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Archive for the ‘guilty pleasures’ Category


“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.”~ Julia Child

One of best  volumes I’ve seen in cooking are that of Julia Child’s  Mastering the Art of  French Cooking. They’re available at Bestsellers. They come in four volumes actually but they cost the earth so I just look at the spines and indexes  and try to memorize some simple recipes  that don’t need  complicated ingredients.

We have some left-over food from yesterday and some ripe mangoes from the other Sunday that a friend gave us. I thought of  making mango bread and found this site on how to make a simple one.  The procedures are almost the same as making banana cake. Gosh, I burned my finger trying to take it out from the oven. I love the heavenly aroma of combined cinnamon and fresh mangoes.  There is something  so comforting about measuring ingredients, sifting the flour, mixing and such.  So here it is,  my yummy version of mango bread. Can you imagine a mango bread topped with grated Belgian chocolate truffles? Another friend who was on  vacation from Canada gave me a box of these sinfully addicting  chocolates together with some mint candies wrapped in dark chocolates.

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I can proudly say, it  is really, really yummy. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it copied from  kitchenrunway.com.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon powder
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ C Regular Butter, melted
  • ¼ C Oil
  • 2 Ripe Mangoes, finely chopped (or chunks if you prefer) I used 3 medium-sized ripe mangoes, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 180 ° C
  • Sift flour into a large bowl.  Add baking soda, sugar and cinnamon and stir the dry ingredients to combine.
  • In a medium bowl, beat eggs, add vanilla extract, melted butter and oil.  Combine the ingredients and add to dry ingredients.
  • Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon stir to combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Fold in the  chopped mangoes.
  • Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 55 – 60 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and let cool before slicing.

 

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I was watering the plants early this morning when I noticed this single lovely bloom of our gardenia shrub. Pleasant surprises await when you least expect them. It’s only the middle of April and gardenias usually give that lovely scent during the months of  May to June.  I remember three years ago when this same gardenia shrub surprised us with a bird’s nest with three eggs right in the middle of Holy Week. It’s really amazing when you find something like this. I took a photo to remind me yet again the wonder of nature and the gifts it brings.

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Gardenia is one of my favorite flowers. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, it reminds me of the times when we used to grow them in our old house in the province.  We had so many shrubs in front of the house so you can just imagine the intoxicating scents they have when they are in bloom.  It also reminds me of the times that mom used to grow flowers in pots in every window of our old house. We used to have this what we call barandillas  and they were full of flowering things like Hoya orchids, hydrangea, different colors of Bougainvillea and every flowering plant that I could think of.  Summer  brings back those memories.  I love summer and the different colors it brings to my small garden. Here are a few shots I took this morning.

a hodgepodge of flowering plants from crossadra to lilies

a hodgepodge of flowering plants from crossandra to lilies

 

bleeding hearts

bleeding hearts

shrimp plants, some call them golden candles

shrimp plants, some call them golden candles

bromeliad

bromeliad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

begonia blooms

begonia blooms

 

who do i always forget the name of these flowers. i only planted them once but they bloom every year.

why do i always forget the name of these flowers. i only planted them once but they bloom every year.

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Mango

Last Sunday, a friend who came over for lunch brought a bagful of green and golden ripe carabao mangoes. We could not consume it in three days so I decided to make some smoothie drinks by simply adding a small can of evaporated milk, a few spoons of sugar and crushed iced. There you go, a sweet and refreshing glass of pure mango.

Most people say that the Philippines has the best sweet and delicious mangoes in the world and I agree. Summer is the best time that you’ll enjoy this fruit. I am planning to make a mango jam out of the remaining ripe ones. You might not believe this but I love green mangoes more. I enjoy eating them fresh, sliced with the skin on and just sprinkled with a pinch of salt. Heaven!

I also baked chewy oatmeal raisin cookies using yellow raisin instead of the dark ones. Yellow raisins have more natural taste, not too sweet and not too dry.  Preparing  something in the kitchen need not be that elaborate. It’s Holy Week  and I suggested to my son that we do away with meat for the whole week and eat sea food and veggies instead.

Have a blessed and meaningful Holy Tuesday!

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Four years ago, I blogged about my niece and her fascination for coloring books. Do you know that coloring books and the time you spend making a magical picture out of the pages are stress-busters too?  A friend of mine  swears that she gets to relax while coloring a picture and being busy with choosing what colors to combine. She suggested that I buy one too but I cannot find something that would suit my desire to color. Either they are too complicated or too simple for my taste which I think are understandable since they are intended for kids, right?  There are times though when just like kids, we want to have a stress-free life and going back to old favorites (when you were five or six) help save the day.

This morning,  Josef and I spent a few hours just relaxing at Eastwood City after visiting St.  Padre Pio Chapel nearby. It would not be complete if we can’t visit a bookstore (that’s a given) so off we went to Books For Less and later at National Book Store.  I found another book by Lincoln Child, an author I discovered a year ago.  Terminal Freeze deals with climate change. I don’t even have to read the whole cover summary to convince me in buying it.  I’ve been reading  e-books for the past month and  it  is a nice change to be able to hold a real one again. The smell of a new book never fails to make me smile.

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“I bet, when we reach home, you will start coloring this“, Josef said pointing to the paper bag from National Book Store. I laughed and told him, “You guessed it right”.  You see, I was excited to start.  I actually took a shot of the three pages  that I started coloring. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, they are just simple pictures that probably a seven-year old can color but then it is the thrill of making those pictures more vibrant and lovely that counts. I was even in a quandary whether to use dandelion or apricot for the faces. Back when I was into cross-stitching about a decade ago, I have memorized the chart of colors for the thread that I used. There are as many variations of one color, different shades  on the color wheel.

coloring books

Some relaxing moments – priceless minutes spent coloring.  Why don’t you give it a try? Unleash the child in you once in a while.

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Early this morning I received a message from WordPress with their familiar logo. Thanks a lot WordPress for this lovely message:

Happy Anniversary!

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“There was a mood of magic and frenzy to the room. Crystalline swirls of sugar and flour still lingered in the air like kite tails. And then there was the smell-the smell of hope, the kind of smell that brought people home.” - Sarah Addison Allen

One thing I love about baking, be it a simple banana bread,  moist carrot bars or cookies  is the smell that permeates the whole kitchen once you place the baking pan in the oven. I love the  combined smell of cooking raisins, nuts, vanilla or cinnamon or whatever ingredient a particular recipe calls for. This afternoon, I baked my second apple pie confident enough to tweak the recipe a bit and  experiment on brushing just egg whites on top instead of a beaten egg with the yolk.  The top part of the pie may not be as silky as when you use the whole egg but it adds a flaky feel combined with sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon. Whereas before I didn’t even know how to make a dough, it’s now as easy as kneading something for our local steamed bun called “siopao”.  I also sliced half and half of Fuji apples for a natural sweet taste and the tart flavor of Granny Smith.  It came out good, son said, “it’s yummy”.  I laughed when he asked, “did you take pictures?” He knows that I document almost everything that I cook in the kitchen  just like I do with my flowering plants when they are in bloom. He cut a slice even before it cooled down. I got three remaining apples, would love to try making apple sauce and use it on my next baking adventure.

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Here’s one more that I experimented on a month ago, a simple recipe for vanilla cake. I didn’t put icing because I love the flavor without being too sweet.

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I love the quiet, concentrating on the task at hand , the calming effect of kneading, measuring and  mixing to make something  yummy and  scrumptious.

I got a lovely surprise this afternoon when a friend sent me a lovely tin of Fannie May Colonial Assortment chocolates via LBC.  Aren’t I lucky? Can’t wait to take a bite. Thank you Ex.  :)

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Yay, I didn’t take an afternoon shuteye just to finish  Letters from Skye.  It took me more than two days (on and off reading) to finish the book. Since  it was my first book of Jessica Brockmole, I really didn’t know what to expect, there is  nothing to compare it with previous books she has written . What a nice surprise because I enjoyed it. Pen pals, making friends through letters, finding love in an exchange of words  and thoughts – you would think it is an old-fashioned way to communicate, right? Compared to the modern way of communicating nowadays, you would even say it is boring but it’s 1912 and  1940 fused together and the historical aspect makes it more poignant because letters are the only means one could get through.

I could not remember reading a book without a dialogue except letters. It is an epistolary novel. It must be hard to write something like it without losing the plot of the story and getting the message across to the reader.  LettersThoughts of Mary Oliver’s writings entered my mind while reading it and I was hoping the author would give examples of what Elspeth Dunn wrote about, she was a poet and poets are dear to my heart. Come to think of it, I was tempted to jot down some quotes as I usually do with other books that I read but I didn’t want to lose the momentum, excited enough  on what the answer would be to the last mailed letter. Imagine the thrill and joy of receiving one, the anticipation of  knowing that there is something to look forward to. The story is common enough but the way it was told made it a fascinating read.  I would not attempt to make a real book review here with the story summarized in chronological order. Find it for yourself if you are also fond of writing and receiving letters.  Yes, there  are quotes that comes to mind.

“You’re my breath, my light, the one my heart flies towards.”

“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”

“… that a letter isn’t always just a letter. Words on page can drench the soul.”

It was worth the two cups of coffee I consumed just so I could finish the book. There is that feeling that reading a love story once in a while is  an afternoon delight.

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My blog stats say I have 250,038  views right this moment. I can’t believe it. I’ve been blogging for a  little more than four years now, on and off, when I feel like it and have something to share. The only time I blogged religiously every day was when I took up the 2011 WordPress Post A Day challenge. That was when my stats started to climb. For the last three years, I always get a surprise when one particular blog registers an average of 2,600 views in one day and that is during Mama Mary’s birthday every September 08.  I don’t know how it happens but the search engine seems to be busy during Mama Mary’s birthday.

I wonder though which is better, having so many views in any particular day or having a lot of followers. A bit of both probably, I don’t know. I only have 678 followers at the moment  (not that I mind so much if they follow me or not). There must be something they like about my blog so they read it.  I am glad that some readers come back  and read my older posts.  Sharing my plight as a cancer patient/survivor has definitely evolved to some sort of an online diary – some experiments in the kitchen, some shots that I love to share, my garden blooms that get the largest share in my SD card, local places I’ve been to the past few years, books I’ve read and reviewed,  thoughts and prayers. Imagine having a hodgepodge of topics encapsulated in 1,393 posts.

You ask, “Is it worth it?” My answer is a big “YES, definitely”.  Here are some shots I took  a few hours ago, they are my February blooms.

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I was just but a kid when the Beatles came into the limelight, taking everyone by storm  and with their catchy brand of music that defined the 60′s. If you don’t belong to the age of the “baby boomers”  (Wikipedia defines them as those who were born between the years 1946 and 1964) you’re not probably familiar with the names John, Paul, George and Ringo but I doubt it,  even my twenty-nine year old son is familiar with their music.

Last night, I was searching for  the AM band that I regularly listen to every weekend but I could not find it so I switched to another station and found this sports channel playing, what else, The Beatles. They started on the first appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, playing tracks that are now so familiar with most of us. It was in relation to the 50 years celebration of the group since they first set foot in the United States back in 1964.  It was a lovely four-hour of listening to several  of their well-loved songs, live recordings of their guesting at the show. Come to think of it, they are one of my favorite groups but I don’t have a single CD of their songs, I do have several back copies of Jingle Chordbook magazine though, where they were regularly featured. Maybe, in my entire life, they are the only group whose songs I know so much about, lyrics and all.  An artist friend who is a Beatles fan all these years named one of his sons John Paul George (I am not kidding) and  his nickname (yeah, you guessed it right) is of course Ringo.

I am looking forward to next Saturday’s feature -  their  love songs as a group and as individual artists. Of course, it is easier to catch them on YouTube but listening to them while you are relaxing is still the best way of appreciating their music. Don’t you just wish you could own this latest 13 CD Beatles collection? I wish :)

beatles

Got this pic from Photobucket, a picture of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

I do remember watching their first movie A Hard Day’s Night with my nine-year old son two decades ago, a feature  in one of the newest television channels back then.  You can still catch it on YouTube. As with other groups that have disbanded for good, the Beatles will be remembered for their music.

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These,  I think, are lazy blogging days for me. For the past two days,  our “normal” weather is back and take that to mean that the cold days and colder nights are gone but PAGASA says, we will still experience the cold weather in a few days but not as temperate and balmy as the days we experienced back in January.  In the next two weeks, we’ll be experiencing  a high  31 °C and a low  22 °C.

I was again lucky to find another book by Catherine Cookson , my 7th read this year. I was impressed with her writing style in A Dinner Of  Herbs that I finished the whole book, all 725 pages of it in four days.  I love a bit of history and the 18th century England setting  was just perfect.  It was quite a surprise that I enjoyed the book immensely and when I looked at Goodreads, most readers marked it five stars.  I didn’t even know it was made into a series  until I read some  reviews so I got to watch a few  episodes on YouTube.  I know, some would say the book is always better than the  movie adaptation but  it is nice to recall the story while seeing the characters’ faces onscreen.  I wonder when the movie adaptation of The Book Thief  will be shown here. Some reviews say it’s  emotionally flat  and does not show justice to the beautiful book by Marcus Zusak.  I believe that every film adaptation on any well-loved book deserves some merits because it is completely different from the pages of the book.  I’ve read it twice, by the way and got to  appreciate it better the second time around.

Our street is showing a new look. I woke  up one morning several days ago and saw every light post decorated with red ribbons and rectangular red cloth crazily dancing in the wind.  Oh, they dressed them  for the V-day. Who celebrates Valentine’s day now?  Florist shops would make a  killing again with the costs of a few blooms thrice as much on a regular day.  I always smile every time I see someone wear a red shirt on Valentine’s Day. Why do you have to wait for Valentine’s day to show and reinforce that love?

Yes Virginia, there’s a St. Valentine and he is a patron of love, young people and happy marriages.

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