Ampalaya con Carne

I am not sure what we're doing right but we (my lola and I) has never ever cooked bitter Ampalaya Con Carne. Ask my grade school classmates (who'd usually come over our house after class) or even my M. We don't dip our ampalaya into a bed of salt like others do but still we get the same results as they have.

M told me before that once when he visited me at home (yep bf-gf moments haha!) and we served ampalaya con carne for lunch. I am not sure what else was paired with the viand as we usually have vegetable+meat/ fish combo at home. Anyway, he told me he's got nothing else to eat to avoid the ampalaya (and out of courtesy he has to eat!) and was surprised that there's no trace of bitterness in the dish. He won't eat ampalaya before despite his mom's prodding. So I guess that's a great proof! =)

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Ampalaya con Carne

2pcs medium-large ampalaya, seeds taken out, washed and cut into wedges
1/4kg ground beef (or any meat cut like liempo strips or beef sirloin)
2pcs eggs, beaten
2 small white onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 beef or pork bouillion cube
salt and pepper
oil for sauteeing
*fish sauce or soy sauce, to taste

How I did it:
Note: We like our Ampalaya con Carne 'masabaw' (with soup) unlike what others do which is just sauteeing or stir-frying.
In a pan, I sauteed the onions and garlic. Once translucent, I added the meat, stirring once in a while until cooked. I added the ampalaya next and covered the pan for about a minute.
I sprinkled salt and pepper then poured water enough to cover the mixture. You may adjust the amount of water according to your preference. Let it simmer for a few minutes then add the bouillion cube.
Once the soup starts to boil, I poured the beaten eggs and stirred carefully to prevent the egg from forming too big chunks. You may want to add fish sauce or soy sauce - depending on your taste.
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On Forgiveness and Values

It's almost a year now since I posted about how my son W almost drowned during CAL (Coach Aris Lim) Swim School's Swim Meet. It was one of the most unforgettable moments that happened in my life.Unlike others who believe in "Forgive and forget." I think there's just some things you can forgive but never forget. 

photo from
My son's able to swim again (they have swimming for school PE) and hopefully recovered completely from the trauma thank God - but I haven't. When we asked him what he'd like to do this summer, he told us he'd like to join swimming classes again but said, "pero wag na dun sa dati mommy ha." To which I quickly responded, "Syempre naman."

A few weeks after the incident (before the talks between our lawyer and CAL/QCSC), I received a call from Aris Lim, apologizing and offering my son free summer swimming classes supposedly valid for this year 2011. All I was able to say was, "Thanks, but No thanks." It's not FREE swimming lessons that we're after. We just wanted to feel that CAL/QCSC sincerely regretted what happened - maybe a formal letter or a personal meet-up or a sanction from QCSC to CAL would've sufficed. (Sometimes, I also think about my brand new cellphone that went to mobile-heaven that day and wish they replace it.)

CAL Swim School and the Quezon City Sports Club were contacted by our lawyer friend after the incident and they committed to make amends to us, but almost 12 months has passed and there was never a single SMS or email or call. 

Anyway, I just lift up everything to God. Bahala na si God sa kanila.

Since it's summer vacation again and I'm sure most parents are enrolling (have enrolled) their kids to summer classes, I just wanted to post a friendly reminder: 
CHOOSE WHO YOU ENTRUST YOUR KIDS TO. They may be teaching your children survival skills - swimming at that - but it's not just the strokes, breathing or paddling that is the values like respect and responsibility that are instilled in our kids while they do. (Values that CAL and QCSC obviously don't exemplify.)


Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club

For our family's summer vacation out-of-town(er), my brother suggested that we go to Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club.We were lucky to have a member-friend so it was a go for us.

Located in Morong, Bataan, it is just about 2 1/2 hours drive from Metro Manila. We left at around 4:30am in Quezon City and took the NLEX-SCTEX route (had breakfast at McDonald's along the way) and arrived there early enough to be the first ones to dip in the pool and enjoy the beach.

The place is picturesque! After re-applying sunscreen, all of us headed to the beach! We didn't want to get too tanned so we planned to be in the beach under the early morning sun. 

Here are some of the photos I took:
the welcome sign
the lagoon
a beautiful feature 
pool view
pool view 2
pool view 3
view of the beach
greens surround the place
by the beach
by the beach 2
by the beach 3
After dipping in both beach and pools, we headed to the Bamboo Cafe for our lunch. We chanced upon an American themed buffet and we've decided to avail of that instead of ala carte. Kids 12years old and younger pay half of the buffet price while toddlers 3years old and below eat for free. We opted to stay at the veranda for an alfresco dining since some of us were still wearing wet clothes. The Bamboo Cafe has their main dining room airconditioned which got glass windows opening to the beautiful view outside.

