Healthier Filipino “Taho”

Basically, Filipino taho is composed of sweet tapioca pearls, silken tofu and topped with caramel sauce. It is sweet, creamy and soft like eating room temperature ice cream or maybe a crust-less cheesecake in a cup topped with caramel sauce. It is my childhood street food favorite and I bet every Filipino kid love this too. But, as you know me, I always have to find a way to make anything a little healthier so I could enjoy consuming it without the guilt. Also I would like to feed my child nutrient-dense food that his body needs for growth and development.

I remember, every morning,I would sit in our front porch waiting for that particular voice, hollering with the tone taho, taho, taho. Inviting everybody to buy taho as he walk miles and miles away everyday from one neighborhood to another carrying a shoulder pole. One metal bucket full of silken tofu and the other has 2 compartments .One for arnibal or caramel and the other is full of sweet tapioca pearls floating in arnibal as well. Weird but sweet. Anyways, when I hear manong mag-tataho is coming I’d call either my lolo or lola. I was the lookout then. We didn’t want to miss him coming by to buy taho. Those were the good ol’ days.

So yeah, this is how I make my Immune-Boosting “Taho”.
Let’s start making the Immune boosting syrup, I used
• Honey – has wound healing and antibacterial properties that relieves cough and cold symptoms.
• grated ginger and turmeric – anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing power
• orange peel (no pith pls.) – can you believe that 1 tablespoon (6 grams) of orange peel provides 14% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C — nearly 3 times more than the inner fruit.
• Lemon juice – great source of vitamin c, potassium and vitamin b6.

Originally, tapioca pearls in sweet, dark brown syrup are used in taho but I decided using chia seeds instead. I love using this because it is nutrient dense—–PROTEIN—–packed, full of anti oxidants, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, may reduce blood sugar levels and may lower heart disease to name a few.

What is taho without silken tofu? Tell me all about it, right?
Silken Tofu – is a great source of “complete” protein meaning it has well balanced amino acid profile that are building blocks for muscle and growth. It is also known to reduce heart disease and may lower risk of breast cancer for women. There were studies made that men who consumes tofu had 32-51% lower risk of prostate cancer plus it may reduce the risk of diabetes of those who have problems with this. Soy are also known to have rich amount of calcium and vitamin D, which are good for bone health.


Plum syrup (sugar free, I used swerve as sweetener) – plums alone are full of fiber that is very effective for relieving constipation. Prunes are dried plums and both are rich in antioxidants that may reduce inflammation. Like the aforementioned ingredients, plums may help lower blood sugar as well and may promote bone health. Consuming plums will also protect you from any heart disease, meaning it may reduce high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol levels.

I used:
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup orange peel, without the pith
1″ organic ginger and turmeric, grated
1/2 cup filtered water

Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil then turn the heat down to medium and continue simmering for about 5 minutes. Set aside and let it cool down a little bit maybe for about 5-10 minutes then add 1/4 cup chia seeds in the syrup and let it sit for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Chia seeds will absorb the syrup. Add a little bit more water if it needs some more.

The day before I made this recipe, I was making a plum tart that needed me to drain some of the liquid from the fresh plums and sugar substitute ( I used swerve). If you are curious about how to make that, it’ll be in another post. So yeah. It was about 1/4 -1/2 cup plum juice from 1 1/2 lbs. of plums plus 1/2 cup of sugar substitute and let it sit for about an hour or overnight. Poured the liquid in a small sauce pan added maybe 10 more plums and orange peels from 1 orange and 2 tablespoons honey. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until plums are soft. Let it cool and set aside.



To serve taho, feel free to use any vessel you like to serve this with. I used 5 stemless wine glass, put 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds at the bottom. Place 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup silken tofu then top it off with plum syrup. Serve and enjoy.

Spicy Garlic Grilled Corn on the Cob

Sweet, salty, punchy lime, garlicky everything that you could think of is in this grilled corn. Perfect for anything you grill or good just by it’s own.

Nothing can beat the flavor of grilling your corn. The smoky charred flavor is an extra boost to make those sweet corn even sweeter. Most people would slather it with butter and yes it is good. I could agree to that. I got inspired with this recipe called “Elote,” does that ring a bell to you? It is a Mexican Street Style Corn slathered with mayo then sprinkled with Cotija cheese, chili powder and lime. That really sounds so elaborate when you just want to grill those corn and feed them to everybody. Right? Trust me, it is worth the try but added with our favorite flavors.

