Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Fish Tikka Masala

The fish in this recipe is smothered in a rich, thick spicy coconut sauce with just the right heat.  This is the luscious, saucy fish version of the Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala found in the blogsite The Lemon Bowl. I used individually packed tilapia fillets from the frozen area of the grocery store instead of the chicken breast.  I also added more cumin and one more pound of the meat in the list of ingredients in the original recipe since I always ended up with more sauce than meat.  The slow cooker method of cooking makes this an easy winter recipe to go to after being deluged with cookies, ham and potatoes during the holidays and you just want something comforting and exotic with rice for a change.

 Slow Cooker Fish Tikka Masala   

(adapted from The Lemon Bowl)
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 15 oz can coconut milk - light
  • 1 cup plain yogurt - low fat
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsps grated ginger root
  • 2 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 tbsps garam masala
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne - optional
  • 2 pounds tilapia slices (I buy individually packed frozen ones)
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro or green onions - optional garnish
In the slow cooker bowl, blend together all the ingredients except the fish and minced cilantro if using with a whisk.

Place the tilapia slices on top of the mixture and gently cover with some of the mixture. (I like to leave the tilapia slices on top for easy removal during serving).

Cook in a slow cooker for 8 hours at low setting and 4 hours at high setting.  I used an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker to cook it at slow cooker setting for 2 hours.

Garnish with cilantro or green onions.  Serve over rice. 


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Slow Cooker Easy Pork Asado

The tender, succulent pork is enveloped in a tomatoey sauce made from just two essential ingredients namely, catsup and fresh or dry minced onions.  Of course you will need salt and pepper.

I have suggested the optional addition of pickle juice also. My sister-in-law,  Pinky, who is married to my brother, Benjie, and who is an excellent cook, gave me this idea decades ago.  I would also add two optional ingredients, bay leaf and peppercorn to achieve the traditional asado taste Filipinos are used to.  However, the two essential ingredients are sufficient to achieve that rich, addictive taste if you are in a pinch and do not have the other optional ingredients. Catsup is already highly flavored you really do not need any other embellishments. You will find yourself going to your fridge for this dish leftovers if any and putting them over rice.  It is that haunting.

Left to right, Pinky, Benjie, myself, Benjo. In front is Gelay.

Slow Cooker Easy Pork Asado


  • 3 lbs pork (I used pork butt already sliced)
  • 3/4 cup catsup
  • 3 tbsp dry minced onion or 1 medium onion chopped
  • 6 tbsp pickle juice, optional
  • 1 bay leaf, optional
  • 2 tsps peppercorn, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsps water
Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of the slow cooker.  Cook for 8 hours at low or 4 hours at high setting.  I used an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker where I cooked the mixture for 2 hours at slow cook setting. Serve with rice or wide egg noodles.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Miso Ginger Glazed Salmon for Your Christmas Eve Feast

The miso paste gives this delicious salmon dish a unique salty taste balanced by the sweetness rendered by the brown sugar used.    Its mahogany color from the broiling process makes it an attractive addition to the array of dishes for Christmas eve or any occasion.  It is a dish that could be served during a seven fish themed dinner on Christmas eve though a bit untraditional.   If you are looking for a delicious but different and yet a crowd pleasing fish dish to go with your traditional ham come Christmas eve or the day itself this is it.

I attended my first Seven Fish themed dinner and it was held at the Feast of the Seven Fishes event at La Tavola Italiana in Pittsburgh, PA.  I really enjoyed the magnificent seafood dishes served that night but most importantly the company of Milyssa and her cousin, Janice and her husband, Don plus three wonderful persons from across us at our table.  It was a very pleasant evening in the company of people who really love food and cooking with a passion.

My favorites that evening were the anchovy flavored fritter, the mashed potato with bacala and the fried smelt. The delicious main dishes comprising the menu included the use of cod, bacala, swordfish and scallops. I am not Italian and I am not sure if salmon would fit the line-up of an Italian seven fish themed dinner but whether it does or not, this dish will be a welcome change to your repertoire.

