Godiva Hearts, for People Who Insist on Celebrating Valentine's Day

photo courtesy of Karen Turner

Okay, I have two statements to make before I get to the chocolatey goodness section of this post.

Preface #1 - I think Valentine's Day is totally lame! I've always felt that way. Well, maybe not when I was in second grade, but I don't think I was waxing philosophical about holidays at that point. I was too busy fantasizing about Fred from Scooby Doo to worry about such things. I just don't understand why people put such importance on receiving a gift on Valentine's Day, especially when it's usually a gift that requires no brainpower, like candy, flowers, or stuffed bears. Oh, yea! My significant other bought me a gift not because they were thinking of me, but because their calender and the mall told them to! They must really love me! Not that I object to flowers or candy. I just object to them on February 14th!

Preface #2 - I think Godiva is, generally speaking, overrated. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this point, but I kind of think Godiva is like Tiffanys, in that all you're really paying for is the name. Is that diamond/chocolate truffle any better than any other diamond/chocolate truffle or are we just wowed by the name on the box? Maybe you're one of those people who genuinely LOVE Godiva's candy. I know a lot of people that do, so it is possible that maybe I'm wrong about their chocolate! I've also, in the past, bought gifts at Tiffanys, so, you know, I understand the lure of the fancy. :-)

That said, I was at Godiva the other day and couldn't stop looking at this box of heart-shaped chocolates!

photo courtesy of Karen Turner

I know! I was shocked! They were so pretty and unique, which makes sense once I realized that they're designed by pastry chef Norman Love (awww . . . love). It also sounds like these little hearts are filled with some interesting flavors like Apple Pie, Bananas Foster, and Caramel Macchiato, which is always a good sign! Give them to someone for Valentine's Day, if you're into that sort of thing. Click here to order the Hearts G Collection online (15 piece or 30 piece box) or click here to find a Godiva store near you.

HHDD #25: Chicken Satay Skewers

Another thing I love about Donna Hay -- and yes I am aware that I should go out and mingle with other cookbook authors, and stop clinging to the arm of my “best friend” like some shy little ninny – is that she has Asian recipes aplenty strewn across her books and magazines. Asian dishes and influences are very much apparent in the food she prepares...which of course is just one more thing that endears her to my Asian heart.

I will say at this point that no, not even a hint of a sniff of Filipino anywhere, but trust me, that’s just for now. One day that Australian goddess and I will meet and we will surely trade recipes and then she will inevitably publish some version of the Filipino dishes I share with her. Patience friends.

Anyway...Donna’s Asian dishes. Yes! Vietnamese spring rolls, Chinese noodles, Japanese sushi preparations, and Thai curries (and many others) often make their appearance in her delicious wake. And though it may make more sense, and would certainly be more authentic, to go consult with a book that is of those particular cuisines; Donna craftily weaves them around her simple, four-ingredient type recipes, so a “beginner-cook” who thinks she wanted to make pan fried veal chops and squash soup ends up making Thai Green Curry and fresh spring rolls with such ease, and to such accolades, that suddenly...she loves Asian too!

I was thrilled then when I found out that Meeta, the brilliant lady behind What’s for lunch, Honey?, picked Chicken Satay for this round of Hay Hay It’s Donna Day!

Meeta is one of (yes there was a tie!) the lovely winners of HHDD’s last round (Pesto!) which was hosted by me :) The other winner (with a fabulous sweet pesto!) is Tartasacher of Mil Postres. Just as this was the first time HHDD has announced a tie, Meeta and Tartasacher decided that this would also be the first time HHDD would have two themes! Meeta chose the chicken satay and Tartasacher chose something sweet!

The recipe Meeta chose was Chicken Satay Skewers. You can also find the original recipe here. As this was my first time to make satay from scratch I didn’t experiment or alter the recipe at all. Although the recipe itself is a variation from most satay recipes in that it uses ground cashews instead of peanuts, and there is no turmeric. It’s quite simple to throw together, and before I knew it, in the pulse of a blender, I had satay sauce to marinade my chicken in!