I must say the food served in Anvaya Cove is one of the highlights of the place! We were all so full we wanted to sleep right after we ate. I particularly loved the kropek dip they have (hehe I asked the server of the ingredients - I will make a copycat version!). You'll absolutely get your money's worth! Five-stars for the food. (Sorry I was too busy eating I forgot to take pictures...and you'll probably laugh hard if you get to see what's on my plate! I literally 'pigged' out. hahaha!)

There are a lot of other things you can do in Anvaya Cove. There's a nature and fitness trail and a zipline. You can also do kayaking and snorkeling. For members, casitas are available for resting and overnight stays. The tables and chairs under the tree shades are free for all daytime visitors. 

Another good thing about the place is that it is child-friendly. Beside the kiddie-pool with slide is a playground  and an air-conditioned day care. My son W played with his cousins after taking a shower and rested in the daycare for awhile. They also went to the library and gaming area where they played some board games and even pc/online games.

i just love the color contrast in this photo i took
me and my family
the lagoon...
...and the ducks? swans? hahaha! =)
pretty light fixture
There are a lot of good adjectives to describe Anvaya. We surely had a great time during our short stay! M and I are dreamily thinking of joining...err buying stocks to be a member at Anvaya! haha! From what we heard, it costs Php750,000 for a single membership.Wishful thinking but not impossible eh?! =) I'll keep you posted! 

For more details:
Visit the Anvaya Cove website [LINK]


HOP the movie

*This is an overdue post.*

In the spirit of Easter and the cute Easter bunnies...I am posting about 'HOP', a movie we watched early this month.
It was a story about family, acceptance and reaching for your dreams.

The movie (for me) wasn't as good as the Disney movies like Cars or Finding Nemo, but I am sure it was able to send the moral lesson across to kids and even adults like me.

I asked W what he learned from the movie and he said, "I learned that I should always listen to my mommy and daddy so I won't get into trouble." I think he got that from the scene when E.B. (the next-in-line Easter Bunny) ran away from the Easter Island in his attempt to avoid the big responsibility that is being the Easter Bunny and he ended up getting hurt.

For a preview of the movie plot, here's a video of the trailer:

We were lucky enough to witness a promotional for the movie right after the show. We waited outside the cinema for the lead characters (mascots) to come out and entertain us with a dance number. The staff also gave away freebies like door signs, stickers and activity sheets. They also prepared games for the kids.

Hop is still being shown in selected movie houses in and out of the metro.
For more details, you may want to visit the -

Mercato Centrale

I've been bugging M to take me to Mercato Centrale at The Fort for quite some time now but each weekend something comes up and so we never got the chance to pay a visit yet. So when a friend invited us to her daughter's 1st birthday party in Fun Ranch (near Tiendesitas/C-5), I told M there's no reason why we shouldn't go to Mercato! It'll be just a few minutes drive away from the party. Hooray for me!

Days before that, I received a text from Fran (of inviting me to drop by their booth as they were already selling Allies Wonder Peanuts (yup, the greaseless ones from Pampanga) in Tent 1 every Saturdays. I completely forgot that they were only there Saturdays at the daytime Mercato so I wasn't able to meet her there. My bad. I will definitely be back on a Saturday, promise.

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That was a Palm Sunday and we haven't heard mass yet so M told me we couldn't stay too long in Mercato Centrale so we can still catch the afternoon mass. Being the girl scout that I am, I maximized my limited time inside the tents and headed straight to some of the more popular booths - per my online research and word-of-mouth. 

My first objective was to head to the Mochiko booth so I can already cross-out the #13 in my birthday wishlist. Sadly, they ran out ice cream mochi. The guy who mans the booth just handed me a flyer and told me to text ahead for reservation next time as they usually sell out their goodies early in the day. I understood as it was already past 1pm and the Mercato closes at 2pm. 

