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Change up your daily fare by taking cues from the delightful creations of novice and regulars in the kitchen.

As the lockdown continues, you might be starting to miss the weekend brunches, dinners in your favorite restaurants, happy hours after work, and backyard cookouts with friends. While you remain stuck at the safety of your homes, a lot of you have been whipping up the same meals from your pantry staples. At this point, you might be running out of ideas on what to cook. You might be thinking, there can only be so much to make from the ingredients you have. To get inspiration, we’ve rounded up some of the daily menus from both first-timers and regulars in the kitchen. Some even began a mini-show on their Instagram stories to make cooking an even more delightful experience.

Let’s get cooking.

RIGHT: Chicken Galantine, one of the products of Taste by Grace Home. (Photos from Grace’s Instagram)

Grace Barbers-Baja

The creative mind behind the well-known lifestyle blog The Spoiled Mummy ventured into a lifestyle brand altogether called Grace Home Manila. This includes Taste By Grace Home where Grace whips up her own delightful culinary creations in tastefully-designed bottles. So, it is not a surprise for her to cook wonderful meals for her family especially during this lockdown.

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

Breakfast: Bread, cheese, jam, honey, coffee or tea, cereals, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Lunch: A mix of light and simple dishes like pasta, sandwiches, grilled fish or seafood, and salad.

Dinner: This is when we eat a lot of meat. It could be grilled, baked, or roasted beef, lamb, chicken or pork.
As for our soup, we try to use our fresh vegetables on hand. We also choose white rice and sometimes red. Once in a while, we also cook Quinoa and Couscous.

How did you come up with the menu?

The most important thing to consider right now is what we have in stock. Once I know what ingredients we have on hand, we base our menu from there. I try to include protein in every meal and veggies tucked in there somewhere.

What are the ingredients you must never run out of?

Garlic, onions, tomatoes, pasta, rice, chicken, fish, Canola cooking oil, and Extra Virgin olive oil.

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RIGHT: a sample of the Arugula salad. (Photos from Nicole’s Instagram and A Couple Cooks)

Nicole Whisenhunt

She may be known for her exquisite jewelry designs in her eponymous brand. However, Nicole admits to enjoying busying herself in the kitchen during her free time, which she hasn’t had the luxury to do before the quarantine. “Cooking has always been something I find to be therapeutic especially when you’ve got background music playing,” she exclaims. Working on her hobby during the lockdown enabled her to learn new dishes. She shares, “ I look forward to sharing the new recipes with friends and family once the quarantine passes. My goal is [making] one new ‘something’ per day.” Soon, she reveals wanting to explore the world of baking.

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

I don’t have a specific menu set in stone. Although I do plan the night before what I’ll be making. On some days, I also do leftovers at one meal and a new recipe for another. I love recreating leftovers because I hate wasting. But here’s what I plan to do tomorrow for the start of the weekend:

Breakfast: Coffee and a glass of water, vitamins.
Lunch: Shrimp and Chicken Phad Thai, fish curry, and white rice. Iced lemongrass tea with honey to complement, together with fruits and hot salabat for my meal-ender.

Snacks: Maybe a martini!  If I’m not too full from lunch, I can make a simple salsa and chips.
Dinner: A slice of Raclette with cocktail onions and gherkins and a slice of Pria’s Kitchen’s Ciabatta baguette that are pan-seared in olive oil to make it crispy on the outside and soft inside.

Add a simple Arugula salad tossed with sliced pears, fresh tarragon, shaved parmesan or whatever cheese I have available, and dressed in balsamic vinaigrette. Complement this with a glass of white wine.

Dessert: I am trying to make a creme brûlée if I have all the ingredients. If not, then a piece of Royce chocolate and as always, a cup of my hot salabat (ginger tea).

How did you come up with the menu?

First off, I need the ingredients. Second, I believe it’s important to match your dishes well. Make dishes that complement each other. You don’t need a buffet for each meal. Make two or three dishes [at the maximum] that work well together in a sitting. If one dish is quite heavy, then maybe the complementing dish could be lighter.

From there on I figure out, what am I in the mood for? What do I want to challenge myself to make? I believe cooking should come from the heart; make what you feel or simply whatever you are craving. Oftentimes, the best meals are comfort food.

What are the ingredients you must never run out of?

Some of the ingredients are fresh vegetables like cilantro, tomatoes, arugula, and cauliflower. For the frozen food she stocks up on, these include chicken in thigh or breast parts, fish, and prawns.

