"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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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Frenchie Minute Steaks (or Frenchie Beef Lengua)

Frenchie Minute Steak 

Minute steaks are very thin cuts of beef sirloin or round, so thin that you can cook each side for one minute and it is done.

I cooked this for the first time just googling french onion soup with beef and got the idea to add frenchies, basing on my husband's favorite beef dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse, Chop Steak. While not exactly the same, my husband excitedly exclaimed that they look and tasted almost the same. Chop steak is "ground beef, seasoned, grilled and smothered with sautéed mushrooms, red wine Bordelaise sauce and crisp onion straws." This dish quickly became a favorite in my household. It is so good, that I decided to make my beef lengua last Pinoy Christmas Party the same way.

1 lb minute steaks
1 small can (4 oz) sliced mushrooms
2 envelopes Lipton Recipe Secret Onion soup mix*
1-1/2 cup red wine (or water)
Frenchies french fried onions for topping.

*Note: If you are using the Campbell's french onion soup, use only 3/4 cup red wine/water.

Prepare the french onion soup as directed in the package, except use red wine (or plain water if you don't have red wine) for the liquid. Double the amount of red wine (or water) to allow for evaporation during pressure cooking. (alternative: Campbell's French Onion Soup)
Drain and sautee mushrooms. Set aside.
A few pieces at a time, brown each side of the minute steaks and set aside on the same platter you placed the mushrooms on.
Place back everything in the pot and add the soup mixture (or campbell's french onion soup with red wine/water). Let boil.
Cover. Pressure cook for 10 minutes (if you are using thicker slices like in stir-fries, you can extend to 15 minutes).
Stir and place on a platter.
Sprinkle with Frenchies fried french fried onions and serve with mashed potatoes or plain rice.

Note: If you are going to use beef lengua, prepare the lengua first (pressure cook for 30 minutes then peel off the white coating, then slice at 1/2-inch thickness. These will now be the substitute for minutes steaks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Perfect Empanada de Kaliskis Dough

The spirals of flaky empanada de kaliskis
Bago ang lahat, salamat po sa mga loyal na tagasubaybay na nakakaalalang magpipindot ng mga gugelads ko. :)

I had been experimenting with different recipes for this type of empanada which reminds me of my favorite empanadas in the Philippines I used to buy from Merced Bakedshop. I had no idea it was what some regions in the Philippines would call empanada de kaliskis. And I don't know how the consistency is in those regions, because apparently, they don't taste as good as they look like. However, as far as my tastebuds remember, the gorgeous scale-like appearance, flaky, yet very tender dough of empanadas that I bought from Merced Bakeshop then was what I would call as the perfect empanada crust.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Classic Spritz Cookies

This is the second recipe I tried for use with my new toy cookie press. I must say I and my kids prefer this recipe, as this is lighter than the Marcato biscuits. Plus, the dough itself was very easy to squeeze out, I did not have to use the force of my body. The downside only was that it was harder to remove from the baking pan than the Marcato biscuits once baked, even after cooling for some time. So maybe next time I can experiment by actually greasing the pan with butter before squeezing out the dough (with the possibility of the dough not sticking to the pan). Or I can just try using parchment paper and holding the paper before pulling the cookie press up after squeezing out the dough.

Hubby, as I said in my previous post, preferred the denser Marcato biscuits (although he found it hard to admit it to me).

Just a note on the cheaper Norpro brand (link shown here):
I received it already. Made of aluminum, it is lighter and thinner than the Marcato I bought earlier (which, interestingly, also bears the Norpro mark on the box, but is made in Italy). I would think it will not be up to denser cookie dough like the Marcato biscuits. However, I think it is still a better option than plastic ones. I will also someday try its butter spritz cookie recipe included in the manual. The light dough below should not be a problem with this cheaper Norpro cookie press.

Wilton's Classic Spritz Cookies


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon no-color almond extract
Makes: 7-8 dozen cookies.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until combined. Do not chill. Fill cookie press with dough and with desired disks, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet on cooling rack. Remove from sheet; cool completely.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Marcato Biscuits (Cookies)

I bought a cookie press sometime last year, foreseeing some cookie-making for cookie swap come Christmas...but in the busy-ness of the Holidays, I did not actually get to practice with my new gadget until after Christmas.

The motivation I had to get myself a cookie press was when hubby previously commented on lengua de gato that made me recall this neat gadget which my Nanay used to have (although I never actually saw her use it).

I got one that I realized now is too pricey, it seems, as I perused amazon.com for the same item. (Probably, amazon did not have the $14.99 at the time I purchased mine).  But I guess,  with this price and the good reviews as to how sturdy it is, I think I made a good choice nevertheless. Just out of curiosity, I got myself this $14.99 to see if it is the same sturdy construction. Then I will update you readers who might be interested to get it.

