Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lite Week- Day 1

Today begins our journey to detoxifying ourselves from the richness and lavishness of the Christmas season which is something much needed after the month-long indulgence on fatty, buttery, sugary and carb-laden excesses that Christmas dinners and soirees are so much known for.  Not guilt-tripping here though, because we don't fight the seasons of our lives and rather roll with it with as much grace and gusto as we possibly can.  Besides, THAT season, is the best of the lot.  And ours in the Philippines (no offense to all of you out there) is the best Christmas celebration in the world.

But we also do not fight detox season.  We accept and embrace it because detox in our kitchen isn't a bad thing at all.  Lite doesn't mean bland nor boring as in the case of today's lunchbox the recipe of which came from my latest Kindle subscription of Gourmet Bon Appetit.   I did an interpretation of a steamed fish dish (Cream Dory fillets) with a chili-garlic-lime-cilantro marinade served with some coconut steamed rice. It was as it looked-- fresh, flavorful with a tug-of-war of the sweet-spicy-aromatic that Thai food is quite known for.  And because it was steamed, there wasn't even any fat in it.  For additional variation in texture though, I fried some thinly sliced leeks until they were crispy and topped the fish with it.  The boy tried some of it before he left for school and he enjoyed it a lot.  It looks like we're off to a good start.  :-)
Today's lunchbox:  Thai Steamed Fish with Lime, Chile and Garlic and Coconut Rice

Steamed Fish with Lime and Chile
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2012)
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro stems, plus leaves for garnish
1 Tablespoon, chopped green, Thai chillies (use more or less, I used red ones)
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
pinch of black or white pepper
1 whole head-on fish (bass, grouper--I used Cream Dory fillets)
2 Tablespoons low-salt Chicken broth
1 lime cut into rounds
Steamed Jasmine rice
  1. Pound together in mortar garlic, cilantro and chili.
  2. Put in a saucepan the fish sauce, sugar, broth and the pounded garlic, cilantro and chili.
  3. Adjust seasonings.
  4. Pour on fish and steam as you normally would being careful not to overcook the fish.
  5. Top with coriander leaves and/or as I did, with crispy-fried leeks.
  6. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back on The Saddle

I have fallen off the saddle of lunch box making and am carefully lodging myself back on it.  This is not to say that the we have been remiss in packing the boy's lunch for the past month or so. Yaya (our nanny) has been doing it the whole time I couldn't and there were some stellar moments there too.  Like the crispy tofu with black bean sauce and crispy fresh bacon  she once made that the boy raved about when I returned from the trip.  It's just too bad they weren't able to take photos of their lunch boxes while I was away.  I would have written an entire post about it.

So I finally got my groove back and made another Japanese bento with 3 things in it: Pork belly Teriyaki with black and white sesame seeds, Kakiage (vegetable fritter of carrots, leeks and shrimps) and Tamagoyaki (Japanese sweet omelet).  Kakiage by the way, is an excellent way to sneak in vegetables in your child's diet.  You can put zucchini, sweet potatoes, eggplant, sprouts in it.  And because it has a texture like Tempura, kids are bound to love it. I've been planning the lunch box since yesterday because I wanted to start weaning everyone in the house from all the heavy food we ate during the Christmas season.  So I'm thinking of going Vietnamese and/or Thai next week.

However, my brother is going back to Canada on the 19th and I promised to make his favorite Kare-Kare (Oxtail Stew with a peanut based sauce) for this weekend so we might just have to go out there one more time.  And then we go cleanse.  Hopefully.

Today's lunchbox:  Pork Belly Teriyaki with Black and White Sesame Seeds, Kakiage (Vegetable fritter of Carrots, Leeks and Shrimps) and Tamagoyaki.

See you next week!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year!

