"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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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dairy Chronicles: Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Manang's Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
I have this book by Ashley English, Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More , which I have had since last year when my family started using raw milk from cows raised by my BIL/SIL. It took a while for me to look at the recipes and decide that I could at least do some of them, mostly the soft cheeses and fermented milk (like yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk).

I now understand that a lot of people make HOMEMADE stuff that can easily be bought from store. One reason is like mine: we are getting plenty of milk for free, and very fresh at that. Just like canning produce while they abound, why not turn extra milk (after setting aside milk that we can consume as is) into something else? And the learning process is also exciting! 

1 gal raw whole milk
2 tsp Citric Acid (I got from a brewing store)
1/4 Vegetarian Rennet tablet, crushed (I got from amazon)
1/4 cup sterile cold water (I boiled then let cool)

1 tsp kosher or sea salt

Stainless steel stockpot
Slotted spoon
Big microwaveable bowl


The rennet tablets and citric acid
The rennet table is scored into 4

Crushed rennet

Rennet dissolved in cold sterile water
 Stir the citric acid into the milk. Heat on medium stirring occasionally until temp reaches 88 ºF. Meanwhile, whisk in the crushed rennet table in the sterile water.

Once temp reaches 88, add the rennet mixture and continuously stir while heating to reach 104-106 ºF. At this point, whey separates from curd.

Remove from heat and cover. Leave alone for 15-20 minutes.

Using slotted spoon, remove curds from whey and transfer to a big microwavable bowl. Squeeze out excess whey using the slotted spoon and remove. 
Removing curds
Curd transferred to microwavable bowl

Whey expressed out
Microwave on high one minute. Use spoon to express more whey out. Add salt.  Then either use same spoon or your gloved hand to stretch and fold (like kneading a dough) to express more whey. When shiny and elastic like taffy, microwave again on high for one minute. Stretch and fold repeatedly again until it becomes like chewing gum in elasticity, while still removing whey if there's any left. If it breaks easily, microwave another 30 minutes and repeat the process until smooth and elastic.

Microwaving the curds

Expressing out more whey
I could not take photos while I was doing this part so here is a snapshot of the page in the book
I came up with this round mozzarella that fits on my palm.

Store in a lidded container. Preferably consumed within a week.
Ready for the fridge

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BanaNut Pancakes (Banana and Almond Nut Pancakes)

Fluffy BanaNut Pancakes
This is an adaptation of the Paleo Pancakes by the Caveman.

This is part of my gradual shift into a wheat-free lifestyle, and these pancakes are my first dive into the wheat-free goodies (subbing for wheat-foods that I used to enjoy). I am sure I cannot do full Paleo, as I know that I will still use some grains, mainly in the form of rice and some corn. I cannot fully do a low-carb diet because I am sure I will, although not too often, eat some goodies with high-GI carbs in them (in the form of cassava, potatoes, and sweet potatoes), which I will reserve in those "dessert weekends."

I and my sons love bananas, and I have been contemplating on making them one weekend, and this morning was it. We loved these! But the greatest thing for me was that, when I checked my blood sugar 2-1/2 hrs post-prandial, I was expecting it to be high, more than 110+ (I was not hungry when I had my breakfast enjoyed with coffee with cream, no sugar).  The reason I expected it to be high was because of the bananas and maple syrup, not to mention nuts are also carb-foods (though it contains fat and proteins as well). I had 6 of these wonderful mini-pancakes. Lo and behold, I only had a blood sugar of 99, and was still full 2-1/2 hours after eating them! Since ingredients are very much traditional and natural, it was really a guilt-free indulgence! So even though I am still technically doing Phase 3 of the Harcombe Diet/Lifestyle, such "cheating" with good carb sources are forgivable. 

I changed the method and added baking soda and baking powder, just to try to see if that would make it fluffier. (I am not sure if it made a difference compared to the method he used). 

For the almond butter, you can make your own using raw whole almonds processed in the food processor until they turn into nut butter.

3 eggs, separated
3 bananas
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder


Heat the pan on very low (#4 or #2 on my glass stovetop).

Whip the egg whites...
...until it forms stiff peaks
Place the rest of the ingredients in the food processor.
Turn on...
Until you come up with this liquid batter.
Fold the egg whites into the batter.
This is how it looks like after folding well.
Cook only small ones because they are hard to flip over (might break if they are too big).
Takes quite a long time to cook thoroughly, but be patient.
I even resorted to covering to hasten up the cooking process of the middle parts.

Slather some butter on top (I used homemade raw butter from our grass-fed cows), and pour maple syrup.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Lost Weight and Gained Back My Health!

This is #1 post on this topic.

Back in May of 2011, I weighed 137 lbs.  I would be lying if I say I felt great and that I thought I looked great at my age (I am now 43).  On the contrary, during that time, I was starting to get depressed, because not only did I feel awful, I also knew I looked awful -- my face was getting rounder, my belly was not only fat but also bloated,  and my ankles were swollen (not just fat, but EDEMATOUS - the kind that gets dented when pressed with finger then slowly would spring back up).  My feeling awful was not only emotional, but also physical --- I was having IBS symptoms, gassiness/flatulence (kinda embarrassing when I was at work if I could not control it!), joint aches (especially my right shoulder, knees and lower back), migraine attacks that were getting more frequent (up to once every two weeks I was starting to get paranoid that I might have brain tumor), tenderness on my scalp that I would notice every time I would shampoo my hair, easily getting tired...and I was thinking..."So this is how it is to grow older..."

