Sunday, November 4, 2012

EVENTS | 9th NOAC and Natural Farming Seminar happening in CEBU

Gardening enthusiasts, be ready as these two events will rock Cebu! As far as my knowledge is concern, there has been no organized and known group here where we can get a first hand knowledge about farming and gardening, the organic and natural farming to be specific. So enlist yourself and we might bump each other on these two events:

9th National Organic Agriculture Congress  (NOAC)
Theme: Organic Agriculture: For Food Security and Business Opportunity
Date: November 5, 6 and 7, 2012
Venue: J Centre Mall, AS Fortuna Street, Cebu City
Registration: Free, please contact your local DAR RFU

About:

NOAC is an annual gathering of all natural and organic agriculture practitioners, advocates, researchers and academe from all over the country. The three-day event includes plenary sessions on Phil Organic Agriculture Milestones, and updates on Organic Agriculture global market and demands, as well as Asian Regional Organic Standards. There will also be breakout sessions where you can choose from on the third day of the event. There is also a trade fair and exhibit, as well as Field Tour to select areas in Cebu that upholds Organic Agriculture. This year’s congress will have no less than the Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. from the Office of the President to deliver the keynote speech.


NATURAL FARMING, A LEAP INTO THE FUTURE
Date: November 8, 2012
Venue: Sacred Heart Center, D. Jakosalem Street, Cebu City
Registration: P2,000.00 inclusive of meals, snacks, manual and DVD

About:

Natural Farming is a modern and ecological alternative to the pesticide-laden agriculture. This system brings the soil and environment back to its original form where the nature works for the production of its needs. Natural Farming is producing food for human life and health by working with the nature, closely following the law of nature. It is a process of merging human wisdom and labor with the nature elements: sunlight, air, soil and water.

The authorities of Natural Farming Andry K Lim, Gil Carandang and Warren Tan will give the lectures.

So this is our chance now Cebuanos to learn from the experts and propagate this advocacy.

See you around! Cant wait to meet new acquaintances and forge netwrok and communities of natural and organic farming enthusiasts here in Cebu.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Atsara | Pickled Vegetables

I am blessed with a childhood full of memories in the farm. During harvest season, we always have an over supply of anything. Papsi plants whatever he can in any means and ways possible, maximizing the hectare of land assigned to him. Name it and Papsi have it, I think he had planted all possible vegetables. I think I got his genes in just appreciating what the land can gave back to us. And whenever we had this extra, he always preserved those through making atsara. What I love most were the pickled shallots (sibuyas tagalog) and red onions rejected because of its size and quality: sweet, spicy perfect for breakfast of fried fish or talong.

And so during one of the Sunday Carbon Market visit, we bought some vegetables in season. You know it's in season when everyone is selling the same thing and you can get it at almost a bargain price. We bought a kilo of daikon radish, a kilo of cucumber, carrots, as well as our staple: green mangoes. And of course the best thing to preserve them is the way Papsi does the old way of pickling it!
 


Pickling according to wikipedia.org is a way of preserving food by anearobic fermentation in brine to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing the food in an acetic acid, like vinegar, and the resulting food is called pickles. Pickling can preserve foods for months.


This exercise is very simple to do even a grader can do it in a breeze. All we need is to prepare the brine (or the pickling solution), pour it in a jar with vegetables, let it stand for days and there you have it. Critical here is the pickling solution, as this will determine the final product. For the pickling solution, we will use the following proportion, but you can increase and decrease the vinegar and sugar content according to your taste, but please do understand the important roles of vinegar and sugar in the preservation process. 


For the brine, combine the following ingredients and bring to a boil until all sugar is dissolved.

1 cup distilled vinegar
½ cup water
¼ cup white sugar
1 tsp coarse salt

You can pour this brine in a wide-mouthed jar with fresh vegetables of your choice. Make sure the vegetables are totally submerged in the solution, cover it tightly and store it in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator. You can serve it chilled after a day or two



Now for the vegetables, you can either combine sliced strips of radish, cucumber and carrots. Slice the cucumber lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice into long spears then cut into 3-inch pieces. Cut the carrots into the same sized pieces as the cucumber as well as the radish. Wash and pat them dry before packing into the prepared jars. 

Pickling is the best way to preserve the food when they are in abundance. And pickles is best served as an appetizer as the sweet-sour taste prepares our palate for a full course meal. It is best paired with fried and grilled dishes as we Filipinos are fond of, and of course the best accompaniment for oily and fatty foods like lechon.

This is also a good time to utilize those unused bottles from jams and spreads that have been hiding in your pantry. Like what I did, I gave those as gifts. Who doesn't want to receive such present that can tickle your taste buds?

And the king of them all, the pickled mangoes! My housemate can finish a jar of this in one sitting. 

Happy pickling!
       

