Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baking Frenzy

My sister and I have been going on a serious baking frenzy in the past few weeks. On September 12, that's when we made our first ever batch of Pan De Sal (that's right--our blog's namesake). Pan De Sal is basically a Filipino dinner roll. It's made of flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Recipes can very, though--some have eggs, some don't. Some have baking powder, others do not. It's odd how such a simple bread can have so many varieties. Anyway, if you read Charlene's previous entry on our first attempt at Pan De Sal (Pan De Sal: Attempt I), the pan de sal actually turned out smaller than we anticipated since we separated the dough into small pieces. Also, the dough didn't rise much since we refrigerated it prior to baking... which affected the yeast.

And so, Pan De Sal: Attempt II was underway two days after. Charlene and I followed the same recipe from Allrecipes ( and we cut the pieces into larger sizes... but we didn't let the yeast rise in a warm area, exactly. So the yeast didn't rise much again... though it was an improvement from the last batch of pan de sal. But when the bread was done baking, it didn't really brown at all... and it even seemed a bit uncooked for some reason... but it was definitely baked. It tasted better, and it was softer. The inside was still dense, though... I think our major problem there was that we didn't knead the dough correctly and we didn't let the yeast rise in a warm place.

Finally, Pan De Sal: Attempt III came last Wednesday, Sep. 19. This time, we tried a different Pan De Sal recipe from Allrecipes--Pan De Sal II. Charlene read about kneading dough online. And we figured since the first pan de sal recipe wasn't really working for us, we should try a different one. Pan De Sal II was slightly different--it required milk, baking soda, baking powder, butter, and breadcrumbs for a topping. When we were done making the dough, we let the dough rise in the oven under the "Warm" setting. I'm not sure how hot it was in that setting, but it seemed to work since the dough rose way more than our first pan de sal attempts.

Also, Charlene kneaded the dough for the right amount of time. The dough wasn't absolutely perfect, though--there were still some flakes and a hole or two here and there, but it was much better than last time. Finally, we baked the bread, and the result was pleasantly satisfying. The rolls rose incredibly larger than the first "flat" pan de sals we made, and they tasted delicious (must've been the butter).

And speaking of baking, Charlene and I made turkey empanadas with our friends yesterday afternoon. The recipe was from Pinoy Cook--a Filipino food blog. The recipe can be found here: I'll post more about the empanada later. They turned out great, though... although their shapes didn't exactly look empanada-esque.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Experimenting: Chicken Marinara

Chicken breasts are versatile for dinner dishes, and this dish is no exception. My sister and I have only experimented with cooking chicken breasts once before, when we made Rosemary Chicken Breasts paired with Red Potatoes and String Beans. We wanted to try out a new recipe for chicken breasts, so Charmaine did recipe researching, and found what is called Chicken Marinara. This recipe is also from Simply Recipes.

8 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 shallots, peeled, chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
9 boneless chicken thighs (skinless or skin-on, your preference), if large pieces, then cut in half
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Mix in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Blend breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in small bowl. Place flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls. Coat chicken with flour, then eggs, then breadcrumb mixture.

3. Heat remaining oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add chicken and sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Place chicken pieces on a microwave-proof serving dish. Spoon sauce over chicken pieces. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese. Microwave on high heat for 10-20 seconds, just until the cheese has melted.

Serves 6.

The ingredients list says that you can use chicken thighs, but we ended up using chicken breasts, which also turned to be a great substitute. We only had four chicken breasts though, but four chicken breats is enough to make six servings as well. For the marinara sauce, we actually used Ragu Garden Organic Veggie Pasta Sauce, which ended up working just fine, and if you're in a hurry, it's a quick way to make the sauce. It also included tomatoes, so we didn't have to add the crushed tomatoes separately (we didn't have any crushed tomatoes on-hand). The cheese didn't actually melt as much as we wanted it to, but it still tasted fine. By the way, we used Panko breadcrumbs.

Verdict: The crispiness of the bread crumbs paired with the parmesan cheese and marinara sauce made the chicken taste wonderful. I especially liked the tenderness of the chicken; cooking the chicken 4 minutes to each side is really a good enough time measurement, I'd say, if you have 4 fairly large chicken breasts. You can add an extra minute of cooking to each side for extra crispiness. My dad liked the chicken and Charmaine and I were pleased with its flavor. We did a lot of substituting but it ended up good in the end. Bread (namely Pan de Sal, hehe) tastes great with this chicken, and it tastes good with an extra sprinkle of crushed red pepper. If you pair this with the macaroni salad, you've got yourself a good meal :)

Thanks, Simply Recipes! We enjoyed it!

Recipe courtesy of Simply Recipes:

More Macaroni: Potluck Macaroni Salad

Remember that Hamburger Macaroni recipe my sister and I made the other day? We had so much Elbow Macaroni left that we decided to save the rest for another macaroni dish. Charmaine happened to find a great recipe on Recipe Zaar, and it's called the Potluck Macaroni Salad! Seeing as we had nearly all the ingredients in our home, we decided to give the salad a try.

