Food feature: Apple, lettuce, and peanut butter and cheese sandwich

It is one of those I-should-get-myself-something-to-eat-when-I-review moments of my life. I prefer sandwiches when I get home from work and had to go straight to reading a pile of materials for school. I’m sure will feel full but not bloated that would usually result to me sleeping instead on reviewing.
Sandwiches, termed by the Wall Street Journal, as Britain’s “biggest contribution to gastronomy”, can be considered as a complete meal. Anything you put between those slices of bread can just claim any level of hunger or craving. Sandwiches are served either as hot or cold. And it definitely can reach both heights and lengths.
For this beautiful creation, the key is to play with flavor and texture. This is really special as every ingredient are very flavorful. All reach in natural oils, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

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Ingredients:
– 2 slices of wholewheat raisin bread (or wholewheat bread)
– a slice of cheese (cheddar or cream cheese)
– lettuce leaves
– thinly sliced apple wedges
– creamy peanut butter spread

What to do:
– Arrange on both slices. Serve sliced or whole.

Tip:
– Place spreads on the bread first before the rest of the loose ingredients to easily manage a stack. Press it on a pan (or sandwich maker), or pop it on your oven/toaster as this is best eaten hot (imagine the cheese melted inside – covering the apples and lettuce and blending with the peanut butter).

 

23 Photo Picks of 2013

Photos that I’ve taken that left a memorable moment of my 2013.  Some marked ‘first-times’, adventure, love, and even social relevance.

Photo pick #1: Good morning, sun, road, and dear! (March 2013) – on my way to work, I decided to take a photo of one of the blossoms that I managed to preserve from my first Valentine’s day bouquet from my dear.

3rd monthsary greeting

Photo pick #2: Summer is for everyone! (March 2013) – lying by the beach of Bantayan Island, Cebu wishing time would just stop even for a little while. Everything so clear, blue, warm, and summer!

Basking under the sky

Photo pick #3:  Highschool is a lifetime (April 2013) – even as the host, me and my highschool friends ‘crashed’ a party with cakes, chips, pasta, and lots of drinks and singing!

Together

Photo pick #4: Ready, set, hit! (April 2013) – covered my grandson’s birthday at the time. There is so much joy when you watch kids play.  No doubts, no setbacks, just YOLO (you only live once) moments. Here they are about to play “Basagang Palayok”. Funny how I realized that the kid in front still smiled even with a blindfold on.

Basagang Palayok

Photo pick  #5: Tourist (May 2015) – While walking around the shores of Boracay Island, I noticed the lady tourist with a local helping her to take her photos. She got the apparel, the looks, and the background. Solo traveling for her seemed ideal.

Tourist

Photo pick #6:  Fire dance (May 2015) Now a typical evening tourist attraction in Boracay island. Just imagine how fast these youngsters turn the fireball chains. It’s risky but that’s what made it a hit.

Fire dance

Photo pick #7:  The local (May 2015) – Behind the night lights, buffets, souvenir shops, white sand, and fire dances in Boracay, there are the locals who have the meager means to make a living. The man has amputated legs, while the child appears to have inherited the same impoverished state as his parents.They both ask alms especially in the evenings, garnering sympathy and apathy among tourists and locals at the same time.

The actual attraction

Photo pick #8: Goods (March 2013) – My Tabo-an Market experience in Cebu City.  It was not as crowded as it used to be that time. Almost all types of driend seafood products can be found here.  Smelling something fishy means something sumptuous.  And yes, the danggit is my favorite! But take note, if you are looking for affordable souvenirs, this is the best (and really bargain-best) place to be. I was able to find quality and affordable chicharon Carcar and dried mangoes IN BULK.

Market

Photo pick #9: Bride and Bloom (June 2013) – A momentous wedding event of a friend I managed to cover. Of course, shooting moments with the bride is my favorite.

Bride and Bloom

Photo pick #10: Jogyesa Temple (February 2013) – This is my first time to enter a Buddhist temple and what more, it was during my tour in Seoul, South Korea with my family.

Spiritual

Photo pick #11: Seoul eats (February 2013) My family and I fought the winter cold with tteokbokki and soondae and good old fish stock.

The real food

Photo pick #12:  Korean food hangover (March 2013) Just weeks after our Korean trip, my brother and I headed to Don-Day Korean Restaurant in Maginhawa St., Teacher’s Village in Quezon City (the other one is in Timog) for a samgyupsal (grilled pork) fix.

