Monday, June 30, 2014

Layered Fudge Ice Cream and Life Changing Writers Workshop

Life-changing Writers Workshop

Everyone has a bucket list.  Mine includes fulfilling a dream to be a writer. 

I always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in high school but I made a mistake of comparing myself to a classmate named Amanda.  She was clearly a natural and the teachers recognized that.   I on the other hand was showing more an inclination towards the sciences.  Since I felt that I would never get to reach the standard set by Amanda, the natural born writer, I just decided pursuing a journalism degree was not for me and went on to become a chemist.

Later on in my life I used different types of media to express myself.  I volunteered to put together a couple of newsletters for our chemistry department and also created Power Point presentations and then later on videos during our yearly graduation.  During the summer of 2012 I was so obsessed with the Movie Maker software that I made YouTube videos of every event that occurred that summer.  

Though I found an outlet for my need to express myself through multimedia,  I never really wrote anything except technical papers and lecture packets for my classes. 

In the past few years, I got hooked on cooking shows on TV and voraciously read cooking blogs online that I felt this urge to have my own blog.  I set one up in November 2011.  However,  I only got to do the welcome post. Something unexpected happened the following month.  After the removal of a parotid mass, my doctor found during its biopsy that it was actually malignant though at its earliest stage.  I had a small c not a big C.  It is, however, a very rare type of cancer, namely, that of the sweat glands which is only 0.03 % of all cancers.   

I put my mind into being strong and tough during the radiation treatments and the idea of pursuing the blog was furthest from my mind.  I would also admit that at the back of my mind I was afraid that blogging might make me too introspective and self-engrossed especially in the vulnerable state I was then in.  I also did not feel comfortable sharing my thoughts publicly  though several persons use their blogs during this period as therapy.

I always love to take pictures of anything, especially food, and anybody even random persons I meet.  I always wished afterwards that I could write about my reflections or stories of the pictures I have taken. Most of the time I thought of continuing the blog I set up in 2011 but I was afraid I did not have what it took to write (the Amanda syndrome never left me).

A few weeks ago, I found out that the Monroeville Library in my hometown was holding a Writers Workshop.  Three published writers, Chris Rodell (Use All Your Crayons), Adam Matcho (The Novelty Essay),  and Scott Silsbe (Unattended Fire) were invited to tell the audience their experience in writing their books and offer advice in writing them.  I decided to attend.yi

Left to right:  Adam Matcho, Scott Silsbe and Chris Rodell.
The three guest speakers were very inspirational and the attendees, who themselves were writers, were very encouraging.   The workshop gave me the courage to take the jump. I started writing for my blog a week later.  This was almost two and half years since I posted my first and only post.  I just needed the support and encouragement of the speakers and the attendees to convince me that I can do it.  Thanks to you all. I also would like to thank Sharon Lippincott for organizing this workshop and Ellen DeHouskie for facilitating that day.

Once I started I was pleasantly surprised that the needed patience to do rewrites after rewrites came easy since that was what I have been doing when I wrote the instructions for calculating chemistry problems and explaining concepts in my lecture packets.  In the past two semesters for example I spent countless hours writing and rewriting questions for online quizzes and homework making sure there were no confusing words or phrases that could lead to misinterpretations.  I was afraid that I would get an avalanche of emails from frustrated and upset students as a result of any error on my part. 

A Good for You Dessert 

This particular recipe was based on one that I found in the health conscious Chocolate- Covered Katie blog and it was called 'Eatmore' Fudge Squares.  It was actually created by her friend Chrystal.  I made substitutions for some of the ingredients based on what I had on hand but I followed most of the procedure.   Since the prunes are not as sweet as the dates used on the original recipe,  I had  to add  Splenda artificial sweetener and honey to the prune, almond and cocoa powder mixture that composed the bottom layer.

Layered Fudge Ice Cream

(Adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie)


  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 3/4 cup almonds, unsalted
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp Splenda or any other sugar substitute
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp more unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp more honey


Mix the prunes, almonds, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, Splenda or sugar and 2 tbsp honey in a food processor until thoroughly blended.  Spread the mixture in a loaf pan evenly and press down gently with a spoon or your fist. 

Mix together the banana, peanut butter, the other 2 tbsp cocoa powder and the other 2 tbsp honey in the food processor.  Spread the mixture over the bottom layer evenly. 

Place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until the top layer hardens.  Cut into 8 squares.  Refreeze whatever is left since the upper layer melts easily at room temperature and also in the refrigerator.   It is ice cream after all.

