Panettone: The Italian Large Cake

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It is not easy to ignore the very high boxes of panettone displayed on store windows of high end food stores and shelves of membership shops. They come across as ideal gifts for the holiday season but this sweet bread loaf in its peculiar shape is actually a staple Christmas and New Year delicacy in Western and Southern Europe. Though often described as Italian cake, it's has more similarity to bread than cake as we know it.

History of Panettone

The birthplace of panettone is Milan, Italy. Angelo Motta started producing this cake in 1919. He is credited for the cake's tall dome shape which was made possible by making the dough rise 3x for about 20 hours before being cooked.  Gioacchino Alemagna, another Milanese baker, adapted the same recipe in 1925. The industrial production of this cake was a result of the intense competition between these two bakers. 

The word panettone came from the Italian word "panetto" which means a small cake . The addition of the suffix -one effectively changed the meaning to large cake. Given these facts, it is still believed by many that panettone or at least a version of it dates back to early Roman history.

A Christmas Tradition

Every Christmas, food companies and bakeries in Italy produce millions of panettone. These Italian leavened cakes  are made with raisins and candied orange peel. It is eaten with sweet hot beverage or wine. 

It has become a tradition for Italian families to have a panetto at the Christmas meal table. The practice of doing so spread in many parts of the world where Italian migrants traveled to and stayed. This Italian large cake may technically be bread but it is no less festive and luxurious-looking than an icing covered cake. 

Shakey's Christmas Ham Pizza

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When it comes to food, nothing screams Christmas like Christmas Ham does. So when my family was offered to try the Christmas Ham Pizza when we decided to eat at Shakey's Paseo de Sta. Rosa, we readily agreed. As lovers of both pizza and ham, we saw no reason not to. 

Shakey's Christmas Ham Pizza

Shakey's couldn't have picked a better time to come out with the Christmas Ham Pizza with the holidays upon us. Slices of ham, bacon, bell peppers, pineapple tidbits, cheese, and ham glaze are placed on top of Shakey's signature thin crust pizza. Of course, we were not surprised that we all loved it.


Our family however is not one to settle for just one pizza. We just had to have our old time favorite Chicken "n" Mojos. We looked for the best deal where we can enjoy both at a lower price.

Shakey's Family Meal Deals

We saw Shakey's Family Meal Deals and chose the Family Meal Deal 2. Note that this is good for 5-6 persons but it was just right for the 4 of us. The package included a Large Thin Crust Manager's Choice Pizza, Spaghetti Platter, 5 pieces Buddy Pack Chicken "n" Mojos, and 1 Pitcher of House Blend Iced Tea.

We replaced the Manager's Choice Pizza with the Christmas Ham Pizza without additional cost. I'm sure you'll notice that additional Pepperoni Pizza. That was actually an added treat for us as we got that for free since we chose to get the Shakey's SuperCard and it was my daughter's birthday.

Shakey's SuperCard

Shakey's SuperCard is a loyalty rewards program that gives members exclusive offers and discounts. The birthday pizza treat is just one of them. With this card, I am expecting my family to be enjoying more pizza in the months ahead.

Cohen Cook-Off Challenge

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Enjoying delicious food and losing weight can be contradictory ideas. At the recently concluded Cohen Cook-Off Challenge, I found out that this is not exactly true. Cohen's Lifestyle Centre showed the way to a healthy yet enjoyable lifestyle.

Before the start of the competition, the invitees were treated to a sampling of the products of the Cohen style of preparing food. The main idea is to "let food become our medicine". Not much fun living if we end up being sick because of our lifestyle and the food we eat. That idea therefore makes perfect sense.

The Competitors

Cohen's Lifestyle Center posed a challenge to its clients to come up with a meal that can be quickly prepared at home while facilitating safe and effective weight loss. Showcasing their original recipes were Mary Ann “Dr. Ianne” Tangcangco, 40, a physician who lost 35 lbs. on the program so far; Marian Remo, 30, a businesswoman who lost 16 lbs. to date; and Carrie Luis, 26, a freelance assistant who just started the program.

(L-R) Cohen Cook-off Challenge winner Marian Remo and contestants Carrie Luis and Mary Ann “Dr. Ianne” Tangcangco

The Winning Entry...

Remo won the cook-off challenge with her dish, Beef Stuffed Zucchini with Mango Salsa to take home the grand prize, a Cohen Kitchen Showcase worth P30,000!  

