Archive | March, 2012

almond cake

29 Mar

So excited to finally bake this cake.  I’ve been planning to make almond cake since winter break but didn’t have enough time.  After studying Mourad Lahlou’s and David Lebovitz’s recipe, I only found two slight differences in their recipes: Lahlou uses more flour and Lebovitz uses more baking powder.  But they are pretty much the exact same recipe with the same amount of butter, eggs, and sugar.  Technique wise, Lahlou foundues the butter, which I highly recommend, in order to make a lighter batter.  Just whisk  the butter over low heat until it is thick and creamy.  I use the same approach when I make my date and walnut bars and it definitely makes a difference.  I basically doubled Lahlou’s recipe to make a 9 inch round layer cake.

Almond Cake
Adapted from Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, fondued
7 ounces almond paste
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven at 275 degrees.  Grease 9 x 2.5 inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom with a parchment paper and grease the bottom again.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, set aside.

Beat the almond paste with a mixer until it is soft and until it has broken into little pieces.  Add the sugar and mix to combine.  Gradually add the butter and mix until light and fluffy about two minutes.  Add eggs one at a time and make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add the extracts and continue mixing until light and fluffy another two minutes.  Fold in the flour.  Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the pan.  Tap the pan to get rid of air bubbles.  Spread batter evenly with a spatula.  Lahlou says to bake the cake for about an hour.  Mine were done after 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Keep checking after an hour.


  1. Baking tips: use the middle rack of the oven, turn the pan halfway through the baking time, ingredients such as eggs and butter should be in room temperature unless indicated otherwise.  You need cold butter when making pie crusts.
  2. I find that most readily available cake pans are too shallow.  I highly recommend investing in this taller layer pan.  No spill, no batter overflow.
  3. I noticed the Lahlou’s oven temperatures are always lower than normal when it comes to baking resulting in longer cooking time.  However, I find that they are always perfectly baked, no burnt edges, perfect golden brown color, etc.  Still trying to find some sort of scientific explanation why, will let you know once I find out.

Lahlou’s book calls for a plum sorbet, cardamom infused yogurt, and toasted almonds to be served with the cake.  It’s not really plum season yet and I still have to invest on an ice cream maker so that will have to wait until next time.  I also didn’t quite get it together to make cardamom infused yogurt.  The cake can be served as is, with fresh or macerated berries, or even a raspberry coulis with honeyed whipped cream as shown above.  This cake is amazing!  Moist and full of almond flavor.  I’ll definitely make this cake again with the cardamom yogurt.  But everyone loved it plain.  Yes, I love anything almond flavored.

primal friendly pancakes

26 Mar

Lately I’ve been craving pancakes in a big way. I’m not stranger to making primal friendly pancakes. However, it’s taken me quite a while to perfect this recipe and make it so that a non-primal, pancake-loving friend (or Manpanion) would love it too. The original recipe came from this site. Of course, I adapted. Hope you like what I came up with!

Primal Friendly Pancakes


  • 6 eggs
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch (or more depending on what it takes to get the thickness right)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • coconut oil for frying


1) Mix the batter in a bowl. To make it smooth, use a hand blender.

2) Grease pan with coconut oil. Pour batter to create pancakes. If the batter seems too thin you may need to add a small arrowroot starch to achieve the desired consistency.

3) Your pan should be set to a low or medium-low setting. I used my new pancake rings because they’re steady and I like the look of them. These new rings are smaller, allowing me to cook FOUR pancakes at a time. Simply fill the rings to make a thin coating (about 1/3 of the way). Leave them in the rings until the sides are solid and the batter bubbles. From there, lift the rings and flip over. (If you’re adding chocolate chips or other goodies, drop them in the partially cooked batter before flipping.) After the pancakes are cooked, enjoy!

Note: The key to making these pancakes work is to make sure that the batter is thick enough. Usually, primal pancakes are runny because of the eggs and coconut milk, which are used to bind the batter. Another issue is they tend to be gritty because of the coconut flour. The arrowroot starch cuts that grit. The bananas also help with reducing the grit and making the batter smooth. If you’re not into bananas, I suggest experimenting with pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, or whatever you think will be a good thickener. You’ll need about 1 cup of it in your batter.

