12 December

Coconut-Lime Matcha

Hangover Helper

December 2: Feast Day of St. Bibiana

Have a hangover from holiday partying? Then get inspired by the “Coconut” song and invoke St. Bibiana (Vivian), patron saint of hangovers, for a home remedy.

If you put de lime in de coconut water and mix it all up with matcha powder, it will help relieve a bellyache and headache. This hangover helper keeps you hydrated from the electrolytes in the coconut water and provides a little pain relief from the caffeine in the earthy-flavored green tea powder. Limes can also quell the queasiness and add vitamin C to stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Personally, we have no need to drink this hangover helper as we aren’t too into the bar scene. But as designated drivers at a few holiday parties, we could offer this coconut-lime matcha hangover helper to those who have imbibed a little too much. Or you can also sip on this healthy concoction on the morning of the Feast Day of St. Bibiana for a natural boost of energy! Cheers!


(Adapted from Shape magazine)


  • 1 cup coconut water, chilled
  • pinch of sea salt (we used Hawaiian sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon matcha (green tea powder)
  • spritz of lime juice from a slice or wedge (also optional garnish)


In a small glass, pour the coconut water. Add a pinch of sea salt. Mix in the matcha. Spritz a little lime juice and stir. Garnish with a lime slice or wedge.


  • St. Bibiana died as a martyr (4th century) for her steadfast Christian faith. According to some legends, she was forced to drink liquid lead as part of her torture. After she was buried, healing herbs grew from her gravesite and were known to cure headaches, epilepsy and even hangovers! (We highly doubt that the healing herb was matcha since tea bushes were not grown in Rome.)
  • Take care during the holidays and don’t drink and drive!

Ginataan Bilo-Bilo


December 22: Winter Solstice

As the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, keep warm on the Winter Solstice with a sweet Asian soup consisting of small sticky rice balls. In China, during the Dōng Zhì Festival, the clear soup is called tangyuan—the rice balls may be plain or stuffed with a sweet bean, black sesame or peanut paste. The Filipinos have a similar sweet soup, ginataan bilo-bilo—the rice balls are stewed in a sweetened coconut milk mixture. Other Asian countries have their own versions of a sweet sticky rice ball soup (for example, Thai bua loi is similar to ginataan bilo-bilo). The round shape is auspicious and also symbolizes families gathering ‘round the holidays—as in “coming together full circle”.

Islander’s Mommy used to make ginataan bilo-bilo as a snack for the family when it was cooler weather in Hawaii (brrrr…low ‘70s!). Because it is labor intensive to roll the sticky rice balls, it represents a heart-warming food for all of us as well. Sometimes, tubers such as taro, sweet potato or ube (purple yam), are added to the soup to make it heartier. Because as kids, Islander and her brother called this dish “snowballs” due to its milky-white color, she prefers to add white taro to keep its wintery color (ube gives the dish a vibrant violet hue).

Welcome winter with a warm bowl of ginataan bilo-bilo and enjoy this dish through the holidays and the coming new year.


Adapted from Mommy

For the mochi balls

  • 1 lb. (1 box) mochiko (sweet rice) flour
  • water
  • flour


In a large bowl, put the mochiko and make a well. Gradually add water a few drops at a time. Stir until the dough sticks together.


On a clean, floured surface, roll a palm-size ball of dough into a long strip around ¾-inch thick. Slice into ¾-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls on a flat container filled with flour to prevent the dough balls from sticking. While the dough balls rest, make the sweet stew.


For the sweet stew

  • 1 cup cooked large tapioca pearls (or mini tapioca, if desired)
  • 1 cup yam/taro/sweet potato, peeled and sliced into bite-sized chunks, par-boiled (semi-cooked)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 can jackfruit slices (reserve ¼ cup liquid syrup from the can to sweeten and flavor the stew—optional); cut into smaller strips
  • 1-2 sweet plantain bananas, peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks
  • ¼ teaspoon anise seed


Cook the tapioca according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse. Set aside. Slice the yam/taro/sweet potato. Parboil, drain and set aside.


In a large pot, stir the coconut milk with water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat as to not scald the coconut milk. Remove each mochiko ball from the flour and add to the milk mixture. Gently stir to prevent the balls from sticking to each other. Simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the balls float slightly to the top. Add the sugar (and jackfruit syrup, if extra flavoring is desired).


Add the cooked tapioca pearls and stir to separate them. Sprinkle the anise seed. Stir in the jackfruit slices.


Add the plantain banana slices and taro/yam/sweet potato. Serve warm so the balls are still chewy and not hard. Store in an airtight container. If serving leftovers, ladle into soup/dessert bowls and add a little water to liquefy the stew. Microwave for a minute or two until the mochiko balls have softened.



  • Depending on the location and lunar calendar, the Winter Solstice date can fall between December 21-23.
  • Thanks to Mommy, Daddy, Auntie Letty and Auntie Finey for making the rice balls for this blog post recipe when they visited us in Texas from Hawaii and the Philippines.
  • Frozen sticky rice balls may be found in Asian grocery stores and could be used as a shortcut to the homemade version. Make sure the balls are cooked through so they are soft and chewy instead of hard and flour-y.
  • If using ube (purple yam), there will be a violet tint to the sweet stew.
  • The addition of round tapioca pearls increase the luck factor and provide more chewy textures to ginataan bilo-bilo (and bua loi), making this dish appropriate for new year’s celebrations as well.