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Photo pick #13: Dinners and conversations (March 2013)  It really feels great when you manage to catch-up with your friends you haven’t seen for quite a while.  My friend here treated me for a Japanese food dinner.

dinner with friends

Photo pick #14: Best buds (December 2013) I like to share how my best buds (featured here is Bambi, an Aspin) make me come home everyday, smiling. Unlike you, for them, you are their world.

Loyal friends

Photo pick #15: First finisher’s medal (February 2013) This will forever remind me that to do the impossible is also starting small. And from then on, running changed my life forever.  I began running for 10K’s and vied for a 15K where thankfully, I managed to get my first medal.  Whenever I look at this, I just can remember the struggles I had with my legs and feet and how God guided and protected me in every step of the way. Just thankful!

1st finisher's medal

Photo pick #16: 27 years (December 2013). Our family celebrated my parent’s 27th wedding anniversary.

27 years

Photo pick #17: Best tourist attraction (July 2013) That moment when your tour guide just told you jump and you just followed. That moment, however felt crazy, just felt great.  Me, my friends, and my dear, made goofy expressions as we stole Mt. Mayon’s moment in the background.

Jump

Photo pic #18: Kaedee smiling (December 2013) This sweet child just made everyone smile when she joined our office Christmas party.

Kaedee smiling

Photo pick #19: In the moment, in style (December 2013).  This is just me and my office friends tag along the Winter Sonata Christmas theme. It’s just a beautiful sight when we see each other pouring those efforts in and making the most out of it.

Winter Sonata Christmas party

Photo pick #20: The arrival of the Nifty Fifty (November 2013). And my dream of capturing those moments full of color, expression, and story came to life when I was able to buy my dainty 50mm prime lens.  Just loved playing with it.

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Photo pick #21: Romance captured (December 2013). Think of my lens still open, and my eyes roaming around the crowd. There, captured!

hands

Photo pick #22: Siblings (November 2013). Left alone with our parents on official travel, my brother and I celebrated his birthday over his favorite pizza, fried chicken, and cookies and cream icecream. And thank you, tripod!

Siblings

Photo picks #23: Maayo (July 2013) My favorite shot as it was my first travel with Dear and my first time to see the beauty of the famous Mt. Mayon. Truly, maayo!

The couple

Just like a debut of memories, the 23 photo picks marked new beginnings and realizations in life.  With that, I am more eager to experience 2014 as it continues to unravel another set of memories.

Food feature: Ensalada in ‘Bagoong Padas’ and Calamansi

I’ve been in love with vegetables especially the ones found in the Philippines ever since I could hardly remember.  Probably because of my Ilocano roots.  To think of it, I’m a quarter Ilocano (from Naguilian, La Union), a quarter Tagalog (hailing from the alleys of Tondo, Manila), an eighth of being Pangasinense (because my grandmother is from Urbiztondo, Pangasinan), and the rest of being matakaw (“gluttonous” in Filipino – this explains it).

And I just have to give-in with homemade and guilt-free dishes.  Besides, cooking with vegetables are very economical while there are various ways to cook it (for vegetarians and for those undergoing naturopathy, they would even prefer eating vegetables raw).

What is appetizing about this dish, especially for Ilocanos, is the use of ‘bagoong padas’ – fish sauce made by fermenting fish with salt.  The ‘padas’ fish (comparable to anchovies) found in the sauce provides texture and stronger saltiness in the whole blend – a twist most of us look forward to in every dip.  This fish sauce is frequently paired with tomatoes, calamansi, as well as grilled fish.  The sauce is the ultimate counterpart of soy sauce in Chinese cooking.  The Ilocano pantry cannot go empty of ‘bagoong’ or ‘bagoong padas’.

Ingredients:

(for blanching)

  • eggplant
  • okra
  • stringbeans
  • kangkong (any variety)

(for ensalada sauce)

  • tomatoes
  • shallots
  • calamansi
  • ‘bagoong padas’

Note: Any locally found vegetables would do. Options like ar-arosep (or fresh seaweeds), malunggay, or even sweet potatoes can be used for this dish.

What to do:

  1. Clean and slice vegetables.
  2. Blanch the vegetables separately or according to density such as kangkong cooks faster than okra and eggplants.
  3. On the side, slice tomatoes and dice the shallots.
  4. While the vegetables cook, prepare the ensalada sauce. Mix in the tomatoes and shallots in a large bowl. Add a tbsp of ‘bagoong padas’ (more or less according to the amount of vegetables to flavor). Squeeze at least 2 calamansi with this amount of ‘bagoong padas’.
  5. Toss in the blanched vegetables into the sauce.