If you want to jazz it up a bit, you can add chocolate chips to add to the deliciousness (the bananas are plenty, though). I usually have a stash of dark chocolate chips (70% or more) on hand. Before flipping the pancake, I slip a few into the mix.

Let me know how this recipe works for you.

Live deliciously!


almond cookies

23 Mar

It’s spring break!  Yay!  I realized that I still have all these grandiose plans of cooking through Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan.  Lahlou’s Aziza remains one of my most favorite restaurants in the city.  I celebrated my 25th birthday at Aziza a couple of years ago and experienced their tasting menu.  Each dish was absolutely amazing.  It was expensive but so worth it.  I still haven’t been back since, so I’m really excited to know that I can try to recreate his dishes at home.

I’m working through his book, cheating, starting first at the back with the desserts.  I’m still deciding whether I really want to roast and grind my own spices.  I totally agree with his take that spice is a verb, it’s really what you do with it, and most importantly, one should really toast and grind spices as needed.  Store spices whole and untoasted.  However, I don’t have the money to buy all the spices to make my own el ras hanout from scratch (his mix has 24 different ingredients!) and a spice grinder.  I know this thought is sacrilegious to Lahlou, but maybe I’ll just use store bought and already ground spices.  But I really like the idea and challenge of making my own spices from scratch.  Maybe I don’t have to make my own el ras hanout, since a basteeya and kefta doesn’t need it.

In any case, keep checking back and see my cooking adventures with Lahlou this spring break.  I’ll write a review of his book as I cook my way through it.  Here’s the second second recipe I tried, I’ll post the first one later.

Almond Cookies
Adpated from Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan

1 tablespoon egg white
1/2 tespoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces almond paste
3/4 cup skin-on whole almonds
3 tablespoons sugar (original recipe calls for 3 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
powdered sugar

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.

Combine egg white with the extracts and set aside.

Combine the almond paste, almonds, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the egg white mixture and process until everything comes together.  I used a blender and processed everything little by little since I don’t have a food processor.  It worked fine.

Form dough into round balls by scantly filling a tablespoon. Roll dough into powdered sugar.  Bake for about 14 minutes, middle rack, don’t forget to rotate the pan halfway.  He says 12.  But mine actually took longer so just keep checking until the cookies are cracked and they have some color.  Weirdly, I baked another one of his cookie recipe and the cooking time was also off. Perhaps, I also need to invest in an oven thermometer.

These cookies are really good but also rich.  They are great with tea or just a piece to end a meal.  My mom and aunt loved them!

P.S.  My spice grinder is now on its way, we are on for a spring break of culinary adventures!

sauteed mung beans

19 Mar

This is my personal version of ginisang mungo or sauteed mung beans.  Perfect for the cold weather!

Rinse two cups of mung beans.  Pour water over it, about four inches above the beans depending on how soupy you want your dish to be.  Simmer with a ham hock for about an hour or so until tender.  The ham hock will give the dish that smoky flavor.  I’ve seen recipes where they add chicaron or smoked fish with the dish.  You can even add small pieces of sauteed pork butt or shrimp.

On another pot, sauté crushed garlic, diced onions and tomatoes.  This is the base of most everyday home cooked Filipino food.  I think it’s called a sofrito.  But the use of tomato depends on the dish you are making.  Once the tomatoes are done, pour in the contents of the other pot with the mung beans, ham hock, and the broth.  Slow cook for another half an hour.

Instead of bitter melon, I added baby spinach at the end.  Add as much as you want.  I would add a little bit of vermicelli noodles too but I didn’t have it on hand.

Season with either sea salt or fish sauce and some pepper.  Smells and tastes so good.  Not bad for my first time cooking this dish.

Lunch is served on top of brown rice!

I know, this recipe is not thorough, I really don’t measure when I cook Filipino food.  Feel free to leave a message and ask me a questions.

