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Archive for the ‘herbs and spices’ Category


Some plants that we sometimes ignore are under our very noses. Our good neighbor gave me a packet of Turmeric powder which was sent by her daughter from the US. I sometimes use it in fried rice, a cup of tea or recipes that require a little of it. I love using garlic  and fresh ginger especially in cooking Adobo (a unique dish here in our country).

These kitchen condiments are natural antibiotics. I am not sure about colloidal silver though. Not too familiar with it.

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I went back to gardening  after letting my hands heal for a few days. Goodness, I have to trim the carabao grass again, they have grown quite wild in three weeks.

This morning I was at the garden at 5am, still dark for some but it was nice to see the world unfolding with a hot cup of coffee and the company of our dog Noki.  Mimi went back to sleep besides mom as soon as I opened the door to our dirty kitchen.  Have you ever spent an early morning smelling different garden scents? The sweet aroma and spicy scent of oregano, the spicy and sharp fragrance of ginger leaves that linger,  the lemony smell of calamansi flowers and the intoxicating scent of gardenia flowers  captivate the senses. You wish you could put each scent in a bottle and maybe use them to make scented candles.

Last week, I trimmed one of our calamansi trees. Time is a gentle and  nice reminder that new life will always be something to look forward to.  Look at those healthy leaves sprouting like crazy.  It is always nice to see something growing in one’s garden.

new life

The rhizomes of the turmeric I bought at the wet market have finally produced buds.  I planted them in three pots and they are thriving nicely. It is  my first time to try cultivating turmeric in my garden.

Ginger foliage

Ginger foliage…

I only have one potted ginger and the roots are ready for harvest. I wonder if ginger produces flowers just like the turmeric. I can’t wait to see it blooms.

And these capped my early morning garden adventure, my bleeding heart blooms.

Bleeding hearts

Bleeding hearts…

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought. ~James Douglas

 

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Last Christmas, my daughter gifted me with a lovely glass infusion bottle and told me I can use it every day for whatever veggies and fruits I would like to use. I’ve been using it ever since.

water infusion

The first time I encountered the healthy benefits of water infusion was during our visit at Regina RICA in Tanay, Rizal two years ago. The Dominican sisters who manage the place had a big jug of water infused with some herbs which tasted so refreshing. I forgot what it was but that introduced me to an alternative way to drink water instead of just pouring it in a glass. I haven’t actually researched on the health benefits of water infusion but some of my friends say it is healthy. I found this site which featured lemon as its ingredient.  Interesting read,  lemon is used not just to flavor your drinks but  it adds more benefits.  I’ve tried combining celery stalks with cucumber and it was great. For some of us who are conscious of  our health (not getting any younger) and would love to try an alternative way to stay well, this is it.  You can use fresh herbs or fruits like lemon, oranges, lime, mint and other fruits available in the market.

  • orange
  • lemon
  • lime
  • grapefruit
  • cucumber
  • mint
  • orange
  • lemon
  • lime
  • grapefruit
  • cucumber
  • mint

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IMG_4059

Hmm, the calming and delicious smell of Cinnamon Peppermint Tea on a cold Wednesday morning!

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There’s a cold breeze blowing making the leaves dance. Strange, the sun is late in showing its face today and the sky is still a mixture of dull blue and orange. Apart from watching the dusk unfolds for the night, this is my favorite moment of the day – a beginning of realizing another dream, a positive sign of another lovely day. Even our dogs are probably savoring the silence –  the youngest Grey and our old dog Boo are gently falling asleep at my feet using my pair of blue slippers as pillows. Meatloaf  is just waiting for a signal to lick my face and Soo Kee  wants a cuddle. I’m thinking, they can actually sense your mood if you want to play or not.

I am simply amazed at how life unfolds. The birds are chirping non-stop hopping from branch to branch of our avocado tree. Maybe, it’s their way of thanking God that they can still fly and enjoy the breeze.

Can you hear the silence? Can you feel God’s loving embrace ? Can you appreciate the peace and quiet of a morning like this? I do, because everything is grace. And here are a few shots I took while watching the grey sky turn into blue.

 Where are the Koi? They are hiding beneath the rocks at the bottom of the pond.

 This Amazon Lily never fails to give me flowers every year. I am just surprised that some buds are showing despite the heat.

 There was a time when I dreamed of having white flowers in our garden. I can imagine a blanket of white petals at night and the intoxicating scent of sampaguita or gardenia.

These purple blooms are quite fascinating. They look so fresh and wonderful in the early morning.

Ah, one of our Sweet Basil pots – they’re ready for harvest!