...and the Other Worthy Entries

Tangcangco prepared an Apple Cake

Luis prepared Mushroom Frittata

Cohen's Lifestyle Program

Backed by years of scientific and medical research, Cohen’s Lifestyle Program is a personalized and rapid weight-loss and wellness program that focuses on proper nutrition and uses food as medicine. Each client’s unique blood profile is used as the basis for an individualized eating plan that recommends the personalized quantities of specific types of food that correct the hormonal imbalance that causes weight gain and obesity. 

(L-R) Cohen’s Lifestyle Centre consultant Lorraine Timbol, director Regina Chuavon, CEO Barbara Young and chef Pixie Sevilla

“The Cohen Program has a track record of success in delivering rapid weight loss using only food as medicine. We provide a safe, effective and scientific method of achieving a slimmer and healthier body, where all other methods may have failed,” said Barbara Young, Cohen’s Lifestyle Centre CEO and a certified life coach. 

“Cohen’s Lifestyle Program takes a holistic approach to losing weight. We don’t just guide you in losing weight but we also teach a healthier lifestyle, including cooking and eating habits and the way you look at food. You don’t need to be a chef to be able to prepare healthy, delicious meals. With a little bit of creativity in preparing food, losing weight can actually be fun. With the Cohen Cook-Off Challenge, we hope to inspire more people to take charge of their own health by getting involved in the preparation of their own food” Young added.

Healthy, Delicious, and Easy-to-Prepare

The Cohen Cook-Off Challenge just proved that we can actually enjoy healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare meals. We need not make it difficult to lose weight in having to do with bland food. Equipment needed may be readily available in our kitchens. Ingredients are widely available as well in local supermarkets.

Cohen’s Lifestyle Centre offers complimentary information sessions. To schedule an appointment, you may call the Makati office at 828-5251 or (0917) 892-6436.

To know more about Cohen’s Lifestyle Program, visit, or visit on Facebook and on Instagram. 

Griffin's Cookie Bear Biscuits

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My daughter Ada has the knack for spotting new items to buy at the supermarket. She spotted the Griffin's Cookie Bear probably the first time it was displayed in the grocery store we go to every week. It was expected especially with it's eye-catching packaging. So guess what?  We ended up buying the three variants to satisfy her curiosity (as well as ours) of what makes this different from the others. 

Cookie Bear

Before we talk about the biscuits, let's get to know some facts about the brand. Cookie Bear, also known as CB, is a popular character in New Zealand. It was originally associated with Hudson's which eventually became known as Griffins biscuits. The early advertisements actually featured a man dressed in bear suit, depicted as a lover of biscuits, proclaiming that Hudson's brand was the best. The Cookie Bear character became immediately popular and was heavily used in advertisements.


Griffin's Foods was founded in 1864 in New Zealand but acquired the rights to Cookie Bear when it bought Hudson's in 1989. In 1990, Danone acquired Griffin's who in turn divested it to Pacific Equity Partners in 2006. Universal Robina acquired Griffin's in 2014 and announced  that it is expanding the Griffin's brand to the Southeast Asian market starting with the Philippines. That is essentially why these well-loved biscuits are now a familiar sight in local supermarkets and grocery stores.

We saw three variants of the Griffin's Cookie Bear available which we tried in three consecutive days: 

Griffin's Cookie Bear Chocolate Milky Bears

These bear-shaped chocolate milky biscuits are too cute to eat. Since they look so delicious, we cannot resist. My children chose to dunk it in cold milk and obviously enjoyed it. It was actually a perfect choice for a warm day.

Griffin's Cookie Bear Hundreds and Thousands (Pink)

These milk cookies with pink icing and party sprinkles really taste good. My daughter wants to have these available in our home the next time she has friends visiting her. Seeing how attractive they are, I'm not surprised.

Griffin's Cookie Bear Hundreds and Thousands (Chocolate)

These milk cookies dipped in chocolate with sprinkles is equally delicious with the first two. We ate these on a cold rainy day with hot cocoa. It was a feel-good overload of chocolate goodness and contentment.

All these variants are made with real New Zealand milk. As of this writing, we have already spotted other Griffin's Cookie Bear choices. I'm sure we will be trying them as well soon. 

PHOntastic Gastronomic Experience from Annam Noodle Bar

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Our family is always on the lookout for good food. As much as possible, we make it a point to cap any family activity with a satisfying meal. Last Saturday was a little different. We actually started our day with a great food experience at Annam Noodle Bar - a restaurant that specializes in Vietnamese street food with a modern twist.

This is actually our family's first try of Vietnamese food. That is why we allowed ourselves to be guided on our food choices according to which are the best-selling. Feast your eyes on the food items we tasted for this adventure.


