Cheesy Mushroom Penne Pasta

This dish is for our "no rice" dinner which we try to do at least 2-3 times a week. See, the "bad side" about loving to cook is that you forget about your diet -- and that includes your family's too, being the guinea pigs of your experiments, hehe! So now that both the Expat Daddy and I plus the Big Ate are all on the heavy side --- with me experiencing signs of high levels of uric acid, well, we just somehow have to do something about it! It doesn't help that I have gone back to trying to do some baking :(.
This time, instead of the ordinary white pasta that we commonly call "carbonara", I have tried a new sauce recipe using Cheese Whiz as the main ingredient. The process didn't really deviate much on the way we make our white sauce only, I wanted to try something else other than using the powdered cream of mushroom soup that we buy in packets. Not that there's anything wrong about it, I just felt that since I have really started to spend so much time into cooking, it's about time to improve the simple recipes I have used throughout the years, and now I start to realize that the white sauce could taste so much better less the preservatives included in the mushroom soup powder we buy from the supermarket. Try this recipe and you'll know what I mean :)

Lechon Paksiw

Isn't it just mouth watering? Well, specially when you're in the Middle East (Qatar specifically) Lechon Paksiw is just one of the many dishes you can just dream of and wait until you get home for a vacation in the Philippines. But then, there are of course some rare occasions that you remember to pack these in you luggage coming back to the country, hehe! And that's just what the Expat Daddy remembered to do. During his last trip home to collect the kids, he asked my Tatay to buy about 3-4kg of lechon to bring to Qatar. They have been packed into about 4 packets so we can thaw them separately to enjoy on different occasions. This one above is the last pack, huhuhu!!! So we would have to wait again until one of us goes back to the Philippines to bring more.

Single Serving: Our New Instant Hit --- Korean Spicy Instant Noodles

Just to share with your our current discovery that we oh so love! We have been seeing these in the Japanese/ Korean sections in the Family Food Center and have not paid them any attention until recently when both the Expat Daddy and I craved for the spicy korean noodle soup from Korean Garden (near Ramada Signal, just across Chili's). I have been checking on recipes from the internet and I find it a bit complicated for my available time and energy. And considering that most probably it would only be me and the Expat Daddy who will be eating it. 
So as I love to check on items in the Japanese and Korean sections, hoping that I will be lucky enough to spot some mirin (ei, Doha peeps, do you know where I can get some mirin? Sake is out of the question, last time I checked at the liquor shop it's about QR400 ($110) per bottle!), I have just made a wonderful discovery. These instant noodles from Korea, a bit expensive at QR5 (about $1.40) compared to Maggi noodles but definitely worth it! One pack is already enough to share between the Expat Daddy and I, and sometimes even with our Big Ate.  
This instant noodle is no different from any other instant noodles in the market, just about the same cooking instructions, add noodles in boiling water, then add the flavorings and cook about 5 minutes and it's all good. But then, just to make it extra special, what we do is add some vegetables with it. With some carrots, cabbage and specially with the shiitake mushrooms, you wouldn't guess that it was actually instant noodles. Because of the vegetables we have adjusted the amount of water we put in, instead of 3 cups as per package instructions, we've made it 4 to accommodate the additional veggies, then we also add a pinch of salt just to adjust the taste to our preference. 
See, what was really exceptional in this pack is that the noodles are so good, not starchy at all. It tastes like eating some fresh or frozen noodles instead of the packed dry ones. This red one is the spicy one, but there are still other flavors to choose from, so for those of you who are not into spicy noodles, there are also seafood, vegetable and chicken variety, take your pick! But I must tell you, this is really so good, the Expat Mommy recommends it! 

Update: In the first photo above, we have made it extra special by adding some toppings of spring onions and pulled chicken breast :)

Check these out too!

Kalderetang Batangas

Yes, this doesn't remotely resemble the  Beef Calderetta recipe I had posted earlier. That other calderetta was the tomato-based version which is more popular in all parts of the Philippines and what is normally served to you when you order the dish in the restaurant. This Calderetta dish however is one of the signature dishes from where I came from in Batangas City. I think only Batangas City makes calderetta this way... or maybe I'm wrong. :)
In this case I have used beef, although from where I came from this is more popularly made with goat's meat. This is a soy-sauce based dish with liver spread pickles and cheese to add flavor. Of course, this is made more spicy than the other version of Calderetta, we Batanguenos love this dish very hot! In the province, we usually cook this dish during family gatherings such as weddings, baptisms or fiestas. During these occasions, a whole goat is butchered only for this specific dish. Which made me wonder now, I can't remember if there's goat's meat being sold at the local markets, I mean I know in other parts of the Philippines they do, well in parts of Manila I've seen them around Malate and Taguig. But in Batangas markets, I'm not sure, I just know you buy the goats alive and butcher them yourselves, guess I was just to young to remember then....

