Monday, November 28, 2005

Discernment in Eating

One of the greatest miracles that happened to me when I entered Sacred Heart Novitiate was losing 80 pounds in one year! I entered the novitiate weighing 230 lbs. in May 2003. By the time we welcomed the next batch of novices in May 2004, I was down to 150!

Many people ask me how I did it. Honestly, I do not know exactly. I cannot pinpoint one reason to which I could attribute this tremendous weight loss. Was it sheer determination? Was it self-discipline? Was it divine grace? As I said, I don’t really know. But honestly, I have a hunch. There is one principle that I started to live by when I entered the novitiate which I think really helped me lose weight. What is this principle? Discernment in eating. Yes, as a true son of Ignatius, I sincerely believe that we need to be discerning even as we eat. Let me explain this principle briefly for the sake of those who might benefit from reading it.

This principle hinges on the basic idea that fat people do not get fat because they eat too much good food. They get fat because they eat too much bad food. The real overweights are those who just swallow whatever food is made available to them, regardless of taste, quality, or caloric content. In short, the obese do not discern when they eat. They just eat!

For those who want to follow my principle, my advice is this: before putting food into your mouth, discern first. Ask yourself: is it worth it? Will the satisfaction I derive from eating this, outweigh the consequence of additional pounds? Weigh the pros and the cons. Ask yourself: am I willing to get fat for this? If the answer is yes, then go ahead. Indulge. Feast if there is reason for feasting. But if the answer is no, then give it up. Don’t allow everyday dishes add unwanted pounds to your belly. Just eat enough so as not to make you starve. In short: do not deprive yourself of good food, but cut off on bad food. Fast on bad days. Feast on good days.

Let me share with you a personal recipe which has often made me say “yes” to the question “is it worth it?” I call this Novitiate Nachos because it was in the novitiate that I started making this, in one of those “special” days when I would allow myself to indulge. Yes, believe it or not, I was eating loads and loads of this even as I was in the process of losing 80 lbs.!

Novitiate Nachos
for a community of 30 people

15 medium-sized packs of Tostillas
1 pack of Sour Cream
2 packs of Kraft Eden Cheese
1 bottle of Mayo Magic
2 cans of button mushrooms
1 kilo of ground beef
2 bulbs of onion
10 pieces of tomatoes
20 cloves of garlic

Step 1: Prepare the toppings

  1. Saute the ground beef in onion and garlic.
  2. Chop the mushrooms and saute in garlic.
  3. Chop the tomatoes and onions.

Step 2: Prepare the sauces

  1. Osterize the remaining garlic.
  2. Whip the Mayo Magic with ¼ of the osterized garlic.
  3. Melt the Kraft Eden Cheese and mix the remaining ¾ portion of the osterized garlic.

Step 3: Fix everything up

  1. Arrange the nachos in a platter.
  2. Add the beef, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes on top.
  3. Pour the 3 types of sauces (garlic cheese, garlic mayo, sour cream)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Holy Sandwiches

Many of us get hungry at any hour. And the busiest part of our recreation room is the haustus area (the snacks corner). After the usual take on cookies, cheese whiz, peanut butter, or the usual instant noodles, we have to try something more daring and exciting, or else the curse of religious life will take its death toll: dull, drab and flavorless life. Making sandwiches not just for oneself may save some lifeless souls: a moist spread, and crusts that give the bored brother a sneak preview of what's inside. And perhaps, with a bite of these sandwiches, we might save them. After all, religious life is about resurrecting souls.

Cold Cuts and Egg Salad Sandwich

6 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

2 ½ teaspoons of mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 slices of cold cuts available (ham, bacon, pepperoni, etc), cooked and coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon of hot-pepper sauce such as Tabasco

table salt and black pepper

5 tablespoons of butter

18 thin slices of brown or white bread

¼ cup chopped chives

Place chopped eggs in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne and cold cuts; stir to combine. Add hot-pepper sauce, and season with salt and pepper.

Thinly spread butter on a slice of bread; cover one slice with egg salad, and top with chopped chives. You can throw in additional cold cuts and greens.

