A simple Noche Buena

We had a simple Christmas celebration. We prepared dishes in small batches- food we can all consume  in a day or two.  We used to have Christmas celebrations where we ate leftovers upon leftovers a few days after. We did not want that kind of celebration anymore. We just made sure we had ham. We chose the complementary dishes according to ease in preparation; thus, we had the perennial favorite, Pinoy spaghetti! My aunt requested vegetable salad. For dessert, we had buko salad (using gelatin that looks like buko), cupcakes (a gift from a cousin) and my fruit bar (recipe will be shared on the next blog post).

By preparing simple dishes, we did not have to be slaves in the kitchen all day and end up exhausted by midnight. We had time to just be in the moment. My nephew came so we had bonding moments with the cutie pie who is now 5 months old.

How was your Christmas?

A case of Coca-cola

Everyone in my family drinks Coke. Most often, the one who buys the liter of Coke is shortchanged. That person would have drink same amount of softdrink as the rest of us freeloaders.  Factor in the fact that we buy one liter from the nearest sari-sari store. It costs Php28 plus Php2 for the ice. One liter of coke would set the buyer Php30, which is shared with the rest of the family-the coke, not the amount paid.

There is also an option to buy just the 200ml bottle; but who would be able to drink the bottle and be labeled selfish for not sharing? Besides, one 200ml bottle of coke costs P8 in the sari-sari store. My frugal aunt  won’t be able to sleep over that kind of highway robbery.  A case of 200 ml bottle from a supplier two blocks away costs P130. One case contains 24 bottles. Did the math =>  Php130 divided by 24 = Php 5.42 per bottle.  Imagine how much we save  if we just buy the case.

Thus, we have this in the house.

To be fair with everyone and to save the usual coke financier from burden, we now pay for our own coke. There is cold Coca-cola in the fridge and if you live in our house and want one, you just pay 6 pesos. We rounded the amount. The “profit” will be used to pay for delivery charge.  Neat huh? We save money and we get to drink our coke.

We got an IOU system going on in the house  and I handle the collection. All I do is jot down how much each family member owes and collect the amount when we need to buy another case again.

More on the 200ml bottle

The 200ml bottle, for some, is not enough.  For us avid coke-drinkers, it looked too small a bottle size. At first, I was not sold on the idea because of the size. But I got a trick going on and it works well for me.  The trick is to drink the coke after the food. I consume all the food and drink coke afterwards. I get satisfied that way. If I do the eat-drink-eat-drink routine, the 200ml bottle does not suffice.  It is a pretty neat trick for me. I drink less coke without feeling deprived.

Disclaimer: Cola-cola did not pay me to write about their product but if they wish to repay my loyalty, I welcome any form of good tidings! HAHA! 😀

Because I love to eat!

I love food. It is the reason why I have failed miserably in trying to lose weight.  I know, I know. Excuses, excuses.  As luck would have it, my mother did not want a skinny child. Her idea of parenting is to have a chubby kid. This would show that her kid is well-fed. Ergo, good parenting.  (Chubby or not, I have the best parents, by the way.) Thus, early on, my taste buds were already immersed into honest-to-goodness Pinoy food.  I thank my lucky stars that my mother was also a great cook.

Good old home-cooked meals can best satisfy the hungry stomach. I grew up with fish tinola (fish soup), nilagang baboy  (boiled pork), adobo,  and sautéed vegetables like pinakbet .  My mother could cook a mean dinuguan (blood stew). The downside of having great cook for a mother was the tendency to be lazy in learning the ropes. It felt like I could never cook as well as her.  So, I never learned to cook dinuguan from her.  Early this year, I missed my mother’ s dinuguan. I called my aunt’s former cook and begged her to teach me how to cook dinuguan.  Good thing, my mother taught her well.

When I  posted my photos on Facebook, it attracted comments from family and friends. For Pinoys, the love for food is universal. My cousins were quick to arrange a mini-reunion of sorts, pot-luck style.  I was assigned to cook dinuguan.  I can feel the pressure mounting on my culinary skills. Hopefully, I can deliver.

The process of cooking dinuguan

One of the ways to enjoy the ultimate in Filipino cuisine is to go to fiesta celebrations.  Any fiesta showcases the best the town has to offer. From lumpia, pansit, dinuguan to buko salad, everything is a delight to the senses.  It is degustation heaven for me.   No fiesta is complete without the ultimate Pinoy dish, the lechon (roasted pig).  Slow roasting the pig over a fire results to a divinely crispy skin. Just thinking how the soft meat dipped in vinegar is enough to make me drool as I type this sentence. The south of the Philippines claims to be the best when it comes to lechon.  No fancy sauces needed.

Fiesta food

One need not call on mom for home-cooked meals nor wait for a fiesta invite to be able to enjoy Pinoy cuisine. There are restaurants that serve good Filipino food. I learned to eat dishes like kare-kare, sisig, palabok and lechon kawali from eating out.  It does not even have to be a fine-dining restaurant. Some of my initiation to food from other regions in the Philippines is through hole-in-the- wall dining. Food, carinderia-style, can be as good as the ones in the high-end restaurants.

Restaurant and carinderia food

Whatever the occasion, Pinoy food is comforting and filling. It never fails put a happy smile on my face.

Bicol Food!

As I am writing this post, it is raining. Typhoon Ramon hovers over Agusan and nearby provinces. Rain has a comforting effect on me that it makes me crave for food. We had arroz caldo for lunch and  champorado for dinner. Nothing brings comfort than a hot bowl of goodness in this cold weather.

