Friday, March 31, 2017

Slow Cooker Spicy African Sweet Potato Stew

This is a West African recipe adapted from the wonderful book by Jill Nussinow, The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes.  Whereas the book used the pressure cooker to prepare this spicy African stew, I resorted instead to my slow cooker to cook it. As the author in the book contends, using the slow cooker entails that you have already thought of the dish you want to prepare the night before because of the length of time needed to cook the dish whereas the pressure cooking method does not.  You can come home and prepare the dish in thirty minutes if you use the latter. That is true.  However, I am a morning person and I usually have thought or dreamed of or craved the dish I want days before.  At the end of the day, I usually find myself dog tired even when I am retired now to do any cooking.  I like to dump everything in my slow cooker in the morning and go do a ton of errands and volunteer work etc during the day.  

My slow cooker is an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker that can slow cook in two hours and automatically switches to the keep warm mode.  I find this fast and convenient and have since been using it the past few years to prepare dishes even in the middle of the day which I would have at the end of a busy day.  

I also, if you were following me, will do short cuts to recipes I adapt and skip steps I can get away with and had done so successfully in the past.  I did not saute the onions and garlic plus the spices as the original recipe called for. This of course would make some difference but the result with regards to this dish is good without doing so but you can if you prefer.  

The combination of cayenne and peanut butter is exciting to the palate and holds the key to the flavor of the dish. The largely cut sweet potatoes which remained intact and not mushy in the slow cooking process in combination with the other vegetables also help enhance the flavor of the dish. The mixture of vegetables also makes this a hearty dish that sticks in your stomach like any of those meat stews. The spices and herbs help trick your mouth that you are relishing a decadent dish. After eating this, I could taste the subtle note of the apple in my mouth. This stew surprised me on how good it is

I am grateful to Linda of the East Suburban Plant Based group headed by Dr. Sally Lipsky for sharing the original recipe with us. I am not surprised she did because this is a good hearty stew not to mention a healthy also.  I served this with rice but the book suggests eating it with millet which I did not have on hand.  

Slow Cooker African Sweet Potato Stew

Adapted from the book, The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes, Jill Nussinow

  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup tomato puree from a can
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, chunky or creamy, I used creamy
  • 2 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 head of a cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups finely chopped greens, (kale or spinach or chard or even leaf lettuce which I used)
Combine the first eight ingredients in the slow cooker bowl and stir to blend.  Add the rest of the ingredients or you can add the leaf lettuce or any leafy vegetable you are using at the last minutes of cooking. 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. Serve with rice or millet as suggested by the author of the book.

Why Me?

Turned into "Why not?"
When He suffered just like me.
So "Why not me?" then.

Note: Insight gleaned from the magnificent talk by Fr. Don Breier at the Sisters of St. Joseph Mother House, Baden PA.  Photo taken of one of the Stations of the Cross at the St. Anthony's Chapel, Pittsburgh, PA.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blue Fish, Orange Fish, Green Fish

beauty. Alluring colors.
Feast, joy to tired eyes.

Note:  This photograph was taken at the PPG aquarium at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Celebration Surprise Carrot Cupcake with Strawberry Laced Frosting

I have noticed that the carrot cake is the first to go in any buffet or potlucks.  I for one am a fan of this cake which is usually topped with a cream cheese icing.

This carrot cupcake recipe is based on the Surprise Carrot Cake recipe that I found on the Softasilk cake flour box. It is named so because it has mayonnaise as one of its ingredients when most recipes use oil or butter.   I adapted this original recipe by tweaking the type of flour, mayonnaise and amount of crushed pineapple used. I have prepared this many times and every time my picky taster, my husband, always gave it two thumbs up.  Others have asked for its recipe.  It is moist and delicious especially with the frosting.

The frosting recipe is also adapted from the Softasilk cake flour box. One can use plain cream cheese but I did not have it on hand but had instead a tub of strawberry cream cheese spread. The result was marvelous with the added surprise flavor.

This is a wonderful cupcake or cake recipe for any celebration, birthday or anniversary. It would be a wonderful surprise for the celebrant(s) and guests.

