Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oatmeal and raisin cookies

"All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten..." - Robert Fulghum

Do you know this guy?  Robert Fulghum is a story teller.  An American non fiction writer who's writings of common things and life in general are as funny and interesting, as they are inspiring.  He is one of my favourite book authors.  And this -   All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten... is one of my fave from his books.  It has, since first publication sold more than 7 million as of its 15th anniversary edition in 2003.  I had my first copy of this book in 1998.  And I never stop going back to it.  Again and again and again.  Why?  Well because of the simplicity of the message.  And here's an excerpt from the book via Amazon:

"All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."

- Robert Fulghm  

Print this Recipe

To make these chewy and healthy cookies:

250g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup firmly packed, brown sugar

55g caster sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

60ml milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

300g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup raisins or sultanas

 Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and bicarb soda in a bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together untli light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla, milk and eggs and beat until mixed through.

Add in the dry ingredients and continue to beat until just combined.

Take off bowl from your stand mixer, and using a wooden spoon, stir in the rolled oats and raisins.  You will have a lumpy slightly wet dough.

Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill until firm - several hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 180*C.  Grease and line trays or cookie sheets with baking paper.

Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop out dough and form into balls.

Arrange on baking tray/s and press down slightly with a fork.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.  Do not overbake.  At this point, the cookies should be slightly soft in the centre.

Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cook

These cookies are great and healthy - they are chewy which is the kind that we like at home.  They kept for 2 weeks in an airtight container in the kitchen.  Two or three went into lunch boxes, some nibbled while waiting for dinner, some taken with milk (and coffee) and they're just all-around simple cookies.  No fancy schmancy pants here.

I think sometimes we need to be reminded that life can be simple.  That its okay to slow down.  That its okay to be late.  And that mess and dishes in the kitchen can wait.  That we should count our blessings (and be grateful for what we have). That prayers are answered.  And that cookies and milk, do make you feel good. 

And here's another quote from American politician Barbara Jordan - " Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down for a nap."

Enough said. 

Cookies and milk please.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pearl barley risotto with wild mushrooms

I started at a new job recently.  Well last week actually.  Closer to home, same hours.  I'm back in my happy place.  Literally.  Yep. I'm swapping some gorgeous Sydney harbour views for the sticks.  If only those views can be translated into better work opportunity.  Sigh.  Anyways, this new job is permanent so more security and well... holiday pay, that's it!  This is my high.

And this is another high!  Discovering familiar recipes using new ingredients!  And this was from the first and latest Food First magazine (Fitness First mag), lying about in the office kitchen.  But I've adjusted the amounts in some of the ingredients.  The butter for instance, was 80g in the original recipe which I used and found it too buttery and oily.  I've also adjusted the olive oil here so you don't get a too oily and slippery risotto.

Risotto is not new to us.  We have a few faves at home (prawn, mushrooms and scallops versions) but pearl barley is a new addition to our pantry.  After some porridge episode, I knew pearl barley can't be just for porridge!  


To make this super healthy version of risotto, you'll need:
(Print the recipe)

75ml extra virgin olive oil

4 shallots (Spanish onions), finely chopped

200g pearl barley

150ml dry white wine

1 litre white chicken stock, simmered and warm in a separate pot 
(I used home made chicken stock but you can definitely use store-bought variety.  Just be careful with adding salt in the dish as I find commercial stocks too salty)

sea salt and pepper to season

450g mixed mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite sized pieces
(I used 150g each of oyster musrhooms, Swiss brown and shimejis)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

half a bunch (or a hand-full) of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

25g grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve

30g butter, chopped

In a large shallow skillet or deep heave based sauce pan, heat half of the olive oil, then add the shallots. Cook, stirring until the onions are soft.

Add the pearl barley and cook stirring until the barley is coated with oil.

Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and let the wine reduce.

Season with salt and pepper and stir through.  

Add about a third of the chicken stock let the barley simmer, letting the stock reduce.  Add more stock and stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender.  (The barley should be soft but still retains that bite).

In a medium pan, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the mushrooms until soft.

Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook for about a minute, stirring while cooking.

Add the mushroom mixture to the pearl barley.  Taste and add salt and pepper to adjust seasoning.

Stir in the parmesan and butter.

