My Mom had never been a big cook and I can only count with my fingers the number of dishes that she used to cook throughout my childhood. There was always someone cooking for the family so she didn't station herself so much in the kitchen. What I do remember is, with the very few dishes that she was cooking, they were all outstanding! One of them was this soup. In the Philippines, it is called Molo Soup. I referred to it as Pork & Shrimp Dumpling Soup because it contains dumplings filled with pork and shrimp then cooked in hot chicken broth.
29 December 2013
28 December 2013
Two broken records of mispronounced words of the first verse of the Jingle Bells song continues to serenade our house. It's been a month and they still haven't abated. They remind me of my Chipmunks Christmas album when I was a child. I kept on playing it until my siblings begged me to go for some normal music. But I ruled the music scene in our house then. I was the youngest and it was Christmas. Revenge comes decades after in the voices of my very own kids. Ever wonder how singing an English song sang by the Chipmunks voices with a strong Italian accent sounds like? You should come to my house and listen to my kids' daily concert.
23 December 2013
When Christmas comes, the baking comes too. Biscuit-making becomes a main activity in the kitchen and big boxes are prepared to be filled up once again with these goodies that are to be given to close friends and family. I had my share last week from my mother-in-law and her sister, who packed a small box for me and my family to take home. They are those Sicilian Christmas biscuits that they have been making generation after generation.
21 December 2013
Christmas Eve dinner is probably the only dinner of the year when we allow ourselves to splurge. We take out all our best stuff. The silver, the crystals, linens, the good bottles of champagne, wine and food. It's a dinner we have all been waiting for to celebrate with the people close to our hearts. This year, my mother-in-law and her sister are preparing everything for the 24th and 25th celebrations and I am allowed to sit back and enjoy their cooking. They have been planning and cooking for weeks already. I can't wait for the time to arrive.
20 December 2013
The thickest hot chocolate drink I know is Italian. Sometimes I think that it's already at the borderline of being called a beverage and a dessert. But wow, how I love it! Especially when dark chocolate is used. Like the cup I made in this post of Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate). Cocooned in a comfortable corner in a warm room after coming from a freezing temperature outside, oh yes, give me a cup please! Winter has some really great features like this cup of delicious hot chocolate spiked with cognac. It takes away the winter blues!
18 December 2013
Maybe it's because Christmas time is arriving that the price of the seafood is skyrocketing. It has to be the reason because when my husband came home with the fresh shrimp I asked him to get at the fishmonger, he also showed me the amount he paid for half a kilo (1 pound) and I was astonished. The quality was really good though but still, it makes me think how much shrimp can really cost like gold sometimes!
16 December 2013
Why is it that kids need you the most when your hands are temporarily not available for use? Like when you just plunged your hands into a mountain of flour and egg making everything gooey? Or when all your fingers are stuck to each other with dough in between them. Mind you, before my hands dive into any food that I am preparing, I give out more than enough number of warnings that my hands will not be available for the next 15 minutes. I always get an affirmative then after 2 minutes, I hear "Mommy!" And that often translates to "I need you and your hands"!
14 December 2013
There is a time when making savory pies for dinner is just what epitomizes family winter adventures in the kitchen. When I was making these pies, the kitchen was a little mess, with flour everywhere and my daughter sharing the table with me (also covered with flour). She was flattening scraps of the leftover puff pastry with her own little rolling pin imitating all my movements (well, trying actually) and using different kinds of gadgets she finds in the drawers in making her own pies.
13 December 2013
You will almost never see our kitchen fruit bowl empty. Perhaps only on those occasions when I just washed it and it's waiting to dry on the kitchen counter. It's a big crystal bowl with a peculiar shape which is actually a punch bowl if I remember right. When I saw it on display in the shop, I could already imagine how it was going to look like full of multi-colored fruits at the center of my kitchen table. I thought that it was perfect. In fact, it has already been staying there for more than a decade.
