Chop Suey in 8 Easy Steps

Want to nom healthier and incorporate more vegetables in your weekly menu but have no idea how to cook vegetables? That was my dilemma a couple of months ago. Back then, I would buy a pack of preservatives-laden chop suey mix and considered it a quick fix. The end result wasn’t even all that good and obviously not very healthy. I’m not claiming to be an expert now, but I finally figured out how to make tasty chop suey from scratch (mostly) and thought to share it with those of you who are currently in the same boat as I was.

Veggies: Sauce:
  • 1 small head of cabbage
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 package young corn
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 100g lean ground pork/small shrimps (optional)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch + 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and pepper

The first thing you need to do is to chop up those veggies into manageable pieces. When I say manageable, I mean you have to decide how big of the cabbage are you willing to stick in your mouth in one go and cut it to that size. Do the same for the all the other veggies and cut them accordingly. When you’re done, make sure to wash them veggies thoroughly (specially those carrots, those things come from the ground, trust me, you don’t want to be mixing soil bits into your chop suey). You can group the veggies in the order that they’d cook to reduce your washables (don’t you just hate washing dishes?). In general, your aromatics go first, so you can mix the onion and garlic. The carrots, young corn, and bell peppers go together next. Save the cabbage for last.

The chop to my suey.
When I start cooking and the garlic is starting to stick to the pan, I don’t have the time to read through a whole paragraph to look for the next thing to do. So I listed the steps instead for easier reading-

Chop Suey in 8 Easy Steps:
  1. Pour coconut oil in pan on medium heat.
  2. Start sauteing the aromatics (onion+garlic).
  3. (Optional) Add in your meat of choice. Set aside when meat is done.
  4. Add the 1/2 cup of water, soy sauce, the 2nd batch of veggies (carrots+young corn+pepper), and wait for the sauce to boil.
  5. In the background, mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup warm water.
  6. Add the cabbage, oyster sauce, and the cornstarch mixture in that order.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the sauce to your desired thickness.
  8. If you added meat, toss in the cooked meat back in, mix, plate and enjoy!

This may not be the perfect recipe, but it’s easy to follow, quick to make, and it results in a tasty and healthy vegetable dish. Don’t be a noob no more and make some chop suey from scratch using these easy steps.


Balai Ilocos: Na-B.I. Ka Na Ba?

The family went on a beach trip to Quezon last weekend which seems to be the last weekend of summer for the year, if we’re basing it on the gloomy weather we’ve been having for the last few days. En route back to Manila, we were looking for a good place to nom and didn’t find any promising establishments until we got to the town of Pagsanjan (yup, we were all quite hangry by then). Luckily, it was Balai Ilocos along National Highway that caught our eye.

Balai Ilocos near Pagsanjan

Stepping inside the premises of Balai Ilocos feels like being transported to a different time. Balai Isabel is a grand house from generations of old. You’d half expect ladies in sayas and men in barongs to come out and start singing kundiman (or you know, start stabbing you with bolos/itaks for trespassing). There are even old pictures displayed in one area of the restaurant that gives it a homey feel.

The homey interior of Balai Ilocos with all wooden things.

Then again, we’re here to talk about the food. But instead of me rambling on and on about the noms at Balai Ilocos, I’ll just let the pictures tempt you (I’m mean like that).

Di Makakalimutang Mechado (p250)

One of Balai Ilocos’ specialties is the Di Makakalimutang Mechado. That is actually what they call it. And yes, the dish does do the name justice.

Bagnet (p220)

Another specialty is the dish simply called Bagnet. This heart stopper is well known in Ilocos, and Balai Ilocos’ version does not disappoint.

Ginataang Gulay (p150)

The Ginataang Gulay was one of the healthier things on our table at that time, it’s like your typical pakbet minus the bagoong plus gata. I liked it so much I’ll be attempting to replicate it at home.

Buco Pandan (p85)
Turon Ala Mode (p80)

Pinoy desserts are always a yummy treat.

The restroom is labeled as kasilyas (the child in me keeps snickering).

Oo, na-B.I. na ako. Magpa-B.I. ka na din!


Diet Schmiet

Right now, I really should be in a gym pretentiously working off some calories because I’m on a “diet” but I have a couple of excuses tonight*. Instead, I choose to write about food, oh the irony. I say “diet” because I’m not exactly on a strict regimen, but I am actively trying to lose weight. “Slowly but surely.” is my current motto (or the default motto of the lazy) mostly because it has been known that crash diets do not end well.

