December DIYs

>> December 20, 2012

I felt really inspired to do some tiny DIYs in the house because  :

1. My hubby's coming home for Christmas.
2. Pinterest is awesomely influential.

The outcome wasn't really superb but I'm happy it didn't end up in disaster. A few things I have learned with these DIYs:

a. It's not always as easy/simple as it looks.
b. Needs lots of patience and time investment.
c. Cats should be locked up in the bedroom while you work.

So anyways, let's start with our Christmas tree. My cats have controlled my life for years now. My rights to use the microwave, to have nice flower vase and other table top decorations, to have a nice couch  - and to have a Christmas tree had been stripped off. So I made a stick-on Christmas tree.

Made from cut out colored paper, paper snowflakes, and used elmer's glue to stick on the dry wall.
Now we know who destroyed the snowflake.
The hanging Christmas balls I used to accentuate our window. Every day Lottie wrestles with the balls hoping it falls off. The Christmas bowl ornament was just made from plastic ornaments I found in the department store and stuff it with more Christmas balls. Every single day too, these get bitten off and balls keep disappearing. 

Lastly, this DIY has taken a lot of my time. I got this headboard idea from Pinterest. Researching further, I found out that it will be more than challenging for me to build this by myself if I follow exactly the materials used and how it's built. The moment I read polycarbonate sheet, I immediately backed off. There's no way I can cut that sheet by hand, by myself. So I just improvised and used materials that I know I can handle by hand. I'm such a tiny, inexperienced girl to be able to cut hard wood and polycarbonate stuff :P.

So here it is! It looks so amateurish, but it's good enough to accentuate the empty wall in our bedroom. It feels so romantic and not that Christmassy at all, so I guess it will stay up all year.

I can't even make a non-crooked shot.

Pardon my crooked low quality shots, I was in a hurry and just wants to blog blog blog before it gets forgotten :P.

So instead of translucent polycarbonate sheet to put on top of the frame, I used 2 sheets of Jusi fabric and stapled it behind the frame. Easy enough!

Anyways, I might need to revisit this post when I get a chance to post exactly how I built it in an amateur fashion LOL.

So ciao for now and happy holidays!


Pineapple - Celery Smoothie

>> November 6, 2012

I wasn't quite sure of celery in a smoothie and I'm quite new to vegetables in fruitshakes so I was feeling a little bit uneasy making this. Surprisingly, it turned out  a-w-e-s-o-m-e  and I think I'm going to make more vegetable based smoothies moving forward. It's nice to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. This drink is guaranteed refreshing and will give you the fiber you need.

- 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
- about 3 stalks of celery, leaves discarded
- 1 small apple, peeled and cored.
- 1 small banana
- 1/2 cup freshly squeeze orange juice (or the prepacked one if not available).
- some sugar or honey
- 3 pieces ice cubes.

1. Dunk all of it in the blender until smooth. Add water if it feels too thick.
2. Add more honey or sugar if it's too sour for your taste.

I didn't need to add ice cubes in my smoothie because my celery and pineapple are both frozen so it's already chilled


Quick and Easy Tomato-Zucchini Warm Salad

Yes I'm alive!!!!

I guess I don't have to say it. It's pretty obvious I've been slacking on my kitchen and have developed a bad habit of ordering take-outs, eating instant food, and indulging to junk foods to keep me alive - resulting to 2kgs of unwanted fats. To this date, I'm 43kg. Yes, I'm not big and that's not even on the line of being fat. But I do feel bloated and I feel the fat's building up in the unflattering areas. Besides, I'm 5 feet flat and couldn't really gain much, otherwise I'll look like ball. So hibernation over - time to take charge in the kitchen again and stop whining about "hubby's away I'm lonely I'm not inspired to do anything" sort of thinking. I won't promise to regularly post, but I will at least make it to a point that I feed myself responsibly.

