Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Art of Just Being

Let the mind rest, the
heart beat slowly, the sense of
urgency die down.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Canopy of Tranquility

I heard the whisper
of the trees say as I sat
still, "All will be well".

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turkey Rice Lemon Soup

If you are wondering what to do with your leftover turkey meat or rotisierrie chicken, here is a really good comforting recipe for them.  The lemon juice gives the soup its spunk and you would just want more of it just like my husband who was nursing a bad cold did.  I made this for him because of the garlic and other vegetables in it that are sources of anti oxidants that he would need to combat his cold.  Plus he needs some comforting in the form of this deliciously lemon flavored soup.

I used leftover turkey from thanksgiving but you can use leftover chicken and you can also use raw chicken that could cook in the broth.  As far as the rice is concerned I used leftover brown rice but again you can use raw rice which can cook also in the boiling broth. This is a flexible recipe and you can modify the vegetables also depending on what you have.  No other spice or herb was used but a citrus, lemon, and boy was it a good one to add. Simple soup but so good.

Turkey Rice Lemon Soup

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked turkey or chicken
  • 1 cup cooked brown or white rice
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil at medium heat in a pot and add the carrots, celery, garlic and onion to the heated oil and cook the vegetables till soft but still crunchy.  Add the broth, turkey or chicken and rice and heat to boiling till the mixture is heated through.  Add the lemon and spinach and continue to heat through to wilt the spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Delicate yet sturdy was she

She trod through life like
a water lily blooming
brightly, with calm strength.

Note:  This haiku is in memory of my dear friend Lena.

The photo was taken by Joel Cuello during his trip to Thailand.  

What Was That?

When something happened
that left you awestruck, cherish,
relish, you've been blessed.

Vegan Slow Cooker Candied Sweet Potatoes

This is an easy three ingredient crowd pleasing side dish for any occasion. The coconut oil and the coconut brown sugar if using give the dish that special flavor that would make your guests ask "what is that?".

Slow cooking is a convenient way to cook the dish but it could also be baked or cooked on the stove but why would you when you can just dump the ingredients in the slow cooker and forget it. Easy and delicious dish.

Vegan Slow Cooker Candied Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from this source
  • 6 - 8 sweet potatoes, raw or previously microwaved, peeled and cut into two inch slices
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut brown sugar or plain brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix. Cook for 6 hours at low setting or 3 hours at high. I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting. This can be served warm or cold. Delicious.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Every thanksgiving day, we have our official big meal as a family at 12 noon.  I also try to make it to the Thanksgiving mass at my church before this meal. This mass starts at 9:30 am so I have to have everything almost done when I arrive or ready to go in the oven or the stove or microwave.

After mass, usually the turkey is ready to come out of the oven and the traditional green bean casserole could then be baked.  If there are pies, they can also be baked then.  This year I requested my married daughter to bring the pies and the rolls. I still had to prepare the side dishes namely the mashed potatoes, dressing, sweet potatoes and gravy and also keep them hot.  So I resorted to my three multi-purpose crock pots.  Here was my timeline.

I peeled my potatoes and cut them the day before and stored them over water in the crock pot bowl and kept them in the fridge.  I sauteed the onions and celery for the cornbread stuffing in the butter called for in the recipe of the boxed stuffing mix in another crock pot bowl using the sauteed setting or (you can also use the steam setting) and stored the sauteed mixture in the bowl and kept them in the fridge.  I also prepared the ingredients for the green beans casserole in a dish except for the french onions and kept it in the fridge. I took out the turkey that has been defrosting in the fridge for 5 days and further defrosted it in a sink full of cold water.  I then slept.

I woke up in the morning and microwaved the sweet potatoes, peeled them and placed them in a crock pot bowl with the coconut oil and coconut brown sugar (recipe coming soon).  I slow cooked them for 2 hours while I was at church.  I drained the water from the potatoes and added to them the water and milk called for in the recipe below, the bouillon cubes and fresh garlic.  I slow cooked it for two hours, mashed them and added the rest of the ingredients below before I went to church.  The mashed potatoes was kept warm by the keep warm mode of the crock pot.

