My Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo

 
Chicken adobo is the quintessential Filipino dish. To be honest, it wasn’t really one of my favorites until I moved away from the Philippines. Back then, my favorites were bistek, fried bangus (milkfish), and sinigang (the Philippine equivalent of tom yum). But when you are away from home for so long, you develop heightened cravings for the dishes that easily assuage pangs of homesickness, and for me, adobo is one of those dishes. There is no way to prevent the aroma of this dish from filling your home, and all of a sudden, my house smells just like the one where I grew up, almost 10,000 miles away from many, many years ago. Continue reading My Quick and Easy Chicken Adobo

Shooting square

 
Disclaimer: The above title is in no way announcing a post on how to shoot self-portraits. Thank you for your attention.

 

 
This morning, I was browsing the Food Photography and Styling group at Food Blog Forum (if you’re a food blogger or contemplating venturing into it, I highly recommend joining the community). One of the discussions started was about submitting photos to Taste Spotting and Food Gawker (if you’re a food eater or contemplating venturing into the vicious cycle of ogle-rumbling tummy-cook-eat-ogle again, I highly recommend browsing those sites).

 
When you submit a photo to either of those sites, one of the technical requirements is that you crop it to 1:1 aspect ratio. In other words, they use square images. And when I went through my existing photos to pick a few to submit for the first time, the biggest problem I had was that what I felt were my best photos did not lend well to square cropping. And often, I had to settle for my second or third choices because I couldn’t find a way to make my first choice fit nicely in a square. (And I didn’t want to just pad the sides to fake a square.) Continue reading Shooting square

Honey Vanilla Ginger Chamomile Tea Ice Cream

 
This is my first custom ice cream flavor. Honey vanilla ginger chamomile tea ice cream. It’s a mouthful, in more ways than one.

 
Last night was a rare night of free time for me. And as I sat there trying to decide if I should make myself a nice cup of honey vanilla chamomile tea to help me digest the copious amounts of Chicken Pelau that my husband Tom made for dinner, or to throw caution to the wind and have a bowl of my work-in-progress green tea ice cream (it’s delicious, but the texture isn’t quite there yet), it suddenly dawned on me: why not go with the gluttonous flow of the evening and have both? As a bonus, I had some leftover honey that had started crystallizing in its huge Costco-sized jar, some ginger that was on its last legs. And since I love finding ways to repurpose leftovers, I got up off the couch (a feat in itself) to test my idea. I didn’t care that it was almost 10 PM.

 
I’m glad I did, because that ice cream base? It was so good that I just had to text Tim (who was at a friend’s house watching a movie): “I think I may have just invented an ice cream base that’s so good, you might cry when you taste it.”

 
And I couldn’t wait to share it with you, too. Because I think it really is that good, and okay, maybe I need some company in the crying corner.

 

 
To flavor the base, I steeped about 2 tablespoons of chamomile flowers in 1 cup of fat-free half-and-half. Mostly because it was a quart purchased by mistake, and I could think of no other use for it. You can certainly use regular half-and-half or whole milk for this. I also had half a can of coconut milk in my fridge left over from the chicken pelau, so I dumped that in as well.

 
The flavors of the ginger, chamomile, honey, and vanilla fully infused the cream, and it was a good thing that I did this at about 10 PM, because it gave me a reason to leave it untouched in the freezer overnight to finish freezing. So, like a good girl, I packed it into a container and then went on to lick clean up the ice cream machine parts.

 
Want to guess what I had for breakfast today?

 

 
==========

Honey Vanilla Chamomile Tea Ice Cream
(Recipe courtesy of my warped sleep-deprived mind that doesn’t know what to do with unexpected free time)

1 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used fat-free half-and-half)
1/2 can (14 oz. can) coconut milk (optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, to taste
2 tablespoons chamomile flowers (or 2 to 3 bags chamomile tea, to taste)
3/4-inch-long piece of ginger, sliced thickly into about 3 or 4 slices
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the half-and-half or milk, coconut milk (if using), honey, chamomile and ginger in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the honey, and let simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool and continue steeping. When slightly cooled, pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Put in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes, or until sufficiently cooled. Strain into another container, then pour into the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 1.5 quarts.

 
 
==========

 
The ice cream almost has a faint taste of dulce de leche to it, perhaps from the honey and vanilla flavors. It’s wonderfully rich, and I highly recommend you try it.

 

 
Just try to make it late at night if you can, and try not to get your tongue stuck to the frozen ice cream canister.

 
Not that I’d know anything about that.

 
 

Homemade ice cream. Finally.

Alternate title #1: How an innocent blog post turned into a Costco shopping spree.

Alternate title #2: Uh-oh. I’m in sooo much trouble now.

 

chocolate ice cream-9389 resized

 
In my previous post about ice cream cravings, I lamented the fact that my favorite ice cream flavors were either too difficult to find, or too expensive to regularly stock. I asked you to share your favorite flavors, and boy, did you make me hungry with your comments. In fact, it finally reached the point where I threw caution to the wind and boxes into my car, and turned a routine supply-replenishing trip to Costco into a full-blown impulse buying session. Except, in this case, the impulse did not hit me from nowhere. I knew exactly what caused it.