I’ve heard too many people criticize how Filipino food is all meat.  That’s actually wrong.  Here, in the US, it’s become all about meat because it’s cheap.  In the Philippines, meat is expensive and most everyday home cooking are actually vegetable dishes with a very small amount of meat that they sauté before the sofrito for flavoring.

skillet chocolate chip

18 Mar

Friday night was spent grading final papers and baking whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookie.  Never thought I’d say this ever, but I actually enjoyed reading almost all of my students’ papers.  Graded all of them in one sitting!  Reading these papers and getting nice e-mails from students are the only things that keep me going these days.  It feels really nice to see that most of them have a good grasp of hard theoretical concepts.  More than what I understood when I first read those materials in undergrad!  Guess the burn out from teaching is worth it.  Oh, baking and cooking non-stop has been helping too!

Back to the cookie.  Thanks to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe, which I followed completely.  No modifications except for using chocolate chips than chunks.  So the first time I tried these cookie, I was not impressed at all.  I was looking for that caramelized  taste.  But this cookie actually get better with time.  It’s so good a day or two later.  Made with whole wheat flour.  It’s almost healthier than the regular kind and the whole wheat flour brings in a natural nutty flavor without the addition of nuts.  Next time, I might caramelize half of the butter first and do the America’s Test Kitchen approach in making chocolate chip cookies.  By the way, America’s Test Kitchen recipe is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever made so far.

I love my cast iron skillet!  Not only is it affordable but it is a total workhorse.  I have made the perfect ribeye, pizza, pancakes, etc.  I can make almost anything with it.  The only part I don’t like about my skillet is that I have to clean it right away after using or it will rust.  Here are some awesome tips on how to use it and how to take care of it.

thank you

14 Mar


This awesome cookbook arrived in the mail today.  I was totally surprised since it has my name and address on it only I never ordered the book in the first place.  There was no receipt, no inscription, nothing at all to let me know who it came from.  It took me all day, a lot of text messages, and even several phone calls to finally figure out the culprit.  Good one.

But the thought and act of kindness that came with this surprise couldn’t have come in a better time.  It’s the end of winter quarter.  I’m burnt out and my spirits are starting to get low.  Dearest mystery person, thank you for making my day today.  This gesture means a lot to me.


Guess this means we’ll be taking up the cookbook challenge come spring quarter. Quickly browsing through the recipes so far, it feels like my advisor just told me to read Of Grammatology in one day and take another day to write a ten page analysis of it.  I mean this is a serious cookbook that tells you how to make your own ramen broth from scratch.  Did you know making your own broth takes at least 16 hours?  And it involves making your own bacon.  I think I’ll start with the fried chicken.  But then again a 16 hour broth sounds better than a nine hour qualifying exam.

It’s going to be so much fun, I’m excited!  I think humanities doctorate programs should start handing out dual degrees–one on an academic subject and another one on cooking.  Seems like so many academics become really great cooks to cope with the intellectually demanding lifestyle of academia.

eggplant torta

12 Mar

Okay. Fine. I’ll post a recipe. Before I do, I’d like to note that the reason why I hesitate to post recipes is because everyone and their dog has some bullshit thing to say about the food I cook, how I cook it, and how (un)authentic it is. With that, I am reminded of why I possess not one, but TWO middle fingers;P

Bitter? I know. It comes from a horrible experience in college when I ended up living with my HSBFF (high school best friend). (Note: we are no longer friends. It’s a long story. If you buy the coffee, I’ll spill the beans.) It wasn’t until college that I learned to cook. Before then, mom did all the cooking. All I had to do is watch and eat. However, I quickly learned that all those years watching equipped me with the necessary skills to do some interesting things in the kitchen. Even I can admit that I’m not the greatest cook. However, my kitchen sensibilities come from the ways in which I grew up. Everyone is like this. With respect to Filipino food, the way I cook certain dishes is way different from the way others cook the same dish. With 300+ years of Spanish colonization, Japanese occupation, and American invasion, YES. Lots of Filipino families do similar dishes in a ton of different ways. Get used to it.

PLUS, I’m from GUAM! (insert raised fist in the air)

Back to the ex-HSBFF…. I simply got sick and tired of hearing, “That’s not how my mom/lola/dad/pet dog cooks it!” With the ex-HSBFF, there was a lot of bark, but not a lot of bite. This person barely knew how to boil water! Looking back, I should have just let her starve! Anyhoo….

