Monday, September 21, 2009

Super Simple Baked Macaroni Recipe

For my GT sisters...=)

BAKED MAC (serves 3-4)

1. Cook 200g (smallest package) of elbow macaroni (i use Del Monte Pasta Italiana) according to instructions on the package - don't forget to add a little salt and oil to the water; drain then set aside.

2. Saute chopped garlic, onions (the amount depends on your preference) for about 2 minutes or until soft. Add 1 can Century Tuna Light, then saute for an additional 2-3 minutes. If you want a chunkier pasta dish, don't break the tuna chunks/flakes into small piecces

3. Add 2 packs of Clara Ole 3-Cheese Pasta Sauce. Stir until well-combined.

4. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings according to your preference. I added some sugar, half a chicken cube, and a pinch of ground black pepper to bring the flavors together.
**Another version would be to add cheese spread (Chiz Whiz, Magnolia cheese spread, etc.) directly to the sauce, to thicken it and add more flavor. My sister does this and her baked mac is a hit with both kids and grown ups!

5. When you think you have achieved the taste you want, combine the sauce with the cooked macaroni. Mix well.

6. Transfer the mixture to an oven-proof dish (glass, pyrex, aluminum). Top generously with grated quick-melt cheese (make sure to pre-heat the oven before placing the pasta inside). Pop it into the oven for about 5-10minutes, or just until you see the browned and bubbling cheese topping.

7. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a while - this would be around 5-10 minutes so the cheese has enough time to cool (very hot cheese can burn your tongue/mouth! you won't be able to taste anything for days...). Serve with garlic bread on the side.

You can always adjust the ingredients according to your taste; I believe the secret to good cooking is knowing what tastes awesome to you (and to those you cook for), rather than following recipes to the letter. Don't be afraid to have fun while cooking!:)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Chicken Burger Steak with Gravy...with a Scary Movie on the Side

I didn't have any idea what I was going to cook for lunch today; after getting up late (yes, again!), I saw the chicken burger patties in the freezer. The patties looked so lonely, I just had to cook them so they can be with their perfect partner - thick gravy with lots of garlic and onions. Yum!!!

The burger and gravy should be enough; however, I wanted to incorporate some veggies into the dish as well so I mixed Baguio beans, giving the whole dish a welcome crunch. The beans also helped minimize the guilt of not being able to prepare vegetable dishes more often (I'm trying my best to do more of those, promise!).

As I was preparing the chicken burger steak, I chanced upon the local horror movie "Ouija" on TV. My husband clearly didn't want to watch it, as he's not fond of watching scary movies. But I reasoned that we can watch it without getting too scared, since it was such a sunny day anyway. My powers of persuasion won, and we finished the movie without scaring each other too much:p

In making the gravy, I used the same pan where I fried the chicken burger patties in. I used about 1 tablespoon of butter, then sauteed lots of chopped garlic and onions, scraping the sides of the pan for the bits left from the patties (the burger bits added to the nicce color and texture of the gravy). I then added chicken broth, then flour dissolved in water (to thicken the gravy). After a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, I added the beans, and let the whole thing simmer for a while. The gravy was poured on top of the patties (nicely plated a few minutes earlier).

After serving this, we forgot all about the scary movie for a few minutes.

A lazy Sunday at home, spent with the man I love, enjoying the perfect easy-to-prepare-but-still-sumptuous dish for lunch...I couln't ask for more =)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Breakfast Fare for Dinner

I suddenly had a craving for tocino(Wikipedia definition: a cured meat product native to the Philippines. It is usually made out of pork and is similar to ham and bacon although beef is also used. It is often reddish in color and has a sweetish taste. Its name is derived from the Spanish word tocino, which is used to describe bacon or cured meat.) earlier today. I decided to prepare one of my favorite breakfast items for dinner - this might be a weird idea to some, but a novel and much-appreciated one by my husband (and by me, of course!)

We still had leftover rice from lunch, so I went all-out and made fried rice too! I made sure there were lots of crunchy garlic bits on top to give the rice an interesting kick and texture (yummm). And what the heck - I threw in a sunny-side up egg with the package as well!

This is what a plate of my tosilog looked like, before two hungry people attacked:

After a few minutes of eating, with only the empty plates in front of us, my husband and I had one thing to say to each other...

