Sowing the Seeds

I have longed to have my own veggie garden at home. Ever since the all-natural/organic bug bit me, I wanted to grow my own herbs and vegetables.  Living in an apartment prevented me from developing my green thumb. But when my family moved to our temporary home two weeks ago, which has a big green area, I was all set to do the dirty work, literally!

I got seeds from the supermarket and asked the kids to help me plant them. I didn’t get the regular pots yet because I wanted to check if the  herbs would thrive.  So my husband suggested to use paper cups first then eventually transfer to a bigger pot when they start to germinate.

the garden soil

the garden soil

our seed pack basil, dill, parsley, lavender and chives with a free arugula seed pack too :-0

our seed pack
basil, dill, parsley, lavender and chives with a free arugula seed pack too :-0

Coby putting labels on the cups

Coby putting labels on the cups

teeny tiny lavender seeds

teeny tiny lavender seeds

praying they would all thrive :-P

praying they would all thrive 😛

I’m keeping my fingers crossed here! If my initial step to growing my own herbs and veggies would be successful, who knows what else this garden would grow! When we moved in, I saw a papaya plant and cantaloupe plant in the backyard! We can’t wait.

After all these sowing, I am reminded of Jesus’ parable about the 4 kinds of soil in Matthew 13.  Each soil represents the person’s heart while the seed represents the word of God or the gospel. God’s truth may or may not impact a person’s life depending on the condition of the heart. As the soil was described in the parable being dry, rocky, thorny or fertile, so is the condition of our hearts. The good seed will only grow and thrive if it’s planted on good soil. My heart was once dry, rocky and full of thorns but as I grew to know my God, I believe that it is now fertile and bearing much fruit. But then again, whatever fruit or growth I may be having, it’s all because of the unmerited favor of God in my life…only by his grace alone!

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-23

 

Up Late with Cupcakes

Since my husband is on school break for two months, I don’t have to wake up early every morning from June to August. I have the privilege of staying up late to read or get inspirations from other bloggers or to watch my favorite television shows.

My husband and I chanced upon “Cupcake Wars” which airs at 10 p.m. from Monday to Friday. The show gives cupcake bakers from all over the US the opportunity to showcase their talents by creating not only perfect cupcakes but topped with knockout decorations. The winning baker wins 10,000 dollars and the bragging rights, of course. But before getting all the adulation, they need to bake and decorate 1000 cupcakes and present it on a dazzling display which will be front and center of a special sports, Hollywood or state event.

What I love about the show is how creative these bakers are by combining ingredients I wouldn’t imagine putting together like dark chocolate and zucchini or ginger with molasses and cayenne.  I became familiar too with baking lingo like “ganache”  which is a French word connoting a mixture of chocolate, milk, cream and butter to be used as frosting or filling of cupcakes and “compote” which is fruit cooked in syrup.

Watching the show definitely raises my craving for sweets every night. I think that’s why I gained a few pounds these past two months 🙂 Right, blame it on the show! Seriously, I am inspired to bake my own cupcakes and make a business out of it. But I’ll give that to my mom. She is the baker in the family. I’m more of a “cooking” kind of gal rather than the “baking” type. Probably because baking is more precise and exact, while cooking allows me to veer away from the recipe and make it my own.

August is around the corner and my late nights are being numbered. It makes me sad because I will be missing watching these bakers sweat it out in the kitchen but also hearing the reviews and comments of the judges especially of Florian Bellanger, whose speech is too difficult for me to decipher. Hey, he’s French! He is supposed to speak like that (me trying to speak in a French accent)

Even though I won’t go into baking seriously (hmm) I would still watch the show. I know there would always be a replay of the show in the afternoon so I would get fired up to think of new flavors for my own spreads and jams business 🙂

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake

Picture of Pumpkin Pop Cupcakes Recipe

Pumpkin Pop Cupcakes

Picture of

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Photos courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com/cupcake-wars/recipes/index.html

Homemade and Selling

I don’t think there is no one in the world who doesn’t love food. In fact, food has been given so much attention with the advent of social media and phone apps. One can simply capture a photo of a delectable pasta, a sweet dessert or a refreshing drink and post it for the world to see. Now, your friends know what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I do share a few photos of food myself but I limit them to stuff I make from scratch or what my husband prepares.  And posting homemade stuff is good advertising don’t you think. I mean, who doesn’t need a LITTLE extra cash?

Last year, I started recreating the homemade spreads or dips I did two years before. I shared some samples to my friends and they enjoyed it. Not only that, I also received orders especially around the holidays. I started with a Roasted Bell Pepper Spread and Garlic Cheese Spread. I wanted to add one more flavor so I tried using a local food item in our country called “Tinapa” or Smoked Milkfish. The product testing done at home was good and the Tinapa Spread was born. I received more orders for this spread than the two but and it became the bestseller spread.

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Christmas packaging for the three in one. I also have bigger sizes and in jars.

