Saturday, 8 September 2018

CUPCAKE MEATLOAF, MY FIRST TRY



I've been making meatloaf in forever using a loaf pan.  When I saw this idea on Facebook, I felt I've got to try it.  So I prepared it for our Friday dinner with my daughter and granddaughter following the suggested recipe and not my tried and tested meatloaf recipe. 


This is the meat mixture with egg, carrots, celery stalk, Parmesan,  bread crumbs and seasonings. 


I made big balls and dropped them on muffin pans lined with paper.  Popped them in the oven at 350 for 40 minutes. 


Baking doesn't complete the job though, this is not yet the finished product.  It should look like a real dressed -up cupcake. 


Here they are  with mash potatoes topping.  I'm not great in putting on icing that they're really not looking that great like a cupcake should be.

"What's for dinner, Nana?", my granddaughter asked.
"Cupcake meatloaf", I replied. 
"Interesting!"

Interesting but it was not quite popular.  I learned my granddaughter doesn't eat meatloaf, though she ate one.   Moreover, when my daughter cooks at home, she fries the slices like any meatloaf, homemade or otherwise.  But to be fair, they taste good as well and so not a flop afterall. 

Well, they're not really looking nice like all cupcakes do.   "Better luck next time", they all say, but there won't be a next time, promise!  Well not cupcake meatloaf anyway.  Im going back to my traditional meatloaf method and recipe. 



Friday, 31 August 2018

A FUN DAY AT THE SALCEDO COMMUNITY MARKET



Two weeks ago today, my sister from the US came for a visit.  Wanting to make her enjoy Filipino delicacies, food and wares, our son-in-law and older daughter brought us to the Salcedo Community Market.  This opens only on weekend mornings. 

Here we are at Salcedo Community Market



"I always like to go to markets and groceries", my sister told me.   I fully share her sentiment.  To me, they are like mines, you can never tell what they have in store.  

On the first stall we happened upon, my sister already bought puto and kutsinta to bring home.  We went around the stalls one after the other so as not miss anything.  

After passing several stores, we stopped to pose. 



Here is my daughter and  my granddaughter who couldn't  smile, I guess her month is full. 

                  Japanese pancakes

Pancake batter cooked on rounded steel molds; two pieces make a  sandwich where we can choose a filling.   I chose cream cheese, my sister wanted hazel nut spread and my granddaughter liked the choco chips. 

Mid-way around, our purchases added up and so are our bags became heavier. I got two containers of balaw-balaw (fermented rice with shrimps) it is Jim's favorite; suman sa lihya for merienda later and two packs of Lucban longanisa to bring home for breakfast 

Further along, I saw my sister grasping a roll of bills. When I raised an eyebrow in question she said:   "it's easier this way so I don't have to open my wallet every time I purchase.  Wow! She was in a buying mode 

There was roast corn in a cob, brushed with butter, it was my granddaughter's breakfast.  There's even grilled bangus (milkfish) with tomatoes and onions inside.  My sister bought one to bring home.  There was also lechon (Roast pig) served with sauce or a meal set with rice. 



I love this suckling pig roll, a piece of that crunchy goodness rolled in soft wrap with celery stick and hoisen sauce, it tasted like duck skin roll but more tasty. 


Grilled hotdogs, anyone?  My 4-year-old grandson would  love this. 


BBQ lovers will love this, especially the popular chicken inasal. 


Here are the all-time Pinoy favorites, ready to eat bopis, ginatang  ulam, kare kare, dinuguan, tapa, escargot, mussels, etc..  There's also bake Mac and lasagna. 


Oops! There are also plants and native crafts. Look at that Mexican hat on my sister. 


There were lots of Filipino delicacies in colorful containers and packages looking very attractive for balikbayans to bring back home. 


And for dessert, the "dirty ice cream" is one of the most delicious ice creams  I've ever tasted.

Finally after seeing almost everything , we bought our breakfast and found seats by the tables provided.  I didn't bring my water so I bought sago and gulaman  to wash down the Chinese lumpia and lechon I had.  

It was a pleasant experience that made us want to go back there.  I am truly amazed at the ingenuity of our folks to create delicious and interesting food and crafts.  

