Category Archives: Noche Buena

california cheeses

10 ways to prepare noche buena dishes with California Cheese

california cheese platter

Will you be using cheese for your Christmas dinner? I will be preparing Chicken Cannelloni and fondue for our dinner and lunch menu. If you want ideas for a noche buena with cheese as an ingredient, here are some of my recipes. Click on each link.

1. Filipino style spaghetti
2. Cheezy beef patatas
3. A Raclette dinner
4. Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce
5. Chicken Cannelloni
6. Malunngay and cheese dip
7. Macaroni and Cheese overload
8. Cheese Fondue
9. Blinis Shrimp Torte Canapés and Cheesecake crunch bites
10. Chicken Cordon Bleu

When you shop in any leading supermarkets, you will discover that there are different Califorina Cheeses to give you more flavor to your Pinoy holiday dishes this year. California Cheese, served on a platter and paired with your favorite wine is great for  conversation.  My family and I often use a variety of cheeses in our noche buena table not just Queso de bola.  Incorporate California Cheese in your favorite Christmas dish and it can warm your family’s heart with its comforting creaminess.

california cheeses from california milk advisory board


While shopping today, I discovered South Supermarket Pasig displayed California Cheeses.

california cheese at south supermarket

Just what is the secret of California Cheese? The answer: California milk produced by happy cows. “The climate of California and the specialized care given by farmers to their cows allow their milk to attain its premium quality,” said Ms. Reji Retugal-Onal, USPB Country Representative.


California is the largest farming state and leading milk producer in the US, leading the nation in the production of fluid milk, butter, ice cream and non-fat dry milk. Of all the state’s milk and milk product categories, California Cheese is the largest and fastest growing category. California has been producing cheese for as long as it has been making wine – more than 200 years and is the 2nd largest cheese and yogurt maker in the US.

How do you know find the California Cheese that is right for your needs? Here is a guide.

california cheese mozzarella

  • Fresh: these lovely cheeses have not been aged or ripened, retaining much of the mild flavor of fresh milk. Cottage cheese, Mascarpone, Mozzarella (water-packed) and Ricotta are some of the more familiar examples. I use mozzarella cheese to top lasagana and Cannelloni.

califorina cheese cheddar

  • Semi-Hard: the broadest range of varieties and style, these cheeses include many of what we commonly refer to as “table cheeses.” They can be anywhere from soft and creamy, having been aged only a few weeks, to moderately firm, aged a month or more. Their flavors also vary, giving you a wide array to choose from. Examples include Cheddar, Feta and Gouda.

california cheddar cheese

  • Soft & Soft-Ripened: delicate and delicious, these cheeses are typically mild when young and develop a fuller flavor with age, often becoming softer and creamier in the process. Brie is an example of this type. Most of its varieties are mild and rich, although Oaxaca and Schloss can have strong flavors.


  • Very Hard: Beauty often comes with age and aged cheeses are no exception. These are the cheeses that are hard enough to grate or crumble. While the Dry Jack and the Enchilado Anejo can be mild, the Asiago, Cotija and Romano can have sharp or strong flavors.


  • Hispanic Style: a broad family of cheeses that reflect the cheesemaking styles and traditions brought to California from Mexico, Central and South America and Spain. You can find varieties that are mild and mellow, as well as ones that are strong and pungent.

califorina monterrey jack

  • Spiced & Flavored: packed with flavor, these are natural cheeses to which a cheesemaker has added natural spices, herbs, and/or vegetable for flavor. You can find flavored versions of Brie, Cheddar, Feta, Gouda, Havarti, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Panela and Provolone.

california cheeses

No matter which variety you choose, you can be assured that it is Real California Cheese made with California Milk if it carries the Real California Milk seal. It is a certification mark that assures consumers they are purchasing natural cheese, made in California exclusively with California milk.

I love that there is an ample supply at the grocery since cheese will always be a primary ingredient not only on Christmas dinners but in most special occasion dishes.

