Food hacks I learned during the holidays

Food hacks I learned during the holidays | casaveneracion.com

When Speedy bought a couple of young coconuts for Christmas Eve’s buko pandan dessert, I wondered what I’d do with the coconut water. The fridge was full; so was the freezer. Why not use some for a cocktail drink? There was mango puree in the fridge, we had kalamansi-honey concentrate and we had rum. We even had maraschino cherries! Besides, December 24 here in tropical suburbia was a cold day. A cocktail drink sounded like a great idea.

While the cupcakes were in the oven, I rinsed a cocktail glass and the shaker, and mixed a drink. I measured four parts pure coconut water, two parts mango puree, one part kalamansi-honey concentrate and four parts rum into the shaker, added ice, gave everything a good shake and I had one heck of a cocktail drink.

Before the sun went down, I decided that I wanted to make a small leche flan. But caramelizing sugar in a clean pan meant another dirty pan and the sink was already full. Time to learn if a short cut would work. I sprinkled three tablespoons of sugar into a microwaveable ramekin, added a tablespoon of water and swirled them around several times. Into the microwave went the ramekin. Two minutes on HIGH. The sugar melted but the mixture looked like off-white water.


I put the ramekin back into the microwave, set the time for one minute, put the setting on HIGH and… Okay, the edges were starting to turn amber. I swirled the thickened liquid until the coloring looked even. I put it back in the microwave for another minute, took it out and swirled it again. Another minute in the microwave, and… Happy to know that my short-cut worked. Yes, it is possible to caramelize sugar in the microwave oven.

But the most important hack has to do with the fruit salad on New Year’s eve. Speedy diced fresh strawberries, mangoes, apples, grapes and bananas but decided not to stir in the cream-and-sweetened-condensed-milk dressing until serving time. A kind of add-the-dressing-yourself thing. I think we were watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory when the idea hit me. Fresh fruits drizzled with dulce de leche, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with dark chocolate morsels.

Sam and I went down to the kitchen, I had fruit salad the way I imagined it but minus the morsels. Sam topped her fruits with chocolate-hazelnut spread, whipped cream and corn flakes.


On New Year’s Day, I had my bowl of fruits with dulce de leche, whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

So, there. I have now decided that the cream and sweetened condensed milk combo is not my preferred dressing for my fresh fruits. The trio of dulce de leche, chocolate and whipped cream taste much better to me with the varying levels of sweetness, the subtle bitterness of the chocolate, the deep caramel flavors of the dulce de leche and the lighter-than-air cream. Next time, I’ll even add chopped nuts.

Happy New Year to us all.

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