From What’s in the Pantry?

My Asian Pantry

Need to use up these things before we leave. I’ll be crossing out as I use them up.

“oriental noodles” (from mommy)
5 century eggs
acorn starch (K)
agar sticks 3
agar strands
baby corn
bean curd sheets
besan flour
bihon 1/2
black corn
bonito flakes
Botan rice
chee hou sauce
chili powder (K)
chinese green tea 2
coconut shreds (dried, Indian)
dried anchovies
dried kamias
dried lily flowers 2
dried mushrooms 2
dried shrimp (K)
fermented black beans
glutinous rice
glutinous rice flour 3 1/2
green bean starch (K)
idli rava
instant dashi (1/4 packet)
kare-kare mix
konbu 2
large instant tapioca 2
malt powder (K)
mi chay dac biet
mini tapioca 2
mochiko 1/2
palm sugar (T)
pho noodles
pinipig 2
rice flakes large
rice wrappers (V)
sinigang mix
straw mushrooms
sweetened bean paste
tamarind concentrate (T)
tapioca sticks
tofu mix
urad dal 2
wheat starch
wild rice mix (K)

Feast and Famine

On the same day. Woke up quite late, because I had stayed up ’til 3 am migrating stuff. Decided to make “lazy suman” (rice cooker, glutinous rice, half a can of coconut milk, 2 teaspoons salt, enough water to reach up to first joint of middle finger). The kids had it with Milo while I continued to work. B too.

Stopped for Latin and laundry — Migi taught (we just started a schedule this week where I teach Mondays, Aisa Tuesday and so on). Our favorite is still Rident stolidi verba Latina. “Fools laugh at the Latin language.” The boys did their math before lunch, while I cleaned the MBR. Both are progressing well, though this phase of MUS seems a bit too easy for them; after we get back I think we’ll switch to 2 lessons a week until they get to more challenging lessons.

Lunch was leftovers, at around 2:30 — the Afghan chicken stew, the Indonesian fish stew, the mock Bourbon chicken from last night, more suman and whatever else the kids could scavenge around the kitchen.

This is what happens when I get focused on a project that I don’t want to delay any longer. I tried working on it 30 minutes a day the past few weeks but it drags on so; it’s really better to just get it over and done with. Yay. Cancelled my hosting account and I don’t have to pay for it anymore!!! Wahoo! Problem is I can’t get the subdomains setup properly, so those aren’t working at all. Will have to put that off for after we get back.

Meant to go out with B in the afternoon after we were done working, but we both needed a nap, so I read Yena two stories from

Asian Children's Favorite Stories: A Treasury of Folktales from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, then we had a bit of sharing on the Trojan War, after which I took a nap while they cleaned the living room and dining room to earn timeout to work on their WeeMe’s.

We had planned on going out for our monthly date (it is the 15th after all — 17 years and 3 months married, 19 years and 3 months together… seems like a lifetime, and yet we’ve only just begun …:)) … but B wasn’t feeling up to it at the last minute because of his cheek, so I got up and recruited the kids to help me set the table up nicely and clean the kitchen while I shopped. Dinner was fancy, in celebration of B’s miraculous recovery (I’d never heard of 1-week shingles before! Thank you to all of our loved ones who’ve been praying — I do believe we witnessed a miracle here!)…. and I spent more than I planned (so what else is new), but it was all worth it. I put together my tried-and-true quick-but-extra-special dinner:

I haven’t had the chance to contact OXO for the replacement basket for the spinner, so I sent Paco out of the house, the salad greens washed and stuffed into a clean pillowcase, which he whirled around his head to get rid of the water — a really funny, but effective trick I had read about years ago and used quite a bit before we got the spinner. If you see your neighbors looking at you like you’ve lost your mind, just smile and ignore.

The steaks were on sale(6 little ones, just enough for 1 for each of us, at $3+ for a package of 2, so the lot came to ~$10)!, as was the sparkling juice which became an instant favorite (a fight almost ensued for the last few drops), and the shrimp. It was the lobster that was a bit OTT (over the top), but hey, I haven’t cooked lobster in months! Paco and Aisa helped make the dressing, and Yena made the cocktail sauce (I considered buying a bottle, just $1.99, but after looking at the ingredients — ack! a bunch of chemical sounding names — I opted to make our own — it’s so easy anyway: ketchup, prepared horseradish, freshly squeezed lemon juice, Tabasco to taste, salt (optional)). Migi took care of the tater tots. I am proud to say we also got him to try some of the salad and the grape tomatoes tonight.

After dinner, we took a quick run to pick up Migi’s coat from a scouting friend’s house, then to the new drive-thru Starbucks to order our usual — a venti Caffe Mocha, decaf, no whip, with soy, which B and I shared as part of our “dessert”. Home again, and the “real” dessert — Haagen Dazs Raspberry and Mango sorbets, fresh strawberries, and Lindt dark chocs. I was planning to make the chocs in the little fondue pot with some soy milk, but B wanted to sit and work on our trip-planning, so we just ate the chocs as is.