Check out , follow them on twitter at @RealCalifMilk and instagram at

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Buko Fruit Salad

buco fruit salad

New Year’s Eve media noche must have a fruit salad on the dinner table. The most popular fruit salad is the Buko salad. The popularity of fruits during New Year’s Eve celebration is part of the tradition to bring in good luck, fortune and prosperity. Even before the New Year arrives, my children already wants to eat it.

5 large cans of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail (Imported)
Grated Coconut meat from 10 buko (young coconut)
2 cans lychees
1 small bottle nata de coco (green)
1 small bottle nata de coco (red)
1 small bottle kaong (green)
1/4 kilo seedless grapes
3 small china apples , cubed
2 can condensed milk
2 packs Nestle Cream
1 can Peaches for topping
Optional : walnuts, water chestnuts for extra texture
Few red or green kaong for topping

1. Drain the fruits from the can for at least 2 hours. This is to prevent a soggy fruit salad.

2. When all the juices have been drained, mix all the fruits together in a bowl.

mix fruit salad

3. Add the condensed milk and cream till well blended.

4. Transfer to serving bowls and top with peaches and cherries. I also add green kaong for additional decor.

fruit salad

5. Freeze or Refrigerate properly. (Buko spoils if not refrigerated or frozen. I prefer to freeze the rest of the buko salad if it isn’t eaten within the day.)

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Pochero cooked December 25, 2014

Beef Pochero aka Cocido

noche buena

I have been preparing Pochero every Christmas day for the past 10 years. On Christmas eve, I serve Majestic Ham for Noche Buena. I rub the ham with brown sugar and cloves and bake it in the oven. After it has been baked, I decorate it with pineapple and cherries. What do we do with leftover ham from Christmas dinner? The solution….Pochero or cocido. I prefer to call it Pochero as it is a very common dish in my hometown Cebu.

majestic ham

Pochero (Spanish spelling , Puchero) with its bounty of meats, sausages and vegetables is known as the “real national dish of Spain. Brought to the shores through the Spanish conquistadores, it is a favorite dish at Filipino festive occasions. With extra ham from the noche buena, the pochero is one way of recycling left-over meats. This recipe is richly flavored by the ham bones and scrap ham simmered with the beef. The flavor of the ham bones, and the Chorizo de Bilbao seeps in to the beef cubes making it so tasty.

Pochero cooked December 25, 2014
Pochero cooked December 25, 2014

Of course, you can modify this recipe to your desired taste.


1 kilo cubed beef brisket
1/2 kilo leftover ham bones
1/4 kilo scrap ham
8 to 10 cups water or enough to cover meat
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
4 Saba bananas, peeled, sliced in half
3 pieces chorizo de bilbao sliced diagonally into 2 inch pieces (Preferably the one in the Purefoods can)
1 cup chick peas
1 head of cabbage quartered
1 Baguio pechay leaves separated


1. Put beef, ham bones, and scrap ham in large casserole.
2. Pour enough water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then simmer until beef is almost tender, about 40 minutes
4. Add potatoes and bananas. Simmer until bananas and potatoes are almost tender, about 20 minutes
5. Stir in chorizo de bilbao and chick peas and continue simmering for another 10 minutes. ( I prefer the chorizo bilbao in Purefood cans because there is no red coloring that seeps out during the cooking)
6. Add cabbage and pechay and let simmer until vegetables are cooked but still firm

pochero for Christmas day

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Binignit, the Cebuano version of the Ginataan

In my Cebu hometown, Binignit is “traditionally eaten as a snack on Good Friday: Binignit originated from Cebu province. Binignit is a warm root crop and fruit stew consisting of a thick mixture of tubers such as taro, purple yam, sweet potato, as well as bananas, jackfruit, sago, tapioca pearls and sugar, cooked in coconut milk and thickened with milled glutinous rice.” How I miss the Binignit.

When I moved to Manila during college, I never got to taste Binignit. Too bad I never took the time to learn how to prepare Binignit. I never knew how to make the Tagalog version, the ginataan until I became a mother. Even when I took up Principles in Food Preparation in UP Diliman under the late Matilde P. Guzman and learned the technique of Extracting Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk, I still didn’t take time to cook a batch of this yummy filipino merienda fare.

