Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quinoa-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms

If only quinoa is as affordable as rice, I would eat it almost everyday. But quinoa is five times more expensive than brown rice and even millet. But I love quinoa. They’re soft to the bite with an incredible texture. I love Bob’s Red Mill brand because you don’t need to wash it and it has a better consistency compared to Arrowhead Mills (just my personal taste). But the price is just outrageous.

For this dish, I combined the quinoa with some soft onions, red bell pepper and zucchini. But if you want to add some meat to it, some sautéed chopped chorizo would also be great. When cooking quinoa, I like to cook a full batch. So, instead of cooking ½ cup of quinoa, I do a basic full recipe which is always better. Leftover quinoa keeps very well at least week in the fridge. And there are so many recipes you can do with this.

Aside from being complete in protein, they are also strengthening and cleansing to the body. There are so many health benefits of quinoa and that includes revitalizing the liver and strengthening the kidneys. It is also an anti-stress food as they are high in B vitamins. Just include this pseudo grain into your meals as they are great for every body organ and functions. And even if you decide to go on a detoxification mode for a few days, quinoa does the job of giving you the health benefits.

I just love shiitake mushrooms. These ones are great for stuffing and I always cook them with something moist. For me, shiitakes are always best when cooked with a liquid but that’s jut my personal opinion.

The basic tomato sauce is a recipe from Rouxbe Online Cooking School. Once you’ve learned how to make this sauce by watching their video, you’ll never want to try another recipe again. So basic that you can add other flavors after according to the dish you’re making. I’ve been to cooking school but I can’t remember learning this sauce. I’m sure I was listening to the chef instructor and I’m very much awake when class is in session. Honestly, there are so many things I’ve learned at Rouxbe Online Cooking School that I didn’t learn in an actual culinary academy. What did I pay those chef instructors for? I hope they're not reading this though.

I still have some local Mozzarella cheese from Rizal Dairy Farm which is really, really good. If you don’t want the extra calories, you can also use some grated Parmesan cheese. Either way, the dish will still be good.

Quinoa-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms
in Tomato Sauce

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp unrefined sea salt

Quinoa mixture:
½ small onion
1/8 red bell pepper
2-inch piece zucchini
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked quinoa
Unrefined sea salt, to taste

To assemble:
1 ½ cups basic tomato sauce
12 large shiitake mushrooms
quinoa mixture

To finish:
4 oz mozzarella cheese

To cook the quinoa, combine the dried quinoa, water (or chicken/vegetable stock) and salt in a heavy medium pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. When it is ready, small steam holes should appear on the surface. Remove from the heat; place a tea towel under the lid to absorb any steam for about 7-10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375º degrees Fahrenheit (or 190° degrees Celsius).

To prepare the quinoa mixture, first peel and mince the onion, and cut the bell pepper and zucchini into small dice. Heat a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil, followed by the onions. Then add a pinch of salt and let the onions cook gently until they are softened. Add the bell pepper and zucchini. Cook for another 2 minutes to release their aroma. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture into a bowl. Add the quinoa and toss to combine. Then season with salt to taste.

To stuff the mushrooms, remove the stem from the mushrooms. Save the stems for making a stock. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Then, spoon each mushroom with the quinoa stuffing.

To assemble the dish, cover the base of a glass baking dish (7.5 inch x10.5 inch) with the tomato sauce. Lay the stuffed mushrooms into the sauce. The 12 mushrooms were able to fit in. Then, cover the baking dish with a foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.

While the mushrooms are baking, grate the mozzarella cheese.

After about 10-15 minutes, remove the foil and place the grated mozzarella cheese on top of each stuffed mushrooms. Continue to bake for another3-5 minutes (without the foil) or until the cheese melts and dish is nice and hot.

Once done, serve immediately.

You can also follow and print these Quinoa-Stuffed Mushrooms in Tomato Sauce at Rouxbe Online Cooking Schoool. You may also like the these: Scented Quinoa Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Raisins as well as the Orange-Quinoa with Swee Potatoes. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Serendipitous Notes

I’ve been busy at home this past few days (and I haven’t even printed my resume) and I thought maybe I could start journaling what I’ve done so far. Some may be planned and some may be spontaneous and that includes the photos. Some of them may turn to into blog post but some may not. Let’s see where this weekly food and kitchen notes go and if I could keep up with it every week.