In my excitement, I all forgot to take more pictures.  Most of them were taken by my sister who wanted to show friends back home. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

OH NO! EVERYONE IS GOING TO HEAVEN SO SOON.



Our family doctor, Dr. Ric Pascasio left us so soon!  This is both a shock and a surprise, though not a pleasant one.  I thought all along that he'd outlive us, knowing him being so relaxed and simply taking life in stride. 

Whenever we visited him,  I often tell him to take good care of himself.  "Walang iwanan, Doc, ha?",  I recall saying that to him again the last time we visited.  I'm glad I brought him my homemade pudding  along with other snacks.  He just smiled.  Oftentimes he'd say not to blame him for taking care of us well that we may live beyond our 90's like his other patients. 

When Jim experienced a prolonged tummy issue at the turn of the millennium and the hospital seemed unable to pinpoint what's ailing him in spite several tests, my former boss urged us to see Dr. Ric Pascasio, who eventually became our family doctor. 

Immediately he assured Jim that he can help him, he stopped Jim from taking the eight medicines that the hospital prescribed and told him to take a pill of probiotics that stabilized the tummy and worked pretty much the same but more than what Yakult can do.  He didn't believe in altering the course of nature, instead he practiced bringing back the natural function of the body so it can heal itself.  

At the end of that first visit he promised Jim:
"I am your doctor and I will be responsible for your health, you can call me anytime day and night ".  True to his word, whenever we called, he would prescribe medicine on the phone. 

One time that I called  to consult about Jim's condition, he said, "I knew you'd call today, how are you?", I'm not surprised for he was gifted with keen intuition, so he can feel my vibes. 
 "Not so good doc, I'm having this sore throat, I feel like I'm going to get sick", I replied. 
"I thought so, I can hear it in your voice, you can take this capsule, three times a day". 

I'm sure that Jim and I are just among the thousands of people who felt physically, psychologically and emotionally relieved by this great Doctor.   He can see what's wrong through our eyes; thus there's no need to undergo the routine tests of X-ray, ultrasound or even MRI, unless you want to double-check. 

He always took time to share his anecdotes to relax his patients even when many were waiting for their turn outside his office.  He used to talk lengthily to his patients at odd hours in Australia, Japan, Canada and in the US, and that was before the advent of skype, FaceTime, viber  when overseas call is not cheap. 

He never ran out of stories, sometimes he would turn on his component and sing-a-long  "Hello, Dolly",  I believe it remained his favorite from his stint as a singer at Bayside, the famous nightclub in his prime.  He encourages everyone to dance and sway,  feel the rhythm and just get lost in the melody to keep the entire body in sync. 

You have to know this password:  "PPD" for "Pinaka-Poging Doctor" (the most handsome doctor) so the guards at the village gate will let you in.  Such is Dr. Ric Pascasio, a jolly fellow, compassionate, with simple taste but with exceptional talent to treat the sick.  He will always be fondly remembered. 

I say everybody is going to heaven and leaving us since just last week, another buddy of Jim also passed away , a health buff who runs marathons.  At this phase in our lives, we readily get news that a former colleague or a friend is seriously ill or have passed.  Sometimes it is depressing. 

The recent passing of Dr. Ric Pascasio, the shock we experienced when we heard the sudden passing of congressman Roilo Golez, Jim's former classmate and friend as well as Jim's buddy, Ed from Petron somehow made me all the more aware that life is short.  BTW, MY family is still mourning the passing of my sister-in-law  (wife of my eldest brother), we just marked her 40th day this week while we are still recovering from the loss of our compadre, the father-in-law of my older daughter who also passed a few months ago. 

Such is the order of nature, it is inevitable, only the timing that is not known to us.  That is the very reason I always tell myself to live in the moment; urging me more than ever to throw myself into it and live it to the fullest for as long as it lasts.  And there is always that hope that maybe it won't end so soon. 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

My Ten Best-Loved Novels A Day On Facebook



I was nominated by Grace, my childhood friend and now a multi-awarded author (of 50 books and counting) to post my most-loved novels one day at a time for ten days.  In turn, I will nominate and tag a different friend everyday to do the same.  

