All posts by hijoyantonio

A marketing communications professional specializing in education brands

Busy mom reads again

In the many years I was at school, I was an avid reader of fiction. I enjoyed classic novels and detective stories. Rest, for me, meant curling up with a good book. Even when I go out, I’d always have a book in my bag so that I could read during any lull time in the day.

But after graduating, adult responsibilities came, so I had to make adjustments—as would any! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do enough leisure reading in the process. I knew I needed to read but I had to get into the groove with the rest of life first.

Years passed, I started a business, married a literature teacher and creative writer, and we had two kids. I’m busier than ever. But I want to pass on my love for reading to my kids. How will I be able to do that if I didn’t read myself? I had to get back to reading for leisure. But how? I can’t handle paper books much because my babies are at the age where they still seek a lot of sensory input, i.e. THEY LOVE TEARING PAPER. Besides, my bag’s already too bulky with diapering items to still hold a paperback. And to top that, I don’t even have time to sip my coffee in a leisurely way, so how am I supposed to even read for a good amount of time?

My solution: have ebooks in all my devices and read whenever I have even a few minutes. My husband writes fiction on his phone in five minute bursts, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to advance on reading with the same tools and time period.

I’ve installed the Kindle app on my phone, iPod Touch, and Windows tablet. Amazon has a lot of free classic works on the Kindle store and I could get more from Project Gutenberg. Amazon also holds my ebooks in the cloud and allow me to sync my reading across devices. If I have my own ebook files or documents, I just upload them to my account and then download it to every device. When I have the opportunity to read, like when I’m breastfeeding my kids, I grab the nearest device and read.

But a paper book is still different, you say? Of course. I also find it hard to read for leisure using a phone or tablet, and even more so from a laptop or monitor. These devices can distract me as well because there are other things on them that vie for my attention. So, I went on a hunt for a second-hand Kindle reader. I later found a neighbor selling a first generation Paperwhite.

Our first generation Kindle Paperwhite as I was reading the Alex Rider books

Kindle readers are great for reading because of their e-ink screens. Reading from one feels like reading from paper. Another great thing about them is that they last long, and are still quite useful even if many newer versions have come out. Hubby and I have been reading from this for nearly a year now. It’s still working well! I use it when I could afford to read for longer periods, like before sleeping, or when I accompany my husband to a meeting and our baby’s napping.

When my baby’s asleep in the carrier, I prop up the Kindle like this so I could read easily.

Using this new setup, I’ve been able to read about six entire novels and a few nonfiction titles in a year. Not bad for a busy mom. It will still be years until I could curl up for hours just reading a book, but in the meantime, I hope to pass on my love for literature to our kids by reading from books they can’t tear.

Looking for a Kindle reader? I recommend getting them from either NelsonKRX or Lazada. But if you’d like to buy a pre-loved unit, like I did, I suggest checking OLX or the many buy and sell groups on FB. I’m lucky there’s one for my neighborhood and that spared me from the cost of shipping or meeting up.

https://lap.lazada.com/generator/banner.php?banner_id=5804b1ae066c7

My go-to “mom shoes”

For most of my life as a single person, I’d have at least six pairs of footwear in use: three dress shoes or sandals, a pair of Outland sandals for long walks, a pair of rubber shoes for sports, and my slippers. I know most women would already call that minimalist. But recently, as a busy mom, I’ve come to rely primarily on only one pair. Yup, one.

Let me explain how that happened. First, we’ve gone barefoot at home, so I only use my slippers in our tiny laundry area. Second, I made the mistake of buying Outland sandals that have heels. I found my feet getting tired easily when walking with them, so I hardly ever use them these days. Lastly, I found a pair of shoes that look dressy, can be used with all my outfits, and that I could walk with, even on rainy days. They’re the Crocs Women’s Cap Top Flats.

image

I’d never owned a pair of Crocs before, but my mom was out shopping with me one day and she got me these (probably in response to my obvious poverty, haha). What a blessing that was! The shoes are so comfy, making them great for the typical mom activities: carrying and chasing the toddler, running errands, buying groceries, etc. They look good with business clothes and with jeans. They go great with skirts or with pants. I can walk good distances with them, even in bad weather. They’re super easy to clean, too. A friend even said she cleans her Crocs using the washing machine, so I tried it too—and it works!

I only had one problem: the outer side of the shoes would sometimes cut the skin under my outer ankle bone. I deal with this by putting a small strip of electrical tape (which is unnoticeable on those black shoes) on that edge. I hope to replace that with black duct tape one of these days because the adhesive on the electrical tape wears out easily.