I wish I took a picture of the group and the glorious food during this wonderful event at La Tavola Italiana but earlier that day, I just moved most of my stuff out of my office at IUP where I am retiring after this semester  and was kind of tired.  Luckily, Milyssa just emailed me a picture of her with her family including her wonderful mom Angie, aunts and cousins including  Janice during the Ross family gathering at De Nunzio Restaurant at the Latrobe Airport, Latrobe PA.  This would suffice as a sort of remembrance of that memorable Italian gathering at La Tavola with Milyssa, Janice and Don.  Though not taken at the same site, the heartwarming Italian spirit that I felt that night is captured in this beautiful picture.of Milyssa's family.

Angie, Milyssa and Janice are fourth, second and first from the right.  I miss this Ross family gathering this past Sunday since I was sick. I love Milyssa's family and would have not minded the long drive to Latrobe.

Miso Ginger Glazed Salmon 

(Adapted from this website).

This dish is quite easy to prepare which involves ingredients you might already have on hand except probably for the miso paste which is available in any Asian store or large grocery stores. 
  Do watch that you do not overcook the salmon.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup miso paste
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsps fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 lbs salmon, skin on and small bones removed
  • 2 stalks whole scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsps black sesame seed, toasted (white sesame would have looked better)
Set the oven to broil and place a rack in the middle.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Combine the mirin, miso paste, brown sugar, soy sauce and ginger in a bowl and whisk the ingredients together till well blended.  Reserve 1/3 cup of the mixture in a small bowl and set aside.  Save the rest of the mixture as the sauce to be used during the serving the cooked salmon.

Rinse the salmon with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place on the baking sheet with skin side down.  Score the salmon with 1/4 inch deep cuts two inches apart.  Brush the salmon with the reserved 1/3 cup mixture and cover the fish with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the fish for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pass the rest of the miso mixture that you saved through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl.  Set this strained miso mixture aside.  Microwave this later for one or two minutes before serving to go as a sauce that you pass around with the cooked salmon.

After 30 minutes, remove the plastic wrap from the fish and broil for about 10-12 minutes.  Check doneness with fork.  The center should be opaque and the fish attains a golden crust.  Do watch that you do not overcook the salmon. (Update:  Janice suggests that one takes out the salmon a little bit raw in the middle and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes and the carryover heat will cook it further).

Remove the salmon from the oven and transfer to a platter.  Sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds on top.  Pass the warmed strained miso mixture with the salmon. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Christmas Mystery - From the Wisdom of the Birds

As Christmas is fast approaching, I would just like to share a story that explains the mystery of this wonderful event .  It answers the question we have asked ourselves sometime in our lives, "Why did Christ become man and be one of us?". 

The uplifting story written by Paul Harvey which I obtained from this awesome internet source tells how a cynical man found the answer in the pesky birds bothering him on Christmas day.  These unlikely creatures, not the angels from above, gave him the answer.  As the quote from Job 12:7b in the poster above states and as pointed out in the aforementioned internet source:  "Ask the birds of the sky and they will tell you".  More thoughts on Christmas can be found in this wonderful website I obtained the story from. 

The Man and the Birds by Paul Harvey 
The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. 
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service. 
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window. 
Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. 
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn. 
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. 
If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” 
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. 
And he sank to his knees in the snow.
Merry Christmas to all.  May the peace and love of the Lord be with you and your family.  Let us pray for each other and for peace on earth.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pineapple Carrot Coconut Snowballs

These coconut snowballs are "healthy-fied" with the addition of carrots and raisins to the pineapple cream cheese mixture.  They are melt in your mouth morsels which are not very sweet.  I consider it a perfect dessert to give to my granddaughter Maddie who loves carrots.  It will also appeal to her mom, my daughter Wendy, who prefers that her daughter not get used to desserts that are too sweet. 

Maddie at one year old with me.  I do have a  piece about Maddie and Me in this blog.

I have made Green Ice Cream for Maddie which she loves.   I incorporated spinach and cucumber in the list of ingredients.  At that time when she was barely one year old, Maddie was not into vegetables except for carrots.  Right now, she loves green beans and even ate my spicy Kale and Butternut Quesadillas with a lot of cute contortions of the face of course because it was spicy.  I have, however, discovered that at one and half years old, she has very unpredictable taste in food in the sense that she might shun what she had liked before.  Liking carrots, however, is a constant.

Maddie in her cute surprised pose.  Her latest adorable antic.

