Saturday, September 22, 2018

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Baby Back Ribs

One of my favorite programs on TV these days is Cheap Eats on the Cooking Channel. I pick up ideas of what to prepare for dinner from any dish I drooled over when I watch it. One such craveable dish is the beef short ribs prepared by a chef of Filipino descent from the Hometown Hawaiian Restaurant in California. 

I developed this recipe from the ingredients that the chef added to the marinade. The ribs were grilled on the stove after being marinated. I decided to skip those steps and use the slow cooker method. I more or less estimated the amounts of the ingredients since they were not provided. Here is the delectable easy slow cooker version using pork baby ribs instead of the beef short ribs.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Baby Back Ribs

  • 3-5 lbs pork baby back ribs, whole slab or cut into pieces
  • 1\2 cup water
  • 1\2 cup sugar or stevia
  • 1\2 cup soy sauce
  • 1\4 cup sambal sauce 
  • 1\4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce or more Stevia to taste
  • 1\8 to 1\4 dry chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1\2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch in 4 tbsp water
Add all the ingredients in a crockpot and cook on high for four hours or eight hours at low setting. I cooked mine in a Crock Pot brand slow cooker casserole for four hours at high setting.

Garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Serve  with rice and what the restaurant calls the Mac  Salad or macaroni salad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Green Tomato Bruschetta

If you are wondering what to do with the abundant harvest of green tomatoes from your garden, why not try the very easy bruschetta. It takes only five ingredients to make this appetizer that it so addictive you will eat them all day.

I prepared bruschetta using red tomatoes yesterday and I started thinking why not use the green ones. Both bruschettas actually were equally good but the one from the green tomatoes has the advantage of not getting the bread soggy and kept its form. It has a certain tartness to it too which rivals the sweetness of the red ones. Combined with garlic and fresh basil, the green ones held its own. Pure bliss.

I am concocting all sorts of ways to use green tomatoes these days, my nails are turning green. Ha,ha.

Green Tomato Bruschetta

Inspired by this site.
  • 1 baguette, cut into slices and toasted
  • 2 green tomatoes, cubed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil or more
  • 1\4 tsp sea salt or to taste
Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves, olive oil and salt in a bowl. 

Spoon over the baguette.


Finding God in the Empty Spaces

In the pauses, spaces
between words of a song lurks
God's message. Listen.

Note: Reflection gleaned from John Michael Talbot's introduction to one of his songs during his concert yesterday at St. Bernadette Church, Monroeville, PA.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Slow Cooker Saucy Pork Chops

When you are down to two persons in a household, it is good to come up with recipes for two. In our case we tend to end up forgetting leftover stuff in the fridge that end up being thrown away. Sad and wasteful.

Here is a recipe I adapted from the one given to me by my daughter, Wendy. I used the slow cooker instead of the oven for this delicious dish meant for two. I also added chopped peppers from our vegetable garden.

Slow Cooker Saucy Pork Chops

Adapted from this site
  • 2 pieces pork chops or any pork sliced into two 3\4  inch pieces (note 1)
  • 1\4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1\2 cup sliced peppers, any kind (note 2)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1\2 tsp salt
  • 1\4 tsp black pepper
  • 1\8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 2 tbsp water

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low. I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for two hours at slow cooker setting.

Serve over rice with a salad or steamed vegetables.


1. I used about a pound of pork butt which I cut into two thick slices.

2. I used a mixture of peppers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Our First Days

I was on my way to the university last Tuesday where I was to meet my class for the first time. I recently got an emergency appointment at the place I retired from three years ago. While in the car, my mind was more on my granddaughter's first day in kindergarten rather than on my own.

I started crying realizing my little girl was all grown up. She was no longer the little toddler I took with me to the library to sing the ABC song during its Tots time on Mondays and later on to gymnastics class where she loved to tumble and took her first steps on the balance beam. She is now in a real school where she will learn to write her ABC''s and make words with them and read!

As I was just going through my Google photo albums before this her first day, the memories of her transformation from year to year overwhelmed me and I got teary eyed. Lately I have also observed acts of kindness and maturity from her I have not seen before.

Just a few days before her first day in school, I took her and her younger brother, Luca, to the mall where I have brought Maddie countless times to  its playground. It was actually Luca's first time there. Maddie took Luca under her wings and taught him how to go down the slide, ride the train and the cow and walk on top of the xylophone. She acted like a little Mommy to him teaching him the ropes. They also rode the virtual roller coaster with her delightfully sharing with her brother what she had enjoyed all these years.


Luca felt all the motherly love from his sister the whole time in the playground. When we were walking towards the bookstore he took away my hand holding him so he could solely hold on to his older sister's. As we were walking, people were staring and smiling at the two of them holding hands and so did I beaming with pride.