As I’ve said before, I’m not big on recipes. I have them, I look at them to get a sense of what the dish needs, and I usually go on my own merry way from there. To explain how I make something like eggplant torta is a bit of a challenge. But I’ll try. I hope you find it useful… (If not, you can check out this recipe.)


  • 1 1/3 lb ground beef (I used the organic ground beef from Costco, hence the strange measurement)
  • 6 Philippine eggplants (about medium sized; I looked for ones that were short enough to roast over the stove burner)
  • Gluten-Free soy sauce (or whatever soy sauce you have; you can also use coconut aminos if you’re hard core Paleo)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 c arrowroot starch (Roughly. In reality, I may have used about half this amount?)


1) Roast the eggplant over the stove, until the skin is kind of burnt. You want that outer layer of skin to peel off. Inside, you’ll get soft, smoky eggplant. You can do this in the oven (just be sure to poke holes in the eggplant), but you won’t get that smoky flavor. I happen to have a gas burner. Therefore, I simply washed and dried the eggplant, turned on the stove on low, and placed it directly over the flame. (This is how my mom does it. If you have problems with the technique, tell her and the ninja slipper that awaits in her hand.)

2) After roasting, peel the burt skin and collect the smoked eggplant in a bowl (yes, juices and all). Discard the skin and tops. Let the eggplant cool. At this stage, I also shred the eggplant to break it up.

3) Saute the ground beef with soy sauce and cracked pepper. I know I left out measurements because for me, it’s a matter of taste. I like LOTS of black pepper. For this batch, I easily used 1+ tbs of black pepper with under 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Cook well and let this ground beef mixture cool with the eggplant. For this batch, I let it cool and then stored in the fridge because I wasn’t ready to cook the torta til the next day. (It’s okay of the meat is a little salty because after eventually mixing with the eggplant and eggs, the salt evens out.)

4) Once the eggplant and ground beef mixture is cooled, beat the eggs and fold it into the batter with the arrowroot starch. I’m developing a newfound love for arrowroot starch and will pick up a big bag of it the next time I’m at Penzey’s. I added the starch so that the batter wouldn’t be so runny and it would be easier to flip.

5) When ready to fry, heat up a flat pan and grease it with ghee (or whatever oil you use). Using my new pancake rings (which I bought just for this recipe), I filled each ring with about 2 tbsp of the batter and flattened it in each ring.

6) This is where your senses are gonna need to kick in. The flame has to be about medium because you want to make sure the eggs are cooked and the torta is solid enough to turn. You may need to take a fork and poke the batter to see how hard or soft it is before turning. When you’re ready to turn, remove the rings and turn. (Again, be very careful!)

7) Once the flip side is cooked, remove the torta and repeat the process. You don’t need the pancake rings, but I find that it provides better control and it makes it so darn pretty! Here’s the final dish!

This batch made about 18 pieces. Most people will have this with banana ketchup and rice. Personally, I like it plain because I season it with enough soy sauce and pepper that it doesn’t really need anything more.

While this is one of my personal favorite dishes, it’s something I don’t make that often (but that will change soon). I think with the new pancake rings (and adding the arrowroot starch), I can make it more frequently because it made the process so much easier, giving me less breakage. (Um, I do think I need another set of rings, though.) Before these tools, I had to make them one by one in my egg pan. It took FOREVER! I’ve considered getting one of these pans, but they’re not deep enough and don’t have enough give to flip something this delicate. Another reason why I don’t do this dish that often is because when I was living closer to my sister, these puppies disappeared as quickly as I made them! (Seriously. When I’d bring this to my sister’s house, the person who received the container either ate it on the spot or managed to hide it in the wee corners of the fridge. Silly family! Torta is for sharing!)

As I’ve said before, everyone has their own method to the madness. I’ve had different versions of torta before: with tomatoes, with the eggplan still in tact, with no meat (gasp!), etc. This happens to be the version I like because I grew up with this.  So… what’s your version like?