6 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (1 1/2 cups)
1 (28 ounce) can baked beans, preferably barbecue-seasoned, undrained
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1 1/2 cups chopped red onions
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers or yellow bell peppers or green bell peppers
1/2 cup prepared herb vinaigrette
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley leaves
basil or parsley sprigs

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well.

2. In large bowl, combine macaroni and beans; toss to combine.

3. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, vinaigrette, and basil; toss lightly.

4. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend, or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.

5. Garnish with the basil or parsley before serving.

6. NOTE: Recipe may be reduced to 6 servings.

7. Prepare as directed, using 4 ounces (1 cup) elbow macaroni, 1 can (16 oz.) undrained baked beans, 1 cup each of the vegetables, 1/3 cup prepared herb vinaigrette and 1/4 cup chopped herbs.

Serves 8.

Verdict: The recipe was simple to make and it doesn't take a lot of time if you have canned baked beans ready and some already-boiled macaroni on-hand. Even if you don't have the macaroni boiled before-hand, you can boil the water while you are cutting the vegetables and preparing the rest of the ingredients for the salad. I do have to say though, this macaroni recipe turned out very well for my family. My dad loved it, and even though we substituted the fresh herbs with dry herbs, it still tasted rather nicely. Instead of the herb vinaigrette, we used Balsamic Vinegar from the store and it went along very well with the salad. Another addition was the sliced and pitted black olives (they were canned). They ended up giving a nice and subtle salt flavor that blended well with the less bold flavors of the salad. It's good to keep this refrigerated quite some time before eating dinner, maybe an hour or two. In my opinion, the more chilled, the better.

This recipe makes a great amount of food, about 8 servings, so it'll be sure to fill up your friends or family. We paired this dish with Chicken Marinara, which I'll be posting about next! :)

Thanks to Recipe Zaar for the great salad!

Recipe courtesy of Recipe Zaar:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pan de Sal: Attempt I

Yesterday my sister Charmaine and I attempted to make a very popular Filipino dinner roll--Pan de Sal. Our blog is actually named after this type of bread, as you might've noticed, but we replaced the word "Pan" with our last name, Platon, because "Pan" in the Tagalog pronounciation is "pawn" instead of "pan" (as in frying pan). Our last name, Platon, is pronounced "Pluh-tawn", so it rhymes a bit with "Pan", making the blog name "Platon de Sal"! Clever, isn't it? Charmaine thought of it and I think it's a rather cute name.

Anyways, back to the bread! Pan de Sal (actually translated to "salt bread") is a soft type of bread, but I wouldn't call it airy since it can be filling at times, and a bit dense. Nevertheless, it's a rather simple bread, so we thought we'd take a shot at it. We got the recipe from the site, All Recipes. While preparing Pan de Sal though, be aware of how much bread you want to make. My sister and I didn't exactly follow the measurements of the bread while cutting the dough, so instead of yielding about 20-30 servings, we made well over 40 small rolls of bread! Here is the recipe:

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

1. Put the warm water in a small mixing bowl and add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 15 teaspoons of sugar and the oil and mix until smooth. Add the salt, 1 cup of flour and the yeast mixture; stir well. Add the remaining 5 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, supple and elastic; about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in it and turn to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a cylinder and roll out until the 'log' is 1/2 inch in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut each 'log' into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the pieces, flat side down, onto two lightly greased baking sheets. Gently press each roll down to flatten.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

6. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

7. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes 20-30 rolls.

My sister and I followed all the directions as stated in the directions until we had to leave the dough to rise the first time for roughly an hour. As soon as the hour passed, we had to leave since we had made plans to meet up with friends (we thought we'd finish baking by this time). So instead of finishing the baking, we left the dough in the refrigerator so we could finish it up when we were done. By the time we came back though, a couple of hours had passed and the dough seemed to have stiffened quite a bit. I should've waited for the dough to warm itself up a bit more before proceeding, but I just went into the next step and the cut the dough into four pieces, etcetera.

After cutting the rolled up dough into smaller pieces, however, the dough didn't rise as much and that's probably because it was still cold. I forgot at the time that the yeast had to be warm in order to rise. When we baked the bread, it ended up rising very little, so it just turned out as tiny as before it was baked. However, it still ended up tasting like Pan de Sal, and it was quite good with jam or butter! I'd say that these are more like bite-sized Pan de Sal than real Pan de Sal, but I'm glad my sister and I gave it a go anyways. We'll definitely try again another time! :) This is the first time we've experienced bread-making, so hopefully we'll be more successful in the future, and we'll make sure that the dough's warm and we have enough time to bake.

Recipe courtesy of: All Recipes:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dinners for the Week

Originally uploaded by chibicap

Hey everyone! Well, ever since my mom left for the Philippines last Sunday, it's been the duty of Charlene and me to cook dinner for ourselves and for our father.

