Sunday, August 24, 2008

At home: steak and kamote leaves

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For Saturday lunch at my parents' house, Jenny requested steak, kamote leaves, and Dad's fried rice. Dad cooked the steaks in an iron skillet.

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Juicy! And now the kamote leaves...

At my house, kamote leaves means fresh and simple summer meals. The kamote is simply the Tagalog word for sweet potato; we harvest the young leaves instead of the root. Topped with patis (fish sauce) and tomatoes. Another Filipino favorite.

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Bright, beautiful, and delicious! The juicy, refreshing tomatoes are a perfect complement to the salty flavor of the patis and the leafy green texture of the kamote leaves. I helped myself to (several) generous servings throughout the meal.

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My plate:

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Mmm...leaves!

At home: kare-kare

I went to my parents' house on Friday night and stayed until Saturday afternoon. I ate a lot. And took a lot of pictures. Because going home means FOOD: There's always some leftovers on the counter, or a pot simmering on the stove, or fruit being sliced and served, or someone talking about food, or watching a food show on TV, or cooking or baking or chopping or filling the kitchen with the smells of garlic and something else...something that shouts Filipino and HOME.

So several posts to come will be labeled "At home," and I'll share all the glorious (and sometimes weird) foods that can be experienced at my parents' house in just one day.

The "sometimes weird" starts now: kare-kare. It's my favorite Filipino dish, and quite possibly my favorite dish ever. The main ingredients include ox tail, long beans, and eggplant in a peanut butter sauce. YUM.

Don't be scared. Ox tail and peanut butter is kind of bizarre, and you might not think the pictures are too appealing. But I grew up with this dish and I LOVE it. Never bothered to learn how to make it because it's really special to me, and cooking it for myself just wouldn't be the same -- it wouldn't be a treat. I'll learn it someday, but for now, I still ask Mom to cook it for me whenever I come home. I requested it for Friday dinner and scarfed down two plates of the stuff as soon as I got there.

Kare kare

Kare-kare is best described as a type of stew served over rice, just like most other Filipino dishes. My parents usually eat bagoong on the side, which is a shrimp paste with a salty taste I never even tried to acquire because I always thought it looked pretty weird to begin with (and it's pretty damn salty). Instead, I just mix up all the goodies and shake the salt over my plate.

When we were younger, Jenny and I just referred to the dish as "peanut butter stuff." I won't show pictures of us knawing the ox tail bones clean, because that's just gross. But when you're at my house, getting every bit of meat off a bone is expected. We don't kid around: Food means serious business.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Filipino comfort food: Nilaga

Nilaga is one of my Top 5 Favorite Filipino dishes. It's up there with vegetable lumpia, palabok, fried butterfish with kamote leaves and tomatoes, and kare kare. I've been craving nilaga for a few weeks but can't find my Filipino recipe journal, so I called my mom for a quick how-to on the way home from work.

Here's what she told me:

Buy the beef shank with the bone in. Saute onions and beef until the meat starts juicing. Add water (If you're cooking fresh rice, use rice water from the third rinse-through. Add more or less water depending on how much soup you want.) and simmer. When the meat is tender, add patis (fish sauce), then potatoes (I also added carrots for color -- Murdo's idea!) Just before the potatoes are done, add the cabbage. The nilaga is ready when the cabbage is nice and soft, but still has a firm bite.

Here's what I cooked:

Nilaga close up

Not as good as Mom's, of course...but pretty close. The carrots really do add a bright touch. I like mixing all the nilaga goodies with just a small bit of rice and lots of broth. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt...

nilaga mixed up

...and assemble the perfect bite:
nilaga mixed up

Oh. My. Gosh. Just what I needed. One bite and I'm a little kid again, in Mom and Dad's cozy kitchen, burning my tongue as I shovel heaping spoonfuls of piping hot potato and cabbage into my mouth.

Yes, spoonfuls. The last time Murdo ate at my parents' house, he was amazed at the way my dad and uncle used both a spoon and a fork to eat their meals. They cut their meat and veggies with the spoon and used the fork to guide the food onto the spoon. Up until my early college years or so, I thought everyone ate with a both a spoon and fork for every meal. But I guess that's just a Filipino thing.

