Thursday, August 17, 2017

Discovery in Life's Journey

I found my true self
when I went back to Him and
found His love for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rest and Be Refreshed

Allow the beauty
and quiet of a tranquil
scene be your healer.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Be Not Afraid

Feel the breeze of His
presence at any moment
of the day. Be at peace.

Friday, August 11, 2017

From Longaniza to Hot Dog. Part 5 Places I Lived At in Washington DC

I did not reserve a place at the graduate dorm at George Washington University where I was slated to start for my graduate studies in the early seventies. My friend who I requested to work on it thought I did. Through her insistence I got in and also I got lucky. One of the members of a four person suite quit.  I joined three other girls in sharing a bathroom and two bedrooms. I shared one with Peggy who preferred to sleep in a small cubicle in the bedroom I shared with her.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the dorm was to go to the Murphy's department store to buy my green bed sheets and pillow cases, green blanket and a flowered comforter.  The color and flowers made the room cheery especially that winter. Luckily our room which was at the end of the hall had two large windows which even made the bedroom bright during the gloomy days of winter.

I cooked my own dinner and to some of my dorm mates they were of gourmet standard.  Spare ribs and Congee were impressive to them who were used to eating grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen dinners. The kitchen was at the other end of the corridor on the floor we were in but I did not mind the walk.  I also cooked in large amounts which I ate over several days.

Then summer came and the dorms except for a few were going to close.  Mary in the other bedroom in our suite convinced me to be the third person that would rent an apartment in Virginia for the summer.  The other person was Dan who was in the same program as Mary.  This is reminiscent of Three is Company one of the hottest show on TV at that time starring Suzanne Sommers.  I knew it would concern my mother if the news that I was living with a guy in the apartment reached her.  I decided to describe that Mary and Dan were friends and let her interpret it the way she wanted it.  Actually Dan had his own room and Mary and I shared another. We were clean. No hanky panky.

When summer ended I decided not to go back to the dorm and looked for another place to stay. My friend Seville had this bright idea that we share her apartment at S Street.  It had a bathroom, a separate kitchen and a living room which housed her queen bed.  She said there was room for a twin bed.  The rent was really cheap.  I believe it was only going to be 40 dollars each.  So I agreed to the idea.

Luckily a friend was leaving Washington DC for San Diego and he sold me his bed plus his huge desk. The bed was placed perpendicular to Seville's bed and the huge desk occupied a corner in the kitchen.  I was set.  When a couple of friends came for a visit they made a comment that one could have an orgy with those beds in the living room.  Ha Ha.

The apartment was about eight or so blocks to George Washington University (GWU).  I walked everyday to the university and took a taxi at night.  It was located right at the junction of where the embassy ended and the not so pleasant area started.  My roommate Seville advised me on how to deal with construction workers who might whistle or say "hello there pretty girl" on my way to school. She told me to smile and not get mad.

Seville and I thought we would stay at our apartment till we both graduated from grad school but that did not happen.  The town house we were at was sold and would be converted back to a house.  So both of us searched for apartments.

There was an apartment at I St. located at GWU that had vacancies and had a good price compared to the others that were in that area.  I needed references to apply for the apartment.  I gave the names of the chair and my adviser at the chemistry department.  At that time my stipend that summer was a measly 120 dollars a month lower than during the school year. The rent was 116 dollars. I was not worried I had savings to make up for my other expenses. Thank goodness, the secretary at the chair's office was the one who talked to the apartment manager and told her whatever she thought the manager wanted to hear.  She was a little bit off and I was grateful she was.  As for my adviser, he came down to our lab and was furious for putting his name as a reference without asking him.

Anyway I got the apartment at I St.  It was pretty unique in that the bathtub was painted engine red. It was a so called bachelor's apartment with a huge bathroom which housed a cabinet for my dishes and a hot plate which the custodians in the lab storeroom provided me to cook my food.  I also placed my huge refrigerator in the bathroom.  In the living room, the desk and bed from the last place at S Street I stayed were initially the only furnishings I had when I moved plus a wobbly folding table.  Later on, I salvaged blocks and pieces of wood that became my book case which lined a wall.  I added also to my abode an easy chair and a coffee table disposed of by tenants in the basement.

The apartment was conveniently located just a block from the chemistry department where I usually did my research till midnight. I usually ran to my apartment when I was done at the lab. The area was not exactly a safe one.

Four places in two and half years. I was blessed I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on the whole time.  I was lucky I had also money to pay the rent. Life was simple and good.

