Friday, March 30, 2012

Chocolate Chip Wheat Cookies: my first dip in baking

I have never baked cookies from scratch for as long as I remember. I always buy those ready mix cookie dough. I thought baking cookies is hard but I was mistaken-- it was actually quite easy, you just have to find the time to do it. Baking gives you a certain high especially when you get good feedback about it. My eldest daughter brought cookies to school and to feed her friends and they all liked it. She wanted me to bake again because they tasted so good! The compliment was enough for me to convince myself that I can indeed bake. But of course, the best part is that I baked the cookies with the help of my two daughters. It was one of those bonding moments that are ....priceless!

So I am sharing the recipe here. I hope you'll also find the time to bake. This is a good de-stressing activity too. Happy baking!


2 cups shortening
1 1/2 cups C & H white sugar
2 tsp soda (sprite)
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp Vanilla 
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp salt
4 tsp water
2 cups chocolate chips

  • Blend shortening with brown sugar
  • Add white sugar and eggs
  • Add all other ingredients, except flour, and mix well.
  • Add flour, one cup at a time. 
  • Add chocolate chips.
  • Drop by spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees 

by: Charina Vergara

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tuyosilog: when did you last have it?

We have a  Pinterest page and in one of our boards, we have pins that are specifically for breakfasts which we named "Your Monday Breakfast ideas". We are pinning breakfast ideas every Monday so that you can plan your breakfast meals for the whole week. 

But we just couldn't wait till Monday to post this breakfast favorite of ours which is perfect for your meatless Friday : Tuyosilog! Tuyosilog is short for Tuyo (Dried salted fish), singangag (fried rice) and itlog (Egg).

I've never had tuyo in a long while so when I saw this at The Hut (inside Island Pacific Panorama City) I didn't think twice about ordering it. It was cooked well and crispy, the saltiness is just about right especially when you dip it in spiced vinegar-- the saltiness wears off. I have enough energy to last me the whole day, thanks to this power Filipino breakfast! 

by: Charina Vergara

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bittermelon: bitter is better

If there is a poll on veggie popularity, I bet bitter melon will come out to be the least favorite. It may be the first vegetable to be voted out. I don't blame you, what with its bitter taste, who would dare eat this veggie anyway? But Bitter melon, considered the most bitter among all edible vegetables , is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. Bitter melon, also known as Balsam Pear, Balsamina (Spanish), ku gua or foo gwa (Chinese), and Assorossie (French) and Ampalaya (Filipino)  grows in tropical and subtropical climates . It is a very popular vegetable in the Philippines.  I remember when I was growing up, my dad would always eat ampalaya. He would consume it in almost its raw form by just steaming it (on top of the rice), dip it in Bagoong Isda (anchovy sauce)  and eat it with steaming rice ,while I looked in amazement. He liked it so much and I remember him saying that the more bitter it tastes, the better. 

I believe it's an acquired taste. It took me quite a while to acquire the taste for it. Everytime I consume it , I think of the nutrients that this veggie has to offer. 
According to, bitter melon  is said to have a therapeutic effect on people who have diabetes as consumption of this vegetable may decrease blood sugar and insulin levels. Not that I have a diabetes, but it pays to know that this veggie helps, right?

How do you select a bitter melon? In selecting a bitter melon, choose firm, unblemished ones that are from 5 to 12 inches in length. If you desire for a strong bitter taste, choose the ones that are still green and a yellow-orange melon for a milder taste. 

Bitter melon can be kept for 3 to 5 days in the fridge so long as it is stored loose in a a paper or plastic bag.  

There you go folks. I hope you will try bitter melon or ampalaya dish next time. 

by: Charina Vergara


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


IN the Philippines, Bicolanos are known for their talent in the kitchen. Also known as lovers of chili, Bicolanos are famous for having a high tolerance in eating and making hot dishes. With Bicol having lots of coconut trees, the use of coconut milk in almost every delicacy has become a Bicolano distinction. Gabi or taro leaves are also very abundant in the Bicol region. 

Some of the dishes that they are most proud includes the famous Bicol Express, which is pork cooked in coconut, shrimp paste and chili peppers. Their love for gabi leaves led them to make the Laing or the Pinangat. 

Laing is made up essentially of dried and shredded taro leaves, bits of meat or shrimp paste, generous amount of red chillies, ginger, garlic, and onion cooked in coconut milk. Bicolanos consider cooking the ingredients steadily in coconut cream because stirring it can also make the throat itchy. It is advised not to use fresh taro leaves because of the belief that the leaves and stalk of fresh taro leaves can also cause itchiness in the throat. 

