Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Noche Buena

I love to cook. And I love to create and re-create dishes. I started cooking at 9, the right age -- my Mama believed -- to train girls' household stuff. That included going to the market and picking the right ingredients for the day's meals to making the house squeaky clean and of course, cooking.

Since my mother was Ilongga, most of the dishes had Ilonggo influence but the Cebuano part of the family also had its fair share. I've always had in my mind to blog about the dishes that I cook but never got down to it. And so finally, here I am trying to journal some of my favorite dishes.

For tonight's Noche Buena dishes, I've recreated some old time favorites to cut down on cholesterol and transfat contents. (A better way to start the new year with healthy eating. Haha!).

I'm a very practical person and I don't like tedious processes so I simplify my cooking, without necessarily sacrificing the taste. Tonight, I cooked three dishes -- chicken, lasagna and fried shrimp -- and one dessert, a re-created version of old time favorite Maja Blanca. The rest, we grabbed from Goldilocks, Red Ribbon and Andoks.

Here are my creations for tonight:

Tuna Lasagna


For the sauce
2 cans Century Tuna in Water (drain)
1/2 cup basil, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 clove onion, minced
1 560 gram Del Monte Spaghetti sauce
salt, to taste
sugar, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Procedure: Sautee the tuna with garlic and onion. Add the chopped basil. Add Del Monte Spaghetti sauce. When cooked, set aside to cool.

For the Cream
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups water
1 big can evaporated milk
pinch of salt

Procedure: Mix flour in water. When all the lumps disappear, pour mixture in a pan. (Medium heat.) Stir in milk slowly. Bring to boil but make sure to keep on stirring until it mixture becomes creamy. Set aside.

Since I don't have an oven, I just cooked the lasagna like the way I cook spaghetti (boil enough water and then add salt & oil). You can cook the pasta while doing either the sauce or cream.

Once the sauce, cream and pasta are cooked, lay down the lasagna on a microwable container. Add sauce, then put another layer of lasagna. Put cream. Another layer of lasagna, then sauce again. Up to six layers of lasagna would be okey. Microwave on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.

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New Year's Eve grilled chicken

1 kilo de-boned chicken
1 cup vinegar
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or mascuvado)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 stalks of lemon grass (pound)
1/2 cup basil leaves (pound)
5 cloves of garlic (pound)

Mixed all ingredients well and marinate chicken for two hours. Grill or cook in greased frying pan under low heat.

(Since I don't like the smoke of the grill, I just cooked mine using a skillet.)

Here's the finished product:

o O o

Hipon a'la Andrea

For lack of better name, just indulge with me. LOL. Nothing extra-ordinary with the shrimp. It's cooked like Nilasing na Hipon but without any alcohol. (See recipe here) Here's mine:

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Lastly, for the dessert, I made an easier to prepare Maja Blanca:


1 big can evap milk
1 big can sweet corn kernels
2 cups water
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup peanuts (pound)

pinch of salt


In a container, dissolve cornstarch and brown sugar in the 2 cups of water. Make sure to mix well. Pour in a pan under medium heat flame. Bring to a boil but constantly stirring. Slowly mix in milk, corn kernels and grated cheese. (Make sure to leave some corn kernels to put on top of the finished product.) Once the mixture is creamy, set aside. Let it cool down before transferring to a disposable container to a greased/buttered glass dish. Once the mixture has hardened, put the remaining corn kernels on top. Sprinkle enough pounded peanuts. You may put inside the ref first before serving. In 30 minutes or so, you can serve your yummy Maja Blanca.

See, wasn't that a breeze!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My life before God's eyes

Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. (Isaiah 57:2)

(Photo by anglia24)

If I die tonight, what will God say of my life? How have I lived it?

These words echoed in my mind long after Pastor Manny ended tonight's service at the wake of the dad of two dearest sisters in Christ, Marie and Mariya.

If I may say so, this is a year of grieving for our cell group. One after the other, four of us in the cell lost our parents. Early this year, Kata lost her dad -- albeit in a very fashionable way -- "dropped dead" in the middle of a golf course. ("He really knows how to go in style," Kata tells us.)

Last month, I lost my father while I was in China. Days later, as my family and I were mourning in Negros, Mariya and Marie's mom passed away. And just the other day, their dad followed.

What a year for our small group of "feisty" women. We love to call ourselves "comrades in the Lord" because we were once together in a different cause, but thankfully, have been "arrested by Lord."

Just tonight, our cell group met in a not-so-pleasant-setting -- at the wake of the Jopson patriarch.

Before Pastor Manny shared the Word, the Jopsons flashed the life of their father -- a strong-willed provinciano, who thru sheer hard work and determination, became a successful entrepreneur. His was a life straight from the soap opera. From being a death march survivor to a respected businessman to raising 12 patriotic children including the great youth leader Edjop, Daddy Hernan definitely lived a full life.