Christmas packaging for the three in one. I also have bigger sizes and in jars.

My family loves bread. When he was still single, my husband took a bread-making course and learned how to make simple breads at home. He is such a bread lover that he decided to make his own “Pandesal” a Spanish name for salt bread. Pandesal is a staple food item in the Filipino diet. We have it for breakfast or snack and it goes well with our favorite butter and sugar and hot coffee, yummy! Armed with his ingredients of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar and salt, he mixed, kneaded and baked his own bread. He asked the kids to join him and they enjoyed the whole process.

kneading the dough

kneading the dough

proofing time

proofing time

hot pandesal with roasted bell pepper spread yum!

hot pandesal with roasted bell pepper spread yum!

So what goes well with bread but with a good spread. Aside from the homemade spreads I make for the home and for friends, I thought of doing something else. How about making my own fruit jams? I was inspired when I saw a show on TV that featured a woman who makes jams at home. She sells them too for a profit and has been doing quite well.

Green mangoes are well-grown in our country and is available year round. So looking for green mangoes was not a problem at all. I took some green mangoes I bought from the market and created my own version of a green mango jam. The sourness of the green mango worked well with the sweetness of sugar. Of course, my kids loved it (love your own)!

I also shared some to my father who enjoys jams and preserves as well, and he gave me a positive feedback. He said I need to reduce some of the sugar but overall it’s good. He said to make him more and he will pay me, hooray!

oozing with mango syrup

oozing with mango syrup

one jar almost consumed by the bread monsters :-)

one jar almost consumed by the bread monsters 🙂

I’m still on the lookout of other local fruits to make as jams. Here is a list of fruits I could source locally: guava, melon, pineapple, santol (This fruit is grown in Southeast Asia. In French, it’s what they call faux mangoustainer and in English is known as Sandor or wild mangosteen. -source  www.tagaloglang.com

Have you tried making your own jam or preserves? Let’s have a “jamming” session by sharing your experiences 🙂

Leftover Makeover

Spaghetti is one of our family’s staple meals. I prepare this pasta dish not only for birthdays or any other celebration but for our everyday”lutong bahay” meals. When the kids have licked the bottom of the sauce pan, they would ask me,” No more sauce?”  We will be left with pasta noodles good enough for one more meal. This weekend, spaghetti was on our menu.

It was a very lazy Monday for me. We were still tired from a birthday party yesterday and hubby and I slept late.  Not to mention I had to wake up my usual waking time at 4:30 AM to prepare for hubby. By mid-day, after doing arts and crafts with Jianne, I was sooo sleepy. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore plus the weather was so conducive for sleeping. I told Coby to continue his Language lessons while I take a nap upstairs.

We still had leftover spaghetti from the weekend, so I was confident we would have enough for lunch. No need to cook.    I woke up a few minutes before 12 noon and took out the food for reheating. Lo and behold, the spaghetti sauce was just enough for two kids. It’s too late to take out the fish from the freezer. What will I eat? Hmmm I could do an aglio oglio which is just noodles with lots of garlic, olive oil and basil. But I was not in the mood for aglio oglio.

Then I remembered I still had left over San Marino Tuna Fillet Spanish Sardines.  Yes! Still Aglio oglio but with a twist, instead of anchovies, I would do a Pinoy version using spanish sardines.

I crushed as many garlic as I want. Garlic and olive oil, oh so yummy! So, I flaked the tuna first. Then I sautéed my garlic and put in the flaked tuna. I added the oil in the can to add flavor to the pasta. Then I tossed in the leftover spaghetti noodles. Seasoned it with salt and pepper and topped with dried parsley. The spiciness of the sardines added flavor to my 5-minute meal!

Voila! Lunch is served!

Pinoy Aglio Oglio

I really need to be educated in the art of food photography 🙂

Ligo Sardines Levels Up

Disclaimer:  I am not a professional food critic nor am I a product reviewer.  Just sharing my two cents on certain food products my family consumed over the last month or so. 


This would be the first time I would be “reviewing” a product in my blog.  Well, this post is not really a review but merely a sharing a positive experience I had with the Ligo Sardines Gata (In Coconut Milk) Style.  By the way, I was not paid by Ligo Sardines to post this 🙂

I saw on TV that a certain local brand of sardines has included a “gata” variant in its sardines line up.  Being a certified gata-dish-lover, I searched for this brand in the nearby supermarket but to no avail.  I was about to leave the supermarket aisle downhearted but then I saw Ligo, another brand of sardines, also has a gata variant, so I grabbed it and headed to the cashier.

I love sardines — ordinary, spicy, even the mackarel or the white kind.  I especially enjoy it for breakfast combined with scrambled eggs and fried rice and a warm cup of coffee.  But that evening, I decided to try out this gata sardines for dinner.