"Good morning!" =)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sobrang Cheesy Talaga! - My Baked Mac =)

I didn't have the energy (read: tinatamad ako!) to cook something complicated for dinner earlier tonight, but I also didn't want to resort to canned or processed food. With my husband's love for pasta in mind, I decided to prepare the no-brainer but still sinful baked macaroni. To make it healthier, I mixed light canned tuna with the 3-cheese tomato sauce, lots of garlic and onions. (Yeah right, healthy nga, dami naman kakainin!:p)
After topping the macaroni and tomato sauce mixture with LOTS of quick-melt cheese, I popped the pan into the oven for a couple of minutes, and this was the gooey, mouth-watering result:
I loved the toasted cheese part - it lent a nice crunch to the dish (and also kept the dish from being too gooey, though that's not such a bad thing!). I prepared a couple of slices of garlic bread too - the perfect partner to this simple to prepare dish that's a meal in itself.
Needless to say, my husband and I almost finished the whole thing :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Very Pleasant Surprise from the Manila City Hall:)

All day long yesterday, I was dreading our much-needed trip today to the Manila City Hall; we really needed certified true copies (CTCs) of our marriage contract, so I can start the process of changing my name (and status) on legal documents. I was preparing myself to battle the bureacracy and inefficiency often associated with dealing with government employees (beep-beep! "bato-bato sa langit...!"). I was even prepared to do a little begging and sweet-talking if that would make the local government employees wake up from their (notoriously) catatonic state, and hopefully give us the attention we need.

But darn, I was very impressed with how efficient the Manila City Hall employees were! Upon entering the cavernous building, we were greeted by courteous employees, who politely asked us if we needed assistance. There were no people loitering in the corridors, no bored-looking employees who give you an i-can't-help-you-that-is-not-my-job line in a monotone. When we got to the cashier to pay for our requests, I expected to see ladies gossiping amongst themselves, not caring if the line in front of them reached all the way to Makati. Another shocker - the cashiers were very efficient, working very quickly even if there were just a few people in line. From filling out the request form to receiving the schedule for picking up our CTCs - the whole thing lasted 15 MINUTES (and that included waiting for 5 minutes for the offices/departments to open after their lunch break, since we got to the City Hall at around 12:55)! I was thinking, was I still in the Philippines?!:p

And best of all - every little window, every office door and every department was open to serve the eager public by 1:00PM SHARP - how's that for giving "Filipino time" a new (and very much appreciated!) meaning?! :)

This post has a lot of exclamation points to show how impressed and happily surprised I am with the MCH's efficiency. I am deeply sorry - ashamed of myself, even - for thinking the worst about their employees' services even before I set foot in their building.

Maybe there is still hope for this country, after all. I believe we really can do it, one small step at a time...

Kudos to the awesome employees of the Manila City Hall! You guys rock! =)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pork Sinigang for A Lazy Sunday Lunch

I woke up really late today - just before 11AM; not surprising since I nodded off at around 3AM (can't put down The Romanov Prophecy!). As soon as I got up, the first thing I did was start preparing the food for lunch. Since it was already late, I wanted to cook something that wouldn't take too much time and effort to prepare, but I also wanted comfort food. After checking what we had in our freezer and vegetable crisper, I decided on pork sinigang.

Pork sinigang brings to mind images of being in the comfort of one's home, warm and safe, while the rain steadily pours outside. This simple yet very comforting dish makes me want to go back to my childhood, when my sister and I would stay home because of the strong rains (no classes! yey!); we can get up later than usual, without the rush associated with a normal school day. Our mom would usually cook something swimming in hot broth - just what we're all craving for when the days and nights turn cold. I smile at the memory, thinking of how simple life was then - the extent of my dilemmas might well be how I was going to style my hair the next day, or how I can get away with sleeping later than usual that night.

As we grow old(er), life throws bigger and more complicated challenges our way. How we deal with those challenges mould us into who and what we are at present, and who we can be in the future. But I believe there are times that we should go back to the basics, and look at the grownup challenges the way a child does - who knows, a kid's simplistic approach to problem-solving might just result to surprisingly effective results!

Or we can just turn to a steaming bowl of pork sinigang to make things simpler, and a whole lot better...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cabin Fever

It's been a while since I last wrote something on this blog - as I was signing in to my account, a part of me wanted to say "sorry for neglecting you!", as if talking to an old friend. And I do consider this little space on the Web my friend, one who's always there to (virtually) listen to my ramblings. There's no better time to start writing here again, than now...when I'm experiencing a mild case of cabin fever.