This dish requires both spoon and fork. So that's how Murdo ate it. I was so proud of him!

nilaga with spoon and fork

He really enjoyed the dish. It even made his Top Filipino dishes, although he's having trouble picking his Top 5. I can't blame him -- it's a pretty tough decision. Filipinos make great food.

Thanks, Mom.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sandwich and the City.

Murdo makes Delicious Sandwiches. And I love eating them for lunch.

Sandwich in Millenium Park

Today's Delicious Sandwich made by Murdo included ham, turkey, muenster cheese, tomato, lettuce, Gulden's spicy brown mustard, red onion, and a hard boiled egg. The egg was per my request; Murdo thought it was gross but agreed to add it if I made it. He understands my obsession with eggs -- I even add them to Ramen noodles for instant egg snot noodle soup.

Grape tomatoes

Juicy grape tomatoes from the Farmer's Market!

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I had some Jay's Salt 'n Sour chips for a crunchy kick.

Let me explain why Murdo's sandwiches are so delicious: He layers each ingredient just so for a perfect mouthful in every bite. He criss crosses the lettuce for maximum crisp. He very thinly slices the red onion so it's not too strong. The mustard is always evenly spread. The bread is never soggy. And the last bite is just as clean, refreshing, and tasty as the first.

Sandwich and the city!

I ate my sandwich at Millenium Park under a tree. Lunches with Delicious Sandwiches are the best by far. Thanks, Murdo! Love you. <3

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie and field greens

This is a dish Jenny and I made for Mother's Day. She made the delicious, flaky butter crust and I made the filling. It was the first time I cooked with turnips. I like them! Other ingredients: leeks, parsley, peas, and carrots. Served with crisp field greens.

chicken pot pie

Vegging out with the ladies.

For Jenna's golden birthday (24 on 7/24), we went to Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park. All vegetarian dishes -- just the way our veggie gal likes it. We started the night off with sake cocktails...


Les, Jenna, and Shannon shared a colorful salad...


...with Vietnames pho. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of my food. I got a delicious Bi Bim Bop (Veggies and rice topped with a fried egg? I'm in.) and tofu Bulgogi. It was so good, I've been craving more Korean BBQ ever since. And I mean REAL Korean BBQ. With meat. And pickled sides.


Happy birthday, Jenna!

Renaissance Faire 2008. Huzzah!

Located in Bristol, WI. This year I experienced my first Renaissance Faire with Murdo, Jenny, Terry, and Jerry. We saw wench cleavage, chain mail bikinis, and elephants. But the best part was the eats. Food highlights:


Garlic butter mushrooms. Even mushroom-haters love 'em. Just ask Murdo...




The slow-roasted giant turkey leg was easily a pound and a half of bird.


It was kind of dry, so I pumped some bbq sauce on it. Still couldn't finish it. But what's a Ren Faire without a giant turkey leg?

Honorable mentions: onion rings, butterfly potatoes, $1 sassafras.

Next year's Ren Faire to-eat list includes whatever fried food was in those newspaper cones, and the vegetable tempura. And maybe the curly fries. Because I love curly fries. Can't wait!

I'll end my first post with a photo of two sexy wenches:

Friday, August 1, 2008

about me.



Hi! I'm Jacqui, writer and photographer at Happy Jack Eats. I started this blog as a space to share the many pictures of food that I found myself taking, as well as a chance to do what I've always loved to do: write. After a year and a half of eating, cooking, writing, and taking photos, I started discovering things I never set out to learn, appreciating things I never noticed before, and connecting with people I've never met.

Now, I stop to take pictures of simple moments. I have a new love for photography, both film and digital, and the cameras that capture such moments. I am learning how to bake. I roast every vegetable I can get my hands on. And I share it all with you.

In the real world, I'm a 20-something copywriter living in the suburbs of Chicago with my fiance husband, Murdo, and a brown cat named Tim. My camera collection is slowly growing -- until September of 2009, all my photos were taken with my trusty point-and-shoot, a Canon PowerShot SD1000. Then I got my hands on a Minolta SRT 201 film camera, and Christmas of 2009 I got a Canon Rebel XSi. I also have a Holga, a Yashica Lynx 1000, a Pentax K1000, and a Canon AE-1 Program. We're all good friends.

Welcome to Happy Jack Eats. I hope you like it here.