Calamansi Cupcakes


December 15: National Cupcake Day

Highlander’s co-worker, Luchie A., has invited us to her house in the Gulf Coast of Texas to pick calamansi from the tree in her backyard. We have gathered grocery bags full of the fruit for ourselves and for friends. We typically squeeze all the little Philippine limes to make delicious fresh squeezed fruit juice. We also reserve a bit of the liquid to make calamansi cupcakes for Luchie and the other co-workers. The cupcakes are always a big hit with everyone in Highlander’s office.

National Cupcake Day occurs during the holiday season when cookies are frequently exchanged. But cupcakes are a sweet choice to share, too. If calamansi juice is available, use it to make this terrific and tart treat.


For the calamansi cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup calamansi juice, fresh squeezed or bottled/boxed/canned
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder


In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla.


Pour in the calamansi juice. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add this mixture gradually to the other ingredients. Blend until the batter is smooth (it will be thick).


Scoop into cupcake papers and place in muffin tins. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting the calamansi cupcakes.


For the calamansi buttercream frosting

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2+ tablespoons calamansi juice


In a large bowl, cream the butter with the vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Thin to a spreadable consistency with the calamansi juice. Use Wilton tip 1M in a piping bag and decorate the top of each cupcake with swirls.



  • Squeeze more juice from many calamansi fruits for a refreshingly tart drink. See our easy recipe for calamansi juice for National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day on January 15.
  • Maraming salamat (thank you very much in Pilipino/Tagalog) to Luchie A. for the calamansi!


Pearl Harbor Cocktail


December 7: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Islander is a Pearl Harbor girl. Her Daddy, who is retired from the U.S. Navy, was stationed at Pearl Harbor twice. Her Mommy still works as a civilian for MWR Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and had offices in Pearl Harbor and on Ford Island. The family lived in military housing and Islander went to Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School. Like her parents, she eventually worked on base, too. So Pearl Harbor holds a special place in her heart.

Many remember Pearl Harbor for the Japanese surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, launching the United States into World War II.

But Islander also remembers one of the old Hawaiian legends about Wai Momi (translated as “water of pearl” because the harbor was home to a lot of pearl oysters in the 1800s). Wai Momi was also home to a shark goddess and her family (brother or son) and they protected the entrance to the harbor. When the U.S. Congress approved the expansion of a naval base on Oahu in the early 1900s, construction began on the kapu (“forbidden”) area. But after much work had already been done, the dry dock collapsed. The natives had warned that it was because appropriate offerings were not made to the shark goddess in the first place. The skeptical builders followed Hawaiian traditions to appease her and, as work began again, they found the bones of a 15-foot shark lodged below the harbor. A kahuna (priest) performed all the necessary rites, construction went smoothly thereafter and the dry dock finally opened in 1919.

Today, Pearl Harbor is the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. There are several historical sites we have visited as well as hosted tourists: Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin, Battleship Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum. In 2016, several events are planned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

HI Cookery remembers Wai Momi with a classic cocktail. Toast this tropical drink on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Aloha!


(Adapted from About.com – Cocktails)


  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce melon liqueur (like Midori)
  • pineapple juice
  • maraschino cherry and pineapple chunk, optional garnishes


In an old fashioned glass, fill with ice. Then add the vodka and melon liqueur. Fill with pineapple juice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and pineapple chunk.



  • Try a pineapple vodka for a fruitier flavor in this cocktail.
  • Eat Hawaiian food to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day. Search our blog for recipes.

Tiffin Squares

Tiffin Squares

December 25: Christmas

‘Tis the season to see pretty plaid patterns as Christmas decorations, which are reminiscent of Scottish tartans. For many years, the English banned the Scots from wearing their cultural clothing (learn more about the “repeal of dress” here). Also, for four centuries, Christmas was banned in Scotland because Protestant rulers of the 16th century associated Christ’s mass with Catholicism. It was only in 1958 that Christmas became an official holiday in Scotland.

Now with the freedom to express themselves with plaid AND observe Christmas Day, the Scots have been very influential in their holiday celebrations with decorations and traditions.

As a Christmas dessert, we made a traditional Scottish treat called tiffin. The recipe originated in Troon, Scotland, in the 1900s, and is a chocolate cake-like confectionary commonly comprising of crushed digestive or rich tea biscuits (cookies), cocoa powder, golden syrup and dried fruit with a top layer of melted chocolate. Although it is considered a “cake”, tiffin does not require baking in the oven. Because the mixture is chilled in the refrigerator to set until hardened, tiffin is also known as fridge or icebox cake, chocolate concrete cake and no- bake chocolate biscuit cake.

Tiffin is very similar to the groom’s cake made for Prince William when he married Kate Middleton in 2011 (but the royal recipe contains eggs). Like the royal cake, tiffin is a treat that tastes rich and decadent but is very easy to make, especially for Christmas cookie exchanges and for Hogmanay next week.

