Surprise Cupcakes

When Bea was younger, she was such a joy to feed because she would eat everything we gave her. Travelling to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam was no trouble at all because we didn’t need to lug around bottles and formula, and she ate everything we ate. Shortly after she turned a year old, however, Bea suddenly became the pickiest eater. Pasta without sauce, meat and rice, no soup, and certainly no vegetables. She will turn her nose up at anything she doesn’t recognize. I used to be able to hide little pieces of veg under the rice and meat in her spoon but eventually she could taste the difference. There are some fruits she will eat, but she won’t have them every day.

I was flipping through my Weelicious cookbook and there was a recipe for Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes with a secret ingredient: beets. Aha! I could get Bea to eat her vegetables after all! So I made them one weekend and even made the cream cheese frosting pink, thinking that the color would entice her to eat a cupcake.

UIMG_6576

Boy, was I ever wrong! As soon as I presented her with a cupcake, she said, “But I don’t like pink icing!” What a letdown. There goes that idea. She did eat a couple though, with only sprinkles and no icing.

I shared some with my in-laws, and told my father-in-law that they had beets in them. When I told Julio, he said that his dad HATES beets. He refuses to have them in russian salad. The next morning, my mother-in-law came over and asked if it was strawberry icing. I had to confess they were beets, but I’m glad she couldn’t taste them! Turns out, my father-in-law liked them because they were not too sweet. Julio asked him, “You know what the secret ingredient is?” and he answered, “Strawberries?” Either he didn’t hear what I said when I put the plate of cupcakes the table, or he wasn’t listening. My mother-in-law gave me looks across the table, warning me not to admit that they were definitely not strawberries. Oh well, at least the cupcakes were a hit with someone!

The Scent of a Memory

Does this ever happen to you?

You catch a whiff of something and all of a sudden you remember a person, a place, an event.

Like the way a certain spice reminds me a grocery in Jakarta, Indonesia. I don’t remember much about Jakarta, as we lived there for only a year when I was six years old. I can’t explain it – I don’t think it’s one specific spice but a mixture of several – but it takes me back to walking through the aisles of Hero with my younger brother and his nanny, under the bright fluorescent lights, on our way to the exit. Is that weird?

I made strawberry shortcake pancakes (recipe from Crumb here) for breakfast a few weeks ago. Previously, I used regular unsweetened yogurt but this time I followed the recipe and used greek yogurt. They turned out really good. Fluffy and light, with just a touch of sweetness from the strawberries and maple syrup. Halfway through eating a stack, as I was about to put a forkful in my mouth, I inhaled. And suddenly I remembered the Jelita Cold Storage in Singapore (funny that I only remember groceries!). My aunt lived in Singapore for many years, and we would visit often. In the recent trips there, I would walk from her house in Bukit Sedap to Jelita Cold Storage. to buy food to take back with me to Manila. There’s a bakery right at the entrance, and maybe the combination of vanilla and strawberry in the pancakes reminded me of how the store smelled whenever I would enter the grocery.

That exact moment was what inspired this blog entry. I had to wait a while to make those pancakes again though, because I had already devoured the entire stack and wanted to include a photo in the post! Yesterday, I went to S&R specifically for greek yogurt and strawberries. I couldn’t find any strawberries so I bought a punnet of blackberries instead. So today I made the pancakes but changed it up a bit, and substituted the almond extract (which I hadn’t used the last time) for lemon extract and strawberries for blackberries, then topped it with whipped cream.  I also used up the whole container of greek yogurt, as there was a tablespoon or two left and I didn’t want to waste it, and it definitely made the pancake softer. My husband liked it, asking if I did anything different. I liked the addition of the whipped cream, and also poured maple syrup over it, but I’m certain it added way more calories than necessary!

DSC01588 copy

Make these pancakes for breakfast – or dinner if that’s your thing! I promise you won’t regret it. And who knows? It just might conjure up a memory of your own.

Sig

My First Cleanse

Two weeks ago, we had our open house. I had to be there from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day for a week. There was no time for me to run out for lunch so I ended up having to pass fast food drive-throughs on my way to the project site. One can only have so much junk food at a time, and I definitely reached my breaking point. Man, did I feel sick and guilty that week! There’s just a weird taste left in my mouth at the end of the meal, and the food didn’t sit right in my stomach. I don’t even want to look at another McDonalds burger or Jollibee Chickenjoy (which I had twice).

