Originally meant as a repository of sort for published manuscripts and articles, but reading amazing food blogs lately, I was encouraged to include topics on food and gardening and share other topics of interests to other women like me, who love to garden, fine foods and good cooking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ampalaya at last!

For the past weeks my body was signaling that I had been indulging in too rich food. The sign? I was craving for bitter melons. I don't know why, but after having rich and greasy food day after day after day, I would always want to eat bitter melons. This stemmed from our belief that eating something bitter will help purge the system of any impurities. Problem was, bitter melons are not common in the area where we live. So it's been weeks since I started craving for this bitter veggie. Last week I was so desperate that I asked David if we could check that Asian food supermarket in Petone, some thirty minutes drive from our place to see if they had any. The store did carry it, albeit frozen and the label was marked, 'product of Vietnam". Oh well, ampalaya from anywhere else in the world will be just as bitter and good. I was happy to bring home a packet of three pieces, cleaned and pitted.

I decided I would do 'relyenong ampalaya' since it's been ages since I last had this dish. So I stuffed two of them with cooked minced meat, rolled them in batter then shallow fried them. With ketchup and steaming white rice with, I had a feast! David did not like bitter melons so I had them all for myself.

Here's how to do relyenong ampalaya if you are interested:


2 -3 pieces ampalaya cut in half or quarter (depending on the length of your ampalaya)
batter (1 egg, 1 cup of flour, water)
Oil for frying

1 tbsp cooking oil
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/4 kg minced pork
1/4 kg (or less) shrimps, shelled, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp raisins
salt and pepper to taste
1 small carrot shredded (optional)
2 tbsp of chives chopped

Boil the ampalaya pieces until half-cooked. Do not overboil as this will make them soggy.

Meanwhile, heat oil in wok and sautee garlic and onion. Add the minced pork. Add shrimps. Stir and make sure pork is no longer pink. Add carrots and raisins. Add chives just before removing from heat.

Dry the ampalaya and stuff them with the cooked filling. Coat them with batter then shallow fry them. Just before serving, cut each piece into 1 inch slices then serve with ketchup.

Just remember when seasoning whatever you're cooking, go by your taste. Adjust any ingredient or alter if you must to suit your taste.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Spring Flowers

Isn't it amazing how the sight of flowers can lighten up our day?

It's been raining for days and so, what I thought would be gloriously sunny days tending to the garden turned out to be wet, cold and shiverry.

Anyway, we woke up to gloomy skies again this morning. Apparently, it rained the whole night, so everything in the garden looked drenched and wet. I ventured out into the garden to at least check for our newly-planted pechay baguio as I was worried that snails were having a feast on them during the dark cold nights. However, on my way to that little corner of our garden, I was greeted by these lovely apple blossoms seemingly enjoying the drench. Even the tulips that were dripping wet seemed to rejoice in the early morning drizzle. How beautiful they were, with the raindrops still dripping all over them. That lifted me up big time! A smile crossed my lips and forgot about my disappointment over the wet and overcast day. I ran back up and inside the house to get the camera and take photos! I hope these photos would bring smiles on your faces too!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls

After three days my mung bean sprouts were ready for the harvest and for the wok. I don't know why but even after years of making this lumpiang prito, there would always be excitement and a feeling of satisfaction as I look at the pile of just-rolled lumpia on my kitchen table ready for frying and freezing. Moreso, if they were rolled properly and they are in uniform sizes.

Here's how I did them:

Lumpiang Prito
(Vegetable Spring Rolls)

250 gms ground pork
500 gms mung beans sprouts
1 medium size carrot (grated)
1 good size sweet potato (grated)
1/2 small cabbage (shredded)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch (for sealing)
soy sauce to taste
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Vegetable oil for frying

Heat oil in a big enough wok, saute garlic and onion till fragrant. Add ground pork and cook until pork loses its raw color. Add the chicken stock and boil for five minutes. Add the grated sweet potato, carrot and shredded cabbage, Cook till veggies wilt then add the mungbean sprouts. Cook for five minutes more, turning the veggies to make sure they don't go soggy.
Remove from heat when veggies are cooked. Transfer into a colander to cool and drain.

Dissolve cornstarch with a little water, bring to the stovetop and heat, stirring until it thickens. This can be used instead of a beaten egg to seal the spring rolls.

Separate the spring rolls skin and cover with a damp cloth to prevent from drying. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the filling onto the skin about two inches from the bottom corner, then fold it over the filling and roll upwards encasing the filling. Fold in the corners and press down firmly to seal, creating an envelope. Moisten the left and right corners of the skin with the cooked cornstarch and seal. Repeat with the remaining filling and skins.

Using a deep fryer or a deep work, heat the oil until almost smoking and begin frying your lumpiang prito until they turn golden brown.

Drain with paper towel.

Vinegar Dip:

In a small bowl, combine half a cup white vinegar, 4 cloves or more garlic (crushed), half a teaspon ground black pepper and salt to taste.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mung Beans Sprouts

David loves crispy vegetable spring rolls (lumpiang prito) dipped in ketchup. Sometimes, he prefers Mang Tomas Sarsa ng Litson, while I am a vinegar dip (made with white vinegar, lots of crushed garlic, a little salt and black pepper) fanatic. I make lots of these and freeze them in packets of 10 pieces, ready for when he wants something crispy for lunch.

I am quite choosy with the mung bean sprouts I put into my vegetable spring rolls, though. I prefer them when they are just two or three days old--when the beans are still in their 'button' stage and the 'tail' is just about a centimeter long. At this stage, the sprouts have a nutty texture and are more preferable than the fibrous texture of long "tailed' sprouts. So I grow my own to make sure they are in the right stage of growth when I need them.