Of course, another “issue” with Crocs in general is that they tend to make your feet sweaty. But my feet already do tend to be, so I’m just glad to be able to clean these shoes far more easily than the usual fabric or leather shoes. Using foot socks might help, but I’m not really the foot socks type of gal.

How about you, what are your go-to shoes? Do you also own a pair of Crocs?

UCC Café Americano at Family Mart

UCC Café Americano at Family Mart

The Americano at Family Mart (UCC) is pretty good. There was a decent amount of crema at the top and it tasted strong and felt full-bodied. It costs P55 for a small size, which I suspect is the standard 8oz. The cup is too big for the drink but I don’t mind. That means less spillage for me.

Really not bad for convenience store coffee.

Note: I took it black, but there’s a stirrer in the pic because I stirred the coffee to cool it.

My simple taco recipe for Christmas Eve

My taco recipe comes from last year’s Noche Buena menu.

Usually, during Christmas Eve, we prepare food that we can serve the next day. It’s for random people who visit our house for the usual “pamamasko.” But, last year, I was too busy with my new work. So, my mom and sister decided to “outsource” our Noche Buena feast for that year.

Despite that, my sister still insisted that I should at least prepare two dishes. It’s like her request for me to cook her favorite food. I obliged, since it’s always been my tradition for us to cook our family dinner anyway. She wanted ttaco recipe Philippinesacos and fried chicken. My mom knew my ingredients for fried chicken so all she had to do was to put everything in the turbo broiler.

My taco recipe is also simple. If you’ve been reading my posts, you’re now aware that my sister is a picky eater. Anything fancy would come under tight scrutiny. The more simple the dish is, the more she’ll appreciate it.

It’s ok to combine ground pork and beef if you so desire. That’s what I do on ordinary days, as it’s cheap and tastes almost the same. But, on special occasions, I’d say you can splurge a little and use 100% ground beef.

So here’s the recipe for my Simple Taco. I’m going to use 1 kilo of beef here, but if it’s too much for your family, just make the necessary adjustments.

Ingredients

Taco shells (soft or hard)
1 kilo ground beef
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (substitute: EDEN cheese)
1 medium size onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Grated EDEN cheese or any cheese that you fancy (for Christmas, since we had an abundance of queso de bola, I combined EDEN cheese and queso de bola for the topping)

Procedure

In a bowl, mix the ground beef, salt and pepper and the 2 T of grated parmesan cheese. Remember, since we’re putting in cheese, you might try to put just a little amount of salt at a time. You can always adjust it as you taste. Then sauté onions and garlic until they turn translucent. Add in the beef, cook for about 15 minutes or until the beef is tender. You can add a few teaspoons of your taco sauce if you want, but I prefer to keep it simple.

The rest of the ingredients will be assembled by the diners. This is why eating tacos is fun! It’s like building your own castle. But don’t overdo it, especially if you’re using the hard taco shells. Your taco skyscraper will just spill all over you. Oh, and a word of advice: use a plate or have a tissue in hand when eating a taco 😉 Hope you enjoy my Simple Taco recipe at your Noche Buena!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Puchero a la Perlita, my mom’s puchero recipe

The name is my mom’s because she thought me her own version of puchero, and I’m quite satisfied with it that I didn’t bother looking for other versions.

I like puchero because it has everything in it. It has protein, vegetables, and fruits. It’s filling but at the same time, you won’t feel guilty because it’s a fairly healthy dish.

My mom doesn’t put artificial coloring because my sister doesn’t like the taste of food color and or achuete. So we really just rely on tomatoes. We actually use both the fresh tomatoes and a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce.

I have to warn you, I don’t put water in my puchero. The sauce will come from your tomatoes, vegetables and your protein. I use either pork or chicken. Sometimes I combine both, just because I’m really not fond of pork in my puchero but my dad and sister love it so much.

Ingredients:

1 Kilo Pork (you can use either ribs or liempo. Just make sure there’s some fat to it)
**same amount for chicken, and when it comes to parts, any part of the chicken will do.
1 regular size cabbage (cut into 8 parts)
3 bundles of Bok Choy or Pechay (make sure to clean them properly)
1 bundle of Beans
3 pieces medium size tomatoes (cut into 4 parts)
1 medium size potato (cut into cubes)
3 regular size Saba Banana (cut into 1/3 inch)
A few table spoons of Tomato sauce
Garlic, oil, salt and pepper

Note: This might look daunting because of the number of ingredients involved, but it’s really worth the taste.

