Ice Candy Duo: Lemonade & Milk Tea


I had a lot of vivid memories growing up, spending lazy days at home, far far from the clutches of school – watching Dink The Little Dinosaur, flying kites with my dad, playing “tumbahang lata” with the neighbors’ kids, starting an aquarium more than once, all of which ended in massive extinction, and a particularly graphic scene of a little calamansi fruit, literally frying with the juice boiling on the concrete, under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, summers are more fun in the Philippines.

My childhood summers are one of the sweetest moments of the life, particularly because I didn’t like going to school, and there was always something to do at home or outside. That was the good life. I didn’t care for anything else, except that I wanted to have fun. Going back to school  takes those golden moments away. It’s also a part of life (and a fact) that growing up pushes these memories aside, making room for new priorities, interests, and even friends.

Moving on to happy thoughts…

Judging by the heat, the scorching  summer has definitely arrived. When I was growing up, summer also meant that ICE CANDY season has also arrived. Ice Candy, is basically any refreshing liquid of your choice, poured into thin, flimsy plastic ‘wrappers’ specifically made for ice candy, tied up and frozen. That’s it.

How is it supposed to be eaten? You bite into and tear off a little piece of plastic from the bottom, then suck away. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the ice, and it’s a venerable treat to relish the liquid that’s slowly dancing in between liquid and solid. I can’t get any better than that.

Because I was a wee fledgling when the ice candy craze kicked in, making it involved teamwork. I would pour the liquid into the wrapper, and my Mama Eng would tie it all up and place it in the freezer. Sometimes, the neighborhood kids would help out as well. We’re tight like that. Then we would sell it for 1 peso a pop. One summer, the craze was so popular, every single household in our extension was selling ice candy! A classic ice candy flavor would have to be Milo. Fruits juices only ranked second.

This month would mark my first attempt at joining Kulinarya Club’s monthly theme activity. I received confirmation of my membership around mid-February, and I’ve been looking forward to taking crack at the March theme: ice candy (thanks to Jun of Jun-Blog and Arnold of Inuyaki for this stroke of brilliance).

I put my own spin to this oldie-but-goodie by showcasing two flavors that I’ve fallen in love with recently: lemonade and milk tea.

I’m not really a calamansi juice person, though I won’t mind if it’s liberally drizzled over a plate of palabok. There’s just something…cleaner and fresher about the smell and taste of lemons that takes me away from the humidity and unforgiving heat of the day. My mom’s lemonade ratio really hits the spot each and every time – the flavor of the tart lemons and the sweet sugar marries perfectly. I can finish a pitcher in one day.

Milk tea has been a growing trend here in the Philippines and I’ve had my fair share of it over the past few months. But I’m proud to say that among the milk teas that I’ve tasted, Zamboanga’s own Zensonita (Zen-son-night-ta) is one of the best in my book. It shares the top spot with Gong Cha. That says a lot. Zensonita is unpretentious and serves it like it is, no gimmicks, no frills. Visit their store along Nunez extension and order all three bestsellers: original, tarik and strawberry. I tried to replicate their original flavor – basic black tea with a slurry of fresh and condensed milk.


And as the song goes: “summertime, and the livin’ is easy”. Ice candy might as well be the songwriter’s muse, maybe even the perfect symbol.

Ice Candy Duo


  • 6 cups  cold water
  • 3 – 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Mix everything in a pitcher and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Milk Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bag black tea
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk, or more to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot over medium heat. Once boiled, remove from heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes or until a strong tea flavor is achieved. When done, remove tea bags. When cooled, transfer the tea to a pitcher.
  2. Mix the fresh and condensed milk together in a small bowl or cup. Add to the tea and mix well. Adjust the taste to your preference.

Make the ice candy:

  1. If you’re working alone, it’s best to have a mug/cup with you. Place the plastic tubes/wrappers inside the mug with prop it in such a way that it’s resting on the rim of the mug/cup.Photobucket
  2. Use a small funnel to pour the liquid in, filling the wrapper a little over halfway to 3/4ths full. Take the excess plastic and tightly twist it to compress the liquid inside. Use your fingers to roll the excess plastic until it’s toothpick-thin, so it will be easier to twist.Photobucket
  3. Twist the excess plastic around your finger, and loop it around to make a knot. Repeat the process until you have your desired number. Freeze until firm and enjoy!Photobucket


    The 3rd one from the left is what you'll get when you won't twist the excess plastic enough


Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta


I’ve had my fair share of pasta problems. Usually, when I was starting out, the comments would be along the lines of, “It tastes good, but the pasta’s undercooked/overcooked/mushy”, or the other way around, “The pasta’s cooked perfectly, but I don’t taste anything else”. Take note, I’ve never made my own pasta from scratch before, since I don’t have the ingredients, and the equipment is exorbitantly priced.