 I prepared my crushed garlic and sliced onions for sauteing.  As I opened the can, I was surprised to see a slice of ginger inside, the size of a one peso coin.  Ask  any gata-dish lover out there, any gata dish would not be complete without the flavor of ginger.   After sauteing happily for a few minutes, I just garnished the dish with spring onions and served it to my hungry husband for dinner.

One bowl is not enough for the two of us

As the kids munched away their macaroni dish, my husband and I savored every bite of this spicy yet flavorful surprise.  The coconut milk overpowered the fishy taste of the sardines that we hardly noticed that we were eating canned fish.  Washing the dishes afterwards was a cinch as our plates were all cleaned up!

www.ligomanila.com

Goodbye Chips

Our weekly trips to the supermarket would not be complete without passing the chips aisle.  Each family member will pick one to take home for the week.  After watching Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution and how he advocates for healthier snacks for kids, I felt ashamed as a parent.  I mean why would I feed my kids and my husband these oh-so-crunchy-and-oh-so-salty snacks?  Although, we do not eat chips everyday, probably once or twice a week, I still feel the need to really take it off our grocery list.  

One of the things I am thankful for is that my kids love fruits.  I failed to mention that aside from chips and other snacks, our grocery cart would also include apples, oranges, pears or bananas.  Coby, our eldest, loves munching on these healthy snacks when he runs out of chips.  Somehow this habit has rubbed off to his Jianne who would fight over the last piece of banana with his kuya.  
For moms and dads who find it hard to deprive the kids of the chips, I suggest doing it first and be a model to your children.  My husband is a certified chips junkie.  As my sister-in-law says, they were deprived of chips and processed foods like hotdogs when they were young, so it is only now that they are enjoying these “sinful” food.  When I talked to my husband about letting go of his chips, he was hesitant at first because he says he needs the “crunch”.  But he told me he would just get the nacho chips without salt, the one you use for making mexican nachos.  I on the other hand is not really fond of chips.  In fact, I cannot consume a bag of chips on my own.  But I must admit that I have a sweet tooth and I would die for chocolates! Letting go of my dark brown buddies is not easy but I have to for my sake and also for the kids sake. 
So here are my healthier snack alternatives that you might want to try with your own kids.  
Fruits, fruits, fruits.  I do not need to emphasize the importance of fruits in our diet.  Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that our family needs every single day.  If your kids, don’t like fruits, let them see that you are not only eating them but enjoying them yourself.  Kids model their parents right? So whatever we parents do, our kids will follow.  For smaller kids, parents can cajole them into eating by making up stories about fruits or reading them books about fruits and vegetables.  Fruits are very colorful so let them see those bright red apples, sunny bananas, juicy watermelons, yummy mangoes and delectable grapes arranged in nice bowls sitting on the kitchen counter or on the dining table.  We have to patient in cutting up the fruits into smaller portions for our younger kids.
You go, Yogurt.  Ice cream is good but yogurt is better and a healthier choice.  There is huge range of flavored yogurts to choose from in the supermarkets and pick ones your kids will like.   One trick I got from the net is to insert a Popsicle stick in the middle of the container and let it freeze, ergo, yogurt Popsicle!  By the way, you can also add fruits to the yogurt to counter the sourness.  



Pop-corn my heart.  Yes, popcorn is a healthier choice than chips.  But you need to get the ones with plain, low salt or natural flavor.  We usually buy the natural ones and we don’t add salt anymore.  They smell and taste like the good ‘ol popcorn from the movie house and it gives you the crunchiness regular chips give.  




Extra Cheese please.  Slice up some cheddar cheese and arrange them alternately with plain crackers on a brightly colored plate. Again, plain crackers with no salt or low salt plus creamy cheese is a great combination for a light snack.   

 





Bottomless Fruit Drinks.  Freshly squeezed fruit juice is best.  If you have the electronic juicer at home or just the plain handheld juicer, use this to prepare fresh fruit juices to the kids.  If squeezing is too tedious for you, try to get the canned fruit juice in the supermarkets.  They are a little more expensive that the powdered juice drink but remember healthier is always better.  Dads can also make fruit shakes or smoothies at home.  Get any fruit in season and shake, shake, shake!  




Please Pass the Veggies.  Carrots and celery cut into strips matched with dips like pesto dip, cheese dip other homemade dips will get your kids to eat those dreaded vegetables.  Steamed corn is also one of my daughter’s favorite.  If I can’t get the cobs packed ones in the supermarket, I get her the canned whole kernels and she enjoys them just the same.  Instead of frying french fries, try baking  them which eliminates the use of too much oil.  Try to find baked potato wedges recipes on the net.  
These are just some snacks our family has tried and has been enjoying up to this time.  Remember we need to be intentional parents.  We must be involved in every thing our kids are doing especially what they eat.  It would take much of our time but it’s all worth it.  Let’s not take our health or our kids’s health for that matter, for granted.  Happy munching!!! Don’t forget to brush your teeth too 🙂