Tip:

  • Only toss in the vegetables if you are ready to eat them.  Dishes with tomatoes and shallots need to be consumed immediately, else the rest will spoil instantly.
  • Try sprinkling it with unsalted peanuts for a more filling and earthy taste.  Best enjoyed with grilled fish or just with warm rice.

See how mouthwatering yet inexpensive dishes can be? Try this now and let me know what you think.

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Food feature: Citrus apple cucumber shake

Among the benefits of beginning the New Year is finding ways to keep up with your New Year’s resolution.  And probably like millions and millions of people in the world would desire, among those resolutions could be to lose weight and to build on better health habits.

Coming home from work and still sticking to my resolution (thankfully), I decided to blend some of the available fruits at home to prevent myself from binging on dinner.  I thought (and I think it was known), that healthily satisfying my taste buds first would help me manage my appetite.  And it did!

So I would like to share this random and surprisingly delicious fruit blend that is very easy to make and be adjusted for your preference.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 whole lemon (squeezed)
  • 1 whole apple (any variety; my favourite though is the gala apple)
  • ½ or 1 whole cucumber
  • Milk (even powdered milk would do)
  • Sugar (choose brown sugar, muscovado or coco sugar over white sugar)
  • Cold water (or crushed ice)

What to do:

  1. Simply blend everything (solids first, liquids last)
  2. Pour in glass or on your favourite cup and serve while cold

 Tip: Top the foam with muscovado or coco sugar. You can try using flavoured sugar or vanilla powder for a lemon cake effect.  And want to take it out for a picnic or partner it with your packed lunch? Pour it on a mason jar and just let it wait in the fridge. Just grab it as it is before you go.

This blend has the benefits of detoxifying functions of lemon; fat-burning qualities of the apple; and satiating effects of cucumber.  And since the strong citrus taste of lemon is combined with the mild sweetness of the apple and milk, it tasted similar to yoghurt.  Try adding those flavour options above, it can be transformed to a drinkable dessert.IMG_5237

 Hence, losing weight should not make you wary around the kitchen as if it is its fault of everything you see on the scale.  Embrace the kitchen; be your own queen (or king). The kitchen can always be your craft table for healthier options. Fill your pantry with fruits and vegetables and the rest of the ingredients will follow.

Let’s continue on sticking with that New Year’s resolution!

Simply Sweet, Simply “Manyaman”

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“Manyaman” – ‘delicious’ in Kapampangan

I don’t miss having a taste of desserts, especially if it’s locally made, much more if it’s a Kapampangan specialty. My mother brought home uraro (arrow root) cookies when she was in Bataan and Pampanga two weeks ago after her field work. I remember my first taste or uraro when I was a kid – that sweetness playing from crunchy, to powdery, to a smooth and melting sensation in my mouth.  Even a hint of warm and buttery feel eases throughout the munching experience.  That moment I realized that these are my favorite cookies.

Arrow root is said to be a starch powder from the root of the cassava.  It is widely used in cookies and as a thickener in puddings and sauces.  The powder is also called as araruta (in which the name uraro may have been derived) and is also used in making San Nicolas cookies – another Kapampangan special delicacy (I’ll try to feature this in the future once I get hold of these again).  However, when I thought that cassava powder is only used in the Philippines and uraro cookies are only in Pampanga (much more only available here) I found out that it is also made in Colombia as panderos and Dominican Republic as ojaldra.  Doing a little historical analysis here and there, I’d say, it is no surprise since these countries are all former Spanish colonies and cookies and shortbreads at the time are always anticipated.

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Uraro cookies are made by mixing uraro powder with egg yolk, butter, sugar, and coconut milk into a dough and baked in slowly (at roughly 15 minutes).  In the Philippines, these are usually shaped as flowers in bite size pieces.  It is actually the perfect size as its structure is very delicate that you may not want ending the rest of the cookie left as crumbs in your hands or lap.

Since I grew fond of these cookies, I didn’t mind eating them only with water, coffee, or none at all.

ImageLucky for us, you can buy them not only in Pampanga or in pasalubong stores, but in supermarkets as well. As for Filipinos reading this abroad, surely you’re already craving for this one as nothing tastes better than anything that is “home made”.  Now, my cookie stash here is almost out, hope someone will get to bring home soon.

