Thursday, December 31, 2015

Slow Cooker Oxtail Braised in Red Wine


During our Alaskan Cruise this past summer. one of the dishes that I loved was the oxtail and beef short ribs braised in red wine that was served during lunch in the cafeteria buffet prepared by the Celebrity cruise line chefs.  I wanted to duplicate what I tasted and used this Internet source as an inspiration.  I used less wine and skipped several steps listed in this source including the browning of the oxtail, sauteing of the vegetables and the reducing of the volume of the wine.  Instead I just placed all the ingredients given in the adapted recipe below in the slow cooker.  Despite skipping most of the steps in the original recipe this version, Slow Cooker Oxtail Braised in Red Wine, got the thumbs up from my picky taster, my husband Bob.

It was suggested to prepare and refrigerate the dish the day before you will serve it in order for you to easily remove the fat.  I could not wait to do this and just skimmed off as much of the fat while it was still hot using a spoon.   Here is the recipe of this decadent dish. It was so delicious I got off my plant based approach to eating.  One bite to taste led to more and more. Tsk, tsk.  Not to worry I am going back to my healthy eating tomorrow.  Promise.


Slow Cooker Oxtail Braised in Red Wine

(Adapted from this Internet source)


  • 3 lbs beef oxtail
  • 2 cups carrots (I used baby carrots)
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into slices with 1/2 inch thickness
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup green onions, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle (around 300 ml) red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black peppercorn
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker bowl.  Slow cook for 4 hours at high setting or 8 hours at low.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 3 hours at slow cooker setting.  Serve with rice, crusty bread and simple salad greens.





Friday, December 25, 2015

Empathy - the Key to Forgiveness




At about the same time this year, my husband and I went to New York to view three Metropolitan Opera shows and of course to eat at the various restaurants.  For me, there is no place on earth like New York to have fun and just be merry.  The hustle and bustle are what for me makes New York, New York.  I love being there.

Despite my cold and bronchitis, we went home happy though tired.  It was only two days later after the trip did I realize my wallet which was in my overnight bag was stolen.  I called the airport and police to find out what happened but to no avail.  I had no answers except the credit card reports.  Transactions had been made on one card.  Two orders at McDonald's that were made on the same occasion and two huge Metro pass purchases were some of them.  I was devastated and very upset.

I woke up in the early morning hours of the next day after this emotionally draining incident with the strangest feeling and vision.  I saw two men swiping the Metro passes that they had bought with my stolen credit card. For some reason I felt compassion not anger. I believe empathy had soften my heart.  I saw in their faces the eagerness to use the card because they were in need.  I am not condoning the act but somehow the gift of understanding their predicament helped me overcome my anger and felt some kind of acceptance of the sad realities of life.

I also understood then how one of the parents of a child killed in the incomprehensibly merciless massacre that occurred in the Sandy Hook elementary school last year could forgive the assailant.  Instead of lashing out in anger at the murderer and his parents, this parent reached out to the parents of the murderer and consoled them by saying how she could just imagine how they felt.  Such benevolent forgiving act can come only from a heart that was not hardened but enlightened by her own sorrow and tragedy.

Father Tony of our church during the Xmas mass touched on why Christ became man. He explained as we celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis to bear in mind that Christ is the epitome of this mercy. Fr. Tony further equated mercy to empathy.  Christ after all made the ultimate act of coming on earth to feel what we feel and live as we did, to undergo the trials and temptations as well experience the joy and the triumphs undergone by humans.
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When I posted just a few weeks ago how we need to be representatives of God, one commentator could not understand how God almighty needs PR or public relations done for him by others.  I had similar questions about the mystery of the Incarnation or Christ becoming man.  Can He not just make as good? After all He is all powerful.  Also can He not understand what being human is like after all He is all knowing?