My first cookies were overbaked, tough, and brown.  I let hubby try one and he suggested I bake them for a shorter time. He then liked the ones baked only up to the point that edges start to turn brown.  I also had to get used to pumping out the dough, and to try not greasing the baking sheet. Probably oven temps and environmental conditions and baking pan differences accounted for my initial results despite following the recipe in the manual.  After I adjusted the baking time and omitted greasing the baking sheets (I used insulated nonstick aluminum), my hubby now has a new favorite homemade cookie. He can finish a whole batch in two days. (Sadly, my kids and I are not that crazy over this; we like the lengua de gato better.)

This is the first recipe I will post for cookie press.

Basic dough recipe:

500 g (~ 1 lb) flour
250 g (~1/2 lb) sugar
250 g (~ 1/2 lb or 2 sticks) butter
pinch of salt
2-3 oz milk
3 egg yolks


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F and place the rack at the middle.

Melt the butter in the microwave for about a minute and stir; set aside in room temp. Place the flour into a bowl mixing it with the sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour the egg yolks in the center and mix the dough with a fork. Add the butter previously melted, then the milk, and knead with your hands until completely uniform and soft.

Coming up is another recipe that I and the kids preferred, but my husband likes ok (he still prefers the more dense recipe above).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Use the Cookie Press

I bought a cookie press last December, triggered by a my husband's comment in relation to lengua de gato. Somehow, the image of my Nanay's plastic cookie press flashed in my mind, and I knew I had to get myself this toy.

At the time I got mine, it was the $41, chosen because of some good reviews on amazon.  Then as of typing this, I saw the $14.39.  I was intrigued by the cheap price. The gadget itself seemed the same. So I decided to order this just to see if it was made of the same material, and if constructed the same. Will update this post once I got a hold of the cheaper one.

I never saw my mother use hers. So I looked at some videos on how to use the cookie press. Got some ideas from Wilton's.

I used the ONLY recipe (coming up next) that came with the gadget, and while it said to grease the baking sheet, I found out that if I don't, the dough stays on the sheet after coming out of the press. If I did grease the baking sheet, the dough just would not stay on it. The Wilton video I saw suggested ungreased sheet anyway.  I also had to shorten the baking time, and I placed the rack at the middle of the oven to not burn the cookies.  After I developed the rhythm of pressing and baking, my husband is now a happy cookie muncher.

The baking pan I used is a nonstick insulated aluminum pan as pictured below in the link from amazon.

How to use the cookie press:

Unscrew the closing ring and raise the piston. Fill the entire cylinder with part of the dough prepared. Insert the desired die-plate into the closing ring.
The raised part of the die-plate must be facing downwards. Screw the closing ring onto the cylinder. Grrease a cookie sheet evenly.  Choose the size of the biscuits you wish to obtain by rotating the regulator (1=small biscuits; 2=large biscuits).
Turn the knob so that the jack on the lever meets the notches on the rod. Pump the lever a few times until the dough comes out of the holes of the die-plate evenly. Remove this first dough so that the die-plate stays clean.Place the machine on the cold cookie sheet and push the lever downwards.
Raise the lever and move the machine to make another biscuit.
Bake the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes (or until the edges start to brown). You might have to rotate the pan to brown the cookies evenly.
Take the sheet out of the oven and let cool for about a minute before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

Here's a video of me pressing the cookie out onto sheets. Sorry I am not a good video editor. No words here. But you will get the gist anyway...Pardon the mess, please. I was also making empanada at the time; hence, I had flour and bowls around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goodie Bars/Gooey Butter Bars

Goodie Bars/Gooey Butter Bars
Last time I worked, one of the CNA's came at 2PM and brought a tin can of cookies and bars. I had a taste of some of them, but this one really made me ask for a recipe. She did not have the recipe on hand, and just described the ingredients somehow, but promised me that she would write it down sometime and leave a copy in my mailbox.

You see, there was a time I was in a baking frenzy making "bars" using the recipes on Nestle and Hershey's chocolate websites, but after tasting several of them, I was sick all too soon with the sweetness, and I had a tough time cutting through the bars that they did not look at all like the ones in the photos (must be something I did wrong, but the results discouraged me from making them again). I cut them bite-size (because I could not tolerate a big chunk) but they lasted a whole month with nobody in the household taking a second serving. I chucked the whole batch then...hard and dry already. What a waste.

On the contrary, that goodie bar was something that I had to restrain myself from getting some more, so as to leave enough for the other co-workers. It was that good.

Well, as soon as I got home, despite the start of a migraine attack, I dreadfully faced the glare of my laptop to look for a recipe with the few ingredients I remembered my co-worker told me it had. This one came close. So last night I baked it (without the almond toffee bits because I mistakenly got a package of milk chocolate toffee bits instead and opted to just leave that out). The result???