Appetizer choices are seen under the menu category "Small Plates". Price ranges from PHP 130 to PHP 250. 

Choices include:

Prawn and Sesame Crackers 
Vegetarian Southern Rolls, Fresh Herbs, Peanut Sauce
Green Papaya Salad, Beef Jerky, Fresh Herbs, Peanuts
Mekong Prawn Rolls
Crispy Imperial Rolls
Crispy Squid, Sriracha Mayonnaise

and our orders for the day

The best seller Fresh Southern Rolls with Prawn, Pork, Fresh Herbs, Peanut Sauce

and the Caramelized Chicken Wings, Shrimp Paste

The fresh rolls were gone in a flash. It gave a fitting intro to the freshness of ingredients used in every viand served throughout the meal. The sweet tangy flavor of the chicken wings as expected, was a big hit for my children.


My wife and I chose the much recommended Lemongrass-Ginger Iced Tea for our beverage. It was refreshingly cool and light. It was the perfect partner for the food we are eating.

My children opted to drink the Lychee-Pandan Iced Tea. This is a very good choice for the kids. The presentation literally includes pandan leaves and lychee pieces.

Banh Mi

These are toasted baguettes stuffed with savory meats, chicken pate, mayonnaise, hot chili peppers, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, and fresh cilantro. Price ranges from PHP 230- 250. 

Banh Mi choices include:

Sauteed Lemongrass Pork, Cream Cheese
Caramelized 5-Spice Pork Belly
Fried Catfish with Spices
Chili Sambal Braised Beef 

and our orders 

Chili-Lemongrass Chicken, Egg Omelette, Chicken Floss

and the vegetarian version which is the Lemongrass Tofu, Egg Omelette, Braised Mushrooms

An order of banh mi can satifyingly serve 2. Every bite produces an interesting mix of the crunchy baguette, full flavor of the meat, and again the freshness of vegetables and herbs. 

Hanoi Pho

Hanoi Pho is easily the star of Annam Noodle Bar's menu. Hanoi is considered the birthplace of Vietnamese Pho which is a bowl of rice flour noodles with intense broth boiled over 24 hours, garnished with fresh herbs and spring onions. Price ranges from PHP 270-550.

You can choose among these choices:

Pho Australian Beef Steal Slices
Pho Vegetarian
Pho Australian Oxtail and Beef Balls
Pho Australian Wagyu Beef Slices

and what we ordered which are

Pho Australian Beef Combination

and the Pho Chicken

Annam Noodle Bar is certainly not exaggerating with its claim for a full-flavored pho (pronounced as "fuh"), minus the use of MSG. The rice noodles which are made in Singapore, are imported to maintain consistency. The pho is served in an extra big bowl which can serve 4 people.

Other Noodles

Annam Noodle Bar also offers other classic Vietnamese noodles recipes from Southern and Central Vietnam. These can either be served dry or with soup. Price ranges from PHP 320-380.

Here are the choices:

Spicy Braised Beef, Beef Balls Noodle
Spicy Hue Australian Beef Noodle
Saigon Fisherman;s Noodle Soup
Sauteed Lemongrass Pork Noodle
Quang Style Egg Noodle

and our order

Spicy Minced Pork, Pork Balls Noodle

This noodle dish is delightfully spicy. It is by itself filling for a customer dining alone and complete as it is served with soup. In hindsight, we would have preferred to order two dry noodle dishes instead of the pho as we didn't realize that one order of pho is more than enough for the four of us.

Viet Desserts

My children's choice for dessert was the Hanoi Hannah Sundae made up of mint choco vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. We were informed that their ice cream is specifically made for them. 

Other possible choices include:

Chilled Dried Longan, Lotus Seeds, Water Chestnut, Seaweed Dessert
Chilled 3 Colour Dessert
Crispy Fried Banana, Coconut Sauce
Saigon Sally Sundae

My wife and I chose to finish off our meal with the Viet coffee with condensed milk. The milk provides the right contrast to the perfectly brewed Viet coffee. Annam sells 3-in-1 coffee which comes in boxes of 22 sachets for those who would like to bring this excellent coffee taste.

Before we knew it, we were finished.

Our Verdict

From a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest, here is our verdict:

Flavor: 5
Price:  4
Ambiance: 5
Service: 4
Satiety: 5

1. The freshness of ingredients is a standout feature of all food offering. Immediate consumption is advisable to fully appreciate this advantage. Resistance to vegetables and herbs is decreased among kids due to the manner of presentation. 

