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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jess learn something! : Cool Pasalubong from the Philippines

Happy New Year to those of you who've already crossed over into 2014 and Happy coming New Year to those of you, who still have a few hours to go, like me.

So, in case you don't know what Pasalubong is; here is a link to the wiki article on pasalubong, but generally they are gifts that you bring/give to people who haven't seen in a while or like souvenirs when you come back from your trip, usually for other people, but you can get them for yourself as well.

So, I said I'd try to get at least 2 entries posted before the end of the year; so here is a little show and tell of some things that I got from the Philippines from the last 2 trips. This is not everything, just a smattering, but it's something interesting to share for those of you curious as to what 'cool' souvenirs from the Philippines, can be ;)

There may be future plans to expand on this, but for now, please enjoy this mini show and tell of Pasalubong from the Philippines.

Carved wood items: tiny spoons and caribao (Philippine water buffalo) sitting atop a native fabric purse. I bought these in Intramuros and all of the money goes to a craft cooperative/collective.

Various wooden bracelets, some made from coconut shells. My favorites is the one on the far left of the photo. I got these in Subic, from a vendor on the beach.

Little souvenirs from Bohol. I bought these after visiting the real Tarsiers of Bohol. 
Serving ladles/spoons made from coconut shell and tiny trinkets made of various layered wood. The shell necklaces were given to me free as a welcoming gift at their studio in Cebu.

The 2 beaded bracelets in the back were purchased from the Kultura collection in Cebu and the one in the front was bought at the Cebu airport.

Tablea! Chocolate tablets made from Filipino cacao beans. This roll of tablea was purchased in Tagaytay.

The jar of chocolate was purchased at the Sabel Cafe at the Ben Cab museum in Baguio.

Close up of the 2 kinds of chocolate. You use them to brew an indulgent hot chocolate or can use them to make  Champorado or any other baked good requiring chocolate.

I  bought this jar of  Peter Pinder's Dalandan (a type of Philippine citrus fruit, close to an orange) at the Sabel Cafe at the Ben Cab museum in Baguio.

Peter Pinder is originally from Scotland, but moved to Baguio and started making marmalade with native fruits.
Both of these I bought from the Bagasakan in Villasis, Pangasinan

This is a little cake of  coconut sugar. My Dad tells me that they just eat these like a candy. It has a sweet, but complex taste to it. It may be compared with a cross between a light maple candy and a molassesy brown sugar. It's good. There is a name for this, but I don't want to type it here because it sound too similar to something else ;)

This is one of many different kinds of Bocayo. It's a coconut candy/cluster. This version they scrape the coconut into strings and then cook it down with coconut milk and coconut sugar until it's all caramelized together. This version had sesame seeds on top. This is my favorite kind of Bocayo.

Also purchased from the Bagsakan (fresh fruit and vegetable market) in Villasis, Pangasinan, these are banana chips. They are cut lengthwise and lightly coated with sugar. 

They are very crisp and crunchy. Not too sweet, either. Wonderful for a little merienda or on a road trip.

There is so much to share with you all! I hope that you've enjoyed this installment and I will look forward to posting more about pasalubong in the coming new year.

Wishing you all good health, love and happiness!

Jessica <3 <3 <3

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jess a Few Reviews: Little Aussie's Bakery Sampler Bread and Cookies Gift Box

New Year is almost here!

I'm back for another post before the brand new year comes. This one is a review of a sampler box of bread and cookies from the Little Aussie's Bakery in San Antonio, Texas. Their specialty is gluten free bakery products (added bonus is that most of their stock is also Vegan as well!) My brother Jonathan was the one who let me know of their promo for this free sampler box (just had to pay the shipping and that was hardly anything). He had told me about this place before, particularly about how scarily close the flavor of their breads were to the genuine full gluten filled and non-vegan products; so when I saw the offer, I jumped on it.

