A Clean Start!

It’s the time of year where there is change in the air and New Year’s resolutions weave into conversations as we make plans to conquer another year!  For me, perhaps because of the December that I went through, I am thankful for family and friends.  I’ve been trying to find ways to thank all of the special people that have carried me and help me grow through this journey.  I also just enjoy making things and I’m enjoying being creative again for a change.

My neighbors have been so nice and left me gifts and cards.  I decided to make some Honey Almond Chamomile soap that I found on Pinterest To give to them.  I chose a goats milk based soap and discovered that this recipe is really just mixing and not really creating from scratch.  I suppose all home based soap and candle creating is just mixing cause I don’t have any goats or bees.  I’ll still take credit for the soap but say thanks a lot to the goats and people at Stephenson Farms that made my soap base!

For my adaptation of this recipe, I didn’t want to make as much as the original recipe called for.

2 lbs goats milk soap base

2 tbsps ground up oatmeal

2 tbsps honey

2 1/2 chamomile tea bags

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

First I microwaved my 2 lbs of soap base.  I microwaved for a couple of minutes at a time and broke up the soap a little at a time.  I also used a bowl that I was getting rid of due to a chip because I didn’t like the idea of soap with my food bowls.

While I was microwaving and melting the base, I measured my oatmeal and chamomile tea into my mortar and pestle.  I mixed and ground up both items.

image

image

After the base melted, you need to work fairly quickly so you can incorporate ingredients without the base separating and drying with a skin on the top.  It can be melted down again but I found the soap comes out creamier and better the less you reheat and handle it.

image

Mix in the ground oatmeal and chamomile.  I put a little at a time so I could see the ratio of grains through the base.  You might decide to not put in as much as I did?


image

After incorporating the dry ingredients, I added the honey, almond and vanilla extracts.

image

I mixed everything thoroughly until it looked like I wanted it to.  I wanted a fairly even amount of grain to my base throughout.

image

Next, I spooned the mixed soap into a silicone mold.  My mold had six 2″ rounds.  I was much messier in spooning my soap in the mold than you have to be!  It does clean up easily though if you are equally as messy or more.

image

image

image

After they cooled, I decided to create crochet scrubber covers.  I didn’t follow a pattern for this so I’ll have to try to write out the steps involved later for any crocheters.  You can also message me here if you want me to figure that out for you sooner than later!

Happy soap “mixing” and Happy New Year!  Here’s to clean starts and a great 2016!


image

image

Chicken Soup, It’s What the Doctor Ordered!

As you know, the family was sick through Christmas.  I managed to catch a minor cold this week, so chicken soup is on the menu.  It’s a simple and basic recipe that my mom taught me.  Hopefully you won’t get sick, but hopefully you’ll still try the soup to warm your bones on these chilly nights.

Start by bringing a package of chicken breasts, one onion and about three medium celery stalks to a boil in a large pot.  For this, I buy the whole chicken breasts with skin and bones.  You remove it later but it makes for a better chicken broth.  Cover the celery, chicken and onion with enough water to be about 2 inches above the chicken.  Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the chicken cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.  If you can pull the chicken easily apart and it’s not pink inside, good job!

image

Next, remove the chicken and vegetables from the broth.  Let the chicken cool down.

image

You can discard of the celery and onion.  I usually like to strain the broth after it cools a bit.  You can strain it through a kitchen towel to a bowl then put it back in your pot to cook the soup.

image

Cut up about three to four carrots and celery stalks.  For this, you’ll want to de-string your celery so you won’t get inedible celery strings in your soup.

image

image

You can add more or less vegetables.  Add them to the strained chicken broth.

After after the chicken has cooled enough for you to handle, shred it into bite size pieces.  Obviously remove the skin and the bone.

image

For this soup, I like to make a large pot.  I cook an egg noodle separately and add to each serving day because otherwise the noodles will get gummy and make the soup murky and thicker.  I prefer also adding salt to it to taste rather than putting it in when cooking.

image

As I usually make this when I’m under the weather, it makes sense to me to not season it heavily cause taste buds most likely want something simple.  It seems to work for me and makes me feel better, however I’m sure this can be a great simple base to add more vegetables and any savory seasoning that you like to change it up.

image

Hope y’all stay well through 2015!  Let’s all plan to have a healthy and happy New Year!

Let’s Roll!