Anko (Red Bean Paste)

These are made with adzuki beans that have been pureed, sweetened and thickened by cooking the mixture over low heat. I’m still modifying the recipe as I find the paste a bit too dry. When I made this before, it was too wet.


I love this stuff. I love eating this pillow-like glutinous rice balls. They area usually filled with anko or strawberries or both. I made these last Friday along withe the anko. My brother and sister liked it very much but I’m not satisfied with the outcome. So, until I’m satisfied I’m not posting it on my blog yet. I also want to fill this daifuku with chocolate truffles. Penny, are you doing it yet?

Quinoa Pilaf

This was one of Friday's dinner. I have some leftover quinoa in the fridge where I use a quarter of it for my Quinoa-Stuffed Mushrooms which I will post in the coming week. Don’t you just love quinoa? I really love the texture and the consistency but they’re five times more expensive than rice. This pilaf, which is almost like a quinoa paella is cooked with some bell peppers, zucchini, some left over tyrolian bacon, chorizo and fragrant smoked paprika. This reminds me of Joe Girard’s Chicken and Chorizo Rice at Rouxbe Online Cooking School which is really good.

Bananas are indeed the ultimate fast food

A thirty-minute drive home from the supermarket turned into a 16-hour drive around flooded Metro Manila because of the typhoon yesterday (Saturday). I do have a lot of things to say but I decided to maintain the integrity of the post. I think I ate 4-5 bananas that day but there are 6 of us in the car. My 5-½ year old nephew Joshua just kept asking “are we there yet?” and “aren’t we going to pass through the flood?” No child should ever go through that but he was well-behaved.

All of us survived with 3 half bundles of Cavendish bananas and my sister’s whole grain bread. We do have some apples, pears, dragonfruit, plum, pineapple, papaya, pomelos and grapes. We also have some vegetables. But bananas are the easiest ones to eat. Even if you can eat the grapes, the apples and pears, they’re not yet washed. Apples and pears are quite messy to eat. But the bananas, they’re just perfect. We also have limited amount of water. If you haven’t read my post of Bananas: The Ultimate Fast Food on Rouxbe Online Cooking School Blog (with the help of Dawn Thomas), please do so.

Healthy Salmon Salad

It’s Sunday and we’re still cleaning the rooms downstairs. So I need an easy recipe with an impromptu photo. This Healthy Salmon Salad is from Mary. I have almost all the ingredients except the parsley so I added some sautéed oyster mushroom. For the dressing, I added some Dijon mustard and replaced the olive oil with a combination of rice bran and sesame oil. But it’s just my personal taste. As I was reading through the recipe a few minutes ago, I realized that the fish is supposed to be poached but I seared my salmon with some spices. Now, you have two cooking methods to choose from. You can either choose to cook a Poached Salmon with Herb Vinaigrette or a Warm Salmon Salad Nicoise both found at Rouxbe Online Cooking School. And Mary, thanks for the recipe.

Here’s to a more productive and serendipitous week. Lorraine (@NotQuiteNigella), thank you for letting me use this word more often. How come I never thought of using that considering it's the one of the titles of my blog?

Let me know what you think. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea Soup

This is another pureed soup that you will definitely love. You can prepare this ahead of time and serve it the following day. They is a healthy soup but with a little indulgence from the cream and the bacon. You can omit them but it will never be the same. However, you can serve this with Greek yogurt (with chopped rosemary) which is also fantastic and garnish with chopped fresh parsley for freshness.

I would love to make this soup with butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Although I heard that butternut squash are grown here, they are still hard to find. They are not found in common areas like the place I usually go to. But this soup is good even with pumpkin. Pumpkin along with the other winter squash is high in beta-carotene, the antioxidant nutrient that lowers cancer risk. It is also high in fiber which is useful in easing food through the intestines and helping clear waste.

I love using dried chickpeas because they are superior in flavor than canned chickpeas. Some of the skins are just falling apart after I cook them. So, I save one cup of peeled chickpeas and puree the rest without the need to remove the skin. They do add texture and consistency to the soup. Chickpeas are one of the legumes which are high in zinc, an immune booster that helps ward off colds.

Roasted pumpkins are really delicious. You can just scoop them out onto a bowl, serve with a dollop of yogurt and honey with a little of salt and dive in. The simplest things are sometimes the best things in the world. And the aroma of roasted pumpkin is just pure bliss.

Although not necessary to make, the whipped and frozen cream will melt into the soup slowly and that’s how you want it so the soup stays hot longer. And, the bacon adds another layer of texture.

