Mushroom and Ricotta Breakfast Slider

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Yesterday, I did something out of character: I actually did hardcore grocery shopping. By hardcore I mean I had a list of things to buy, an even longer imaginary list of things to cook, and the palpable desire to just cook at home.

The sad, peculiar truth of my 2012 was that most of the time I only cooked when I was in school, and then resorted to various fast food takeaway when I got home. At the back of my head I thought about convenience, and….yeah, that’s about it.

Over the holidays I developed a few cravings that haven’t been curbed yet. I’d consider that a good thing because now I can say that I have the gumption to cook. I feel inspired not to resort to Chowking delivery, my default go-to website when the hunger creeps in. (Don’t worry Chowking I still love y’all)

Essentially one of my favorite meals as of the moment is the sandwich. My dad loves sandwiches more than he loves rice. When I was home for the holidays, he would toast a few slices of loaf bread, cook scrambled eggs and sear the ham I made and eat everything for dinner. When I got back from vacation, more than once I found myself thinking of eating a sandwich for dinner. I thought about what I would put together, what flavor combinations would work, and if a splash of maple syrup would make any multi-decker even better.

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Warm bread that’s crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, crisp salad greens, sautéed fresh mushrooms and ricotta cheese. This combination has been rolling in the fields of my imagination for a few days now. This was the first of many excuses I told myself why I desperately needed to go to the grocery. I just had to have it for breakfast today and I did. I can’t believe breakfast got me this excited to wake up. It’s uncanny because it’s really not me. Brunch is usually the first meal of my day for as long as I can remember.

Maybe that’s a good thing – how I’m developing new habits. I don’t know how long I can sustain this feeling but if it would get me back on a revitalized track to eating healthier, blogging and cooking more…then by all means, lez do thiz.

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Mushroom and Ricotta Sliders (serves 1 – 2)

  • 2 – 3 small pieces pan de sal, sliced in half
  • salad greens, washed, enough to fit in one layer on the bread
  • 3 – 4 pieces mushrooms (I used fresh button and shiitake), sliced
  • ricotta cheese, as needed

In a pan, add 1 tablespoon canola oil over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add the sliced mushrooms and saute for around 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble: place the salad greens on top of the sliced bread, then the mushrooms and top with the ricotta. Top with the other half of the bread to make 2 – 3 sandwiches or make open faced sliders so you can have 4 – 6 pieces.

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A Big Breakfast

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By the looks of it, it’ll be a rainy morning today. The weather has always been erratic. Manila weather is even worse. When it rains, especially early in the morning, you know you’re kind of screwed. Commuting and traffic become ten times worse. I’ve learned to brave (and welcome!) the blistering heat because at least I know getting from point A to B is easier, although still uncomfortable.

However, nothing can really be said about what happens when it rains here in Zamboanga. When you’ve faced the mother of all monsters, the tiny ugly imps are manageable. In a strange, reverse-meteoric way, I feel happier when I wake up to the sound of rain. *and on cue, it starts to rain*

Maybe it’s because I know breakfast is mandatory to warm me up. Maybe it’s also because the light in my photos is pretty nice. And when there’s a marriage of the two, I know it’s a good morning indeed.
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My default breakfast meal would have to be egg rings. The inside of a ramekin is lined with bacon then an egg fills the center. It’s then zapped in the microwave or baked for 15 minutes. I’m partial to the gentle cooking that happens when it’s being baked. Today I had the bacon and the eggs, but I wanted more. I had some potatoes, a few spices and a pack of bratwurst just sitting in the freezer. The wheels started to churn and I went into overdrive. It was go time!

I don’t really know if a fancy name fits because this is by no means fancy. But it’s still pretty good. I’m going to be subtle about the title then:
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Baked Eggs over Bratwurst and Potatoes (serves 2 – 3)

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pieces bratwurst/hungarian sausage, sliced thinly, around 125 grams each
  • 4 strips of bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small potato, around 150 grams, peeled and diced small
  • 50 grams green peas
  • 4 – 5 eggs
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Spanish paprika, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chili flakes, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. In a pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and the onion. Saute until fragrant.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook until it starts to brown at the sides.
  3. Toss in the bacon and saute until it starts to render. Add the sausage slices and mix together.
  4. Add the peas. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika.
  5. Remove the pan from heat and crack the eggs over the mixture. Season the yolks with a little bit of salt, pepper and paprika.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and allow to cook for about 15 minutes or until the yolks are set but still slightly runny. When done, remove from the oven, garnish with chili flakes and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

Pancakes with Caramelized Carrots

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I had a dream.

