Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Steamed Rice Cake (Puto)

Remembering my mom's rice cake (puto) I got obsessed on how to make it. Luckily, I have this blender that pulverizes anything in less than 1 minute. Soak rice overnite in equal parts water then grind with about half of the remaining water drained out. Set it aside. I left this all day while I was at work then went to dinner with Chat and when I got home it looked like this. For 1 cup of rice I use 1 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 c of coconut milk and 1/8 c of sugar. I mix them all together and fill the molds. I don't have a big steamer so I used tea cups and 1 ensaymada mold lined with banana leaves. I buttered the molds.Note: I thinned out the coconut milk with equal parts water because I used the canned one. Also, use sugar accordingly. I don't like it sweet. Maybe later if I'm going to make this again, I will try using some coloring, but I prefer food in it's simplest. Here it is:
Source: Market Manila,,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Truth, Fiction and Rice Cakes

I grew up on a farm and our house was at the foot of the hill and for the most part of my childhood I grew up thinking that Jesus was killed on that hill right by where I lived. During the Holy Week, on that Wednesday, a mob of people would go up to the top of the hill and they would cut down trees and carry them down(symbolical of carrying a cross?) but I don't remember what they did with the trees or where they end up taking them. All I know was that they called that hill "Mount Calvary." Yes, in the island of Cebu, Philippines.

During that whole week in my house, we were not supposed to laugh or show happiness. "This is a sad week because Jesus, the son of God is dead." My mom would say that whenever I let out a hint that I was happy. Then on Saturday, I was not allowed to take a bath because "Judas is washing himself of the blood after he killed Jesus." She would say that with contempt in her voice. I don't know where my mom got her messed up stories from, but sure sound believable to a 9 year old girl, but even after I knew the truth, I was not about to correct her or she would say, "Just because you went to school doesn't mean you know more than me." Now, that part, she was right.

Why am I bringing this up. Because during that week my mom would be busy grinding rice in our old fashioned stone grinder because whenever there is a gathering of people is an opportunity to sell something. She would make rice cakes; nothing fancy, just ground rice with coconut milk, sugar and tuba (fermented coconut sap) in place of baking powder. I don't remember my mom making anything that requires long preparation except this one. Lately, I am feeling so nostalgic of my childhood and mostly I miss my mom because I was always helping her sell whatever. It was a hard life, but it was my life and it's what made me who I am today. The only thing I regret, is I don't know how to make that same "puto", it's a shame I have to scour the internet to find the recipe. This picture that Market Manila took is exactly how my moms puto looked like except she did not make but a white puto with the purple sprinkle. The old tin pot (make do steamer) and the coconut husk for fuel makes me feel so homesick.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Communicate, Communicate

It is not good when we resent "something" or "someone" because our body reacts and manifests it in several ways. Anger, depression or anxiety is the common body response and it's very unhealthy to walk around with this baggage. We need to address the issue, find a resolution and resolve it. And resolve it quick.

So why am I huffing and puffing and boiling over and blowing up at work? Because I have not come to terms with this impending move of our office location. I feel that management should have consulted us (pee-ons) or at the least, informed us the minute they were thinking of moving and that they were planning to move to another location that would require us to expend extra gas and extra time to get there. I understand that in this present economy it is hard to get another job, but I feel that it's just common decency to give us advance notice so we can plan accordingly.

Like, in my case, if I had known 3 months ago of their plan to move, I would have taken another job offer, or accepted a marriage proposal from a man in Jibuti (I don't know where that is, I just know how to spell it) or eloped to East Timor or whatever. Or, move in with this man I met under the bridge who drove a wiggly stolen shopping cart (he said he didn't steal it, he planned to return it at another Walmart in another State - you know, like returning a Hertz rent-a-car?) loaded with his valuable cardboard boxes. But you know what I mean? Give us the option (to quit or go with the move) and not just assume that we're stupid and won't know that an extra mile means extra gas and that extra gas means we have to eat less.