Enough of the blah blah. Holiday's coming. I'm already forecasting so much food fest all over the place so I was thinking to prepare. So I thought about cutting down on my calories intake beginning today (when's the best time?) so that when the holiday food fest calls in, I will have space for it - guilt free. Sounds like a plan?

Actually, I thought about doing it next week, because this weekend I might have to break the diet plans since I'm taking my mom and sister out of town, hitting the beach for some bonding times filled with food + sun + sand. But what the hell, the best time is always now. If I break it, then there's always making up for it :P.

In celebration of my being back in cooking, here's a simple and super easy tomato-zucchini warm salad to fill your stomach!

- 3 ripe tomatoes, sliced.
- 1 small zucchini, sliced.
- 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- some lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- egg/cheese/croutons for toppings

1. Preheat your oven to 400C.
2. In a mixing bowl, put the tomatoes and zucchini together. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
3. Add garlic, drizzle some lemon juice according to your liking. This will give it a nice kick.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.
5. Get your baking sheet on top of your baking pan and lay down the tomatoes and zucchini pieces. Drizzle some more olive oil if it appears to be dry.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it looks roasted and the garlic is golden brown.

You can serve it with feta cheese toppings, or croutons. But I personally like poached eggs :). Enjoy!


Vegan Hash Brown Inspired Potato Cakes

>> August 15, 2012

We've been having a shitty weather lately. Last week was terrible as there were flooding all over the metro, and as my family, cats and I remained dry and safe, it's very sad that there were plenty of families that were evacuated from their homes because of severe flooding. The country's not even recovered from last week's monsoon rains, but here we go again getting another visit from a typhoon. Anyhow, it was moving and remarkable to see the Filipino spirit during these times. I hardly read rants about how the government performed nor criticizing the government's level of preparation for this kind of natural calamity, but rather read more about people helping people. It was tragic for most, but a lot of people affected were rather calm and trying to stay positive.

So since the flooding was so severe last week, school and business operations were suspended, Almost everything was closed. For that matter, we weren't able to do our groceries. I kinda underestimated the monsoon rains and didn't think to stock up with food supplies. All that's left in my fridge were a bunch of baby potatoes, baby carrots, onions and some cherry tomatoes. If it was just me in the house, I'd probably have settled with an instant Lucky Me Pancit Canton (Mark won't be happy reading this), but since hubby's home I gotta improvise to impress. Thanks to my food processor, grating the baby potatoes was almost effortless. The canned baked beans I never ate served us well too.

- 4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and grated (I  used a bunch of baby potatoes in this photo).
- 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped.
- 1 small carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 tbsp of egg replacer + 3 tbsp of water mixture (or use 1 medium sized egg, beaten)
- salt and pepper

1. Combine the grated carrots, onion and potatoes in a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper according to your liking, and mix well.
2. Squeeze out extra water from the mixture using your hand or a strainer.
3. Add the egg replacer mixture (or beaten eggs) and blend well. The purpose of the egg is to hold them together when you mold it.
4. Mold the potatoes in to balls (size depends on how big you prefer).
5. Heat oil in pan. Once it's hot enough, carefully put the balls and press it with a spatula to flatten it a bit. Set fire to low heat so it doesn't burn quickly and can cook evenly on the inside.
6. Flip on the other side once it's golden brown.

Serve with baked beans and fried baby potatoes.


Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs + Some Catching Up


Yes, I'm still alive.

I'm so thrilled that my husband's back home and there's more reason to cook. After 7 long months he's finally back and although he's just gonna be around for a few weeks, I'm trying to make the most of it.

Here are some catching up photos plus a simple breakfast recipe of our very first breakfast together in 7 months.

- thin asparagus, ends trimmed.
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp mayonaisse
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- loaf of bread

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic until golden brown. Set aside.
2. Pan fry the asparagus until it reaches its vibrant colors. Set aside.
3. Combine beaten eggs plus mayo and a pinch of salt, and beat it like crazy. Fry the mixture and scramble away.

