Cadbury Egg Flurries: Thanks Easter Bunny, Baulk, Baulk

I recently spotted this piece about different flurries from around the world on StumbleUpon and it got me super excited! It's always fun to see what people in different countries are eating. Just like in the States, many of these flurries are simply composed of ice cream and candy. But, wait, this isn't your regular run of the mill American candy. This is foreign candy!! Who isn't fascinated with the sugar buying habits of our distant relations?? Who doesn't make a beeline for the candy store the minute they step on foreign soil?? Okay, maybe I'm the only one who does that. Honestly, though, I was most fascinated by two very familiar Easter favorites that have found their way into flurries in the UK and Canada: Cadbury Crème Eggs and Cadbury Mini Eggs.

The mini eggs have always been one of my favorite Easter treats and while I've outgrown my childhood love of the classic cream eggs, I'm still extremely curious as to what fake yolk and vanilla ice cream tastes like! Sounds like a future dessert project to me. Click here to see the complete list of foreign flurries.

p.s. In case anyone was wondering, I don't support McDonald's in any way, but I couldn't let this one go without a post!

Tord Boontje Cake

I am so loving this cake by designer Kate Sullivan. When I first saw it I thought, that's what a Tord Boontje cake would look like if, you know, Tord Boontje quite his day job and opened a bakery! I later discovered that this cake is indeed called the Boontje Nature Cake, so the inspiration is fully acknowledged by Ms. Sullivan. I know some people are getting rather tired of the whole animal trend, and I've been desperately trying to wean myself off it, but I just can't seem to stop! I'm a sucker for animal designs and I don't know if I'll ever get over it! Anyway, Kate Sullivan has a lot of other great, nonanimal-related cakes over at her Web site, many of which are inspired by artists like Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol, and filmmaker Preston Sturges (see below). There's also the Guggenheim Museum cake, complete with miniature people waiting outside.

Kate's cakes are especially impressive once you discover that she didn't train at some fancy wancy culinary skill, but learned her trade by studying books and by engaging in the art of good old-fashioned practice. See, there is still hope for the rest of us! Click here for more great photos on Kate's Web site.

HHDD #26: Roasted Capsicum & Chickpea Pasta

What a difference a roasting makes. Sometimes things that wouldn’t normally appeal transform themselves into the sublime when put through extreme conditions – like diamonds, and people, and bell peppers. Add heat (or pressure) and a rock turns into a brilliant gem, a girl becomes a queen, and a crunchy red bell pepper which I don’t really enjoy turns into a soft, sweet, succulent piece of deliciousness. I say, magic does exist for those who believe!

I was never fond of red bell peppers. Call me unsophisticated, but I never properly made friends with its flavour and texture when in its crunchy, semi-raw state. So I lived in ignorance, unaware of the pleasure that waited down capsicum lane after a good roasting. Now I am a convert. Roasted red bell peppers are one of my favourite things. Especially since roasting them is eye-crossingly easy and the rewards are tremendous. When I see those shiny, bright red specimens in the market, a round of roasting is never far away.

But even as I line up for every capsicum-roasting opportunity, I still found myself late for this round of Hay Hay It’s Donna Day, where our lovely host Soma of eCurry has chosen Donna’s Chicken & Roasted Capsicum Pasta. Thankfully she has been kind enough to extend the deadline to Monday, March I, and all of you, still have a chance to join! And I encourage you to do so – especially if it’s warm and busy wherever you are, and making a fresh and simple pasta dish would be very welcome!

You can find the original recipe here at eCurry. For my entry, I changed things around a little to suit one of my favourite causes – recycling leftovers and avoiding food waste! Instead of the roasted red peppers and chicken in the original recipe, I used the leftovers of this Roasted Capsicum and Chickpea Salad which I had made the night before. In keeping with the spirit of this round, I tossed cooked short pasta (I used fusilli) with the leftover salad.

The salad itself is a cinch to make – chickpeas and roasted capsicum are tossed with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic (and salt and pepper!), showered with fresh chopped parsley, and topped with chunks of garlic-infused goat’s cheese. When I find myself with leftovers, I usually chuck everything in the processor and blitz it into a delicious dip. With this round of HHDD upon me though I decided to turn it into a pasta. Just as with the original HHDD recipe, it is a combination of fresh flavours, with the lemony dressing providing the “sauce”. The goat’s cheese tends to melt and blend with the dressing when tossed with the hot pasta, which may be bending the rules a bit, but it was still very light and, as it is on my shores right now, summery. Toss more freshly chopped parsley in before serving!