Procedure:

Fry your potatoes and bananas first, just enough until they soften up. Set aside. Then, sauté your protein in garlic, tomatoes, and oil. While doing that, splash a little fish sauce. Keep your heat on medium and let it simmer for a few minutes. If you’re combining chicken and pork, cut your pork a little bit smaller than that of your chicken because chicken cooks faster than pork. You don’t want to end up with pulled chicken and pork instead of puchero. This process usually takes 15-20 minutes. Then, add your vegetables. Add first the vegetables that take a while to cook, then your cooked potatoes and bananas. Try adding one tablespoon of tomato sauce at a time until you’re able to achieve the color you want. Simmer again for a few minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. As for seasoning, try not to overdo it, especially on pepper. Since you already added fish sauce in the beginning, taste your dish first before adding more.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

 

 

My favorite dessert spots: spotlight on cupcakes!

I went to Singapore last year. And when I’m there, I usually eat my way around the city. That time, it was no different, but instead of eating Laksa, Satay, and Chicken rice, I decided to try the Singaporeans’ take on dessert.

I have to admit that even though my last trip to SG was a couple of months previous, I saw a lot of culinary improvements. I don’t prefer eating at fancy restaurants. I do like dining in them, but occasionally only. I’m more into street fairs, markets and even food courts.

I was still in sugar-rush mode even after a few days have passed already. I had to let go of my obsession with Xiao Long Bao because we went to Grandma’s. It’s local food alright, but what’s nice about it is that it’s located inside the foodcourt. We didn’t bother ordering dessert in the same place. Instead, we walked around the food court and bought whatever our eyes fancied.

They had cupcakes, breads, cookies, ice cream, milk teas, and all that jazz, but I was really surprised that I found a lot of chocolate in Singapore. There was an overdose of chocolate wherever we went. Esplanade Mall even had a Max Brenner.

What caught my attention was this tiny cupcake store called “Twelve Cupcakes.” It was a local store and it didn’t really have that much of a selection. But honestly, even if they were only selling two or three flavors, I would keep on buying from them. They were that good!

The reason why I’m elated over dessert is because I don’t really bake. It’s really not my thing, which frustrates me a lot because I love eating desserts. The most decent thing I’ve ever baked was pandesal. Well, I can make bread. Maybe it’s because of the kneading or that it doesn’t really entail that much measurement, but yeah. I can make bread but not cakes. Go figure!

I’m sharing with you some of my favorite cookies and cupcakes from all over the world. I really hope that one day we’ll get to sit down and eat and share our cookie/cupcake experience.

Martha’s Country Bakery

This one is located in New York, USA. I’d always go to their Forest Hills branch because it was near my home. Every week, I’d buy different types of dessert, but I’d always get their cookies and cream cupcake. They also have red velvet and those big chocolate chunky cookies.

Magnolia and Crumbs (New York, USA)

These are two different stores but both are found in the city. I love that Crumbs live up to its name. Their cupcakes are moist and crumbly. They’re also big enough to share. And as usual, red velvet is my top pick.

Magnolia’s cupcakes are good because they’re not too sweet, just enough to satisfy your craving for cupcakes.

Twelve Cupcakes (Singapore)

This you MUST try. The one that I went to was at Bugis Junction. I was still trying to control myself from going back to Singapore after we already ate the last cupcake we brought home from the trip. Too bad, it’s a local brand and there is no news about a franchise here in the Philippines. Their red velvet, salted caramel, and chocolate cupcakes are really good.

Sorry to say that I can’t recommend any place here in the Philippines. It’s not that I don’t find their desserts yummy but I often forget the restaurants or stores because they’re just too many of them.

Banapple is one of my faves, but it serves mostly cakes. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave me a note and I’ll try them one of these days.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Balm to my soul (err, I mean lip)

IMG_0232-e1361524466113-600x372From left to right: MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner in Fuchsia Fix; Maybelline Baby Lips in Anti-Oxidant Berry; Vaseline Lip Therapy in Cherry; Forever Living Aloe Lips

I can still recall the time my mom let me buy my first ever cosmetic item: a tube of lip balm. I was in sixth grade, and I was at the mall with my mom and my two sisters. I don’t recall what I said to finally convince my mom, I don’t even remember what brand lip balm I bought: all I remember is my excitement at finally being allowed to buy a not-really-essential item with which to appease my make-up craving pre-teen self (although I’m pretty sure I told my mom I needed it, or she wouldn’t have bought it for me…shhh, don’t tell her I’m admitting this after all these years).

Many years later, I finally have the means to buy make-up for myself, but lip balm is still one of the standbys in my kit. I usually have one or two tubes of it with me wherever I go, and I reapply frequently; without it, my lips would crack and my lipstick/gloss would not go on smoothly. I’ve even used a bit of clear balm to combat dry spots on my face or as a quick hand/elbow moisturizer.