To serve:
Note: Sorry, I totally forgot the name of the bread used in this picture. I just saw it in the Saturday market and it looks tasty enough so i bought it. Use preferably a long loaf like this.

Cut the bread in half, lengthwise and top it with the scrambled eggs.Then layer it with
the asparagus and sprinkle the roasted garlic. Sprinkle some pepper and salt if desired. I matched it with an arugula and kiwi salad.

And here are the catching up photos
Fresh vegetables shopping once again from the Saturday organic market place here in Salcedo Village.

Lottie in his "I'm not really into veggies" look  +  Mark's welcome home flowers.

This was actually our 2nd breakfast but I might as well add it in this post. It's baked pancake. The pancake's Pillsbury :P.


Leeky Potato Soup

>> July 13, 2012

I was randomly looking for food inspiration when I stumbled upon a cooking video of a garlic potato soup. I sat on the idea for about a week, thinking where I can get the "spring garlic" - I don't know what it is exactly called, and since it's kinda like spring onion, I guess it wouldn't hurt to call it like that :P.

I have a very busy week (what's new?) and unfortunately, I didn't really have the time to scavenge markets for the garlic ingredient, so I played with the idea of using leeks. I like leeks when it's grilled or as garnish, but never really have tried to cook it as the main event. And there, I'm happy to say it was a success with flying colors!

Here's a nice warm soup for your rainy afternoons.

- 300g chopped leeks
- 200g peeled and quartered potatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup all purpose cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- nutmeg (optional)

1. Heat oil in a pot. Saute the leeks until tender.
2. Add the vegetable broth and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the potatoes. Set the stove in low heat and cover. Check often and make sure you still have enough liquid in there. Add water when necessary.
4. Use a fork to test if the potatoes are soft and almost mushy.
5. Strain the mixture, take the chunks of potatoes and leeks in a food processor. Add a little bit of the liquid too, and then pour the rest back in the pot.
6. Puree away.
7. Pour the pureed leeks and potatoes back in the pot and give it a stir.
8. Add the all purpose cream, stir, and simmer for another 10 minutes. If you think the soup is too runny and would like to reduce liquid, simmer longer.
9. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:

Get a nice good looking bowl and pour the tasty soup. Sprinkle some nutmeg if you have some, and serve with a nice roll. Serves 2 - 3 depending on your appetite :P.


Candied Tomatoes Salad Topping

>> June 26, 2012

Yes! I'm still alive!

I actually missed cooking and blogging. Lately I've been consumed by the demands of work and has been neglecting cooking - specifically healthy eating. No, not good.

During my dark kitchen days (that's still actually on-going, can you believe that?!) I find my comfort from as usual, my favorite blogs, Tika's savory dishes,  Natalie's flavorful vegetarian delights, and Dulcie and Sarah's mouth-watering recipes. These girls should share their secrets in time management :). Oh well, it's really hard to be a working woman and a single mom of 6 cats at the same time :P.

OK enough of the excuses.

I did a simple recipe a few weeks ago because I felt special and wanted to reward myself a healthy lunch for the first time in 2 months. Meh, it's not really that special. It's just some boiled baby potatoes, poached egg and a bed of arugula. What made it kick up a notch from a mediocre salad to a special one was the candied tomatoes!

How To Make Candied Tomatoes ala Lekkericious

I'm pretty sure a lot have already thought and executed this (and probably a lot better), but sorry I feel like claiming it :P I swear I thought about it!

- some ripe tomatoes
- olive oil
- honey
- salt

1. Wash the ripe tomatoes thoroughly.
2. Slice vertically in half and remove the seeds. Then slice it the halves in 3 parts.
3. Sprinkle some salt on the tomatoes and toss. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the excess water come out.
4. Drain the tomatoes.
5. Drizzle some olive oil and toss again.
6. Coat it with generous amount of honey.
7. Add another dash of salt for grand finale.
8. Lay it evenly on your oven toaster pan. Do not over crowd.
9. Heat at 400w for 20 minutes or until wrinkled up but not burned.
10. When cooked, let it cool down so it gets stiff and chewy.

