Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cheers! A toast to...

If you've noticed I have always used C's hands as a model in most of my blog pics.  His long, tapered fingers look really good on photos;  add to that the fact that I enjoy the creative side of taking photographs.


enjoying the delectable xiao long bao at the Shang Palace's dimsum buffet

 perusing the menu in this restaurant

In a wine and cheese event, C raised his glass to mine for a toast, I obliged of course....


Yikes! Just like faces, some hands photograph better than others.  Sadly, I belong to the others.

Meanwhile, put on your party hats and raise a toast for good times! Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.                                                                                                     -Burton Hillis
The best Christmas gift, you can give to your family, friends and yourself is the joy of being together.  That is why there are a lot of reunions and parties during the holiday season to remind ourselves that these people are a part of our hearts. 
 Wishing you and your loved ones all the wonder and magic of Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Still another post on simplifying the holidays by making something home-made.  

This time I am sharing a recipe for roast chicken.  This is an excellent addition to your family's buffet spread for the noche buena feast. 

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic - recipe courtesy of Yummy Magazine
what you need:
1 1/2 kilos chicken
For the marinade:
5 cloves garlic, made into a paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon anisette wine
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper
For the stuffing:
1/4 cup butter
40 cloves garlic, sautéed
2 bay leaves
few sprigs Italian parsley
salt and pepper
For the Truffle Mashed Potatoes:
1 kilo potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons
white truffle oil
1 tablespoon truffle paste
salt and pepper

Preheat turbo broiler to 200ºC or 400ºF.

2 Prepare the chicken: Take out the musk gland and the wing tip because these are the first parts to burn during roasting. Chop off the neck.

3  Make the stuffing: Melt butter. Sauté garlic cloves until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the marinade: In a bowl, mix garlic paste, olive oil, anisette wine, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Rub chicken with the marinade, including the area between the skin and the meat.

5   Stuff the chicken cavity with bay leaves, Italian parsley, and all the sautéed garlic.

6  Place chicken on a clean surface, breast side up. Using a long piece of kitchen twine, secure the butt of the chicken, with the center of the string under it.

7  Tie the string around the tips of both drumsticks, then take the string under each drumstick again and secure tightly so that the feet are resting beside each other.

Wrap string around the sides of the chicken, securing both wings. Make a double knot in the neck area and trim excess string.

9  Brush the skin with olive oil to refresh chicken after fabrication and stuffing.

10  Cook in a turbo broiler for 1 hour. Cover with foil (brushed with butter to prevent from sticking to the chicken). Remove foil during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let chicken brown.

11  Remove chicken from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes on a serving platter before carving. Serve with truffle mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

12  Prepare the Truffle Mashed Potatoes: Mix all ingredients together while potatoes are still hot. Season with salt and pepper.

 click here if you want the printable copy of this recipe.

When you are done making this, it is time to gift yourself with a relaxing mani-ped.  Your hands definitely deserve the pampering!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Success: Is It Accomplishment or Happiness?

As soon as our kids are old enough, we enroll them in the best schools; sign them up for math and reading enrichment classes; register for a multitude of after school activities - sports, creative arts, music, performing arts.  All because we want to provide our children with the best of everything, to ensure their success in life. 

In spite of this, new research continuously shows that great accomplishment is typically the combined result of constant parental guidance and dedicated effort from the individual, rather than inborn talent and ability.  Hard work and discipline contributes much more to success in school and in life than IQ does.

What steps can we take to maximize our children's potential:

1.  FOCUS ON EFFORT AND NOT ABILITY.  In my family, we encourage and praise effort instead of achievement.    I praise my kids for their effort whenever they bring home academic excellence awards in school, when they beat their own time in swimming, or whenever they relentlessly shadow the soccer ball.  

In doing so, I discourage mediocrity and set a standard of excellence that will hopefully carry over as strong work ethic when they grow into adulthood

Inculcate in your children the belief that they make their own success.  I teach my kids that success is all about hard work, and that effort is more important than whatever innate ability they may possess. 

