Learning vegan recipes with Jertie’s Kitchen | steppanyaki

Me, cook? Me, cook healthy, and vegan recipes, at that? Apparently it’s not as hard as it seems.

For the past few months, I’ve been having an adventurous streak. Not adventurous like scaling mountains or going bungee jumping, but I’ve been definitely been more open to trying new things, and at times, seemingly more challenging things.

A few weeks ago I was invited by a blogger/vlogger friend of mine, Melissa, to attend a vegan cooking workshop at The Good Seed in Pasig. My instant reaction was hey, I don’t even cook! But if there’s something I love watching videos or tutorials on, it’s cooking or baking. Hey, who says you have to cook to love food?

Steppanyaki and Melissa the Mermaid

So when the opportunity struck to try to learn to cook healthy recipes, I was in.

The cooking workshop was conducted by Jertie’s Kitchen, a home-based food specialty business promoting vegan and gluten-free recipes. Jertie’s Kitchen, which has been around since 2011, is made up of sisters Jertie and Jaq Abergas.

The workshop we attended was part of a monthly series. That month’s theme was “Anong Baon Mo, Bes?” (which translates to “What’s your packed meal, friend?”). Perfect for go-getters and busy moms or yuppies, the workshop’s meals focused on smoothies, dishes and even deserts that you can easily whip up and prep for your eating pleasure throughout the work week.

The format–thank goodness–was more of a classroom setup wherein we attendees would just listen, take notes and indulge in the vegan dishes Jertie an Jaq would concoct. It was a relaxing four hours of just talking and asking about good food, and Jertie and Jaq made it more of a lighthearted chikahan than a serious demo.

Jertie and Jaq Abergas of Jertie’s Kitchen

We learned a lot about meal planning, batch cooking and working with frozen food. I especially appreciated learning about alternative cooking essentials such as healthier options for cooking oil, sugar and seasoning substitutes, even pasta sauces.

We were taught how to prepare the following: energy-boosting smoothie, southwestern vegetable casserole, curried lentil stew, vegetable giniling and choco fudge.

Energy-boosting smoothie, made with camote tops, spinach and dragonfruit
Southwestern vegetable casserole, made with bell peppers, cumin, sweet potato, white beans, eggplant and tomatoes
Curried lentil stew, made with red onions, garlic, carrots, lentils, kalabasa
Choco fudge, made with cocoa powder, peanut butter, vanilla extract, topped with nuts, dried fruits and pumpkin seeds

They were amazingly filling and made more flavorful with spices. My favorites were the vegetable casserole and of course, the choco fudge and the smoothie.

Some of my biggest takeaways from the workshop were that it’s not true that going vegan is automatically expensive. Sure, you have to invest more in the foundation–cooking oil, sauces, sweeteners, etc.–but the other ingredients can be as simple and common as camote tops, eggplant, potatoes or tomatoes.

Another is that it helps to research what exactly goes into what you’re eating. Treat food as your body’s fuel. Be smart about what you consume. A lot of the things that we eat, we don’t know what nutrients have been stripped from them or chemicals added from processing or keeping them fresh. It’s easier said than done, but if you take the baby steps to making small changes every day, you’ll be healthier in due time.

Now I’m not exactly the poster girl for healthy eats–I like to blog about non-vegan food on this blog. But I sure enjoyed learning more about cooking vegan recipes and finding out ultimately that it’s not as intimidating as it seems.

Interested in learning to cook healthy, too? Check out Jertie’s Kitchen on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jertieskitchen.pastries and make sure to attend their upcoming workshops, all 2 to 6 pm at The Good Seed:

August 5 – Kain, Kaivegan, Potluck Tayo!
September 2 – Love Chocolate

The workshop costs P2,000 each (early bird rate at P1,800) but if you’re attending two you get it for P3,500. That includes all ingredients already, and you can even take home the meals from the workshop!

Jertie’s Kitchen also makes some yummy treats:

Dark choco fudge brownies
Cranberry almond granola bar
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LEON Authentic Mexican in Antipolo City | steppanyaki

For someone who spent 13 years of her life studying in Antipolo, I can say that a lot has definitely changed in the city in the last 15 years.

While Marikina has its Lilac Street, Pasig has Kapitolyo, Marikina has Poblacion and Quezon City Maginhawa, Antipolo has similarly started to flaunt its share of culinary talent.

In the past, I’ve written about Chi’s Burgers Company and Monte Café. With their inventive concepts, modern interiors and appeal to East side foodies, Antipolo restaurateurs are truly giving their Manila rivals a run for their money. Watch out, because the city is the next big food haunt locale in the outskirts of Manila.

Last night, my boyfriend and I visited a freshly opened restaurant in Antipolo—LEON Authentic Mexican. From the restaurant’s name itself, you can probably tell that there aren’t a lot of Mexican restaurants in Antipolo—what’s more palpable is the burgeoning coffee shop scene. 

