Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Make your Christmas spread merry and bright with these The Maya Kitchen-tested recipes

Woah! In about 2 weeks, it's Christmas! This year went by so fast. We're not going to let the disruptions of this year change our Christmas so thanks to Maya Kitchen (which was actually the one who reminded me that it's almost Noche Buena time!!!), I am now planning my holiday menu. Check out these recipes for a Marseille Seafood Soup, an extra special Lechon Belly, and delightful baby bibingkas!

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PRESS RELEASE - Things may have been so different the past few months, but there’s one thing that won’t change: The Christmas season remains to be the most hopeful time of the year when you gather ‘round the table with your loved ones enjoying a spread of eats and treats that have been made from the heart. 

While the holiday celebrations may be scaled back for everyone’s health and safety, the Christmas celebrations at home can still be merrier and brighter by carefully preparing a delicious menu that the entire family will love. Here are three showstopping recipes from The Maya Kitchen that can make your Christmas spread extra delightful this season.

Marseille Seafood Soup

Marseille Seafood Soup is a light and flavorful French soup that’s versatile enough that can include your family’s preferred seafood—it can be shrimp, squid, or clams, your call! The Maya Kitchen’s take comes out with a cheery ochre color from saffron powder. 


4 pieces tomatoes
3 mugs fish broth
1 mug fish fillet, sliced into chunks
1 mug seafood (you can use shrimps, clams, squid, or whatever you prefer)
1 teaspoon Pernod alcohol (you can use a teacup of diced fennel as a substitute, but unfortunately no local alcohols have the same taste)
1 piece small onion, sliced
1/3 teaspoon saffron powder

1. Choose a combination of your favorite kinds of seafood and fish. Just make sure to remove the bones, skin, and shells.
2. Peel tomatoes. Slice them into four wedges.
3. In a large pot heat your broth and bring to a boil. Set a handful of seafood aside. Add tomatoes, fish chunks, and the rest of your ingredients to your broth.
4. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30minutes without covering your pot to allow your liquid to reduce.
5. After 30minutes, remove from heat, and pour the soup into a blender (you might have to do this a few times depending on the amount of soup). Blend well on full power until the soup is smooth.
6. Pour soup back into the pot through a fine strainer. Use a wooden spoon to help press the soup through the strainer, allowing all the liquid through.
7. Set the fleshy residue that is left in the strainer aside. Add the rest of your seafood into the soup, along with the Pernod, and pepper to taste. Stir and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

To increase the number of servings, simply multiply the measurements of the ingredients by the number of guests.

Lechon Belly with Bacon Saffron Rice Stuffing

As Noche Buena may be a bit pared down this year, ordering a whole lechon seems too much for a single household. Your family can opt to prepare Lechon Belly with Bacon Saffron Rice Stuffing, which combines the juicy tenderness of pork belly and the irresistible crispiness of lechon, plus some earthy and sweet saffron rice stuffing surprise. 

2.5-3 kilos boneless whole pork belly slab
2-3 tablespoons rock salt, enough for rubbing
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon freshly pan-roasted black peppercorns, crushed

Rice Stuffing:
¼ cup olive oil
200 grams picnic bacon, cut into small cubes
2 pieces medium-sized onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
5 cups cooked rice (sticky or Japanese rice)
2-3 small sachets saffron powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons curly parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
annatto oil (heat up ¼ cup annatto seeds in 1/3 cup olive oil)

1. In a large tray, lay flat the pork belly skin side down then prick or cut all the meat portion using the tip of a sharp knife then season or rub the meat on both sides with rock salt, garlic, ground pepper, and freshly pan-roasted crushed whole black peppercorns. 
2. Place and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours without cover. Remove seasoned belly from the refrigerator and sew up both ends of the belly using an over-sized needle with the use of butcher’s twine or any kitchen twine until it looks like a body of a “lechon”. 
3. Place again inside the refrigerator until ready for stuffing. 

To make rice stuffing:
1. Heat oil in a pan and pan-fry bacon until golden brown.
2. Add in onions and garlic and pan and sauté until aromatic.
3. Toss in cooked rice and give a few stirs until the rice is fully covered with the sautéed ingredients.
4. Season with saffron powder, salt, parsley, and zest of lemon.
5. Continue mixing the rice until the lemon is aromatic.
6. Turn off the heat and cool the rice. Set aside for later use.

To assemble:
1. Get the sewn pork belly and stuff with the prepared bacon saffron rice stuffing.
2. Enclose both ends of the stuffed pork belly with foil and cover the entire top of the pork belly with foil. 
3. Arrange in a roasting pan and roast in a preheated oven 350°F/177°C for about an hour then turn up the heat to 375°F/190°C removing the foil on both ends, every 30 minutes’ brush belly with prepared annatto oil. 
4. After an hour turn up the heat again to 400°F/204°C and continue roasting until the skin of the pork belly gives a crackling sound when knocked. 
5. Remove belly lechon from the oven and rest for 10 to 15 minutes before chopping.

Yield: 10-15 servings

Assorted Mini Bibingka

To round out your Christmas feast, why not prepare a medley of Mini Bibingka? This time, do something beyond traditional and get adventurous in the kitchen. Make your bibingka with ube, buko pandan, coffee, or chocolate flavors. You can even take some of your bibingka up a notch by topping it with leche flan for a sweet, creamy finish or slices of salted egg for a savory kick.