Live deliciously!


whole wheat pancakes

12 Mar

Few years ago, a friend of mine made me pancakes when I was visiting her and her family.  She made these delicious pancakes that she said she got from Alton Brown.  Since I bought this huge bag of whole wheat flour to make the coconut muffins, I thought of experimenting with mixing whole wheat and all purpose flour together.

This recipe turned out really well.  Nice, fluffy, and tasty.  Although, I made  a slight mistake of putting a little too much more salt and baking powder than the recipe calls for.  I really shouldn’t be doing math in the morning when I just woke up.

This is a great basic pancake recipe that one can create wonders with such as adding chocolate chips, blueberries, etc.  Maybe one can even add macadamia nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, and even substitute coconut oil instead of the butter?  I’ll have to experiment with this idea next time.

Whole Wheat Pancake Flour Mix

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix all together.  Keep in a well sealed container.  Use within 3 months.

Pancake Batter Recipe

2 eggs separated
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups of the Pancake Mix above
butter to grease the pan

Beat the egg yolks and buttermilk together.

Beat the egg whites and melted butter.  Make sure the butter is slightly cooled.

Combine the buttermilk and melted butter mixture together.

Combine with wet and dry ingredients together.  Do not over mix.  Cook over a buttered skillet or griddle.

green tea mochi cake

11 Mar

I’ve been on a baking roll because I need to feel that I am accomplishing something right now.  I’ve been wanting to try this recipe but it makes a huge pan of mochi and I actually don’t like eating what I make.  I made these for my students for our last section and they seemed to enjoy it.  I think adding unsweetened coconut on the batter would work well.  Even better would be a plain mochi with macapuno filling.  Espresso flavored mochi would work well too.  I wonder if ube flavored mochi would taste good?

Green Tea Mochi Cake

Adapted from Gourmet via New Asian Cuisine

1 lb box of mochiko flour or 3 cups of sweet rice flour
2 1/4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of matcha powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 14 oz can of coconut milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
5 large eggs
1 stick of butter melted and slightly cooled

Preheat oven at 350 degrees, grease a 9×13 pan.

Stir together rice flour, sugar, baking powder, matcha powder, and salt.

Mix together coconut milk, milk, eggs, and butter.

Combine wet and dry ingredients together.  Pour in the pan.  Don’t forget to tap the pan in the counter to get rid of air bubbles.

The recipe says bake for an hour and a half but mine were done in an hour.  So make sure to check after 50 minutes to avoid overcooking.  Then again our oven is from the turn of the century and tends to cook things quickly.  I ended up having to cut out all the edges because they were almost burnt.  With minor modifications such as adding more green tea powder and adding less sugar, this recipe turned out well and the mochi was tasty.

triple coconut muffins

8 Mar

When I get annoyed, cranky, and stressed out, I bake or cook then I feel so much better afterwards. I was having one of those days and in academia those days can be pretty often. Cooking and baking are instant gratification. Ideas and papers take a long time to come together while a muffin is done in an hour or less!  The more complex the idea I’m working with or the more stressed out I am, the more labor intensive cooking I do.

I’ve been planning on making these with friends but I couldn’t wait.  Sorry!  These muffins turned out amazing.  None of that cloyingly sweet fake coconut taste.  It’s light, fluffy, moist, and full of coconut flavor.  As already pointed out at Smitten Kitchen, this recipe is very versatile and can be modified in so many ways, one can add semi-sweet chocolate chips or even macadamia nuts.  I love it plain and simple since coconut is already rich.

Recipe with my mess

Batter.  Silicone spatulas are awesome, from baking to cooking, won’t scratch your cookware!  Very versatile and practical.



Lightly golden brown.  Baked perfectly!

Coconut Muffins
Adapted and modified from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup and 1 tbsp. sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

Mix coconut oil, egg, vanilla, and coconut milk.  Make sure the coconut oil is cooled before you mix in the egg otherwise it will cook the egg.  To quickly turn an egg to room temperature just dunk it on warm tap water for a little bit.

Stir together flours, salt, baking powder, and shredded coconut.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.  Do not over mix.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Mine took a little bit longer to bake so just keep checking.

Happy baking!