Celebration Surprise Carrot Cupcake

(Adapted from the recipe found on the Softasilk Flour box)

Makes 24 cupcakes
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (note 1)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup Hellman's low fat mayonnaise (note 2)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-16 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained (note 3) 
  • 2 cups finely chopped carrots (note 4)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or other type of nuts, (note 4)
  • baking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two muffin pans with paper liner (note 5). 

In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise, eggs, and pineapple with juice in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer or by hand.  

Add the dry ingredient to the egg mixture and beat with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Beat on medium speed for three more minutes.

Stir in the carrots and walnuts to the mixture.

Distribute the batter to paper lined muffin pan using a large ice scream scoop.  

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Cool and frost with Strawberry Laced Frosting, recipe below


  1. The original recipe called for cake flour.  I have used both but did not notice much difference.
  2. The original recipe used regular mayonnaise.  I prefer a lower fat cupcake and opted for low fat mayonnaise which still resulted in cupcakes with still moist light texture.
  3. The original recipe used an 8 oz can crushed pineapple undrained.  I used 16 oz can instead and it resulted in very moist but not soggy cupcakes.  It is difficult to buy 8 oz can crushed pineapple and I hate to waste the rest of the 16 oz can so I dump them all.
  4. I used my Vita Mix blender to chop the carrots and walnuts together.  
  5. This is a low fat recipe and the batter clings to the paper liner after baking.  You might want to spray the paper first.  I did not and after being refrigerated I noticed the cupcake did not cling as much to the paper.  

Strawberry Laced Frosting

  • 1-8 oz strawberry cream cheese spread 
  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk, optional (note)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Mix the ingredients until smooth.


If using cream cheese and not a spread, you would use milk to thin out the frosting. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Like Wine

With yeast of life, we
ferment into who we are,
aged and better.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Once Upon A Time

There was a boy who
turned one. Smash cake he ate and
ate till there was none.

It's a guy thing

Speed's their need. Chrome's their
bling. Shiny car of their dreams 
rather than a ring.

Note: Painting by Ed Diaz.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Slow Cooker Pork in Lechon Sauce or Paksiw na Lechon

In every big feast in the Philippines, lechon, or roasted pig will be the central focus of the buffet.  A whole pig, with its skin,  is roasted slowly over burning coals to produce this beautiful roasted masterpiece with glistening amber skin that crackles when you bite into a piece of the finished delicacy.  One can also choose to cook pork belly in the oven or deep fry it on the stove which will result in what we call Lechon Kawali.

The lechon during our wedding roasted by the Filipino community of Ames, IA where Bob and I were graduate students at Iowa State University.

To completely relish this Filipino iconic dish, we dip the lechon pieces in pork liver sauce we call lechon sauce. This sauce is made of mashed pork liver or one can resort to using liver spread or even liverwurst from the deli. It is thickened with bread crumbs and cooked using lots of garlic, vinegar and sugar. After the feast we usually end up with left overs which we then simmer further in vinegar, brown sugar and leftover lechon sauce. This dish is what we call Paksiw na Lechon.  Paksiw is a term we used for any meat or fish cooked in vinegar. This recipe is a slow cooker version of this leftover dish.

Here is the liver spread I bought at our Asian Store.  A more popular brand is Reno from the Philippines.  One can use liverwurst from the deli also.

In this recipe, since I am a lazy cook, I just dumped raw pork butt and pork spare ribs in the crock pot together with what would have been the ingredients of lechon sauce. The result is "puede na" or good enough.  Nothing beats having roasted pig itself as the meat because the pork rind and any fat from it lend richness to the dish. But if you are hankering for Paksiw na Lechon in some form this will satisfy.  I was surprised my picky taster, my husband, who is an American, said it was good except for the sweet taste. Come to think of it this is a dish I can serve to non Filipino friends.  It has a universal appeal. Who knew!

Slow Cooker Pork in Lechon Sauce or Paksiw na Lechon

  • 3 lb pork butt, cut into pieces or country style spare ribs or use both, Note 1
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 oz liver spread from a can, Note 2
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 -2 tbsp soy sauce or to taste
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker (see note 3).  Cook for 4 hours at high setting or 8 hours at low. I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 3 hours at slow cooker setting. Cut the whole pork butt if using to bite sized pieces.  Serve over rice.