Now curled up in bed, the sound of spattering rain drones on. This “aircon” weather induces me into craving for Pinoy food. Since the recent trip is still fresh in my mind, I try to remember the texture, taste and smell of Bicol cuisine.

Food adds more joy to travel. Bicol is a delightful place to sample new dishes. Bicolanos have ingenious ways of creating memorable dishes from local ingredients like coconut, gabi leaves, malunggay, fish and sili. Pili nuts grown aplenty in this region and I found myself hoarding pili delicacies to bring to family back home.

My first stop to sampling Bicol food was Geewan. Geewan is a dining place in Naga where Bicolano food is served. My friend suggested that I go easy into incorporating a Bicol dish into our lunch so as not to shock my Bisayan palate. We picked kinunot  to complement the sweet and sour meatballs and pork barbecue.

Geewan's Kinunot

Kinunot is a fish dish cooked in coconut milk (gata) with malunggay leaves. It was pretty good and it set my taste buds on what to expect from Bicol food. My friend asked if it is made with shark meat, the server said no.  Traditionally, kinunot is made with shark meat.  I would not order this if this was shark meat. It would break my heart to eat endangered species.

One cannot visit Bicol and not taste Bicol express and laing. Those dishes are two of the more popular Bicolano creations. I can even take home a bottle or two. But alas! My promo ticket did not allow me to have checked-in luggage. I could not have it hand-carried either. The airports frown at liquid-y stuff.  I even inquired if I can send the bottles thru courier but LBC said they don’t ship breakable items. I have to make the most out of our sumptuous lunch by making myself savor every bite ignoring the tightening of my waistline.

Laing and Bicol Express in the middle (Restaurant: Red Platter)

Laing is gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk the Bicolano way. It has a melt-in-your-mouth quality to it that perfectly complemented the crunch of the crispy pata we ordered.  Bicol express, on the other hand, is meat cooked in coconut milk with chilli (sili).  I have low tolerance for spicy food but, for some reason, Bicol express added a little kick to the grilled pork belly.  It left a little heat on my mouth which was easily washed down with iced tea.

Merienda time called for toasted siopao. The tanned version of the siopao filled my hungry stomach with its compact bun yet surprising soft dough inside. This hearty and meaty snack easily satisfied my hunger pangs.

Toasted siopao (Naga Garden Restaurant)

After all the touristy things we did, we were in search for a warm and comforting bowl of hot soup. Kinalas was the answer to our food craving. When in Bicol, one can easily find an eatery serving this dish. It is a noodle soup with vegetables and strips of soft beef in a flavorful broth. We choose the one with boiled egg added.  Paired with puto and cold soda, I sipped the broth one spoonful at a time alternating it with bites of noodles and meat. The aroma filled my nostrils and beads of sweat appeared on my forehead-a sign of a good soup.  It is hard not to smile after the meal.

My travel companions are the sweetest. Before we left Bicol, my friends surprised me with a birthday cake even if it has been two weeks since my birthday!  They bought a Concorde cake. Although the recipe did not originate from Bicol,  a bakery there makes it their specialty that it was featured in the travel guide my friend was reading. True enough, the layers of meringue make the cake light and soft. The chocolate buttercream was a delight. The cake’s sweetness and mix of a pleasure in my mouth was a delightful way to cap off my whole Bicol experience.

Till we eat again, Bicol!

Gana Vida’s Bangus Pâté

I got 3 jars of bangus pate from my friends two weeks ago.  I have been nagging them relentlessly on Facebook after learning about this product. Of course, they know why I have been so interested in the product. Lea Salonga loves it!

Lea Salonga has a weekly column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer called Backstory.  In her April 13, 2011 article, she wrote

“One seafood company talks about its sustainable practice by giving employment opportunities to poor people and educating them on the business. I feel this is something special. Plus, the pâté is really good.”

This sounded like the organization that 3 of my friends are a part of. I shared the link on Facebook and tagged my friend to ask if she was the one Lea talked to. To which my friend replied, “Yes!”. Incidentally, Lea Salonga is one of UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) goodwill ambassadors.

Lea even replied to my tweet about it:

After weeks of nagging, I finally got to taste the pâté.  Delicious. My friend has a degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines and her husband has a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the same university. Both are part of the same organization.  Thus, we know that the product was developed by people who know what they are doing.

One test to determine if the product is safe is to check the ingredients. The ingredients used in their products are all natural (and easy to pronounce). The pâté has three flavors: Asian, Pinoy and Mediterranean. Each flavor has three variants: Regular, Chili, Lightly Salted. All in all, you have 9 choices.  If you look at the labels,  there are no chemical preservatives added.

Asian Style: with roasted nuts.

Pinoy Style: Malunggay is added!

Mediterranean: with eggplant

When my friend gave me my stash, I was told that the shelf life is 1 year. Once opened, you may keep it in the fridge and it will last more than a year.  Partly right. Nothing lasts in my fridge for more than year. My stomach takes over. In fact, I have no more pâté. 🙁  I have consumed them all. I did not even put it on a cracker and bread. I took a small spoon, scoop the pâté from the jar and off to my mouth it went. LOL!

What is most impressive about this product is that the organization is helping fisherfolks and farmers practice sustainable fishing and farming methods. In fact, when my friend brought me the pâté, he just came from a barrio near my city to educate farmers on cassava farming.

To know more about their organization, click here.

To get updates of their products, “Like” their Facebook page here. You can also shop for their products on this site.


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