2013 Highlights

December 28th, three more days and we will say goodbye to 2013. It has been a wonderful year for my family and my friends. There have been a lot of summons on the way but they have become a marvelous learning experience for most of us. I would just like to share a sneak peak of my 2013 through captured moments.

February 2013. My fiance and I went to the Philippines for a 3-week holiday. Surely I missed the heat of the sun, humidity and sweat. My elder sister got married, we visited Aurora province and experienced serenity, explored and relished the stunning beach of Boracay Island, walked and shopped in the largest mall in Asia, wandered through the historical Intramuros, discovered Liliw in Laguna where you can find the best handcrafted footwear and ate in fancy Manila restaurants.

Image

 Above photo : Baler Bay, taken from the top of Ermita Hill in Baler. What a wonderful sight.Image

My sisters wedding day (in pink cocktail dress). Preparing for the church ceremony. Photo taken in The Manila Peninsula.Image

San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Fabulous, historic church, with beautiful architechture and art.Image

And the crystal clear waters of beautiful Boracay. A very relaxing milieu. 

April to October 2013. A very good news for my mom, dad and my sister. Their visa to come and visit Canada was approved! It was their very first time in North America. Arrived in the gorgeous city of Vancouver first then all the way to the prairies. We have met our relatives in Calgary, attended family parties, stopped by the enchanting Fairmont Hotel in Banff, braved the gondola lift, took a peak of Lake Louise, walked in downtown Banff, experienced the wild in Lethbridge RV resort, sauntered the Glacier National Park, partied in fabulous Las Vegas, unlimited shopping and a whole more!

Image

Glacier National Park. Waterton Lakes. Astonishing aquamarine blue waters. A little windy but we had a great time!Image

Gambled in Wynn Las Vegas Casino. Never won but it was all about the experience anyway.Image

The absolutely massive castle in the wonderland. Bewitching, fascinating The Fairmont Banff Springs.ImageImage

Charming Lake Louise and the fascinating view from the peak of the gondola lift overlooking at the Fairmont Banff Springs. What a beautiful creation of God and we are so lucky to have witnessed this heavenliness in the rockies.Image

The century old High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta also known as Lethbridge Viaduct, a massive steel that trestles the Oldman River. It is the largest railway structure in Canada and the largest of its type in the world.Image

Experienced wild life in Lethbridge RV Resort. Enjoyed the company of family and relatives. Had bonfires, unlimited barbeques and awesome smores! 

Image

 

Bumped into a hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland while in Downtown Calgary. 

Other than these amazing travels, what I loved the most is that when I go home from work and will have the pleasure of just sitting right away on the dining table and delight a tasty and flavorful dinner. And who’s cooking is it? My mother. Her cooking is one of those that I missed the most. Those days that we go to the shopping center, walked downtown Lethbridge, snacked in a Japanese restaurant, sat down for a coffee in Starbucks, shopped groceries with my family which I haven’t done for almost 5 years, those moments I will cherish forever.  

Image

 

Mom and Dad’s first Thanksgiving Dinner in Canada. 

December 2013. My parents left Canada at the end of October. They have gone to Hong Kong after their visit here. It has been a year filled with travel for them and it was heart warming to know that they have enjoyed their time. My fiance visited his homeland, Ireland in October and he had an amazing time with family and friends. 

December is my birth month. I had a simple birthday celebration with Neil and my relatives. Had bridal showers for me and stag parties for Neil. 

ImageImage

 

This year, Hyatt Regency became our favorite hotel. Lots of decency going on in there and that absolutely gorgeous meal at Thompsons Restaurant was to die for.

Christmas with hunny.

Image

 

There’s the photo of us two. Although we did not celebrate extravagantly nor we celebrated with our families, it has been a very gratifying day of the year for us. 

Year 2013 has been a very exciting year for us and our family but still we have to say goodbye and move on. Along with these incredible moments, there were many many more! Thanks to everyone who was a part of these great 2013 moments! I can’t wait for 2014!

 

10 Steps to Macaron Perfection

Image

Step 1. Place the ground almonds and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until the mixture is fine and powdery. Sift the mixture into a bowl through a large strainer. Discard any fine parts of almonds left in the strainer.

Step 2. Use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites until holding soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar, about 1 tablespoonful at a time. Beat well after each addition to make a firm and glossy meringue. The meringue should look like shaving cream and hold stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Step 3. Add one-third of the almond mixture to the meringue. Using a spatula, fold the dry mixture into the meringue. Use a circular folding action buy running he spatula around the bowl and under the meringue, then folding and cutting through the mixture.

