Afternoon Tea at Home

It’s easy to prepare an afternoon tea in the comfort of your own home, the British have been doing it for centuries. Admittedly it’s fancier to have it at 5 star hotels and posh tea places, but you can still recreate that feel with a little bit of work and preparation.

First, think of the kind of treats you wish to serve. For elaborate afternoon teas they usually give you sweet and savory options. Then to make it elegant select tableware and linens that are somewhat dainty and have visual appeal. So I chose to use a rose gold glass plate which makes for a classy place setting. I also went for whites and pastels and having a tiered serving plate serves to complete the look.



My daughter made some homemade scones which I served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I got several store bought sweets as well : a slice of rainbow cake, a small tiramisu cheesecake, mixed berry fruit tart, egg custard and mini danish pastries.


For the tea sandwiches I made cucumber, radish, smoked salmon and tomato and avocado sandwiches. These are made using thinly sliced white bread with the crust removed. I must say I enjoyed creating these tea sandwiches because this is where your creativity will come at play. You need to ensure that ingredients go well together and will look delectable as well.





We all had Jasmine tea, make sure you to use loose leaf not tea bags to better appreciate it’s flavor and for an enhanced afternoon tea experience. We also dressed up for it !

Chicken Liver Pâté

Our family loves duck liver pâté. It was our dad who introduced us to this French delicacy. He would get this from the delicatessen of The Mandarin Oriental way back in the early 80’s, since they are the ones who regularly gifts us with a Christmas basket holding a terrine of this. I clearly remember the terrine is also in the shape of a duck, I kid you not. So it’s not surprising that we would share and pass on this appreciation to our own children. Here in the Northeast, my girls love getting pâté sandwiches from Maison Kaiser or Épicerie Boulud in New York City. I also buy the D’Artagnan liver mousse either from Wegmans or Whole Foods during the Holidays. Prepared duck liver pâté is simply hard to come by in regular grocery stores back home. So this past Christmas my sister decided to make some on her own to serve for her parties and family gatherings. This is my third sister’s recipe adapted from food and wine magazine.

This by the way is chicken liver pâté since duck liver is difficult to find in Manila. To make place the following in a saucepan: 1/2 lb chicken livers cleaned and trimmed, 1 small thinly sliced onion, 1-2 garlic cloves smashed, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 cup water. Bring this to a simmer and cover. Cook for three minutes or until chicken livers are barely pink (don’t overcook). Stir occasionally so that seasonings are well mixed in. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes covered.

Throw away the bay leaf and place the chicken liver mixture in a food processor or a blender. Puree coursely then with the machine running add 2 tablespoon butter at a time til you use up 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter needed for this recipe. Note: butter should be room temperature. Then add 2 tsp. cognac (don’t omit since this really gives it depth of flavor). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in ramekins or any glass container and cover with a thin layer of melted butter. Refrigerate and chill until firm.

Serve with any crusty bread or with crackers.

Avodogs (Hot Dogs with Avocado)

So the family has decided we are having hot dogs for Memorial Day dinner. I bought the necessary supplies buns, hotdogs, dill pickles, yellow mustard and chips. I was thinking of making just the classic dog.

But the day before, I had an idea of adding avocado to the hot dogs to make it somewhat healthier. I love avocados and felt it would give it a new twist to the American classic.

For the avocado topping, mash an avocado and squeeze half a lime. Season with salt.

To make, take a pan and add enough water and let it come to a boil. Then drop in your hotdogs and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes. Then take it out and transfer to a pan lightly coated with oil. Fry until evenly browned or if your prefer a bit blistered.
Using a tong, take your hot dogs and place in between the buns. Place big spoonful of the smashed avocado on top of your hot dogs and add some diced tomotoes that has been seeded.

Serve with a side of chips.


