Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I'd have to say I was really excited to start this month's Daring Bakers' challenge because it was co-hosted by one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa! Aside from that, I'm a certified chocoholic so the theme was definitely close to my heart...chocolate, yum! Well actually it was candymaking, but I was going to make chocolate candies that's for sure. We were only required to make two types of candies, one of them a filled chocolate and the other one, whatever we wanted...then I guess I can make 2 chocolate candies!

Did I mention I live in the tropics? Aside from really beautiful beaches, coconut trees and the bluest blue skies,we also have really high what does that have to do with this challenge? Everything!! I tempered my bittersweet couverture chocolate, but the humidity was ruined my hard work, I tried working at night and also early morning to avoid the really humid hours of the day, but it still got me. I wanted to throw in the towel and not paticipate this month, but then that wouldn't speak well of me...a so-called DARING baker, so I persevered. And these are the products of my sweat and tears (no blood, thank goodness!)

The mandatory part of the challenge: Filled Chocolate Bonbons, I made mine with pastillas de leche (sugar candies) filling. This tasted so good, I had to stop myself from eating them all! I will make a separate post for the recipe of this yummy Filipino candy.
Chocolate Bark which I made with tempered Bittersweet Couverture Chocolate, chopped walnuts, golden raisins and dried cranberries. It looked very nice, but the chocolate was so nervous it was sweating...blame humidity!

Violet Crumble and Crunchie are two of the yummiest chocolate bars when I was a kid. Sadly, I don't see them in the supermarkets anymore, so I had to make it because I missed the taste so much. This was the thin version, I made a thicker version but it didn't turn out as well.

Thank you Lisa and Mandy for this very delicious challenge. So what did I learn from this? I should have an air-conditioned kitchen! Just kidding, but yes--I think if I really want to work with chocolates in this humidity I'd have to do that. Oh and do drop by the other Daring Bakers' blogs for more yumminess!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Daring Cooks’ August, 2011 Challenge: Appam and Curry

Mary, who writes the delicious blog Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks' host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Linkan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

Time does really fly fast, not only when you're having fun but also when you are terribly busy! Hmm...4 more months or is it 3, and it's going to be Christmas again! Ooops...sorry...focus...

Like Mary I also love Indian food, I eat in an Indian restaurant at least every month but I always order my favorites Rogan Josh (Lamb Curry) and/or Biryani. So when I read this month's challenge I was really excited, Indian cuisine at last!

When I lived in Singapore I remember coming home every night from work and passing by the Hawker Center near our flat to order our Roti Paratha, *sigh* how I miss those days! Nowadays, I just content myself with the Naan (also an Indian flat bread) that I also order whenever I eat in an Indian restaurant...but I've never come across Appam until this month's DC challenge.

What exactly is an Appam? According to Mary they are South Indian yeasted breads made from rice, yeast and coconut milk...a cross between a crepe and a crumpet, with a thin, lacy, crisp edge and a thicker spongy middle.

We only have brown rice at home so that's what I used. My appams were not perfect like what I saw on the forums, I was a bit disappointed with myself at first because making crepes is not new to me and yet my appams were not cooperative at all. I had to throw a few appam fails before I finally produced decent looking ones for picture-taking. I was wondering if it was the type of rice I used because I noticed how everyone was raving how easy it was to make contrary to what I experienced. They tasted great though, I liked munching on some of the fails I didn't throw and I have to say I liked the flavor...tasted like a cross between rice and bread (because of the yeast, I think).

I followed the Appam recipe except that I substituted brown rice. And this is how my appams turned out...well the ones that escaped the trash can at least.

Mary also said we had to cook a South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the Appams. My favorite Indian dish is Lamb Curry (Rogan Josh) and I know I was meant to cook it because there was a buy-one-take-one offer for lamb at the supermarket near my house. I just don't know if it's South Indian/Sri Lankan so that's what I cooked, except that I didn't have garam masala so I omitted it...tsk tsk! Here is the recipe I based it on. I added potatoes just because the marble potatoes were so cute...

