27 February 2015

Slow Cooker Barley and Vegetable Minestrone

One of the many talents of the slow cooker is to be my super silent assistant in the kitchen. I just put all the ingredients inside and off it goes to slow cooking for hours. I don't need to worry about cutting it short in the middle of cooking because I have to hop off the house for a few minutes to pick up my daughter in school. Lacking in proper time management skills (no one is perfect!), I sometimes find myself in the predicament of having to turn off the fire in the stove or the oven for a few minutes while I step out of the house for a few minutes. I never want to be late in picking up my daughter and I will never leave the fire (however low it is) nor the oven on while I am not home so my only option is to cut short the cooking and resume afterwards. And that's when I applaud one of the great advantages of slow cookers. I can leave it cooking for a few minutes while I am out.

25 February 2015

Pastina in Brodo

Two sick little ones in bed, two breakfast trays busily being filled and ferried from the kitchen table to their beds and two parents with their hands completely full. Those were the main protagonists in our house this weekend. There was not so much cooking involved as my kids didn't have their appetites for anything but just for a bowl or two of basic soup that I usually cook just for these occasions. Pastina in brodo is the Italian equivalent of the chicken soup that we love to have in bed while sick, only this one doesn't have chicken but just simply the broth of the pasta itself, extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

23 February 2015

Homemade Plum Sauce

This recipe is a bit off-season because plums are nowhere to be found right now in Italy and I guess in any part of the world but since it is quite basic, you can also replace it with other fruits in season. I just used two ingredients, the plums and sugar. When I make my jams, spreads or sauces, I usually use less sugar than I should. The general rule is to follow the 1:1 ratio but since I cannot stand overly sweet food, I never follow it. When you put a lot of sugar, it serves as the preservative, it helps with the gel formation and most important of all, it reduces the possibility of having microbes spoil it. Less sugar means you will have a more watery consistency which means that you will have to cook it longer to get that desired gel formation and the shelf life is drastically reduced.

Dairy-Free Crepes

Light as air, minimal and most especially, non-dairy. I tried to keep the ingredients of these crepes as light as possible by replacing the dairy milk with water and the butter with extra virgin olive oil. They are not as elastic as the classic crepes but just the same, they are equally delicious. If you want to take the lightness further, fill them up with fruits, low-fat jams or fruit compotes that you can easily make yourself to control the amount of sugar.

21 February 2015

One-Pot Lemon Garlic Chicken with Fried Barley and Scrambled Eggs

I love toasted garlic. I really do love how it boosts the flavors of the food and how good it tastes when mixed with other ingredients. There is a difference between fresh garlic sautèed with the food at the beginning of cooking a dish and sprinkling of toasted bits of garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Big difference. And I cannot explain how good it is to munch on them. I love them most in toasted crunchy slivers mixed with roasted peanuts. Yum! But the only drawback is that I cannot stand the taste and smell of garlic in the mouth way after eating because it remains there for hours, sometimes, even after a day, however much I stuff myself with everything mint from toothpastes to mouthwashes to strong candies. Do you do anything special to get rid of it?

17 February 2015

Pizza Margherita Muffins

Two out three people will always order pizza Margherita, a a pizza-maker friend, who has his own pizzeria (pizza place) said. True, because when I started observing the kinds of pizza combinations people get, it is always present even if there are a lot of combinations to choose from. It is the most-loved classic pizza because it is simple, delicious and healthy. With just tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil to use as toppings, it wins everyone's appetites. Because we all love going back to basics.

12 February 2015

Slow Cooker Old-Fashioned Beef Stew

Everytime I watch the local and international news channels, one of the main headlines is the snowy weather. The snow packs so high and the temperatures drop way below freezing. I see my friends posting photos of themselves surrounded by heavy snow and they speak about plowing them away. In Italy, the north and most parts of the country are quite affected. And Rome and the surrounding areas? You see how green the grass is? We didn't get any. Just the usual thin layer of icy morning dew on the grass, buckets of rain, howling winds and pretty low temps. I think that's why our grass is so green.

09 February 2015

Slow Cooker Beans, Tomatoes and Onion Salad

When I eat this salad, my husband maintains a safe distance between us for at least 24 hours. Even if I use the tropea onions, the mildest variety that I can get here, that distance still doesn't shorten. Knowing fully well that this "let's play a game of distance" will happen, I don't mind because a simple salad of beans, tomatoes and onions beckons me to the table at times. I don't eat as much onions as the ones in the picture (that's for purpose of photos only) but I do need a few slices to complete one of my favorite salads. Beans and tomatoes are never the same without the onions - but my husband argues that they are the same and much better even. Onion hater.