The “uragon” trail

“Uragon” (sometimes spelled as “oragon”), is a Bikolano slang for someone who is feisty, determined, principled, fighter, unafraid of consequences, and one who stands up for his principles.  No wonder other ethno-linguistic groups like the Tagalog would look them up as brave and determined yet warm and graceful like the Mayon Volcano, their most-sought ‘Bicol Express’. and their thirst for waves and adventure as exemplified in their world-renowned CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC).

I really have proven that it’s always the journey and not the destination.  So even if I already went to the same place twice, I definitely had a brand new experience. This is my travelogue as my friends, my boyfriend, and myself traversed Naga and Legazpi in three (3) days.

In this visit in the region, we gave ourselves a little push, to have a taste of the “uragon” blade.  Kami na ang matapang!

Day 1 – Naga: Bigg’s Diner, Church Heritage tour, and Wakeboarding at CWC

A flight through PAL Express (formerly known as Airphil Express) seat sales, however delayed, did not keep us from enjoying the NAIA terminal.  Thanks to my travel buddies namely Feo, Myc, and Karl, I experienced for the first time to really shoot at the terminal.  Talking about maximizing the use of the Php 200.00 terminal fee!  And so, we are off to Naga for a jumpstart.

At the terminal

We chose CBD Plaza Hotel.  They have good facilities for a budget hotel – from economy room to suites.  For a good price of Php 2,400, we get to have airport transfers, request for early check-in and late check-out, and daily breakfast.  They have clean rooms, toiletries, slippers, and located right beside SM Naga, Naga City Terminal, and food and convenient stores.  It is also some 20 minutes away from the CWC (commuting would never be a problem as well).

Speaking of commuting, the best way to roam the City is the traysikad (known as tricycle in the metro).  for Php 8, you get to go to your destination.

Traysikad around Naga

After check-in and packing our stuff for wakeboarding later that day, we are off for lunch at the Bigg’s Diner – known as the biggest foodchain in the Region. Inspired by the 50s, you can just see vinyl records, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the Radio Flyer, and black and white tiles, among others, adorning the place.  Enjoy it with their Extreme Cheeseburger and fries, you’ll be back for another for sure.  The Diner is located at Centro Naga.

50s at Bigg's Diner

Full for the rest of the day, we began our Church Heritage Tour.  Just across the Diner, we walked passed the Plaza Quince Martires.  May I say that their plaza is really clean (so is the rest of the City).  We then arrived at the San Francisco Church.As a practice, I would wish and pray as I enter the Church and knock on the wooden doors as I leave.

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Even walking was an option, we rode to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.  Also there to amaze us the Porta Mariae – a triumphant arch inaugurated in 2009 to commemorate the devotion of the people of Naga to the Lady of Peñafrancia.

The Cathedral

Porta Mariae

The arch (Porta Mariae)

Then we had the chance to witness a wedding and be amazed by the size of the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, home of the blessed image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.  The best place to cap our Church Heritage tour.

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Naga wouldn’t be more famous, if it’s not for the CWC.  We are fortunate enough to really learn how to wakeboard.  It is definitely safe and enjoyable for beginners.  Not only you get to wear safety gears, but also to get proper guidance from local instructors.  Lucky for us, it was a Sunday and we were just few. So instead of a 2-hour wakeboard, we get to have an hour and a half more to enjoy to place.

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And we dared ourselves not only to try the CWC Restaurant classic pizza but it’s Bicolano Pizza (laing pizza) as well.  And may I say, it was really hot but definitely delicious!

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Too tired to do extra stuff after arriving at the hotel at 9:30 PM.  We were set for another adventure the next day – Legazpi, Albay.

Day 2: Legazpi City day tour

We took the better option to ride a UV Express van for Php 140 for a 2-hour trip to Legazpi.  Oh my, instead of leaving at 6:00 AM, we left at almost 10:00 AM. We fell in-love way too much with our beds.  And did I mention, us girls are already feeling our muscles ache because of the wakeboarding?

Arrived in Legazpi and our first stop for our itinerary is lunch.  So expected!  The moment we mentioned sili icecream to our trusted tour guide (Legazpi City can be toured through commute, but it’ll definitely be more comfortable if you hire a van.  Fortunately, Mr. Diego Montessor, Jr. of Easy Travel, proved it easy for us.), immediately dropped us at 1st Colonial Grill.  It offers all types of Bikolano dishes.  Featured here of-course is the most-sought sili icecream, pili icecream, tinutungang ice cream (roasted rice grains that added much flavor and aroma), and malunggay icecream.  I left the main the dishes for your imagination.  These desserts were definitely the best sellers.