1.  You can use left over lechon or roasted pig.
2.  You can use left over lechon sauce or store bought Mang Tomas Sauce from the Asian store.
3.  You can saute first the raw pork with the garlic and onions in oil if you have time and motivation.  


Well Tended Soul

Verdant with hope and
trust in the human spirit. 
Sees good not the bad.

Note: This is a photo of part of the garden in a resort and spa located in Pampanga, Philippines.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ever Present

"God is all.  God is
in all"*. In every face
we meet, liked or not.

Note:  *This quote was on the wall of a bar in New York and was cited in the beautiful sermon by Father Tony yesterday. The painting above was done by my friend Win.  

Foil Baked Tilapia with Jalapeno and Olives

I love the beer battered deep fried fish served at the Fish Fry in our parish but once in a while on a Lenten Friday, I just want a simple but delicious fish dish.  I could choose baked fish at the Fish Fry but they are swimming in butter. I wanted something light and healthy.

This recipe uses no butter, oil or wine at all.  The foil bake method seals the juice from the tomato that keeps the tilapia moist and tender.  It is packed with flavor using readily available ingredients like olives, jalapeno, green onions and spices like garlic and cumin. If you are not into spicy food, you can decrease the amount of the jalapeno in the recipe or just delete it completely or serve it on the side. You can also adjust the salt after the dish is baked.

You can serve this with baked potato, rice or pasta or just a plain piece of baguette to soak the broth. You will love this rustic and delicious dish not just on Lenten Fridays but any day you want something easy to prepare that is light and refreshingly good to eat.

Foil Baked Tilapia with Jalapeno and Olives

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 16 whole olives
  • 1 large whole tomato, chopped and divided
  • 8 jalapeno slices from a jar
  • 2 stalks green onions, sliced into 1 inch pieces and divided
  • 1 tbsp dry minced garlic, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut two aluminum pieces measuring around 12 inches long.

Place two fillets in the middle of one piece of aluminum foil.

Combine the cumin, salt and pepper.

Rub the two fillets with half of the cumin, salt and black pepper mixture.

Stack the two fillets on top of each other and place 8 olives, 4 jalapeno slices, half of the tomato pieces, half of the green onions and half of the garlic on top of the two fillets.

Overlap and fold the ends of the aluminum piece and then seal the two sides.

Repeat the same procedure with the other two fillets.

You will end up with two aluminum packets.

Place the two packets in a pan and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Five Ingredient Vegan Lemon Linguine

Quick and easy.  Five ingredient recipe. I should add it is a healthy one as long as you eat it in moderation. No oil, butter or dairy was used.  The lemon gives it that zing while the nutritional yeast and dry minced garlic satisfy your palate.  You do not need the Parmesan cheese or butter as most non vegan versions include.

Five Ingredient Vegan Lemon Linguine

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp dry minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup vegetable broth 
  • dry parsley flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the linguine according to package directions.  Save 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta water in a saute pan and add the cooked linguine.  Heat to medium heat and add the rest of the ingredients with stirring until the mixture is heated through. Add the broth to adjust the consistency of the dish. You can add dry parsley flakes on top if you like before serving.    

I was sad

Then realize, she
is not alone. God is with
her to bear the pain.

Note: Painting by my friend Win.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Slow Cooker Meatball and Sausage Macaroni Casserole

This is an excellent crowd pleasing dish to bring to potlucks and family gatherings. I just came back from a fellowship luncheon at our church and I brought this dish to share. It was a hit with several people asking for the recipe.  They were surprised how easy and convenient it was to prepare.  You just dump the ingredients except the macaroni and Parmesan cheese in the slow cooker and forget it.  In my case I was able to go to morning mass and my dental appointment while the meat and sauce mixture were slow cooking in my crock pot.  I cooked the macaroni in the microwave before I left for church and my dental appointment and reheated it in the microwave before I poured the meatball and sausage sauce that was kept on the keep warm mode in my slow cooker. This is a two thumbs up dish.  They requested me to bring this dish again for the next luncheon.

Slow Cooker Meatball and Sausage Macaroni Casserole

  • 1 12-oz bag frozen cooked meatballs (24 meatballs), I used Rosina brand Italian style meatballs
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (3 links), cut into pieces and skin removed
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large green pepper, sliced
  • 1-24 oz jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
  • 1-16 oz package elbow macaroni, cooked according to the package
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Combine all the ingredients except the macaroni and Parmesan cheese in the slow cooker bowl.  Cook for 4 hours at high or 8 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

Place the cooked elbow macaroni in a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish and pour the cooked meatball and sausage sauce on top.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.  