Serve in pasta bowls or plates with extra shaved Parmesan.

Let me just say this was a "wow" at every bite.  Every nutty barley bite.  A healthy alternative to the usual risotto.  And a cheaper one at that too.  How's about a pack of 500g pearl barley for only $2.99?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Petit apple and cinnamon loaves with spiced maple cream sauce

Dolce far niente! Or what was famously coined in the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert as "the sweetness of doing nothing" is my fave quote.  When Liz went to Rome and stayed there for her food and cultural experience and learned about the love of family and friends, it felt like home and right at the moment, I wanted to be there.  Follow that the same path.  There is something about the Italian culture and lifestyle that's alluring.  I've never been to Italy and it is one of  my most dreamed of places to go. When the time comes.  And when I do, this is the Italian concept that I am so going to embrace - "l'arte di non fare niente".  It implies a feeling of having all the time in the world at our disposal and doing something simple, relaxing, fun, or whimsical.


It's the start of the school holidays in this corner of the globe.  Two weeks off school for the girls and non stop bickering at home.  Don't get me wrong, I love school holidays. Everyone gets to relax and slow down a bit.  Two weeks break from the morning rush, no lunch box to prepare, from homework, from other extra curricular activities.  Its always a welcome break.  Weekends mean lying in or a spontaneous day trip somewhere - beach, park, movies, etc.  It also means a full stocked pantry and fridge - of "sometimes" foods, healthy treats and not-so healthy treats.  But no one's taking stock.  Whether we're at home for a staycation or out of town, we get to chill.

And chill we will. This is the first baked treat for the weekend and shall be a post for this month's Sweet Adventure's Blog Hop theme hosted by the lovely Kitchen Crusader.  It's all about sweet sauces this month.  And since I've almost exhausted all our fave sauces in previous posts:  ruby sauce, apple compote with creme anglaise, sauce suchard, mixed berry coulis, poached pear in red wine, I thought it time to try something new.  And then this came into view.  I'd have to say the hero of this sweet treat is the sauce - spiced maple cream sauce.  Perfect for a weekend afternoon tea shared with family.   This recipe is adapted from the The Australian Women's Weekly cookbook - The Cake Stall with some tweaking.

To make this sweet afternoon treat, you'll need:
(Print the recipe)

90g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

110g caster sugar

1 egg

200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 medium sized apples, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
(there'll be leftover to munch on while you're making this cake)
15g butter, melted
1 tablespoon caster sugar +  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, combined

Preheat the oven to 180*C.  Grease 8-cup petite loaf pan.  
(I used a Baker's Secret pan gift from a friend)

Sift the flour and baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a small bowl using hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract and the egg and continue to beat until combined.

Beat in the sifted flour alternating with the milk in two batches.

Spoon and divide the batter into the pan, top with 3-4 apple slices.

Brush the tops with the melted butter then sprinkle with the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until tops are golden.
(While these are baking, prepare the spiced maple cream sauce and chill in the fridge).

Sprinkle hot loaves with left over cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Turn to cool onto a wire rack.

For the spiced maple cream sauce:

Whisk together in a bowl, 160ml thickened cream, 2 tablespoons original all natural maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and a pinch of ground cinnamon.  Set aside to cool. 

Variation: The original recipe called for honey but I've used original natural maple syrup because we love that at home.

I found that this cake was perfect served warm or fresh out of the oven and poured with some of the spice maple cream sauce. A break from our other tropical indulgences.

And now that the girls are on a two week off school it's time for some dolce far niente!  Join the revolution!  There's some great tips here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chopsuey - stir fried veggies

I love the interview article with Ruth Reichl in the Spectrum from the weekend SMH as part of the upcoming Crave Sydney Festival.  Ms Reichl talks about how we need to get back into our kitchens and cook.  And in turn change the way kids eat these days.   And the message isn't about shoving vegetables into our kids diets or going into every diet-health-fad-bandwagon.  Its about eating together, sharing meals and connecting.  