What is cotija cheese?

Cotija cheese is salty, aged like Parmesan cheese and resembles like Parmesan but it is grainy like feta cheese. This is a very versatile cheese that you can put on anything.

What is in our grilled corn?

Mayonnaise – homemade or your favorite store-bought brand

Cotija Cheese – you can find it in the cheese section of your grocery store but if not you can always substitute it with feta cheese or grated Parmesan.

Fried Garlic and Thai Chili Oil – we used our recipe for this but you could substitute it with garlic salt just remember that the cheese is a bit salty already or if you could find a jarred garlic chili oil is also better.

Lime -squeeze that lime just before eating

Cilantro – if you are not a big fan of this herb you could substitute it with parsley

Jalapeno – we like to put extra heat and color to our corn

Spicy Garlic Grilled Corn on the Cob
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 cup mayonnaise, plus more
1/4 cup cotija cheese, plus more
2-3 tablespoon fried garlic and chili oil
lime wedges
cilantro
jalapeno, sliced thinly

Instructions:

1. Preheat your grill. Grill your corn for about 10 minutes keep in mind to turn it.
2. Meanwhile, prepare a large plate to crumble 1/4 cup cotija cheese.
3. When they are done, brush each corn with mayonnaise then roll it on the crumbled cotija cheese.
4. Garnish it with fried garlic and chili oil, cilantro, lime wedges and jalapeno.
5. Serve it and enjoy!

Adobo Chicken Wings Braised in Coconut Milk

This chicken wings is marinaded in Filipino Adobo Sauce. It is garlicky, vinegary and has the right amount of saltiness from the soy sauce, sweet and creamy. If you are looking for something different to feed a crowd, this is the one you are looking for. In the Philippines, there are various kinds of adobo. It is very popular that every family and region has their own way of cooking it. The choice of protein varies too. Some use chicken feet. Shocked? (Honestly, never tried one and probably not ever going to try one because, is there any meat in chicken feet?)LOL. Pork is usually a popular protein to use. Tell you truth, to me, it was always, always greasy. Always. Like a thick layer of fat is literally floating on top of the sauce. Not a big fan. Really.

So what I did here in my recipe. I usually let the braising liquid cool down in the fridge until fat solidifies so that it is easier to skim it off and discard. It is an extra step. Actually, you don’t have to do it but if you’re not a big fan of greasy food, you might want to do this step.

What I you will need for the sauce:

Soy sauce – I used Aloha soy sauce. It is mild and not too intense.
Apple cider vinegar – traditionally, we use white vinegar. But I prefer using apple cider because of the fruity element that it gives the dish.
Garlic and ginger paste – we don’t usually add ginger in adobo. If you know me, I always have this paste on hand, so I might as well use it right? I can tell you that the flavor of ginger will not over power the garlic and adobo flavor in the dish.
Hoisin sauce – another sauce that is not traditionally included. But I like the sweetness that it lends to the dish.
Swerve – zer0-calorie and diabetic friendly sweetener without the bitter after-taste of any sugar replacement.
A can of coconut milk – if it’s too hot in your kitchen. More likely that the milk and cream has been separated. Place the can in the fridge for about 10 to 15 minutes and open the can from the bottom. Drain the liquid and pour it in the marinade. Set aside the cream.

Adobo Chicken Wings Braised in Coconut Milk
Yields: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 4lb. bag chicken wings (we used drummettes)

Adobo Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 cup garlic and ginger paste
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 cup swerve or any sweetener of choice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
pinch of Hon-dashi
1 can coconut milk, milk and cream separated
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped

Garnish:
Sesame seeds
Green onions
Coconut flakes
Fried garlic

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, or large zip top bag, place soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and ginger paste, hoisin sauce, swerve, black pepper, bay leaves, coconut milk and pinch of hon-dashi. Whisk all ingredients until well-combined. Add chicken wings and marinade for about 6 hours or 24 hours.

2. In a 2 quart sauce pan, transfer wings and the marinade. Bring to a boil, uncovered and turn down the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. Transfer chicken wings, on a cooling rack fitted on a baking sheet. Let the chicken wings dry at least 3 hours. You could also pat it dry with paper towel if short in time.