From Longaniza to Hot Dog. Part I. Brooklyn and Sao Paolo

A movie can evoke memories and warm feelings related to them.  That was what happened last year when I watched the exquisitely directed film, Brooklyn, one of the movies nominated for best picture during the 2016 Oscar award ceremony.  It was based on a book by the same title about a young girl from Ireland who came to the United States to work.  It brought back memories of my own journey from the Philippines to this land of opportunities where I fulfilled several of my dreams.  While viewing the movie, the same feelings of excitement, fear and joy that the young girl in the film experienced came back. I particularly felt these emotions when she entered the US for the first time. The actress' face at that scene made me recall how it was for me.

I felt young again and experienced this nostalgic warmth in my heart that lasted for many weeks after viewing this movie. As I now recall the events leading to my immigration here in the United States for my memoir writing group assignment, I am amazed about how much I could recall of the details of the events leading to my coming here.

I was born in the Philippines where in my twenties I found a job in a research center analyzing the pesticide, DDT, in human fat. I was lucky after working for two years in this place, a course in pesticide residue analysis using radioisotope techniques was offered which would be held in Sao Paolo, Brazil.  My boss thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to know more about this topic related to my work through this six week training course and before I knew it I was preparing for my trip half way around the world.

I remember a wonderful girl who was living together with my best friend and other housemates at an apartment a few minutes away from the research center I worked at. I hanged out there after work and even would stay overnight. This girl became my unofficial trip adivser. She thought it would be good to utilize the opportunity to travel after the course was done. She included a visit to her family in Venezuela where her father was working for Proctor and Gamble. Since the fare back amounted to the distance of half way around the world, we planned trips to the United States before Sao Paolo and the US again and Europe after. Being a seasoned traveler, my tour guide also suggested what to wear and my budget for my European tour.

As the norm in the Philippines, I was given a despedida or farewell party by my parents which was attended by my office mates, friends and family.  Before I left, I asked friends if they wanted me to bring gifts to their loved ones in the United States. This is a gesture customarily done by Filipinos.

Since I was going to stop first in San Francisco en route to Sao Paolo, I asked the family I was staying with for the few days I would be there, what they wanted as pasalubong or gift.  They requested a mortar and pestle made of stone. They could not find something of the same material in the United States. They were heavy but I gladly brought them.

I also brought an engagement ring for my friend who was studying in Tallahassee, Florida for her graduate degree in nuclear chemistry. Her fiance requested me to give it to her. It turned out they were secretly married in the Philippines before she left and this ring was the belated engagement ring.

The other item that I had in my luggage was a gift from another office mate to give to her then boyfriend who was also attending a course in the United States.  I was not sure whether I actually saw it before I brought it. I think I did but did not think too much about it.

I do not remember much about the goodbyes at the airport when I left probably because I was excited and frightened at the same time. It was my first trip abroad after all and by myself. It was not my first plane ride though but this was a marathon flight lasting more than twenty hours.  What I remember was how we ate several meals on the plane every time we passed a certain time zone. Though my tummy was still in another time zone, we ate breakfast including eggs and longaniza, a Filipino sausage. Since I flew PAL, the Filipino flag carrier, mostly Filipino food was served during the flight.

My port of entry to the US was Hawaii and I unluckily got a strict custom inspector who gave me a hard time about the ring which was in a box.  I said it was a gift to a friend from her fiance but he still charged me a sixty dollar custom fee for it anyway. As for the other gift, this custom inspector had a sarcastic chuckle when he opened the box. It had a wooden carving of a guy wearing a barrel which when lifted showed his precious elongated possession. He said to another inspector, "Look at the idea of Filipino humor". All along I was terrorized by this custom inspector and still could picture his chubby features and pot belly stomach and I could still hear his grating laugh and the sarcasm in his voice.

