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If there’s one dish I can eat over and over and over for a week straight, it’s got to be a pasta dish. It all started back in the day when I first tasted Carbonara from our next door neighbor. Then I began cooking my own simplified version using Campbell’s mushroom soup and milk and some other ingredients not even related to the original dish! If there’s one thing I learned from this, it’s this– a pasta dish can be made from anything! Don’t get me wrong, I love discovering recipes from cookbooks and all, but when all you have is what’s in your ref, you need to improvise and feed the hungry hubby. This dish from leftovers, as usual, was a very satisfying lunch and something I’d cook over and over again.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped bacon

1/2 cup canned corn

1/4 cup frozen peas

1 cup all purpose cream

a handful of fresh basil leaves (from my basil plant!)

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

* Lawry’s Seasoned Salt does wonders to my pasta dishes by the way

Fettuccine noodles, cooked al dente

Procedure:

Sauté garlic and onion in butter. Add your bacon and let it cook until most of the fat has melted and parts are getting crisp and crunchy. Add corn and peas and cook for 2 more minutes. Pour in all-purpose cream and and mix in herbs. Add and mix in cooked fettuccine noodles. Season with salt and pepper.

The best recipes for me are those that just “boom”- came out from scratch. Scratch like leftovers, bit-of-this-piece-of-that, that are waiting to be made into something delicious and repeatable. So last night, I was already having one of those “it’s already 7pm and I have no idea what to cook for dinner” when everything fell into place, and thirty minutes later me and the hubby were helping ourselves to our second plate. What’s the secret? I happily live by my kitchen rule, ” When all else fails, there’s always paella” (or at least my version of it) Rice, veggies, spices, some meat, and you’re good to go! My title said almost paella since I used a different rice variety (the original dish calls for a bomba or callasparra rice), used bacon fat (instead of olive oil), seasoned with spices other than saffron, and most all– lacked the paellera pan. If you want a brief history on the dish, click here. I used a stainless wide pan somewhat similar to a wok with a see through cover, which made it easier for me to see if the dish is already cooked without letting the steam out.

Serves  4-5

Ingredients:

1/2 cup bacon, chopped

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 carrot, cubed

1 small red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced

1 small eggplant, cubed

8 pcs string beans, cut to an inch

1/4 cup red wine

1 1/2 cup long grain rice

3 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon cajun spice mix

1/4 teaspoon spanish paprika

1 piece laurel leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

Extra salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Heat pan on low fire and add in bacon pieces. Melt the fat and this will serve as oil for the dish. Cook bacon until slightly crispy and most of the fat has melted. Increase heat to medium fire. Add onions, then garlic. Let it cook until garlic is golden then add carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, and string beans. Deglaze with red wine and cook of the alcohol until the liquid has reduced to half. Mix in rice and make sure that it’s completely coated with the oil from the bacon. Add the chicken broth. Mix in the rest of the ingredients: all herbs and spices. Bring to a boil then simmer covered for around 20 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked. Serve with sliced lemons.

I’m a big fan of creamy soups. I grew up eating nothing but instant Cream of Mushroom soups and mixing it with rice. I’m not sure how much MSG is in my kidneys after all those years of canned soups, but now that I know better- I make my soups from scratch. There’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of soup to warm me up during the rainy seasons. Just stock up on frozen peas and throw in whatever is leftover in the ref as topping. I was out of croutons when I made this recipe but go ahead and add some to balance out the creaminess and get some crunch.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks of leeks, chopped

4 1/2 cups frozen peas

1 medium potato, chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup tofu, chopped to small cubes

1/4 cup milk or cream

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Procedure: Saute onion in butter. Add leeks, frozen peas, and potatoes and sweat for about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil then simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are well cooked. Turn off heat and cool the soup a bit before pouring into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour back into pot and add tarragon. Stir in mushrooms and tofu and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Add in milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Summer is officially over- well at least here in the Philippines. Not a day passes by without some afternoon rainshowers and occasional thunderstorms. The sun is up and shining in the mornings, but once the temperature drops around three I can already smell the rain in the distance. For me it’s the just perfect weather for this soupy dish. Who want’s to eat anything hot and spicy in the summer anyway?! This is Gumbo-inspired without the heavy mushy texture. Easy as usual. Serve it hot hot hot!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium potato, chopped or a handful of baby potatoes, halved

