Sunday, January 31, 2016

Like a Long Lost Sock

Like a Long Lost Sock


What you value
May one day lose its hue
No more luster
Like peeling wall plaster.
You go panic
It makes you sick
No longer are you thrilled
By something for which with glee you squealed
Then one day like a lost sock
You find it back
In unexpected places and cranny
At surprising times that are uncanny.
Not to worry when something you lose
Leaves you sad and confused
In time it will be back
Like a long lost sock.

Slow Cooker Plant Based Paella


Let me just out right say that my picky taster, my husband Bob, loved this and gave this dish two thumbs up. He did not even realized it was plant based.  When I served this to him, it was not even garnished with the lemon, chopped celery and olives shown in the picture and yet he ate with gusto.  I only told him it was meat free several days later.  The Tofurky sausage did the trick.  If however you do not have any, season the mixture with 1 tsp smoked paprika and one more tsp of cumin.

This can be a meal in itself with a side of salad or the garnishes and a piece of crusty whole wheat baguette. This can be a wonderful side dish with chicken or ham if cooking for carnivores.  As I said previously, a carnivore will not know the difference when serving this plant based paella to them.  My husband did not.

The trick with cooking rice in the slow cooker is knowing how much water to use.  If too little, you will have uneven cooking of the rice.  If too much it will be like rice soup.  This recipe gives uniformly cooked rice, a little bit on the risotto consistency.  It is good and comforting.  The test how good a dish is is when I hanker for it for breakfast the next day and I did with this one.  

Slow Cooker Plant Based Paella

  • 1 -3.5 oz Artisan Tofurky Cajun Sytle Andouille Sausage, cut into bite sized pieces 
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  •  1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup minced dry onions
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorn
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt to taste
Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting and 6 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours.  Serve with the following optional garnish shown in the photos: lemon, chopped celery with leaves and olives.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Mushroom Potato Bisque in Coconut Milk




I could never forget the Magnificent Mushroom Soup submitted by Karen Novak during the 2014 Souper Bowl Contest conducted by McGinnis Sisters Store in Monroeville, PA.  I remember it to be thick, delicious and rich tasting.  I decided to make a plant based version of the recipe.  I substituted coconut milk, full fat, for the half and half called for in Karen's recipe.  I also used fresh potato instead of the cream of potato soup listed in Karen's recipe.  I am very satisfied with the result.  It is pretty close to what I tasted of the Magnificent Mushroom Soup two years ago.  It is just as haunting in its deliciousness and richness.  

I also used a slow cooker though this soup can be cooked in the stove top easily.  I wanted this to be one of my fix it and forget it soup recipes. The ingredients can be found readily in the supermarket or might even be already in your pantry and fridge.  One thing more it is elegant enough to serve at any gathering.   Don't forget the word "bisque" in the title of the recipe.  It is enough to impress your guests.  Ha, ha, ha.  


Slow Cooker Mushroom Potato Bisque in Coconut Milk

(Adapted from a recipe by Karen Novak of McGinnis Sisters Store in Monroeville, PA)
  • 1 lb mushrooms, chopped (I used button mushrooms) 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can (2 cups) coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp dry minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.  You can garnish the soup with cilantro if you wish.  Enjoy this elegant and hearty soup.  

Happiness Along the Way

Happiness Along the Way

Nowadays I easily find happiness along the way
Not in Carribean beaches nor exotic bays
For me an unclogged bathroom drain
Though not fancy and not a desire so vain
One day gave me so much joy
Like a child receiving a new toy.
Is retirement making me easier to please
And less jaded and at ease
To see jewels in little pebbles and stones
And discover experiences taking deeper tones.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thoughts Racing Through My Head



My sink.


Thoughts racing through my head
Inside many castles did I tread
Dreams of greener pasture
Fame and fortune for sure
Silly thoughts
What can be bought.
How I could do this and do that
Since I was no more so fat.
I was getting insane
By thoughts I could not tame
Really getting totally off tracked
Then to earth I was brought back
By vision of my sink with dirty dishes I had to do
Or my house would smell like an animal zoo.
The feeling of grandeur now replaced
Snapped out by a chore staring at my face.
For some reason I was grateful
Being back to earth was not so awful
Too much dreams were getting  me weary
I welcomed reality though dreary.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Slow Cooker Filipino Pork Talunan or Pork Defeated



I follow my cravings for dishes from my childhood in deciding what to cook for the day.  There was something about this dish that was calling me.  I remember the strong ginger and salty taste but had no clue how to make it.  I searched the web for the best recipe to match what I think would be close to what I crave.  I came upon the Luto Ni Lola website.  I was pretty surprise the blogger is from my hometown Malabon, Metro Manila.  