Ok, so I lied. There was no job offer and no marriage offer and I am blowing things out of proportion because an extra 14 miles a day is not much compared to being jobless. Looking at things in proper perspective, my world has not collapsed, I still have so many things to be thankful for and one is, I like my co-workers and they like me and when I am blogging at work, like right now, they know not to come bother me bumming for more cream or sugar.
The other day when I told my friend about my resentment over this move he said, "Just go with the flow because your job sounds fun," "Yeah, it's about as fun as diarrhea," I said. And if I don't come to terms with this "move" and continue to sit here pouting and blogging, my boss may just make me have more fun at the unemployment line.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Are We Missing

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

*After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars, two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?
Source: Snopes, Washington Post

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My comfort food

Because of the impending move of my office location, I'm feeling unhinged. And when I am stressed, I do one of 2 things; I either don't eat or I don't stop eating. Laksa or Pho is my comfort food I think because the herbs' fragrance exploding in my mouth, makes me feel exhilarated so this is what I made yesterday.1. If you have this handy at home -the soup base and a 6 oz can of coconut milk you can have laksa just as good if not better. When I make my Laksa, it is definitely better than Lion City, the only restaurant here in the Dallas area that serves Laksa. If you only follow the instruction on the bottle, you got a winner already but I add this 2: Belacan(shrimp paste cake) and fresh shrimp heads. After so many tries, I learned that this is the secret to a really outstanding Laksa. Simmer the shrimp heads for an hour( add the shrimp to the broth after you turn off the heat and you can use it as topping) and use it as broth instead of plain water. Break off about a tablespoon of belacan and stir it with the Laksa paste, add the shrimp broth, coco milk and let boil then simmer 5 minutes and turn off the heat. The belacan is not something you want to show to guests because it smells and looks like a dried up scraping from the sewage, but it makes all the difference in the taste. If you don't have it, just use fish sauce.

The soup gets better the next day, so just keep it in the refrigerator and only heat up however much you need then pour it over cooked rice noodles and whatever topping you want.
And this is a must have: Sriracha sauce and lime.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's Your Calling?

A pitcher cries for water to carry, and a person for work that is Real - Marge Piercy

Next month my office will move to another location which will be 6 miles farther from where we are now. I am a bit sad and a lot angry about it. I'm not really angry with the company because they have to do what they have to do to survive in this economy, but I am mad at myself because as much as I hate driving that far, there's nothing I hate more than looking for another job if I choose not to move with them.

I am mad because this move is rocking my boat: I don't want to move and I don't want to look for another job, so once again, I am forced to look and reassess my life. On my deathbed and I am asked, "Is this the job you want to be found dead in?" My answer would be an emphatic "no." So why not change?

When Clare Booth Luce reflected about her life and confessed, "If I were to write my autobiography, my title would be The Autobiography of a Failure." What in the world is she talking about? Not only did she have money, she had fame as an American playwright, and influence as a US ambassador. And if that wasn't enough, she was also married to the publishing magnate of Time and Life magazine.

But I understand what she meant. When people say they're a failure, it's because they are not doing what God has created them to do or not following their true calling. Luce had to sublimate her passion for theater writing to accomodate the duty of a politician. Her husband wanted her in politics, she didn't. " I would say my worst failure, paradoxically, was a rather long-drawn-out series of relative successes, none of which were in theater. In other words, my failure was not to return to the real vocation I had, which was writing. I don't remember from childhood ever wanting to do or be anything except a writer."

