Monthly Archives: May 2011

Egg and Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit Breakfast Sandwich

While my dear husband was still deep asleep, (probably replaying the Barcelona win over Manchester United in the Championship League match in his dreams) I got up very early on Sunday morning. I couldn’t help it. The sun’s rays managed to peep in through our heavy curtains all before 5 am and it forced me out of bed.

That’s all right because I love Sunday mornings. I love breakfast. I love Sunday morning breakfasts. And on this Sunday, a savory southern inspired Sunday breakfast was calling.

The most delicious biscuits I have ever tasted were in Nashville, TN. Last summer, I visited my friend Julie, in her hometown a.k.a. Cashville for the very first time. I couldn’t wait to indulge in some good ol’ Southern food. As soon as we arrived, we made plans for dinner. We went to the Loveless Cafe. It used to be both a motel and café, but in recent years it was reconstructed to function solely as a restaurant because of the high demand of satisfied customers, both local and from out-of-town. From what I heard, there is always a line of diners waiting outside to eat at the Loveless Cafe. And for a very good reason, they make the most deliciously, moist, fluffy and buttery ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT biscuits and accompanied by a side of homemade jam! Did I mention that it was all-you-can-eat biscuits???!!! In addition to the satisfyingly tasty biscuits, the rest of their Southern dishes are worth the wait and the calories.

Loveless Cafe's all-you-can-eat biscuits!

I have been endlessly searching the internet for their biscuit recipe, but no luck. While I was there, I did take a peek at their cafe’s cookbook, but it didn’t include the biscuits. In my opinion, it seemed fruitless to purchase the book without that coveted recipe, which I learned, has long been kept a secret. It’s a bit selfish, don’t you think?

So, on this morning I was dreaming of biscuits, made with buttermilk of course! Sadly, I had to settle for this recipe, which I can’t remember where I got it from. It was tucked away in my tattered notebook of recipes that I have collected over the years. It doesn’t match the quality of biscuits served at the Loveless Cafe, but I don’t think I’ll ever come across anything that ever will. But for now, on this Sunday morning, these baked treats did serve us well. Their buttery scent drifted upwards from the oven, which did stir my dear husband out of bed and down the stairs to our dining table, where awaiting him was an egg and cheese buttermilk biscuit with his usual cup of coffee.

Biscuit Sandwiches with Oven Roasted Potatoes

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients together.
Using your fingers, add the butter to the flour mixture.
It should resemble a coarse breadcrumb like meal.
Then with a wooden spoon, stir in the buttermilk.
Mix well and shape into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, place the ball of flour
and gently knead the dough about 10 times.
Flatten the dough out and stamp out biscuits about
2 1/2 inches high.
Gather the rest of the dough and repeat until you
can get as many biscuits out of the dough.
Arrange biscuits on a baking tray.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Egg & Cheese Biscuits

Use the recipe above to make the biscuits.
Cut biscuit in half.
Butter the inside of the top biscuit.
Add a slice of swiss cheese to the bottom of the biscuit.
Heat from the biscuit, should melt the cheese.
Add some scrambled or fried egg.
If you want to add some meat, add some ham or chorizo.
I’m veggie, so I added a slice of tofu ham.
Sandwich back together the ends of both biscuits and enjoy!

Oven Roasted Potatoes (throw these in the oven before prepping the biscuit batter)

10-15 baby potatoes, cut in half
salt, pepper and paprika
1/4 cup of olive oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Put the potatoes in a roasting pan.
Pour the olive oil over the potatoes.
Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Toss the potatoes in the seasoned olive oil
and make sure all the potatoes are evenly coated.
Bake for 1/2 hour.

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“And just boil it all together.”

“Hi Dad!”
“Hi, what’s up?” (Dad’s usual phone greeting)
“Um, I want to ask mom about mongo. Just wanted to double-check how to cook it.”
“Oh. You just need mongo, spinach, pork, if you like, tomato, shrimp, patis, garlic and onions. And just boil it all together.”
“Boil it all together?”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure? Doesn’t mom fry something up too?”
“No, just boil it all together.”
“Is mom there?”
“She’s still sleeping.”
“Ok, thanks. Tell mom to call me later. Love you.”

