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Oodles and oodles of noodles

It appears to be Pasta Week at TheKitchn this week. As you may have read previously here, I am a huge pasta and noodles fan. I am absolutely enthralled that they are featuring my favorite type of food and I can’t wait to try out some of those recipes they posted. There are also some other sites that I visit that discuss noodles and the love for pasta.

Another list of noodle recipes and a list of pasta sauces from TheKitchn are even more resources for pasta ideas.

Sacha Chua discusses ramen love.

What is a list about pasta without the amazing Ramen Rater? I always look forward to his next review; it’s like eating each of those ramen packs myself!

If you know of other great pasta resources or would like to recommend your own recipes, I would be very happy if you could link to those in the comments!

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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Blog

 

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What I’ve learned so far in Postaweek 2011

Just to recap, I’ve pledged to cooking or baking a new recipe per week of 2011 and posting about it here in WordPress. I am currently on week 9, and it’s been a wonderful experience so far. I would like to share with you what I have learned in 9 weeks of tackling new recipes.

1. Scheduling menu and cooking ahead of time

It is important to try plotting out a list of recipes/dishes I want cook for at least two weeks in advance. Three weeks would be better. The reason for this is so I know what dishes go with each other in terms of ingredients, and what days I need to be cooking. This also helps me cut back on the time I need in the mornings to prepare my baon. In terms of this challenge, it keeps me on track and I don’t have to use a recipe I don’t really want to try just to meet my deadline.

2. Making an organized shopping list

It’s kind of self-explanatory, really. Having an organized shopping list will prevent any extraneous items from “falling accidentally” into your cart, and it will also reduce the overall number of trips to the grocery. What I do in addition is to have a priority list, so that I’ll know when would be the best time for a grocery run.

3. Making the menu around the ingredients, instead of buying ingredients to suit the menu

This is important in relation to #1. When planning out the menu, it’s important to think about or even list down the contents of the fridge and the pantry. This way, you are using up the items before they go bad. In the long run, it’s also cheaper since you don’t have to make a grocery run just to get the specialty ingredients. Or, if I really need specialty ingredients, I can work that into my schedule so I’ll only make that dish when I already have the necessary ingredients in my pantry.

4. Rewriting recipes is valuable

This is probably the most surprising thing I discovered during this challenge. Even before I started with Postaweek, it’s already been my habit to rewrite recipes I intend to try on a little notebook. I appreciated it more because this notebook made a handy little reference when I’m scheduling my recipes. In addition, it’s small and sturdy enough that I can bring it to my kitchen without fear of ruining it. And lastly, writing it down in my own words let me internalize the recipe way beforehand, so I don’t forget things like preheating ovens or letting things go to room temperature.

5. Equipment is important, but not that much

In my search for recipes that I want to try, I encounter such and such equipment that I will need when making a particular dish. I know that having those equipment would probably make my life much easier (e.g. stand mixer), but it doesn’t mean that I have to acquire it first before I try the recipe. Sometimes, I can substitute or improvise with existing things (e.g. a hand mixer). However, there are certain things that cannot be substituted, or that I don’t have any of the acceptable substitutes that I’ll just have to admit I can’t do those recipes. For example, I’ll have to pass on things that require a food processor/blender, because I have neither. No biggie! There are lots of other things I can try, anyway.

This Postaweek challenge has taught me all these things. In addition, it has taught me the importance of being organized and planning ahead. Not to mention the incredible wealth of knowledge I’m picking up just by spending all this time in my kitchen trying things out for the first time.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2011 in 52-Week Challenge 2011

 

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Gift Series Part 2: Gifts for cooks and cook apprentices

Gifts!

Photo credit: Stephanie Kilgast

As promised, here’s part 2 of the gift series. This time, we will be focusing on the little things that your friends or family who are cooks (or even just cook apprentices) will appreciate receiving. Again, I will be focusing on “affordable” gifts, costing Php500 (~$11.41) and less.

