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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Longer M.I.A. (we'll see how long this will last)

I've tried to do a blogsite, for years, and I always fail to write in it religiously; then eventually, disregarding it it all together.   I do not know how this will be any better.  I was never one of those girls who had to rush home from school and write every little detail of the day's event in her diary.  Well, looking back during my childhood years, I do recall my mom snooping in my room and find the one "consistent" diary I did wrote in. It gushed about how Dave was such a cutie, his hazel color eyes sparkled like a shinning stone, and his curly sandy brown hair was just perfectly product down to his skull! Of course, my mom being a typical Asian mom, made me feel guilty, "Do ju tink we are working hard and sending ju to a good escool por dis?" she hisses in her Filipino mixed wanna-a-be Ebonics accent.  Of course, my mom being a Filipina and Catholic would not let me live it down for a week.  Everytime I was around her, she scoffs and give me the evil eye making me feel like I committed murder.  Needless to say, I learned my lesson to keep my thoughts to myself.  Now that I am older, I realized, I love to write.  Well, let me retract that - I.  Love. To. Talk.  As much as I love to talk, I can not say my audience feel the same way about my never ending marathon of a mouth.  So thus, writing became an outlet for my pent-up fantasies of how life could/should/would've be.

I was just checking out the previous entries and noticed it was related to recipes.  At one point in my 20 something life, I wanted to own a catering business.  Once I hit it big with the catering business, I wanted to open a restaurant; first in my Home Sweet Home Chicago, then to the Golden State, and eventually, to put some competition with Little Havana's south coast - Miami!  Oh such hopes and dreams, I had; as one could guess, it did not work out.  The nights that really made me change my mind was during the holiday season and eggrolls were being order left and right.  Let us just say, a total of 4 hours of sleep in a course of 7 days, over 1,000 eggrolls made and other dishes were ordered, I decided to put that dream to bed - literally!  I have admirable respect to anyone in the food industry, due to that moment my life.  Though it did not work out for in that field, cooking is definitely one of my passions.  Honestly, I really don not care whether the dish comes out great the first time around, it is how you learn from one's techniques, the ups and downs of how one perfected the dish, how one perfected and de-perfected over and over again.  A wise chef told me once, "If they ask you for the recipe of your best dish, give it to them!  They'll try to recreate it, but it won't come out like yours.  Everyone's dish is like a thumb-print; everyone has one, but the making of your thumbprint - in this case, your famous dish - will be different."

Isn't that what life's all about?  We're all human.  We were all placed in this world to make something of ourselves?  So why not make the best of what we have, and live life to the fullest?  Do a Matthew McConaughey and "JUST KEEP LIVIN'!"

Kung hei fat choi everyone!  May the blessings in the year of the dragon be plentiful!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Google-Bears Pasta

I know. I know…I am awesome when it comes to updating! When life comes a knocking at your door, you damn well better answer it- who knows when you’ll have a second chance, right?! So I have been busy these past few months and updating my blog seemed to have been pushed back to lower priorities; hopefully, this is some what of peace offering to anyone who actually reads this blog.

This recipe is dedicated to my Barkada (bar-kah-duh: a group of friends that become your family) pinsan (peen-son: cousin) Kuya (koo-yah: older brother) Arvin. How does one describe professional chef Kuya Arvin? Let see. Kuya Arvin is one of the best role model I know. He has faults, like everyone else, but he admits to his faults and tries to better himself. He tells you how it is; bring the word “blunt” to a whole new meaning. I met Kuya when he first arrived to Chicago in my teens. He was the favorite of many aunts, and one of them happened to be my mom. My parents were the typical immigrant parents; raised the old-fashioned way. One could say, my sisters and I were sheltered growing up and entrusting their children to just anyone was definitely bad parenting in their books. Somehow, Kuya Arvin won my mom’s heart and instantly no matter where the event was being held or how late the event was being held til, as long as Kuya Arvin was there – my mom had no worries. Mind you, he later ratted my cousins and I out during my mom’s wake in front of many people. All was forgiven because after telling the stories, my aunts and uncles laughed.

One night, Kuya and I were talking on the phone; I being his therapist, and he being my professor, he had taught me many pointers, such as: how to cook meat thoroughly, how to properly cook chicken breast, when the right time to eat soup, etc. Not only did he give me some pointers but he taught me a recipe he and his colleagues have cooked in one of restaurants. The recipe was given to them but a very famous chef whom Kuya did not mention.

One of the most valuable pointers he taught me was, if someone asks for the recipe, give it them. No matter how well you cooked it, they will never recreate it like you do. Therefore, one day, my friends and I had our monthly book club (YEA, I’M IN A BOOKCLUB AND WHAT??) which is usually a pot-luck event, this time it was my friend Michele’s turn to host it at her house. Racking my brains for days on what to bring, I decided to make the dish and bring it as my offering. When it was time to eat, Michele was instantly hooked after the first bite. Since it was a girl’s movie night too, she packed some up for Chris, Michele’s boyfriend and who is also unleashing his inner cooking too, wanted to know the recipe. I emailed her the recipe and she replied asking what the dish was called. Since it is not my original recipe, I did not know what to call it. Prior to giving her the recipe, I told her during dinner where I got the recipe from; since it was originally from Kuya Arvin, who is contracted to be the head chef to a very well known company and professional sports team in Chicago, Michele bestowed the name in honor of Kuya Arvin!