But life and living and believing are all riddled with things we could not comprehend.  It is a mystery what God needs or His perception of what we need.  In all the Christian churches, the death of Christ is symbolized in the Crucifix which is prominently displayed in front and center of all their altars of worship. This surprises me since the beginning, the Nativity, and the end, the Resurrection, of Christ's life are both as profound if not more especially the latter than his Death.  Could it be because He wants to show us during our deepest moments of darkness the He knows how we feel?  Could this all knowing God after all knows that it is easier for us to understand now with this ultimate example of empathy how He is able to forgive and understand our desperation? He has been there after all.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Silken Tofu with Soy Mirin Dip



The star of this recipe is the Soy Mirin Dip.  It is amazing in taste and extremely simple to prepare.  You can not only use it to dip the silken tofu but also any steamed vegetables you might have like broccoli.  I had a similar dip with deep fried tofu with bonido flakes at Sawa Japanese Restaurant in Monroeville, PA two days ago.  I had four other vegetarian appetizers aside from this, seaweed salad with sesame oil, steamed broccoli with garlic sauce and vegetarian dumpling with its dipping sauce.  Yesterday as I googled how to prepare a similar dish I found out that bonido flakes come from fish.  Oops. And I thought I was having an all vegetarian lunch.

In my research to prepare this dish, I found a website that prepared the deep fried tofu using the ingredients I have below.  I decided to pan fry it on a skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  I would say I would have preferred to have deep fried it but then I wanted to be faithful to the  plant based eating approach, no oil even plant oil is the norm

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Arancini (Rice Balls) from Slow Cooker Chicken Mushroom Rice Casserole




I love Olive Garden and I have actually kept on comparing what I ate while I was Italy against those I had at this chain establishment to the shock of some people in my tour group.  I eagerly ate Arancini or Italian Rice Balls at Olive Garden when my husband and I were there many months ago and was disappointed.  I wanted this appetizer to be more flavorful.  I happened to have leftovers of the Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushroom Rice Casserole the recipe of which I have posted in this blog. I decided to use these to make my version of Arancini.  

It turned out to be tastier than those I had at Olive Garden.  The casserole itself is pretty moist and flavorful due to the chicken, mushroom and cheese already in it.  Thus its deliciousness carried over into the rice balls. My picky taster, my husband Bob, loved them.  This means you would too.  

One could consider this one of my two meals in one slow cooker dishes.  You can eat the casserole one day and make the rice balls some other day of the week.

Here is how I did it.

Arancini (Rice Balls) from Slow Cooker Chicken Mushroom Rice Casserole

Yielded 11 balls
  • 1 cup leftover Slow Cooker Chicken and Mushroom Rice Casserole
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup spinach, cooked in the microwave and drained
  • 2 mozzarella sticks, cut into 1/3 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup more bread crumbs for coating the balls
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the leftover casserole, egg, cheese, 1/4 cup bread crumbs and spinach in a bowl.  Shape into balls and insert a piece of the mozzarella piece in the middle of the balls.  Roll the balls in 1/2 cup bread crumbs.   

Place the balls in a sprayed pan and bake for 30 minutes.  

Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Secret to happiness or avoiding bouts of brattiness


Xmas school plays enacting the nativity this time of the year bring back memories of a case of childhood envy. When I was in grade school, I was always pissed that I was assigned roles in nativity plays that I did not like.  Other kids would just be ecstatic to be given any part.  Not me.  I wanted to be the Blessed Mother wearing the blue veil pinned to her head and donning the flowing white robe.  I instead was always assigned the role of one of the three kings since I was one of the taller girls in class though there were boys to choose from.  Beautiful Vivian with her porcelain skin and demure beauty always got the part year after year.

I never quit this desire to be the Blessed Mother in a play or tableau. When I was in high school, Miss Gutierrez, my piano teacher, decided to hold her students' recital at her huge residence which also housed her music studio.  For the theme of the recital she decided to have the rosary with each student being assigned a "bead" in it to play his or her piece.  Well there had to be a Blessed Mother of course in the finale.  She would be perched on a high mound outside the sprawling grounds that could be seen through the grilled windows in the studio.  No I did not get the part that went to Offie with the aquiline nose and iridescent skin.  Of course I was disappointed.

Since I was obsessed about this Blessed Virgin Mary stuff, I missed appreciating the fact I was assigned to play my recital piece in the finale. It was not because I was the best student. My piece which had a Carribean beat did not fit in any mystery of the rosary. I only realized being the finale was a big honor when Charito, a schoolmate, told somebody in school that I got this part and this person told me. In fact my sister Bebeng had to be appeased by being given another piece to be played together with me.  I think she was acting up in the chorus. All the while I was the envy of every kid in the recital, I was jealous of Offie who my mother described as having a moon face anyway to make me feel better for not getting her part.