Donna uses coconut milk, cashews, ginger, fish sauce, chilli, and soy sauce in her marinade. I’ve since searched for more recipes on the web, and the marinade ingredients differ from recipe to recipe in such a dizzying range that I’d be pushed to find out what exactly would constitute “traditional”. In any case, these skewers were delicious! Aside from being bang-easy to make ;) I served them with some cheat’s satay sauce (confession here: marinade from scratch but sauce from a packet!), lime wedges, steamed white rice, and lots of cilantro.

C and I both enjoyed these skewers and I will definitely be making satay again. I’ve got my eye on other recipes to try (like this one) and a whole slew of Indonesian and Malaysian cookbooks from my favourite bookstore to fob ideas off (economic crisis = taking SMS notes in the bookstore with my mobile phone...ssshhh!).

Special satay note: We have our own version of satay here! Down south in Zamboanga they have satti...much like the Malaysian sate. I've written about it here :)

Thanks Meeta for choosing a fantastic theme! Hay Hay It’s Donna Day was created by Barbara of Winos and Foodies and is now under the care of Bron of Bron Marshall. Next up: my entry for Tartasacher’s sweet theme – sugar grilled fruit with yogurt!

Orla Kiely . . . at Target!!!

I'm soooo excited! Designer Orla Kiely is coming to Target in February! Her home collection will include great items for your kitchen like towels, placemats, napkins, aprons, oven mitts, dishes, trays, mugs, and a whole lot more. Plus, there are products for other parts of your home as well (laundry bags, shoe racks, desk trays, etc). Click here to see the full collection! Yippee!

Spicy Chicken Waldorf Salad


C just doesn’t get the Waldorf Salad. I placed a plate of it before him and I could have been handing him a pair of patent red stilettos judging by the puzzled-but-I-think-I-still-get-it look on his face. “It’s a Waldorf Salad,” I piped encouragingly (in the same tone that I would say, “Of course I’ll wear them!”). Hmmm..."It’s interesting,” he says – which is C-speak for “I’ll eat it but please don’t put it in the daily rotation.

Humph. I guess not everyone is as devoted to mayonnaise (and mayonnaise based foods) as I am. Nor is everyone as taken with charmingly retro dishes.

The Waldorf Salad was created in the Waldorf Hotel of New York in 1893, by the maître d'hôtel at that time, Oscar Tschirky. Although some say not. The famous maître d'hôtel is also said to be have put together the first Eggs Benedict. Although this too is contested. Cole Porter includes the Waldorf Salad in his list of Top things. I imagine many a nervous wife of a time before me, trotting this out to her stockbroker husband and friends.

(Could this be why C didn’t take to it? Because he isn’t a stockbroker and I’m not a nervous trotting wife? Hmmm. Could be...)

Whichever account is true; this is just the sort of glamorous, F. Scott Fitzgerlad-y provenance I love my food to have. So even if apple + celery + mayonnaise + walnuts may elicit a bit of a question mark from some...I’ll be lining up for this salad with my silver spoon in hand, high-heels clicking, and Cole Porter in my head.

Spicy Chicken Waldorf Salad

  • 1 cup chopped red apples, cored but unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup (approximately) chopped cooked chicken breast (2 chicken breast fillets, pan-fried in olive oil with salt and pepper, then chopped)
  • 3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 to one whole lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (or any spicy chilli you like)
  • Lettuce leaves (just enough to line 2-3 plates)

- Toss all the ingredients, using only half the lemon’s juice and 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, in a bowl and mix gently until just combined. Taste and adjust – add lemon or mayonnaise as to your taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste as well.
- Serve chilled on a bed of lettuce.
- Serves 2-3.

Originally, the Waldorf consisted of only apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Walnuts came later, but are now an essential part of the dish. I’ve added chicken to mine, as many versions have, to make it more substantial as a meal. I also added some cayenne pepper to make it spicy – because I love all things spicy – though I’ve probably done Mr. Tschirky and Mr. Porter grave offense. This will serve 2-3, but if your significant other does not appreciate retro-glamour and loses interest after a small plate, keep the extras and have it as a sandwich or a wrap the next day. But don’t be too hard on him – we can’t all live in This Side of Paradise – give him a kiss and promise him adobo and remember that it’s our differences that make life exciting :)

The Farnsworth House in Miniature

Keeping with my love of edible houses, may I present the gingerbread Farnsworth House, courtesy of cake designer April Reed. The New York Times recently did a piece on this yummy version of Mies van der Rohe's modern classic and I instantly feel in love with it! Of course, the price tag on this mini-house is $4,320, so it won't be sitting on my kitchen table anytime soon. On the plus side, 15 percent of the proceeds will be donated to help repair the much larger Farnsworth House in Illinois, so at least you'll know that some of your hard-earned money is going to charity. Click here to check out the piece in the New York Times and here to visit April Reed's Web site.

