My friend Maricel’s New Year “Round Things”

No squares for the New Year, unless you happen to be in New York City’s Times Square…gotta be or gotta have lots and lots of “round things” for good luck!  Well, I love a prosperous New Year and I’d always wear blouse or dress with polka dots lol!  My friend Maricel called me up from Canada and begged me (and how can I say NO to her, she’d always make me believe I make the best kakanins in Chicago…definitely not true, but I’ve been making her native sweets for years, for the record!) to make her some “round sweets” to celebrate the New Year.



SAPIN-SAPIN (Layered Rice Cake)










Happy New Year to All!  And I’m not yet sure about my New Year’s Resolutions…more of some things…less of many things.


Leche Flan (Melt-in-the-Mouth Custard)

I prefer slow-baking my leche flan rather than steaming it.   This slow-baking translates to much smoother, much softer and truly melt-in-the-mouth goodness.

Caramel Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Leche Flan:
6 pieces egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tall can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramelize sugar in a small saucepan until amber in color.  Slowly add water and continue cooking, stirring constantly until mixture turns syrupy.  Pour over 2 foil-round pans with plastic lid.  Tilt the pans to spread evenly the syrup.  Set aside.

Combine all leche flan ingredients, blending well with a spatula (don’t use hand-held whisk or electric mixer).  Divide mixture into 2 prepared pans.   Bake baine marie style in a 300 F oven until top is set but custard is still jiggly when pan is moved.  May take about 1 1/2 hours.  Cool (better refrigerate) and invert into a serving tray (release sides with knife).

Again this was supposed to be added to Halo-halo mix (various fruits in shaved ice) but the guests just enjoyed eating this custard as is.

Ube Haleya (Violet Yam)

You will need a pack of frozen grated ube, available in frozen section of Oriental or Asian stores.   Butter a foil-round pan with plastic lid.

1 pack (1 lb) frozen grated ube, thawed (if somewhat moist, strain first in sieve)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tall can evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter

In a wok or saucepan, combine grated ube, condensed milk, evaporated milk and sugar.  Cook over medium fire until very thick, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.   Add butter, mixing well.

Spoon into buttered pan.  Cool.

This is recipe I used for the ube haleya I brought to 4th July celebration at the Rebellos that the guests enjoyed spoons after spoons of these better-than-storebought ube haleya.  A bit of arm exercises was involved in the cooking, but paid off great in the end.   This was supposed to be spooned on top of Halo-halo (various fruits in shaved ice), but one spoon was just not enough.

White tikoy and Chinese fried rice to celebrate Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year starts TODAY, February 3, 2011.  So I wish everyone “Gung Hey Fat Choy!”  But the just concluded Midwest Blizzard makes mobility an issue, so no chance to go out and eat some yummy Chinese food.  So I just made the traditional Tikoy and Chinese Fried Rice, plenty enough for us to welcome the year of the Rabbit.  Rabbit must be loving the diced carrots in my fried rice.

Sweet New Year’s Cake (White Tikoy)
Made only of 3 ingredients, this steamed cake is believed to symbolize good luck, good fortune and better family bonding  for the whole year.   And this is a breeze to make…but it makes me wonder  why people pay a fortune to buy these from Chinese stores.

1 1/4 cups hot water
1 cup white sugar
3 cups glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour or Mochiko)


Make a rice paste.  Start with stirring sugar in the hot water until sugar is completely dissolved; let cool.  Place the rice flour in a medium mixing bowl, then slowly pour the sugar mixture, mixing continuously with a wire whisk.   Beat until rice paste is smooth.

Line a round baking pan (or store-bought aluminum foil pan) with trimmed plastic wrap.  Pour the rice paste into the prepared pan.   Steam in a bamboo or aluminum steamer, over boiling water for 1 hour.  Test for doneness with a toothpick.

I usually wait another day to let the tikoy or rice cake to harden for easy slicing; I store cooled cake in the refrigerator overnight.  Thin slices of this cake are then dipped in beaten egg and fried in hot oil until nicely browned.  The frying gives it more personality.  Others will take this to the next level.  Place these slices in eggroll wrapper (lumpia) with cheese or red bean paste), roll them and then fried.