I had a stopover at  San Francisco before Brazil where I stayed with our family friend from our hometown for a couple of days. My host picked me up from the airport and I had dinner with his family who was staying with him including his daughter, my classmate from high school and his son who was my late brother's best friend. I then presented the mortar and pestle they requested. We went sight seeing the next day including Ghirardelli square and had our picture taken on a famous photo spot on top of a hill. I was drowsy the whole time during the tour because of the twelve hour time difference but I was grateful for their generous hospitality.

I also visited a relative of theirs, another high school classmate, in Los Angeles. She had married a Chinese guy and they just had a baby.  The husband helped me buy my Canon camera and taught me how to use it. They gave me a tour of Los Angeles including the Graumans Chinese Theatre. After two days of the wonderful visit, I bid good bye to this wonderful hospitable couple at the airport on my way to Sao Paolo where a new chapter in my life was going to start.

I would say this trip to memory land is turning to be as good as watching the movie, Brooklyn,  for me. It is also turning to be a catalyst for me to recall this particular time in my life when the world so to speak was my oyster. I am actually enjoying the ride and hope to share more stories about it.

Note: This is Part I of a series of blogs of my immigration to the US. The title reflects my foodie obsession. Longaniza is a Filipino version of the iconic American food, hot dog. It is sweet and a tad spicy. It is eaten usually at breakfast with rice and not so much on a bun. The title reflects the fact that just like in most things in life there are similarities and within them differences just like the culture I was born with and the one I embraced when I came here.

Opposition into Opportunity

Working with the view
opposed to yours, solutions
spring forth, a third force.

Note: Insight from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Law of Three in Action, that appeared March 19, 2017, in Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thank you

Two words that uplift.
Awareness of the person
not just what was done.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Are you relishing life to the fullest?

With its ups and downs.
Or are distractions used to
escape challenges?

Note: Insight gleaned from Fr. Joe Freedy's talk at Our Lady of Joy Parish, Plum, PA, March 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Life Changing Questions

Asked by those who knew
you then more than yourself did. 
Rest is history.

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Gumbo

This is a wonderful soup to have during lent.  Just use vegetable bouillon cubes or vegetable broth or none at all instead of the chicken bouillon cubes.  You can use shrimp that are fresh or frozen, cooked or uncooked or peeled or unpeeled.  What ever you prefer.  I like to use shrimp that are unpeeled and add them that way in order to get the added flavor from the shell.  I just leave to the one eating to peel the shrimp which my husband hates to do.  Or you can do what I suggested in the Note below.

This is an interesting recipe I obtained from a book, Easy Home Cooking Slow Cooker Recipes, I bought for a couple of dollars from the sale of unsold used books from a local library during one of our International Women's Club meeting.  It uses orange juice and fennel seeds.  These two ingredients added delightful notes to the dish which I would not have thought to add if not for the suggestion in the recipe in the book. The book was published in the nineties when spices like cayenne pepper were not in vogue but the palate nowadays have changed including mine. I was hankering some heat from the gumbo so I added cayenne pepper to the dish and that made it complete to me.  I also added carrots and celery to the list of ingredients for added bulk, flavor and nutritional value.

This is an easy soup to prepare packed with flavor and excellent for meatless Fridays in lent or anytime of the year.

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Gumbo

Adapted from the book Easy Home Cooking Slow Cooker Recipes

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red or green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks. sliced
  • 4 shitake mushrooms or 1 jar (2 1/2 oz) sliced mushrooms
  • 4 tbsp olives with pimento centers, whole or sliced
  • 1- 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1- 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes or vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup beer or white wine (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb shrimp. peeled or unpeeled which I prefer (Note 1)

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker except the shrimp.  Cook at low for 4 1/2 hours or at high for 2 hours.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for two hours at slow cooker setting. Stir in the shrimp at the last 15 minutes of cooking or you can microwave the fresh or frozen shrimp in 1/4 cup water for 3-5 minutes till cooked and stir in the cooked shrimp with the broth to the soup at the end of cooking. See note.  