When I was developing this recipe, the handling of the cream cheese pineapple mixture was difficult when it comes to rolling it into balls even with refrigeration.  I decided to add a tablespoon of coconut butter to the mixture and that really helped.  I also mixed half of the carrot coconut mixture to the cream cheese pineapple blend and that further made the rolling into balls much easier

Pineapple Carrot Coconut Snowballs



1/2 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup of unsweetened crushed pineapple, well drained
1 tbsp coconut butter (optional but it really helps in rolling into balls easier)
1/4 cup raisins (you can use half this but the ball will not be as sweet)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup dessicated sweetened coconut flakes

For topping:
1/4 cup more shredded carrots
1/2 cup more dessicated sweetened coconut flakes

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl.  To this mixture, add the raisin, 1/4  cup shredded carrots and 1/2 cup coconut .  Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.

Mix the topping mixture consisting of 1/4 cup more shredded carrots and 1/2 cup more coconut in a bowl. 

Roll the refrigerated mixture into small balls (about 1/2 inch diameter).  Roll the balls in the carrot/coconut topping.  You can place them in mini cupcake paper holders for ease of handling.   The balls are still soft and melt in your mouth beauties.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pancit Canton with Shrimp and Vegetables and My Sister Menchie

Pancit Canton with Shrimp and Vegetables

This particular recipe uses the Chinese/Filipino flour noodle called pancit canton. The "sahog" or other stuff in it are a mixture of vegetables and shrimps.  The seasonings used comprise of fish sauce, soy sauce and lime.  One can also use lemon or better yet calamansi if you have access to it for the citrus taste essential to the dish.  I also garnish it with hard-boiled egg and green onions. 

Note the label did not mention any eggs as ingredient.  Some refer to Pancit canton as the egg noodle.  This dry version is not apparently. However, according to Jun Belen author of the wonderful Jun-Blog blog site, fresh canton noodles are made of eggs. 
My younger sister Menchie celebrated her birthday last week and I actually forgot about it and did not get to call her till two weeks later.  So this post is my peace offering.  During birthday celebrations Filipinos prepare a noodle dish to wish the celebrant long life.  I decided to prepare Pancit Canton with shrimps and vegetable in her honor.  One can also use chicken, pork, beef and smoked meat like ham and sausages individually or in combination with each other.

Menchie. Ate Bebeng and myself.

Menchie is the youngest in our family of 3 sisters and 3 brothers.  Her passion is sewing and doing crafts.  She actually majored in Textile Design at the University of the Philippines and worked at Ocean Pacific making the designs on their T-shirts.

She and I are 7 years apart and look very similar to each other.  My witty and sometimes annoying brother Chot one time posed this question to us when we were playing during our younger years.  "How do you spell Menchie in five letters?" The answer: Ondes. (My childhood nickname). Chot has always marveled at how much Menchie and I resemble each other.

Menchie is fearless and versatile. When I got married she did my upswept hairdo without telling me it was her first time to do so and on the biggest day of my life at that!  It was professionally done I would admit and I would not have known her lack of experience until she told me.
Menchie doing my hair for my wedding in 1981.

She can sew all day and she is good at it. She can easily sew one or two dresses in one day. She is also very resourceful. I remember her making a cover from remnants for our first sofa a friend passed on to us when Bob and I were newly married. She made the beautiful runners for her son Chris and daughter-in-law Chris' wedding reception last year plus the dresses for one of the bridesmaids and the flower girl.

Menchie with son Chris and husband Bubut at Chris' wedding.

Chris and Chris, also known as Team Chris, at their wedding with their mothers during the sand ceremony. 

 Menchie is very talented.  Her amazing creativity is most evident in the jaw-dropping headless costumes (see below) she made for herself and Bubut as Marie Antoinette and Louis the VI, respectively, at the Halloween ball of the San Beda high school class Bubut belongs to.  Needless to say they easily won, heads off, I mean, hands down, first prize.

 Belated Happy Birthday Menchie!  See you in March at Los Angeles.