This episode in my childhood wanting something did not leave an impression on me that it can be toxic not only to me but to others close to me.  One particular incident did. I remember a time when I was told by the girl behind the refreshment counter at a theatre that they did not have both the hot dog and blueberry slushy that I ordered.  I saw at the corner of my eyes my two daughters, who were in grade school then, nervously holding their breaths. They were anxiously waiting if I would be throwing a hissy fit.  I realized then my brattiness was affecting others not just me.

This bratty attitude had caused me two jobs since I was unhappy and miserable. Not only did I want things my way but right there and then. It was not so much wanting things or to quit wanting them as the poster above suggests but more not having the patience to wait that was causing my misery.

Nowadays I am happier since I have realized one fact.  It, whatever it is that I want, might actually happen. Not that day but someday. Somehow having this spirit of hopefulness gives me peace despite disappointments.  On that note on the occasion of her birthday. I wrote Vivian on her timeline in facebook about the Blessed Mother envy. Another classmate Danny commented we should have a reenactment of the nativity play on our next reunion and I might finally get my break.  Oh Danny thanks. Dreams do come true. LOL.






Saturday, December 19, 2015

Slow Cooker Plant Based Jambalaya




I had two excellent Jambalayas in the past few months.  When we were in Philadelphia for the Pope Francis's visit Milyssa, Angie and I went to eat lunch at the Market.  They had Philly sandwiches while I decided to have Alligator Jambalaya.  It was delicious!  But I still postponed making one until I had Jambalaya again at the PAASE organization Xmas party at my friend Seville's place in Bethesda MD.  It was brought by Joseph and Lily Tan who originally were bringing Pancit or Filipino noodle dish but opted out of it when two other families were bringing this Filipino dish to the potluck dinner.  Lily had chicken, andouille sausage, shrimps, carrots, peppers, celery and tomato in her version of Jambalaya.  She served it on top of rice.  

Yesterday was a cold day here in Pittsburgh and I needed something comforting and warm. Jambalaya came to my mind.  I had Artisan Tofurky Cajun Style Andouille in the freezer begging to be used for a dish like Jambalaya.  I used the recipe in the wonderful blogsite VegKitchen as an inspiration.  I decided to make it in the slow cooker and have the brown rice on the side rather than be incorporated in the dish itself.  

                                      

The Tofurky sausage really made this plant based dish like the real thing.  With the vegetables and spices, the sausage gave it the heat, flavor and robustness.  Here is the easy and delicious recipe.




Slow Cooker Plant Based Jambalaya

(Adapted from wonderful blogsite VegKitchen)
  • 1- 3.5 oz Tofurky Cajun Style Andouille Sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces                   
  • 1 -14.5 oz roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 red or green or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
Place all the ingredients except the cooked brown rice in a slow cooker.  Cook for 3 hours at high or 6 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.  Serve over the brown rice.  





Thursday, December 17, 2015

Overcoming Self Consciousness or Shyness, or Self-Centeredness


“[Schulz] came to see that the better part of his shyness was really vanity, or self-centeredness. "Shyness is an illusion," he would say, late in life. "If you get out and do something and talk to people, you don't have to be shy. Shyness is the overtly self-conscious thinking that you are the only person in the world; that how you look and what you do is of any importance.” 
― David MichaelisSchulz and Peanuts: A Biography

I can identify with both quotes.  I can be very shy and people would not believe it since I am extroverted. But I had and still have bouts of shyness even now.

When I was in my teens I used to have anxiety attacks when my parents threw big parties at our house. I hid upstairs in my room and even went hungry just to avoid being seen by the guests.  I was so afraid they would make fun of how I look.

Well today I had an anxiety headache trying to decide whether to go to a gathering held during lunch time.  I knew some of the people that would be there but still I had this nervousness about going. I felt they would be staring at me or something.  It is a feeling exactly as Schulz is describing above in the second quote that I would be the center of attention.

I decided to overcome the self-consciousness which he had also referred to as self-centeredness by realizing this fact. If I am thinking so much of myself and afraid of what others might think or say when they see me at the party then the others, in fact all of them, might be having the same thoughts.  Ergo what am I afraid of? They are not thinking of me but themselves.  I just told myself to, " Get Over It.  It is not about you".

