Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The joys of online shopping

This isn't exactly a kitchen post, but it does have something to do with appliances, which in turn have something to do with the home, which is sufficiently related to the kitchen to merit a post on this blog.

I'm on leave this summer (one of the perks of my job is that we get summer leaves every three years), so I've been spending time doing all the home-related tasks and house-related errands I've been putting off all year. I had a plumber come a few weeks ago to fix our leaky kitchen faucets; I had a carpenter come to install some new bookshelves; and (as you know) my husband and I went and bought ourselves a new fridge .... And among the many home improvements I've been doing is making a list of new appliances we need.

And in the midst of all of that ... I've discovered the joys of online shopping.

See, I don't drive. Last week, in the 35-degree heat, I decided that our house needed 2 additional electric fans ... but I was dreading the thought of taking a cab to the mall in the middle of a hot day, buying 2 bulky stand fans, and lugging them all the way to the taxi stand. So I asked my husband if we could just go to the mall one day after he was done with work so we could buy the electric fans. His reply (so obvious to him, because he works in the web industry, but strangely, so un-obvious to me, even if I'm online the whole day), was, "Why don't you just buy it online?"

See, a part of my brain is still stuck in the 1990s, when you couldn't buy anything online in the Philippines. Since then, I actually have done quite a bit of online shopping, but only: (1) on Amazon, when I have relatives flying home from the US and I have padala shipped to them for them to bring here, and (2) to buy airplane tickets.

But, as I've found out these past few days, Philippine e-commerce has really improved in leaps and bounds these past few years, and while we aren't quite at Amazon.com level yet, there are a lot of things we Pinoys can buy online.

So these past several days alone, I've either bought or intend to buy:

  • a Mass card for a family friend who's father passed away (MyAyala.com [which I ought to mention, in the interest of journalistic ethics, is the sister company of my husband's company] -- and they delivered it to the recipient as well)

  • the 2 electric fans (both Abenson and SM Appliance Center have online stores; Abenson has much cheaper delivery within Metro Manila, but when I checked SM Appliance Center had more choices, at least when it came to electric fans [Abenson has more computer stuff, though, which SM doesn't have])

  • a paper shredder, something I've been meaning to buy for ages (National Bookstore -- I plan to make this purchase tonight and I'll probably throw in some school supplies and summer reading while I'm at it, to make the most of the delivery charge)

The thing is, I could go to a mall and buy all that, but the cab ride to and from the mall will cost just as much as the delivery charge (the cheapest delivery fee from the above sites is P150), so why bother? Especially since riding around in cabs in this heat would probably give me a migraine.

So there. Now I think I'm getting a bit addicted to the idea that I can buy things online so easily. I've been browsing the local e-commerce websites, wondering what else I can buy .... Hehehe! Ah, yes, online or in a brick-and-mortar mall, girls will always love shopping. :)

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Chicken with tarragon and mustard cream sauce

After a long while, I decided to try something new (for the last few months we've just been cooking old favorites.

I went online for some ideas and finally adapted a recipe and came up with this:


4 chicken thighs, deboned and deskinned
olive oil or unsalted butter
1 small native onion
1/2 chicken cube dissolved in 3/4 cup water
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 cup cream

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken thighs in olive oil, 2 min each side, over medium flame. Remove the chicken and set aside. Reduce flame to low. Saute onions until translucent. Add chicken broth, scraping off browned bits. Return chicken to the pan. Bring to a boil then cover, lower flame, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove chicken. Add cream, mustard, and tarragon. Mix well and heat until sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Serves 2.

Verdict: Tasty; a little on the salty side, so next time I won't bother adding salt, or maybe I'll put less chicken cube. The broth almost dried out, so it might be good to double check when you're simmering and add water if necessary. Mike said he thought the sauce would go better on pasta instead of rice. The original recipe has brandy in it, and I'm sure the brandy would add a marvelous touch, but I had neither brandy nor white wine on hand, so I simply did without.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Storing vegetables (and some fruits) properly

With a new appliance, I'm fired up to learn to use it properly. So I did a little bit of research about how to store veggies in the vegetable drawer properly ... and found out, to my astonishment, that I've been making some big mistakes all these years! For example, I've always unthinkingly thrown tomatoes into the vegetable drawer ... but apparently, tomatoes ideally aren't supposed to be refrigerated (unless you really intend to keep them longer), because refrigeration changes the taste.