Note:  This is Part 5 of the series From Longaniza to Hot Dog which recounts my immigration to the United States from the Philippines. You might want to read the following:

From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 1 Brooklyn and Sao Paolo
From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 2 Muito Obrigada and Baden Baden
From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 3 Life Changing Question
From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 4 Second Thoughts

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Tortilla with Tzatziki Sauce

We had our parish festival recently and my favorite food was the chicken on the stick. I found out that the chicken was marinated in Greek dressing. I did not have any Greek dressing and I did not want to substitute Italian dressing which they used the next day and it was not the same.  I just googled a recipe for Greek dressing and combined a couple to come up for the marinade for the chicken.  I should say rather sauce since I used a slow cooker to cook the chicken which combines the marinating process and the cooking step.  I did not grill the chicken after the slow cooking process like they did during the festival but instead sliced the cooked chicken and placed them on tortillas (I did not have any pita bread) and topped them with tomato, lettuce and what else, Tzatziki Sauce.  To prepare this sauce, I did not have yogurt so I used instead Miracle Whip dressing and some vinegar to take its place.  Wow, the cucumber in the Tzatziki Sauce gives it a very smooth refreshing taste.  I could drink them all.  Here is an easy version of a Greek gyro without you stopping at your favorite gyro place with ingredients straight from your fridge and pantry.  By the way the Greek Chicken can be eaten as is with some baked potato and steamed veggies if you do not want to go the quasi gyro or tortilla route.

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Tortilla with Tzatziki Sauce

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken

  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp oregano leaves
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken tenderloin or other cut
Mix all the ingredients except the chicken in the crock pot bowl.  Then add the chicken pieces and coat with the sauce ingredients.  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.

Tortilla Assembly

  • 6 tortillas
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 6 lettuce leaves, whole or cut in half
  • Slow Cooker Greek chicken prepared above, sliced
  • Tzatsiki Sauce (recipe below)

Arrange the lettuce, tomato slices snd chicken slices on one side of the tortilla. Add the tzatziki sauce and place the other half of the tortilla over the filled side.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 3 tbsp Miracle Whip dressing or yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar (skip if using yogurt)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dry dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a small blender and mix till smooth in texture.

From Longaniza to Hot Dog. Part 4. Second Thoughts

I was very happy when I obtained the assistantship at the chemistry department of the George Washington University in the early seventies. Before I left for New York and then for Canada to change my visa to a student one, I stayed for a short time in Washington DC with my friend and toured the city. During this time I had second thoughts if pursuing graduate studies was the right decision. I was tempted to think I should I go back home to the Philippines instead.

To appease my self doubts, I made an appointment to see a priest at the St. Matthews Church in Washington DC for advice. After Mass on a weekday, I went to meet the priest who had an impatient growl in his face. I asked him what I should do. He looked at me and said I was not in any condition to make a decision. I must have appeared a worried wreck to him.

Since the representative of God above was not that patient in resolving my dilemma, I decided to go straight to Him, God Himself with the help of intercessors. 

Catholics in the Philippines like to pray to their favorite saints like St. Theresa of the Child Jesus or St. Joseph, to intercede for them.  They say nine day novenas and usually they would ask for a sign if their wish would come true.  I forgot now whether I prayed to St. Theresa or St. Joseph for that sign if I was making the right decision.  If I receive a red rose or any red flower during the nine day novena or after, that would mean it was a yes that I pursue graduate school.

It was the Christmas holidays during this time when I was in Washington DC prior to my trip to Canada for my visa status change. When I went to Mass one day, I saw the church decorated with pink poinsettias not the usual red. Wow, God was playing tricks with me.  So what was His answer then? 

Despite the unclear direction from God,  I made the decision to go ahead and proceed with the process of applying for my visa. In retrospect, the pink could be interpreted that God was telling me that there was no such thing as a wrong decision. This is one lesson I learned from one book about how to proceed on making decisions.  According to the author that thought will help you relax and not be too anxious and thus think more clearly. I did not know this then during an important crossroad in my life. I wish I did.

Note:  This is Part 4 of the series From Longaniza to Hot Dog which recounts my immigration to the United States from the Philippines. You might want to read the following:

From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 1 Brooklyn and Sao Paolo
From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 2 Muito Obrigada and Baden Baden
From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 3 Life Changing Question

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why Worry

With the sun and rain
they grow unattended. Trust
the Lord's providence. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Strawberry Mint Ice Cream

This was inspired by the No Fuss Banana and Mango Ice Cream I posted in this blog. I used ripe bananas as in the source of the recipe but this time I used strawberries for the mango.  I added mint leaves to the list of ingredients for added flavor.  For some reason the mint plant I had in my deck planter survived the winter and came back this summer even when I just let it grow unattended.  

Mint growing with other herbs etc I could not recognize in an unattended planter. 

Other modifications in the original recipe I made was use almond milk instead of full fat coconut.  I also did add maple syrup in this present version.  I also used the blender as in the original recipe making it a another No Fuss recipe.

Strawberry Mint Ice Cream

Inspired by this blogpost

  • 3 ripe bananas, frozen and cut into one inch pieces
  • 8 oz strawberries
  • 8-10  mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4  tsp cinnamon
Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse till they are well mixed. Place in a container and freeze for 5 hours or overnight.  If it gets too hard to scoop out, just place the container in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften it.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Darkness

Darkness we go through
makes us see the light. The path
from down to upwards.