I was making this soup in the middle of the heat this afternoon. I thought summer is over. But when the sun shines in the Philippines, it’s really hot. But with the unpredictable weather here, you’ll never know when it’s going to rain. And it did. The clouds covered the sky and it started to rain. So, I guess that soup is meant to be served tonight.

This soup is quite filling. So, if you ate too much the other day, you can have this soup along with this wonderful Orange and Watercress Salad and you're set for the night.

This Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea Soup is found at Rouxbe Online Cooking School (Rouxbe Certified). Just click on the print friendly button to print. Remember to visit their Homemade Soup Recipes collection. Their Thai Coconut Squash Soup is fantastic. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heavenly Champorado

In order to pronounce the title of this blog, you should say it with a Spanish, Mexican or Latin American accent. Champorado (pronounced as CHAM- POH-RAH-DOH) is a rice porridge flavored with chocolate, sweetened with sugar and finished with evaporated milk. It is sometimes served with deep-fried salted fish (called tuyo) on top. It is also called Rice Chocolate Pudding or Rice Chocolate Porridge. But I think Champorado sounds even better. This is usually served for breakfast or as an afternoon snack (called merienda).

When I saw a champorado recipe from Olive of Latest Recipes (more Filipino recipes on her site), I thought of making my own. I was born and raised in the Philippines but never even made this myself. I honestly couldn’t remember having this as a child. It would be embarrassing to say that I’ve never had it in my entire life. I probably had the instant champorado that comes in boxes. But I don’t think dad ever serve this to us. I was just thinking about it for a few days, and there was never a memory of dad giving me this.

There are only two main ingredients you need: the sticky rice and the chocolate. We call the sticky rice “malagkit”, it literally means sticky. And this sticky rice and the ground form is the base of many Filipino desserts. The chocolate is called tablea (blocks of cocoa powder or local chocolate chips). You can definitely use unsweetened cocoa powder, the Mexican chocolates or even other dark chocolates if you cannot find these ethnic chocolates from the Philippines. The two minor ingredients are sugar and the milk which are the finishing touches. I like muscovado sugar or panocha (similar to palm sugar) for their caramel flavor. Some people use brown sugar. Evaporated milk adds richness but condensed milk is sometimes used. You may use whole milk or cream but the evaporated milk is the best. If you are lactose intolerant or have milk allergies, you can use coconut cream/milk for this.

I find it odd that this is served with deep-fried salted fish. It’s probably the salty-sweet flavor that Filipinos love. But for this, I’m using unrefined sea salt. Remember that salt brings out the flavor of everything even in sweet foods. Mom adds a dash of salt in every fruit she eats. I always recommend unrefined sea salt. No iodized table salt please because it has a metallic flavor and it ruins the flavor of the dish. Besides, unrefined sea salt still has almost all the minerals intact. I am still looking for a local supplier on unrefined sea salt. That way, I’m supporting Filipino livelihoods instead of buying imported salt from other countries. Of course, if someone gives me a collection of specialty salts, I would gladly receive them.

Aside from serving this for breakfast or as a snack, they are best served on a rainy day, when you need emotional uplifting or when it’s almost Christmas. And for as long as the weather is cool, champorado is always welcome. It also does help if you sit on the floor at the corner of your room with the bowl of your hand and the spoon on the other. You could also sit on the couch cross-legged facing the window while eating the champorado. And all is well with the world even if the world is against you.

Here's the recipe for Champorado at Rouxbe Online Cooking School Test Kitchen. You might also like this comforting Rice Pudding by Steve Ellis. Enjoy.

Olive, thanks for the inspiration.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting to Know the Camera

At last, my camera was returned to me last two weeks. For the past three months, I’ve been using my brother-in-laws' camera but he has to take it back whenever he needs it. Now that the camera is back, I need to get used to it all over again. I am using a second hand Nikon D40 camera with a AF-S Nikkor 18-135mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED lens (with filter broken) which I bought from my other sister almost 4 months ago. I’ve also taken a few pictures from my earlier blogs and from my Homemade Nut Milk (just one photo) post with a Sony DSC S500. So now you know. You must also be aware that I am not a professional photographer or even an amateur one (although I wrote that on my profile) but I’ve received a few comments from friends that they like my photos. It’s probably a hidden talent or skill that I should develop.

