Category Archives: Health and Fitness

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.

My movie slash foodie date nights

I’ve barely had time to go out these past few months. Aside from the fact that I really need to save up, work’s been consuming most of my waking hours. I seriously wonder how working moms do it. I’m not a mom yet and still I feel like I’m always exhausted at the end of the day. Truly, these women deserve an award.

On with my story. I love watching movies. But ever since I started with my new job, I’ve already missed more than a dozen films. I already don’t cook regularly and now, I’m also missing my movies?!? I guess “frustrated” is an mild word if we’re talking about how I feel these days.

I’m thankful for the Internet because at least, I get to watch videos once in a while. Don’t worry, I don’t like to illegally download stuff. I’m content with whatever’s available in the Internet for free. And believe me, there’s a lot. Cable TV helps too. Most of the foreign channels show recently-released movies, and I’m happier when they show those independent ones. I’m a sucker for foreign Indie movies. So, since I can no longer go to the movie houses, I end up bringing the movie house to the comforts of my own room. Well, to be precise, to the comforts of my living room.

That’s because I eat while watching and I don’t like bringing food inside my room. I feel like if I eat inside my bedroom, aside from the smell sticking to all its four corners, ants will definitely appear out of nowhere. And that I seriously abhor.

My normal movie night will consist of junk food, water (I avoid drinking soda) and sometimes chocolates or pastries. But nothing that will produce so much crumbs. I don’t want to end up with crumbs all over my shirt after the movie. I also like fruits, but they take a little more preparation because I have to peel them before the movie starts. That and they make me feel full easily so I end up asleep before the movie ends.

But, in my opinion, fruits and movies are a good combination for people who need a vitamin boost. My sister isn’t fond of fruits. But whenever I prepare them for our movie night, she’d end up eating most of it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that for your kids? Make them watch their favorite cartoon shows while you give them something healthy to munch on. They wouldn’t notice it, believe me! My sister is my perfect example of that.

While watching a movie too, I can multitask. I don’t know how I do it, but even when I’m doing 2-3 things at the same time, I can still focus on the movie. Since I bring paperwork home, I find myself working more effectively when I’m in front of the television. But this is just me. Kids shouldn’t be watching TV when they’re doing their homework. For working people like us, though, sometimes time is really the enemy. If you can multitask, then I think that’s an advantage.

I realize that complaining and sulking about my now-busier life won’t do me any good. I can still do all the things that I love—I just need to learn how to compromise. Life is never just simple and it really isn’t that complicated either. We just have to learn how to put things in perspective. Now, on to my next movie.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Enjoying food isn’t about the binge

food marketI get to travel a lot. And of course, one of the reasons why I like travelling is that I get to taste different kinds of cuisines.  But I’m still wary of what I eat.  I may be experimental, but I’m not suicidal.  The world of food is very interesting to me but it’s not my extreme sport.  I’m not a glutton either, but I do love the smell and look of food.  I find happiness in a loaded buffet the same way I get giddy whenever I’m at a food’s market.

In the Metro, there are certain markets that only open during weekends.  I have to wake up early and drag my friends to Salcedo Market just so I can see fresh produce and other independent shops that offer mouth-watering dishes.

My friends and I would save enough money ever the week so that we can buy items that are only being sold in these type of markets.  That’s what we do when we visit Merkato.  We don’t eat dinner, and when we get there we walk for a few minutes before eating.  We’re sure when midnight strikes, we’re already quite satisfied.

Good food doesn’t have to be expensive for you to enjoy it. When you go to an ordinary market, chances are there are eateries there that serve fresh, hot-piping dishes.  And I’m sure that they used fresh ingredients.  When I’m in New York, I eat like a typical New Yorker, breakfast will be a bagel and coffee while walking towards the subway.  Lunch would be Filipino food because I worked in a Filipino restaurant, but dinner is either a slice of bread and or whatever’s left over in the fridge.

If I’m in a new place, I try to go where there are a lot of people lined up.  Either that place has great food, or it’s cheap, either way, that’s a good find.  But kidding aside, I try to research on the place and look for its popular dishes and restaurants. I’m more interested in a country’s cuisine rather than its tourist spots.

I don’t eat or crave for food just to satisfy my hunger.  Food for me is like shopping to some people.  I find comfort in it.  I don’t necessarily have to eat it, but it makes me happy to experience new dishes and or new tastes.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

Coffee: is it good or bad for your health?

