"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Guide to Buying Chicken

Filipinas in the Philippines will not find this post of any use to them. It is just so easy to touch, feel, smell and see the chickens. The only things (that I am aware of) that market vendors do to the chickens to plump them up is to inject saline solution so that the chickens will weigh heavily.

Here, I found that I had no choice with the chickens available at the grocery store. The first time I tasted them, they tasted so foreign...they lacked the flavor that I was used to (in my opinion, our chickens in the Philippines are tastier. But of course, the Ams have their own opinion. It depends highly on which one grew up with). You see, few weeks ago we attempted to raise chickens for our own consumption (which my in-laws tried to take care of during the initial weeks), but the chicken barn burned because of the heat lamp (we assume) which they used to keep the chicks warm. Disheartened by the event (Mom felt so sorry for the chicks, she hoped they died quick and not had to suffer from the fire itself), we no longer felt inclined to raise chickens at least for this year. Okay....so I am back to buying chickens from the grocery store.

Prior to the burn, we would just get pre-cut packaged parts of chicken: skinless breasts for my husband and stepdaughter (he does not like red meat), legs/thighs/wings for me and my sons (I find them tastier. I don't care for the fat content because I easily use up my fat intake anyway. And although breasts are fine with me for sandwiches, they are much more expensive than the other parts, so I try to stick to the cheaper cuts which I like nevertheless.)

However, I read an article about a guide to buying chicken in Cook's Illustrated (this magazine is worth spending on: the authors try to dig deeper into recipes, seeking reasons why so and so procedures are better; they rate equipment according to results and make recommendations as per the best performance as well as per the best value. I recommend it.) It said:

Whole birds taste better than packaged parts and cost less, so it makes

sense to cut up chicken at home.

Even when a recipe call for chicken parts, there are many advantages to purchasing a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. Packaged chicken parts are generally mass-produced and are of a lower quality, so buying a whole chicken gives you the chance to buy a better bird. In addition, packages of chicken parts often come from different chickens of different sizes; as a result, the pieces may cook unevenly. To top it off, whole chickens generally cost less per pound and provide trimmings that are perfect for freezing to make a homemade stock.

Hmmm...why did I not think of that before? I am quite experienced in cutting a whole chicken anyway. And that way would give me a chance to store the giblets (for the liver to be used in gravies, and for the gizzard for adobo). We Filipinos are quite known by some foreigners as not letting food go to waste (They think it bizarre or even gross that we want the chicken back, feet, intestines, liver and gizzard. They don't even know how much tastier a big fish head is compared to fillets! Oh, that grosses them out. I miss the "ulo-ulo" sinigang.).

And on I read...


Producers breed chickens to "plump out" (an industry term indicating that

the breast meat is thick and plump) at different ages, depending on the desired

weight of the slaughtered bird. We have found that certain sizes (usually

described by producers with the terms below) work better for certain


Poussins are baby chickens that weight about

. Generally available only at specialty stores or butchers, they are

ideal for one person.

Cornish Game Hens are slightly older than poussins and

weigh between 1 and 2 pounds. Larger game hens will serve two people, but

these birds are usually mass-market brands that lack the flavor of the smaller


Broiler/fryers are the standard supermarket chicken. They

generally weigh between 3 and 4 1/2 pounds and will serve four people.

Roasters generally weigh between 5 and 8 pounds.

Despite their name, we do not recommend roasting birds this large, as

the outer layers of meat tend to overcook before the meat near the bone reaches

a safe internal temperature. When feeding a crowd, we prefer to buy two


For their recommendations:


Empire Kosher Broiler Chicken - $2.29/lb; "perfectly seasoned," with meat that was "moist" and "tender"


Bell & Evans Fresh Young Chicken - $2.69/lb; raise on an all-vegetable, antibiotic-free diet, praised for meat that tasted "clean" and "fresh"

Tyson Fresh Young Chicken - $1.29/lb; some tasters liked the "firm" texture, others found it slightly "mealy"

So I tried buying a whole chicken yesterday, but the grocery store brand (Hannaford). Vacuum-packed and not frozen (it was recommended to be frozen by Aug 23 ), I got the 4.4-lb, which cost $4.39 at $0.99/lb. It appeared to me like the chickens I used to buy in the PI. I cut it up. I smelled it. I now feel at ease with this whole chicken. Suddenly I felt like they are no longer foreign to me. I would have cooked them for lunch today but my hubby suddenly requested to have the Mac & Cheese and Chicken Nuggets (Weaver brand) that he bought (I have ready-made comfort foods but he loves them!). I will have to cook tinola using pepper leaves tomorrow then. So I can make my own feedback about them whole chickens after that.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Beer-Battered Chicken Strips

The idea of using beer batter for deep frying was actually from an online friend of mine, Bingbing. She was suggesting ways to make kids eat veggies, and one was to use beer batter and deep fry the leaves. It just popped in my head that I could probably use the same batter for chicken. Posted by Hello

(My kids have learned to love eating veggies. I just explained to them that while it is summer and vegetables are in season, available straight from my garden, we will load up before winter sets in. Right now I am using meat almost as if it is a condiment.)

