The Scrumptiously Healthy Supper

Goolai's Grilled Chicken Salad

While my family adores meat dishes in various forms and my mother is a self-avowed carnivore, we enjoy vegetable dishes if they’re properly done and – more importantly – tasty.

Salads, in particular, are a family favorite.  From properly stodgy potato or pasta salads that can take the place of rice as the starch of choice for a meal to a variety of slaws and pickle mixes to go with the day’s entree, to mixed-veg affairs that can stand in for a full meal, these are always welcome on our dining table.

Goolai Salads – pre-tossed and topped affairs available in many supermarkets these days – often appear as Saturday night sides at our house and sometimes serve as supper ASAP whenever I come home tired and unable to look heavier dinners in the face.  These are substantial clear plastic tubs filled with mixed greens and smaller tubs with a matching dressing.  My personal favorites in this line are the kani with mangoes, walnuts, and a mango vinaigrette and the salad shown above.

This salad has grilled chicken, dried cranberries, pecans, silky/juicy peach cubes, and a raspberry vinaigrette.  The berried sweetness goes well with the savory chicken and the contrast of chewy cranberries against the succulent peaches is very appealing.  Even if this were the only thing on the dinner table, I would be very happy and satisfied.

Shrimp, Shrimp, and MORE Shrimp

Dynamite Shrimp

If there is any one seafood most people can’t seem to get tired of despite prohibitive prices and allergies, it has to be shrimp.  There is just something irresistible about these crisp-tender, succulent, sweet crustaceans that keeps diners riveted to their plates and makes them hungry for more.

Bubba Gump, named after the shrimping company formed by Forrest Gump and his friend Bubba in the now-iconic movie, is one of those places where you can happily stuff yourself with shrimp in numerous forms.  It’s a comfortable place where you can bring your family along for a major seafood feast or your friends for an evening of serious fun.

The evening a friend and I ate there, we decided to have the appetizers as we felt that a full entree would have been beyond either of us.  But such appetizers – !  A single appetizer can serve as a proper entree for an extremely hungry girl.

We started the meal with the Dynamite Shrimp.  These are plump little fellows tossed in batter, deep-fried, and drizzled with a rather peppery Szechuan-style sauce and served in a steamer basket.  This dish is dangerously addictive and, despite the heat packed by the shrimp, you’ll find yourself popping shrimp after shrimp into your mouth.

Run Across America Sampler

If you’re eating with a group of seriously undecided friends who are clueless as to what they want to eat, I suggest that you order the Run Across America Sampler.  What it is: a variety of honest-to-goodness Southern-style nibbles.  Each generously laden platter comes with a rich spinach-and-artichoke dip made with red capsicums and Monterey Jack cheese, nacho chips, cold steamed shrimp, breadcrumbed and deep-fried shrimp, spicy chicken strips, and – my personal favorite – Hush Pups.  Hush Pups are a cross between a Maryland crab cake and a classic cornmeal hush puppy: golden nuggets chock-full of corn, fish, and shrimp.  Instead of dipping these crisp little things into the remoulade that comes with the platter, dip them into the cheesy dip instead.  The flavor, I assure you, is rich and so good.

Southern Blue Lemonade

Oh, and to wash it all down, I suggest that you skip the bottomless lemonade and go for either the Speckled Pink Lemonade made with pureed strawberries or the Southern Blue Lemonade, a tart, tangy refresher made eye-poppingly so with the addition of sweet blueberry puree.

Now, about those entrees…

A Taste of Ireland…by Way of Mexico

Bailey's Chocolates by Turin of Mexico

You would think that I would have tired of chocolate by now, seeing how I prepare batches of fresh, creamy dark ganache and nut-studded clusters every month.  Happily for me, I doubt if I’ll ever tire of chocolate; indeed, I’m always on the lookout for new chocolate treats to share with others or to enjoy on my lonesome.

That said, you can just imagine how thrilled I was when a jar of Bailey’s Chocolate Bonbons from Turin Chocolates of Mexico arrived at the house.  Part of Turin’s rellenos con licor line, these are molded milk chocolates with a semi-solid center of Irish Cream-infused creaminess.  Yes, they’re alcoholic, so I suggest you think twice before giving these to youngsters because – moreish as they are – these have a bit of a kick.