Totally by accident I realized that I also made this vegetarian! So if you are vegetarian, love Donna Hay, and do not want leftovers to go to waste...this one’s for you :) If you believe roasting is a magic spell cast on capsicums to turn them enticing...this is also for you! If it’s summer where you are...this is also for you! If you think we can emerge brilliant and all the better from difficult and taxing situations...this is for you too!

*** 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.

Coconut Kangkong Stems

Stems. Ends. Odd bits. Leftovers. Overlooked and misunderstood things. Often chucked into the bin for lack of a better idea. Well let me tell you, one man’s trash is this girl’s treasure! I’ve always loved end bits and odd things. The end part of a roast beef carving where the fat and meat have caramelized into an almost-burnt butt of goodness. The rind of a hard hunk of cheese which I save scrupulously to toss into a pot of soup. Pig’s ears. The sugary edges of brownies and cookies (I’m sure I’m not the only one here). The grub at the bottom of the pan. Celebrities who seem beyond all hope. I love them all.

In truth, I’ve been a bit of a scavenger all my life. As a child I used to collect old receipts with much relish and excitement, going through them and filing them away like they were documents of utmost importance. Now, I collect leftovers (even the tiniest bits!), bones, veggie stems and trimmings, the oil that renders when I fry bacon or chorizo – all are tucked away in the freezer until the time comes when inspiration, or necessity, hits and they come out to be reborn.

This dish is not technically made with leftovers – the long stems of kangkong (water spinach) are usually used in the same dishes as the leaves. I do feel though that there is something sadly afterthought-ish about them – like they were only used because their leaves were used and “saying naman” (what a waste) if we tossed out their stems (which make up more than half the plant!). So in save-the-underdog fashion, I set out to make a dish where the stems played the starring role (and the leaves became the afterthought) :)

This is inspired by a local dish called Gising Gising (which literally translates to something like “Wake up, wake up!”) which typically uses green beans (string beans or what we call “Baguio beans”) sliced thinly and cooked with coconut milk and chilli (I am assuming the chilli is supposed to be the wake-up call). It is usually flavoured with patis (fish sauce) and some powdered seasoning (Maggi or Knorr or whatever), but I decided to use bagoong (shrimp paste) instead because I think it works much better with kangkong.

Coconut Kang Kong Stems
  • Stems from one bunch of kangkong, sliced thinly (roughly 1 1/2 cups when sliced as pictured on top)
  • 2-3 pieces sili pangsigang/sili mahaba (long green chilli), sliced on the diagonal quite thickly (I slice it this way so some poor unsuspecting diner does not mistake it for the kangkong)
  • One small red onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1-2 rounded teaspoons of bagoong (shrimp paste)
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

- Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and chilli and sauté until onions are soft and everything is fragrant.
- Add kangkong stems and bagoong (shrimp paste) and toss. Sauté until kangkong stems are bright green.
- Add coconut cream, stir, and cook until the cream bubbles and kangkong stems are cooked. Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Although this is a recipe for the stems, if you haven’t already used the kangkong leaves, and have them on hand, you can toss them in with the coconut cream and cook until wilted (which is actually what I did here). This is all about the stems though – letting this otherwise-considered-second-class part really shine as it is the crunch that gives this dish its engaging personality. The combination of shrimp paste, coconut milk, and chilli is something I borrow again and again from Bicolano cuisine (a region in the Philippines known for its liberal use of chilli and coconut milk!). And why not? It is a fantastic mix of richness, intense flavour, and heat that provides an exciting backdrop for our oft-neglected kangkong stems!

So don’t knock the odd bits and off-beats. Those unlikely suspects that are left at the corner of a serving platter, or the edge of a dance floor, may just be what you never knew you always wanted!

Whoopie Pies: Retro Treat of the Moment

If you're a fan of food Web sites, and you know you are, then you've probably seen lots and lots of pictures of yummy whoopie pies popping up on your computer screen over the past year or so. There is definitely a trend going on and The New York Times had a piece about this very topic in Tuesday's issue. There is something fun and playful about these nostalgic treats that makes them pretty hard to resist. The kitschy factor and their ability to evoke memories of childhood are a big part of their appeal. Let's face it, oftentimes, there's nothing better than a simple and homey dessert!

On the nontraditional front, the Times article mentions that some bakeries are experimenting with the classic whoopie flavors. Places like Cranberry Island Kitchen in Maine are spicing up their vanilla fillings with Cointreau, raspberry, and espresso. What do you think? Are you a whoopie purist or do you like the idea of fiddling with tradition?