Mung beans are definitely one of our comfort foods when we long for the warmth of home. Unfortunately, they are high in uric acid and at a certain stage in our lives, we just have to accept that we could no longer indulge in 'ginisang munggo' every Friday. Not to worry though, we can still have 'lumpiang prito' since there other ingredients to it other than mung beans sprouts. With all that uric acid talk, mung beans are still a good source of Vitamins A, B, C and E, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Amino Acids.

If you want to start sprouting your own, here is how to do it:

First you have to have a bean sprouter. Mine is made of plastic--round, three layered. The first and second layers are transparent and there are small openings on the side where water drains so the beans are not swimming in water. The third layer catches the water that drips from the first two layers.

If you are like me who prefer more beans than roots: Rinse the beans and drain them every 8 to 12 hours for two to three days.

For long roots: rinsing and draining should be done in 4 to 5 days.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Adult Learners' Tutor Training

Thank God, those wet, chilly and sometimes foggy travels during weekends to and from Masterton and Featherston were done with! We have finished the Adult Learners' Tutor Training Course. There were sixteen of us at the start of the course. Unfortunately, four had to drop the course after a few sessions. The course was conducted alternately at the Wairarapa Community Center in Masterton and the Featherston Community Center.

Finishing the training was not the last hurdle of the course. Next, the South Wairarapa Adult Learners' Association (the organization that supported us in this course) would assign student/s for us to teach and 20 hours of that would be supervised tutoring. Whoaa! Quite scary, really. The Coordinator warned us though, that it may take a year for us to satisfactorily accomplish the Adult Literacy Tutor Training Manual before that coveted National Certificate would be handed to us. That is if we pass the criteria.

Oh well, one step at a time and we'll definitely get there. A huge thanks to our very good trainor named Dara who flew in from Auckland during weekends for this course; to Coordinators Sittala and Natalie who kept us warm and well-fed during the training; to our classmate Angela who generously took me into her car whenever I needed a ride and to all members of the class who made learning easier!

These photos were taken during the last day of the training course.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Smoked Fish Chowder

Nothing beats fresh vegetables when it comes to good cooking. However, chopped, frozen veggies are sometimes practical, especially if you're pressed for time and you just can't be bothered preparing the ingredients--chopping, dicing, slicing, etc.--which is very time-consuming.

This smoked fish chowder was one of those recipes I saw on "Food in a Minute" (a one minute advertorial program to fill gaps between programming), which got me interested. However the recipe required for a packet of ready to cook frozen potatoes, capsicum and onions. Stingy me, would rather use fresh veggies (some of which may come from our garden), rather than buy the more convenient packets of frozen goodies. So I peeled, diced and sliced equal amounts of potatoes, capsicums and onions. Plus, I altered the quantity in the ingredients as the original recipe was meant for 4 - 6 people. I do not like using butter so much, so again, I used substitution--olive oil instead of butter. I'm sorry, I could not tell the difference in taste had I used butter, but there probably isn't much difference.

The picture may not have done justice to the taste of the dish because I took the photo in a rush before dinner, but David and I find it really nice. He asked me to do it again soon.

Hearty Smoked Fish Chowder


1 tsp olive oil
1 leek, trimmed, rinsed and cut into 1 cm slices
1-2 stalks celery cut into 1 cm slices
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable stock or water
3-4 pieces medium size potatoes
1 piece onion
1/2 cubed red and green capsicum
1 cup frozen sweet corn
250 g smoked fish fillet, skinned and flaked
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped celery leaves
1 cup of milk
1 tsp (optional) grated lemon rind

Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the leek and celery until tender, but not brown. Stir in the flour and cook over a low heat for 1 minute or until frothy.

Gradually stir in the vegetable stock and milk, stirring continuously as the sauce thickens.

Add the cubed potatoes, green and red capsicum and onions. Add sweet corn. Simmer gently stirring regularly until the vegetables are hot and tender

Stir in smoked fish, herbs and lemon rind if using. Season as wished.

This can be divided into four servings for small appetites.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pumpkin and Date Muffins

It's too wet and chilly outside to do any gardening chores after days and days of intermittent rain. David suggested that I do some 'playing' to keep me from getting bored. By the way, 'play' for us, means for me to experiment on some recipes using the oven. As I don't know much about baking, I would usually go over recipe books in search of some interesting things to 'play' on. I immensely enjoy it, although admittedly, it's a hit and miss thing for me. Just so thankful that David is so polite (to say I am doing very well considering that I am not used to baking), and is very supportive of my hobby.

This time, he suggested that I bake some pumpkin and dates muffins for our afternoon tea. Let me tell you a story behind these pumpkin and dates muffins.

Last year, he mentioned that he so loved the date scones his late Mum used to bake for them. I wanted to please him so I searched for scone recipes from books and the internet. I came up with lots of different recipes, which confused simple me. I eliminated the more complicated ones and came up with one recipe that I thought was the simplest and easiest to do. It was called "Pumpkin and Prunes Scones". However, we did not have any prunes so I substituted them with dates. Afraid of mishandling the soft dough, I spooned it into muffin tins instead of patting the dough and shaping it. The result? They looked more muffins than scones when baked. My very polite husband said he loved them with a just little butter.

I have made several Pumpkin and Dates Muffins since then upon request. And probably, this time, David is really appreciating them.

Here is how I make them:


2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup cold mashed pumpkin
3 cups four
3 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped dates

Beat the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Add the mashed pumpkin. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda and add to the pumpkin mixture. Add the dates. Fold adding sufficient milk to make a slightly softer-than-usual dough. Grease medium muffin trays and spoon the dough into them. Bake at 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with butter if you like.