4 eggs
1 pack MAYA Original Fluffy n’ Tasty Hotcake Mix 200 grams
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rice flour
¼ cup fresh milk
¼ cup coconut cream
¼ cup coconut milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Different flavorings and toppings as desired ube flavoring, buko pandan flavoring, instant coffee powder, leche flan, chocolate ganache, etc.
salted egg, sliced
cheese, sliced or grated
banana leaves for lining of pans (optional)
grated coconut (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F/177⁰C. Line mamon molder or 6-holes 8oz muffin pans with banana leaves. Set aside.
2. In a bowl beat eggs, then add hotcake mix, rice flour, sugar, milk, coconut milk, coconut cream, and melted butter. Mix well. Fold in desired flavors.
3. Fill up to ¾ of the mamon molder or muffin pans with the bibingka mixture. Bake bibingka for 10 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
4. In the middle of baking, around 5 to 6 minutes of baking, gently take the half-baked bibingka and top it up with sliced salted egg and sliced or grated cheese. Then put it back in the oven to completely bake the bibingka.
5. Serve with butter on top and grated coconut on side.

Yield: 8-10 pieces

With a delicious Noche Buena spread and the warm company of your loved ones, a scaled-down Christmas celebration can be as memorable as before—and maybe just a bit more meaningful.

Like and follow The Maya Kitchen on Facebook @MayaKitchen and Instagram @TheMayaKitchen1. Learn great recipes at www.themayakitchen.com

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com. First photo by septiandy lim on Unsplash. Food photos courtesy of Buensalido PR.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Christmas 2020 ad of McDonald's made me cry (plus, stories of my kids and Santa Claus)

The holidays are here! And you know what that means - TV commercials! I love Christmas ads. That's one thing you have to know about me. It's two things I love - ads and Christmas! Well, this one by McDonald's UK is my favorite this year so far:

Ugly cry when "Forever young, I want to be forever young..." came on. I want to grow old and I want to see my boys grow up. But I wish we could stay this happy forever. The way they believe everything we say. The way they look up to us. The way they enjoy each other and laugh all day. I hope this lasts forever, this innocence and joy and trust in the goodness of life. Forever young. 

My boys just wrote their letters to Santa. Even 10-year-old Vito. I told him, "You think Santa will still give you a toy? Most kids your age stop believing in him because Santa's gifts kinda suck." In our house, Santa's gifts need to be handmade so it looks like Santa's elves made them. So between a wooden toy and a video game or even a book, you know what wins. But Vito said, "I still believe in Santa! And his toys don't suck. I've been a good boy all year." Yes, he has. So he gets a toy from the North Pole then.

Check out what Vito said about Santa when he was 6:

The second boy, my Iñigo, was the one who reminded me that we need to send the letters to Santa, which surprised me because just last month, this happened:

So I really thought he wasn't going to write to Santa. But he did. And I thought to myself, "Yey, he's still a baby!"

Meanwhile, the baby of the family was all grown up when he wrote this:

Kinda made me cry. On one hand, he still believes in Santa. On the other hand, he's mature enough to realize he's got all that he needs and he doesn't want anything more. Either that or he thinks Santa will get him coal for being naughty this year haha

Kids! They make my heart glad. 

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope we all enjoy your kids while they're small and even when they're big. May we all always be forever young at heart!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

#ShareTheSparkle and celebrate with Welch’s Sparkling Juices

It's December! Time to draw up those lists: gift lists for family friends, wish lists for yourself, to-do lists for all the holiday preps, and of course the grocery list for Noche Buena! Make sure you include Welch's Sparkling Juices in your list, okay? My family and I absolutely LOVE Welch's Sparkling Juices (Red Grape is my favorite). Read on to find out more about our must-have drink!

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PRESS RELEASE - The holiday season of 2020 is so different from past years. Christmas parties and gatherings would be turned into online celebrations and gifts are now bought from online stores. So much has changed but one thing remains the same -- the love for family. 

There is still so much to celebrate and be thankful for, even at home. If you want the entire family to join the fun, Welch’s has a line of Sparkling Juices that are fizzy but guilt-free. Welch’s Sparkling Juices -- Sparkling Red Grape, Sparkling White Grape, and its newest addition this year, the Sparkling Rosè -- are bubbly and 100% alcohol-free, making it perfect for both kids and adults, even expecting mommies, too! 

“Even though we couldn’t still go out and have parties or join large gatherings, Welch’s is inviting everyone to have their own celebrations at home,” says Erika Rodriguez, VP for Marketing of GEMCo, the Philippine marketing agent of Welch’s International. 

The Welch’s Sparkling Red Grape and Sparkling White Grape are both heart-healthy and delicious. Pressed from the freshest Concord and Niagara grapes across America by farmer-families, this 150-year tradition of “Real Grape Goodness” has made Welch’s one of the most loved beverages in the world, especially by Filipino families. 

On the other hand, Welch’s Sparkling Rosè has a light, refreshing taste, and the sweetness of a ripe summer fruit. Pretty in its pink bottle, it looks great in any online party you may host at home. 

All three Welch’s Sparkling Juices are easy to mix with other beverages, so you could concoct a variety of unique bubbly mocktails to impress your family. Add a splash of your favorite juices and discover the goodness in each sip. 

Each bottle makes for an excellent and convenient Christmas gift, so you can have it delivered to the homes of your friends, relatives, and co-workers. Lift up your family’s spirits with a sparkling drink that’s all about celebrating life and special moments.

A Product of the USA, Welch’s products are available in retail stores. To learn more about Welch’s Sparkling Juices and recipes, visit www.welchs.com or follow Welch's PH in FB and IG. You may also have Welch’s Sparkling Juices and other Welch’s juices delivered at your doorstep by visiting https://acefoodservice.com. Or place your order in the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.