Like Luce, I also know that I am not doing what I was born to do, but I am too lazy, too afraid and too set in my ways to change my course. So until I get the balls, I'll just be sailing in my paper boat in this plastic world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Losing my marbles

I like to say that I have 2 brains - one is lost and the other one is looking for it. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work today to pick up olive oil and peanut butter. The peanut butter is not a standard issue for my pantry but I got it for a recipe I'm planning to make. When I got to my car I noticed that I was charged for 2 jars of peanut butter so I went back inside and told the lady I was charged twice for the peanut butter. She hesitantly gave me my money back and because she gave me that look short of rolling her eyes and saying I'm a liar, I got curious and checked my grocery bag in the car and sure enough I had 2 jars. When I saw that I was charged twice I did not check my grocery bag because I know I would not make the mistake of getting 2 jars- why would I? I only need 4 tablespoons to make my recipe. So imagine my frustration and embarrassment of having to go back to0 return the other jar and apologize.

In my frustration, ( why would I pick up 2 jars and not even remember it?) I sat in my car and ate a whole can of vienna sausage and turned on the radio where two men were discussing about dating, marriage and children. The other guy said that he is looking for a "good looking woman who is good in bed and at 2 a.m. will turn into a pizza." The other guy, giddy and with the infliction on his voice like he just came up with a new invention answered, "Yeah, that would be a perfect woman."
I thought their conversation was funny, so I laughed, but I think I laughed so I don't cry in my can of baby hotdogs.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Well, today is one of those days that I like; dark, gloomy and showering. So I started out early and went to return some books at the library and stopped by this place, Carmen's Bagel Cafe Italian Deli. I'm not into bagels but the colorful sign on this cafe stands out from among the rest in the area that I've been meaning to stop in but didn't get to until today. It's located on the same side of the Richardson Public library on a shopping plaza that looks empty most of the time. I met Jason the owner, ( a really nice guy ) who said that his grandfather always told him that, " One day you're gonna do it," meaning - he's going to open his own restaurant.Carmen's only serves Lavazza coffee, one of the 3 famous Italian coffees, the other 2 being illy and Segafredo. I bought a medium cappucino for only $2.35 served in this styro cup which I prefer to be served in a ceramic cup and saucer unless I order it to go.
I love mom and pop operations so I am hoping for this new business to be able to make it in this economy especially because Carmen's prices are very reasonable. Breakfast sandwiches in bagels, rolls or whole wheat is less than 4 dollars and breakfast platter is less than 5 dollars with free wi-fi, not to mention the homey, cozy living room set up.People started trickling in and suddenly the line was getting long I had to leave Jason alone but one more question: "Is Carmen your wife?" "No, that's my grandfather's name. My grandma was Napolitano, my grandpa a Sicilian. In Spanish, Carmen would be a woman's name but not in Italy." Now that explained the black and white picture of a man in between the bottles of Torani syrup on the shelf behind the counter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today's photojournalism

When I started this blog in 2006, I had 3 readers: me, myself and I. Then it improved to 4 when I threatened my son in-law John, to read it. I love him because even though he's mostly busy and one of the top ranking engineer at TI, he still finds the time to read my blog without me begging or threatening him anymore. No one threatens Chat, but she now reads my blog because she hopes I would write about her cat - Tigger Ayrton Shriner. Then last year I wrote about Arnel Pineda and I started getting a lot of readers, ( More than 3) which I am so thankful for.

And seriously, my readers are what kept me going. I feel obligated and responsible to produce something worth your time but I know that I produce more silly and goofy stuff than something you can use to edify yourselves. And that again makes me grateful to ya'll - whoever you are, wherever you are. I am waiting to enroll in a photography class at the local college so I can take better pictures and capture moments that I can share with all of you. Pictures that would tell stories by themselves, so I don't have to. But until then, I just point and shoot whatever I fancy regardless if it holds meaning to you or not. Like this sign I bought the other day for my patio, but the bad thing was, I felt like the sign is not complete without drinking a margarita too, or at least that's what Jimmy Buffett implied in his song.
You know what really goes well with coffee? A blood pressure monitor and a corn bread.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