08 February 2015

Baked Thyme and Lemon Feta in Filo

Suddenly it's February 2015 and for me it means only one thing - my blog turns another year old. To reach four years is an accomplishment of a lot of things for me. So many lessons I have learned from failed attempts in the kitchen and photography. I think I never spent more time in my life in the kitchen and computer putting my ideas to edible creations and translating those creations into words and pictures.

01 February 2015

Ricotta and Pancetta Gnocchi

Giovedi gnocchi (Thursday gnocchi). Have you ever heard of that Italian saying? It means every Thursday, gnocchi is served on the Roman tables. Then there is also Venerdi pesce (Friday fish) and Sabato trippa (Saturday tripe). It's an old tradition in the city of Rome and still, it is being followed by a lot of fresh pasta shops, restaurants, cafeterias and traditional families. You can see them more present than usual and if you are in Rome, it's the perfect day to try them staying alongside the city's tradition.

Rhubarb Iced Tea

You might find it strange that I cannot find rhubarbs here in Italy. The only time I got to cook with them was in France with a friend when she made an incredible rhubarb pie. Sigh, I still dream about it. From then on, rhubarbs are in my top list to watch out for whenever I am traveling around the country and find myself in a market but it's just like how it is from day one. I leave the markets empty-handed and crestfallen. Until. You will never guess where I found fresh rhubarbs and nothing can be fresher than the ones I got too. I found them in a plant shop. Yes, I got myself a plant and a small one at that, so I had to wait for a long time for my rhubarb plant to grow until the stalks are already acceptably long enough to cut. They only had tinges of bright pink, not as pink as they should be (I think it's because they were still too little) but I had been waiting patiently for so long for the plant to grow.

31 January 2015

Baked Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Mushroom Sauce

Between me and a good dish of meat (pork or beef) with creamy mushroom sauce, there is always an immediate connection. Growing up, it was one of the dishes that I constantly had in spite of my reluctance in eating creamy food. My Mom's was my favorite and given an array of different kinds of dishes in a long buffet table, I would just pick on the others and leave a big space for her pork (or beef) with mushroom sauce. It's the smoothness of the combination of flavors that I liked where nothing was clashing against one another.

29 January 2015

Mixed Winter Fruit Gratin

I don't mean to overdose you with too much fruits today but they are really great ingredients to use in cooking both savory and sweet dishes. I use them a lot, depending on what the season gives me. This time, it's another collection of winter fruits (look at my previous post of Fruit Tiramisù) that I rounded up for this delicious fruit dessert. The fruits macerated in rum and brown sugar, covered up with cream then baked until golden brown. It is amazing! I love the no-bake Fruit Tiramisù and I love this Mixed Winter Fruit Gratin's warm and creamy variation too.

Fruit Tiramisù

When your kids' favorite dessert is tiramisù you get worried. Just with the name itself, you will be ready to pounce on their plates and take them away from their reach. Tiramisù means pull me up in Italian. Why the name? Because it is supposed to revive you, energize, give you a jolt of lightning because it has espresso and Marsala wine (or can be another kind of liquor). After those two, you might even overlook the eggs and mascarpone. It's not a child's dessert and guess what? Both my kids are crazy about them and that is why the word worried is flashing on my forehead now.

27 January 2015

One-Pot Farro with Roasted Peppers and Sweet Potatoes

This morning, as I was listening to the principal of the school where we are moving our kids, I realized how much our children have changed our priorities in life. It's 100% them 24 hours a day, 7 hours a week. They completely take over our lives, good and sometimes frustrating. They give us a purpose in going through our days to give them paved roads to travel to until they are ready to fly on their own. My kids are still young and as a family, we still have a lot of years to stay together, have fun and to shape them to the responsible persons we want them to be.

26 January 2015

Asian-Style Beef and Broccoli

I wasn't expecting to find a good, thick wok in one of the Italian product lines of pots and pans that I sometimes buy so when I chanced upon it, I took out more money than I wanted and just bought it. It wasn't so cheap but I know that cooking in good quality thick pots and pans matters so much. I learned it the hard way because I practically threw away all of my old ones to give way for better ones. There was a lot of money wasted and it was a expensive lesson learned from experience.

23 January 2015

Pita Bread with Pork Barbecue Skewers and Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Pork barbecue skewers are very popular street food in the Philippines. You usually see groups of people huddled in front of the grill patiently waiting for their turns to get their freshly-grilled skewers. In ordering, you have to stash away your greed for the moment because ordering a big number at the same time (like 20 skewers and there is obviously just you who will deplete them) will guarantee bad looks from the co-buyers around you. The trick to have a smooth time with everyone is to order 2 or 3 skewers at a time, ok, maybe 4 but 5 is already pushing it! These skewers can be addictive and you can easily spend an hour hanging around the grill while continuously putting your orders and waiting along with the others. They are great to eat when they come straight from the grill so taking it easy is the best way to enjoy them with a very cold bottle of Coke. Oh yes, now we are seriously speaking Filipino street food!

