Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to roast pumpkin and other large, uneven shaped vegetables (pumpkin and squash, etc.)

Let's face it: pumpkins, squash and other large vegetables are always hard and has thick skin to peel when raw/uncooked especially when you just want the flesh to eat straight or need it for another recipe.

If you're fastidious about your pumpkin or squash being roasted unevenly and siting in the oven on a lopsided manner because of it's uneven, irregular shape and they won't stay flat and and you have a pyrex™ salad bowl or coffee cup-then your problem has just been solved: any OVEN-PROOF/heat-proof vessel will do.

A wok ring or any metal ring smaller than the vegetable works too!

It's very important that the container you have are slightly smaller than the pumpkin/squash. The idea is to have something to cradle it inside the oven and the heat evenly roasts the vegetable without the brown sugar, butter, etc spilling over the pan.

Don't forget to put at least a quarter or half of hot (NOT boiling) water in the bowl or mug.

So there you go: the most easiest way to get these vegetables in your mouth to your belly. If you just wanted the flesh : NO PEELING, NO CHOPPING required to make it into smaller pieces (you do that after you roast it). Just wash and cut in half then oil and season.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

cafe-style pumpkin muffins with rolled oats and pumpkin seeds

Pre-note: to skip my rant, the "print" button/link is always on the top, right side of the blog. Don't forget to click the "remove images" if you don't want to include the photos.


These are called "Rachel's pumpkin muffins" by the famous "Cafe Beaujolais" of  Mendocino city, CA. (No, I haven't been to that place. ) Since it's pumpkin season-I might as well jump on the bandwagon of food bloggers cooking and talking about "pumpkin" (But I really don't have to.)

I adapted the recipe from the cookbook (I bought in a garage sale!) but tweaked it a little bit by adding 1/4 c more of oil as Margaret Fox, the author, said "this was kinda dense".  I think due to that fact that it has more than 2 cups of flour. The recipe says "corn oil" but I used a cooking oil blend since that was what I had.

I wondered if she meant that it looks (and feels in the mouth) like a pound cake gone wrong that  when you slice a piece, both sides are smooth and partly uncooked (you know what I'm saying?) which meant it did not have enough baking soda or powder. Anyway, I went ahead and add that extra oil (optional) as if I know what I'm doing (tahaha). I also decorated these muffins by topping them with rolled oats and sunflower seeds-just because.

By the way, I also changed the way it was baked: instead of baking it at 350°, these muffins were baked at 400°. I just thought having 2 teaspoons of baking soda, these muffins need to 'rise' to its potential hence a really good hot oven will do it's job for the first 10 minutes.

They turned out pretty, pretty good!

Makes 12 muffins (NOT cupcake size)


2 cups brown sugar
1 cup canola/vegetable/sunflower blend oil plus 1/4 c
4 eggs slightly beaten
1 can pumpkin puree
3 1/2 cups flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t powdered cloves
2/3 cup water
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c raisins
1/4 cup rolled oats (optional)
1/8 cup sunflower seeds (optional)


Preheat oven to 400° F. Line muffin pan with muffin cups or brush pan with oil and sprinkle each cavity with flour. Tap off flour, set aside.

Mix together sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together all dry ingredients, and add, a little at a time alternating with water to the pumpkin mixture. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, combine after each addition. Do not overmix. Stir in walnuts and raisins. Do not overmix.

Fill cups 2/3 full. Bake for 10 minutes at 400° then lower oven heat to 375° and continue baking for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted all the way to the bottom of a muffin comes out clean.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Updated: Grocery-style Tocino. Tosino

I miss tocino (Yeah, it's supposed to be spelled with a "c" instead of "s".). It's cured meat Filipino-style. Well actually it's a Spanish word for "bacon". Tocino is also a typical accompaniment in  Caribbean dishes as well.

What makes it apart from all the other cured meats of the world? The sugar, garlic and anisette (anise-flavored liquor) creates a wonderful explosion of flavors in your mouth that makes you want to eat more and then that's your meal for the day. You won't even crave for junk food or snacks in between meals. That is if you eat this for breakfast or lunch.

Tocino can be eaten for dinner too but preferably breakfast.