I was blessed to have met him and his wife and got to chat with them on the few occassions I visited their Paraiso home. He would marvel me with the tales of old, his family and his passion for farming. He would share how Edjop, as a young boy, convinced him to purchase their Mamburao property which is now like the family's second "paradise."

But what struck me the most was how he evidently loved his wife and children so much. He was a father every family must have -- a strong pillar that holds the family together.

I remember my own father -- a man for others who sacrificed personal conveniences for the sake of the people. To the very end, he thought of others before his own, putting aside his health if only to bring order to what he expected to be a chaotic elections.

Kata's dad, though I haven't met them, surely raised his own children well. Even if she's not my friend, knowing Kata as a public figure, I surmise he did a great job.

Kata's parents, the Jopson's parents, my father -- they all lived lives that impacted others.

Which brings back to Pastor Manny's question: What is my life before God's eyes? How have I lived it?

Not much, I should say. Surely, I can do better. And deaths of people close to us always remind us of the inevitable -- the only sure destination for each one of us.

Death shouldn't bring fear. But rather, determination -- to do better each day and live it as if it were our last. And when we face our Creator, we can give a better accounting of how we steward what He has placed in our hands.

The dawn of a new day

(photo credit to

down_the_rabbit_hole 's photos)

This year has been a bitter-sweet year for us. Just last month, Papa passed on to the other side of life to rejoin our Mama who went ahead almost 20 years ago.

Early this year, our youngest daughter -- Star, was diagnosed with von Willebrand disease, a genetic disorder of the blood.

At work and in the homefront, we had been hit. Yet, all those sadness, frustrations and challenges were nothing compared to the blessings God has given us.

In sickness, God gave us healing. In our mourning, God gave us joy. In our lack, God gave us extraordinary provisions. In our weakness, God gave us the strength to persevere.

God is good all the time, and I say that with deep conviction. I believe, because I know. Though I may not always see, I believe, because I know that He who has promised is faithful.

I face 2008 with great excitement, with so much hope in my heart for a better, more wonderful walk. 2007 is just a dawn of a greater, brighter day. Welcome, 2008!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our love story

It all started as a joke. I spotted this "ruggedly handsome" guy in the school campus with his thick law books. Back in college, having a law student for a boyfriend is cool. And so I jokingly asked a friend if he could introduce me to his brother who was then a sophomore in law school. "You're too good for him," he joked back.

Little did I know, a few months later, who would become my boyfriend but my friend's brother! That was 15 years ago. Today, that ruggedly handsome guy, the "bad boy" of his time at Silliman's law school is now my husband of 13 years. We've been blessed with three wonderful children, the greatest gifts we can ever ask for from God.

It's been far from smooth-sailing at all the past 13 years. But every year, it gets better and better. Looking back, I can only praise God for His faithfulness. Before I met Dick, I prayed to God to give me a person I can spend the rest of my life with. When Dick came along, I thought God was joking. But our Father always know what's best for us.

Ours may not be a perfect marriage. But I can't imagine being married to another person. We may not agree in everything, but I praise God for giving me a person who allows me to speak my mind out, a person who tries to do it better every time and tries his best to be the best husband and father of his children.

Marriage has transformed both Dick and myself for the better. In imperfections, we learned to be more patient, more understanding, more caring, more loving...Together, we have become better individuals.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The joy of giving

It all started with a thousand bears. Now it's a thousand homes.

Yesterday, parents of the graduating class in The Learning Tree met to discuss the possibility of donating a house or two to Thousand Homes for Bicol project, a wholistic program to help families affected by last year's Typhoon Reming.

By unanimous decision, the parents agreed to support the project as a legacy of the graduating class. Last year, children of The Learning Tree raised funds and donated to A Thousand Bears for Bicol (TBB) project spearheaded by my friends Cathy and Hector.

Thousand Homes is as an off-shoot of the TBB project, on a more ambitious scale, that is.

When some parents learned of the Thousand Homes project in July, they broached the idea to Teacher Francie, the school's indefatiguable founder, as a practical application of the values the school teaches the children -- love for God, country (others) and self.

Not wanting to impose anything on the children, Teacher Francie presented Thousand Homes to the graduating class and asked if they liked the idea of raising funds and donating to the affected families in Bicol. It got the children so excited that they even planned of going to Bicol themselves for the turn-over of the house they were donating.

Not to be outdone, children from the lower graders are now also talking of raising funds to donate to Thousand Homes. Amazing how kids can be so passionate, they even decided to donate proceeds of this year's annual Hele Bazaar for the Bicol project.

Of course, parents have to be informed of their children's decision and so the school called for a meeting yesterday. Since I'm one of the "promoteurs" of Thousand Homes, Teacher Francie asked me to present to the parents. They were as excited as their children.

I left the meeting with so much joy in my heart and a great hope for the future. Here is a small school with a great vision -- to be able to raise up kids with genuine love for God, fellowmen and oneself.

Indeed, when it is about giving, adults have so much to learn from little children. There is always joy when you give out of the abundance of the heart.