When I call home to ask my parents about some of the Filipino recipes I miss and crave, I always seem to get my dad on the line. Maybe it has to do with the European/ North American time difference. When I call from Prague, it is afternoon here and I am thinking about what to make for dinner. In NYC, when my dad picks up my call, he is still in his pj’s, just about to have breakfast and my mom, well she is still deep in a state of slumber. She has never been a morning person.

The usual suspects...

The funny thing is that although my dad is really good about remembering ingredients and is really helpful with directions, we didn’t grow up eating many meals cooked by my father’s hands. There were a few occasions when Mom had the night shift at the hospital and Dad would make dinner for me and my brothers. It didn’t happen very often and the surprising thing for me is that when I look back at those handful of memories I remember really enjoying my father’s cooking.

I am in need of a serious boost of iron. My third trimester blood tests detected a drop in this area. I returned from the doctor’s office with two packs of iron supplements, but I do believe the right foods can help you get back on track. I hardly eat meat, I do cook it for my husband, but I rarely eat it. Fish and seafood: yes. Beef, pork, chicken and other game: no. Yes, I am one of those.

...of the Filipino Sofrito

One way to get more iron into the system is through legumes and leafy greens. A bowl of mongo would be the perfect combination. My dad was right, I would have to boil all the ingredients together. However, that was only after I let the beans boil for an hour and sautéed a few of the other ingredients. I called my mother back later that same day and she laughed when I repeated the instructions given by my dad. We kept it our little secret and didn’t bother to correct him. Neither one of us wanted to spoil my father’s culinary confidence.

Mongo

1 cup green mung beans
5 cups water (plus 2 more cups)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 lb. shelled shrimps
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (patis)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of baby spinach

Mung beans

Give the beans a very good rinse.
In a deep pot, combine the beans, water and season with some salt.
Let the water come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Cook beans for an hour, or until soft or until doubled in size.

In a large pan, sauté the garlic in oil, until lightly browned.
Then add the onion, tomato and fish sauce.
Let it cook for a few minutes, until the onions and tomatoes soften.
Add this pot of mung beans.
If the liquid has dried up, add another cup or two of water.
Let it cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Add the shrimp and spinach at the end and let it boil a few more minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with jasmine rice.

The Filipino way: Spoon & Fork!

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Becoming One with my Blender

Of all my kitchen appliances, the one I am the least fond of is the blender. I love cooking, but I detest the clean up part. My issue with the blender is that is just isn’t an easy object to clean. Thankfully, it fits in my dishwasher, so I should work on developing a better relationship with it.

It’s still warm in Prague, which I won’t complain about, especially after living through some of her winters. We did, recently, have some spectacular thunderstorms that helped cool down the temperatures. But the heat definitely decreases my appetite and enthusiasm for cooking. So, salads still continue to dominate the table. Normally, we dress our salads with just a simple combination of flavorful Spanish olive oil and salt, but today I want something a little more to go with my leafy greens.

I miss going out for Japanese. When I lived in NYC, there were plenty of great meal deals and I was used to going out several times a month to a Japanese restaurant with friends or family. I often ordered a side salad served with carrot-ginger-miso dressing to accompany my meal. Love that stuff, miss those days! Since moving to Prague, I now considered it a special treat when my husband and I occasionally splurge for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. It’s incredibly pricier out here compared with what I grew up with. There are a few Asian grocery stores spread throughout Prague where I can buy ingredients to prepare a Japanese meal at home, but even that can burn a big hole in our wallet.

Today’s salad is a combination of baby spinach leaves, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, scallions and dices of fried tofu with carrot-ginger miso dressing on top. I made the dressing myself, hence the whining bit about the blender. I really should refrain from whining. That’s bad role modeling for my daughters. I should be thankful and embrace my blender with an open heart. I’ll start now: Thank you blender for helping me make carrot-ginger miso dressing.