I take comfort in knowing that there’s always a canister of ready-to-cook pasta noodles resting inside the pantry. So far my pasta streak has been pretty good. But of course, I’m looking forward to the day I might be able to press my own pasta noodles.

Coming from a family whose conceptual definition of pasta is a chunky, saucy spaghetti, it’s a challenge getting them to try anything that digresses from their mental image. I’ve haven’t really made major breakthroughs with them yet. One time, when my uncle suggested that my vegetarian tomato pasta would taste better with condensed milk, my ego was torn in half. My mom, however, is my biggest supporter and a fan of my garlic and sardines pasta, so I usually give everything to her.

But of course, when I saw my 12-year old cousin, who has known fried chicken and Jollibee spaghetti all his life,  devour his plate of my pasta, I had a feeling I was on to something.

Like I said, the roasted tomatoes I made are incredibly versatile. One classic preparation that I’ve always wanted to try is to add it to pasta. And the rest was history. The chorizos that I used were the plump, sweet, smoky variety, so it imparted a rich taste to the pasta oil. The tomatoes were the icing on the cake.

Imagine yourself swirling your fork to pickup the noodles, stabbing little chunks of juicy chorizo and a piece of roasted tomato, and putting it in your mouth, slurping the pasta – the sweet flavors of chorizo and basil, the acidity of the tomato, dancing and exploding in your mouth.  Does it feel good? Are you drooling right now? I thought so.

Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta (serves 3 – 4)

If you noticed, there isn’t a lot of precise measurement involved. Just put it all together, and have fun dancing with generosity and restraint. 

  • 100 – 150 grams angel hair pasta
  • 6 – 8 pieces sweet smoky chorizo, sliced
  • roasted tomatoes
  • a few pieces of fresh basil leaves
  • around 1/4 cup olive oil, or more if desired
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a pan, over medium heat, cook and brown the chorizo until the fat renders. Season with salt and pepper. And the olive oil, tomatoes and the basil leaves. Allow to cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the reserved pasta water, then add the pasta. Mix well to coat the pasta with the seasoned oil. Add more olive oil if desired. Cook for 1 more minute, or until the water evaporates, it’s no longer soggy and the pasta has taken the sauce well.
  4. Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Poached Apples

Even after I made my apple cake, I still had a surplus of apples. Damn the flaming desire to perfect the apple pie, which eventually died out. As they say, I still got to  my cake and eat it too because I managed to make poached apples today.

But we’re not really hardcore apple lovers. Our “family” merienda (snack) is actually “sareala” – banana slices poached in coconut milk and muscovado sugar. Think guinataan/ginataan with only the bananas. Hello, Filipino friends, I know you understand me. Hello, readers all over the world, Wikipedia’s amazing isn’t it?

Anyway, even if that’s the case, I can imagine poached apples blending in seamlessly at the family table after a heavy meal. The apples obviously have a natural sweetness, so even if it’s swimming in syrup, a little spoonful of heaven can be had without it.

Like poached apples, let’s keep this simple and sweet: this is great stuff. I didn’t have vanilla ice cream but it’s alright. Maybe next time. No, definitely next time.

Poached Apples (adapted from; serves 6 – 8 )

  • half of a vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 dashes of cinnamon
  • 4 medium-sized Fuji apples, peeled then sliced in half
  • a pint of vanilla ice cream (optional)
  1. Combine red wine, sugar, water, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium sized stockpot.
  2. Add the apples and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from the heat.
  3. Cool the apples in poaching liquid until room temperature.
  4. When cool, set apples aside. Return the liquid to a boil and reduce until a syrup-like consistency is achieved.
  5. Place apples on a plate with syrup, and serve as is or with vanilla ice cream if desired. Enjoy!

Apple Cake with Apple and Streusel Topping

Last night I was busy perusing through recipes I might try for today. Because I knew we had a few apples stored in the crisper since Christmas 2011, there was the frantic need to get rid of most of it, or else the lot might just go rotten. I thought about perfecting my apple pie, since my first attempt at pie didn’t turn out so well. Then I thought about cupcakes, but since we didn’t have any cupcake liners left, I scratched that out as well. Then I thought about poaching the apples in liquor, and I was dead-set on doing it. But the nagging feeling that today would be the day I would bake my first cake kept bothering me until I caved in and well….made. my. first. cake. And yeah, this far from a chocolate cake.

