Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rated A for Addictive

I'm a Food Network junkie and that's no secret.  Being one, I never fail to watch their reality show 'The Next Food Network Star' and this year's winner is Aarti Sequeira.  

I have started to watch and record her show that airs on Sundays and so far, I like what I see.  She's very easy to watch, very relaxed and approachable and all in all, I like her energy.  More importantly, her recipes seem scrumptious, yet doable in common households at the same time (except that you may have to add some exotic Indian spices to your kitchen inventory).

In her pilot episode, she made a dessert that seemed VERY easy to make and absolutely looked yummy!  She calls it Creamy Pistachio Pops and they're basically ice cream minus the need for an ice cream maker.  Now isn't that awesome???!!!  Tell me you're not intrigued yet......

The ingredients are extremely easy to find and the procedure cannot be any simpler.  All you need are evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream and then she infused those liquids with the flavors of earl grey black tea, cardamom and pistachios.  Aarti was absolutely right when she said that if you've tasted chai tea, then you've tasted cardamom, so don't be too intimidated by it.  I should warn you though that it is quite pricey.  When I bought a bottle last year, I believe it cost me approximately $14.  A little goes a long way though so one bottle will last you for years.

Yesterday, I finally made the recipe and let me just say that it blew me away!  I was skeptical at first and thought the creaminess was just some camera trick they did.  Well, it's not.  It's as creamy as real ice cream can be and what excites me is the fact that I think I can play around with the flavors.

When I did this, I skipped the pistachios since I did not have any in stock.  It still tastes amazing.  After tasting one, I honestly thought that it's a little too sweet but I guess if you want that sugar fix then one pop will do it for you.  

Next time, I'm planning on cutting on the condensed milk a little bit and just compensate with some more heavy cream so as not to affect the creamy texture.  If you also have family members who are not too crazy about the flavors of cardamom (like the hubby), then I think you can infuse your creamy pops with chocolate/cocoa, vanilla and coffee, to name a few.  That is my plan next time and I will make sure to let you know how it turns out!

Another thing I want to mention is that in Aarti's recipe, it says that it can yield between 6 and 8 pops.  I bought my molds from Ikea and since they're smaller than the ones used in the show, I am able to produce between 12 and 15 pops.  

Anyway, here are my own pictures followed by the recipe from the Food Network site....
creamy, light brown tea-infused liquid

my Ikea molds in the freezer

specks of black from the tea and cardamom


CREAMY PISTACHIO POPS by Aarti Sequiera

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Handful finely chopped pistachios, plus extra for garnish

Directions

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring evaporated milk to a simmer until small bubbles form around the circumference of the pot. Meanwhile, snip the tops of the tea bags and add to the milk. Whisk in cardamom. Once the milk is simmering, turn the heat off, cover and let sit and steep for 30 minutes.
Strain the evaporated milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the condensed milk, heavy cream and pistachios. Either pour the mixture into ice pop molds, small bowls or a large bowl. Cover the bowls with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn and the formation of a "skin". Pop them into the freezer and freeze overnight.
When you're ready to serve, run the ice pop mold under hot water to loosen it. You can do the same thing for the smaller bowls if you'd like to serve it as a little kulfi half dome. Garnish with more nuts if you like and serve.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Special Delivery

The eagle has landed!

Actually, that would be my Mom!  Wooohooo!!!  I am an orphan no more.  Both parents are here with me, although Mom is only staying for a few months.  That's good enough and I'll take anything as long as she's here.  It is sad however that my siblings and I have to share our parents this way, like ping-pong balls going back and forth, as my sister-in-law puts it.  Again, that's one of the challenges of migration.  And you really just have to focus on the blessings (e.g. still having your parents around and them having the capacity to fly and visit or live with you) rather than your pains.  It's what gets me through every single time.  

We actually surprised Dad with Mom's arrival.  He knew she was arriving soon but he thought she was arriving September 5th.  He got really disoriented when he saw Mom standing at our doorstep last night.  He still kind of (jokingly) resents me for 'lying' to him all this time, pretending like I didn't know anything and for telling him that the only reason AJ and I had to go out last night was to go on a date!  I can only wish I was able to take a picture of my Dad's face when he opened the door last night and captured all that shock in a photo.  That would be a good memory to preserve and cherish....much like my shock last year when AJ surprised me too with Mom's arrival.

