Monday, October 31, 2011

I Hear the Hummingbirds Calling

As I'm writing this post, I'm listening to the gentle sound of raindrops falling on the roof. It had been a hot and humid day. Just when you think there is no stopping the heat, rainfall gave a pleasant relief on a Monday evening. Tonight is the eve of Halloween. Following the trend driven by the U.S. media,  I saw some children dressed in costumes trick-or-treating yesterday at the mall. But tradition in my country is a bit more than just dressing up and collecting candies. We celebrate All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day by remembering and honoring our dead loved ones. Instead of costumes, people are busy buying candles, flowers and food. Evening news feature paranormal and supernatural events, meant to give you some goosebumps and scare. Days before Nov. 1 and 2, airports, ships and buses will be packed as people rush to go back to their hometowns. Most of the streets are also quiet and rather empty. There is only one place where you can find most of the people at: the cemetery. Traffic going in and out of the cemeteries and the nearby streets is tight. Prayers are offered to souls, candles lighted and flowers are left in front of the tombs and occasionally, as odd as it is, even food for the dead. The pecularities do not end there. There is a "fun" side to our Halloween celebration too. It is a time for families to reunite and spend time together. Tents, chairs and tables are set up in front of the tombs to provide shelter from the heat or rain where families will mingle and chit-chat. Some people even spend the night at the graveyard. There is plenty of food and drinks going around with food stalls and vendors lined up just outside the cemeteries. People bring music and games for entertainment. It really is becoming more of an odd, big cemetery-style picnic. I feel that the whole essence of the celebration seems to be lost gradually over time.

I've missed the past couple of years celebrating All Souls' Day like everyone else and this year is not going to be any different. The heat, the overwhelming crowd and chaos are sometimes a little too much for me. I much prefer to stay at home and offer my prayers quietly. That also gives me more time to do what I enjoy the most, baking and food gawking online.  :)  Ah, I savor and relish my 4-day weekend.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


One might easily confuse and think that the French macarons and the chewy shredded coconut macaroons are one and the same but these are actually two distinctly different sweet treats.

The French macaron that has a crunchy, smooth domed top with a soft interior that is slightly chewy and melts in your mouth. It is a meringue made from egg whites beaten with some granulated sugar and folded with almond flour and filled with either buttercream, fruit spread or ganache. On the other hand, coconut macaroons refer to moist, dense, sweet coconut confections made from condensed milk or egg whites with sugar and shredded dried coconut. 

French macarons are tricky to make and demand a lot of work to get it perfect while the coconut macaroons are super easy to make with only 4 ingredients that can be boiled down to 4 simple steps.

recipe adapted from Kirbie Cravings

5 1/4 cups coconut flakes
1 (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
melted chocolate (optional for dipping)

Preheat the oven to 175C degrees (350F). Line a cookie sheet with non-stick baking paper or parchment paper.

Mix the flour and coconut together in a bowl. Add in the condensed milk and vanilla and stir together until well blended.

Scoop by teaspoonfuls and using wet hands, shape the macaroons into round balls (or triangles if you prefer) before dropping them onto the baking sheet. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until top is golden brown.  Immediately remove from baking sheets. Cool completely before dipping in melted chocolate.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warm Apple Crisp on A Cold Day

Things have been a little out of sync with me lately and I have been feeling kind of down. There was just so much negative energy inside me, filling me with negative thoughts that sometimes I wonder if I've lost my mind. Maybe my boyfriend was right. Maybe I am a bit of a drama queen lol. He always reminds me to be grateful of the things you have in life whenever I feel like this. Everyone has problems but there are others out there who are in much worse position than I am so I shouldn't really complain. I am lucky to be where I am in my life right now and I should be thankful.

The Law of Attraction based on the best selling book, The Secret, says that "like attracts like" so you attract into your life whatever you think about, whatever you focus on and give your attention to, whether wanted or unwanted. Emotions also have to do with it. They are the driving force behind your thoughts. Positive thoughts and feelings bring more positive things into your life and negative thoughts bring about negative results.