Shall we say, the more tikoy you eat, the more lucky you will be…oh no, Jillian and Bob must not like these Chinese New Years.   Oh well, just hope everyone gets into the treadmill at the end of the day.

Chinese Fried Rice

2 eggs, slightly beaten
enough oil to fry eggs
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover ham slices or sliced chinese sausage
3 cups packed leftover or day old cooked white rice
4 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce

Start frying the beaten eggs in hot oil in a wok or skillet, until nicely scrambled.  Cut into small pieces.  Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add sesame oil in wok.  Stir in minced garlic, chopped onions, diced carrots, peas, ham or sausage slices, and saute until heated through.  Lower heat and add the rice and soy sauce.  Blend well and stir fry to combine all.  Add back scrambled eggs and mix well.  Serve hot.

Enjoy your Chinese New Year!

P.S.  In case you are curious like me…these are some of the famous Hollywood musicians and stars born in the Year of the  Rabbit:

Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore,  Andy Williams,  Neil Sedaka,  Tina Turner,  Melissa Manchester,   Charo, Luther Vandross, Sting, Vanessa L. Williams,  Whitney Houston, Brad Pitt,  Nicolas Cage, Drew Barrymore, Michael Bublé, and Hilary Duff.

And add to this list….Sarah Palin.

Super-easy Guinataang Bilo-bilo

Many names for this “merienda” treat or afternoon snack — guinataan (meaning cooked in coconut milk), guinataang halo-halo (a mixture of fruits and coconut milk), or guinataang Bilo-bilo (rice balls cooked in coconut milk).

2 cans coconut milk. Large sweet potato. 2 pieces ripe plantains. A bag of glutinous rice flour. Can of jackfruit. A bit chilly afternoon.


These are all the ingredients needed to make Guinataan, and I made it even easier to fix. So enjoy the chewy cooked rice balls with the sweetened fruits…it’s a treat! 

Super-easy Guinataang Bilo-bilo (Mixed Fruits and Rice Balls Cooked in Sweetened Coconut Milk)

Bilo-bilo (rice balls):

1 cup glutinous rice flour

1/2 cup water

In a medium bowl, slowly combine water to glutinous rice flour to a soft and a bit sticky mixture. Roll into small balls (you may wet your hands to prevent sticking). Transfer each ball to a plate and set aside.


1 can coconut milk (Chaokoh is the best brand)

2 cups water

1 piece large sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 pieces ripe plantains, peeled and diced

1 can coconut cream (see picture)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup canned ripe jackfruit (nangka), sliced into strips

ube/violet food color (optional)

1 teaspoon pandan (screwpine) extract

Start with boiling 2 cups water and 1 can coconut milk in a large saucepan. Drop the rice balls and stir occasionally. Boil again, then lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes (I prefer rice balls to be cooked well). Put in diced sweet potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes or until almost tender. Add the diced plantains and continue simmering for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut cream, sugar, jackfruit strips and ube food color. Continue to simmer until fruits are tender and coconut mixture is heated through. Stir in pandan extract. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6.

Tip: Do not cover the saucepan once guinataan is cooked to prevent it from spoiling.



And I’m loving my new Aroma Electric Rice Cooker.  It was really time to say goodbye to my old rice cooker, and say hello to “One-Touch Cooking Aroma Rice Cooker, it steams and cooks, for real.  It is a magic pot, you can actually cook foods in this rice cooker: soups, paella, bread pudding, chicken fettuccine, and even a dark chocolate truffle cake.  This rice cooker is specially calibrated to cook all varieties of rice, including tough-to-cook black sweet rice.  There is a convenient steam tray that inserts directly over the rice, allowing to cook meats and vegetables with the rice— same time, same pot.  Please visit website for more info: Now available at Costco and Walmart.

For real. Even my bibingkang malagkit is cooked to perfection with my Aroma Rice Cooker. This recipe is posted in the Aroma website, click click here


The sweet rice cooks perfectly using the Cool-Touch Digital Aroma Rice Cooker, really! 

