Last Friday was my turn to host the neighbors’ monthly get-together.  Inspired by the Chinese New Year celebrated this year on January 31, I decided to make it a dim-sum night.  These are the items I prepared.

Beef Sio-mai on spinach wrap

Beef Siomai on spinach wrap


  • ½ lb ground sirloin, I purchased the pack with the lowest fat content
  • ¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame seed oil
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 25 pieces spinach wonton wrapper.  The package suggests to use this type of wrapper to make vegetable dumplings, but I thought it would add some color and I decided to use green peas to complement the  spinach wrap.

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai


  • ½ cup boneless chicken breast, chopped
  • ¼ c chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ c Chinese black mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame seed oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • 15 pieces shrimps, shell and slice in the middle to remove the black vein
  • 25 Siomai wrapper

Mix all the ingredients, except the shrimps and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Wrap the siomai using 1 T of chicken top with half the shrimp. Make a circle using the index finger and the thumb. Put the siomai on the hole and lightly grab the ends to make the siomai pockets.

Chicken Siopao

Chicken Siopao

I have posted the recipe for Chicken Siopao. For this occasion, I just made them smaller, about 2 inches diameter.

Turkey Dumpling

Dumpling with Turkey

This is actually called Peking Kuo-Tieh Dumplings.

Dough Skin:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 T cold water

Sift flour in a bowl, mix in the boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes, then add the cold water. Transfer into a mixer or knead manually until it forms a soft ball.


  • ½ lb ground turkey
  • 1 T chopped  fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 1 T rice wine

Cut the dough into round the size of a pecan nut. Using a rolling-pin, flatten each and put 1 T of filling.  Make pleats on one side of the round and pinch on the other side to form the dumpling. This process really takes time but it is worth it.

Boil water in a pot. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water few pieces at a time. The dumpling will first sink into the bottom of the pan and then rise to the top when cooked. Scoop out each floating dumpling and set aside. Spray some oil to prevent from sticking to each other. Store in the refrigerator. This can be done the day before.

On the day of the party, fry the dumplings in a hot pan with little oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. This takes about 3 minutes on each side.



Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor


  • 2  lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs, If you buy the ones with bones, simply cut around the bones. Cut in bite-size squares.

Marinade overnight in:

  • ¼ c vinegar
  • 1 whole clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, finely chopped or 2  t turmeric powder if fresh is not available
  • ½ cup chopped lemongrass
  • 2 T salt

On the day of the party, put 3 or 4 pieces in small bamboo skewers.  With little oil to prevent sticking, cook the sticks in a pan for 5 minutes each side. Start with a really hot pan.

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing


  • 1 lb egg noodles. udon noodles will work too
  • 4 pieces scallions, the white part only, slice lengthwise
  • 3 pieces of kirby cucumbers, or Persian cucumbers, or equivalent measure of English cucumbers
  • 1 sweet red pepper, slice into strips
  • 1 cup carrots, cut in sticks
  • Dressing: 2 t sesame  oil; 1 T peanut oil, 1 T peanut butter, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 T miso, pepper to taste .

Boil water in a pot and cook the noodles according to package directions.  Rinse and drain when done.

Make the dressing and toss everything. Serve immediately or keep cool in the refrigerator.

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling


  • 1 can sweet red beans. I cooked mine using dried azuki beans, sweetened with little sugar
  • 1 cup  Philippine sweet coconut or macapuno, optional

Use the same dough as for siopao. Put 1 T filling inside and steam for 10 minutes.

Egg Custard Tart

Egg Custard Tart


  • 1 ½ c hot water
  • ½ c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • Dissolve sugar in hot water. Allow to cool and add the remaining ingredients. Strain and set aside.


  •  1 ½ c all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 2 T cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Combine flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Transfer into a floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
  • Divide the dough into 18 or 20 pieces and press into 2 ½: tart pans. Since I don’t own the small  tart pans, I used the mini muffin pan.
  • Stir the custard mixture and pour into each tart. Bake in pre-heated 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

I offered different sauces to go with the dim-sums.

  • Soy-Vinegar.  ¼ cup soy sauce,  3 T rice vinegar, ½ t black pepper, finely sliced 1 scallion. Mix together. This is good for the dumplings. For variation, instead of scallions use, 1 T finely diced fresh ginger.
  • Hoisin-Sesame:  3 T hoisin sauce, 1 t sesame oil. Mix. This is good on Chicken Siopao.
  • Worcestershire: Also good used in the chicken siopao.

For drinks I served lychee juice,  jasmine tea and chilled sake.

Making each dumpling requires patience.  It’s been my habit to turn the TV on while I work in the kitchen. This time I tuned in to Netflix for my favorite old movies. I figured since I already saw the movies several times,  there is no need to pay attention much to the dialogues while making the dumplings.