So I sucked it up and just went.  I really enjoyed myself and I am glad I went.  Everyone was welcoming.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting


Celebrations are one of the sources of joy in life.  Today I decided to make cupcakes to celebrate three coming birthdays, those of my two CCD students, Rylie and Mila and Jesus.  We have our last class before Christmas break and we will have a little bit of a review of the Jesse tree which they did two weeks worth of symbols last week.  We will then proceed to watch the First Grade Class do the Nativity.

I want to emphasize to Rylie and Mila, before we proceed to watch the Nativity play, the fact that we are celebrating God's love for us which he manifested by becoming like us.  I have a blog post that metaphorically illustrates the necessity of Jesus becoming man .  I am not sure how I am going to convey this idea to these two kindergartners today but I will try.

Rylie and Mila know how to celebrate.  Rylie's mom, Adrianne, sent me a video showing them dancing while they were playing the noisemakers they made in class that were actually oh so silent but how they danced to the cymbals loudly clanging in their hearts.  They show in their dance how to celebrate exuberantly and without inhibition and of course with lots of innocent joy.





Here is the recipe of the Chocolate Cupcakes I made today topped with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting. Both are plant based recipes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

(Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

6 cupcakes

  • 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar (Note 1)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup almond milk or any other non dairy milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork or whisk.  Make a well in the middle and add to this the liquid ingredients.  Stir with a whisk till thoroughly mixed.  

Transfer the batter into a paper lined muffin pan.  Bake for 14 minutes.  Cool thoroughly. The batter tends to stick to the paper when still hot.

Top the cooled cupcakes with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting below.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

(inspired by a recipe from this blog)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
Mix all the ingredients with whisk or in a mixer or blender.  

Notes:

1.  If you are not icing the cake, increase the amount of sugar (double the amount listed).  However, with the icing the cake does not need anymore sugar than listed.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Busting the "Buts" and "What Ifs" in Decision Making




I am complicated person. I overthink everything. I am a worry wart too. I personify all these especially when I make a decision. 

The "buts" creep up especially when I am asked to do something.  I think of all the shortcomings I have that make me think I am no fit for the task or position.  A previous blog explored how I busted my self doubts.  I just tell myself "Why not me?". Saying these three words actually works.

Once I overcome the "buts" often times the "what ifs" follow and sometimes they make me procastinate in carrying any goal or decision I have made.  I imagine every worst case scenarios.  

I recently saw the movie The Millers and one scene showed the pretend Dad (it is a long story why he is a pretend one) advising his pretend son how to kiss his girl friend. The son was terrified he would not do it well.  The pretend Dad told him to just count to ten then just do it. He told his pretend son he is overthinking it. 

So that is my solution to bust the "what ifs". Count to ten and wait for any calamity to befall you.  If you are still alive the law of probability is on your side. Just go with your decision which you have thought of and fought its accompanying "buts" and just do it.  You are just overthinking your move.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vegetable Dumpling Soup





This is perfect for the busy days this holiday season.  It is a comforting soup bursting with flavor and texture.  It is also plant based.  I have resorted to using store bought Korean vegetable dumplings but I have included the recipe of homemade vegetable dumplings in this post.  You can store these homemade ones in the freezer and use just what you need for this recipe to warm yourself with a delicious soup after a long day at the mall. It is one of those which my brother Benjie, who is a soup addict, refers to as a cleansing soup that invigorates you from head to toe as you slurp on it.  



Vegetable Dumpling Soup

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1/2 package or about 15 Vegetable Korean Dumplings (available in the freezer section of Asian stores or (see recipe below for homemade ones)
  • 2 baby bokchoy, sliced into strips or you can cut each in two pieces for better presentation
  • salt and pepper to taste
Boil the water.  Place the vegetable bouillon cube to dissolve it.  Then add the dumplings and bokchoy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Homemade Vegetable Dumplings

(Adapted from this website)
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 2 cups cabbage cut into small pieces
  • 6 oz mushrooms (shitake or white)
  • 4 scallions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 inch ginger, cut into small pieces
  • 4 oz firm tofu
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

1.  Place carrot, cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, garlic and ginger in a food processor.  Pulse until ground into small bits, but not pureed.
2.  Place 1 tbsp water in a skillet and add the vegetables.  Cover and allow the mixture to cook. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
3.  Add the tofu in a bowl and crumble with your fingers. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and cornstarch and mix well.
4.  Add cooled vegetables and mix again.
5.  Lay wonton wrappers on a cutting board, fill the middle of the wonton wrapper with approximately 1 tsp tofu mixture, wipe sides with water,  fold over to form a triangle and then seal the corners and edges. You can freeze the prepared dumplings in one layer on a pan and then transfer to a plastic bag for use later on.  

