Sunday, November 29, 2009

Easy Baked Fingerling Potatoes, the Ionique Spectra Salt Way

I have another recipe here that calls for baby Dutch yellow potatoes, mushrooms, and butter. When I moved to Chicagoland, I simplified the original recipe which was written in 2007. Since my sister-in-law, Janet, asked me for the recipe this Thanksgiving week-end (and I didn't take photos), I will be editing this posting at a future date.

Nevertheless, I've made this side dish several times. Lakhi Siap, my young friend who is a regular taster in my test kitchen, innovates on this particular potato dish by dividing his baking pan into two sections. He adds garlic on 1/2 of the pan and mozzarella cheese on the other half (after 45 minutes of baking).

For those who are Costco (warehouse club) fans, go to the produce section and look for a bag of fingerling potatoes. You cannot miss them. The bag has an assortment of white, yellow, red, and purple (yes, purple yam-type potatoes, something Filipino "ube" lovers would enjoy) potatoes.

I would scrub these potatoes (using Amway's stainless steel scourer) over running water after squirting them with a little Environne, my favorite "green" vegetable "detergent." I would wipe them dry with a paper towel or clean dish cloth. Then, I would use two pyrex dishes to bake these luscious potatoes: a rectangular 8" x 12" dish and a smaller square dish, the kind you would bake your brownies in (perhaps 8" x8" or 9" x 9").

Since these easy-to-make, no-fuss, baked fingerling potatoes is a suitable side dish for any main entree, I would also season each dish separately so my guests would have choices. Then, during the meal, I can ask them: "Do you want your potatoes with regular salt or low-sodium Ionique Spectra Salt?"

The rectangular dish would get the Montreal Steak Seasoning and sea salt while the smaller square dish would have garlic, Montreal Steak Seasoning and Ionique Spectra Salt, an ultra-low sodium salt substitute that takes away the guilt from tastebuds that ask for more salt than the usual.

Let me know if you're interested in Ionique Spectra Salt. I'm a "newly-minted" Independent Ionique Consultant who can get you started. There are also business opportunities available for those who are curious about them.

Say "Ionique" the same way you would call someone "Monique." The accent is on the third syllable.


Easy Baked Fingerling Potatoes

Before baking: Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


1 rectangular pyrex (oven-proof, glass) pan
1 square pyrex (oven-proof, glass) pan
1 bag of Costco fingerling potatoes
2 to 3 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil (for each dish, to taste)
2 tsps. sea salt (for the rectangular dish)
4 squirts of Ionique Salt Spectra (for the square dish)
sprinkles of Herbs de Provence seasoning (2 tsps. or more, to taste, for each pyrex pan)
1 to 2 tsps. of Montreal Steak Seasoning (or more, to taste, for each pyrex pan)
1 heaping tbsp. of chopped garlic (fresh or bottled)


1. Clean, scrub, and drain potatoes of water. Wipe dry. Set aside.
2. Prepare pyrex glass pans by drizzling extra virgin olive oil lightly.
3. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on each dish. Tip: I put the larger-size potatoes in one pan.
4. Mix in the potatoes with the oil. Lightly brush or drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil on top of the potatoes.
5. Season each dish with Herbs de Provence, about two tsps. for each dish.
6. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
7. Take out the rectangular and square pans from the oven and season the potatoes.
- For the rectangular dish, add Montreal Steak Seasoning and sea salt.
- For the square dish, squirt Ionique Salt Spectra (four squirts in four different areas of the dish)
- Combine the seasonings with the potatoes. Mix thoroughly.
8. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil. The rest of the cooking time is devoted to "steaming" and softening the potatoes with the rest of the seasonings.
9. Return the dishes to the oven. Bake for another 15 or 20 minutes. Leave the aluminum foil cover on top of the dish to keep it warmed for your guests. This dish can be reheated although the skins might get crinkly. The crinkly skin does not affect the soft, buttery taste of the potatoes.
10. It is always best to test-taste a potato for "doneness."

Cooking Notes:

Sometimes, I reduce the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooking time is longer, of course.

I found a recipe for Montreal Steak Seasoning here. I haven't tried it yet BUT it should be comparable.

About Ionique Spectra Salt: (quoted from the website)

The nutritional supplement that tastes like salt and helps reduce sodium consumption by 50%.

Most people love the taste of salt. Who doesn’t? But research has linked high salt intake with increased blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other conditions. Current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that healthy adults consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily—that’s one teaspoon. Middle-aged and older adults and those with high blood pressure should consume 1,500 mg.

