The Happy Home Cook: Christmas Recipes

The Happy Home Cook features cherished recipes of Filipino dishes from well-known foodies and contributors. If you have a recipe that you are proud of and would like to share, please send it along with a photo of the dish, your two-sentence bio and your picture to

Estofado de Vaca

Adapted from “The Alba Cookbook of Señor Anastacio de Alba and Miguel de Alba”

Estofado de Vaca (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Estofado de Vaca (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Estofado de Vaca is a Spanish Beef Stew that is easy to put together for a hearty meal on any special occasion. We always have a big beef entrée during the holidays or a family event. The richness of this slow cooked stew makes the event even more special. This recipe was adapted from “The Alba Cookbook of Senor Anastacio de Alba and Miguel de Alba”, edited by Nancy Reyes-Lumen.

Serves 6 to 8.


Beef brisket - 4 to 5 pounds, cubed

beef stock - 4 to 5 cups

white wine - 3/4 cup

white wine vinegar - 1/2 cup

rum - 1/2 cup

extra virgin olive oil - 1/2 cup

garlic - 2 heads (keep the skin on)

onion - 1 large, sliced

bay leaf - 2 pieces

oregano - 1 teaspoon

sea salt - 1 teaspoon

granulated sugar - 2 teaspoons

black peppercorns - 1 teaspoon

paprika - 2 teaspoon

carrot - 1 large piece, peeled, cut in cubes

potatoes - 2 large, peeled, quartered

fresh parsley - 1/4 cup, chopped, for garnish (optional)

boiled white rice - for serving


  • Over medium high heat, in a large stockpot, place the beef chunks with all the ingredients, except the carrots and potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook the beef on high heat for 20 minutes.

  • Then reduce the heat to low. Keep covered and cook longer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or till beef is fork tender.

  • Add the potatoes and carrots at the last 30 minutes of cooking. When cooked, garnish with sprigs of fresh parsley. Serve with boiled jasmine white rice.

  • Cook’s comments: I have also cooked this Spanish Beef Stew in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), at a setting of High, for 5 to 6 hours. I added the potatoes and carrots at the last 45 minutes of cooking.

The Alba Cookbook of Señor Anastacio de Alba and Miguel de Alba

The Alba Cookbook of Señor Anastacio de Alba and Miguel de Alba

Lobster Thermidor 

From “My Mother’s Philippine Recipes” Cookbook

Lobster Thermidor (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Lobster Thermidor (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Mom served her famous Lobster Thermidor for very special occasions or for guests she loved to host, depending on seafood availability. She bought her seafood from the maglalako (fish vendor) who would come to our house in a jeepney from Pangasinan province, known for having the best seafood and fish in our part of the country. As a child, I watched as Mom haggled over the price with the vendor Mechang while live lobsters crawled out of her bayong (basket-weave bag). Later at the dinner table, all my fears of crawling crustaceans were washed away when my eyes feasted on the creamy, luscious stuffed seafood being served to dinner guests. 

Serves 2 to 4


2 lobsters (total 2½ pounds), steamed or boiled. If lobsters are not available, use 4 large prawns. 

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 onion, finely chopped  

1 teaspoon minced garlic 

1 Tablespoon fresh calamansi or lemon juice  

2 Tablespoons white wine 

1/4 cup heavy cream 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon ground black pepper  

1/4 cup breadcrumbs 

1/2 cup grated cheese 

1/4 cup chopped parsley 

Lemon or calamansi slices   


·   Have the fishmonger boil or steam the lobsters for you. At home, extract the lobster meat: use your fingers to pull out the outer covers, and scoop the meat out with a spoon or fork. Do not discard the legs as they have lots of meat; use a mallet to pound the legs open and pull out the meat. Leave the shell and tail intact for stuffing later. Each medium-sized lobster yields about a cup of meat. (Note: if using prawns, follow the same procedure and proportion of ingredients). 

·   Chop the cooked lobster meat into small, fine pieces.  

·   Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the garlic and onions. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the garlic browns and the onions are transparent.  

·   Add the lobster meat and stir around the pan to blend with the butter. Pour the fresh calamansi juice and wine. Cook for about 5 minutes to let the flavors blend. 

·   Add the heavy cream and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.  

·   When the lobster mixture has cooled after a few minutes, stuff about ½ cup into each shell and top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Place the stuffed lobsters in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375F for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

·   Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve warm with boiled rice and fresh lemon or calamansi on the side. 

My Mother’s Philippine Recipes

My Mother’s Philippine Recipes

Almond Jelly with Lychees 

From “How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook

Almond Jelly with Lychees

Almond Jelly with Lychees

This was a favorite recipe of my late mother-in-law Remedios Pineda Quirino. I still have her handwritten recipe, and we remember Mama fondly whenever I make this sweet almond treat during the holidays.  

2 to 4 servings 


For the gelatin: 

2 (¼-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin 

1 ½ cups water 

¾ cup granulated sugar 

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 

1 teaspoon almond extract 

1 (20-ounce) can lychees, drained but reserving ½ cup syrup  

For syrup: 

½ cup granulated sugar 

½ cup water 

½ teaspoon almond extract 


  • In a small stockpot, whisk unflavored gelatin powder into the water until completely dissolved. Liquid will look translucent. Add the sugar and blend well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. 

  • Add the evaporated milk and almond extract to the gelatin mixture and blend until smooth. Let this cool and firm up in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.  

  • To prepare the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and almond extract in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil in about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and cool on the counter until the syrup is at room temperature. 

  • To assemble, cut the chilled almond gelatin into 2-inch cubes. In a bowl, combine the gelatin cubes and almond-flavored syrup. Add the drained lychees and the reserved lychee syrup to the mixture. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Recipe note: Fresh lychees are oval-shaped fruit measuring nearly 2 inches in diameter and have a deep red, coarse skin. Peeling this tough outer skin reveals a light pink, jelly-like fruit the size of a large grape. Lychees are naturally sweet and have a delicate floral scent. Canned lychees are similar in flavor and convenient when fresh ones are not in season. 

How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks

How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “How to Cook Philippine Desserts: Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site

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