Everything is baked to order; so the goods are usually shipped out the day that they were made and send via Priority ( I choose 2 day priority with USPS). I placed my order on 12/18 and received mine on 12/21, They recommend that you consume, refrigerate or freeze the products on receipt. I had to put mine in the fridge for at least one day; so I'm going off the review of these products based on those conditions.

The sampler box contained: 1 white roll, 1 whole flax roll, 1 cranberry roll, an 8 inch pizza crust, Hungerbuster bars and 1 Anzac cookie. All of these items are gluten free, 100% vegan and without soy, corn or nuts.

Rolls Rice, twice!

White Roll- halved and toasted
White Roll- halved and toasted

White Roll- crunched into

Cranberry Roll- Revived in Oven

Cranberry Roll- letting off some steam

I started off with the white roll, as it is plain and unencumbered with any other flavors to distract on the true flavor of this plain dough. The initial look of the roll is pretty much like most plain rolls, very white and with the faint smell of fermented rice ( a bit like sake or maybe even Pak Tong Koh (a Chinese fermented and steamed rice cake). I used a toaster oven on mark 3, let them toast in 2 pieces for 5 minutes and then checked them out.

Wow. My brother was not wrong. It was amazing. It reminded me of eating a baguette that I had once had in France, many years ago. The texture and chew of it was just awesome and the saltiness and bit of tang came through so nicely. I was impressed, for sure. I would definitely get this bread again.

 I revived this cranberry roll in the oven as a whole at 375F for 5 minutes.The cranberry roll was not my favorite. It was okay, but I didn't get much flavor from the added component of dried cranberries. They even had a touch of stevia and cinnamon in the mix, but I couldn't really taste either of those things. Maybe it would be better if eaten from a full loaf; so I would give this another shot, but only if I could try the whole loaf of it.

The flax roll, is actually still in my freezer right now. I got busy with the holidays and kept at least one treat for 'afters.' (Ohhh, I'm so English, right now ;p I will add that information in later. If I liked the white roll; I'm likely to enjoy the whole flax roll because it's a pure flavor. I imagine that it just tastes a bit nuttier with the addition of the flax.

The upper crust is the bottom crust!

8 inch pizza crust topped with homemade brown lentil hummus, garlicky spinach and carmelized red onions

Showing the thickness

Showing the crumb

The next thing that I tried was the 8 inch crust and since it was the same composition as the white roll; I went ahead and made my own toppings and baked it in a 375F for about 15-20 minutes. The crust was nicely browned, crisp and golden. It had the same wonderful substance as the white roll and went well with the toppings of my homemade lentil hummus, sauteed garlic spinach, caramelized red onions and finished with freshly ground black pepper. I ate it fresh from the oven ( letting it cool for 5 minutes before cutting into it) Lovely and crisp and with a moist center. I even saved a wedge for the next day to see how it stood up. I had planned to reheat it in the toaster oven, but had to use the microwave at the last minute and it amazingly came out just as crisp as from the oven (but ovens are always so much better, right?).

This bar is here to bust your hunger! Anzac, is its backup!

L to R: Hungerbuster bar and Anzac Cookie

Hungerbuster bar, power!

Crunch into a Hungerbuster bar and an Anzac cookie

Anzac treats you well
The Hungerbuster bar has the color of a biscoff cookie, but is much thinner and crisper. It doesn't taste of any spices, but has a milkiness to it from the coconut milk in the batter. It reminds me of a few things, puto seco, uraro cookies. lengua de gato cookies (dry milk cookies). They are very good and they do fill you up. It must be the combination of the coconut milk and whole red flax in them. I would definitely get this bars again.

The Anzac cookie is lovingly hand pressed and reminds me of those Chinese restaurant 'almond cookies,' with their rich flavor and butteriness of the coconute in them. There is a nice sweet savory balance to them that reminds of of the joy of eating dark chocolate with flecks of sea salt. These are winners for sure and if you love Anzac cookies; then I need not say anything more.

I will more than likely be back here to add in a few more details, but for now I hope you've enjoyed this review =)

If after reading this review; you're compelled to try them for yourself and don't live anywhere near San Antonio or an hours vicinity of Little Aussie's Bakery; you can simply click on this link for the sampler. You just need to pay for the shipping.