Thank you Mary for a wonderful challenge...not only did I learn to make Appams (which I will continue to experiment on until I get it right!) but I also enjoyed eating them and mopping up the sauce of my Rogan Josh with it. Excuse me while I wipe the drool...looking at these pictures has just reminded me how delicious they were. Please visit the other Daring Cooks versions of their Appam and Curry.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Farmville for Real

Going organic is the "in" thing in the Philippines nowadays with the relatively new interest on wellness. The opportunity came for me to visit a real organic farm and I didn't think twice about going, working in the food industry has made me interested in farming and agriculture and being aware of where the food that we prepare comes from (from farm to table). We drove for about 4 hours (EDSA was really heavy with traffic at 9 in the morning) and arrived tired and hungry at the Costales Nature Farms , located in Majayjay, Laguna. I didn't mind the drive because the view going there was amazing with all the lush green vegetation that dotted the roads especially when it was already near the farm.

We were met by Ronald and Josie Costales who are the owners/farmers. I noticed how the place didn't smell like a farm (sort of animal poop) at all even with the pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits they had on the property. Ronald explained that this was because of the EM (effective microorganisms) which they use to inoculate their soil, clean the animal enclosures and also mixed in with the food that the animals they are raising are fed. They also use Vermiculture which is defined as management of worms, or raising them for waste reduction and fertilizer production.

A view of the farm from the lettuce beds, on the upper left side are the greenhouses for the young seedlings and some of the more delicate produce. On the lower left side are some of the lettuce beds, and in the middle are the basil plants.

Everywhere I looked it was green and productive, they started out with 1000 square meters and is now about 6 hectares! They also supply salad greens to Italianni's, TGI Fridays and Cibo aside from their stall in Mercato Centrale, a weekend organic market in Makati.

So what else is in the farm? I will let these pictures do the talking (some of it anyway)...but let's just say, it was an eye-opener for me listening and walking through this integrated natural farm.

Free-range, organic chicken that were not intimidated easily, we even caught one without much effort. The owner said one drawback to them is that they were easy to steal because they don't shy away from people.

I usually don't eat Tinolang Manok because I find it too oily which comes from the fat of the chicken which floats to the surface of the soup, but this Tinola was really delicious and not oily at all.

These duckies who were running away from me in formation (I noticed they were getting in line before running) are called Pekin Duck.
Probably the reason why they were running away was because some of their friends were caught and cooked for our lunch.

The "wild" pigs looking defensively from their pen which was amazingly not odor offensive because of their food (organic veggies) and EM (effective micro-organisms) used to clean their pens and also mixed with their food.

One of the yummiest Longganisa Lucban I've tasted, very lean and relatively "guilt-free" because it's made from organic pigs.

This was grilled pork also from organic pigs, it's much leaner than the usual pork because of the thinner layer of fat. It was good, but I'd have to say that it wasn't as good as the non-organic pork I buy from the supermarket/market.
Costales Nature Farms offers tours around their farm where you can have a real "farmville" experience, harvesting vegetables and herbs. You can also fish for Tilapia and then have a refreshing "Salad-All-U-Can" with organic vegetables after all that hard work.

Brgy. Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Little Bit of Sun

I love my job...I really do but from time to time I have this urge to get away, it's the wanderlust in me. So last month, I took a short break and flew to Puerto Princesa in Palawan which is a little over an hour from Manila hoping for a little fun in the sun and this was what greeted me on the first morning:

(Cloudy skies and low tide on the beachfront of Microtel)

Thankfully the weather improved as the day went on and I had to admit I was even excited at the prospect of going to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Caves aren't really my thing but the view going there was beautiful.

(Some local boys were playing basketball completely oblivious to the beautiful scenery around them)

(I couldn't resist taking a picture of the boat next to ours, with its reflection on the water)

(I just love looking at this picture with the boat in the middle surrounded by white sand and limestone cliffs)

Of course the trip also included lots of eating, including Tamilok (Shipworm) which is not actually a worm even if it looks like one but are actually long saltwater clams. We ate them pickled in vinegar (kilawin). There were Chicken Inasal places everywhere and I liked the one from Balinsasayaw Restaurant the best.

Badjao Seafront Restaurant which is a restaurant built directly among mangroves for which Palawan is known for serves delicious seafood...

(Grilled Blue Marlin with Lato also called Ar-Arosep, or Sea Grapes that bursts in your mouth with salty brine)

(Grilled Stuffed Squid, really delicious!)

So even if I didn't get the experience (no tan, no massage by the beach) I was looking for I enjoyed the sights and tastes of Puerto Princesa. The locals were very gracious and accomodating and the food was yummy!