Much to my frustration, I used to do just that.  Cook and prepare meals with vegetables, only to have teeny tiny bits pushed on every side of the plate.  So I've stopped.  Vegetables are now served as is, with meats and chicken, or in pasta,  in salads and they just get when they want.  The rule is, don't say you don't like it until you've tasted it.  And it works, for the most part.  But we're not rushing.  We share meals every day, and in the weekends.  Although sometimes it can get animated, more talking from the young ones than the grown ups, its a happy place to be.  Reichl says, "... the power of dinner, for me, is not so much that it has to be the greatest meal, but that you hear about what's going on in everyone's lives."  Enough said.

Now speaking of vegetables, let me introduce you to this simple classic Filipino dish.  The base is mainly vegetables, but there's variations like adding chicken strips or prawns.   Usually served as a side for meat or chicken dishes, or part of the main.  Quick. Simple. Easy.  You can make this for a weekday dinner or lunch, or make big portions for a party.

To make chopsuey:
(Print the recipe)

1 carrot, sliced into discs

1 red capsicum, sliced into squares or strips

1/4 cabbage, sliced

1 pack (about 100-150g) young corn

150g snow peas

150g button mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, quartered

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 cup water

2 tablespoon corn starch

salt and pepper to taste

6 pieces cooked/boiled quail eggs, shells peeled

In a shallow pan or skillet, heat the oil and saute the garlic and onions.

Add all the vegetables and half the water. Bring to a boil.

Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

With the remaining 1/2 cup water, dissolved the corn starch.

Add to the vegetables, then let simmer until vegetables are cooked and sauce has thickened.  

Add the quail eggs and turn off heat.

For variation: Add about 250g of chicken strips or prawns.  Add this after sauteing the garlic and onions and let simmer until cooked before adding the vegetables.

There are other ways to make chopsuey, but this version is the easiest I've ever made.  Sometimes, we just have to rely on the taste rather than the process of how its traditionally prepared.  As long as its shared with family and friends,  over stories that will be heard and shared in years to come. 

Ruth Reichl will be one of the food industry experts at the Crave Sydney World Chef Showcase first weekend of October 2012.  If you're in Sydney, check out the program here.

B&W Wednesday - Week 50

I am back to joining Black and White Wednesday, initiated by Susan from The Well Seasoned Cook but have passed around hosting privileges to other food bloggers around the globe.  For Week 50, Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything is the host. So if you're interested to join this weekly monochromatic food photography challenge, check out Susan's page or Haalo's for updates.

This is a black and white version of my panna cotta with ruby sauce.  A new favourite at our home.  I'm trying other infusions in the cream as we don't want tire of vanilla.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sugar-free blueberry buttermilk muffins

Blueberries are a favourite at our home.  Fresh or frozen, these small round blue fruits are always in our fridge/freezer.  When they're on sale at the supermarket, we get heaps and freeze them.  They're the gold nuggets of fruits.  Full of antioxidants and Vitamin C.   Add that to a sugar-free muffin batter and you've got something that's a real treat - in taste and in nutrients.

Don't get me wrong, we love our sweets and desserts and cupcakes at home, but there are times when healthy is the best route and best way to exercise restraint.  Of course, I'm talking about the adults in our home.    These are  muffins are moist but has that slight crunch on top thanks to buttermilk and just smells divine coming out of the oven.

To make this guilt-free muffins, I've substituted Natvia 100% Natural Sweetener for the same amount of sugar called for in the recipe,  inspired by the Australian Women's Weekly Best Food Cookbook.

 (Print the recipe here)

325g plain flour

150g Natvia 100% Natural Sweetener

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Zest and juice of one orange

1 large egg

250ml buttermilk

120ml vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups frozen blueberries

Slowly stir the dry ingredients with the blueberries to avoid too much bleeding of the fruits into the batter.

Preheat oven to 190*C.  Line 2  muffin trays (12 half-cup capacity) with liners or simply spray with canola oil.  Or you can also use just one 1-cup capacity 12-cup tray.)

In a jug or large measuring cup, mix together buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and zest and stir to combine.  

Add the frozen blueberries and gently stir.  

Add the wet ingredients and the orange juice into the dry ingredients and stir slowly using a wooden spoon to incorporate the ingredients together.  Do no over stir.

Scoop the batter using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon into the lined muffin tray, two thirds full.

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30  minutes or until the tops are golden.  A skewer should also come out clean when you test for doneness.

