Saturday, March 31, 2007

Russian Tea Cakes

I love Russian Tea Cakes. It's not really a cake, it's a cookie. My first taste of it was when my cousin Ate Binky brought some in my lola's house years ago (I was in my early teens then) and I couldn't forget the sweet buttery taste of this delicious cookie. I researched for easy recipes and I happen to find this one. I wish I could remember where I got it from. I have several recipes, but this one is so far the best and the easiest. It only has five ingredients. All of which are staples in any pantry.

You will need:
1 cup softened butter (do not soften in the microwave)
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of flour
Powdered sugar for dredging

Here's how:
1. Beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, flour and vanilla. Mix until combined. The dough will be beady and will only come together when you shape it.
2. With a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop, scoop the dough, place a walnut inside and roll into balls. Don't make it too big, otherwise the inside will be raw when you bake it.
You can also use a melon baller (like I did) if you don't have the fancy ice cream scoop to shape the balls. This is to make them all even in shape and therefore will have the same baking time. The original recipe calls for chopped walnuts mixed into the dough. Putting a whole walnut inside is much more decadent, don't you think?
3. Line them in a baking sheet with parchment, about an inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Do not brown them. They should be firm but still yellowish in color.
4. Cool in a cooling rack.
5. When completely cool, dredge in powdered sugar. If you don't cool it completely, the powdered sugar will just melt and form clumps. Double dredge if you want it extra sweet.
Makes around 36 balls.

When I made this dessert the other day I was so pleased because they came out so perfectly, I felt like Martha Stewart :-)

This cookie recipe can also be shaped into crescents sans the walnuts and can be served as wedding cookies.

Tip: If you run out of powdered sugar, just use regular white sugar and blend the hell out of it in your blender. Voila! Powdered sugar. Don't use the coffee or spice grinder unless you made absolutely sure that there are no odors left. Otherwise, the sugar will absorb the taste of the coffee or spices.

When you bake this, your kitchen will smell so heavenly. There's nothing like the smell of baking cookie dough wafting through your kitchen.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Reconnecting with an old friend

I love the pre-paid telephone budget card. I recently bought one thinking that I may be needing it for calling international hotels for a family vacation. Since I didn't need it anymore, I decided to call my cousins in the US. Unfortunately, I only got their voicemail and wasn't able to talk to them. I did manage to talk to college buddy of mine who lives in Glendale, California. My friend Mylene and I go way back. We were both sixteen when we met in St., Scholastica's College. We became really fast friends and have been very good friends since then. We talked for over an hour. And I had a blast talking with her again. We often get in touch via email but talking is way better. The budget card only charges P3.00/minute to a call in the US. Not bad. It's even cheaper than making a local call in your cellphone!

This is a picture of us in our college days. Look at the silly smile on Mylene's face. We had absolutely no care in the world, we had allowances, we were young, we were thin. Good times.

A new coffee place in BF

There's a new coffee place near our place and it's just opened last week. Hubby and I decided to try it out. It's called Java Man. It's restaurant style as opposed to the usual Starbucks way where you order you coffee in the counter. Java Man had waitresses coming to you. They have a variety of menu from pasta, ciabattas, salads, an assortment of meat dishes, pastries and of course, coffee. They can make your coffee anyway you want it and they use Philippine barako coffee. I ordered cold Bailey's coffee, decaf and it was good. It even had whipped cream on top. Whipped cream in coffee is always good, in my book. Hubby ordered iced mocha coffee, decaf also since it was close to midnight and we didn't want to stay awake the whole night. We were pretty happy with the coffee. We also tried their pasta and ciabatta combo. Hubby got the 3 cheese ciabatta, I got the pasta amatriciana. The ciabatta bread was good but hubby felt that the dressing was way too garlicky. I wasn't too happy with the pasta either, there's hardly any bacon in it and it was too tart for my taste. Hubby told me never to order something that I make so well at home so that I don't get disappointed. I just want to know how other people make it and compare it to my own version. To quote my mom, "Mas masarap ako magluto!" that's what she always says if she eats in a restaurant and find the food less than her usual standards. I have yet to taste their pastries, so I'll hold judgement on that.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Scallops for Idiots