Anyway, by the time I became a mother, I decided to cook it for my kids. Here is my recipe for Ginataan but it is not the original Binignit…One day I will prepare the Cebuano Binignit that includes Landang.


1 coconut, grated
1/4 kilo ube or gabi, diced ( I don’t really like a lot of tubers in my ginataan so I just add a little of each)
1/4 kilo kamote, diced
5 saba bananas, sliced crosswise
8 sections of nangka or jackfruit in strip
3 tablespoons sago (kids love more sago in their ginataan)
1 cup sugar or add more depending your sweet tooth

Optional ingredients include tapioca balls which I didn’t add because of my preference to saba, langka, sago and kamote in my ginataan.


1. Prepare the coconut coconut cream and milk following instructions from Extracting Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk. (For those overseas, you can buy a can of coconut milk and coconut cream at your local grocery similar to the photo below)

Set aside 1 cup of thick coconut milk (first press) and 2 cups of coconut milk.

2. Boil coconut milk. Add sago, gabi or ube.

3. Cook until half-done.

4. Add the bananas, camote and nangka.

5. Blend in sugar.

6. Pour thick coconut cream (first press) before removing.

7. Cook until done.

I like my ginataan to have thick yet runny consistency.

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hot tsokolate from tablea

Sikawate, anyone? Hot tsokolate From Tablea

hot tsokolate from tablea
I am sipping hot tsokolate for merienda. My mom often called it SIKWATE!, the Visayan dialect for hot chocolate drink. I bought a lot of these tablea last year so I am just drinking the leftovers. Our Noche Buena is never complete without the hot tsokolate made from the native Tablea (cacao chocolate). I often visited my great grandmother in Cebu and her past time involved making tablea. The fragrant aroma is something that can never replace all those Starbucks frapucciono or chocolate drinks from fancy coffee shops. However, tablea is best prepared using a batirol and a tsokolatera so the consistency is smooth. A batirol is a wooden whisk used to mix tablea (a block of pure cocoa) and water into a thick, grainy, hot chocolate drink. The tablea and water are mixed in a cast-iron pitcher called a tsokolatera. Like a kawali or wok, a tsokolatera (Chocolatera or Chocolate Pot) performs better as it ages.

I am using the tablea that I bought from Richard Benson K. Co @TalesfromtheTum of twitter. His tablea is pure , made from 100% premium cacao beans from Davao . Davao farmers harvest world-class cacao beans so you know you get the best tablea from Richard. In 2009, Chokolate de San Isidro began exporting cacao beans to neighboring countries in Asia and Germany and Belgium in Europe. There are other Tablea suppliers that sell their tablea with sugar and milk powder but I only buy pure tablea.  The tablea I bought from Richard did not come with any instructions . These are my proportions.

For one cup of hot tsokolate:

Nope, this is not toblerone , just tablea shaped into toblerone.

1. Dissolve these four pieces in 1/2 cup warm water until the mixture is no longer grainy.

2. Pour the mixture into the tsokolatera or saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil .

3. Once the chocolate mixture starts to boil, swirl the batirol with the palms of your hand. If it gets too hot, just twirl the batirol. Lower the flame as it starts to foam. The smell is so good.

Using the batirol to mix the chocolate will ensure smooth consistency of your drink

4. Continue mixing for 15-20 minutes depending if you like the consistency to be medium thick or thick. It took 15 minutes to get my desired thick consistency.

Remember tablea is not instant chocolate so don’t expect consistency to occur in just 10 minutes

5. Once ready, pour into cups. You need to add milk because the hot tsokolate feels grainy to the throat.

Mix condensed milk as desired. You can also use evaporated milk with sugar. Serve with suman sa ibus or Suman Flavored with Ginger. Dipping my suman into the chocolate drink is absolutely perfect and nothing beats the aroma of hot tsokolate.



