Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kali Elijah

I haven't posted anything in a while, and that's because hubby and I are in Walla Walla, Washington and I did not bring my personal laptop (tsk, tsk)!  Apparently, blogger does not work in too well in IE (the only browser I have now), so after more than a week of no blogging, I decided to install Chrome.  I couldn't take it anymore (ARRRGHHH)!!! :-)

Why are we in Walla Walla?  Here's the reason:

It's the christening of my older sister's second son, Kali Elijah, and the whole family was here last weekend!  It's always great to have a  family reunion, albeit short-lived.  This took place last May 27, Sunday, at St. Mary's Chapel, in the City of Walla Walla (funny name for a city huh?).  I'll be posting more about this town, but for now, I just wanted to share some of my favorite photos from the Christening.

David Datu, now a big brother.  Ninong Hubby.  My beautiful sister and "Eli" getting dressed in his baptismal gown.

Mom and older sister, who already went home two days ago (sob).  The ceremony.

A simple gathering with a few friends and family.  Mom's special angel food cake, and now my "specialty" - pancit hab-hab which everyone raved about (aheemmm).  My sister, myself (and my humongous pimple hahaha), and mom.  Tito Gil (the perpetual ninong) and hubby (the new ninong). 

A tender moment between "kuya" and "ading".

I wasn't able to post some photos with my dad and Eli's dad (Kuya Pat) as the camera had terrible settings at that time so I was only able to harvest a few good photos.  Will post more soon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Take on Indian Food

It's no secret that I love Indian Food, and I guess that's because I love SPICY food.  There's just something about Indian Cuisine that stimulates all the senses - the colors, the aroma (ok admittedly, it's not for everyone), the flavors... And I think one dish will have no less than 5 spices in it.  

Last weekend, I made two Indian dishes for my Mom - who influenced her children to be adventurous about their food (and I thank her for that).  So I cheated on the first dish, Butter Chicken, because the sauce came from a bottle hee hee, but it's just so darn good!  The sauce was so thick, so I diluted in milk and I added potatoes and peas.  For the second dish, Chana Masala, the spice blend came from a box, but I cooked everything else - so it's semi-from-scratch.  I added some cilantro for color.  We only had regular jasmine rice (not the traditional Indian Basmati rice), but we did have some Naan bread.  

I ate the last cup of Chana Masala this evening.  I'm proud of it - almost like what you eat from an Indian Restaurant. :-)  And most importantly, my mom loved it, including the Butter Chicken.  We had these for dinner last weekend, then lunch today (per her request).  Just thinking about it, I'm getting hungry again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What an Eggsperience!

My posts in the next few days are most likely going to be about my Mom, what we did, and of course, what we ate!:-) Today was uneventful as we just shopped 'til we dropped in Wisconsin, with the intent of escaping the commotion in downtown Chicago where the NATO Summit is being held.  Yesterday, we did a little more of the touristy stuff and we also continued our Saturday routine (with my mom!) - brunch.  We're supposed to go to XOCO, but we were an hour too late as they were already getting ready for lunch.  No more chilaquiles and torrejas - booooo!:-O  Since Eggsperience Cafe is right around the corner, we decided to have our first meal of the day there... I've actually been there once, about a year ago, and it was a great "eggsperience".  Good thing it wasn't too crowded like I expected, but that was maybe because people were trying to avoid downtown for potential protester rallies and God knows what else!  Anyway, the menu was quite overwhelming - they have everything your heart desires for breakfast (with eggs of course).  Pancakes, waffles, fritatas, omelets, benedicts, name it, they have it!  

Thank God they have chilaquiles!  So that's what I had.  It was good, but the serving was way too huge and the salsa verde was way too hot! The eggs were cooked perfectly (they better be!), so I was dancing for joy (in my head) when I had my first bite.  Mom had the strawberry cheesecake pancake - the cream cheese portion was good, but the pancakes failed in comparison with the other pancakes I've tried in Original Pancake House or Maple Counter Cafe.  Or maybe it was too high of an expectation for a place that does not specialize in pancakes!  For hubby's bacon, spinach, and mushroom fritata - hmmm... not to sound conceited (a.k.a. feelingera), I could've done it better (naks X 100)!  But the presentation was top notch though - just look at the photos...

What does chilaquiles look like beneath the eggs?  Here you go - it's a mixture of salsa, cheese, and leftover (potentially stale) tortillas... I'm still a fan.

Was it still a great experience?  No.  It was just a good, safe one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mom is Here!

... and I instantly felt much better.  After a long week and so much chaos in my head.

I've long waited for the day of my Mom's arrival... to have her in my other side of the world.  And after a 9-hour-long conference call yesterday, we rushed to O'hare Airport to pick her up... finally!!!

Because we're quite the same in many ways... and she understands me.