Little Aussie's Bakery bread and cookie sampler box

Tell them Jessica Ligaya from Oh the Humanitea sent you! They may not know who that is, but it'd just be fun; if you did that ;p

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!


<3 <3 <3 Jessica

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Join Me for Merienda: V,GF- Malunggay and Turmeric Rice

Can you comprehend that this year is nearly over?

I think like most of us, we're not sure where the time has gone.

A lot has happened this past year for me personally and for the world. I have had so many stories to share with you, but I haven't been able to let all the flood gates open, just yet. They are coming, but for now, in my own way I am paying tribute and homage to the Philippines by sharing this simple recipe with you.

I was in the Philippines not that long ago, in Metro Manila,Baguio,Pangasinan, Cebu and Bohol. When I came back from my trip, not even a  week had passed when, the earthquake struck and it decimated a lot of the places that I had seen in Cebu and Bohol. The feeling of helplessness because I cared about the people in those places that I had just been to and spent time with was intense. It reminded me a lot of the dark pit in my being after the attacks of September 11th. I had been in NYC not long before the attacks and spent a lot of time there at the World Trade Center, and I just thought of all those nice people who I met who were probably all gone. How does your heart not break or just turn to dust when bad things happen? Then Typhoon Haiyan struck and it was just senseless. Again the feeling of helplessness and anger of not being able to be there to physically help. It is now a month after the typhoon struck and everybody is still struggling. I am upset about so many things about how things were mismanaged for the preparation, the answer to the calls for help, basic needs and so on. I will be writing more about this in the future, but for now in my own way by sharing a part of my culture and experience from my trip, I remind myself and the people of the Philippines that they are never forgotten.

If you are inspired to help by giving a donation; the one that I can assure you is a 100% donation going towards the peopl is through the greatergood network. Please take a moment and follow this link to the greatergood network.

My brother also posted an entry about his experience and feelings about the current situation in the Philippines and you can check that post out, by clicking on The Canary Files.

Mahal kita, Pilipinas <3 I love you, Philippines

There are so many recipes that will be shared with you all, but today it will be a Malunggay and Turmeric Rice. This recipe was inspired by a meal that I had while I was in Baguio City. We had arrived in Baguio at 5am and visited the Ben Cab museum (which is tremendous and anybody who visits Baguio; should definitely go there for the art and also the food in the restaurant below it) went to the local markets and then came back to the hotel to rest a bit. My cousin had wanted to try and take us to a Vegetarian restaurant, but she had to leave early; so we couldn't go with her. We walked to the restaurant she suggested and the place was very interesting in décor, but the food was a bit lacking and they didn't seem to want to adjust anything on the menu for us (so it was difficult for us to really have a true meal, specifically for my brother and I). Then we headed downstairs (yes, we had to walk 5 flights of stairs to the restaurant!) and I reminded my brother about a deli with the name 'Greens,' in it and asked him if he wanted to check it out before we headed back to the hotel. Thank goodness we did because it was a revelation. Night and day in comparison to the experience that we had at the restaurant 5 flights above us. The service was awesome, the servers were willing to do whatever it took to make sure that we had a good meal, answered all our questions and always had a good attitude. True we had 'eaten,' upstairs, but we truly had a meal downstairs at the wonderful Azotea Greens Resto and Café.

Aside from the main dish that we chose, (I think it was called Tokwa sa Tinuktok) they had a choice of different types of rice: malunggay, turmeric, garlic ( of course) and plain. If you know my brother or myself; then you know that we ordered both malunggay and turmeric rice. Soooooo goooooooood! They were a perfect compliment to the main dish that we ordered which was tofu steaks that had been stewed in a coconut milk with chili based broth wrapped in nori. Naturally, I also tried mixing the malunggay and turmeric rice together and another lovely combination was born.

And now a photo show:

My brother standing in front of some of the dining area in the 'upstairs,' restaurant that was interesting, but didn't fit our bill.