Finished up the night with our family prayer, after making 4 hotel reservations. The kids are so excited!

Read a bit more of True Devotion to Mary this pm. There’s this chapter I keep going back to over and over, I can’t seem to wrap my head around it yet, or I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. I’ve been feeling Mary’s call and the urgency to respond the past couple of months, but I am still resisting, though I’m not sure why. Well, actually I do. I think about all the little things that give me pleasure, and though they aren’t sinful I know they aren’t getting me closer to her or God, and I’ve been meaning to give them up…. I’m sure a complete giving of myself to her will not make life boring — on the contrary, I think life is just about to become VERY interesting … but I guess I’m still afraid of committing myself so completely. And yet I think, if not now, when? If not me, why not me? And what is it exactly about my life and my activities and my projects and my fun that would be worth trading for God? There is nothing!

It’s like falling in love all over again. And me being a head person first. I remember telling B a month or so before I said “yes” that my head was already there, and yet my heart wasn’t. In my mind I knew he was the perfect guy for me. He was the answer to my dreams — everything I had prayed for, and even a few things I was scared to pray for because I might not get it — he was all that and more. He was my “too good to be true” and my head knew I would be a complete fool to refuse the gift…. but my heart just won’t let me take that leap of faith yet. (Where is faith anyway, is it in the head, the heart, the soul — all of these? That will be another subject for contemplation, another day…) I remember him asking quite incredulously, “What are you saying, my mind is in love with you, but my heart isn’t?” and I had to sit there and nod, looking stupid but being totally sincere.

That’s where I am right now with this true devotion thing. There is no good reason for me to say no. No good reason for me to refuse the gift. Perhaps I am just afraid of the commitment it will require of me. Just like 19 years ago when I was considering committing myself to B. And oh, what an immense blessing all these years have been after that initial yes! How could I possibly doubt that saying yes to my Mother would be anything less?

Mushroom Stock

2 pounds mushrooms (button or a mix)
2 cups finely chopped onions
8 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Trim and chop mushrooms finely by hand or in a food processor (do it in batches).

In a heavy stockpot, put mushrooms, onions, water and salt. Simmer uncovered, 2-3 hours. Pour stock through a large fine sieve into a large bowl, pressing hard on solids. You should have about 5 cups. Adjust either by adding water, or reducing further.

This is a great easy-to-make vegan/vegetarian stock and very flavorful. You can freeze in batches and thaw as needed for soups and sauces. The subtle flavor actually reminds me of the duck broth found in the Filipino delicacy balut.

Vanilla Vanilla

Just saw this article and had to comment here, esp. the part where it says “a real gourmet can detect it”. (I wonder what they mean by “real gourmet”.)

Imitation vanilla is actually a great substitute in baked goods, or at least that’s what the folks at America’s Test Kitchen say. No, I don’t like it and don’t purchase the stuff — I’ve tried to overcome my personal food snobbery issues over the years but imitation vanilla is still something I can’t quite wrap my brain around. BUT, I can’t argue with the fact that most people can’t detect the real stuff from the fake when eating brownies and such; some even prefer the fake stuff when pressed to make a choice! Cook’s Illustrated in the November/December 2003 issue did a taste test and I guess most of our tongues aren’t that sensitive as to distinguish the fake from the real stuff. Even the ATK/CI people can’t believe the results — they’ve done this taste test twice in the last ten years and the results have been the same. No time right now to go into all the details — Alan Davidson and Harold McGee both have a bunch to say about it (though they insist that there is a discernible difference).

Two important things I did want to highlight:

  • Vanillin is the compound responsible for vanilla’s aroma and flavor.
  • There’s a higher percentage of fake vanillin in imitation vanilla than there is real vanillin in real vanilla, hence the heightened flavor.

So if you’re looking to save a few dollars, you can use the fake stuff and none would be the wiser. What I would caution against is Mexican vanilla, which to this day is still controversial (coumarin content, etc.). And I only have a preference for the bean stuff when making vanilla ice cream (those black flecks add so much to aesthetics), but other than that I use Madagascar vanilla — Penzey’s (their double-strength stuff is awesome) and Neilsen-Massey’s are particularly good (NM has regular and organic). This year I’m trying Simply Organic’s version. But after that bottle, I may just go out and get some of the fake stuff and see how that goes.

More information from the Vanilla Company website.

