A big batch of biscotti, and a small dose of self-discovery

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I’ve been making biscotti at home, double batches at a time because they disappear so quickly. Along with classic granola and wickedly delicious mini whole wheat pumpkin muffins, these are so far my favorite healthy breakfast or snack recipes from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by the wonderful Pam Anderson.

I’ve never been a biscotti fan. I’ve always heard folks talk about how much they love it, and frankly, I never understood why. I figured it was probably because I prefer chewy cookies and moist cakes, and biscotti is nothing like that. But for some reason, I found myself trying this recipe. Maybe it was because Pam wrote glowingly about it, or maybe it was because I read that each piece had all of 53 calories and contained no butter or oil.

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Whatever the reason was, I’m glad I made them, because I discovered that I like biscotti after all. I’ve just been eating bad ones.

But that’s not the only discovery referred to in this post’s title. Apparently, I also have this subconscious need to line everything up neatly.

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And apparently, I do the same when I put my groceries on the checkout counter. I also organize our condiment bottles and spices in the cupboard, with one shelf for Asian cuisine, one for Trinidadian cuisine, and another one for everything else. I line up our cutting boards first by material (wooden, glass, or plastic), then by height. I re-fold towels so that each one is the same size, facing the same way in the linen closet shelf. And I stack my CDs and DVDs in alphabetical order, by genre.

Allegedly, I also re-arrange our sugar packet holder so that all the packets are facing the same way. I’m a bit afraid to check to see if that’s true.

You know something? I’m not sure I want to know why.

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You want to know something else? Really, I’d just rather discover more things like this new love for biscotti. At least I won’t need therapy for that.


Orange Nut Biscotti
Recipe from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by Pam Anderson

3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 whole orange (about 2 tablespoons)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (scant) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup almonds, pecans, walnuts, toasted pistachios (or a combination of nuts)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla and orange zest. In a larger bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except the nuts. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, using a spoon first and then using your hands. The dough will be very sticky and tacky. Stir in the nuts.

Flouring your hands and working surface, roll half of the dough into a 12-inch log. Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake in the center position of the oven for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Take the logs off the sheet and onto a cooling rack, let cool for about 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees and line another baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Use a serrated knife to slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheets and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and almost crisp. Transfer to cooling racks and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 4 dozen biscotti (or 2 dozen if sliced 1 inch thick, as seen in the photo).

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Walking around my backyard

Two years ago, finally tired of always losing the precious bounty of our fruit trees to wandering animals, we finally put a fence around a good portion of our backyard. We had three fruit trees—an apple tree and two pear trees—but cordoned off an area large enough to accommodate four more fruit trees and three large raised vegetable beds. Then we planted fig, giant peach, nectarine, and apricot trees. In the newly-built vegetable beds, we planted tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, sweet peppers, different varieties of hot peppers, and a bunch of herbs. I felt so … organic. And I was filled with hope for a season of homegrown produce.

Where I live, trying to grow your own produce in the backyard is a constant battle against airborne diseases and critters. Critters so brazen that one afternoon, I saw a chipmunk roll a half-eaten baby apple onto my porch, on its way to stashing it elsewhere. I tried to stare it down to let it know who was the boss, but it simply shrugged and went along its merry way. Cuteness aside, those little buggers are r-u-d-e.

We also have to contend with deer, who not only gorge themselves on our fruit trees, but also help themselves to my rose buds. It’s the reason I refuse to ever watch Bambi.

And the groundhogs. Oh, those nasty things. They dig holes under the fence, and climb up into my vegetable beds. Last year, I looked out my bedroom window to see one standing on its legs, happily munching on a tomato, looking around like it owned the place. There was nothing left for me to do but hope that the tomatoes gave it some serious acid reflux.

We’ve been trying all sorts of things: netting around the beds, canopies over the trees … nothing seems to work. So this year, we simply gave up. No vegetable bed plantings this year, and the most we’ll be doing is grow two pots of Scotch Bonnet peppers on our deck. Where we can watch over them more closely. I figured we’d take a break from the annual battle for a change.

But when I walked around our backyard a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but feel the same thrill I always get when I see fruits on the trees. There’s just something about growing your own fruits and vegetables that excites me and makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing, doing what should come naturally to us.

The baby peach looked so cute with its little hairs.


The critters took off with the tags for these trees, but I’m fairly sure these are little nectarine and plum fruits. I’ll have to wait a bit longer to be sure.



And of course, there were other pretty things to photograph in the backyard. Pretty vines crawling up the oak tree …


Pretty flowers from last year’s deck box planting …

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And pretty flowers from my resilient chive plant.


And of course, pretty weeds.


Those, I have no trouble growing. Absolutely no trouble at all.

P.S. If you have any suggestions on how to win the battle against the critters, diseases, and weeds, we’d gladly take those buggers on again.


Green Mango Margarita Sorbet

Alternate title: Well, Now I’m Just Pushing It, Aren’t I?