Carrot-Ginger Miso Dressing

2 tablespoons peanut, corn or vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons white miso
2 medium carrots, grated
1 inch ginger root, diced into small pieces
1-2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few tablespoons of cold water

Put all the ingredients in your beloved blender, except the water.
After running it for a few minutes, slowly add a few tablespoons of water
until you get the right consistency.
I will leave that up to you, as some people prefer a creamier dressing and some a
thinner, liquid like type.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Veggie Salad with Fried Tofu

1 block firm tofu
Cornstarch to coat tofu
1 -2 tsp. salt
Baby spinach leaves
Mixed lettuce leaves
1 tomato, sliced
1 scallion, diced
Neutral oil for frying

Drain and slice tofu into thin blocks.
Cover all sides in cornstarch and salt mixture.
Heat oil in shallow frying pan.
When ready, add the coated pieces of tofu.
It should take about 3-4 minutes for each side,
until it begins to turn golden.
Remove and drain excess oil.

Toss all the vegetables in a bowl.
Cut up the tofu into small square pieces.
Add to the salad.
Serve with carrot-ginger miso dressing.

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Mom:1 Me:0

No relish, No good.

Recent phone conversation between my mother and I:

Me: “What do you put in your macaroni salad?”

Mom: “Macaroni, chicken, relish…the sweet relish…”

Me: “I can’t get that here in Prague. They don’t sell that in the stores.”

Mom: “Uh-uh, then you can’t make it. It won’t taste good.”

Me: “What else do you add?”

Mom: “Pineapple, salt and pepper…:

Me: “Don’t you put carrots and celery too?”

Mom: “Oh yeah and raisins.”

Me: “I don’t like raisins in it.”

Mom: “Well, you still can’t make it, if you don’t have sweet relish. Love you, gotta go, am cooking.”

Sweet relish is not been something you find on the shelves of the grocery stores in Prague. Sauerkraut in two varieties: red or white cabbage: Yes! Jars and jars of pickles: Yes! Sweet relish: No!

I proceeded to make the salad without that coveted ingredient. How important could the sweet relish really be? The pineapples would add some sweetness to the dish and so would the mayonnaise. At least that’s what I thought to myself.

But, as usual Mother knew best. After letting the salad sit in the refrigerator, we tried some. It wasn’t the same, it was missing something and I knew exactly what that was.

Uggh… If I was going to save this Filipino macaroni salad, I would have to make the relish myself. All from scratch.

And here it is…

My first jar of sweet pickle relish! Mama would be proud!

It wasn’t as tough as I thought. I turned on BBC news to keep me company and then worked on chopping the vegetables into teeny, tiny pieces. That was the most arduous task of the process. What followed afterwards, was simple, but it did take about 5 hours.

I immediately added the 4 tablespoons of the home-made relish to the salad. With my sturdy wooden mixing spoon, I stirred and stirred until all the ingredients were well combined.

I scooped some salad into a bowl and after tasting it, I immediately thought of my mother. She was right. If I was ever going to make this again, I couldn’t make it without including the sweet relish.

What makes mothers right all the time? It doesn’t matter whether I ask my mom about a big or small matter, she always seems to have the answer, the right answer and that bugs me. I get even more irritated when I disagree with her and she still comes out the winner.

Is that a part of motherhood that I will get to look forward to? One day, will I have all the right answers too? Will I possess the acumen to dish out the proper responses to my daughters’ endless queries? Well, at least I can tell them how to make a jar of sweet relish, when they find themselves in a country where it isn’t sold.

Sweet Relish (just in case you wanted to make some too)

4 cups diced cucumber (seeded and with the peels on)

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1/4 cup salt

2 1/2 cup sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

Chop all the vegetables into fine small pieces.

In a large bowl, mix the vegetables with the salt.

Then add cold water until it covers all the vegetables.

Let it sit for 2 hours.

Then in a pot big enough to boil the vegetables, add the sugar, vinegar, mustard and bay leaves.

