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.
31 January 2015
29 January 2015
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
09 January 2015
Sometimes spur-of-moment things can be incredibly great. I am an impulsive person so with just one snap of the fingers, I can just make a random turn and drive to the opposite direction. I love surprises, random acts and doing things that make my children jump with excitement. So yesterday, when I picked up my daughter in kindergarten at lunch time, I had the sudden thought of going to the mall, have lunch there and go girl-shopping with my little one. Today was the day because she was all smiles when I greeted her at the door of the school.
08 January 2015
I made this recipe after watching my husband eat his fresh ricotta with sheer enjoyment for so many years. Ricotta and honey are partners in the Italian palate (even with the gelato flavors). I tasted it only once but I couldn't make myself eat more than a teaspoon because I taste the milky flavor too much in it like all fresh cheeses. I am very picky with my cheese. I prefer the ones with more days on them, the aged ones in which traces of dairy-flavor are all gone. There are some variants of aged ricotta which I can eat though, usually with pasta. They are affumicata (smoked), infornata (oven-baked), salata (salted) and forte (strong).
07 January 2015
Ok, officially, we are free from holidays until the week of the Carnevale, the pre-Lenten festivities touch down again in February. Just yesterday, when my husband and I were out with the kids looking for gifts for the Befana (from the Befana to the kids if they still believe it), I already saw some costumes for Carnevale. Can it be? It was a reminder of another big festivity when the kids prance around with their costumes while showering their paths (and everyone) with paper confetti. Then all the bakeries sell special kinds of traditional Carnevale pastries. I have a month to take it easy and look for their costumes. That also includes cutting down on sugar before another sugar explosion arrives in the country. Starting tomorrow, we are all going back to our normal daily routines. School, work, errands and eating in normal quantities.
06 January 2015
Tomorrow is the very last day of the holidays and this one is also dedicated the kids. La Befana, the old witch, swoops down in her broomstick all over Italy on the eve of the Epiphany, distributing stockings full of candies and little gifts (if the kids have been good) or coals (if the kids have been naughty) then the stockings are left under the Christmas tree. After Santa Claus' grand gift distribution on Christmas Eve, this pales in comparison but where else in the world do kids get treated twice like this in a span of two weeks? The gifts are also becoming bigger because they don't fit in the stockings anymore. Lucky kids.
03 January 2015
I think we all face food leftovers with a problematic challenge. What do we do with them? I've been through them so much because I have kids with erratic eating behaviors. One day, they only eat chicken and the following day, they act like chicken is the last thing that they will ever eat. Sigh.
Let's say rotisserie chicken. When I don't have the time and energy to cook a decent meal for my kids, I buy it. I am not kidding. Even if I am a recipe developer, I can also run out of time and ideas on what to keep my little ones fit. One of the easiest is to buy rotisserie chicken with baked potatoes in most pizza places around town. I love them too so it is actually a treat for all of us. The thing is, I always end up with leftovers especially the white meat part because my son and I fight over the red meat while the only white meat eater at home prefers to get pizza for himself whenever we get them at the pizzeria (pizza place).
31 December 2014
Like clockwork every Holiday season, one of my kids is sick, running with fever, cough, colds and sore throat. Last year, it was my daughter. This time, it's my son. Just a few days ago, my husband and I were almost going to hit the "Book Now" button for our little New Year's Eve family escape in Tuscany but since our son had been coughing continuously, we waited for another day and check with his pediatrician first. Right on the dot, his temp soared up the following day. That means it's home for us folks. That also means I am cooking our New Year's Eve dinner.
29 December 2014
I'm a very picky person when it comes to jams. I don't like them too sweet and we all know that most commercially bottled jams are usually overly sweet! That's because sugar serves as the preservative of the jam. The recommended ratio is always 1:1 with fruit and sugar. So a kilo of fruit would be needing a kilo of sugar too. And that amount of sugar sends me running away from the sweetness.
So whenever my fruit trees yield a good amount of fruits, I make my own jams at home. I have an annual appointment in the kitchen with my quince harvest. It is a peculiar kind of fruit because it is not pleasant to eat raw like what you do with its cousins, the apples and pears.
It took me years before I discovered that there is an Asian market right in the heart of Rome. Exactly 13 years if I can be precise. All those years, my cravings for the Philippine dishes I grew up with had to be completely ignored because I had no other choice but to get on with life without looking back. I looked forward and that was where I had a total immersion with Italian food. It's what my family eats and it is what I prepare at home. Sometimes, I push it substituting ingredients that I find at the supermarkets but it's never the same.
27 December 2014
I think I just gained 50 kilos with all the amazing food I have been eating and drinking (non-stop mind you). Christmas is wonderful with all the incredible food and excellent wines thrown together, all packed in a 2-3 day ultimate gastronomic hype. It's the only time of the year when extra special once-a-year-only dishes make grand appearances on the table. And the diets? Does that word even exist during the holiday season? No one even whispers that word around until after New Year. That's the only time when we start having good looks of ourselves at the mirror and notice the added inches in the waistline. But since we still have the New Year's Eve celebration just around the corner, I will not say the d-word yet.
24 December 2014
I won't make this long because I know that all of you are busy attending to last minute things before the eve and (maybe already for Christmas day if you are in Asia and Australia). I, myself, have a few minutes to spare before I gather my kids and get us all ready for our Christmas Eve celebration tonight.
It had been a splendid year for myself, my family and for Apron and Sneakers. There had been a lot of projects, new places that I photographed and a whole load of food and wine tastings. And you have been a big part of it because if you have not been following me around, Apron and Sneakers wouldn't still be around. So Thank you with all my heart! Great experiences and new friendships as I can sum up my year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you my dear friends!
Yesterday, after a morning of running to bake the food I had to write and photograph, barely making it on time to pick up my daughter in school, photographing the food then running back to the school again to pick up my son, only ending up in the wrong gate to pick him up, I was ready to buckle up and nurse my tired self. There are days like this when things, unbelievably, pile up one after the other.
At about 10 minutes past 14:00, I walked back to the car with my son's heavy backpack on one shoulder. The kids were behind me, skipping towards the car and chatting excitedly. School was going to be out for exactly 15 days. After spending the past days going up and down for their Christmas recitals, frantic gift buying (we couldn't find our son's gift anywhere!), putting up our tree, fighting off our dog from eating all the decors and the tree itself, we were on time and ready for Christmas.