Pancit Canton with Shrimp and Vegetables


  • 8 oz Pancit Canton (available in any Asian Grocery Store)
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thinly in bias cut
  • 1/2 a cabbage head, chopped in strips
  • chicken stock, 2 -3 cups or as needed
  • 8 large raw shrimps unpeeled but deveined (thawed in microwave if frozen saving the juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, cut into slices or chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • lime or lemon slices
Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsps vegetable oil.  Once the onion is translucent and the garlic a little browned but not burn, add the carrot and celery.  Continue to saute the vegetables.  When the carrot and celery are half done, add the chopped cabbage.  You may add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chicken stock at this point of stirring only if you need to. Stir the mixture till the vegetables are cooked and yet still crisp.  Add salt and pepper to taste.    Add the raw unpeeled shrimps including its juice if you microwaved them frozen.  The juice of the shrimps and the shrimps themselves give this dish a distinct taste.  Continue to stir fry till the shrimps turned pink.

Remove the mixture from the wok or pan leaving any juice.  Add the noodles in the pan and add about 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth.  Do not submerge the noodles in too much broth.  Add only enough to wet the noodles at the bottom of the pan, crush the rest and stir till the noodles are cooked.  Add more broth only if you need to wet the noodles or else it will get soggy.  However if it does happen let it go since it will still be good.

Once the noodle is done, add the vegetable and shrimp mixture and just heat through.  Garnish with the sliced or chopped eggs and green onions.  You can add soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice to the pancit canton according to taste at this point or you can put the three seasonings to the side for the guests to flavor the pancit according to their own taste.  I prefer the latter.  The pancit canton is pretty much seasoned with salt and pepper during cooking.  The other seasonings are there to enhance the flavor.  But then again I am watching my salt.  The lime or other citrus that you squeeze over your serving is an essential component and do not skip it. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Single Serve Vegan Pistachio Cupcake and My Last Lecture

Single Serve Vegan Pistachio Cupcake

Single Serve Vegan Pistachio Cupcake

I am posting the recipe of the Vegan Pistachio Cupcake I brought to my Last Lecture Monday of last week at IUP.  I only brought three samples of this version to share with the vegans in my class.  It tasted very close to the 105 mini Pistachio Cupcakes I brought which was based on the recipe posted previously in this blog.  The vegan version does not have eggs nor sour cream found in the original.   It was made with vegetable oil, milk, pistachio pudding and lastly homemade yellow cake mix which were also used in the original.  Somehow the stripped down vegan version was surprisingly as delicious and with great texture as the original.  The recipe is at the end of the post.

The Last Lecture

The last lecture I gave Monday last week was not modeled after ongoing series of lectures where academics give hypothetical "final talks" wherein they deliver and share to the whole world what matters to them if they knew it was their last chance.   It was not my intention to fashion my last lecture either after what the late Randy Pausch gave in his famous Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008 wherein he eloquently spoke about words of wisdom intended for his very young children whom he knew then he would be leaving eventually since he was dying of pancreatic cancer.  Mine was literally my last lecture for the semester and at IUP since I was retiring at the end of the semester.  It was on the last chapter that I cover for my CHEM 101 classes, Radiation.  I did have a post in this blog which was more both autobiographical and philosophical at the same time which I gave during the retirement party given to me two weeks ago. 

Though my last lecture was business as usual, I did want to use five minutes of my lecture time to speak about the relevance of chemistry.  The topic was on Radiation, a part of which was its use as therapeutic treatment for cancer. I wanted to convey the message that it saved my life when I had the rare cancer of the sweat glands three years ago. Since 2013, I have used the mask I am wearing in the picture below as a show and tell of this important fact.  However, I never wore it the way I did in this picture below looking like a headless person with the pose that sent the iphones of the students clicking for posterity sake for their facebook pages.   Anyway the mask was really frightening to see not to mention my emotional account about how it was used during my radiation treatment.  I am glad I was able to lighten up the situation with this headless pose complete with the finger the symbol of which I have no clue what it is for.

I was debating on whether to share the pistachio cupcakes I brought for them at the beginning, or pass it out during the lecture or at the end after the lecture.  My "advisers" in the class suggested the best time to be at the end of the lecture.  It was a jampacked lecture wherein I covered almost the whole Chapter 9 so there was no time left at the end of the class period for an impromptu party.  Some did come down who had time before their next class and sampled the green pistachio mini cupcakes I brought wherein I used the original recipe for Pistachio Cupcakes  found in a past post .  They must really liked them.  One of the students emailed me right after the lecture for the recipe asap.   I also brought mini vegan pistachio cupcakes which I asked three students to try and they said the vegan version is better than the original one.  For me both the original and the vegan are equally good.  Here is the recipe of the Single Serve Vegan Pistachio Cupcakes.