Sadly, there was nothing about human rights. Not even the RH Bill. It involved a plate of pancakes and an “almost butterscotch” sauce. I call it “almost butterscotch” because I vividly remember that there was no cream involved. Glazed with the liquid gold that is the mixture of sugar and butter, were thin slices of carrots. Carrots. Then I woke up and I was so hungry.

I dreamt about it a few weeks ago, even before I started cooking school. It was around the time my blog celebrated its first year of existence. During that time, being with the people from The Maya Kitchen for half a day probably had a hand at shaping the course my slumber. They were generous enough to give me a swag bag of their products to boot!

Then there I was this morning, having been woken up by the noise of my phone. It was my mom, reminding me that it was her and dad’s anniversary today. She apparently bought a cake and made it look like it came from me. I didn’t raise a single cent. I love my mom and dad. (Happy anniversary folks!)

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But what the heck, I thought. Today was the perfect day to make my dreams come true (HAHAHA CORNY! forgive me). I had a few carrots chilling in the fridge, and a few perfectly portioned pancake mixes from Maya. Although the key here is convenience, making your own pancakes from scratch is also rewarding, especially if you wake up feeling like a boss.

And let me address the issue that might be swirling in your head right now – “why the hell would I put carrots on top of my pancakes?” Well, ye of little faith, give this a shot. Despite being laden with butter and sugar, I used coconut sugar which is great for diabetics. Since it makes sense to eat carrot cake, why can’t it make sense to eat pancakes with carrots? I could go on and on, but I’m taking too much of your time. Just go ahead and make this already!

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Pancakes with Caramelized Carrots (serves 2 – 3)
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 200-gram pack instant whole wheat pancake mix (I used Maya Kitchen) or make your own buttermilk pancakes and just add oats!
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons coconut sugar (or: use dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup butter (a quarter of a regular sized butter block)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  1. Cook the pancakes according to package instructions. When done, set aside.
  2. Make the caramelized carrots: combine the butter and sugar in a small bowl/pan over really low heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt and stir everything together. Add the carrot slices.
  3. Cook the carrots in the butter and sugar over low heat for around 3 – 5 minutes. If the butter or sugar starts to show signs of burning, remove it from the heat source or make sure that it’s cooking over really low heat. (I didn’t have this problem but it’s good to be careful)
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the salt. Mix well. When done, top the carrots and the sauce over the pancakes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Waiting out the rain (with pork and cabbage)

I was rushing to school the other day, with my uniform sealed in a plastic garment bag because the weather was incredibly hard on us. Hey, I wanted to make a good first impression. There were no signs that a public vehicle going to my destination was available outside of the place where I’m staying, so I had to take the long way and commute twice.

Because I’m usually lucky with averting tardiness, I arrived on time, only to be greeted by a deserted school and a padlocked main door. It was 30 minutes before class should start and there I was, trying my best not to look like a fool for not checking any notifications before I left. Classes were cancelled. The rain has apparently morphed into proportions fit for a typhoon, but strangely enough, it couldn’t be considered a typhoon – but the numbers don’t lie; the devastation has already surpassed Bagyong Ondoy (typhoon Ondoy, 2009). And it wasn’t a freaking typhoon. Oh and apparently, the real typhoon is coming soon, if what I read on facebook is true. Pray for the Philippines, please?

The rest of my week will be spent waiting out the storm. Food supply is still good, enough to keep us fed until the week ends, and I will never rue the day we chose to live in a subdivision that was flood-free.
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This bowl of ground pork and cabbage was filled to the brim before I decided to photograph it. My friend and I gobbled most of it up like wolves, because thinking about the weather is stressful. As usual, this is nothing fancy – ground sirloin fried with small cubes of potatoes, minced garlic and sliced onions, dressed in a splash of soy sauce, then finished off with half a cabbage, that wilts so much the intimidation goes away with the volume. This is good stuff.

Should I even post the recipe? Yes? No?