I attributed all those symptoms to aging.  Well, with the exception of the IBS symptoms which I attributed to my recent uses of strong antibiotics for some infections I had the past year...

But I also was thinking, I wanted to lose weight...at least that would make me look better and somehow lift up my self-esteem.

However, I hate counting calories. I have always believed that eating should not have to be that complicated. I also tried exercising before...I just am more interested in other things than exercise for half an hour on the treadmill or the elliptical.

Somehow, in my browsing of books on amazon, I encountered "The Harcombe Diet: Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight " by Zoe Harcombe and read the reviews...I was intrigued.  There was THD that was men, which was written in the simplest direct-to-the-point way, because the author knew how men are...(insightful author!).  I got the THD for Men because it was cheaper and shorter, and I wanted to see the gist of the rationale, and the plan if it was something doable for me. When I was convinced, I got the THD meant for women. I was quite skeptical about the rationale, but I knew I could do at least Phase 1: 5 days only of no carbs/sugar/bread or caffeine or vinegary pickles or legumes or dairy.  Think about the typical Pinoy meal without the rice. And no merienda either (which usually meant breads or kakanin).

There was a warning by the author of possible withdrawal symptoms, so she suggested to start Phase 1 on the weekend, so that the remaining days of Phase 1 will only touch 2 days of the work week.

Two days before my full plunge, I eliminated the soda, and had a slice of bread then some rice the next day, but no other carbs, no coffee, no milk. I already lost two pounds on those days. That got me excited! I really wanted to lose weight, at least 10 pounds, hopefully 20.

So when I took the full plunge into phase 1 (which I timed to coincide with a long time off work), I experienced the withdrawal symptoms on the first 2 days: severe headaches (probably due to caffeine withdrawal) that lasted a full day despite taking analgesics, and a very upset stomach, which made me stick to liquid diet (broths) on my second day, which I had three times since the plan included three meals without snacks. I made sure my broths had some meat and fats/oils to count as a full meal. Those withdrawal symptoms alone would have been enough to stop me (I was basically bedridden on those two days, except when I had to eat), but I was losing 1 pound daily, and I was excited to continue at least to complete phase 1!

I had no more withdrawal symptoms on the 3rd day.

However, while the author said that sleep would become better in quality, my sleep during those days were not enough---I was too excited feeling with my hands the shrinking of my belly fat while lying in bed, and too excited to get up in the morning and weigh myself...My self-esteem was quickly being restored!

By the end of Phase 1, I had lost more than 10 pounds total (counting the two days prior to my full plunge).

So I continued on Phase 2, but it was harder to follow (can't have carbs with fat meals), and I found it easier to do Phase 1 with occasional cheating.  So it is, in reality, a jump to Phase 3.

Did I say I only wanted to lose weight (and the associated swelling)?

I also noted better bowel patterns. No more bloatedness.  No more gassiness (which I had always thought was something I got in my genes from my father! In restrospect, it was more like part of  how wheat affects me. More on that later.) My joint aches were gone as well.  The swelling on my ankles and the tenderness on my scalp were also gone.  My cravings for sweets were gone. My sugar swings were also gone (I used to have shaky hands mid-morning as a sign of hypoglycemia, for which I would reach for something like a muffin and a soda as a bridge to lunch). I also noted improvement in my skin. I was physically and emotionally feeling better...and I looked better!  Even my husband noticed it, and was tickled at my weight loss.

The best part was, I ate a lot, did not count calories, and did not exercise!

I wish I had taken a before and after pic. But I am usually the photographer, and I hate taking pictures of myself. I only have these photos for comparison, but the 2009, although I was fat then, I don't know really how much I weighed, and I know that my weight of 137+ lbs in May 2011 prior to the THD was worse than depicted in my 2009 photo, and I felt horrible. (Looking back now, after I read several other books, I realize now that my body was inflamed almost everywhere! More on that later.) The 2011 photo above was me at 127 lbs (the lowest I reached since being on the diet was 120, but right now I hover in the 125s, because of the sweet treats I have been having since the Holidays.)

AS a side note, I have friends on fb who tried this THD and lost weight as well, as much as 30 lbs, and have kept the weight off!

The weight loss and improvement in my overall health made me look again at the author's rationale as to why we have cravings (and consequently gain weight), and her plan of attacking the problem (which starts with Candida die-off, which I helped not only by starving the Candida but also eating more probiotics like fermented veggies and Kefir milk instead of the yogurt the author was recommending).  Stepping back to look at what I actually was eating when I started THD, it all boiled down to REAL FOOD, and LOW-CARB, HIGH-FAT diet coupled with probiotics.  The inclusion of raw milk (probiotic) and kefir milk or full-fat yogurt (also probiotic) in my diet was something I deduced would be okay to keep winning the fight against Candida after I lost most of the weight I wanted to lose. For the initial phase, my probiotic source was sauerkraut and low-fat yogurt.

After losing symptoms I wrongly attributed to aging, and now feeling 20 years younger (and even better than I did then!), I sought more explanations as to what was going on.  What were in those "foods" I eliminated in my diet that gave me those symptoms? What were they doing to my body?

I began to investigate other views by other authors, this time, including those in the medical/science fields. And these books will be the focus of my next post on this topic.

(will continue...)

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