Click here to read the complete New York Times article, which includes a section about the history of the name!

Update: After writing this post last week, I couldn't stop thinking about the pumpkin whoopie pies in the Baked cookbook. I've always thought that they looked really good, so I broke down and made them on Sunday. Yum, yum, yum, YUM!! Seriously, one of my all-time favorite desserts from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks!! The guys at Baked admit that they tweaked with the traditional whoopie recipe when creating their version (that's their pic above), so I suggest that you follow their recipe for maximum enjoyment! You can find it here, along with a video, on Martha Stewart's Web site. Yum! (p.s. The picture above is from Baked. My pics weren't quite so pretty!)

High Fashion Candy

I have a confession to make. I actually watch Bravo's Make Me a Supermodel. (Don't judge!) I mainly tune in because I love photography and enjoy watching that whole setup process involved in taking a picture and then getting to see the final image at the end. Really. I like photography! I'm not just making an excuse for why I watch the show! Oh yeah, and there's also the fact that, like a stereotypical chick, I'm into clothes and love looking at pretty dresses, like the one Salome wore in episode two (see pic #2). Gorgeous! Anyway, the photo shoot in last week's episode had little to do with fashion and more to do with . . . candy! All the models were covered with paint and told to "embody" their assigned candy (gumballs, pixie sticks, sprinkles, etc), which was, apparently, quite difficult for many of the models. One of my favorite moments was when one of girls complained that she didn't know what to do with "chocolate" because, well, chocolate doesn't actually do anything. Luckily, not all the models found the task quite so difficult and the winning photo was Jordan's ode to the candy cane, which is seen above.

The photographer that snapped all the sugar-inspired pics in last week's episode, Suza Scalora, is no stranger to working with candy. There are some pics on her Web site that use sweets as props that I actually like better than the photos featured on Model.

If you would like to see more of Suza's work, check out her Web site. To check out the full collection of photographs from the "Pour Some Sugar on Me" episode (yep, that's the title), click here.

Black Hound Bakery Cakes

Black Hound Bakery has the cutest cakes! They look so good and word on the street (okay, word in local newspapers and magazines, like The New York Times) is that they actually taste as wonderful as they look. We all know how often looks can be deceiving and we've all been fooled by a nice-looking cake at one time or another, so it's nice to know that the Black Hound cakes won't break our hearts once we bite into them. I'm especially fond of their samplers, which allow you to try a variety of flavors, without buying the whole cake. Also, if you're an avid reader of ingredients, like me, you'll be happy to know that Black Hound lists their cake components on their Web site and I am happy to report that I could pronounce each and every ingredient listed. No partially this or that in these cakes!

If you're in New York you can stop by their shop to oogle all their baked goods or you can order online by clicking here.

Barley & Sausage

I am writing this at a local cafe enjoying my latte and free wifi while C diligently chases endorphins in a gym nearby. How different we are in that respect. He is high as a kite after working out while I just end up feeling sticky and, pardon my French, pukey. Food for me is a whole world of tastes and textures and colors and smell and memories and experiences...while he, although no less adventurous in that department than I, tends to plunk them into boring categories like "carbs" and "fat" and "protein".

(i know these categories exist and I probably should be paying more attention to them...but I'll stay in my fairy tale food world for as long as I can thank you very much!)

"Carbs" in particular have been the most recent persona non grata in C's life. The "war on carbs" is being waged hot and heavy over here with C and my mother as co-conspirators. And me? I'm sleeping with the enemy ;)

You can only sneak about so much though before a feeling of discontent sets in. I haven't bought a loaf of bread in weeks and I'm going bananas. And don't even ask what it does to my Asian heart to hear the words, "No rice tonight hon."

So I'm exploring other, healthier, types of grains that we can substitute for rice. Not forever mind you -- as there is no real substitute for steaming white rice in my life -- but just for every-so-often. Grains are oh-so-chic now and because of this you can find a slew of choices at groceries and health food stores...with health benefits that outweigh the "carb" content. A fantastic selling point for my husband! And for me? "It's yummy!" is all the reason I need :)

Barley & Sausage

  • 1/2 cup barley, cooked as per package instructions
  • 200 grams country sausage, sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 big white onion, sliced into half moons
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch dried thyme
  • a pinch fennel seeds
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Cook barley as per package instructions. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onions and potatos and sautee for a couple of minutes. Add garlic, dried thyme, and fennel seeds. Toss. Add sausage and sautee until potatoes are soft, onions are slightly golden, and sausage is nice and seared in places.
- Add cooked barley and toss so everything is evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sautee a bit more just to mingle flavors. Take of heat and serve.
- Serves 2.

