Friday, September 30, 2016

Mediterranean Chickpea Ragu

This is the Mediterranean sister of the plant based version of the Filipino Menudo that I published in this blog many months ago. I added olives, oregano and paprika to the ingredients to attain the flavors characteristic of the Mediterranean dishes. The rest of the other ingredients are very similar.  I skipped the catsup that was in the Filipino version which I would have added in this Mediterranean version and instead tried to mimic what I thought might be in the catsup like vinegar and sugar.  I wanted a more purist approach to the preparation. It was that kind of day.  Instead of using the slow cooker, I used my skillet and just evaporated the liquid out to concentrate the flavor of the sauce coating the chickpeas.  I ate this over rice but it could easily land in a tortilla or bread or pastry and baked as a turnover.  This is filling, comforting and satisfying. You would like this to welcome you at the end of the day or greet you for breakfast with your toast.

Mediterranean Chickpea Ragu

  • 1 tsp olive oil or 1 tbsp vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 green or red or yellow pepper, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and washed
  • 1 small can tomato sauce 
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup olives with pimento centers
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 zucchini, cubed

Place 1 tsp olive oil into a saute pan or you can use a tbsp of vegetable broth and heat it at medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, grape tomatoes and green or yellow pepper and saute till the onion is transparent.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the zucchini and heat through with stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cubed zucchini at the end and just heat through.  You want this vegetable crisp and not soggy.

Serve over rice or bun or tortilla.  Enjoy!

An Invitation

My friend Sue's lovely garden.

To stop, slow down. Be
still. Soak the peace, beauty of
the present moment.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Beef Chili

My husband and I are not natives of Pittsburgh, PA.  We moved here in the early 1990's.  He is from Wisconsin while I am from the Philippines originally. It is delightful for us to hear stories, customs, ways of saying things and serving dishes unique to Pittsburgh. We had the opportunity to have this experience when we listened to native Pittsburghers, Joe and Kevin together with their wives A and Bernie swap stories of their childhood during the 250 Club banquet we attended.  Joe particularly recounted how they ate certain foods growing up.  For example he used to dig out the dough from crusty bread so he can stuff more meatballs into them.  Kevin mentioned a certain pizza parlor that served cold pizza.  There is one story that intrigued me and that is how Joe's family made their chili.  To bulk it up to feed 8 children, his mother added elbow macaroni.  He thought all chilis were made with this pasta. He was surprised to know when he started traveling to other parts of the country they lacked those little noodles.

I googgled for a recipe of chili with elbow macaroni and ended on this website which gave four versions of a basic chili by adding ingredients that represent the different regions of the world. One of the versions is the Cincinnati Beef Chili.  I have heard of it when I stopped by an airport in Ohio but never had it.  Neither have I had the Pittsburgh version with the macaroni.  I decided to try the Cincinnati Beef Chili in the website since it is served with elbow macaroni on the side which is close enough to what I envisioned what Joe's mother prepared for him as a child.  The other ingredients that made me curious to try this chili are the white vinegar and cinnamon.  And so I prepared it.  I made it convenient by using my slow cooker.  Here is the recipe. By the way my picky taster, my husband, gave it two thumb up.  Try something different next time you make chili and use this recipe.  Delicious.

Slow Cooker Cincinnati Beef Chili

  • 1 lb (or less) lean ground beef 
  • 2 tsp dry onion flakes
  • 2 tsp dry garlic flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste,
  • 1 can ( 15 oz) light red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz)  black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 canful (15 oz) water
  • 1 beef boullion
  • 1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni, add at end of cooking.

Saute the ground beef with the dry onion flakes and dry onion garlic flakes, salt and pepper.  Transfer into the slow cooker bowl.  Add the other ingredients except the cooked elbow macaroni and mix.  Slow cook for 6 hours at low or 3 hours at high.  I slow cooked mine  for  2 hours using Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker using slow cooker setting.

