Bacon, asparagus and cottage cheese breakfast muffins

Bacon, asparagus and cottage cheese breakfast muffins

In my ideal world, breakfast consists of freshly baked bread or freshly baked savory muffins, or both. There is herbed butter that, when smeared on the still-warm bread, transforms into a glistening creamy liquid that the bread soaks up with cheerful readiness. Beside the tub of butter, a bowl of homemade jam. The steaming coffee was brewed from freshly ground Arabica beans. And there is a tray of colorful fresh fruits in season. All that laid out on a table in the veranda that overlooks a verdant garden where herbs and fruit trees grow.

What a dream. It sounds so Martha Stewart — almost Stepford wifey, in fact — that’s guaranteed to make the first women’s libbers turn in their graves. But, really, who wouldn’t prefer that tranquil scene over the reality of boxed cereals eaten haphazardly in a mad dash to get to the car and roar through the rush hour traffic to get to the rat race called work?

I like the dream better. And I’m halfway there because I happily work from a home office that now doubles as a studio. We have a garden planted with herbs and fruit trees. But I know that without an efficient full-time two-person (at the very least!) domestic staff, the greater part of that dream will always be a dream. Unless pots, skillets, baking pans, plates, glasses, cups, spoons, forks and knives magically wash themselves and return to their proper places in the cupboards and drawers without human intervention, toasted bread with good butter and cheese washed down with two cups of coffee will have to do for most days.

Once in a while, however, breakfast almost approximates the dream. The December weather is cool and perfect, and I don’t mind baking while sipping my first cup of coffee for the day. Today, I baked savory muffins with bacon, asparagus, spring garlic and cottage cheese. No table overlooking the garden though. It was raining and there was a huge — the HUGEST — gecko prowling in the lanai and I kept all the doors shut. Geckos have never been part of my dream. (more)

Hot choco hazelnut and dulce de leche drink

Hot choco hazelnut and dulce de leche drink

When it comes to hot chocolate… Imagine a straight line. On one end of the line are the ultra traditionalists who swear that you can’t make proper hot chocolate drink without using a batirol. I’m often tempted to tell the batirol people that their beloved tool was useful during the pre-wire whisk generation but a balloon whisk really does a better job of aerating the thick drink.

On the other end of the line are the… well, the people who’d tear open a packet of Swiss Miss mix, stir the contents with hot milk and gush at the result like it’s the ultimate of ultimates. Well, to each his own happiness, I guess.

My take on hot chocolate drink is nowhere in that straight line. I’m somewhere off the grid. In fact, I don’t have a singular take on hot chocolate drink because I’m always on that journey to reach the next high — the better texture, the richer flavor and the never-ending variety with the addition of spices and a few other special ingredients.

The drink that is the subject of this post was made with hot milk, dulce de leche and chocolate hazelnut spread. Not Nutella, but Goya. The dulce de leche is homemade. A cinnamon stick is thrown in as a stirrer which means that its flavor gets mixed into the drink while stirring. Can you imagine it already? (more)

Churros con chocolate

Churros con chocolate

Story has it that when the Portuguese sailed East, they paid attention to the delectable food they encountered in China and brought back with them to Europe new culinary techniques that they proceeded to tweak. The churro is part of that story. The Portuguese saw the Chinese deep-frying pulled dough to create crisp-outside-chewy-inside bread sticks and were smitten. But because these buccaneers weren’t exactly chef material, they never acquired the dough-pulling skill. And that was how the churro acquired its ridged prism shape. Instead of pulling the dough, it was pushed out into the hot oil using what came to be known as the churrera.

But pushing-instead-of-pulling the dough was not the only transformation that the churro underwent between China and Portugal. What the Portuguese merchants encountered in China was a salty fried bread. By the time the bread was being cooked in Portugal, it had become sweet.

And how did churros reach the Philippines? Via the Spaniards. Spanish shepherds are credited for popularizing the churros. Because they couldn’t get freshly baked bread when minding their animals out in the pasture, they cooked their bread — churros — on an open fire.

The churros in the photo are not ridged. I could say that it is shaped like that to be more true to its roots and that would make my churros more authentic than most. But that wouldn’t really be true. The churros aren’t ridged because our star-shaped tip had rusted and Sam had to push out the dough using a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. Yes, it was Sam who cooked the churros; I merely prepared the dough. She took the photo as well. (more)