Sunday, August 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Kale and Pumpkin Soup

This is a hearty, delicious and healthy soup.  For those following the so-called G-BOMBS diet postulated by Dr. Fuhrman against cancer and diabetes (see past post on this blog), this recipe contains three of the six elements that consist the diet, greens, beans and onions plus the vitamin laden pumpkin, tomato and corn.  One can add tilapia or other source of meat protein but the soup is tasty and nutritious enough without any. You do not even need to add any chicken or vegetable broth. The pumpkin gives the soup its rich taste while the kale, corn and beans give it its crunchy and robust texture.  Squeezing lime to the soup and topping and mixing it with yogurt, my favorite being low fat vanilla, takes the soup to a new level.  Refreshing and hearty especially for the coming fall season or any season for that matter. 

Slow Cooker Kale and Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 bunches of chopped kale (cleaned and stem removed)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup tomato puree or diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • tilapia, cut into 1/4 inch square (optional)
  • water enough to cover kale and other ingredients
  • lime wedges
  • low fat plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
Place the all the ingredients except lime wedges and yogurt in the slow cooker. 

Slow cook for 4 hours at high or 8 hours at low.  Slow cook for 2 hours if using an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker at slow cook setting. 

Squeeze lime to the soup and mix with yogurt before eating it. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Message to My Students

Always keep your dreams alive.   Keep your sights towards your goals and get inspired.

Always believe in yourself especially when the going gets tough and you are riddled with self-doubts.

Remember the key to success is to just do it.  No other way.  Hard work, patience and persistence will bring you to fulfilling your dreams.  When you are procastinating or just plain tired or discouraged to do anything, persist and just do it and you will feel better.

 Good luck and God bless to you all.

Note:  The first two pictures were taken at the Nail Salon in Monroeville while I was having a pedicure.  The lady beside me at the spa had those two messages on the same foot.  One message can be viewed looking from one side while the other from the reverse side.  She has seven sisters and all of them share the same reversible messages but in different parts of the body.  Beautiful and appropriate for the coming semester.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Suz's Gumband Bracelet - My New Favorite Thing



We had a ladies' luncheon at Fortune Buffet at Indiana County, Pa this past Wednesday. Past and former women members of the Chemistry Department of IUP gathered to a delicious lunch to mark the coming start of the classes next week.  Also in attendance during this luncheon was Susan, Wendy's daughter.  Wendy is one of the professors at IUP who has brought Susan since she was a toddler to IUP.  Since classes at Franklin Regional High School where Susan attends, has not started yet, we had the delight of having Susan with us and I requested her to sit in front of me at the table to amuse me.

I had fun talking to Susan and learned about her liking for fried doughnuts, one of the fare at the buffet and Thai food especially Pad Thai at Green Mango at Monroeville.  She also told me about her new hobby, making gumband bracelets.  She offered to make me one that very same day. 

While I was finishing up my lecture packet back at IUP, I was pleasantly surprized to find Susan at my office with the gumband bracelet.  This was just a few minutes after we got back to the Chemistry Department.  She made it that fast using the kit below.

She made it a point that I got a bracelet with the colors I liked and below are pictures of her beautiful creation.  I love it and is now one of my favorite things to wear.  Thank you Susan!

Crock Pot Filipino Pork Barbecue

I based today's recipe on the one I found in the Life on Manitoulin website.  I wanted to prepare barbecued pork for a coming reunion in Washington DC but the packet of barbecue marinade I usually use was not available at the Asian Market in Monroeville, Pa.  I decided to surf the net for all the promising alternatives and opted for the recipe for Filipino Barbecue in the Life on Manitoulin website.

I also wanted to try the recipe using a crock pot since I promised Dr. Pint at Pint Chiropractic to make him some kind of barbecued meat, (he emphasised meat), in return for him partially healing pain on my arms during an initial treatment at his office.  My next appointment at Beautiful Image for a facial held also at his office is at 9 am next week so I do not have much time to skewer the meat and grill it so I wanted something I can put in a crock pot and forget it till I leave for the appointment.

This is how I adapted the recipe I found on this delightful Life on Manitoulin website.  However, I have no patience to cut the meat into small pieces, marinate overnight, and place the pieces of meat on skewers in order for it to be then barbecued on a grill as enumerated in the instructions in the Life on Manitoulin website.   I decided to just place the meat right from the package in the crock pot with the marinade and slow cook it without marinating previously. 