Wikipedia defines cabin fever as "an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, in a small space, with nothing to do, for an extended period (as in a simple country vacation cottage during a long rain or snow)". Now, I'm not cooped up in a simple country vacation cottage (sounds quaint, right?), but it has been raining almost non-stop for the better part of a week now. I sometimes have the urge to go out of the house, but I really don't have a specific place to go to - and there's really no reason for me to go out. And besides, the bed weather makes me want to just laze around and not move too much. Yet, I still have this restlessness inside me, something that tells me I should be doing something outside the house (exercise, most likely!).

I'm a little surprised I feel this way. About a week ago, my husband and I stayed at my sister's place for a couple of days; after that, I stayed overnight in the hospital with my Mom for her chemo session (hope it'll be the last, God willing). I felt really glad when we finally got home, but after a few days i was itching to go out again. I think it's time to meet up with some of my friends again; this restlessness may be cured by a session of girl-bonding (which I dearly miss, since I started working from home).

Then again, it may just be the cold, dreary weather that's causing me to feel a certain degree of isolation.

Time to put on my pajamas, the book I've been meaning to finish and my bed are calling me...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Defining Moment

My husband and I just came home from my sister's house, which is about 2 hours away. We stayed there for 5 days; we actually planned to stay for just 3-4 days, but since we had a flexible sched anyway, we decided to extend our "visit". It was like coming home to a second (third?) home, as I have lived with my sister and her family for more than a year before hubby and I got married. Every part of the house itself is familiar, though there have been a lot of changes since i was last there.

We now have a new angel in the family - my sister's 3-month old baby! My husband and I can't get enough of this precious one; we spend a lot of time looking at her, just admiring the way she sleeps. When our antics elicit a smile, I almost want to jump in triumph. Yeah, I know, mababaw...but that's how much joy this little miracle brings to me and to our whole family. And - she seems to love looking at my husband - her eyes follow him around the room often. She even loves to lie down on his arms, and eventually fall asleep.

My older niece is now a young lady, who knows what she wants and is starting to get very vocal about her thoughts. There are times when she gets in trouble for this trait; I can only pray that she gets past this stage and still gets to grow up to become a strong-willed, yet kind-hearted lady. She has been my constant companion during the time when I stayed with their family, and I hope that our bond will not fade as the years pass.

I miss talking to my sister. This is an activity that I took for granted when I was living with them; I just had to go to their room/study/kitchen/dining area, and I would get to chat with her about anything and everything. I suddenly remember the time when she had to go away for the first time to start her job. That was about a decade ago, but I the memory is still fresh of how my heart broke with the thought that I would not share the same bed, the same room with her anymore. At this moment, I'm feeling sort of the same thing, triggered by an SMS from her. She said that she felt a little sad when I tidied up and got all my stuff from their place; instead of feeling this way during my wedding, she said that this moment was the "defining moment" for her - that her little sister now had a family of her own. She then said that it made her a little sad, yet she was very happy for me. Sentimental crybaby that I am, this message was enough to start a crying fit.:p

I made a vow to myself to visit my sister and her family as often as possible. In reality, I know that might not be as frequent as we all want it to be; I know I have to slowly accept that things have changed, and there are still adjustments to be made. I believe my sister knows that whatever happens, I will always be her little sister - the one who ran to her when something is wrong, the one who turns to her whenever it feels like the world is turning against her. And all throughout these crying fits, her little sister has and will always be at peace with the knowledge that her Ate will not judge her, whatever the issue is about.

Hey, maybe this is my defining moment too...

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Miss My Niece...

I realized this after reading my sister's blog. I stayed with their family for more than one year, and got to bond with my precocious niece during that time.

When her parents were in the office, I was with our 5-year old bundle of energy, trying to answer her numerous questions to the best of my ability. Admittedly, when there are times that her questions were about delicate matters, I revert to my safest answer, "Ask your Mama/Papa later".

When her nanny was busy doing household chores, she would go to wherever I was, and say, "Tita, can you stay with me for a while?" It breaks my heart now when I remember the times I answered, "Later" to her requests, because I was busy working from home.

When she got sick, I made sure that I gave her extra attention - asking her what she would like to eat, feeding her in the room while she was on bed, bringing her whatever she wanted to drink, checking her temperature from time to time, updating my sister and brother-in-law about how their little girl was.

