Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in LP

It's finally here! Christmas! Yipee!!!!

Our day started with morning mass at our neighborhood church. After that, hubby and I were off to my brother's house to get some supplies for the party. My nephew Jay-jay decided to come with us to LP ahead of time while proudly showing me his new toys. His excitement was contagious. I found myself wowing and oohing over some scooters, bike, helicopters and toy soldiers. Half of his new toys were loaded in our car to be shared with his cousins in LP. Such a nice boy.

A simple yet sumptuous feast was spread out for the family's enjoyment. We had the staple special occasion lechon, dinuguan (comes free with a purchase of whole lechon), prawns in two ways, halabos (breaded and then fried) and prawns cooked in 7up, tilapia (again) and pancit malabon. I also made rocky road cupcakes for dessert.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without gift giving, the kids were very excited to open their gifts. They all got toys, clothes and some chocolates as well. Tita Socky also gave out red envelopes for everyone. LP was littered with Christmas wrappings and an assortment of toy packaging. It took a while to get everything cleared up.

We spent the whole day (and night) eating, playing and drinking!

There was also an impromptu baking lesson for the kids, from a cookie mix given as a gift. They all took turns with the mixer and every single kid helped shape the cookies. Jay-jay couldn't wait for the cookies to be baked, he ate the flour from the bowl even before we started baking, he also wore it all over his clothes! Here he is a misshapen cookie dough in his hand. We also caught him sneaking a lick from the mixing spoon after all the cookies have been shaped.

I personally had great fun making cookies with the kids. They're asking for more lessons soon. I can't wait to do it again.

The cookies turned out great despite the chaos :-)

Happy holidays everyone. Don't forget to have fun!

Jessica's First Birthday

Our niece Jessica (from hubby's side of the family), celebrated her first birthday last December 22.

My whole family was invited to join the festivities as well. Our little Ashley was the star of the afternoon with her pretty red dress and sheer cuteness. Maybe she thought it was her birthday too? :-)

Of couse, patok si Jollibee with the kids! Jay-jay even posed with a half-eaten Chickenjoy in hand.

Even hubby couldn't resist a photo op with the famous bee :-)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fine Dining at El Circulo

I was fortunate enough to be proxy for my mom who couldn't make it to a dinner with Tita Socky, and a family friend with her daughter.

Dinner was at El Circulo, a swanky Spanish restaurant along Pasay Road, Makati. It's been there forever. Yet, I've never dined there before and I was excited, as with any untried restaurant.

For starters, we had the Shrimp Gambas, a spicy tapas. It was great, it has just the right amount of spiciness to it and the olive oil where the gambas was cooked was to die for. I could probably dip a whole baguette in it, if given the chance. He he he.

Next, we shared the Baked Marrow. It was undoubtedly the best marrow that I've had. A word of caution though, this one is an artery clogger. If I croaked right then and there, I think it would have been worth it :-) That's how good it was. The marrow was served with crostini and a mole sauce (tender beef strands stewed in a special sauce).

For main courses, my companions ordered the Beef Belly. Another artery clogger. It was very tender and the portions are big and best shared. We had leftovers and I brought it home, it tasted even better the following day :-)

I love callos, so I ordered it. El Circulo's version was just OK, it's not too rich or heavy. I still prefer the callos from Amalia's (in BF) where it's more full bodied.

Dessert was chocolate lava cake with raspberry coulis, served with orange slices and mantecado ice cream. A perfect ending for truly wonderful meal.

El Circulo is a bit pricey but well worth it.

LP at Night

For a change, the family congregated in LP for Sunday dinner. Since it's Christmas season, the family home is bedecked with over a thousand Christmas lights.

I baked there the other weekend and as soon as the lights are turned on, children would ring the doorbell almost non-stop and shout "Namamasko po". After our spare coins ran out, we had to tell them Patawad. That went on the entire time the lights were on. The family home was undoubtedly the brightest and prettiest house on the block. Children always make a beeline to the house hoping to get a lot of aguinaldo after singing Christmas carols.

The family oohed and ahhed as well and stayed almost until midnight eating and talking and the kids had a grand time playing under the glow of the Christmas lights.

Our menu consisted of whatever is found in the freezer :-)

I made baked tilapia fillet with butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, Kikkoman and cilantro. It's so simple, idiot proof even.

Mom made caldereta. A Spanish beef-stew made with very tender beef, potatoes, tomato sauce, bell peppers and liver spread.

Jun, the house keeper, made his famous Monggo with shrimps. A family favorite.

Longganiza from Bulacan. A gift from an officemate. This one is my favorite longganisa.....ever.

Despite the hodgepodge of dishes, our dinner was a huge hit. Everything was delicious. I think the family home has a special magic of turning the simple and mundane dishes to something extraordinary. Of course, meals shared with family members are always special.

Masarap talaga ang pasko sa Pilipinas.

Advanced Merry Christmas to all!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Simbang Gabi Fare

December 16 is the start of the Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, a nightly novena (for 9nights) preceding Christmas day. It's a Catholic tradition here in the Philippines. People would troop to the churches at dawn or late in the evening to attend the daily novena. It is believed that if you complete the novena, your wish would come true.