Step 4. Once all dry mixture has been folded into the meringue, add the second third of the almond mixture, repeating the folding and cutting action. As more dry ingredients are folded into the meringue it will become firmer.

Step 5. Add the final third of the almond mixture and repeat the folding and cutting action. Once all the dry ingredients has been incorporated, the batter will be quite firm, so continue mixing until the consistency loosens. The final batter should be smooth and glossy and a thick ribbon of batter should fall slowly from the spatula, leaving a trail for about 30 seconds before disappearing.

Important. Undermixing ill result in a batter that is too firm and the macarons will have peaks. Overmixing wil result in a runny batter that will not hold it’s shape when piped. Check the batter every few turns of the spatula to avoid overmixing.

Step 6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the batter into a large pastry bag fitted with 1/2 inch or 1 cm tip. Pipe 1&1/4 inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets. Make sure the circles are well spaced. For large macarons, pipe 2&3/4 inch circles and for mini macarons pipe 3/4 inch circles.

Step 7. Tap the underside of the baking sheet firmly with the palm of your hands or tap onto a work surface to remove any air bubbles and settle any small peaks and bumps. This action also helps the frilly foot (or pied) to form during baking. Any peaks still remaining can be flattened by dabbing gently with a wetted fingertip.

Step 8. Let the macarons stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to let the surface of each macaron dry and form a slight crust. You should be able to gently touch the surface without any batter sticking to your finger.

Step 9. Bake the macarons, 1 baking sheet at a time. Check after 5-6 minutes if they are overbrowning, reduse the oven temperature slightly. The cooking time will be 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and size of the macaron. The macarons are ready when they have a crisp shell and the frilly foot at the bottom does not wobble when the shells are gently lifted from the paper. If the bottoms are still soft or sticky, return the baking sheet into the oven for an additonal few minutes, leaving the door ajar.

Step 10. Let the macarons cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes. Carefully peel them away from the parchment paper. Let the macarons cool completely on a wire rack.

 

References : 

Drake, A. (2011). Macarons : 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-Size Treats. UKParragon Books LTD, p 8-9.

Image Source. http://www.roboppy.net

Health Matters : Whey Protein and it’s Benefits

Image

Whey is a truly amazing supplement, because not only has it been proven to help build muscle, improve physical performance, sharpen mind, enhance circulatory system function, but it also has potent anti-aging effects and improves motivation. Another incredible effect that Whey Protein has on the body is that it enhances the production of the body’s most powerful anti-oxidantGlutathione. It also has the highest levels of branch-chain amino acids, which boosts the immune system functioning.

Inadequate protein consumption is linked to many conditions such as osteoporosis, weak immune system, fragile soft nails, thinning hair, wrinkled skin, lack of muscle tone, sagging chin, breast cancer, edema, urinary incontinence, hormonal dysfunction, heart problems, poor wound healing, increased aging, hypoglycemia, poor digestion and even depression due to lack of serotonin.

Whey protein is an excellent choice for individuals of all ages who value the role of diet in helping maintain and improve their health.

Adding Protein To Your Diet

1. Can help create macronutrient balance for weight management

2. Helps curb the appetite by slowing the transport of nutrients through the gut.

3. Builds lean muscle mass, increasing metabolism, strength and well-being.

Image

Whey protein is a soluble, very easy to digest protein. Since it is in a powdered form, it is also very useful when you need a quick fix.

It is especially useful in the mornings. Your muscles will be craving for more food in the morning since most of the time you won’t have eaten since dinner. Having a protein shake prior to or alongside breakfast will satisfy your muscles quickly and allow them to continue to rebuild as well as dampening hunger drive later in the day.

Other Key Benefits 

1. Boosts memory

2. Relieves depression and insomnia

3. Rebuilds cartilage in bone

4. Helps lower blood pressure

5. Promotes healthy insulin secretion

6. Reduces overall sensation of pain

7. Directly boosts the immune system because it contains immunoglobulins

Protein powders can either be cooked or mixed into a smoothie made from organic fruit, vegetables or yogurt. The powder can also be stirred into milk, juice or filtered water. Adding your own frozen or fresh berries to blended meal replacement shakes adds variety and phytonutrients. Choose a protein powder that is low in sugar and doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners.

The importance of protein for optimal health cannot be overstated. Practically everyone an benefit in some way from whey protein supplementation.

Reference

Peltier, P. (2013), Quirk : Connecting Lethbridge. The Whey to Fight Fatigue. p 20.