4. Meanwhile, transfer the adobo sauce in a bowl or any heat proof container. Place in the fridge while letting the chicken to dry. Let it sit in the fridge until it is fat solidifies. Take the fat out and discard. In a sauce pan, saute onion with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until translucent. Add in garlic and saute for a minute. Transfer the sauce in the pan. Bring it to a boil and simmer until thickens about 20 minutes. Add cream of coconut and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Using a handheld blender. Process until smooth. Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 400F. Transfer chicken wings on a cooling rack fitted a baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Brush chicken wings with the sauce and turn halfway.

7. Toss the wings in adobo sauce before serving. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Any leftover adobo sauce can be placed in an airtight jar and keep it in the fridge. Any leftover wings can placed in the fridge and re-heated at 400F for about 10 minutes and toss with more sauce.


Triple Dark Chocolate Cake

Triple Dark Chocolate Cake for my son’s 3rd birthday..

This cake is for dark chocolate lovers, for kahlua lovers and for coffee lovers. This looks sooooo decadent and sweet but it is really “not that sweet”. This cake is sugar-free. Just kidding. Even if I used swerve in the cake, I can’t say it is sugar free because I also used bananas in the cake. That’s why. Tsk tsk tsk. That’s ok.

I guess, every parent wants to do everything and anything for their child even making their birthday cake. Mine loves chocolate and a very picky eater. Like every parent, I want my child to get the nourishment and get what their body needs. Health-wise, growth and everything else that they need, right? So yeah, I’m trying hard and my best to incorporate vegetables on everything including, of course, his favorite – chocolate. It is his birthday. Why not? Anybody can probably relate to me. I guess.

Since in our house, there is always a bunch of brown bananas not getting eaten, I decided to use them in my cake. Mashed bananas and grated zucchini. Why not, right? Making sure to grate the zucchini on a clean kitchen towel to squeeze excess moisture.

Making this recipe requires a little of bit planning and preparations. Let’s start by grabbing 2-9″ round cake pans. Spray them with non-stick spray and place a round parchment paper for easy release at the end. Then we can get started by making the cake. Instead of using all the way cocoa powder, I took 2 tablespoons and replace it with espresso powder. Kahlua and water to bloom both cocoa and espresso powder. It is then added on warm dark chocolate, cold brew coffee and whole milk mixture.

While this is cooling a little bit. Let’s cream butter and granulated swerve. I decided to add those mashed bananas and grated zucchini at this point and added eggs yolks one at the time, whisking on every addition and add vanilla at the end. Pour the chocolate mixture and mix and whisk until fully combined.

Now, let us sift those dry ingredients. I used 240 grams all-purpose flour then I take out 4 tablespoons from it to replace cornstarch. Sift the flour mixture for about 4-5 times and add baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add this mixture in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Do not over-mix because we will still be folding the mixture when we add the whipped egg whites.

Using a clean bowl, add egg whites at room temperature and whisk until soft peaks. Scoop a third of the egg whites and add it in the chocolate mixture. Starting from the middle, gently fold it and turn the bowl clockwise on every fold. Continue doing this for the rest of the whipped egg whites. Pour the cake batter into two 9″ round cake pans. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Transfer in a cooling rack for about an hour.

Make the dark chocolate ganache while cake is baking and cooling. In a medium sauce pan, heat the cream over medium heat and add chopped dark chocolate. Stir until chocolate is fully melted. Remove from the heat and let it cool, about an hour, before whipping. Once it is in room temperature, start whipping until it becomes light and airy. All that work and we are almost done.

I was wanting to be more ambitious by making 3 or 4 layers of cake. Making it tall and nice but I was too afraid to cut the cake and half and fail miserably. So what I did was to place one cake directly on the cake stand with parchment paper at the bottom and dump the chocolate ganache in the middle and started to work my way towards the edge. Then place another cake on top and dump a lot more ganache in the middle. Using a spatula, working around and spreading the ganache around the cake until it is fully covered with that dark chocolate ganache.