I'm not fond of such Facebook challenges but I just couldn't pass up this one, like the 100-Happy-Days-Living-for-Today" challenge suggested by my younger daughter earlier on.  For 100 consecutive days I made a post on Facebook about something that made me happy everyday.

The "The-100-Happy-Days-Living-for-Today" challenge  gave me a better awareness of my surroundings and the people around me.  It took another level of appreciation and sensitivity to draw out the interesting ones that made me happy, it did  not matter whether they were insignificant at all to others.  

I'm optimistic that this novel challenge will bring me another level of joy because this will also be about my Facebook friends.  Moreover, it will surely remind me of those early days reading them.  I'm excited and at the same time curious what my friends' favorite novels are, I wonder if their choices  are  similar to mine. 

Upon seeing my nomination, I immediately dug into my books but I couldn't find any novel except this one.  Obviously, this made my first post. 



Most of those I retained after my declutter 3 years ago (when we moved to this new home) are self-help books about life, health and aging gracefully.  But I have this book, so apparently it meant much to me otherwise it could have gone with the rest.  With the advent of iPad, I stopped buying paperbacks and read on line. 

I was temporarily at a loss what I'd post the next day.  I could google though but...what?  My mind drew a blank. I couldn't recall authors nor the titles of novels I enjoyed.  What to do?

Wait! I could recall some plots  but not the titles of novels nor their authors.  Fortunately again Jim, who is also one of my blog editors came to my rescue.  

For instance, I asked him about the story of a priest who had a secret love affair.  I  recall the scene in Australia,  I can still picture sheep stations in my mind as described in the book. and Jim, as if he was just thinking about it automatically said: "The Thorn Birds".

"Come on", I said.  "Tell me more about the novels we enjoyed together earlier" and so our recollection began.  We came out with seven worth posting; I googled the book covers and read their synopses to make sure they are the novels we talked about. 

This is great, we found a common topic that we both enjoyed; we are happy to know that when we put our minds on things,  downloading from our memory banks come easily.  Isn't that great for guys in their seventies? 

Here are the rest of my choice novels that I posted: 

2nd day: 


3rd day:


4th day:


5th day:


6th day:



7th day:


8th day:


9th day:


10th day:


Wait!  Why did I fail to include this book?  I love this. At least I can post it here. 




I could have posted more, like a novel each of Barbara Delinsky, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Eileen Goudge, Pearl S. Buck, etc.  however, please don't think that I'm that ancient.  I also read Dan Brown and the works of more modern authors, though the earlier ones are those I remember most.  Besides, the more books I read, the less I can remember.  

When I reached adolescence my Mama started me with the wholesome love stories of Emilie Loring while my older brother had the whole set of Tom Sawyer.  Immediately after,  we graduated to the mystery novels of Earl Stanley Gardner and Perry Mason, then came the Ian Fleming thrillers that my parents and brother enjoyed. 

Today, I seldom read bestsellers, unlike earlier when I read one every month. Nowadays I read mostly contemporary romance from Kobo, the beauty of Bookbub is they present free and cheap novels based on your reading history. 

So guys, what do you think of my choices? Too feminine?



Monday, 4 June 2018

IN SEARCH FOR LIFE'S PERFECT BLEND



Someone wrote that the theory of work-life balance where we try to give equal time and attention to our professional and personal lives, and treating them like two different things is no longer effective in this modern cyber world.  

Since we are not unplugged at home, emails and calls from work are inevitable; sometimes we even need to bring home work.  So, how are we going to manage this?  And what about those who work from home, how do they draw the line? 

Some say that finding the perfect blend works best.  One suggested to think like making a cocktail, what are the elements we want to put in?  A cocktail glass can only contain so much, and like our lives; we can only do so much in a day, a week, a month, a year.  That's why we must choose well which ones to include in our lives.  We need to prioritize.  

Well, I am not employed anymore so I don't need to divide my time between work and play, but I need a perfect blend more than ever.  We seniors know that we are living in borrowed time; so many things to do, lots to focus on with so little time. 

Here are the things I'd love to incorporate in my life.   I'm hoping to make a good blend so I can enjoy a wholesome lifestyle.  Wholesome meaning conducive to and suggestive of good health and well being. 

A load of family time

Time with my family is the first to go into my blend.   I don't want to miss any milestone in their lives.  I'd drop everything for a chance to bond with any and all of them. 

A dash of social life

I read about a lady at 80 who didn't want to bother with the workings of the Internet and does Facebook live.  Everyday she walks along main street and talks to people; sharing what she is currently doing, talking about her feelings like she is posting them.  She carries pictures of her grandchildren, her pet, where she dined last night to show around and she gets likes and comments personally from people.

Likewise she gives comments and thumbs up to peoples' stories.   As of her writing, she already has 4 followers.   Isn't that interesting, bringing Facebook to another level?  Instead of sitting down with her gadget, she's interacting with actual people.  I'd say that's a great social life.  It just proves that if there's a will, there's a way. 

Diet


I can't say which diet is best for anyone, this depends on our health condition.  My doctor says to go slow on sweets, fatty and spicy foods and I can eat anything I want but only in moderation.  I believe this is a good idea for everyone. 

It is challenging to eat right at all times especially when we have company or when we eat out or while traveling.  Im just glad I found a healthy everyday breakfast that I like. 

A heavy dose of exercise

I met this health-buff neighbor who became a good friend on my morning walks.  Her health mantra: "good health is based on 70% diet and 30% exercise.  That seems to work for her since she must be in her golden years but she runs 2 kilometers daily; when we walk together, I can't even keep up with her. 

Walking is my main exercise, I think it is the best and safest exercise for seniors like me.   While walking, I think clearly and I gather inspiration for my blog.   Exercise is necessary in our lives,  this is non-negotiable; we just have to do it in any which way that works for us. 

Double or triple splash of hygiene

Hygiene is very important to keep harmful bacteria at bay.  Moreover, we seniors should double or triple our hygienic routine otherwise we can't expect our grandchildren to stay on our laps, much less want to kiss or hug us. 

Stir in passion to realize our dreams

The pursuit of a dream will make us do and experience new things we never thought possible.  Doing what I love gives me great satisfaction mentally and emotionally along with a feeling of pride and accomplishment.  



The beauty of "blending a cocktail"  idea makes my life less of a monotony because I can change the formula as often as I want.  In fact, I can customize it  as I go along by allocating more time for those that make my life more interesting. 

Did you know that even if we failed to take better care of ourselves earlier and have been careless with our diet,  it would still make a lot of difference if we start now?  It is never too late to live healthy because at the end of the day our overall health depends on how we manage it. Therefore today is the best day to exercise good choices in our diet and activities. 

I hope that the basic recipe I chose would work for me.  My gauge?  I have to ask my self.  Do I feel that sense of well being?  Am I happy and fulfilled?  Do I feel great most of the time in spite some stiff joints and the little aches and pains due to old age?   Did I miss anything in the lives of my love ones?  

Have I found the perfect blend?  If not, I better change my concoction.  




Monday, 9 April 2018

Summer Garden Highlights



IT'S SUMMER!
The time of the year with plenty of sunshine, the time when veggies and fruits thrive in our tropical Philippines.   Now, let me update you on our edible garden, not only the backyard but the front lawn has herbs now. 

"Gardening nowadays is not all about getting plenty of flower arrangements for our homes but more for the hearty edibles and drinkables", says Kim Palmer of the Star Tribune. 

There is so much joy in growing part of our own food because we get  them fresh and organic.  I enjoy going to the front lawn every morning to cut tarragon, basil and mint leaves for our tea.  When I cook stew, I go to the backyard to pluck leaves of oregano for flavoring and pandan for pleasant aroma.  

"Are we having salad today?"  Jim would ask so he will gather lettuce.  "The bitter gourds are ready for picking, would you cook that today?" , he would ask to know whether my meat dish would compliment it. 

Let me show you our herbs. We moved most of them to the front lawn where there is more sunshine. 


BASIL


I prepared this PESTO using two cups of the leaves. 



THYME 
I always use thyme for my soups.


