Thursday, July 25, 2013

Private and Confit-dential: Mixed Greens with Crispy Duck Leg Confit, Blue Cheese, Pecans and Cranberries in a Balsamic Vinaigrette

When you decide to follow your dream, expect to be surprised. Because no matter how much thought you put into making your decision and how much you prepare beforehand, there will still be many surprises. The good news, though, is that the vast majority of them will be the good kind.

Not all of them, mind you. You will occasionally be surprised by some not-so-great stuff and some not-so-great people, like say, idiots on motorcycles who come at you out of nowhere and puncture your car tire like it was a piñata. Grrr.

But I promise, you will be surprised by nearly all the people in your universe. Hell, you'll be surprised by your very universe. You will be amazed, touched and humbled by all the support and encouragement you receive from the people you who love you. You may think you expected it but trust me, it'll be Niagara Falls big and just as amazing.

The even bigger surprise, though, will be the people you just kinda like and thought, yeah, okay, I guess they kinda like me back. Because the kindness, generosity and support you will get from these people will knock your socks off. You will sit down (still sockless!) and realize how incredibly lucky you are to have these truly wonderful people in your life.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It Just Takes a Little Seoul: Spicy Shrimp Salad Sammy with Kimchi Mayo, Avocado, and Radish Sprouts

Hello, everyone! Yes, I'm back in the Toy Kitchen. And no, I didn't get eaten by a lion in Africa but thanks so much for asking, especially those of you who e-mailed me to make sure. It has just been such a crazy busy couple of months what with launching the RGTK product line, making the RGTK product line, selling the RGTK product line, delivering the RGTK product line...well, you get the picture.

Me, shilling RGTK on ANC Shop Talk (my segment starts at 30:15)

My former life in the corporate world feels like two centuries instead of just two months ago. Now, instead of business casual and heels (no sleeveless tops or open-toed sandals, please) my new dress code consists mostly of yoga pants, colorful jammies and flip-flops. So, no, I don't actually get this dressed up to cook when I'm alone. 

My actual work duds. And it's not even Casual Friday.
I'm cooking nearly every day, and my place is packed with boxes, bottles and sacks of onions and garlic. Not only does this make entertaining a near impossibility, but these days, I jump at any chance to put on shoes, go to a restaurant and taste food that I haven't had to cook, bottle and slap an RGTK label on. I'm also desperately eager for any kind of conversation that doesn't include bottles, ingredients, delivery details and meowing.

Despite all the adjustments, though (Dear steady paycheck, I miss you most of all. xoxo J), I am having the time of my life. Yes, I've been known to occasionally succumb to moments of panic, maybe grab a cat or two, and tearfully tell them not to get eaten by squirrels when I have to throw them out on the streets (They're sissies). But when I'm not obsessing too much about the future, when I remember to live in the moment, then the moments are actually pretty damned awesome.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Getting Jiggy with Mark Bittman: West Indian Crispy Pork Bits

Ever have those days (weeks, months) where everything and everyone just seems particularly difficult? It's times like those when you really appreciate the beauty of a ridiculously easy recipe like this one that just so happens to produce some genuinely delicious comfort food. The catch, however, is that it does require some advance preparation. But they say good things come to those who wait, and this dish is indeed, in the words of Martha Stewart, a very good thing.

This recipe is from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, which is guaranteed to coax even the most fearful novice cooks into the kitchen. The recipes are easy enough to make you go, "Hey, even I can do that!" and before you know it, you are.

Then, bolstered by your success, you become increasingly confident, start experimenting with your own flavor profiles and before you know it, you've got your own cooking show. In your head. Or, you give up your day job and hawk your own product line.  Yo, Mark Bittman, thank you! You'll either get royalties or me showing up on your doorstep, suitcase and hungry cats in tow.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Keep It Real: Spaghetti Squash in Pesto Cream with Pan-Fried Scallops

As a rule, fakes suck. Fake labels? Tacky. Faking a love for sports, opera or books to impress? Even tackier. And sucking up to further a secret agenda? Well, that's just sad. It's also exhausting. Seems to me that it would be easier to just be who we are. Besides, we'd be so much more fabulous at being ourselves than trying to be a pale imitation of someone else.

The same applies to food. My unfortunate addiction to diet soda notwithstanding, I think fake and wannabe foods generally suck and should be avoided. I' like yoghurt but not when it tries to pass itself off as ice cream.  Fat-free cheese is an abomination. And don't even get me started on vegetarian restaurants that feature entrees in quotes, e.g.,"beef" stroganoff or "chicken" a la king.

Spaghetti squash, however, is a notable exception. This poor misunderstood squash never claimed to be pasta. It's not its fault that its insides just happen to scrape up into luscious, spaghetti-like strands that clock in at roughly a fifth of the calories of regular pasta.

Spaghetti squash is what it is and is perfectly happy to be what it is. And having never seen one in Manila before, I was perfectly happy to take one home when I spotted it at Metro Supermarket.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Announcements and Pronouncements

Chili, pumpkin soup, pesto and eggplant dip: "Please take us home. We promise to be very, very good!"

The day I announced my very first giveaway on this blog, I had also drafted my resignation letter and made a phone appointment with my boss in Hong Kong.

Starting a prepared food business had always been a long-time dream, and after a (mostly) wonderful 6-year ride at my current corporate gig, I was finally committing to doing it.

Imagine, therefore, my sheer terror when hours after I had posted my exciting giveaway, there were no takers. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Itlog (the Filipino word for egg, local slang for zero, in case you hadn't figured it out).

I began hyperventilating. What was I, nuts? How could I possibly think I could make a living selling food, giving up the security of a corporate job and a regular paycheck when I couldn't even GIVE my chili away?

"You're gonna starve," I said tearfully to the Destructo-Cats, who just looked at me, seemingly unmoved. "You're no match for those feral street cats. Hell, you're no match for those street rats. You wouldn't last five minutes out there."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Curse of the Great Pumpkin (and a Giveaway)


I was a man (not really) with a plan (yes, really). I had a bunch of orders for chili, soup and lots of other good stuff  and was determined to get everything done today.

The chili-making went smoothly. My pumpkin soup, however, was a completely different matter. It seemed so promising in the beginning, every step going exactly as planned. I mean, come on. I've only made this dish a few hundred times before.

But you know how some princes turn into pumpkins? Well, this pumpkin turned into a little punk. After pureeing my lovingly sautéed and roasted vegetable mixture together with my simmered-for-hours homemade chicken stock, I tasted the mixture. Hmmm. Bland.

I hadn't really added any other bells and whistles yet other than salt and pepper, so I shrugged it off and added my spices.  Still off. Way off.