With the onset of the Simbang Gabi, it is synonymous with Bibingka, a type of local cake made with glutenous rice flour, eggs, topped with kesong puti or itlog na maalat (salted eggs). The cake itself is cooked over hot coals and generously spread with butter, sugar and topped with niyog. Yum!

Another staple is the Puto Bumbong, a sweet dessert made with pirurutong, a purple colored glutenous rice. The puto bumbong is placed in specially designed tubes and steamed until cooked. The strands are then placed on banana leaves, spread with butter and generously sprinkled with muscovado sugar and niyog, grated mature coconuts. This is what hubby and I bought when we had our Sunday mass.

Pasko na!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Instant Meal, Well, kinda

I chanced upon Purefoods/Hormel ready to cook Pork Teriyaki yesterday in the grocery store. I knew that I wanted something easy to prepare for dinner and it's a change from the usual ready to cook fare of tocino, hotdog, corned beef and the like.

Surprisingly hubby liked it. I just added some mung sprouts and chopped green beans to make it just a tad healthier.

The timpla is a bit sweet, not salty and very tender once you fry it.

Not bad for P90.00 per pack.

Friday, December 14, 2007

How to maintain your sanity when baking Christmas goodies

This housewife has put the suburban life in the back burner! I’m back working again.

I have some baking commitments this month and it's quite daunting to squeeze it in my week. Between work, traffic, laundry, taking care of a home and husband, I’m swamped.

To combat this dilemma, I’ve developed a baking plan to keep me sane during this busy Christmas season. Here are my tips:

1. Purchase non-perishables like packaging ahead of time. I purchased my cookie boxes, ribbons and cookie paper two months in advance. Always buy extra just in case you get more orders.
2. Pre-chop all the nuts that you will need, a few days ahead. By the way, always ask your supplier for a free taste, to make sure that the nuts that you’re purchasing are fresh.
3. Estimate how much ingredients you will need and purchase them weeks in advance (except eggs, which you have to buy a day or two before to maintain freshness). Always buy extra (I learned this the hard way).
4. Group like ingredients in one container. I have tons of flour stored, per kilo in a big cooler, nuts in a giant airtight container etc.
5. Check your equipment. Make sure they’re working and safe to use.
6. For some recipes that need refrigeration, do the dough a day or two ahead. In my case, I prefer to make my cookie dough fresh but one make ahead tip is pre-measure all your dry ingredients and put them in containers or Ziploc bags for easy access anytime you need it. Make sure you label them.
7. Unless you know your recipe by heart, print your recipe and put it inside a Ziploc bag to prevent it from getting soiled when baking.
8. Clear out the kitchen counters and lay out all your ingredients, baking equipment, cookie sheets on them and lay out the cooling racks on the dining table (to save counter space) the night before baking.
9. Pre-cut all the ribbons and fold boxes a day or two before.
10. Always have a roll of kitchen towel on hand to periodically wipe the kitchen counters when baking.
11. Listen to soothing music while baking to calm frazzled nerves or rock music to keep your energy up.

My best advice is...get some help!!!

Here's my first batch of Russian Tea Cookies, already packaged and ready for delivery.

More baking tomorrow!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Back Home

Hubby and I are back in BF. There's no mall in sight! The nearest mall is five minutes' drive. Yeah, poor me. He he he.

It's nice to be home, I love this place. Despite not having the mall at our doorstep, we're within a few minutes' driving distance from everything.

Now, if only hubby's building is just a few minutes' driving distance :-)

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Makati Malls on Foot

Today is the second day of our cosmopolitan lifestyle, hubby had asked to walk around the nearby malls. He was a bit uncomfortable roaming around the Makati area without a car. Since my mom's condo is so near everything, bringing a car around is absolutely unnecessary. The weather's a bit cloudy today which is perfect for walking here.

Our first stop was lunch. Hubby's choice was a Chinese restaurant called David's Tea House in Greenbelt 1. We've never dined here before (we're from the suburbs remember?). The restaurant was almost full when we arrived. A good sign that the food must be decent. The crowd is a happy mix of families, couples, friends and expatriates. Appealing across the board, if you will.

For starters, we had the Hakaw, a shrimp dumpling. The menu said that it's 90% shrimps and we were happy to find out that they didn't lie. This dim sum is a favorite of ours. Their version is very good and we would definitely order it again.

Hubby had the Beef Ball Dim sum. Reminiscent of our first venture into HK's street food. The beef ball was also good and quite heavy. Hubby wolfed down every single one. Another winner. I'm particularly not very fond of this dim sum since it's quite dense and heavy for me. But I sneaked a teeny tiny piece and I liked it.

Next, is Chicken Feet. Adidas, as fondly called here. It's chicken feet marinated in spices and tausi (black beans) and then steamed until the skin and tendons are almost falling off the bone. Also a favorite of mine. David's version is a tad too spicy. I would order something else in its place next time.