Single Serve Vegan Pistachio Cupcakes


3 tbsp homemade yellow cake mix or store bought
1/2 tbsp pistachio pudding mix
3 1/2 tbsp milk of your choice
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp almond extract

Place all the ingredients in a cereal bowl and mix them with a fork till they are well blended.

Transfer the mixture to a ramekin or coffee cup that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

Microwave for 40 seconds till the tooth pick comes out clean.  (I used a 1100 watt oven.  Baking time might be longer with a lower 750 watt oven). 

You can top the cake with Cool Whip or your favorite frosting.  It is good as is however.

Pictures and Cards 

Here are a motley of pictures:  pictures taken by DaSean, one of my students, after my Last Lecture; pictures of my former students who visited me at my office to bid good-byes; and several pictures of my CHEM 101 students during their finals two days after my last lecture.  I was so preoccupied with so many things I was not able to take my students' pictures during my last lecture. 

Noah photo bombing Dasean's pose. Thank you Noah, Kylie, Victoria and Lexie for the homemade card.  Your kind words plus that hilarious quotes made my day that day and any day I read them. 

DaSean with me.  Thanks for the pictures and the beautifully written thank you note that came with it. 

I am with Cassie Smolic who came by to give me the infinity scarf she made shown below.  She gave me a very touching thank you note for teaching her CHEM 101 and 102 which helped her get into the Dietetics Internship program at IUP.
I love this scarf and this pose.  Ha ha.

Chelsea Territo who was in my CHEM 111 lab.   Thanks for the wonderful words of wisdom in your card, Chelsea.

Breanna O'Sullivan, a former CHEM 102 student, and one of the many SI leaders I have been lucky to have these past few years.  Thanks Dr. Sally Lipsky and IUP for this wonderful SI program.  Thanks Breanna for the tea and mug plus the care you gave to my students last semester in CHEM 102 together with Lauren Comunale.

The students during the lecture finals.  In the foreground, is this semester's SI leader, Justin. Thanks Justin. To all my students, my very best wishes for the future and thank you for the effort and time you put into learning chemistry. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Time for Everything

Image from http://www.socialknx.com/tis-season-using-social-media/
I fell in love with Ecclesiastes 3 (shown below) when I heard a gifted lector beautifully read it during Mass at the St. Thomas More Parish at the IUP campus. I have never before experienced a reading done with appropriate pauses between lines that gave the listeners time to assimilate their meaning.  I was totally mesmerized as the lector also read every line with such mindfulness similar to one singing a song with feelings. When I thanked the lector after Mass for the beautifully done reading, I asked her how she does such a wonderful job. She answered that she just tries to not get in the way of what the reading is conveying. It is such a gift. It is too bad I never got her name but anyway thank you.
Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

I have been waiting for a good occasion to use this reading (Ecclesiastes 3). Well the time is now, namely as I am retiring from IUP after this semester and embarking on new endeavours and interests.   I am looking forward to what is to come and the surprises it would bring with a lot of joy and excitement. I would admit though that I also feel at the same time a tinge of sadness over what I am leaving behind and some anxiety whether I can handle the big changes ahead.   I will always remember through this process of adjustment what Fr. Alan said in his short but captivating sermon on this reading in the same mass.  He assured us that Christ is the constant in every turn in the cycle of life.  We should have no fear.  He will take care of us in every change of seasons that we find ourselves in. 

The words incidentally were used verbatim with some changes in the order of the verses in the famous song, "Turn, Turn, Turn", by the popular group in the 1960"s The Byrds as Fr. Alan pointed out during his sermon. Directly below is one of several videos found in YouTube on the rendition of Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds.  This version features adorable and at times humorous images to reflect on that contrast with some of the serious, sombre messages.  Enjoy.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Healthy Baked Vegetable Wontons

This is a healthy version of the much loved fried wontons.  This is an all vegetable, baked version that delivers the crunchiness and delectable taste of the decadent ones you have when you eat at the Chinese buffets but with lower calories and more nutritional value too.  When dipped in the Thai Sweet Chili Sauce or any sweet and sour sauce this appetizer will fill your cravings for good old Chinese wontons.   My mouth is watering just writing this introduction.  