The general rule for weight loss is 70% food, 30% exercise, so ensuring that my food intake is controlled was top priority (also, I hate exercise). To jumpstart my weightloss, I decided to enlist the help of diet food programs. Thankfully, there are many choices available for chubbies like me.

The Good Box

The Good Box | Php2,750/1200cal

The first one I tried is The Good Box. For Php2,750, you get 3 meals + 2 snacks a day totaling 1200 calories per day for five days from Mondays through Fridays. What I liked about The Good Box is that they include healthy flavored drinks with your meals. The drawback however is that because flavored drinks have calories too, they take out those calories from the main meals, making meals less than what you’d expect (or at least what my stomach expected).

I won’t deny it, the first week on a controlled 1200 calorie diet was terrible. It’s not that the food was bad, but I was just really used to eating much more. I scarfed everything down to the last grain of rice everyday like the glutton that I am, that’s just how hungry I was.

Delicious Diet

Delicious Diet | Php1,800/1200cal

Since I was hungry most of the time the first week, I decided to test the waters and try other delivery food companies. Delicious Diet caught my eye because it was cheaper for the same amount of calories. Their 1200 calorie plan costs Php1,800 per week. You get 3 meals + 1 snack a day from Mondays through Fridays. What I really liked about Delicious Diet are the premium drinks that came with the plan, you’d usually get a rich tasting coffee or a uniquely flavored tea. What I didn’t like was that the food was mostly tasteless and uninteresting ground meat and a bunch of brown rice (rice carbs are the devil).

Incidentally, they also have a specialized sister company called Diabetic Diet which targets diabetics or those who just want to cut down on their sugar intake. Meals are Php2,500 for 1200 calories but they are worth every extra centavo (I won’t cover them in this post because  we’re focusing on the generic 1200 calorie meal plans for now).

Lunchbox Diet

Lunchbox Diet | Php1,700/1200cal

One of the biggest and most organized diet food delivery companies these days is Lunchbox Diet. They offer their 1200 calorie plans at only Php 1,700 per week including delivery fee. My thought bubble then went: “They’re cheaper than all the others I’ve tried, the food must be gross.” But a friend of mine recommended it so I gave it a go despite my misgivings. I’m glad I did too, because the food was not only tasty, they were also proportioned nicely. By that, I mean I don’t get 1 cup of rice for a tablespoon of meat. Instead, I got half a cup of rice with a decent amount of meat dish. Plus, I regularly got fruits as a snack. 

The only con is that sometimes, not all the time but it happened a few times, their meals would smell funky as soon as they were delivered.

They can also swap the default red rice to white (and other various requests like “no raisins” or “no nuts”) for an additional Php50 per day for extra handling.

Yummy Diet

Yummy Diet | Php1900/1200cal

Next, I tried Yummy Diet. 1200 calorie plans cost P1,900 per week, Mondays through Fridays. Three meals, 2 snacks, you know the drill. What I love about Yummy Diet is that 1. There’s a surprise weekly freebie (who doesn’t love surprises?), 2. They have the most fresh veggies out of all I’ve tried at this price range, 3. They give you a pair of metal spoon and fork for the week (yay, environment!), 4. They give you a week’s worth of coffee, tea, and Stevia, 5. They have promos for longer reservations (I got a 5% discount when I ordered for 2 weeks). Their food is pretty tasty and you get a good variety every week.

One of my favorites would be the famous Yummy Diet’s Ham Breakfast Cups. It’s eggs baked inside ham used as cupcake liner. No grains, no extenders, no carbs.

Yummy Diet’s Ham Breakfast Cups
Another favorite of mine is  Yummy Diet’s Healthy Beef Stew. The rice came separately but I’m a child and I choose to mix in my rice with my meat and veggies (It’s better that way, try it!). The meat is so tender it melts in your mouth and although the dish looks tiny, the whole meal is very filling. Thats a good summary for Yummy Diet food- you get a well-portioned meal but you don’t really feel like you’ve been deprived of all that is good in life.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with Yummy Diet meals and have not jumped ship since starting. That’s just how good the noms are. I’m also losing some weight, huzzah!

Yummy Diet’s Healthy Beef Stew
Excuses for not working out tonight:
1. I have a headache.
2. I just came back from the hospital.
3. I’m lazy (What’s new?).