Google-Bears Pasta


Olive Oil
3-4 Garlic (you could lessen the garlic depending on your taste)
1 bundle of Fresh Basil Leaves
3 Plum Tomatoes
1 pkg of Pasta your choice
1 jar of Sun dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil
2 cup of hot pasta water
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper for taste

Fill pot ¾ to the top with water and bring to a boil. When boiling add salt and drizzle olive oil before putting in the pasta. Cook until pasta is el dente and set aside 2 cups of pasta water

Detach the basil leaves from the steam, if it has not been detached already. Wash the leaves with water, and place the leaves individually unto a dry paper towel to dry the leaves

When the leaves are dry, stack the leaves on top of each other, and roll the leaves together, and cut them thinly. When separated, the leaves should look like small strips of green. (The technique is called Chiffonade... see attached picture)

Mince the garlic and roughly chop the plum tomatoes into cubes and sun dried tomatoes

In a separate cold pan, add enough olive oil and garlic and turn the stove to medium heat.

When garlic is brown add the plum tomatoes and pinch of salt. (salt will help the tomatoes release its juices) When the tomatoes have softened, mash the tomatoes and add the sundried tomatoes. (At this point add some of the olive oil from the tomatoes to enhance the flavor!)

Add 2/3 of the chopped basil and half of the parmesan cheese.

Add about 1 cup of the pasta water into the pan, stir and let it thicken. (at this point you want to stir more than normal because the cheese will start to stick to the pan) If it gets to dry, add more pasta water and let it thicken.

Add the pasta directly into the pan and mix. Add the remaining of the basil.

Add salt and pepper for taste (you could drizzle more of the sundried tomato olive oil too)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tara's Tinik-less Fish

To Private Tara Lynn Gonzales and to all the arm forces officers who risk their lives to protect the Land of the Free. Thank you!

Back in October of last year, my friend Tara came back home from Iraq. Tara is, definitely, one of those special people to me. Tara is my sister’s, Celeste, best-friend and the younger sister of Ransel, my friend. Celeste and Tara were in the same grade and Ransel and I were in the same grade and that is how we lived happily ever after. Seeing we were the only Asian minorities in our graduating class of 30 kids, we bonded over a commonality – a nice heaping bowl of rice! Well, not all rice, ulam too! As we grew closer, our parents did too. The four of us seen each other through graduations, heartaches, getting our first cars, first car accidents, high school and college; then in our early twenties, we would all pile up in their parent’s mini-van (yes, you read it correctly mini-van) to go to the “disco-disco.”

The “Si-Stars”, the group we called ourselves, had a weekly ritual. Ransel, the biggest club-head from the four of us, was knighted as “Professor Clubhead”, Celeste was “Teacher’s Assistant”, whilst me, Tara, and everyone else were called the students. There were more names that were made up later, but this name stuck. Our weekly rituals started from Wednesday night from getting a quick dinner, getting ready and going to the club from Wednesday night to Sunday morning. However, there were a few Wednesdays where the four of us did not want to go out to the city and rather stayed at Club 801 (my house) or Club Kevin Dr. (Tara’s and Ransel’s house). Those rare Wednesday night were scheduled to be a cooking lesson night for Tara.

While growing up, I have always known Tara having this Carpe Diem – seize the moment- attitude. Never letting an opportunity, good or bad, go by is one of the reasons why she joined the Marines. However, before she became Private Tara Lynn, she was just - Tara. Eager to learn, charismatic, a go-getter girl, Tara had asked me to teach her how to cook. At first, I was reluctant; not that I did not have faith in Tara’s cooking, I was a student myself and I was doubting my abilities. Instead of saying “no” I had said “yes,” and I do not regret it! Tara and I would be in the kitchen cooking, while Celeste and Ransel were in the kitchen making fun of EVERYTHING. Let me put it this way, you don’t need a television or a Wii or a radio or movies when you are with Celeste and Ransel; they are a reality TV show/comedy central/HBO/Desperate Housewives/General Hospital/TLC themselves. But they are a whole different novel themselves. (Not just a story. Novel!)

I do not recall the first dish I had taught Tara, however, Rellenong Bangus (rel-yen-ong bung-oos: fish stuff with its own meat and mixed with peas, carrots, potatoes, and the optional raisins) was the dish that always reminds me of her. It is one of the most tedious Filipino dishes to make, but so worth making. It starts off by getting a whole Milk fish (or bangus: bung-oos) scrapping its meat of its skin, cooking the meat, then letting it cool so one has to take out the little tinik (ti-nick: fish bones) still in the meat. When all the bones have been picked out, one has to sauté the fish meat with garlic, onion, tomatoes, and the vegetables. When all the sautéing is finish, the fish meat needs to be stuffed back into the carcass of fish. But wait! It’s not finish – then after the carcass has been stuffed, one has to deep fry it. Since there is this ongoing joke of Filipinos and their health problems, I opted for a better solution than to deep fry. I broil the fish in the oven, adding hot oil on the skin to make it crispy, but not soaking in fat. That’s all!