To let her see how beautiful Chicago is.  I am still a lucky girl, despite what my head tells me.

And she gets along with the love of my life.  They both have a sweet tooth!

Because she deserves a really good break.  I love this photo.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fun Interior for a Cafe

"Ang cuuuuuttteee"!

That's the first thing that came to my mind the minute I stepped into this French-themed Cafe.  Playful, whimsical, colorful, CUTE.  You just want to hang out here all day and wait for Mario & Luigi to come out, along with the Care Bears, their cousins, and why not bring along the Sanrio gang while you're at it!  Okay, now that I think about it more, you probably don't want to stay here too long or you'll find yourself in the loony bin, heehee!

Regardless, I think this is the cutest cafe ever - gives me great ideas for my own (everybody has a dream)!

We weren't able to eat a full meal here - hubby and I just shared a ham-cheese-egg crepe, because we were bound for another popular Chicago hot dog place and didn't want to commit a capital sin with a capital G hehehe.  We each had our coffee though - hubby had the one in the photo - toasted marshmallow latte.  I had a white chocolate raspberry latte.  Not bad.

Nice touch, huh? :-) Well, hope you also do have a great day!

I just realized I have a blog milestone - this is my 50th post!  Woohoo!!!  (Spare me the babaw shriek of joy)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate Soap

These came in today!  I was so excited, I immediately used all products: Organic Moisturizing Lotion, Cocoa Soap, and Lip Butter Balm.  Mmmm...  These were actually hand made by one of my favorite aunts (mom's youngest sister), who really has a knack for arts and crafts, but she definitely took it to another level by going into skin care products!  I don't blog for a living, nor did my aunt ask me to advertise her goodies, but, common - wouldn't you want to know how it feels bathing in chocolate and milk and olive oil and butter and all those good stuff?

I think the packaging was clever.  Simple, unpretentious, what you see is what you get.  Definitely speaks for these products which are all-natural, chemical-free, fragrance-free, and made with love and care.  The soap's cocoa scent is really subtle - you don't have to worry about ants (or any other bugs) crawling on your bed in the middle of the night... And the lotion, so rich and creamy, perfect for my dry Chicago-weathered skin.  I love the natural scent too.  The lip balm - so delicious you would want to bite on it.

Herb Secrets Lotion, Lip Balm, and Soap

My favorite - Choco-Cocoa Soap.  Certainly not something you buy from a department store.  Indulge in chocolate without the calories!  Kudos to my aunt's creativity and passion for all-natural skincare and health products!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Little Italy, Chicago

I think I'm turning into a real foodie now.  By its simplest definition in Wikipedia, "Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink".  Particular class?  Haha!  Anyway, looking at my blog list, more than half of my posts talk about food.  And today is no different.  

Yesterday, in our quest to buy the cheapest cabinet for our overflowing clothes (i.e. Target), we included a little trip to "Little Italy" for what else?  Good old Italian Food.  Nothing fancy, but just to get our Italian fix... and so we ended up having dinner at Pompei Bakery & Restaurant.  A casual dining place where they serve humungous portions and loudly play "O Solo Mio"...

Pompei Bakery

My jaw dropped when my Vesuvio came - I didn't think they would give me half a chicken!  It was good though, juicy and garlicky and I loved the bell peppers and peas.  Hubby helped me finish half of it.
One of the best lasagnas I've ever had - despite the LARGE serving, it wasn't overwhelming.

I thought their Cannoli looked fun, so I got one.  After my first bite, it wasn't so fun haha.  There were just too many peanuts for my liking.  And the cream inside was uninspired.
Hubby's favorite - you can't go wrong with Tiramisu and what I love about it is that it wasn't too sweet.

As usual, I got inspired.  Today, I looked at our pantry and fridge, and I thought I could come up with improvised pasta dishes.  Starting with... Alfredo!  For the sauce, I sautéed garlic in olive oil, added some flour and our last cup of milk.  With some left over cheese from my cheese fondue project, I included this in the mixture (gruyere, swiss, parmesan).  Then I mixed in fresh and canned mushrooms.  For color, I added some green peas.  I used fettuccine for the noodles, and drizzled my latest obsession, truffle oil.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushroom & Peas and Truffle oil

For a different twist, using the same sauce, I just added left over spam from breakfast.  I'm getting used to this now - I have to always make a his and hers or mr. and mrs. variation as my husband needs to have his meat.

Fettuccine Afredo with Mushroom, Peas, & Spam

Finally, since I was in the mood, I also made Pasta Puttanesca.  This is actually my favorite pasta dish, especially with Angel Hair, which unfortunately, we ran out of.  Yesterday, during our "quest," we also dropped by my favorite store, World Market, where I bought capers and anchovies.  Everything else, I just found in our kitchen.  Instead of using black olives, I used left over feta-stuffed green olives, but took out the cheese.