Flavor-wise, these are rather average: just good creamy chocolate, but not great chocolate.  Now, according to the label, these are made with single-origin Mexican chocolate.  Mexico single-origin is, in my personal opinion, one of those chocolates best left dark as a confection as much of its smoky, cinnamony character is diluted when mixed with milk.  As for the liquor component, there’s hardly any Bailey’s in the filling to give anything but a bare whisper of Irish Cream-iness.  It’s not really disappointing, but when you try to pass something off as an Irish Cream-infused confection to a dedicated Irish Cream-aholic, it’s rather irksome.

Still, the taste of these treats has actually made me keep an eye out for the rest of Turin’s rellenos con licor.  Rumor has it that the ones infused with Jose Cuervo Tequila, Grand Marnier, and Jack Daniels are definitely taste sensations.  😉

Dos Enchiladas, Por Favor

Platillo de las Enchiladas

Unlike Japanese or Chinese food, Mexican cuisine is seriously underrepresented in this part of the world.  For most Filipinos, exposure to Mexican food has consisted of cheese-drenched nachos from a food-court cart, ketchup-sodden tacos at school cafeterias, and Tex-Mex viands at Taco Bell.

I used to get proper Mexican food from a little place called Taqueria Chilanga at the old Greenbelt Food Choices.  They used to serve up a serious platillo filled with tangy cilantro salsa, a good-sized tortilla, arroz con tomates, frijoles refritos, and a generous helping of one’s choice of meat: pollo con carbon, carnitas, or carne asada.  Alas, like many of my favorites in that area, it closed down when the mall was remodeled.

So, where does a hungry girl go in search of Mexican grub?  Well, seeing how Mexicali is no longer an option in my neck of the woods, a trip to Tia Maria’s was definitely in the cards.

While most people will opt for the usual round of nachos, tacos, and margaritas, I usually skip these and go for the more substantial numbers: burritos, soft tacos, anything off the grill, and – most definitely – enchiladas.

The word enchilada actually means ” filled / covered with chili” in Mexican Spanish and actually refers to the state of a person who has had one too many of the incendiary peppers with a meal.  In a culinary sense, it refers to tortillas rolled around a meat filling and smothered in a fiery sauce and sprinkled heavily with cheese.

Tia Maria’s enchiladas are true to form in that respect: slivers of grilled steak are tucked into two flour tortillas, drenched with chili sauce, and finished with melted cheese and a drizzle of cream.  These are served with a mound of rice cooked with tomatoes and spices and a smaller mound of shredded lettuce dressed with guacamole.  (Man, how I love that tangy, spicy avocado puree!)

These enchiladas aren’t the best I’ve eaten: the chili sauce is a bit on the sweet side and the meat can be tough at times.  But when you haven’t got much choice, even a plate like this can be quite satisfying.

The Caffeine is in the Cookies

Coffee-flavored snickerdoodles

When you’ve been working with chocolate or savory food for quite a bit, it can certainly get tedious sometimes and you want to have a bit of a break from the normal grind.  While it would be most sacrilegious of me to admit to this, it does happen to me and I have to find something to work on that has an equally robust flavor but would provide a perfect break.

And so, in those rare moments when even chocolate doesn’t seem to help, I turn to coffee as an alternative ingredient.

The cookies shown here are capuccino snickerdoodles, a twist on the classic New England cookie where lumps of buttery dough are rolled in cinnamon sugar prior to baking.  Here, instant coffee adds a caffeinated oomph and a delectably cakey texture to the cookies.  Rolling these babies in cinnamon sugar gives you an end result that will make coffee shops in Italy sit up and take serious notice.

Oh, and these are perfect with an ice-cold latte or mocha for lazy summer afternoons.  😉  Fab for keeping heat-induced sluggishness at bay.

Capuccino Snickerdoodles

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams + additional 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coffee flavoring

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4. In a shallow dish, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.

Cream together the butter and 100 grams sugar till light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg, instant coffee, and coffee flavoring and mix till well-combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and the remaining cinnamon; mix till the mixture is about the texture of mashed potatoes.

Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for fifteen minutes.

Makes 30 tea cakes.