2. While the lack of rice offering may make customers think that may not get fully satisfied with the meal,we can attest to the fact that the combination of the pho and banh mi is more than enough to serve as full meal. 

3. Food prices present value for money considering the food flavor, level of service, and relaxing ambiance that is conducive to eating.

4. Having only one branch can be a limitation especially for Vietnamese food lovers who live or work very far form the Eastwood City area. The good news is that the next branch is currently on the works.

5. Annam Noodle Bar does not claim to offer authentic traditional dishes but rather what it calls as trendy Vietnamese cuisine. It has repackaged old-world Vietnamese street food with a modern twist.

Will we visit them again? Sure we will, so we can try the other dishes until we have tried them all. It was truly a PHOntastic gastronomic experience for the whole family.

Check out the Annam Noodle Bar Facebook Page to get updates on their latest promos. 

Scooping Happiness at Baskin-Robbins Bonifacio High Street

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To say that our family are certified ice cream lovers is an understatement. Eating ice cream is one of our simple sources of happiness. When we heard that Baskin-Robbins is scooping happiness via its newest branch at Bonifacio High Street, there was definitely nothing that could keep us from being part of the event.

Baskin-Robbins Bonifacio High Street

We were informed that this is the 14th branch of Baskin-Robbins to open in the Philippines. This ice cream specialty shop serves not only premium hard scoop ice cream but also customized ice cream cakes and a full range of frozen beverages. Clearly, this is every ice cream lover's piece of heaven on earth.

It seeks to serve its customers with an extensive flavor variety that you can actually enjoy a different flavor each day for 1 whole month without repeating a flavor. Since presentation also matters as much as the flavor, Baskin-Robbins ice cream treats are definitely exciting. The ice cream cakes come in a variety of designs and sizes which is just perfect for celebrating any occasion like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, weddings, graduations, or simply the need to satisfy ice cream cravings.

Store Opening Activities

When a new Baskin-Robbins store opens, the public can expect to be treated to fun and special promos. That is exactly what happened last October 1st. Guests and customers got to sample the awesome range of flavors for just PHP 31 per scoop. 

Not surprisingly, many customers lined up to avail of the promo. There was also the face painting booth for children, meet-and-greet opportunity with the Baskin-Robbins mascot, and a dance performance from the UP Dance Company. Of course, who can ignore the "Waffle Wonderland" where guests can customize their waffles in various shapes and colors and the "Fundae Sundae" booth designed for pure ice cream indulgence?

It was a fun afternoon for the whole family. Not only were we able to spend time together, we were also able to enjoy excellent ice cream. Even before we left, my son was obviously thinking of what flavor he will try on our next visit.

My children found this photo in the Baskin-Robbins Facebook Page which just left them wanting for more. 

If you still haven't, you've got to try it!

Let's Talk About Hospital Food

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Getting well while in the hospital is supposed to be made possible by strict medical supervision, restful atmosphere, clean surroundings, and healthy food. Sick people are not exactly known to be eager eaters as appetite is commonly affected by sickness. Hospital nutritionists are therefore tasked to come up with food preparations that are not only in accordance with the advised diet but also encourage them to eat to make the convalescence period shorter.

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Patients who do not have any diet restrictions usually have an easier time accepting hospital food as nutritionists have more choices to work on. Hospital food have a widely-known reputation for being bland. This is because spices and artificial flavorings are kept to the minimum, if at all allowed.

Types of Hospital Diet

Many hospital patients are not able to tolerate the Regular Diet. Some will be given Liquid Diets which can consist of water, broth, clear juices, popsicles and gelatin. Others can be given the Soft Diet which includes food that can be mashed by a fork and easy to swallow. Restricted Diets can limit the amount of calories, fat, salt, or other substances, depending on doctor's orders. Therapeutic Diets are specifically prepared as part of the treatment of a disease or sickness. Nutritionists will have to be extra creative for these special diets. Photo below shows pulverized food molded to look like their real counterparts as shared by the image owner.

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Presentation of Hospital Food

Hospital food is brought to the patient's room in a compartmentalized tray or in plates and bowls, depending on the viand. In the recent hospitalization of my wife, I noticed a variation. Patients' food came in boxes as seen below.

Rice is wrapped while the viands were placed in separate paper containers with cover. Soup and dessert is also included. Liquid or powdered drinks are likewise included especially for breakfast.