Vegan Crab Cake with Spicy Brown Mustard Vinaigrette

I went to eat at Eighty Acres Farm to Table Restaurant in Plum, Pennsylvania about two Sundays ago and I had their fabulous crab cakes during Sunday brunch.

Crab Cakes served at Eighty Acres Restaurant Plum, PA.

I could not take that wonderful taste off my mind and was set to make crab cakes when I heard Giant Eagle had the canned crabs on sale.  Alas I missed the sale. I decided to try making the so called Mock Crab Cakes I have heard of that were made of zucchini and obtained a recipe online which I based this vegan version on.  I tweaked it based on the suggestions of one of the reviewers plus adaptations I made to suit a vegan version.

I used chia seeds in water to substitute for the one egg called for in the original recipe and replaced the butter with coconut oil.  I also added herbs and spices to approximate Italian Bread Crumbs which I did not have.

I really liked the whole grain mustard vinaigrette used in the crab cakes at Eighty Acres Restaurant so I again searched for something I felt was close.  I made it healthier by decreasing the oil in the recipe but you can stick to the original if you want.

Vegan Crab Cake with Spicy Brown Mustard Vinaigrette

Crab Cake

  • 2 1/2 cup zucchini, unpeeled and shredded
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 cup or more panko or bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dry basil
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds in 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Sprinkle some salt to the zucchini and place in a colander together with the onions.  Allow the water from the zucchini to drain into a bowl for about 30 minutes.

Mix the panko crumbs in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients except the coconut oil, chia seeds in water and flour.

Combine the zucchini, onion, the panko crumbs with the herbs and spices, the coconut oil and chia seeds in a bowl.  You may add more panko crumbs if it is too soft to form into patties.

Form into 8 patties. Dredge in the flour and place in the prepared pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes flipping half way through.

Serve with the Spicy Brown Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe below) over some greens.

Spicy Brown Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard or whole grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp agave extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a small jar and shake.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I Want to Play Too

Hi there. Peek a boo.
I want to play too. With all
these balls just like you.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Blissful Mess

To wade through murky
water. That is what puddles are
for. Blissful, fun mess.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thursday, July 27, 2017

When We Fall Hard

I see God's proud smile
with a little tear in His
eyes, as we get up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What Would Life Be

If you knew how it'll
end. Better to leave it to
chance. It's a journey.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Connected We Are

Connected we all
are. Relationships are what
make life worth living.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stir Fried Mushrooms

I was at my Zumba class when I had this craving for Chinese food at the Fortune buffet at our Miracle Mile Mall. This dish is one of my favorites at this place.

I bought two packages of button mushrooms waiting to be used in the fridge. It was on sale for only 69 cents per package at Aldis Grocery Store. I did not want them to spoil so instead of hitting the buffet I stir fried them to fix my craving for Chinese food.

Here is the recipe. I almost ate the whole thing with brown rice and steamed broccoli.  You might too.

Stir Fried Mushrooms

  • 16 oz button mushrooms, whole or cut in half if large
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup water

Heat the oil at medium heat in a wok or saute pan.  Add the mushrooms and saute till they are soft. 

Add the onions and garlic and continue to stir the mixture till the onions are cooked. 

Mix the miso paste, soy sauce, sugar and water in a small bowl. Add to the mixture in the pan and heat with stirring. 

Add the cornstarch slurry and heat through till the sauce thickens.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Empanada with Homemade Vegan Pastry

Empanadas are ubiquitous in the Filipino repertoire of snacks as well as in our Fiestas as one of the appetizers.  They are usually filled with ground beef in tomato sauce with pimiento, tomatoes, potatoes and green peas and I almost forgot raisins.  I wanted to prepare a vegan version so I used for the filling the Vegan Menudo using Cauliflower Walnut Meat the recipe of which I just published in this blog.  It has all the elements of the filling for an empanada. In that recipe, I used Cauliflower Walnut Meat the recipe of which I obtained from the wonderful website Pinch of Yum.

I wanted this plant based version to be straight vegan so I have to find a good homemade vegan pastry recipe.  I remember using one from Aarti Sequiera in the past that I really liked. I tweaked it a little bit by using instead of the buttermilk,  almond milk acidified with vinegar.  Below is the result of my search for a vegan empanada.  The pastry has just the right texture with the right crispness to it and not at all soggy. The filling from the menudo recipe brings back memories of the empanadas I sampled during fiestas and as snacks when I dropped by at the coffee shops when I visit Los Angeles or the Philippines.  You will not miss the ground beef or pork.

Empanada with Homemade Vegan Pastry

Recipe of filling from Vegan Menudo using Cauliflower Walnut Meat  in this blog

Filling of the empanada
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1-14 oz can green peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup roasted pimento from a jar, chopped
  • 1 large potato, baked and cut into small cubes
  • 1-14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups cauliflower walnut meat (recipe from  Pinch of Yum)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Saute the onion and garlic in heated oil till the onion is cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients until they are blended and heated through. 

