spinach fettuccine with chicken and mushrooms.

I made Spinach Fettuccine with Chicken and Mushrooms for lunch today. I got this recipe from my cousin when I came home for a week-long vacation last week.

What I like about pasta is that it's pretty easy to make, and you can experiment with different sauces. I love cream-based sauces over tomato ones, but I'm trying to be more adventurous with my food experiments lately.

This is also the first time I'm trying a different kind of pasta, which makes the flavor fuller than the regular wheat pasta.

Serves 6 to 8.

1/2 kl chicken breast fillet, cut into cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
500g spinach fettuccine
extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks onion leeks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mushrooms (I used the canned pieces and stems)
1 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp dry sherry or apple cider vinegar
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grated cheese plus more for garnish

Cook pasta according to package instructions or until al dente.

Heat oil and butter in a sauce pan large enough to hold the chicken. Saute chicken until half-cooked. Set aside.

In the same pan, saute onion leeks, garlic, and mushrooms for 1 minute. Add chicken. Stir for 30 seconds and add milk. Slightly stir together and add  flour.

When sauce thickens a bit, add grated cheese and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add dry sherry or apple cider vinegar and nutmeg.

Stir in pasta, making sure that everything is coated. Alternately, you can remove the sauce from the pan and just leave enough to coat the pasta. This is what I do, I just drizzle the sauce once it's ready to be served.

Garnish with finely chopped parsley or onion leaves and cheese.

Yum-o! :)

my blog vow.

I know I have long promised my blog that I'll post every finished creation (in my case dishes, cakes, or pastries) that I experiment with. I have never been able to do the "every" part. I post on rare occasions, normally when I'm in the mood.

I'll try to revive that promise again. Starting today, and I'm starting with two dishes. :)

Posting the recipes in a few. PROMISE. :)


my first cake.

I baked my first real cake today!

I decided to bake chocolate banana cake after watching a video how-to from the Joy of Baking. It seemed easy, and since I was once again fussing over my baking attempts, I gave it a go.

I was thisclose to baking them as cupcakes but I held it off thinking it might just disappoint me. Thankfully, the finished product was a smashing success. Yay! I'll make them into cupcakes next time though. ;)

Moist, aren't they? And they're already a day old, fresh from the fridge!

The recipe was so easy.. Here it is, straight from the Joy of Baking.
2 cups (400 grams) granulated white sugar (I used white and brown sugar)
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium sized bananas)
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) corn, safflower or canola oil (or other flavorless oil)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus a few drops of banana extract
Chocolate Ganache Frosting: (I didn't use this cos I still had leftover ganache from the devil's food cupcakes I made last weekend.)
8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan. Set aside. (I baked it at 160C on my turbo broiler).
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mashed bananas, water, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir, or whisk, until combined. You will notice that the batter is quite thin. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  (It took just 20 minutes on my turbo!)
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cooled, frost with the Ganache.
Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel, or heatproof bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat (can also be heated in the microwave). Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. When Ganache has completely cooled, beat until soft and fluffy (I use a wire whisk). Then spread the frosting on top of the cake. Can garnish with dried banana chips.
Serves 16 people.
I'm glad I made this today cos it was just sooo good. It's the kind that would make you go for seconds, or even thirds! Hehe.

This would definitely be a keeper in my book. :)


today's baking challenge: mini cinnamon rolls.

I have been fussing over what to bake last weekend and something inside me was just itching to make some cinnamon rolls. Uh, well, I have been wanting to make some ever since I watched Rachel Allen's Bake! episode with Cinnamon Pecan Buns. I thought it was very easy to make (she made it seem so!), but when I checked recipes online, it seemed like a daunting task.

Rolling and kneading doughs intimidate me. I really don't know why, but I think it's hard and requires too much effort. And then there's yeast! I am a very impatient and I don't like waiting too long a time to complete something. Isn't that a bit ironic? Yeah, I think so too. Hehe.

Anyway, last night's thought came like an epiphany of some sort. I challenged myself to make some cinnamon rolls for today. I was even more convinced when I found a no yeast recipe.

So yes, today, I trashed my fears and was able to overcome the baking challenge.