The original recipe didn’t call for shredded apples in the batter. I looked at the recipe and I was afraid that the cake would turn out plain without anything to up the batter’s ante. Well, that’s just my excuse so I could use up all the Granny Smiths we had. But I thought adding shredded apples was genius.

This is a really dense cake. Probably because the recipe didn’t call for baking soda and vinegar. But it was still really good. This has essentially three layers: the cake, the apple topping and the streusel.

The recipe had me at streusel. Because I haven’t perfected frosting a cupcake, let alone a cake, a streusel is a good, probably even better alternative. Instead of buttercream or cream cheese frosting, I like topping cupcakes with streusel, which is a mixture of flour, butter, sugar and sometimes nuts. It forms a light, sweet, crusty topping that complements the flavors of the apples. Sure I might pounce on frosting in the future, but right now it’s streusel, baby.

Although I’m a butcher that lacks the finesse of peeling and removing the apple cores, I think I did a pretty good job at the apple topping. But the funny thing is, the streusel covered all of it up. I made a mental note of drizzling, not dumping, it with streusel next time.

I did run into a hitch though: because the cake is dense, the wax paper along the sides couldn’t support the whole thing while I was trying to lift it up. Now I was stuck with the problem of removing the cake from the pan without ruining it. I did eventually coax it out by slicing the cake then individually removing the slices with a spatula.

But I have to admit, that for my first attempt, the end product does look pretty darn good. Really good. (Are you out there? Do you agree?)

What really gets me fascinated about the process of cake-making is how different proportions and techniques yield different results. Because this is a dense cake with a tight crumb, I’d like to explore the possibilities with different recipes. Yes Virginia, I’m a nerd, really.

I had more apples than I can use, so I thought about caramelizing the remaining slices with pineapple juice. It was a great accompaniment to the cake. Take that, whipped cream.

One final important note:today I doubled the streusel recipe and I got more than enough crumbs to top the cake with. Hence, a thick streusel layer. I suggest you start with the recipe given below, then double the ingredient proportions for the streusel if you think it’s not enough.

“Let them eat cake!”

Apple Cake with Apple and Streusel Topping + Caramelized Apple Slices (adapted from Joy of Baking; serves 8 – 10)

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons (40 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (70 grams) brown sugar

Cake Batter:

  • 2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon iodized salt
  • 1/2 cup (112 grams) (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) milk
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, coarsely shredded using a cheese grater
  • 2 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin (1/8 inch) slices for topping, submerged in a bowl with pineapple juice (240ml/1 can) Slice an apple in half lengthwise, then cut each in piece in half. Continue the process until you arrive at 1/8th inch slices. 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).  Grease (with butter or shortening) a 9 inch pan and line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. Grease the lined bottom and sides as well.
  2. Streusel Topping:
      1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and ground cinnamon.
      2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the brown sugar. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
  3. Cake Batter:
      1.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
      2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (I used a hand mixer), with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and smooth.
      3.  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
      4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add the allspice and ginger.
      5. Add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, and beat only until combined.
      6. Spread the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  4. Evenly arrange the apple slices on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.
  5. Bake for about 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.

Orange Panna Cotta

When I published my year-end review for 2011, a few of my readers encouraged me to post more recipes for dessert because well, it is kinda part of a well-balanced meal. One of them actually told me I should make how-to youtube videos. That’s a bit farfetched, but thanks anyway for the suggestion. 

When I was thinking of my first dessert post for the year I only had one word in mind: easy.

I’ve tried slaving over a few desserts last year, most of them not fit for “publication”. So what I really wanted for 2012 is most definitely a change of pace, in more ways than one.

Nothing screams ‘easy’ like a good serving of panna cotta. It’s really a revelation. Sure, it has a fancy name, but it’s simply milk, cream, sugar + the magic ingredient: gelatin.

I could go on and on and on about how this dessert didn’t stress me at all, how really good this was, but if I’m really going for ‘a change of pace’, then this time I’m not going to be verbose about it. You have to make this panna cotta. It’s really easy and you can (and should) tweak it to your preference. Tapioca pearls perhaps?

Is it healthy? I’m not sure about that (It has, uhm, oranges?). But it is really really really good. I managed to wolf down a few spoonfuls before I had enough. It’s not too sweet, not extremely fruity, but it’s still a dense, filling and refreshing way to cap off a heavy meal (Which I had; *cough*porkbelly*cough).

And strangely enough on the first few days of 2012, I find myself limiting my rice intake (cue collective gasp from Peru to Zimbabwe). Less rice (on most occasions! I’m still a rice with ‘ulam’ purist) means more room to enjoy viands, so I’m enjoying this change of pace indeed.