I made 2 lbs of this because I don't want to go to Vegas (Asian grocery store) to buy them. Waste of time, effort, energy, mulah. We really don't give a crap about Vegas unless I have to visit the Motherland via McCarran International airport or we need to watch a show we both like to see on the strip.

I've used this recipe several times on chicken, pork, veal and lamb. I'm using pork again today. Word of advice: this has pure food-grade phosphate I bought on eBay.

It's supposed to make the meat firm when raw but tender (and still firm) when cooked. If you have no way of buying  phosphate online, check your local health food store if they sell calcium phosphate in the highest mg. Pound and grind into fine powder and use as substitute.  For vitamin C called for in the recipe, if you have pure Vitamin C (w/o rose hips please) from 500-1000 mg in your medicine cabinet, use it; also pound and grind in to fine powder.

No anisette? Don't you think it's time to buy a bottle just for making your own mass-produced tocino? However, I am actually testing an anisette substitute recipe. I will post it as soon as I am done testing it as I know some of you would like a non-alcohol based anisette substitute.

Typically, tocino is RED of food dye/color. I omitted that altogether. Isn't that great?

I heard dried plum can be a substitute for phosphate. I will have to try that out next time.




2.20 lbs or 1 kg pork tenderloin or pork belly
2 T kosher sea salt (regular salt is okay)
1/2 teaspoon curing pink salt also called Prague powder
12 T light brown sugar (granulated white is okay)
1 teaspoon phosphate dissolve in 1/4 cup water
2 T Anisette
2 T pineapple juice (optional)
2 T finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon vitamin C
1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)


1. Pat dry the pork and place in a large non-porous bowl/container preferably glass, metal or hard plastic; set aside. 

2. Mix all the dry ingredients and set aside.

3. In another bowl, mix all the liquid ingredients.

4. Cut up the pork to bite size pieces or at least 1/4 inch thick, 2" long.

4. Carefully pour the wet ingredients on the meat and mix using your hands. Follow through the dry ingredients and combine well with hands.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-48 hours.

Note: after 6 hours, you can decide to freeze the remaining tocino that you will not cook. Use a freezer bag. For this recipe, I freeze 1 lb of the tocino to be used some other time.

How to cook:

for 1 lb of cured tosino, use a large pot or saute pan. measure 1 cup of water and pour over the cured meat in the pot. Add 3 T of cooking oil preferabley corn oil, coconut oil or vegetable oil.

bring to a boil on high then lower heat to medium high. continue boiling for at least 10 minutes

bring heat to low and cover to simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover and bring heat to high; continue stirring to let the water evaporate and coat the meat with the fond (caramelized bits of meat sticking to the pan after browning).

Fry in the rendered fat, oil that remains in the pot for 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Best enjoyed with a side of steamed rice OR garlic fried rice and sunny-side up eggs, over easy OR over  medium.

Thanks for reading!

Inspired by a recipe by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for Women Center (TESDA), Philippines.


Update: I apologize. When I get excited sharing a recipe, I just ram the keyboard and type my brains out forgetting some ingredients or even a step in the procedure. Really sorry.

I totally left out on previous recipe the most important ingredient which is the "curing salt" or "pink salt"; also called "Prague powder". It should NOT be confused to the "Himalayan pink rock salt".

The purpose of Prague powder is to kill micro-organisms or delay microbial action. I bought the Prague powder online. If you live in a big city with easy access to independent butcher shops, then just give them a visit and check if you can buy or even ask for just a tablespoon of it-for FREE!

I also forgot what part of pork you need to use. This has now been updated above.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Oatmeal Muffins with Cranberries, Dates, and Walnuts

I have exactly the ingredients to make my own recipe for a muffin like below except the raisins so I used dried sweetened cranberries and just followed another food bloggers recipe instead.

This has cinnamon and buttermilk too. Read more here.

Hubby said it's the best oatmeal cookie he's had-in a quick bread form. (Teehee!)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

making Ginataan out of nothing at all

If you like tubers and yams-you will make this dessert-snack dish.

In the Philippines, it's called 'Ginataan' (ghee-na-ta-an) and it's a noun at the same time a verb from the root word 'gata' (gah-tah) meaning "coconut milk". 'Ginataan' translated to English means "with coconut milk".

In my own dialect, the first letter A in the word would be U hence Bikolanos (from the region of Bicol) call this "Ginutaan" (ghee-nooh...)

