Monthly Archives: April 2011

Oh Limey!

Lime Pie with Meringue Topping

A few weeks ago, I bought a bag of beautiful Biscotti Integrali at a local Italian pastry shop. When I got home, I put the kettle on and couldn’t wait to sit down to have some whole wheat biscuits with my tea. A few bites in and I was hugely disappointed, so was my husband. “They’re tasteless!” were his exact words and he was absolutely right. Sadly, it was a 500 gram bag of bland treats and it didn’t look like we were going to gobble these up.

Bland Biscuits

What to do with all this biscotti? I came from a very strict “We don’t waste food in our home!” household. My conscience would never let me just throw the cookies away. Oh, I got it! Why not pulverize them and use them for a cookie crumb crust! I know my mom would be very proud of my resourcefulness.

Pulverized biscuits

Hmmm…what kind of pie to make? With Easter here, we usually have leche flan for dessert. (see my post from 04/04/2010 for the recipe). But this year, I crave something more tangy and tart. Since I got pregnant, my palate yearns for salty and sour flavors. In comes Brazilian Lime Pie. Why Brazilian? Well, that’s what the grocery store’s sign above the basket of limes said they were from. I was craving Key Lime Pie with sour cream topping, but with key limes not around, I have to settle for a lime pie made with Brazilian limes. They still give it the tangy punch that I was hoping for. I decided to add the meringue for two reasons: 1) My husband is a huge fan of meringue and 2) The lime pie calls for 4 egg yolks. If I was already feeling guilty about wasting the biscuits, I could not bear to toss the 4 egg whites either. Hence, the pie is topped with meringue. Happy Easter!

Lime Pie with Meringue Topping

Pre-heat oven to 375/190 degrees.

Crumb Crust
1 1/2 cups of cookie crumbs (I used whole wheat, but feel free to choose anything else)
6 tablespoons melted butter, then cooled
5 tablespoons sugar

Combine the crumbs and the sugar in a bowl.
Mix well
Then add the butter.
Blend butter into the crumb mixture.
Then press the mix into a pie plate.

Bake the cookie crumb for 8-12 minutes.
Then set it aside to cool.
Refrigerate for extra firmness, if you like.

Lime Pie Filling

Lower the oven temperature to 325/160 degrees

1 14 oz./397g can of sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of grated limes (I grated two limes before splitting and extracting the juice)
1/2 cup juice of fresh limes (about 6 limes)

Separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
Set aside egg whites for the topping.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the egg yolks.
Whisk together well.
Pour the mixture into the base.
Bake for 17-20 minutes.
While the pie is baking, work on the meringue topping.
Remove pie from the oven.
Leave the oven on.
Scoop meringue on to the hot pie filling.
Return it to the oven to bake for another 10-12 minutes.

Meringue Topping

4 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch salt

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt.
Begin whisking the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add the sugar mixture, tablespoon by tablespoon, to the egg whites, beating between additions.
Continue to beat until the sugar dissolves.
Spoon mixture over the pie filling.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Serve pie warm or at room temperature.

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Filed under Flavors Abroad!, Prague Inspires!

Grown-up Mac n’ Cheese

In the film “Somewhere,” director Sophia Coppola’s latest work, there is a scene in which the 11-year old daughter of the movie’s protagonist is making macaroni and cheese from scratch. Her father is a Hollywood actor who resides in a hotel suite in LA. Just before we see her cooking, she is on the phone with the hotel receptionist, ordering in the ingredients. I was dazzled by the depiction of this girl’s sophisticated talents in the kitchen.

The Three Cheeses

When I was her age, my only encounter with macaroni and cheese came from the blue Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box. Granted, my parents are Filipino and although we were living in the States, this was not a popular dish in our household. I only learned about it from visits to some of my classmates’ homes. When my family and I went grocery shopping, I would beg them to add a few boxes to our cart. My parents thought it was the unhealthiest meal I could ask for, especially since it came straight out of a box. However, they gave in and I remember how much fun I had following the simple directions and the feelings of independence it gave me.

Naked macaroni

I’ve come a long way from cooking out of that navy blue carton. Fortunately, I have also eaten better versions of this rich cheesy pasta in some of NYC’s delicious soul food restaurants and enjoyed it even more in the southern parts of the US. The scene from the movie sparked a craving for mac n’ cheese, so before we swap the heavy casserole dishes of winter and trade them in for the lighter meals of spring and summer, I’ll take this last opportunity to indulge my waistline. Wait? What am I talking about here? I’m pregnant and I need the calories! Here’s to grown up macaroni and cheese!

All dressed and ready to get baked!