Chocolate is Good for You

I heard this phrase and
stuffed my face. Abuse. Excuse.
Now more weight to lose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Have You Found the Cure for Cancer Yet?"

"Have you found the cure for cancer yet?"

I remember being greeted by a friend when she saw me for the first time at the lobby of the BST research center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with the question,  "Have you found the cure for cancer yet?" .  It was her welcome for me in the form of this popular joke into this place where studies right and left are done to do just that. Find a cure for cancer.

It was a short three month stint at this prestigious place as part of an NIH minority grant and I learned a lot and among them is good things take time. And one more thing.  The scientists do not necessarily chase that lofty goal of finding a cure at first but something less sublime and at times more in the form of fulfilling a challenge for personal satisfaction. Sometimes they just got to do it to fulfill the objective in the grant they have fundings from while for the younger ones, it might be to fulfill the requirements of the degree they are working for. But always the curiosity and the thrill of finding out whatever they are seeking were there

I remember a story about a writer who visited the large pharmaceutical company that produced Prozac to thank the chemist who discovered the synthesis of this anti depression drug. He profusely thanked the scientist whose discovery had helped lifted him from the debilitating disease.  The scientist just looked at him and deadpan said, I just did it because I wanted to do it.

I have done research related to curing cancer including the one for my MS degree at George Washington University (GWU) in the seventies. It was attaching fluorine instead of the tiny hydrogen unto a molecule that resembles the one in 5-Flurouracil (5 FU), one of the most effective cancer drugs to date.  I never thought that ten years later after I was done with my degree at GWU I would reconnect with this endeavour in some manner when I went home in the Philippines years later to be with my father who had terminal liver cancer.  

I remember being asked to stay behind by my father's oncologist after his appointment with him was done. In his office he showed me the XRAY of my father's liver where you can see holes the size of a quarter spread out in this malignant tissue. For drama, he showed me the XRAY of another person's liver with hardly any of it left.

He was an opportunist, thinking we had money and asked if we would go for broke to find measures in the United States to find a cure for my father.  I asked what the odds were in his experience and he mentioned how one of his patients who he accompanied in the plane to the US was resurrected by 5-FU.  Hearing 5-FU brought me back to my research at GWU.  

Going back to the car where my father was waiting, I had to lie to my father to explain my absence.  I told him that I met a classmate from high school who was now a doctor at the hospital and chatted with her. Then I could not help it, I told him I talked to his oncologist but did not tell him everything.  I just proudly told him I tried to synthesize a compound that mimics the effect of 5-FU that his doctor said was a miraculous drug cure for cancer.  I saw him beam with pride.

I never got to make that compound or any other in my whole career to cure cancer but I feel the satisfaction almost tantamount to a discovery by making my father happy and proud that day for attempting to do it.

My father died a few months later.  We did not go for broke to bring him to the US for the cure and the oncologist did not get his free trip to the United States either.  For myself, I found a loftier reason for why I was doing what I did and would later on.   

Wisdom from Nature

Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

Impatient, I found
the virtue of waiting in
the majestic fjords.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Charism Is Alive and Well" Recollection 2016

As tradition goes, the CSJA Baden group holds a recollection which is also part of the orientation of any new prospective members of the association every September.  This past Sunday we joined together to welcome our lone candidate for this year, Molly, of West Virginia.  

We started the day with our introduction of ourselves to the group followed by Mass at the Chapel and then lunch.  We then started with Sr. Paula's talk for the day, "Charism is Alive and Well".  Before the talk we said two prayers, The CSJ Associate Prayer, shown below on the left and another prayer, Care of the Charism on the right below. Sr. Paula is inviting all prayer groups to use the latter before and after their meeting to be one in spirit with the rest of the CSJ congregation.

I was looking forward to Sr. Paula's talk all week and definitely that day but I ate too much during lunch especially the beef barley soup I fell asleep at the beginning of the talk.  Here are the notes that I posted on my Iphone for most of the awesome talk.  All the thoughts are as usual beautiful.

