Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Please feel free to look around, then visit my new home at mariasdinnertable.wordpress.com.


Kicked-up chicken salads

Supermarket rotisserie chicken is one of my favourite money-savers—they cost about the same as a whole raw chicken—and they are a great midweek meal-saver as well. I cut off the appendages and add butter chicken sauce, or coconut milk and curry, or pasta sauce and olives (et voilà, chicken cacciatore).  We are not chicken chest people here at home, so that part is usually the last to go, but I’ve managed to find some ways to jazz up cold white meat so that even my family will eat it. Here are three:


This is my nephew Dominic’s favourite. Click on the link above for the recipe.


Add chunks of cooked chicken, goat cheese, walnuts, and sliced strawberries to a bed of fresh spinach. Drizzle with your favourite vinaigrette.


Mix chunks of cooked chicken, small whole grapes, and slivered almonds with mayonnaise. Add a dash of a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange on a bed of lettuce.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pacific Rim Magazine 2012

I had the great fortune to be involved in a number of exciting projects this year, a big one being the 2012 issue of Pacific Rim Magazine. My colleagues and I worked really hard on it and we are very pleased to be able to share it with the world!

Click on the image to read the online version. We hope you enjoy it!


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Cupcakes vs. Muffins

My friend and I were mulling over the difference between cupcakes and muffins, and the best I could up with was, “Cupcakes are cake, and muffins are—healthy?”

I’ve recently made both, and to further refine my definition, I guess cupcakes are generally more appropriate for special occasions, while muffins are for everyday. Kind of like a party dress vs. your favourite jeans and cotton tee-shirt.

Speaking of connecting food with fashion, check out these fashion mash-ups by blogger Diana Moss. They are both whimsical and delicious.

And finally, a few shots of some of the fruits of my labour these past couple of weeks.

Birthday Cupcakes for my friend Mimi. I was inspired by the spring bloom all around to go with a pink-and-white theme. I used this basic cupcake recipe and added mashed strawberries to the batter. Then I topped them with cream cheese frosting and strawberry halves. To make them into a “birthday cake” I arranged them on a two-tier fruit stand. Note: I didn’t bake the cupcakes in the liners; I just used the liners as an added frill for the cooled, decorated cupcakes.

Individual serving of the Birthday Cupcake.

Muffins may not be as fancy as cupcakes, but they are good anywhere, anytime. For these banana-chocolate chip muffins, I used a recipe from Amy Rosen, but I used walnuts instead of peanuts. It also works well with a mix of whole wheat and white flour, and brown sugar.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This is a knife-and-fork sandwich

When life gets complicated, I think we all have the tendency to go back to the foods of our childhood: simple, easy, indulgent—in a word, comforting. We all have a favourite dish that takes us back, at least for a few minutes, to a more carefree time.

As a kid, I subsisted for one entire summer on ham and cheese sandwiches. I also loved french toast. Still do. So this is my idea of the ultimate sandwich: sweet ham and cheddar cheese, melting together between two slabs of hot, buttered, golden french toast. To me, it’s the culinary equivalent of a warm, friendly hug. And who can’t use a hug every now and then?

Serves two

4 pieces french toast (you can buy them frozen, or make your own)
2 slices cooked ham
2 slices cheddar, mozzarella, or your choice of melty cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your toaster oven to 350.

To assemble one sandwich, spread the inside of one piece of french toast with 1 tablespoon of mustard and the other piece with 1 tablespoon mayo. Add a slice of ham and a slice of cheese and put the two sandwich halves together. Spread each side with half a tablespoon of butter.

Heat a cast-iron pan and fry the sandwich for about 30 seconds on each side, just to melt the butter and get both sides evenly golden-brown.

Transfer to the heated toaster oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Serve with a knife and fork.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cheers for chopped cabbage

Making guys eat their veggies calls for pretty much the same tactics you’d employ with children. You need to serve up the dreaded légumes in creative ways, such as slicing them up really small, smothering them with a favourite dressing or melted cheese, or even puréeing them up before slipping them into soups and pasta sauce.