Important:  When preparing the soup using these homemade dumplings, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer rather than rolling boil and drop the homemade dumplings.  The simmering approach rather than rolling boil will prevent the dumplings to open up.  For some reason the commercially bought ones did not do this.  

Tofu Veggie Rice Bowl






This plant based recipe was inspired by an episode on the TV show Good Food America.  One of the restaurants featured was a Rice Bowl food truck in New Orleans which feature vegan offerings in what else, bowls, and yes you guess it, with rice.  One of the dishes served that caught my fancy was the Couch Rice Ball.  (They name their dishes after streets in their area).  I particularly wanted to try the simple way they flavored the tofu using only garlic powder, white and black pepper and tamari.  I have been looking for a recipe to flavor the very neutral tofu that uses five or less ingredients and entail minimum time and effort.  This definitely is one of the simplest and yet tastiest way that I really love and will resort to from now on. The tofu can be stored and used later on for another serving or servings of this rice bowl.



I tried imitating the sauce that they used which uses Korean chili bean paste and other ingredients but I did not like the result.  I decided to just use good old Hoisin sauce which is commercially available  Perfect result. You can also use the homemade Hoisin sauce in this blog.

To prepare each rice bowl, they use a layering approach in the following order: Jasmine rice, the sauce, tofu, spinach, sauce, shredded carrots, green onions and sesame seeds  I have almost all the ingredients or similar to them so I was dying to try the adaptation I had in mind right after the show.  I was not disappointed and neither would you.  Just awesome.  Perfect combination.  Here is the easy recipe.

Tofu Veggie Rice Bowl

4 rice bowls or servings
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 block firm tofu
  • garlic powder
  • soy sauce
  • black pepper
  • Hoisin sauce (for homemade Hoisin sauce here is the recipe from this blog)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 4 carrots, shredded
  • 4 stalks, green onions, sliced
  • black sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Cut the block of firm tofu into cube size.  Spray a griddle pan with non stick cooking spray.  Heat to medium heat.  Place the cubed tofu on the heated pan, sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper and dash of soy sauce. Allow the tofu to caramelize but not burnt. 

For each bowl, layer the following:  1/2 cup cooked brown rice, Hoisin sauce added circularly once, 1/4 the amount of tofu you prepared, 1/2 cup baby spinach, Hoisin sauce added circularly once, 1/4 the carrots, 1/4 the green onions and sprinkling of sesame seeds.  Enjoy!  So, so good.  No kidding.  


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Be Sure to Make God Look Good Today



We had our prayer meeting with Sr. Paula today.  When asked what our thoughts were after our 20 minute reflection time, one of the members of the group, Rose, who is famous for her beautiful and witty insights which I refer to as "Rosesisms" said that she was happy to be a representative of God.  Her grandson or was it her great grandson, who is a sophomore at Canevin High, is very comfortable to share with her whatever he has been studying at his religion class.  For example he was excited to know that Rose was familiar with the Exercises of St. Ignatius who he heard of in his religion class at Canevin.   He was very eager to also know if Rose believed in God.   Rose happily and proudly answered his question. She felt like she was taking the place of God as she did so.

Sr. Paula told us a story related to this idea that Rose brought up. According to Sr. Paula there was a novice mistress who always invited her novices  "To Make God Look Good" as they go out about their task or mission for that day.  Sr. Paula further quoted St. Teresa Avila's famous phrase  "Christ has no hands or feet on earth but mine" to expand on this idea.  We actually say this mantra at the end of Sunday Mass at our parish, St. Bernadette, to remind us God is counting on us to do His work on earth.

Sometimes I am afraid I might fail in being God's representative on earth  because I am pretty irreverent. However, I know though God has a pretty good sense of humor, He will get over whatever outrageous things I do that day as long as I try to do some goody goody things. Seriously, He will be happy if I just live that day to the best I can.  God is good and loves us unconditionally. He does not expect us to change water into wine or make the blind see. He just wants us to love each other as He does.

