Eid Holidays start in... 5-4-3-2-Now!!!

Today is the start of Eid Holidays for the kids... I wonder why they have started their holidays this early when they are actually delayed already since they opened the school year two weeks late... Eid holidays don't officially start until around the 30th of August, and surely they could still do a lot of catching up in those few days before eid. The teachers say it was the owner's decision, so I guess they don't have any say in the matter :(
But then who's complaining?! Surely the girls are not! hahahaha! Just this morning they were very eager to start the holidays.. what was surprising is that, on the days that they had to go to school, it is always so hard to get them off of bed, but today they actually woke up so early... hmm... they said they wanted to see me and their dad off.. how sweet!

Now how do you teach taste distinction to pre-schoolers?

While doing a project of collecting pictures of food of different tastes, I was observing our middle child working with the Expat Daddy, suddenly as if she hit the jackpot she shouted: "Dad, this one! Sour! (showing him a picture of soap). What about paper dad, is it sweet?" -- hahahaha!

Now I am laughing about it, but seriously I am a bit surprised how hard it is for my girls to comprehend taste distinction when it is one topic that they could actually observe and try out. I remember when our Big Ate was also just in pre-school and we were reviewing the topic I asked her what is the taste of sugar and she told me "Masarap! (delicious)" hahahaha! And now our Small Ate could not tell me what chocolate tastes like... she does not agree that it is sweet and says "no mei-mei, may iba pa syang taste!"
Haaay.... I wonder how it would be for our baby Oyen when she finally starts with her science lessons in pre-school...
Sure I am a hands on mom when it comes to my children's education, but on this topic... I am definitely hands off! Let the Expat Daddy take over! Lol!

A Very Simple Roast: Garlic and Butter Chicken

I have been meaning to finish this post for quite some time now. As the title says, it's a very simple roast, a very simple recipe that has always been a hit with our family. This dish has always been our go-to dish whenever we didn't have time to cook or just simply cannot think of anything that we feel like eating. A very simple roast with a dipping sauce of banana ketchup and liquid seasoning combination is 100% guaranteed happiness for me and the kids. I still think we can actually finish two whole chickens if I would allow it! lol! Actually we have got two versions of this dish, either I roast the chicken whole using a turbo broiler or just cut the chicken in half and deep fry it. Of course, this may not be as popular as the unbeatable fried chicken but then, we much prefer this dish as with this method, the chicken is able to retain all its juices compared to the fried chicken pieces which loses the juice while frying.
For this dish, I have used 1 whole fresh chicken (and that's the trick, it is just not the same with a frozen chicken!) about 1.2kg seasoned it with salt and pepper, then sprinkled it with lemon juice all over. And when you season, please do include the inner cavity of the chicken and try also to season with salt the outer layer of the meat just beneath the skin. Then I had put some crushed garlic inside the cavity for added aroma and flavor. Set it breast down in the turbo broiler and cooked for 30 minutes. Just 10minutes before the chicken was fully cooked I have basted the skin with butter. When cooked, wait at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving the chicken.
Truly a hit anytime, served with a dipping sauce of  mixed ketchup and liquid seasoning and hot rice (oh, if you have the chance include some roasted veggies also as siding!) Enjoy!

Mommy tip: do get a turbo broiler, it would make your life easier big time! :)

Banana Cake/ Muffins

Apart from the simple cupcakes that I make, Banana Cake is just about the only other thing I can bake with confidence. Something that I can be sure of that would turn out passable and the whole fam will eat with gusto. I am a frustrated baker, no matter how hard I follow the recipe, the output of my baked goodies always somehow turn out differently than the photos in the recipe books I follow. But surprisingly, this banana cake had been a success from the first time I made it. What's really so surprising about it is that this recipe given by Tita Loida (my mom's colleague from the hospital) only gave the list of ingredients and a single step in baking, and that is "bake"! Haha! Yes, that's what it was in the recipe she gave. Just bake! And that's just what I did. Although, I have also followed some tips I find in various baking recipes, that is to first mix the dry ingredients and slowly fold in the other ingredients while slowly mixing it with the flour mixture. I also made sure that I mix with only one direction. Hmmm... that one I learned as a child with the one-egg pancakes actually :).