This dish holds many memories.  Our father who handled the grocery shopping and meal planning rotated different dishes.  I went home one day from high school to see my late brother Anton eating this dish for lunch.  I felt bad for two reasons, he just got defeated in his bid as a young high school freshman to represent his class in the student council election.  He was quiet and laid back but had this charismatic personality at the same time that made him likeable and popular.  I, her older bossy sister, who was a senior then, urged him to go for it when he was nominated.   I even wrote his speech! But Mildred his opponent who was equally popular and perhaps more ready won.  I felt bad when I saw him at lunch because he was eating this dish which is called Talunan,  the Tagalog word for Defeated.  Ouch.  It was just coincidental.  When I told my mother about his defeat, my mother was upset that I pushed him to run. She felt he was too young to experience defeat.  That was how protective and loving my mother was.  Little did she know then how resilient and strong my brother would be when he would be battling cancer for 7 years later on in his life. She would have been in awe like we all were.

Going back to Talunan, the Luto Ni Lola blogger explained the name.  He told the tale that the roosters that lost in the Filipino gambling game, cockfighting, usually ended up being the meat used for this dish, hence the name. Instead of chicken, I decided to use what I remember the meat the Talunan dish I ate the day my brother was defeated.  I recall it was either pork or beef.  I opted for the former since I just bought 2 or more kilos of pork loin from the Sam's Club.

This dish turned out to be a cross between two popular Filipino dishes, adobo (except without the soy sauce) and tinola (stew cooked with ginger).  Instead of the soy sauce, patis or fish sauce was used.  It was addictive due to the intoxicating combination of the saltiness of patis, the ton of garlic used, the ginger and vinegar.  Was it what I was craving?  Almost.  What I remember was the one I wanted did not have the pickle taste that this dish had from the vinegar.  But it was still awesome, I veered from my plant based diet because it is so hauntingly good. You would want to raid your fridge to eat it for breakfast.

Here is the easy recipe.

Slow Cooker Filipino Pork Talunan or Pork Defeated

(Adapted from Luto Ni Lola)
  • 3 lbs pork loin, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup distilled vinegar
  • 8 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp ginger, peeled, crushed and julienned
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 4 pieces by bay leaf
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (patis)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 2 tbsp water
Combine all the ingredients in the 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 at slow cooker setting for 2 hours.  Serve over rice. (Caution the sauce is a rice guzzler).


The Thaw


Picture courtesy of my friend Leah of Maryland.

The Thaw


The thaw
It does show
A view
Ever so new.
The sun yellow hues
The sky now blue.
Nature's promise
What was would cease
And what is to be
Is here for you to see.
Now patience
Makes sense
And hoping and waiting
Have more meaning.
An end there is to everything
And always a new beginning.
A life metaphor
In all its galore.
When the snow and the thaw
Put on their show.

Monday, January 25, 2016

One Pot Tofu and Green Bean Adobo



I prefer to do my cooking in one pot or pan as possible. This is the reason I love cooking using my crockpot.  During instances the dish is better cooked in a pan, lazy me, will still find ways to minimize using too many bowls and dishes.

I am happy to say I was able to do just that with this delicious dish.  I skipped browning the tofu in a separate pan and also the defrosting the frozen green beans in a bowl in the microwave. The result is acceptable.  The tofu was flavored completely.  The cooking of the green beans featured some being more green while others a bit more cooked but not soft like the ones from the can.  Not perfect but overall good.

This dish is not only convenient to prepare but it is also delicious.  Trying to stay plant based it helped satisfy my cravings for the iconic Filipino national dish chicken and/or pork adobo.  The tang from the vinegar is complemented by the saltiness imparted by the soy sauce. The garlic cloves and powder rounds off the intoxicating addictive taste adobo is famous for.

This is substantive enough for a plant based meal with brown rice.  It is a great side dish with fried fish, chicken or pork for the carnivores.

Tofu and Green Bean Adobo

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 oz tofu, drained and cut into large cubes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp  soy sauce
  • 2 lb frozen green beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water
Place the olive oil in a saute pan heated to medium low. Saute the garlic and onion in the heated pan.

Add the tofu cubes and sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper to the tofu cubes.  Stir fry the mixture till the tofu has a brown color.

Add the vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce and allow the mixture to boil.  Add the frozen green beans and the water.  Allow the mixture to mildly boil with stirring till the green beans are cooked.  You can add the 2 tbsp soy sauce according to your taste.  Then add the cornstarch slurry at the end of cooking.  