If you are making a lot, feel free to use your oven. I'd recommend low heat since tomatoes are quite delicate and they tend to get burned quickly. Check on it often if necessary.

I topped these beautifully delicious candied tomatoes on baby potatoes and arugula leaves with a poached egg (I need some protein). You'll be surprised you don't need dressing, the candied tomatoes carries the dish. If the arugula and baby potatoes feel dry for your taste, toss it in extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Then you are set!


Lemon Asparagus Risotto

>> May 16, 2012

Despite my love for cooking, there are still some food that I'm intimidated with. Risotto is one of them. It looks easy enough to cook but I always hesitate, with the thoughts of Chef Gordon Ramsay bitching about risottos in Hell's Kitchen.

So to slowly familiarize myself and get comfortable with risotto making, I found a new friend - Knorr Risotto in a bag.

Oh, and I'm not over yet with asparagus and lemon partnership.

- 1 pack of Knorr Asparagus Risotto.
- A bunch of thin asparagus, woody edges trimmed.
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
- zest of 1 small lemon
- juice of half of that small lemon

1. Cook the Knorr asparagus risotto according to the instructions in the packaging.
2. Chop the asparagus, separate the beautiful tips.
3. When the risotto is done, toss in the asparagus.
4. Add the lemon juice.
5. When the asparagus is cooked, add the finely chopped mint.

Sprinkle lemon zest to serve


Avocado Cream Cheese Dip

>> April 14, 2012

The taste of avocado takes me back to my childhood. My mom used to make avocado ice candies, which is just basically like popsicle minus the stick. It is stuffed inside a long plastic bag and then frozen. It used to be the only recipe of avocado I know until I started to become familiar with cooking and other food preparations. Now I added 3 more in my recipe list - avocado smoothie, guacamole, and this avocado cream cheese dip that I recently discovered (no kidding).

I was thinking of a good garnish for my tomato tartare and thought that avocado's good match. And so I browsed for avocado flavoured sauces and dips and this recipe from Honey Never Spoils caught my attention. It's fairly easy to prepare, plus I have ingredients right in my fridge, so I don't have to worry about going back to the grocery.

I am happy to say, that although it miserably failed to match the taste of my tomato tartare, the taste by itself is divine! I immediately loved it. I can picture it perfectly matching the taste of my vegetarian burger to substitute guacamole. It can also be used as a dip for toasted bread sticks, or even nachos/chips. This is my new favorite!

I tweaked the recipe a little bit according to my consistency and texture liking.

- 1 small ripe avocado
- 50g softened cream cheese
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 small onion, sliced in 4 parts
- 1/8 cup of water
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce (or tabasco hot sauce)
- salt and pepper to taste
(Skip the water if you want a paste-like consistency, and add more cream cheese)

1. Slice the avocado from top. As soon as you feel the seed, slice around it. Then give it a twist to separate. Now you can easily pull out the huge seed.

2. Scoop out the avocado flesh and dunk it in your food processor.

3. Add the onion, softened cream cheese, lemon juice and water in the food processor and blend away. Add more water if it's too thick for you.

4. Add the sriracha sauce and blend again. Feel free to add more sriracha if you prefer more spicy.

5. Once well blended and creamy, transfer it to a bowl and add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

I used only 50g of cream cheese because I love that delicate avocado flavor and I don't want to overpower it. I added water because I don't like it too thick and paste like since I intend to also use it as a creamy spread. But if you wish to make it thicker like a normal cheese based dips, by all means, add more cheese and skip the water. Just make sure you won't overpower the avocado taste.