After this dish I will definitely be exploring more of barley! Soft with a nice bite to it, and a delightful nutty-ness, this grain is all set to be experimented on in my kitchen :) Especially as both C and I enjoyed this so much!

You must have noticed that I was totally sneaky by adding a bit of potato to this dish :) I plead guilty! But I love the taste of the soft potato and sweet onions amidst all the yeilding crunch of a healthful hash. I've kept the potato at a minimum but you can do without it if you wish. I used country-style sausage made by the cousin of a friend of mine which she sells from her home (better than supermarket-bought by a mile!). This would be wonderful with fresh thyme but I only had please use fresh if you have it! This makes for a very satisfying meal (barley is digested slowly, making you feel full longer) -- the sauvory-ness of the sausage cushioned perfectly by the barley and potatoes, and the sweetness of the onions. Fennel and thyme get on famously with sausage I feel, which is why I've used them here. I think I'll stir through some crumbled goat's cheese at the last minute the next time I make this.

Although I continue to look for healthy alternatives in eating, don't think I've gone over to C's and my mom's side of the fence. I certainly don't see myself ever waxing poetic over "whey protein". And I still have a few tricks up my the pasta sauces C loves (which of course will involve pasta!) and dishes C cannot eat without rice! ;) Ssshhh!

Breakfast #26: Yogurt + Jam + Nuts

Some days your mornings look like this. Or this.

Some days you can barely scrape together three things before hurling yourself into the mêlée.

Yogurt + jam + nuts. Fast and easy doesn't have to mean mediocre and hyper-processed-for-your-convenience. Thick and creamy Greek-style yogurt from a local dairy farm, artisan mango jam (also local), and some of your favorite nuts (aside from this one).

Guess which day today is?

Classic Sugar Cookies from Baked

Well, I'm in the process of making my way through the Baked cookbook and I have yet to be disappointed! So far, I have made two cakes (salted caramel and malted milk) and the Baked Brownies. All of which received rave reviews! Last weekend I made the Classic Sugar Cookies, even though the thought of eating sugar cookies bores me, but I really wanted to make something with cookie cutters and sugar cookies are the obvious choice. (Has anyone used cookie cutters on another type of cookie?) These were really yummy, though, so I was pleasantly surprised. The frosting was a little runny and I couldn't manage to get just the right consistency, but it worked out fine. I probably wouldn't decorate them the next time because it's a bit time consuming and the cookies look and taste really nice, just on their own. That said, I have to say, even though my cookies look as though they were decorated by a 5th grader, it was a super fun activity for a Sunday afternoon!! For more information on Baked, click here.

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

Kick back real quick while I get you a cookie.

Is there anyone else out there who has ever uttered these words? A long, long time ago there were four girls who did. They were smart and fearless (most of the times) and thought themselves too cool for school. They formed their own gang (yes, a real gang!) and did gang things together. They had their own alphabet and gang names and rituals...bizarre to outsiders, but making perfect sense to them. They had long, in-depth conversations about the pressing issues of those days...boys, school, the people they knew and the people they didn’t. They concocted devious and complex plans to sneak out and stay out all night. They staged elaborate ploys to confuse and ensnare the boys they had our eyes on.

Just like a million other adolescents out there.

But different, because it was me. And your own adolescence is always special, different, unforgettable. Perhaps some/many (except maybe for a few Queen Bees and Wannabees) would say that teenage years are peppered with tumultuous times, filled with uncertainty and insecurity. I say, revel in the tumult! Revel in that special brand of intensity solely reserved for teenagers! There is nothing quite like it.

And after? You can choose to leave behind your angst...but keep your passion. Let your intensity evolve and change flavour. Stay fearless. And keep you gang mates. Or at least keep in touch!

To the girls of TSC...have a cookie :)

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies
(recipe by Aileen Anastacio, Yummy Magazine March 2008 issue)

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (no this isn’t a duplication!)
  • 1 cup walnuts chopped

- Pre-heat oven to 350F. Heat the first 2 cups of chocolate chips and the butter in the microwave on low heat just until melted and mix until smooth (next time I’m using a double boiler...I’m too nervous melting chocolate in the microwave).
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In another mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla by hand until well combined (I used a mixer...sorry Aileen!). Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture. Then add the dry ingredients. Lastly, fold in the second 2 cups of chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Drop scoops of dough onto a baking sheet 2-3 inches apart (the dough can be refrigerated for at least an hour to make it firmer). Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time. They will still be soft in the center. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Just like adolescence (and Jason Statham in Death Race), these cookies are intense and delicious. Intensely chocolate (just as the name claims) – which is one of the best kinds of intense out there in my humble opinion. Credit for this recipe goes to Aileen Anastacio, the baking columnist at Yummy Magazine, and chef at a popular local bakeshop, who has become one of my favourite food columnists if only for her delectable looking sweets!