Our charism is oneness
We are already one.

Sr. Paula told us what the late Julie Harkins of the Boston CSJ used to say about the associates. They do not join to get the charism, they already have it. 

Charism is being yourself.  Sr. Paula gave the invitation to explore and recall when we first noticed it.  She also invited us to lean into that deep place within us.  To get in touch with it.  It is natural grace. It is already there in that space. In as much as possible, unconsciously or consciously (for more vibrancy) we tap into it and use it. 

It is a journey to be the best of who we are.  However, it is not where we are.  The circumstances are just the container of who we are and meant to be.  

You are the carrier of this charism.  Wherever anyone of us is there we all are.

Giving into charism empowers God to fill that space. Part of this journey is to show up.

Sr. Paula also used the metaphor of the wind and the trees.  We do not see the wind but we know it is there based on the way it makes the tree leaves rustle and sway. So is charism.

Appreciate the tremendous gift your life has been.  It is not what you are doing but the manner you are doing it.

Always visit this place where this charism resides. She then told us about a novice mistress who always enjoined her novices to "Make God look good today" as they started their day.

We are rooted in God and loved by God.

We then had testimonies from three members of the Thursday Baden Prayer Group who hosted the day of recollection and orientation.  Patty, Cindie and Carla mentioned what the charism had meant in their lives.  I just want to share something during this part.  Excuse me for being  food oriented but Cindie cited what Carla is famous for in their church, her awesome gravy. Once a year or is it several times she prepares meals for the church with this unforgettable sauce.

Two associates, Carla and Judy, who attended the Federation Meeting of the Sisters of St. Joseph this past July in Florida also shared their experience at this meeting. It was an edifying experience for both of them who went to the meeting with another associate, Monica, and forty or so CSJ Baden sisters. They learned from the other attendees through groups that they were assigned to. (700 attended).  They learned peace and justice.  Judy particularly spoke about the existence of human slavery right here in the United States. It was also mentioned that they attended the memorial for the Pulse Night Club victims where the televised coverage showed our own Monica in one scene. Carla shared with us the theme song of the meeting, By Breath, by Sara Thomsen.  Click below for the YouTube version of this beautiful and meaningful song about oneness.

We were given a 30 minute break to ponder two questions as shown in the handout I reproduced way back at the beginning of this post and blew up for you below.  Please contemplate what your answers are whenever you are able.

In the sharing session, beautiful experiences were shared.  I would like to share one particular one from Joan about the story of how miracles do happen.  This is related to the Winking Christ.

Joan told us about the painter she had hired to paint her house.  Mark I believe was his name came full of excitement on his first day of the painting job exclaiming "Miracles do happen".  He told Joan about a young man he met many years ago who he hired and believed in despite his personal struggles.  This young man turned around and became one of his best employees for many years. This employee however fell ill and one day Mark visited him and shared one of his Winking Christ paintings.  (Mark also loved to paint art and one he loves to do is that of Christ.  He made Christ eyes wink when his wife suggested correcting one of them. Ever since then he had made several of his Winking Christ paintings). This particular gift changed his dying employee and his wife.  He learned they both converted to Catholicism before he passed away. Miracles do happen.

We ended our meeting with a meditation led by Chris based on our being one which is part of our charism, UNION.  We did feel each other's heart as we held hands with each other.

And that is how the meeting ended.  We thank Sr. Paula, Judy, the Orientation Chair, Linda, who prepared the flier and the generous hearted Thursday Baden Prayer group for their hospitality.  The food was glorious and so was the company of 20 or so associates and a couple of sisters who joined us.

Slow Cooker Mu Shu Pork Ribs

Four Ingredients. Slow cooker. You have all you need for an easy stick on your ribs pork dish.  I never thought I would like the addition of ground cinnamon to hoisin sauce but they are made for each other.  The spice gives the resulting sauce a smoky flavor but different from what cumin or coriander imparts.  Your family might remark "what is that" and might guess it.  My husband though find it is out there but I did not and I can be picky too.  It is pleasantly delightful to the palate.