What the heck, let’s run with it!
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A Delicious and Hearty Bowl of Pork and Cabbage (serves 2 – 3)

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • around 300 grams ground pork sirloin
  • 1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • half a head of cabbage, sliced into think strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a splash of soy sauce (just enough to coat the pork)
  1. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions and cook until garlic is fragrant and onions start to go limp.
  2. Add the potatoes and mix to coat with the oil. Fry until the potatoes start to crisp and become golden brown at the edges.
  3. Add the ground pork, season with salt and pepper and cook until it browns and some of the fat starts to render.
  4. Add the soy sauce and mix well until the pork is evenly coated.
  5. Add the cabbage. Carefully mix well to allow the heat to wilt the cabbage.
  6. When done, remove from heat and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

Longganisa and Atsuete Sinangag (Fried Rice)

The weather has been unforgiving, and I learned that the hard way. I woke up with my throat sore and head throbbing. The body malaise flushed any intention to make the day productive, down the drain. Flashbacks of moments where I let myself be bombarded by the weather without any form of defense kept nagging at me. Now I understand the beauty of a hoodie, or at least an umbrella. It’s strange how being sick lets you sink deep into a pit of self-pity – how I’m alone and I need to take care of my defenseless self. That’s just me being a (bleep) of course.

I went to the McCormick event probably still under the weather. I might as well be patient zero. Did me going home with free bread spread make me feel any better? Not really, but I did feel good after finally cooking something worth posting about. And yes Virginia, I used the garlic bread spread on something that isn’t bread!

There was a pack of longganisa sitting in the freezer, and I was raring to try it out. It wasn’t just any longganisa – the label says it’s ‘alaminos longganisa’ which means it’s hopefully a regional specialty of Pangasinan, one of the many provinces in the Philippines.
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I was probably going in blind: I didn’t know what it tasted like, and what effect it will have on the rice. So after patiently mixing everything together, I was eager to finally taste the finished product and, well, it was delicious, delicious, delicious. And I’m not just saying that because of my affinity for unreasonably large servings of rice. It was delicious.

I call it longganisa and atsuete fried rice (sinangag in Filipino) because these two components are primarily responsible for imparting the delicious flavor and color to the rice. It’s a no-brainer and well, I’m not creative with names.
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If ‘alaminos longganisa’ is too obscure for you, if you know of a variant that is more deliciously sour than sweet, then use that. And I’ve recently found out that atsuete or annatto can also be sold in powder form! No joke. Then that means it’ll be easier for you to make the atsuete oil by just heating the oil, adding the powder and let the color bleed out. You don’t have to remove the seeds anymore because there are none!
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By all means, use the bread spread to add another dimension of flavor to the dish. I can vouch for the garlic variant by saying that it does wonders to fried rice. Sure, it might be counterintuitive with being an advocate of the slow food movement, but well, heck, I won’t apologize.
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Longganisa and Atsuete Fried Rice (Serves 3 – 4)

  • 4 ½ cups day old rice
  • 6 – 8 pieces alaminos longganisa, casings removed and crumbled (if unavailable: just use regular longganisa and just sauté the rice in atsuete/annatto oil)
  • 1 carrot, sliced into small cubes
  • 4 pieces sitaw/string beans, stalk ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (or atsuete oil if using regular longganisa)
  • 3 tablespoons McCormick Bread Spread (garlic flavor)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a pan/pot large enough to hold the rice, place the crumbled longganisa with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cook over medium heat, until the water boils and has reduced. At this point, add the carrots and the string beans. Cook until beans are tender and water has evaporated.
  3. Add oil/atsuete oil to sauté everything together. Add the garlic Bread Spread and mix well.
  4. Add the rice, fry and mix well. When done, remove from pan and serve warm. Enjoy!

And just to give you a quick glimpse of how I’m running things lately, this is my makeshift studio:
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Yes, that’s my bed frame, and a few linens I bought at The Landmark (on sale, of course), and that blue thing on the side is my mattress that I had to remove. How’s that for going the extra mile?

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Breakfast: Homemade Tocino

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Lately, my breakfasts were served to me in little boxes full of rice, microwaved and with a tall glass of pineapple juice, courtesy of our friendly neighborhood 7-Eleven.