Just a few days back, as I was lying down on their sofa to take a nap, Maddie asked me, "Lola (grandma in Tagalog), do you need a blanket?" .  OMG, I felt a warmth in my heart. This simple thoughtful offer signalled to me her growing maturity. She is now picking up what good things I have done  for her like the same offer I ask her when she takes a nap in our sofa at our house. I have always been scared she would just pick some irreverent stuff I say and do. But here she is with her big heart  choosing this simple act of kindness and thoughtfulness instead.

As I was crying in my car during my first day back at the university, my mind and heart were on Maddie and forgot all about the jitters about meeting some 24 students who I hope to see transforming before my eyes in the days to come this semester. I am  grateful to have the opportunity to see that as I have  had with my Maddie these past few days.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Garden Fresh Tomato Pizza

I wanted to use the tomatoes from our vegetable garden which my husband lovingly and obsessively put together. He kept on asking me everyday if I have done something with them.  I first thought of making a tomato red pepper marinara sauce but decided instead to make a tomato pizza using the fresh bounty from our garden.  I wanted this fruit or vegetable to some to be the star.

I used refrigerated pizza crust as the base for the luscious tomatoes. I opted to do away with using pizza sauce to further showcase the taste and freshness of the tomatoes.  I did use shredded cheese and grated Parmesan cheese.  For flavor, I used garlic and onion powders, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. My husband loved this simple rustic pizza but then again those tomatoes are his babies.

Garden Fresh Tomato Pizza

  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza crust
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olives, optional
  • 1/2 tbsp dry Italian seasoning or fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp each garlic and onion powders
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the refrigerated pizza crust onto a 13x9 inch cookie pan,  Prebake for 8 minutes.

Place the sliced fresh tomatoes on top of the prebaked pizza crust.

Sprinkle shredded cheese, grated parmesan and Italian seasoning on top of tomatoes.

Bake the pizza for 6 minutes.

Sprinkle garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper on top of the baked pizza.

Cookie Cake from a Cake Mix

I love making cookie cakes for my granddaughter for her birthdays and have posted a recipe here of one I have made from scratch. Yesterday I was too tired to make one from scratch for the farewell party (see pictures below) for our parish priest, Father Tony, and so I googled for a recipe using a cake mix and found it in this wonderful site. It was pretty close to the one I have made from scratch and so easy even my granddaughter can make it. She has been eating leftover ones lately from the recent labor day picnic that was purchased from their neighborhood bakery, Oakmont Bakery. I could hardly wait to make this with her.

Cookie Cake from a Cake Mix

Inspired by this site.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-15 oz box White cake mix or any other flavor of cake mix
  • 5 tbsp butter melted
  • 1-12 oz bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the eggs in the electric mixer bowl and beat. Add the butter and cake mix and beat till smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Place the mixture on a 13 x 9 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Spread the batter evenly with your hand that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake for 20 min.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Monday, September 3, 2018

Easy Vegan Ketogenic Gluten Free Asian Slaw

I served this slaw at the labor day picnic at Matt and Wendy's place today and everybody liked it. The simple, straight forward quality of the dressing made it a crowd pleaser. This is a salad that is easy to prepare and yet packed with an Asian appealing flavor. It is a keeper for picnics especially with people with varied needs.

My son in law, Matt, is into the ketogenic diet while I follow the vegan lifestyle. I adapted the recipe from this site to satisfy both of our dietary needs.  I further simplified the original recipe and deleted ginger root in the dressing and chili in the salad. I also made the cilantro leaves an optional garnish since I was serving this to some members of Matt's family with an aversion for spices.

To make the dressing ketogenic, I used stevia instead of maple syrup and was I impressed with the result. The bitter taste associated with this non glycosidic plant derived sweetener was not at all present in the overall taste of the slaw. It gave what would have been an otherwise tart dressing the sweetness associated with most Asian slaws.

I skipped the addition of Ramen noodles customarily done with some Asian slaw recipe to make it gluten free. Neither did I use the flavor packet that comes with this noodle soup packet. Nuts were also not added to make it suitable for those with nut allergy.

Despite being a minimalistic recipe, this is packed with addictive flavor. You will love it.

Easy Vegan Ketogenic Gluten Free Asian Slaw


  • 1\2 head of green cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup baby carrots, shredded
  • 4 -6 napa cabbage leaves, shredded
  • 6 stalks green onions, sliced thinly


  • 1 1\2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 1\2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Stevia to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

Optional garnish

  • 1 tbsp white Sesame seeds
  • Bunch of cilantro leaves

Place the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.  Whisk the ingredients of the dressing in another bowl and add the mixture to the salad ingredients. Toss or mix with your hand. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro leaves if you like.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Prayer Meeting at Sue’s (Wilkins Prayer Group)

CSJA Associates in the Monroeville area have three prayer groups that meet once a month that they could join. They are: Paula's Prayer Group, the St. Bernadette Convent Prayer Group, and the Wilkins Prayer Group that meets at Sue's house.