I added the water needed to the crock pot with the sauteed onions and celery for the dressing and allow the mixture to boil using the steam mode of the crock pot.  Once the mixture boiled I added the boxed corn bread stuffing and changed the setting to the keep warm mode and stirred the mixture.

I removed the sweet potatoes from the crock pot and transferred them to the serving dish and wiped the crock pot cleaned.  I transferred the broth that came from the baked turkey to the crock pot and allowed it to boil using the steam mode of the crock pot.  Once boiling, I added the slurry of cornstarch in water and whisked the mixture till it was thick.  I then kept it at the keep warm mode in the crock pot.

I placed the green bean casserole in the oven when I took out the turkey which I allowed to rest.  When my daughter and family arrived every dish was warm thanks to the crock pot.

This was the least stressful thanksgiving feast I have ever prepared except I forgot to buy the can of whole cranberries.

Here is the recipe for the slow cooker garlic mashed potatoes which I adapted from this recipe.  I lessened the liquid called for in the recipe and used cream cheese instead of sour cream. Everybody liked it including my two picky tasters, my husband and son in law.

Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Adapted from this recipe
  • 5 lbs red potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 chicken  bouillon cubes
  • 5 large cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes, milk, water and chicken bouillon cubes in the slow cooker bowl.  Place the garlic cloves on top.  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.

Using a potato masher, mash the cooked potatoes right in the slow cooker bowl. Stir in the butter and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

I wish I could do big things

I found the small things
I do make me happy, and
others too. Enough.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I Am Grateful

I still dream. To be
filled with hope, to expect the
best, with gleeful smile.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thank You Lord

Thank you Lord for all
you've done for this world. To all
your kindness be told.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Vegan Lemon Coconut Truffles

I had a white chocolate lemon truffle this weekend during the Masterworks Concert held in Harrison City. They served desserts prepared by the wife and other relatives of Dennis, the president of the Board of Directors of this Choir. They were mouthwatering including the white chocolate lemon truffle I just mentioned.  Here are some pictures from the concert.

I did not have white chocolate but I had fresh lemon so I researched the web to see if there is an ingredient I can substitute for the white chocolate.  I thought of coconut butter which I have used previously in the past, here and here.  Lo and behold I found this website with a recipe for lemon coconut truffle.  It entailed both coconut oil and coconut butter.  The latter is expensive so I decided to use my favorite ingredient, sweet potatoes which I have used before in some dessert recipes, here and here. So instead of using a half cup of coconut butter, I only used 1 tablespoon and used half a cup mashed sweet potatoes to give the truffle body. I still used coconut oil and also used a lot more sweetened coconut flakes than the original recipe.

This truffle has a tart lemony taste that is pleasing and enticing.  The texture is soft but has body to it. It could be one of the desserts you can have these coming holidays.

Vegan Lemon Coconut Truffles

  • 1 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips or dried fruits like raisins or cranberries or nuts (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cool in the refrigerator.

Roll into balls.

She is in a better place

She suffered so long.
Her body finally gave
up. We will miss her.

Note:  This poem is in memory of a beloved friend  who passed away two nights ago.

The watercolor painting above is by Mavis Logan of Monroeville PA.  Her exhibit, Inner Light: Water color and Glass,  is featured in the Gallery Space of the Monroeville PA Public Library till November 26, 2016,  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mixed Vegetable Fritters

I always wanted some kind of portable veggie bites to take with me when I have a back to back schedule in the morning and I need to eat lunch in between errands.  I found that need fulfilled by these delicious fritters, especially if they are baked since they are easier to handle and not that greasy.  The fried ones are of course more moist and has that added flavor from the coconut oil I used.

I obtained the recipe from the registration table during the International Women's Club meeting I attended this month.  The dish was called Mixed Vegetable Fritters and the author was Medhu Doshi.  Since I was late, the breakfast buffet table was almost empty and I am not sure if this dish was served that day.  I liked the list of ingredients featuring lots of vegetables and decided to try it.  I made modifications with the recipe based on what ingredients I had.  I also experimented with baking a batch of the fritters versus frying them.  I actually liked them prepared both ways. The fried ones were pillowy and moist but the baked ones, as expected was not oily and easier to handle when eaten by hand.