RECIPE: Homemade Pesto Sauce

Hi guys! There have been tweaks here and there but as a whole, the blog update is still in progress, please bear with me. In the meantime, I thought to put up this recipe post to immortalize a simple but versatile homemade sauce that should be a staple in anyone’s kitchen- Pesto Sauce.

Besides being used as pasta sauce, pesto also goes well with chicken and fish, be it baked, boiled, broiled, or even fried.
Pesto sauce goes well with chicken and fish, be it baked, boiled, broiled, or even fried.

Pesto is made traditionally with pine nuts, while they can be hard to find* on this side of the planet, you can easily substitute pine nuts with cashew nuts, which is happily readily available most anywhere in this country. Since I already had me some pine nuts bought from a recent trip to Taipei, I had my mind set on making Pesto when I got some free time.

And free time there was last Monday, election day for us Pinoy folks aka a non-working holiday, so I set out to make some homemade Pesto sauce. Here’s what you’ll need if you want to make your own-

2 cups of fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup EVOO
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (or cashew nuts)
4 cloves of garlic
Salt & pepper

In a food processor, dump in the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and blend until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, add EVOO to the mixture and your Pesto sauce is done.

That’s how easy it is. It took me about half an hour to finish and I had enough pesto sauce for dinner for two that night plus some more for future use. If stored properly, it should keep for about a week or so. For dinner that night, I boiled spaghetti noodles, mixed in some of the pesto sauce, and topped it with boiled pepper chicken. My official taste tester/husband was pretty happy.

Easy pesto for dinner.
Easy pesto for dinner.

*Recently, I found pine nuts for sale per gram in a Rustan’s supermarket.


Halal Guys In Megamall Is Finally Open

This just in! LOLJKNOTRLY.

Halal Guys finally opened last Friday in SM Megamall! For those not in the know (aka me a mere week ago), Halal Guys is a fast food cart that started their chain in no less than New York Citehhh. They actually started as a hot dog cart in 1990 but evolved into selling their famous chicken, gyro meat, rice, and pita.

A friend of mine actually went on opening day to see what they had to offer. He also kindly sent pictures of his experience so I’d be jealous I can tell you guys about it.

There was a line on opening day.
There were cute props too.
After waiting for hours…. PROFIT!

My friend’s verdict? Halal Guys noms are really tasty and super filling. Apparently, they also have the best white sauce on the face of this planet. I have yet to make my own conclusion when I do get the chance to check them out which I will this weekend. Then I can send him pictures and make him jealous as payback. Bwahahahahaha!

Halal Guys is located at the fifth floor of the new Food Hall in SM Megamall.

Noms, Press

Biggest Food Truck Festival At McKinley West

A Megaworld project that hopes to be the next Bonifacio Global City, albeit smaller, McKinley West is tucked away in a chill area of Taguig (or is it Makati?). For now, McKinley West is majority a sea of empty lots and small roads that are mainly used as a Jeepney loading/unloading area and as an alternative route to McKinley Hill, SLEX, and EDSA.
Biggest Food Truck Festival
And now, it’s also home to the Biggest Food Truck Festival in the area. For the month of October, food trucks of different kinds will be open to public along from Thursdays to Sundays starting at 4pm onwards. We got to stop by and check out the trucks on our way home last Sunday. It was actually pleasant surprise that the trucks were still open for business at around 10pm on a Sunday night.
Some trucks were just regular trucks. Some trucks had cute boys to serve you. (I won’t spoil the fun and let you find out which ones it is.)
Some trucks were pimped up food trucks. Some are familiar brands.
The revelation of the night was Fruits in Ice Cream’s Banana Sundae. I swear, it’s a must try! Also, FIC ice cream is sold at the Food Truck Festival at a promo price of P50 a scoop.

Head on over when you get the chance! The McKinley West Biggest Food Truck Festival will be running for all of October, from Thursdays to Sundays, starting at 4pm until supplies last. Best of all, parking is freeeeeee!

Noms, Press

Nesfruta Melon And the Team Kramer Magic

The Kramers are the country’s current media darlings. They have commercials and TV guestings left and right. Somehow, athough not a day goes by without me seeing at least one of them on social media, TV, print or even on the radio, the whole thing still comes off as cute. I have to admit I’m a fan. Doting (and gorgeous) young parents, precocious and fluffy babies, and an insider view of their personal lives? It’s the best kind of G-rated reality show.