I have been giving you handouts from the first two groups in the past and this time I am sharing these ones conscientiously prepared for us by Natalie during our meeting yesterday at Sue's house. Sue and her husband John have generously opened their house and hearts to us for these monthly meetings these past few years.

We started with a prayer shown below which especially is uplifting during times when we have to deal with challenging unexpected circumstances in our lives.

Natalie also shared an inspiring article on Holy Doubt with a focus on St. Mother Teresa and her struggle with it. This piece came from the Maryknoll magazine.

The next handout shown below was taken from the following book by Richard Rohr and deals on how our responses to the outer world become our reality.

We also listened to the readings of the lyrics of two songs below. I happened to find the YouTube video of Kathy Sherman's song which I am sharing with you.

We ended with the following prayer from a Meditation book.

Let us pray for one another. God is good and merciful. He or She always takes care of us.

Thanks for responding to the invitation to be one with one another as we  read and contemplate the thoughts in these handouts. Have a good day.

Thanks Natalie and Sue.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018

Seeking God

To seek God is not
to know about him but to
know him. Thus love him.

Note: Inspired by Dom Bede Griffiths ' reflections.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Never know our strengths
till we rise tho' slowly from
our weakest moments.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Slow Cooker Chicken Satay

I recently watched a movie on TV, Yours, Mine and Ours, that featured a story of two families that combined to form a 19 member one by marriage.  In one scene the parents were in a hurry to go to a party and the mom granted permission to one of the older children to have friends over. Well the parents did not know it was going to be a wild huge party. The younger kids of the bunch stayed in a room with huge bins of popcorn, chocolate  candies and other goodies provided by the older siblings to keep them away from the party. At the end of the party, one of the younger kids is shown near comatose saying dreamily the word chocolate.

I do have problems sometimes figuring what to give my grandchildren to eat when they visit. They can be very picky and unpredictable at times. I am sometimes tempted to just give them chocolate which I am sure they will eat. One weekend, to my surprise they ate a dish for dinner that I served them with gusto. It was chicken satay. Could it be the peanut butter in the dish? Or they were just hungry from playing in the sandbox? Who knows but this chicken recipe is a keeper. Easy and delicious. And you know already it is kid friendly.

Slow Cooker Chicken Satay

Adapted from this site
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 1\2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic chili paste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk from can
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1\2 cup water
  • 1 cup baby carrots

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

Serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Open Up

Do not be contained.
Like wheat open up and share
yourself to others.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Thirst For Inner Peace Quenched

By stopping to drink
from the fountain of strength that's
always within you.

Note: Photo taken at the St. Peter's Square during Pope Francis' blessing from the window of his papal apartment at noon, Sunday, August 5, 2018.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Paula’s Prayer Meeting August 9, 2018

Sr. Paula  prepared the wonderful handout that is shown above for our prayer meeting on August 9, 2018.   She played the song "As Long As I Am In the World" by Kathy Sherman, CSJ to go with the theme during our meditation. Click on the YouTube video below to listen to this song as you reflect on the message of the handout.

She also read a poem which is very similar to the one below.  It is about sharing our light to the world. She also reminded us to not forget the two words in the phrase "love others as yourself".

The Lamp Post –

Keep the faith
and make it stronger
Not by just keeping it inside
or holding on to it
Truly when it is shared
that you see and feel the light.
And when you see the rays
that reached beyond yourself
You’ll be awed
for it doesn’t only light your path
But also gives meaning
to the purpose of your being
We are all one
regardless where we come from
Where we’ll be going
and how we’ll be leaving.

Slow Cooker Fried Chicken

Can you really prepare fried chicken in the slow cooker, I had always wondered? Will I be happy with the result?  I researched the internet of ways to do it and settled on following  the one on this site. I did some tweaking as usual and here is the recipe.

The verdict: the result is very close to oven baked chicken that has been breaded. I did not use butter to drizzle over the top before cooking that would have made the coating crisper. It still tasted good, thanks to the seasoned salt that was sprinkled on top before cooking. I looked at the ingredients of this type of salt and I did not see MSG listed as one of them to my relief.

My husband gave this two thumb up. So there you are. You can indeed prepare fried chicken in the slow cooker and be happy with the result.

Slow Cooker Fried Chicken

Adapted from this site.
  • 8 chicken legs or 3 six oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg
  • 1\4 cup milk with 1 tsp vinegar or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp each black pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, salt
  • Seasoned salt to taste
Spray the crockpot bowl with cooking spray. 

Whisk the egg and milk in a shallow bowl. In another shallow container mix the flour and spices except seasoned salt and in another place the Panko crumbs.