RIGHT: a variety of plant-based dishes in Mesa ni Misis. (Photos from Juana’s Instagram)

Juana Yupangco

Most would have the impression that healthy cooking costs much. While it is true to a certain extent, Juana believes it is possible to create delicious and nutritious dishes using local and endemic vegetables. Through her advocacy, she launched Mesa ni Misis, debunking myths on cooking and healthy eating. The organization promotes the consumption of 100% locally-grown produce, letting people realize the value of vegetarian alternatives. Of course, Juana lives out her advocacy and a glimpse into her family’s daily menu proves it.

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

Breakfast: A bowl of coconut cereal with almond milk and a few raisins if I’m not working out. If  I am, then [I choose] a bowl of oatmeal with banana, raisins, and cinnamon.
Lunch: For the salad course, Pechay Salad with Mango Dressing. For the main, Monggo Kare Kare with Malunggay and Kalabasa with rice. For dessert, gluten-free chocolate chewies from Wildflour.

Snacks: Turmeric lemon tea paired with slices of papaya.
Dinner: Pasta Primavera by my son Jaime complemented with choice fruit.

How did you come up with the menu?

Lunch is always the heaviest meal so it can sustain us throughout the whole day. Since there is decreased activity, I try not to eat so much at night. My husband and my kids have full meals at night. I have been trying to ration the food so that we don’t need to go to the grocery so often. We eat the oldest produce in the fridge first. Most of the time, I take a look at what needs to be used up first and then turn that into a meal.

What are the ingredients you must never run out of?

Our entire household is plant-based, which means [there must be] no dairy and eggs. We always have lots of beans in stock whether canned or dried and a bowl of beans for soaking. To make delicious plant-based food, we have a well-stocked spice cabinet. We never run out of cumin, paprika, turmeric, curry powder, fennel seeds, basil, thyme, and rosemary. We always have cans of tomatoes, as well as pasta in the cupboard.

Laura Lehmann

We usually see and admire the beauty pageant titleholder on television appearances and her modeling projects. Yet unbeknownst to many, she loves to explore the culinary world in her kitchen at her new home. “[The kitchen] is a lot friendlier as compared to my previous residence. It’s a nice environment to be in, and I guess because of that, I just gained an affection for preparing meals,” she shares. With the start of the lockdown, she has limited ingredients at her disposal. However, this doesn’t stop her from learning new recipes and letting her family taste her creations.

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

Brunch: Somehow, I always find myself having eggs—whether that’s sunny side up with toast, cheese, and tuna or maybe an omelette. Sometimes, I’ll have a chicken wrap.

Dinner: I’ll either have pasta or sometimes rice with seafood and veggies. I’m a big seafood lover so I usually eat a lot more fish, shrimp, prawns, pusit, scallops as opposed to meat. I like to mix it up, too, and make creative dishes so that I don’t get bored. I also like to cater to everyone’s preferences at home so that it’s fair to all.

Snacks: I try to have fruit, but I also get distracted by cookies and banana bread.

How did you come up with the menu?

I think I just cook what I am craving to eat. With the health crisis these days, I’m definitely making a conscious effort to eat healthy and clean. It makes you feel better too, not just physically but also just mentally since you end up feeling good about yourself. For instance, this is just a tiny example, but I avoid buying ice cream and instead just make homemade frozen fruit popsicles.

What are the ingredients you must never run out of?

Egg, bread, chicken, olive oil, banana, broccoli.

RIGHT: Ferdi has a stock of red chili peppers in his kitchen, waiting to be used in his culinary creations. (Photo from Ferdi’s Instagram)

Ferdi Salvador

Apart from hosting unforgettable parties, Ferdi delights in hosting gatherings at the comforts of his home as well. It is his way of catching up with friends, “To be totally honest, I don’t like drinking wine by myself, so I lure guests with a meal so they can drink with me,” he shares with a laugh. As the quarantine continues, it is no surprise for people to feel anxious about the uncertainties of the crisis. Ferdi is no exemption, but he learns to cope in a creative way: he makes egg wrappers from scratch. He says, “[It’s] my new anti-stress [activity] you should try it!”

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

Brunch: Fresh greens and omelette
Lunch: Cold soup like gazpacho and crab fat/aligue pasta.

I’ve been obsessed with cooking Filipino dishes for the past three weeks. I think my childhood taste buds have been awakened. Now, I cook dishes I haven’t had in decades like suam, kilawin na puso ng saging, and fish bagis.

Dinner: Grilled sea-caught fish with a Thai flavor profile paired with an Asian salad like pomelo with jicama and holy basil with a citrus dressing.

How did you come up with the menu?