2.  discipline with consistency and patience.  I do not know with you, but patience is a hard virtue for me to practice; more so if it requires proceeding along the same line as discipline.  My impatience manifests itself through words that are spoken because of frustration rather than love.
Reacting in anger will change their actions for the moment, but responding in love will influence their hearts for a lifetime.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” - Ephesians 4:29

3. Be there for the family.   It is fortunate that my husband and I are one in the belief that constant and constructive parental mentoring is the most influential factor in raising a successful achiever.  Hence, we both decided that I be a full-time mom and dedicate my efforts into helping our kids achieve the best that God has planned for them

As far as kids and teenagers are concerned, there can be no quality time without quantity. 

4.  PRAY WITH YOUR CHILDREN and FOR YOUR CHILDREN.  What better legacy to bequeath our children than a strong and unyielding faith in God?   At bedtime, we take turns to lead the night-time prayers, even if it sometimes inadvertently lead to a half-hour affair.  INSERT BRIE PRAYER TIME. 

Commitment to a steadfast personal relationship with God will lessen the impact of whatever drawbacks that life may give them; not because the obstacles are far and few between, but because they trust that God will take them out of it.

5.   DEVELOP THEIR CHARACTER.  The true judge of whether we have raised a successful child is whether we have raised our child to be a happy, compassionate, confident, motivated and productive member of our society.

After all, success without happiness is not success at all.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Bark with Bacon and Pistachio

Still on simplifying the holidays by gifting people you appreciate with home-made gifts...
Chocolate Barks are also another well-loved holiday treat.   If you are still short of gifts for those people you would like to show your appreciation for this holidays, this is another option for you.

It  is almost fool-proof, for those with no patience for the exact science of baking.  You just have to temper the chocolates and add whatever appropriate topping you feel like.  But of course, it is a given that you should invest in using high-quality chocolates.
I have huge packs of assorted nuts on stand by in the freezer. I always store my nuts in below zero temp to prevent them from going rancid fast.  If properly stored, nuts can last about 6 months to a year.
cashew, walnuts, pistachio
Here is my version of the Chocolate Bark with Bacon and Pistachio recipe.  It is loosely inspired from the recipe from this site.
10 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (make sure it is of high quality)
8 slices bacon
1/2 cup pistachio,  shelled and roughly chopped
Begin by cooking the bacon until crispy over medium heat. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain and cool. Once cool, slice and or crumble the bacon into manageable pieces about 1/8″ big. In a double boiler or a glass mixing bowl over a sauce pan with 2 inches of boiling water melt the chocolate chips until just melted.
Pour the chocolate onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a spatula, smooth the chocolate into a rectangle that is approximately 3/8″ thick. Top the warm chocolate with the crumbled/sliced bacon and chopped pistachios, evenly dispersing. Using the palms of your hands, gently press the bacon and pistachio bits into the surface of the chocolate.

Transfer the baking sheet to the fridge to set. After one hour remove and slice into whatever sized pieces you want. Put the bark back in the fridge for another 30 minutes or so to ensure that it is completely set.

Here is how mine looked like :

Here is another variation of the recipe using dark chocolate and candied walnuts:

Just follow the recipe listed above and use dark chocolate, omit the bacon bits and substitute the pistachio for the candied walnuts.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Honeysuckle: 2011 Color of the Year

It has been decided!  Pantone, the color know-it-all, has dubbed Honeysuckle the color of the year.

This playful shade of pink, described by the Wall Street Journal as a "sherbety pink with a hint of red and orange zest,"is expected to be making numerous appearances in the clothes, accessories, and cosmetics on the runway;  at furniture and other home accessories; on industrial design; as a theme for weddings; and even on our nails. 
Liz Hurley is pretty in pink

Here is Paris Hilton showing us how NOT to do it

Mood Board for a honeysuckle themed wedding

You can also tone down the color when you pair it with silver and gray 

The Kitchen Aid stand mixer in this color is sold out at Amazon
A fresh take on the kitchen
A lovely room to wake up to

Charge in Style with the Visa® Platinum Rewards Card in Honeysuckle
James Mischka, one of the designers for the Badgley Mishcka designer line, says that the vibrant shade can fashionably be worn all year long, for casual and formal occasions.  He adds that the way to wear it is either against white or all on its own, noting it doesn't pair well with black.
image from the Badgley Mishka Spring 2011 collection
As for me, it is good thing that James Mishcka was nowhere near me as I venture out a couple of  months ago wearing my "honeysuckle" bag with a black dress. Di daw bagay di ba?  :)
Take note of the cousin rocking her sky-high pumps in the background