I adapted this recipe from this website where they used the ingredients for their Mu Shu Beef Apple Wraps. I serve this over rice but you can certainly follow the example of this website and use it for Mu Shu Pork Wrap.  This is an easy comforting dish to prepare to warm your tummy and heart these fall days.

Slow Cooker Mu Shu Pork Ribs

  • 3 lbs boneless pork ribs (or any other cut of pork)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
Combine the ground cinnamon, black pepper, hoisin sauce and honey in the slow cooker bowl and mix. Add the pork ribs and coat with the mixture.  

Slow cook on high for 4 hours or on low setting for 8 hours.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

Serve over rice and your choice of steamed or stir fried vegetables. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rest in Peace Maria

The news came. I sobbed.
At viewing she looked asleep.
My heart screamed Wake Up.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Spicy Tomato Garden Soup

Fall is here.  It is soup time.  If you are tired of the same tomato soup recipe, here is one with a kick.  It is made nutritious with the addition of all the vegetables you would like to put to use in your fridge.  This is a comforting soup that will make you say, whew but good.  The balsamic vinegar gives it an additional dimension and so does the cumin which you can skip if you are not into it.  This is a good dunking vehicle for crusty bread so if you prefer to dip than slurp you can do that too.  If you want it more soupy and creamy add more milk. 

Spicy Tomato Garden Soup

  • 5 medium tomatoes (about 5 cups)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper, stem removed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dry garlic flakes
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp dry basil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Place the first seven ingredients in the blender according to sequence given till well mixed.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixture and blend again.

Transfer the whole mixture to a pot and allow to boil for a few minutes and then simmer for 30 minutes or so till the flavors of the spices and vegetables blended.  

Sense of Purpose

Like a lightning jolt

shooting through deadened veins. An

awakened spirit.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Tuna Loaf

I had this wonderful salmon loaf in the equally wonderful luncheon at our church this past Thursday.  I really enjoyed this salmon loaf as well as the rest of the other dishes and glorious desserts during this lunch. We all had a wonderful (I am running out of adjectives) time eating, talking and discussing some unplanned important topics of life realities.

I obtained the recipe for this salmon loaf from Jean Farr (shown below) in order to make it as soon as possible.  She happened to have it with her in her wallet.  She is very organized, I tell you.

I however did not have any salmon nor the Caesar salad croutons and I did not want to go to the store either.  I was determined to make something close so I opened two cans of tuna which gave me a total amount close to a large can around 12 oz.  I also used herb seasoned bread stuffing for the croutons.  I also searched for recipes in the web that did not have any cream of mushroom soup in the list of ingredients.  This is what I came up with.  I served it to my husband for dinner last night and he ate almost one mini pan full of it.  He just said it needed more oomph so I am adding cumin and cayenne pepper to the recipe as optional ingredients.  It is good without them but they will give this wonderful (again this adjective. I need a Thesaurus) kick my husband was looking for and I did not want to add salt however.

Tuna Loaf

  • 10-12 oz can tuna, drained
  • 2 cups herb seasoned bread stuffing
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the mixture in two mini loaf pans or one large loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake for 30 minutes or till top is browned and the center cooked.


New Perspective

"Time. Stop.  So we do

not wrinkle, age." "Dear, you are

growing not aging."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thai Tofu Rice Bowl

This dish definitely has the Thai flavors that one craves for once in a while and maybe all the time.  When you have to have that fix, here is a simple recipe.  I made this pretty close to being plant based except for the fish sauce which you can easily substitute tamari or soy sauce with.  The secret to attaining the Thai flavors is the trio of fish sauce (or soy sauce), lime and sugar.

This recipe was inspired by the one on the awesome Closet Cooking website which utilized ground beef instead of tofu.  I wanted a plant based recipe so I dared to substitute silken tofu for the beef.   You can also use firm tofu instead.