Cottage Pie

Wouldn’t it be nice to create fabulous new dishes every day? We would start with fresh ingredients, bright and shiny and ready for action. We would use exciting new herbs and spices. We would dip our spoons and fingers into new cuisines and explore horizons previously only dreamed of while gazing longingly at exotic cookbooks. We would procure only the best food stuff, things wildly romantic sounding and exceptionally rare. Every day starting afresh. We would be the culinary equivalent of those heiresses who only wear couture and never repeat an outfit. To dream...such a lovely past time...and one I am quite expert at ;)

In the here and now of this thing called reality, however, I have to admit – my fridge is full of leftovers. No new creations here today I’m afraid. For now, I must place my dreams of truffles and Scandinavian sweet buns and new gold flats aside, and deal with these wilful odd bits in the chiller. Sigh...and no pouting on my part! I have, after all, vowed to battle food waste to the bitter (sweet) end, so these leftovers will be cunningly made over by me – much like how designers and magazine editors found ways to resuscitate 80’s fashion and made us believe that we never forswore it. Cunning.

Cottage pie – a simple, homely, comforting dish, in whose loving arms many leftovers have found solace. It remains one of my mother’s favourite ways of dealing with leftovers (the other was croquetas***)...and not just leftover mince! Any leftover meat could be chopped up, sautéed with a variety of additional odds and ends, and smooshed into a Cottage Pie. Depending on the original dish the resulting Cottage Pie could have a creamy filling or a tomato-based filling. Leftover veg was tossed in too!

It’s no surprise then, that as she was leaving our flat after a dinner of roast pork, she eyed the leftover meat and whispered to me, “make it into Cottage Pie jo!” And because I am nothing if not a dutiful daughter, that is just what I did.

I can give no exact measurement as who knows how much leftovers you’ve got, or how much leftovers I will have in the future – so if you are looking for a traditional Cottage Pie recipe you can search for one here. These are just basic guidelines on how to take yesterday’s dinner, swathe it in mash potatoes, crown it with cheese, et voilà...today’s lunch!

First take your leftover meat and assess. If it’s not mince then chop it up into small pieces, but not too small as to hassle yourself. Now, what was the dish like? That determines, for me, what I will add. My roast pork was stuffed with chorizo and garlic, and rubbed with salt, fennel seeds, and pimenton de la vera. To complement it, I sautéed chopped onions and garlic, added the meat, then added some wine and tomato paste and a little more pimenton. Now I had a meat base that was tomato-y and smoky and faintly Spanish....yum! If you have some roast beef you can go creamy with cream and mushrooms and maybe some cheese leftover from your cheese platter. Up to you of course.

Next make you mash potatoes (or do them simultaneously...I certainly won’t stop one from saving time as well as food!). Just make it the way you like best, or using whatever you’ve got on hand.

Now to assemble: Take any oven-proof dish that looks like it’ll fit everything. Lay the meat on the bottom. If you want to please my mother, which I always want to do, place some corn over the meat. Then pat the mash down over that. Last, sprinkle the top with as much cheese as you want – I used parmesan and all that was left from the previous evening cheese plate. Pop in the oven and bake (I put it in at 190C) until the cheese is all toasty and tanned and the filling is bubbling up at the sides of the mash.

A brand new dish for unsuspecting palates! Yay! We’ve made use of our leftovers and avoided food waste yet again! Now...about the outfit repeating...I’ll have to work on that.

***My mom also loved to stuff leftovers into croquetas or croquettes – with a little potato, anything could be turned into these little rolls! Croquetas de tinapang bangus? Don’t laugh unless you’ve tried them!