The bag is a Kate Spade, purchased this year by C as a gift for me.  Shempre, when I initially saw the color, I was shocked... eh kse hot pink.  To explain the strange choice of color, he says he bought it on sale.  He thought it was a good price for a bag that was made from genuine leather.  I am sure he bought it primarily because of the hugeness of the bag because he knows I put everything in my bag.  I am literally a travelling clinic and nursery with the various kid-related paraphernalia I have inside my, nail-cutter, Victorinox mini multi purpose tool, medicine, citronella anti-mosquito spray - and that is not counting my own war-slash-vanity kit... oh well you get the drift...  

Who would ever have thought that my manang bag would fortuitously be "IN" next year.  hahahaha!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shang Palace Dimsum Buffet

If you are a dimsum lover, then you have to try the Dimsum Buffet of Shang Palace.  The Chinese food outlet of Makati Shangri-la has always been one of the family’s favorites.  We find the quality of the food and service as one of the most consistent in the metro.  So we did not pass up this chance to try their dimsum buffet offering. 

The dimsum buffet is just at P810 +, which is inclusive of unlimited dimsum, endless servings of soup, rice, noodles, congee, vegetarian dishes, and desserts, and one choice of main course per person.

 A word of advise: Dimsum is best enjoyed with a group of friends; lest, you will find yourself overstuffed with only a few selections and pass up the opportunity to sample everything.  

The restaurant starts serving dimsum at 1130.  It is what the westerners call “brunch,” wherein breakfast and lunch is combined into one large mid-morning feast.  They say that whole idea of “brunch” was initiated by the Chinese as they mass immigrated into the West, taking with them the ancient Chinese tradition of “yum cha” (drink tea) where restaurants begin serving dim sum as early as 6:30 in the morning and continue through mid-afternoon.

The Shang Palace does not serve dimsum the traditional way; they have dispensed with the servers pushing around the carts.  Instead, as soon as we were seated, the server handed us a special menu exclusive for dimsum orders.  Ordering is on a per piece basis, and the promo price is valid only for meals without leftovers.
 (click on photo for an enlarged view of the menu)
 (click on photo for an enlarged view of the menu)
A lot of people are not aware that there is a certain order to be followed when eating dimsum: the lighter, steamed dishes are to be eaten first, followed by the fried food, and finally dessert.  

Adhering to that order, we had the xiao long bao, shumai and har gao first.  The xiao long bao's translucent wrapper was firm enough and held up well as we held it in our chopsticks, but did not give any resistance when we bit into it to savor the creamy broth inside.   The har gao  presentewas also a winner as it presented whole shrimps hiding beneath the wrappers.

The food is still served at the table in bamboo steamers to maintain the warmth of the food.  The steamed shumai was delectable, with whole portions of shrimps included in the pork filling and topped with fish roe.

The steamed pork ribs with black bean sauce could easily convert to "ulam" when served with a bowl of jasmine rice.

Steamed bean curd rolls with vegetables for the tree-huggers amongst us.

The poached wanton noodle soup in superior stock deserves a second serving.

The Sichuan style hot and sour soup
Finally, there's dessert. Custard treats abound, and you also have a choice between mango or almond pudding. Fresh fruits in season are also a favorite way to end a Chinese feast.

All of the above are washed down with copious amounts of hot tea, relaxing conversation and lots of laughter. 

As an aside... 
Over the course of lunch, one of the topics opened up for debate was the table tapping done by the Cantonese residents of Hong Kong, its origins and meaning.  Let me mention the basis of this tea drinking custom, unique to the Cantonese people.  According to Wikipedia, it is customary to pour tea for the company seated beside you before filling one's own cup.  To thank the person pouring the tea, tap the index finger if you are single, or tap both the index and middle finger if you are married, which symbolises 'bowing' to them.  There! That ends the debate, Henry and Gilbert!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes

Photo via Yummy Magazine
If you still haven't got a clue what to give to your friends for Christmas, then I suggest giving them Frozen Brazo de Mercedes.  It is a different take on the custard confection, with the addition of a graham cracker base and a layer of ice cream to the traditional custard and meringue. 