ROSEMARY
This herb is very useful for roasts though I love to sprinkle the leaves on baguette toast.  Rosemary with thyme and marjoram will make a great combination of flavors. 


TARRAGON


I pour hot water to two short stalks of tarragon in each of the mason jars. When the water turns Amber, my tea is ready.  There is so much health benefits and vitamins from tarragon that's why we drink this tea regularly.  Adding basil and mint leaves makes it more flavorful, it is even more refreshing when refrigerated. 


Mint in our front door. 

                                           

MINT 
is often used as garnish and/or dressing for salads and for tea. 

I also use mint as organic insecticide.  Water from boiled mint leaves and stems when sprayed on plants remove aphids and other harmful insects.  A cup of alcohol added to a liter of mint water eliminates insects when sprayed indoors, especially in dark corners and under the sink. 


OREGANO
This is great for stews, I chop two big leaves of oregano and add this when cooking the popular Filipino dish, the adobo.  I also use this in cooking caldereta, afritada and mechado.  

The juice of its leaves gives relief for cough.  When my cough persisted for two weeks of taking medicine,  my maid took pity on me, she extracted the juice from oregano leaves.  I took that for two days and I got my relief. 


GINGER and TUMERIC
This is a daily kitchen staple used in many different dishes, especially oriental recipes.  Water boiled with ginger soothes sore throat.


PANDAN
This is used as flavoring for cakes, jello and some dishes.  I use it to give a pleasant aroma to my soups. When I add a pandan leaf in the rice cooker, I have the whole house smelling great.  In Singapore some cab drivers use it as car freshener


LEMON GRASS
This is used to enhance the flavor of dishes and used as roast stuffing for chicken, lechon (roast pig) and even fish. 

Let me bring you to the backyard to see the veggies:



                                   Another view of the trellis


BITTER GOURD or Amargoso
Jim and I are so happy that his bitter gourd is bearing so much fruit.   


I sautéed our first harvest in yellow bean paste and it was so delicious.  Old folks believe that if one is the jealous type, his/her bitter gourd dish will turn out so bitter even after cooking. 

                                               Before

                                      After 10 days

LETTUCE LOLLO ROSSA
A type of louse-leaf lettuce has red leaves perfect for salads.  The curly leaves are sweet and tender and hold salad dressing well.  
It is also used to wrap barbecued meat and eaten like a taco wrap. 


This patch are now planted with lettuce LOLLO ROSSA (red patch), Ching chai pai tsai (pachoy) and at the far end is kangkong (local water cress).  Fronting the stone jar-and-bowl are mint.


MORINGA TREE is
dubbed as "the medicine cabinet" or "super food" because of the numerous vitamins and minerals it contains.  In our locality, we believe that construction workers get a great part of their strength from these leaves since it is often included in their daily viand. 

Ohh, I almost forgot!  Look where Jim planted okra; in front of the vacant lot next door.  


                                        Here's a partial close-up

How did you like our garden this summer?  

Jim and I tend this garden together, well, I propagate the herbs, sometimes I remove dry leaves, re-arrange some pots and basically that's it.  Jim practically does most of the gardening work and I take pictures! 





Friday, 26 January 2018

Dining At Michelin Star Restaurants In Singapore



On our trip to Singapore this month I took a fancy  on restaurants with Michelin stars.  This time I was more conscious of them that I did some readings and learned  more about the Michelin Guide and how restaurants can acquire a Michelin star.  

In the early 1900's, Michelin, a French tyre manufacturer came up with a Michelin guide published annually as a manual for car owners.  It focused on trouble  shooting and maintenance, maps, location of petrol filling stations and other information relevant to road trips so people were encouraged to travel.  In so doing, they thought it would enhance car sales and boost their business.  Included therein is a list of food stops for drivers which were marked with one, two or three stars.



From my readings,the prestigious Michelin star has evolved a bit differently from its infancy.  Nowadays it has become a status symbol for restaurants who earned these coveted stars.  In fact in the case of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay being stripped of his two Michelin stars in his New York restaurant has been frequently mentioned in my readings.   "It felt like losing a girl friend, that you want to get her back", said Ramsay. 