My Expat Daddy's Kilawin (Tuna Kinilaw)

The Expat Daddy came home from work a few days back with a VERY big fish, so big that we did not know what to do with it! hehe! The Expat Daddy works on a project for the Royal Family of Qatar, I believe it is a beach house for one of the princes situation more than an hour away from the city. He said those properties were secured by trusted watchmen who have been given a boat to take fishing. At times when they have a good catch, more than enough for their own consumption, they sold  the excess to the people who work on sites around the area. The Expat Daddy had become one of their regular customers that they've already exchanged nos. to advise him whenever they have something to sell. This fish (actually 2 fishes) was one of the bargains he was able to grab from the watchmen, 1 very large fish about 10-15kg and a smaller maybe about 6-8kg. The moment he got home and showed it to me, I know we both have the same thing in mind, SASHIMI!!!!! So while hubby's cousin was cleaning the fish, we immediately left for the supermarket to get some wasabi. We have saved about 500gms for the sashimi while the head we planned to make into sinigang for dinner. The rest we froze for future cooking.
After our sashimi fix, there were enough left over to make another dish, and since we are into raw foods at the moment the Expat Daddy decided to make the rest of the fillet into Kilawin. Kilawin or otherwise known as Kinilaw is cubed raw fish marinated in vinegar and/or lemon (or calamansi) and mixed with chopped garlic, onion, ginger and tomato and of course, chili pepper will not be left out. Kilawin is a more common appetizer or "pulutan" instead of an accompaniment for rice. In our household, the Expat Daddy usually prepares the dish when he has friends over for some drinks. Apart from raw fish, he also sometimes makes this dish with fried pork or beef. I must say, any version is good enough for me! 

Fish Fillet and Bok Choy in Sweet Chili Sauce

Since our Big Ate and Small Ate arrived back in Qatar last month, I had been too consumed with my mommy duties that I had no chance to do the usual things I do when they were still in the Philippines. And the one person that had really been affected so much is the Expat Daddy who no longer gets the privilege of being the one to sample my kitchen experiments. Well, he's not really one to complain about it, but at times I do feel guilty of not being able to attend to his needs. So tonight, apart from the guilt, I remembered the bok choy we got from Megamart the other day and so as requested by the Expat Daddy (and before the bok choy goes to waste, hehe!) I decided to cook for his lunch tomorrow at work.
This dish can actually just stand on its own as a purely vegetarian dish with only the bok choy as the main ingredient, however as I saw some left over breaded fillets in the ref which was actually meant for my fish spring rolls, I decided to toss them in with the bok choy to make it a complete dish with meat and vegetables instead of serving another fried dish separately.