I thought my mochi cravings would just have to be ignored when I easily spotted on the Dezato booth in Tent1. I bought their box of 6 Mochi Ice Cream for Php220. It was a sampler pack with Chocolate, Strawberry, Coffee, Green Tea, Vanilla and Mango flavored ice cream inside the mochi balls. I got to eat my first ball only after we got home so the ice was slightly melted already. (*Note: Best to take a small cooler next time I go there.*) We enjoyed all the flavors but my favorite is the strawberry one.
[check out Dezato's website HERE]

While walking along the aisles, W spotted Plants vs Zombies inspired lollipop cookies and asked me to buy him the sunflower one. The seller from Cake Avenue Bakeshop set out a laugh sort of asking if my son is gay because he's asking for a floral designed cookie. I just ignored her and told myself, "Kebs (gay lingo for 'care') ko son wants it because of the 'brains' thingy." hahaha! Anyway, I know the lady meant well inspite of what happened. I forgot the price of the cookie - I think it's about Php60. 

I saw the Yoh-gee Premium Frozen Yogurt booth and checked out their goodies. I was surprised that my son W took a slurp in the sampler given to him of the strawberry yogurt (*the fruit-phobic son*) and was glad he liked it. I bought him a cup, worth Php70 (if I remember right) of the classic flavored fro-yo. I didn't have the chance to take a photo because he already slurped his way to the bottom of the cup when I remembered. =)

Merry Moo's Strawberry and Basil ice cream
Merry Moo's Bacon flavored ice cream (sorry for the blurry pic - we were already in the car)
Our next stop was the Merry Moo booth. There were at least 6 people in front of their booth sampling every flavor they've got. Since I was in a hurry and there were a lot of people being taken cared of by just 2 from the Merry Moo team, I didn't have the chance to taste all flavors and just followed my intuition to take the Candied Bacon (ahhh bacon!) and the safer Strawberry and Basil flavored ones. The Earl Grey Tea and Sea Salt Caramel flavors weren't available that time so too bad for me. Each cup costs Php60. (M loved the candied bacon and I loved the refreshing minty taste of my strawberry and basil share!)

Our last stop was the Empire's booth. I was really looking forward to try their Macarons. Their 'booth' was one of the most attractive and most colorful in the tent. I felt dreamy seeing macarons in different flavors lined up neatly on their cases. I only got the cylindrical sampler container with bite-sized macarons. It costs Php200+. Their macarons got the just-right sweetness! I will definitely buy more the next time I visit Mercato Centrale.

I feel bad that we weren't able to try Bale Dutung's 'Pan de Bagnet' [Bale Dutung's Website], Beer battered fish and chips from Chuck's Grubberie [Chuck's Twitter], the Manang's Chicken (which I heard got this very addicting sauce for their chicken)  [Manang's Chicken Facebook page] and the Baked by Anita's red velvet mini-cupcakes [Baked by Anita's Facebook page]. There's just too much that we still have to try so M and I just agreed to be back soon - and make sure we'll be early and not in a hurry.

To those who plan to visit the Mercato, they are having a 'Mercato Favorites Weekend Treat' this April 30 and May 1 (Saturday and Sunday). You'll surely love it there the way me and my family did! =)

The following Mercato favorites are giving special discounts and offers on the said weekend. Forget the diet and head to Mercato! =)

Mercato Centrale
They are open on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00am to 2:00pm.
The tents are located on the 34th street and 8th avenue (across MC Home Depot).
Admission is FREE! =)


Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup

I was not feeling well a few days before my birthday. Post-tension maybe or because I got so busy with a lot of things. All I wanted was to lay in bed and sleep...and well, read a feel-good book or play some word search. 

Feeling sick always brings me back to a time when I was hospitalized when I was about 6 years old. Yep, I can still clearly remember. I was confined in Lungsod ng Kabataan (Philippine Children's Medical Center) and was fed with potato soup. While as a kid, I was already a 'Pro' in digesting bland hospital food - but that potato soup was different! It was hearty, creamy and comforting just as how I want my potato soup to be. 

It was the start of my love affair with the potato soup. Funny I even requested my mom to ask for additional ration of that potato soup. I think I got 3 extra portions. The nurses happily obliged as I was not eating well for the past days that time. Oh well, too much for childhood memories. =)

So now, I am always feeling giddy when I think about potato soup. All this time, M thinks my favorite soup is either the mushroom soup or the clam chowder soup (both creamy in texture) but I feel it is really the potato soup. hahaha! I learned a potato soup recipe since I was young and have been cooking it ever since.