Slow Cooker Beef Caldereta and Reunion with Former Filipino Officemates

My version of Caldereta as cooked in a slow cooker.

Rick and Offie posing with the dinner fare consisting of: clockwise from the right, fresh lumpia, shrimp, pickled cucumbers, baked mackerel, achara, Mongolian beef and empanada. In the middle are the fresh Maryland crabs. 
Rick and Offie gathered former co-members of the Philippine Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for a reunion at their house in Maryland this past Saturday, June 21.  There were people from different states in the US, namely, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, who made it to the well-planned event.  I drove four hours from Pittsburgh, Pa for this occasion that day and it was worth it.

Seated l to r:  Rick, Seville, Nini and Flor. Standing l to r:  Ed, myself, Ernie, Eden, Offie, Vilma and Myrna.

It was  a joyous occasion which featured sharing stories and jokes, really very funny ones for the most part, and as in all Filipino gatherings partaking of food glorious food.  Offie was the hostess with the mostest as she even planned two different menus namely, one for lunch and a totally different one for dinner.  Lunch consisted of caldereta, fresh crabs, chicken on a stick, lumpia Shanghai and pancit palabok.  Dinner menu is listed in the caption of the picture of Offie and Rick. 

Ernie who is on the right is preparing to tell one of his hilarious jokes.  One I particularly remember is referring to Filipinos in Hawaii as Hulapenos

There were also numerous Filipino desserts served like espasol, leche flan, guinatan, turon and fruit salad.  

Shown are guinatan (top) and espasol (bottom)
There were several dishes that I fell in love with in this reunion and one of them was a Filipino beef stew called Kaldereta or Caldereta served during lunch.  It is similar to other tomato based beef stews but this one is unique in that it is thickened by mashed liver.  The taste of the liver imparts a different flavor that enriches the dish rather than detracts from it.  You would not even notice the liver taste.  Ironically, however, you will know it is not there once you have tasted Caldereta and get smitten by its luscious unique taste since it is not Caldereta without it.

Caldereta that was served during lunch at Offie's house.

I researched the Internet for different versions of this dish and the one I decided to use came from Casa Veneracion.  The directions in this Internet recipe, as in almost all of the other versions I read, call for slow cooking the beef on the stove for at least 2 hours.  Since it was a busy Sunday when I tried cooking this dish, I decided to call on my reliable beloved Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker type to the rescue. 

I also tweaked the original recipe this is adapted from by cutting down some steps since I was planning a long shopping activity after Mass that Sunday.  What resulted was this succulent melt- in- your- mouth rich beef stew.  Cooking it in a slow cooker actually worked.  Picky family members who never had it before did not even notice that there was liver in the sauce. 

My version of Caldereta as cooked in a slow cooker. 

Caldereta in a Slow Cooker


  • 2 lbs beef chuck cut into 2" chunks
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 5 finely minced garlic
  • 2 bell peppers cut in 1/2 inch strips
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dried red chili peppers crumbled
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 oz liverwurst which I got from the deli, mashed (or you can use canned liver spread)
  • 4 potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
  • 4 peeled carrots cut on a bias 1 1/2 inch long
  • 12 green olives


Heat the olive oil directly in the slow cooker if it has a saute mode or in my case at the "white rice" mode or use a heavy sauce pan or casserole. Add and saute the garlic, onions, the beef chunks, tomatoes, bay leaf, chili peppers and chopped bell peppers. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft and the beef chunks are brown. (If you have time you can be more conscientious and brown first the beef till brown and in batches). 

Season with salt and Worcestershire sauce (optional). If you are using a sauce pan for the sauteing step, you can transfer the mixture in the slow cooker.

Add the tomato paste and liverwurst or any other kind of mashed liver to the mixture and stir well. Pour in about 2 cups of water and stir well.  Add the potatoes and carrots.  Cook on low for 8 hours in the slow cooker or 4 hours at high.   In my Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker (older model), I used the slow cook setting for 2 hours.  You can add the olives before serving.  Serve over hot rice.

You may also like these other slow cooker Filipino dishes

Crockpot Filipino Pork Barbecue 
Slow Cooker Filipino Chicken Curry
Slow Cooker PataTim Style Pork Roast  
Slow Cooker Filipino Pork Menudo 
Slow Cooker Chicken Afritada  
Slow Cooker Bulalo

           Slow Cooker Arroz Caldo 

 Slow Cooker Easy Pork Asado
  Slow Cooker Ginger Stew (Tinola)