My Favorite Dessert: Blueberry Banana Cream Pie by Pretty Ditty

I'm sooo excited! It's my first guest blog! And it's from Jamie from Pretty Ditty. Woo hoo! I recently discovered Jamie's gorgeous aprons on Etsy and I have to say they are among some of my favorite aprons, ever!

From the front, you could mistake them for really wonderful dresses. I know I've said that before, about other aprons, but the Pretty Ditty aprons really are so lovely! I want to wear one all day long! In addition to being a world-class apron maker, Jamie also has a blog where she shows off her many crafting skills, like making adorable pegs dolls like the one seen below. You can click here to visit Jamie's Etsy site and to see more of her charming aprons. Thanks, Jaime!

Here's what Jaime had to say about this recipe:

One of my favorite recipes to make is Blueberry Banana Cream Pie. This particular recipe was handed down to me by a very dear friend who moved much too far away from me. I love this recipe because 1) it's light and very delicious 2) very fast to make 3) it's EASY. Last week a made a dessert that took 3 HOURS to make . . . not cool.

Blueberry Banana Cream Pie

  • 1 deep dish frozen pie crust (cook according to directions & let cool.

  • Mix 1 cup of sugar with 8 ounces of cream cheese (set aside).

  • Prepare 1 package of Dream Whip according to directions on the box.

  • Combine sugar mixture with the Dream Whip.

  • Layer pie crust with sliced bananas and then fill with cream mixture.

  • Refrigerate overnight to set. (I must admit, I never refrigerate overnight. I usually refrigerate for 1 hour, because I'm never that prepared to pre-make the dessert any earlier.)

  • Serve it with blueberry pie filling on top. ( I like Comstock.)

Pickled Young Onions - hope in a bottle

The market has been bursting with these little bulbs since late last month and I couldn’t resist grabbing a few bundles for myself. Never mind that I have never used these young native onions ever, and would most likely have to root (no pun intended) around the internet for something to do with them that wasn’t too lame, I had to have some! I already love onions, and can eat scandalous amounts of them, but tempt me with pearly pink miniatures with sprightly green stems still attached and I am quite powerless.

So, like many market days past, I happily dragged home the unsuspecting items with which I had no idea what to do.

But can you blame me? They were so pretty and really begging me to take them!

And don’t you think they are so emblematic of a new year? Young and vibrant and full of rosy-cheeked promise?

Which is why it doesn’t make sense that I pickled them.

Was this my feeble attempt to try any preserve the dewy newness of the year? Or the youth of these onions? Or maybe I just need to admit, despite all my childhood protestations, that YES I do like pickles.

No recipe for now – I just threw everything together by taste with what I had lying about. Some cider vinegar and sugar, some pepper and dill seed, a sili labuyo (bird’s eye chilli) and some random fennel fronds. I boiled the vinegar and sugar, then added the onions (stems trimmed and peeled). I boiled them for about 5-10 minutes then removed the lot from the heat, chucked in the spices, poured it into a jar and left to cool, after which I stored the jar in the fridge – which is where it remains, getting more pickly every day and proving fair match for adobo, curries, and stinky cheeses.

Whatever the case may be, pickled or fresh, I like how these little bulbs look to me like hope and beginnings – and thanks to a little vinegar and sugar I have bottled that symbolic promise of better things to come :)

Hope...not too shabby a theme for 2009 I’d say :)

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Word on the street is that Starbucks has a new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate available that is sure to excite any and all fans, myself included, of the legendary sweet and salty combination. According to their Web site it combines "the flavors of buttery caramel and smoked sea salt," which explains why it's called Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. I haven't tried it yet, but I have it on good authority that it's delicious!

For those of you who want to know exactly how many calories you're drinking (aka gluttons for punishment), Starbucks supplies a nutrition calculator for each of their products on their Web site. Enter your specifics (large or small, whipped cream or plain, soy milk or whole) and, voila, it gives you all the stats! Pretty neat or maybe not so neat, if you're getting a large hot chocolate with whipped cream! 760 calories? Yikes! Click here for more information.