Here are a few of my favorite brands:

1) Vaseline Lip Therapy in Cherry. I’ve gone through who-knows-how-many tubes of this clear balm. It manages to really moisturize my lips and it doesn’t sit like goop on the surface. Totally love the cherry flavor (though it comes in an unflavored variant as well) and the fact that it’s super cheap (less than Php 80, last time I checked).

2) Alba Un-Petroleum Lip Balm SPF 18. Again, I am partial to the cherry-flavored variant; other flavors are tangerine and vanilla. Available at Healthy Options, this balm is “100% Vegetarian. No: Animal Testing, Artificial Colors, Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Myreth Sulfate” (according to the brand’s website) and is perfect for girls who want to go all-natural with their products. At Php 129, it’s a bit pricey but still affordable, I think.

3) Forever Living Aloe Lips. This one I pilfered from my mom, so I don’t really know how much a tube costs. This balm features a really moisturizing formula as well. I think it’s unflavored, but it does have a bit of a waxy scent to it (which doesn’t bother me).

4) Badger Highland Mint Lip and Body Balm. I bought my tin from Rustan’s, but I finished it two years ago and have not managed to replenish my supply. I like its gentle mint flavor and its formula. If you can manage to procure a tin for yourself, I highly recommend this.

Brands on which I’m undecided: MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner in Fuchsia Fix SPF 15 (love that it provides a bit of color on days when I can’t be bothered to apply both balm and color; hate that it’s super expensive and not  so moisturizing on the lips, considering how much I had to shell out for it)…Maybelline Baby Lips  SPF 20 (I’ve tried the mint and berry flavors; nothing to say against it; it is moisturizing but not enough for when the temperature drops and I need something in a richer formulation)…Chapstick

Brands which I won’t be buying again anytime soon: Any of the lip balms/butters by The Body Shop (they don’t get absorbed into the skin; they just sit on the surface, soooo aggravating)…Nivea Sun Lip Care (again, the formula does not get absorbed into the skin).

Let me know in the comments what brand lip balm you recommend 🙂

This post was written by Anj de la Cruz.

How to cook Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare recipeKare-Kare is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I can eat it everyday without getting bored or wanting anything else. What’s not to love about it? It has vegetables, peanut butter and oxtail. Though when we choose to make some at home, we opt to use Pata (pig’s leg) because oxtail takes a while to cook, not to mention quite expensive.

Since I’m only home on the weekends, we see to it that we prepare dishes that our family will enjoy. Hence, on one weekend, we made Kare-Kare. My sister has her own bagoong because she doesn’t like the kind that’s being purchased in ordinary markets. But I always believed that it’s really up to you on how you cook your bagoong. That way, you could make it to your own taste and liking.

Here’s my family’s own version of Kare-Kare.

Ingredients

1kb Pata (cut into smaller portions)
Pechay
String beans
Eggplant
Peanut butter
Garlic, a cup of water, salt (fish sauce if you want)
Powdered atsuete (half a teaspoon will do, just to add color)

Procedure

My family's Kare-Kare recipeHeat the pan with a few table spoons of cooking oil. Saute the pata in garlic and atsuete powder. If you don’t want to use atsuete, then you can omit that. Put the cup of water and let the meat simmer until it’s tender. Halfway through the cooking process, put in the string beans, since they will take time to cook. When the meat and string beans are tender, put in the peanut butter. On this I can’t be specific because the amount of peanut butter is really up to your taste. Some people like a lot of peanut butter, while others would opt for a milder taste. I suggest you take a separate bowl, get some sauce from your dish, then mix a few teaspoons of peanut butter. You can always add if you think you need more.

After adding the peanut butter, you can add in the pechay and eggplant. Salt or fish sauce is necessary but you DON’T need to put a lot, since you’ll be using bagoong later. I just want you to season it well because food spoils easily when they’re not seasoned right. Let it simmer for a few minutes, or until the eggplants are cooked, then you can serve it with white rice. If you’re on a diet, then maybe half a cup or rice will do?

Enjoy!!!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

New Year’s and the new cheese I’ve found

When I was a kid, I’d make a list of all the things that I want, need, and the changes that I have to do for the new year.  But just halfway through the year, I throw the list away because I can’t even seem to do half of what I wrote.

It’s frustrating to actually have something so concrete in your thoughts but ending up as a failure when you put it into actions.  Not sounding pessimistic here, but as I grew older, I realized that it’s better to set your expectations realistically than to wish for something grand and end up with nothing.