Message from Nature and the Snow

Picture courtesy of my friend Leah of Maryland.

Message from Nature and the Snow


I wonder
if all this snow
is a message from nature
to go with the flow.
To take it slow.
To be still and to behold
To gasp at its beauty as it unfolds.
To forget it will not yet thaw
And just play in the snow.
To think it will end you should trust
To not fret you must
Lest you lament
not enjoying
every moment
And just complained for the thaw
when it snowed and snowed.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Five Ingredient Pineapple Zucchini Cupcake with Coconut Frosting


I am in the house, scared of going anywhere because of the snow.   I did not hoard any goodies during this snowmagedon, as my my friend refers to this weather, so I am making them instead.  Here is my take on a cake I saw in facebook.  In my adapted version, I added zucchini and nuts and used a yellow cake mix.  The simple frosting completes the cupcake and I think is a must.

This is an easy cake to make on a day like today when you are restless to do something but no pep (darn that gloomy weather) to do something elaborate.  This recipe is something you can rely on such days. It requires only five ingredients.  It does not require any liquid other than the juice of the pineapple tidbits and no oil or butter was used either. So you can have more than one cupcake.  On such a dreary day like today, you will be tempted anyway as I said in the limerick I posted today in this blog.

Pineapple Zucchini Cupcake with Coconut Frosting

Yields 24 cupcakes

12 servings (2 cupcakes per serving)

Pineapple Zucchini Cupcake
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 -20 oz can pineapple tidbits in its own juice, Undrained (note 1)
  • 1 whole small zucchini, unpeeled, and cut into small cubes (note 2)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or your nut of choice
Note: It is intended that no water, butter or oil are added in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk till well blended.  Place the batter in a paper lined muffin pans using a large ice cream scoop if you have one.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool.   Top with the coconut frosting the recipe of which is below.

Coconut Frosting (Note 3)

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 4 oz Cool Whip topping
  • 1/2 cup dry shredded sweet coconut
Whip the butter with a whisk.  Gradually add the powdered sugar.  Add milk if necessary.  Then fold in the Cool Whip Topping.  Add the shredded coconut to the mixture.  

Notes:

1.  You can use crushed pineapple in its own juice, undrained.

2,  You can remove the middle part of the zucchini if you prefer and squeeze out the moisture of the remaining flesh by placing them in a towel and wring out the water.  I am a lazy cook and did not do any of these steps.  My husband did not complain about anything so I think it is OK.  

3.  You can simplify this frosting by just combining the Cool Whip with the shredded sweet coconut and forget about the other ingredients.

Nutritional facts does not include the frosting

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 52 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
201
Calories from Fat
53
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
5.9g
9%
Saturated Fat
1.0g
5%
Cholesterol
32mg
11%
Sodium
299mg
12%
Potassium
47mg
1%
Total Carbohydrates
34.2g
11%
Sugars
19.0g
Protein
3.0g
Vitamin A 1%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 6%Iron 5%
Nutrition Grade C+
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Bad points

Snowmagedon

Picture courtesy of my friend Leah from Maryland.  

Can't help writing this limerick in this weather.  I got the title from my friend Xenia's recent email. She lives in Washington DC.

Snowmagedon


The weather is bleak
The snow is deep
I had enough sleep
So I will just eat
Blog
And eat.
And sit
And eat, eat and sit.
Please sun
Come back
Quick, quick, quick
Thaw the snow
End the snowmagedon
Or I will be a blimp
Oh no, oh no.
No, no, no.

Hope is the Essence

The following came about when I was writing a blogpost on hope, lottery and winning.  I noticed I could not help speaking in short lines so I just lived it up and wrote this. Actually my first poem.

Hope is the Essence


Giddy with hope
I said I will win
That 1.6 billion
Oh yeah, I will
Darn the odds
What odds
Worse than being struck by lightning
Who cares
I am happy
I have hope
For something good is coming
It will
The world is dark
I need this moment.

Lottery, hope and winning



When I was in college I remember our psychology teacher making a sort of spectrum of the different emotions that humans undergo.  He placed at the very end despair.  He explained that when this emotion is experienced we hardly or not at all feel any other.

And then there is hope, the opposite of despair. Whereas the latter signals the end, the former promises a tomorrow, a bright one.  For some brief moment two weeks ago, the whole nation and the whole world was giddy with hope when the power ball lottery reached the insanely large amount of 1.6 billion dollars. I had never seen such show of happiness though the odds of winning was statstically impossible. Everybody knew these odds. But still the TV showed people declaring with confidence to the camera, "I will win".