My mom made this dish in one of our Sunday lunches. While hubby and I went grocery shopping the other day, hubby saw some scallops and mentioned that he liked the scallops that my mom made. So we bought some. This is super easy to make, idiot proof even. Buy scallops in their shells for they make a better presentation. Here's how:

Top scallops with very finely chopped garlic and parsley, sprinkle some sea salt (you only need a very small amount since scallops are naturally salty). Bake at 400 degrees for about five to seven minutes, depending on the size of the scallops. The scallops should still be a little runny when you take it out of the oven. If you bake it too long, they will dry out. Squeeze in some lemon, lime or calamansi (whatever you have in your fridge) right before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Possibly the cutest baby in the world

This is my niece Ashley. Sister to Jay-Jay and daughter to my brother Jacob and his wife Angel. This bundle of joy is often mistaken as my own daughter by people outside the family because we look alike (daw) :) Isn't she just the cutest?

My conversation with Tim

My nephew and godson Tim is quite the character. He's 8 years old. I love to hug him. He's quite chubby and has the perfect softness that one would wish a pillow to have. So whenever I see him I always say "Tim, pa embrace naman". He always reluctantly complies.

Last Sunday I asked him "Tim, pag binata ka na ba, pwede pa ba ako mag embrace sa 'yo?"
Tim: "Pwede pa naman"

Last week, he expressed his desire to be circumcised at 10 years old. Hence, my next question:

Me: "Pag ten years old ka na, pwede pa ba ako mag embrace sa iyo?"
Tim: "Pwede pa naman, pero pag 11 na ko hindi na pwede"
Me: "Bakit? Dahil tuli na ka?"
Tim:"Ummumm (nods his head), pero swerte ka pag hindi pa ako natuli by 11. Kasi pwede mo pa ko i-embrace"
Me: "Bakit pag tuli ka na hindi na pwede?"
Tim: "Hindi na kasi binata na ako nun e."

Oo nga naman :)

Jay-Jay's 4th Birthday

My nephew JJ celebrated his fourth birthday last week. The family was treated to a simple luncheon and birthday cake blowing last Sunday.

My mom of course was in charge of the cooking. She made her famous Beef Kare-Kare, it's beef or tripe stewed in peanut butter and anatto. Vegetables, ground peanuts and toasted rice granules are also added. It is always served with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste). My mom always makes the best. I have yet to learn to make this one. She tells me that this is super easy to make. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Another dish that my mom made was her famous Embutido. Which is essentially a meatloaf with chorizos, pickles, eggs, cheese and other secret ingredients that my mom told me yesterday but were too many to remember. She doesn't measure anything either so it's gonna be tricky getting the proportions from her. I'll try to post some of her recipes too.

My husband Eric told me not to divulge all the family recipes. Otherwise, people will make money off of it. I already had two friends use my baked mac recipe for business. Oh well.

We also had salad, palabok, tibuk-tibuk (it's like Maja Blanca but made with carabao milk), mazapan (a gooey butter-scotch type balls with nuts), leche flan (milk custard), chocolates and of course the birthday cake. Yummy! Sugar rush to the max.

Anyway, back to the party. My nephew Jay-Jay was having so much fun playing with his cousins and Rama and there was one moment that he went off to another room on his own for a few seconds, when he came out, he managed to get a bukol and wouldn't tell us where he got the bump. He was fine and kinda went to a corner but the grown ups made such a fuss, he started crying and wouldn't allow any of us to put ice on it. There were three of us holding him down so that we can apply the ice pack to get the swelling down. Whew! That little kid is strong as an ox and he's only four!