Oh well, happy times!  Even Noah is happy and has been surprisingly extra-energetic, perhaps realizing with much delight that he now has two extra playmates in the house!  It's really just great to have both parents with me.  It's true that no matter how old we get, we never really stop being our parents' 'babies'.    

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Favorite Prayers

I was just searching through YouTube for a song that was sung during our Church wedding and I came across two old favorites of mine.  These are both songs sung by the Bukas Palad Ministry (BPM), a Catholic group in the Philippines that composes and performs religious songs.  I'm not sure how accurate I am in saying this, but to my knowledge, the BPM has Jesuit roots and are associated with the Ateneo de Manila University.  


I was so pleased to find this YouTube video of Anima Christi (Soul of Christ).  

We sang this in highschool during our school masses and since then, I've memorized the words.  Then in college, since I joined a Catholic student organization, I was once again 'reunited' with this song.  Beyond all the memories it triggers, Anima Christi will always have a special place in my heart merely because the words are so touching and indeed give you all that you may need in a beautiful prayer.  For me, it speaks of hope and strength...hope in our salvation, hope that can be found only in and through Christ; and the strength that any sinner desperately needs and thirsts for.


I have to admit though, that there is one other religious song that truly touches my soul like no other.  It's called 'Panalangin sa Pagiging Bukas Palad' (Prayer for Generosity).  

Every single time I listen to this song and sing with it, it gives me serious goose bumps at first and then eventually brings me to tears.  And that's not an exaggeration.  There's something about this song that pierces through me and if I were to choose just one prayer, I would choose this in a heartbeat.  

Perhaps the reason I get so emotional with this song, this prayer, is because this is my 'calling'.  I've been praying and praying and waiting for God to help me figure out my calling in life, to lead me to that which will truly enrich my soul.  I've probably spent close to two decades now trying to solve this puzzle, not knowing that the Lord has long answered me.  I was just too focused on getting the answer a certain way, in a certain form.  Who knew that it would not be anything specific in terms of a certain job or line of work, but instead be about the spirit of the endeavor, that is, generosity or giving.  As the song goes, "teach me to be generous, to give unconditionally, without expectation of any return, to give justly, to serve and find fulfillment in knowing that I am serving You."

I have the desire to help.  I see the need to offer what I have which others may need.  A lot of times though, I'm frustrated for not being able to give more because I don't have much myself.  However, those are also times when I need this prayer, this song, the most....to remind myself that it need not be anything material; that generosity transcends the tangible; and that we are ALWAYS capable of giving MORE than what we think we are capable of.  

This is why I love this song so much.  Because it reminds me that though the number of people in the world needing help and generosity may be overwhelming, our capacity to give, with the grace of God, is also infinite.  

Each of us are called.  We only need to respond. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flashback: Younger Sentimental Me

I was rummaging through my old stuff and once again came across two gems.  I rediscovered these two notebooks on which I used to write my poetry, some essays, vignettes and the like.







Some of the pages look more yellowish than when I last saw them and my handwriting was obviously so much better during those days.  Ah those days....those days during my teens when everything was real, final and most of all, tragic.  Those days when my being a drama queen and addiction to the pains of unrequited 'love' (or so I thought) were at their peak.  Those were the days when all my serious crushes (especially the ones from college) were special enough to inspire my literary alter-ego. 


A funny trivia I'm reminded of now is the fact that those crushes all had code names.  There was Hyper, T2, Moon, Duckie, Sweeney, and Monterey, the greatest mistake of all.  I would write those codes at the bottom of each page to indicate the inspiration behind the written piece.  


I wrote poems both in English and Filipino and realized then that writing love poems in Filipino seemed more poetic and profound.  There are just some emotions best captured by using one's native tongue, I suppose.  


Anyway, I can babble on and on about these 'ancient' notebooks, so instead of doing that, I'll give you a sampling of what I used to write...


POESY
Autumn has passed
and once again
the ink springs forth.
For such poetry
in your voice
has sprinkled seeds
that I may be 
compelled to face my soul
and strum its strings.