My Dad, standing near some of the interesting décor in the 'upstairs,' restaurant.

At Azotea Greens Resto and Café, interesting art everywhere you look.

We had supernatural service! =)

Alkaline water for the win!!!

I will take that and then some, thank you very much!

One of the lighting fixtures. So cool.

The stars of my inspiration: The main dish was called Tinuktok and you can clearly see which type of rice is which.

Gorgeous Tinuktok

This is a real, 'Happy Meal.' 


Is my brother tweeting about his glee?

Incredible meal, service and really affordable. We of course, left an awesome tip for them!

 Now back to the recipe and such. While I was in Cebu, we had a kitchen to use at our hotel and quite a few times I made a version of Malunggay rice, quinoa and so forth, using fresh malunggay leaves, but we although tasty; it wasn't the same as the experience at Azotea Greens.

Naturally, I bought a myriad of native ingredients to take back home to my 'lab,' with which to create and experiment. One of those ingredients was malunggay in powdered form. It was simply dried maluggay that had been pulverized. It looks similar to the green color of matcha green tea.

Back at home, I decided to bring it out one day and make a special rice. I went to my fridge and pulled out my turmeric that I had previously chopped and kept in olive oil. I sauteed about a tablespoon of chopped turmeric with some minced garlic and then added in some cooked short grain brown rice, coating it evenly and seasoning it with some pink himalayan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. To finish it I added a heaping 2 tablespoons of malunggay powder and stirred it in to coat each kernel and added in a few splashes of water to 'revive,' it. Voila, my malunggay and turmeric rice was born.

As I went to eat it, the memories of Azotea came flooding back. Hurray!

Oh and I should include some links to what Malunggay and Turmeric are, just in case you are not familiar with these ingredients. If you're able to; please thank Wikipedia by donating a few bucks. Everybody uses it all the time; so if you're able to give a little; you know you'll get a lot back in return.

Malunggay is my type of gulay!

'Harvesting,' malunggay from a local tree in Villasis =)



Turmeric is terrific!

Turmeric in its fresh and dried/powdered form

V,GF - Malunggay and Turmeric Rice


2-3 C Cooked short grain brown rice

1-2Tb Olive or any neutral oil
1 Tb of chopped fresh turmeric*
1-2 Cloves of Garlic minced
1-2Tb of Malunggay powder
2-3Tb of filtered water as needed
Himalayan Pink sea salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

*A pinch of turmeric powder can be substituted, but the flavor will not be the same.


In a large skillet, sauté the turmeric and garlic together for a few minutes, just until you smell the turmeric and garlic. Immediately add in the cooked brown rice, moving it around to coat all kernels, seasoning it as you go. Let cook for a few minutes and then sprinkle the malunggay powder on top, stir it around to coat the kernels and then add in a few tablespoons of water to 'revive,' the rice. Stir around a few more times and then turn off the heat, leave on burner for a few minutes to settle and then it's ready to serve.

One of the most recent versions of my Malunggay and Turmeric rice. This one was made with an addition of scallions.
This is the current brand of Malunggay powder that I am using. I think I was able to buy it for less than 6  USD. You might be able to find this at Filipino/Asian markets, but if not; I guess you might be able to substitute chlorella or spinach powder, but it wouldn't be the same. Try it though!

One of the many versions of my Malunggay and Turmeric rice. Look at the gorgeous color and those toasted bits of turmeric and garlic dotted throughout it. Heaven =)

What can you serve this malunggay and turmeric rice with? The better question is, 'What can't, you serve this rice with? =)

I eat it along with any type of vegetables. A quick meal, I might add in some pepitas or sunflower seeds into it and mix it with some fresh salad greens etc. Yum, yum in my tum and it keeps me from feeling gutom (Gutom is Tagalog for 'hungry)!

So, this is my simple recipe for you that was inspired by the Philippines and their good will and upbeat attitude. I know that they are struggling right now, but they can never be broken. I will never turn a blind eye to them and I know that they can feel my love for them.