As a variation. mix half of the hot chocolate drink with 1/2 cup of brewed coffee. My daughter loves this combination. Another daughter crushed peppermint candy into the hot tsokolate.  You can garnish with cinnamon sticks,  melted caramel, mini white marshmallows, grated orange zest, whipped cream or other toppings.

Where to Buy Batirol and Chocolatera (Chocolate Pot)

Farm in Deli

Check their facebook page.


Where to Buy Tablea

Contact Richard Co via twitter @TalesfromtheTum or his blog Tales from the Tummy.

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Crepe Covered Embutido

Crepe Covered Embutido

I like how this Crepe Covered Embutido recipe is both traditional and modern. This Christmas, some Pinoy families will either cook the traditional Embutido or Chicken Relleno. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try this well-loved Embutido recipe with modern twist. I never knew you could make crepes out of a hotcake mix.

Crepe Covered Embutido

Crepe Batter:
4 pieces eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups fresh milk
1 package MAYA Original “Fluffy and Tasty” Hotcake Mix 200 grams

½ kilo ground pork
1/3 cup pickle relish
6 slices ham, finely chopped
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup tomato sauce
3 pieces eggs
½ cup grated cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup finely chopped carrots
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare Crepes:

1. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, melted butter and fresh milk until well combined then add in the hotcake mix.

2. Keep stirring until no lumps and batter becomes smooth. Use a 6-inch non-stick frying pan and ladle ¼ cup crepe mixture.

3. Tilt the pan from side to side to get an even layer of crepe. Repeat the same procedure until all crepe batter is used. Set aside.

Embutido Mix

4. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for embutido, mix until well-blended.

5. Divide the mixture into 2 then wrap in aluminum foil or plastic.

6. Roll tightly and seal the ends.

7. Place in a steamer and cook until done. Cool.

8. Unwrap in foil then wrap with a layer of crepes. Chill and serve.

Yield: 3 pieces medium-sized embutido

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Embutido Recipe (Filipino Style Meatloaf)


I prepare Embutido (otherwise known as Filipino style meatloaf) in large quantities. It’s the perfect Holiday dish to prepare for unexpected guests. One can easily freeze the embutido, slice it , heat it in the oven and serve. The embutido that I know is wrapped in sinsal (an internal pork entrail) which is ideal for steaming. Mom only prepared embutido on Christmas season. There are so many ingredients which need lots of preparation time but like I told you, once prepared, and cooked it’s perfect to store.

Here is my Embutido recipe.


2 pieces red pepper, minced finely
3 kilos ground lean pork
2 pieces carrot, grated finely
1 cup Chorizo de Bilbao, chopped finely (this is the one that gives the flavor)
6 eggs, beaten
200 grams raisins
300 grams pickle relish
3 onions, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 1/2 Tablespoons fine salt
7 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoon worcestershire saice
3/4 cup cornstarch


3 eggs hardboiled
5 pieces hotdog
4 pieces Vienna sausage


1. Combine all the ingredients except the garnishings.

2. Blend thoroughly together. Before rolling , take a small meat portion and fry to make sure the flavors suit your taste.

3. Measure a 1 cup pork mixture. Spread pork mixture into 8″ x 10″ aluminum foil.

4. Make a rectangular well in the center.

4. Arrange slices of hard cooked eggs, Vienna sausage and hotdog. Roll until the ends of the pork mixture covers the eggs and sausages. Continue rolling the pork mixture back and forth until it covers the slices of eggs and sausages in the center.

6. The rolled mixture in the aluminum foil should reach around 1″ to 2″ in diameter.

7. Seal both ends. Repeat with the remaining pork mixture.

8. Steam bake in moderate oven over 350 F for 1 hour or steam for 30 minutes.

Makes 18 rolls

Isn’t this one of the perfect dish for Noche Buena?

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Patatas Riojana

Hearty Patatas Riojana for media noche

Patatas Riojana

What do you usually prepare for noche buena? I know some households cook the usual arroz caldo or sopas. Chef Fernando “Fern” Aracama shares Patatas Riojana which he learned when he recently visited Spain. ” It is a relatively simple soup that has chunks of potatoes, fresh Spanish chorizo sausages, onion, garlic and Spanish paprika. This is guaranteed to be a brothy and filling dish that will warm you during the chilly night of Christmas Eve.