Grated Vegetables with Herb Cream Cheese Sandwich

A bottle of cream cheese at room temperature

¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped*

1 ½ chopped fresh oregano*

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary*

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme*

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil*

table salt and ground black pepper

1 bunch singkamas, cleaned, trimmed and grated

3 medium-sized carrots, grated and peeled

1 cucumber, peeled and grated

slices of wheat or white bread or pandesal

Substitutes: *fresh herbs are preferred, but you can use dried herbs too. In addition, sliced bread can be replaced with croissants, baguettes, bagels, etc. Soda crackers are definitely an option.

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Place grated vegetables in separate containers.

Spread a layer of herb cream cheese on three slices of bread. Cover one slice with an even layer of any of the grated vegetables (use only one vegetable in each slice) and top with another bread slice until all vegetables are in.

Use a serrated knife to trim crusts and cut in half diagonally into two triangles. Keep the layers together with a tooth pick.

Note to gourmets: To preserve freshness, it is always profitable to cover the sandwiches with a damp cloth until ready to serve. These sandwiches are best with hot tea or coffee.

Toasted Pandesal with Mango Summer Salsa

Summer isn't summer without mangoes. This simple recipe uses the fruit at its seasonal peak and when it is at its best: ripe, plump, and fragrant. One sweltering April at Alingal, I chanced upon a basket of ripe mangoes from Pampanga. And taking what's available in the refrigerator, I found this simple recipe favorable especially to Bicolanos who prefer chili even when it's hot. The mango provides the refreshing contrast to the subtle fire of red chillies and bell peppers.

Mango Summer Salsa
3-4 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
1 finely diced small red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 small red chili pepper (siling labuyo), thinly sliced
1 calamansi or lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or basil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand, covered at room temperature for an hour to allow the flavors to mix. If not to be used immediately, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 2 cups.

Serve with any of the following (see what's in the refrigerator):

cooked/baked/grilled chicken meat
slice of smoked salmon, tinapa or sardines in olive oil
slice of ham, bacon, or any cold cuts
fillet of fish, pork, beef

Combine with thin slices of avocado on toasted pandesal or soda crackers.

Layer suggestion: Place slices of avocado on top of toasted pandesal or soda crackers. Top the avocado with any of the fish or meats above. Finally placed the salsa on top, then garnish with a leaf of fresh parsley.

This goes well with a fresh fruit shake or an iced tea.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

More Uses for Tinapa

Every summer, the Juniors and Philosophers have our summer exposure. It is through the summer exposure that we have hands-on experience in the varied ministries of the society. Last summer, Schol. Michael Porcia and I were assigned to Fr. Tony Moreno, dean of Xavier University , Cagayan de Oro. We were tasked to evaluate the development interventions given to the Manobos of Don Carlos Bukidnon. In the course of our research, we had to drop by Davao to interview key people from non-government organizations. It was in the Ateneo de Davao community where we stayed.

While we were there, we were served a very, very tasty spread made out of Tinapang Bangus (smoked milkfish), olive oil and garlic. I loved it so much that I decided do my own version, using cream cheese as a base, effectively making it more a paté than a spread.


1/4 kg deboned Tinapang Bangus
230 g cream cheese, softened
2 tsp lemon juice (or calamansi juice)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
freshly ground black pepper.

Flake the bangus meat and put in a food processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and cream cheese spread and mix until evenly pureéd. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and mix again. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until set. Serve cold with vegetable sticks and/or chips.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tinapesto Rice and Almond Ham

One of the benefits of being a kitchen minister in a small Jesuit community is that you are made fully aware of the house’s leftovers. Seeing many small plates and plastic microwaveable containers inside the refrigerator never fail to pose a challenge. Unconsumed food for me means flexing my culinary creativity in order to deliciously disguise past day’s meals and create something rather new for the pleasure of my companions at home.