After the slow cooking process, I just microwaved the meat and sauce and the partial drying of the meat in the microwave concentrated the flavor and for me tasted sort of barbecued. 

Since my husband came home earlier than I expected, I took some pieces of meat from the slow cooker before the total time for cooking was finished and fried them in oil.  They tasted really good and got a thumbs up from my husband.  I should have, in retrospect, basted the meat with the delicious sauce while frying it.  Anyway, however you cook the pork butt the result is just plain good because of the no-fail sauce.

Crock Pot Filipino Pork Barbecue

(Adapted from Life on Manitoulin website).

  • 4 lbs pork butt
  • 1 c. soy sauce
  • 1 whole garlic, peeled, smashed, and minced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 c. pineapple juice (or 7/up or sprite can be used) 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 c. Filipino banana sauce (Jufran or Mafran or UFC brand.  This is available in Asian stores.  If you can’t get Filipino banana sauce, you can use ketchup just add  a drop or two of sriracha sauce according to taste).
  • 1/2 c smooth peanut butter


Add the soy sauce, garlic, onion, juice of 2 lemons, ground pepper, brown sugar, pineapple juice, Mafran and peanut butter to the crock pot. Mix the mixture well. 

Add the pork slices from the package to the marinade and slow cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  I used the Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker wherein I cooked the pork in the marinade for 2 hours at slow cook setting. 
Serve with rice.  Caution:  this is addictive.  What the heck, enjoy, life is short. 


1.  There is enough sauce for 4 lbs of meat.  You can always use half of the recipe to cook a smaller amount of meat.
2.  Pork butt is highly recommended because this cut of meat gives moister and tastier results.  Feel free to use other cuts of meat.
3.  Instead of pineapple juice, I used the juice from a can of unsweetened crushed pineapple I happened to have since I did not want it to go to waste.  Use of pineapple juice, however, will give a stronger and sweeter flavor.  One can use a combination of half pineapple juice and half Sprite if you have them both or just plain Sprite or 7-Up.
4.  You can skip the peanut butter and the recipe will be closer to the classical Filipino barbecue.  I prefer including it for a "satay" type of taste.

You may also like the following slow cooker Filipino dishes

Slow Cooker Filipino Pork Menudo   Slow Cooker PataTim Style Pork Roast     Slow Cooker Easy Pork Asado

Slow Cooker Bulalo                        Slow Cooker Arroz Caldo                      Slow Cooker Ginger Stew (Tinola)


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Filipino Cheese Pimiento Sandwich

Healthier version of a Filipino favorite snack

When I went to visit my sisters in Los Angeles about three years ago, they took me to Island Pacific Grocery.  It was an awesome experience for me since we do not have such a place  where I came from, namely, Pittsburgh, Pa.  I was overwhelmed seeing every Filipino ingredients one could think of in the shelves.   They even had homemade dishes, pastries and delicacies in the food stands within the store.  I eyed cheese pimiento being sold in one of these food places and bought one.  It really brought me back to my childhood when I remember this being served for merienda or afternoon breaks or appetizers at gatherings. 

I recently had a craving for this popular Filipino snack and searched the web for the best recipe I could find.  After fiddling with several, I found one that came close to what I remembered cheese pimiento sandwiches to be like from childhood in filipino - food -  I then experimented with making a healthier version.  I replaced the butter with light Smart Balance and subsituted 2 % milk for the evaporated milk.  I then added Splenda sugar substitute to sweeten the mixture since I did not use evaporated milk which imparts a sweetish taste.  Even with these substitutions the result was what I was craving for. 

Try this recipe and you will be addicted to it like most Filipinos who grew up with it for their snack.  You can have it for your next lunch at work or pack it in our child's lunch box this coming school year.

Filipino Cheese Pimiento Sandwich


  • 1 cup American or Cheddar cheese or any other cheese shredded
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped pimiento or roasted red pepper from a jar
  • about 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp light Smart balance
  • Pinch of pepper and salt
  • 1 tsp Splenda sugar substitute

Mix the shredded cheese, pimiento and Smart Balance using a fork or small blender.

Add the milk gradually until you have spreading consistency.  You may not need all 1/4 cup.  

Season with salt and pepper.  Add Splenda.

Spread onto slices of white bread.  You can cut the crust if you like.


1.  I used Monterey Jack cheese which was not as salty as American cheese.  Thus I added a tiny pinch of salt.

2.  If you are using American cheese or other type of salty cheese, you can skip the salt if you are watching your salt intake.