Just recently, Kamran, a food blogger inspired me to take photos from a point and shoot (P&S) and DSLR camera. That would be an interesting comparison. Kamran takes photos with a P&S camera but if you see his blog The Sophisticated Gourmet, you would have thought that it was taken with a DSLR. I consider him a brilliant, genius and talented cook, writer and photographer and many others I’m not aware of. He even designed his own food blog. What a rock star and he’s only 17 years old.

I started taking photos for my blog almost the end of November last 2008 if my sister’s camera is available. The only thing I did when taking photos was focus and shoot. It has always been like that until today. I have no idea how aperture, shutter speed and ISO works until about a month ago which is still confusing. I know it’s a good lens but never even looked that there’s an Auto and Manual focus on the side of it. (Yes, you can laugh). But even when I started last year I always shoot on Manual mode but on Auto focus. For me, as long as the subject looks good through the lens, I just click, click, click, click and click. With the point and shoot camera, I also take photos the same thing as with a DSLR – just focus and shoot.

The following are photos were taken with a DSLR (manual mode on auto focus) and a point and shoot camera. Most of the photos are impromptu shots, which means, I didn’t do any setup and background but simply placing the object on a space where I can take photos. I didn’t even consider the lighting. How come I didn’t think of that? But the photos were taken outside the window (sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy). I told you it was impromptu. I also decided not to do any post processing so you can see what it really looks like. First photo is taken by a point and shoot while the second is taken by a DSLR. You’ll be the judge.

Adzuki Beans - This is from my blog post Adzuki Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Almond Croissant - This is probably the best almond croissant I've ever tasted.

Rocky Road Brownies - These were baked by my sister who is planning to sell her goodies this coming Christmas holidays. She was asking me to take photos of these and her other baked confections.

Between the two cameras, I obvioulsy like the DSLR. Who doesn’t? Well, the lens sees differently. But I believe that anyone can take good photos with a point and shoot camera. I believe I can if I practice. As you can see the photos above, I’m not really good with the point and shoot camera and it’s clear which photo is better. I’ve also tried to take the two photos using different cameras identical but the angles are still different from each other.

I do have some photos on the blog taken with a point and shoot camera. I also agree with other photographers that the most expensive camera doesn’t make you a good photographer because I’ve experienced that with my brother-in-laws’ camera. It is a good camera with a lot of features but it didn’t make me a better photographer. I honestly admit that I use the Photoshop to edit the brightness/contrast, hue/saturation and the color balance. But I always try doing the minimal editing as much as possible.

You can also check Adventures in Photography by Jen Schall from her blog My Kitchen Addictions who did a more thorough exploration of using two different types of camera.

Now that you’ve seen both photos from two cameras, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. I posted this not only because of Kamran’s wonderful idea, but I’m also here to learn.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adzuki Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

I love this soup. This is one of the soups that I made for my late-father. If you’ve read my post Restorative Nutrition for Nasopharyngeal Cancer Patients, you’ll notice that I’ve made a lot of soups, mostly pureed. I initially made this soup with black beans, brown rice, chicken, shiitake mushrooms and mirepoix with some spices and blended into a puree. It turned out really good. Whenever I make my enteral tube feeding for my father, I always taste it even if he’s not going to eat it.

I love adzuki beans because it’s one of the beans that can be cooked in less than an hour. They are also easier to digest compared to other beans. Adzuki bean is a diuretic so if you want to lose weight, you feel bloated or you have a Damp condition, this is the bean for you. They are a classic pair with rice and pumpkin. They are also the usual filling for mochi which are one of my favorite things to eat. Adzuki beans are also easy to sprout which are great with almost anything. These balancing and strengthening food is also wonderful with sweet corn, other sweet vegetables and quinoa.

When cooking beans, I always add a strip of kombu. Kombu improves the flavor and digestibility of the beans. It contains glutamic acid which helps soften it. Use about 1-inch piece dry kombu for every cup of dried beans.

Adzuki is also one of the beans that helps relieve excess uric acid. It’s ironic because beans are always the culprit for those painful gout attacks. Not with adzuki beans. These beans are great in detoxifying the kidneys. Kidneys are the organ responsible for eliminating these uric acid crystals. If your kidneys are not functioning well, it may not eliminate them enough or your body doesn’t contain enough enzymes to break them. Whether adzuki beans eliminate excess purines from your body or not, these beans still benefits the kidney-adrenal function. They are also a good source of soluble fiber that binds toxins and cholesterol aiding in their elimination. These small yet mighty beans have a lot of offer.