Homestyle Tomato Tartare

>> April 13, 2012

Since I know that I will never have the guts to eat beef tartare (I'm not a fan of raw meat), I thought of making tomato tartare that I once saw on TV. It's refreshing for first course. It does look special too for something that's quite simple to prepare. In this recipe, I only made a small portion since I'm the only one to eat. Double the recipe to serve 2.

- 3 big, ripe, juicy, fleshy tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
- 1 tbsp. of minced chives
- 1 small minced scallion (or a small red onion)
- 1 tsp. finely chopped tarragon
- 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- a small can with both ends removed for molding

Peeling fresh tomatoes:

a. Remove the stalk.
b. slice a cross on top.
c. Blanch in boiling water for 30-40 seconds (be careful! Do not overcook) until it blisters.
d. Shock it in ice water.
e. Peel away!

1. Slice the tomatoes in 4 parts and remove the seeds. Finely chop the tomatoes. Let it sit in a colander or strainer for about an hour to drain out the excess water.

2. Transfer the tomatoes in a mixing bowl and toss in the rest of the ingredients.

3. Add salt and pepper according to you liking. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

4. Place the mold on top of your serving plate and stuff it with the tomato mixture. Pack it tightly. Then remove the mold.

I didn't realize that molding is challenging. I suppose my tomatoes weren't drained enough that the excess water kept it loose. It kept on collapsing. I even tried to use an ice cream scoop because I thought i could never keep it together using my can mold. Eventually, the tomatoes drained more water and there, I got to keep it together :).

Taragon and chives. Be careful in the amount of taragon, the taste is easily over powering.

My attempt to plate the dish. I'm not too happy with it :P

I think I got carried away once I started eating. I get this icky feeling every time I take a bite, thinking it was meat but then realizing it's just tomatoes :P. I'm so weird.

I served it with toasted bread sticks, but it's best served with slices of baguette.The greenish thing there is avocado cream cheese which I still yet to share.

Smakelijk eeten!


A Road Trip On Black Saturday

>> April 9, 2012

My friends and I hit the road down south to continue our sort of yearly tradition to do "Way Of The Cross" every Lent. It's just a tradition that we invented for ourselves, where we go to a special Catholic church every year, and recite a booklet of prayers for each 13 stations of the cross. It's also sort of another excuse to be able to catch up and see each other at least once a year.

Usually, Way Of The Cross and Visita Iglesia* are done on Maundy Thursday. Lent is a national holiday in the Philippines, but since my friends and I are all employed by american companies, we didn't get these days off and have to do it on Black Saturday.

I won't bore you to death with religion but here's some photos of interest.

This is the front of Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, a historical landmark in the Philippines. The cemetery lies beneath the church inside this gate.
It was said to be built by Franciscan monks in 1845. It served as a hide out and a meeting place for Filipino revolutionaries  against Spain in 1896.
Unfortunately, the cemetery was closed when we visited. So all we could do is to take photos from the outside,  not minding the scorching heat of the sun :).
We went to the beautiful church of Pagsanjan to fulfill our mission.
Covering religious statues and the cross with purple cloth on holy week is a Catholic tradition , which is said to help people concentrate and reflect more on the sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus.

We concluded our trip with a nice hearty lunch at Calle Arco in Pagsanjan. Calle Arco is just a big house transformed in to a  restaurant. The house is very traditional of provincial sort. It's an instant Filipino appeal. It makes you feel you are in your grandma's house.


Lemon Asparagus, A Barrowed Recipe

>> March 20, 2012

Asparagus and I, we have a love affair. But like any other love affairs, it gets tiring at some point. Frying and steaming doesn't excite me anymore. But thanks to Two-Tarts, the affair's been ignited once more with this lovely and uber-easy asparagus preparation. Yumminess guaranteed!