Single Serving: Semi-homemade Chicken Tocino V1

I must admit I'm not a big fan of Tocino, I am more of a Tapa lover and I would have Tapa any day. As for Tocino, I find it too sweet for my liking, specially those commercially produced ones which are so caramelized that I kind of find them like pork candies instead of a viand for rice. Another I don't like about it is the mess it leaves with your pan after cooking. But of course from time to time I still buy them for other members of the household. Until recently, I don't know how, maybe because of this blog, I couldn't think of a new recipe to post that I've come to see Tocino in a new light and give it a chance.
Now why semi-homemade? Hehe! Because since I don't normally eat tocino, then I don't really know how to make it. I wanted to make sure though that it is not caramelized meat as what I normally find in the supermarket. At this time I thought of using the Mama Sita's Tocino mix that is readily available, just to see how I would like to adjust the taste. I have also browsed through the net and find that most everyone have their own version of Tocino. More popular ingredient apart from the sugar is the pinapple juice, that's what my sister in law also told me.. so I have also made that other version, but I liked the outcome using the tocino mix more than the fully homemade one I made, even the kids preferred this only very lightly sweetened version. Also, instead of chicken breast, I have used deboned chicken thighs but still with skin on, as the kids prefer the more juicy chicken than the dry breasts. I know you will say that the breast would be healthier... but I see no harm of using chicken thighs, really! hehe!
1 pack frozen chicken thighs (900gms), deboned
1/4 cup oil for frying
1 packet Mama Sita's Tocino Mix
5 tbs light soy sauce
2 tbs liquid seasoning (Knorr or Maggi)
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper
Slice the chicken thighs to make it thinner about 1cm thick. Rinse then pat dry.
In a mixing bowl, mix all the marinating ingredients then add in the chicken. Toss well to ensure that all chicken slices are well and evenly coated with marinate.
Transfer marinated chicken to a resealable container and keep refrigerated at least overnight.
Fry in oil over medium heat about 3-5 minutes each side.
Tip: I did not slow cook the chicken so as not to overcook/burn the sugar in the marinate, avoiding it from sticking unto the pan. Make sure also that you put the meat in already hot oil to cook the meat through.
Serve with hot steamed rice or garlic fried rice and fried egg. You may also want to include a dipping sauce of vinegar, salt and garlic. Enjoy!

Suhoor at Mamig, Katara Cultural Village

Last Tuesday, we had been attended to a Suhoor gathering for the project staff of the Expat Daddy's worksite sponsored by their contractor. It was held at the Lebanese/ Armenian restaurant, Mamig located within the Katara Cultural Village. I just notice that this year the Suhoor had become more popular than the Iftar. See, in the Middle East or in Qatar for that matter, the most looked forward event is the Ramadan. Of course it is a holy month for fasting for the Muslims, but then people also look forward to the festive evenings when they break their fast to prepare for the next day. During this month, it had been a common norm of the companies to share their blessings to their staff by hosting dinner either early evening called Iftar or the breaking of the fast or late at night for Suhoor which would be the last meal before you again begin to fast the next day. By tradition Suhoor is actually partaken early in the morning before the first prayer, however, since most restaurants offer Suhoor buffets starting at 9am till 2am, the companies usually host the events by 9pm. Personally for an expat mommy like me, I would prefer to go to an Iftar rather than Suhoor as the later would be my girls' bedtime and if I go out at that time, surely they will be lacking sleep the next day.

Mashed Potato

It has been a very long time since I've made mashed potato at home. When my eldest niece was still here with us in Doha, we always make sure we have stocked "boxed" mashed potato in the house to go with our steak and veggie dinner. However, since she left to study in the Philippines, it just wasn't as much fun having my steak dinner in the house. Oh now I'm starting to miss her... we both love to eat and except from sashimi, usually crave for the same foods, best of all -- steak! That's why whenever I come home to the Philippines, I make sure to bring her and my Tatay kilos of steak to store in the ref. The same way that we bring pork to Qatar, we bring home steak to the Philippines, hehe!
Now just recently, I learned that our Big Ate also loves mashed potato. Well I know she likes it but not to the point that she'd forego rice in favor of mashed potato. At first I just also buy the "boxed" type for her, (you know, that mashed potato flakes you can get from the supermarket?), until yesterday when I just thought, how hard can it be to make it at home from fresh potatoes? Surely it would be much more healthier and as I realize, way cheaper than the boxed one. And so I tried doing it at home substituting the boxed potato flakes with boiled potatoes and adding the same ingredients as instructed in the box. The only thing I added which our Big Ate didn't like is the chopped parsley so I'll remember to set aside a portion for her before adding it the next time. 