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our Big Ate requested for some sweets this weekend so we both searched some recipes over the net to try out. Since to this day I still am a struggling baker, I was actually nervous making the cookies, I mean this was a far cry from the basic cupcakes I'm doing and I could only think of the many different scenarios where it could go wrong. So apart from the recipe, I was armed with prayers as I make this, I don't want to disappoint the kids as they are so looking forward for their cookies for their afternoon snack. Oh, thank goodness it just went perfectly, I myself was impressed! Haha! I didn't really expect for it to turn out perfectly. Well, for the taste I was quite confident, I was more concerned if the cookies would form perfectly and if the texture would be right for the cookie, who wants to serve a cookie as soft as a cake right?
So again, let us give credit where credit is due, I would like to thank again Kusina ni Manang for the recipe. I am a fan of the site, where I also adapted my Cheese Cupcake recipe. Actually her recipe is for double chocolate chip cookies but then I only had one type of chocolate so this one would be a simple chocolate chip cookies recipe. I have also tweaked on some of the ingredients to suit what's available in my pantry. Like, for the light brown sugar, I only have dark brown so I substituted half of the amount of what the original recipe calls for with refined sugar to make it lighter. But still, it was so good! 40 cookies didn't even last the next day and everyone says if I can make them again this good, then maybe this could be turned into a business! Yes, that's how good it was! So don't just take my word for it, try it yourself and do let me know how it turned out. You can even send me pics and we can compare notes. What do you say?

Humbang Pula

This is a spin-off from the original Batangas Humba  I have made and posted earlier and also my own version with hoisin sauce I have also posted here. This time pork cheeks were used for the dish. I was actually hoping to make the meat into Lechon de Hurno, but then after the meat was thawed, I found the pork head had already been quartered. The meat was actually sent to us by my Tatay from the Philippines since pork is still not available in local market here in Qatar, unlike in UAE where there is non-muslim section in their supermarkets.
The first thought that immediately came to my mind is humba, which I think is the best alternative to the lechon.The pork head is just too precious to experiment with. :)
This dish is actually a tribute to our neighbor in Batangas who used to have a "Turo-Turo" in their front yard. I still remember as a young girl when my Tatay was already  working abroad and my Mom was still working for the local government, there are times that we just preferred buying from her instead of cooking for lunch. Hers is the only Humba I know which was red in color. The Humba I had always known in my life is soy sauce based, but I will never forget the "Red Humba" from her. Now after maybe more than 2 decades later, I remember Ka Letty and her Humbang Pula and this dish is a tribute for her, I hope I give justice to her version of the dish.

Pineapple Chicken in Coconut Milk

Ok, let me be honest here, I have only once or twice tasted chicken curry in my entire life. I don't particularly like it and the pininyahang manok, so attempting to do it is a bold effort. I don't like the smell of curry and whenever I prepare a curry dish, it is actually just for the Expat Daddy who just adores curry in any dish, even curried rice! Second, I don't like pininyahang manok because I don't like the look which is too oily and I also don't like the pale color of the dish. But then I realize, doing this blog I need to be adventurous with my palate or else I would be limiting not just myself  but also my readers. So, just to let you know, I do have an official taste test master, the Expat Daddy! LOL! 

Bistek Tagalog at Kangkong (Pinoy Beef Steak with Water Spinach)

The nice thing about Filipino dishes is that they can be very flexible and you can just about think of a lot of varieties of main ingredients to cook a particular dish. Think Adobo or Sinigang, there is just more than a dozen varieties to prepare them. I have already posted two Adobo varieties, Adobong Dilaw and Expat Daddy's Sweet and Spicy Adobo. Fish, chicken, pork or beef may all be made into adobo either separately or a combination of at least any of the two ingredients. It could even be prepared meatless, using just any variety of vegetables as desired. Of course some would work well better than others, but the point is, that's just how flexible Pinoy Dishes are. 

JOHNSON'S My Kid's Growing Up so Fast Contest


My Kid's growing up so fast, she can't wait to bring her "Balikbayan" box back home!

Having been born and currently being raised in the Middle East, my girls are growing up with the once a year excitement of going back home to the Philippines for a vacation. As a large OFW family in Qatar, our annual vacations are always an event not just for us but for our families eagerly waiting for us back home in the Philippines. Part of these happy occasions are the "balikbayan boxes" containing goodies for the family, friends and relatives.

Beef Broccoli

Another go-to dish in our family. Since our weekly shopping trip to the fresh market would include at least 5kgs of beef, so we really need to be creative in thinking various ways to prepare the beef. But, on occasions that we could not think of anything, one of our favorite go-to dish apart from beef nilaga is beef brocolli. Simply because it is very simple and easy to make and the other reason is it's a very healthy dish using olive oil and with broccoli. It is a good thing that all our girls love broccoli so the veggies don't go to waste when we cook the dish. 