Cool. Meanwhile make the homemade vegan pastry (recipe below). 

Divide the dough into four portions.  Roll out each portion and make 4 circles about 5 to 6 inches in diameter from each portion.  Fill half of each circle with the filling. Then fold over the other half. Using a fork, press on the edges. Repeat the same process for the other three portions of the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes at a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. 

Homemade Vegan Pastry

Adapted from Aarti Sequiera Aarti Party
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 cup oil
Add the vinegar to the almond milk and let it set for 5 minutes. Combine all the ingredients including the acidified milk. Knead till the dough turns smooth and elastic. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. 

The River

Into the river
you step into. To follow
where it brings you to.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Maxim 75 Notes St.Bernadette Convent Prayer Group and a Prayer

The two pages above are the notes that Natalie prepared when we had our meeting at the St. Bernadette Convent on the Maxims.  The group is now on Maxim 75.  Natalie conveniently gave the Scriptural readings that are listed on the flip up booklet on Maxims for our convenience.  She also quoted excerpts from Marcia Allen's book on the Maxims and also a part of the yellow cover write up on the book Maxims of the Little Institute Intercongregational Research Team, Villa Maria College 1975.  

We ended our meeting with the beautiful prayer, "Daily Prayer for One Attempting to Live by the Maxims.. by Sr. Claire Olivier.  

Breaking the Wall

Gaze at the serene,
all knowing stillness of the
river. Be refreshed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Faith Not Belief

Is what carries us
through darkness, mystery and 
life's uncertainties.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken in Milk

One of the websites I read, The Kitchn, considers this the best chicken recipe of all time.  I would say however it is second to chicken adobo. But then being Filipino I am biased.

The original recipe is attributed to Jamie Oliver who used a whole roasting chicken which he browned first in butter or oil then baked with the milk, herbs and spices in the oven.

I decided to use the slow cooker and skipped the searing step of the chicken thighs I used. I just dumped them with the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker. The combination of the ingredients look strange but it works. You obtain succulent chicken pieces swimming in irresistible sauce.

I added potatoes and carrots to the list of ingredients so the sides are taken cared of. A green salad and crusty bread can complete an elegant dinner with this easy but delicious dish.

Slow Cooker Chicken in Milk

  • 3 lb chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 2 cups baby carrots
Combine all the ingredients in the 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.

Simple Pleasures

Life's simple pleasures
are what our hearts treasure. Joy,
deeply relished, pure.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vegan Filipino Menudo Using Cauliflower Walnut Meat

Menudo is one of the top four dishes that Filipinos love to eat.  They eat it for lunch, dinner with rice or for snacks on bread.  We cook it with ground pork or beef or cubed pork. I have also posted a plant based menudo recipe before using garbanzo beans as the protein source. In this recipe I used cauliflower walnut meat I discovered in the Pinch of Yum website.  I have used it before for the vegan picadillo I featured in this blog and I really liked the result. For the picadillo,  I used frozen mixed vegetables to add to the meat and tomato sauce.  This time for this new version of vegan menudo, I added instead the usual vegetables Filipinos add to menudo like cubed potatoes, roasted pimentos, green peas and raisins. I also added chickpeas to be sure you guys would have all the protein you need.  As for the sauce, I used catsup. The cauliflower walnut meat is pretty seasoned you do not need to add any other spices.   It was delicious and easy to prepare! You would not miss the ground meat.  I ate it with rice and in between white bread.

Vegan Filipino Menudo Using Cauliflower Walnut Meat

  • 2 tsps oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1-14 oz can green peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup roasted pimento from a jar, chopped
  • 1 large potato, baked and cubed
  • 1-14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups cauliflower walnut meat (see recipe below)
Heat the oil in a saute pan. Saute the onion and garlic in heated oil till the onion is cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients until they are blended and heated through.

Serve with rice or as filling between two pieces of bread or bun.  

Cauliflower Walnut Meat

Makes about 5 cups

From the website Pinch of Yum

  • cauliflower florets from 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 pieces chipotle from can
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place all the ingredients in a large food processor. If you have a medium sized one, do it in two batches. Pulse till the ingredients are blended and the mixture is mealy in texture. Transfer the mixture into a sprayed pan and spread the mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes and stir half way.  

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 3. A Life Changing Question

    I arrived in the United States from Venezuela where I had a short visit with the family of a friend after the six week training course I attended in Sao Paolo, Brazil in November of 1974.  I was stopping at the United States to visit a friend and a cousin before I make use of my air fare back to the Philippines to tour Europe. I would then upon returning to the Philippines apply what I learned in the course if applicable.