(T2...for inspiring me to write again)




**********


MISTERYO
Sayang,
at hindi maaring saksi 
ang araw
sa kagandahan ng gabi,
At ang buwan
sa galak ng umaga.
Mananatiling nakakubli
ang misteryo ng gabi't umaga
sa isa't-isa.
Dapat lamang kaya?---
Marahil nga.


Ang nilikhang salisi
ay mananatili.
Ang itinakdang hiwalay
ay hindi mapaglalapit.
Ganyan tayo'ng dalawa,
pilit ma'ng yumukod
ang isa.


(Hyper)


************
More to come next time...perhaps.....  







Friday, August 20, 2010

Un-Fortune-ate Friday: 8.20.10

I know, I know...It's supposed to be Fortune Friday today but frankly, I don't feel like reacting to my fortune.  For what it's worth, here's what the cookie says:  

"Romance is likely.  Strike up a conversation."

There, I've typed it and it's open to interpretation.  I will spare you from mine though...at least this week.  Frankly, I don't feel like reacting to it.  I'm definitely not in the mood for romance or mush, if you must know.  And I'm probably not the best person to converse with either, given my disposition.

I've been sitting in front of my computer for days now, WANTING to write and THINKING of a million things.  Unfortunately, though these interesting thoughts keep floating in my head, all suspended in some mental limbo, I can't seem to capture any of them enough to get translated through the keyboard.  It's as if they've crossed over the cerebral event horizon and though I know they're there, they've just crossed the point of no return, forever trapped in the black hole of my mind.  

So....instead of giving you a lot of words today, I'll give you all these to communicate my current universe....








I rest my case.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marinara Dip 'Reloaded'

If you and your family order appetizers at restaurants, chances are you end up with one of those marinara sauces served as dips for your calamari, breaded mozzarella sticks and the like.  And if you're like us, very rarely do those sauces get finished at the restaurant.  A lot of times, we actually never even touch them.  


So instead of just throwing them away, I've thought of this wonderful and economical use for them.  You  can try using them as the sauce base for your homemade pizza.  Instead of toiling in the kitchen to make marinara sauce or buy a package from the supermarket, you can just use these especially if you're only making a few 'mini' pizzas for your kids.  
Here I used whatever we already had in our pantry:  those dipping sauces, tortillas (instead of pizza dough), left-over rotisserie chicken which I shredded and shredded monterey jack cheese.  Of course you can use any lunch meat that you may have at home (ham, pepperoni, hotdogs, etc), or even shrimp if you want a seafood pizza.  At the time, I did not have mozzarella cheese at home so I ended up using the monterey jack instead.  I also placed some fresh basil to brighten up the flavor a bit!

I simply placed the tortilla pizza in the oven toaster and heated everything up until the cheese was melted.  In the end, even my husband and my Dad loved the taste so I know that this is not just good for kids but your whole family as well!  
Give it a shot for a cheap but delicious meal at home!


    

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fortune Friday 8.13.10: Transparency



“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”

Countless people have told me in the past how much my name fits me.  JOY.  As I look at my name now, right there after typing it, it's almost as if just reading it makes you smile, doesn't it?  A word so short yet so full to the brim.  People have always said how I'm always smiling and it's always made me feel good about my name.  Was my heart just always merry?  No, definitely not.  It's because there is a difference between deliberate impression management and your natural and unguarded expression and demeanor.  


I'm generally pleasant around people, even those I don't know too well.  However, if you saw me in one of my unguarded moments, you'd probably notice how serious and intense I seem.  In all honesty, those two words accurately describe me, more than 'joyous'....unfortunately.  


I became all the more aware of how our inner feelings and dispositions seep through our pores, whether we like it or not, when an older colleague of mine told me one time that she saw me walking by myself and noticed my face.  She said she couldn't help but think to herself how utterly lonely I looked and how it seemed as if I was carrying such a heavy burden.  I was beyond shocked, not to mention embarrassed, when she told me that, because I was going through something difficult with my ex at the time and tried so hard not to let other people know of my personal troubles.  I felt like I had been 'found out'.  I felt naked, defenseless.  I commended my colleague for being very perceptive but at the same time, like I said earlier, it was when I truly realized that whatever consumes you or resides in your heart, will show and people will see.


