Posted by: East and West | 2019/12/25

Christmas – The Festival of Surprise


This portrait of Horacio de la Costa, S.J. was painted by Araceli Limcaco Dans, a noted artist whom I met when she was a teacher at the Ateneo Grade School. Oil on canvas, 1961.

The late historian, Horacio de la Costa, S.J., delivered this five-minute homily at midnight Mass in 1950 at the Ateneo Law School.

Christmas is when we celebrate the unexpected; it is the festival of surprise.

This is the night when shepherds wake to the song of angels; when the earth has a star for a satellite; when wise men go on a fool’s errand, bringing gifts to a Prince they have not seen, in a country they do not know.

This is the night when one small donkey, bears on its back, the weight of the world’s desire, and an ox plays host to the Lord of heaven. This is the night when we are told to seek our king, not in a palace, but in a stable.

Although we have stood here, year after year, as our fathers before us, the wonder has not faded; nor will it ever fade; the wonder of that moment when we push open that little door, and enter, and entering find, a mother who is virgin, and a baby who is God.

Chesterton has said it for us all: the only way to view Christmas properly is to stand on one’s head. Was there ever a home more topsy-turvy than Christmas, the cave where Christ was born? For here, suddenly, in the very heart of earth, is heaven; down is up, and up is down; the angels look down on the God who made them, and God looks up to the things he made.

There is no room in an Inn for Him who made room and to spare, for the Milky Way, and where God is homeless, all men are at home.

We were promised a savior, but we never dreamed God Himself would come and save us. We know that He loved us, but we never dared to think that he loved us so much as to become one of us.

But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect, but always something better than we hoped for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too true to be false. That is why our faith is a faith of the unexpected, a religion of surprise.

Now, more than ever, living in times so troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves, and we need to give it to others.

We must remind the world that if Christmas comes in the depths of winter, it is that there may be an Easter in the spring.

Posted by: East and West | 2014/01/01

Happy New Year 2014!

Happy New Year 2014!

Set yourself free.

Posted by: East and West | 2012/04/25

25 April 2012: Meat Myths

America’s Test Kitchen:
Beware the Meat Myths

Bridget Lancaster busts a few myths about how we handle and cook meats. Do you still wash your chicken? Do you cook pork till it’s dry and gray? Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t do these things to your food.

Read more:

Posted by: East and West | 2011/12/28

In the Kitchen: Maja Blanca

When my parents launched a supermarket concession in Manila to sell kakanin (Filipino specialties), my mother learned how to make maja blanca, a coconut milk pudding. Until that business was established I had never taken kakanin seriously and wasn’t the least bit interested in how they were made. I was, after all, in high school and blissfully unaware. However, those treats and delights made their way into our daily lives and onto our holiday tables, and I eventually took over managing the concession. Now that I’m older and living far from Manila, little bites of kakanin, like maja blanca, bring me back home for a quick virtual visit. 

1 14.5-oz can coconut milk
1¼ C water
½ C sugar or sugar substitute
½ C cornstarch

Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan or similar serving container with vegetable oil.

Dissolve the cornstarch in ½ C water. Set aside.

Combine 1¼ C coconut milk, ¾ C water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Stir and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir the pudding stir constantly until thick. Bring the mixture back to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it quickly into the serving container. Push the mixture into the corners and smooth it over with a spatula. Allow it to cool and set.

Place the remaining coconut milk into a saucepan. Reduce the liquid over medium heat, stirring constantly, scraping the fond off the bottom of the pan and breaking up the gelled milk into small bits. Remove from heat when the coconut oil has rendered and the milk bits are brown. Drizzle the oil and milk bits over the cooled pudding.

Variations: You may opt to add ½ to 1 C of any of the following canned or pre-prepared products to the coconut milk mixture before the cornstarch mixture: whole kernel corn (drained), crushed pineapple, fruit cocktail (drained), lychees, chopped jackfruit, chopped cashews, or roasted dessicated coconut. The pudding, with its mild coconut flavor, is a relatively neutral flavor canvas for your imagination.