When I eat at the Fortune Buffet in the Miracle Mile in Monroeville, I usually fill my plate first with two of my favorite dishes that they have. Steamed Bokchoy drizzled with a very lightly salted sauce and perfectly Sauted Green Beans. They are both always impeccably cooked neither under or overdone. I also always get a cup of their hot and sour soup to start the feast. Among the main dishes, I love the one with mostly mushrooms.  I usually get a sampling of their more decadent chicken dishes and both their excellent fish offerings.  Of course I will have their irresistible crab rangoon and spring roll but I will have these at the end when I am already full from the two vegetable dishes and soup mentioned.  

These baked wontons are healthier alternatives than the array of fried appetizers at a Chinese buffet.  You can have them before your meal without worrying about the calories due to frying.

Healthy Baked Vegetable Wontons

  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Place carrot, cabbage, scallions, garlic and ginger in a food processor.  Pulse until mixture are in small pieces but not pureed.

Saute the vegetable mixture in 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper and then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, crushed red pepper and cornstarch.    Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Lay wonton wrappers on a flat surface, fill with 1 tbsp of the seasoned vegetable mixture.  Wipe edges with water, fold over to form a triangle and seal edges by pressing on them.

Place the wontons on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake in a 350 degree oven till the edges are light brown and crisp but not burned.

Serve with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

As I Retire from IUP - Reflections on Three Life-Changing Questions

The first thing that people ask when they learn that I teach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) is, "You actually drive that far everyday?"  (Not really everyday but 3 to 4 times a week depending on my schedule of classes for that semester).  And I would say yes. 

I never minded the long one hour drive from Monroeville to Indiana County since I was on a mission.  I wanted to teach.  I wanted to teach students to learn.  I wanted to make them think.  I wanted them to fall in love with chemistry.  And yes I loved making up questions for them to answer during activities, homeworks, quizzes and exams in the lecture and in the lab as I countered their querries with questions after questions to their chagrin. 


My life itself was shaped by questions - actually three life changing ones. The first was asked of me when I was in my mid-twenties after I just finished a six week training course on the use of radioisotopes for pesticide residue analysis in Sao Paolo, Brazil.  I was to bring back the knowledge back to the Philippines where I was engaged in analyzing DDT in human tissues at the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission.  But fate had other plans. 
I used quozio.com to make this.

Enroute to New York to visit my cousin, I heard that the train was stopping in Washington DC.  I decided to stop there instead since that was my next destination after New York and up to now I do not understand why the travel agent did not make it my first stop.  I got off there and to make the story short, my friend, Seville Detera, and I had dinner at her apartment after she picked me up.  She was a graduate student then but she was able to prepare a feast for me consisting of steak, corn and I believe potato of some kind. 

My friend and mentor, Dr. Sevilla Detera-Wadleigh of the National Institutes of Health, during the Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering meeting this May, 2014 at North Carolina State University.

I remember we were sitting on the floor and not on a table eating our dinner when she asked me the question:  "Are you happy where you are now?"   I was perplexed by the question and did not know where she was heading to with it.  Before I know it, she was calling Dr. Britt,  the chair of the George Washington University (GWU) Chemistry Department inquiring for an assistantship for me.  A few days later I found myself in Ottawa, Canada trying to change my red official passport to a civilian one. That was the only way I could change my visitors visa to a student one. Yes that phone call Seville made got me the assistantship.

The process of changing visa status took weeks. I even found myself filling the coin slot of a phone booth by the youth hostel (actually a former jail house) I was staying in with coins as I tried convincing the Commissioner of the office where I worked in the Philippines to grant me permission to study in the United States via a long distance call.  He finally did permit me several weeks later. 

The youth hostel I stayed in at Ottawa, Canada where I changed my visa  status in order to study at George Washington University, Washington, DC. The bunk beds were located along the corridors not the cells.
That phone call made by Seville started my quest to further my studies in chemistry which started at George Washingtom University under Michael M. King and ended in Ames, Iowa where I got my PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry under the late Glen A. Russell. It was also in Ames where I met and married Bob, another physical organic chemist and had my first daughter, Wendy.

Dr. Michael M. King, my Masters thesis adviser on the Fluorination of Pyrolles Using TrifluoroAcetic Acid.  He is presently the Chair of the GWU Chemistry Dept.

Corcoran Hall, George Washington University, which houses its Chemistry Department.