Unfortunately, all the websites I've found regarding vegetable storage were made in the West; I haven't found a website that talks specifically about fruits available in Southeast Asia, or that takes Southeast Asian tropical weather into consideration, but I compiled whatever I found helpful and here's my list. (I changed the name of the veggies to their Tagalog equivalents when appropriate.)

  • Carrots - Remove greens, put in a Ziplock bag, keep in vegetable drawer. Lasts 2 to 4 weeks.

  • Lettuce - I got different advice for lettuce. Two websites said to make the lettuce a little damp (either by wrapping the lettuce in a damp paper towel or sprinkling a teeny bit of water on the leaves), put it in a Ziplock bag, and place it in the vegetable drawer. Another said that the lettuce should be as dry as possible before putting it in the Ziplock bag. Some said the bag should have breathing holes; others said the bag should be completely sealed. Lasts a week to a week and a half.

  • Cabbage - Wrap in Clingwrap, keep in vegetable drawer. Lasts 2 weeks.

  • Sayote - Keep in vegetable drawer. Lasts 1 to 2 weeks.

  • Chili peppers - Put in a Ziplock bag to prevent aroma from spreading to other vegetables, keep in vegetable drawer. Lasts a week.

  • Spring onions - Don't wash. Put in open plastic bag, keep in vegetable drawer. Lasts a week.

  • Ginger root - Wrap in paper bag or newspaper. Store in vegetable drawer.

  • Sitaw - Place in open plastic bag. Store in vegetable drawer.

  • Cauliflower and broccoli - Wrap the head in plastic wrapper. Store near the back of the refrigerator (where it's colder). Lasts a week.

  • Calamansi and lemons - Don't wrap. Store near the front of the refrigerator. Before using, allow to warm to room temperature. Lasts 1.5 to 3 weeks.

  • Squash (opened) - When opened, shop into pieces, wrap each piece well in Clingwrap and keep in the vegetable drawer. Lasts 5 days when opened and stored in the refrigerator.

  • Tomatoes (ripe) - Wrap loosely in paper bag or newspaper. Store on refrigerator shelf. Lasts from 2 days to a week.

  • Kangkong - Put in open plastic bag, keep on refrigerator shelf. Lasts 3 days.

  • Eggplant - Store unwrapped on refrigerator shelf. Lasts 7 to 10 days.

  • Grapes - Don't wash until you're about to eat it. Put in Ziplock bag. Store on refrigerator shelf, near the back. Lasts 2 - 3 weeks.

  • All fruits - As a general rule, don't keep fruits in the same drawer as vegetables. Many fruits need good air circulation and if they need to be refrigerated those fruits are better kept on the refrigerator shelf.

  • Squash (unopened) - When unopened, store outside of the refrigerator in a cool dry place. Lasts a month when unopened.

  • Tomatoes (not yet ripe) - Wrap loosely in paper bag or newspaper. Store in a cool dry place. Lasts from 2 days to a week.

  • The obvious ones: onions, garlic, potatoes.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our new refrigerator

Last week, Mike and I went out and bought a new refrigerator. The old refrigerator in our house was a tiny 7 (maybe even 6) cubic-foot single-door fridge, which we would have to cram like crazy. It still worked, but it no longer cooled our food as well as refrigerators should, especially because it was always so stuffed.

So we took a trip to our friendly neighborhood SM appliance center with a budget of P20,000.

We ended up getting an 11-cubic-foot Whirlpool, a teeny bit over our budget, but pretty much exactly what we needed. We didn't need a big freezer because we have a separate stand-alone freezer, but we did need space for all our bottles (because of all the water one needs to drink in this hot and humid country), and the Whirlpool has nice big door racks for big 1.5-liter bottles, leaving the main chamber free for everything else.

Some happy plusses were a built-in deodorizer, built-in twist ice trays, and Canadian no-CFC technology (good for the environment).

The only disappointment was that the vegetable drawer wasn't much bigger than the vegetable drawer of our old refrigerator.

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What to do with leftover lamb

Mike brought home some leftover leg of lamb after a big business-related dinner at Cyma. So the other day we had a tweaked version of our lamb stew.

leftover lamb, chopped into small pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 can whole tomato, including the tomato sauce
garlic salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
olive oil

We cooked the onion and bacon first, in a large pot, until the onion was transparent, then we threw everything else in, brought it to a boil, then let it simmer.

Yum, it was delicious ...!

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