They weren't bad for a first timer. I just need to make sure that I remove the buns from the pan immediately after they come out of the oven and maybe I have to cut down the baking time a little bit. Next time. :)

Here's the recipe I got from Food.com (my notes in italics):
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar (The finished product wasn't very sweet, I think adding a tablespoon more wouldn't hurt)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk

  • For the filling, in a small bowl combine softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to form a crumbly mixture. 
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture over the bottom of a 9x9 pan.  
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
  • Cut in softened butter (sometimes your hands are the best tools). 
  • Stir in milk to form a soft dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. I had a hard time rolling out the dough cos it was so sticky, I had to add in more flour -- I can't remember how much though. Hehe.  
  • Spread the remaining filling on the rolled out dough.  
  • Roll up the rectangle and with a sharp knife slice into 18 small rolls (12 if you want them a little bigger). 
  • Bake for 20-25 min at 400°F. I baked them at 160C for 20 mins but the rolls came out toasted, I should have cut down the baking time to 15 mins.
  • For the glaze, combine powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl and stir until smooth.  
  • Once rolls are finished, drizzle on glaze and serve warm.

I no longer made the glaze, I think it was perfect on its own. Just a few notes:

  • Next time, I should add in a little more sugar and cinnamon to the dough so that the sweetness will be just right.
  • The buns weren't soft, I guess I need to cut down the baking time and maybe tweak the recipe a little bit more.
  • Remove the buns immediately after they come out of the oven! You wo
  • The filling would've been perfect with a few nuts and raisins. :)

Really not bad for a first try.

What baking challenges have you guys taken lately?


how about a do-over?

If you're given a change to have a do-over, what part of your life would you change?

I have been thinking about that question lately. I was thinking about this specifically:

If I had the chance to take a different course, would I still choose Speech Communication or something else?

Discounting skills, knowledge, and well, interest... I think I'd take Geology or Marine Science. Now this setup would work in a perfect world. Why, you ask? Cos of one thing: I hate Math, numbers. I cannot stand any class involving numbers and computations. Seriously. I cannot even remember how I survived high school! I don't remember even the most basic of formulas, except of course for the simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. And I cannot do simple computations without pen and paper. I can do mental Math when it only involves hmm, 2-digit numbers?

Yeah, I am such a wuss when it comes to numbers. But since we're talking about the "perfect world," anything can happen, right?

So yes, I'd take up Geology or Marine Science in another lifetime. Why? I cannot begin to explain and describe how much of the earth I'd be able to see and experience! While it may not be all about the good and beautiful things, wouldn't it be nice to be able to help in improving the world we live in? Oh, the joys of being able to travel for work and work for travel. I know people who have taken this course in college, and looking at where they are now... They've gone places. They gained scholarships abroad. They've traveled the world!

Like what I've said in my previous entries, I didn't really want to take up Speech. I didn't have any other choice. It chose me. While I don't have any regrets, I just wish we were given more classes to choose from, more Speech electives to take, and be really be a "master" of Speech.

Not just a Jill of all trades and a master of none.

...to be continued.


on writing, part II

Life sometimes has a funny way of playing things out.

A few days ago, I ranted about how badly I want to write again. The next day I decided to open my Yahoo! mail cos it's been ages since I checked it. I wasn't surprised to see more than a hundred new e-mails from different organizations - nothing very important, they're just newsletters, digests, and all other marketing stuff. I really don't know why I love signing up for updates, I don't even read them. Most of the stuff I get go to the trash without being read. Well, that's the reason I don't open my Yahoo! account.

Anyway, amidst the one-hundred-something emails, I saw one that wasn't worth sending to the trash. It was from Essays.ph informing me that my application has been approved... after, hmmm, 10 months of waiting? Hahaha. I actually forgot that I applied for a home-based freelance writing position with them. I applied in April 2010, it's now February 2011.

I guess it's really true what they say -- "Be careful what you wish for cos you just might get it." I never believed in that saying until recently. There really is power in words, whether spoken or just thought of, it might come true. This is in the same line as the Law of Attraction - our thoughts are just powerful. Yes?

Anyway, as I was saying... I find it funny cos just when I thought my writing is going down the drain, an opportunity to write again presents itself.

Good luck to me. :)

1950's Pan de Sal and The Upside-Down House

I have always been a loyal customer. Whenever I use, buy, or eat something and I like it, I'm bound to tag it as a "keeper" until I find something better. I would also check out other products of the same brand and see if I'd like it just the same.

That's what happened when I first tasted Pan de Amerikana's pan de sal. I swear it's better than Pan de Manila's. I also love their Big Boss Loaf Bread and Pan de Amerikana or Pan de Sal loaf.

I "discovered" 1950's Pan de Sal's St. Ignatius/White Plains branch some time last year and I have been hooked ever since. They transferred to a bigger location late last year, still along White Plains. They now have a cafe, and it's home to the world's first upside-down restaurant.

I'm a witness to the new cafe's construction. I pass by White Plains every morning on my way home. The bakery opened earlier than the cafe, and I have always been curious about the theme. The facade looked like this:

Yes, that's a real Land Rover!
And a bicycle!