I won't forget how excited she was when I told her last year that I would get married in a few months, and that she would be a flower girl. She started planning what she would do for the reception (she wanted to sing, and lead the prayer). She even asked if she can wear a pink dress instead of a lilac one, because she liked pink better than my color motif.

However, as the wedding day got closer, she started saying that she wasn't that excited about our wedding anymore. When I asked her why, she answered, "Because when you're already married, you won't be able to visit me anymore. And you won't stay here with us anymore." :( I tried to cheer her up by saying that of course I'll still visit her whenever I can. But I guess we both knew, deep in our hearts, that things would be changing big time soon.

I'm now married. I've moved in with my husband, and haven't been to my sister's house in a few months. The last time I saw my niece was on my wedding day, and I haven't been able to give her the attention I wanted because I was too busy with the preparations.

I miss my niece. I miss how she knows how to be quiet and not wake me up early in the morning because I work until the wee hours of the morning. I miss the way she tells me (after a little persuasion) how her day went at school. I miss how she talks about her friends, and what they played with. I miss how she loves the way I feed her (even if she can do this by herself, I know this is her way of making "lambing"), talking almost non-stop in the hopes of distracting her from eating oh-so-slowly. I miss the way she tries to delay her nap time with requests for snacks (Tita, I'm hungry!). I miss the way she bargains for more than one book to be read to her before she sleeps. I miss the way she says that she isn't sleepy so she doesn't need a nap; afterwards, we'd have a hard time waking her up after a three or four hour-nap! I miss seeing the happiness in her eyes when she hears the doorbell in the evening, knowing that her Mama and Papa are home at last. I miss the way she always wants to take a walk with me and her nanny after dinner, just because she wants to go out of the house. I miss the way she asks for chips before going to bed, because she knows I am fond of eating them as well. I miss the way she asks if she can sleep with me in the study (where I sleep), because "I miss you". I miss the way she cuddles close to me in bed (even if she sometimes kicks me when she's dreaming :p ).

I told her, during one of those times when she repeats that she's going to miss me when I'm not living with them anymore, that "Whatever happens, even if I already have my own baby, you are the first BABY that I loved and cared for, and that will never change". She just responded with a smile full of trust, at peace with the fact that what I told her is true.

I miss my niece...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back to Basics

I cooked lunch today, excited to make a dent on the food items we bought yesterday.:p I asked hubby what he wants to do with the chicken - would he like it with a soupy broth, or with a savory sauce? He opted for the sauce.
I started rifling through the cookbooks in the house, trying to decide which recipe to try. I ended up with three cookbooks open (plus a number of food websites open as well), when I suddenly realized that I should just go back to the basics. Why not go with something I'm comfortable cooking? Something that my own Mom cooks, and is sort of a comfort dish to me? That decision made, this is what I made (too bad I didn't take pictures):

Chicken with Oyster Sauce
5 chicken pieces (combination of drumsticks and thighs)
canola oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
10 pieces young corn
5 pechay leaves
1 medium carrot, sliced
oyster sauce (about 2 tablespoons)
your choice of seasoning (I used Maggi magic sarap)
1 cup water
*Saute onion and garlic in a little canola oil until the onion becomes transparent (make sure not to burn the garlic to avoid a bitter taste in the dish)
*Add the chicken pieces and brown them for a few seconds
*Add water and oyster sauce
*Cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked
*Add the carrots and young corn, let simmer for a few minutes
*Add the pechay stalks and leaves
*Sprinkle your choice of seasoning
Hubby loved this! And I felt like I was home again, with my parents and my sister - just like when we were all a few years younger.


Serendipity is defined by Wikipedia as "the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely." I believe all of us lead serendipitous lives, we just have different ways of looking at how fortunate we actually are. I am not claiming to be a virtuous person who always sees the good side of things - but I'm trying my best to do so.
(Okay, enough explaining...I actually just LOVE the word "serendipity"!)
I've always loved the movie Serendipity (starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale). I guess I've always been a hopeless romantic-believing in soulmates, and that one person is destined to be with you no matter what challenges life brings you. I believe I met my husband through serendipitous circumstances, just when I was not looking for a relationship. But God had other plans, so here we are - newly-married, happy and embracing the adjustment period.
I hope to maintain this blog more faithfully than the ones I had in the past. This blog will be a bubbling pot of my thoughts, ideas, and everything I can suddenly think of and want to write about.
Hopefully I'll be able to express my thoughts in a coherent way :p