I was originally make a drizzle, just because I have seen it a lot and would want to try it but then, I realized that it was my boy’s birthday. At least decorate it with colorful sprinkles right? So yeah. He likes everything from the sprinkles and he started poking and licking the frosting while I was in the process. I yelled and told him that not until tomorrow. It was frustrating but yet I was excited and happy for him to try this.

By the way, this is my first ever layered cake, I guess. Geez! At my age, this is quite embarrassing I guess.

Triple Dark Chocolate Cake

6 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup kahlua

1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup dark, unsweetened cold brew
2 oz. unsweetened dark baking chocolate squares

2 cups cake flour or all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar, or sugar substitute, I use swerve
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup mashed over-ripe bananas, about 4 medium bananas
1 cup zucchini, grated, squeezed and packed
1 tablespoon vanilla

4 egg whites at room temperature

1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/.2 cup dark chocolate chips

For the ganache frosting:
2 cups heavy cream
24 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

1. Scale 240 g or 8 1/2 grams all purpose flour. Take 4 tablespoons flour and replace it with 4 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift for about 3-4 times. Add baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, place cocoa powder and espresso powder. Pour in 1/4 cup hot water and stir. Add Kahlua, stir until well combined in the liquid. Set aside.

3. Mash bananas in a small bowl. Grate zucchini on a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze excess moisture. Mix with the banana and set aside.

4. Place milk, dark cold brew and chocolate on a small sauce pan. Simmer until chocolate is melted. Turn off the heat. Pour in kahlua and cocoa powder mixture in the saucepan stir until well combined. Set aside.

5, Preheat oven to 325F. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl if using hand mixer. Likewise, use a paddle attachment if using stand mixer. Pour in the chocolate mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Add banana and zucchini. Stir or beat until well combined. Add egg yolks. Beat until well combined before adding next yolk.

6. Add the flour mixture and white and dark chocolate chips. Using a rubber spatula fold the flour into wet ingredients.

7 Whip the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks.

8. Pour in 1/2 of the whipped egg whites into chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg whites and continue for the rest. Making sure that the egg whites are not deflated.

9. Bake for about 30-35 until skewer comes out clean.

10. Transfer on a cooling rack and let it cool for about 20 minutes.

Make the ganache frosting

11. Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, pour in heavy cream and heat. Pour hot heavy cream over chocolate. Whisking until chocolate is melted. Add in vanilla and whisk. Let it cool for about an hour.

12. Once it is cooled about an hour. Whip until it gets light and airy.

Let’s assemble the cake

13. Place a cake on a cake round ( I did mine on a cookie stand). Spread a layer of ganache on top of the cake about 1/2 to 3/4 cup. Place the second layer of cake. Dump the remaining ganache on top of the cake and spread it all over on top and to the sides until whole cake is completely frosted.

14. Decorate cake with your preference. I used sprinkles because I am making it for my 3 year old.

Baked Chinese Pulled-Pork Buns

This baked “siopao” buns are very soft and filled with shredded pork butt that has been marinaded in Chinese barbecue sauce and baked low and slow until meat is already falling apart.

I remember back in those good ol’ days in the Philippines, my lola loves to get these steamed white huge buns filled with pork and pork fat, it usually comes with a tiny packet of sweet and salty sauce that you put on the buns as you eat it. To tell you honestly, I am not really a huge fan of that because of the pork fat they put in the filling. When I got here in the U.S and there is nowhere to find these steamed white buns, I was wondering if I could make them and re-create it without those chunks of pig fat until I saw these big slabs of pork butt and voila.

What you will need to make this Chinese Barbecue Marinade?
Soy sauce – I used “Aloha” brand shoyu. It is mild and light without any bitter taste at the end.
Hoisin sauce – it sweet and salty thick sauce that is used in Chinese stir fry.
Oyster sauce – it is another thick and umami-rich sauce that is a staple in our pantry.
Star anise – this is literally shaped like star with licorice scent and taste
Cinnamon
Chinese five spice – it contains, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves and fennel. I love this spice because it taste amazing and it would make your house smells amazing too.
Ground white pepper – it has mild flavor than the black peppercorns. They both came from the same berries. The outer layer of the berry is removed to get white pepper. Whereas, the berries are sun-dried to achieve the black peppercorn.
Orange and Lemon juice – I like using any citrus juice in my marinades or braises specially when the meat has a lot of fat.
Shaoxing wine – this is also a quintessential item in Chinese cuisine. It is made from fermenting rice, wheat and water. Any stir fries without this is just not the same. If this is not available, use sherry cooking wine.
Brown sugar – using brown sugar gives that golden brown color. If you don’t have brown sugar, substitute white granulated sugar and add 1 tablespoon of molasses. If molasses is not in your pantry use agave syrup or maple syrup.
Zest from one orange – make sure to use just the orange zest and do not include the white part of the orange because it will be bitter.
Always, always add salt and pepper to taste.