Dr. Glen A. Russell, my research adviser at Iowa State University posing with his beloved MG.

Gilman Hall, Iowa State University, where I worked on my PhD under the great Free Radical Chemist, Dr. Glen A. Russell on the use of Semidiones in Studying Long Range Coupling in Bicylic Heteroatom Containing Compounds and the SH2' Reactions of Alpha Beta Unsaturated Stannane Compounds. 
Bob and I got married in Ames, IA.  The Filipino community in Ames helped me have a Filipino wedding complete with lechon, roasted pig with skin intact. 

After we finished our graduate studies at Iowa State, Bob got a position at Kansas City while I did my three year postdoctoral fellowship in Biophysical Chemistry on Lipid Alcohol interactions using NMR at the VA Medical Center research division which was affiliated with the University of Kansas Medical Center.  I also had another daughter Bettina during that time.  Later I landed a position in a drug company, Marion Merrell Dow.  The last position I had before coming to Pittsburgh was teaching part-time at Longview Community College while I raised a young family.  That was where I started to figure out how to  teach.

On my second semester at Longview, my husband thought he was going to accept a job offer at Michigan State at a lab developing biodegradable materials while I might have the possibility to help set up their analytical lab.  I wanted to tell the good news to one of my students about what I consider a possible dream job.  She was about my age in her 40's at that time and I wanted to share it with her since both of us had always put on hold our career when our children were concerned.  She quit her job and took care of her child when she found him handcuff to his crib by his baby sitter.  I thought she would be ecstatic when she heard the news but instead I was surprised when she asked the question. "Why don't you teach?"  I thought to myself, "What is she talking about?  This is a dream job".  I remember her saying when I asked why, "It is the way you say things".

My husband did not take the offer from Michigan State but instead decided to work for PPG in Monroeville Pa as a polymer chemist.   Meanwhile I taught first at Westmoreland County Community College where I got hooked on teaching and chemistry.  I taught  general chemistry from the awesome but highly challenging Brown and Le May's book to nursing students who did not have any introductory chemistry at all. This experience was how I discovered one can teach to anybody anything, what mattered was how you teach it.

Later on I taught at Carlow University where I developed the first of my "famous" lecture packets. I also developed a course called Chemistry and Society which afforded nonscience majors another option to fulfill their science requirement.  It was also there that  I had an epiphany of some sort when I was wondering about improving the performance of the students in my chemistry courses.  I wondered if they would perform better if they had a better high school science education.  I even made bolder supposition, "Would I not have more impact to society if I taught in high school preferably in the inner city?".  So I enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to obtain my certificate in teaching high school chemistry.  It was an investment in learning how to teach which I did not use in high school but I applied at IUP where I stayed for 12 and half years.

Carlow University, Oakland Pa. 

Weyandt Hall at IUP which houses the chemistry department.  This is the view from the beautiful Oak Grove.

Did I regret doing so?  Namely giving up that dream to make that impact on students' lives and learning at that earlier age of high school.  I remember a friend, Marilyn,  assuring me it is never too late for anything and she should know.  For many years, she headed Bethlehem Haven where women in their thirties up to even I believe fifties learn new skills in life.

I have taught many courses here at IUP.  They were all memorable.  Perhaps the one I felt I had the most influence on were the students in my CHEM 101 classes composed of freshmen some of whom were unprepared for college.  Years of teaching this course, convinced me that it was never too late for anybody to learn how to learn, how to think, and sometimes fall in love with chemistry in fact even within the same semester.  My greatest joy was to see students who could not even do simple mathematical problems develop better study habits and thinking abilities towards the end of the semester even asking their own critical questions.

My students in CHEM 101 Fall 2011.

I would not be here without my students who inspired as well as challenged me.  They were always appreciative of whatever I tried to do to make them learn and think.  I have flipped, project based, etc etc method after method,  And yes I have lecture packet-ed (developed five lecture packets while at IUP) and D2L-ed (online quizzes and homework). I even danced Gangnam style once. 

Me dancing gangnam style in my CHEM 101 class 2011.