Macaroni and Three Cheeses
(adapted from Vegetarian Times)

1 1/2 cups medium-sized elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Emmenthal cheese
1/4 teaspoon of dried sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees.

Lightly grease a ovenproof baking dish.

Boil pasta in salted water.

After draining it, set it aside in the baking dish.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add the sage.

Then quickly whisk in the flour.

Cook until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.

Then add the milk, constantly whisking, again until the sauce thickens.

This may take 6-7 minutes.

Remove from heat, set aside.

Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add a tablespoon of each cheese in the bowl.

Set aside.

Add the remaining cheese to the sauce and stir until smooth.

Reheat over very low heat to melt completely.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over the macaroni and gently combine sauce and pasta.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and cheese mixture on top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with a side of spinach to lessen the guilt.

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Filed under Flavors Abroad!

Blueberry Buttermilk Bliss

For the past month or so, my dear friend Nikki has baked batches and batches of blueberry muffins. I am privy to this information, not because I had the opportunity to enjoy one of them, but because she posted her baking activities on Facebook.

I recently returned from the market with a hefty basket of blueberries and also included in our bags was a large carton of buttermilk. I usually go for blueberry scones or buttermilk pancakes with blueberries. But today, I will honor my pal Nikki and bake some blueberry muffins instead.

Blueberry muffin goodness

12 Buttermilk Berry Muffins (adapted from Joy of Baking):

2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (100 grams) white sugar
(3/4 cup or 150 grams more if you’d like it sweeter)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Zest of a small lemon

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk

2/3 cup (160 ml) canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries

(Optional) Powdered sugar


Pre-heat oven to 400/190 degrees.

Sift all the dry ingredients together, including the lemon zest.

Lightly beat the egg in another mixing bowl.

To the egg, add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla.

Combine the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently add the blueberries to the mixture.

Stir well.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups.

Fill each one close to the top of the rim.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

(Optional) When ready to serve, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.

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Filed under Flavors Abroad!

A Canton Celebration!

Pancit Canton

I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating that I am half-way there. I am celebrating that I am in week 20 of my pregnancy and things are going very well. I am celebrating that the doctor just said that we’ll be the parents of two little girls. And I am going to celebrate the best Filipino way I know how, with a plate of Pancit Canton (Pahn-seet Cahn-ton.) These 16-ounce packets of wheat noodles have yet to appear on the shelves of Prague’s grocery stores, therefore I usually reserve them for special occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas dinner. (Back in NYC, a package costs about $1.99 and I have been known to buy some to take back, and have asked family members to stuff a few bags into their suitcases when coming to visit) But, these are special times and that means the pancit must come out.

I miss Asian grocery stores!

Pans of pancit regularly appear on the tables of a Filipino celebration: birthday, christening, Christmas or Easter. Those long, thin strands mixed with vegetables, meat, shrimp or tofu sits waiting to be devoured by the multitude of guests. Growing up, my family had me believe that if I ate a plate of these sautéed noodles every year on my birthday, I would live a long and prosperous life. My grandmother just turned 89 in March and still exhibits the same sharp wit I have known since childhood. Obviously, Grandma ate her share of pancit too. It’s impossible for me to take this family superstition lightly.

When I introduced this dish to my husband’s side of the family, my Spanish father in-law thought it was a very complete meal. You have your carbohydrates, protein and vegetables all in one. Lately, some friends who recently became parents have been sharing stories about the kinds of foods that appeal most to their children. Many of the flavors that the mothers had exposed their little ones to while in utero, are ones that the babies favor and seek out. I think it is time to introduce my twin girls to the taste of pancit and get them ready for this birthday tradition.

Pancit Canton with Tofu (Grandma’s recipe)

14- 16 oz package of Pancit Canton
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced thinly
2 celery sticks, sliced thinly
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly (I used napa)
1 block of tofu, diced and fried lightly in vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
salt and pepper for extra seasoning
sliced lemon wedges

Heat a large, deep non-stick pan and place two tablespoons of oil.
When ready, add the tofu.
Fry until crispy and pale yellow.
Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic.
When it turns slightly golden, add the onions.
When the onions become transparent, add the carrots and celery.
Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the cabbage.
After adding the cabbage, also add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, salt and pepper and stir fry.
The vegetables should maintain a crisp tenderness to them.

It should probably take another 3-4 minutes to cook.
When done, remove and set aside.

In the same pan, add the broth, remaining tablespoon of soy sauce and a little bit of salt.
When the liquid comes to a boil, gently add the noodles.

Evenly mix the noodles with the sauce and allow the liquid to get absorbed.
After a few minutes, add the vegetables and tofu.
Continue to carefully mix the ingredients all together.
Serve warm with lemon wedges on the side.


Filed under Pinay at Heart