This recipe is my entry in the monthly sharing forum of the Kulinarya Cooking Club, comprised of Filipino food enthusiasts and cooks worldwide. The photo is borrowed from because I failed to take a good photo when I cooked this dish for Christmas Day dinner.

Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture & its colourful cuisine. Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

Posted by: East and West | 2011/12/11

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

I’ve always eaten cabbage. But Brussels sprouts? They weren’t available in the Philippines when I was growing up and one of my first experiences with them after I moved to California was just too…how do I say this…nasally aggressive. Still, after years of hearing about how I should try them, I finally opened my mind and my kitchen to the odiferous mini-cabbage. Our Thanksgiving guests expressed great appreciation and I learned to enjoy a new dish and ingredient. 


2 lb small Brussels sprouts
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
¼ C red wine vinegar
2 t honey
4 strips bacon (optional)

Preheat oven or covered grill to 400°F.

Clean and slice Brussels sprout in half. Toss with olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Spread on a cookie or jelly roll sheet, sliced sides down. Roast in the oven or grill for 20 minutes or until sprouts are caramelized. Remove from the oven or grill and let cool completely.

While sprouts are cooling, fry the bacon until crisp then crumble to bits.

In a small bowl, dissolve the honey in the vinegar. Transfer sprouts to a large bowl. Toss with the honey-vinegar mixture and bacon bits and serve.

Posted by: East and West | 2011/11/20

Arroz Caldo Seco

Cooler weather makes me wish for comfort food. As the chill of fall and winter move into my corner of the world, one of the foods that I think of is arroz caldo. Traditional Filipino arroz caldo is a soupy porridge. These days I make mine a bit less soupy and a bit easier to serve. This recipe is good for two generous servings, and is a simple and quick hot meat at the end of the work day.

1 T vegetable oil
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
½ medium onion, sliced thinly
1 C jasmine rice
¼ t ground ginger or grated fresh ginger
¼ t ground black pepper
¼ t salt or 1 t fish sauce
2 C chicken stock
½ C water
Drizzle of sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced
6 T chopped chicharon
Dash of red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepot over medium-high heat, use the vegetable oil to brown the garlic. Add the onion slices and stir until they are translucent. Add the uncooked rice and toast for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, pepper, and salt or fish sauce and combine all the ingredients well. Add the chicken stock, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the rice is tender, add the water, raise the temperature to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Serve immediately and garnish with the sesame oil, scallion, chopped chicharon, and red pepper flakes.

Posted by: East and West | 2011/08/23

Argentine-style Beef Short Ribs

Here’s the other half of the chimichurri party, inspired by the entree at Rustic at the Coppola winery in Geyserville. Short ribs are one of those cuts that cooks and families have discovered in the past decade, and their prices have steadily risen during the past five or so years. These days I buy them on sale because I enjoy chewing on the tendons that surround the bones. Short ribs are not consistently the most tender cut you can buy, so we slow-roast them after searing them on the grill. Complement with a Malbec, Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.

4 lbs. meaty beef short ribs
2 T salt
1 T black pepper
½ t cayenne pepper
Juice of 4 limes

Combine the salt and peppers, then rub on the beef ribs. Marinate in the lime juice, refrigerated and covered, for 3 to 8 hours.

Heat grill to 550-600°F. Place ribs on the grill directly from the refrigerator and sear, about 2 minutes on each side. Place ribs bone side down in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Slow-cook ribs in the oven at 250°F for 1½ hours.

Plan on consuming ¾ lb. per person, maybe more. Serve with Chimichurri Sauce.


Posted by: East and West | 2011/08/19

Chimichurri Sauce

I’d heard and read about chimichurri sauce, and not tasted it until I ordered the Argentine-style short ribs at Rustic, the Coppola winery restaurant in Geyserville, last year. Then I was hooked and had to learn how to make it. My wife and I tasted our way through my effort to combine several online recipes. I found that the ingredient that catalyzed the flavor and made all the difference was the olive oil. I’ve used the estate-grown olive oil from Rodrigue Molyneaux winery in Livermore with delicious results. A good complement to grilled steaks, Deep-fried Beef Ribs, other meats, and, of course, Argentine-style Beef Short Ribs.