Again using olive oil, I sautéed lots and lots of garlic, then added the anchovies, crushing it until almost disolved.  Added fresh tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce and simmered for a few mins.  Then I mixed in capers and my rehauled olives.  To finish off, added about a tablespoon of sugar, a dash of chili pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of patis.

Pasta Puttanesca

Buon appetito!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grilled Mushroom & Cheese Sandwich Among Others

A lot of things were going through (and messing with) my head this past week and despite already having "the talk" with my dearest hubby, I am still stumped with what to do next.  I realize, having too many achievable goals in your life may lead you to not achieve, actually, any of them.  Knowing your priorities is definitely a good thing, but still worrying about numbers 4, 5, and 6 will not get you anywhere.  I need a good shaking before more road detours get in the way... And speaking of which... Yesterday it was a fairly nice warmer weather so we decided to walk home from the office.  The danger with this though is that there are so many distractions along the way.  A perfect example: we weren't able to resist one of our favorite restaurants, XOCO, because we were after all, tired, starving, and tempted by the thoughts of hot tortas and empanadas!  By the way, I did not expect that a torta would actually be some sort of panini or grilled sandwich, because growing up, we referred to torta as an omelette.  As in ground meat and veggies wrapped in scrambled eggs.  Nonetheless, as you can see in the picture above, it still looked appetizing and was actually delicious - the flavors are new to me and I was more than delighted.  I got the woodland mushroom torta so it was a vegetarian one with lots and lots of mushrooms and arugula.  It was also served with a tangy, spicy, peppery salsa.  YUMMY.

This evening, hubby and I were supposed to go out and walk all the way to Navy Pier and watch a movie at IMAX theater as the weather was just perfect.  But when the clock struck 5PM, we got lazy and decided to just be couch potatoes and relax at home. At 8PM, I got bored and needed a little inspiration.  So we went out for a walk with no other plans but to get some frozen yogurt.  But before even reaching our destination, we did a little shopping - well, I did at Urban Outfitters.  Bought a nice pair of teal leather thong sandals at 50% off - score!  Now I need to get myself some nice pedi... Next stop, Forever Yogurt.  This place never fails to make me happy - and especially with less guilt, because yogurt is the healthier option (so they say).  As the place was packed with no seats available, we decided to eat our yogurt while walking.  It was still early and Whole Foods was just right around the corner, so we did a little grocery shopping.  We were getting a bit hungry despite the yogurt fix, so I got some bread, veggies, and pesto to make sandwiches at home.  I remembered we still have some fresh mushrooms and ham in the fridge and so we're ready to check out.  Okay, before I change this post's title to something else, here's a quick run-through of how I made this torta-inspired sandwich, but I made it more "Italian":

- Ciabatta Bread
- Fresh White Mushrooms (Baby Bellas are also good)
- Fresh Herb Mix (Arugula, Lettuce, Spinach)
- Swiss Cheese
- Basil Pesto 
- Olive Oil
- Sea Salt

Sauté the mushrooms with olive oil and a dash of sea salt for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.  Place the mushrooms in a microwaveable plate and top with a slice of swiss cheese.  Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until the cheese melts.

Slice the Ciabatta crosswise and place both pieces onto the pan (same used for the mushrooms) and press with a spatula until toasted.  Do this on both sides.

Pile up the herb mix, mushrooms, and cheese onto the toasted bread.  Drizzle with pesto.  

 I think I'll have this again tomorrow night...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Game Night - who would've thought...

Game Night?  The only game night I knew growing up was mahjong nights of the oldies (fine, and also the not so oldies) in my family!  Apparently, this is a "cool" activity also for adults here in America - i.e. the Friday night alternative minus the hangover.  We've been having game nights the last few weeks, thanks to a friend who introduced us to the game called Settlers of Catan.  Honestly, I dreaded the first night we played this board game, because common... me?  Game of strategy?  I'd space out in no time while thinking about on-line shopping!  But what the heck, I did try it, and yes I liked it - I even won one time, ha!  And nope, I didn't have a strategy - it was pure luck (though they never believed me).  Last Friday, we also played Taboo, and I must say, I felt like a moron not being able to guess right away "club" with words like "what cavemen hit their wives with"!  Whatda?!  Never would have guessed - maybe I'm too happy-a-wifey to think something like that hahaha!  Okay honestly, I wouldn't have answered correctly if not for the word "soda" with it. :-)

We've probably hosted game night more than three times already and all it really takes is greasy food, a board game, and cool friends who love wholesome fun.  Yes, I'm part of the cool-people-who-love-wholesome-fun-club!  

My team did not win Taboo, nor did I win Settlers.  But I won lots of free samples from a friend who works at a popular food company.  Haha!