Siopao
Yields; 12 buns
Author: Joanna Plummer

Ingredients;
1 9-10 lbs whole pork butt

For the marinade:
1/2 cup or 4 oz. soy sauce
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
5 star anise
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup shaoxing wine or sherry
1/2 cup brown sugar
zest from 1 orange
salt and pepper

For the sauce
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/4 cup apple butter or any jam
2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoon water

For the dough
300 grams bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons white granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup Greek plain yogurt

Egg wash
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream


Instructions:

1. Place whole pork butt in a large dutch oven (I used 6 qt) or stock pot. Pour in the marinade and let it sit overnight or 48 hours in the fridge.

2. Remove from the fridge about 2 hours before cooking it. Preheat oven to 375F. Place dutch oven in the oven (I used enameled cast iron on both marinade and cooking) and bake covered for about 5-6 hours.

3. Increase the temperature to 400 and continue baking for about an hour until the top is golden brown.

4. Carefully remove the meat and transfer in a large chopping board or casserole. I prefer using a large rectangular casserole so that all the juices are intact in the container. Shred the pork using two forks.

5. Meanwhile, skim any excess fat from the braising liquid. Add oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, apple butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until well combined. Turn the heat up to high and bring it to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down to medium high and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture. Whisking continuously until sauce thickens. Add the shredded pork back into the sauce.

Let’s make the dough and add the pork filling

1. In a large mixing bowl, add lukewarm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add active dry yeast and activate for about 5 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Once it bloomed, add yogurt. Mix until yogurt is combined.
2. Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the wet ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, mix the dough until dough absorb all the flour and knead for about 2 minutes or when poked it springs back
immediately. Let the dough double in size for about an hour.
3. Punch the dough and scale it. Divide the total amount of the dough to 12 to make 1 dozen buns.
4. Divide and scale the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and use a wooden rolling pin to flatten each bowl. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the dough.
5. Preheat oven to 375F. Put both ends together, covering the filling. Pinching both ends to seal. Then gather the edges, tucking it underneath the buns so that the seam is at the bottom. Place each buns on a rimmed baking sheet lined with silicone mat or parchment paper. Continue with the rest.
6. In a small bowl, add egg yolk and heavy cream, whisk until thick and well combined. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the buns. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until tops are golden brown. Check every 10 minutes to turn the pan.
7 Remove from the pan to cool before serving.

To make a pull-apart cheesy siopao

Divide the dough in half. Place the dough on a large baking sheet lined with silicone mat or parchment paper. Shape the dough into a log about 18″ long and flatten it out using a rolling pin about 4″-5″. Spread a thin layer of the sauce then topped with grated sharp cheddar cheese. Use 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup shredded pork and spread it out an even layer on top of the cheese. Grab both sides of the dough farthest from you and start pulling and covering the filling until you reach the other end. Seal the dough by pinching the ends together. Now, grab one side and carefully move it to meet the other ends of the log. Pinch the dough together to seal. Using a sharp knife, make a slit on the dough, leaving maybe 1/4″. Bake it for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.



Sweet and Sour Fettuccine and Cheesy Zucchini Asian Meatballs

This dish was a hit when I made it. Meatballs are succulent, tender and juicy on every bite. They are tiny but are packed with veggies and umami goodness that everybody will surely love and would keep coming back for more.

In my last post, I made these meatballs, unintentionally. I was going to make a classic Italian meatballs but at the same time I was also thinking about making my version of “Filipino Lumpia”. My hands and feet brought me to my Asian ingredients while I was busy talking while I blanched and peeled the skins of our tomatoes. Finally, when everything was done and ready to make the dish. I was like. Whaaaat? I smelled the meatballs. Sesame oil. Looked at the pasta. It is done. Tomatoes are pureed. What am I going to do? Improvise. That is the reason this dish came to life.