I love the overall result which is pretty close to the Thai flavors of the Pad Thai that I love to devour.  I could have eaten the whole recipe.  So good.  You can serve this over brown rice or with rice noodles and come up with Pad Thai easily.

Thai Tofu Rice Bowl

  • 1 block (8 - 12 oz) silken tofu (or firm tofu)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 2 dry red chilies, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce or tamari to be plant based)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
Saute the onion and garlic. Add the tofu, green or red pepper, crushed red chilies, fish sauce, sugar. lime zest and juice and basil.  Mix till the mixture is heated through.  

Serve garnished with green onions and carrots. You can provide more fresh basil and whole dry red chilies for the strong hearted if desired.  You can also garnish with peanuts if you like.  

Morning Anticipation

What will I see with

new eyes to delight, surprise.

To make me ooh. Smile.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Easy Ravioli with Creamy Corn Sauce

This is a fast and easy skillet dish to prepare and a crowd pleaser. I have seen this mentioned on TV cooking shows and blogs.  This is my version of the sauce made from corn which lends its creaminess.  I added zucchini and red pepper both for flavor and texture not to mention added nutrients. I used just a tiny oil needed to saute the vegetables but then again you can use cooking spray or just plain water.  I used store bought ravioli stuffed with spinach, cheese and chicken from Aldi's Grocery Store but you can use any kind you like. My husband loved this dish and almost ate the whole thing.  

Easy Ravioli with Creamy Corn Sauce

  • 8 oz ravioli (any kind, store bought or homemade)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 whole zucchini, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, cubed
  • 1-14 oz can cream corn
  • 2 tsp dry onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the ravioli according to package directions.  Place in a platter.

Saute the zucchini and red pepper in the oil till cooked but still crispy.  Add the corn, onion flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the vegetables and heat through. 

Pour the creamy corn sauce to the cooked ravioli.  You can also add the cooked ravioli to the sauce in the skillet and serve it family style.  

End of Summer Wish

Luca at Ocean City. New Jersey. 

I wish a sleep lulled

by the ocean roar on

a bed of soft sand.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Harvest Shared

From Winnie's garden.  

Tomatoes fiery

red. Friends remembering. Warmth,

and joy for the heart.  

Fusilli with Meatballs and Creamy Garden Pasta Sauce

I took inspiration for this dish from the show, Giada in Italy, particularly the episode Raffy and Raffy.  In this show Giada with the help of her aunt Raffy prepared a special dish which Giada's grandfather's only living sister, Rafaella also nicknamed Raffy, loves to prepare, Ziti Stufati.  It is a dense layered pasta dish featuring ziti with meatballs and ricotta tomato sauce.

This is a healthier version of this dish.  The sauce is made more nutritious by incorporating carrots and celery with the tomato base.  This is one way to incorporate more vegetables into your pasta sauce.  I used cream cheese instead of the ricotta called for in Giada's recipe but one can use that definitely.  I used Parmesan cheese but one can use mozarrella and/or cheddar cheese instead of it.

This is a rich creamy dish one can easily prepare any night or for a weekend meal.  I did use my Vita Mix blender to prepare the sauce and I did not saute any vegetables like they did in Giada's recipe to save time. If you do have time and do not mind the added oil you can do so.

Fusilli with Meatballs and Creamy Garden Pasta Sauce

  • 16 oz fusilli cooked or other type of pasta
  • 20 meatballs (homemade or frozen store bought)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese or cheese of choice
  • 1 recipe Creamy Garden Pasta Sauce
Creamy Garden Pasta Sauce
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-14.5 oz diced tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 oz low fat cream cheese or ricotta
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Place the first four ingredients in the Vita Mix blender according to the sequence given then add the rest of the ingredients. Blend till smooth.