2 corn on the cobs, chopped

8 -12 pieces large prawns

6 pieces okra, chopped

1 medium eggplant, chopped

1 beef cube

1 tablespoon Cajun spice mix

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon thyme

Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Sauté garlic and onion in a deep pan. Add carrots and potatoes and brown a bit. Add corn. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked. Add prawns and remaining vegetables. Add beef cube, spice, and herbs. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is one those few recipes that doesn’t need much thinking– very, very easy. No measuring. No baking. Your kids can make this! Typically found off a fruit cocktail label, the refrigerator cake must simply be one of the easiest desserts on the planet. My only measurement is 1:2 condensed milk to all-purpose cream. From here you can pretty much add or subtract depending on your sweet buds.

Procedure:

Layer the broas (ladyfingers) on the bottom of the pan/glass container.

Mix fruit cocktail (drained), condensed milk, and all-purpose cream in bowl. Spread on top of the broas layer.

Add another layer of broas if your container is big enough, and just top it again with the fruit and cream mixture.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or better overnight. Freeze if you want it as hard as iced candy.

For me, there’s no comfort food like a well-baked sweet-tangy-crunchy-gooey- peach- apple pie. Fuss-free and less prep time if you use a store bought pastry crust, but still an easy recipe if you have to make it from scratch. I used Martha’s Perfect Pâte Brisée for my dough- just follow every detail and you’re all set for the perfect pie recipe.

Martha’s Perfect Pâte Brisée (From the Martha Stewart Living cookbook)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 to 1/2 c. ice water
Directions:
1.  Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a few seconds to combine.
2.  Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten seconds.
3.  Add the vodka then the water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together.  Do not process for more than 30 seconds.
4.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.  Divide into two equal pieces and place on two separate sheets of plastic wrap.  Flatten into disks, then wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.  Make two 8 to 10-inch single-crust pies pies or one 8 to 10-inch double crust pie.

Preheat oven to 425F and place a large baking sheet right in the middle. In a large bowl, mix in sugar, cornstarch, ground cinnamon, and salt. Core, peel, and cut apples into wedges and toss into bowl. Gently toss in drained quartered peach halves. Set aside.

Roll out one piece of dough an fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges then refrigerate. Roll out dough for the top crust on a lightly floured surface. Using a cookie cutter, cut out enough shapes that will cover the entire pie. Put on baking sheet then refrigerate until firm to handle.

Spoon filling into the shell creating a slight mound into the center. Dot with butter cubes. Arrange heart-shaped dough over the filling, making sure they overlap each other. Brush some egg wash in between the shapes and press edges together. Brush entire top with egg wash then sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake pie for 20 minutes then reduce oven to 375F. Bake until crust if golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool on rack.

First of all, I must say this is one ugly but yummy photo. Most Filipino foods are ugly-yummy in real life  and this must be my first photo of many to come.  As a food stylist, this is one big photo no-no, but as a real cook all I can say is- this was one delicious dish. This is my first entry for my Shiitake 3-Ways recipe series. Chicken is my top meat of choice when cooking at home and I usually cook it as Tinola, my hubby’s favorite Filipino dish. After weeks and weeks of serving it, I just had to think of another recipe that will use my leftover chickens and my all-around favorite fresh shiitake mushrooms.  I also recently bought some Cajun spice mix and wanted to make use of it for this dish. Another kitchen experiment that turned out really well!

This is very easy to prepare and cook, less than 30 minutes and you’re all set. And surprisingly, the hubby wants it on our weekly menu too!

Ingredients:

6 pieces chicken legs and thighs

Cajun Spice Mix

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon garlic, sliced

3 pieces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup button mushrooms, sliced

1/8 cup vodka

1/2 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup water

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Marinate chicken in Cajun Spice Mix overnight.

Sauté garlic until golden. Add and brown chicken pieces. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until slightly wilted, about a minute. Pour vodka and burn off the alcohol for about 2 minutes. Add in mushroom soup, milk and water. Let it simmer until chicken is cooked and sauce has thickened, about 15-20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.