    I do not remember at what port of entry I entered in the US this time around. The only thing that I could recall was I had to take a train to New York City to visit a cousin.  On my way to the Big Apple, I heard that the train was stopping at Washington DC.  I was surprised that the travel agent did not make Washington DC my first stop.  I decided to change plans and stop at Washington DC instead.  I called my friend who was a graduate student at Howard University with whom I was supposed to stay with at Washington DC. I notified her that I was arriving that day and that I would meet her at the Sheraton Hotel.  I waited for an hour for my friend who arrived later explaining she was in the other Sheraton waiting for me. It was winter then. She arrived with her coat on while I had an oversized black one my host in Venezuela lent me which I covered with a yellow and black poncho I purchased in Brazil.

    We went to her apartment at S street located just past the embassy row and at the start of the not so pleasant area of the city. We sat on the floor of her large kitchen with the green flowered curtains rather than at the cute bistro type table and chairs she had. She prepared a lavish dinner of steak and corn and we drank orange juice.  While eating she asked a question that I found surprising for her to ask in the middle of a meal. She paused and asked me "Are you happy where you are in your life?" I do not remember exactly what and how I answered her question.  The next thing I knew she was on the phone the next morning calling the Chairperson of the Chemistry Department of the George Washington University.  She bravely asked if they had an assistantship available for me for the coming winter semester.  The chair said they might have one available since one of the graduate students was going to give  up her teaching assistantship to concentrate on her research.

    The chair invited me for an interview the next day.  He and another professor asked me questions and that was it. I got the assistantship. There was one hitch though.  I needed to change my status to a student visa or F1 status and to accomplish this I have to exit the country. But which one? The choice was easy. Canada. It was the closest one to the US.

    First I left for New York to visit my cousin as planned. It so happened her father-in-law knew the Philippine ambassador to Canada who might be able to help me.  So I left for Ottawa the capital of Canada where the Philippine embassy was. At the airport, a Filipino couple on the same flight asked where I was staying and when they found out I did not have any they generously offered me to stay at their apartment. My mother's prayer was working.

    When I got to the American embassy I learned that in order to change my visa to an F1 status I have to change my official or government passport to an ordinary one. To do so meant asking the permission of my office in the Philippines where I worked to change it.  I already notified them of my assistantship and I requested them to help me change my passport status.

    I figured that the wait for the change of the passport would take time and decided to look for another place to stay.  I found a youth hostel by the lake which was frozen in the cold Canadian winter. I remember calling and asking if they have a place to store my things and the person on the phone mentioned I could put them in the cell.  I inquired what he meant but the person did not elucidate.

    When I arrived at the place, I saw a door marked prison and I was confused. I inquired inside and I asked if I entered the wrong place. Well it turned out the youth hostel is located right where the old prison was that closed since it was not according to code.  I did not mind staying there despite its history. The cost was only two dollars a day which would not take a toll on my pocket money just in case it would take a long time for the change of my passport to take place.

    The bunk beds were along the corridor outside the prison cells that were concentrated in the middle of the dorm. These were the cells the person on the phone was referring to where one could store ones belongings.

    There were only a few occupants on the floor for women.  Two were from Argentina and I distinctly remember they were taking so called cellulose pills that swelled in their tummy so they would not get hungry. Another resident was a weird one that looked like she was stoned. Aside from them, the dorm was practically empty with a lot of unoccupied bunk beds. We ate our breakfast at the basement kitchen and left the dorm for the day which was the rule and came back at night. To while my time, I visited all the museums in Ottawa.

    One day I heard the footsteps of several people coming in in droves. I could not believe my ears when I heard some of them speaking in Tagalog.  I later found out that the Philippine Canadian youth exchange program participants were staying at the hostel.  Was I happy for their company and for me to be able to speak my language.

    Days turned to a couple of weeks and I still had not heard about the status of my passport.  The office I worked at was having a reorganization at that time I was requesting for this change thus any action probably laid unattended on somebody's desk. In desperation, I boldly decided one night which was day time in the Philippines to directly appeal to the commissioner of the agency.  I changed several dollars into quarters for the long distance overseas call to be used on the pay phone in the youth hostel.  This was in the seventies so no cell phones yet existed and pay phones were everywhere. The conversation took longer than I expected but I was ready with all the coins I needed. But there was a problem, I filled up the pay phone I was using. The operator calmly advised me to move to another one fortunately located close to the youth hostel.

    Christmas was fast approaching and still no news was in sight about my passport.  I decided to call a former high school classmate in Toronto and requested if I could stay with her family. That was what I did during the holidays while waiting for my passport to be changed.  I do not know how I was able to remain optimistic that this would occur and in time for the start of the winter semester at George Washington University. But I was. It must be my mother's prayers. One day I finally got the news from the Philippine embassy that my official passport had been switched to an ordinary one.   My F1 or student visa was then processed by the American embassy.

    I found myself in January of 1975 in graduate school as a teaching assistant at the George Washington University. My trip to Europe had to wait and so was my return to the Philippines.

