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STANDOUT DO-AHEAD FEASTS FOR   CHRISTMAS 
Christmas and New Year family meals are always the most stressful, especially for majority of households which cannot afford to have their special meals catered and therefore rely mostly on what they could produce from scratch in their own kitchens using only the most basic appliances and cookware on hand. For all harassed mothers and party hostesses out there, here are suggestions for your holiday table which would make everyone suspect you have been secretly taking cooking lessons. But first, keep these five simple rules in mind. CONTINUE READING -- RULE #1.......

ALSO:Gifts from your hearth
Homemade, personalized gifts are not for cheapskates anymore. So go ahead, whip up your own. 

Homemade gifts used to be looked down upon as presents from people who cannot afford to buy factory-made products. Today, the tide has turned. Articles made in small quantities by hand, using traditional methods, are labeled artisanal and are highly sought-after. This is especially true with food. Lutong bahay (home cooking) is now classified as heritage cuisine. It is prominently featured in expensive, coffee table cookbooks. Celebrity chefs from the world’s culinary capitals are flocking to small villages, tracking down native recipes that feature obscure, local ingredients. READ FULL STORY...


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Standout do-ahead feasts for Christmas


POT ROAST BEEF

MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) By Sol Vanzi - Christmas and New Year family meals are always the most stressful, especially for majority of households which cannot afford to have their special meals catered and therefore rely mostly on what they could produce from scratch in their own kitchens using only the most basic appliances and cookware on hand.

For all harassed mothers and party hostesses out there, here are suggestions for your holiday table which would make everyone suspect you have been secretly taking cooking lessons. But first, keep these five simple rules in mind.

RULE #1

Stick to a simple, realistic menu. This is not the time to try out complicated, labor-intensive recipes such as Galantina (Boneless Stuffed Chicken) or Chicken Pastel (Creamed Chicken in Pastry).

RULE #2

Purchase all the ingredients in advance. Do not be caught in the middle of Christmas Eve preparations without the herbs, spices, and sauces your recipes cannot do without.

RULE #3

Clear the kitchen of unnecessary clutter. The kitchen should be dedicated only to the Christmas dinner preparations.

RULE #4

Have enough refrigerator and freezer space. Do-ahead cooking requires keeping cooked food overnight or longer at safe temperatures.

RULE #5

Prepare the right size pots and pans. Borrow from friends and family if necessary.


MAC ‘N CHEESE

Boil 500 grams elbow macaroni until almost done. Drain and immediately toss into a pot of simmering ready-made spaghetti sauce (one kilo pack) and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Transfer to a large casserole, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. To heat, transfer to serving bowls and microwave. Or bake the whole tray at medium setting for 30 minutes until heated through.


POT ROAST BEEF

Always impressive, Beef Pot Roast is a spectacular, yet inexpensive, main course. Use large pieces of beef brisket (at least one kilo each) or keep the whole brisket intact if you have a large enough pot. Rub sea salt and coarse black pepper all over the meat. Surface, then brown the meat all over in a thick pot.

Set the meat aside, and stir fry in the same pot over high heat: sliced onions, celery, carrots, and green pepper. Add beer (one bottle for each kilo of beef), laurel leaves, and smashed garlic cloves. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits. Return beef to pot, add enough water to barely cover, and simmer, covered, until tender.

When cool enough to handle, separate the meat and refrigerate. Drain the vegetables and mash to thicken gravy. Refrigerate the liquid and discard the solid fat on the surface. Add a can of Cream of Mushroom soup to the gravy and stir in mashed, strained vegetables. Season with salt if necessary.

Take the meat out of the ref and slice thinly. Arrange slices on an oven-proof casserole and cover with gravy. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Reheat in the oven or microwave.


MUSHROOM ROAST CHICKEN

Buy two whole supermarket Rotisserie chicken. Cut into portions and cover with sautéed sliced onions and canned mushrooms. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Make gravy by pouring a can of mushroom soup into the onion-mushroom pan drippings, thin with water and leftover wine to desired consistency. Serve in bowls alongside reheated chicken.

FRUITY DESSERT

Quartered store-bought mamon or plain cupcakes, topped with ice cream and sliced canned peaches.


Gifts from your hearth
Homemade, personalized gifts are not for cheapskates anymore. So go ahead, whip up your own.  by Sol Vanzi December 18, 2014


Three kinds of chili vinegar

Homemade gifts used to be looked down upon as presents from people who cannot afford to buy factory-made products. Today, the tide has turned. Articles made in small quantities by hand, using traditional methods, are labeled artisanal and are highly sought-after.

This is especially true with food.

Lutong bahay (home cooking) is now classified as heritage cuisine. It is prominently featured in expensive, coffee table cookbooks. Celebrity chefs from the world’s culinary capitals are flocking to small villages, tracking down native recipes that feature obscure, local ingredients.

All these developments augur well for many who are at a loss on what to give their friends and associates this Christmas.

With homemade food gifts, the first concern is the container because food can spoil or spill. I make a practice of saving and cleaning uniquely shaped wine and liquor bottles and jam and mayonnaise jars.

But one can also buy brand new jars and bottles with plastic caps at public markets. Here’s another tip: Before beginning any work in the kitchen, make a list of what you will need to prepare and purchase all the ingredients. Make sure that you have everything you need.

Here are several traditional food items that are a breeze to prepare using the most basic pots, pans, and utensils.

Most appreciated by my friends and neighbors last year was a collection of local vinegars: sinamak, anghang-sarap, inasal, iloko, sasa, tuba, and kasuy. This year, my vinegars will all be spiced with several varieties of chili peppers, in varying degrees of ripeness.

Start by slicing garlic, ginger, lemon grass (white parts only), onions, and various types of chili peppers, red and green. Keep the siling labuyo whole. Distribute these flavorings among clean bottles, alternating colors for good visual presentation. Fill the bottles with organic vinegar to about an inch of the top and cover with the bottle cap.

Bagoong Alamang Gisado

Everybody loves homemade ginisang bagoong (sautéed baby shrimp), pairing it with green mangoes, on rice or as a side dish for kare-kare.

To make 15 200-gram jars, buy three kilos of bagoong alamang and sauté in two cups of oil with garlic, chopped onions, and sliced ripe tomatoes. Add one cup of banana catsup for sweetness and a tinge of color. Simmer, mixing often, until some of the liquid evaporates and the bagoong thickens and the oil rises to the surface. Let it cool and spoon into jars.

Atsarang Papaya

Whole green papayas are cheap and always available, but to save time and effort I prefer to buy grated papaya. Make sure there are no yellowish or pinkish pieces mixed in with the lot. Ripe papaya turns mushy when pickled.

For every kilo of papaya, boil together in a stainless steel pot: one cup of vinegar, half cup of sugar, two tablespoons of slivered ginger, and several pieces of siling labuyo. Take the mixture off the stove once the sugar is melted. This is the pickling solution.

While the pickling solution is cooling, squeeze the grated papaya to remove as much of its juices as possible. Mix in a handful of julienned carrots and sliced onions. Pour cooled pickling liquid into vegetables and mix well. Bottle and cover.

Sweet desserts

For friends who like dessert, other easy and inexpensive gifts to make are: white or red kidney beans in syrup, minatamis na saging (sliced saba bananas in syrup), minatamis na kamote (sweet potato cubes in syrup), and minatamis na langka (jackfruit segments in syrup).

NOTE: All of the above contain no artificial preservatives and have to be kept refrigerated.




Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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