Spectra SaltTM from Ionique® makes it easy to reduce sodium intake while ensuring you receive beneficial and balanced levels of other essential minerals and trace minerals. Spectra SaltTM is designed to be used anywhere salt is desired, but it provides lower amounts of sodium and higher RDAs of other essential minerals and trace minerals like iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, chloride, sodium, potassium, sulfate, and boron.

Refined table salt is sodium and chloride with valuable minerals and trace minerals being deliberately removed during the refining process. Sea salts and hand-extracted salts may not be better either. Most of these sea salts are 98 to 99 percent sodium and chloride. Only patent-pending Spectra SaltTM provides nutritionally significant levels of every essential mineral and trace mineral (with the exception of iron). With Spectra SaltTM, you enhance the depth and richness of food, add a complete balance of essential mineral nutrition of food, and reduce sodium!

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Lorna's Adobong Kangkong

On November 21, 2009, I went on a "foodie" field trip with Ron Salazar, a dear friend who works at the Mayor of Chicago's Office of Special Events. He wanted me to sample some of the best "foodie" haunts in Uptown Chicago, at the famous Argyle Street, or simply known as "Argyle." Although this strip has many Vietnamese owned-and-managed restaurants, groceries, and produce stores, I quickly became a fan when Ron took me to a bakery, La Patisserie, which featured some of the best Filipino baked products I've ever tasted, such as pan de sal, pan de coco, and hopia. Oh me, oh my, I was in "foodie" heaven!

One of my great "buys" that Saturday was kangkong, aka Chinese water spinach or swamp cabbage. I refrigerated a hefty bunch of kangkong --- and I plotted and schemed on what I would serve that Friday for our Thanksgiving dinner: "Adobong Kangkong for my brother, David, and his wife Janet, when they visit us on Black Friday all the way from Missouri!"

Cooking Adobong Kangkong was SO easy. Washing the vegetables was another matter. For those who know me well, any vegetable dish takes a lot of cleaning time for me. I was SO busy cleaning the kangkong that when the dish was cooked, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product.

Here is my recipe.


- 1 huge bowl of kangkong (swamp cabbage) about 4 to 6 cups, stalks and leaves trimmed and placed in separate containers, washed and drained
- 1 lb. of pork, washed, drained, then sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, then marinated in about 2 tbsps. soy sauce, just enough to coat meat (low sodium preferred; this can be prepared at least a day in advance, then stored in a ziploc bag)
- 1/4 cup of Datu Puti white vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium preferred)
- 1 heaping tbsp. of prepared minced garlic from the bottle
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 bouquet gaarni of Lorna's aromatics (see Lorna's Humba recipe or see below)


1. Prepare a saucepan (stainless steel, teflon, or other non-acid reactive pan) by heating it with about 2 tbsps. of olive oil.

2. Saute garlic until light yellow, then add onions. Stir-fry in medium heat until the onions turn translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pork slices and brown for a few minutes. The resulting broth will flavor the Adobong Kangkong.

3. Add the bouquet gaarni and perch the muslin bag onto the side of the saucepan. Make sure that the bouquet gaarni touches the broth in the sauce pan.

4. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Bring to a boil.

5. Add the kangkong stalks. Allow to cook and soften, maybe about 5-10 minutes.

6. Add the kangkong leaves. Mix the pork and broth with the leaves. Cover the saucepan. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the kangkong is slightly wilted. Some cooks prefer a wilted Adobong Kangkong (like me!).

7. Serve with steamed rice.

Note: You can use other vegetables, such as Bok Choy, snap peas, spinach, string beans, cabbage, or whatever you have in your refrigerator for a nice Adobong Vegetable dish.

The Bouquet Gaarni

A bundle of spices and herbs, the aromatics, are placed in a square of muslin cloth and tied together with butcher twine ("lambo"). I use a muslin bag sachet normally used for tea and I fill it up with my aromatics. If you don't have any of the above but you have a tea strainer, you can use this, too.

I prefer using a bouquet gaarni instead of mixing the aromatics with the meat or vegetable mixture because I don't like biting into peppercorns or cardamon seeds. The bouquet gaarni is braised with the rest of the ingredients and is removed before eating.

Bon Appetit!