My friend, Meng, makes the yummiest kind.  So good, in fact, that it was featured in the 2010 list of Yummy Magazine's Top Desserts in Town
I almost always bring a box with me as a hostess gift whenever we get invited for dinner.  Be sure to place your order 2-3 days prior to pick-up.  And since it is a frozen dessert, if you have to travel far to your  destination, make sure that you have a cooler or ice chest in the car.  Although, for short distances, you can manage without one with no disastrous effect.  

I just placed my orders today, and I know that some lucky friends are going to be in dessert heaven tomorrow night!

Her frozen brazos come in two sizes, 7x11 (P700.00) , 4x8 (P350.00). 
Other bestsellers from her kitchen are:  Banana Cream Pie - 9inch (P500.00) and Tiramisu 7x11 (P750.00)

To order, call 415-1384 and mobile no. 0920-9149285.

Pick up at: 58 Sct. Delgado St. QC

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Rustic Italian

It is only a few more days before Christmas, if your shopping list is still not done why not consider getting busy in the kitchen and giving some homemade goodies this holidays?

I am sharing with you some of the recipes I used for my recent Italian-themed dinner, which are also good for holiday food gift items. The Cheese Torta recipe, especially, can be put into several smaller containers to accomodate several friends.  Trust me, this is one gift that won't get bounced around, it is that good!  It is ideally served as a spread, but I have also used it as a topping for a pasta salad.  You simply cannot do wrong with this recipe.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta di Formaggio / Cheese Torta
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups cream cheese, room temperature (about 2 bars)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 cup tomato paste

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Fresh basil sprigs

Toasted pine nuts

Baguette slices, toasted

  1. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, oil and lemon juice. Process until well blended. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Using on/off turns, process just until blended. Transfer pesto to medium bowl.
  2. Coarsely chop tomatoes in processor. Add tomato paste and process until mixture is almost smooth.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. Spread 3/4 cup cream cheese-butter mixture evenly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with half of tomato mixture, then 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, then half of pesto mixture. Repeat layering with 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture and remaining pesto. Top with remaining cream cheese-butter mixture. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
  5. To serve, invert torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with baguette slices.
You can also click here for the printable recipe 

Spaghettini with Artcihokes And Capers
the artichoke and caper mixture waiting for the addition of the pasta
12 ounces spaghettini / angel hair pasta
3 ounces olive oil, extra virgin 
1 tsp garlic, fresh Chopped
14- 16 pcs shrimp
1 cup artichokes hearts, quartered 
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced 
1 cup black olives, chopped
4 tbsp capers
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup basil, fresh julienned
2 tbsp parmesan, shredded

1. Cook spaghettini/angel hair according to directions on package, 12 ounces should yield approximately 20 ounces of cooked pasta.
2. To a medium heated sauté pan, add olive oil, garlic, shrimp and artichokes. Let shrimp cook and let garlic turn a golden color to develop flavor.
3. Add tomatoes, black olives, capers, salt and pepper to sauté pan. Let ingredients thoroughly heat while mixing.
4. Remove from heat and add toss in fresh basil.
5. Place cooked angel hair in a mound on service plate and top with ingredients from sauté pan.
6. Garnish with parmesan and parsley, enjoy!

You can click here for the printable recipe.

Happy cooking! 

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Monday, December 6, 2010

D-I-Y holiday tags

It is December already!  Are you done with your Christmas shopping?  

This year, I have decided to give out hand-made gifts to some special people.  I am meticulous, so it is expected that things such as color combinations are nit-picked on.  I have spent a LOT of time creating them, to make sure that the end-result matches the personality and interest of the recipient, so it really feels like I am giving away a part of ME. :) 

If you are not so much into Photoshop, graphic design or vectors, but would still want to make a do-it-yourself project for the holidays.  I suggest you start by making your own gift tags.  There are some templates at the HP webpage which you can download for  FREE.  All you need is just a good-quality board paper and a premium printer capable of printing high-resolution images, and you are good to go!  You can also involve the kids and ask them to help you punch holes.

I hope I inspired you to create something with your hands!

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