For one brief moment, what we hope for as the poster says did not matter.  The very much needed essence of hope was at work in the lives of all at a time when the world was darkened by fear from terrorist attacks and fluctuating economic conditions.  It is apparent that winning was not the essence. Hoping to win was. We needed this moment. And life did continue.

Buttercream with Walnut Frosting Using a Vitamix Blender


This icing was used in the pistachio cake I had at Esta Esta Restaurant at Monroeville  PA.  My husband and I fell in love with it.  So I prepared a pistachio cake from a recipe I had in this blog and frosted it with buttercream icing incorporated with walnuts.

I decided to try preparing the icing with my new Vitamix Blender since my Kitchen Aid mixer would be tied up making the pistachio cake.  Would it work, I wondered?

It actually did.  Now I know I have another tool to make frosting.  The frosting came out fluffy enough to spread and the blender cut the nuts right there together with the icing. The only thing was I had to blend by hand some of the Cool Whip topping I added at the end since some was not mixed in.  This Cool Whip is an optional ingredient I add to augment the amount of icing but one can skip it. Otherwise the blender did a wonderful job.

The cake with the frosting was a hit with my husband and family especially my granddaughter Maddie.  She immediately called her mom's attention to the frosted cake when she saw it on the dining room table.

Buttercream with Walnut Frosting Using A Vitamix Blender

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 or more tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz Cool Whip (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts
Add the butter to the blender and using the setting 1 blend till creamy.  Add the sugar in batches using the same setting. Add the milk between batches. Add the vanilla and the Cool Whip if using and blend. Add the walnuts and blend just enough to cut to the size you want. I prefer it coarsely chopped. Just use a spatula to mix in some of the Cool Whip that is not incorporated.  This is awesome. Enjoy.








Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cute Baby Words

Taken from this site.

Blankelet.

Alelula.

Don't look up those words in the dictionary.  These are not big words but cute ones from a little creature, my granddaughter, Maddie.  She is only two and half.  I want to keep a collection of how she said certain words at this age.

Blankelet is her version of blanket.  She has graduated to the real pronunciation lately however. While Alelula is how she insists on saying alleluia in church and lately at home when coaxed.

Her mom used to say apati for elephant at this age while her Aunt B used to say Otay instead of Okay until she was four.  So when Maddie says her version of those two words mentioned above,  memories of the cuteness of my own daughters come back.  They are very much welcomed since they warm my hearts on snowy days like today and the coming days.

Be safe on these snowy days.  Bundle up and try recalling some nice heartwarming memories of cute words your kids had said. They are worth reminiscing about.   Life is ephemeral as the poster says,   but these are not some big words that we are wasting our time looking up.  These cute words are precious and priceless part and parcel of the richness of our lives.

Update.  Maddie loves to refer to the elevator as the alligator.  Love this.



Easy Slow Cooker Smoky Gooey Carrots





Let me warn you.  These carrots are addictive.  I have eaten it as is when I wanted something savory to snack on and also between bread to act as my smoky "meat" filling.  (I am on a plant based approach to eating).  I will be featuring a soup using these carrots instead of ham in a plant based corn ham chowder dish which I will post in the future.  It can also be a very welcome side dish for your next dinner menu.

The smoked paprika imparts that delectable smokiness to the carrots while the combination of brown sugar and molasses lends the dish its sweetness.   The addition of the balsamic vinegar helps gives the carrots that tangy flavor that excites your tongue just a tad.  So good.

I keep leftovers in a container which I conveniently go to for my healthy fix.  Better than the barbecue potato chips and healthier too.  It is also easy to prepare using a slow cooker.  You have an alternative option of baking or roasting the carrots minus the water and cornstarch in the ingredients (see note).  I love this!


Easy Slow Cooker Smoky Gooey Carrots 

(Adapted from this site)
  • 1/2 lb carrots, cut (I used baby carrots)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (I used coconut brown sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
Mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the carrots in the slow cooker bowl and use a fork or whisk to blend them. Add the carrots to the bowl and coat with the paprika mixture.  Slow cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker at slow cooker setting for 2 hours.  

Note:

I have also roasted these carrots minus the water and cornstarch in an oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the cut carrots.




Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Baked Sweet Potato Quinoa Falafel with Miso Tzatziki Sauce


The recipe of this delicious and healthy falafel differs from the traditional one.  It is baked not fried and it does not contain chick peas.  I am allergic to consuming large amounts of beans and peas and chick peas is definitely something I can only eat occasionally and in limited amounts.  This recipe was inspired by the one that the Root Down Restaurant in Denver Colorado prepared in the Good Food America show on TV.  They also used sweet potatoes but adhered to the traditional way of preparing falafel by using chick peas and deep frying their version.