3.  If you use evaporated milk as in the original recipe, skip the Splenda.

4,  You do not need to melt the Smart Balance spread but you need to do so if using butter as in the original recipe. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Egg, Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper on a Pretzel Roll


Marion's sandwich inspired this

During the final workout at Curves Monroeville today, the owner Marion served something she created,  a bagel sandwich with fried egg, mozarella cheese and fresh spinach.  So yummy I wanted to recreate it with what I had on hand today. This is what I came up with.    The combination of what I used actually works.  The balsamic dressing gives it a sweet tangy taste which complements the roasted red pepper.  The egg offers the lusciousness to the sandwich.  If you want a change in your breakfast, lunch or dinner menu this is it.

Egg, Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper on a Pretzel Roll

(one serving)
  • 1 4 oz Pretzel Roll
  • 1 piece roasted red pepper from a jar, drained
  • 1 fried egg (over easy was how I prepared it)
  • 1 oz piece of Monterey Jack cheese or any other cheese
  • lettuce leaves of your choice
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp splenda
Prepare the balsamic dressing by mixing 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar with 1 tbsp splenda or sugar.  I used half of this amount and kept the rest for another sandwich.
Fry the egg in vegetable oil to preferred consistency.  I prepared mine over easy. 
Spread the balsamic dressing with a brush on the two separated pieces of pretzel roll.  Top one piece with lettuce leaves, cheese, fried egg and roasted red pepper.  Place the other piece of pretzel on top.  Have a piece of napkin ready and enjoy the yummy sandwich.


1.  I used frozen Superpretzel Gourmet Pretzel Roll from GFS Monroeville which I thawed and heated lightly in the toaster oven.
2.  I like using De Lallo's brand Roasted Red Pepper.  I also bought one from Tuesday Morning which had similar quality.
3.  You can substitute bagels for the pretzel roll.
Towering goodness of a sandwich.

Almost all gone!

Final Workout at Curves Monroeville - Living and Letting Go

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

I have written about the closing of Curves Monroeville in two past posts in this blog, 1) Banana Oat Bars Recipe and A Milestone and Saying Goodbye to Curves Monroeville and 2) Vegan Fruit Pizza and Jody and Curves Monroeville Zumbarettes.  Please read and view the pictures in these two other posts dedicated to Curves Monroeville. 

The ever familiar place known to us as Curves Monroeville where we not only nurtured our body but also our mind and soul as we exercised and met friends.
Today Marion and her husband Rob cordially and generously invited members to celebrate the final workout at Curves Monroeville with a sumptuous brunch of delicious bagel sandwiches, fresh fruit salad and muffins.  Here are the pictures of the event. 

The owner, Marion, and some of the staff members.  They all made it a point to call us by our first name everytime we came in for workout and before we left to say goodbye.  Left to right: Nancy, Sue, Elona, Marion, Karen and Ellen. 

The members and staff posing for a group picture with Marion.  Though our hearts were breaking it was mixed with joy for we are grateful to Marion.  As one quote says,
"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude".  Karl Barth

The members and staff with Marion and her significant other, Rob.

The devoted pair - Marion and Rob.  Your love and support for each other are inspirational.

To Marion and Rob and to all the staff and members of Curves Monroeville, thank you for the wonderful time and friendships made.
When you took over the ownership of Curves from Denise, the original owner,  two years ago, you mentioned to me that your vision was to create a place where women could find a haven to stay healthy and strong. Rest assured, Marion, that the vision has been fulfilled all the two years you spent at Curves Monroeville.  We are grateful to you for your boundless energy, creativity, time and effort to accomplish that for our sake. 
It is a hard place to replace but after all the benefits we obtained from this wonderful place there is no turning back and we will go to continue the quest to be healthy women in both body and spirit through fitness and support from friendships made.  Thank you.
(The quote was written on an image from

Alas, life goes on. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Small C Part V - Why Do Bad Things Happen?

The Small C Part V - Why Do Bad Things Happen?

The first thing a person who has been dealt with the news that he or she has cancer does is to ask the question why.  I am not talking about the physical cause but something more in the line of,  "Why God did this happen to me?" or just plainly "Why me?"

I always considered God a non judgemental God not the one that I grew up with who I conceived was there to watch your every move ready to reprimand or even punish you when you did any bad thing.  Somehow through the years I began to understand God as a being who unconditionally loved me as I went along life doing sometimes outrageous stuff to say the least. 