Since I can’t entertain at home I’ve been cooking for the building staff and some neighbors. They love Filipino dishes, so that’s what I’ve been making with a twist. Sometimes I shake it up with baked vegetables and pasta, my Three-Cheese Mac and Cheese was a hit and they’re requesting more. I also received ingredients from friends like Delimondo and San Marino, so I cooked them and sent them to medical front liners.

It’s essential to know what the cravings of the people you are cooking for. From there, I choose available ingredients and whip up something.

What are the ingredients you must never run out of?

Garlic, onions, and of course, liquid courage like white, rose and, red wine.

The Singaporean Bee Hoon that Ferdi had Dr. Z Teo recreate during the cooking show.

Cooking Show

Recently, Ferdi started his own little cooking show through his Instagram stories. The idea sprang from his desire to help the community as the staff of the building he resides in. He began live-streaming his cooking of the well-loved Filipino dish Adobo, hoping to ignite the spirit of his viewers into reaching out to others as well. Of course, whenever people see Ferdi whipping up something, many are instantly interested.

He invited his friends to join him and share their creations with those in need. “I have cooking guests every time I go live. It’s so much fun and they are so funny. We just want to spread positivity and compassion,” Ferdi shares. Czarina Ledesma, his business partner with FoodCzar, got him cooking the idea to distribute the food to their partner chefs and restaurants. “I’ve even been asked if I sell and deliver to their homes!” He exclaims, laughing, “No, people. I don’t run a home restaurant but I love the fact that they want to taste what I’m making!”

Ferdi hopes to continue this little cooking show post-lockdown if resources allow. Even so, what he began will certainly inspire others to do the same act of helping.

RIGHT: Dr. Z cooked an authentic Hainanese Chicken and taught the chefs of the Aivee Cafe its recipe, turning it part of the cafe’s menu. (Photos from Z’s Instagram)

Dr. Z Teo

Dr. Z casually posted his own version of Singaporean Bee Hoon on social media, not expecting many would be interested to know the process of making it. After all, it looked delicious that people began craving for it and wanted to make their own as well. At the same time, Ferdi Salvador invited him to his cooking show to recreate it.

“The experience was really interesting,” Dr. Z shares, “It’s different cooking by yourself and having a camera pointing at you while you cook. Suddenly, you get conscious of everything from the way you talk to how you position the pan or showcase the ingredients. I really have a newfound respect for cooking show hosts after this.”

Cooking for an audience truly made for a delightful and memorable experience for Dr. Z. It may be the first time but what’s important is he not only learned new things but got to share it with the show’s viewers.

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

Breakfast: Pancakes almost every day. We have been trying to perfect that Japanese fluffy pancake and we are slowly getting there.
Lunch: Filipino fare of tinola, fried fish, vegetables, and rice. Sometimes, Hainanese chicken rice, Singaporean fried rice, or Bee Hoon.

Dinner: Grilled steak with salad or Singapore Chicken curry with fresh basmati rice or roti prata.
Snacks: Slices of fruits for me and Aivee while bread slices with Nutella spread for the kids

RIGHT: The first dish Audrey ever cooked: Cheesy Oyster Mushroom Omelette. She whipped this up with Ferdi Salvador’s help through his cooking show. (Photos from Audrey’s Instagram)

Audrey Pastelero

The self-made entrepreneur and founder of Fun Nest, the furniture and children’s accessories label, admittedly has no experience in the kitchen. “It’s not my forte,” Audrey explains. Yet it changed when Ferdi Salvador invited her to cook with him through his mini-show on Instagram. They began with a dish perfect for first-timers in the kitchen: omelette. “[Ferdi] literally had to guide me on how hot to turn my stove to or what pan to use…I think what I learned most was how to flip the egg to fold it in half. The trick is to wiggle a bit and use 2 spatulas!” Audrey shares with enthusiasm.

Audrey’s first cooking experience was an utter delight, inspiring her to whip her own meals from then on. Yet she knows it is best to take baby steps. She says, “I think I’m ready to take on new dishes, but still start simple like banana bread, pasta, or fried chicken.”

Can you give a sample of your daily menu?

We don’t really wake up in time for breakfast. Normally, we just have healthy, cold-pressed juice. Only Theo [her son] has breakfast at home and it’s usually an assortment of fruits, yogurt or oatmeal. We have a lot of soups and [different kinds of] pasta for lunch and dinner so that Theo will enjoy our food also. In general, we try to eat healthily and have our food baked. The staples we have at home are salmon and broccoli dishes, and a whole lot of Grab Food.

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