This is a blog about life, love, food, family, friends. Its about the magic in the everyday, the adventures big and small. Its about honest eating and cooking and feeding. From the heart, real, striving towards the sublime but just as happy with the simple. It is a small kitchen and a growing family, and all that happens in between the nooks and crannies of the everyday rush.
With the holidays in full swing, and Noche Buena fast approaching, we are all looking for recipes and dishes for our Christmas table. I remember when I was younger, my mom, grandmother, and all my aunts and uncles would plan out our menus for Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day…and all the holiday parties!). I would eagerly await to see my favorites: my uncle’s turkey and roast beef, my mom’s Royal Apahap, my grandmother’s molo soup, any aunt’s hot chocolate with ensaymada and ham.
These are what the season’s memories are truly made of…loved ones preparing dishes that have lived, and continue to live, in our hearts. Being together and sharing meals. Laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Maybe a little overindulging. Catching up with cousins you haven’t seen in too long. Running after the little ones and trying to convince them to wait until midnight to open presents. Snacking on more food as the children nod off to sleep amongst piles of ripped up wrapping paper.
Family, love, food, Christmas…doesn’t get any simpler, or any more magical.
And these are exactly the kinds of moments I want to recreate for my children as well. Although in this day and age, having a full time job, and perhaps not as much time as my mother and grandmother did to revel in the kitchen, it can be a bit of a challenge. Especially during the busy holiday frenzy! So I always have my eye out for easy recipes that are special enough for entertaining. When Eden approached me to try a recipe out from their website I immediately dove in!
This creamy pesto pasta caught my eye because I (almost always) have both all purpose cream, and bottled pesto, in my pantry. Plus, it looked super simple to put together, but also sounded really yummy. I quickly set about making it. And I was not disappointed!
200 grams farfalle pasta, prepared as per package directions (save some of the pasta water!)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
30 grams Eden MeltSarap, grated
30 grams Eden Original, grated
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup all purpose cream
20 grams pine nuts, toasted and chopped
Optional: Basil leaves, for garnish
– In a pan over medium heat, place butter, olive oil, all purpose cream, and Eden MeltSarap. Stir until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth in texture.
– Add the pesto and continue cooking, stirring to incorporate. Mix in the cooked farfalle and toss in the pine nuts. Toss gently until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce. If it looks dry add in a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
– Garnish with grated Eden Original, and basil leaves if using. I like to keep back a little of the chopped pine nuts and sprinkle that on top as well.
This pasta dish is a wonderful side for your Nocha Buena roasts. It goes particularly well with roast beef, lamb, or chicken, but will work just as great with a boneless lechon roll or a baked fish. It also makes quick work of feeding hungry kids (although my daughter prefers it without the pine nuts)!
Fresh basil is a nice touch but not required. And you may want to grate some extra cheese to serve on the side in case guests want to add more. If you are taking this to a Noche Buena potluck, keep the noodles and sauce separate, and make sure to bring a little of the pasta water with you. Right before serving, mix everything together and use the pasta water to loosen up the sauce.
What are your favorite Noche Buena staples? And what new dishes have you discovered that you’ll be adding to your Noche Buena table? Would love to hear your ideas!
One of the most valuable things in my cooking journey has always been the advice of people who have been cooking long before me. I still remember my father dumping a spoonful of pimenton de la Vera in my fabada telling me “this will make it taste better“. My mother teaching me how to make stock out of ham bone. My godfather teaching my husband how to make paella (“I usually go upstairs to take a bath and when I come down it’s done”). My grand-aunt sharing the secret of her callos (make sure the butcher shows you the hoof!!). My abuelita telling me her “formula” for baked Parmesan chicken. And all the tips and tricks and techniques in between.
One such piece of advice I took from my mother, that I’ve kept from the time I got married until this day, is always having cans of tomato in my pantry. My mom almost always used canned tomatoes, as opposed to tomato sauce, to make her pasta sauces and stews (like her osso buco). She still does. And so do I. You’d be hard pressed to find my pantry without a few cans of tomatoes somewhere.