12 December 2013
Wow, where has the year gone by? I have been too busy minding my things that I didn't even realize how close we already are in concluding the year. The hints hit me when the kids' class recital schedules get posted one by one. Next week, we have a ballet class recital, a couple of school class recitals, karate special class and I'm pretty sure something with the Boy Scouts too. To think I only have two kids. I wonder how parents with more than 2 kids cope with their children's activities.
11 December 2013
Perhaps two of the best things to combine with potatoes are cheese and pancetta (or bacon). In my mind they are! I love eating the warm softened potatoes with gooey melted cheese and toasted pancetta. It's absolutely divine! And one great thing about it is that there's a plethora of ways to put them together. I have a few of these potatoes-cheese-pancetta recipes in this blog too, all done in diverse ways.
08 December 2013
When I was young, I remember growing up watching the adults prepare the milkfish before grilling them. First, they are stuffed with onions and tomatoes then wrapped with banana leaves tightly before they are sent out to the barbecue grill. I never really asked about the necessity of having the banana leaves around them. I just thought that it was the only way to grill fish.
07 December 2013
When I became a parent, part of the package with the little bundle of joy I was holding in my arms was also stepping inside the world of getting to know all the cartoon characters that exists and children's parties (giving them and attending them). And in the process, growing deaf too as the years of attending children's parties progress.
06 December 2013
There's only one thing I can say about this dessert. I had fun making it. I was thinking of how the planets are orbiting in the solar system. If only my Science teacher can see my handiwork. I think he will immediately fail me as soon as he starts counting. I have 3 planets more and the sun is missing. I remember that when I was studying the planets, there were 9 planets. I am surprised to discover that now, there are only 8 left. Apparently, Pluto was disqualified as the 9th planet in 2006 because it is considered a dwarf planet.
05 December 2013
I am still undecided whether I like tofu or not. The texture bothers me when I eat it so when it's fried like this, the external crunchy part takes away that dread of eating something that I am not so crazy about. Being a part of Asian cuisine, it's a familiar ingredient to me. There are actually two ways I can eat it. One, with this dish and another, a peculiar sweet, warm breakfast called taho, eaten in the Philippines that is composed of a softer kind of tofu (the silk kind), vanilla syrup and sago pearls.
04 December 2013
Francese! (French!) My husband and I took our kids on a tour of the catacombs of the Church of St. Agnes Outside the Walls in Rome and there was a collection of different nationalities in our little group. The guide was checking which languages we all understand to determine which language she can use. Upon hearing the word Francese, my daughter immediately jumped up and shouted Francese!
03 December 2013
There are only a few seasonal fruits and vegetables that I literally check the calendar and stands for, and keep on rechecking until the first crops arrive at the farmer's market. Cavolo nero, as it is called in Italian or Tuscan kale in English, is one of those fresh food that keeps me going to the farmer's market until I get my own bunch to cook at home.
01 December 2013
Our Sundays have changed since last week. We start pretty early with a trip to the church to drop off our son for his Boy Scout meeting, an unhurried breakfast, food shopping, then Sunday mass at around midday at the church where we pick him up. It almost seems like a model Sunday morning for a typical family. Prior to this new twist to our hectic Sunday schedule, we were your typical family on a lazy Sunday morning.
30 November 2013
Cherries and brandy work perfectly together. It reminds me of a brandy cocktail that I used to have that was served with a couple of cherries. When I have a lot of Vignola black cherries surrounding me in my kitchen, all I can think of is to cook them to make some dessert. That's a little lie. All I can think of is pop them in my mouth until my tummy won't be able to take it anymore.
You know you found THE dessert when you pop it in your mouth and your eyes grow wide open. Wow! That was delicious! The succeeding spoonfuls were even merrier. This is one of my most loved desserts. Ever. This proves that going minimal can create something absolutely great because believe it or not, it only uses four ingredients.