SHF #13: Konditor & Cook’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake

As with most blogging events, SHF #13 crept up without me realizing it. The past few months have been hectic with hubby being sent to work out of town. However, I don’t complain much because 1) we always get to go with him since we’re homeschoolers and 2) he gets sent to places where I can shop for stuff that isn’t available locally. As the next two pics show, I’ve been on a chocolate-buying spree — we don’t know when we’ll get to go to these shops again so it pays to stock up. Hubby and I also have a habit of sharing a piece of chocolate after the dishes are done in the evening, so I try to keep an assortment in the pantry. Like other chocolates, dark ones vary in quality and mouthfeel — a couple were downright gritty and not pleasant at all on the tongue. Others, like the Valrhona, melt so smoothly in your mouth you almost want to swoon.

chocolates 1
Dark Chocolate Assortment #1

For the 13th Edition of Sugar High Friday, our wonderful host, Kelli of Lovescool challenged us to try something different. Hunting for recipes in my cookbooks and magazines, I didn’t really find anything that struck me, so I went to manufacturer’s websites until I found Green and Black’s recipe for Konditor and Cook’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake. I’ve baked many chocolate desserts in the past, but I’ve never tried a no-bake recipe. Eureka!

chocolates 2
Dark Chocolate Assortment #2

Konditor and Cook is apparently a much-loved bakeshop chain in the U.K., and since I don’t do many English recipes, this was something new to me as well. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is a regular in my pantry, but mostly used for making gingerbread in the fall and winter months. And I’ve seen Digestive Biscuits at my local grocery, but have never bought them. (After I got the amount needed for this recipe, my 3-year old snacked on the rest of the package.) For this recipe, I used a combination of Valrhona, Green and Black’s and Chocolove. I did make changes in the recipe: I am not a big fan of glacé cherries, so I opted to use dried bing cherries, which I soaked in just the littlest bit of brandy for some added richness. I toasted the walnuts a bit on the stovetop until they were fragrant. I also didn’t bother with saucepans and such — my experience with chocolates has taught me that just a bit of care when using the microwave provides the same results, in less time and with a minimal amount of fuss. If you haven’t tried it, here’s how: break up your chocolate in largish pieces and put into a Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave 15-30 seconds at a time (longer if you know your microwave’s not too powerful), stirring after each interval. Stop when about 1/2-3/4 of the chocolate is melted — give it a final stirring; there will be enough heat to melt the rest of the pieces.


I used a slightly larger pan than called for in the recipe — 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ — the smallest loaf pan I have — which really made a difference in the presentation. Mine came out squatty. Next time I make this recipe I’ll opt to use one of those mini loaf pans so it comes out narrower and taller. But this was sooo easy — the only difficult thing about it was waiting the four hours it firms up in the fridge! The resulting “cake”‘s texture is somewhat a cross between fudge and ganache, and the flavor of the chocolate reminds me of my favorite brownie — luscious and utterly decadent.

Thanks so much for hosting Kelli! Great theme, and my family is quite thankful for this sweet, dark, delicious treat.

Beet Sugar vs. Cane Sugar vs. everything else

Last week when we were in Cincinnati, I noticed a different package in the baking aisle at Meijer: beet sugar, which as far as I know, I haven’t tried. So I bought a package — so far so good, can’t really taste a difference in my coffee… I’m baking something for SHF this week, and now that I’ve done a bit of research I’m kinda nervous about what the results may be:

Here’s more info on cane sugar vs. beet sugar, from from There are several other articles if you care to Google, none of them very encouraging when it comes to baking. Yikes!

Another reason to be thankful for my co-op, which lists information on their catalog — the choices are dizzying but I am starting to understand why.


  • granulated cane sugar
  • ecosweet cane sugar (ecologically grown, without chemicals)
  • raw sugar (what’s left after processing the sugar cane to remove molasses)
  • turbinado sugar (fine-grained, crunchy sugar made by concentrating sugarcane juice without chemicals)
  • demerara sugar (large, golden crystals, partly-refined and treated with steam to remove impurities)
  • milled cane (unrefined sugar subtly flavored with molasses)
  • evaporated cane juice sugar (which does not undergo the same amount of processing as refined sugar so it retains more nutrients)
  • sucanat (unrefined sugar, grainier than regular sugar, with molasses added)
  • rapadura sugar (pure sugar, processed by squeeze-drying, without separating from molasses)

— maybe one of these days I’ll post pics of these different kinds of sugar!

And in the future, I’ll stick with my co-op’s offerings.

Breading/Coating Alternatives to Wheat

A friend was asking for wheat-free alternatives to breading for cutlets so I’m posting this here:

you can use a mixture of rice flour and cornmeal. i blend this in a blender with seasonings until the cornmeal is ground finely, unless you like the coarse texture of regular cornmeal. you can also use an eggless dip of rice flour/cornstarch/water/baking powder/baking soda/salt (proportions would be 1/4 cup each of flour and cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon each baking soda and salt, mixed with water to consistency you desire, thicker if you’re planning to use just the dip (like batter), thinner if you plan to “bread” it afterwards) — dip your cutlet into that then into the seasoned cornmeal/flour.

if you want to try a lighter coating, you can use rice flour and/or cornstarch. it doesn’t have the same effect as breading but it does a good deal of crispiness to anything that’s coated and deep-fried or pan-fried.