If, I don't post again before the end of this year; I hope that you all will have a wonderful new year filled with good health and lots of prosperity. Remember to always pay it forward and do whatever you can to help in whatever capacity that you can.

Wishing you lots of love and good health,

Jessica  <3

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflections: The Philippines

Hello again, people of Cyberia and the Blogosphere,

I've written previous drafts about the Philippines on a number of topics, but I was never satisfied with what I had tried to explain and paint with words to describe the Philippines. So, instead of trying to plan out too many things or find just the right photos to go with this and that, I think that I'll return to my impromptu approach and write whatever my conscious decides to bring to to the surface. This is just a tiny reflection about what the Philippines means to me.

Repúblika ng Pilipinas

The Philippines is important to me because it's where my parents and most of my close relatives grew up, it's their homeland. So, I can never forget my roots or my family's culture. I grew up bilingual, knowing both English and Tagalog.

 Growing up as the first generation of my family in the United States was new ground for my parents and for their children too. Where we grew up was fairly homogeneous and we were one of just a handful of 'diverse,' families in the neighborhood or school district. This led to some interesting interactions at times with people at school.

Whenever we had a chance to share our culture at school my parents would be more than glad to help. (I'm pretty sure that I've previously written about some of this background, but like I said I'm following whatever comes to mind). We explained how Christmas was celebrated in the Philippines, my Mom came to my music class one time to demonstrate how to dance Tiniklilng and I sold lumpiang shanghai for a school marketing project (everybody loves an egg roll).

I've only been to the Philippines a total of 3 times now; so you can imagine that for most of them there was a wide gap of time between visits. I've seen changes in the geography and culture (the most dramatic being from the 1980's and the 2000's) .  If it were up to me; I would be visiting more often, but since nobody offers free flights back and forth (as far as I know) there has to be some stretch of time in between visits.

I'll be going on my fourth voyage to the Philippines, very soon. My last visit was filled with heartfelt reunions, lots of laughter and a few tears too. My last visit to the Philippines was the last time that I saw my last living grandparent, my Lola Frances, it was also the last time that I saw my cousin Jojo. I also lost one of my Aunt's from my Father's side of the family. If you've read my previous posts about them, you already know that it was bittersweet and heartbreaking when they left this world.

When I return to the Philippines; it will be bittersweet once again because I go there for the christening of new life and lives. My cousin's son is getting married and another of my cousin and her husband just had their first child.  I also return there to pay my respects at my cousin Jojo and my Aunt Irene's graves and at my Lola's columbarium.

I know that life is always a combination of joy and pain. We see it each day when we watch the news and see both wonderful and also terrifying things that are going on in the world. So, I cannot let myself feel too joyous or overly sad at the prospects of going back to the Philippines, knowing what I will face.

I recognize the natural beauty of the Philippines that allures so many people, but I think what I always look forward too is seeing my family, relatives and hearing new stories about my parents or 'the good old days, ' from my relatives. I of course cannot deny the glee of being able to enjoy all of the fresh vegetables and fruits that would cost me 2 arms and 2 legs over here, but it's in the sharing of the experience with others, that really makes me happy.

It's never really where you are, it's the people with whom you share the experience, that makes all the difference.

There's something that I noticed when my parents, relatives or family friends mention the Philippines about somebody taking a trip there, they always say 'We're going home/I'm going home or We went home, etc. '
Even, when my parents talk about us, their children; if we go the Philippines, they say that 'They're going home.' I always found this funny because as their children who grew up in the U.S., I don't think that I could really refer to the Philippines, as 'home.' I think that maybe the reason why they still might consider the Philippines as 'home,' for us, is that maybe they know that it's a place that's familiar to them and it's where a majority of our family still are. Maybe, it's because they know that their homeland will always have a place for us and show us the Filipino 'Mabuhay,'  warm spirit of welcoming. You never know, we may fully validate their stance that The Philippines, is our home ; if my siblings and I were to apply for dual citizenship ;)

The Philippines is more than just a place to me. It's where my cultural roots are, where loved ones are where memories were made and will be made.