Easy Alfredo Sauce





This Alfredo Sauce will take as long or even a shorter time to make than for you to boil your pasta.  It is that easy and quick.  This recipe is decadent as can be but can be healthy-fied with the use of low fat spread like Smart Balance rather than butter and low fat cream cheese rather than the original.  This is a crowd pleaser in topping any pasta. I used homemade fettucine pasta I bought at a fundraising event but you can use any commercial one.

The presence of cream cheese makes the consistency of the sauce to be thick.  The milk helps you modulate this thickness.  The Parmesan cheese, garlic, garlic powder and dry minced onions round up the taste of this Alfredo Sauce which is comparable or even better than the bottled ones.

Easy Alfredo Sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup 2 % milk. use more or less according to thickness of sauce you prefer
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dry minced onions, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a saute pan.  Add the garlic to the butter and saute till softened.  Add the cream cheese and blend the mixture.  Add the milk gradually till you have the consistency you like.  Lower the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and dry onions (if using).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Use to top fettucine or any other pasta you like.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Letting Go and Letting God


I really do not know how to improve on the following passages from Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation that I get daily online.  I love Richard Rohr's way of saying things.  The clarity I get is incomparable not to mention the comfort from the understanding of things I do not understand. Here are the passages:

Gerald pointed out in his marvelous book, The Dark Night of the Soul, that you must be willing to endure dark periods of feeling that God isn't here, that nothing is happening, that God has given up on you. Gerald makes it very clear that if God wants to work in you, God has to do it secretly, in darkness. God can't let you know what's going on, because you're likely to get in the way! You may try to engineer the process yourself and thereby destroy it; or you may try to stop it altogether because you are afraid of the immense freedom and spaciousness God is leading you toward. [2] It's only the wise, broken ones who allow themselves to "undergo God" and to trustingly "let go and let God."

I am grateful for writers like Richard Rohr.  Life is so much easier and more joyful to live especially during times of "darkness".  

Easy Coconut Nibblers


If you need a fast, delicious dessert that everybody would love, these easy coconut nibblers fit the bill.  I got the recipe from Patricia, the Ageless Sage, a member of the Monroeville Writers Group that I belong to.  It is a flexible recipe using coconut butter as the base to which you add anything you love in a dessert.  Nuts, raisins, chocolate chips etc.  I tested this on some conservative and hard to please ladies during a meeting and they gave the nibblers the thumbs up.  Nothing beats the taste of the coconut butter that is enhanced by the chosen added goodies.  Here is the basic framework of the recipe.

Easy Coconut Nibblers

  • coconut butter (I used about 1/4 cup in the batch I prepared) (Note 1)
  • raisins
  • chopped walnuts
  • chocolate chips
Melt the coconut butter in a glass bowl in the microwave.  Immediately add the goodies you chose to the melted coconut butter and mix.  Shape into balls.  Enjoy.

Notes:

Coconut butter is NOT the same as coconut oil.  Here is a good online source that explains the difference between the two.  I bought a bottle of coconut butter from of all places, Marshall's in their food department. Most grocery stores carry coconut butter.  Just be careful you do not pick up coconut oil instead. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

"Have the Courage To Be Truly Happy"



I went to Philadelphia to witness and feel the happiness that I saw on the people's faces in the crowd as they cheered the Pope when he visited Washington DC and New York.  I was watching TV on the days Pope Francis was visiting these two latter cities.  I was struck by what the announcer said as she described the crowd, "There are indeed many people here and they are all happy".

I knew I would not be able to get to be near him not even as close as a few feet away since I was anticipating a thick crowd.  Still I made a last minute decision to go on that Friday.   The day before, on Thursday, I got the email from my friend Milyssa that she was driving to Philadelphia by herself.  She had arranged everything from the rent a car to the hotel reservations.  She was just emailing me to inform me of her plans.  She did not beg me to go or anything which she usually did.  I woke up early Friday morning to realize I could go with her.  I just woke with the "why don't I go" idea that just popped in my brain out of nowhere that early morning.

I got up at 3 am Saturday, and met Milyssa and her Mom, Angie, at the Scranton turnpike exit parking lot.  I offered to drive my SUV all the way to Philly.