    I had thought of going to graduate school but never expected  it to happen this soon and in the middle of a trip.  Thanks to my friend asking that life changing question and doing the legwork for me.  I am also grateful for the opportunity afforded me by George Washington University and my office in the Philippines as I went with the flow of the events. There were challenges along the way which I was able to surmount thanks to the generosity of my family, friends and even strangers. Though I never answered my friend's question directly, my heart and mind were open. My determination to overcome the hurdles, in retrospect, show I wanted that change to move forward to fulfill my dream. It just took another person to initiate it with a question. And I might add a lot of my mother's prayers to get some problems solved on the way to fulfilling it.

    Note:  This is Part 3 of the series From Longaniza to Hot Dog which recounts my immigration to the United States from the Philippines. You might want to read the following:

    From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 1 Brooklyn and Sao Paolo
    From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 2 Muito Obrigada and Baden Baden

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    Green Beans with Basil and Miso Sauce

    This has a Thai flavor that I love.  Salty and sweet with the hint of basil in it.  This combination is found in most Thai dishes as in this recipe in this blog.  I did not have fresh Thai basil and instead used dry sweet basil and it fulfilled what it is there for, namely to give that taste I remember eating in Thai restaurants.

    To make it vegan, I substituted miso paste for the fish sauce that is usually used for this kind of sauce. I was pleasantly surprised it even improved the flavor.  It was smooth and not as strong as the fish sauce can be. My picky taster, my husband, almost ate the whole thing.

    This an easy and quick dish to prepare and good for you.  I used vegetable broth rather than more oil to cook the green beans.

    Green Beans with Basil and Miso Sauce

    • 1 tbsp miso paste
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp water
    • 2 tsp oil
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1.5 lb green beans
    • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
    • 1 tbsp dry sweet basil
    In a small bowl mix the miso paste, soy sauce, sugar and water with a spatula till smooth.  Set aside.

    Heat the oil at medium heat.  Saute the onion and garlic in the heated oil till the they are cooked.  Add the green beans and vegetable broth to the onion and garlic mixture and allow to boil gently with the cover on. Once the green beans are cooked, add the sauce.  Stir the mixture till it is heated through.  Sprinkle the basil on top.

    Serve over rice as a main dish or as a side dish to fish, shrimp or meat.  

    Our Focus

    We are called to do
    right not wrong but not judge if
    others don't. Love them.

    Thursday, July 13, 2017


    To breathe freedom to
    speak up is to feel the surge
    of life through your veins.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Slow Cooker Pork Loin in Red Wine

    The combination of the ingredients in the recipe I found in filled me with a bit of skepticism when I read it.  Frenchy red wine and Asian soy sauce! But it worked.  In fact my husband gave it two thumbs up.  The simmering of the ingredients in the crock pot helped blend them together like diverse voices in a choir. It is an easy and elegant dinner to serve to guests especially if they hear it was made with red wine.  Frenchy. I added sliced onions to the mix to further flavor the au jus.

    Slow Cooker Pork Loin in Red Wine

    Adapted from this recipe

    • 2 lbs whole or sliced pork loin (I used sliced ones)
    • 1 large onion, sliced
    • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1-1 oz envelope dry onion soup mix
    • 1 cup water
    • 3/4 cup red wine
    • black pepper to taste
    Combine all the ingredients in the crock pot.  Cook for 3 hours on 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.

    Serve with rice or potatoes and steamed vegetables.  Do not forget to serve with the sauce or au jus.

    Need for Contemplation

    Let us stop and be
    with God. Get to know Him more.
    And grow, be transformed.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Monday, July 10, 2017


    Our goal is to gaze
    at the beauty of God's face and radiate it.

    Sunday, July 9, 2017


    Amidst the clutter
    and endless chatter find peace
    in the cosmic whole.

    Saturday, July 8, 2017


    A mystic sees the
    word and not or in issues. Their wholeness always.

    Friday, July 7, 2017

    Thursday, July 6, 2017


    Life becomes okay
    in the silence. Joy, sorrow
    can both coexist.

    Wednesday, July 5, 2017

    Cold Zucchini Noodles with Sesame Peanut Sauce

    My daughter arrived at my house with a box and a grocery bag with a large zucchini in her arms. She then unwrapped the box to reveal a spiralizer, an OXO brand.

    I told her I had small spiralizer and I have to confess I was not a fan of it.  Then she just started making linguine sized spiralized noodles from the zucchini. It was done quickly with not much effort from the twenty dollar gadget she bought from the Home Goods store. She then asked me to make the peanut sauce given in the booklet.  It was again very easy to make.  I find it actually better than a similar one I have featured before in this blog. My son-in-law liked the sauce and so did I.  It went well with the raw zucchini noodles. I like the proportion of the ingredients of the sauce which was adapted by the OXO pamphlet from Mark Bittman's book How to Cook Everything.

    Cold Zucchini Noodles with Sesame Peanut Sauce

    Recipe adapted from the OXO Spiralizer user pamphlet
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Water
    • one large zucchini spiralized into linguine size or whatever size you prefer
    • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
    • pepper flakes, optional
    Mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the water and the zucchini noodles with a whisk.  Add water to thin it out to the consistency you prefer.  Add the sauce to the zucchini noodles.  Garnish with the green onions and add pepper flakes if you like.