So last week, I decided to do a cleanse. I made sure to schedule the cleanse for when the husband was out of town, otherwise I’d have to cook meals and be tempted to eat. A friend of mine posted a photo of a bottle of Juju Cleanse on Instagram and I was intrigued so I looked it up online. I ordered the Level 1 1-day cleanse kit soon after. They delivered the juice to me the day after I deposited the payment. It comes with a case that carries the six bottles, each labeled with a number from 1 to 6, which constitute my meals for the duration of the cleanse, and a schedule of when the juice should be consumed. Super easy! Let’s see if I last the day without food though.

DSC00820-001

7:30 a.m. Bottle #1 – Green Bomb
So I opened the carrier and there are 6 bottles in it, The first bottle is up. It’s quite good. The color makes it seem more intimidating than it tastes. Very strong taste of celery, with a hint of apple and sweetness at the end.

DSC00823-001

10 a.m. Bottle #2 -Spicy Limonada
I’m in the middle of a meeting and I whip out my second bottle. There’s a slight tanginess, more like watered down calamansi juice, but with a bit of a zing with every swallow. I’m not hungry but boy, is my stomach growling!

12:40 p.m. Bottle #3 – Red Giant
I was supposed to drink this at 12:30 p.m. but I had to put Bea down for her nap. She’s still awake but I’m starting to get dizzy already. It’s a bright red juice and most certainly has beets, which I can taste the earthiness of. Not my favorite. It also has pineapple, carrot and ginger juice apparently. Once I’ve downed it though, the dizziness disappears.

3 p.m. Bottle #4 – Alkazest
I like this one the best so far. It has grapefruit, pineapple and coconut juice. I’m really surprised that I’m not at all hungry. This is amazing. Problem is, there’s kamote-cue for merienda and I’m going to have trouble resisting that.

5:30 p.m. Bottle #5 – Green Bomb
Wow. I did not allow myself to be tempted by the kamote-que, although it was calling out “Eat me!” I’m not in the least bit hungry. But am headed out to a Japanese dinner with my mom and someone whose we used to stay at in Frankfurt. Good luck sticking to just salad.

8 p.m. Bottle #6 – Salaba’t Lemon
It was a little too watered down for my taste.

I have no self-control whatsoever. I ordered a chirashi don and finished every bite, plus uni and salmon sashimi and nigitoro. But, man, I’ve never felt so guilty ordering a meal!

So that was my cleanse day. The verdict? I’m going to do it again, and stick to it for real. Maybe I’ll make it a quarterly thing though, because at Php 2,700 per 1-day cleansing kit, I’m going to go broke if I do it more often than that.

Sig

Sweet Beet Cookies

My parents give Little B treats all the time. Unfortunately, they’re the sugar- or salt-laden kind. They have containers with snacks just for her.

IMG_1821

Because of that, she’s constantly munching on something. Little B is one of those toddlers who will eat anything. At least, she’ll try it and just hand it back if she decides it isn’t to her liking. When she was 6 months old, I started her on baby cereal then moved on to purees. I spent hours cooking food for her and storing them in the freezer, so I could easily reheat them when it was time for her to eat. Until one day she decided she didn’t like purees and wanted food she could hold. I was stuck with a freezer full of baby food! We ended up feeding them to the dog. Since then, I haven’t been able to cook a meal for her and she ends up eating what we eat.

My mom gives her crackers and dried fruits. My dad is the main culprit though. He’s always giving her sugary treats. Chocolate-filled cookies, wafers, you name it. No wonder Little B loves him! A couple of weeks ago, I finally told him that he isn’t allowed to do it anymore. I said I’d bake cookies for her and although he pouted and groaned, he agreed.

After looking for toddler-friendly treats, I bought Weelicious, a cookbook by Catherine McCord. It has many recipes I’d like to try on Little B. I also have several Annabel Karmel cookbooks, and that’s where I got recipes for purees from. It took me a while to take the time to bake and throughout the wait, my dad would threaten to give her his goodies if I didn’t bake soon. So today I did.

IMG_1818

I bought beets two weeks ago and I think I might have waited a bit too long to use them because they were slightly dry. Maybe that’s why the cookies aren’t a darker pink. The recipe calls for finely grated beets but I don’t have a Microplane grater so I used the small grater instead.

The cookies came out a little crunchy but Little B liked them. In fact, I like them too! They’re pretty good. A healthy-ish snack even for adults!

Sig

Sweet Beet Cookies 

(From Weelicious)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 fresh medium beet (not canned)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil *

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Use a knife or vegetable peeler to peel the beet. Shred the peeled beet using a fine Microplane grater. Add 1/2 cup of the shredded beet to the flour mixture. Use your hands to coat the beet pieces with the flour. Add the oil and work with your hands to bring the dough together. Knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes, or until a smooth dough is formed. Form the dough into a flat rectangular disk and roll it out 1/4 inch thick on parchment paper or a clean, dry surface. Using a knife, cut the dough into squares, or use small cookie cutters to cut it into shapes. Bake the cookies on a Silpat- or parchment-lined cookie sheet for 15 to 17 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool and serve.

