Great food finds for January 2012

I’m very proud to say that this January, I went out with quite a number of friends and family. That’s a real accomplishment for this introvert 😉 And of course, while we enjoyed each other’s company, we also enjoyed some great food. Here are my personal favorites:

Hummus at Persia Grill, GF Eco Plaza

I like the flavor and texture of hummus. It has garlic, but the one I had in Persia Grill only had a mild dose of it. I really do like garlic but I can’t have too much because of my allergies. This was just right.

Believe it or not, this was just my appetizer 😛

Spring Onion Pancakes with Sausage at Toast Box, GF Trinoma

Spring Onion Pancakes with Sausage at Toast BoxJust like most Filipinos, I grew up with pancakes that taste sweet, and that probably came from a box of pancake mix. I enjoy trying non-mainstream pancakes once in a while, like Korean kimchi pancakes. These spring onion pancakes from Toast Box was a happy sight when I needed a quick fix.

Paella Negra at Barcino, GF Greenbelt 2

Paella Negra at BarcinoI’ve only once eaten in an authentic Spanish restaurant, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Barcino’s at Greenbelt 2 is wonderful. They give a discount at lunch time, which means you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. This Paella Negra was just exquisite. We knew it had squid ink, but this one wasn’t going to scrimp on it.

Noodles with Sesame and Peanut Sauce at Shi Lin, 3F Podium

Noodles with Sesame and Peanut Sauce at Shih LinI love kare-kare and anything else in peanut sauce. I know Shi Lin is known for many other things, but I’ll remember it for this dish. To my friends, it was just a shameless noodle version of kare-kare. But the peanut lover in me went to heaven with this thick, semisweet, creamy peanut sauce. Noodles never tasted so good.

Waffles at Red Mango, 3F Greenbelt 3

Blueberry Waffle at Red MangoBanana Waffle at Red MangoRed Mango has great yogurt. But I was surprised to find out that they also have waffles. I love waffles! And these were really pretty ones. They have two variants, blueberry and banana, and you can choose to have yogurt on top or not. Great for a relaxing merienda.

Trail Mix at Bo’s Coffee, 5F Megamall

Trail Mix at Bo's CoffeeNope, this isn’t your average mixed nuts. Trail mix is healthy energy food if you’re on the go. And by the way, they’re not meant to be popped into your mouth one at a time. Take a small handful and chew them together. The flavors go together really well 🙂

I’m out to meet another set of family and friends this month. Would you have any suggestions on where we should meet and eat? 🙂

How to whip soft peak egg whites

My friends always tease me that I have the muscles of a construction worker, because I can whip egg whites in a short period of time, without the help of an electronic mixer. I admit, I’m really good at whipping egg whites, but I can’t take full credit on that. I have to thank my special whisk for that.

I don’t use the ordinary whisks because I couldn’t really incorporate much air using it. I’ve tried different whisks, even those with balls inside and until I found the one that best suit me. I got it at SM department store. It’s so cheap I seriously didn’t expect that it’ll be that effective.

I often use cold eggs, meaning fresh out of the refrigerator. I know some of my chef friends though would rather use room-temp eggs. So I suggest you try both, and see what will work for you. I often beat egg whites for our TORTA. My family is obsessed with TORTA, be it wrapped in whipped eggs, tortang talong and or stuffed ampalaya.

You have to separate the egg yolk and the egg whites, make sure there’s no hint of the yolk in your mixture. Then beat continuously for at least 2 minutes. Don’t beat it as if you’re angry at someone. Just make sure it is continuously.

After a few minutes of beating, take some rest, at least a few seconds just so your arm won’t feel like it’s about to give up on you. Then start whipping again. Continue whipping till you are able to flip the bowl without the egg whites falling. If it slides, then just continue beating, but make sure you don’t over beat because it’ll become clumpy or worst you’ll lose all the air you incorporated in it. After flipping the bowl and the whipped egg whites didn’t fall on you, start mixing in the egg yolks.

Don’t be afraid to mix the egg whites with the egg yolk. The more you are afraid of it the more it’ll fail. So, just relax and start whipping. If it fails, then start again. But I assure you, if you’ll use my special whisk, it’ll help you, big time.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Busy, busy learning at home!

Nowadays, with the girls a bit under the weather and my having only one helper, we’ve been spending a lot of time at home. Naturally, the two chubby children want to be literally stuck to me the whole day! How do I keep them entertained (and out of my hair)?

1. Good old pretend play!

One blessing of living on a lean budget is that we do not have the luxury of buying our daughters any fancy high-tech toy (read: no iPads, iPods, Playstations, computer games, etc.). So, to make up for what they don’t know they’re missing, we rely on our human powers to entertain them! There’s more to low-tech high-dramatic play than meets the eye. Many modern educators have written about the value of old-fashioned pretend play in the development of children. For one, children get to exercise their creativity when you give them the opportunity to get into “live” dramatic play. (Tip: Let them come up with their own props, instead of buying them a doctor set or a grocery set!) My girls like to make a house under our dining table, or a makeshift office out of our chairs. Reese, my three-year-old, opens a storybook and pounds on it saying that it is her “laptop.” A friend keeps her preschoolers entertained by giving them cardboard boxes and crayons, out of which they make their house and car.

2. Read, read, read!

Unplug the TV, and have a reading afternoon. Consider reading to your children as an investment. Imagine them reading on their own someday! Then, you can have your own life back! I, for one, dream of reading my own books again.

3. Cook together.

It can be the most simple of recipes, but your child can learn so much when you cook together. Cooking combines math and literacy lessons in one go. Once I drew pictures for a three-step French toast recipe. Reese read the recipe, and we made French toast together for breakfast. Do set safety guidelines before you start cooking. Ideas of simple recipes? Making fresh orange juice, preparing your own sandwich or…pizza pandesal!

4. Do house chores together.

“Educational” does not only consist of activities that will teach your kids their 123’s and ABCs. My husband and I definitely want our girls to learn to pitch in with “homework.” The other day, I was getting so irritated because Reese wanted to stay with me in the laundry room. She didn’t want to play with her toys. Finally, I gave up and told her she could toss in her dirty clothes into the washing machine. She was so delighted! On hindsight, I’m glad I got her involved. After all, I don’t want her to keep hearing that she can’t help me out when she’s so interested in cleaning, cooking, and other adult humdrum chores. How will I reverse it when she’s old enough to really take on her fair share of house chores? (Jack and I do envision a future with no helpers—as strange as it may sound in our yaya-dependent culture.)

Even with these activities, I still have pockets of time during the day when I’m at a loss as to what to do with my mile-a-minute girls. What to do then? Turn on the DVD, and play Hi-Five!…during which I drink my coffee and breathe before the next round.

This post was written by Meg Murrf Trinidad.