It was not that easy navigating from our hotel in New Jersey to Philly and while there to get where the parade would be.  There were barriers and security checks. When we got to where the parade would be, there was nowhere to sit.  So we stood for hours, not one but several hours.

There was something reverent as we went through the lines and stood endlessly.  I saw many groups of people that the Pope inclusively and outspokenly expressed his acceptance of their being children of God.  A God who loves them like everybody else unconditionally.  I did not see any shame in their faces or attempt to hide.  I saw that joy and great self esteem that were reflected in the glow that they exuded that came from being embraced in their uniqueness.

Did I get to see him close?  Not at all.  I saw his pope mobile passed by from 3 yards away and so so fast. I saw his image on the screens spread out in the area.  I heard him speak during the stop at Independence Hall Saturday and during the Mass on Sunday via the screen.  Being in that Mass was memorable.  You could hear a pin drop as the Mass started.  Every person with us were in awe of the occasion.

A show of devotion and ardor from different groups were shown on both Saturday and Sunday including those from protest groups as the pictures below show.

People of ages from babies to senior folks were represented in the crowd.  The happiness that the Pope invited everybody in the poster above to have the courage to experience was palpable as I looked at the sea of faces in the crowd.  I particularly will always remember a young voice in the crowd waiting to see Pope Francis say, "I have never been so happy in my life" as she patiently waited to catch a glimpse of him.

All of us felt that happiness which is hard to describe but it was there in our hearts. We courageously sought it and found it that day and gives us hope that we will also do in the future.  This Philadelphia experience and its memory will help us somehow believe in that.

Here are some pictures.





















Sunday, November 29, 2015

Walnut Tomato Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti










Rachael Ray was right.  A nutty pesto fits well with the strong taste of the whole wheat pasta.  I saw her prepare a similar pesto made of pine nut and basil with of course her signature EVOO or extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese in her show Week in a Day.  I decided to prepare a plant based version using vegetables and nut  that I already have, namely, tomato, pepper and walnuts.  I skipped the EVOO of course in keeping with the plant based approach and the parmesan cheese.  To give that salty taste from the parmesan, I resorted to using miso paste.  Extra garlic and the green onion also helped to increase the taste volume of the pesto.  Overall, it is a refreshing flavorful pesto that pairs up with the whole wheat spaghetti.



Walnut Tomato Pesto with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

  • 1 package ( 14-16 oz) whole wheat spaghetti      
  • 1 large tomato
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 4 stalks green onions
  • 1 whole red or yellow peppers
  • 1 tbsp dry sweet basil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions. 

Cut the vegetables into sizes suitable for your blender.   Place all the ingredients in the blender and pulse till the ingredients are thoroughly mixed but not too mushy.  I prefer mine to have some texture.  Pour the walnut tomato pesto over the cooked and drained spaghetti.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One of the Things I Am Grateful For




Created through Quozio.com


This poster looks selfish or full of oneself.  Aren't we supposed to give and not expect anything in return? That was what my attitude was when I started teaching kindergarten CCD (religion).  However, what happened one day in my CCD class was totally unexpected and made me so happy that I decided to make a poster to express my gratitude for being thanked for.

We were covering The Saints in our class and the only two students I have were asked to do the activity on Saint Francis of Assisi.  They were to write a poem or song to praise what God has created.  I suggested that they draw instead since they cannot write yet.  The first child in the class thanked God for Jesus and drew herself with Him.  I find this to be very deep since she could have picked something material.  

I unfortunately did not take a picture of what she drew.  I easily understood what she made since she was articulate and blurted out the description of the drawing.  She is definitely less shy than the other child in the class.   This other child was late in enrolling which explains partly her shyness at this point in the semester. For this activity, she drew three persons in that inimitable childlike way of drawing human figures (shown below).  I thought they were her family members.  




When they were going home I showed the drawing to her mom and told her that her child was grateful for her family.  I was pleasantly surprised the mom corrected my interpretation by saying that her child told her the figures in the drawing represent myself, the child herself and her classmate. I was so stunned and happy. I could not believe it. 


Even though I have some trepidation for putting together the poster shown above, I am sharing with you its message during this thanksgiving week, namely one of the things I am grateful for this year - the gift of being thanked for. Happy Thanksgiving.  Let us celebrate what the poster say.