Pots

Photo credit: Japan Home

Small sauce pans – Many home cooks have a set of pots and pans sized for an entire family. However, sometimes they will need smaller-sized pans for cooking sauces and glazes or even meals for only one or two people. From experience, you can really never have too many sauce pans! Saizen and Japan Home both offer their signature-priced pans, although they are not really very sturdy. Department stores offer better quality pans for around three times the price.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, home and garden section of various department stores

A set of small glass bowls – These are the very small clear glass bowls that we usually see in cooking shows, those that hold only a tablespoon or three of liquid or powder. These little bowls can serve a variety of purposes: they can hold cooking ingredients, serve as dipping containers, and if you buy the right-sized bowls, they can even measure ingredients for you. These usually cost Php15-40 per bowl.

Places to buy: home and garden section of various department stores

Spices

Photo credit: Abhijit Tembhekar

Spices – Spices are always a welcome gift for any cook. Having a complete stock of spices is very difficult because they aren’t really all that cheap. Try to avoid the common herbs like thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Instead, focus on the different ones like allspice, cumin, paprika, and turmeric. Better yet, try to find the rarer spice mixes that come with its own grinder.

Places to buy: supermarkets, Gourdo’s, warehouse stores (S&R, Price Smart, etc)

Containers with screwtop lids – Ah, containers. These are my personal favorites. It is preferable to gift glass containers, since that is the least reactive of container material. Screwtop lids will prevent more dropped-container accidents than “vacuum” seals. Big containers offer good storage space for things like flour, pasta, and cereal. Smaller ones will hold sugar, coffee, and other table condiments. A matching set will make a great gift.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, home and garden section of various department stores

I was thinking of going on to a third part, but seeing as Christmas is already next week and the stores will be packed it might be too late. I hope you enjoyed my very short series! 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The great cookie quest!

I am in love with cookies, soft and chewy cookies in particular. I have recently attempted to bake cookies myself, in search for Mrs. Fields-esque melty and flavorful chocolate cookies. I’m quite lucky in my first attempt, and now I’m ready to move on to other types of cookies. Here’s a list of links I saw from my RSS feeds that I will attempt soon.

1. Chocolate Chunk Cookies – This is the one I made, and the recipe is from Home Cooking Rocks.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2. Sugar cut-out cookies – Who doesn’t like cookies in cute shapes? These cookies look like they are absurdly easy to make. The author even has a scaled down version for 3 dozen cookies (the original makes 8-12 dozen!). The nice part here is the sheer amount of customization you can make with decoration and shape. The bad part? It’s made of really just sugar and butter.

Sugar Cut-out Cookies

Photo credit: TheKitchn

3. Brown Sugar Cookies – A “healthier” version of the sugar cookies, since brown sugar and whole wheat flour is used. It can also be shaped and decorated like the Sugar Cut-out Cookies above, although here the author recommends a cream cheese frosting. The only difficulty I see here is the molasses, as I’ve never handled that before.

Brown Sugar Cookies

Photo credit: TheKitchn

4. Chocolate crinkles – Crinkles! Who doesn’t like crinkles? It’s almost ubiquitous, yet rarely can you find really good quality chocolate crinkles. This looks to be a good and simple recipe to try.

Chocolate Crinkles

Photo credit: Joy of Baking

5. Oatmeal cookies – The presence of the oatmeal makes this a nice and crunchy cookie. And healthy too!

Oatmeal Cookie

Photo credit: Joy of Baking

6. Cookie additives – Lastly, here’s a good list of things that you can add into your basic cookie recipe, without interfering with the actual cookie. Adds a whole dimension to cookie baking!

 

You may note that there’s one kind of cookie I didn’t include, especially when it’s the Christmas season. I really don’t like gingerbread cookies, mostly because of the spices. I find the taste a little jarring, and not really enjoyable to eat. I don’t intend to ever make those.

Do you have a cookie recipe to recommend? Please leave links in the comments section, I will very much appreciate it!