The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity. Everything is cooked in one pot, and can be done in under 30 minutes. However the cutting and preparation takes around thirty minutes. Remember, the potato should be slightly mushy. You will certainly love each chunk of potato with its sweet, smoky aroma from the Spanish chorizo.

Patatas Riojana ingredients

3 tbsps. Olive oil
1/3 cup chopped white onions
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 pcs chorizo , sliced 1-inch pieces (buy from Alba, steam first , chill then slice, )
1 tbsp paprika (smoked paprika or pimentón which you can buy in gourmet stores)
2 pcs. Bay leaf
¼ cup white wine (dry)
600 grams potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks)
1.5 liters flavorful chicken stock, bring to a summer separately
1 tsp ground white paper
to taste – sea salt

Patatas Riojana cooking

1. In a pot, warm the olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and the chorizos. Render some of the fat from the chorizos.

2. Add the paprika and bay leaf. Cook for a few moments and then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook until the potatoes are done

3. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lightly mash the potatoes with a ladle. This will add texture to the soup.

4. Serve hot.

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Bam-i, a noodle dish from Cebu

bam-i pancit

Bam-i is a noodle dish that we ate as kids growing up in Cebu. It is a Visayan dish as I’ve never seen it serve here in Manila. I love the two kinds of noodles: vermicelli and the egg noodles. When my kids were growing up, they don’t really like the combination of the noodles. Thankfully, they now appreciate my favorite Cebuano dish. I think the taste is so divine and different from the usual pancit guisado. If you want to imagine the taste of Bam-i , it is a blend of Pancit Canton and Sotanghon Guisado with a unique taste.

Timing is important so as not to overcook the egg noodles. Usually the vermicelli or sotanghon is cooked first before the egg noodles are added. I’ve innovated this recipe to include Filipino sausage (or Chorizo Bilbao) which you can buy in the groceries. It gives a more smoky flavor to Bam-i.

Here is my recipe:

1/4 kilo vermicelli or sotanghon
1/4 kilo to 1 kilo pancit canton
1/4 kilo shrimp, diced
1/4 kilo pork , diced
1 chicken breast, –
4 small pieces filipino sausage, diced- Swiss brand usually carries this.
1 onion, diced
1/2 garlic head, macerated
soy sauce
8 pieces tenga ng daga (black ear fungus)


1. Soak sotanghon in water. Cut with scissors.

2. Soak tenga ng daga. Cut into smaller pieces.

3. Choose very fresh shrimps. Strip skins and heads. Set aside shrimps. Pound skins and heads using a little hot water, Put these in a small cheesecloth (katsa) and squeeze to extract juice. Set aside.

4. Separate the fatty portions of pork from the lean parts. Cut lean parts into julienne strips. Meanwhile cut fatty pork into cubes, place in a little water, and let boil. Once water evaporates, let pork cook in its own fat until pork cubes look toasted. The fat is ready for the bam-i. Set aside .(You can do this just when you’re about to cook)

5. Boil Chicken breast in enough water that has been seasoned with salt. Shred chicken into thin elongated strips. Set aside broth.

Now let’s cook

1. Use a kawali. Put in your rendered fat (earlier) and pork cubes.

2. Add garlic; saute. Then, onions until transparent (Do not burn), the lean meat strips of pork which is allowed to cook and soften.

3. Add chicken breast pieces, shrimps, and filipino sausage. Let simmer.

4. Season with salt and then add tenga ng daga.

5. Add shrimp juice to taste. Let simmer.

6. Add sotanghon, drained, Cook for 2 minutes. Then add pancit canton, which should be broken in manageable lengths (not too short, though!).


7. Add chicken broth and water. You can also add some shrimp juice. The mixture should not be too dry nor too wet. Don’t let sotanghon stick to pan.

8. Season with lots of pepper!


9. Serve with crushed toasted garlic, onion leaves, eggs and parsely.

service tray


pancit bami

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