Try tiffin and celebrate Christmas and be proud of plaid. Nollaig Chridheil (Merry Christmas in Scots Gaelic)!


(Adapted from Rampant Scotland)


  • 1 package digestive biscuits
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1-2 tablespoons glacé cherries, halved (optional)
  • 6 ounces good quality chocolate, melted


In a plastic bag, crush the biscuits into small crumbs. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter with the cocoa powder and golden syrup and stir until smooth.

Tiffin Squares

Add the raisins and glacé cherries. Add the crushed biscuit pieces and mix to coat well. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper with a little overhang for the handles. Press the chocolate mixture into the pan until flat and even. Set aside.

Tiffin Squares

Pour melted chocolate over the top and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least an hour until firm. Lift the tiffin out of the pan using the paper handles. Slice into 36 squares.

Tiffin Squares


  • Because Christmas was banned for 400 years in Scotland, the Scots have celebrated Hogmanay (new year) in grander style. “Auld Lang Syne” is a popular and traditional Scottish song for the new year.
  • Search our blog for other Scottish and Christmas recipes.

Star Wars Cookies

Star Wars Cookies

December 18, 2015: Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

May the Force be with you…and with your spirit! Fans are literally out in full force as the new movie in the third trilogy of the famous film/space saga, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, opens worldwide in theaters today (although some lucky fans got to see the movie earlier at the Hollywood/Los Angeles premiere). We had to reserve our tickets online a few weeks earlier to get good seats at the movie theater tonight!

In eager anticipation of the long-awaited Star Wars film, we made sugar cookies to share with co-workers and friends to observe the movie’s release date. What an excuse to use some of the cookie cutters that Highlander gifted Islander one year!

Star Wars cookie cutters

We have posted two simple recipes on our blog today: basic green Yoda sugar cookies and dark chocolate-cinnamon Darth Vader cookies. Even though these classic characters are part of the previous trilogies, enjoy these sweet treats for a multi-generational Star Wars celebration or for a unique holiday cookie exchange.


For the Yoda Sugar Cookies

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)


  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • green food coloring (we used Wilton “leaf green” food paste/gel coloring)


In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla.

Yoda Cookies

Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until a dough is formed. Tint with green food coloring to the desired shade of “Yoda”. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Yoda Cookies

Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. Cut out shapes with Yoda cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

Yoda Cookies

For the Darth Vader Dark Chocolate-Cinnamon Cookies

(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s Special Dark—for an intense color and “dark side” taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

Darth Vader Cookies

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until a sticky dough is formed.

Darth Vader Cookies

Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in half or thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. Cut out shapes with Darth Vader cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

Darth Vader Cookies


  • Jedi mind tricks and tips: Roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper and chill until ready to use. Keep the cut-out cookie dough very cold to retain its shape while baking in the oven. Dip cookie cutters in a little flour to prevent them from sticking to the dough.
  • We halved the Darth Vader cookie recipe for this post.
  • Search our blog for other Star Wars recipe ideas.

Maple-Glazed Ribs

Maple Glazed Ribs

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day

After visiting Highlander’s relatives in Canada, we always bring back foodstuffs so we can savor the flavors from our North American neighbors when we are back in the United States. Maple products are popular, like syrup, cookies and candies, following the iconic leaf on the nation’s flag.

We got a can of Canadian maple syrup that we typically put on pancakes. It was a lot of syrup for just the two of us so we decided to try a recipe for ribs that featured a maple glaze. We are used to the southern-style BBQ ribs with its saucy marinades. But maple-glazed ribs were a nice change and they are perfect for a picnic in the summer and, with a hint of jalapeno heat in this recipe, hearty and heart-warming to eat during the colder seasons when National Maple Syrup Day is scheduled.


Adapted from Endless Vacation magazine (Spring 2012)


  • 1 rack of pork baby back ribs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, grated
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 small limes, juiced


Line a lipped baking pan with foil to catch the drippings. Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs. Place meat side down. Make the maple glaze by mixing the maple syrup with garlic, ginger, japaleno and lime juice.

Maple Glazed Ribs

Brush the top and sides of the ribs with 1/3 of the glaze mixture. Cover the ribs with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully lift the foil and avoid escaping steam, turn the ribs over and brush another 1/3 of the glaze mixture on the meat side of the ribs. Cover again with foil and return to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven and discard the top foil. Turn up the oven’s heat to 375 degrees F. Baste with the remaining glaze, return the ribs to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven again and continue to baste, spooning the darker drippings onto the ribs to give them some color. Bake for 15-20 more minutes. Remove from the oven, slice the ribs, put them on a platter and spoon some of the glaze drippings on the meat. Serve hot.

Maple Glazed Ribs


  • There are some burnt bits of maple glaze drippings on the baking pan. Mix this caramelized gooey goodness with the thinner meat juices and brush on the ribs to give them some color.
  • Serve these ribs for a summery Canada Day picnic on July 1.
  • Try the recipe for maple-glazed chicken for National Maple Syrup Day.

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