My present high

I don't know what women get as wedding gifts from their husbands, but mine was a big thick heavy bible with an accompanying poem Don wrote for me.
( He was a Greek and Hebrew bible scholar and a Shakespeare freak.) I pretended to be happy with the gift because you can't show your real nasty self the first week of marriage. Then comes the next gift, "for the house" he said. It was a thick heavy cookbook with an accompanying set of heavy glass pyrex measuring bowls. The man badly needed me to learn how to cook, after I told him that the only food I know to cook is rice. Well, I opened that bible on the day he gave it to me and it was 7 years later when I opened it again and I still read it daily for my daily devotion. It is God's love letter to mankind and the best gift Don has ever given me after all. I don't remember whatever happened to that cookbook, but it was 10 years later after I got married that I started to learn to read and follow a recipe...stir or mix or fold? I had fun exploring specialty stores to buy kitchen gadgets and I always got a kick trying new recipes on Don because with him not knowing how to cook, he thought I was a great cook even after I turn fried eggs into charcoal. I didn't enjoy kitchen work anymore after Don died, then after I read Trail of Crumbs a month or so ago, I got excited about cooking again so I unpacked my kitchen tools from my garage and started scouring the internet for food bloggers. I found 2 that I really like - Kusina ni Manang and babeinthecity. Well, until I get bored with this, this is my high for now.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Ensaymada (Brioche)

Thank God for Kusina ni Manang she has the recipe for ensaymada (brioche) without too much work. Not that I want to eat ensaymada a lot, but because of the challenge in making it and getting the desired result, it became a monkey on my back, until now. You are da bomb manang. I wonder if Anthony Bourdain has an assistant to prepare his ingredients. With these many, I need my own assistant.
The only way to stop me from eating it all is to make it really like the ensaymada....sugar and butter on top. (I get a headache looking at the sugar. )I normally don't toot my own horn, but I am proud of myself on this. Very delicate and not gooey.I tried baking some on my brioche mold and it came out like this - harder on the outside.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What's eating You

Well, today's lesson from my picnic table guru, Mr. Gupta: I should stop eating meat. When I told him, that I am "slowly trying", he said, "Why slowly? if you find yourself about to fall from a cliff, you don't slowly try, you step back and stop." I love his philosophy, but I just can't imagine life without meat or fat. He further appealed to my conscience by telling me that animals releases stress hormones when they are about to be killed because they are afraid and we end up ingesting those bad hormones. I thought about what he said and I started to feel bad for the animals but not bad enough because after I ran my errands, I felt like I could not move another step if I didn't go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and eat their brined pork. I know, I know, but I always feel that it's not what we eat, but what's eating us. Guilt,bitterness or unforgiveness is more destructive than a jiggly pork belly. Some people are addicted to chocolate, me, I'm addicted to grease.
After I hogged down half of it, I went to the Vietnamese market and found this in the frozen section. I didn't know what it was, except it said "Thai coconut dessert", but I love the ceramic bowls - 6pcs for $3.99 so I bought it. The instruction said to steam for 3 minutes. I did and it's really good but I can only eat one because it's very sweet and rich.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Slouching Towards Nowhere

My friend Lynn would lament, "This world is getting harder and harder to live in." My answer to her, (quoting my black friends) "I feel you girl, I feel you." You see, under the last US President - the rambling Bush, if you use the word "bomb" and "America" in the same sentence followed by some big word like " imperialism", you are in danger of being labelled a terrorist. Under the current prez - the dark skin overlord Barr, if you say "Christian" and "America" in the same sentence followed by any word that could be implied that you are proud of America and the founding fathers who were white, you are in danger of being labelled a racist.

My brain is so fogged up nowadays I can't retain much of anything when it comes to statistical or historical data but I think this is simple enough to understand. As for me, my bias and allegiance is undoubtedly towards America because I have seen the alternative which is my own country of birth. America allows me to prosper and thus enables me to send money and improve the lifestyle of my family (and the politicians) back in the Philippines. And, I am proud of my fellow Filipinos accomplishments - abroad or in the Philippines, but I have sworn my allegiance back in 1991 to this country called the USA. So really, I don't care how I am labelled, I still believe America is "da bomb."