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Beef Empanada

Empanadas originated from Galicia, Spain. It was then introduced to the Philippines by it’s Spanish colonists. Filipino empanadas can either have a sweet or savory filling. It is usually shaped like a half moon with edges that are crimped, scalloped or fluted. There are different varieties of empanadas found in the country depending on the region you are in. There is the panara of Silay in Negros made from rice flour; the Ilocos empanada which comes in two forms, the Vigan (uncolored, uses garlicky Vigan longanisa and served with Ilocos vinegar) and Batac empanada (the dough colored with annatto, uses Batac longanisa and served with ketchup and Ilocos vinegar) and empanaditas in Pampanga are smaller empanadas usually sweet filled with caramel and cashew nuts or condensed milk, cashew nuts and egg yolks cooked over a double boiler. (Source – Panaderia: Philippine Bread, Biscuit and Bakery Tradition by Amy A. Uy and Jenny B. Orillos)

The recipe I used was adapted from the book “Memories of A Philippine Kitchen” by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. Ground beef is a favorite and most popular filling used by Filipinos. It is usually sauteed with onions, potatoes, carrots and raisins. I omitted raisins in my recipe since my family is not a fan of it being added to meat or any kind of savory dish.

To make, double the recipe of Rich Pie Pastry below. You will need a lot of dough from my experience.

Sift 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp. salt into a large bowl. Cut 6 Tbsp. chilled butter into the flour using your fingertips or pastry cutter or blender until texture resembles coarse meal with visible bits of butter. Stir 1 large egg beaten into the flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Pinch off a small handful of dough; if it doesn’t hold together, add ice water 1/2 tsp. at a time. stirring after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

For the filling, In a pan, saute one medium sized minced onion and 3-4 cloves minced garlic in about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Cook until fragrant and translucent. Then add 1 lb ground beef. Stir and cook until browned. Remove excess oil or fat if necessary. Add one medium sized diced carrot and 1 medium sized diced potato and about 1/3 cup frozen peas. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. tomato paste and about 1/2 to 1 tsp. ground black pepper. Continue cooking until vegetables have softened. Adjust seasoning according to taste. Let cool and set aside.

To assemble, roll out your dough on a clean work surface that is lightly floured. Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter or a big enough straight edged glass cut the dough into circles. Save the scraps and you can reroll this again later.



Spoon your cooled filling onto the small discs of dough, fold in half and gently enclosed the meat filling by crimping the edges using the tines of a fork. Do this until you used up all your dough and filling. Place your filled dough onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of your empanada with an egg wash (2 egg yolks beaten with 1/4 cup milk).


Bake in a 375 F preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. P.S. Bake empanadas on the the upper and lower thirds of oven. Switch the sheets or tray from top to bottom rack halfway through baking.




Ube Macapuno Cheesecake

This Thanksgiving I wanted to add something truly Filipino to our table – to be precise our dessert table !

I made ube cheesecake a couple of years back and blogged about it here. The first time I made three miniature ones but on this occasion I made a slightly bigger one using a 7 inch spring form pan.

The key to making really good ube cheesecake is making your own ube jam or halaya. I usually make it one day ahead since it takes more time and effort than making the actual cheesecake itself. Make sure that you get the real Ube and not purple sweet potato or even the okinawan purple sweet potato. A lot of people think they are one and the same. Here is a short and simple primer on how to distinguish between the three. Below is a photo of ube from the market that my mom sent me while she was doing Christmas food shopping back home. Ube has a dark, course and almost hairy outer skin, it’s not pale like the okinawan purple sweet potato or red or purple toned like purple sweet potato.






The one thing I did differently was placing the springform pan inside a much larger cake pan before placing in a water bath. I didn’t want to take the risk of water seeping through the foil into my cake. Sometimes even with three layers of foil, one can still get leaks or holes that are undetectable.


After baking and letting it cool and set in the fridge. I carefully released it from the pan and topped it with macapuno (coconut strings). I again let this sit for at least an hour in the fridge before slicing and serving. This year’s Thanksgiving will always be remembered because of this ube cheesecake.







There are a lot of food that I associate with Christmas. Bibingka is one of them. These are rice cakes usually sold outside chuches during the nine day series of early morning mass called “Simbang Gabi”. These however are not solely available during Christmas. You can get these anytime throughout the year. In fact it is also a popular mid-afternoon snack.

I remember having this for merienda as child in our hometown of Navotas. We would always get it from “Aling Geneng” who not only makes the best “bibingka” in my opinion but “kutsinta” as well. They are traditionally cooked on clay pots lined with banana leaves then baked by charcoals placed above and below it. The use of charcoal in making bibingka is what gives it it’s distinct smoky flavor.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment to make bibingka this way. I made these rice cakes using an oven.

To make, clean and wipe your banana leaves before passing it over the flame of your gas burner to make leaves pliable. Then cut it into roughly 6 inch circles and place these into your tin molds. You can use ensaimada or brioche pans.