Ingredients for Bouquet Gaarni:

4 pieces of Star Anise dried flowers
2 whole cinnamon sticks, split in half (the original length is 3-inch sticks)
6 small bay leaves (or laurel leaves)
1 to 2 tbsps. whole black peppercorns
16 cardamon seeds (whole, unpeeled)

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lorna's Humba: Pig Hocks as Comfort Food

This is not the traditional Humba recipe that mothers from the Visayas region of the Philippines teach their children. I've taken the influences from Filipino, Chinese, Indian, and American home kitchens to create my own version of this braised Humba that can take two to four hours' cooking time. Of course, if you use a pressure cooker, the fragrant Humba cooks in half the time. If it's a slow cooker you're using, an overnight process is just as delicious.

Finding the right meat, and I don't mean pork belly either, meant going to my neighborhood Polish deli, Deli 4 U, across the street from my suburban home in Illinois --- and enjoying the thick, succulent slabs of not-very-fattening but definitely gelatinous pig hocks. Should I say I am in Pig Heaven? Since there were no dried Azucena flowers (tuberoses) available as a garnish, I used dried lily flowers, an extremely delectable substitute from San Francisco's Chinatown.

According to "Pork hocks are also called pork shanks, Schweinshaxe, or Eisbein. Pork hocks are sliced from the hind leg or pork foreleg between the knee and the ankle. This is a tough meat as it is a part of a “work” muscle, but it is very tasty though not tender. Although not as popular as pork ribs, it is still a well-liked meat. Pork hocks, and pork in general, are available as natural, or organic, meat."

Before we start, let's review the term, "bouquet gaarni," a remnant from my B.S. Hotel and Restaurant Administration college days at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

BOUQUET GAARNI: A bundle of spices and herbs, the aromatics, are placed in a square of muslin cloth and tied together with butcher twine ("lambo"). I use a muslin bag sachet normally used for tea and I fill it up with my aromatics. If you don't have any of the above but you have a tea strainer, you can use this, too.

I prefer using a bouquet gaarni instead of mixing the aromatics with the pig hocks because I don't like biting into peppercorns or cardamon seeds. The bouquet gaarni is braised with the rest of the ingredients and is removed before eating.

Bon Appetit!


Equipment: a 16-cup or 4 quart, non-acid reactive saucepan (heavy stainless steel or glass)

Ingredients for Bouquet Gaarni:

4 pieces of Star Anise dried flowers
2 whole cinnamon sticks, split in half (the original length is 3-inch sticks)
6 small bay leaves (or laurel leaves)
1 to 2 tbsps. whole black peppercorns
16 cardamon seeds (whole, unpeeled)

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the following:

2/3 cups soy sauce (low sodium is preferred)
1 cup white vinegar (Datu Puti vinegar or sukang maasim, made out of cane vinegar and water)
2 cups water
4 to 5-1/2 lbs. pork hocks, thawed and washed
Bouquet Gaarni, perched on the side of the saucepan, and immersed in the liquid mixture

2. Simmer over medium heat for 1-1/2 hours. Do not put the lid over the saucepan. The goal is to reduce the liquid, rendering a glazed, gelatinous sauce at the end of the cooking time.

3. Turn over the pork hocks after the first 45 minutes, for even cooking. Use tongs.

4. After 1-1/2 hours of cooking time, lower the heat to low-medium (simmer), and add 1 cup water and 1/4 cup brown sugar (pressed) or 1/4 cup white sugar. You can also lightly cover the saucepan (or leave a little opening).

5. Add 1/4 cup of dried azucena flowers or dried lily flowers. You could also experiment with dried banana blossoms, if available.

6. Cook for another hour until the meat tests done. The pork hocks should be tender and detach easily from the inner bone. If in doubt, simmer for another 30 minutes. Season with Montreal Steak Seasoning or lemon pepper to taste. You can also add 1 tbsp. of oyster sauce (I use the Mama Sita brand). The sauce should be a rich, glossy, caramel color.

You can blend your own mixture of Montreal Steak Seasoning. Click here for the recipe.

7. Remove the bouquet gaarni before serving.

8. Serve with lots of steamed rice.

Notes: This makes a great potluck dish! It refrigerates and reheats well. I chose not to use salted black beans because some people develop an itchy feeling in their gums if they are not used to it. Other cooks like to add fried plantain bananas (saba) and cooked hard-boiled eggs with the simmering mixture. Use your imagination!

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Homemade Mango Ice Cream

I serendipitously found this Mango Ice Cream recipe on These South Asian ladies (Indian) had this tasty, creamy, yet not-very-fattening recipe for Mango Ice Cream.For Filipino ice-cream lovers, yes, according to Paz Fernan Shepherd, "Yummy!!! Better than Magnolia or Selecta. My family and friends just love it!"