27 November 2013
If you ask some foreigners living in Italy about which region they like best, Umbria pops up quite often. I would think it would be Tuscany as it is the most popular region, but instead, Umbria seems to get the attention of everyone. Even Italians themselves would soften their voice a notch when you speak about Umbria. What does it have that captures everyone's hearts?
26 November 2013
My work requires me to create recipes continuously that can be possibly deemed interesting for different ages, cultures and palates. It's a big challenge to think, produce and please. But you can raise your eyebrows if I say that there is a more important tiny core group that I am always desperate to please. On a daily basis.
While I am in the kitchen and I observe a couple of little lurkers in the kitchen checking out what's cooking in the pot, I can already understand how our dinner is going to be. My bigger son, who can easily peek inside the saucepan can recognize the ingredients. My smaller daughter though, has to rely on her nose to understand if the scent permeating from the saucepan is to her liking or not. Most often? I hear complaints and it's a promise of a long dinner. Sigh. Welcome to my world as a cooking Mom.
25 November 2013
After a hectic week at the city, sometimes (maybe even always), we desperately need some time off from the urban life and escape to the countryside. Nature has a natural way to heal those trembling nerves we have that developed while rushing through city life. City life is nice, sometimes, because everything is accessible and it's just easier. With all the modern technology surrounding us, what else is there? Or so it seems.
23 November 2013
Chicken is important in my house. It's the only kind of meat that I cook where I don't hear any complaints from anyone. As long as there is white meat for one side of the family and red meat for the other half. I'm in the red section along with my son while the white duo are my husband and daughter. You see, we really are divided with our tastes.
21 November 2013
I'm one of those people who ate badly in my younger years. Chips here, overly sweet cakes there, fried food, endless pork meat, burgers from fast food chains, hotdogs, all drowned with a big glass of Coca Cola filled with ice. Be still, my heart! For a minute there, I was actually going to say yum! I did not become a super health food nut but I learned to regulate. I still eat all of those food mentioned above but with regulation now in my diet. I finally understood how bad my body will become if I continue eating like how I used to when I was young. It had not been easy but I did it.
20 November 2013
18 November 2013
So many times, I have been asked what kind of cuisine I prepare for my family at home. Because my kids are confronted by two cultures, I try to balance it out the right way, in my opinion. Italian food is what you will most likely see on our table, usually pasta dishes then sometimes fish or meat dishes accompanied with vegetables and yes, pizza. The question is, how do I integrate Asian food to our diet?
15 November 2013
Lycopene. Do you know what it is? It's a carotenoid, from the family of pigments that gives fruits and vegetables the bright hues of orange, red & yellow. It's also an antioxidant that helps lower the risk of strokes, prostate cancer and other kinds of cancer. And where do we get this incredible lycopene? From our very own fridge. They come from the tomatoes!
12 November 2013
I guess like half the world, I find myself glued to the news in my free moments these past days. I have a million things to do and to write but my heart is just not into doing anything but staring at the footages and keeping myself up-to-date with what's happening in Tacloban City in the Philippines. For this post, I don't have any recipes to share because I would rather focus on a couple of food staples that are needed. Rice & bread.
11 November 2013
With all the wild plants growing on the grassy area around our house, I had been meaning to learn from a plant expert what are edible, how they can be cooked and with what they are delicious with. Nettles are bothersome because both my kids are always playing outside. Both of them, at the initial part of their discovery of nature, have had prickly contacts with the plant and well, you know how it is. They were howling with pain. But I know that those plants are very good with risotto which I have yet to try and it was confirmed in this tour that it definitely is!
09 November 2013
With just two ingredients, you can already come up with a good meal. I did. If you have some sausages, whatever kind they are (I used some lugànega), sandwich them in between some fresh sage leaves. You can't imagine how wonderful the smell is emanating from the kitchen. I didn't even know that sage can smell so great on the griddle (or on the grill if you are cooking outdoors). And what's also great is that not only would you smell it but you would also taste it in the sausages because each piece of meat is sandwiched in between these leaves.