During one of those rare Wednesday nights, our hands soaking in fish meat and trying to get the small bones out of the meat and making them into flakes, the Si-Stars were gathered in Club 801’s kitchen and telling stories of last week’s club excoriation. When it comes to the four of us and the club – it was a really good night, when Ransel takes a lot of pictures and is dancing with everyone she knows and more than buzzed, Celeste’s head is on her arm “holding up the bar” – or rather, the bar is holding Celeste up, Tara is social butterfly saying hi to everyone and the occasional rifts with people who has issues with her, and I am in the dance floor with god only knows who. That particular night when Tara’s hands were covered in fish meat, she reenacted how our dancing moves were; unfortunately, I can not describe it to you, because it’s one of those you have be there to see it kinda things. Nonetheless, it was politically correct! Even though, clubbing days were a few years back and we all have moved on to more a quieter night-life, a good reminiscing here and there is always enjoyable. ~C


1 medium size Milkfish

1 medium onion

3 -4 cloves of garlic

1 medium tomato

3 tbsp. of fish sauce

Frozen or fresh peas

2 large eggs

2 tablespoon of flour

Salt and pepper


1 snack box of raisins (optional)

1. degut the fish and scale the fish

2. with a spoon get the fish meat out of the fish's body and detach the spine

3. once all the meat of the fish out of the body, you should be left with only the fish's head and skin

4. in a skillet add the raw meat and cook until opaque

5. set the cooked fish meat aside and one its cooled seperate the fish bones.

6. preheat the same skillette and add oil when hot

7. add the chopped onions and mince garlic until onions are transparent and garlic is a nice golden brown

8. add the tomatoes and let them sweat

9. add fish sauce, fish meat, and frozen peas

10. scramble the eggs and flour to bind after peas have thawed out add salt and pepper for taste

11. preheat oven to high broil and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan

12. stuff the cooked meat back into the raw skin of the fish and put the fish into the oven.

13. flip the fish to make sure all sides are cooked. Cooking time 30 minutes in the oven.

Yes I know there are a lot of steps... but it's to challenge the inner cook in all of us!

(picture taken by J.K.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

There's always a beginning to everything....

My name is Christianne; but most people call me Chris or Deng (a nickname given to me by my nephew. I was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Chicago at the age of 4 years-old. It has been 23 years since I last step foot in the Philippines and been desperately wanting to go back. I love to experiment, no matter how good- or bad - the experiments come out, it's all about strategy! Since, I was born in the Philippines and live in a Philippines house hold, I tend to cook - Filipino food. However, living in a “melting pot” nation, it would be ignorant if one has not at least tried the diverse entrees waiting to be eaten.

A little background on me; I never liked cooking until just a few years ago. It is to the point where I would rather eat hard boiled eggs all day long than to cook a proper meal (side note: I just learned how to properly cook a hard-boil egg a few years ago). Yes! Sad, I know. So this blog is dedicated to the inner-cook in all of us!
I was only 19 years-old, it had only been a few months since my mom passed away; my dad was disgusted on how disconnected I have became from my heritage, the first thing he thought was to teach me how to cook Filipino dishes, or ulum (oo-lum). I have always thought that it was a lot easier to hop in my car, drive to the local fast food joints, order, pay, retrieve my order, and leave. Simple. Fast. Convenient. Easy clean up and with one easy payment of less than ten dollars! Yea – no! It most definitely did not fly with my dad.

Being 19 years-old and your opportunities endless, the last thing you want to do is cook. I have always imagine at the age of 25 years-old, I would be living in Napa Valley, owning my own business, living in a white pristine mansion, and having a maid and a cook to cook all my meals. Ah! Such foolish dreams I had. Back to reality! Exhausted from early morning classes, then going to my full-time job at a doctor’s office, dealing with over-exaggerated patient symptoms and over-bearing doctors, I did not even work for, the last thing I (or anyone, for that matter) wanted to do is cook a meal; let alone, the teacher was my father. My dad called me at work to go straight home and he will be giving me my first cooking lesson. Trust me; I prayed all day for him to suddenly have amnesia; forgetting, or even recollecting, the conversation and the subject of me cooking, period; needless to say, I was in no hurry to go home that day.

So when I got home that evening, from a very looonngg day, I crept into the front door, snuck into my bedroom, closed the door with a whisper thud, and called it safe. Ha! Not even thirty seconds later, I heard my dad’s booming accent from behind the door, “Chris! When you put your stuff down, go into the kitchen and I’ll teach you how to cook.”
“Damn! Why me? I don’t want to learn how to cook.” I thought.
So thus, when it all began.