Paksiw na Pata (Pork Leg in Vinegar Broth)

Finally the last leg is out! It was my birthday weekend last week, I didn't plan anything (but the Expat Daddy surprised me with a family dinner and invited our relatives from both sides of the family) so I wouldn't be posting any recipes from that event --- ooops! no that isn't true, I have made an original recipe for the pork head we had, I made it into humbang pula and I'll be posting it later on. Seems we have not yet had enough of the pork so the next day, I took out the pork leg to thaw and made it into this delicious comfort food very popular among us Pinoys, Paksiw na Pata. This was just so good I'm craving for it again now, unfortunately, there's no more pork left in the ref :(. 

Beef Ribs Pochero (Tomato Based Beef Stew with Bananas)

Another favorite! That brings me to about what number now, in my list of favorites? LOL! But yes, this is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It is a full dish with meat and various vegetables and the sweet banana-infused flavor makes it so much more special than other dishes. I remember as a kid always looking for Pochero during town fiestas, specially when it had been cooked outdoors on open fire and in those big pans we cal "tulyasi", I just love the smoky flavor in the dish. 
Of course this time, I could not recreate that "smoky flavor" using a gas range, but that's not to say that the dish would be other than flavorful, it is actually. I also wish that you could get some Philippine plantain bananas (or saging na saba as we call it) here in Qatar as these are the one best suited for the dish at it is firm specially when fried before adding in the simmering sauce. But since it is not available in the Qatar market (or maybe I am just not aware where I could get it, so paging any reader from Qatar, please do tell if you are party to this secret! haha! -- I promise to send you a warm bowl of pochero :)), I have just opted to use the Indian Bananas, widely available in all supermarkets, this one is quite delicate so once the bananas had already been added, avoid from stirring it too much as this type easily softens and disintegrates with too much stirring. 

Cheese Cupcakes

This recipe is adapted from the Pinoy Cheese Cupcake recipe of Kusina ni Manang, one of the recipe blogs I admire and follow. When I suddenly had the craving for cheese cupcakes, I had immediately thought of checking for the recipe from Kusina ni Manang before checking any other pages since what I liked about her recipes is that it really had that Pinoy bakery touch, as she said she learned from her baker father. There are still a lot more other baked goodies I would like to try..... but, one at a time.... still a struggling baker, I must admit!
Think I've already mentioned it a few times, that baking is not really not my forte. I do love to learn but I just can't stop being a stubborn student when it comes to baking. I am not good at following strict measurements and instructions, which is the first rule of baking. So if you see some baked goodies recipes here, we would be learning them together, and if you have tips, well, I'm all ears! I would also love it if you share your own home tested "simple" baked goodies recipes.. come on, let's take the journey together, surely it would be fun!
Loved how the cupcakes turned out, even with those near misses, lol! Firstly, I made the mistake of mixing all the dry ingredients together. Yeah, ok, I know, I have a recipe to follow, but didn't I tell you I'm not good at following instructions? lol! So that was the first mistake, so when it was time to cream the butter, I don't have any sugar to mix with it. But the good thing was, the sugar here in Qatar was not as sweet and most of the time I had to add more from the original recipe so apart from the 1/2 cup  I had mixed with the flour, I had an additional 1/4 cup I used to cream the butter. Ooops! and I also forgot to add oil! Hahaha! Ok, don't mind me, just follow the Pinoy Cheese Cupcake recipe of Kusina ni Manang! LOL!!!! I should tell you though, it wasn't really a disaster and the finished product was good too! Apart from the last batch that I had burned because I didn't immediately took them out of the oven after I turned off the heat, the rest was, yes, history! hahaha! Everybody loved them and didn't even survive the cooling period! :)

Sambal and Red Curry Chicken

The Expat Daddy arrived home yesterday with a sour face, dumping his bag on the dining table he complained that he just couldn't eat his packed lunch to the office anymore. Of course I understood what he's complaining about. Since the girls arrived back in Qatar, I had been so busy with my mommy duties that I did not anymore have time to cook for his packed lunch which I used to do daily when it was just us and the youngest here. Now, I had just left the cooking of his food to the nanny who of course tries her best to prepare a decent food, it's just that, maybe the Expat Daddy is just so used to my cooking that anything else just doesn't taste right. So guilty I was that I told him that I would go back to cooking his packed lunches. And to start it off, I have thought of making him this original dish with red curry and sambal. The Expat Daddy's taste buds are partial to Indian, Thai and Malaysian and Mediterranean cuisine, he just loves the flavors the spices bring to any meat. 
Which reminds me, I still have to learn making biryani, very extraordinary and I'm thinking would be a hit when served in the Philippines. :)

Our Big Ate is Class President!