As far as fresh tomatoes are concerned, I read somewhere that when it comes to making sauces, if you can’t find stellar tomatoes (and although we have lovely tomatoes here, and farmers are continually growing new ones, we still don’t have enough supply of the super juicy ones for sauce) you are better off using quality canned one. So that’s what I’ve always done. Because of that, I am always on the lookout for good canned tomatoes and am forever experimenting with different brands.
I usually stick to Spanish or Italian brands but was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Contadina canned tomatoes a couple of years ago during its launch (with Nigella Lawson!!). Contadina’s tomatoes are vine-ripened Roma tomatoes grown in California…sweet and juicy and perfect for sauces and braises. They’ve been part of my pantry ever since.
So when the good folk at Contandina approached me to work on a recipe for them I was more than happy to put one together! By now I’ve cooked with their tomatoes countless times, so the tough part was not thinking of a recipe, but deciding among all the ideas I had! I knew I wanted to use their tomatoes, my pantry stalwart, but I didn’t want to make another pasta. I also wanted to make something that required minimal effort…as it is December and I am sure we are all experiencing the frenetic pace of the holidays!
This was the result…
Baked Spanish-style Chicken
1 can Contadina stewed tomatoes with Italian herbs
– Place the tomatoes, chicken, chorizo, onion, and olives in a roasting/baking pan or an oven-proof dish. Arrange the contents so everything is more or less evenly distributed in the pan.
– Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top of each chicken thigh. Drizzle with a bit of the olive oil.
– Place in a pre-heated 375F oven for about 45 minutes or until cooked through (juices run clear when thigh is pierced to the bone). Remove the pan once or twice during cooking to baste the chicken with the juices.
– When the chicken is done garnish with parsley (if desired) and serve!
That’s really all there is to it! The flavor comes from the herbs already in the tomatoes, and the chorizo. As it roasts, the herby tomatoes, the salty smokiness of the chorizo, and the juices of the chicken merge to create a delicious sauce that both flavors the dish and keeps the chicken moist. And all you have to do is place everything in a pan and wait. If you use a nice pan that you can take from oven to table that will save you even more time and effort.
Here’s a bonus if you like a bit of heat (like we do)! And it uses another of Contadina’s products that I like, their extra virgin olive oil. I use it to whip up a chili oil that will give this dish and interesting edge: Just mix some of the olive oil with a generous pinch of both chili flakes and Spanish paprika. Let this sit while you cook your chicken. Serve it on the side so diners that like things spicy can feel free to drizzle on a little (or a lot). Contadina sources its olive oil from Andalucia in Spain and it has a nice grassy flavor I really like…very good for a grocery-shelf olive oil! (when I think about it, my best olive oil experiences have been in Spain!)
I like to serve this with rice and ladle the sauce over everything…then dribble on the chili oil. For those that don’t like it spicy, a little drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil is really nice too.
If you have leftovers, shred the chicken and cut up the chorizo, toss with the sauce and some cooked pasta for a totally new meal the next day. If you have fresh herbs lying around you can add that in as well (some of the parsley or this would be brilliant with fresh basil too!). You can add in any extra chili oil you have, if you wish, and/or top with some grated parmesan cheese (or maybe even some cubed feta). I used Contadina’s penne pasta here.
This dish really highlights the quality of the Contadina tomatoes, as well as the ease it affords you in cooking. It also shows you that you don’t need to perform culinary pyrotechnics to place a satisfying meal on your table for family and friends. Just good, quality ingredients, and a little imagination. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!
Ok, I’m not going to go into how long it has been since I’ve been here. Or why it was that I have been away for so long. Or about life and living and time and busyness and work and family and “the universe”.
You have lives…so I think you know the drill. And I won’t waste both our times in looking back. Only just to say that nothing terrible has happened, we are sailing as smoothly forward as we can manage, and in fact, some exciting things have been, and are, happening. But I suppose the more important thing, for this little space anyway, is that I’m here now.