I prefer to use unpeeled shrimp so the juice of the shell can add flavor to the broth.  Or if you prefer peeled shrimp, peel the shrimp and cook the shells with the shrimp.  Discard the shells, and just add the flesh of the shrimp and its broth to the soup.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

One Pot Spanish Rice with Chicken and Sausage

One pot meals are becoming more popular ever since busy people are opting to cook their meals at the end of the day instead of ordering food or dropping by stores or take out places.  One does not have to subscribe either to Hello Fresh or Blue Apron services to the rescue with mailed packaged ingredients.This dish is an easy one with pantry and freezer friendly ingredients one can cook over the stove.  Once you allow the ingredients to boil, you lower the heat to simmer with the skillet cover on and you can go do other chores in the house. The sausage gives the dish added flavor because of its smokiness.  One can choose to skip the chicken and just stick to the sausage. If you do not have any smoked sausage you can use hot dogs in its place.

One Pot Spanish Rice with Chicken and Sausage

  • 8 skinless boned in chicken thighs
  • 1 /2 lb smoked sausage, cut into coins 
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 red or green pepper, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-28 oz can whole tomatoes, (mashed with your hands or potato masher)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube in 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 tbsp olives with pimento centers
Place all the ingredients except the frozen green peas and olives in a large skillet with cover and allow the mixture to boil. Once it boils, put the stove on low and allow the mixture to simmer covered.  Cook till the rice and chicken are done.  During the last five minutes of cooking add the frozen green peas and olives.  

St. Patrick's Day with Grandpa

All green and happy.
Tales of leprechauns, clover
leaves, green eggs and ham.

The Big Yes

And so it was. She,
despite not understanding,
let God's will be done.

Note: Garden at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, Baden, PA.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why Do I Worry

When things around me
speak of One who takes care of 
me and what I need.

Note: Painting by K. Stromple.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Control

Power I found when
I gave it up to Him who
holds me in His hands.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Vegan Broccoli Pepper Tofu Steak

I want a simple way to stir fry using tofu of any kind and texture.  One cannot always get hold of the really firm tofu that are hardy enough to withstand this method of cooking without disintegrating. I have been using tofu that does not need refrigeration from the Asian Store for convenience.  Even though they are labeled firm they are still very delicate to stir fry.  I devised a method where the shape of the tofu is maintained. I cooked the vegetables first till they were still crisp and added to them the tofu that I marinated separately.  The resulting dish was delicious and the tofu retained its shape and still was flavored with the marinade.

Vegan Broccoli Pepper Tofu Steak

  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-12 oz tofu, cut into one inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth and more if needed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets including peeled stems
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 while onion, sliced
Combine the first five ingredients in a small container with tight fitting lid. Mix well. Add the cubed tofu to the marinade and close the lid and turn upside down carefully for the marinade to coat the tofu. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat a skillet and place the broth. ginger, garlic, broccoli, green peppers and onions and allow the boiling broth to cook the vegetables. When they are cooked but still have some crispiness to them, make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the marinade and the tofu.  Heat the mixture through at lower heat while stirring gently so the marinade can coat the vegetables and tofu and the sauce thickens.
Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like.

I was broken

Only to be made
whole by Him who decided
to be broken too.

Note: Insight from Dr. Patrick Doering's talk during St. Bernadette Parish's Parish Mission, March 2017.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak with Water Chestnuts

The green pepper was on sale at Shop and Save two weeks ago so I had several in my fridge waiting to be used. The same grocery chain also had a sale of round steak a week ago.  This must be the reason, I woke up just craving pepper steak the way a former boyfriend, a native of Hongkong, from my grad school days at the George Washington University used to make. Researching the web, I came upon several recipes and I based this one on the wonderful slow cooker blog site, The Magical Slow Cooker.  I added several items to the original recipe like red pepper flakes for some heat and water chestnuts for crunch and also increased the amounts of ginger and garlic powder. Easy and convenient dish for any busy day of the week.  My picky taster, my husband, gave it two thumbs up.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak with Water Chestnuts

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1/4 cup water
  • 2 beef bouillon in 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 lbs round steak or other kinds of beef, cut in strips
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 while onion, sliced
  • 1- 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Place the first eight ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir the sauce mixture.  Add the meat and vegetables in the sauce mixture and mix.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low setting.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours.  

Serve over rice.

Restless Hearts

Be filled with the Lord
first before giving. Then to
give will find you rest.

Note: Insight from Dr. Patrick Doering's talk during St. Bernadette Parish's Parish Mission, March 2017.

Monday, March 13, 2017


How we show our love
depends on where we draw it
from. What is your source?