Let the liquid come to a boil, then add the vegetables.

Bring the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes.

Then place in a clean jar. If you are an expert with sterilizing and canning, you will know what to do. If not, ask your mother!

Recipe for macaroni salad can be found here: https://adventuresintheredkitchen.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/a-cool-salad/

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A Cool Salad

I’m hot! And by “hot”, I don’t mean the sexy, make you think impure thoughts, I’m going to knock your socks off kind of hot! At six and a half months pregnant, I wish. But I’m not. I am just hot and pregnant. Since the maternal powers took over, my body had suddenly turned into an oven. The weather in Prague, these past few days has grown increasingly warmer and summer-like. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a thunderstorm. We are badly in need of a cool down.

The only “healthy thing” I can eat in this weather, besides ice cream, is a salad. Our recent meals have been cool plates of tabbouli salad, egg salad and tuna salad. And just because I have had salad after salad, doesn’t mean that I am tired of them. Here is one more, my mother’s Filipino Macaroni Chicken salad.

Warning: This is a sweet salad. But oh so good! Don’t let the list of ingredients turn you away. It’s not your typical macaroni salad, such as the kind from the deli counter or the type served as a side dish with your favorite sandwich at your local diner. Seriously, the flavors do blend well. On a day when the temperature spikes to fiery levels, pull this dish out of your refrigerator and your body will instantly melt to a comfortable temperature.


Mama’s Filipino Macaroni Chicken Salad

1 package of cooked elbow macaroni (add salt to the boiling water)
1-2 pieces of chicken breast
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 celery sticks, diced into small pieces
4 tablespoons of sweet relish
1 can of diced pineapples
1 scallion, chopped into fine pieces
Mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the chicken breast in salted water for 30 minutes.
When cooked, allow to cool before shredding the chicken apart.
You can use a two forks to do this, I just use my hands to thinly pull the meat apart.

After the macaroni is cooked, drain and allow it to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the macaroni with all the ingredients.
Mix well.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

I did not give an exact measurement for the mayonnaise because it depends on how creamy you would like the salad to be. Sometimes we use 1/2 to 3/4ths of a large jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise.

Refrigerate before serving.

Enjoy and stay cool!

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Heaven

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

From as young as I can remember, my dad has always had a sandwich made of two slices of toasted white bread with peanut butter to go along with his morning coffee. Peanut butter was definitely a staple in my house.

I love me some peanut butter too. I love it alone, with jam, with honey and I especially love it with some chocolate. And today, I am feeling naughty. I want to indulge. So far, I have been really good with my pregnancy diet. Even the doctor says I could gain a few more pounds. Therefore, I am going to allow myself some leeway this week. Not too much, just a little.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate: What a perfect pair!

I am craving something sweet, but I rarely do store-bought items. Star-studded bakeries: Yes! Grocery store: No! My mantra is the best baked goods for my body has to be the type baked by my own hands. Lately, I have been craving a peanut butter/chocolate combo and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is not what I am talking about.

One of my favorite cookbooks “Breakfast, Lunch Tea” from the Rose Bakery in Paris, France (a tres super place, make sure to visit when in Paris) features a simple Peanut Butter Chocolate Biscuit Recipe which I enjoy. One because it always satisfies the savory/sweet PB & Chocolate craving, but also because it is just a one bowl job! All the ingredients seem to flow one right after the other and the clean up bit is effortless.

Finger Lickin' Yumminess!

It has been especially hot these past few days in Prague and since I am on an little bit of an indulgent streak, I’ll bypass the glass of low-fat milk today and cool off with a Peanut Butter Chocolate Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich.

PB& Choc Chipwich

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies:(adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups of soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 ounces chocolate chips or chopped pieces of chocolate

Beat butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until light and creamy.
Add vanilla.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat well.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the flour and salt.
Mix the baking soda with a teaspoon of hot water and quickly add this to the batter.
Then fold in the chocolate.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two logs.
Then place in fridge and chill for 2 hours until hard.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Grease baking tray.
Cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices
and place an inch away from each cookie.