    Open Spaces

    Explore the open
    spaces around us, there we'll 
    find our inner selves.

    Tuesday, July 4, 2017

    Slow Cooker Southwest Round Steak and Potatoes

    If you want an easy dish to prepare with round steak, this is the one for you.  It has that southwest twang to it that will make your guests or your family members go, what is that? Hmmm this is different but good not weird they might even add.

    The steak comes out tender and tasty.  Having the potatoes cooked with the steak in the slow cooker cuts one more step.  I added green pepper but you can skip it. Complete hearty with rice and a green salad.

    Slow Cooker Southwest Round Steak and Potatoes

    Recipe inspired by the one from Taste of Home
    • 2 tsps balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp chili powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1/8 tsp black pepper
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
    • 1 1/2 lbs beef top round steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 green pepper, cut into strips (optional

    Place all the ingredients EXCEPT the potatoes, beef and green pepper in the slow cooker and mix with a spoon.  Place the potatoes, the beef  and the green pepper if using on top of the sauce ingredients.  Cook at high for 3 hours or at low for 6 hours.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.  

    Friday, June 30, 2017

    Vegan Picadillo Using Cauliflower Walnut Meat

    My son-in-law let me taste the picadillo he made the other night. He used ground beef for the meat. I decided to make my own using vegan meat I had been wanting to try to make, Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat, from the wonderful website Pinch of Yum.  And so I did.

    I used two cups of the vegan meat for the Vegan Picadillo and it really flavored the dish.  You do not have to add any other seasonings.  It added the zing to the dish.  The picadillo is pretty satisfying with rice but it certainly can be used for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, stuffing for peppers and empanada and for a sandwich.

    Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat

    Vegan Picadillo

    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 onion chopped
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • 8 oz tomato sauce
    • 12 oz mixed vegetables, steamed in the microwave
    • 1 large potato, baked in the microwave, cubed
    • 2 cups cauliflower walnut meat (recipe below)
    Heat the oil in a saute pan.  Add the onion and tomato and saute till the onions are cooked.  Add the tomato sauce, mixed vegetables, potato and cauliflower walnut meat to the pan and heat through with stirring.  Serve with rice or as a filling for a sandwich or tacos or burritos etc.

    Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat

    Makes about 5 cups

    From the website Pinch of Yum
    • cauliflower florets from 1 head of cauliflower
    • 2 pieces chipotle from can
    • 2 cups walnuts
    • 1 tbsp chili powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Place all the ingredients in a large food processor. If you have a medium sized one, do it in two batches. Pulse till the ingredients are blended and the mixture is mealy in texture. Transfer the mixture into a sprayed pan and spread the mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes and stir half way.  

    Brother Sister

    Growing together.
    Taking steps one at a time.
    To know the other.

    Thursday, June 29, 2017

    From Longaniza to Hot Dog Part 2.. Muito Obrigada and Baden Baden

    These two phrases, muito obrigada and Baden Baden are what I remember the most when I started reminiscing about my six week stay in Sao Paolo, Brazil in the seventies. The first reflects the Portuguese language used in this country and the latter phrase is the name of the dorm I stayed in while I was there.

    When I heard the term muito obrigada, I thought, it sounded like it meant we are obligated.  I found this weird considering you just did someone a favor, why then are you obligated? The phrase actually stood for thank you in Portuguese.

    Baden Baden is the name of the dorm I stayed in with three other female attendees of the course I was taking at the Biological Institute.  It was walking distance from this research place.  The room was really too small for the four of us but that was all they had and the rent was cheap.  We shared a bathroom with people in three other rooms. I never liked going at night to this bathroom.  Irma from Honduras, one of my roommates, nixed the idea of me using a potty in the room instead.

    The food came with the rent and was served in a big dining room in the adjacent building.  I was very amused when the persons living there greeted each other with not one both four or five kisses on the cheeks when they see each other.

    The lady who organized the course at the Biological Institute, Elsa, saw to it that we were also entertained while in Sao Paolo. She had a terrible time in a similar course she attended in Vienna which was all work and no play. A secretary at her office took us out once or twice to a club named Tele Teco, another name I remember. When the disco music played, the rage in the seventies, I thought we were going to a dance floor. Was I shocked when our host stood up and danced where we were sitting.  I forgot already if I followed suit.

    The course had two main instructors, Dr. Buchtela from Germany and Dr. Brooks from England.  They were both recruited by the International Atomic Energy Commission the sponsor of the course. The attendees came from all over the world.  My roommates were from El Salvador, Honduras and Spain.  Other attendees were from almost all the continents, Iran, Israel, Sudan, Indonesia to name a few.

    I learned a lot in the course and was too intense the English instructor kidded I was just like Seville, my office mate from the Philippines who took the course in Vienna that he had to boot out of the lab for staying beyond the time allotted for the experiment.