Orange Panna Cotta (serves 4 – 5; adapted from

  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup all-purpose cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons hot milk (I just zapped mine in the microwave for a minute and ten seconds)
  • orange wedges to garnish
  1. In a saucepan, combine orange zest with all-purpose cream, milk, and white sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk gelatin powder in hot milk until dissolved. (Some recipes say to let the gelatin ‘bloom’ in the liquid by leaving it for a few minutes. I didn’t do this but I might as well next time)
  4. Stir in gelatin mixture to cream mixture; blend well.
  5. Pour mixture into 3 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  6. To serve, either invert molds onto serving plates or serve as is. Top with orange wedges. Serve immediately.


9 mornings: Peaches and Chocolate Tablea Cupcakes

It just had to happen. My disease just had to come back. I have this strange affliction that I know is pervasive worldwide. I thought I had it under control for a while now, but apparently not. And it just had to come back at a time that I desperately need it to leave. My disease: I constantly hit the snooze button on my phone alarm. Yes, I have that kind of sickness. And I am one of millions with this bad habit.

Am I being overly dramatic here? Not really (humor me). It’s just that because of that bad habit, I missed Misa de Gallo today. Well, I could always put a spin to my situation and say that missing Misa de Gallo is also part of my tradition, but I’m really disappointed. This year was supposed to be the year I complete the 9 mornings because I have the luxury of time.

Next year will be totally different because I have plans brewing in my head that might be so pivotal that my life as we know it will do a complete 180. But I’m holding on. Even if I think every day is like I’m living in borrowed time, I’d like to relish whatever golden days of peace I have.

Growing up my holidays would never be complete without three things: ham, Cartoon Network Christmas marathons and instant cocoa mix or better yet, tablea for hot chocolate. I’ve outgrown the Christmas marathons (Plus cartoon shows today have lost their luster. Do you agree?), ham is still there albeit in controlled proportions and I’ve realized that Christmas goes on without hot chocolate. Still, when I get the chance to relish quiet time with cocoa, the memories when life was simpler come rushing back.

Between instant cocoa mix and tablea, I’m partial to the latter because I love dark chocolate. Tablea is essentially a dark chocolate tablet that dissolves in boiling water. Sure, the preparation isn’t as “instant”, but sipping it is magic. It’s hot and toasty, smooth, punched with milk and sugar but still slightly bitter. Nothing compares.

No I won’t blog about how to make hot chocolate. Since I’ve already broken my novena streak, I might as well make up for it by going the extra mile today.

Here in Zamboanga, the iconic Myrna’s bakeshop churns out a mean Black Forest cake. It’s not punched with rum and it’s not studded with cherries. Instead, their Black Forest is a simple chocolate cake filled with nuts and peaches. It’s simple, unpretentious and just delicious.

I decided to make something quite similar, using a basic chocolate cake recipe but with the addition of tablea. Since I was craving for Myrna’s Black Forest, I decided to fill it with crushed peaches!

This chocolate cake/cupcake recipe is a keeper because it’s moist and not overly sweet. It holds its shape well and isn’t crumby. Filling cupcakes takes this dessert to the next level because it’s the perfect way to introduce something refreshing to an otherwise plain chocolate cupcake. To pair chocolate and fruits together is just genius.

Chocolate Tablea Cupcakes (makes 20 – 23 cupcakes)

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • ¾ cup tablea chocolate, chopped (I used 10 pieces)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup shortening/butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (in a pinch: 1 cup milk plus ½ – 1 tablespoon vinegar)
  • Filling: 1 can peach halves (I used an 825 g can because I tripled the recipe for this so you can adjust as needed) chopped into very small pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners. In a bowl, mix cocoa powder, coffee and tablea with boiling water; stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using a hand blender/electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter/shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Gradually add cocoa mixture, beating well.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  7. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk.
  8. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To fill the cupcakes (the Cone method) – more insight here and here 

  1. Using a small paring knife with a narrow blade, carefully slice halfway between the center and the edge to create a space that you will use for filling. Do not completely slice through the cupcake.
  2. Gently coax out the sliced portion (or cone) using the knife, making sure that the rest of the cupcake is not damaged.PhotobucketPhotobucket
  3. This is optional: Slice the pointed/inner side of the “cone”, leaving only the top portion. When you are done filling, pop the top back into place to act as the “seal” or “plug”.

This takes patience and practice but if you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless.


Tomorrow is another day for Misa de Gallo, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully aside from hearing mass, I’d churn out something easy and simple to blog about tomorrow, for a change (haha)