Image sources : http://halliefreedman.com

http://thesweatybetties.com

Pistachio Macarons Recipe

Image

Ingredients

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup finely ground pistachios, plus 2 tbsp finely chopped to decorate

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 extra large egg whites

1/4 cup superfine sugar

green food coloring paste or liquid

Filling

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

green food coloring paste or liquid

1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 tbsp finely chopped pistachios

Directions

Place the ground almonds, ground pistachios and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor and process for 15 seconds. Sift the mixture into a bowl. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whip until holding soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar to make a firm, glossy meringue. Beat in enough food coloring to give a pale green color.

Using spatula, fold the almond mixture into the meringue one-third at a time. When all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, continue to cut and fold the mixture until it forms a shiny batter with a thick, ribbonlike consistency.

Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch/ 1-cm plain tip. Pipe 30 small circles onto the prepared baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets firmly onto a work surface to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 °F/160 °C.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Carefully peel the macarons off the parchment paper and let cool completely.

To make the filling, beat the butter and a little food coloring in a bowl. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar until smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped pistachios. Use to sandwich pairs of macarons together.

References

Drake, A. (2011). Macarons : 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-Size Treats. UK, Parragon Books LTD, p 20.

Image source : http://cdn.taste.com.au

The Great French Macaron Tragedy

I have been so desperate to learn how to make french macarons. I was mesmerized just looking at the photos of those lovely varicolored little sweet delights. I did not know how it taste like as I haven’t tried one before. All I know is that they’re completely vibrant, beautiful delectable delights and I want them. An interest of making macarons blossomed and one day I found myself procuring the ingredients day by day. I can’t help but get enraptured with the thought of making these exquisite goodies.

I bought a book from Winners (Macaroons : 30 Recipes for perfect bite-size treats) for 5 bucks and commenced into gathering all my tools and ingredients. It was my first time to bake and make these lovely sweets and I was so confident I’d make them perfectly because the directions seemed pretty unchallenging until I began to follow the formula. I tried to make the basic Vanilla French Macarons. Wheew! It’s not as simple as I thought it was. I struggled making meringue and had troubles piping the mixture into the trays lined with parchment paper. I have an excuse — it’s my first time! Then I finally settled them in the pre-heated oven. I was very excited but the excitement dropped as I watch the disaster happening in the oven. The inside of it leaked out and flooded the entire tray. My hopes were doomed. I was so disappointed with myself. I messed up. I started blaming my tools. I thought the one’s I have would suffice for the procedure. I was wrong. I told Neil about what happened and he just laughed at me. “It could be good with ice cream,” he uttered. Then I thought maybe — but then it wasn’t the macarons I fancy.

Image

Behold, The Macaron Disaster. Not very appetizing, isn’t it?

Glaring at the tragedy, still struck with astonishment and surprise. What did I do? I thought I followed every single detail on how to make it. I watched youtube videos on how to make french macarons. Finally, I understood something. The ignorant part of me used liquid egg whites for making meringue. First timer and did not do a research properly. I just realized I poured a liquid meringue to the sifted powder ingredients (confectioner’s sugar and ground almonds).

It was a nice and lovely Saturday when I decided a second attempt. Jade, a friend of mine came over to lend a helping hand. This time, I made sure to use fresh egg whites, whisk with electric mixer properly until it form stiff peaks. I would say I did it 85%. It’s not perfect but it looked better than the first time. I was delighted. We carefully followed the procedure step by step. And as a result…

Image

Tadaaa! 

Just kidding. Not mine. I wish.

ImageImageNow these are my macarons. Ok, I know they are not as pretty as it should be, I’m proud I did it better this time. Close enough to perfection. Need more practice though.

So Jade and I tried a bite and it wasn’t too bad at all. Sweet, crusty on the outside and gooey on the inside. Though some of it are kinda hollow with a huge air bubble inside the cookie, I know what to do to make it even better next time. The most important thing in making macarons is the meringue. Second to that is proper sifting and making sure there are no granulated almonds in order to have a smooth surface and makes it more appealing after baking.

As simple as they look, macarons can be a little tricky to make. Indeed, pastry chefs can spend years perfecting the art of macarons. But once the basic techniques have been mastered, it would feel a lot easier. It’s just about practice and patience. 

My Top 5 Street Food in the Philippines

I wasn’t aware of street food when I was a little younger. When I started high school, I was introduced to some of it.

Every after school, my friends and I stop by a Gotohan and enjoy a hot bowl of Goto also known as rice porridge with either beef tripe, chicken, beef fats, fried pork belly, hard boiled egg or just plain. Adding crunchy fried minced garlic and a squeeze of lime makes it better. After enjoying the goodness of Goto, we then order for Palamig or also known as throat cooler. There are different flavors of Palamig such as Buko (young coconut), Sago at Gulaman (pearl), orange juice, Buko Pandan and etc. They’re good and cheap. Just the right drink after a hot bowl of Goto.