Donuts Get a Facelift

As most of you have probably heard by now, donuts are the new cupcakes, at least that's what trend watchers claim. Yep, you heard it right. Donuts want to be this year's homecoming queen and they're pushing hard to get your vote. The television show 30 Rock even had a joke on a recent episode about letting tourists know that donuts have taken over for cupcakes as the new hip dessert! Personally, I don't know if donuts will ever be able to truly steal cupcake's crown, but I'm excited to see them try! Because, at the end of the day, a new food trend means that bakers are going to be experimenting with interesting flavors and developing unique ideas. For example, you can go to Dee's Mini Organic Donoughts in California and get an organic, whole wheat donut that is completly free of trans fats or you can go to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland and get a maple donut covered with bacon. There are just so many options!
My vote for prettiest donuts has to go to Big Apple Donuts, which is, uhhh, not located in New York. In fact, you can't even buy them in North America! Big Apple only has stores in Asia, which is not really surprising because all the prettiest pastries come from Asia.

HHDD #24: Pesto! The Winners!

I think I’ve drawn the suspense out long enough. All through the Christmas holidays and through the new year...twiddling my thumbs and counting votes and waking up gloriously late...who is the winner of Hay Hay it’s Donna Day: Pesto?

It gives me great pleasure to announce that for this round we have a tie! Two superb entries from two fantastic bloggers – Sun Dried Tomatoes and Purple Basil Pesto from Meeta of What’s For Lunch, Honey? and Panna Cotta with Sweet Pesto and Raspberry Sauce from Tartasacher of Mil Postres! Bravo, bravo, bravo for you both!

It was an honor once again and an absolute thrill to host this round. Thank you to all the lovely participants...it was fun pesto-ing with you! Your recipes are getting tucked into my files for future pesto ventures :)

And now let’s all give Meeta and Tartasacher a big rah-rah-rah! I have no doubt they will come up with an amazing next round! :)

Happy New Year!!!

Hello 2009!

We had an extra-long holiday this year and I am just recovering.

We first headed down south to Davao for a wild and wonderful wedding, fabulous feasting (incredible fresh tuna - raw, grilled, and everything in between!), and unrepentant relaxation. Well, relaxation for me as C and my mom were busy kayaking and what-not (endorphin chasing I suppose) -- by the time we got back to the city he was down with a horrible flu! So despite the many holiday celebrations/meals/parties lined up, we were forced to forgo most and hole up in out flat for Christmas. And the truth of it is...it wasn't bad at all! A sort-of escape from all the clamor, we spent a quiet Christmas eating take-out (I was lazy!) and opening our presents together in our pajamas...after which we burrowed back in bed where I put a dent in my reading while getting up occassionaly to give C his medicines. Horrible, shameless, decadent, laziness! Was there any any grand meal preparations? No. But as I lost track of time in the middle of my book-pile and that awesome way the sheets feel when you're in them all day, I couldn't really bring myself to bother. A quiet Christmas...I enjoyed it more than I expected :)

Although C was up and about after a bit, we seemed to unconsciously continue that peace throughout the holiday -- first a visit to his mom's farm where I spent a marvellously indulgent day doing nothing but tending a pot of chili in between cocktails, then a relatively quiet New Year's (well, as "quiet" as a New Year's Eve can be) in my mom's flat (with her delicious sopa cartuja). And days of sleeping in all throughout!

Now here I am, on the cusp of a brand new year, stretching as if awakened from a deep luxurious sleep...still a bit foggy-eyed but ready to jump right in :) Look out 2009...I'm awake, and I'm hungry! ;)

Happy New Year everyone!

***Don't think I've forgotten! I've counted the votes, and checked them twice, and will be announcing the winner of HHDD: Pesto shortly!

Chip and Dip Cookies

These are my new favorite cookies! They are sooo good! Created by a mother who needed to come up with a new kind of cookie for her nut-hating son, this recipe utilizes two of my favorite flavors, sweet and salty. In order to give the cookies the crunchiness of nuts, without actually using them, the boy's mother decided to replace the nuts with pretzels and potato chips. In addition, her son, who sounds like a royal pain in the butt, would only eat the frosted portion of the cookies that she made, leaving the rest uneaten, so she added chocolate to both ends. That way, he'd eat the whole thing! I guess I'm glad that this particular mom had a picky eater for a son, otherwise we wouldn't have these wonderful cookies! Click here for the complete recipe, courtesy of Relish.