How to get there

It’s easy to find LEON Authentic Mexican. If you’re coming from Ortigas Extension, just go straight and look for the Ynares Sports Center—it’ll be on your left side. If you’re not familiar with the area, just look for the Antipolo Tanay Shopwise jeepneys and follow their route. The Ynares Sports Center is a good five-minute drive from Tikling, that intersection with the rotunda.

Once you see the Ynares Sports Center on your left, slow down a bit and a good two or three blocks after it, you’ll see a brightly lit LEON bulb sign on your right. Easy, right? The restaurant is right across what used to be the Giants Café & Resto Bar—you can also ask tricycle drivers about Giants if you get lost.

Watch my boyfriend’s video below to get a feel of LEON Authentic Mexican:

First impressions

LEON Authentic Mexican is on the second floor of the Okinari Arcade, which also serves as location for other restaurants such as Sulok Café (check out their Facebook page here and Little House of Cheesecakes & More – Baked Cheesecake in Jars.

Upon going up, you’ll be greeted by a gray wall with their key food offerings written on it. There’s a modern, minimalist and industrial vibe about the restaurant, with its metallic hanging lamps and simple decorative items. But this is balanced out and punctuated by the set of wooden tables.

On one wall inside you’ll see the comprehensive menu, which gets rid of the hassle of having to ask for a physical menu. Choose from sizzling fajitas, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, soft tacos, chicken fingers, chicken wings, chili con carne, chimichanga, fries, stuffed bell peppers and sandwiches, and pair these with soda, beer, juice or mojito.

The price ranges from P100 to around P250, which gives you a good affordable variety for your budget. There’s wifi too if you’d like to snap and instantly share your food shots.

A television hangs from one of the restaurant’s corners, showing an NBA game. The feel of the place is relaxed, homey—somewhere you could bring your barkada to, enjoy a couple of drinks and just hang out. 

How it all started

We wanted to sample a good variety of LEON Authentic Mexican’s dishes, so my boyfriend and I ordered cheese quesadillas (also available in cheese & jalapeño, steak, carnitas and chicken), a chicken burrito (also available in steak, carnitas, Mexican Adobar) and sizzling steak fajitas (also available in chicken and carnitas).

Service is speedy at around 10 to 15 minutes waiting time. While waiting, we chatted with the one of the owners, Ann, who is a friend of ours from the motoring industry. She co-owns the restaurant with her boyfriend, Joseph, who takes care of the cooking.

Why Mexican food? Ann admits that the both of them love going out for Mexican food, and realized that there wasn’t much of it available in Antipolo. They wanted to start a food business and it only felt natural that they go for what they both enjoyed. LEON is a combination of their names (they have second names, too).

With the saturation of restaurants in busier cities like Pasig and Makati, Antipolo has much promise with its curious foodie market and accessibility to Metro Manila (for those not in the know, Antipolo is sandwiched by Rizal municipalities such as Taytay, Cainta, as well as Pasig City and Marikina City). Residential areas, schools, offices, hospitals abound in Antipolo—not to mention, LEON Authentic Mexican is also pretty near the famed Pinto Art Museum.

The verdict

Our food starts to arrive, and we are floored with the serving sizes. All of the items we ordered are good for sharing, which makes the restaurant’s offerings extra sulit and perfect for groups.

Presentation is straightforward. We started wolfing down the quesadillas and noted the generous serving of cheese sandwiched in between the tortilla. The salsa at LEON Authentic Mexican is freshly made every day, and the sour cream was delightfully tangy and not overwhelming.

It was our first time to have fajitas and it was an interesting experience cutting up the meat and rolling it in tortilla. The steak fajitas have a slight spicy kick to them, and you’re welcome to add more hot sauce if that’s to your liking.

The chicken burrito was amazing and you could see and taste how they didn’t scrimp on the ingredients—chunky pieces of chicken, bell peppers, corn and cilantro in every bite.

If only I didn’t have acid reflux, I would have wanted to try their mojito, too, or have some beer. Oh well. Something to look forward to when I get better! I’m also curious to try the chimichanga and nachos next time.

During the time that we were there, we mostly saw couples—maybe because we arrived at 10pm already—but we found out that families also enjoy dining at the restaurant, and had also received great reviews from foreigners living in the area.

Overall, LEON Authentic Mexican is exactly that—a slice of fantastic Mexican food in a city that deserves to be discovered for its culinary gems. Portions are generous, service is fast and the food is made with heart and passion. Not to mention that they are open too every single day, from 11 am to 11 pm.

There’s always something to try in Antipolo, and I’m glad I live pretty nearby! I have a perfect excuse to visit it when I have a hankering for good food that would otherwise be more expensive and in crowded restos in Manila. Two thunbs up for LEON Authentic Mexican! Make sure to check it out and bring your friends.

Ann, myself and my boyfriend Raynand

LEON Authentic Mexican is located at the 2nd floor of Okinari Arcade, along L. Sumulong Circle (Circumferential Road), Barangay San Roque, Antipolo City, and is open from Mondays to Sundays from 11 am to 11 pm. 

To learn more about LEON Authentic Mexican, visit their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram.

Did you like this blog post? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll get in touch with you.

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Taking a bite out of the world – one dish, one destination, one adventure at a time.