Dim-sum night was a hit. My friend Isabel said to me, ‘this is over the top, you know I can’t match this’,  while her Italian husband said, ‘I am serving pizza on my turn!’.

To that I responded, ‘I would like that since I have been saying that the day I meet a pizza I like, is the day I become a true Floridian’.

Because right now, when it comes to food,  my heart still belongs to New York!

By the way, I completed the preparation of these good morsels while two of my favorite old movies played on the TV: School Ties and Last Holiday.  It provides me with the proper rhythm. Try it, it’s fun.


Laing (Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk)


Freshly harvested taro corm and leaves

I decided my taro plant is ripe for harvesting.  The plant was from a corm I obtained from an Asian store.  This member of the potato family is called many names in different places.  The most famous variety is the Hawaiian taro. In the Philippines, it is known as gabi. In the Caribbean countries, it is called malanga. And yet in other places like Japan and India, it is known as eddoe.

I know that in the Philippines, the leaves and stalks are eaten as well and in Hawaiian cooking, meat or fish are wrapped and cooked in taro leaves.  I have never learned to cook the  gabi leaves and so I posted to my Facebook friends and asked for suggestions as to what to do with the leaves. Apparently, there are two schools of thought on the matter: one is to cook the leaves and stalks when fresh and the other, is to dry them first.  Only one friend, who hails from the Bicol region which I believe is the home of this dish gave a detailed instructions on how to prepare  the fresh leaves.  A good number of friends, said that the leaves should be dried.

To seize the opportunity, I decided to try to cook them fresh first.  I’ll try the dried ones, the next harvest time.

My ingredients:

  • 10 stalks of gabi or taro
  • 2 cans of coconut milk. But since I was out of canned coconut milk, I extracted the cream from freshly grated coconut that I keep in the freezer.  I extracted a total of 2 cups of liquid.
  • 1 T sliced  garlic
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 T thin strips of fresh ginger. My ginger also came from my garden.
  • fresh hot peppers.
  • 3 T fish sauce.  I decided to make it a vegetarian dish so that it can be eaten as a side dish to fish or meat.  Everyone suggested to sauté with either smoked fish or pork.
  • 1 t oil


  • Peel the stalks and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Cut the leaves in small pieces, about 1/2 inch squares
  • Heat the oil in a pan, stir fry the garlic, ginger and onions for about 3  minutes enough to release the aroma of the garlic and ginger.
  • Add the taro leaves and stalks, coconut milk and fish sauce. Cover and bring to boil.
  • Lower the heat. Simmer  to slowly cook the leaves. Check and stir once in a while to make sure that the bottom is not burning.
  • Cook until the coconut oil is rendered. This takes a good hour.
  • Add the hot pepper any time  you desire to control the spiciness.

The resulting dish resembles creamed spinach. The taste,  non of that bite on the throat that everyone says would result when the leaves are not dried first.  This dish was never prepared in our home in the Philippines. I probably ate this no more than 3 times in my entire life. So I can’t be an expert on this dish.

But my laing is tasty. We just had it for lunch as a side to grilled fish.

Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk

Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk

Lavender Flan


A few years ago while still attending New York University, my daughter decided to walk to DUMBO from her dorm to go to Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop . (DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a neighborhood in the New York City, New York, borough of Brooklyn.)  Fortunately for me the man himself was at the store. And so she talked to him and mentioned that I am big fan of him. She got his book where he signed,  ‘ To Evelyn , eat dessert first’.  Jacques Torres.

It’s funny because that’s what I always wanted to do on every meal. And that’s exactly what you would want to do with this Lavender Flan!

I decided to prepare a lavender dinner for my husband’s youngest sister,  Mel who visited us recently from Las Vegas with her life long friend  and our good friend too, Florence from San Diego. Actually both of them as young college students were in a group who sang at our wedding 35 years ago.

The menu.
Appetizer.  Goat cheese rolled in lavender and crushed walnuts drizzled with raw honey. Served with crackers.
Salad of romaine lettuce, originally planned with lavender vinaigrette but decided that it might overwhelm them and ruin their taste for the main dish so I just decided to use a simple white balsamic with a rather good extra virgin olive oil.
Main dish. Broiled Short lamb chops season with Herbes de Provence with a side of sautéed garden fresh yard long beans and okra with slivers of almonds. I purchased this really good rosemary olive bread and everyone enjoyed dipping in olive oil and my balsamic reduction. I usually refer to this as liquid calories.

