14 Mar

I had one of those weeks last week where I had so much going on at once. Work, extra dance practices, Illustrator practice plus a big assignment on Saturday, social gatherings, etc. Somehow I didn’t end up actually getting every single thing done that I had wanted to, and that’s always disappointing. Plus, I was thrown a couple of very frustrating curveballs that drained the energy out of me when I tried to hit them all out of the park. Everything culminated into one of those big lessons, where in the end, the message is that “I can’t do it all.” I realize this all sounds so ambiguous, but trust me when I say, I barely had time to cook anything new or original, let alone document it. I’m not so happy about that, although the weekend got a bit better in terms of time and energy for cooking. Plus, I always have a Plan B.

I ended up buying some healthy, heat-and-eat or almost-ready-to-eat options from Safeway that have not only been a saving grace in terms of time and energy, but provided surprisingly tasty sustenance for those tired and late nights. There’s a healthy, low-cholesterol roasted red pepper and crab soup that I’m hooked on, as well as their whole-grain ravioli with some Bertolli Vodka sauce.  A little bit of that, and a big salad, and I could go to bed satisfied.

So sometimes I think it’s ok to cheat a little – as long as you’re not swinging by the McDonald’s drive-thru every time you come home late from work (or dance practice, as in my case these days). And although I didn’t actually make this dish last week, Caldereta, the way I’ve learnt to prepare it, allows for a little cheating in its own way – with a sauce mix packet.

I honestly don’t know what exact herbs and spices are used to make this Filipino meat stew from scratch. But the packet works very well in making a thick, savory sauce that envelops the beef and vegetables and tastes great with rice. You can omit ingredients if you want – this dish doesn’t need olives, but I like them, yet other cooks choose to leave them out. I’m sure you could even use chicken in this dish, although I like the richness of the beef. If you have red pepper instead of green, that’s definitely a worthy substitute. That’s the beauty of ethnic food. Even if you do use a spice packet or a jar of sauce, you can still change it up to make it your own.



  • 1 packet of Caldereta sauce mix (I use Mama Sita, found in Asian/Ethnic food stores)
  • 1-1.5 lbs beef, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used pre-sliced tenderloin and cut it into smaller pieces)
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 2 carrots, sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pepper, green or red, diced
  • ½ cup green peas
  • ¼ – ½ cup olives (to your liking)
  • water
  • cooked brown or white rice


Brown the beef in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add 2 cups of water and boil to tenderize the beef. Add the entire packet of Caldereta mix and stir to combine thoroughly. Add the potato pieces and carrots and stir. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken, about 20-30 minutes. Add the pepper, peas, and olives and combine, then let simmer for about 10 minutes more. Serve with rice.

I’m curious: Do you cheat a little in the kitchen, like if you’re on a time crunch or are just feeling lazy?


3 Responses to ““Cheating””

  1. Sheridan March 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    My mom cheats with palabok sometimes and uses the packet. My family still loves it 🙂

  2. Jenny March 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    Love your “cheat” dish 😉 If making oatmeal in the microwave is cheating then I totally cheat lol 😀

  3. Lindelle March 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    I always keep some stock cubes on hand 🙂

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