Monday, April 30, 2012

Ikat! My New Blog Design

I love Ikat Patterns!  Actually, I realize, I love Ethnic-inspired art and prints - you can see them in my clothes, shoes, and accessories.  And now I'm loving the Ikat designs on pillows and furniture I see in HGTV shows!

So what the heck is ikat?  Thanks to good ol' Wikipedia:

Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft fibres.

And why not do ikat on my blog?  It took me some time to find a really nice ikat pattern on-line and I just morphed them to create my banner.  I've actually found a great looking background too only to realize it's not meant to be re-used (so I deleted as not to be accused of copyright infringement).  This is still a work in progress, but at least my banner is up!


At 11:33PM CDT: So I could not sleep leaving my page looking plain.  I found a new background which I think looks even better.  Now I can sleep!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pinoy Lunch for Vhie

Vhie is a very good friend of mine, and even though we don't see each other often, we always connect... People will probably not think that we're actually close. :-) It all started during our New Managers School a few years ago, which was held in an old hotel at Subic Bay.  Each of us had our own room, which uhmmm had very spooky-looking paintings on the wall.  We got to talk during lunch break and realized we both have pretty vivid, wild imagination... so we decided to become roommates and we instantly bonded.  She's quite spunky and fearless (ok, except for the creepy paintings hehehe) and gives me good advice about career and family.
We're lucky to be assigned in the US at the same time, but she's already going home to Manila three days from now!  So finally, we have lunch... I invited her and her 9-year-old daughter Ianna to our place.  Since I've been having American food in the last few days, I decided to whip up some Pinoy favorites...

Pancit Habhab, Sweet & Sour Fish, Lumpiang Shanghai, and Jasmine Rice

Pancit Habhab (a.k.a. "Pancit Lucban") is similar to Pancit Canton, but the noodles are thinner and called Lucban Miki.  It is also usually served in banana leaves, eaten using your bare hands, and drizzled with vinegar, instead of calamansi.  I learned to do this recently and has become my favorite pancit.  The trick? Use boiled pork belly stock and make lechon kawali for toppings.  It's actually good with rice.  I know right? Carbs on carbs!

Sweet & Sour Fish (a.k.a. Escabeche) is usually made with Lapu-Lapu, but it's not available here.  Instead, I bought Ocean Perch, which has a similar look and texture and it worked out just fine - except that the head was so fragile (definitely not pretty after frying hahaha).  For the sauce, this is a no-fuss shortcut version, but I think it tastes much better than making it from scratch (thanks to my Mom's ingenuity) - I used bottled Sweet Chili Sauce (Thai or Pinoy like Jufran) and lemon juice, and poured over sautéed bell peppers and onions.

As for my Lumpia, I didn't bother highlighting because it still needs polishing - i.e. the art of wrapping!  The filling is good (actually hubby's favorite and the only dish Ianna ate), but presentation needs work.  Will attempt again soon.

This is Ianna and Vhie... and me.  See you again soon mare.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kali Elijah

Kali Elijah Nunez Perez
Born 26th April 2012
8 lbs 4oz

It makes me smile just thinking about the newest member of our family, Eli, second son of my older sister Joanne, and Patrick.  He is very special.  For one, they say he looks like me (though I think he looks more like Kuya Pat).  But I'll take it - did I mention he's the cutest - all 8 pounds of him?!?;-) He's the second child and potentially middle child, and aheeem... I am too - I think we are the most well-rounded, balanced people you'll ever meet hahaha!  He'll also soon be my hubby's godson (imagining him saying "Ninong Bobby" makes my heart leap with joy).  And lastly, he would've been the same age as our child, if the greatest dream did not end last October.  I am overjoyed, but it is also a little bittersweet.

Nonetheless, little Eli will be our inspiration.  Everyday I pray that we again have the greatest dream, and this time, it will never end.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

French Pastry Class!

It was a Monday night, and I almost did not make it to our French Pastry Class.  Thank God I did not let work get in the way (pat on the back for me).  Thanks to a good friend who saw this on Living Social, we had four hours of (educational) fun making macarons and eclairs!  It was a good deal because we didn't only learn how to make the lovely pastries, but we got to bring them home too and aheeemmm... impress people (like my hubby - as if he needs impressing haha).  And it was just a small group - 7 students divided into 2 teams and our really nice teacher, Christie.  Very hands-on, and you can ask-questions-all-you-want.  Not bad for 60 bucks.

Plated Dessert made of Swan Eclairs
Finger Eclairs

I'm with Team Pink French Macarons

Neapolitan with Pastry Cream and Blackberries & Blueberries
Eclair with Almonds
My take-away box (there were probably 30 pieces there)!