Ingredients :
- thin asparagus
- 1 medium sized lemon
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- slices of orange (optional)

1. Thinly slice the lemon, make about 6-8 slices. You can add about 3 slices of oranges too just for added flavor. Arrange it in a baking pan.
2. Wash the asparagus thoroughly and drizzle it with olive oil and coat it evenly.
3. Arrange the asparagus on top of the lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Then off to the oven and let it sit there for a few minutes on high heat, until roasted.

The flavor of lemon (and oranges) seeps in the asparagus as it broils.


The Green Monster Drink

>> March 12, 2012

In the hopes to free my belly from gathering fats, I've been thinking of how I can lessen my carbo intake. It all started with my beach bod dreams. I dream of having nice toned arms and legs, with a fat-free, well-defined tummy. So many summers has passed, and summer's yet here again - and here I am, still dreaming :P.

Realistically speaking, I'm not aiming for fat-free tummy, it's just close to impossible specially that my only regular work out is to mop the floor, wash dishes and scrub the bathroom. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to give it a try for as long as I'm not starving myself. To start my carbo cut down, I said I'm not going to eat carbo loaded breakfast... except when I want to take nice breakfast photos of my own cooking :P.

Today, I tried the Green Monster drink. I got this idea from a presentation I was testing a few weeks ago and got curious what it would taste like.

The Green Monster!
- 2 handful of fresh spinach leaves, plucked and washed thoroughly
- 1 medium size banana, sliced
- 1 medium size apple, chopped
- 1 peeled orange
- 20-30 pcs. seedless green grapes (or whatever you can get)
- 1 cup water
- some ice cubes (optional)
- 1 Tbsp honey (optional)

1. Dunk everything in your blender.
(my blender apparently is not powerful so I had to dunk it gradually).

Add more water if you think it's too thick. If you think it's not sweet enough, add some honey.

I have never blended spinach in a drink before so it felt weird to me by just looking at it, and was a bit scared to taste it. But I'm happy it turned out to be yummy! I finished the glass and kept the rest in the fridge later when I feel hungry :P.

My cat however, thinks otherwise... (click to get the story).


Rose Flavoured Jelly with Black Currants and Strawberries

>> March 7, 2012

OK just an FYI - the normal gelatin (Jell-O for example) we know and we grew up with is NOT vegetarian. Pardon my ignorance but I thought it was :P. So I'm telling now and don't be a victim like me :P.

I used to make gelatin sweetened and mixed with milk, then pour it on pineapple chunks or fruit cocktail and chill. Today, I thought it would be nice to make it a little bit more elegant and romantic. I checked my fridge and I still have black currants and strawberries from the Saturday Market so I figured it would be a nice touch rather than using canned fruits.

- powdered gelatin (for vegetarian, use Agar-Agar)
- sugar
- rose water flavour
- black currants
- strawberries

1. Prepare the gelatin according to the instruction in the box. Normally, it's just dissolved in hot water.
2. Add sugar according to your taste. Add about 3 drops of rose water flavour.
(Note : You can use any flavour you wish like vanilla, pandan or almond, just make sure it matches whatever you dunk in the gelatin.)
3. Get a good looking glass and pour the gelatin mixture.

4. Here's the tricky part:

a. You can either dunk your stuff all together, or
b. You can wait a bit longer, let the gelatin slowly set as it cools down, and then carefully dip the fruits, pushing them to the bottom, suspended at the middle, or wherever you want them when the gelatin is partly set. I do this because when i dunk everything together, the fruits either floats or settle at the bottom. But be careful not to wait to long because the gelatin might firm up and you can no longer push down stuff without breaking the form.

5. Chill in the fridge and serve!


Bitter Gourd In Mashed Tofu and Tomatoes

>> March 1, 2012

My husband asked me a few days ago if I knew any vegan recipe using bitter gourd. It wasn't really his favorite but he'd like to share the recipe in reddit because there's a post asking about it.