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Gift Series Part 1: Gifts for the bento enthusiast

Christmas gifts!

Photo by Stephanie Kilgast

The Christmas season is undeniably here, even though the weather is still uncooperative. And of course, Christmas means presents! I’m going to combine two of my favorite activities, shopping and cooking, to present you with a series of posts dedicated to gifts. Part 1 will address the most specific: the bento enthusiast. Note that I will be focusing on “affordable” gifts, costing Php500 (~$11.41) and less.

Bento box for girls – What bento enthusiast will say no to a bento box? Even if it will be her tenth, or even fiftieth, there’s a good chance that she will not have that specific box yet. Just choose an unusual design or shape, and you’re good to go. For beginners, this will also be the perfect entry point and will definitely inspire them to further their skills.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, Clipper, children’s accessories section of Landmark Trinoma, home and garden sections of various department stores

Furoshiki – The nice thing about furoshiki is it could be of any cloth material. It doesn’t have to specifically say that it is a furoshiki. Normal items such as square scarves, large handkerchiefs, and bandanas can serve as furoshiki. Just find any square piece of cloth, preferrably of soft fabric and interesting design. Make sure that it is hemmed on all sides to prevent unraveling. You can even use it as the gift wrapping material itself!

Places to buy: Saizen, various fabric stores, various department stores (for scarves, handkerchiefs, and bandanas)

Sushi set – mat, paddle, and mold (optional) – Many a bento meal will feature sushi. A sushi set will always be a welcome gift. You’ll need a good bamboo mat and a wooden or plastic rice paddle to start out the set, and if your friend is ready to venture further, the addition of cute bento molds will be a happy surprise.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home, asian section of supermarkets (for mat and paddle only)

Bento box for men – Sometimes your bento enthusiast will want to prepare meals for their significant others, sons, fathers, etc., and they will NOT appreciate being served meals in cutesy boxes. A perfect manly box is this black single-tier one from Saizen. Don’t worry about size, as they come in man-appetite-appropriate sizes as well.

Places to buy: Saizen, Japan Home

Accessory set – cutters, sauce containers, and silicone cups – To round out the list, I suggest gifting food cutters, sauce or condiment containers, silicone cups, or any combination of the above. Food cutters are the easiest way to style vegetables or sandwiches. Sauce containers are usually small colored containers to hold soy sauce, ketchup, or even furikake. Silicone cups are the best to use for separating food inside a bento box.

Places to buy: Saizen, Gourdo, home and garden section of various department stores

Part 2 will address the home cooks and cook apprentices. Watch out for it!

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Five reasons why I bento-style my baon

My objective for sharing this list is two-fold. One is the hope that someone might be inspired enough to start making their own visually appealing baon as well. The other is to be able to concretize (even only to myself) why I am doing what others might deem to be a very labor-intensive and needless activity.

1. Portion control – Packing a complete lunch in a small space may be a bit challenging, but it has the automatic feature of limiting the amount of food you can put in. Instant diet helper! I just make sure to choose the correct size for my bento box. Here’s a good guide if you’re interested.

2. Creative outlet – I am not a very creative person; I don’t draw, sing/dance, or play any instrument. But in making baon bento-style, I can unleash my (hopefully formidable) creativity to come up with visually tasteful meals.

3. A way to deal with my kid’s picky appetite – My daughter is a very picky eater, and is very difficult to convince to eat anything. However, I have discovered that she will eat food that she thinks is cute (hearts, pink, octopii, etc.). Bento making is the perfect avenue for her to eat well and healthy.

4. Lunch time is fun time – Because I know that my food looks good, I look forward to lunch time when I can finally open my baon.

5. Save money – This is actually related to #1. Not only am I able to control the portions that I eat, there is also the added benefit of being able to save money. By carefully planning my meals for the next week or two, I am also able to spend efficiently and save money in the long run.

This has been my lunch one Saturday. I couldn’t wait for lunch time to open it. How was I able to resist? I ate a pretty good breakfast of cereal and bananas.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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