This is actually a welcome change as we cannot help but think of the possibility of contracting any additional sickness while staying in the hospital. Although I know hospitals have disinfecting procedures in place for cleaning plates and utensils, these lunch boxes appear to be more hygienic. I'm also happy to note that many hospitals are now more conscious of the importance of food in treating patients.  

The Many Ways of Cooking Milkfish with Sarangani Bay Premium Bangus

Milkfish or Bangus has always been a popular choice among Filipinos when it comes to seafood. Well, it isn't the country's national fish for nothing. But because of issues like marine pollution and illegal fishing, it is becoming more and more difficult to find fresh quality seafood. Good thing that we have the "fresh frozen" option such as those offered by Sarangani Bay.

Sarangani Bay

Sarangani Bay is the most trusted and largest processor of premium quality bangus and other processed seafood products. It is also the country’s largest exporter of the said products. Synonymous to the brand name is Sarangani Bay, the marine sanctuary of the premium quality bangus which is located at Southern Mindanao. The clean and fresh water fish of Sarangani Bay is bred by the Alsons Aquaculture Corporation—the only integrated farm to market fish processing operations in the country.

Fresh Frozen
Fresh frozen is a way of commercially packing fish which makes it possible to lock in the freshness by freezing fresh caught harvest within a very short time after being caught. Commercially packaged frozen fish can taste as good as fresh fish. It’s not true that “fresh” fish is always better than frozen fish. 

Commercially packaged frozen fish can taste as good as fresh caught harvests because they are carefully “fresh frozen” within a very short time, locking in freshness and flavor. Often fresh fish is NOT fresh as it may have sat on insufficient ice for days before reaching the market. The best way to enjoy fresh frozen fish is to select brands sold by established seafood processors with a reputation for consistently excellent quality.

Sarangani Bay Premium Bangus Products

In our search for nutritious seafood options which are readily available, we came across Sarangani Bay Premium Bangus Products. They make it every easy to cook milkfish in many ways . There are numerous options to choose from including Marinated, Unseasoned, Frozen, and Cooked Bangus Products.

Here are some Sarangani Bay Premium Bangus Products we have already tried:

Baby Milkfish

We fried the baby milkfish and paired it off with achara. The size of the bangus is ideal for single serving. It does not require long cooking and is ready to eat in no time.

Marinated Baby Milkfish

If you prefer no-fuss eating, then marinated baby milkfish is the best choice. Pair off with plain rice and vinegar. With the new baby milkfish spicy variant, you don't need any other flavoring to a enjoy a meal that truly satisfies.

Smoked Milkfish

We baked the smoked milkfish and came up with a winning combination with bagoong rice, salted eggs, cucumber, and tomatoes. This was surprisingly a big hit to my kids but not a surprise at all with my wife and I.

Milkfish Belly

This is an all-time family favorite. Crispy milkfish belly cut into serving pieces, soaked in beaten egg and rolled in bread crumbs before frying, served with green salad and hard-boiled eggs has been served many times on our dining table before but we never get tired of it. 

Boneless Milkfish

If there is anything that discourages me most about eating milkfish, it is having to contend with fish-bones. It can make eating a lot more tedious than it should be especially for the children. That is why Sarangani Bay Boneless Milkfish is such a welcome option.

We can choose to pair it off with bread and soup when we don't feel like eating rice. We can serve it literally sizzling with butter sauce and mixed vegetables. The options are as unlimited as our imagination. Other Sarangani Bay must try-products include bangus sisig, boneless tocino, and boneless tapa. I will try it soon for a fish viand with broth.

The Crucial Test

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so they say. So when I send my children to school with this flaked bangus and white rice, and they bring me home an empty food container, asking if there is some more, then I know the food passed a crucial test. Sarangani Bay Premium Bangus just made it workable to include fish as a baon choice.  

Facts About Seafood

Seafood provides various health benefits due to the vitamins and minerals it contains such as iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B1, folic acid, and especially the omega-3 fatty acids that is known to prevent heart diseases.The fat in seafood also combats other diseases such as
Arthritis, Asthma, Diabetes, Lupus, Prostate Tumors, and Breast Cancer. Apart from the nutrients seafood offers, it also helps to easily achieve a healthy and fit lifestyle because it has less calories and fat compared to chicken, pork, and beef.

Sarangani Bay Processes

To maintain the freshness of the fish products, Sarangani Bay practices the cold chain management that is critical in maintaining the premium quality they offer compared to other fish processors. Sarangani Bay is also a favorite in countries like the United States, Canada, Guam, Australia, China, and the Middle East. Quality control is seen from the processing plant to our kitchen.