Bake for 15 minutes.
Cool for 10 minutes.
Enjoy with milk or ice cream!

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It wasn’t my fault…it was the Pregnancy Haze!

I’ve heard about the pregnancy haze, the bouts of forgetfulness, your brain clogging up and the clumsy mishaps. But, I didn’t think it would happen to me. Just like an elephant, I never forget a thing! Yet, those hormones overtook my system and I can’t believe the consequences of what occurred when the pregnancy haze casted its net on me.

Last week, my husband and I were invited to dinner at our friends’ house and to choose some baby give-aways to take home. With my overflowing basket of strawberries still around, I happily volunteered to make a dessert. I wasn’t going to make anything fancy, just something light and easy. That usually means I would bake my “go-to cake”, a Buttermilk Cake with fruit topping. This cake goes well with a variety of fruits, such as apples, pears and berries. The strawberries would make a fine accompaniment to the soft and moist texture of the cake and adding a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on the side, wouldn’t hurt.

Dinner was delicious and the menu was perfect for such an unusually warm Spring day. Our friends quickly pan-fried some blocks of tofu coated in Italian seasonings, then baked it in the oven, layered with herb-seasoned tomato sauce and mozzarella. There was also some home-made garlic bread and a mixed green salad. I should have taken pictures of the food. It was so tasty, I allowed myself to two helpings. Heck, I’m pregnant, no shame in going after some seconds!

After the dinner plates were cleared, our hostess asked me if I was ready to serve the dessert. The cake was sitting in its platter and the cream just needed to be whipped. It took just a few seconds to get the fresh whipped cream ready and as soon as that was done, I began to remove the covering on the cake. As I did that, the plastic wrap stuck to my fingers, as well as some of the cake topping. I tasted the sticky coating that remained on the tips of my fingers and suddenly my mouth felt like I had swallowed a glass of ocean water!

“That’s strange,” I thought to myself. I traced my finger over a small part of the cake, tasted it and there it was again, that salty flavor took over my palate. I brought the cake over to the table and ask my husband and another friend to taste it. They both lightly swiped the top of the cake and tried it. “Does it taste salty to you?” I asked. They both shook their heads “No,” and I was relieved. For a quick moment, I thought I might have wrongly executed the last part of the recipe, which is to take a tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle it over the fruit and batter before baking it in the oven.

Sugar and Salt: how could I go wrong?

The cake was sliced up and triangles of it were passed around along with the cream. Hannah was the first to dive into the dessert. Suddenly, her head begins to move from side to side and she announces “Oh, yeah. No, no… salllll-ty!”

Note to pregnant self: This is where you keep the sugar!

I took a bite of mine and indeed I had mistaken the salt for sugar when making the cake. Hannah suggested we cut the top of the cake off and dab the whipped cream on top. It worked, but it wasn’t my best sample of the cake, which happens to be my husband’s favorite. I couldn’t help but profusely apologize about the ruined dessert. Fortunately, our friends were both forgiving and understanding. Not to mention, that this was a very unusual display of my baking skills. My baking track record has been clean until this strange disastrous mishap. I just couldn’t believe what I had done, for sure I thought I dipped that measuring spoon into a container of sugar, but I was embarrassingly proven wrong. The only explanation for such an error of judgment could be an attack of the dreaded pregnancy haze!


Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from Bon Apetit’s Berry Buttermilk Cake)

Heat oven to 400˚F/200˚C
Grease an 8 inch circular baking pan

Ingredients:
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick softened butter (50 grams)
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon of SUGAR
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat the softened butter with 2/3 cup of white sugar. Beat at high-speed until light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla and lastly, the egg.

At low-speed, begin to add a little of the flour mixture and then alternate with the buttermilk. Continue to pour small doses one by one, ending with the flour mixture. Careful not to over mix the batter.

Pour mixture into the pan. Then decorate with the strawberries. Evenly sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of SUGAR over the fruit and batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool and serve with sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sprinkle with SUGAR!!!

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