What triggered all this nostalgia? One of my gang is about to bring a new baby into the world. She is ready to boogie at any time now, although her doctor said it does not look likely that it will happen today. But if it does, both her hubby and mum are out of town guess who will get the call and do the song and dance with her (if it happens today, which isn't likely I know, but I still can't help being excited!)? Woooohoooooooo!!! By the by, her pregnant self sampled some of these cookies too :)

Half the batch of these cookies I made went to my friend M for her birthday...M’s a new friend made through blogging, but who I hope to one day call an old friend :) She is leaving the country soon and I will miss her!

I hope your weekend is filled with friends old and new...and chocolate cookies!

A Yummy Afternoon

One of the best rewards I‘ve gotten from blogging was one that was completely unexpected – all the wonderful friends I’ve made. Whether they are across an ocean and I’ve never met them in person, or live just a couple of streets down from me, whether they also have a food blog, or we simply share the same zeal and appetite for good food, each of these fabulous individuals have somehow become a part of my life. I feel my little world, and my experiences in the kitchen and dining room, have become all the better from the inspiration and encouragement I get fellow bloggers and blogging friends.

Here in Manila, what was started when I tentatively attended my first eyeball, has grown into many gastronomic adventures. One of our latest being a Cooking Party feature in this month’s issue of Yummy Magazine. We each prepared a dish to share (some prepared two!) and squeezed everything into my little flat. After the cameras and lights where packed, we dug into the food and chatted the afternoon away :)

If you want to see what we all whipped up, you can grab a copy of Yummy’s March 2009 issue which is out now. To whet your appetite, here’s what you’ll get:

  • K’s delicious appetizers – an Anchovy Cream Cheese Spread and Bacon & Cheese Dates! – K is a frequent commenter here and on other local blogs, leaving insightful and fun tidbits wherever she visits!
  • Roast Duck with Apples from M – Author of Watergirl and duck roaster extraordinaire!
  • Bacon Mushroom Country Rice Stuffing from I - the mastermind behind Sebastian’s Ice Cream!
  • Marketman’s Crab with Dill Mayonnaise – creator of Market Manila (one of my favourite local blogs!) and the man behind the Best Pig Ever according to Anthony Bourdain!!!
  • S’s Couscous Salad with Seafood and Fresh Mint – the voice behind Tennis and Conversations made a couscous believer out of C with this dish!
  • My Chocolate Orange Cake - adapted from a Nigella recipe...liked by most but please do not feed to orange+chocolate-phobic little brothers!

Thank you to all who made that afternoon so much fun! :)

***Yummy is one of my favourite local food magazines – nice photography and styling, good features, and a clean, modern look that I like. I’ve written for them before and it’s always a pleasure to work with their fun and talented staff. This month they celebrate their 2nd anniversary and I’m glad I was able to celebrate with them in this feature!

On other news: My Mother Earth Bags group has launched a new line of embellished flour sacks! Check them out here! :)

Foie Gras Eclairs, Anyone?

Here's another article that I saw in The New York Times over the holidays and am just now getting around to posting! Fancy food shop Fauchon, makers of some of the world's most unusual éclairs, introduced a new flavor just in time for Christmas last December. Foie gras. Yep, that's right, goose liver, a goose liver éclair covered with hazelnut frosting! Gross! I'm sorry, but this sounds disgusting. On the other hand, I've never eaten foie gras or liver, so I have no idea how it tastes and will admit that I'm basing this opinion on virtually nothing. An expert pastry chef, in this case Fauchon's Christoph Adam, and an unhealthy dose of sugar can probably make anything taste good, probably. If you prefer a little less meat with your frosting, Fauchon has other savory éclairs to choose from, like those stuffed with peas, mushrooms, or curry. Of course, for the less adventurous, there are the sweeter and more traditional chocolate and fruit-filled varieties. To find a Fauchon store near you, click here, and you can check out the New York Times story right here. Quick, do it before the Times and all other newspaper cease to exist.

*On a side note, I love the Mitchell Feinberg photo (above) that appeared in the Times. It makes up for the nauseous feeling I had after reading the text!

photo courtesy of Claire Meneely