While mulling over what to prepare for breakfast one Saturday morning, I found some packed ham, leftover tinapa, leftover rice and a little jar of pesto. After a few more moments, I came up with Tinapesto Rice and Almond Ham. Here are the recipes:

Tinapesto Rice

3 bowls of left over rice
2 pcs left over tinapa (smoked fish)
1 clove garlic
5 tbsps cooking oil
salt to taste
pesto to taste

In a separate container, combine the rice, salt and tinapa. Mix them well so the flavor of the ingredients blend well with the rice. When that is done, sauté the minced garlic until it turns golden brown. Pour in the rice combination and scoop in about 4 tablespoons of pesto. Continue to stir until the color of your rice is even.

Almond Ham

7 slices leftover ham
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 c. water
1 tsp. pure almond extract

In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients until it caramelizes. Put in the ham and let it simmer till the color changes to that of the sauce.

These two dishes are relatively simple and would serve six people. I was excited while preparing the meal for two reasons. First was because something new came out of the old and second, more space was created in the refrigerator to accommodate more leftovers.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dagani Popcorn Nights

I currently belong to the Loyola House of Studies community. We are made up of 80 Jesuits--a community of priests, juniors and philosophers, and theologians.

Last year, I was assigned to the Dagani House Subcommunity in Barangka, Marikina. It was an extraordinary experience to be assigned in smaller community--a community composed of only four scholastics and one priest. It was different since we took turns doing the chores and sometimes did the cooking ourselves. It was more intimate and relaxed.

In Dagani there were movie nights when the whole community would just stay in the TV Room, watch a movie, and I would prepare a bucket of popcorn for everyone to share.

One movie night Fr. Manol and Weng were watching a cheesy action movie in the TV Room. Weng playfully quipped "Oh, why don't you do your job, and make us some popcorn."

"It's not my job," I retorted, "when you do it out of love, it ceases to be a job."

Although I made that comment jokingly without really thinking, later I realized that there was some truth to what I said. When you do things out of love, they don't seem as difficult.

Nacho Popcorn

1 bag microwave popcorn, butter flavor
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp ground Cayenne red pepper (optional)
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese or
cheese powder, to taste

Put all off the spices and cheese together in a bowl and mix until evenly distributed. Pour into the bag and shake.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Strawberry Grahams

Schols. Eric Escandor and Weyms Sanchez arrived from Baguio last Sunday. They went there to distribute flyers and posters for the upcoming vocation seminars in Manila and Baguio City, Sunday, 21 November 2005. Of course, one cannot come from Baguio without bringing home pasalubong of strawberries.

Unfortunately, the strawberries have had better days and so Schol. Joel Liwanag and I decided to whip up something so that they won't go to waste.

Strawberry Grahams
whipping cream
graham crackers
sugar, to taste
brandy (optional)

Remove the strawberry hulls and slice each berry in half. Put the berries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar such that each berry is coated with a generous amount of sugar. You may wish to add brandy to the mixture. Leave for at least 30 minutes.

Place a layer of graham crackers on a rectangular dish. Spread 1/2" layer of whipping cream. Arrange a layer of the sweetened berries over the cream. Add another layer of graham, cream and strawberries. Refrigerate overnight.

Variations: you may wish to add a layer of sweetened custard on top of the graham layer to make the dessert even more delectable; or substitute ripe bananas as fruit topping.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Welcome to the Jesuit Gourmet

Welcome to The Jesuit Gourmet.

The idea for this blog came from a number of short conversations I had with one of my brothers in the Society, Joseph Haw. You see, Jhaw and I both have a passion for food. There were many instances when he and I would dream up of menus and recipes for the community. We would begin each conversation with something new we just tried and guess how it was made, or make up something entirely new and then plan to include it in one of our subcommunity dinners. But we didn't talk just about food. These conversations would eventually lead to life's bittersweet realities--difficulties, surprise consolations--the ups and downs of the life of a Jesuit scholastic.

Food is naturally intertwined in our lives. We have cherished memories of food: the joyof your first ice cream cone, the familiarity of grandmother's embotido, cookies from a friend, or whipping up an omelet on a lonely Sunday morning. These memories are relived every time we sample them. We remember, we relish, and then we see how it somehow affects our lives now. I relish, and then deepen my experiences, and become thankful.

It is my hope that upon sharing various recipes and anecdotes in this blog, you too would be reminded of your own memories, and that you too may relish them, and become thankful.