 
And I fully intend to continue passing on the blame to you. It makes the prospect of expanding waistlines a bit more bearable if I get to point the finger at someone else.

 

 
Okay, so not all of that was ice cream related. Although I did remember to pick up a couple of quarts of heavy cream, half-and-half, and a gallon of milk. I wasn’t taking any chances; I wanted to be able to make my ice cream already as soon as the bowls were frozen.

 

ice cream maker

 
This is the ice cream maker I got. A Cuisinart, and it came with two bowls. I had been researching ice cream makers for some time now, and I knew this was the one recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. I do have a KitchenAid mixer, and its ice cream attachment is top-rated among the $100-or-less models. But this one was almost half the price of the attachment, and the double bowl sealed the deal for me. (You can also buy the ice cream maker from Amazon, which could help me buy more ingredients to play with.)

 
My first attempt was a straight up chocolate ice cream, following the recipe included in the Cuisinart manual. It seemed simple enough: you pulse good quality chocolate along with sugar until everything is powder-like, then pour in hot milk to make a ganache. Mix in some heavy cream, a touch of vanilla, and then chill the mixture. The fire up the machine, and watch it go.

 
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the machine didn’t make as much noise as some reviews said it did. After about 30 minutes, I found myself staring at a wonderfully rich soft serve blanket of chocolate. It’s amazing to see how just some milk, sugar, cream, and a block of Valrhona bittersweet chocolate could turn into such decadent goodness just by the addition of cold and slow churning. After some hours in the freezer, it was exactly as I had hoped it would be.

 

 
Ecstatic with my first success, I decided to try one of my favorites: coconut ice cream. In the Philippines, it’s called macapuno ice cream, and sadly, the English translation of macapuno in no way does it justice. “Mutant coconut.” My goodness. It almost sounds radioactive, no?

 
Macapuno is a type of coconut that has thick but jelly-like meat inside. It’s easily grated into “strings” or long shreds, and it’s a much more pleasant texture to mix into ice cream than regular, flaked coconut. But since the only mutant currently within reach is my flower garden that hasn’t been weeded since last summer, I had to make do without any add-ins. That didn’t faze me at all. What I really cared about was getting the right kind of rich, creamy coconut taste that I remember enjoying while growing up in the Philippines.

 
Enter David Lebovitz, whose Quick Coconut Ice Cream Recipe with Saffron caught my eye. It’s a recipe he attributes to Nicky Stich of delicious:days, and like him, I was drawn by the promise of “quick.” And that it didn’t call for eggs. I certainly wasn’t in the mood to separate eggs at 11pm, much less figure out what to do with the orphaned egg whites. (I hate wasting ingredients.)

 
I stuck to the basics, skipped the saffron, and doubled the recipe. I fudged some amounts too, which didn’t seem to hurt one bit. It was every bit as easy as the recipe promised: a can of coconut milk, 2 cups heavy cream, and 1/3 cup sugar. Scalded to let the sugar dissolve completely, cooled, then poured into the ice cream machine.

 
Let me tell you this: the darn thing was so absolutely delicious that I didn’t miss the pieces of mutant anything in it. And I seriously, seriously considered hiding the entire container in the freezer in the garage.

 

coconut ice cream-9357 resized

 
Like I said earlier: I’m in sooo much trouble now.

 

coconut ice cream-9366

 
==========

Basic Chocolate Ice Cream
(Recipe from Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker instruction manual)

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the sugar and the chocolate in a food processor and pulse until granulated. Scald the milk and pour it into the food processor. Mix until blended. Let cool, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Chill then pour into the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Makes 1.5 quarts.

 
 
==========

Quick Coconut Ice Cream
(Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz, via Nicky Stich of Delicious Days)

14 oz. can of coconut milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Scald coconut milk, heavy cream, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely, pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Makes about 2 pints.

==========

 
 

Ice cream

Lately, I’ve been craving ice cream. I don’t know if it has something to do with the warmer weather, or hormones. Or my sweet tooth awakening at the same time the flower buds are. Or hormones.

Maybe it’s hormones.

The thing is, my favorite ice cream flavors aren’t exactly the kind you can just pick up from your neighborhood grocery. Unless your neighborhood is in the Philippines. Or any other place in Asia. Or somewhere in the Caribbean.

Or maybe just Chinatown in New York, where you can head to The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and indulge in “regular” flavors like lychee, pandan, taro, or black sesame. (Ironically, their “exotic” flavors include such out-of-this-world entries as … rocky road. And mint chocolate chip. Vanilla, even!)

Of course, I don’t need a plane ticket to head to Chinatown in New York. But in the middle of rush hour, it could very well take just as long to get there. And the parking would cost just as much. Which is unfortunate, because all week, I’ve really been fighting this nagging need for green tea ice cream. And okay, it’s not a new craving at all.