Finally, we were able to calm Jay-Jay down and he was ready to blow the cake. Here he is with bukol and everything. He even managed to say "cheese!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Antipolo Church

Last weekend Eric and I attended a baptism at the famous Antipolo Church. The trip took about an hour from our house. I slept all the way, of course.

A trip to Antipolo Church is never complete without buying the famous casuy (cashews) from vendors surrounding the church. An assortment of kakanin and sweets like suman, kalamay, panocha with peanuts, and uraro always entice churchgoers to buy. The sweets remind me of our trips in the country when we were kids. The uraro particularly have fond memories of my lolo. He would always drop by our house to deliver the sweet treat when he comes back from one of his trips in Laguna, his hometown. My brother particularly loved the sweet treat so my lolo always made it a point to buy some for my little bro.

Cashews go for P300/kilo. You have a choice of toasted, peeled and unpeeled, raw. I decided to buy the toasted variety. It was freshly cooked and we just couldn't resist buying some. The vendors are very friendly and would always invite you to taste their merchandise. Aside from the cashews, I was also offered a malagkit suman to taste and it was so good, I ended up buying some. Suman costs P50 for a bunch of 12. Suman is very good dipped in sugar, or fried and dipped in chocolate or paired with mangoes and condensed milk. Ahhh...carbohydrate heaven.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chili Prawns in a Flash

This dish never disappoints. And it's so easy to make! Here's how:

1/2 kilo peeled prawns (make a stock out of the peels and heads for future use)
Blanched baby asparagus
Leeks or onions
As much Chili Garlic Sauce as you can take (or minced garlic and hot sauce if you're in a pinch)
Oil and butter
Red,green or yellow bell pepper (whatever you have in the fridge)

Fry shrimps in oil. Add and mix everything else until well combined. Done. No need for salt and pepper. The chili sauce provides all the seasoning that you need. Dinner in five minutes. Couldn't be easier, right?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Part 3: Hong Kong Adventure at Ocean Park- Lowland

For the second part of our Ocean Park adventure, Hubby and I proceed to the Lowland via cable car. It's a very exciting experience and the view is spectacular. You can see views of the city, the mountains and the bay. Be sure you snap a few photos.

The Lowland area is very ideal if you have children with you. The Kids' World is dedicated to children's rides and there's a huge playground for the kids to play in while you sit and take a breather.

My favorite part of course is the Gian Panda Habitat. It's an air-conditioned facility that houses two giant pandas. You can spend hours looking at them. The exhibit aims to provide an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible. The pandas come and go in and out of their pen as they please. Don't worry, there are video cameras for you to watch their every move. When you visit the habitat, please be quiet for the noise and the flashbulbs disturb the pandas. The Chinese and Korean tourists were driving us crazy when we were there. They couldn't stop talking. No wonder the pandas retreated to their pen. I would too if I hear those endless chatter. So please for all of you who are reading this blog, please please observe the pandas quietly.

Hubby and I wait in line for the Ocean Park Grand Prix. A go-cart facility within the park. This ride is not included in the entrance fee so you have to pay an extra HK$60 per person. It's cheaper than what we have her in Manila which costs P550 per run on the track (in Fort Bonifacio). We had a blast! Hubby specially since he loves driving fast. The other kids were hellions on the track and kept overtaking me :-) The little devils were even sideswiping me. I had so much fun. A must ride for everyone.

If you desire to feed the dolphins, learn dolphin biology up close and get into the water with them be sure to register at the Dolphin Encounter. The encounter lasts 90 minutes. You may get your tickets at the main ticketing office or through their website at I would advice for you to reserve ahead of time since the slots are limited. Schedules are: Mondays 1:15pm, Tuesdays to Sundays 9:30am and 1:15pm. Be ready to shell out HK$680 per person, it's not cheap but I think it's worth it. Hubby and I were not able to reserve due to time constraints but we promised ourselves that we will have the dolphin encounter on our next visit.