They say that there are a select 120 secret inspectors/reviewers who are schooled and expert in the culinary field and possess the discriminate palate to appreciate food.  

They cover about 40,000 restaurants worldwide, each one dining at 240 restaurants per year; visiting them every 18 months for evaluation.  They pay to dine like an ordinary customer so they blend in the crowd and remain incognito while doing their jobs.   

It takes at least four visits of consistent satisfactory observation and only after consultation with two of the world-wide Executives before a single star can be awarded ; 10 visits for two stars and so on.  This guide focused mostly in Europe and only later in the United States. 

In recent years, Asian countries have been included; among them are Japan, Hongkong, Macao and the latest is Singapore.  In 2016, two Singaporean hawker food stalls were awarded a single star for their delicious and affordable meals.   From there, many restaurants were awarded the Michelin star in Singapore that it warranted an Apps, a guide for Singapore restaurants with the Michelin stars.  


Our son brought us to lunch at Nabe Siezan, a 2-Michelin star Japanese restaurant for its Dashi soup (fish broth). We ordered their bestsellers;  


the wagyu beef 

This photo is lifted from Nabe's website

the Sea Bream  with dashi rice.  
I'd say that the dishes were not cheap. 

The Kam's Roast Restaurant is a spin off of the Michelin star restaurant in Hongkong, the Kam's Roast Goose.  In Singapore, Kam's Roast serve star-quality roast duck instead of goose using the same ingredients and method because they couldn't find a reliable goose supplier in Singapore.  Kam's Roast is still working on earning a star but the food is already Michelin-star worthy. 



Kam's Roast also serve roast chicken and Char Sui Pork.  Our son ordered all three dishes for us to taste and they were all great. 


The high quality of Dim Sum at affordable prices for the masses to enjoy is Tim Ho Wan restaurant's pride for acquiring it's Michelin star.  


There are the big four heavenly King  in the hierarchy of their dim-sum; pan fried radish cake, steamed egg cake,  bean curd of pork and shrimp and the baked ban with BBQ pork.  The latter seems to be a great favorite for many. 



Among the four, I only tasted the baked ban with BBQ Pork (their best seller) when our younger daughter bought some  for us to taste the last time we were in Singapore.  


Here we were at Tsuta Ramen, another Michelin-star restaurant.  Our son-in-law and younger daughter brought us there last September to try their Shoyu Ramen complimented with truffle oil that earned them the Michelin star. 

In the photo above we were waiting for our ramen being prepared by two chefs in front of us. 

Note that a Michelin star is awarded to a restaurant because of the quality, authenticity and exceptional good taste of a dish and nothing to do with the place and its ambiance.  However, having a Michelin star is a crowd drawer and before long expansion and beatification is inevitable.  


There are more restaurants with Michelin Stars that our children would like to bring us to but Jim said "enough of star restaurants".  So on our last night our younger daughter and son-in-law brought us to NamNam at Plaza Singapora for Vietnamese Pho Noodles.   The mint, spring onions and cilantro in the soup  were so refreshing and served with a generous amount of tender beef.  Now, I would rate that with a Michelin star. 

During my trips to Singapore I had the opportunity to dine in many restaurants,  (our children make sure we experience a new one most of the time) I believe that there are more deserving of that coveted star. 

Sometime ago, the Michelin Guide was said to be biased with French Cuisine, this maybe due to accessibility and their food orientation. Wouldn't you wonder why a tyre manufacturer is critiquing food at restaurants around the world?

Having tasted a few Michelin star dishes, I have to say that most of them are great but some are not to my liking.  Maybe my palate is not sophisticated enough  to appreciate a variety of dishes.   Still, I believe that if "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder", then delicious food is in the tongue of the taster. 


Today, a week after this was published, I learned further that restaurants having Michelin Stars is not really all that great afterall. Just recently, I read that Sebastian Bras, a French chef gave up his three stars and requested not to be included in the 2018 Michelin guide because he can no longer stand the pressure of being inspected or rated everytime he puts out a new dish. There were also a few other chefs who dropped out of the guide for the same reason.