The addition of shiitake mushrooms adds silkiness and umami to the soup. I didn’t add mushrooms the first time I made this but I noticed that dad was having problems with the grainy texture of the soup so the mushrooms solved this problem. Shiitake mushrooms are great for the digestive and circulatory system (decreases both fat and bad cholesterol in the blood). They are calming to the nervous system because of its B vitamin content. It boosts immunity and appears to have a strong effect against tumors and cancers.

Spices are an unusual ingredient paired with adzuki and shiitake but the flavors blend beautifully. These spices along with the garlic, ginger and onions reduce inflammation in the body. And they smell really good.

I served this with some yogurt to add more creaminess to the soup. In the recipe, I also garnished it with some diced red radish and cucumber. It seems those red radishes are missing for such a long time so I didn’t add it here. The garnish adds freshness and crunch to the soup but even without it, the soup can stand on its own. Just don’t skimp on the yogurt and the cilantro. And I always serve this soup with extra cilantro.

Here’s the recipe for the Adzuki Bean and Shiitake Mushroom Soup at Rouxbe Online Cooking School. Soups are a great standby immediate nourishment, so check out these collection of Homemade Soup Recipes and Broth Soups. I’m sure you will love it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chicken Parmigiana

I’ve made this chicken dish three weeks ago for our family dinner. And my 5-year old nephew was the one organizing it. Not exactly the way we would manage but he keeps on reminding us about family dinners every month. He always look forward to that day when he would play again with Zoe, my sister Rowena’s shi tzu dog. I’ve also been in charge of cooking vegetables for family dinners since nobody cooks them. But I’ve told everyone that it’s my turn to cook chicken. But guess what, that night, nobody prepared any vegetables.

Anyway, I’m not supposed to include this recipe on my blog because Rouxbe Online Cooking School has a video recipe for Chicken Parmigiana (Pollo ala Parmigaina) by Dawn Thomas. What could be better than a video recipe? But I also wanted to focus more on healing recipes on this blog. However an indulgence is always welcome once in a while. It’s all about balance, moderation and flexibility. In fact, I wanted to post a Tiramisu in the next few weeks unless you want to see it sooner. And when Mary learned that I’m making the Chicken Parmigiana for dinner that week, she wants to see this dish on my blog even if she enjoyed watching the video recipe. So, Mary, thank you for trusting me on this one.

Well, Mary is a food blogger who lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. Her blog Keep Learning and Keep Smiling shows easy-to-prepare healthy and delicious recipes as well as articles on how to live your life to the fullest. Mary has been an inspiration and a great support not only for what I do right now but also about my future. She keeps on encouraging me to do the things I want to do in life even if I feel there is no way. It's amazing how you can make new friends through food blogging.

I also started taking photos in the kitchen (although, not all of them) again but it’s not the best place to take photos as it is one of the places in this house that gets the least natural lighting. And I hope the photos here are not a huge downgrade from my previous posts. Actually, I felt that some of my photos on this blog are blurry (except for the chicken photo below which is really blurry). Is it my eyes, the computer screen, the resizing of the photos or it's just simply blurry? Please let me know. Taking photos in the kitchen is not quite safe and hygienic most especially if you're doing everything by yourself. But I think I could get more things done.

There are two basic sub recipes you can do ahead of time. These are the tomato sauce and the breadcrumbs. One you’ve made these, everything goes on smoothly. These two sub recipes can be used in many different ways. The basic tomato sauce is the basics among the basics. You can even ask Steve Ellis, producer of Rouxbe Online Cooking School. I think the tomato sauce changed his life.

The recipe states chicken breast but I like to use boneless chicken thighs. I think I’ve learned my lesson that every time I serve chicken breasts that is baked, they always end up dry. With family dinners, I may have a rough estimate on what time people are coming but I wanted something that stays moist even after reheating it.

Mozzarella cheese is now locally available from Rizal Dairy Farm. It’s hard to get some really good local cheese before. But now, I could say that local good quality cheese is now locally produced by other cheese producers in Davao. They’re not cheap though. You can also use fontina, which is a great melting cheese. Try making a grilled cheese, tomato and basil sandwich with it.

If you like this dish, you can expand your Italian recipe repertoire by checking this fabulous Italian Cooking Recipes from Rouxbe Online Cooking School. You’ll even learn how to make fresh pasta at home.

Here’s the text and video recipe for the Chicken Parmigiana and the Basic Tomato Sauce, and a text recipe for the Homemade Italian Breadcrumbs. Enjoy.