Our Class at the Cook Au Vin Kitchen (our two other classmates were HILARIOUS) so that made the night so much fun!  And Christie, our teacher, was the best.  You just know she's been doing this all her life and she loves it.  So inspiring.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tabby's Tea-Time Party!

What a treat it was for me to host a tea-time themed party for my good friend, Tabby!  Definitely my cup of tea (pun intended haha)!  It has somehow become a tradition that our send-off parties should always have a theme - the last time was actually Chinese New Year so we did the whole Chinese Lanterns and greasy Chinese Food thing and everyone had to wear red.  For Tabby, we wanted something a little more girly, dainty, sweet, lovely, fun, Springy (kind of like her)!  We only invited her close friends... and besides, living in downtown Chicago means we only have so much space.  It worked out though, because these themed parties are more manageable for small groups.  Here are some photos:

My friends (Ela, Emmy), and I did some prep work the night before, so here's our peg.
Colors: Pink, teal, lime green, orange (i.e. happy Spring colors)
Props: Doilies, colorful daisies, tiered servers, anything floral and (elegantly) fun and cute

So on to the following day...

It was actually pot luck, so we instructed people to bring something appropriate for the theme (screening was done via e-mail hahaha)!  I still made small labels, because I noticed in parties, people always asked, "ano to?" to every single dish and I'd have to answer them all throughout the party... so, with the help of scrapbook printed paper and my trusty old printer (no questions asked, just recipes):

Tabby & her Tea... Love the hanging flower pompoms?  Instructions can be found here.

What's a tea party without tea?  Good thing I have so many teacups - the biggest hit was the heart shaped teacups and saucers (hubby's valentines' gift last year).  We also served brewed coffee and cold cider.

Props, props, props!  And cool macro shots, why not?
I have not yet taken down the lanterns -- looking at them makes me happy especially when I'm getting too stressed at work!  They're like happy clouds you want to live in.

The lovely ladies in their pretty dresses and the boys, uh... in their rugged attire.

More of this in the coming months... Definitely in my zone for these things.  Special thanks to Emmy for this great idea!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

His & Hers Baked Egg

In yesterday's breakfast trip to Floriole Cafe, I got so inspired by how they crafted very simple yet absolutely perfect pastries, sandwich and coffees.  And one little detail that stuck in my mind is how they used baked eggs in their breakfast sandwich.  Its creamy and smooth texture is almost like flan, but savory.

Today, as I started preparing for our afternoon tea themed party (which I will talk about soon), I decided to make something simple, yet filling, for breakfast.  Need I say more?  Baked Eggs.  I didn't bother looking for a recipe online, and just put together in my mind what ingredients and tools it could possibly need, and also added a little twist to make it "his and hers". :-)

His Baked Egg: One egg, about 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, parmesan cheese, and ham. Salt & Pepper to taste.
Hers Baked Egg: Same - just replace the ham with fresh mushrooms.

Beat the eggs together with the cream, then add salt and pepper.  Place the cheese and ham or mushroom onto a ramekin.  Pour the egg mixture and place the ramekins in a baking pan with about 1/2 inch of water.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the eggs set.  I served this with whole wheat toast, but it's also good to eat as is.  And don't forget the brewed coffee!

Ham & Cheese Baked Egg
Oh, I do have one small yet high-impact tip: drizzle with black truffle oil and you'll never look at eggs the same way again!

Mushroom & Cheese Baked Egg

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Floriole Cafe and Walk Along Lincoln Park

After my friend sent me this link last week, I immediately looked through what hidden Chicago gems I can explore this weekend. Floriole Cafe & Bakery caught my eye - hmm, fresh, flaky, and french... definitely a departure from our usual heavy, food-coma-waiting-to-happen American breakfasts.  So we went this morning, bright and early, wearing our cold weather gear.  The place is very casual (and not snobbish at all, haha) and self-service.  Of course, as I mentioned "flaky" (typical of french breads/pastries), we ordered a galette, croissant, and baguette sandwich.  Everything was deliriously delicious!  The flakiness, the creamy baked egg, the freshly-baked taste, the perfectly frothed milk in our mocha and latte... happiness.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Galette

Chocolate & Almond Cream Croissant, my hubby enjoying his Mocha, and Bacon, Baked Egg & Cheese on Baguette with Oranges and Grapefruit

In front of the shop and my Latte (darn, I have to learn that)!

And so we after a satisfying breakfast, we continued our walk in this Lincoln Park Area... might as well burn down the carbs and explore some more with our trusty p&s...

So many local/independently-run shops, I love it.  We also bought some cupcakes from Sweet Mandy B's (one of the shops with the pastel canopies).

Train tracks (somehow misplaced in this bunch, but I took this on our way to Floriole, so... I like it)
St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church

A Salon Door,  Jewelry Shop, and De Paul University with Monsignor John Egan Statue

So I did start with a peak this weekend. :-)