Leave to cool in the trays for 5-10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

A healthy treat in lunch boxes and take-to-the-office morning tea.  These are guilt-free muffins.  So really, there's no need for restraint.  But if you need to, just keep them in airtight containers in the fridge and warm in the microwave when you need one.  Or two.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Banana porridge with date and verjuice compote

I know it's already spring, but porridge is not really just for the cold weather, right?  It's way up there in the list with the title "comfort food".  Any version whether its the Chinese congee or the Filipino lugaw, a good porridge brings us back there - sitting on your grandmother or grandfather's (or you rmum's or dad's) lap listening to tall tales, folk lore and colourful adventures.  Comfort food hugs you tight and gives you warmth.

Well, this isn't a recipe passed on to me by family, but the first time I tasted it, it just felt good. It was at a blogger's brunch party at Kazbah in Balmain.  One of the 8 dishes served on the day, this one stuck with me.  It was served to share, in a massive bowl with some date compote on top.  It was simple and yet, that one spoonful was not enough.  And then another.  There was a nutty taste to the porridge and a certain bite at every mouthful.  And we can only guess it's barley.  So I've tested and made this up.    And this is it.

To make this, I had to adjust as I went, tasting and tasting every minute, just to get it right.

To make the banana porridge:

(Print the recipe here)

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup rice flakes

1/2 cup barley

3 over-ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups (480ml) water

2 cups (480ml) milk

1/4 cup raw sugar (or more to suit your taste)

In a medium sized pot, put together the oats, rice flakes and barley.  Add water and bring to a boil.

Add the milk and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.  Stir occasionally to make sure porridge is not sticking at the bottom of the pot.

Add the bananas and continue to simmer (about 20-30 minutes) or until barley is cooked.  (You will know when its cooked as they will be soft but still have that bite).

If the porridge becomes to thick, just add a quarter cup of milk at a time, stir then taste.   Add sugar to suit your taste.  But the natural sweetness of the ripe bananas should be fine.

The cast of characters

To make the date and verjuice compote:

1 cup dried pitted dates

2 cups verjuice

In a small pot, pour the verjuice and add the dates. Bring to a boil then slow simmer until the dates have softened and the sauce reduced.  Set aside to cool.

For a sweeter version of this compote, you can add 1 tablespoon raw sugar to the mixture while simmering.    

Or you can try Suzanne Husseini's version in her book Modern Flavours of Arabia which I found through Emma's My Darling Lemon Thyme where she used fresh orange and lemons. 

The date compote was made with verjuice so the natural sweetness of the dates came through.   This was unlike the one that topped what we ate at Kazbah (which was sweeter), so hubby was not sold to the compote on top.  But he gives two thumbs up to the porridge.   Beats any 90 second breakfast oats at any time.   Drizzled with some honey (or real maple syrup) and serve.  With love and lots of hugs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rozelle Markets

A haven for food stylists and food photographers, collectors of classics and vintage pieces,   Rozelle Markets is held every Saturday and Sunday at the grounds of the Rozelle Public School along Darling Street in Balmain.  There’s a thing or two to buy, food to eat, a live Jazz band to enjoy or simply to spend a relaxing day out on a weekend!   

cool vintage replica posters

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

Old crates, a bike and some old bottles

Silver ware and dainty tea cup set

I love these stuff - all unique items!

old classic bottles

I'm loving that lace/embroidery work on the table.  Didn't see that until I uploaded the photo!

Heaps of old tables and rugs here

Decorative plants and herbs too!

I love these cow-print wooden shoes but didn't get them :(

So much to see... and buy!  That lamp is calling me, I think :)

Old and new

Clothes and accessories, books and toys....

so much colour and character here

That sign!  

Some more classic 70s dishes and tiles

More silverware and accessories

Pots, pots and prints

A place to sit back and relax with a cuppa 

How classic 70s is that lamp!

That's a wine barrel cover which was cut into half - a great cheeseboard me thinks :)

tea cups and saucers and other dainty things

a crate and old luggage

aluminium tea kettle

vintage posters

And now that it's spring, its the best time to visit markets!   Rozelle Markets are held every weekend - Saturdays and Sundays.  Check out their website here for other details such as getting a stall and what you can find at the markets.

* All photos taken with my mobile phone camera.


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