ImageGoto with pork belly diced and fried to crispiness, fresh green onions, hard boiled egg and minced fried garlic.

ImageSago at Gulaman (Pearl) Palamig

I was hesitant to try Chicken Isaw (chicken intestine) before, although I eat Isaw when my mom includes them every time she cooks Chicken Tinola. I was sure that my mom serves something that is clean and won’t give us harm. I wasn’t sure if the Isaw sold in the streets are clean and won’t give me any hepa infection. My friends mom used to have a little Carenderia (store) and they barbeque Isaw. Since it was my friend’s mom and we knew each other, I braved to sample one stick. Oh man, they’re scrumptious, tasty and addicting. A little dip in a small bowl of vinegar and they’re awesome. Since then I always order lots, they only cost 1 peso per stick. It became my night time addiction. Whenever I meet up with my friends, we tend to have an Isaw party  in front of her mom’s carenderia.

ImageIsaw in a barbeque stick

Deep fried one day old chick was introduced to me when I was in high school but I was too scared to try it. Some of my friends would say it tastes like chicken, a small chicken but you can feel the beak in your tongue. That disgusted me so I never tried it. 

It was a popular street food in the Philippines and I wasn’t shocked that there’s a cart for it at every corner outside our university (in exaggeration – there’s really lots). I ignore it every time I passed by a cart with lots of students gobbling the fried poor little chicks. But one time during our thesis days, one of my friends mentioned a good man who sells them close to his apartment. My friends we’re all so excited about trying it so we paved our way to his place. Everyone was relishing bit by bit and I was drooling inside. I fought the impression I had before and I dared to try one. Dipped in vinegar, closed my eyes and had a bite (imagining it was fried chicken). I thought it wasn’t too bad at all. I just have to avoid thinking what I am eating (lol).

ImageOne day old chick fried till crispy

Kwek-Kwek is also a popular Filipino street food made out of deep fried battered hard boiled quail eggs dipped in almost sweet vinegar or a Filipino version of sweet thai chili sauce. Similar to Kwek-kwek is called Tokneneng which is made out of chicken or duck eggs instead dipped in the same batter for kwek-kwek and fried. If you’re watching your cholesterol level then you can try this just once in your life and never again as we know that quail eggs are high in cholesterol. This is one of my favourite breaktime snack during our laboratory classes in college. Then I began to like Tokneneng when I started my first job. I used to buy one or two Tokenenengs in Cubao, Quezon City after hard days at work in Mercury Drug.

ImageKwek-kwek (deep fried battered hard boiled quail eggs)

Fish Balls, Kikiam and Squid Balls. These goodies are good and cheap. They’re the cheapest street food in the Philippines ever. Well, if you go by piece then yes it’s very cheap. The last time I had Fish balls, it was only 20 centavos per piece. My sister and I used to have this for snack when we have day’s off together. The cart was just a block away from our condo, easy access. For those who doesn’t know what Kikiam is, it is made up with ground pork and vegetables wrapped in bean curd sheets. A sweet gravy sauce with these goodies makes it more succulent and flavourful.

ImageFish Balls on a stick

Banana Que or skewered fried banana with caramelized brown sugar coating. The last but definitely not the least. Crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside. Fresh ones are just heavenly. I liked my banana a little bit ripe. My mom used to make them and Kamotecue (sweet potato) as well. One of our favourite snacks.

Image

Look at that goodness! 

Aside from these favourites, when you venture the Philippine streets you will find more variety of street food. Filipinos are very inventive and creative when it comes to food. Aside from the actuality that we love to cook, there’s the huge fact that we love to eat as well. We eat what is served on the table. We eat for experience too.

“Nothing beats a home cooked meal.” That’s true, but trying something exotic and different is fun. It’s all about the experience!

 

Link

Journey To Mars

Mars

I was talking to my sister and my parents yesterday through skype and they told about the 78,000 people who signed up for a one-way journey to Mars. They are gonna be travelling for 7 months from Earth to Mars and will live there for the rest of their lives.

This morning, Neil and I were watching some videos and we’re not kinda sure if it’s a hoax or not. Could it be possible that there’s life in Mars? If it’s true, why would they promote Mars a possible place to live in when there’s still a lot of space for people to live here on Earth. Is there something we need to know? Are they hiding a possible serious threat to Earth that could possibly wipe out life in this planet? And those 78,000 people who signed up for that journey are the ones who will start the new era?

Hmmm. . .what do you think?