For main courses, hubby and I both ordered congee. I had the beef congee, hubby had the asado congee. Both were equally good and the servings were huge. Hubby liked the congee so much, he ate half of mine as well :-)

The food's reasonably priced as well. We ended up forking over just P500 for everything. Not bad.

David's Tea House? It's good eats.

After a very heavy lunch, we needed to walk off the extra calories we just ingested. We toured around Greenbelt, going through the lovely parks and busy walkways and the newly opened and swanky Greenbelt 5.

Hubby salivated over some electronic goods and laptops. I salivated over some kitchen gadgets as well. After getting our visual fill of the new gadgets available in the market (we didn't buy anything), we make our way to the supermarket to buy some groceries and some junk food that hubby insists that we need. We ended up with five bags of food and supplies!

After walking back home, hubby said to me "I'm likin' the Makati lifestyle"

I hear ya, hubby!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coup de Etat and Cilantro

This is our first day house sitting for my mom, and what happens? Coup de etat at the Manila Peninsula, just a few blocks away from the condo. Hubby was poised to troop back to our suburban home in BF in case there will be violence. Fortunately, the matter was resolved peacefully in a matter of hours and we get to live the Makati lifestyle for the next few days until my mom returns from her Vietnam vacation.

For our first night here, I made coleslaw with cilantro in citrus dressing, which is hubby's fave.

Since I have a ton of cilantro left over from the fridge, I made cilantro pesto yesterday at home at and brought it over here at the condo. Hubby liked this one as well, I was surprised that he did. He doesn't usually like pesto. In case you're interested, here's the recipe:

Cilantro Pesto

1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
1 - 2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Lemon juice (to prevent the cilantro from oxidizing)
Salt and pepper to taste

Process everything in a blender or food processor. There's no proportion to my recipe, because I just eyeballed everything. If it's too salty, add a bit more lemon and oil. If you want it more creamy, add more parmesan and pine nuts.

Heat slightly and pour cooked pasta over it. Toss to coat. Garnish with a bit of cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Refrigerate leftover pesto sauce, it will taste much better the following day.

Hubby and I have also been meaning to try out the Indian restaurant downstairs called Swagatam (along Rada Street, Makati). We decided to order some naan, roti and shrimp marsala curry to be delivered to us.

Spicy! We liked the shrimp marsala but we had plenty of leftover :-) The naan was good as well.

We also discovered that the naan is great to dip in the cilantro pesto.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our Wedding Pictures, Unearthed

When hubby and I got married in 2002, our wedding budget was so limited, we couldn't afford to have digital pictures taken (it was pretty expensive at that time, it would have eaten half of our meager budget). All our wedding pictures were in film! How antiquated :-) I have yet to have them digitized.

Hubby's colleague gave us some pictures taken from our wedding. I just saw them today! Here's my favorite one:

Look at us, we looked so happy and eager.

Well, we were!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Enchanted Evening with Hubby

Date night. Movie night. I managed to coerce hubby to watch the Disney family movie, Enchanted, with moi. I love this movie, I'm such a sucker for Disney, romantic comedies with happy endings. See it, enjoy it. The happiness will stay with you for days ;-)

Bali Blends Cafe

Last Friday was such a fine balmy evening, hubby treated me to dinner, al fresco at Bali Blends Cafe in Westgate, Alabang. We've had coffee there before on my birthday but never ordered anything from their dinner menu. They serve fusion Indonesian cuisine and a sprinkling of continental sandwiches.

Since I've never had dinner yet, I ordered Beef Rendang, similar to our beef stew but spicier and has other complex flavors to it.

The Beef Rendang was served with buttered vegetables and rice. The beef rendang wasn't very tender and a bit too spicy, yet bland, if that was possible. Also, the dish needed a refreshing kick to balance out the gamut of spices in the dish. Cilantro, perhaps?

Unsatisfied with my meal (which I didn't finish), I ordered extra roti with a curry dip. After conferring with the waiter and getting the assurance that it's home-made roti, I place my order. The roti is not the same as what I had in Little India (darn!), the curry dip tasted like Mang Tomas with curry powder in it :-) Ayayay!

For dessert I had sweet coconut in pandan crepe, served with vanilla ice cream. The coconut was interesting, it tasted like soft bukayo. Bukayo is a Filipino dessert usually made by simmering strips of your coconut (buko) with brown sugar. I also saw a recipe using dessicated coconut, condensed milk and butter, simmered together.

Anyway, back to my story. Hubby had a tropical cooler. An assortment of tropical fruits, drizzled with caramel syrup with cayenne pepper, served in a fried crepe bowl. Hubby opted to have the syrup on the side, just in case he didn't like it. The cayenne pepper in the caramel was very mild, you can hardly tell it's there, which is a good thing. The fruits are fresh and juicy. The crepe bowl was very oily, baking it with a sprinkling of sugar would have greatly improved its taste.

The wonderful cool breeze of the evening, friendly waiters and pleasant company (my hubby) more than made up for the lackluster food.