Ever since I could remember, I’ve always loved coffee. No matter how much I love my frappuccino, I still prefer coffee hot even on a warm day. I used to take it BLACK. Just plain coffee, no sugar and no milk. But then, I started feel palpitations hehehe 🙂 Seriously, I thought that if I’d drink coffee often, I should at least enjoy it with sugar and a little bit of milk or creamer.

People who know me would often send me free/complimentary 3 in 1 coffee mixes, and to be honest, I can be a perfect endorser for some of these products. Not like with my chocolate cakes, I drink almost any brand of coffee. Of course I would have my favorites, and coffee is really much better if it’s brewed, but I’m a very mobile person so I just bring packets of instant coffee mixes with me.

Since I need to know what I put in my body, I did some research about coffee. I was surprised that there’s a lot of difference when you French-pressed it instead of using the ordinary paper filters. One leaves more oil therefore there’s a big chance of raising your bad cholesterol when you drink it often.

There’s a lot of debate about whether drinking too much coffee is good or bad for your health. There are also studies conducted by several universities to prove that coffee consumption is either detrimental or beneficial to one’s health.

While reading some of the results, I was analyzing my own health. Am I really over doing my intake of coffee? How much is too much? Which is healthier, hot or cold coffee? These questions kept on popping in my mind while reading.

Well, one study shows that drinking coffee will lessen one’s chances of having Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. That’s a good thing, right? And oh, in Taiwan, research showed that coffee actually helps in preventing Type 2 Diabetes.

These are just about coffee… I haven’t even touched on the subject of regular coffee (caffeinated) and decaf. I can’t stand the taste of decaf; I feel like I’m cheating myself with it. It’s like you’re drinking coffee but you’re not. Maybe it’s a psychological thing for me, but I do want to be informed on exactly what the differences are between these two.

Caffeine is a stimulant. Therefore, some people drink coffee to keep them on their toes. But for someone like me whose blood is half coffee, I don’t get stimulated by coffee anymore. But I don’t really have a normal sleeping time either. My dorm mates, on the other hand, depend on coffee whenever they need to be up all night.

Help me with this please, because as much as I would want to continue with my coffee habit, I still consider my health as my top priority. Maybe if you know something about coffee, we could exchange ideas in here, and maybe share some recipes too. I don’t normally bake, but I know espresso really makes a difference when baking anything with chocolate. ‘Til next time!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

My pickled vegetables recipe

This is just a follow-up on an article about pickling fruits that I did a few weeks ago. You could consider it a series, but honestly, this is the only “pickled recipe” I have that I’m proud of. As mentioned in my first article, I’m really not fond of pickling, but this one is an exception. Aside from the hassle of prepping, I find this recipe easy to make… and it works all the time!

Ingredients:

1. Equal parts of water and vinegar (I usually do 1 ½ C but it really depends on how much vegetables you’re pickling)
2. Sugar (for this recipe, I used 8 tbsp.)
3. Ginger, onions ( julienne or shredding will do)
4. Siling haba, or siling labuyo (no need to cut them, unless you want it to be spicy)
5. Your vegetables (I often use a combination of bittermelon and eggplant)

Ingredients for pickled vegetables
Ingredients for pickled vegetables

You could add a little bit of salt, pepper and garlic on this recipe. Also, if you want it to be fancier, add carrots, raisins and red or green bell peppers. It will look more festive that way.

First, you simmer the water and vinegar. You can add in the sugar but avoid stirring it. Let it simmer for a few minutes or until the acidity of the vinegar evaporates. I hate the raw taste of vinegar in my pickled vegetables.

All vegetables should be blanched. They don’t need to be tender, but make sure that they’re not raw anymore. Put them aside. When everything’s cooled off, combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl then pour the pickling liquid slowly. Make sure that all the ingredients are submerged in liquid. Then transfer it to a clean, air-tight sealed container.

This type of pickled vegetable is good for fried fish and chicharon. And what’s good about this is that it’s not as sensitive as other pickled recipes, where they should be kept in a certain temperature, or else molds and or bacteria will start growing in it. But this recipe needs to be kept in the fridge to keep its freshness and to help it last longer.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

It’s a grilled night-out

Dining out can be taxing at times. It feels a burden sometimes to think of where to eat, and or what everybody wants to eat. We usually end up in the same restaurant, eating the same food almost all the time. We’re often caught up with the idea of settling with our “favorites” instead of trying out something new. Location is also something that we consider, especially here in Pampanga, where there are but a few restaurants that actually serve good food.