Place the fusilli or other pasta in a 13 x 9 glass pan.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix.  Spread the meatballs over the pasta and sauce mixture.  Add the Parmesan cheese or cheese of choice on top.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Gift

To say "I am free"

Awesome feeling not to be

taken for granted.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken with Gravy (with No Canned Soup)

I recently had turkey with mashed potatoes and bread stuffing plus delicious gravy at the recent Golden Jubilee celebration of the Sisters of St. Joseph at Baden PA.  The wonderful taste of the turkey with all the trimmings just lingered with me.  But I did not have turkey though.  So I decided to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I also used my crock pot since my schedule was full that day.  I actually used the crock pot too for the mashed potatoes.  The stuffing I zapped in the microwave while I added the carrots to the chicken in the crock pot. Note I did not use any canned mushroom soup at all as most crock pot recipes in the web do. You can control the saltiness etc this way.

I prepared this for my daughter Bettina's belated birthday celebration. I had the chicken with gravy and all the trimmings including mashed potatoes and bread stuffing as sides.  I even had a birthday cake which Maddie my grandmother could hardly wait to eat as shown in the photo below as she sang happy birthday wishes to her Aunt B.


Easy Slow Cooker Chicken with Gravy (with No Canned Soup)

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 2 cups water 
  • 2 chicken bouillon
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-4 oz can mushroom slices, undrained
  • 3 lbs boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 cups baby carrots (optional)
  • salt and more garlic powder to taste if desired 
Mix all the ingredients in the slow cooker bowl except for the mushroom slices, chicken pieces and carrots . Then add the mushroom slices, chicken pieces and carrots if using on top of the sauce.

Slow 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. At the end you can add more salt and more garlic powder to taste.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hoisin Sweet Potato Open Faced Sandwich

Is the sweet potato the secret to longevity?  Here is a quote from the article that appeared in the Huffingpost written by Dan Buettner the author of the book The Blue Zones:

All Okinawans age 100 or more who are alive today were born between 1903 and 1914. During the first third of their lives, roughly before 1940, the vast majority of the calories they consumed — more than 60 percent — came from one food: the imo, or Okinawan sweet potato. A purple or yellow variety related to our orange sweet potato, the imo came here from the Americas about 400 years ago and took well to Okinawan soils. This sweet potato — high in flavonoids, vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids, and slow-burning carbohydrates — is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Realizing this fact and because sweet potato is so easy to bake in the microwave, it has been a staple in my diet.  It is good as is straight from the microwave sans anything.  I have used it to to make plant based burgers,, savory pancakes, and burrito that satisfied me.  I was watching the TV show The Chew and one of the hosts mentioned that sweet potatoes are being used like a piece of bread spread with all kinds of toppings.  But I love my bread and did not want to away with it.  So I decided to have it and also eat my sweet potato by preparing this open faced sandwich.

I decided to have an Asian influenced open faced sandwich with sweet potatoes as the "meat" and Hoisin sauce, green onions and cilantro as toppings.  My oh my.  This the bomb!

Hoisin Sweet Potato Open Faced Sandwich

  • 1 six inch long whole wheat baguette 
  • 1 small sweet potato, cooked or baked in the microwave or oven
  • 1 piece napa cabbage
  • 2 tsp Hoisin sauce (store bought or homemade using recipe below)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 tbsp green onions, sliced in small pieces
Split your baguette open.  Toast your baguette in the toaster.

Line the baguette pieces with napa cabbage and then spread the sweet potato slices on top of the baguette. Squeeze Hoisin sauce from the bottle on top of the potatoes and top with cilantro and green onions.  Enjoy!

Homemade Hoisin Sauce

(From CDKitchen)

(Makes 1/2 cup)

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or black bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or molasses or brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 drops chinese hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together.   At first it does not appear to be mixing together, keep at it and whisk a bit longer.


Isolated was
I till the trees, sky, water
gave me company.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Coded Blue

Left to right. Me, Antonio, Lucio, Benjamin and Josefina. Carmencita was not born yet when photo was taken. 