Fettuccine ala Cheesy Zucchini Asian Meatballs
Yields: 4
Author: Joanna Plummer

Ingredients:
8 oz. fettuccine, cooked al dente, 2 oz. per serving, I used colavita fetuccine nests
20 small cheese zucchini Asian meatballs, 5 per serving
1/4 head of medium cabbage or 1 cup shredded cabbage
1 large carrot, diced
5 baby bella mushroom, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, or 1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
sriracha sauce
salt and pepper


Sweet and Sour Sauce
2 tablespoons garlic and ginger paste
2/3 cups pineapple juice, not from concentrate
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
3 tablespoons white granulated sugar, I use swerve
3/4 cup tomato puree
2 teaspoons sesame oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolve in 1/4 cup cold water

cilantro
green onions

Instructions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Drizzle olive oil and add ginger and garlic paste. Saute for about a minute or until fragrant. Add pineapple juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, tomato puree, sugar and salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes and add cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Stir until thickens. Place meatballs in the sauce and let them simmer int the sauce for about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the stir fry. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle olive oil and add onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over and saute for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add carrots and peppers. Saute until vegetables are tender.
4. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha (depending on how much you can handle spiciness or omit). Stir with the vegetables until well combine. Add the pasta and a tablespoon of pasta water. Add shredded cabbage and stir. Turn off the heat.
5. Serve pasta with 5 meatballs each serving. Add cilantro and green onions before serving.

Cheesy Zucchini Asian Meatballs

These tiny meatballs are packed with vegetables and umami-rich goodness. They are also juicy and tender in each bite. Your picky toddler might not notice those veggies because it is also packed with cheese. What’s not to like with lots of cheese, right?

Originally, I was going to make classic Italian meatballs but I was thinking of, at that time, making “Filipino Lumpia”. But I was also concerned about using the rice wrappers because we are trying to avoid deep fried foods plus the carbs from each wrapper. Silly me. At the same time, I have those bright red, gorgeous tomatoes that need using so I have blanched and peeled them already when I realized that, uh oh! Those meatballs are Asian flavored. So I have to change my plans. This cracks me up because I just had too many things in my head that my hands are not coordinating with what I am thinking. I guess, it’ll be Asian Meatballs in Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce.

What do you need to make these meatballs?
Zucchini and Carrots – using a box grater, shred those veggies and make sure to squeeze excess moisture. You’d be surprise on how much left you have after doing this.
Garlic – I use garlic on any dish I make. Just makes everything taste good.
Oyster Sauce – it is an Asian staple pantry item that is sweet and salty but not fishy like fish sauce. Nowadays, you can find it in any grocery store in the international isle. Substitute this with hoisin sauce if not available or sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis).
Worcestershire sauce – it is a fermented sauce made from anchovies, molasses and more ingredients. I like adding this for more flavor and umami. Use equal parts of soy sauce and hoisin sauce if this ingredient is not available.
Garlic and Onion powder – I like using these for more concentrated flavor.
Smoked Paprika – normally, you won’t find anybody using this in any Asian dishes but I like the smokiness and color that it adds to any dish.
Sesame oil – the addition of this gives that toasty and nutty flavor finish to the mieatballs.

Cheesy Zucchini Asian Meatballs
Yields: 42 pieces, 1 tablespoons each meatball
Author: Joanna Plummer

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs ground pork
2 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed
1 large carrot or 2 medium carrots, grated and squeezed
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 egg, whisked
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
few grinds of freshly cracked pepper

Instructions:

1. Grate zucchini and carrots on a clean kitchen towel. Grab all four sides and squeeze excess liquid from the vegetables. Transfer in a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a microplane or zester, grate garlic cloves into the bowl. Add ground pork, egg, cheese, onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, oyster sauce, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
3. Preheat oven to 400F. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture, placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet or silicone mat. Continue for the rest. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds. This will make about 42 pieces of 1 tablespoon each.
4. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Notes:
After shaping into rounds, freeze meatballs on the baking sheet and transfer to ziptop bags for about 3-4 months.
Any leftover meatballs can be frozen after they have cooled down completely. Freeze individually on a baking sheet and transfer to a ziptop bag for about 2-3 months.

