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

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 (

Weekend Salads | Baby Carrots in Bugnay-Honey Vinaigrette

 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. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CMG Travels | A peek in the charming Bohol Bee Farm

I accomplished one goal in my life this year when I finished my Masters degree, marched down the aisle and have my portrait taken with sablay. This is a significant mark in my life and calls for a big celebration, so I invited my family in Gensan to come over here in Cebu. As a treat to my dear Mamsi and the rest of my siblings, I toured them to the nearby charming and adorable island of Bohol for three days.
I’ve been to this island for a few times already, but each travel is as memorable as my first. This time, the unforgettable one was that of Bohol Bee Farm. Not the beach, not the bees, but the farm in its entirety.

It's very predictable and you would know what pleased me: the food, all fresh, all organic, and of course, their herb garden! We stayed in two of their spacious villas for a night, and spent the rest of our day relaxing and enjoying what it offers: the food, the farm and.....the bees. Travel with me through photos below and learn few insights of organic farming the Bohol Bee Farm way.


Bohol Bee Farm is not your usual provincial farm set in a vast tract of arable agricultural land. It is literally a hidden getaway by the seaside set in a dry, karst landscape. They grow their farm produces in pots and containers arranged in risers. There are villas, restaurants and other amenities dispersed in the vicinity, with pocket gardens of herbs and vegetables sprinkled all throughout. If you want tranquility away from the stresses of the city, and if you want to commune with nature and to yourself, this is the place to be. And this is actually the place Cook My Garden have been longing for.

Salad greens and dill planted in pots with nutrient-rich compost, arranged in plant boxes of varying height.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Awesome Carbon Market Finds | BUGNAY

Its Sunday, my market day! We woke up early at 6:00am and intentionally left Levi at home since we don’t know how to navigate the city traffic at downtown Cebu. We hate one-way traffic and complex intersections in Colon, so we rode a jeepney instead and brought our reusable shopping bags (yes, I am personally beginning to adopt and ban the excessive use of plastic bags in shopping).

Again, I love random things. This morning, I don’t have anything in mind to buy or to cook at home. I just let my senses dictate what will gonna be put on my reusable bag. I just enjoyed the morning rush In carbon Public Market: the road heavily traffic worsen by vendors displaying their merchandise that almost encroached on the road (I couldn't blame our farmers and vendors for this is the only day of the week they are free to sell whatever they produced upland). Besides, this is the spirit of public market I am expecting every week: busy streets, pushcarts competing with jeepneys, fresh produces of different shapes and sizes almost shouting in their vibrant colors, vendors greet you with their morning smile enough to invite you to try and buy their merchandise, some chef-on-the-street preparing breakfast fares the smoke and smell of what’s cooking wafting in the air. Carbon Public Market never fails to overwhelm me every time I visit her.
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