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For our tour, we went to Daraga Church.  And by the time that we went there, we also did not miss the opportunity to mesmerize ourselves with Mt. Mayon as well.  This centuries old church was built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1773 in honor of the patron saint of Nuestra Senora dela Porteria.

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Next stop is the Cagsaua (commonly spelled as Cagsawa) ruins,  which was also built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1700s.  It displays the famous bell tower which completes the view of Mayon in history books.  A tour guide (who also acts as the photographer of the group) would tell us the story of the place and show us different creative shots.  Tourists also have the option to try the ATV lava bed adventure tour with Php 599 (per hour, I think) as minimum cost.  There are a lot of souvenir shops stationed there as well.  We bought bell tower carvings made of granite at Php 150 – certified hand-made at a good price.

The Church of Cagsaua (commonly referred to as the Cagsawa Ruins)

creative shots

Mini bell towers (and knife sharpeners hehe)

Legazpi would not be complete without the Lignon Hill.  This place is a famous viewing deck for Mt. Mayon and the rest of the city.  Further, it is a home of various adventure activities like zipline, rappelling, and hanging bridge cross.  For our group we tried the zipline (a beginner feat) and hanging bridge and was aiming for the Japanese Tunnel afterwards (though, we didn’t have the chance to go inside the Japanese Tunnel as it was already closed by the time that we got there).  When done in groups, you’ll definitely feel adrenaline rush from your toes to your temple. You can request the staffs to take your pictures by the way.  They can print copies and save it on a CD as souvenirs.

The viewing deck and the zip lines

Hanging on at the hanging bridge

Japanese tunnel

Lignon Hill

Capping our tour is a cool evening walk at Legazpi Boulevard and Embarcadero.  I remember very well those cool and clean sea breeze blowing towards us as we stroll and take pictures of the boulevard.  We even had the chance to stand at the breakwater. This is also a place for joggers and triathletes alike.

Posing at the Boulevard

After the tour, we were dropped off at the Legazpi Central Terminal to catch the last trip back to Naga City.  We only had a quick dinner at Savemore before we hopped on the van.

Back at our hotel again at 9:30 PM, but this time craving for an evening snack, we feasted on some chicken and I-can’t-remember-what-else.

Feasting at CBD Plaza Hotel


Day 3
– Church Heritage tour continues, photowalks, Geewan, and souvenir shopping

We initially planned to Malabsay Falls that day.  But since I cannot really tell how far it is from our hotel and we were definitely tired with all our adventure during the past two (2) days, we resorted to continuing our Church Heritage tour, do souvenir shopping, and have lunch at Geewan.

Visiting the Penafrancia Church

I didn’t miss lighting a candle and saying a prayer for INA (as the people of Naga also called Our Lady of Peñafrancia).  I also noticed the statue of Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias who promoted the devotion to INA.

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We also had the chance to check the Museum of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.  We have witnessed how the devotion began and continued up to this day.  Much can be learned from this Museum.  Every diorama, aureola (twelve stars), crown, and “manto” (cloak), tells a story.  It is definitely a must-see for tourists and lay persons alike.  We are even blessed enough to step on the actual float being used for the annual fluvial parade (held during September).

The Museum

For Bikolano goods, we went back to Centro Naga.  For pili nuts and other goods, RPM must be the choice.  We discovered Tribu Bikolano shirts for quality souvenirs as well.

RPM and Bikolano shirts

Also, we did not miss shooting at the Plaza Rizal before heading for lunch.

Plaza Rizal

Then to cap it all, we had our hearty lunch at Geewan.  Bikolano dish, known or not to others, will be seen here.  From left, we had pinangat (porked wrapped in gabi leaves and cooked in coconut milk), kandingan (Bikolano bopis), and tinutungan (fish cooked in vinegar, malunggay, and coconut milk).  After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, in time for our travel to the airport for our flight to Manila.

Geewan

This travel was definitely a memorable one especially to our muscles, taste buds, and hearts (but, of course). All credits to my friends and my Dear.

My travel buddies and my Dear

Reflection on “Alms”

As I was doing an evening photowalk in one of the most famous tropical destinations in the Philippines, I can’t just disregard the fact that poverty and vulnerability is present in the area.

There I saw a man, less his limbs and probably his dreams; worse, a child less his childhood.  Having and sharing this picture may emanate mixed reactions.  But one thing would be definite among these, there is something wrong and it is disturbing.

Shots taken last May 2013 – a summer in Boracay.

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Full gallery at projectsbyjennifer.wordpress.com.