Thank goodness for pre-chopped, pre-washed cabbage mix. Homemade coleslaw is a snap to make with it, and you can also add it to cooked dishes. Here are a couple of things I did with it today.

Serves 4 as a side dish

2 cups chopped cabbage mix
1 small, crisp, sweet apple such as Pink Lady or Gala
~ sliced into matchsticks and tossed with the juice of 1/2 lemon

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp apple cider or sherry vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

Toss everything together in a medium bowl and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Serves 4 as a main dish

1 400-g package sweet potato noodles (dangmyun)
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 12-oz beef steak, cut into long thin pieces (you can also use pork or chicken)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chopped cabbage mix
sliced green onions and sesame seeds, for garnish

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the garlic and onions until soft and fragrant.

Add the sliced beef and mushrooms and stir.

Mix the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, water, sesame oil, and water and pour into the pan.

When the beef and mushrooms are cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly, add the chopped cabbage and prepared noodles. Stir everything together and let the noodles heat through.

Garnish each serving with sliced green onions, sesame seeds, and an extra drizzle of sesame oil.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fine Dining and a father’s love

This beautiful short by a young, up-and-coming film maker made my day. I’ll let it speak for itself.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Till we eat again

Filipinos love to laugh so much, we have to put a time limit on sadness. Forty days after a loved one’s death, we observe the babang luksa, the end of mourning. Widows who chose to wear black can wear light colours again, and families gather to honour the dear departed with prayer, shared memories—and, of course, food.

Since my dad died at the beginning of Lent this year, his babang luksa coincided with Good Friday. So my brothers and I decided to wait until Easter Sunday. Now, we have two resurrections to celebrate.

Because it’s Easter, we’re having lamb, and to accompany it, I’m opening a bottle of the Shiraz from Domaine de Chaberton that my dad and I discovered and enjoyed together, years ago. 

And for dessert, I’m making Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes. Luxuriously gooey, chocolatey and rich, this is something I reserve for the very best of celebrations. Also, the cookbook insists that this cake be served warm, with vanilla or coffee ice cream—my dad’s favourite kind of dessert.

So here’s to you, Pops—till we eat again!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cakes 

Adapted from The New Best Recipe

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.

For individual pudding cakes, lightly butter eight 6-8 oz. ramekins and set them on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

I find individual ramekins easier to serve.

In a liquid measuring cup, mix:                 

2 tsp instant coffee in 1½ cups water
(or 1 cup of cold coffee mixed with ½ cup water)

In a small bowl, stir together:     

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cacao
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Break up any large clumps with your fingers.
Set aside.

The difference between Dutch-processed cacao (left) and “premium” cacao. The New Best Recipe recommends Dutch-processed for best results

In a baine-marie, melt:                   
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cacao
2 oz. bittersweet/semisweet chocolate, chopped
Whisk until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together:

¾ cup ubleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together:                       

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
¼ tsp. salt

Whisk in:           
1 large egg yolk

Add the melted chocolate mixture and whisk to combine.

Add the flour mixture and whisk until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish/ramekins and level the surface with the back of a spoon.  If using ramekins, use about 1/4 cup of batter per ramekin.

Sprinkle the cacao mixture over the batter. It should cover the entire surface of the batter; if using ramekins, use 2 tbsp. of the cacao mixture for each ramekin.

Pour the coffee mixture gently over the cacao mixture. If using ramekins, pour 3 tbsp. of coffee over the cacao mixture in each ramekin.

Bake until puffed and bubbling. The whole cake takes 45 minutes; the ramekins take 20 minutes.

Do not overbake.

Cool the cake for 25 minutes. Cool the ramekins for 15.


The cakes will collapse slightly as they cool. Relax. These are not soufflés.

The bottom part should turn into moist, velvety crumb, and the stuff on top should melt into a thick, slick sludge. It's also normal for the edges to be a bit hard and crusty. If you get all three of these textures, then you'll know it's a success.

Serve with vanilla or coffee ice cream.

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