So I am dedicating this post to shift my focus from the negative to the positive, to focus on the all the wonderful blessings God has given me. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Red Velvet Diva

There's a little bakery near where I live that makes the most amazing cupcakes. They all look gorgeous but only one stands out, The Red Velvet. It's my all time favorite, which also happens to be their best selling cupcake. Every bakery seems to sell their own version of the red velvet cupcake. People are so passionate about it that there are even debates as to which one is the best. Why are people so in love and obsessed with it?

A study showed that colors not only stimulate certain moods but they can also influence how we think and behave. Red, green, yellow or white, whatever the color may be, they all affect our perception of food and taste in different ways.
Yellow represents energy, sunshine and happiness. It can help you focus and it certainly grabs your attention. Yellow is seen as an optimistic color and it also stimulates your appetite.
Green reminds us of nature and represents calmness. It is a relaxing and refreshing color. People associate green with health. In other cultures, dark green represents wealth and prosperity.
White reminds me of hospitals and nurses. I think hospitals are white because of the whole clean and sterile look it gives. It also represents purity and innocence. 
Blue represents peace and tranquility just like the sky and the ocean but sometimes, depending on the hue, can also mean coldness, depression and sadness. It has the opposite reaction of Red. Blue suppresses the appetite so paint your room blue if you are on a diet!
Red is the color of love, excitement and desire. It is an intense, extreme and stimulating color. It makes your heart beat faster. It evokes confidence in women and makes them more attractive and desirable to men. =) Red is the color to paint if you run a restaurant.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chicken Tarragon Salad Sandwiches

I was looking for an inspiration for a simple afternoon snack at work when I came across a recipe for Chicken Tarragon Salad at Simply Recipes. Tarragon in the list of ingredients caught my eye and it made me wonder what it tastes like. 

Except for the very basic ones like soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onions and occasionally bay leaves, Filipino cuisine does not use as much spices and herbs compared to the more balanced cuisines of our neighbors like Thailand, Vietnam, India, China and Korea. I find the lack of spices and herbs in our cooking strange since the Spanish came here and colonized our country for 400 years because of the abundance of spices and most of our dishes are of Spanish and Chinese influence. 

I remember the first time I cooked with cumin. I was making a barbeque sauce and I was really excited to try the recipe. I took one sniff of the spice and my reaction was "eeww". Why in the world would anyone put that in a barbeque sauce? The smell really put me off because I wasn't accustomed to it. What does cumin smell like? As someone said in a blog post, "Cumin smells like armpits in the best possible way!" (lol) Some people are even worried they start smelling like cumin if they eat too much of it (probably). 

As I grew older though, my love for food has gradually opened me up to other cuisines. I've learned to appreciate and like the different, unique flavors that each one has to offer. Spices and herbs really take the flavor of food to the next level. It's like adding colors to a white canvass.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mango Pandan Verrines

Verrines, parfaits or trifles? 
These 3 desserts have one thing in common. They all have multiple layers of ingredients and components. So whats the difference then? Parfaits are so similar to verrines that most often, people tend to interchange them. Though both are layered artfully in clear glasses, verrines are normally served in smaller glasses while parfaits in taller glasses. Verrine comes from "verre", which is the French word for glass. From bistros to homecooks to bakeries and restaurants, Verrines are quite the culinary trend in France. It can be sweet or savory and is quite an intriguing way to present food artistically, where you can play with the flavors, colors, textures and temperature of the components. Trifles, on the other hand, originated from England and consist of layers of sponge or pound cake, fruits, custard and whipped cream arranged alternately in big, deep trifle bowls or dishes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eggs in a Basket My Way

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper" 
 -  Adelle Davis (American Nutritionist and writer, 1904 -1974)

Breakfast is the first and in my opinion, the most important meal of the day. However,  of the 3 main meals, it is the meal that people are most likely to skip because they had a heavy dinner the night before or simply because they don't have enough time to eat in the morning. However, a good breakfast will fuel you up and jump start your day. We need the most energy in the mornings when we begin our daily tasks and at the end of the day is when we need the least energy because that is the time when we are relaxing. Breakfast can also affect your mood, mental and physical performance throughout the day. I notice that if I skip breakfast, I feel tired or cranky in the morning.