Since it's autumn/fall here in the US-fall produce is in season especially sweet potatoes and yams, I thought I'd make Ginataan (in the photo below, it's that bright orange cubes).

Last month I saw this video of how to make Ginataan (Big deal-like I don't know how to make it!). In it the cook threw in a blob of Ube (ooh-beh) jam (cooked and mashed PURPLE YAMS with sugar) before removing the pot from the heat.

Ube or Purple sweet potatoes (or yams-depending from what part of the US you are) has just been recently grown here in the states. For some reason, it only likes a certain temperature and soil and for another reason-only 25% of Americans knows about purple yams and the 75% knows only the garnet (orange) yams. Oh look! there's also a "white sweet potato" too! I'm not even going into detail about it because I've wasted time and effort into making this produce available where I live to no avail and anyway-you are probably near an Asian wet market or organic grocery store-where they're ONLY sold, both I have no privilege of.

Well I found them in Hawaii (online). For 37bux, 12 lbs/free shipping-I went for it. It's been a decade since I last sunk my mouth on an ube. The old man married me because of these purple tubers; he loves these purple farts!

Purple sweet potatoes TEXTURE are like Idaho variety potatoes (dense & starchy), the mouthfeel is  creamy specially when mixed with butter or milk. The actual taste is subtly sweet and has a very faint peanut-y (almond or macadamia? Ok nutty!) taste to it.

Back to the video, the cook also added fresh, ripe jackfruit in the Ginataan.

When ripe, Jackfruit is so cloyingly sweet you would know that person just ate it since he/she will be emanating with jackfruit aroma! For someone who grew up with this fruit, (and to those who do not have any idea what it is) the taste and smell can be  described as "ripe mango-pineapple-ripe guava-banana" rolled into one. Get it now? 😉

I do not know when the use of jackfruit (Wikipedia said it's a "breadfruit family in line with figs and mulberry".) started to be added on Ginataan. IF this dish was created during the Spanish colonial times-methinks Jackfruit was a substitute flavoring/aromatics for "vanilla bean or extract" (since the Spaniards and high-profile Filipinos can only afford Vanilla in those times). More so I think it is a substitute sugar/sweetener by ordinary Filipinos-for the same reason that those goddamn Spaniards has all the perks when it comes to ingredients esp. sugar.

If Ginataan was created during the Precolonial times, then my best guess would be that all the ingredients in making Ginataan was just in season and semi-naked 'Pinoys' (Plural slang for a Filipino person.) at that time just want some reason to make use of all those 'kamote', (sweet potatoes), 'kasaba' (cassava, manioc, yucca), 'saba' (plantain) and 'langka' (jackfruit) to throw everything in a pot just so they can have something filling and delicious to eat. Of course-I'm making these all up. But what if it were true??? 😲 And Jackfruit really works!  

To make this story longer, I don't have jackfruit. Not even dried OR canned#$%^&* Not in this town. And for some reason still unfounded, Ginataan must have some sago balls (from a palm tree) or large tapioca pearls (cassava) in it. Devious amounts of it! Guess what? I don't have that either.

Since I was already committed into doing this project (I have all the tubers on hand.), I just went ahead and bought the large tapioca pearls and dried jackfruit online. But it was a big mistake since I have to wait for a week and my cooking spirit guides (or guide?) told me that I can make Ginataan w/o the tapioca pearls or even the jackfruit. They told me to use ripe guavas instead. But even this is a tropical ingredient. Where to find it? Canned in syrup. Luckily, a local grocery store famous for its bear claws (pastry), dirt cheap produce and sells predominantly Hispanic ingredients were selling canned ripe guava in syrup and so i bought 1.

Honestly-I never like 'bilo-bilo' by itself. So I thought of incorporating the ube in the 'bilo-bilo' thereby making a no-steam, purple yam mochi balls instead.

The recipe below is not the same as to how my Ma makes Ginataan. Hers does not have 'hinulog-hulogan' (translated to fall-fall or drop-drop) or in Tagalog, 'bilo-bilo'. It's rice flour formed into balls with a little water. Hers has "taro" in it-another tuber native to tropical countries. It gets glutinous when cooked. Imagine using another fork to disembowel a piece of taro from the other fork! My ma's Ginataan does not have sago bubbles or tapioca pearls. She says "those are luxury ingredients!" and believe it or not-no purple yam either. But nothing compares to her Ginataan because she really puts effort and love into it. It still turns out to taste like any other Ginataan! (I got so emotional up to this point-I ended up going to bed early.)