*Note: I doubled the recipe and maybe the beets were too dry but the amount of oil indicated wasn’t enough. I used approximately 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons of oil.

Quinoa

I’d always been curious about quinoa ever since I saw it in one of those British shows where these people try to come up with the next big thing in food. One woman prepared quinoa salad and although she didn’t win the contest, the word itself intrigued me. Was it pronounced “kweeNOwah” or “keeNOwah”? Apparently it’s “KEENwah”. A few months ago, I bought a Paleo diet book because the Coach wanted to try to go Paleo as much as possible. I flipped through it a few times and cooked meals using some of the recipes in it. So I bought a big bag of quinoa at S&R, thinking it was Paleo, but it turns out that quinoa is NOT Paleo at all because it’s a grain and therefore starch.

It’s been a while since I cooked a meal at home. Most of the time, the Coach comes home from work late and I have dinner at my parents’ house otherwise I’ll end up passing out from hunger. But after a week or so of sitting at the dinner table with my husband while he eats, I thought it would be nice to cook and eat together. I wondered what to cook and remembered the bag of quinoa sitting untouched in my pantry. So I decided to cook salmon and quinoa.

Looking online, I found a lot of recipes for salmon, but not many for quinoa. I didn’t need to look too hard though because I found both in the Food Network website. I got Bobby Flay’s recipe for Pan Roasted Salmon Steaks with Sherry Vinegar-Honey Glaze and Spicy Tomato Relish and Parsleyed Potatoes and Giada de Laurentiis recipe for Herbed Quinoa.

Pan Roasted Salmon Steaks with Sherry Vinegar-Honey Glaze

(Adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe, although I omitted the tomato relish and potatoes)

  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/8 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoons chile powder (I’m not sure what kind of chile powder I used – we only have the generic kind in Manila)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 salmon steaks, 6 or 7 ounces each

In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the vinegar to 1/8 cup. In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar reduction with the mustard, honey and chile powder and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a medium saute pan until almost smoking. Brush the salmon on both sides with the glaze. Place in the pan and cook until lightly golden brown. Place in the oven and continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes for medium doneness. Remove from the oven brush again with the glaze.

Herbed Quinoa

(Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe)

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3/4 cups quinoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

Pour the quinoa into a sieve and run under cold water until the water runs clear. It’s a good thing I researched on quinoa before cooking because if you skip this step, you end up with a really bitter dish. In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock, quinoa and basil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice (I used bottled calamansi juice, which worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour the dressing over the quinoa and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

IMG_1755

The verdict? I loooove quinoa. It’s nutty, slightly bitter and had a bit of a bite to it. There’s still a lot of raw quinoa left and there are many dishes I’d like to make using it. The salmon was really good too. It was hot (but bearable) and sweet. These are two dishes that I’ll definitely make again!

Sig

Sunday Afternoon Baking

After working on Little B’s bookshelves, I had my head in the refrigerator looking for something to munch on. Nothing. In the pantry? No such luck. J asked me to bake cookies over the weekend but I didn’t have the time yesterday (okay, fine, I was too lazy to move). I decided I’d hit two birds with one stone – bake him the cookies and make something for me to eat as well.

Enter slutty brownies. I’ve made it once before (I got the recipe from The Londoner) and J pronounced it to be the best brownies he’s ever had. It’s extremely easy to make, as the recipe calls for chocolate chip cookie mix and brownie mix. I’m sure one can make the chocolate chip cookies and brownies from scratch but I couldn’t be bothered.

IMG_1054
Slutty Brownies
One package chocolate chip cookie mix
One package brownie mix
1-1/2 packs Double Stuf Oreos (you can use the regular Oreos but these are much better!)
Preheat your over to 180 degrees Celsius/360 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 4. Grease a 8×8 pan. Make the chocolate chip cookie dough and brownie batter as directed.
IMG_1056
Spread the cookie dough on the bottom of the pan. Make sure the pan is greased, so the cookie layer doesn’t stick!
IMG_1057
Slightly press the Oreos into the cookie dough, then pour the brownie batter over it.
IMG_1058
Bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. It’s going to take lot of willpower but let it cool before cutting into it and taking a piece out! I had to watch Little B and do some other things so the wait was bearable.
IMG_1076
Doesn’t that look like something you’d want to sink your teeth into?