Whew!  And so my Christmas break officially begins this week.  I had announced on the 18th of December that we were closing the kitchen doors on 2011 that day.  Of course, I hadn't been able to do that truthfully as last minute food orders came pouring in (AS ALWAYS) even on Christmas Day!  But to be fair and somewhat true to my word, I only accepted orders from those super close to us as in people of near family status and that was it.  But.  I had a food tasting scheduled a couple of days after Christmas for the recently concluded wedding which was our very successful opening salvo for this year.  So technically, I didn't have much of a break.  Not complaining though and if the wedding last Saturday is a preview of things to come, this should be a pretty good year again for us.

Of course a busy kitchen meant that I couldn't do much of my motherly duties preparing these lunch boxes, hence the month long absence.  December is, after all, the craziest month for us in the food business.  So this part, the boy wasn't happy about.  He has been nagging me since my return from that short trip to visit family in the States to get back to making his lunch box but it truly was impossible for me to get up in the morning after having just slept a couple of hours before, as I was busy preparing food for other people.  Heck, I was even too busy to pay much attention to our own Christmas spread!  Yes, guilty as charged am I.  And so with heavy lids and still hurting limbs, I crawled out my bed and onto the floor of our home kitchen to make him his first lunch box of 2012.

It's not exactly the healthiest lunch I've ever made having filled slices of pork loin with mortadella and Swiss cheese and then deep-frying them in oil. But today, this will have to do.  And as I watched him excitedly pack this lunchbox by himself (something that has never happened before) I just know I will make a better one tomorrow.

Today's lunchbox:  Tonkatsu filled with Mortadella and Swiss Cheese, Garlic Rice Pilaf

Happy new year!  :-)


Monday, December 5, 2011

Still Thankful But... Can I Rant?

Thanksgiving is not normally celebrated in my country, the Philippines.  But recently, maybe because of the internet and various social networking sites, the practice of celebrating an actual day for giving thanks is kinda getting on. I mean, why the hell shouldn't it?  Certainly, we must have something to be thankful for in our lives no matter how big or small it may be.  There is also no Thanksgiving holiday in Manila but in our home, we cook something a little more special for Thanksgiving.  Last year's was Roasted Cornish Hens and Fried Mac and Cheese and my Fudge Brownies.  This year, I wasn't even home as I was with my family in Philadelphia where we feasted on an American-Vietnamese spread. The shrimp dish in this lunchbox came from a recipe from that menu which I promised to make for him.

Speaking of giving thanks, my boy and I get into this talk every time he rants or complains about mundane things such as a game not loading fast enough, the internet being too slow, some game he played not being entertaining enough, his team mates in Warcraft or whatever on earth it is called ganged up on him, etc. etc.  I'm telling you, if there's a ranting contest out there, I'm going to be first in line to register my boy because I am sure that we will win.  Times like these, I reply by listing down all the blessings he has received in the year alone and I get this look--this "you're making me feel bad about myself" look like I had to make him feel guilty because he's so blessed.  Which is so beside the point.  I don't know what to do.  Maybe being thankful for a life such as his is a view beyond the grasp of a 13 year-old boy (he's turning 14 this weekend).  I mean he is thankful on a daily basis for the food I make for him and for little things.***sighs***

I'm telling you, the most difficult thing to become is not becoming a doctor, or a lawyer, or a rocket scientist.  The most difficult thing to become is becoming a parent.  It is of course the most fulfilling too, but dang...It's tough!  Now let me rant about that...

Today's lunchbox:  Crispy Fried Shrimp with Onions and Peppers (I have no name for this, can you see?), Steamed Rice

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And We're Back...