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Drink of the Week | Pink October ‘Bugnay’ade

 
The month of October has always been a busy month for my team. This year is our second time to prep up something for Pink October, much grander than the first. Our’s is a month-long celebration that kicks off with a press conference, a launching of the pink room where women can have their clinical breast examination taken, a series of “pink talks” and to cap it off, a bigger “pink run”, all to benefit the breast cancer patients in Cebu City. Our’s is just a single effort and the entire world is celebrating for this one greater cause.
 

Recently I discovered the wild tree berries Bugnay that is locally produced in Talamban. Out of curiosity, I made up a piquant, tart and acidic Bugnay Jam that doubles up as my all-around salad dressing. I fell in love with its taste and went gaga over the bright red color it creates. Prior to reducing the bright reddish to fuchsia liquid from boiled berries when I made the jam, I set aside a portion and cooled it completely in the fridge. I don’t have any idea that this liquid will soon be made into something that is refreshing...and the color, is something that uniquely evokes the theme for this hallmark celebration.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Drink of the Week | K2 Kooler

This week’s drink is not just refreshingly good, but it packs a hell of goodness. It is a combination of local citrus fruit Kahel (or Dalandan, Sour Orange) and a poor man’s green leafy vegetable Kamunggay (Moringa Oleifera), whose marriage I considered perfect and complementary with each other. These two local ingredients have “K”, literally in their names, and figuratively on the benefits it boasts, hence the coined name K2 Kooler.

Earlier last month I featured Kamunggay in a series of blogposts, still I cant get enough of it. Amazed of the many benefits and goodness it can do to our health, I was inspired to create recipes out of this vegetable: there was a cupcake, pesto and soup made out of Kamunggay. This time, let’s drink to its goodness!

Kamunggay related blogposts:
Why Kamunggay is a Wonder Vegetable
Kamunggay Almond Cupcakes
Kamunggay Pod Soup
Pasta in Kamunggay Pesto

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Outdoor Culinary | When cooking meets mountaineering


Happy 12 years Baktas MSU Mindanao State University Mountaineering Society, Inc. This first-ever organized mountaineering student organization in MSU General Santos City is celebrating its 12 strong years of climbing and brotherhood this month of September. I browsed through my photo archive and see if I can gather pictures of myself cooking while in the outdoors for this post about outdoor cooking, unfortunately I went the other way around: I traveled down the memory lane. Looking at the pictures, I couldn’t help myself but be emotional. My climbing days were full of struggles but were one of my best days, colorful and very meaningful.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Drink of the Week |Calming Tarragon Cucumber Juice with Sago

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I have a lot of tarragons growing in a pot and so far I have used it in vegetable stir-fries, and in inun-unan (paksiw) to remove the “langsa” of the fish. The aroma is strong yet calming so I prefer to use it as a warm tea every after meal.

Tarragon is a popular culinary herb in Mediterranean cuisine, and considered one of the four fine herbs in French cooking. It is best for chicken, egg and fish dishes. Here in the Philippines, this is used mainly as a medicinal plant rather than for culinary: it is said to remedy stomach pains, flatulence and to stimulate appetite. This herb is very rich source of Vitamin C, A, and B-complex that functions as anti-oxidants. It also is a good source of Calcium, potassium, Zinc, Iron and Magnesium (www.nutrition-and-you.com)

Weekend Salads | Baby Carrots in Bugnay-Honey Vinaigrette

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 I was so ecstatic to see one vendor in Carbon Public Market this morning selling finger-like size carrots. Finally I saw one and didn’t think twice to grab one. I bought half a kilo for P10.00 while the huge sized, good skinned variety peg a bit higher at a price of P50.00/kilo. I think the old man doesn’t know the value of what he is selling. The first thing that came up my mind is that full-grown carrots had this distinct taste most of us loathe it, but the week-old is expected to taste much sweeter and better. And they are good for salads.






So when I arrived home, this is what I prepared for my mid-morning breakfast: a bowl of fresh iceberg lettuce, mixed with crunchy cucumbers, whole baby carrots and green mango bits in red bugnay and honey vinaigrette. This is also my first time to use the bugnay juice as a salad dressing!

Spicy Vegies in cream cheese and green curry sauce


Most of the time I over stock my little refrigerator with a week’s supply of fresh vegetables. Come weekend, I need to clean it up to give some space for my Sunday’s fresh market picks.

I still have a few pieces of cucumbers left since last Monday, the skin crumpled and wilted but it’s too precious to waste it. There were also few pieces of eggplants, carrots, tomatoes and okra (lady fingers) that can almost make a one good dish if I want to.

Because I don’t want to throw anything, I cleaned the leftover vegetables and sliced one by one. Good thing I still have not used the ready-made green curry sauce given to me by a Thai friend, so I whipped up something spicy, Asian and healthy.