Thank you to for this recipe.

From their website: "This wonderful Mango Ice Cream recipe was submitted by Vani Sudarshan, from Dallas. It is unbelievably easy and so very delicious. We are grateful to Vani for sharing it with all of us."


Mango Pulp - 30 oz can
Sweetened Condensed Milk - 14 oz can
Whipped Topping - 8 oz container
Fresh Mango - cubed, optional


1. In a big bowl pour in the Mango Pulp, Condensed Milk and the Whipped Topping.
2. Fold them in very well but very gently.
3. Pour into a dish with a tight fitting lid.
4. Cover and place in the freezer for 2 hours.
5. After 2 hours, mix in the cubed Mango pieces and return dish to the freezer.
6. Allow it to freeze for another 3 hours or so.
7. Serve and enjoy!


1. Fresh Mango plup can be substituted for the can.
2. Add in Tutti-fruiti, nuts, saffron or cubes of cake for a variation.
3. Great make-ahead dessert.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Asian American Chicken-Vegetable Wraps

I am such a lazy cook that I always look for ways to shorten cooking times. You see, I am one of those virtual work warriors that has a home office. Working out of the house isn't that easy. Telecommuting means working during odd hours of the day --- and night.

During one of my sojourns to DELI 4 U, an ethnic Polish deli across the street from our home, I discovered some amazing delectable and affordable food products, even if I don't read or speak Polish. I thought, "Wow, this must be how non-Filipinos feel when they go inside Seafood City!" Sometimes, I'm the only Asian who stalks the aisles of this deli. The owners and staff make me feel at home. I oftentimes ask my husband to buy my favorite Seaweed Salad that is spiked with sesame seeds and sliced chilis. Apparently, the deli's staff knows all about my esoteric, healthy favorites. Don't get me going about their homemade poppysead bread and their fabulous chicken sausages, Italian style. Mamma Mia!

Last week, I bought some of their skinless chicken breasts. They weren't like the ones you get at Costco --- flash-frozen, skinless, and skinny. These chicken breasts were fresh, thick and juicy!

I had defrosted the chicken breasts yesterday. I also promised my husband that I would cook more healthy meals so this was my chance to prepare another simple meat-and-vegetable dish for us. I didn't tell my husband that I was SO tired after working more than 12 hours. So, I looked at the freezer and found a package of stir-fry vegetables from Deli 4 U. It said: Warzywa na patelnie z cukinia i ryzem, Stir-fry vegetables with Courgette and Rice. Brand name: Fritar. Weight: 480 grams. It came with a dry spice packet which I decided not to use for my recipe.

As it turned out, my husband enjoyed his meal. Lucky me, I earned brownie points especially since he is quite a competitive cook and fastidious diner.

Here is the recipe I created. Four large servings as a one-meal dish and most likely good for eight to 10 wraps. Each tortilla is 190 calories each. Add the chicken and vegetables --- and I'm sure we have a filling, healthy meal or snack for under 450 calories per wrap!


The chicken-vegetable dish:

2 tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil (Kirkland brand, from Costco)
1 chicken breast, sliced into 3/4" cubes (from Deli 4 U)
2 tsps. or more of Emeril's Asian Essence
1/2 cup whole fancy Cashew Nuts (Kirkland brand, from Costco)
1 package frozen stir-fry vegetables, about 1 lb. or 480 gms. (from Deli 4 U)
1 tbsp. soy sauce (Sempio Soy Sauce, from a Korean store)
1 tbsp. rice cooking wine (salt added rice cooking wine, from a Korean store)
salt to taste (I use Alessi 100% Mediterranean sea salt, Sale Marino, from Trader Joe's)


A package of El Milagro Harina/Flour Tortillas (10 count). I buy mine at a Mexican grocery.


1. Slice the chicken breasts into cubes and coat with Emeril's Asian Essence spices.

2. Open a package of stir-fry vegetables. Do not use the spice packet that comes with it.

3. In a large alumimum or teflon-type frying pan or saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil.

4. Stir-fry the chicken cubes until 3/4's done.

5. Add the cashews to the chicken cubes.

6. Add the package of vegetables. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.

7. Add soy sauce and rice wine. Cook for about five more minutes or until the vegetables are heated through and the cashews are medium-soft. Turn up the heat a little bit. Add salt to taste. This is not a runny, saucy entree. This dish has a little bit of sauce that works well with freshly-made rice, pasta, or potatoes.

8. At this point, you can serve this as a dish OR you can continue making the wraps.

Assembling A Wrap:

I use the microwave to heat the wraps.