When my daughter found out many years ago she had a cyst on her pancreas, which fortunately turned out to be benign, she immediately cried and got scared that it was because God was punishing her for not going to Mass the Sunday before she heard the terrifying news.   I assured her God did not work in that manner.  (How I wished sometimes that I had told her He did since it might have frightened her to go to Mass on Sundays which she had not done conscientiously lately). 

When I found out about my cancer I emailed my former classmates in high school to pray for me.  A prayer brigade was formed by Paeng who coordinated our group.  I received a well thought out and beautifully written email message from him which was in both English and Tagalog.  The last paragraph of the message ended this way:  (the Tagalog portions were translated by myself).

You were given, Ondes (Note: my childhood nickname), this affliction by God because He wants to direct your soul and mind away from work and material things since He desires to give you long lasting healing -- part of His soul wellness program.  He wants to secure for you eternal life with Him.

I felt really perturbed by this part of his message and misunderstood it to mean that I had been too ambitious with my life thus being nudged by God to slow down.   In retrospect was I going back to the God of my childhood - the judgemental God which I thought I had gotten rid off or was what Paeng saying true?

I thank the Lord that I went back to the image of a loving patient God despite the initial feeling of guilt and confusion brought about by my misinterpretation of my friend's message.  During our last prayer meeting at Sue's house, Natalie mentioned that I have changed quite a bit from four years ago.  I dread to imagine how I was then.  Could the cancer been a means by God for me to "open up" as Mark Nepo referred to as a significant result of when "bad things" occur in our lives?

That said I really do not have the answer to the theological question "Why,  God?"  I do want to share a favorite quote I heard frequently from our past pastor, Fr. Tom, that I find consoling and had appeased my complicated mind as I figure out life's questions.  I incorporated it into a scene of a beach to form something that can be used as a bookmark.

Perhaps that is the answer. 

Moo Goo Gai Pan

Healthy, Tasty and Moist

This has my husband's seal of approval.  It is not too salty like most Chinese dishes but it is still very tasty.  To ensure that the chicken stays moist, an added step of velveting the chicken or coating it in egg whites and cornstarch is used.  The result is a restaurant style chicken dish where the meat remains juicy during the stir frying procedure.

Moo Goo Gai Pan 


Velveted chicken: 

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp oil

Chop the chicken into 1 inch cubes.     In a bowl, mix the egg white, cornstarch, salt and garlic powder.  Add the chicken to the mixture and using your fingers coat the chicken with the mixture.  Cover the bowl and set the coated chicken in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile while the chicken is marinating prepare the vegetable mixture and sauce:

Vegetable mixture:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 (8 oz) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can whole straw mushrooms, drained
  • 1/2 of a (15 oz) can baby corn, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced


  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or rice wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke.  Stir in the fresh mushrooms, broccoli, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, straw mushrooms and garlic.  Cook till the broccoli is tender.  Remove from wok and set aside.

In a bowl mix the white sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sherry or rice wine and broth or water.  Set aside

Wipe the wok and place 2 tbsp oil to it.  Heat the oil on high and then add the marinated chicken for velveting.  Cook until it is white and stir using a wooden spoon to gently separate them.

Add the vegetable and sauce to the velveted chicken.  Mix all of them together till all the components are heated through.  Garnish with the baby corn. 

Serve over rice or Asian noodles or pasta.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Easy Irresistible Fruit Salad and the Art of Doing Nothing

The Art of Doing Nothing

We just came back from Myrtle Beach and unlike other vacations and cruises we had taken before we did nothing and we are proud of it.  My husband are both very intense workaholics and this is quite a feat to achieve.  My husband Bob mentioned at the start of the vacation that he preferred not to be forced to do things for fun like what happened in our past cruises.   So we just took it easy.

I just want to share pictures I took that capture what our stay was like at the Marriott Hotel and its beach.


Learned how to play from the children.
Watched and listened to the ocean waves.
Looked out from our bedroom window to admire the view.

Watched people do nothing.

Lastly don't you wish you can do this?

Beautiful lady at the airport who shared the message on her T-shirt.  By the way she did not follow the advice on the T-shirt .  She was on her way home like we were when we met her.

You won't be able to resist this salad!

Three ingredients.  No cooking needed.  Easy yet irresistible. 