Their latest commercial for Nesfruta Melon powdered drink with Doug and Kendra is just topnotch. Doug won’t be selling concert tickets anytime soon but seeing him singing as best he can looking adoringly at his baby daughter is super endearing. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link to cuteness-

The old dalandan commercial was almost a pop sensation, I’m sure this one won’t be any different.

And just like that I’m sold! The next time I went to do groceries, I made it a point to find the powdered juices to find out what the Kramers are singing about. I bought some packets to try and was actually excited to try it as soon as I got home. I’m not the hugest fan of powdered juices but I liked it! Nesfruta Melon actually tastes “real na real”, like Kendra says it is! Or maybe marketing really just worked its wonders on me.

In any case, Nesfruta Melon is an excellent thirst quencher for this (painfully hot) summer. Melon na!

Marketing works wonders!


The Wicked Waffle: All Day Breakfast Cafe

The hug buddy came by one day and we had some time to grab a quick lunch at The Wicked Waffle, a tiny cafe at the ground floor of Stamford Residences before heading out of town. Although this cafe is no more than ten steps away from home, and they opened shop several months ago, I haven’t had the chance actually sit down and have an honest-to-goodness meal at The Wicked Waffle until then.

All-Day Breakfast!

I’m a breakfast food kinda gal. I can have them all day, every day, for life, forever, and ever. I exaggerate, but y’all get what I mean. The Wicked Waffle has a lot of affordable breakfast food in their menu, served in their cutely decorated dining space, and is within walking distance from home. That deserves a maximum of four thumbs up for me.

“All you need is love and coffee.” I wouldn’t mind waffles either.

Bim had the Hamonado Longganisa, classified under the Filipino Favorites category in their menu. For one hundred and sity bucks, you get a plate of a smoked garlic-flavored pork sausage, served with two eggs and unlimited garlic fried rice. Admittedly, the serving was a little small to fill up those bottomless pits guys with hefty appetites but I guess a second or third helping of rice will do.

Hamonado Longganisa (p160)

On the other hand, I had a Niner Bowl, specifically the Spicy Tuyo, which comes with a scrambled egg, on top of a bowl of rice, and a glass of iced tea. I’m a lover of rice bowl meals– they’re neat, easy, and efficient, it satisfies my inner obsessive compulsive. I also love cured animal things. And spicy things. And inexpensive things. The Spicy Tuyo won my heart for being all of that. So maybe I’m a little biased, we all are, I think this is an excellent quickie meal that’s well worth the price.

Spicy Tuyo (p109)

Besides breakfast food, they also double as a tea shop. They have those 1-litter jugs of milk tea available around. Haven’t tried those yet, maybe soon when I feel like bathing in milk tea. Go check them out, the Wicked Waffle All Day Breakfast Cafe can be found all over the city with branches in SM City Manila, Eastwood Cyber Mall, Katipunan, SM City Fairview, besides the one in McKinley Hill.

The Wicked Waffle: All Day Breakfast Cafe

McKinley Hill, Stamford Building, Upper Mckinley Rd, Taguig

02 219 1975

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Kuya J Is For The Modern Filipino

SM City BF Paranaque has since dethroned SM City Bicutan as the closest mall to our house. Let me just say that SM BF is my kind of mall- it’s slightly remote so it’s not as crowded, there are some shops, a grocery, a number of restaurants, the best Director’s Club cinema so far, and cheap parking (20 bucks if you were wondering). What more can you ask for? Anyway, on some Sundays, when no one wants to eat home cooked meals, we make an excuse to need something from the grocery and as a result, have Sunday lunch in the mall as well.

Since it’s a fairly new mall, there aren’t that many to choose from. Kuya J Restaurant is one of the newer ones and if you see how many people are waiting in line on Sunday lunch hour, you’d almost want to back out. Protip? Don’t.

Kuya J Restaurant SM Ciy BF Paranaque

The flow of diner traffic is reasonable and you and your party will be ushered to comfy, cushy seats before you know it. Kuya J Restaurant is a well-known and well-loved restaurant with roots in Cebu serving good old Filipino food. Now we don’t have a lack of Filipino restaurants around, there are old favorites such as Abe, Sentro, and Namnam, among others- what could possibly be Kuya J’s draw?

Kuya J Crispy Pata (p485)

One thing they got going is the simple, earthy motif of the restaurant. The warm, modern ambiance instantly drew me in, making me feel comfortable and at home, almost. The larger than usual tables and comfier than common chairs also impressed me. Kuya J is by no means a fancy restaurant, but you don’t see them scrimping on space to make your dining experience as comfortable as they can make it (without going broke, of course). You don’t exactly go to a restaurant to just sit and be comfy on your heinie and look around and savor the surroundings. It’s not Starbucks, you guys.