Just two days ago, I was stopped by a student as I was walking to my car to go home. She had this concern in her eyes when she asked how I was. She had heard I was sick. I asked her if she was a former student and she said no but she had sat in in my class. She had heard that news from one of my students in that CHEM 101 class in 2011 with whom I shared one of the most emotional time of my life. That was the day I found I had a small c or early stage cancer.  I am grateful that I had somebody to share that emotional news with - my stupefied students. I knew they cared but not as much as when I was asked about  that day three years later by this wonderful student who learned about my small c from one of them.  I do remember that day vividly since I used it as a teaching moment to show how relevant chemistry was.  In fact, this Monday for my last lecture I will be showing the mask that was used in the radiation therapy that I went through as a show and tell device to illustrate how chemistry helped saved my life.

The "mask" during my radiation therapy.  More on this in this blog.  

As I was thinking of retiring, I remember the third question that was asked of me 14 years ago.  While at Carlow, I obtained a minority grant to investigate the use of lipid vectors for drug delivery at the University of Pittsburgh Pharmacology Department.  Before I started on this grant, I called my post doc mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Rowe,  to tell her that I got it because Dr. Leaf Huang at Pitt knew her and liked her work which matched the research project he had crafted for me.

Dr. Elizabeth S. Rowe, my Postdoctoral mentor at the Research Center at the VA Medical Center, KC and KU medical center.
Dr. Leaf Huang who I worked with at the University of Pittsburgh Pharmacology Department where I investigated the use of Lipid Vectors as Drug Delivery System.  He is presently at the UNC.

To my surprise, during our conversation she asked a question which I did not expect, "Why don't you write? Just write, anything."  How about my prepositions la di da la di da I asked her since I struggled with them as she reviewed the papers I wrote.  She assured me that was fine.  She liked the flow of the papers I wrote and which she could not change no matter how much she tried.  It took me years to answer yes to this question.  But I finally did.  This summer I continued the blog site I started three years ago with a welcome post but nothing else.  It is on healthy and decadent recipes as well as interesting reflections in life.  People are asking what my plans are for retirement.  This is one of them, to continue writing and cooking for my blog.  I want to travel and have more time with my family especially Maddie my granddaughter who I already taught an addictive habit of watching YouTube videos of nursery rhymes. 

I would like to thank people in my evaluation committee (Anne Kondo, Jaeju Ko, Bobbie Eddy, Charles Lake and the late John Woolcock, and the three chairs I was under, (Ruiess Ramsey, John and George Long)  for being so generous of their time and patience as I pursued my mission.  I want to thank each and every one in the department and staff as well as members of the other departments for always taking the time to talk to me and making me laugh while we met in the corridors.  Most importantly I thank everyone, faculty and students for accepting me as I am and allowing me to do things in sometimes over the top way that they sometimes did not understand at first but I hope they do now. 

I wanted to really retire this summer especially after seeing the three 8 o'clock lab classes I was assigned but what made me come back was hearing that song from Frozen, Let It Go.  I remember the fun I had dancing like Elsa upon her transformation to some of my students this spring of this year as that song was humming in my head.  Well that song is in my head as I let go of the wonderful time at IUP.  Thank you everyone.

Thanks to the department for the send off party held during our holiday party.  Below are some of the pictures

George gingerly putting decorations on the tree. Thanks George and  wife Julie for preparing the decorations and delicious perfect menu.

The recipe for this cake lovingly made by Dr Ellen Chinn is in this blog.
Loved everything but most especially the bean salad.  I will try making that and share the recipe in a future post.

My partners in crime in Reflective Practice General Chemistry Teaching Circle. Drs. Anne Kondo and Wendy Elcesser.  Love them.

Dr. George Long giving the blurb about my service to the department especially preparing the graduation powerpoint and lately videos.  

The students, faculty and staff listening to me go on and on about this and that during my thank you talk. 

Thanking the department for the wonderful Williams Sonoma gift card which I can use now that I am food blogging and the very well designed wallet I could use for my future travels especially.
Behind are the other goodies to die for, the banana cake, brownies, rocky road, peanut butter fudge, chocolate chip cookes and other cookies.  Please share the recipes with me before I leave guys.  I brought the Last Minute Nut Balls the recipe of which is in this blog.

The nautical themed cake was inspired by Ellen's shirt shown above. Awesomely creative.

Dean Deanne Snavely and I knew each other from when we played tennis the summer before starting first year of grad school at Iowa State.  Neither one of us btw knew how to play.

Future chemists and biochemists.

One more time, the divine cake.  I should have taken more pictures of other guests but I was so distracted by this cake.