Rice Cake:

3 cups sweet rice, washed and drained (look for Sasum Deer Brand in Oriental stores)

3 cups water

1/2 can coconut cream

2 cups white sugar

Yummy Topping:

1 1/2 cans coconut cream

1 cup light brown sugar


1. Place washed and drained sweet rice (malagkit) and water in Aroma Rice cooker and cook until done (Picture 1).

2. While rice is cooking, combine the yummy topping ingredients in a large saucepan and cook until it turns caramel-colored and reaches a thick syrupy stage, stirring occasionally(Picture 2). Set aside.

3. Fluff cooked rice with paddle and stir in coconut cream and sugar, mixing well.

Spread the rice mixture (don’t press down but just smooth the top) into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan (Picture 3).

4. Pour the thickened yummy topping on top of the rice cake and spread it out evenly (Picture 4).

4. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 40 to 50 minutes (Picture 5).

Here’s Aroma’s press release for this amazing rice cooker, it really does create MAGIC!

New Rice Cooker Makes Mealtime Easier, Healthier

As America’s favorite rice cooker, Aroma knows what consumers expect: worry-free, restaurant-quality rice without the stirring, monitoring and burning that come from cooking rice on the stove. Aroma’s newest digital rice cooker, launching this month nationally in Walmart stores, features advanced digital controls that exceed consumer expectations with just the press of a button.

Specialized functions for white rice and brown rice cook any variety of rice or whole grains to perfection. Restaurant-quality rice is as easy as 1, 2, 3: Add rice, add water, and press a button! The rice cooker automatically switches to keep-warm once the rice has cooked to perfection.

The addition of the steam tray allows for chicken and broccoli to be steamed while rice cooks below for a delicious, one-pot meal. Busy cooks have more time for family and friends while the rice cooker prepares the evening’s meal.

Aroma’s website,, features a host of great rice cooker meal ideas as well.

The Aroma digital rice cooker also features all the functionality of a digital food steamer with a programmable steam function. Set the time for foods to steam from 5 to 30 minutes. The rice cooker will begin the countdown once water reaches a boil and automatically switch off once the set time has passed.

Perfect for families on the go, the Aroma digital rice cooker features a programmable 15-hour delay timer. Rice and water may be added in the morning and will be hot and ready once the hungry clan is gathered around the table at night.

Additional features of the Aroma digital rice cooker include an easy-to-use power button and a clearly visible cooking indicator light. The beautiful brushed stainless steel finish and brilliant blue LED lights are an excellent aesthetic addition to any countertop.

The Aroma Digital Rice Cooker can now be found nationally in Walmart stores for $39.88. 

The Time is Right for Rice Cookers

 Today’s families are more pressed for time than ever before. Juggling jobs, school, sports and activities even veteran parents can be run ragged. And with all this running around, who can possibly find time to cook a healthy home-made meal for their family?

Aroma Housewares has the solution: an electric rice cooker!

According to Aroma , America ’s top-selling brand, rice cookers prepare delicious, healthy meals that don’t require much effort or prep time. Unlike traditional stove top rice, there’s no stirring, no monitoring and no chance of burning the rice. The Aroma rice cooker handles all the cooking, giving families back invaluable free time.

Thanks to Aroma, millions of families throughout the county now have more time each night to play together, work on homework or simply kickback and unwind after a long day.

An Aroma rice cooker’s value doesn’t end at just rice. With an included steam tray, Aroma rice cookers are able to steam meats and vegetables while simultaneously cooking rice. With an Aroma rice cooker a family of four can enjoy an entire meal of chicken, rice and veggies with just minutes of prep time and for under $10!

Aroma rice cookers also cook grains, soups, stews, chilis, oatmeal and even cake. Aroma Housewares website,, boasts an extensive rice cooker recipe database ranging from rice and steamed dishes to omelets, corn bread, burritos and more.

America has begun to take notice. This once niche appliance has seen explosive growth over the past few years. As nearly any new Aroma rice cooker owner will gladly exclaim, once you’ve had an Aroma rice cooker, you can’t imagine life without one.