Ginger and Garlic Paste

I like keeping a jar of garlic and ginger paste in my fridge because whenever we feel like eating curry or tikka masala or biryani it is always there to help me fix the dish. If you are like me, who does not like having the hassle of peeling, chopping or grating those two quintessential ingredients, then this is the recipe that you would want to go to. It is easy once you have everything peeled and chopped. It only needs a blitz in the blender and voila, you have a ginger and garlic paste that could last for a month.

I use this paste mostly on Asian dishes like Smoked Korean Barbecue Country Ribs, Tikka Masala, Tinola (Chicken Soup with Chayote Squash). This paste is very versatile that I even use it in my marinades and stir-fries.

Ginger and Garlic Paste
Yield: 1 pint jar or 16 oz.

Ingredients:

2 bulbs garlic
about 180 grams or 6 0z. ginger root, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. In a food processor or blender, put all the ingredients. Blend until it makes a paste.
2. Transfer in a jar and store it in the fridge for up to a month. Likewise, you can transfer it in an ice cube tray and freeze. Once they are frozen, transfer in a zip top bag and store for up to a year. Thaw a cube before using.


Spicy Bacon Calabacita and Zucchini Stir Fry

Freshly picked Calabacita and dark green skinned Zucchini are sweet and crunchy with hot Italian peppers.

I only have two zucchini planted in our garden, but oh my goodness! It keeps on producing and giving more each day. Same story goes with calabacita. You can think of every possible way to use them in every dish you make when you have a surplus of both of these vegetables.

This is a very simple and easy recipe for your busy nights. Key is to chop all your vegetables and grab all the necessary ingredients before firing up your pan. I love using bacon on my stir-fries. They are thinly sliced, pieces of heaven that gives crunch and smokey flavor to your dishes. Likewise, substitute it with ground beef, pork or chicken. If you have any rotisserie chicken, shred and add it in your stir fry. See, this dish is very versatile and very delicious too.

What you will need for this recipe:

  • 1 medium Calabacita, sliced into half moons
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
  • 2-3 slices bacon, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sambal oelek
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon ginger and garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon swerve
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • Handful of cilantro

Instructions:
1. Pre-heat cast iron skillet or a heavy bottom skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Chop vegetables. Add bacon strips. Render fat and cook until golden brown. Place bacon on a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Transfer bacon fat leaving about 1 tablespoon in the skillet.

2. Add onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until translucent about 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic paste. Stir and saute for about a minute or until fragrant. Add calabacita, zucchini, soy sauce, sambal and sugar. Stir until well combined and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Sprinkle green onions and cilantro before serving.

I usually serve this on garlic riced-cauliflower or you could always use white rice instead.

Southern Potato and Beet Salad

When I hear of “Southern” Potato Salad,I think of comfort food being served. Creamy and tangy with a hint of sweetness coming from the pickle relish. Oh I just love this salad!

Did you know that the potato salad that I grew up with was all sweet. To me, it seemed like they put condensed milk on potato salad too. Which I think is weird but i liked it back then. After having a taste of southern potato salad, I think it is the best.

The crunchiness from the celery gives freshness and brightness to the dish. While the addition of beet adds great color to the salad and gave a different earthy flavor. The dish must have onions. Period. Without it will give you unhappy guests. Meanwhile, adding garlic is also different for the original but it adds great flavor too.

Southern Potato and Beet Salad
Yields 2-4 as a side
Author: Joanna Plummer

Ingredients:
2 large russet potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1 large beet, chopped
2 celery hearts, finely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, grated
2 teaspoons swerve
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
dill or parsley for garnish

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven at 400F. Wrap whole beet in an aluminum foil with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let it cool before unraveling because of the steam. Let it cool and chop into bite size pieces.

2. In a large pot, place chopped russet potatoes and cover with 1″ of water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer until fork tender for about 20 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add mayonnaise, dijon mustard and vinegar. Using zester or box grater. grate garlic directly in the bowl Add salt, sugar and pepper, Mix until combined.

4. Add in celery, pickle relish and onion in the bowl, Mix until combined. Add potatoes and beets and eggs. Toss until well combined or until potatoes and beets are covered with the dressing.