Note:  Flower sculpture created by my friend Emma's relative.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Salt of the earth

One can see Jesus
when she speaks, acts and just be.
Comforting, peaceful.

Note: Wooden bowl created by Sr. Sue Clay, CSJ for my late friend Lena.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Vegan Fluffy Pancakes

One can be vegan and still eat fluffy pancakes. These are so fluffy even my carnivore of a husband gave them two thumbs up. I do not think he realized it was vegan.

He is picky with the pancakes I serve him and insists that they have the right texture. I used the recipe for the blueberry pancakes I prepared in a past blog for the batter since it produces the best blueberry pancakes ever and my picky husband can vouch for that. To make it vegan I substituted chia seeds I put in water for the eggs  For the buttermilk, I used almond milk to which I added vinegar. Any other non dairy milk will also work. I also used oil instead of butter. Despite all these substitutions, the texture of the vegan pancakes was as fluffy as those made from the original recipe. I added vanilla extract in this vegan version. You can add any fruit you have in the batter and chocolate chips to make your family happy but syrup and slices of banana on top would be enough. Heavenly!

Vegan Fluffy Pancakes

Adapted from this past blog
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds in 6 tbsp water
  • 2 cups almond milk or any other nondairy milk mixed with 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cubed peeled apple or other fruit (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chip (optional)
In a large bowl blend well or sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add to this well the chia water mixture, milk with vinegar, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk together without over beating.

Fold the fruit and chocolate chips if using.

Heat oil in a griddle and add 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake. Cook for two to three minutes on each side. Add more oil to the pan per batch.

Top with bananas and maple syrup.

Immigrant Am I

In this land where dreams,
are nurtured, fulfilled, fearless,
filled with hope, grateful.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Vegan Black Bean Poblano Pepper Burger

  • I adapted this recipe from the one in Serious Eats which I converted to a vegan version by skipping the feta cheese and egg.  I used tofu and nutritional yeast to substitute for the feta cheese or you can use the recipe for Vegan Feta Cheese in this blog.  I used chia seeds in water for the egg. Since I did not have chipotle pepper in a can and its sauce, I added cumin, chili and coriander powders to give the burger its kick.  This recipe is one half the amount of the original recipe in Serious Eats.  
I decided to use my Vita Mix Blender to mix the ingredients except for the panko bread crumbs. It worked well for me.  I love the crunch of the walnuts when I bite into the burger patties. In other words I just pulsed the blender till the mixture was well mixed but you can choose to have a smooth mixture.

You can eat this like a regular burger in between buns or in my case with rice with a side of salad shown below because I just have to have my rice fix sometime during the day.  An Asian addiction.  


  • Vegan Black Bean Poblano Pepper Burger

  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1/2 to 1 poblano pepper, quartered
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 6 tbsp walnuts
  • 1/2 cup tofu. 
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds in 3 tbsp water
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place all the ingredients except the panko bread crumbs in the blender or food processor in the sequence given and pulse till blended.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add the panko bread crumbs to the mixture and blend well. 

Form into six patties.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes which will give burgers with moist center and crispy outer layer.  If you bake for 30 minutes you will get a drier and crispier patties inside and outside if you desire that texture.

You do forget the hurt

When good memories
finally replace the bad,
hearts soften, get healed.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


If you trust and wait,
your prize will be delightful,
surprising results.

Photo is a scene from the Savoyards Pittsburgh opera, Patience, by Gilbert and Sullivan being held March 2017, at Carnegie Library, Carnegie, PA.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nurturing with Hope

Growth, change is at their
time, not yours. Respect their free
will. They will get there.

Photo by Win. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Compassion is what we owe

To listen without

judgement is what we can give
to someone in grief.

Painting is by K. Stromple.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My First Jobs

Nothing can make a child feel more grown up than earning money for a chore or a job.  That was how I felt when I got a doll in exchange for babysitting my youngest sister when she was a baby.  I swung the duyan or a cradle made of bamboo strips that hanged from the two corners of the room during one summer we spent at my maternal grandmother's house. We always stayed the whole summer at my Lola Sefa's house when I was a child. It was a good break for my mother who spent the rest of the year at her mother in law's, my Nanang Pina's, house.