After a two week absence, we are finally back.  And today, I am happy to post something from my recent trip to visit my family in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. The two weeks I spent there enriched me in so many, many ways which does not exclude extra poundage thereby giving me an extra difficult time getting into my jeans these days.  And that my friends, is by no means, a bad thing.  Not if you've been fed as well as I've been.  It was a culinary, cultural and emotional trip like no other.  Definitely one for the books!  :-)

Let's begin the culinary annotations with the Di Bruno Brothers (since the contents of today's lunchbox came from this wonderful haven for foodies like you and me).  My sister, Christina, took me to this  top culinary spot in Philly and I am certain that this will be one of the most vivid memories I shall keep in my entire life.  The look, smell and feel of the store will forever be etched in my mind.  You see it sits right in the middle of Philly's Little Italy and has been there since 1939.  It was set up by, well, the Di Bruno brothers initially as a grocery and has since evolved to the epicurean destination that it is now.  It is a primarily a cheese store but not devoid of specialty cured meats that I formerly only dreamed about.  Being inside the store is, well, what does a food lover do inside an artisanal food store?  Go crazy of course.  

For today, I made use of  Guanciale which is actually cured pork drawn from the jowls of the pig.  Mario Batali mentions this too often and I finally got hold of some after years of just imagining what gustatory nirvana it held secret within its layers of fat and meat.  And  I just have to say that it was truly worth the wait.  Now, I'd been cursed with the Guanciale madness as I wonder how to replicate the experience when we run out of this unforgivably sinful meat.

And then I brought home some Burrata, a creamy version of mozzarella di buffala filled with a ricotta-ish filling made fresh daily at Di Bruno Brothers.  I'd been forewarned that the cheese is best eaten the day it's made, but what the heck?  I wanted to have this cheese with my boy and even after a day of traveling, the boy and I, cried oohs and aahs as we sank our teeth on some bruschetta I made with it.

I have often wondered what I have ever done to deserve such a trip.  Was I good?  Have I been doing things correctly?  Have I paid for my sins?  Have I done enough?  But whatever it was that I did to deserve such gifts of travel and food, I am thankful beyond words.  I am thankful for the opportunity to be with my brothers, sister and family out there in Philly--to be able eat wonderfully diverse food and drink beautiful wine, to share our stories from the last decade of our lives, to laugh about our foolishness, to cry about our past loves.  But most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to tighten the bonds of family with a love that I know will grow more and more in the succeeding years of our lives.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Today's lunchbox:  Pasta Carbonara with Guanciale, Bruschetta with Burrata, Passata and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Japanese Bento for the Nth Time

Last night, at around 10 PM, I had a sudden anxiety attack as the thought of how long I will be gone finally kicked in.  Mixed with my claustrophobic tendencies, vivid imagination and having accidentally seen an episode of Air Crash Investigations in Discovery Channel--things became a wee bit out of hand that I had to jump out of bed to catch my breath and calm my nerves.  I tried to go online but it didn't quite work so I did the thing I should've done in the first place, nope, I didn't pack.  I planned this lunchbox and the menu for the entire time I won't be home.  And so today, I have a million things to buy and a ton of things to do.

Today's lunchbox: Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet), Shrimp Teppanyaki, Rice Balls rolled in Furikake, Oreos

See you when I get back!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Quick Post

Another quick post today.  

I am busy preparing for the longest trip I would have taken away from my two kids.  I am excited, antsy, eager, worried and plenty confused with the tug of war of emotions in my heart.  I convince myself on a daily basis that when I return, I will be an even better Mom, cook, friend, boss, sister and daughter.  And no I'm not going to visit the Dalai Lama.  It's a journey for seeing, learning and tasting more out of life, not that what I've seen, learned and tasted isn't good because truth be told--I'm good.  I've said before that I am fortunate to have everything I need and desire within the distance of my arms opened wide-- that I only have to light my stove to eat something that can nourish our souls.  That I can only reach out to have in my embrace the true loves of my life.  That I only have to close my eyes and feel small against the will of God.  All these remain to be true in my life and I am deeply and truly thankful for it.  But I must have done something good to deserve a ticket to see even more.  I promise to bring home more flavors, more textures, more color and depth to an already colorful and meaningful life.

Thank you God.  Thank you Universe.

Today's lunchbox:  Roasted Chicken scented with Oregano, Rosemary and Lemon Myrtle, Pearl Barley Rissotto with Mushrooms.