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I took  shots of the garden blooms and some of our vegetable plants early this morning and hubby suggested that I harvest our Calamansi. We have two grafted Calamansi trees which I planted many years ago and they haven’t stopped bearing fruit.  They are part of our garden landscape.

Here in our country it is simply known as Calamondin or just plain Kalamansi but it’s known elsewhere as Philippine lime.  The flowers  emit that sweet and tangy scent much like pomelos and oranges when they are in bloom. Kalamansi is one of the most basic necessities in Philippine kitchens. It is used  for marinating either fish or meat or  sea foods and anything that requires something sour. It is also used as dip, mixed with soy sauce or  as juice drinks, hot or cold. I wonder if  we could survive  in the kitchen without these small, juicy, tangy fruits which are very similar to lime. They are best used fresh.

The fruit also has several medicinal uses. It can be a good treatment to itchy scalp, to heal insect bites, remove freckles, clear up acne and pimples. It is also used as a deodorizer and  for stain-removal.  It is also a popular home remedy for cough. And if you want your skin to stay smooth and blemish free, you can gently rub it with kalamansi before taking a bath.

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My daughter offered to cook dinner for tonight.  It’s comfort food  – pasta – but it was cooked in a different way.  Going Chinese for a change, surprisingly,  it turned out delish. If you are fond of a little bite in your pasta, you gotta try this one. The spicy feel of the chili and the nutty taste of the peanuts  give this simple dish a lovely twist.

Here are the basic ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken Pasta.

500 grams spaghetti noodles, cooked according to package instructions

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

300 grams diced chicken meat or 1 whole deboned chicken breast

1 tbsp salt

1/2 cup peanuts

2  packs Clara Ole Kung Pao Pasta sauce at 225 grams each

6 sprigs spring onions, cut into 1″ pieces

How to Cook:

– Saute chicken in olive oil, season with salt, add peanuts and cook for a few minutes

-Pour in Clara Ole Kung Pao Pasta Sauce and cook until heated through. Toss in pasta and spring onion, serve immediately.

 

I love Chinese cooking. Lots of our Filipino food were somehow adopted from Chinese recipes. Ingredients are easy to find so it’s quite fun to experiment in the kitchen.  Asian Food Channel was lately introduced to our cable network and  it’s so engrossing to watch Chef Wan, Martin Yan, and William Low (to name a few) do their thing in the kitchen, a welcome change from the European and American recipes of  the  American Iron chefs  Cat Cora, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali.  I’ve listed down some recipes which we would like to experiment on next time.

Care to join us for dinner? It’s Kung Pao Chicken Pasta!

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I had to cook early for dinner because I haven’t made my blog yet for today.  It’s not really that much of a problem since I still haven’t visited the blogging clues they churn out everyday here at WordPress, to make this daily challenge easy.  Maybe when I’ve gone out of subjects to blog about, I will join the others writing about those subjects at hand.

I opened the refrigerator door and what were left  in the freezer were  one whole deboned chicken breast,  a pack of pork sirloin plus mixed veggies,  a small pack of a  frozen cream dory and yes, lots of eggs for breakfast.  We are due for our  weekly marketing tomorrow so these are more than enough for lunch and dinner. I was scouring our cupboard for some ingredients to go with what I had in mind but the curry powder was not enough for one cooking. I was thinking of making a pork curry for dinner, then I saw this pack of instant Phad-Kapraow paste which my daughter brought home from Thailand late last year. Phad Kapraow is a combination of vegetable oil, chili, seasoning sauce, holy basil (kapraow) leaves and garlic.  It’s a ready-made paste which you can just pour into the dish while cooking.

What to do, what to do? Adobo is a recipe which is uniquely Filipino using vinegar, pepper, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. I thought of making one but why not use Phad-Kapraow paste for a change? I didn’t add vinegar and soy sauce though since the spicy flavor of the paste is good enough for the recipe. I am wondering what to call this since it turned out really yummy, I’ll just give you the basic ingredients if you want to experiment on it just like I did.

1 whole chicken breast – deboned
1 whole piece pork sirloin
4 cloves garlic
small piece of ginger
1 head onion
salt to taste
ground black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups coconut milk

Saute pork and chicken together and let it simmer until tender. Add coconut milk and lower the heat, cook until the oil is visible, then add the Phad-Kapraow paste last. For garnish, I fried 3 pieces of medium-sized potatoes, cut into cubes and a whole medium-sized red bell pepper to add color to the dish. Hubby says, it’s good but I am still wondering what to call it really. We have this standing joke that when we can’t identify a dish (because we invented it), we call it “maskipaps” which means “maski papano” in Tagalog (anything goes in English). Would it be okay if I name it, Arlene’s Thai Chicken-Pork Adobo? What do you think?