In a bowl place 2 cups rice flour, 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl combine 2 eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 14 oz. can coconut milk. Slowly pour your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour batter into individual molds until 3/4 full. Bake in a 375F pre-heated oven until tops are brown about 25 minutes.


Remove from mold, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and grated cheese on top. Traditionally this is served with grated coconut but this is something that is difficult to find here in our neck of the woods so I omitted.



Halloween Temari Sushi

I try to make at least one Halloween themed blog during the Fall season. The past several years it’s all about bento and it’s not any different this year either. Temari in Japanese literally means hand ball. Temari sushi are ball shaped sushi made by forming rice using a plastic wrap. This is by far the easiest way to make sushi specially if you are a beginner.

Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay it down on a plate or counter top. Then place 1/4 cup cooked white rice in the middle and gather up all the edges and twist into a ball. Make sure to tightly squeeze the plastic wrap to form a smooth and even ball. Unwrap carefully and decorate the top with your choice of ingredients.

For the pumpkin, I used a piece of smoked salmon and some nori strips for details. The cat is just nori wrapped around a rice ball with some mayo for decoration. Frankenstein is made my wrapping thin slices of avocado using a cling wrap and again using nori for the face details. Last but not least, the ghost is just plain rice with seaweed.

This is a fun and easy way of creating Halloween themed food for your family.




Asian Hot Dog

I’ve seen and heard of Japadog from a food blog sometime ago. They used to have a storefront in NYC but it apparently closed already. They still have store locations in Canada and California though.

I have always wanted to re-create this and the perfect opportunity came yesterday, Memorial Day the time we open our grill for the Summer.

This is not your typical hot dog since it has some ingredients that are seriously Asian such as Nori which are seaweed strips and katsuobushi which are dried bonito flakes.

I made two kinds one with Nori strips and one with Katsuobushi. First, grill some hot dogs. I used National Hebrew which is what my family likes. I made a couple of cuts on my hot dogs before grilling just for presentation. Then place your hot dogs in buns and add some ketchup and Japanese mayonnaise on one then top with nori strips. Get another bun and place your hot dog in between, add some Japanese mayonnaise and a drizzle of tonkatsu sauce (which is optional) before topping everything with katsuobushi.





Easter Bread Cones

Bread cones are easy to make and would be a fun activity to do with kids. This may also be just the treat to serve for your Easter breakfast or brunch.

You will need a horn mold to create the shape of your bread. I got mine relatively cheap at If you don’t have a mold you can make your own by using a cardboard shaped into a cone and then wrapped with aluminum foil.


For my bread cone I just bought a can of Pillsbury crescent seamless dough sheet. You can make your own bread dough if you prefer but the crescents work pretty well and is convenient. To make, unroll your dough and cut it into 6 equal lengths using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Take one piece and roll it into a log making sure to pinch the seams together. Repeat for the remaining pieces of dough.




Take your horn mold and wrap your dough log starting at the end of the cone working your way up. Brush your bread cone with egg wash before baking at a 375F oven. Bake until bread cone is golden brown around 10-12 minutes.


Let stand until cool enough to handle then remove the mold by twisting a bit and pulling it out. The metal maybe hot so be careful when handling. I used tongs to pull the mold out of the bread cones.

Fill bread cones with your desired filling. I used egg salad and decorated the top with some parsley. You can fill it with ham or tuna salad or even with chocolate or vanilla cream. Combination of fruits and yogurt is also a good choice.





Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is one American holiday that our family embraced when we moved here to the Northeast. Giving thanks is something universal and we as a family take this time to pause and reflect on the many things we are grateful for. We should count our blessings each day not only during Thanksgiving and be thankful in whatever circumstances we are in.

We always have a turkey dinner during Thanksgiving. This is a tradition I started in our second year here in the US. I always get a 9-12 lb. Butterball turkey to roast, the sides may vary each year depending on what my family would ask for. This year we stuck to the simple and traditional sides which are mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, wild rice with mushroom and cranberry sauce (the only thing new in our menu). For dessert we would either have pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake. I made an exception last year when I served chocolate caramel cake instead.

To make this dinner special I always take extra effort in decorating our table. My kids have gotten used to this and always look forward to what our table would look like come Thanksgiving. This year I made use of the woven charger plates my sister sent me from the Philippines and used miniature pumpkins as placeholder.