My late mother was very organized and a neat freak.  She made it a point that we had our own chair and plate and she devised a clever way that we would know which ones were ours.  She color coded them!

She assigned to each one of us, her six children, a color and she did not do it randomly for some of us. She had a reason for the color she chose and it was related to our name and the saint from whom we were named after.

Way back in the fifties, the Catholic Church in the Philippines required that infants who were baptized be named after a saint or our Blessed mother. As a result there was a proliferation of names consisting of Maria and then followed by the place where the Blessed Mother appeared.  For example my complete name is really Maria Lourdes and my sister Maria Josefina.  I dropped the Maria which is shortened as Ma. because a cousin of mine read it as Mrs. not Ma. due to my mother's terrible handwriting.  As a young child I did not want to be mistaken to be married. When I was in high school,  one of the sisters at the school I attended said I should have not done that since Lourdes is a place in France not a name of the Blessed Mother, Mary.  It was like I was named after the city of Manila or Malabon, my hometown.

Here is the list of my brothers and sisters, from the eldest to the youngest, and the color assigned to each one.

Maria Josefina - green
Maria Lourdes (me) - blue
Antonio - brown
Benjamin Jr. - red
Lucio - yellow
Carmencita - pink

The eldest, Josefina, has a name that is an acronym of our two grandmothers, Josefa and Rufina.  Josefa is the feminine form of Jose or Joseph.  She would not have had to attach Maria to her name if she was named Josefa because St. Joseph was a saint.  Josefina, an acronym, was not acceptable so she had to have Maria with it.  Her passport actually has Maria as her first name. She was assigned green because those who have devotions to St. Joseph wore green colored dresses when they attended mass.

I, Maria Lourdes, was named after Our Lady of Lourdes.  Those who have devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes wore white dresses with a blue sash when they go to Mass as a form of their devotion.  Thus I was assigned the color blue.

Antonio was named after St. Anthony who belonged to a monastery where the monks wore brown cassocks.  Again devotees to this saint wore brown dresses when they went to mass and my brother was assigned the brown color.

I really do not know why my other two brothers Benjamin and Lucio were assigned red and yellow respectively and our youngest sibling Carmencita, pink. Neither brothers were named after saints. Benjamin was named after my father and Lucio after my grandfather. I wonder if they stopped requiring that infants be named after saints when they were baptized or my mother ran out of names of saints to whom Catholics in the Philippines show their devotions to by wearing color coded dresses. Carmencita must have been assigned pink since she was the youngest girl.

I remember the chairs were shaped like half circles and they were made of plastic weaving.  They provided lots of color to our living room when we took them out to sit on to watch TV.  Our plates were also made of colored plastic.  I remember I was very embarrassed eating from mine since I broke part of it. One advantage of having color coded plates I could think of was they prevented us from catching colds and other infectious diseases from one another.

The color coding approach actually worked.  We did not fight over chairs and plates since we have our own color coded ones. Right now when I think of the fact I was coded blue was that a sign of things to come?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Slow Cooker Beef Mechado

This is the Filipino version of beef stew.  The beef is simmered in tomato sauce, tomato paste and onions. Vegetables like potatoes and green or red peppers are added.  I used the recipe given to me by my sister Bebeng, an excellent cook.  She came over for a visit this past August and she prepared this dish for my grandson Luca's baptism.  For flavoring, my sister uses soy sauce, fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce. She also adds bay leaves and whole peppercorns, commonly used in Filipino dishes with Spanish origin.  Note water is not added at all during the cooking process whether done on the stove or in the slow cooker.  

My sister Bebeng.

My sister Bebeng's Beef Mechado she prepared for Luca's baptism.

I thought Beef Mechado would be a good slow cooker dish since it requires slow cooking step.  Except for the initial sauteing of the onion, garlic and beef, the rest of ingredients are dumped in the slow cooker with them and what would have been slow cooking on the stove under watchful eyes the slow cooker does the rest.  My sister loves to add canned whole button mushrooms.  I did not have any and had just bought fresh whole ones on sale which I used instead.