It’s been a few days since I left my home and currently, I’m writing this in our 39 square meter unit that I share with two of my friends. I’m in Manila now, trying to slug it out and chase whatever it is my hometown can’t give me. I actually have a post that reads like a novela in the works, but no, now is not the time for that. I need to make room for breakfast, and for tocino, which has been sitting at the back of my head for a while now.
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Growing up my mom would make tocino from scratch.  I gather that in some parts of the world, tocino means ‘bacon’ (another one of my favorites, hence my waistline). Tocino in the Philippines is cured pork or chicken slices and it literally spells a quintessential Pinoy breakfast (together with longganisa, beef tapa, danggit). Thin strips of pork are cured with a mixture of salt, sugar, saltpeter (sodium nitrate) or prague powder, and rice wine or gin. The salt to sugar ratio is important, because you can easily tip the scale between salty and sweet – flavors that a tocino must be must have in perfect harmony (Mom takes it very seriously!).

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the folded paper is the actual recipe that my mom kept for 20+ years!

Tocino sold in the supermarkets in the frozen section is more processed than usual, and I don’t really care for it. This recipe is so much better because at least I know how much salt and preservatives are in it which doesn’t make it more healthful but at least sinking my teeth into every sweet and salty morsel is more of a psychological treat (haha!).

I think it may be a while before I get my bearings and adjust to my even tinier kitchen, so I might as well fill this blog with more of what I do get to taste in the Metro. But for now, when I’m thinking of home and of uncomplicated breakfasts, this sits at the top of my list (together with another favorite, my bacon and egg rings).
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Tocino (serves 6 – 8)

  • 1 kg skinless boneless pork
  • Curing mix:
  • 1 ½ tablespoons iodized salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gin/rice wine
  • ¼ tablespoon prague powder
  • A dash of MSG

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the curing mix. Evenly coat the pork slices with the curing mix then transfer it to a larger bowl, large enough to hold the pork. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least one – two days before cooking.

When ready to cook, arrange the number of pork pieces you need in a pan and add water enough to cover the bottom. Cook it over medium heat, until the water evaporates and the tocino’s fat begins to render. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and fry until both sides take on a reddish hue and begin to brown. The pieces may burn easily so be careful. When done, remove from pan, serve with rice and an egg fried sunny side up. Enjoy!

French Toast

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It’s funny how a blog friend of mine, Jenn, made french toast when she got back from her vacation, and here I am making french toast just before I’m about to leave for mine. This isn’t any monumental move, just a ridiculously long road trip that will occupy my weekend. It’s 1:00 AM and we’re leaving at 3 o’clock. Sleep isn’t an option if I want to stay ‘sedated’ throughout the trip. Road trips and I, don’t mix.

Anyway, french toast!
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I’m not a breakfast person, and when I do get to enjoy a good breakfast, I would usually go for the classics: fried rice and fried processed meat. Delicious. It’s been ages since I made french toast, and I forgot how heavy, luscious and filling a single slice can be. I had two, or three. With maple syrup, because Molly Wizenberg says so. After a few forkfuls drenched in golden sauce, I don’t think I can have it any other way. The really fat kid who used to make french toast every Saturday is back, hungrier than ever.

A bad habit: we buy more bread than we can consume. I can’t tell you how many times we had to dispose of  loaf bread that was barely even touched, because the mold has taken over.  For this batch, I may or may not have used bread that had the slightest, tiniest speck of mold. I won’t admit it.
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But suppose I did, then I would give myself a pat on the back for giving the poor bread slices a new lease on life, even just for a few minutes.

Hopefully the change in scenery will do me some good, and with the lingering taste of this morning’s french toast still dancing in my mouth and making me hungry at 1:30 in the morning…I’m off.
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French Toast (this is pretty much verbatim; adapted from Orangette serves 2 – 4)

1 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
Mild-tasting vegetable oil, such as canola
6 – 7 slices bread (I used a plain white loaf)
Pure maple syrup, for serving

Whisk together the first five ingredients in a wide, shallow bowl.

Place a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over low to medium heat, and add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the skillet.

Two or three at a time, add the bread slices to the egg mixture in the bowl, allowing them to rest for a minute or two on each side. They should feel heavy and thoroughly saturated, but they should not be falling apart. When the oil is hot, place the slices in the skillet. They should sizzle a bit, and the oil should bubble lightly around the edges of the bread; take care, however, that the oil is not too hot, lest the egg mixture burn. Cook until the underside of each slice is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the bread, and cook until the second side is golden, another 2 minutes or so. Remove the bread from the skillet to a plate lined with a paper towel, allow to rest for 30 seconds or so, and serve immediately—with maple syrup, of course.