So, as the new year approaches, instead of making a list of new resolutions, I listed all the things that I’ve accomplished and achieved in the past year.  I was happy to know that most of what I’ve prayed for came true, and more.  Of course there were disappointments, but still, what mattered to me was that 2012 was my best year.

One of the many things that I found fascinating too was that I’ve discovered some good eats throughout my 2012 journey.  How could I forget food, right?  I love my cheese, but I’m very picky with what cheese I eat because aside from being lactose intolerant, my body is just weird that way.

cheese slice 01
Move with the cheese!

But since it’s the Christmas season, our house is full of queso de bola.  This I munch on like regular chips.  So, a friend suggested that I should try Queso De Bola Cheesecake.  Queso de bola and cheesecake are two of my favorites in this lifetime, so I said, “send me one!”  Lo and behold, that cheesecake was to die for! I heard that there’s this good pastry girl who’s known for her queso de bola cheesecake, hopefully soon I’ll be able to taste her version.

Another new found thing for me is my tolerance for chicken.  I like chicken, but to eat it every day is not really what I call healthy eating.  But for the past holiday season, I’ve been craving for it almost every day.  Good thing my office is located near a food center.  Even the crew knew me already as “Miss Combo Meal with Extra Gravy.”

Now that it’s the New Year and up next is summer, I vow to lose all the unwanted weight I gained during the past two weeks. Imagine that! I’ve only been indulging myself for 15 days and yet I have to work doubly hard on the treadmill.

It’s not about looking good, or feeling guilty about what you ate.  Going to the gym is one way of keeping you healthy.  I don’t go to the gym because I want to look beautiful or be thin; that was never my motivation. I run on the treadmill because with my type of work (i.e. mostly sedentary), I need a form of exercise.  I need to sweat once in awhile so that I can have a well-balanced life.

So, who needs any more New Year’s resolutions?

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to clean fish: fish fabrication for beginners

I can’t forget the day our school taught us how to fabricate fish. I already knew the basics of fish fabrication—the culinary term for butchering or cutting the fish into the desired parts you want—because at home, if the househelp’s not there and my mom forgot to have the fish fabricated before bringing it home, I have the duty to remove its gills, scales, and insides.

At first, the smell was unbearable.  I had to wash my hands multiple times, even to the point of taking a bath just to remove the fishy smell.  If you have a weak stomach, then this job isn’t really for you.  Good thing I was used to these kinds of things.

raw fish fabrication
Whoa smelly

That day in school, when all of my classmates had to fabricate a single fish, I ended up doing two.  I was so confident in doing the first one that I really took my time, from scaling it to removing the bones.  My instructor happened to be very strict.  He even counted the bones, because some fish have specific number of bones in them.  I actually took the wrong fish! What I fabricated was the fish that we’ll use for our dishes and not the fish that’s supposed to be our test.  I only had a few more minutes left, and had to redo the whole thing :O

On to today’s lesson: for the beginner, my first advice is to get yourself a sharp knife.  Actually, if you’re really interested in cooking, good knives are worth the investment.  I collect some myself because they make my life a lot easier at the kitchen.  There are other tools that you can use when scaling a fish, but I still do the old method, which is to use the back of the knife and rub it on the opposite direction of the scales.

Try practicing too on fish like tilapia and milkfish.  They’re easy to fabricate and you don’t really need to remove a lot of things, unless you’re filleting them.

When you start fabricating a fish, try doing it in running water.  Make sure the water’s not too powerful, just strong enough so that while gutting the fish, all the blood and other remnants will easily come out.

Removing the gills takes some force.  It’s a little bit tricky because you might pull the whole head of the fish in the process.  Feel it first.  If the fish is fresh, you’d still see the gills and its whole diaphragm.  After feeling it, give it a one pull.  If not, then you can put it in running water and just remove whatever’s left inside the head.

Cutting the insides of a fish is easier than you think.  Just make sure you have a sharp knife and cut a few centimeters away from the stomach itself.  With milkfish, avoid cutting too near the stomach because there’s fat around it, which is a favorite among Filipinos. Again, you’ll need to feel the insides of a fish.  Insert your hand into the tiny, slanted cut you made and locate the intestines, liver and stomach content of the fish.  If you’re able to do so, make sure that in one pull you’ll be able to take out everything.  But in case something bursts inside, like maybe the liver, don’t worry, because you can always clean it with running water.

After removing the insides, and scaling the fish, the last thing you’ll have to do is cut the fins (wings).  I like to cut them because when you fry a fish, they spread and I don’t like the look of it.  There are some people, though, who like to eat them,  so it’s really up to you.  But seriously, just cut a few centimeters off and it’ll make the fish look prettier.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.