This is one of my favorite Filipino comfort food.  You will also fall in love with it once you tasted it over rice especially.  The sauce is delicious and will wash away your woes at the end of the day.  It is an excellent party dish also.  With the slow cooker method  this is a cinch to prepare and serve.

My other sister, Menchie, myself and Bebeng at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

At the Royal Botanical Garden in Canada.

At Flowers in the Attic at Penn Hills, PA.  

Slow Cooker Beef Mechado

  • 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp whole Peppercorn
  • 8 oz whole mushrooms
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow or red pepper, sliced
  • 4 small potatoes, cut into large cubes

Saute the onions, garlic and beef in vegetable oil till beef is browned.  Place the mixture in the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Slow cook for 4 hours at high setting or 8 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fish with Sweet Peas

The peas lend that sweetness in this dish that goes well with the tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  Perfect topping for panfried fish.

It is an easy, quick, delicious and healthy family fare.

Fish with Sweet Peas 

  • 3 swai fish fillets, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • Flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder for dredging fish
  • 1 tbsp oil or use cooking spray
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 can sweet peas, drained
  • 2 potatoes, cut into large cubes and cooked in the microwave
  • salt and pepper to taste
Dredge fish in flour mixture.  Saute in heated oil or cooking spray in pan. Cook till fish is flaky and coating golden.  Put aside covered with foil.

Saute the pepper and onions, add the tomatoes, sweet peas and cooked potatoes and heat the mixture through.

Arrange fish on a platter and pour the vegetable mixture on top.


The reverence for
an end and a beginning.
"Heaven meeting earth".*

*This was how my friend Monica described her feelings when she attended the memorial for the Pulse nightclub victims in Florida. The phrase has Peruvian roots.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Grandma's Touch

Holding the hand she
held as a child, assured she
was, all will be well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Paula's Prayer Group Meeting September 6, 2016

This is the handout prepared by Sr. Paula.

Paula's prayer group meeting at Dorothy's house started back today after a two month break.  We were all glad to see Sr. Paula back.

The meeting started with the song  "You are on Holy Ground" (excerpt below) and a reading from Colossians 3: 12-14.

We then had a 20 minute quiet time to the reflective music by Gregory Norbet.  Sr. Paula then asked the question "How are you and God getting along these days?".  Dorothy shared that she had had some arguments with God with regards to the death of her friend who died of ALS.  It was a big blow to Dorothy. Natalie consoled her with the thought that we really could not tell how our prayers of intercession for our friends affect them and what are going on in their minds.  Natalie also mentioned the pendulum of consolation and desolation is part of ones prayer life.

Rose, who incidentally came with her beautiful granddaughter Kristina, talked about her 95 year old brother who is not feeling well and whose wife and she know would be ready to leave them and go to heaven.  Rose said something that is sad and humorous at the same time, that there is not much to do at this point for him he might as well go to heaven.

When Lulu mentioned that she has been struggling with what is real or true in her faith including what happens after death, Sr. Paula suggested that it might be time to embrace the God of Love rather than the Blueprint God. This shift will generate peace and not fear.  We do things not for an end but because of our love of God and God's love for us.  Kristina spoke about how her friend does good because he wanted to do so and not because he has to.  She also mentioned her realization of the outpouring of good and Jesus' love from within her to the outside rather than vice versa.  Paula said that it is because Jesus love is already within us.  "He had already done great things for me" as the handout shown above says.

Natalie mentioned we have discussed in another prayer meeting at Sue's place this past Wednesday about free will, a gift given to each and everyone.  Though challenging, it is something to be accepted and respected.  It is part of ones growth in attaining unconditional love especially for persons that we could not understand.

We appreciate our time together in our group as always.  We thank Kristina for joining us and sharing her insights. Once again it is nice to hold hands together as we journey in our lives.  Thanks Sr. Paula for your guidance and also Dorothy for your hospitality.