I am presenting a plant based version which is baked and uses quinoa instead.  I also did not use the traditional yogurt for the sauce but instead used vegan mayo flavored with miso paste instead of the traditional tahini paste.

Danny Boone, the host of the Good Food America show, pointed out that sweet potatoes are high in fiber but low in starch.  It is also a good source of beta carotene.  It is a good for you vegetable.

Everybody knows quinoa is one of the grains that are considered complete protein sources.  This is the other reason I decided to incorporate quinoa into this falafel so I do not have to worry of getting protein for my day's requirement.

I am happy with the result.  The falafel is crispy on the outside and cushiony in texture in the inside.  The combination of lemon zest with the garlic and cumin gives the sweet falafel this exotic and delicious Mediterranean taste.  The tangy mildly salty and garlicky sauce further enhances the flavors found in the falafel.  Serving it with cucumber and tomato relish gives it freshness.  Below are the recipes of the falafel and the Miso Sauce.

Baked Sweet Potato Quinoa Falafel with Miso Tzatziki Sauce

Yields around 9 falafel disks.

3 servings (3 falafel disks per serving)

Baked Sweet Potato Quinoa Falafel
  • 1 1/4 cup cooked sweet potato (I microwaved raw ones for 3 minutes at high in the microwave)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp dry minced onions
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Panko crumbs for dredging
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.    Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with non stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Mix all the ingredients except the Panko crumbs in a bowl.  Shape into 9 round disks.  Dredge in the Panko crumbs.  Place the falafel disks in the aluminum lined and sprayed pan.  Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

The falafel can be served with the Miso Tzatziki Sauce below and with cucumber tomato relish.

Miso Tzatziki Sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (vegan yogurt can be used)
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix all the ingredients with whisk or in a small blender.  

When Winning Meant Something More


There might be something about experiencing winning. Either your own or those of others. Maybe this is one reason I love watching voice competitions on TV.  For example I never get tired being happy even to tears for the person who gets the ticket to Hollywood during the audition phase of the American Idol.

I have never won big in anything but I have had some little ones in contests, raffles and even lotteries. I would like to cite a couple of instances when lady luck was generous to me. Not megabucks were involved but the situation in which they were won was what made them both significant and something to cherish.

I remember watching two 8th grade basketball games in which the younger of my two daughters was participating in one weekend in the late nineties. It was tough for me to sit through them because I just got the sad news that I was losing my job.  When the person selling the fifty fifty raffle tickets came by, I bought a dollar's worth which I do not recall for how many chances.  And I won!  I believe it was about 11 bucks.  Not big since there were many more games to come and not very many people watching either. I really wanted to help out the school sponsoring the game so I bought again tickets for the next fifty fifty raffle during the second game.  I decided it was just a dollar.  And I won again! The second winning was just as small as the first but I was ecstatic.

When I went home, I was still feeling low because of my job loss but a thought popped in my mind to console me. Could winning the two fifty fifty raffles back to back a sign from God not to lose hope and that He would take care of me?  I know I was putting a lot of meaning to something which was just coincidental to my situation but it lifted my despondent spirit.

Another time I want to share just happened last Wednesday as I was leaving our cancelled writers' group meeting at the town library.  Margaret came with her beaming smile notifying me that I won our church school 250 club weekday draw.  When she read this news in our church bulletin the first thing she said to anybody who could hear was that she knew me, the winner.  I never read the bulletin so I was pleasantly surprised to hear this wonderful news.  Actually up to now I haven't had time to claim the prize which I think is either 25 or 50 dollars.

The whole day and even throughout the week I had this light happy feeling after this winning.  In retrospect it was more than the winning that made my day or week.  It was Margaret's vicarious happiness for me that I appreciated and her pride that she knew me, the winner.  

It is really ones perspective as the poster above illustrates that could make a small winning a huge and significant one.  I had that gift with these two instances.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Angelic Chocolate Kisses


When things are really bad, there is nothing more comforting than a bite into any piece of chocolate.  We also love to give boxes of chocolate as gifts to our loved ones.  I particularly remember one particular time when my life was made "better" by a gift of chocolate from an unexpected person

In 1993, my mother died and I went to Los Angeles to attend her funeral.  Hers was not a sudden death from an accident or heart attack and it was not a long lingering one either.  It was a short illness and she was given a few days to live which stretched to just a couple of weeks.