2 C parsley leaves
5 cloves garlic
½ t red pepper flakes
2 t dried oregano
1½ t kosher salt
¼ t black pepper
3 T red onion, minced
¼ C warm water
½ C extra virgin olive oil

In the warm water, soak the oregano and dissolve the salt. Set aside for about 5 minutes.

In a food processor or chopper, combine the parsley, garlic, pepper, red pepper flakes, and onion. Pulse chop until the all the ingredients are well-combined and the parley leaves are minced. Add the oregano and salt mixture, and pulse again until everything is well-combined. Add the olive oil and pulse again to mix everything thoroughly.

Pour the sauce into a serving bowl or bottle. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

Posted by: East and West | 2011/08/04

In the Kitchen: Crispy Shrimp Wontons

Several months ago, the Vietnamese lady who does my wife’s nails told us about the crispy shrimp wraps she makes for parties. The shrimp marinade was simple enough and the lumpias turned out quite tasty. When my brother tasted them, he said they reminded him of a dish we used to order at Chinese restaurants in the Philippines – camaron rebosado con jamon, or shrimp fritters with ham.

Emulating my mother’s ingenuity and flexibility in the kitchen, I set out to combine the two foods. I aimed for a treat that would be easy to prepare and a proper homage to the two dishes that sparked the process.I’m looking forward to trying variations on this dish, possibly using peppered bacon, a different kind of onion or crab instead of shrimp.

½ lb fresh shrimp, 51-60 size, deveined and peeled, sliced in half lengthwise
½ large yellow onion, quartered then sliced into ½ inch wide strips
4 slices thick bacon, each sliced into 12-13 pieces
1 package square wonton wrappers (48-60 pieces)
1 egg, well beaten
2-3 C vegetable oil

Arrange ½ shrimp, 1 onion strip and 1 piece of bacon on a wonton wrapper. Moisten the wrapper edges with the egg. Fold the wrapper into a triangle, pressing the edges gently to seal them well. Set aside on a tray, separating layers with waxed paper.

Preheat the oil to 350°F. Pierce both sides of the wontons with a fork. Gently slide the wontons into the hot oil, flipping them once or twice with chopsticks or BBQ sticks. Cook until the wrappers are golden brown. Drain on a rack or paper towels.

Serve with Sweet and Sour Sauce.

Posted by: East and West | 2011/08/01

In the Kitchen: Sweet and Sour Sauce

This is a versatile sauce and basic to any Filipino or Chinese kitchen. I learned how to make a basic sweet and sour sauce from my mother and adapted it as needed. You can serve this sauce with crispy wontons (like Crispy Shrimp Wontons) or lumpia rolls, dress it up with sliced onions, ginger and bell peppers for fried fish, or dilute it as a dip for chicharrones. You can make it spicier, milder, thicker, or thinner, change the top flavor note by using a different vinegar, or serve it to diabetics like me by substituting artificial sweetener for sugar.

1 C palm vinegar
1 T tomato ketchup
½ C sugar or sucralose sugar substitute
½ t red pepper flakes
¼ t salt
½ t black peppercorns
¼ C water
1 dried bay leaf
1 T cornstarch

Place the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, and water in a small non-reactive sauce pan. DO NOT STIR. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil before you stir the ingredients to mix them thoroughly. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.

Taste the sauce and adjust the flavors, if needed, to your taste. If you are embellishing the sauce in any way this is the time to do it. Remember to bring the sauce to a full boil for about 1 minute after you adjust the seasonings.

Dissolve the cornstarch in about ¼ C water. Raise the temperature to medium-high, pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce, and bring the pot to a boil. Stir the sauce and allow to boil until it becomes translucent. Pour into a bowl or gravy boat and serve.

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