There were other attractions that were not able to go to due to fatigue. There's the Whiskers Theatre where sea lions perform. The Whiskers' Wild Ride is a 4D theater with motion seats and giant screen. I've ridden this ride before and it was fantastic. The Amazing Birds Theater with performances from a variety of birds which will be very entertaining and informative for children and adults alike.

So many attractions. So little time.

Friday, March 2, 2007

I am a paying customer, I demand to be heard

Great news. Cebu Pacific is offering a very low rate of P1.00 per seat on their local and international flights (Exclusive of course of the fuel surcharges, taxes and insurance). This bit of news was met with excitement and a call from Tita Socky instructing me to book our flights for our annual family vacation and arrange for hotel accommodations. No problem. We've done it before.

My excitement was quickly replaced by anger and frustration. Cebu Pacific has done it again, ladies and gentlemen. After trying to call them and book online for over 2 hours, I finally get a customer service representative (CSR) on the line. I make the booking and after some juggling on the dates and conferring with other parties involved, we finally get the desired flight dates and time.

The CSR then tells me "Ma'am kailangan po yung credit card holder eh nasa flight"
Me: "Ok, we need two separate flights for 14 people" And I go on about the division of people per flight.
CSR: "Paano po yung second flight? Kailangan nandun din yung cardholder"
Me: "Huh?" Everything will be paid by one credit card lang nag, kasi nga group booking"
CSR: "Eh kailangan po nandun yung cardholder talaga"
Me: "Paano? Hatiin ko sa dalawa tita ko?" (I was starting to fume at this point)
"This is a group booking! You're the only airline I know who has to have a cardholder in every flight"

After a few minutes of feuding, I demanded to talk to a supervisor. The CSR refused to let me talk to a supervisor to clear the matter.
The CRS said to me: "Ma'am ganun daw po talaga kailangan may cardholder at pareho ng itenirary" "They are in a meeting and they cannot be disturbed" "And hindi po kayo pwede magbayad via credit card dito, kailangan sa ticketing office"
Me: "Ok, just please book the flights, give me a booking number and we will pay at the booking office"
CSR: "Hindi po kami pwede mag book ng promo flights dito, dapat sa booking office"
Me: "You mean to tell me, we've been talking for half an hour only to say to me that I cannot book the friggin' flights?!" (Smoke is already coming out of my ears)
"What's the use of this call center?"
"You should have told me immediately so that I didn't have to waste my time talking to you!"
"I want to talk to your supervisor!"
CSR: "Hindi po talaga sila available"
Me: "You mean to tell me, there is no supervisor or a team leader or a senior CSR on the floor? The CSRs are left to run amok with the customers?"

At this point she insists that there is really no one to take my call.
I said "Ok, don't. Just give me the name of the supervisor and I'll write a formal complaint instead"
CSR: "Ma'am please be calm. Are you going to file a complaint against me?"
Me: :"I want to talk to a supervisor now! You cannot refuse me! Get your supervisor now! Pull him off the friggin' meeting!"
"I am a paying customer and I demand to be heard!" (At this point I completely lost my temper)

Supervisor comes to the phone and apologizes and explains to me that the system that they have in the call center cannot accept booking or payments for promo flights. In my years of traveling and flying, this is the first time that I have encountered an airline call center who cannot take a flight booking. Unbelievable. It can only happen in Cebu Pacific. I award them the worst customer service airline...ever!

If I may make some logical suggestions to Cebu Pacific:
1. Please brief your CSRs prior to releasing them to take calls. This is to lessen irate customers like me from tying the phone lines.
2. Do not advertise the P1.00 rate if your customer service facility is not ready to provide customer service.
3. Upgrade your booking system to accommodate the promo rates.
4. Make sure your internet service is online all the time and is capable of making bookings and payments for promo rates.
5. Put a disclaimer to your ads "Book and pay ONLY at the ticketing office"

I know Cebu Pacific is a budget airline but, it's not an excuse.