Dip the chicken pieces one at a time in the egg milk mixture, then the flour spice mixture, then the egg mixture again Then dredge the chicken in Panko crumbs.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker  side by side and  sprinkle with seasoned salt to taste.

Slow cook for three to four hours at high setting. I used a Crock Pot brand slow cooker  casserole.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Maddie's Milestone Cakes, It's All About the Memories

Maddie has just turned five this July. To recall every year of her life so far, I have used in this blog post the cakes that were created to mark the milestones. After all, it is all about the memories.

The Reveal
It was during the Christmas holidays in 2012 when we got a call from my daughter, Wendy, that they were expecting a baby. I screamed with joy of course. They decided not to open the letter from the doctor as to the gender of the baby and instead turned in the envelope with the reveal to Oakmont Bakery. The color inside the cake would indicate whether it was a boy or girl. During the small reveal party I noticed that only my other daughter, Bettina, and I were screaming with joy when the icing between the layers was pink. My son in law, Matt, his brother and his father were quiet. Were they disappointed it was not a boy that could join them when they scream over hockey games on TV? My daughter's mother in law told me they'll get over it. Note her family has been an all boy affair with her having only two sons while mine was all girls with only two daughters.

The Baby Shower
The cake was created by a friend from the  fitness club, Curves, I belonged to. It had buttercream icing  and topped with a baby carriage. Beautiful! Bettina and I made souvenir paper baby shoes by hand even when I could hardly sit because of a recent knee surgery.

First Birthday
Maddie was lovable. Still had a healthy appetite and was chubby. For her birthday, I made pistachio cupcakes using  polka dotted pink cupcake paper holders I bought from Tuesday Morning. I was a fan at that time of both cupcakes and Tuesday Morning where I bought stuff to decorate  the remodeled first floor of our house. I delivered the cupcakes to their house and they made the number one figure with the cupcakes.

Second Birthday
I was told not to bring cupcakes to her daycare to celebrate her birthday since the icing could be messy. I decided to make a butterscotch chip cookie cake  instead. For the theme, I imitated the cake made by Giant Eagle for the party held earlier that weekend at her house and also used the decorations, Elmo and his gang.

When I got to the daycare, they woke Maddie up from her nap. She did not understand why I was there  and was still recovering from her deep nap. She could not wait to  eat the cookie cake and was also pointing to the door indicating she wanted to go home. Well she had to wait for her classmates to wake up, go to the bathroom and sing and eat the cookie cake with her before I took her home. She enjoyed the butterscotch chip cookie cake and ate it with gusto.

Third Birthday
This was the year of the pig for Maddie, the adorable Peppa Pig, which I made the theme of the cake. She had been watching Peppa Pig videos on YouTube and was enamored by this adorable character. I used the tiny plastic figurines of her little Peppa Pig and his family to decorate the cake. Maddie was very excited to blow the candles and relished the singing by her classmates and the whole hoopla. She finally got what it was all about and showed  her delight openly and unabashedly.

Fourth Birthday
When I arrived, Maddie was beaming but subdued, starting to show a little bit of shyness. This time I used Paw Patrol characters to top the cake. Her brother, Luca, who loves Paw Patrol too, was able to join us. Maddie's classmates were  chattery at this age and excited to recognize the characters on the cake.

Fifth Birthday
I had to decide what theme to use for the cake. As usual, I liked using little toys she played with to decorate the cake. Her Aunt Bettina loves buying her so called LOL Surprise toys. They come in round containers with dolls and accessories you detach from its walls and be surprised since they do not reveal what they will be on the wrapping. Thank God Maddie's collection of LOL dolls and accessories were stored in one bin or they would have been difficult to find among her other toys since they were so teeny weeny. I did have to dress some of the dolls to grace the cake because Maddie loved to dress and undress them. During the party, her girl classmates enthusiastically talked about their own LOL dolls and one even had one with her, a testament on how popular they are.

Maddie was beaming from ear to ear from the time she saw me waiting for them to go through their bathroom break to the time she blew the candles on her cake. She was not as talkative as her classmates though. She was able to blow all the candles by herself without any help though it took time. Yes my little Maddie is five and a big little girl ready for kindergarten. Her brother, Luca, joined us but reluctantly. Will I be starting this cookie cake tradition with him? Time will tell. He is one dimensional and just loves to play with one thing, little cars with moving wheels. That will make decorating the cake easy or maybe not.

Life goes on and children particularly grow fast. I find it pays to keep the memories of how they look and what they love to do and play with every year. I also love recalling how they react to the celebration every year and observe changes. I find the milestone cookie cakes I have done every year help keep these  details alive. I  actually had warm feelings as I reminisced as I was writing this blog post. Priceless! I am grateful. And one more thing, a food for thought below.