This dish is so simple to prepare and requires at least 10-15 minutes cooking time. To prepare the vegetables, get two medium size cucumbers, remove the core (seeds) and slice diagonally into bite size strips. I don’t usually remove the skin of cucumber because it added some color and crunch. For the carrots, you can slice it into small cube. You will also need at least 1 medium size eggplant, same cut with that of cucumbers and a few pieces of okra sliced diagonally. In all honesty, there are no clear-cut ways on how to slice your vegetables. It all depends on you. For me, it’s always random: shapes should create some contrasts and highlights, color and cuts should do away from monotony, and please take note that thickness affects cooking time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kitchen Scientist Mode | Bugnay Jam


My September 2, 2012 post about the berries I bought in Carbon Public Market named Bugnay received many comments in Cook My Garden's facebook page. Indeed a friend of mine have tasted a wine made out of it, and a friend in Iloilo mentioned this is used in treating chickenpox, while one mentioned my post was good timing because the local TV magazine show Rated K is doing a feature story about “bugnay” on that same day. I failed to watched Rated K's “it’s a MIRACLE” episode and Bignay (or Bugnay in our local Cebuano dialect) was featured as one of the "miracle food".

I did not paid much attention to the berries and left it at the table that night. When I woke up the next day, the berries were infested with tiny red ants. My thinking was, the berries must be sweet the reason why ants have noticed it. Instead of throwing it away, I washed and boiled it. After 30 or so minutes of boiling, I extracted a brilliant red fuschia juice; the acid level of sourness is comparable to that of our Calamansi (Philippine Lime). The color of the juice for me was so stunning, and by that alone a beverage made out of it is pretty sure enticing and refreshing. I set aside half cup of the concentrated juice because I was planning to make a drink out of it, while I simmered the remaining liquid to make a jam.


I add a portion of sugar and let it simmer under low heat, stirring constantly making sure it won’t stick at the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced. The cooking is a little bit tricky because you will not see the liquid thickens. My research was indeed correct that Bugnay's pectin content is small. Pectin is a natural substance found mostly in apples, berries and other fruits, that thickens when heated together with sugar. I stopped simmering until I got a concentrated reduction, yet the liquid is still runny. When it ultimately cooled down, I placed it inside refrigerator. After few hours, the liquid began to thicken, almost the same consistency with that of strawberry jams sold in supermakets. I believe this is not about pectin, but it is because of the sugar.

And so my supposedly breakfast the next day of just plain boiled bananas and coffee was transformed into something extra ordinary and special. I smothered the bananas to the richly colored jam and I realized I made not just a spread but a concoction which can be later used to add that needed acid and sweetness in salad dressings, or can be used as marinades, or sauce to add life and flavor to plain meats and vegetables, as filling for my muffins, and even cakes will get a new twist with the use of this jam. One thing that got me so excited about the outcome of this kitchen research was the liquid's brilliant deep color combination of fuchsia, red and purple, something I can use to enliven an ordinary dish. Color alone is one of the good qualities of this fruit.

I do not know the health benefits of this berries, but mentioned alone by no less than the nation's trusted news anchor in a multi-awarded show is already enough proof that indeed this berries are considered as one of the "miracle" fruits.

Imagine my P10.00 peso worth half kilo of berries was turned to  a small jar of sweet and piquant jam. I know one day all our attention will be to this currant berries. I hope soon we can discover more ways how to prepare something extraordinary out of this berry.

CMG Travels | Herb Gardening Ideas from Bohol Bee Farm


In Bohol Bee Farm, you would expect rows of green houses where salad greens are cultivated organically, as well as other herbs and vegetables. And of course there's the bee farm for it wont be the "bee" farm without these tiny busy insects. If you stroll further in the farm you will notice a carefully planted lawn, with flowering plants and some creeping vines. Each area amenity like the restaurants and pool were harmoniously melded in nature. But there's one thing my keen eyes have spotted: some herbs are actually growing anywhere in  in their vicinity! 
I was delighted to notice these plants. I know for some it's just an ordinary plant growing in a makeshift containers but for me, these plants are more than just an ornament. I snapped some photos for you to take some inspirations on how this farm grow their herbs, so sooner you can creatively replicate it in your own.

1. Herbs within your reach

Nothing beats an herb growing literally beside your kitchen. We have seen some herbs growing in pots by the windowsill in the kitchen, but this one is notably different: a raised box garden beside a stone lavatory in an outdoor kitchen setting. I love this unique idea! The basils are growing happily, but it would be more a feast on the eyes if other herbs are planted side by side with each other creating contrasts and highlights (and helping each other protect themselves like the one in mix cropping method). If I have the luxury of space at home, herbs planted this way will always have an area in my kitchen.




2. Accent it. 

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