22 January 2015

Chicken Braised in Beer

When I was young, my main choice of beverage for social drinking is beer. I come from a big beer-drinking circle of family and friends so naturally, it was just beer or nothing. Our parties have seen tens of big cases of beer (24 bottles each) with matching little appetizer plates that are the equivalent of tapas, to get us through the whole night. A regular night of staying with friends and family commences after dinner, sitting down in long tables, little plates of food on the table and endless rounds of ice cold beer being passed around. My memories of the past always involved a bottle of beer spent with the important people of my life and special moments with them.

20 January 2015

Polenta-Crusted Fish Fillets with Tomato Salad

Sometimes, you go out of your comfort zone in cooking when you realize that it just has to be ruffled a bit because you don't have the usual ingredients that you usually use. In my case, I was in a hurry in cooking my family's favorite sole fish fillet covered in breadcrumbs when I discovered that I was completely out of breadcrumbs. Searching through my cupboards, I picked a pack of polenta to use as substitute. To worry how the picky-eaters will accept the change is another thing. I decided not to say a thing because sometimes it works better that way with kids.

17 January 2015

South Tyrolean Beef Goulash

Ok, let me admit. When summer is approaching and my husband and I decide in going back to South Tyrol, I start daydreaming about having goulash. I feel like I am not keeping up well with the role of Mom because shouldn't I be thinking of how the kids would love hiking, going on picnics, getting wet in the streams, gathering wild berries or just going squirrel watching? I do think about those but my future goulash meals keep on sneaking in between my thoughts. Sigh. Let it be. I only get to have the real deal delicious goulash dishes once a year when my family and I start our ascent to the northernmost part of Italy. 

16 January 2015

Lasagna Pouches with Kale, Pancetta and Cheese

Layer or unlayer? Lasagna sheets are fun to use as ingredients in a pasta dish. It's always delicious when they are layered in between the sauce, cheese or whatever it is that you are mixing them with. Even if I have a very soft spot for the classic one with ragù and bechamel sauce, I am still looking for other combinations to try. The vegetables that I love are broccoli rabe, kale or mushrooms. I mean you can sandwich anything deliciously surprising in between the sheets and I am still continuing to explore. For now, I decided to unlayer and go for a different approach with my lasagna.

14 January 2015

Lentil and Roasted Chestnut Soup

I think you will find it strange, because I definitely find it strange that my 9-year old sometimes begs me to cook lentils (and zucchini, but that is another post). When he goes through his I-need-healthy-food moments, he asks me to cook zucchini, lentils or broccoli rabe with pasta alternately. Being a Mom, receiving such requests from a child comes out like a whack on my head for feeling like I am neglecting his nutritional needs. I mean, isn't it usually the other way around? Don't we usually beg the kids to eat their vegetables? And when I do cook one of his three favorites and he spots them in the saucepan quietly sizzling, he reacts with such enthusiasm that can make any fast food marketing pro scratch his chin and wonder where he went wrong with this boy. Yes, he jumps for joy when lentils are cooking.

13 January 2015

Kiwi Caipiroska Salad

Boozy fresh fruit salad? Yes please! When you have a favorite cocktail, isn't it great to recreate it by actually eating it, instead of drinking it? Spiking my fresh fruit salad became an acquired habit when my father-in-law first taught me how to flavor my macedonia or fresh fruit salad with Vermouth. I immediately loved it. I grew up eating fresh fruit desserts mixed with cream so to make such a giant step towards a more adult concoction convinced my palate that there is more to what I had been eating half of my life. Sometimes, I would use limoncello or other fruit-flavored liqueurs because the possibilities are endless. There is something about the combination that makes fruit desserts more appetizing. I am not speaking about the alcohol content. It's the more pronounced fruity flavor and the kick that get me. 

11 January 2015

Skinny Chicken Tacos with Guacamole

When I was still in school, I couldn't resist skipping the tacos before the day ends. We had a lunch break and a couple of snack breaks throughout the day. With three trips to the cafeteria, and passing the taco stand, it had been hard to tiptoe my way pass it. For all the years that I had been in that school, the filling never changed and I was glad that it stayed the same way. There were lettuce, tomato meat sauce, fresh slices of tomatoes, onions and a good amount of cheese. It's not really something that you call skinny eating but it filled me up really well, after about a couple of servings.

10 January 2015

Slow Cooker Beef and Farro

With winter in full swing, I'm sure that all the slow cookers are out and busy preparing hot soups and other tasty slow-cooked dishes. Mine had been working non-stop ever since the winter season started. I had to work in creating recipes and at the same time, I find it a great convenience in putting all the ingredients together, pressing a button and making it work on its own until it's time to eat. It hands me the luxury of free time or rather more time in doing other things on a silver platter. I love my little helper in the kitchen!