I felt proud that I was earning something and also having a goal.  Although I did not get what I was aiming for, a doll who could close her eyes, but a less dynamic one, I still have good memories of the whole experience of swinging the duyan, the motion of which would stop my sister from crying while at the same time earning what I wanted.

I did earn real money when I was young but I should not use the word earn because I did not deserve it.  I panhandled the twenty five centavo coins from employees coming out of the payroll office of the factory my grandmother owned on the payroll day. They just gave me the quarters to shut me up.  This practice did not last long since one of the employees told my nanny, Mami, who told me to stop doing that panhandling.  I still could see her angry eyes and her mouth saying, "Shame on you".  I still cringe every time I remember what I did. What was I thinking? And where did I get the idea of doing it?  The timing of when I did it seemed logical to me then but not the moral implications.  I was getting money I did not deserve from hard working people!

I did have a legitimate job later on during one summer at the second compound of the factory my grandmother owned where bagoong or anchovies where canned.  I must still be around ten years old and when we were still living at my Nanang Pina's house when I got this first real job. I and a couple of my younger brothers would be dropped off either by a family driver or my father at this compound and we would put labels by hand on the cans of bagoong.  I remember having to kneel in order to put the paste on the label and then paste the label one by one to the cans, by rolling each can on some kind of hard surface like a piece of wood.

We were not given the quarters we earned for every box we labeled the same day but we kept a count which we relayed to my uncle at the payroll office located at the first compound where we lived.  We would go to the office and he would hand out the quarters to us. We were so proud. I felt that pride in my heart and I still do now because I earned it.

All these scenes of my first jobs might have registered in my memory after all these decades because of the lessons of what work ethic means that I learned from them.  Things are earned not asked for or doled out. Honest hard work is the way to go. I also learned that the process is just as important not just the reward. It is not the money itself but the pride you get that drives you for doing the work.

Salmon Caesar

This recipe came from my friend Jean. I attended a church luncheon where she brought this dish which everybody at the luncheon loved. I requested for its recipe and would you believe the newspaper clipping of it was in her handbag. Here is the copy of the recipe below.

I did make a tuna version in a past blog post since I did not have salmon at hand. I also substituted several items for some ingredients in that adapted recipe but not in this one. I followed it to a T except for using more green pepper than called for. I also would have used more croutons than asked for next time I make it to give it more body. You can use any canned salmon also. I am pretty sure leftover cooked salmon can be used also.

It is irresistible. It will be a go to recipe especially during meatless Fridays for your family meals or potluck affairs.

In A Relationship

Emptying oneself
is the way to be filled up.
Trusting, letting go.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Avocado Tofu Feta Cheese Hoagie

There are cheeses and there are cheeses even when you are vegan as you can see here and here. The former post is my favorite, vegan Parmesan, and the latter is the vegan version of cheese you would use for burritos and such.  This time in this post I have adapted a recipe for Vegan Tofu Feta Cheese from the Simple Vegan Blog .

The result is a tangy version with a close texture to the real thing. It does fulfill my craving in terms of something close in feel in my mouth to feta cheese. The taste is satisfactory and good but not close to the real thing but it does enhance a salad or a hoagie as in this recipe. It is loaded with flavor from the spices and herb used and is still worth having when you are hankering for feta cheese. It is easy to make and gets better with time.

Avocado Tofu Feta Cheese Hoagie

2 servings
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 -4 pieces lettuce green
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 recipe Vegan Tofu Feta Cheese (recipe below)
  • 2- 6 inch baguette
Spread the mayo on the baguette. Top with the rest of the ingredients.

Vegan Tofu Feta Cheese

Adapted from Simple Vegan Blog .
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dry oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry garlic flakes
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1-12 oz package firm tofu, drained and cubed

    Mix all the marinade ingredients in a container.  Add the cubed tofu.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.  

    As I get older


    I realize I'm
    thinking like my mother, do
    things the way she did.

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

    Coconut Mango Paletas

    Drive away winter blues with a popsicle or paleta. This is awesome. Be happy. Make it. Bring summer in now.  

    Coconut Mango Paletas

    • 1 cup canned coconut milk, full fat
    • 1 cup mango pulp from the Asian store
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp maple syrup
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 4 tbsp sweetened coconut flakes
    Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze for six hours.