I remember getting a long distance call from my sister with whom my mother was living with in the middle of my teaching 7th grade CCD (religion class).  I was notified to return the call as soon as possible when I returned to the CCD office where I was returning the box of teaching stuff.  One catechist exclaimed, "Ugh, ugh there must be something serious going on for the call to be forwarded to this office".

Cell phones were unheard of at that time and I had to return the long distance call at my house. My sister delivered the news, "Dete, (a title given to the second female child in the family in the Philippines), Nanay (mother in Filipino) is dying. She is given just a few days to live.  She is in a respirator ".  Then she continued with this plea, "Please come.  I do not want to make the decision to pull the plug or to give the go for code blue by myself".  I did not think twice and left for Los Angeles not only to be with my dying mother but most especially for my sister who needed me.

I left the care of my two young children to my mother-in-law and my teaching duties at a community college I was teaching chemistry at during this time to a substitute teacher. As far as my CCD class was concerned the head teacher did the teaching by herself.

My mother eventually died within two weeks and I got back to my regular routine.  When I returned to assisting teaching CCD, I was surprised to know that the death of my mother was not announced by the CCD director to the rest of the teachers as she normally did.  The head teacher I was assisting was shocked that my mother had died and so were the students.

During class, I remember just sitting rather forlornly in my seat actually being half there since my heart was still heavy with grief. From the corner of my eyes I saw this girl in my class who I would describe a little bit unique though normal.  She had that sheepish look in her eyes as she stared at me.  I could not figure out what was going on in her head but it made me uncomfortable.

At the end of the class, still Zombie like from grief and exhaustion, I was approached by this weird girl and she said, "Mrs. Herold I am sorry to hear about your mother". As she said this another student passing by was nodding her head in agreement.  Then this girl continued her brave attempt (after all they were 7th graders and this was not cool) to console me, "Here, Mrs. Herold", she said, as she handed me a handful of chocolate kisses.  She continued, "I got them from my friend whose class was having a Christmas party."

I was so stunned from this touching unexpected gesture I did not know what to say except an almost inaudible thank you. Then I realized why she was sheepishly staring at me during class. Her mind and heart were feeling for me and planning how to comfort me.

It has been more than twenty years and I still have not forgotten this angel of a young girl who knew intuitively the power of chocolate kisses to console and comfort a person. It was, excuse me for being cheesy, a very sweet, memorable and thoughtful act.




Friday, January 15, 2016

The Courage to Be Yourself


I find it easier to be myself at this age when you have gone through life discovering people accept you the way you are even if you are different or weird.  

I did not have this confidence or the courage to do so when I was young really young especially during my teenage years.  I remember I cared so much to be with the "in" group in school and tried my hardest to fit even trying to learn the guitar since all of them knew how.  It was painful when I found I still did not fit.  I asked myself, "What is wrong with me?"  

I credit my family, friends especially the members of the prayer groups I belong to as well as the students I taught and members of the department I worked for in my last job at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for helping me develop the courage to be myself.  I did mention how grateful I was for their acceptance of my uniqueness in my farewell speech at the retirement party they tendered for me at IUP.  When people asked me what I liked the most in this teaching position I held for 12 and half years in a place that was 1 hour and 5 minutes drive from home, I always said "They let me do what I want".  I did not mean whatever I wanted without limits.  I just wanted to emphasize they gave me a lot of freedom on how I taught and also in the service projects I gave the department.  I had job satisfaction in other words since they respected my wish to express my ideas in  sometime over the top ways which they did not understand fully at that time but came to appreciate later on.  

This past Wednesday I taught my two students Rylie and Mila about how God loves them all the time.  Not only that, He loves them for who they are.  This is a pretty significant lesson to learn since these two could not be any more different from each other. One is an extrovert while the other is an introvert.  In fact, when I asked them if they ever wished somtimes to be like the other, one honestly said she did.  I of course tried to teach them to not compare but appreciate what the others have and be grateful for what gifts she has herself.

We did several activities that day for the idea of loving themselves for who they are to sink in.  For some reason, I decided to ask them to make a sculpture of each other using homemade play dough.  

When they had a hard time starting I did make some kind of drawing on the blackboard as a guide and then I gave them a lot of freedom afterwards.  They struggled but shown below are their endearing works of art.  They are totally different renditions of the same task.  

I hope they also learned after this activity that it is OK to be different and it is not necessary to conform or be the same as the other person or persons.  I hope this is a start for them to have the courage and confidence to accept and express themselves in the manner of what they think and not what others do.  It might take a long time like it did for me but at least they have started.  