"congratulations again to our big ate for being elected class president... at age 8, she had already achieved things i could only wish for myself, another reminder that i should not make her live my dreams as she could definitely do better!" - My Expat Mommy (from MY EXPAT MOMMY on FB)

I received a call from our Big Ate yesterday just before I was about to leave to pick her up from school. She called to tell me that she had been elected as Class President for their Grade 3 class. Was I so happy and proud! For somebody who was very timid and shy as a child (but had always been mistaken to be intimidating), I was so overwhelmed by our Big Ate's accomplishment. Of course I am always proud of all my children's accomplishments, most of them academics, but this one is particularly special to me as it reflects our Big Ate's excellence other aspects of her life as well. As the girls grow older, it had been one of my fears that they'd be just like me, lacking in inter-personal skills which I have carried through my adulthood. I can still remember when our Big Ate was just starting school, I was more concerned about how happy she was and if she had made any friends than the results of her tests and quizzes, since at an early age she had already shown potential in academics so it had already built my confidence in her on that aspect. 

Ginataang Tambakol (Tuna/Mackerel in Coconut Milk)

Fish in coconut milk is probably one of my all time favorite dishes. Be it Tulingan, Tambakol or Tilapia, served with a dipping sauce combo of soy sauce, lemon and chili pepper, I would surely consume more than my fair share of rice! Lol!
Last Friday's trip to the fresh market in Abu Hamour was a good one in terms of fish with most of my favorites available in the stalls, but not exactly the same with the vegetable section. We decided to just skip the veggies and just buy them from the supermarket.
It was a welcome site to see an abundant supply of skip jack tuna (tambakol) in almost all of the stalls, and with that, of course they came very cheap at QR5/each ($1.36) with a bargain rate of QR10/3pcs (about ($0.91). This was the price when I have just arrived in Qatar in 2000! Mind you, they had become so expensive about 2-4 years ago when there had been an influx for Pinoy Expats in Qatar and the vendors discovered how the Pinoys love them so they have racked up the price to about QR12 ($3.28) per piece! So finding it go back to its very low price was a welcome surprise! We of course bought 3 pieces to enjoy for the week. For lunch on that Friday, we had just served it fried together with Expat Daddy's Halabos na Hipon in Banana Ketchup Sauce. With fish that fresh, you really would just enjoy it cooked grilled or fried without any fuss :).

Hamour (Lapu-Lapu) in Tomato and Plum Sauce

My mom had not been feeling well in the last few months since she returned from vacation that's why I told her that since the girls are already back in Qatar, plus with our 2 nannies (ok, ok... i have got a lot of explaining to do having 2 nannies here in Qatar, so I'll leave it to another post :)), we'll just prepare our own food instead of our keeping the set up of sharing the food costs with the rest of the household. So, since she came back, the Expat Daddy and I are the ones doing the food shopping including going to the fresh market in Abu Hamour. With summer at its peak, I don't think my mom could survive the weekly shopping trips specially to the fresh market.
I remember when I was a child about 10-12yo, my dream was to become a fish vendor, and not just any other fish, I wanted to be a milkfish vendor. Simply because I was so fascinated with the process of fish cleaning. Weird I know, but somehow at that age I just felt some kind of comfort in doing the task. I find it tiring yes, but relaxing. Yes just now I realized what I used to feel before, it was de-stressing! hahaha! And the best part about cleaning milk fish was the removing of the scales. Love it! I so dreamed of having that tool that they use, a piece of wood with handle on one and and some nails on the other --- imagine a hairbrush :). Well, surely all of us has got some weird dream job or something you "want to be when you grow up".

Single Serving: Three Layer Pizza Tortilla

This was an overdue post, actually. I have prepared this very simple tortilla version of pizza a few weeks back from the left over tortillas we had after Big Ate and I made burritos. Well, the burritos actually just turned out to be simple scrambled eggs with veggies rolled with the tortillas. Much as I would like to adapt some burrito recipes, I was thinking the girls may be overwhelmed by all the fillings. Our Big Ate requested for those, not really knowing what they were. She said she just heard it from the ICarly show she watches so she wanted to try them. From the leftover tortillas I have decided to turn it to something I am sure they would love and finish. And was i so right! Now they still request it from me everytime we pass some tortillas in the supermarket.
Since the tortillas are very thin, I have decided to make it a 3-layer pizza to make it more appealing and  filling for the girls, and of course I have long accepted that they would eat any veggies I serve them as long as they're not pizza toppings, so aside from mushrooms, I have not added any more veggies. Ooops! That wasn't true actually... I have also added some black olives just for color. Of course the girls had picked and set aside the olives before they dug into their pizza slices! hehe!
Of course don't let me stop you from putting your favorite pizza toppings! That's the good thing about pizzas you can just add anything that pleases you :)