Mahal kita, Pilipinas - I love you, Philippines <3

See you soon!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jess' Collection: Interesting Kitchen Tools - Mamoul Moulds and Falafel Mould/Dispenser

Hello again,

While I contemplate my other writings for a future entry about the Philippines, here is a short diversion about some interesting kitchen tools that I own and use. I guess I just introduced a new series about my various collections.

In this installment I'll show you some moulds ( I prefer to use the British spelling of mould because it looks better than typing 'mold,' (also looks similar to the way I spell Mamoul too!) in my opinion anyway) from my collection.

One of the fancier types of cookies/biscuits that I make are Middle Eastern style Mamoul. Traditonally they are made out of a basic kind of shortbread dough made with semolina and filled with different types of filling (see the captions of the photos for more information).

You already know that I do not usually follow the traditional recipes for anything; so of course in my version of Mamoul, the dough and fillings are both Vegan and Gluten Free. If you've ever scrolled through my photo gallery or previous posts; you've probably already seen photos of the Mamoul cookies that I've made.

These moulds are all handcarved and are quite beautiful as they are. Even if you didn't use them for actual, Mamoul making; you could definitely have them as works of art in your collection.

I cannot tell you all about the history about Mamoul and how they started making them, but I can tell you that they are just as tasty as they are beautiful. They are wonderful with a cup of tea and good company.

You have to fill a ball of pastry with the filling before you press it into the mould and then you tap it quite jarringly to release it from the mould. It takes some practice to get the technique down, but once you get it; you never forget it. Just like riding a bike!

These are not, bowling pins.

These are wooden moulds for making Mamoul

This is the traditional design used for date filled Mamoul

This is the traditional design for  walnut filled Mamoul.

This is the traditional designed for pistachio filled Mamoul.
The cookies in the background are Mamoul using the mould for the walnut filling.
These were made using the mould for date filled Mamoul.

Falafel! I think that the first falafel that I really thought was super fantastic was from a local place where the mix was just right, the spices didn't over power the nuttiness of the chickpea/fava beans, it contained chlorophyll from chopped parsley, maybe a bit of mint, but above all it would be well cooked and super crispy. Eating falafel when it's super fresh is one of those magical gleeful experiences.

I have made my own homemade falafel before and it can be tricky if you don't have everything prepared to go. There is a lot of preparation time in order to let the falafel mixture set (especially if you are really following the traditional way of soaking and grinding the beans yourself instead of using bean flours) and getting the oil temperature right and maintaining that perfect temperature.

The raw falafel mixture is rather sticky; so you definitely cannot use your hands to form the patties. You can use two spoons in the same way you make a 'drop donut,' or cannelles, but a falafel mould/dispenser is far faster and more efficient. I always remember Alton Brown, droning on about Uni-taskers, but honestly you could use this mould for other applications (think a cookie mould or maybe to form perfect little circles of rice or any other grains etc.

The best part of all is that this tool is not very expensive. In fact, this falafel mould/dispenser came with an instant mix for falafel, I think it was less than 4 dollars all together.
This photo is from a previous post where I gave a recipe for Indian style carrot and scallion bhajis.  You can check out that post here :   The falafel are the ones that are dark brown colored with green throughout them.

These are not the perfect falafel, but they were tasty!

This is a falafel mould.

It looks a bit like a telescope in this position.

When you press on the spring loaded lever; it slides back the flat surface. I had a small metal spatula (that you use to fill the empty mould)  that came with this mould, but it was buried in the kitchen drawer. Alas it did not make it to the photo shoot in time. 

Once you let go of the lever; it pushes the formed falafel patty out of the mould and straight into the hot oil.

So, those are just a few of my interesting kitchen tools from my collection. I hope that you found it somewhat interesting. What about you? What are some of your more interesting kitchen tools that you use in the kitchen or for culinary uses?

Until next time, peace, good eating and happy cooking! ( I know that I'm channeling Ming and Jacques again...... ;p