1. Use kitchen paper or waxed paper (the type you get at Costco). Lay a tortilla on a sheet of waxed paper, then place another sheet of waxed paper over the tortilla.

2. Heat each tortilla for 20 seconds in the microwave.

3. Remove the waxed paper over the tortilla.

4. Add about 1/4 cup (or 4 heaping tablespoons) of the Chicken-Vegetable mixture on top of the tortilla.

5. Wrap the tortilla like a burrito. Wrap the waxed paper over the wrap. You can use a refrigerated chicken-vegetable mixture.

Note: This is an excellent lunch at the office. Just microwave at 50% for about 1 minute, 30 seconds if you had refrigerated the wrap.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chicken-Prosciutto Rolls in Lemon-Thyme Biryani

May 5, 2009

It's Cinco de Mayo!

Yesterday, it was Myrna's birthday (my sister). Although we didn't get together, I celebrated her birthday by creating a new simple, healthy dish that didn't have too many ingredients. I kept thinking that she would want to try this out some day. Then, I remembered that I had kept this Biryani spice mix that my friend, Padma Mangharam Siap, had introduced me to during a field trip to a special district in Chicago --- DEVON --- where South Asians, Russians, Muslims, and other ethnic groups commingled in commercial "bliss." When you hear the names, Chicken Biryani or Beef Biryani, please note that the dishes are mildly spicy, Sindhi style.

At the Indian grocer, A to Z Pantry, at the corner of North Elmhurst Road and Camp McDonald, I had tried to get "Harry" to give me recipes for the past 2-1/2 years. I was trying to be helpful. I wanted more SPICE for my recipes without the food necessarily getting hot, as in fiery and smoldering to my taste buds. I explained to "Harry" that many of his customers were non-Asian and would benefit from knowing how certain spices in his ethnic retail store's shelves could make their American home cooking sizzle.

I have used my Biryani spice mix in my barbecued pork, chicken, and beef dishes. For non-South Asian cooks, just use a little bit of the spice. Add Filipino white vinegar (the most popular brand being Datu Puti Cane Vinegar, a.k.a. Sukang Maasim), some soy sauce, or oyster sauce, and a little sesame oil. Yummy barbecues!

The following recipe is meant for the typical Midwest kitchen. There are some Italian, German, and Polish immigrants in my lovely white picket fence neighborhood so I thought I'd share my simple recipe with them also.

All my neighors would have to do is make a trip to "Harry's" store, A to Z Pantry: Indian Grocers, and buy any Biryani mix. Of course, my neighbors can buy their lottery tickets or "scratch-offs" there as well.


6 skinless chicken breasts, defrosted
12 slices of prosciutto
1 tsp. of Biryani mix per chicken breast (you can use more!)
1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped (without the stem)
1/2 lemon
about 2 to 3 tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
12 toothpicks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Rub each chicken breast with 1 tsp. (or more) Biryani mix. Set aside.
3. Use a plate to assemble the following for each chicken breast:
- Put a piece of prosciutto on the plate.
- Put the chicken breast on top of the prosciutto.
- Then, on the top layer, add another piece of prosciutto.
- Roll the chicken breast tightly.
- Secure the chicken-prosciutto roll with two toothpicks.
4. Get an oven-proof baking dish and arrange the chicken-prosciutto rolls on it.
5. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the rolls.
6. Squeeze the juice of a 1/2 lemon over the rolls.
7. Sprinkle the chopped thyme over the rolls.
8. Season the chicken-prosciutto rolls with a little salt and pepper. (If the proscuitto is not very salty, you can add more salt.)
9. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. Turn the chicken rolls so the bottom part of the chicken breasts get browned.
10. Cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
11. Before serving, cut each roll into four slices. (Do remember to remove the toothpicks.)
12. Serve hot. Spoon the Lemon-Thyme Biryani juices over the chicken-prosciutto rolls.


The brand A to Z Pantry carries is MTR Imports, Inc. Ready-to-Eat Lemon Rice. What I like about this rice-in-a-pouch is that I don't need to cook! All I do is immerse the unopened pouch of rice in boiling water for about 5 minutes. After I remove the hot rice from its foil container, I would mix it with pre-roasted pine nuts. If I'm more adventurous, I would garnish the top of the rice with sauteed scallions or chopped green onions. Your family or guests will not be able to figure out that you've just spiked a traditional recipe with the best of South Asian spices.

This dish would make a great potluck meal since it can be gently reheated.

Bon Appetit!

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