By the way, I have been having a hard time making pages with the geocities, and last time I tried to preview the most recent page that I made, I said that the page was "unavailable at the time because it has exceeded the alloted bandwidth"....That's the drawback of a free account. Oh well, I will most probably try to post the subsequent recipes using blogspot pages. For now, I will post here the recipe for this dish. The recipe page in geocities might not be available right away. Sorry for the trouble. (Exasperating as it may be, n the other hand, I kinda have the impression that my website is gaining popularity???) I might also make another geocities account then I will just continue making recipe pages with a new free account. Kuripot talaga si Manang no? Blame it on my Ilocano lineage. hehehe...

Beer-Battered Chicken Strips


Chicken breasts, cut longitudinally in half

1 cup beer

1 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 c cooking oil


Heat oil on high. Using tongs, dip the chicken strips into the batter, drain off the excess batter then fry until golden brown and the chicken is done (I found out that the thinner the coating, the better). Drain on paper towels before serving. (You may use a deep-fryer instead).

Serve with shredded veggies and toasted garlic bread.

For garlic bread, soften butter, mix with garlic powder and salt according to taste, spread thinly on the slices of bread then toast (either use a toaster or in a 200 deg F hot oven).

Friday, August 06, 2004

Chicken-Pepper-Cheese Calzone

Out of curiosity, I clicked on Fleischmann's website featuring Pizzas and Calzones. What I saw reminded me of empanada, so I tried this. Though the original recipe called for pepper and cheese as filling, I used left-over chicken pieces (from beer-battered chicken that I prepared the previous day, the recipe page of which I have yet to make), mixed with chopped bell peppers and lots of cheese, seasoned with salt and pepper, for my fussy-eater mylab.

For me and my kids, I used bits of roasted pork (given by my friend Ana who had lechon recently), mixed with chopped bell peppers, cheese, and raisins, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mmmm....everybody was delighted, even the kids who had a hard time blowing at the piping hot center of the calzone!Posted by Hello

I have been asking my aunt to e-mail to me the empanada recipe of my Lola Miling in California, as she has made that her business. Though I am not inclined to engage in the same business, I gathered it must be a very delicious recipe that's why there was a great demand for it (hence, they made a business out of it). To my dismay, I still have not received the recipe.

I would appreciate it if anyone of you can send me recipes for empanada. When I was in PI, my favorite was that made by Merced (not Goldilocks nor Red Ribbon): flaky and really yummy! I discovered that during my rotation in Veteran's Memorial Hospital where Merced products were sold at the canteen.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Spice Rubs and Marinades for Steaks and Others

My husband is used to having steaks flavored with just pepper and salt. The Filipina in me is not quite satisfied with just pepper and salt. So while I cook my husband's steak with just S&P, I cook mine and my sons' with spices or marinated, then let my husband taste them. So far his tastebuds have accepted and appreciated the new flavors, and actually have at times asked for the marinated/rubbed piece, but still goes back to that which he grew up with: steak seasoned with S&P.

Well, I still love trying new flavors, and would still want to expose my children to a wide variety of food. I often tell my sons that when they grow up, I would not want them to be fussy eaters, as that would give their future wives a hard time. So I continue exploring.

I suggest other moms have in their pantry some of these spices in small quantities (it's always best to use them freshly made spices, than having all of them in big quantities but which will count years before total consumption). I usually get my dried spices from "Spice of Life" outlet near me. They sell these spices on a per weight basis, and at a much cheaper price than those branded found in grocery stores (Hannaford in my area).

Here are some spice rubs for grilled steak (from Cook Illustrated Magazine):

Chile-Cumin Spice Rub

3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into rough pieces, then ground together with

2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into rough pieces

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp table salt

2 tsp sugar

Click on this post's title to see a pinter-friendly list of these rubs and marinades which I compiled from 3 sources.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Tinolang Manok (Revised)

One of my favorites from my childhood days that up to now remains, and I am passing on to my children, is chicken tinola.

While in PI, our basic way to cook it is with veggie-combinations as either green papaya+malunggay leaves or sayote+dahon ng sili. A later variation that my mother came up with is using canned or fresh sweet corn plus young leaves of ampalaya.

Here in my place, I have not seen green raw papaya (my husband previously bought one that was manibalang and very sweet for tinola). Also no sayote. As usual, I have to make do with what is available and is now familiar to me. My recipe page also features a dish (poached chicken with Mozarella cheese) that I came up with exclusively for my husband (it's quite exasperating, but challenging nonetheless, to always think of a dish that will satisfy him without sacrificing my own and my kids' preferences), since he is not used to soupy dishes.

So I offer here a possible solution for those in the same predicament as I am in (lucky you if your husband is as open to new dishes as you are!). Posted by Hello

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