A couple of days ago, we were celebrating two occasions, so we wanted to try something different. We’re tired of eating food that’s peppered with so many ingredients and been sitting in marinated sauce for awhile. Korean Barbecue came into mind.

Korean Barbecue or better known in Korea as Gogigui literally means grilling meat. You order whatever meat you want, including fish and seafood and they serve it to you raw. Your table is equipped with a griller in the middle and you cook your food yourself.

My sister likes to do Gogigui because it makes her feel like she can actually cook. I like it too because I’ve always considered grilling as one of the healthiest forms of cooking. In Korean Barbecue, most meats are given to you as is, not soaking in marinated sauce and or coated with so many herbs and spices.

In the Philippines, Bulgogi is one of the more popular forms of Gogigui. But you should know that there are different forms of Gogigui depending on the meat that you’re grilling. I personally love Galbi and Chaldolbegi. The meats are thinly sliced and are not marinated in any sauce.

But I find that the Japanese raised this form of grilling to a higher level, by way of Teppanyaki and Hibachi. I like going to Hibachi places because there’s a chef in front o f you who will do all the cooking while you watch your food getting cooked. If you’re into Japanese cuisine, they also have their own version of Korean barbecue. Theirs is called Yakiniku. There’s actually an ongoing debate on where grilled meat originated: was it really the Koreans who first introduced it, and then adopted by the Japanese, or the other way around? If you ask me, this is like the issue about the chicken and the egg—a debate that will never end.

If you want, you can try this at home. There are personal-sized grillers that are being sold in the market. Prepping is a little bit tedious, but imagine the fun your family will have at the dining table, cooking your own food and eating it straight off the grill.

This post was written by Rita Salonga.

How to cook the perfect Crispy Pata at home

It would be nice and deadly if the crispy pata will be cook deep-fried, but considering the economics of it, being cooking oil is expensive these days, not to mention that it’s really not good for your health, we always cook our crispy pata in our turbo broiler.

We have two kinds of turbo broiler, the really ancient steel looking kind one, and one of those new, glass ones where you can actually see the fat dripping from the meat. If you’re to ask me, I would prefer to use the newer one because it’s user-friendly. You can set the temperature and can actually see the meat inside. But with the old one, which is what we’re all accustomed to using, is a matter of gut feel. You’ll know that the food is done by using your senses and/or a cooking thermometer.

My family loves food. Healthy, deadly, name it and we’re always craving for something. But the big Crispy is a one-time deal. Meaning, if we eat crispy pata today, it’ll take a few months till we cook it again. It’s a conscious effort on our part because the dish just spells “heart attack” all over it.

To achieve the crispiest, juiciest and most succulent crispy pata at home, you only have to do a few things. No need to go to a fancy restaurant and order it there. You can buy at least two “pata” for the usual price of a crispy pata in our local restaurants, not mention they’re sometimes dry on the inside because of overcooking.

  1. Boil your patas first. Yes. You have to boil them to achieve the tenderness inside and to make sure that your pata is well-cooked all the way. Make sure to season your water with a generous amount of salt, enough to taste like salted water BUT not a “sea water”-type of saltiness. Add few cloves of garlic—no need to peel them, just smash them with the back of your knife. Add a couple of shallots or a piece of onion, cut in half, and a few pieces of whole peppers.
  2. Let it rest. Before wrapping it in foil, rub some more seasonings to it. I usually rub in fish sauce (patis) and pepper, but just enough to coat the skin. Then wrap it tightly with foil or cling wrap.
  3. Put it in the freezer for at least a day. Yes my dearies! The secret to a crispy, crispy pata is to make sure that it’s been boiled and kept in the freezer for at least 24 hours. A freshly-boiled and seasoned crispy pata will not crisp enough. There will be no “lutong” factor.
  4. A great sauce can accompany a great dish too. Sarsa lechon is somehow being used by the upper class, because they associate crispy pata with the like of a lechon too. But a true-blooded meat lover will know that the combination of toyo-mansi with onions and sili will make you screaming for “isang tasang kanin pa nga!”

Don’t feel bad serving your family crispy pata once in awhile. Besides, if you use the turbo broiler, half of the fat will be remove from the meat already. Enjoy eating!

This post was written by Rita Salonga.