It has been a decade since I had Ginataan, purple yams and guavas!

Note: this recipe is just a guide. If you do not have purple yams, substitute with the sweet potato you have in your area. No glutinous/sweet rice flour? No need to add bilo-bilo either, just like how my Ma makes hers: just tubers and plantain. But if you want to make the 'ube bilo-bilo' (ube mochi) but don't have the ube, then use any available sweet potato. Substitute, substitute, substitute! The main thought of the recipe is the texture and flavor.

Makes 6 servings
1 recipe of ube bilo-bilo (after making into balls, refrigerate)

3 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
14 oz of water measuring from the coconut milk empty can
1 ½ cup sugar
1 large cassava (manioc, yucca), peeled and sliced in chunks
2 medium garnet yams, peeled and sliced in chunks
1 large or 2 medium Okinawan white yams, peeled and sliced in chunks
2 ripe plantains, chunks
1 cup cooked large tapioca (per package directions)
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
3 Ripe guavas (from a canned guava in syrup), slice halfway and remove seeds; do not include syrup.
1 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Read the recipe and prepare ingredients. 

2. Using a large pot (at least 1.5-2 gallons), pour contents of 1 canned coconut milk in it along with the sugar and water. Stir and let it boil on high heat. When it starts to boil and bubble, lower the heat to medium high and keep stirring, 5 minutes.

3. Carefully add the cassava chunks and let it cook for 10 minutes. Stir. Add the 2 kinds of sweet potato. Stir. Cook for 10 minutes. 

4. Add in the plantain, tapioca pearls, pineapple chunks and guava. Stir. Cook for 10 minutes. 

5. Drop the ube bilo-bilo and vanilla extract. Stir. This will thicken the Ginataan and make it pink. Continue stirring but slowly-making sure you do not macerate the tubers but especially the already cooked and soft guava. You're not making a pudding. 6-8 minutes

6. Remove from heat. Enjoy hot or cooled down to warm.

Substitute for ripe Jackfruit (langka or nangka) and how to make purple yam bilo-bilo

“Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!”

I always remember those words from the octogenarian actor Clint Eastwood in his movie "Heartbreak Ridge"; seen the movie a hundred times-go figure!

So obviously you need ripe Jackfruit (lahng-kah or nahng-kah) because you are making Ginataan with Bilo-bilo or some kind of a dessert but you don't have this particular fruit/ingredient-AT ALL!

FYI, Bili-bilo is a glutinous rice flour dumpling; ghee-nah-tah-ahn is a snack or dessert made of Okinawan red skin sweet potato with yellow, very sweet meat; chunks of cassava/yucca/manioc, ripe but firm plantain and cooked in coconut milk with sago or tapioca pearls sugar and vanilla extract.)

If that's the case, substitute with:

dried ripe jackfruit
canned or preserved jackfruit in syrup, drained
ripe guava, peeled and remove seed
canned ripe guava in syrup, remove seeds/drain
fresh very ripe pineapple
pineapple chunks in syrup, drained
dried, ripe pineapple

Canned ripe Guava and Pineapple (I used both) worked well in my ginataan. They were the perfect alternative!

Ube Bilo-bilo (purple yam sweet dumplings)

1 cup cooked and mashed ube
1/4 c plus 1 T rice flour
3 T sugar
1 t neutral oil
3-5 T water

In a medium bowl, mix together mashed ube and half of the rice flour; add the sugar and oil and continue mixing. Throw in all the remaining ingredients but slowly add all the water-checking if it's too wet or dry. If you try to make a 1" ball-there should be a thin layer that should remain on your fingers/palm (like velvet) but it should NOT be gluey.

Knead for a minute then form into 1" balls; place in a container with lid on. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Steam to eat by itself, rolled on grated coconut or use in the Ginataang Bilo-bilo.

NOTE: You do not need to steam or cook the ube dumplings before using them in your ginataan. Just drop them 15 minutes before you remove your ginataan from heat.