Sunday, February 26, 2012

Orange Mocha

What we love...
Turned into now our favorite breakfast companion.

Orange Mocha.

Also inspired by Terry's Milk Chocolate.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Huevos Rancheros

I realize, I become inspired to create things when I experience or see great things, like it's almost automatic.  Give me a few hours or a few days, I'll come up with something equally satisfying (or better - naks) - may it be food, a piece of art, or even just a compilation of stories or pictures put together in an album... or this blog.  I guess that's just a natural reaction to most people, but somehow the inner competitive person in me comes out.  I just need to create something.
This morning, we did our just-turned-routine activity: have breakfast out where we have not gone before.  Why breakfast?  First of all, you can (almost) never go wrong with breakfast (shame on those who can't serve decent fried eggs and bacon).  Second, it's much more economical than lunch or dinner.  Third, at least for me, it prolongs the weekend (because we are forced to start our Saturdays early).  And lastly, we just love breakfast food!  So we went to a modest yet interestingly colorful place called Janik's Cafe which is at the Ukrainian Village area.  I've never had Mexican breakfast before, except for the McDonalds' breakfast burrito (or is it even?), so I tried the Huevos Rancheros.  It's made of crispy tostadas topped with fried eggs and green salsa, with refried beans and mexican rice.  I finished the whole plate - need I say more?  It's a refreshing change from the usual pancakes and benedicts and will definitely be something I'll start looking for when I find nice breakfast/brunch places.  It's quite reasonable at $7.50 and coffee was surprisingly good too.  Definitely a must try. (from left: huevos rancheros, waffle)

Bobby's choice, which is your typical waffle, sausage, bacon, and egg combo came out as "average" - nothing special really.  But he did enjoy the bacon because it was cooked perfectly crispy (not pictured).  But how can you go wrong with bacon? :-)  Anyway, overall it was an inspiring little cafe and it made me daydream about having one.  Who knows?
This experience definitely sparked my creativity and so I tried making a nice (supposedly) light pasta dish for lunch (neither Mexican nor breakfast).  Found some andouille sausage in the fridge, left over green bell peppers, cans of mushroom and diced tomatoes in the pantry.  Perfect for penne.  I added some spices - basil, oregano, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili pepper flakes.  Voila!  Spicy Penne Pasta with Andouille Sausage, Peppers, and Mushrooms topped with Italian 5-cheese blend.  It may be a little too spicy for Bobby, but he did eat a hearty portion!
Now what to do tomorrow...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Perfectly Sung by Jessica Sanchez

Wasn't it just last year that I got obsessed with American Idol because of Thia Megia?  I think I watched all her youtube videos in my spare time!  And now it feels like deja vu.  Another 16 year-old pinoy made it through to the top 24 and I think she did an absolutely flawless performance of "The Prayer".  Before this last crucial performance, the only airtime she got was during their group performance in Vegas - she suddenly popped out of nowhere and gave a standing O performance.  Pinoy talaga.  Gave me a sense of pride... and goosebumps.
It will be interesting watching this show during these cold, stressful winter months and follow Jessica all the way (fingers crossed) to the top.  Great distraction.  I can't wait for next week.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

S100 is Finally HERE!!!

I've had my trusty point and shoot for almost 6 years now and despite all we've been through, I need something better to fulfill all my creative needs! :-) My Canon 400D on the other hand, is just too bulky to carry around (and outdated)... and I realized, I'm not really the techie photographer type like most aficionados, but just someone who wants to take amazing, interesting pictures.  With a handy P&S.  Picture-perfect moments usually pass by so quickly and you need something light, fast, and takes high quality pictures.  So I'm now a convert.  I'll be using this camera from this day forward (thanks to the federal tax refund)!  Just before the new battery died on me, I took some test shots.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Learning GIMP

I've always been a Photoshop addict - love, love, love it.  Playing with it and creating amazing graphics is PURE BLISS.  Yes, I am a geek.  But since I moved to the US, I will need to spend $$$ to get it (so long, ruins).  As I was getting desperate trying to customize my blog, I asked my hubby where I could get a mac compatible easy-to-use graphic editing tool that is uhh... free.  And then he pointed me to GIMP.  Ok, it took me two hours to make a graphic that I would probably make in 20 minutes using Photoshop.  I realize GIMP has cloned Photoshop in so many ways but failed miserably in usability.  Some shortcuts don't even work and dragging objects is p-a-i-n-f-u-l.  Maybe if I use it more often I'd be better at it... let's see.  So here you have it, I'm not ecstatic about the result, but I'm happy enough to use it as my Blog Title for now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Good Eats Weekend!