Rylie's creation of Mila.  I like her rendition of Mila's headband.  I was not sure where she was going with that big glob of a head but it worked.



Mila's creation of Rylie.  I suggested she connected the different parts but I am glad she did not.  It is her work after all not mine.  I like the way she portrayed the eyes which I believe are Rylie's glasses.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quick and Easy Plant Based Arroz Caldo



Arroz Caldo is one of the Filipino's favorite soup which is served almost anytime of the day even during snack time or merienda as we refer to it at home in the Philippines.  My recipe of the slow cooker version is one of the most popular recipes in this blog.  It features rice (arroz in Spanish), chicken and the aromatics, ginger and garlic.  This soup is usually served with garnishes like green onions, fried tofu and pork jowls in a soy sauce marinade and calamansi (Filipino citrus).

I wanted a plant based version that is easy to prepare using ingredients in the pantry and no sauteing to avoid the use of oil even plant derived ones.  This latter ingredient is avoided as much as much as possible in this type of approach to eating.  Of course, the chicken will be skipped too plus the fish sauce and pork jowls.

I love to experiment in pushing the envelope and used no vegetable broth either or fresh ginger, garlic and onions.  I used instead dried minced onions, garlic powder and even ginger powder.  I wanted it to be an easy and quick recipe to prepare when I just have to satisfy this craving for this addictive soup and but have no energy or motivation to chop.  I also used leftover brown rice rather than cooking raw rice with the aromatics as in the regular recipe.

For the garnishes, I wanted the whole works.  I had to have the green onions, tofu in the soy sauce marinade and a citrus which was lemon in this case.  Green onions make everything taste better. The tofu in the soy sauce marinade offers texture and protein.  The citrus is a must in my opinion and really gives the dish a bright and refreshing zing. These three compensated for the short cuts and the ingredients in the soup that were avoided like chicken that I mentioned.

This is a convenient deconstructed version of the original recipe.  The verdict you may ask?  With the help of the garnishes, I would say it was as comforting as the original but next time I would add the fresh ingredients like onions, garlic and ginger with or without sauteing first to the cooked brown rice and water.  You can also follow the original recipe in this blog and just skip the chicken and fish sauce and use brown instead of white rice.  But on days you want arroz caldo to comfort you quickly this plant based version will suffice.  As I said the garnishes help.  Do add more of the dry aromatics like garlic powder or ginger and even dry minced onions to the finished product as you wish to intensify any flavor you want accented while you are savoring the soup.

Here is the recipe for the soup and the marinade for the tofu.

Quick and Easy Plant Based Arroz Caldo

(Adapted from this recipe in this blog

4 servings

Soup
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 4 cups water (Note 1)
  • 2 tbsp dry minced onions (Note 2)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder (Note 2)
  • 3 tsp ginger powder Note 2)
  • 1 tsp salt (Note 3)
Garnishes (Note 4)
  • two stalks green onions, chopped
  • 4 oz cubed and previously drained tofu (see note 5) in soy marinade (recipe below) 
  • half a lemon, cut in wedges
Place all the ingredients in a pot and allow to boil and then simmer till the flavors blend.  Do later add more of the spices as your taste buds lead you as you savor the soup.  Garnish with green onions, tofu in the soy sauce marinade and lemon wedges which you drizzle before slurping the soup. 

Notes:

1.  You can use vegetable broth instead.

2.  You can use fresh chopped onions (small one), minced fresh garlic (1 or more cloves) and minced fresh ginger (around one inch, peeled) instead.

3.  Tamari or soy sauce can be added according to your taste instead.  

4.  If you have a carnivore in your family, you can have leftover cooked chicken pieces as one of the garnishes or you can also cook the chicken together with the other ingredients of the soup if preparing a separate batch for the carnivores.

5.  You can drain the tofu by wrapping it in two or more paper towels or you can use the method I gave in a previous blogpost on barbecue hoisin tofu.  

Soy Marinade for the Tofu
  • 1 tsp dry minced onions
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tsp soy sauce.  
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then pour over the cubed tofu.  Serve the tofu in the marinade on the side as a garnish.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 335 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
210
Calories from Fat
24
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
2.6g
4%
Saturated Fat
0.5g
3%
Trans Fat
0.0g
Cholesterol
0mg
0%
Sodium
596mg
25%
Potassium
251mg
7%
Total Carbohydrates
40.5g
13%
Dietary Fiber
2.7g
11%
Sugars
1.2g
Protein
6.6g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 9%Iron 9%
Nutrition Grade A-
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Good points
Bad points

Monday, January 11, 2016

Corn Potato Ham Chowder


The weather here in Pittsburgh had dipped into the '30's this past week.  It signaled me to prepare comforting soup to come home to at the end of the day.  This is one recipe that is of the meat and potato variety.  I used leftover ham I had.  (I will be posting a plant based version in the future).