On Monday, we marinated some frozen tilapia filets (that we happened to come by in the refrigerator outside) with lemon pepper and melted butter. We baked it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes in 400-degree heat, if I can recall. This dish was based off of a tilapia and mango salad entree I tried at Applebee's some time ago, so we decided to pair the fish with our own mango salad as well (pictured here). We found a mango salad recipe online but deviated from the ingredients the recipe called for since we didn't really have them. So we put:

1 mango, diced
diced tomatoes
diced yellow onion
chopped green onion
1 tblspn. jalapeno
1 tblspn. calamansi
1/2 can of corn
1 1/2 tblspn. cilantro

The corn was added since the salsa was admittedly too hot and acidic for our tastes. It sweetened the salsa a bit, balancing the flavors out... though the calamansi may have made the salsa too tangy to begin with (the recipe online required lime juice, not calamansi). Calamansi is a tropical fruit that resembles lemon, but is a tad sweeter and tangier, like an orange. Nevertheless, the salsa complimented the fish well.

On Tuesday, we tried the Hamburger and Macaroni Recipe from We also paired it with Corn Meal Muffins, which was a recipe on the back of the bag of cornmeal that we had purchased a few months ago from the grocery store. Charlene added a whole can of corn, though, to resemble the cornbread we tried at Souplantation which, too, has real kernels of corn inside.

We won't be cooking tonight, though, since my friend invited us to eat out for dinner. However, I'm looking forward to baking pan de sal and to trying out this Chicken Marinara Recipe that is also from the Simply Recipes website.

Well, until next time!

Tempura Alert!

Originally uploaded by chibicap

Ever since I got the idea of making homemade tempura from the Japanese Cooking at Home cookbook (by Hideo Dekura) given to my sister and I for our birthday, my dad's been telling us to make them since for get-togethers and socials in the house! It's almost sickening since we've made them three days in a row before. The vegetables of choice we use are:

acorn squash (though butternut squash is preferable)
string beans

We also deep fry king prawns, of course.

My dad wants us to make tempura again this Sunday for a family gathering in the house. It'll be his birthday on the 15th.

Besides your vegetables and shrimp, you also need:

Tempura Batter Ingredients:
1 cup tempura mix flour (you can yield as many servings as you need according to the directions on the tempura mix flour box you have, if you feel that 1 cup of flour and water isn't enough)
1 cup cold water (sometimes I put ice in the water to ensure that it's cold enough, but refrigerated water should work)

Potato starch is also needed prior to dipping your vegetables/shrimp into the batter.

Other Items:
vegetable oil for deep frying
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1. Chop your vegetables of choice and devein your prawns (be sure to remove the head and the shell of the prawns, first, but leave the tail).

2. Create the tempura batter mix by placing the flour into a bowl, then adding in the cold water. Stir quickly--just enough to moisten the flour, but nothing more. The batter should be thin and lumpy.

3. Place a large amount of vegetable oil into a deep frying pan (make sure there is enough space to completely coat the ingredients in oil while you're frying). Heat to 180-degrees Celsius (or until oil is bubbling).

4. Get your ingredients ready: coat the vegetables and shrimp in potato starch, then dip them into the batter. My sister and I usually coat the vegetables and shrimp ahead of time, though we dip the food into the batter right before putting it into the frying pan.

5. After all your food is coated in the starch, dip them into the batter and fry until they have a light golden colored coat. Strain them or pat them dry on a paper towel.

6. For a dipping sauce, you can use a tablespoon of soysauce and 1/2 cup "super dashi", which is a Japanese soup base made of cooked kelp dashi, cooked shiitake dashi, and dried bonito flakes. However, if you do not have this soup base, soy sauce diluted with some mirin should be an ample substitute, though it is a bit salty.

And that's just about it for the tempura. (I followed the directions based off of the Japanese Cooking at Home cookbook by Hideo Dekura, so props to him.)

This is an easy recipe, but it can be quite messy during the dipping and frying process.

Hamburger and Macaroni Recipe

Originally uploaded by chibicap

My sister Charlene and I found this recipe on We wanted to find a recipe we could make with the pound of elbow macaroni that's been sitting in our pantry for quite a while, which is why we tried this one out for last night's dinner. We made a few resourceful changes, though, like substituting the ground beef for ground turkey since that's what we had in our refrigerator. We didn't include celery seed, either, and we subbed the parsley with oregano. But a word of advice--two cups of macaroni can yield well over four servings... maybe even eight! So be careful when approximating your serving portion sizes.


1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped (or mixed chopped green onion greens and yellow onion)
Olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Vegesal or other seasoned salt
Dash crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 large can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups uncooked macaroni (use rice pasta for wheat-free version)

1. Get a large pot of hot water heating and begin cooking the macaroni as per the directions on the macaroni package.

2. In a skillet, brown the ground beef in a tablespoon of olive oil on high heat. Stir only infrequently so that the ground beef has an opportunity to brown.

3. In a large skillet, sauté chopped onion with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Add the ground beef and lower the heat to medium. Add a dash of crushed red pepper. Add Vegesal or other seasoned salt. Add celery seed. Add canned tomatoes. Add Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the drained and cooked macaroni and parsley. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Recipe Courtesy of Simply Recipes: