Saturday, March 27, 2010


Do you like sushi?

Sushi is only one of things I like about Japanese culture. So okay I don't get the anime and all that other stuff, but the food, tradition, culture and discipline that the Japanese have is wonderful to me. That's the reason why I am so enamored to take up Japanese lessons...but I don't know. Maybe not.

Back to sushi, I have never tasted sushi that was made in true Japanese fashion and I am dying to do so. I love the taste of the sweet, raw fish and the bit of wasabi, the sticky, warm rice and vinegar mixture.

What are good sushi places in Manila?

TGI Fridays

We went to TGI Friday's when we went to watch Alice in Wonderland (it's really sad some of you guys didn't like it because I really like the way Burton twisted the whole story) anyhoo, I just wanna say that I really, really, really loved the ribs. The pasta was pretty good, too. But compared to the ribs, man, it was nothing.

This is the Jack Daniels ribs. It's glazed with a sauce spiked with Jack Daniels that is all at once tangy, salty and sweet. The ribs were really marinated and each bite was tender and melted in your mouth. Super yum. The fries was a nice interlude but the star really are the ribs. I think this was around Php600? I can be off the mark, but it was around that range. The next time we eat here, we'll get the full slab, with more fries, slaw and maybe some rice.

I got fettuccine with grilled chicken, brocolli, sundried and fresh tomatoes and garlic. It was good, but probably not worth the ~Php450 I spent on it, especially compared to the ribs.

It's not normal price here at TGI Fridays but the servings are unabashedly huge. The pasta was good for two, at least. The service is also pretty good considering that there were a lot of people. A bit before we were served our food, some wserver rang a bell and music started to play and all the staff (except those who had serving trays during the time of the bell) started to dance. I shall upload when I get to convert it to some other format. The servers were real polite and accommodating.

One note, we would have wanted the ribs to be really right off the flames. The one we were served was already a bit on the "too well rested" side.

Drinking What?

Volvic is probably the best water I have tried. Evian falling only second to it. Yeah, I know, Evian is more expensive (and this is definitely a scenario where the cheaper one is better) but Volvic is definitely better-tasting. It tastes like what water is described in books---pure, clean and refreshing.

It is not to say that Volvic is cheap. Actually, a 500mL bottle will go for around Php45 (local mineral water is around Php20 and Evian is around Php50) so it is not cheap. But I always keep my eyes peeled for sales because the price can drop pretty low, say around Php60 for a liter.

You can google Volvic and see how it is produced but true to it's name, it is filtered in the ground with layers upon layers of volcanic rock and it is bottled at the source. It has a perfect pH of 7, the pH water pure water SHOULD have, if I remember my chemistry lessons well. Evian is somewhere in the 7.2 in the pH scale I think.

I read in Marketmanila that Saveur rated Volvic as the best bottled still water in the world and I can easily why. It is markedly better than any other I have tried. Evian may be more popular, but I'd go for Volvic whenever I can. Go grab a bottle and taste it yourself. :)

Anyshoes, I also would like to make a note on Yingyang cooling tea. It's good. It tastes pretty much like gulaman without the jelly. And it is effective in cooling the body down. It's main ingredient I think (reading the label) is chrysanthemum tea, which I have featured before. It has really been used by the Chinese to treat fever because of it's cooling effect. Although I would recommend just drinking chrysanthemum tea alone (cheaper too), this may be an easier way to introduce yourself to something new-tasting.

At Work

At work, I stare back at two monitors, which I truly believe improves my productivity. All the "work" stuff is on the left (work email, data management, sources) and to the left are "non-work" stuff (news websites, music, some other research stuff) that help the left monitor along.

I also have this thing for arranging my desktop icons. Work to the left, fun to the right (and I'm right-handed, just sayin').

I also want to say that I am NOT OC.

Or at least my being OC is very limited to my computer. Look at my closet and it is a hodgepodge of shirts and blouses, work and non-work (except for the dark colored ones which I kept in a maleta under the bed because who wears dark stuff during summer anyway? Figured it's a waste of closet space). My planner is everywhere and books, notes and pens are scattered about my drawer. What gives?

Hearty Meals Mean Meat and Carbs

A quick trip to the grocery a week ago yielded this: ice cream, pasta, and makings of a meat sauce. That means ground beef and pork, garlic sausage and mushrooms. The meal won't be anything BUT light.

I want heavy meals. I resent light, wimpy meals because they make me end up eating more junk. Once I am full and satisfied, I won't crave for anything else. Well, except ice cream, of course.

My mom is the true origin of this sauce. However, she does not use the herbs and adds cheese or milk to the sauce to make it creamy. I cut that from the recipe and used herbs instead. I used fettuccine for this dish, but feel free to use any other pasta. Spaghetti will work, and I think penne will be perfect for it's saucy goodness.

So first, the ingredients:

500g fettuccine, cooked al dente
250g ground beef (or ground beef/pork mixture. some places allow that)
4 garlic sausage links, diced
small pack tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes (I like to use this for texture)
1 small can mushrooms, sliced
italian seasoning
bay leaf

Cook, cook, cook!

First, render the fat from the diced sausage. You know how longganisa because all yummy and flavorful once it gets a little burnt? That's what we're looking for. If the oil it renders is too little, feel free to add a bit of olive oil to help it along. After that, sautee the garlic and mushrooms in together with the sausage. If some of the sausage sticks to the bottom of the pan, that's ok. The stuck bits help the flavor!

Put the mushrooms/sausage mix to the side of the pan (like the picture) and cook the ground beef in the free space beside it. Allow the beef to caramelize, too. Once it's done, you can mix up together again.

Add the tomato paste and stir. Let it bubble a bit. Add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaf. Add the basil and italian seasoning and season with salt and pepper. (or alternatively, you can season the meats before adding the tomato components). Let simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally. You make add some pasta water or red wine if you feel that it's too dry or if dries up while cooking. This sauce is particularly forgiving so if it dries up too much, just add more liquid.

Once the oil separates from the sauce, then it's ready. Serve it with the noodles. Sure hit! Chewy noodles, flavorful and meaty sauce all make for a wonderful dinner. You can make this ahead and it stores very, very well. If you refrigerate it, it'll last maybe 2-3 days. If you'll keep it longer, stuff it in the freezer.

One tip, make sure that the sauce is COMPLETELY cooled down before refrigerating or freezing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

East Avenue Medical Center and How Pain Makes You Dumb

Look at East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC). This is the location of my next blog entry. Read on.

A couple of months ago, I was plagued by really bad abdominal pains. It was like gas...only worse. I couldn't sleep. After maybe three nights of suffering, I went to The Medical City for a checkup. The rather snooty doctor told me that it's probably just dyspepsia and prescribed Omepron. A couple of days of that and I was right as rain.

Fast forward to today, I arrived home from work at around 1:30am and I could barely stand straight because the pain was back. Back with a vengeance I should say. I tried liniments and hot tea to no avail. Threw up a couple of times to no avail. I joked about it and it joked back. I'm tellin' ya, when your stomach jokes with you, the jokes are often bad ones.

So Allan wakes up at 3 am to find me hunched over. Fearing that it's appendicitis or something worse than just gas or indigestion, we decided to go to the hospital. And not just any hospital, the EAST AVENUE MEDICAL CENTER.

I knew that this was gonna be a bad idea, us going to that particular hospital. Not that I am such a big believer in private hospitals or anything, but I have often heard on television that people who get into vehicular accidents or stabbings or violent holdups end up in EAMC. I was worried that I might not get medical attention right away. And I NEEDED medical attention RIGHT AWAY. The pain was soooo terrible that I thought, quite literally, that I must be dying.

We arrive (me in ugly shorts and a tshirt with Gumby in the front) and the attending nurse asks me right away what's up. Allan fills out a form and one of the nurses woke up a doctor (which I later gather is only an intern, I say only because they do nothing really). So I thought, "Ah good, it's fast."

Then I waited for 30 minutes. WTF???

The intern poked and prodded at my stomach and asked where the pain is concentrated. Then she asks me to lay down on a stretcher (with a thin foam covered with brown faux leather and no bedsheet). I became squeamish. But what the heck, I was in pain, maybe they needed me to be submissive and I don't really give a shit if the stretcher is dirty. Beside me was a man on another stretcher with a stab wound on his thigh (almost nicked his femoral artery) and in front of me was a motorcyclist who exfoliated half his body on the rough roads of EDSA. TOCINO. As in. They looked at me as the nurse rolled my stretcher to place. I resisted the urge to smile and say "Howdy neighbor." Pain makes me dumb.

It seems that the specialist that was skilled to check my condition is in surgery. So I was asked to wait. The intern's only job was to report to that specialist that some woman was there waiting for him. Me.

Then the nurse rearranged the stretchers after 15 minutes and I was now neighbors with a youngish man who needed surgery. His mother and father was beside him and his mom was the one who was pumping the ambu-bag (you know that oxygen mask with a bag of air attached to it). The man was writhing in pain or convulsion. I can't look. I just needed the frickin' expert to come along and make me well. Can you imagine being in this depressing place, with bad stomach and the urge to throw up? For thirty minutes? Why did I even go to this place? My medical card covered the faster hospitals like St. Luke's or Capitol Med, which are all pretty near our place as well.

I was really pissed by now. Two interns have already come to me only to poke and prod me some more. Isn't it clear where the pain is concentrated? Didn't I tell you yet? Should you keep poking my stomach more?

Then I heard the most disgusting thing I have heard from anyone working in the healthcare profession:

Mother with Ambu-bag and begging voice (the one with the child needing surgery, writhing in pain): Nurse, wala pa po bang doctor? Tingnan nyo naman yung anak ko...kanina pa kame dito...baka may magawa kayo. Wala naman kayong ginagawa dyan eh.

(This is all true. The nurses and interns where sleeping on their tables in plain sight. Other nurses weren't doing anything but walking here and there. And they arrived well before we did)

Nurse (snoooooooty as hell): Ma'am, wag nyo kame sabihan ng ganyan. Hindi nyo naiintindihan yung trabaho namin, kaya. Nagtratrabaho rin kame dito. Kanina ko pa sinabi sa inyo na wala pang space sa OR, kelangan ko bang ulit-ulitin? Umintindi naman kayo. Hindi kame doctor, nakikita nyo ba? Nurse lang kame. DOCTOR kelangan ng anak nyo.

Considering that the nurse really wasn't doing anything, considering that they were so lazy that they wouldn't even assist the mother with the ambu-bag, considering that they have waited there for an hour and considering that interns and nurses were sleeping in plain sight, how can that stupid nurse say that? How can she not just apologize, explain properly and assure the mother? Isn't THAT part of her job, too?

I couldn't take it. I told Allan that I wanted to go somewhere else. When he went back to the nurses/interns' station, he came back with a wheelchair and instructions that I should be taken to the ambulatory care department which was on the other side of the building. So we went and we found a doctor, an empty lobby and a silent department. They were sleeping, but THERE WERE AVAILABLE DOCTORS FOR MY CONDITION! He was just there. Yes, that specialist was in surgery, but there was someone else! Why did they make me wait?! I WAS IN FRICKIN' PAIN! The doctor poked at my abdomen one last time, and wrote out a presciption for buscopan and omeprazole. Not even 10 minutes and I was given a resolution.

As Allan headed to the pharmacy, the doctor gave me a shot of buscopan and told me that when the meds arrived, that I should take one each, and that I could lie down on the benches if I felt like it. It was so simple, so quick.

Thirty minutes after I drank the meds, the pain subsided. I was told to get an ultrasound and a blood test to rule out gallstones or any other factors. And we were gone.

I'll never go back to EAMC ever again? And I hope that snooty nurse is the last of her breed.

Never the "Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink" Kind of Bag Girl

I have been reading more and more blogs that have at least one entry where
they describe the contents of their bags (some even do that everyday). There
are bags that are filled with mommy essentials---towel, extra tshirt, baby
powder and wipes---while others are a little bit more complicated (mascara,
contact lens solution, makeup kit, charger). Bag contents range from the
mundane to the ridiculous, like a can opener, and are, I think, true
reflections of what the person is like. It's just like a diary or an email

So of course my attention is piqued. I have never really done an inventory
of the contents of my bag. I am sure though that the contents are skinnier
than most, as I usually bring only a small bag---practically a purse---so
it'll be easy to protect from snatchers. What I did find inside my bag
depressed me. Compared to other women, I seem to have such a spartan life
(and yes, I kinda resent that association).

Here we go:

Wallet. I have recently given up my red canvas Kate Spade wallet (shipped
off to momma, I think she deserves it more than I do) and got myself a
sleeker and less bulky Kenneth Cole. It's mostly just for the bills and
IDs...the coins go to the coin compartment of my bag, to be disposed of

Cellphone. Dawn (Broce) now has my P990i, and I now have a Samsung Star
S5233W. Look at how cheap my cellphone pouch is. I cringe at the

My kikay kit. That's a misnomer, really, because now that I think of it,
there's nothing kikay about my kikay kit except the powder. Inside we have:

Beach Hut SPF 36. I will never thank Nea (Ismi) enough for letting me into
the sunblock/sunscreen secret. It really is the key to younger looking and
happy looking skin. With this heat and with my new shift where I get out of
the house at noon, no less, sunblock is so essential. Just a week or so after I started using sunscreen, there is a noticeably healthier glow to my skin. Not FAIRER, but healthier. It's smoother and softer...not like it's a piece of tapa. My pores are also smaller. Yes, sun damage causes huge pores.

I bought a bigger bottle that Allan and I share but I carry this smaller bottle for touch ups. Beach Hut is a sunscreen technically (meaning it contains ingredients like salicylates and cinnamates, as opposed to sunblock's zinc and/or titanium
oxide) so just like similar products, it's oily rather than sort of pastey and leaves a white residue (which is the zinc/titanium oxide in sunblocks). It also disintegrates faster than sunblocks, so I reapply after I get off the MRT in Ayala. And because it's oily, it was NECESSARY for me to buy...

Powder. It's just Nichido translucent powder, which is good for my in-between complexion. It takes the shine out, without having to whiten/darken my skin, which I like. And that's the only reason why I have this.

Hand Sanitizer (aka alcohol). Some of Allan's OC-ness rubbing off on me. I
mean, this is pretty basic.

Wet Wipes. Watson's sells the cheaper wet wipes that are not THAT wet, which I like. They're also not soapy which some wet wipes tend to be. They're pretty useful...from wiping my desk to toilet seats to fresh stains.

Lip Balm. Same thing. The sun's drying out my lips and it chaps and hurts. So there!



That's it. No lipstick, no lotion, not even perfume. Can you believe that?
Even Allan brings a vial of perfume with him when he goes out. And he's a
GUY. I cheek tint at home sometimes, whenever I think I look a little pale,
but mostly I don't. Am I so blah? Well, I also have some of my meds (allergy
meds and sometimes biogesic) and my prescriptions (never know if when you'll
encounter a snooty pharmacist who won't sell you Claricort or Virlix when
you have hives all over your face unless you have a prescription).

No eyeshadow, no mascara and definitely no can openers. How boring. What's in your bag?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From Quezon Avenue to Cubao

Everyday I take a the train from Quezon Avenue to Ayala. As you can see in the photo, the trains are usually packed with bodies trying to squirm around for a better place to stand on until they reach their stop. That day I was lucky to have been able to find an empty seat on the bench. I sat beside this old-ish woman, maybe in her 50s, wearing shorts that one can classify as "pambahay" and a blouse with big prints on it. She was wearing bright yellow rubber slippers, her nails chipped and her feet a little cakey. Gray hair pulled into a ponytail with a decolores rubber band. She was a sight that is pretty common in the MRT. What got my attention was her hands, darkened by the sun and her nails yellow (too much detergent?), but she was wearing too plain wedding bands, one obviously too big for her that she bent it a bit.

The train stalled in one of the stations and as we waited for it to resume operating, she asked me if I can tell her what time it was. When I did, she sighed and looked worried. She told me that she was going to her daughter's because she's getting married in a few days and she will give the wedding rings she and her husband wore during their marriage. She does, however, needs to get the bigger one reshaped in Cubao.

"At least gold yung magiging singsing nila ba. Kahit papano may K naman," she said. She said that she volunteered to provide the rings, though at that time she had no idea where to get the money. But she knew that she needed to do it. She needed to present her daughter in the best light possible. Now that she hasn't come up with the money, she was left with no choice but to give up her and her husband's rings.

I can't answer with anything but a sad smile. What was there to say to this mother, who is like all other mothers I know who are poor? It's such a sacrifice to give up something that has been part of your life for the longest time. It must be hard to give up on a memory of a man you shared your life with. But such is the case for families like hers. Sacrifice is not sacrifice, it is but daily life.

I remember my own mother, who in her youth experienced being burdened by an infant. I remember all the mommy stories I heard from friends and the media. I remember all the stories that my grandmother told me about her mother who hid them underneath their house, covered with coconuts and banana leaves so they will not be discovered by the Japanese. I remember my grandmother telling me that when her mother died, she went to rural areas to offer haircutting services and mani-pedi so she can help her dad make ends meet. I remember her telling me that with her waif-like frame, she would haul bunches and bunches of bananas that were used to pay her so she can sell them in town. I remember these stories and cannot fathom just how much motherhood changes a woman. What strength she develops and what bond clings her to her child seconds after she holds that tiny being in her arms. No words are said, no handshakes are exchanged, no contracts signed. It's just there.

True, that maybe this is an experience I can get only when I become a mother myself, whenever that may be (not soon, for sure). The woman in the MRT got off Cubao. I didn't even get her name, or her daughter's name. I didn't even realize to greet her goodbye or take care or best wishes for her daughter. One second she was there, another she was shuffling off to the door, shouldering her way through rude MRT passengers, and she was gone in the throng of people that is Cubao. She was a tiny woman, maybe not even five feet. But she was a giant of a mother for making that sacrifice.

So I raise my glass to all mothers and/or wives out there. May you be a great one! Heck, I raise my glass to all ballsy women. Women who take control of their lives and not get stuck in the middle of irritating undecidedness. I raise my glass to women to take risks and rise above the rest whether or not she succeeded in her endeavor. I send out good online vibes for women who go out of their comfort zones rather than staying in comfort and sneering at those who made a leap. I'm hoping for a new breed of independent, liberated women to populate the earth. We've no time for silliness from the past. We act on our desires. We are FIERCE!

Finally, I raise my glass to all the men. It would be so boring without guys around.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alice in Wonderland in Digital 3D

So we watched. I had to convince Allan with dinner at TGI Friday's (super best ever ever ribs!) to go watch Alice in Wonderland. We just couldn't miss it. I don't care if he thought it was sissy or childish at first. I was far more interested in watching Tim Burton interpret Alice than Cameron showing blue people talking weird.

I secured a seat at (heaven sent!) and I made sure that no clients, overtime work or papers would interfere with my date with Alice, Mad Hatter and the Red Queen. When all was said and done, our bellies full, we grabbed a bucket of popcorn and two lemonades, 3D shades or whatever heck you call them and watched.

But before anything else, look at Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter.

And Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice. The hair, the eyebags and weird eyeshadow, the pale face. I mean, Mad Hatter 2010 is just Beetlejuice with a college degree and a better stylist! How can you NOT be interested when you see something like that? I was hooked the very moment the movie posters were released.

(And if you didn't watch Beetlejuice, man, you should. Shame on you.)

So when the movie started, with Alice having recurring dreams, and his father assuring her, I knew I was in for a treat. No, this wasn't gonna be just Alice in Wonderland. When the next few scenes came on, I knew Burton was going to mix up Through the Looking Glass with Alice in Wonderland. I actually thought it was a good idea. The plot was simple: the rabbit returns to the "real" world to lure the now 19-year-old Alice back to Wonderland (in the movie, the place was actually called Underland. They made it show that Alice, because of her youth and innocence the first time she was there, just called it Wonderland.) She is to be the White Queen's "champion" who will kill the Jabberwocky and free Underland from the Red Queen and restore its beauty.

I have to tell you that this will destroy Alice in Wonderland as you know it. This is totally a different version of AIW and TTLG. The poems and songs that Lewis Caroll wrote fell prey to Burton's twisted mind. If you haven't watched the movie, Alice kills the Jabberwocky. Woops. Sorry. This was an interpretation of the actual poem, when the Jabberwocky is slain by the "son". I know, strange.

Alice killing the Jabberwocky is not part of AIW nor TTLG (as far as I can recall). In AIW, the Jabberwocky wasn't even mentioned. In TTLG, Alice's challenge was to get to eight rank to be crowned queen. Not to kill the Jabberwocky. It's completely twisted. My popcorn fell cold. I just couldn't eat anymore. This was TOO much.

So there were twists and an elaborate braid of AIW and TTLG components. I couldn't enjoy the movie if I really kept tabs on which is which. Suffice to say that the weave was so friggin' tight, it was a different story altogether.

The Mad Hatter will assist Alice in her quest to get the Vorpal sword (the only thing that can kill JW, Jabberwocky). The tweedles, will, well, be their own tweedling selves. The Cheshire cat will do nothing but, well, grin. The cat wasn't as important or emphasized here, at all.

One endearing character, whom I think is new, is Bayard, a bloodhound who is forced by the Red Queen's knight to track Alice down in exchange for his and his family's freedom. He was absolutely adorable. When he was finally set free and he was reunited with his family, I almost cried.

The themes were varied but were introduced so smoothly. Reality vs fantasy, crazy vs believable, good vs evil, acceptance vs rebellion. Signs of Burton everywhere...the arid land, the dry grass...the dark, misty background. All him. He really managed to make Alice in Wonderland such a dark, dreary story.

I liked what the White Queen said when Alice was deciding whether she can fight the Jabberwocky or not: "The choice must be yours because when your step out to face that creature... you will be alone" Meaning, don't do things to please anybody, for in the end, people will expect you to do things, but you can really only save yourself.

With all that said, Burton's Alice is great. I missed a lot of acting though. It so easy to make a computer generated thing act. But I miss the old-school acting, the same way Johnny Depp does it: the eyes twitching, the muscles in his face changing ever so slightly. But it was a great movie. Great movie.

Friday, March 5, 2010

On the Filtration Process Horizon

A plate of linguine alla matriciana. Simple yet satisfying. Totally just 20 minutes to make (maybe less if you don't Facebook while waiting for the bacon to crisp).

What's you're favorite pasta dish? Where did you have it? For all it's faults in bastardizing Italian fare, I still believe that my mother's Pinoy Spaghetti with the sweet sauce and hotdogs is the best. My homemade Spaghetti Pomodoro is pretty close. To Allan, he said the spaghetti up top. Yeah!

I'm planning to make REAL carbonara, meaning one with guanciale, egg and cheese only. Did you know that carbonara is not traditionally made with milk/cream? Nope. It's just spaghetti tossed in a pan of crispy bacon, then you add a mixture of beaten eggs, parmesan/pecorino cheese and pepper and allow the egg to cook from the heat of the spaghetti alone. That's what makes it creamy.

I'm gonna try that out. Then I'm also planning to try some rice cooker bread which sounds easy, too. I also want to try making Momofuku style pickles. They sound easy and I love pickles, so I think it'll work out. The recipe is for fridge method pickles with just sugar, salt, vinegar and spices.

What recipes have you been meaning to try?

Salad, Salad, Salad

Going with our trying to eat healthy theme, we are eating more soups and salads and less meat and carbs. I don't really avoid rice since rice, boiled or steamed, is far better than, say, having bread (rice has no fat and is very filling), but we're still trying to cut back.

Making a salad is simple. Seriously. Anyone with enough brains to pick their noses can make a salad, hopefully with clean hands. First,you start off with fresh vegetables. If I were to make one just for myself, I would use more variety. I love frisee, arugula and spinach, but since Allan doesn't, we usually go for romaine.

So we start off with a seemingly benign looking bowl of romaine lettuce.

Don't use a steel/metal knife to cut lettuce. It becomes brown and will taste funky. If you have those fancy porcelain knives, you can use them, but your hands are the best tools, or a plastic knife (yes, like the ones you get at fast food places). Tear the leaves according to the size you like. I like leaving the inner leaves whole.

Now, one thing about lettuce, don't buy them pre-cut. A whole romaine will only cost you something like Php60 (and it's good for two), so just buy that and slice it yourself. The pre-cut and pre-washed ones are usually up to php85-115. I mean, come on. You only buy pre-cut and prewashed if you don't have a knife and water at home. Lettuce can get a little slimy, so make sure you run water through each leaf.

So, now you've prepped your lettuce...Oh wait, there's one more thing. DRYING. Once you get lettuce wet, it is hard to dry off because the corrugated leaves catch too much water and patting them dry might cause them to get smushed. I have no salad spinner *cough cough* but I'm Filipino so I do what we people do best: improvise. You know those net bags that fruit like kiat-kiat or ponkans sometimes come in?

Like this? Or something similar to this? Well, I put my leaves there, go out where the splatter won't annoy anyone and begin to swirl it a lasso. It's fun! And it works!

So okay, now that you've really prepped your lettuce, let's go to dressing. If you lie vinaigrette, make something like that. But any dressing follows the same formula: acid, oil and flavoring. Say for example, olive oil, lemon and dill. Here this dressing is caesar (gasp! store bought!). Yeah, I know, but it was on sale! We used a couple of dollops of that plus some yogurt and drizzled it on. Then I crisp-fried (to take a lot of the fat out) a couple strips of bacon and added that to the salad. Then I grated a good amount of parmesan over it.

You're probably missing the croutons, but we didn't bother. It's pretty good. Now, I know you're probably shaking your heads. Healthy? Bacon? Cheese? Dressing? Well, I agree, but we ate this salad as a meal, without any carbs. Besides, the dressing is only 45 calories per tablespoon and we used only two. The aim is to cut back without deprivation. On normal days, we'd go get sinigang na baboy, ice cream for dessert and some chips for movie time.

And it looks good.

If I were to redo this though, I'd add tomatoes, cucumbers and maybe some fennel, with a light vinaigrette. Oh well.


In case you're wondering, yes, that IS an ice cream container. We promise to use any plastic containers at least ten times before throwing it out.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zuppa di Pomodoro e Zucchine

Tomato and Zucchini Soup. I just wanted to make it sound authentic!

Tomato soup is one of the best things in the world, especially when you need something to cheer you up. I love tomatoes and I am quite surprised that I never ventured into the tomato soup department any sooner.

The variations are endless. Fresh tomatoes, canned, crushed, diced and whole. You can go pure tomato or tomato and something else. You can roast them first, you can have a chunky soup or a smooth one. I'm thinking that some corn will go well with this dish, or maybe some chickpeas. Of course you can use a seemingly endless variety of beans. You can add diced carrots, celery and macaroni and you have a minestrone. I added zucchini because recently, Allan the Picky Eater realized that this vegetable doesn't taste so bad after all. I'm trying to incorporate any of the vegetables he eats into our food...maybe next time I'll do a zucchini and escarole soup and we'll see how that pans out. Maybe even ratatouille!

Anyhoo, the key really in a good tomato soup is the base. Once you get that right, everything should follow smoothly. It's not difficult and takes only around 20 minutes to make. I'm sure it's also cheaper than the ones you can get a restaurants.

For two hearty servings, you'll need:

1 can tomatoes Php55

-I used Hunts again, whole tomatoes. I diced them to make sure the soup is chunky. But you can go for tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes if you want it smoother.

1 stick margarine Php12
-You can use olive oil, but we had a two-week old stick of Buttercup in the fridge that we haven't even unwrapped yet, so I used that. It actually tastes the same if not better. But that's me.

1 large white/yellow onion, chopped Php8
-We like the taste of slow cooked onions so we used a large one. You don't really taste the onion in this dish even if it seems to be a lot. The cooking sweetens it and makes the dish taste well rounded. Feel free to use less. Make sure you mince the onions well so it won't look awkward later on.

Garlic, minced Php5
-I don't remember how much we used. I think it was about 2 tablespoons? Use the amount of garlic you're comfortable with.

Zucchini, diced Php20

-Cut the vegetable lengthwise and take out the center. It's not as easy as, say, ampalaya, because it's hard to distinguish the seedy pulp and the flesh, but just wing it.

Cheese, grated Php15

-I used Eden, because we had half a block drying out in the fridge. I also used some parmesan. I think this will be ok even with just the Eden, say, one baon pack.

-I used oregano, basil and Italian seasoning. I also used freshly cracked pepper and chili flakes.

First, melt the margarine on low-medium heat. It should not quickly disintegrate in the heat, rather it should melt slowly. That's the heat you want. Add the garlic while you still have around half the margarine to melt to start infusing it. Do not allow the garlic to saute. I prefer if it boils/braises in the butter because it softens the garlic taste. Sauteing can sometimes intensify the garlic and the soup'll taste like garlic, not tomatoes.

Next, add the onions and let that braise, too. Let it stay there until the onions turn translucent...around 5 minutes or so. After that, add the zucchini. Let the vegetable soften, around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After that, add the tomatoes, and allow everything to marry. You can turn the heat up the notch, but it should not go above medium. Boil once and simmer, stirring occasionally.

You may want to add some water to make it look like soup? I did...around 3/4 cup. Season with your spices. I'm kinda liberal with the basil and Italian seasoning and a bit conservative on the pepper and chili flakes. Add cheese. Salt to taste. Start with a small amount of salt since the cheese is already salty. You may wanna add some sugar, but we like it this way. For some reason, this soup will thicken even without flour or cornstarch, so when you've reached the consistency you like, you take turn off the fire.

You can top this with sour cream or yogurt, but since there's cheese in it already, we didn't bother.

So, I was thinking, we're having soup, so we need some bread, right? I like slightly stale bread for this one, I don't know why. I bought this baguette for like Php35 (two feet long) during the closing time sale of French Baker (50% off?). That night we ate half of it and I had to lock the other half in my underwear cabinet to keep it from Allan the Notorious Bread Midnight Snacker. I'm kidding. :D I purposely kept half of it so we can eat it for dinner the next day with the soup.

Okay, Allan asked me why not cube the bread and put it in the soup while it cooks. Actually, I think the original recipe calls for that. But I don't like it. The bread becomes too soggy and the soup ends up tasting like, well, soggy stale bread. So I cut the baguette up and served it on the side. We're compulsive sawsawan-ers, so we like dunking the bread into the soup.

There's the little dunk.

And the Big Boy Dunk. Yeah!

If you noticed, we shared the big bowl. Yeah, we're disgusting that way. I mean, we'll probably eat from the pot itself if our decency will allow that. But we aim for lesser dishes to wash, so we share.

This soup is pretty close to the one we loved at Napoli, but this recipe yielded twice as much as the one we had there. If you counted how much the total cost was, it was only Php115 without the bread. Even cheaper than Napoli's plus it had zucchini!

We're gonna make soup more often. We're trying to cut out heavy dinners, so having soup seems like a nice idea. We felt that it was filling and satisfying. And it didn't take so much time to make.


The Drivers of My Life

I hate commuting. If I were to choose one, and only one, thing that I choose to hate about this place, it would be commuting. Zamboanga spoiled me. In the old city I would take a jeepney or a tricycle to wherever and I'll be there in 20 minutes. I can walk from Ateneo to my house in under an hour. WALK! That means that I have to pass through two different barangays. Yes, all under an hour.

Here it takes me 2 hours to get to Makati from Quezon City on normal days. If there were some stupid drunk who had an accident on EDSA, my travel time can easily move up to three hours. I hate it. There's no other word for what I feel about commuting.

Drivers are important players of my day. My ride to work can be pleasant and reasonably quicker with good drivers. I probably experienced hundreds of different driving styles, but I have categorized them into three: the good driver, the driver with daddy issues and the fucked-up driver.

1. The Good Driver. Now we may have varying opinions about what a good driver should be. Some of y'all may not like fast drivers, but I do. This category is broad and forgiving. The Good Driver knows how to work the brakes. He knows when to set turn right and which lane to follow. He is confident and grasps the wheel firmly . He knows how to use the signal lights. Some good drivers may be fast and scary, but they always seem in control. Their driving gives the message: "I'm cool, doll. I'll take care of ya."

The Good Driver is hardly perfect. Throughout his life he his scrape his car or crash a fender. But he's good. He's cool. Riding with a good driver is like riding on a cloud.

2. The Driver with Daddy Issues (DWDI). Often, these drivers are newbies. They try sooo hard to be like Daddy, the way he drives him to school when he was young. But he tenses up, hits on the gas and hits a tree or a parking pole. He is a driver who will drive you nuts, a driver whose driving will cause you to wear your seatbelt a little tighter than usual and make sure that your airbags work. Your nerves are on the edge, and you're still in the driveway.

I have a theory that DWDI's are those who drink to calm their nerves and end up dead. But hey, that's just me.

3. The Fucked Up Driver (FUD). FUDs are people who simply don't care. They hit the horn and turn a sharp right and hit on the breaks when someone will get off the next stop. FUDs are reckless, and they care little about the passengers who are probably puking their guts out.

Whenever I encounter a FUD, I feel like my brain is being shaken like a mojito. I feel like telling them to go straight to hell.

Tomorrow, I will go out and pray to the Driver God for a good driver.