It was the right recipe although it seemed sweeter.

After baking it for 45 minutes (because I was afraid the 50 mins recommended might dry up the whole thing), I let it stand overnight, with the pan resting on a cooling wire rack, the top protected by a sheet of paper towel. It was still super moist by the time I cut it (completely cold then) and I made a mental note to bake it for the full 50 minutes next time). I had a hard time cutting through because it was sticky, but nevertheless, it was so good, crunchy at the bottom and gooey at the top. After cutting them into bite-size pieces, I let them stand with enough space in between to further dry up the pieces.

The kids loved these. They munched quite a lot when they came home from school. They said, "This is really good!"

I let hubby taste it and he liked it alright. He said his mom made something like it when he was a child, but it was called Congo squares and with chocolate bits. However, he told me not to bother with those, because as long as I make the cookies that I made today with a cookie press, he'd be happy (I will post about it next).

Goodie Bars recipe by Mike and Alicia Orth of Creative Pixels

1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners' sugar (you may want to try to mix in 12 oz first and taste the dough if you don't want it too sweet; optional to save some for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup almond toffee bits (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

2. With an electric mixer stir together the butter, cake mix and 1 egg. Spread into the greased pan and pat down. (I used a hand mixer.)

3. Still using an electric (hand) mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat well. Reduce the speed and slowly pour in the butter. Mix well. Fold in the toffee bits (I did not).

4. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. (Optional to sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on top). Bake for 50 minutes. Don't be afraid to make a judgment call on the cooking time, because oven temperatures can vary. You want the center to be a little gooey, so don't bake it past that point!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Egg-In-A-Hole or Egg-In-A-Basket
I was watching "V" at home one night (for the second time) and I again saw this part where V was cooking egg-in-a-hole. The first time I saw that, I did not know how it was called. Then sometime later I read in a blog (I cannot remember now which one) about this style of cooking egg and toast. It is called several names, but I stuck to this name, easiest to remember and does not make it seem to mystical. Egg-in-a-hole apparently has its origins in the UK (and the movie "V" is set in England).

I tried it and loved it! Perfect for breakfast!

What you need are:

biscuit cutter. , skillet , cover
slices of bread
salt and pepper
(optional) ground basil (or whatever spices you want)

How to:

Heat the skillet on medium. Melt some butter.
Make a hole in the bread slice using a biscuit cutter.
Place bread slice on the skillet. Add some more butter into the hole.
Crack an egg and carefully place into the hole. Sprinkle spices.
Cover to hasten cooking (time will depend on how done you want it).
Flip and briefly cook the other side. You might also want to brown the round bread piece sliced off the center.
Enjoy with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Ultimate Brownie from Scratch

Yesterday my kids came home from school, and the first thing my older son wanted to do was bake this recipe. (He had that recipe open on my laptop since yesterday.) I was busy putting away Christmas decors and gave him my permission.

After eating stir-fried beef for supper, we tasted what he baked. Hubby quipped it was just like the brownies he used to have as a kid -- baked from scratch and tasted same.

Me: "So you like this?"

Hubby: "Oh yeah! It's good!"

Me: "Oh, and I have often avoided baking brownies from scratch because I felt that you preferred the boxed brownie mixes because that was what you were used to."

Hubby: "I got to use the mixes after I was out of my parents' house. When we were kids, they never bought boxed mixes because they could not afford them."

Me: "So, is this a keeper?"

Hubby: "Definitely!"

So I told my older son, "You are now the official brownie baker in this household."

Recipe from about.com --


8- 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
5 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (He actually used white chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat; set aside. In a mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes**. Blend in chocolate mixture, flour and salt until just mixed. Stir in the nuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. (Don't overbake.) Cool and frost if desired, but that is not necessary.

How to Cook the Perfect Steak: Sous Vide Cooking

I don't remember how I stumbled upon a blog post by an American guy who shared what he did to produce a perfectly (and fully!) cooked steak that is medium rare (in appearance), tender and juicy. I can't even remember the blog, but it got me reading more into sous vide cooking.

As I read and learned more about the technique, and the very few affordable choices of home cooks, I set out to get the equipment I needed to add to my existing kitchen gadgets to take the plunge and see for myself. I chose the least expensive one: a PID thermostat coupled with my 6-qt slow cooker.

I was determined to learn this method because my husband is a steak eater (as much as I am a fried fish eater).