My curiosity peaked whenever I pass by in the morning to get my daily dose of pan de sal. I would always see this from the bakery counter:

...an upside-down sala?

I couldn't wait to see more of the cafe/restaurant, and I knew I just had to see everything!

I was never able to visit the restaurant when they first opened and I kind of forgot about it until last week. I decided to have breakfast there last Saturday after work. Their menu boasted of cheap (I know it's a bit condescending to use that term, but affordable wouldn't describe how low their prices are!) Ilocano specialties. Too bad I wasn't able to take a photo of the menu, but next time I will. Since it was just breakfast (around 8:00 am), I got myself a plate of longsilog (Vigan longganisa, fried rice and egg):

All for Php 35.00

I think they made their own Vigan longganisa cos there's fresh garlic.
See that garlic bit there?

I was a bit amused with how they fried the egg. How can you
make it into strips but still retain the yolk?

Chicken Arroz Caldo on the side.
One of the tastiest I've tried -- for just Php 30.00

Nice simple breakfast for just around Php 100.00 in a rustic and creative cafe.. Not bad, eh?

The cafe's walls are strewn with really great photos taken by the owner, Jun Dionisio. I could tell that he's a Land Rover fan cos of all the photos with that subject. He also has a mini-Land Rover encased in glass:

And the coolest and most amazing part? The wash room! See for yourself:

I've seen a few wash basins with the same concept, but
this is the most creative one so far...

Path walk leading to the wash area...

The toilet doesn't look like one at all!

It has a floor-length mirror, and look at the walls!

The tissue holder is weird, but a fun way to keep things in order.

The lights and ceiling are lovelovelove! 

An artsy way to decorate walls.
Thanks for the idea! :)
The over-all experience is just superb. I'd give it a 4/5. You guys have to try it out. I've read in Our Awesome Planet that they have another branch in Marikina which is also divine.

With a place as awesome as this, it's really no wonder that they have the best pan de sal. :)


the driving need to write...

Our world is full of mystical and magical things. Some may be real; others may be a figment of our imagination. Long before Edward Cullen and Isabella “Bella” Swan became a household name, a lot has already been written about vampires, mystical creatures, and other mythological beings. There have been quite a number of television shows about vampires and storylines like these are not relatively new to the viewing and reading public. There’s Buffy, the Charmed sisters, and let’s include the witch Sabrina.

I am not one of the girls who swooned over Edward Cullen and/or Jacob Black. I am sorry to say that I detested Bella Swan’s damsel-in-distress drama. I had to endure reading Twilight just so I won’t be left out of the gossip mill. But sadly, the story didn’t just entice me as much as it did to others. I am not saying that the story isn’t nice – it would not have such a huge following if Stephenie Meyer wasn’t a good writer. I’m just not drawn to things like these.

Truth be told, I was and never will be a fan of vampire stories, no matter how hot the lead actors are or how great the storyline is. No, I am not trying to form an alliance of vampire haters here. I tried to like the series, I really did, however; it just didn’t appeal to me. This feeling goes for other vampire-laden stories and shows as well. I am not much of a follower of mystical and magical stories, well, except for Harry Potter, maybe.

What about Anne Rice’s popular Vampire Chronicles and other vampire-inspired novels? No, I didn’t read any of them. I haven’t seen any of the books, and I don’t know what the stories are about. What about Lestat de Lioncourt? To be honest, I only knew about him 24 hours ago. According to Google and Wikipedia, he is the narrator and main character of most of the novels in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series. I also didn’t know that Tom Cruise played the role in the movie remake of Interview with the Vampire.

So when the Twilight Saga came out in print and in the movies, it’s not a surprise that I didn’t bother lining up at the bookstore to get a hold of my own copy or at the cinema to see it for myself. The most that I did was download e-books for all four novels. They’re still in my e-mail, gathering virtual cobwebs because I just don’t have the heart to finish the rest.

Just this Christmas, HBO aired a Twilight marathon and I had to endure an hour of watching because my brother, who is just a high school freshman, loved the series. I was surprised to hear him belt out line after line, totally in sync with the movie characters – it didn’t matter if it was Bella, Edward, Jacob, or any other character that did the talking. He just knew the storyline so well!

Just tonight, I was able to catch a bit of the series Vampire Diaries, and just the same, it just didn’t catch my fancy. I really don’t know, maybe I’m just not cut out that way – I’m not too fond of fantasy, I’m more into reality.  Give me anything by John Grisham, James Patterson, and Paulo Coelho and I’ll very gladly oblige!

So tell me, am I missing a lot? Humor me, and I might reconsider.