Finale. Lavender Flan. I adapted the recipe from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America.  But instead of butter,  I decided to use a little caramelized sugar, just like the way we do with the Philippine flan we call, leche flan.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 t dried lavender which I decided to grind instead of chopped as instructed.
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • strawberry or mint to garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 325˚.
  • In a small saucepan, caramelized 1/4 cup of sugar. Put 1 tsp of the caramelized sugar on the bottom of 6 4-oz ramekins.
  • Bring a kettle of water to boil.
  • In another pan, mix the milk, sugar and lavender. Bring to boil. Remove the pan from the heat and steep for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a bowl beat the eggs and yolks. When the milk mixture has completely cooled, add it to the eggs and beat lightly . Do not over beat.
  • Using a very fine-mesh sieve, strain the mixture into a clean container.
  • Carefully ladle into the 6 ramekins, about three-fourths full.
  • In a deep baking pan lined with kitchen towel, arrange the ramekins, add boiling water to come halfway of the ramekins.
  • Bake until the edges have set, the center slightly jiggle, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove the ramekins from the water bath. Let them cool for 30 minutes.
  • Wrap each ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 3 days before serving.
  • To unmold, run a sharp knife around the edges of each cup. Turn the flan out onto individual dessert plates.
  • Garnish.


Shrimp Pad Thai

Shrimp Pad Thai

The ingredients I used in my Pad Thai are not the  exact vegetables called for in the traditional Pad Thai recipe. I don’t have bean sprouts  but I do have a substantial supply of Asian vegetables.

First is a visit at the backyard, our backyard is always a work-in-progress in my attempt to create an edible landscape here in the zone 10 region of Florida.

Anyway, I picked two kinds of beans, the bush beans and the Asian yard long beans.

Green Beans

Green Beans


Asian Yard Long beans. I have 2 varieties, the green and the purple. I used the two interchangeably.


This is my Key Lime which we like to squeeze on any noodle dish. (By the way, my husband also uses the lime juice and lemon juice as a natural deodorant.)

Scallions or Green Onions

Scallions also called Green Onions


Thai Basil

Thai Basil grows wild in my garden as they reseed. I have to say that this plant does not recognize the seasons here in zone 10. 


Based on what’s in the refrigerator and what I picked from the garden, here is the list of vegetables I came up with:

  • 3/4 cup sweet peppers
  • 2 cups sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced beans
  • 1 medium  sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 pieces of mini sweet pepper
  • 3 pieces of whole chili, optional
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut in sticks
  • a bunch of Thai basil
  • 1/4 cup course chopped cilantro
  • 2 stalks of green onions, sliced
  • 1 lb of shelled shrimps
  • 1/2 lb Pad Thai Rice Noodle. I used fresh Pad Thai noodles. If using the dry noodles, pre-cooked as directed on the package.
  • 2 T peanut oil
  • 1 T  fish sauce

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Add the onion and  shrimps.  Stir fry until the shrimps turn pink. Do not overcook the shrimps.                                                                                                                                                   Push the shrimps on one side of the work or transfer to a plate and stir-fry the vegetables until slightly wilted.  Mix shrimps and vegetables. Season with  fish sauce. Transfer in a bowl.

Pad Thai Sauce. You may adjust the proportion based on personal taste. I’d like to point out that the Pad Thai’s salty-sweet-sour taste appeals to most Filipino palate.

  • 3 T  fish sauce
  • 3 T  brown sugar
  • 3 T tamarind liquid (this is available in Asian stores. In place of the first 3 ingredients, you may use the bottled Pad Thai sauce also available in Asian food stores. I stay away from Asian flavor mixes because they usually include MSG.)
  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Using the same wok, add the first  three ingredients  and  1/2 cup of chicken broth. Boil until it thickens. Add the noodles and stir to coat with the seasoning. Check the noodles, add more broth to cook, if necessary. Since I used the fresh noodle, I ended up using all of the broth.

Transfer the cooked noodles in a serving platter, pour the shrimps and vegetables on top. Add the chopped green onions and cilantro and Thai basil leaves.  In a separate platter, arrange more  Thai basil, cilantro and cucumber sticks. My husband and I like eating the Thai basil fresh so we add the leaves just before eating. We also like a squeeze  of lemon or lime on the Pad Thai, actually we like it on all of our noodle dish.

It goes without saying, be bold. Play around. Substitute. Sometimes it’s OK to use a cookbook as an idea book and not as a cooking bible.

And now as we say in Tagalog, kain na! Let’s eat!

Whole Wheat Banana Muffin


A few days ago, we stopped by a farmer’s market where I bought a bucket of near-ripe bananas for a mere dollar. The bananas weigh a total of 5 lbs. Not bad at all considering that bananas cost 67 cents a pound at the supermarket. And I thought, time to bake banana something.  I found inspiration in King Arthur Flour’s recipe of Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup  all-purpose flour, measure 2 T and set aside
  • 1 cup  Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Streusel Topping:

  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 3 T brown sugar


1) Lightly grease 12 standard muffin cups.

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar till smooth.


3) Beat in the mashed banana, then the egg, flavorings, and milk.



4) Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flours, stirring till smooth.

5) In a small bowl, stir in the chocolate chips, dried cranberries and 2 T flour. Coat each morsel with flour. Stir into the batter.




6) Allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature; this will soften the bites up. While the batter’s resting, preheat the oven to 350°F.

7) Mix the streusel ingredients until crumbly.

8) Heap the thick batter into the prepared muffin cups.  Top with the streusel.

9) Bake the muffins for 20 to 23 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one of the middle muffins in the pan comes out clean.

10) Remove the muffins from the oven, and tilt them in the pan to cool a bit; this will prevent their bottoms from becoming soggy. As soon as you can safely handle them, transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.


I have baked  two more batches of banana muffins. I varied one batch by adding walnuts. I also shared them with our neighbors who are all praises for the freshly baked banana muffins.

And who wouldn’t?  They are absolutely delicious.

Baked Brie In Brioche


I just love Baked Brie and I make it every chance I have, which is mostly when we have company. Instead of  the traditional puff pastry, this time I used a brioche dough.  I also used every kind of dried fruits available in the  pantry. By the reaction of our guests, I’d say this is a hit.

I followed Julia Child’s recipe from a book Baking With Julia, Brie in Brioche. The recipe used baked onions with the Brie. Instead of onions I substituted my favorite nuts and dried fruit filling.

The Brioche

  • 1 T   active dry yeast. I used SAF instant yeast as suggested. I use the instant yeast in all my baking. I love it that  I can skip the proofing process.
  • 3 T non-fat dry milk
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 3  1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 c water
  • for the egg wash, use 1 large eqq
  • 1 round  wheel ripe Brie

The Nuts and Dried Fruits: Mix all and  ensure  each bit of nuts and fruits are well coated with maple syrup.

  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c chopped dates
  • 1/2 c chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 c maple syrup

Chilling the Dough

  • Mix and knead the dough and let rise for 1 hour. Put in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.
  • The recipe suggested to start the brioche at least 24 hours or up to 36 hours ahead. Well, I didn’t have the luxury of time as I just decided to make this last night.  I only chilled for a total of 12 hours.
  • Take the dough from the refrigerator at least 4 hours before you want to serve it. The resulting dough felt buttery so I also skipped buttering the  spring form pan.

Assembling the Pastry

  • Turn the cold brioche dough on to a lightly floured surface.
  • Roll into a cylinder and cut into 3 parts .
  • Roll a piece into a 12-inch diameter
  • Fit the dough into the bottom of the pan covering the sides about 1 inch around
  • Put the Brie in the middle and pour the nut mixture on top and sides of the cheese. Leave enough room around for the top and bottom dough to connect
  • Roll the second dough  12-inch diameter and cover the cheese. Pinch around to connect to the bottom dough
  • Roll the remaining dough into 30 by 3 inches rectangular strip. Make 2 cuts along the length trying not to separate the top end.
  • Braid the dough.
  • Put the braid around the  pan.
  • Let it rise at room temperature for  1 hour

Baking the Brioche

  • Pre-heat the oven to 425F.
  • Bake the brioche for  15 minutes, then lower the temperature to  375F and bake for another 30 minutes.
  • Tent it with a foil to prevent it from browning too fast.
  • Cool for 30 minutes before serving.




The braids didn’t come out as good as it should be but the brioche itself came out good despite the short chilling period. I will definitely try the 24-hour chilling according to the recipe and  see if it does make a big difference.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my guests did on our 4th of July BBQ held on the 3rd!


Sweet Potato Tops Salad

I am loving South Florida where we now live. I get to plant all the tropical fruits and vegetables and flowers I want, limited only by the quarter acre lot size of our home. I find it so much easier to grow anything on this year-round sub-tropical climate.  A few months ago, I buried in the ground a sweet onion which started to sprout, I just pulled five big onions from that single onion.  I also planted sweet potato from  slips I grew from a store-bought potato.  The young tips of the stems are the ones referred to as tops which has young and tender leaves.  This is a widely used vegetable in the Philippines. I am constantly harvesting the tops of  my sweet potato plant. I use it pretty much  in any dish that calls for spinach. I’d like to say spinach can be substituted to this salad but the texture would be totally different. The yellow tomato is an heirloom kind, Hawaiian Pineapple, and some purple yard long beans, both are grown in the garden. I also added some pickled garlic.

Heirloom Tomato plant: HAwaiian Pineapple

Heirloom Tomato plant: HAwaiian Pineapple


Tomato and purple yard long beans harvested from the garden.                                                                                             The little green fruits are called calamondin, they are used like lemons.


Meyer Lemon plant.


Sweet Potato planted on a pot.

The tops need to be blanched with a little salt. The dressing is simply lemon juice, picked from my Meyer Lemon plant, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. In the Philippines, this is a good accompaniment to fried fish.


Sweet potatoes harvested from the plant. Recipe would be for another time.


Sweet Potato Tops Salad with Tomato and Pickled Garlic.