Bangus Bistek sa Tausi (Milk Fish with Black Beans)

I have been checking my folder of photos and saw a picture of this dish I made since I can't remember when. Actually, now that I've made a little run through I see there are still a few more recipes I need to post,  but some of them I have only tried cooking the first time so I need to redo them again first to remember the quantity of each ingredient. This recipe however, is very simple so not very hard to remember, aside from the fact that I love Bangus Bistek and the only variation to the dish is adding black beans.
Bistek is another popular dish in the Philippines usually cooked with Beef. Coined from the term Beef Steak, Bistek is beef sirloin cooked in soy sauce and lemon. In this case, I have replaced beef with milk fish. The combination of the salty and sour taste makes it an ideal dish to perk you up in the morning paired with fried rice and hot coffee :).
1 large milk fish, cleaned, gutted and sliced
1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 medium onion, sliced to rings for garnish
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp peppercorns, crushed
salt to taste

Pat dry fish slices then dredge with flour.
Fry the fish for about2-3 minutes on each side, only to achieve a crisp crust and  lightly brown color. The fish will be thoroughly cooked with the sauce later. Turn off the heat and take out the fish and oil from the pan separately, leaving only about 2 tbs of oil to cook the sauce.
Using the same pan, saute the garlic and thinly sliced onions. When soft and lightly browned, add the soy sauce, lemon juice, peppercorns and black beans. Saute for another 2-3 minutes then add the fish back. Pour in the water. Adjust taste with salt.
Simmer for 5-8 minutes, by this time the sauce would have thicken due to the flour on the fish.
Turn off the heat. Transfer fish into a serving plate and garnish with fresh onion rings. Best served with garlic fried rice and fried egg. Enjoy!

Beef Calderetta

In our family, when I say I'm cooking Calderetta, the conversation does not just end there. Calderetta is a stew dish with the distinction of being ultra-spicy. But in our family, there are two types of Calderetta we normally cook, one which for us is more well received is our very own Kalderetang Batangas. This is what we also refer to as our brown Calderetta. In Batangas, this dish is more often cooked with goat meat rather than pork and a popular part of the menu during special occasions when a goat is bought alive and slaughtered in the backyard. On ordinary days back in the Philippines, we often cook this with pork ribs but given our circumstances here in Qatar where pork is not readily available, we usually cook it with beef.
The other type of Calderetta which my girls also love is the tomato-based Calderetta or what we refer to as the "Red Calderetta". This one as mentioned is tomato-based wherein the sauce is flavored with both tomato paste and tomato sauce. This is also cooked with vegetables like potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and green peas. I believe this is the more popular Calderetta version for most Filipinos. You will not usually see any ordinary restaurant or more popularly called in the Philippines as "Karinderya" or "Turo-Turo" (Turo is to point, so basically this is the type of restaurant where you just point the dish you want :) ) not serving this version of Calderetta.
I have also cooked this dish on Expat Daddy's birthday dinner but was not able to post the recipe then so I'm doing it now :)

Pork Bopis

Bopis is another favorite and heirloom recipe I learned from my Tatay. It is a spicy pork offal dish where the pork lungs, kidney and heart are diced and sauteed with garlic and onion. It uses tomato paste as a base for a semi-dry sauce then added with lots of finely chopped chili for that wonderfully spicy kick. This dish is not just a popular viand in Filipino meals but also  as a "pulutan" or finger food accompaniment for beer.
 I can understand why not many of you are fond of pork offal or offal from any other animal for that matter. Guess offal really is an acquired taste. I have been exposed to several offal dishes since I was young and Bopis is one of my favorite ones. Although, I must admit, I'm not really a fan of beef Lengua Estofado which I have also made a few posts earlier. But then any other part, specially if it's chicken or pork, is welcome into my stomach :)
This is actually my first try to making Bopis. Unfortunately, since my Tatay had already retired back to the Philippines last year, I wouldn't be able to ask him if I'm doing it right (he's not fond of mobile phones, hehe!). So I will really be doing this from memory from the many times I've watched him cook this dish. But then only a very blessed daughter like me would have her offal already cleaned and pre-cooked :). My tatay had actually prepared the offal ready for cooking when he sent it to me here in Qatar, so, if you're hoping that I'd be able to tell you how to clean the offal and pre-cook it, then you'd be disappointed! I'm one lucky cook, actually! LOL!
1 1/2 kg pork offal (kidney, lungs, and heart), diced
3 tbs vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
3 pcs jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
spring oinions, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
4 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
salt to taste

Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion is translucent and garlic is soft.
Add the pork offal. Saute for about 5-8 minutes then add soy sauce and tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes then add vinegar. Do not stir. 
After about 5 minutes, add the carrots and stir to distribute carrots evenly. Add the bell peppers, bay leaves and jalapeno peppers. Stir. Adjust taste with salt.
Simmer for another 5 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Turn off heat. Transfer into a serving plate and garnish with spring onions.
Serve immediately as a pulutan or with hot rice for a full meal. Enjoy!

Single Serving: Soy Sauce Marinated Stuffed Tilapia

This is an original recipe inspired by the Egyptian Fried Fish we have tried in 2 of the popular seafood restaurants here in Qatar. I so loved it from the first time we tried it that I try really hard to recreate it. Although it is still is not exactly how it was made since those we tried are actually grilled instead of fried. I still feel that I came close when it comes to taste. The good part about it though is that even if I still have not really perfected it, our Small Ate loves it so much already, and picky eater that she is, I am just so glad that I've discovered a dish that would make her eat more :)
This is a very simple dish, easy to prepare and ingredients surely readily available in your home kitchens. This is somewhat similar to our stuffed milk fish, to some rellenong bangus, but instead of milk fish it's tilapia.
I have also categorized this as a single serving recipe since this could easily be prepared for 1, so easy to prepare that any single Expat Pinoy can prepare right after work, you can just choose the size of your tilapia that would be enough for you. :)

Beef Ribs Sinigang sa Sampaloc at Gabi

I have just recently joined the Kulinarya Cooking Club and July's "Sinigang" challenge would be tfirst entry. Now that it's about into August we have actually prepared Sinigang a few times already since the theme was announced. Unfortunately, I was not able to take a photos of the prawn ang pork sinigang I have previously made. See, Sinigang is truly a comfort food for our family. We all love pork Sinigang of course, but given the circumstances living in Qatar, we rarely have the opportunity to prepare it. A couple of times within the last two weeks, we have had prawn Sinigang which is the favorite of our Small Ate and then Sinigang na Lapu-Lapu once. 
You would have noticed, there is just about a number of ways to cook Sinigang. It is a very popular Filipino dish wherein the meat or seafood is boiled in sour broth which could be made within a variety of souring agents such as tamarind, guava, santol or kamias. My own personal preference is tamarind and I was growing up in the Philippines, I used to make it  with fresh tamarind but then when the instant broth cubes and packets came around, I had converted to using those. I mean as long as I can still achieve the same flavors using those packaged products then I don't see why I would limit myself to cooking sinigang only when the fruit is available. As I said, this is one of my family's favorite dishes and I don't see I couldn't make it here in Qatar as often as we'd like :)

Hotdog and Cheese Bread Rolls

Our Big Ate picked some frankfurters from the supermarket the last time we went grocery shopping, surprisingly, my girls I think were the only ones here in the Qatar who do not crave for Purefoods Tender Juicy or what they call the red hotdogs. They prefer the chicken and beef franks usually being sold here. But, they do love the Swift frankfurters now available in the supermarkets so I make sure to buy them some whenever I see it available in the freezers when we go grocery shopping. Just a couple of weekends ago, we tried something new for our hotdogs, using the Japanese breadcrumbs (panko) which I was also able to get the last pack at the grocery. The panko was supposed to be meant for Torikatsu (breaded chicken fillets, using same recipe I used for Tonkatsu in an earlier post). It was a slow weekend and we didn't have any plans of going out so our Big Ate and I thought of experimenting in the kitchen. The girls always love to help out in the kitchen :).