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For more than a month now, we have created a new tradition of family bonding by doing simple cooking lessons during Saturdays.   I simply call it,  Saturday Experiments in the Kitchen.   My daughter  and her boyfriend love to experiment with food.  The kitchen is alive come Saturday afternoons.  We have a line-up of recipes to cook, some are old ones which the two of them want to learn on their own.   They do the cooking and sourcing of  ingredients while the three of us, hubby, my son and I do the taste-test.  It’s an activity that is rapidly becoming  a ritual in our lives.  I always love cooking and once I know the rudiments of a certain recipe, I  don’t measure how much is put into what menu is cooked.   I welcome new and untried dishes, an opportunity to learn new things.

Come to think of it, this is the first time that we actually prepared tacos for snacks.  Taco is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a corn or wheat tortilla with  different fillings of beef, chicken, sea foods, vegetables and cheese.   Two Saturdays ago,  Nissa  cooked penne pasta with Obet as her assistant.  Last Saturday though, both of them were inspired to do a Mexican taco.  More than the  thrill of preparing the food, it’s those moments of laughter that count.  Doing a few shots while preparing the food is of course, part of the ritual.

We have to make do with ready-made Mexican Taco shells since none of us know how to make one.

 

The joys of preparing …trust Nissa to make a go of this!

 

Fresh tomatoes, diced white onions, grated cheese, sautéed ground beef – hmm, truly smells delicious!

 

Shredded fresh lettuce leaves..

 

Ten tacos for the five of us , haha!

 

Come on guys, I am getting hungry with all this rich smell of food.

 

Wow, at last!

 

Haha!  Be careful with the Tabasco sauce Nissa!

 

It surely looks delish!   Dig in guys!

 

Thank you for this great snack!

And here’s the fun part, the eating of course.  That Tabasco sauce is “out of this world”, Nissa’s face practically turned red because of it.  And we were all laughing while washing the strong taste of chili with soft drinks!   I told Obet I’ll teach him how to make siomai one of these days!

Tacos, anyone?

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I was plain excited when my daughter came home from a five-day trip to Bangkok, Thailand.  She was in the company of some friends and she was so enthusiastic in sharing her experience touring the place and absorbing  the culture.  Five days would not be  enough to see all there is to see  about the place but they went there for the food tour, they enrolled in a Thai cooking school to learn authentic Thai recipes.  More than  anything , I was elated when she brought home several ingredients for Thai cooking.

Two months ago, I bought a cookbook on Thai Cuisine and both of us planned of trying some of the recipes there.  Thai cuisine has a lot of similarities to some Filipino food so it is not so hard to find fresh ingredients in the wet market.  I just told her to source for dry ingredients  which are difficult to buy here. And she came home with several packets of Coriander seeds, dried Kaffir lime leaves, red curry paste, chilli powder, whole white pepper, instant Phad-kapraow paste and hot and sour curry paste, good enough for several experiments in the kitchen.

The richness of Thai cooking is more pronounced through its skillful use of wealthy colors, tastes, textures and smell wonderfully incorporated in every recipe that they use.  Many people think that Thai cooking is a complex process since they use a lot of ingredients and spices.   It is said that  “much of the heat of the  spicy dishes comes from red and green peppers” which we commonly know as chillies. The Thai call it Phrik. Thai food comes in varied forms like soups, fresh vegetable salads, dips, grilled meat, fish or chicken but the most popular   is the use of curry paste.  I’ve been accustomed to using the yellow curry powder so I was surprised that there is a red one too.

Here’s one recipe which is the whole family’s favorite when we eat at a Thai restaurant.  It’s called Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves.

Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus Leaves (Kai Hor Bai Toey)

You would need:

2 cups of boneless chicken meat

10 pandanus leaves (Pandan  in Tagalog)

Oil for deep frying

Pound Marinade together into a paste:

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp. oyster sauce

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sesame oil

1-2 tsp. pepper corn

3 garlic cloves

2 coriander roots

And the ingredients for the sauce:

1 tsp. white sesame seeds

1/2 cup ( 250 ml.) distilled white vinegar

1 cup (100 grams) sugar

1 tbsp. black soy sauce

1 tsp. salt

Cut chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.  Mix the marinade with the chicken.  Set aside in the refrigerator for three hours. To prepare the sauce, cook the same seeds in a skillet for 2 minutes without oil or until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix white vinegar, sugar, black soy sauce and salt.  Add the sesame seeds and set aside.

Wrap two or three pieces of chicken in each pandanus leaf to form a knot.  Alternatively, wrap each pandanus leaf around the chicken to form a bundle and secure with a toothpick.

Heat oil in a wok or small frying pan.  Deep fry until fragrant.  (about 5 minutes).  Serve with sauce and steamed rice.

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