Well, I've been quite grumpy these past few days.  I'm not sure if something tangible is causing this mood or if it's hormones, but I sure don't possess a cheerful countenance these days.  Whatever it is, whatever is weighing me down better be 'diagnosed' soon so I can do something about it.  Because one thing is for sure....children are VERY perceptive and I don't want Noah to be affected too much by my disposition and ultimately behavior.  I've snapped at him and everyone in this house countless times just this past 3 days and I'm already dying with guilt here for being such a grouch.  


What about you?...What feeling resides in your heart and consumes you these days?  Let's hope you're all in a better place than the one I'm in right now....   



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Late Bloomer

I know I've been blogging a lot about my friend's visit to Chicago but I promise this will be the last one of the series...for now.  I just thought I would blog about her parting gift for me to show her how much I really appreciated both the gift itself and her gesture.  Thanks again, PM!  

When we had our bonding day last week, we went to a mall and just leisurely walked around while talking of course.  We window shopped a lot, but she also ended up with a few purchases by the end of the day, one of which was a necklace for me.  She first suggested it, then I walked around to look for my other options, but in the end, I ended up picking her choice since it really was the style I wanted.  It's not too flashy, a bit neutral in color but not boring.  It was chunky enough but still looked light and casual.  Take a look...
It was funny how PM agreed with me when I said that it's just now, at my age, that I'm getting more into fashion and the girly stuff.  I get attracted to heels now, rather than just automatically zooming in on sneakers or some masculine-looking shoes.  I wear skirts and skorts without caring about my legs being far from perfect and slim.  I've learnt to wear nail polish and also experiment with colors I would have automatically shied away from in my 20's.  PM affirmed that in college or even in our 20's I was never into 'fixing' myself, and yet now, I love lip glosses and lipsticks and yes, even mascara!  

Now that I'm in my late 30's, I'm all about accessories and have also gotten bolder with regard to experimenting with different clothes styles.  Here are a few of my favorites...  
 

Don't get me wrong.  Believe that I don't spend a lot of money on accessories and fashion, in general.  I'm still the old practical gal that my parents raised and I still believe in comfort and will probably forever define my style as 'sporty chic'.  However, it's probably because I've finally started to care less about what others think which makes me feel more free to experiment.  It could also be that living in a place where the climate is much cooler compared to the Philippines (and Metro Manila, specifically) affords me more style options.  Add to that the fact that it's cheaper and easier for me to be fashionable here than in the Philippines simply because my size here is closer to average than back home.  There are more options for me here compared to the Philippine market where most girls are very petite.  

It could really be all those things that explain why I'm more of a 'fashionista' now than before. However, the bottom line is that I'm happier now in my own skin.  I still have a few issues to work on (body image issues are VERY difficult to tackle), but at least I acknowledge more of them now and recognize them as things I can continue to work on.  Let's just hope it doesn't take me yet another 30+ years to heal them.  On the very bright side though, if my getting older translates to gaining more self-love, confidence and an increased sense of adventure, then I say, 'BRING...IT...ON!!"  

Are there any other late bloomers out there?...and how has your fashion sense or style changed through the years?



 

 














Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fortune Tuesday 8.10.10: It's All in the Choice

*I was out of town again for the weekend, hence the delayed Fortune Friday entry....sorry.*

“You have inexhaustible wisdom and power.”



...and it's important to know how best to use them.

Last week, I had the time of my life hanging out with an old friend of mine, one of my closest, dearest friends who now lives in Canada.  She and her husband visited Chicago for a week and though we had very limited time, (considering it's been 10years since we last saw each other), we did make sure that it was time WELL spent.

After our eight-hour bonding time during our last day together, we made a pact to make more effort to really keep in touch. So while standing beside my car, saying our goodbyes and all, we both wondered why we haven't been calling each other more regularly these past years despite the fact that we now both reside in the Northern hemisphere.  I really had no clue until she reminded me that for a time she felt there was an awkwardness between us since she did not approve of a certain 'friendship' I had before with someone I hardly knew.  (Just to clarify to those 'in the know', she was not referring to my ex.)  

I sincerely forgot about that and as she was reminding me of what happened, it really felt like it happened a lifetime ago.  I thought it was funny and utterly silly so we ended up just laughing about the whole thing.  I'm sure at the time it happened, it dented me.  I'm sure her disapproval offended me somehow and made me all the more defensive.  But now, nothing.  Now, years later and wiser, I know that in the grand scheme of things, that past event does not really matter.  It was all inconsequential to our friendship.    