 

green tea ice cream-9341

 
I love green tea ice cream. I could eat it all day. And I probably would, if it didn’t cost $500 per quart. (Okay fine, I exaggerate a bit. But a serving of this probably costs as much as an entire box of Breyer’s when it’s half-price at Shop-Rite.)

I’ve got a number of other ice cream favorites, too. Like avocado. Yeah, I can’t even find that around here. Cheese ice cream? Forget it. Coconut? Just as expensive as green tea. Mango? I’m sorry, but nothing beats the taste of Philippine mango ice cream, so I’m not even going there.

So this is my dilemma. I really, really, really want to make all my favorite flavors of ice cream. But I really, really, really don’t need to be eating that much ice cream.

Still, I really, really, really want to make the ice cream anyway.

And I’m really, really, really going to nag and repeat myself and whine until I finally get me one of those ice cream makers.

 

green tea ice cream-9339

 
Green tea ice cream, I promise you this: soon, you will be mine.

And I don’t care that I’m lactose intolerant. Nope, I don’t care one bit.

How about you? Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor? One that you might drive across town and into the neighboring state to get? And if that drive might be in the general direction of New York City’s Chinatown, would you give me a ride?

 
 

Powerless

 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had quite the storm here the other week. The winds snapped some of our bamboo in half, a big tree decided to fall over and rest on our house, and our power went out. Which wasn’t unexpected. We thought it would come back up fairly quickly, but nothing doing. And although we had a generator sitting in the shed, we just couldn’t get it to work.

 
And when I say “we,” I really mean “not me.”

 

 
When night falls and you’re sitting in the dark with only a few candles lit and absolutely no electrical power, you realize how much of your everyday life is dependent on electronics. The initial smugness that you feel when you think, “Ha! My laptop is fully charged, you fool!” instantly dissipates when you realize that the modem, and hence any kind of internet connection, is down. There’s no catching up on chores either, since the vaccuum and the laundry machines run on electricity too. I didn’t lament that part too much.

 
Undaunted, and refusing to accept that we might be a bit too dependent on the power company, we found ways to entertain ourselves. First, Tim picked up his guitar and started strumming aimlessly. So I picked up mine, intending to maybe launch into a John Denver or Bread song. I don’t know what happened, but we instead ended up playing Yellow Bird, with Tom singing his Caribbean heart out. And, as is always the case when I play Yellow Bird, I threw it into a Jamaica Farewell mashup, which is always fun until you realize you just turned a 3-minute song into an 8-minute medley that just won’t end.

 
We finally got tired of that, so after 7 minutes, we decided to play word games. Using only names of ingredients, we went around, each one giving a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. We quickly found out that we really don’t know a lot of ingredients that begin with the letter E. And although I couldn’t tell clearly in the dark, I think I got a few dirty looks when I said “endive.” I don’t know exactly when the game ended, but I think it was right around the time we realized Tom was making words up and insisting, “No, that’s a real fruit/vegetable/seasoning/herb in Trinidad!”

 
It called to mind the time when I was growing up in the Philippines, where power outages (blackouts and brownouts, as we call them) were at one time fairly regular. Unfazed, we still played games outside, or sat at the piano singing every song that came to mind. Once, on the middle of one of the many failed coups during the late Corazon Aquino’s presidency, we spent an entire evening huddled in the dark in the basement of my uncle’s house, listening to the radio reports of snipers firing at vehicles on the road. As stressful as it was, when we think back on it now, what we mostly remember was my cousin breaking out her baby brother’s toy piano-harmonica hybrid (I have no idea what it’s called) and playing music almost all night long. We pretended it was a saxophone and soon forgot the chaos going on outside.

 
It’s such an indelible memory that about 15 years ago, when my cousin was going through old boxes of things in their house in Manila, she found the toy and sent it to me here. And I instantly understood the gesture, and the nostalgia behind it. I keep it in our family room, proudly displayed despite all the scratches and the chipped mouthpiece. And I play it still, always instantly transported back to that time as soon as the first note fills the air around me.

 

 
These days, when I need something to do idly besides reading, I mostly reach for my iPod and play a game of Scrabble, Kendoku, or Unblock Me. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But after our recent prolonged power outage, I realized that, aside from the supreme joy that it gives me, there’s something else that I get from music that I may have taken for granted before: its power to transform a dark, quiet, sparse space into something glorious, without the need for any source of external power but the one that’s already inside you.

 
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m over the word games. I’m still kinda nerdy like that.

 
How about you? What would you do if you lost power for 24 or even 48 hours? Or, say you’re in the woods somewhere, in a tent maybe, and no, you can’t plug into your camper’s power source. And it’s too dark to read. (And you’re not allowed to sleep or just do nothing, or else a … a … a bunch of gangster bears will come and harass you. Yep, that’s right. You heard me. Gangster bears.) Do you have any favorite non-electronic games or activities that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Because, to be honest, I think the guys around here might smother me with a pillow if I suggest another game of ingredient names.

 

Dino's toy piano-9327

 
 

Welcome to the Ivory Hut. No, it is not made of soap.