We prepare this fruit salad during special feasts in the Philippines.  We rely on canned fruit and cream since apples, grapes and peaches in the fruit cocktail do not grow easily in the Philippines.  The typical Filipino fruit salad uses canned Nestle cream and condensed milk for the dressing but I substituted cream cheese for the former. 

Other recipes on the web feature other fruit like fresh cubed apples or canned pineapple tidbits.  Some recipes add Filipino nata de coco or bottled or fresh young coconut called buko but I prefer to be a minimalist and limit the ingredients to three.   I served this at a recent party and one of the guests who is a good cook herself loved it.   Here is the recipe.

Easy Irresistible Fruit Salad


3 (29 oz each) large cans fruit cocktail, drained
1 8 oz cream cheese
1 (14 oz) can condensed milk (I usually use half of this amount since I prefer the salad not to be too sweet)


Thoroughly drain the fruit cocktail until you do not see any juice dripping from the colander. 

Mix the cream cheese and condensed milk thoroughly.

Transfer the drained fruit cocktail in a large bowl and pour into it the cream cheese and condensed milk mixture.   Carefully blend the dressing to the fruit cocktail.  Chill in the refrigerator if you can wait.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Vegan Fruit Pizza and Jody and Curves Monroeville Zumbarettes

Vegan Fruit Pizza artfully prepared by Jody.  Note in the middle is the symbol for Zumba as etched by the blueberries. 

Jody and Curves Monroeville Zumbarettes

A goal no matter whether it is spiritual or material in nature can spur physical healing.  For example my late brother Anton just bought a Porsche seven years ago when after barely a week he was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to go through chemo therapy.   All throughout the treatments, the carrot that was hanging over his head aside from other loftier motivations was to ride his Porsche again.  The same thing happened to my daughter who had a benign cyst removed from the tail end of her pancreas several years ago while in college.  She healed relatively fast and in less than a week she was back to classes.   Her motivation was to be able to cheer again for her college squad.

I had always been plagued with knee problems.  I had left knee surgery in 2009 and I thought my other knee would just be fine without surgery but it bothered me starting 2011.  Despite intermittently having pain on my right knee these past few years, I went to Zumba classes conducted at Curves Monroeville under Jody since I really loved the dances and music.   Finally I decided to have the right knee replacement last year and one of the motivations I had for undergoing this painful process was to be able to do Zumba in my full capacity without holding back any moves.  After two months or so of recovery after the surgery I was on top of the world when I was able to jump and turn around to my hearts content during Zumba class.

We had a great Zumba teacher in Jody.  She clearly showed the moves and  was very patient and non judgemental with us when it comes to what level of Zumba we could attain.  As the pictures below attest, Jody did a lot more than just lead us in the moves during the session.  She would tailor the dances and music to the season whether it was halloween, Christmas or St. Patrick's day.  She even conducted games after the session. 

To show how dedicated she was, she even conducted the Zumba session outside the club when an electronic problem occurred and she had to use her car radio to play the music from her cell phone. 

Thank you Jody!  We Zumbarettes really loved the sessions and they were one of the highlights of our week.

Yesterday we had a little get together before and after the Zumba session at Curves Monroeville to mark the end of the latter in mid August. It was also an occasion to say thank you to a great and dedicated Zumba teacher Jody.

The recipes of some of the things served during yesterday's get together are in this blogsite.  The cupcake is in the 7/25/2014 post, the pineapple salsa is in the 8/2/2014 post and the vegan chocolate frosting is in the 7/21/14 post.  The vegan fruit pizza is in today's post below.
One of the dishes served during the little get together yesterday was the delicious and beautiful Vegan Fruit Pizza prepared by Jody.

Vegan Fruit Pizza

(Provided by Jody)


  • Vegan Pie Crust (store bought or see notes below for alternatives)
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk (full fat not lite)
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar or other sweetener
  • fruit of your choice
Place the vegan pie crust in a pizza pan and follow the directions in preparing the crust according to the package or see notes below.

Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. 

Invert and open the can after cooling.  Carefully pour off the liquid leaving the coconut solid fat.  

Add 3 tbsp sugar to the coconut solid fat and mix thoroughly.  Spread the mixture on top of the prepared crust.   Place the fruit on top of the filling. Yummy and luscious!


Vegan pie crust is available at Whole Foods or other health food stores or you can make a similar one using the recipe in the blog FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

An alternative crust would be the raw one described in this my blog dated June 30, 2014.