Food is the main player in judging a restaurant, of course. Kuya J is a family restaurant that hails from Cebu that serves comforting Filipino classics, with a touch of modern. Like the Kuya J specialty, Crispy Pata. The crispy fried pork thigh was served on a slab of wood, together with tongs and meat shears, sauce, and an expertly cut tomato with atchara as garnishing. The tongs and shears were a specially nice touch- crispy pata can be messy to serve but these tools make this popular Pinoy nom infinitely easier to handle.

Grilled Scallops (p210)

Another easy favorite is the Kuya J Grilled Scallops. I have my mind made up to order this appetizer every time I’m within vicinity of any Kuya J Restaurant. It’s nothing fancy, just scallops generously doused with a strong garlic butter sauce, and grilled. Simple but super mega delicious. I actually think I can order just this and a cup of rice for lunch and be happy with it.

I say Kuya J Restaurant is for the modern Filipino because the restaurant is accessible for everyone (who isn’t in the mall on weekends?), the place is warm and welcoming, and the food is deliciously, wonderfully, comfortingly Pinoy  (perfect for balikbayan relatives and friends), simply but artfully served, and moderately priced for the budget conscious taxpayer. 

Kuya J Restaurant

3rd Floor SM City BF Paranaque, Sucat, Paranaque City

02 478 7810

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A Noob With A Food Processor

Since being gifted a mini food processor, I’ve been itching to try it out. As someone with meh kitchen skills, I was looking for a relatively easy recipe to try out. For one, I’ve never worked with a food processor my entire life. There would be noob mistakes for sure, so I needed a recipe to learn techniques from.

Copycat KFC coleslaw

As the first experiment, I decided to make coleslaw, a food hack of the KFC kind. The gifter of the said food processor is a big fan of KFC coleslaw, I thought it a fitting tribute.

Copycat KFC Coleslaw (a modified version of this recipe)
3 cups chopped cabbage 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup shredded carrots 3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp minced onion 1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sugar, milk, vinegar, salt, and pepper and set aside. Next, wash the cabbage, carrots, and onion, and cut it up into smaller blocks to fit the food processor container. If they don’t all fit, set aside half the cabbage and pulse until nearly evenly chopped up. Add the rest of the cabbage and pulse until it’s all blended nicely, about 1 minute. Stop there.

It was around this time that my noob self decided to keep going for good measure. Don’t. Half a minute later, I realized I was overdoing it and the veggies were chopped up to nearly the texture of baby food. So just don’t.

Awesome with chicken, of course.
Awesome with chicken, of course.

Transfer the chopped up veggies into the bowl with the ingredients you mixed earlier. Cover bowl and put it in the fridge to chill before serving. Then you can go out to buy KFC and bring it home to eat with your homemade coleslaw (It makes sense to me!).

Top 3 Things I Learned
1. Fluffy stuff have to go in in batches if you have a small food processor.
2. Do not pulse too long no matter how much fun it is.
3. Small things does not equate to small mess.

Pop it all in and pulse.

After the semi-success of my copycat KFC coleslaw (it was a little on the salty side), the time was ripe for another experiment. The Internet would have you believe that pesto sauce is one of the easiest things to make if you have a food processor. Being a sheep of the Internet, I set out to get the ingredients I needed to make some armed with this recipe-

Easy Pesto Sauce (a modified version of this recipe)
3 cups basil leaves 1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 roasted peanuts
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp salt

There really isn’t much to say here, because contrary to recipe instructions, I just dunked all ingredients minus the EVOO in the food processor bowl and pulsed to my heart’s delight. This took a little longer than the veggies from the coleslaw recipe (don’t get too excited, it’s just a minute or so more). As soon as everything is all evenly mixed, pour the contents into a bowl and mix gently with the oil. Add more if you feel like the mixture is too pasty. Now boil some pasta of your choice, toss it all together, and set on a plate. Done without much fuss!

Chilling and enjoying the fruits of labor.

Top 1 Thing I Learned From Making Your Own Nomz
1. Clean up is a b*tch.

Now all that’s left to do is to clean up the mess you made. BUT, and this is a big but, unlike store bought stuff, you know all the ingredients used to make up what’s on your plate. Worth all the its.