Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)

Sinangag or how I like to say it, Sina-na-na-nag. Growing up in a Filipino household, it was rare to have a "Diner-type" U.S. breakfast. You know, the kind with eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes? That kind of a meal was a special occasion kind of thing. Most of the time we had this, Sinangag or garlic fried rice. 

You see, Sinangag is the main component of the typical Filipino breakfast. Spam and Sinangag. Longaniza sausage and Sinangag. Daing (Milk Fish) and Sinangag. Toyo (dried fish) and Sinangag. If it's breakfast, you best believe Sinangag is going to make an appearance.

When you make Sinangag just right, you can eat it all by itself. Sometimes I get seconds of just rice. No joke. There's something about the garlic rice that's delicious and with just the right amount of salt, it makes it so good! So, take a stab at the filipino breakfast and start with this simple Sinangag!

Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)
Recipe by Me

3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, cooked
1/4 tsp salt

In a wok or medium sized skillet, add the oil and heat it on the stove on medium high heat. Once hot, add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Don't brown the garlic! Crack in the egg and puncture the egg yolk. Allow it to cook for about 1 minute before disturbing. Once somewhat cooked, begin to break up the egg and mix with the oil and minced garlic. Once the egg is fully cooked, add in the rice and mix to even disperse the egg, garlic and oil. Season with salt and cook for another 3-5 minutes until any residual moisture from the rice has evaporated.

-Aaron John

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

After receiving loose leaf teas from "The Tea Company", the search was on for what to do with them. A post on instagram got my friend J to suggest I make Tea Cookies. Honestly, I've never heard of them before. I mean, Tea Cookies...with actual tea leaves in them. Really?

A bunch of questions ran through my head and the primary question was "Can you eat tea leaves?" I mean, it's not like I think tea is poisonous, we can drink it after all. But, can we digest them? You know how you can use bay leaves in things like beef stew and such, well, you don't eat the bay leaf now do ya'. Well, "Can you eat tea leaves?"

But, if a recipe says to put Earl Grey Tea leaves into the cookie, I assume tea is edible. If not, Claire Robinson would be arrested. But look, I'm still alive! 

I used "The Tea Company" Earl Grey Creme which gave the cookies a slight anise flavor. This recipe used powdered sugar which gave the cookies this crackly outer cookie which was unique. So, who knew you can eat tea leaves? I sure didn't.

AJ's Secrets
-Instead of pulsing the flour, salt and tea together, I pulsed the tea in the food processor first before I added the flour and salt. This just ensured there weren't too many large pieces of tea leaves.

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies
Recipe by Claire Robinson

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

-Aaron John

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Tea Company

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Ben of "The Tea Company" asking if I would review some of their loose leaf teas. Of course, I happily accepted. You see, as a college student, you would think I'm a huge coffee drinker, but nope...I prefer tea. For me, it has a much cleaner taste, less bitter and well, I just prefer it. The only time I will drink coffee is if it's heavily sweetened. Tea is just the healthier route for me.

When the package came, I was excited about the teas I received. There were three, Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey Creme and Hibiscus Madness. I was most excited to try the Hibiscus Madness not only because I know about the fantastic color it has, but also because of how I loved the "Hibiscus Nectar" drink at one of Seattle's Food Trucks, Maximus/Minimus. So...let the review begin!

First up, Moroccan Mint. Upon opening the package, it had the aroma of spearmint gum. One of my favorites. After steeping according to the instructions on the package, it had a light green hue to it and the mint aroma mellowed out while still maintaining that distinguishable "mint" smell. It had a nice clean and fresh flavor leaving your mouth feel as if you just went to the dentist. Ben suggested steeping this in cream and using it in chocolate truffles. Mint-tea chocolate truffles? Yes please!

Next up was Earl Grey Creme. When I opened up this package, it had an aroma I smelled before but I couldn't pinpoint it. After sitting for 30 minutes drinking and thinking about this tea, it hit me. It had a deep flavor with hints of anise notes to it. It reminded me of biscotti I used to buy at the grocery store. Dipping those biscotti into this tea would be a double whammy of anise-y flavor. My friend J suggested I make Tea Shortbread Cookies with this, and that post will come soon.

At long last, the highly anticipated Hibiscus Madness. The tea leaves have a fruity smell to it, almost like fruit punch. At some points I smell grapes, at other points I smell apple. When steeping the tea leaves, the red hue from the hibiscus made it's way into the hot water turning it a light red color, a little lighter than fruit punch. This tea was definitely my favorite. It had those fruity notes and was tangy at the same time. Add a bit of sugar to it and it's perfect.

I want to thank The Tea Company for allowing me to review their teas. They were all fantastic and had something unique to each one of them. If you're a tea lover, head over to their website at and check it out. They have a wide variety of teas, different equipment to use in your tea making and are always willing to help if you have any questions about tea. One thing I learned from Ben is that tea is not just limited to drinking. You can make things from truffles, cookies or even something savory like a roast with them. It may seem like you can only steep tea, but the possibilities are endless. So, thank you The Tea Company!