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Yesterday, I posted my Gin and Tonic Sorbet recipe, enticing anyone who would listen to make it, enjoy it, then inflict it on all your guests. That recipe called for a lime-infused simple syrup, and I only ended up using half of the batch that I made. Which got the wheels turning in my head, wondering what else I can make with it.

I also happened to have a green mango waiting to be used. I had been planning to make a Philippine-style green mango shake (like a slushie), which I absolutely love. Maybe it was the gin my head, or perhaps it was just homesickness, but before I knew it, my green mango shake had somehow morphed into an idea for green mango margarita sorbet.

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Let me start off by saying that I don’t really get along that well with tequila. Sure, we’ve been on the dance floor once or twice before, but mostly, it’s just because I’m trying to be polite. And only for quick jigs; I can’t slow dance with tequila without the inevitable headache, after which I just want to go to bed and sleep it off.

Then I miss out on all the fun because I’m fast asleep by 7:36 p.m..

But I do love the taste of margaritas. It’s the sharp tartness of the lime, the mellow semi-sweetness of the triple sec, and the interesting contrast with the salt that really speaks to me. And … wait. You know what I love about green mango shakes? The sharp tartness of the green mango, the mellow semi-sweetness of the sugar, and the interesting contrast with the salt.

Hmmm …

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Green Mango Margarita Sorbet

1/2 cup sugar
1 large or 2 medium limes, zested and juiced
1 large green mango, peeled and roughly sliced
1/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup tequila
lime wedge and rimming salt, to serve

In a saucepan, make simple syrup by heating 1/2 cup water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and add lime zest and juice. Let cool.

Put green mango slices and 1/4 cup water in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add simple syrup, triple sec, and tequila. Blend again until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste. Cool in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Store in a freezer-proof container in the freezer to allow it to harden some more.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a shot glass and salt the rim. Scoop the sorbet into the shot glass and serve.

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This margarita sorbet probably isn’t as “unique” as the gin and tonic sorbet, since margaritas are already sometimes served frozen and slushy. But what I love about this is the addition of the green mango, which is in itself already has both sour and sweet flavors. You can also rim the glass with jalapeno salt or any other kind of spicy salt for an interesting kick.

You can certainly use your favorite fruit as a substitute for the green mango. I think kiwi, granny smith apples, star fruit (preferably not too ripe), raspberries, or even fresh grapefruit juice (juiced, strain out the pulp) would work wonderfully. If I were in the Philippines, I’d be trying mangosteen, kamias (a very tart relative of the star fruit), or pomelo.

Actually, if I were in the Philippines where summer can be painfully hot, I’d probably be using much larger glasses too.

I’d also probably be sleeping a lot. Because tequila’s potency is geography-independent.

Trust me. I know these things.


Gin and Tonic Sorbet (You heard me)

Alternate title: Oh, Look At What I Done Did.

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Some weeks ago, Pam and Maggy of Three Many Cooks invited me and my family over for dinner. Maggy and I had been exchanging emails for some weeks, and really hit it off online. But normally, my shyness would have made me less ready to accept the invitation. More often than not, I’m perfectly happy staying in the background, letting typed-out words do the socializing for me. This time though, I said yes.

I didn’t start stressing about it until we were on the road. Then I started giving myself a pep talk. “Good grief, woman, just relax,” I’d remind myself. “Be yourself!” Then of course, the other voice started talking too. “Oh yeah? Be yourself? But yourself is a dork! A major goob!” By the time we finally pulled into their driveway, I was a mini-tangle of nerves. So nervous that when I stepped out of the car, I think part of my foot slipped out of my sandal and I almost—ALMOST—fell to the ground, still holding my camera. “Yep. I’m Dork, nice to meet you.”

Of course, I had no reason to be nervous. Maggy, Pam, and David could not have been more welcoming, and all my stress melted away. And almost as soon as we walked in the house, Pam offered us something to drink. Her recommendation: a gin and tonic.

I need to come clean here. As far as drinks go, I’m a lightweight. In fact, make that a featherweight. Airweight, if possible. Helium-weight even. You get the picture. A few sips of alcohol, and my cheeks are flushed and burning. I blame this on my dad, who gets just as red with a only few sips of anything potent. When I do have something to drink, it’s usually a beer. A light beer. And the smaller the bottle, the better.

But I took a sip of that gin and tonic, and loved it. It was so refreshing and light, and the way Pam made it was just right for me. And yes, it might have taken me the entire evening into night to finish my one drink, but let me tell you, I enjoyed it.

Now, if you know me and my current ice cream craze, it was only a matter of time before the idea of a gin and tonic sorbet crept into my brain. And once it got there, it wouldn’t budge.


