I have never been very good at cooking. Always deferring to the talents of my parents and other family members,  believe that anything I learned was simply from exposure and osmosis. Over the past few years, with adulthood approaching, I started to venture towards learning more about cooking.

     Food has always brought families and friends together. And in my case, it is a chance to rediscover my culture. I was born in the Philippines and lived there until the age of 10. I have lots of childhood memories, but in my desire to assimilate as seamlessly and quickly into American culture, I embraced the ready availability of American, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Greek, and Southern cuisine at every corner. Truth be told, I have taken for granted the interesting blend of spanish and local cooking that makes Filipino cooking unique. And after having left home for college and medical school, nothing has given me quite the same feeling of home as attempting my mom's home cooking (or having some of it myself when I come visit). 

    Here are several of her famous dishes, altered to suit a young American on a budget. Soul food, shmoul food.


Pinakbet is a Fillipino dish that can be broken down by a few different parts. It has a base of meat with veggies in a soup. It is similar to a gumbo, minus the tomato sauce and seafood.

The more I cook some Filipino food, the more I recognize a pattern. Most dishes start with sautéing a trifecta of
garlic, onion, and ginger. In certain circumstances, like this one, it includes tomatoes. Then, the mixture continues to cook by adding some meat, in this case, cubed pork, until it is browned.

It is seasoned with the same shrimp paste we used in the other recipes called bagoong.

The result is a delectable concoction.

4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of ginger, crushed and minced
1 medium tomato, sliced in cubes
1.5 lbs pork, cubed
1 cup Green beans
1 cup Okra
1 cup Eggplant
1 cup yellow squash
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon bagoong
2-3 cups of water

1. First, prepare the meat by cutting it in cubes and sprinkle meat tenderizer and set aside in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
2. Sauté garlic, onion, and ginger until browned. Add tomatoes until wilted.
3. Add meat until browned, about 15 minutes.
4. Add soy sauce to season the meat.
5. Pour water over browned meat. Allow this to simmer. Then add the bagoong.
6. Add squash and wait 5 minutes before adding in the rest of the veggies.

7. Simmer another 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

Enjoy this with some white rice!

(May 3, 2012)

In my house, this dish has always been a staple. Adobo, much like the Spanish-type seasoning, has a very strong garlic base mixed with a tang of vinegar and soy sauce. I was a kid of the 90s, and along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Capri Sun, I grew up watching cheesy paid advertisements for cooking devices that you "set it and forget it". That last sentence might sound like a serious tirade, but in reality, that is what I view this dish to be like. It was one of the first meals I learned how to make by myself, and it is so versatile and essentially idiot-proof. Of course, there are many different takes on this classic, and even in my family, there a three different versions going around. My mother likes to cook her adobo with chicken, and after it has mostly cooked and simmered in the brine I will talk about in detail later, she chooses to fry the pieces of chicken in a separate frying pan to give the chicken meat a slightly golden brown color and crispy consistency. My dad, however, like to make his with pork, and prefers to add potatoes in the mix. Again, these are just slight variations to the original... a little flair, if you will.

I prefer my adobo as classic and plain as possible, with only one slight variation. You will find that it is also the easiest  of versions to pull off (partly because I'm lazy, and partly because it is delicious in its simplicity). As with most Filipino dishes, it is frequently served over white rice. Enjoy!

      3 lbs pork with skin, cubed
      1 cup soy sauce
      1 cup vinegar
      5 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
      1/2 sweet onion, sliced
      1 tablespoon pepper corns
      3 pieces of bay leaves
      1 tablespoon sugar

1. First, prepare the pork by sprinkling it with some meat tenderizer and setting it aside in the refrigerator for 30 mins-1 hour.
2. In a large pot, combine all ingredients (pork, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onion, pepper corns, bay leaf) except sugar. Make sure that the pork is fully coated with the brine. Remember that the soy sauce and vinegar are in a 1:1 ratio, so if you need to add more, just make sure that they are in equal parts.
3. Heat covered in med-high heat for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will find that the pork will release quite a bit of fat as it cooks (You can choose to skim this off as a healthier option) meanwhile, the soy sauce and vinegar will thicken as well. 

4. Cook thoroughly until the meat is no longer pink. Minutes before you take it off the heat, sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar and mix thoroughly. This will give the adobo some added sweetness and will allow some mild caramelization on top of the meat.

Again, this meal is best served over white rice. Enjoy!

Binagoongan (Shrimp paste)
(May 2, 2012)

Introduction: Binagoongan (bee-na-go-ong-ngan) may be a difficult word to say, but that's okay because your taste buds will be very busy anyway. The base of this dish is "Bagoong" or salted shrimp paste that has been fermented. Bagooong has different varieties and can be made out of both shrimp (bagoong alamang) or fish (bagoong isda). Traditionally, bagoong can be used as a condiment or, as in this dish, part of the sauce base. Part of the fermenting process also yields Patis (fish sauce) I have used in previous recipes.

(Photo credit from Wikipedia)

     3 lbs of pork, cubed
     4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
     1/2 onion, sliced
     2 tablespoons ginger, crushed and minced
     1 can coconut milk
     1/2 cup water
     1 bullion cube
     salt and pepper
     3 tablespoons bagoong alamang (shrimp sauce paste)
     green beans
     green onions copped
     optional: green chile pepper

1. Prepare the meat by cutting the pork into 1-inch cubes. A good way to ensure the meat is tender is to sprinkle some meat tenderizer and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 mins-1 hour.
2. Saute ginger, garlic, and onion until browned and wilted. 
3. Add pork and cook on med-high heat until browned. Add water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add bullion cube, salt (if needed) and pepper.
4. Add 1/2 can of coconut milk and continue to simmer. Mix in bagoong thoroughly. Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. Combine green beans, green onions, and optional green chile pepper. Heat covered for another 10 minutes.

Some tips: Remember that the bagoong is a very salty mixture to begin with, so use caution with adding more salt!
This is best served over white rice. Enjoy! 

(April 30, 2012)
    3 lbs chicken thighs (about 9 pieces)
    4 cloves of garlic minced
    1/2 onion finely chopped
    1/2 green bell pepper sliced in strips
    1 can small whole white potatoes, cut in quarters
    1 can medium carrots, sliced 
    1 can tomato sauce
    3 bullion cubes
    2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
    1/2 cup water (optional)
    1 tablespoon cooking oil
    salt and pepper to taste

1. First, sauté garlic and onion in a skillet until browned/wilted. 
2. Add chicken and 3 bullion cubes crushed. Cook until slightly browned (about 10-15 minutes in medium/high heat). The chicken will release juices drippings. (Optional: drain some of the juices so overall sauce will not be a greasy)
3. Pour whole can of tomato sauce. Mix well.
4. Add white potatoes, carrots, bell peppers. Let simmer covered for 10 minutes in medium heat.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, fish sauce, and 1/2 cup of water if the sauce appears too dry. Continue to heat for about 10 minutes.

This meal is best served with white rice and some extra fish sauce on the side for added taste. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey

Breakfast Cups
(Recipe from

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping
(Recipe from