    I remember a long weekend I spent on a train with two other attendees, one from Israel and the other from El Salvador to get to the Foz de Iguacu or the Falls of Iguacu. It was in the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Being there has an added novelty since it would be considered having set foot in those three countries.  The falls was breathtaking in its massiveness and beauty.  The force of the water cascading from the natural huge rock formations was magnificent.

    We also got to go to a beach in Brazil as a group.  The trip took almost half a day.  The traffic in Sao Paolo was worse than Manila.  I remember hundreds of Volkswagens piled in traffic.

    Sao Paolo is a melting pot and I noticed a lot of Japanese living there. The owners of the dorm we stayed in is from Germany.

    As for the food, I will never forget the meat I had at the churrascaria that were shaved from the long skewers. I also loved the white tuber, cassava, that was omnipresent in their meals.  I also relished the drink Guarana.

    I explored a couple of the universities for further studies.  The language barrier existed so I was not that enthused about fulfilling that goal there. It would be somewhere else.

    One day, as I was going home, somebody working at the Institute stopped in his Volkswagen offering me a ride to my dorm.  I obliged and while there he presented me with a small box with the words From Brazil with Love. Inside was a ring with a stone an inch long.  He wanted me to have it as a souvenir. While we were closed to the dorm he pointed to an engagement ring I was wearing.  I was not engaged though and just wore it to ward off guys. Well I accomplished that in this case. While he pointed to the ring he said, " You Engaged" in halting English. Before I could explain he let me off his car and I walked the rest of the way to the dorm. I have talked to him briefly while at the Institute and he mentioned a friend who was married to a Filipina.  Guys tend to do that, namely copy their friends. It just did not happen what he was thinking.

    When the course was done, somebody had an idea to give a party to the organizer of the course, Elsa, and the two instructors.  We decided to hold the party at Baden Baden, the dorm we were staying.  They had a huge dining hall that could hold the honorees and the attendees from the course.

    When I was with the others in a bus en route somewhere before this party, I was angrily confronted by one of the attendees from Africa. He was asking why they were not invited to the party which I helped organized. I denied this was the case.  I was shocked to know later that it was the truth. The owners of Baden Baden prohibited blacks from certain countries to attend the party. This was a rude awakening for me about discrimination in action and I felt sorry I was part of it. The other organizer never informed me.

    I and Irma from Honduras took a trip to Rio de Janeiro for a short stay to see the world famous beaches.  I remember daring to wear a t-shirt with Sou Virgen written on it which got a lot of smirk from guys.

    Irma and I also took at trip to Venezuela to visit a friend's family who helped me prepare my coming trip to the United States and Europe. Venezuela was beautiful and the family I stayed with were wonderful.  They generously offered for me to leave some of my belongings at their house to make my trip to the US and Europe easier.  I left a whole luggage of clothes behind.  Little did I know I would be needing them sooner and not for a short trip and not as a tourist either.

    Muito obrigada, Brazil! Hello America.

    Note: This is Part 2 in the series From Longaniza to Hot Dog.  It is an account of my immigration from the Philippines to the United States.

    You might want to read From Longaniza to Hot Dog. Part 1. Brooklyn and Sao Paolo

    Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    Shantung Shrimp

    As a child, my parents loved to take me and my siblings to two Chinese restaurants in downtown Manila on special occasions or when we go shopping in that part of the city. They were San Jacinto and Shantung Restaurants both of which were in Chinatown Manila.  I loved all the dishes in San Jacinto but unfortunately it closed down.  I am not sure if Shantung is still in operation. We went to this latter restaurant because of one particular dish, the spicy tomato based Shantung Shrimp.  We did not mind lining up to get a table at the always crowded small restaurant to satisfy our hankering for this dish.  Its taste has haunted me lately and I finally decided to recreate it.  For the tomato based spicy sauce, I opted to take a safe and minimalist approach.  I used catsup which is already flavored and as for the spice, I relied on Sriracha sauce.  What resulted captured the spiciness and the tomato texture of Shantung.  I have not had this dish at Shantung for decades so I would just say it was close and enough to satisfy my craving for it.

    This is an easy one pot dish and cooks in less than fifteen minutes.  It has only six ingredients.  So for a quick and impressive dinner this is a delicious and lovely one to try.  It is good with any kind of rice, white or brown and any steamed vegetables. I would start with one tablespoon of Sriracha and increase it if you have to.

    Shantung Shrimp

    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 6 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup catsup
    • 1-2 tbsp Sriracha sauce (start with 1 tbsp)
    • 2 dozen raw medium sized shrimp unpeeled or peeled (I used unpeeled ones)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Saute the onion and garlic in the heated oil till they are cooked.  Add the catsup, Sriracha sauce and the shrimp to the sauteed onion and garlic and allow the mixture to boil gently till the shrimp turn pink. Season with salt and pepper.

    Serve over rice and a side of steamed vegetables.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017

    Then and Now

    To the museum
    she went. Met T-Rex with her
    puppie. Both impressed.