08 November 2013
As I am writing this, I am also waiting for news about how the Philippines is faring as the monster typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda as it is locally called) is starting its landfall in the central part of the country. It's the world's strongest typhoon of the year (I heard that it can be the strongest of all times!) with gust winds at 380 kph. God, that's strong!
07 November 2013
The small ballet shoes are ready and poised on the table to be worn by our little princess today. I prepared them yesterday, sewing the garters on the sides of the soft leather to fit her feet. Along with her shoes, I took out the rest of the ballet ensemble for today's class. All delicately soft and pink. My little girl is a little ballerina. So much enthusiasm is going on in her!
05 November 2013
Mint ice cream is green, not white! My son's favorite ice cream flavor is mint, the bright green mint. No, make that neon green mint. Looking forward to his scoops of mint & chocolate artisan ice cream in Eataly, he was so disappointed when my husband handed him a cup of white & brown ice cream. He hates white food. Imagine the panic. He immediately pointed out the color discrepancy and he wouldn't accept that mint can be white! We explained to him that the natural ice cream without color additives are white because the mint oil used for making the mint ice cream is transparent, not green. Natural or not, he really prefers the color that glows in the dark. Sigh.
04 November 2013
The long weekend has passed. With all the excitement of my kids to celebrate Halloween, we just ended up sporting masks and hats at home and eating potato chips and popcorn in front of the TV while we watched Ralph Spaccatutto (Wreck-It Ralph). I felt bad that we didn't plan anything. Halloween is something new to Italy. I still remember years ago, when I moved here, I was all worked up to celebrate Halloween but I couldn't find a single decor or any mention of it. It curbed my enthusiasm. Prior to my move to Italy, I loved decorating the house, dressing up, taking my nieces and nephews around, seeing excited kids in costumes hollering "Trick or Treat!" and handing out candies to the neighborhood kids. It was always one big fun event! After waiting year after year, I gave up hoping to go around trick or treating here. Aside from being an American tradition, it can also be difficult to go trick or treating here because the majority live in buildings with small elevators.
03 November 2013
Last night, I hit 9,000 likes in Apron and Sneakers Facebook page. It's an incredible number to see and I wish I can shake your hands one by one for giving me the support I need. It's a very nice pat on the back for letting me know that I can do it and you like what I am doing. I can't help thinking back almost 3 years ago when I first hit the publish button in the computer. I thought, Who will ever read what I post? Only my husband will be my follower!
02 November 2013
It was my husband's mistake when he showed me a picture of Castello di Monterone (Monterone Castle) at the internet. There was no turning back because he knew that I have a weakness in staying in historical hotels. A 13th century castle with a history intertwined with the Templar Knights? Mamma mia! Yes, I'm packing my bags!
31 October 2013
There are some desserts that just leave your mouth asking for more, however simple they are. From the name of the dessert, you can already take a virtual nibble and understand how good it is. When I was thinking about this combination, I was already excited to put the ingredients to action. I knew I won't be disappointed.
30 October 2013
I distrust black food because it's a color that masks the ingredients. And if I can be honest, it doesn't really make the food look appetizing, does it? When it has sauce and it is gleaming in its ebony shine, I have to know what's in it. I like seeing and tasting every single ingredient in my plate. And as much as I love this adobo dish, I find it very hard to make it look more appetizing than this.
29 October 2013
27 October 2013
Parmigiana was, is and will always be THE ultimate aubergine/eggplant dish for me. But I am not agreeable to all parmigiana dishes that end up in front of me. Nope, I am far too choosy with what is good and it's even pretty hard to resist in not trying them in the country where parmigiana dishes are everywhere. It might seem that I am guilty of loving my own but really, it's just the way it is. Why? Because the only parmigiana that I love is my husband's mom's recipe. Period.