(and hopefully, you are too)
And I’m here, as always, with a recipe to share.
But first, a little story, by way of background.
It was our 25th year high school homecoming last year. The rush of preparations, practices, fund-raising events, and get-togethers. A whirlwind that can both invigorate and drive one insane…as I am certain many of you who have gone through homecomings can attest to. In any case, I contributed as much as I was able, and to as much as my skills would allow. Which is to say, I joined the cookbook committee.
Our high school has been producing cookbooks since time-before-time, so this wasn’t a new idea. But with a bunch of food loving individuals in our batch, we wanted to make something different. So with money out of our own pockets we hired a professional photographer, raised the call for heirloom recipes, and got to work.
As anyone who has published a cookbook can tell you, it was a tough and taxing process. Shooting food all day (with the huge help of our classmate, this lady, and the incredible food conglomerate she has built!), editing recipes (three heads copy-editing until the wee hours!), and I won’t even go into the financial aspect of it (we had an awesome finance team…able to juggle numbers and call in receivables with dizzying speed and an iron fist!).
But it was wonderful and rewarding and an amazing experience altogether. Working with people equally passionate about food. Working on something that was purely food-related (as some of you know, my actual job has nothing to do with food). Working on something that didn’t feeling like work…that left you tired but satisfied at the end of the day.
And, of course, making a pile of money for our homecoming!
This is one of the recipes from the book (from our classmate, Racky Torres Manalastas). It is homey and comforting and simple and full of flavor. Passed down from generation to generation. It’s a delicious example of the timelessness and value of family recipes.
(recipe adapted from the Legacy Cookbook of Assumption high school batch ’92)
1/2 kilo ham
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
1 cup water chestnuts
1 dozen dried shiitake mushrooms
1 whole chicken
Calamansi (just enough juice to rub the chicken with)
1 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)
2-4 cups water (more or less)
– Cut the ham, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and dried mushrooms into strips.
– Rub the chicken with the calamansi and salt.
– Place the chicken, and all the other ingredients, in a pot. Add the water – depending on the size of your pot you may add more or less. The water should come a little bit more than halfway up the chicken but not cover it.
– Cover your pot and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is done and starting to get tender. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning if needed only.
– Uncover the pot and place in a pre-heated 400F oven for about 10-20 minutes until the top of the chicken has taken on some color.
The ham you use here should be a nice savory/salty one, Chinese ham would be ideal. The ham is a big part of what flavors the dish so you want to use a tasty one.
This dish may not win any beauty contests, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor and ease of preparation. It’s a criminally easy, one-pot meal. All you need to do is dump everything in the pot and let the ingredients do their work. And what you get in the end is so much more than what you put in. The chicken, ham, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots produce the most amazing broth…intense and deeply flavored. This is both a tender, slow-braised chicken, and an incredibly rich chicken soup!
You can enjoy this dish in so many ways. Place a piece of chicken in a bowl and ladle on the soup and other ingredients. Or have your chicken and ham with rice and a cup of the broth on the side. I sometimes like to sneakily mix just the ham and mushrooms in a bowl with white rice moistened with the broth. The leftovers, shredded, can make a lovely bowl of noodle soup!
I have an extra copy of our cookbook so I thought I’d do a small giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment on this blogpost! Yup that’s it! Just comment on why you’d like this cookbook, or share a family recipe/dish, or even just say HI! That’s all!! I’ll pick one comment at random (names in a hat style) two weeks from now, and send the cookbook to the winner! The only conditions for entry: you must enter a valid email address AND you must be based in the Philippines!
So happy to be writing here again. The end of the year is coming but it’s never too late, as they say. I hope you’re ready for more recipes, because I have a few up my sleeve I am just tweaking. And excited to share with you!
Perhaps one day I’ll publish my own cookbook. A collection from my kitchen to yours. Wouldn’t that be nice? Until then I’ll be sharing recipes here, as I have been doing, as I hope to always do.