When I was young, the only use of bitter gourd to me was just for art work. I slice the bottom, dip the tip in water color, and make nice prints on white paper. But as I get older, I developed a relationship with vegetables I would never eat in my childhood. One of which is the bitter gourd or amplaya in Tagalog. It wouldn't be named bitter if it wasn't for its reputation, I suppose. I tell you it's  bitter as hell and I don't think I know any child who likes it, not even much of adults. But I guess you just have to prepare and cook it right to be likeable.

The secret to bitter gourd is to rub it with salt, let it sit for a while, and then rinse. Some people soak it in salt water, but rubbing works for me. This makes the bitterness milder. I love bitter gourd with eggs and tomatoes, but since Mark's requested vegan, I experimented today with mashed tofu. Here it goes.

- firm tofu, halved
- 2 pcs ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium sized bitter gourd
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. white sugar (optional)

1. Cut the bitter gourd in 3 parts, and then lengthwise. Remove the white middle flesh by scraping it with a spoon.
2. Rub it with a good amount of salt and set aside for 15 minutes. This will make the bitter taste milder.
3. Divide the firm tofu in to two. Mash half of it with your hand, but not too much because it's nice when it's a bit chunky. Refrigerate the other half.
4. Rinse the bitter gourd and slice it cross-wise, making like little Cs, but not too thick.
5. Heat oil in a frying pan. Sautee onions until it's soft. Add in the garlic. Sautee til it's golden brown.
6. Toss in the mashed tofu and fry it for about 3 minutes.
7. Toss in the bitter gourd. Mix it altogether until the bitter gourd is soft and cooked. I personally like it al dente.
8. Add tomatoes and continue cooking. I added the tomatoes last because I like it half cooked and still juicy. But you may add tomatoes before the bitter gourd.
9. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce for flavor. Add some salt and pepper according to your taste.
10. Add about a teaspoon of white sugar, but this is perfectly optional. I just like a bitter-sweet twist.

Makes 2 servings. Best served with steamed white rice.


Support Pet Adoption

>> February 28, 2012

For a change, I'd like to share something other than cooking (and hopefully this will excuse me from not posting any recipe for more than a week).

I volunteered in an pet adoption event held by CARA Welfare Philippines last Saturday and covered it in behalf of Mark who's a member and their designated photographer. CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) is a non-profit, non-government organization ran by dedicated volunteers who aim to educate citizens in regards to responsible pet ownership, animal welfare and rights, promoting spay/neuter/TNR to control animal population. CARA offers low cost spay/neuter program and veterinary services to help low-income households be able to afford medical assistance for their beloved animals. A common misconception about the organization is that it is a shelter. Unfortunately, it isn't. The facility CARA have is a clinic. The rescues are fostered by members, and when they are ready, they are sent up for adoption.

I could write a whole lot about the sad facts about the lives of cats and dogs stray population in this country, why it happens, how people neglect them, how the majority of citizens are apathetic, and how much people feel sorry but never make a move to help be part of the solution. I could go on and on but that's another story.

Looking at the bright side, I'd like to share heart warming photos of people who dedicated their time to get these less fortunate animals find a loving home, and people who went to either adopt and open their homes to them, or donated for this cause. Even when I lose hope on people at times, there's still a tiny bit part of me who believes that there are still a lot of good people among us.

It was nice to see that there were a lot of people who have shown interest in the adoption. They may not all have adopted, but it's a great chance for us to educate people why we do what we do,  responsible pet ownership, and why it is important to consider adoption first rather than buying a pet companion.
Tireless volunteers assist people with questions how to go about adopting a cat from CARA.
Potential Adopters are interviewed and are asked to sign up an adoption sheet. Just like any adoption centers, CARA ensures that the animals will get to a home where they can be supported and cared for, provide appropriate food and medical assistance when necessary. CARA also makes follow up visitation to the adopter's home as part of the adoption policy. 