As another good friend once told me, in relationships, most times we don't realize how much power we have over each other and all we have to do is wield it.  The important question is, how will you choose to wield that power?  Answering that question is always important because if you think about it, we really only have true power over those we love, over those who truly matter to us.  And those are the same ones that have power over us.  You only REALLY get hurt by those who truly matter to you, right?  

And that's one beauty of real friendships and love in general.  You can get hurt many times but you learn to forgive and even forget sometimes.  And those times when you don't fully forget, you are still able to choose to move on, and you continue moving forward with even greater wisdom.

I'm certain I've hurt my friends and I know at certain points in my life I've gotten hurt by them too.  But we're still great friends and intend to stay friends forever. We know what's important and we do our best not to lose sight of that.  We have power over each other...the power to hurt, as well as to heal; the power to hold grudges, as well as to forgive; the power to destroy each other, as well as to respect and love.  The way you choose will show your WISDOM.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jealous Beyond Words...

The other day, while looking for parking outside the mall, I saw four older ladies crossing the parking lot.  They seemed like they were at least in their late 60's but more possibly in their 70's.  They were all beaming, smiling, while kind of assisting each other as they were about to step up the curb.  The sight of that made me happy, as I imagined how deep and true their friendship must be.  At the same time though, it reminded me once more of that hole in my life, as I remembered my 'barkada', my closest friends from college.  

*
We call ourselves the 'Phlegmies'.  I know that doesn't really sound very good but I promise you there's a story behind that which I don't really want to delve into right now.  There are six of us females and one male.  So many years ago, in one of our usual gatherings, I remember us imagining growing old together.  We used to say that even in our 'elderly' days, people would still most likely see us in the mall, or at some restaurant (God-forbid it would still be Wendy's, our favorite hang-out during our college days at the UP Diliman), discussing our angsts and deconstructing every little existential question we might still have.  Or we could just be talking about showbiz too!  That's the beauty of this group.  We've always had fun and felt comfortable discussing any and every topic on the spectrum, from shallow to deep and back.  It was just always fun and every time spent with these people always left me feeling enriched.  These are friends who I can say REALLY know me and accept me...friends not related to me by blood but I will always love and choose to love.

We met in the early 1990's and stuck together and chose to nurture our bond.  We've seen each other through academic hardships, crushes, love lives (whether real or imaginary for most of us early on), heartbreaks, family issues, work issues, weight issues, pregnancies, marriages, and everything else.  

Sadly, migration had to happen for some of us.  I'm in Illinois.  One is in Tennessee.  Another one is in New York and a fourth one's in Canada.  Three of them are still in the Philippines, still enjoying each other's friendship.   We dream of the day when all of us can meet up again in Manila, vacationing at the same time.   We dream of travelling together, whether just in the Philippines or to some other Asian country.  

Our lives have been changed by time and geography.  But each time we get to talk, whether through email, by phone or in person, it always feels like nothing has changed and we're able to pick up from wherever we left off.  It's always as effortless as before and everything just flows naturally.  

I miss that now.  I will always miss that and the thought of not having them around will always be my pain.  I know I will never find friends like that again.  The history is just too deep and too beautiful to ever be replicated.  I have no illusions at this point.

No, I have nothing very positive to end this entry with; nothing very encouraging or hopeful to say.  I miss my closest friends from the Philippines and that is just that.  If anything, I just want to say to anyone reading this now who is geographically close to his/her friends, to savor that, to never take that for granted.  

Don't take for granted that you see your friends or go out with them some weekends.  Don't take for granted that you get to talk to them without spending on long distance calls.  Don't take for granted that your children will grow old knowing each other or even becoming friends in the future.  Don't take for granted that you have someone to vent your anger and frustrations to almost instantaneously because your friends are near and accessible.  Don't take for granted that you can complain to someone or even complain together about your cellulite, graying hair, wrinkles and stiff joints.

You have your friends, your chosen sisters and/ or brothers.  Let them know how much you love them and that your world has so much depth and color with them in it.  Let them know how happy and grateful you are that as you grow old together, you will have each others' wrinkled hands to hold.

  




*Image courtesy of http://www.123rf.com/photo_5256771_community-of-people-holding-on-hands-concept.html