It has high nutritional value also aside from a satisfying delicious taste.  Vegetables like carrots, celery and yellow pepper were added.

My picky taste tester, my husband Bob, gave it two thumbs up.  You would too.  Yummy!

Corn Potato Ham Chowder

  • 1 - 15 oz can creamy sweet corn
  • 1 - 15 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups diced celery including leaves if any
  • 1 cup diced peeled carrots
  • 1 cup, diced sweet yellow pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked ham, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk or non dairy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Combine all the ingredients in the crock pot.  Slow cook for 6 hours at low setting or 3 hours at high setting.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Gooey Raisin Bran Almond Butter Clusters on Banana Slices



I needed food sources that could help give me my daily required amounts of  folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.  I prefer to get them from food rather than supplemental pills. I recently noticed I had sores in my mouth and googling some of the causes led me to believe that they could be due to deficiencies in these three nutrients.

 I read that breakfast cereals are good providers of these three vitamins.  I was surprised to find out that the majority of the cereals in our pantry only gave around 33 % of these three nutrients per serving (1 cup). Luckily I discovered that Special K Original cereals (not the other varieties of Special K) provided 100 % of these desired vitamins.  The same can be said for a one cup serving of the Total Raisin Bran.

I also found out some fruit bars provide 100 % of these three nutrients per bar.  Examples are Target's Market Pantry Apple Cinnamon Fruit Bars and the Strawberry variety. These two kinds of snack bars, however, contain oats as one of their prominent ingredients and I unluckily have shown sensitivity to oat products in the past especially in combination with other foods that cause inflammation.  I get flareups in the joints in both my left and right hand middle fingers when this food allergy occurs.   So I decided to develop an alternative to these portable snack bars. Something that I can eat when I have no time to gobble either of the two cereals, Special K Original and Total Raisn Bran with milk for breakfast. I wanted either of the two cereals as the main ingredient for this portable snack.



The recipe I present here is a gooey cluster using Total Raisin Bran combined with almond butter that one can top banana slices or other fruit with.  The nutritional data rated a serving of this dessert high in almost all the listed vitamins.  The drawback is the high amount sugar due to the agave extract or maple syrup that is used.  I need this syrup to bind the bran flakes. By the way,  maple syrup is recommended by Dr. Weil rather than agave extract.  It turns out the latter though low in the glycemic index scale has a large amount of fructose.

I gave the nutritional values of the dessert using agave versus maple syrup below.  Maple syrup has less fructose content according to Dr. Weil which is good news but it has higher calories. Despite this, I will go with maple syrup rather agave extract.

Gooey Raisin Bran Almond Butter Clusters on Banana Slices


4 servings
  • 2 tbsp almond butter 
  • 4 tbsp agave extract or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups Total Raisin Bran 
  • 2 bananas, sliced into round discs
Combine the almond butter, agave extract, and unsweetened cocoa in a bowl and thoroughly mix with a fork till uniformly blended.  Add the Total Raisin Bran to the mixture and daintily mix with a spatula till the bran flakes are coated with the almond butter mixture.  Place around a tbsp to the banana slices.

It will be gooey but the banana will help you handle the cluster.  I kept my banana clusters in a small plastic container and included a little plastic spoon (I borrowed from my granddaughter) to scoop up the mounds for my snack on the go.  Of course with handy napkins nearby.



With agave extract
Amount Per Serving
Calories
190
Calories from Fat
48
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
5.3g
8%
Saturated Fat
0.5g
3%
Cholesterol
0mg
0%
Sodium
121mg
5%
Potassium
437mg
12%
Total Carbohydrates
36.3g
12%
Dietary Fiber
4.6g
18%
Sugars
16.7g
Protein
4.0g
Vitamin A 6%Vitamin C 9%
Calcium 53%Iron 53%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Good points
Bad points
With Maple syrup
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 115 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
242
Calories from Fat
48
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
5.3g
8%
Saturated Fat
0.6g
3%
Cholesterol
0mg
0%
Sodium
123mg
5%
Potassium
478mg
14%
Total Carbohydrates
49.7g
17%
Dietary Fiber
4.6g
18%
Sugars
28.6g
Protein
4.0g
Vitamin A 6%Vitamin C 9%
Calcium 54%Iron 54%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Good points
Bad points