I have always been a food lover/foodie - whatever you call it.  This weekend was no different. Chicago has definitely a lot to offer aside from the usual deep dish pizza, hotdogs, and Italian beef.  It also boasts of cuisines from various cultures and Chi-town had surely spawned so many other "towns" - Chinatown, Greektown, Korean Town, Viet Town, Little Italy and the list goes on...  So there's this annual "Restaurant Week" that takes place right after V-Day wherein  restaurants offer their best dishes in pre-fixed menus at lower prices.  In my last few years being in Chicago, this was the first time I've heard of it and thanks to a good friend, I'm so glad I got to try it in a wonderful place called "Sunda".  It's a restaurant featuring "modern Asian" cuisine - somewhat a fusion or a more exciting way of preparing traditional Asian favorites.  What intrigued me was actually their "Braised Pork Belly Adobo" because it's pinoy of course, which is so rare to find in downtown!  It's like pan fried adobo, so tender and flavorful melt-in-your mouth goodness.  I will definitely come back before I head home...
Saturday morning, we went to Lincoln Park to try another brunch place called "Toast".  It was a 5 minute train ride and 10 minute walk.  Place was quite small and I read is usually packed, but since we were early, we're lucky enough to grab a table without having to wait.  From the reviews, people were raving about their "Stuffed French Toast" which is a combination of three flavors - strawberry, mexican chocolate, and mascarpone cheese.  It was also quite photogenic!  And as our waitress placed it on our table, I was definitely impressed.  However, after two bites, it felt short of my expectation as I was imagining a more decadent flavor - similar to the "Chocolate Tower French Toast" I had at Bongo Room (see last post).  Even felt like they had to put in 3 flavors to guarantee at least one will be good.  Anyway, their pesto omelette and coffee were good - plus, the staff was very friendly.
In the evening, after watching "The Vow" with hubby and friends, we all decided to try "The Slurping Turtle" for dinner.  A casual Japanese Ramen restaurant which has apparently been creating some buzz... We came in at around 7PM, and the place was crowded - we would've come in earlier if not for our 2-hour shopping spree at Forever 21. :-) As we were all so hungry and could not wait for another 1&1/2 hours, we went to the perpetually reliable Star of Siam.  Great ambiance, amazing Thai Iced Tea, and absolutely affordable.  We had our usual fare (Pad See Ew, Basil Chicken, Curry, Crab Rangoon), but I was introduced to a new appetizer - Fish Cakes.  It's like fish/squidball which you'll deep in a vinegar, peanut, lemongrass, chili, cucumber concoction, and it definitely tastes so good.  Hubby even had to keep a piece after the plate was taken so he could eat it along with the main course, with rice of course!  Definitely something worth adding to the "usual fare" list.
Because I've started having "that Sunday afternoon feeling" today, after mass, we went to Whole Foods to grab a few ingredients for our weekly meal.  Aside from grocery shopping, their lunch options never fail to cheer me up - because there's just so many and you just pick what you like, buffet-style, and they'll weigh it, price it, and you're good to go.  I had a weird selection, but it was definitely yummy - I got some sort of cold Chinese pasta salad and Mexican chicken with rice.  It was so good, I didn't care if their flavors clashed. :-)  These buffet-type eateries give you the best of both worlds!  
I usually cook 2-3 dishes during the weekend so we can just heat them up during the week.  I planned for Chicken Curry, and I wanted to put a little twist by adding lemongrass, but unfortunately Whole Foods didn't have it.  Also, I found mung beans sleeping in our pantry, so I had to get some spinach and tomatoes to go with it.  This time, I again put a little twist and mixed in bacon instead of the usual pork and shrimp - this style I've actually learned from my Mom.  It turned out really good.  We'll have this tonight with Daing na Bangus (milkfish).
Great food, great weekend... can't wait for the next!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Starting to have fun with my mac...

It's truly a gift living here in Chicago.  Apart from the usual downtown sites, I find joy in finding hidden treasures... in places such as Wicker Park.  These photos were taken one cold winter day, on February 4, 2012.  And this is my first stab at iMovie.  Truly another gift. :-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

... a BLOG.

For the 3rd time I think.  There was pink and gold leaves and I forgot the title of the last one... it's been that long.  I realize, despite being perceived as timid, I actually like expressing myself.  I'm not even sure if my life is interesting enough for people to actually read about what I go through each day, but I'm doing this to get to the point where I know what I'm destined to do... The question never goes away, and I know many of my friends are in the same situation.  I guess that's why we understand each other so well.  The daily routine, the "s" word that also ends with "s" (it's not what you think), the dragging of the feet every morning, and the dream of actually LOVING what you do.  Oh and yes, the dreadful Sunday feeling.

For now, I create a blog.