First PTA Conference at AIS

Last Friday the Expat Daddy and I attended the first ever Parent-Teacher Conference and PTA Assembly at the Asian Integrated School. I have been waiting for this invitation actually from the very first day of school. Earlier, I have posted my comments and some suggestions to improve the school which you can find here. The intent is not to criticize but actually to improve the school as I truly wanted this school to succeed, and I believe the parents are the best people who would be able to give constructive criticisms as what we really want are just the best for our kids. And we want to be convinced that we have made the right choice of entrusting the education of our children to a newly formed school. Frankly speaking, and yes I feel guilty for it, but I do have very high standards when it comes to my children's education. I just felt that it is my duty to give my children a better education that what my own parents have given me. Modesty aside, I am truly proud to be educated from St. Bridget's College in Batangas City for elementary and De La Salle Lipa and De La Salle University for high school and college respectively.

Ramadan Kareem!

Ramadan Kareem to all our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world!
To others who may not be familiar, Ramadan is the holy month of fasting for our Muslim brothers and sisters . This is the time when they refrain from eating and drinking within the day, starting after their first prayers in the morning and until the breaking of the fast after the sunset prayers. For us Christians here in the Middle East, although we do not participate in the fasting, out of respect, we also refrain from eating and drinking in public places or at any time that we are in the company of Muslims. But, this is not to say that we don't look forward to Ramadan, because we excitedly wait for the month of Ramadan every year. For us Christians and Expat Pinoys, we look forward to a month of shortened duties in our jobs and school for our children. In Qatar, the law states that companies are prohibited to extend duty timings of workers to more than 6 hours per day. So that's at least 2 hours less from normal duty everyday for a month! Who will say no to that! :)
This year is even better, I have not seen it as being the rule but then most companies, government and private alike had implemented a 5-hour workday for Ramadan! Yahoo!!!!! Fortunately, in line with the school timings so the children won't have to wait an hour more for their parents to pick them up, specially now that it's the summer season, that's more time to stay in and get a bit more sleep :)
One other thing we look forward to during the Ramadan are the invitations we receive for Iftar and Souhour gatherings. Iftar being the breaking of the fast meal,usually at around 6pm. While Souhour, which is supposedly the last meal before you go fasting, but most Souhour invitations are for late dinners (and mind you, these are mostly buffet dinners at various hotels!) --- such a festival! lol!
The downside is, there is really nothing much to do outside during the day. Malls are usually closed until after the breaking of the fast and definitely no restaurants are open during Ramadan (except ones in the hotels of course!). But, more than anything, what I really love about Ramadan is the added time I get to spend with my girls. We usually ran frantic everyday with our schedules which we need to squeeze into the 5-6 hours waking time after work and school. So, with these shortened timings PascuaFam is a bit more relaxed and we are able to phase  our daily tasks without rushing to the next. More family bonding time, or to use my girls own words "chika-chika time"! :)

Expat Daddy's Birthday: Fish Fillet in Lemon Butter Cream Sauce

This is a long-delayed post, and to be honest I still am not sure when all of the dishes I have prepared in the last couple of weeks will be. Mommy-hood  had just overtaken me big time! Since the 2 girls arrived from the Philippines and all three of them started school, I just didn't have time to type up some posts in this blog. I've always wanted too, but the chores that needed to be accomplished didn't allow me time to sit and concentrate with writing. At first I really felt so overwhelmed and felt that I may be lacking a system to finish up everything before the day ends, until I thought of making a daily schedule for both myself and the nanny so we could share the load more effectively. And that's when I discovered that truly, there really is no spare time during weekdays, unless I want to stay up late after the girls had gone to bed. But that's also not an option, or else I'd be too sleepy to wake up early the next day!
Hmm... maybe when I have the time, I'd share with our our daily schedule and you can maybe suggest any way I could improve it :)