I made myself some potato soup as my pick-upper. I got a rush of soothing feeling inside. ^v^

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Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup

10pcs medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2cm cubes
3pcs onions, diced
water for boiling
1 1/2cup chicken stock (or simply 1 1/2cup water, but add 2pcs of chicken bouillion cube)
mint leaves wrapped in a gauze and tied
salt and pepper to taste
2T butter
1cup diced ham (I used the sweet ham squares)
2cups milk (sometimes, I use Cowhead, other times I use the canned evaporated milk), add more if you want
2cups grated cheddar cheese
vegetables like: diced carrots, green peas, celery ***optional
mint or parsley leaf as garnish ***optional

How I did It:
I combined the potatoes and onions in a stockpot and added water just enough to cover the potatoes and boiled it until the potatoes are tender. I add water so it won't dry up too much during the boiling process. I then added the chicken stock (or just the bouillion cubes), salt, pepper and vegetables. I then let the tied gauze with the mint leaves inside hang in my pot just like when we steep our tea. I do that for about 3-5minutes until the minty flavor is incorporated, then I take it out.
On a separate pan, I melted the butter then sauteed the diced ham. I slowly added the milk, stirring while I do. I added the cheese next then slowly bring it to a simmer.
I then poured the milk mixture over the pot of potatoes and mixed until well incorporated.
I topped it with parsley leaves for aesthetics. =)

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*There is a tendency that some potatoes at the bottom of the pot to burn so make sure you stir it as often as you could.
*I don't want a flour-y taste in my soup so I refrained from using flour in this recipe, the potatoes are aplenty enough to make the soup thick.
*Sometimes, I don't cut the potatoes in cubes anymore. I just use an immersion blender (a.k.a. stick blender) and mix everything in the pot once the vegetables are tender. Quickie and easy.

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Happy Easter!

Have a blessed Easter everyone!


Beef Tapa

I'll let you in a secret - I am still confused over which is my most favorite among Beef Tapa, Beef Steak (Bistek) or Pork Ribs Adobo. Funny right?!
Anyway, they are almost similar in taste and in the manner of cooking so it doesn't really matter that much to me already.

While I am already able to formulate my "This Is It!" Adobo recipe, I am still having problems with my Beef Tapa. The taste I've been craving for is somehow similar to Tapa King's Tapa Queen and Pancake House's Beef Tapa.

Experimenting, I used the following marinade ratio and method:

Beef Tapa

1/2kg beef sirloin (or tenderloin), cut into strips
1 1/2T salt
1/4cup sugar
3T soy sauce
1 head of garlic, minced
1tsp ground black pepper
oil for frying

How I did it:
I marinated the beef strips in the salt, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ground black pepper mixture overnight.
I then fried it on some hot oil until cooked through.

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This is a very simple recipe but really tasty. I am considering adding less of the sugar so that the outcome won't be as "sticky". Some say they use fish sauce (patis) instead of toyo to make the beef strips not too dark. Maybe I'll try that next time.

Here's my beef tapa mixed with garlic fried rice (already mixed with the sunny side up egg) and atchara and tomatoes. Yummy!

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Pandan Chicken

I saw bundles of long screwpine leaves in the supermarket and so without thinking twice, I dropped two bundles in the cart. I first thought of using some in my steamed rice but remembering the chicken fillets I still have in the freezer, I've decided to just make some Chicken Pandan.

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Pandan Chicken

1/2kg chicken parts (I used breast fillet)
about 10pcs pandan leaves
2tsp soy sauce
2tbsp fish sauce
2tbsp oyster sauce
1/2tsp sugar
1/2tsp ground black pepper
2tsp garlic powder (or you may use minced garlic cloves)
2tsp turmeric powder (or minced ginger)
1tbsp vinegar
oil for deep frying

How I did it:
I mixed the soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, ground black pepper, garlic powder, turmeric powder and vinegar in a bowl.
I marinated the chicken breast fillet overnight (though marinating for at least three hours will already render a tasty chicken meat).
I then cleaned the pandan leaves, wiped it dry. I covered the chicken meat with the pandan leaves then used toothpicks to hold.
I heated the oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat then deep fried the chicken wrapped with pandan.

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It is best eaten with steamed rice!
Tip: Using long pandan leaves will make wrapping the chicken a breeze.

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Birthday Thanks!

Holy Week is a great time for self-reflection and renewal of faith.
Celebrating my Birthday today (a Maundy Thursday) is even a greater reason to give thanks to the Lord.

The recent years have been a roller coaster ride but God has always been with me.
He picked me up at my lowest and showed me that my miseries are just a blink of an eye compared to my 28 years of existence.

I want to send a shout-out to heaven and say thank you Lord for the love in my heart and the peace in my soul.
Thank you for giving me family and friends who are always there for me and with me.