24 October 2013
It was two Easter Sundays ago, in a restaurant in a town called Ardea, when my son discovered how much he liked mono portions of dessert in glasses like these. After a full-course lunch that lasted until late in the afternoon and so many dishes for every course, my son's long lost appetite and impatient demands to go home suddenly came to a halt when he saw the waiters carrying large trays of different kinds of desserts. He's not a dessert person so I wondered why his 2 glasses doubled, tripled then quadrupled, until the point when we arrived to an embarrassing amount of empty glasses on our table. I thought I saw worry in the waiters' eyes too. They did declare continuously to eat as much as we wanted, didn't they?
23 October 2013
I have a mission and I still haven't attained it to the perfection that I want. It's hard when you have 2 focused taste buds to please. I can imagine how unclear I must be to you. You see, both my kids are crazy about the Asian instant noodle soup and I try to stay clear from them. I have eaten my share when I was young but an episode of MSG overdose or allergic reaction (the doctors were unclear) with a trip to the hospital made me stop eating them.
22 October 2013
Food takes shape in my mind, day in and day out. I can't help it. Once a passion turned into a main activity, recipe developing became a daily routine in my life so my mind is constantly in search of everything edible and photographable. And that gives my husband a big relief because for once, my frequent thoughts about which handbag looks great came to a sudden halt. But his relief did not live long because now my thoughts are also focused on which camera lens to buy next.
20 October 2013
Chicken, potatoes and paprika are staple ingredients in my kitchen. I have smoked paprika fit for an army, the potato bin is always well-stocked and the chicken fillets are always the first ones that we buy for our supply of fresh food. I actually have a stronger preference for red meat but since I have two kids to feed, I give them what is healthier, the lean white meat.
18 October 2013
A number of items in my possession have sentimental value more than their monetary value. I hang on to them because they have a story and feeling, each of them, whether it's a gnarled appetizer fork, a bandanna that I will never be caught dead walking around with or a very old shirt that for any other person, merits to be buried in the garbage. They make me feel human, in touch with my past.
16 October 2013
Pouches hide something inside. A surprise, something nice, something worth waiting for, something that keeps us in suspense in unveiling what is being kept inside as we rip the string that binds it. What is inside the green pouch Mommy? My daughter asked as she eagerly stands beside me staring at the crepe pouches. She waits for me to tell her a word that I knew she was secretly hoping for. A little girl who's crazy about chocolates and candies, what else was she waiting for me to say? Definitely not salmon & ricotta! Poor little one had a crestfallen face. But she did give me an idea because next time, the pouches will contain something that she would really love!
12 October 2013
Sweet Egg Pancakes With Berries (Frittata Dolce Con Frutti di Bosco) & Sant' Andrea of Brixen/Bressanone
I call this the prim and proper version of kaiserschmarrn, that shredded pancake from South Tyrol (Südtirol/Alto Adige) that I am so crazy about. But technically, you will encounter this in South Tyrol as frittata dolce or omelette in the menus in the dessert section right next to kaiserschmarrn. They're both sweet omelettes served with fruit compote. They're meant as dessert in the alps but being hefty servings, I usually get them as a mid-afternoon snack after a long walk in the mountains. It's a nice and comforting reward I give myself after tiring myself out walking. If I lost some calories along the mountain trails, I am entitled to collect them back from one delicious plate, right?
10 October 2013
On the topic of kittens, my kids were arguing about something that they didn't agree on at the backseat of the car. They are both big cat lovers and they have been on to the new kittens that the neighborhood stray cat gave birth to. My 8-year old son was describing the colors of the new kittens and and their genders. Black is female, spotted black is male and so on. My 3-year old daughter instead was contradicting him the whole time he was speaking, obviously disagreeable to everything that he was saying. When asked why, she obnoxiously declared that all female kittens are all white with pink bows on one ear. So all of the kittens in the neighborhood are male! Oh dear, how do you tell a little girl that Hello Kitty doesn't exist?