I ran the idea by Maggy, who told me I should totally go for it. So I did. I think it’s great for an outdoor party, either served in between courses to cleanse your palate, or even as a refreshing appetizer. Better yet, even if you happen to leave it unattended, you don’t just end up with semi-melted sorbet; you end up with a nice cold shot of gin and tonic, albeit slightly sweet.

It took me a couple of tries to get just the right mix I wanted, and here is my recipe. I’m know I’m not much of a drinker, but if you’re thinking of making this a more potent sorbet by adding significantly more gin, you might end up with slush rather than sorbet. (Unless slush is what you’re going for, in which case, pour away!) Remember that alcohol won’t freeze, which is why you can store a bottle of vodka or gin in the freezer without any problems.

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Gin and Tonic Sorbet

1/2 cup sugar
1 large or 2 medium limes, zested and juiced
2 1/2 cups tonic water
3 fl. oz. shot gin

In a saucepan, make simple syrup by heating 1/2 cup water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and add lime zest and juice. Let cool. Once cooled, add tonic water and gin. Taste it and make any adjustments according to taste. Let everything cool in the refrigerator, then strain into the bowl of your ice cream machine. Follow your machine’s directions to freeze the sorbet. Store in a freezer-proof container in the freezer to allow it to harden some more.

Serve in pretty little glasses garnished with more lime zest, thin little slices of lime, or rim the glass with lime sugar (a mix of lime zest and sugar pulsed together in the food processor).


Make this sorbet, keep it in the freezer, and the next time you have a cookout, surprise your guests with this. It’s absolutely refreshing, and a great way to cool down on a hot day.

In the meantime, take some out in the morning and tell everyone that you’re shooting photos for your blog.

Then “accidentally” leave it to melt.

And then do this.

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And then just go back to bed because that’s it, there’s no way your day can get any better.


Mini Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Do you know what happens when you fail to keep up with your commitment to having a healthy breakfast every morning? Not only does your metabolism start slowing down again, but you end up letting too much time pass in between posts.

I have clinical studies to back that up. (Okay. Study. Clinical study.)

But I refuse to take full responsibility for it. After all, I had every intention of sticking to it. I scheduled a few hours every weekend when I would make myself a batch each of my new favorite granola, biscotti, and these mini whole wheat pumpkin muffins. All of them are from Pam Anderson’s book The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great, and I’m mildly obsessed with them. And okay, I threw the “mildly” in there just to make myself look good.

So here was my great plan: that batch of 24 muffins, two loaves of biscotti, and granola? They’re supposed to be more than enough for the entire week. I figured any time I felt the need for a little treat, I’d always have a stash of these healthy options available. And every weekend, I’d replenish my stash.

Here’s the problem: they’re good. Too good. But no, it’s not that I can’t stop myself from snacking. Because I can. But the boys in my house? You’d think my entire refrigerator was empty and the only edible food in the house lived in that little corner of the microwave table where my snack stash sat, looking all delicious and vulnerable and oblivious to its impending demolition.

Poor little things. They never stood a chance.

The first week it happened, I thought it was charming. “Oh look,” I said, “my boys are eating healthy snacks. How wonderful!” So I didn’t mind it so much when Thursday came and I was all out of nibbles. The next week, everything was gone by Wednesday. “Well, at least they’re not going to waste. And look at them enjoy the whole wheat treats!”

The following weekend, I made double batches. That means 2 trays of granola, 48 mini muffins, and four—yes, FOUR—huge biscotti loaves, that had to go into three of my largest airtight containers once they were all done and sliced up. “Ah, NOW I’m really set for the entire week!”

Everything was gone by Tuesday. Not Thursday, not Wednesday—TUESDAY. And that was when, in protest, I decided not to make any the past weekend. I was hoping to get them hooked on something else, like kale or okra, so they’d leave my stash alone. Except I don’t think it’s working, because I get asked almost every night after dinner if I have any more of those healthy snacks lying around.

Like I said, they’re good. Which is a problem.

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Mini Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins
Recipe from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by Pam Anderson

1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil (I used canola)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tray with cooking spray.

In a skillet, heat the pumpkin and spices over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and add brown sugar, whisking to combine. Add the oil, then slowly add the eggs.

In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients (dry ingredients). Whisk in the pumpkin mixture, just until combined.

Portion out the batter into the muffin cups, about 2 tablespoons each. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then finish cooling them on a rack. Store in an airtight container.


And there you have it. Fast-disappearing muffins that are just too good not to share. Even if you’re not quite willing to.

Do yourself a favor. Make these, and then hide a couple in a bag somewhere. Pick a place the boys are least likely to go. Like in the broom closet. Or the laundry room. Trust me. Measures must be taken.


about me

I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

If you want to learn more about me, here are 43 things I'd like to do. Here's a little something about my name, in case you were wondering. Here are some other places you'll find me:

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One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.

I'm proud to belong to an amazing community of Filipino food lovers. Together, we celebrate this often-neglected Asian cuisine, sharing our family's treasured recipes and discovering new ones along the way. This is our club.
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