Here are the adorable rescued dogs that also came in the hopes that they will find a family and forever home . They are very healthy, well behaved, friendly and very loving.  The lovely girl on top is their foster parent who have at least 13 rescued dogs under her care. 
The two little girls were very excited to bring home these two cute cuddly tabbies. (Right) Handsome Antonio the cat was one of my favorites and I'm truly happy for him that he got adopted too by these two young ladies :).

The cats are very grateful to these wonderful families who opened their hearts and homes to them.
It was an eventful Saturday. I was tired but it was worth it. After the event, Gerry, Anton and I went to dinner and then had a full body massage after. Nice eh?


Tonight's Dinner

>> February 24, 2012

A few of my friends are dropping by tonight to return a few stuff from each other. To make the visit fun, we decided to have dinner together. But in this shack, everything that is cooked and served is vegetarian, so I hope they like what's in my menu.

Fingers-crossed for my carnivore friends :P. I hope I still get a chance to take some photos.


Sunday Lunch at Sonya's Secret Garden

>> February 13, 2012

Sonya's Garden, a place I consider very special, a place I would go back to over and over again. I have shared so many special moments with my friends and loved ones in this place, and over the years, it has not disappointed me. It's a long drive from the city but the trip is always worth it. Well, at least the trip going there. I don't really appreciate the trip going back because I just hated the bad traffic conditions there on the weekends.

Sonya's garden is sort of a retreat place. They have a huge land covered in lush vegetation, where people are free to explore. There's bed and breakfast, a spa, country store, bakery, and their famous restaurant that I noticed they have expanded. They have a number of dine-in rooms now that can cater for events, as well as just people who'd like to dine. The restaurant looks sort of a huge green house, filled with beautiful colorful chandeliers, Hispanic and native interior. Tables are dressed with delicate embroidered cloths. The ambiance is just healthy and relaxing. The food they serve is all organic. They grow their own vegetables! How about that? They have a la carte menu, but the most famous is their set menu where both meat lovers and vegetarians can enjoy!

1. The first course is salad. It is served with a collection of organically grown green and leafy vegetables, various salad toppings - all refillable. You can eat as much as you can. Toppings were consisted of mango, turnip, melon, mushroom pate, sliced black olives, white cheese, chopped hard boiled egg, anchovies, and a sort of tapenade. The dressing they serve tasted like ceasar dressing.

2. I arranged my salad and kinda like the taste of this green rounded leaves. Unfortunately, I don't know what it's called.

3. The main course is pasta served also with different topping and sauce. They serve 2 sauces; tomato based red sauce and creamy chicken white sauce. It comes with capers, ratatouille, black olives, shiitake mushrooms, and the famous salmon belly.

4. We had 2 servings of salmon belly since my friends are just crazy about it.

5. The desserts were bite size turon (banana wrapped in lumpia wrapper and then deep fried), sweet potato, and the yummy (my favorite) chocolate cake. It is served with taragon tea.

And before I forget, they serve fresh dalandan juice!

After lunch we took a lot of photos in the area, bough some goodies in their country store and bakery, and then left with a full stomach. Every year I visit this place. I just wish that the traffic condition there improves soon as I'd like to go often. I don't mind the long drive.

Oh, and I brought home a souvenir (it's not a cat) that i'll tell you about soon.

Stomachs full and just enjoying our dessert
Some nice area in the secret garden.
Look what I found! A thirsty cat with a class. Isn't it cute?


Bubble Blahs

I work and live at night time. I am a person deprived of natural light. I rarely cook in the morning as I'm almost always asleep, else busy with house chores. As much as I love natural light in my photography, I'm afraid I don't usually have that luxury, unless I sacrifice my sleep, or make an effort to stay up longer during the day to do a cooking + photo session. So I depend on my flash, and sometimes, available light from my fluorescent bulbs. Although, in my opinion, nothing beats the natural light, I am, so far, satisfied with my shots using my flash that I learned to love.

I always look forward to the weekends for some sunlight.

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