heap.

If your compost bin is made up of a lot of food, watering the compost heap isn't necessary, because kitchen scraps contain a lot of water. (I think the humidity of the Philippines also helps to keep the composting heap moist.) Compost bins composed of very dry materials, however, need to be watered a little until damp (not too much!) as each layer is added.

In ideal conditions, composting takes just three to six weeks. The compost heap will first warm up then will begin to cool. In ideal conditions, it should emit a sweet, earthy aroma. When conditions are less than ideal (e.g., heap is too dry, too wet, or has too little nitrogen-rich materials), decomposition may take a bit longer. You can correct this easily, depending on the problem. If the pile is not warming up, add more nitrogen-rich materials, sprinkle with water, and turn the pile a little with a rake or shovel. If the pile has a foul garbage-like odor, add more nitrogen-rich materials. If the pile is too wet and soggy, add more dry materials (such as dried leaves), and turn the pile.

After the compost heap is warmed up and then cooled, the compost heap is almost ready! Turn over the pile, to allow the bottom to dry. When done, the compost can be used as a thin layer of fertilizer for the garden and for house plants.


Our homeowners' association in our village resells composting soil, but if you're interested you can contact Lacto Asia Pacific Corporation, the suppliers of Happy Soil at 7761511 or email address lactoasia[at]yahoo[dot]com.

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