I have often wondered how restaurants always would come up with tender and juicy steaks even when very well done (as how my hubby always likes his steaks). At home we have our homegrown, grass-fed beef. While it sounds ideal and romantic, grass-fed beef are not exactly as great as those in the restaurants. Flavor is superb and the meat is really lean, and whatever bit of fat left is the good stuff, having had grass instead of grain providing the building material for the fatty acids. But consistency sucks -- tough and stringy -- what with all the freedom our beef had in their life span, and the lack of hormones. Not wanting to waste a lot of steaks this year as I did last year (I gave away a lot of unused steaks because I was getting discouraged), my readings on sous vide cooking gave me hope. Now I can see this household running out of steaks before the next year's supply comes. It seems like this was the way to cook steaks "very well done" without drying it up.

For this post, I used T-bone steaks, which already partly has tenderloin. Although I used 140 deg F (which gave the appearance of medium rare), I was explaining to hubby and kids about the technique (hubby was particularly intrigued with my PID temp controller and the seemingly elaborate and unusual setup), discussing about killing of pathogens at such temp for several hours of cooking, so that psychologically he was primed to see reddish middle of this fully cooked steak. I did brown the steaks in butter for a period long enough to make it as brown as possible without drying. However, I noticed that the longer the cut meat was exposed to air (and oxygen), the redder it got at the middle (a result of oxidation). Good thing I assured everyone already that that was fully cooked. With their concerns answered, they were reassured and pacified, and we all ate the steaks and savored the goodness...they were indeed excellent!

The next batch of steaks I cooked at 170 deg F. This time they were really brown...and tender and juicy.

So if you are interested, there is a sous vide cooker meant for home cooks at a whopping price of $449. Or, if you already have a good sized slow cooker, and are willing to invest on a PID temperature controller available in ebay for $156, here's how I prepared my first sous vide cooked steaks.

1. Thaw the steaks.

2. Season with salt and pepper (or spices...avoid fresh garlic as this can be over powering. If you want garlic flavor, use powder.)

3. Vacuum pack the steaks (I used food saver. Their plastic bags are food grade and are ok for low temp simmering.)

4. Place a spacer on each steaks (I used the lids for canning).

5. Stack the steaks inside the slow cooker and fill with water (spacer ensures the warm water bathes each steak all around).

6. Submerge the temperature sensor.

7. Cover the slow cooker, plug it to the PID temp controller, turn it on low setting, plug the PID into power supply, and set the PID thermostat to desired temp (see Table 2.3).

7. Allow at least two hours for the water in the slow cooker to reach the desired temperature according to Table 2.2 here. Then add the cooking time per recommendation in Table 2.3 if cooking thawed meat, or Table 2.4 if cooking frozen. Take note that this is the minimum time to ensure safety.I cooked mine for a total of 6 hours from turning on the unit.

8. Remove from pouches and wipe with paper towels.

9. Briefly pan-fry in butter (longer if you want it more brown).

10. Serve immediately.

More readings avaialable here in a downloadable pdf format.


Make sure you are using a slow cooker or rice cooker that has manual controls instead of electronic.

Plug the cooker into the PID unit. Plug the PID into the power supply.

Turn on the slow cooker on low setting, place the sensor in the water in the slow cooker. Plug the PID into power supply.

Set the temperature and time (including the two hours to get the water up to the desired temp).

PID thermostat will beep when time is up.

So if you are interested in sous vide cooking, the equipment you need (if you are not getting the above mentioned sous vide cooker) are:

- a large capacity rice cooker or slow cooker with manual controls

- PID temperature controller

- vacuum sealer (I have Food Saver) and bags

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Pinoy-Style Fruit Salad

Sorry for the blurry pic...

I made this to bring fruits to the New Year Party we had yesterday at my friend Cecilia's house. I also brought frozen almond brazo de mercedes that went untouched during the Christmas Dinner I hosted (because my MIL brought cheesecake so I did not bother to bring the BDM out).

Although some of the fruits were not typically added in the usual fruit salad I used to have back in the Philippines, I just gathered the canned fruits I had in my pantry and made the dressing as close as I could get to the taste of that dressing my Nanay used to make. Cream cheese is a good substitute for Nestle Cream that is not available here.

I have not offered this to my American family/relatives, because I doubt they will like it. But my kids, including stepd, like this salad.

Canned fruits
4 oz (1/2 package) cream cheese
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
a dollop of mayonnaise

Let cream cheese sit out at room temp to soften.
Drain the fruits.
Using hand mixer, blend cream cheese and condensed milk, add a little of mayonnaise and blend. Taste and see if you like the balance of sweetness (condensed milk), saltiness (cream cheese), and creaminess (cream cheese and mayo). Adjust as needed. (I usually don't need any more than the ingredients I listed above).

Blend gently using a silicone spatula the fruits and the dressing. Place in a covered container and chill.

Serve chilled after at least 3 hours.

Sabi ng friends ko as they introduced me to new Pinay friends, "Lagi namin inaabangan ang dala nyan kasi masarap!"

I came home with empty containers of the fruit salad and BDM. I brought home containers filled with leftovers of anything else in the party.

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