To dry the taro leaves, natives hang it dry before being using them as ingredients. 

When it comes to shredding taro leaves, Bicolanos do not use knives but opt to use their hands when tearing the leaves apart. Filipinos in the US need not fret if they do not have taro leaves in their backyard. There are ready-to-cook taro leaves available in Filipino stores that are packed in plastic bags. The meat is also optional for the diet conscious. But if meat is desired, it must also be diced into small pieces. Because of the pungent and lingering smell of the shrimp paste,  fish sauce are used as substitute instead.  

Laing partnered with steaming rice will surely be a hit in any table fare. 

Catch us again next week for another  recipe that you'll surely love. Don't  miss it!


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes
• 3 oz Dried Taro leaves
• 1/4 lb Pork liempo
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 pc onion, minced
• 1 tbsp ginger, chopped
• 3 tbsp Bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
• 2 cans coconut milk, 14 oz each can
• 2 pcs Red chilli pepper
• 1 pc Knorr cubes
• Saute pork, onion, garlic, ginger and shrimp
• Add coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then add
shredded taro leaves.
• Do not stir. Cover and let it simmer until pork is

Chef Dindo Riforsado

Chef Drif has a long and distinguished career in the culinary arts industry.  He has worked in various upscale restaurants in Los Angeles such as La Defence Restaurant, Kado Japanese & Teppanyaki Restaurant; and Sushiko Kosher Japanese cuisine. He has mastered the art of culinary and has an extensive knowledge on a wide range of International cuisines. Currently, he is a Private Chef catering to private parties and events. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bicol Express

THE sun-filled days may be over, but that doesn’t stop Isla Kulinarya from bringing you burning 'hot' dishes that are sure to enliven your palate.

This week, Isla Kulinarya takes you to the Bicol region, home not only to religious and resilient locals, but also to highly commended cooks and residents who are fans of tangy cuisines especially those cooked in coconut milk or gata with a generous amount of siling labuyo or chili pepper.

Situated along the typhoon belt, the six provinces of Region five that comprises of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon, are no strangers to heavy rains and strong winds. That is why vast amounts of coconut trees are planted because of its ability to bend and sway with the strong blow of the wind.

The abundance of coconut trees in these areas has led the Bicolanos to come up with appetizers, desserts, and snacks that are made up of gata or coconut milk. Main food entrees are also cooked with gata with generous amounts of chili pepper. Considering that the Philippine cuisine does not have many spicy cuisines, Bicolanos were easily known as makers and lovers of spicy foods.

Among the most popular foods cooked in gata are: Laing, pinangat , ginataang santol, ginataang puso ng saging, and of course, the famous bicol express.

Named after a train, the bicol express is a mix of pork meat and shrimp sautéed in onions and tomatoes with lots of green chili strips simmered in coconut milk. Almost each Bicolano household have their own version of the bicol express which is favored not only during normal meal time, but most especially during special occasions as well.

Sighting the third week of September as the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the locals are preparing to showcase a variety of ginataan dishes in honor of the blessed virgin. Bicolanos are also known for their strong and shameless display their Catholic faith. That is why, during the feast, pilgrims storm Naga City to offer a nine-day novena to the replica of the famous Madonna in Penafrancia, Spain. The image is brought from its shrine on the first day in the Naga cathedral where the novena is held. Grateful for answered prayers and requested wishes, devotees participate in the procession on the last day of the novena and escort the image as they hold lit candles.

Isla Kulinarya shares with you our featured recipe this week, the Bicol Express, made and prepared by our Bicolano chef, Chef Dindo.

Catch us again next week for another recipe that you can include in your diet. Don’t miss it!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves 4-6
1 lb           pork
4 cloves    garlic, chopped
1/2 pc       onion, chopped
1 cup        bagoong alamang (shrimp paste)
20 pcs       hot green pepper, sliced
1 can         coconut milk, 14 oz can
1. Saute garlic, onion and pork for 5 minutes.
2. Add bagoong alamang or shrimp paste and sliced hot green peppers. Stir until pork is completely browned by mixture.
3. Add coconut milk. Boil. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes
4. Serve

Chef Dindo Riforsado

Chef Drif has a long and distinguished career in the culinary arts industry.  He has worked in various upscale restaurants in Los Angeles such as La Defence Restaurant, Kado Japanese & Teppanyaki Restaurant; and Sushiko Kosher Japanese cuisine. He has mastered the art of culinary and has an extensive knowledge on a wide range of International cuisines. Currently, he is a Private Chef catering to private parties and events.