I would like to point out that the rice flour was an excellent binder.  It made the fritters moist and flavorful. You do not need eggs.  I highly recommend its use. The recipe also called for chickpea flour which I did not have and used instead all purpose flour. Instead of coriander in the original recipe, I used green onions.

I love these fritters and will be my go to food on the run.  It is delicious and healthy too! They could be one of your holiday appetizers.

Mixed Vegetable Fritters

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1/4 head of cabbage
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 inch daikon radish, peeled (you can substitute plain radish)
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup rice flour (I used Mochiko brand sweet rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water or more

If baking:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 13 x 9 cookie pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Place the 4 first ingredients in the Vita Mix blender or high power blender or food processor in the sequence given or you can chop them by hand.  

Transfer the chopped vegetables into a medium bowl and add the spinach, green onions, rice flour, all purpose flour, turmeric, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Mix well. Add the water slowly to the mixture till it has the consistency of mashed potatoes.  You might need to add more water.

Take two tablespoon of the mixture and form into patties.  

If baking:

Place the patties in the sprayed pan and spray  the patties with cooking spray and bake for 30-35 minutes till brown. Flip halfway during the baking process.

If frying:

Heat 4 tablespoon coconut oil or other oil in a saute pan and shallow fry the patties till the fritters are slightly brown. Flip when one side is browned.
You can also deep fry in a 350 degree fryer.

Eat with catsup with or without Sriracha.

Dreary But Pretty

The contrast to what
it was, holds some poetic
beauty to behold.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Saturday, November 19, 2016


There was a storm. And
there was the calm. The relief
that sustains. Comforts. 

Note: The magnificent watercolor painting featured above was by Monroeville, PA artist Mavis Logan.  Her exhibit, "Inner Light:Watercolor and Glass" which showcases "a variety of watercolor paintings that capture nature as its best , and mosaics that celebrate the transformative power of glass and light" is currently featured at the Gallery Space of the Monroeville Public Library till November 26, 2016.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Orange Walnut Chex Snacks

This is an easy snack to prepare during the coming holidays.  It has a different flavor from the usual Chex Cereal snacks which are coated with peanut butter or chocolate and of course butter.

The original recipe my friend Milyssa gave me had butter as one of the ingredients which I skipped in this adapted recipe.  It also used frozen juice concentrate which I did not have so I opted for orange juice prepared from a concentrate which comes in those familiar orange juice bottles.  I am pretty sure the concentrate would have been better. But I am happy with how this adapted snack mix came out.  I prepared it twice and you guessed it, I gobbled almost the whole thing in one day.  So good and addictive.

Orange Walnut Chex Snacks

  • 4 cups Corn Chex Cereals (any flavor)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (better yet frozen juice concentrate, thawed}
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the cereals and walnuts.  In a separate small bowl mix the sugar, orange juice, cinnamon and ginger powder.  Add the orange juice mixture into the cereals and walnuts and mix them till the cereals and walnuts are coated with the orange juice mixture.

Place the coated cereals and nuts into the sprayed pan in a single layer.  Bake for 10 minutes.  You can add dried fruits if you want after baking.

Presence A Present

 That's what friends are for.
Being there. Assuring look
enough. Need no words.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Easy Braised Green Beans

Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  The Green Bean Casserole is one of the favorite dishes and meets the so called vegetable requirement for thanksgiving day for some. This easy one pot dish is a healthy and convenient alternative.  You can use fresh or frozen whole green beans.  The other ingredients are from your cupboard.  One thing more, you are using the braising method thus no oil is used which means you will have more room for that favorite pie of yours (just kidding).

Try this refreshing change from gooey green bean casserole.  It is delicious and easy to make.

Easy Braised Green Beans

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen whole green beans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp dry onion flakes
  • 1 tbsp dry garlic flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a saute pan and allow the liquid to boil till the green beans are cooked but still crispy.  Stir when all the liquid is nearly gone.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Do You Like Yourself?