-Aaron John

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cake Donuts

First of all, sorry for the blurry pictures. When you live in Seattle, the lighting isn't always picture perfect for these kinds of things. Oh well, who cares when you're eating donuts.

Anyways, I've expressed my love for donuts once before and I'm here to do it again. I'm obsessed with donuts!! Fried dough with a sweet coating of some sort from glaze, to chocolate, to maple to plain ol' sugar, these things are damn good.

This recipe and I go way back. I was in the seventh grade when we were offered an opportunity for extra credit by making bread of some sort from our culture. I can't quite remember what bread had to do in our lesson plan but all I remember was we had to make cultural bread. When I got home that day, I told my parents about the project and they had no clue what to do because they aren't bakers. In fact, I can't remember them baking anything, ever!

What I can say is that filipinos love to fry. Let's be honest here, everything is better when it's fried and so filipinos know some good food. I remember coming to the conclusion to just make donuts because it would be relatively easy and well, it's fried, my parent's expertise.

Let me tell you, these were the days of dial-up internet and I remember it taking forever to find a recipe but I got one from Tyler Florence who was my favorite TV-Chef back in the day. Now remember, this was supposed to be a cultural bread and this cake donut recipe was far from a cultural bread of the Philippines.

After all the donuts were made, my parents just said to say that they were "Bitsu-Bitsu" which I guess is a filipino version of donuts. I mean, no one would know what they really were in my class of 12 year olds.

No one even questioned what they were and at the end of the day, everyone loved them and I got my extra credit so who cares if these aren't the true filipino Bitsu-Bitsu. They can't take away my extra credit anymore! 

AJ's Secret:
  • The directions indicate to refrigerate and roll out the dough. However, I've never seen cake donuts rolled and cut like yeast based donuts. Donut shops always have those cool contraptions that plunges dough into the fryer in the shape of a donut. Thus, I simply used a 1-ounce ice cream scoop, scooped out the dough and dropped the dough into the fryer. I fried it for about 5 minutes, or until the inside is cooked.

Cake Donuts
Recipe by Tyler Florence

3 1/2 cups (1 pound) cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fat for frying, such as canola oil
*Variation: for chocolate donuts, melt 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate along with the butter and continue as directed.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the eggs until foamy, gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until thick and yellow. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and combine with milk and vanilla extract. Stir the milk mixture into the egg mixture until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Chill for 30 minutes to make it easier to roll and cut.

***See my secrets above!
Roll or pat the dough out on a heavily floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick, the dough is somewhat wet. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter, saving the holes. Transfer to a sheet of waxed paper and allow to air dry for 10 minutes. The dough will form a slight crust and absorb less fat when fried. 

Heat 3-inches of vegetable oil or shortening to 375 degrees F in an electric fryer or deep saucepan. Fry doughnuts until golden, about 5 minutes each side. To keep the oil temperature constant, fry 3 at a time. Fry the holes separately and drain on paper towels.

-Aaron John

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies w/ Dark Chocolate

Peanut butter is something people are obsessed with. Watching commercials of people taking a spoon to peanut butter and eating it...well I think that's interesting. While other people would bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school during my elementary days, I would bring bologna sandwiches. If the day came when I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I would go heavy on the jelly and light on the peanut butter. Am I weird?

Other than the rare times I would eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or should I say a jelly sandwich with some peanut butter, the only time I would eat a sandwich with peanut butter alone was on a toasted filipino roll called Pan de Sal. For some reason or another, this appealed to me because of the warm crunchy bread that heated the peanut butter just enough to change it's flavor characteristics and consistency.

Well, this time it's all about a Peanut Butter cookie. These cookies are extremely moist and chewy with just a hint of chocolate to bring you to those peanut butter cup flavor characteristics. My friend C thought they were "So goooddd" and would like "a thousand more". If that's any indication to make these, do it!

AJ's Secret:
  • Why is it that my cookies come out flat instead of thick? It's all about the leavener. Baking soda causes a chemical reaction that causes the cookie to rise nicely, but once cooled, brings the cookie back down to a flatter level.

Peanut Butter Cookies w/ Dark Chocolate
Recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook) 

225g unsalted butter at room temp
200g caster sugar
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
240g crunchy peanut butter
340g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
75g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Prepare two baking trays with baking parchment paper on.

 Put the butter and sugars in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract and peanut butter. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix well until a smooth dough is formed. Stir in the chocolate until evenly dispensed.

Arrange 6 equal amounts of cookie dough on each prepared baking tray. Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges and quite flat. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. The cookies should be soft and chewy.

-Aaron John


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