That is the question.
More challenging than love.  Your 
mind and heart must meet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

CSJA Memorial Day of Reflection 2016

The CSJA Memorial Day of Reflection “Learning to Sing Alleluia with Broken Hearts: Feminist and Womanist explorations of Struggle and Grace” was held on November 12, 2016 at Medaille Hall Baden PA with Dr. Elisabeth Vasko, an Associate Professor of Theology of Duquesne University as the presenter in the morning. During this retreat day, Dr. Vasko read three examples of brokenness in our community and used them to explore the patterns of thought and bodily habits involved in them in order for us to "reclaim the future together".

The audience were also invited  to explore in the midst of brokenness the questions: What does it mean to love God? To love one’s self? To love one’s neighbor?

Here is the wonderful and powerful handout prepared by Dr. Vasko as our guide in answering the challenging question: "Do you like yourself?",  like being harder than love according to her. She also pointed out that we cannot like others if we do not like ourselves.  Please do take the time to do the highly effective exercise.

Here is the handout which Dr. Vasko prepared as the guidelines for discussion and questions the group had to answer after the reflection time.

After lunch, the afternoon session featured the memorial day ritual where we prayed for the associates and sisters who have journeyed with them.  This was presided by Monica Maghrak who chaired the Memorial Day of recollection.  The associates were asked to place a white rose as the name of the associates and sisters was mentioned.  She chose white since it signifies among other things the convergence of heaven and earth during death as a Peruvian saying states. Monica further said, it is hard not to believe in the afterlife if you witness death or somebody dying first hand.  

We were then given a piece of paper which we were asked to shred according to how we wished to as a symbol of our brokenness. These torn pieces were then collected in a basket and offered at the altar in the chapel together with the thirty white roses in the large vase.  A beautiful, moving and touching ceremony.

We went home with a lot of hope that even though we are all Humpty Dumptys, broken after the fall, we can be still made whole. We can still sing Alleluia, as Dr.Vasko said, through our brokenness since life is a journey with Him up there helping us through.

Vegan Cranberry Orange Scones

I had a similar cream scone when we had our monthly Book Club Meeting at McGinnis Specialty Store in Monroeville PA.  I was pleasantly surprised when Karen Novak, the event organizer and baker of this delicious dessert, said she did not use any butter or eggs.  She just used cream. (See some photos of the book club meeting at the bottom of the blog post).

I looked for a source in the web and found this recipe using full fat coconut milk from a can. I decided to try the recipe and used dried cranberries as add ins and added orange marmalde to intensify the taste of orange in the scones.

The scone as promised by the author of the recipe was light and airy. It is so easy to prepare since you do not need to worry about butter to soften or eggs to add, not to mention mixing them into the batter. The scones got two thumbs up from my picky taster, my husband.

Vegan Cranberry Orange Scones

(Adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tbsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar. 
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk from a can, stirred
  • 1 tbsp orange marmalade (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Combine the all purpose flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and dried cranberries in a medium bowl till the ingredients are well blended.

Make a well in the middle and add the coconut milk and orange marmalade in this well and mix the coconut milk and marmalade with a fork.  Then mix the two with the dry ingredients with a fork till just mix.  Do not over mix.

Transfer the dough into a floured surface and turn over about 4 to 5 times until it is uniform in texture.  Do not over mix.

Make an 8-inch square and cut this into eight triangles. with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Make sure each is about 1 inch thick.

Separate the eight wedges and transfer into a parchment (or wax paper) lined pan.  Have an inch or two space in between the wedges.

You can sprinkle some sugar on top of each wedge if you like.

Bake for 17 minutes.  Cool for 2 to 3 minutes and brush with the orange glace, recipe below.

Orange Glace
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp orange juice
Mix the two in a small bowl with a fork.


Here are some photos from the Book Club Meeting below.  We had author and illustrator, Melissa Haas, as our guest speaker.  She has written children's books featuring her cat Catula.