My apologies for a lapse in the cooking and blog writing.  My family is a bit under the weather this holiday season.  I’m recovering from surgery.  I had a little cancer that had to be removed, so my doctor successfully removed my thyroid and some lymph nodes.  They say that I won’t even miss them!  It turned out to be a couple of types of cancer with one rare type called medullary.  My family and friends have been calling me an overachiever!  I’ll be just fine but have some healing to do, so I’ve been taking it easy.  Not an easy thing for me to do, but necessary.

My uncle had knee surgery, my aunt is not feeling well, my parents decided to get a bad cold…so needless to say we’re all not celebrating as usual this year.   We will all get together in the new year and have a redo on Christmas.  For now, we’re all going to focus on healing.

I learned last night that part of the healing process should include making cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve with my good friend Debi!  I unexpectedly decided to bring her lunch that afternoon and then stayed to help her make four types of cookies and cinnamon rolls.  She did most of it, but it was a great time hanging out as we listened to holiday tunes and chatted about how funny I was on drugs from the surgery.

Cinnamon rolls for her family is a holiday tradition.  The recipe comes from their church cookbook.

Disneyland Cinnamon Rolls (from Sarah Judkins)

1/2 cup warm water + 2 Tbsp. yeast (mix and set aside)

image

1 (One) 3 oz. package of instant vanilla pudding mix

2 (Two) cups milk (microwaved to take the chill off)

2 (Two) tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 (Two) eggs, slightly beaten

1 (One) tsp. salt

8 (Eight) cups flour

In a large bowl, mix the pudding with the milk.  (This pudding is going to be thicker than normal as we are not making it to the package specifications on the box)  Add butter, eggs and salt.  Mix well.  Add the yeast mixture.  Mix well.

image

Gradually add flour and knead until smooth.  image

image

Put in a large greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.  Handy tip:  warm a wet kitchen towel in the microwave.  Cover the bowl with the towel and set in the microwave.  Do not turn your microwave on!

image

Punch down, cover and let rise until double in size for a second time.  The recipe calls to do this twice but we did this about four times and Debi says she usually does it more.  It can take 8 to 10 hours.  We did a faster version in about 5 hours last night.

image

image

Roll dough on a very large floured surface to a long rectangular shape, approximately 34″x21″.  We split the dough in half to do this.  It would have rolled out to the entire surface of the table if we didn’t split it!

image

Spread:  the recipe suggests the following

1(One) cup butter, melted

2 (Two) cups brown sugar

2 (Two) tbsp cinnamon

Brush on melted butter.  Mix brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over top.

We did ours with a minor modification.  We mixed the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to make a spreadable paste.

image

image

Roll into a jelly roll.  Measure every two inches and cut.  Handy tip:  use clean dental floss to slice!

image

image

image

image
image

Place in a greased pan, gently pack them so they stay together, and allow to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.  We placed our pans on top of the stove cause the oven was warm from baking cookies already.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Frost while still warm.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (One) 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (One) tsp vanilla

3 (Three) cups powdered sugar

2 (Two) tsps milk

Mix well in a bowl until creamy and smooth.

image

Hope you enjoy your holiday with family, friends and warm cinnamon rolls!

 

Nice to Meat Ya!

We’re not Italian and can’t even pretend to be.  This meat sauce hails from a recipe from my grandma’s cookbook that was labeled “Hungarian goulash”?  Last I checked, we’re not Hungarian and this recipe doesn’t seem very Hungarian either?  In any case, it’s the meat sauce that I grew up with.

My mom has adapted that Hungarian goulash recipe over the years to this sort of Italian version and a casserole dish that’s really easy to make too.  We didn’t typically eat casseroles but this one was the only one that we would eat.  I’ll share that casserole later, but this is the meat base that is incorporated.

This sauce is untraditional but works well on rice or noodles so it fits our family.  We know this because my dad has to have rice with just about everything, even spaghetti!  I once asked him why he was having rice as a midnight snack and he said it was because he didn’t get his rice with the meal.  We knew after that to include rice with every meal without question even if it was some sort of casserole or spaghetti.  Dad eats his sauce with rice.  We eat it with noodles (however now, we all try a brown rice pasta or quinoa noodle).  It also works fine over vegetables like spaghetti squash or any variety if you like.

Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef

image

about 3 medium onions, finely chopped

image

1 whole garlic, which was about 8 to 10 pressed garlic cloves

image

2 large cans of crushed tomatoes, one can of water

image

1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, half can of water

image

3 handfuls of Italian seasoning

image

This yields a big pot of sauce, so you can cut the ingredients in half if you don’t want to make as much.

Brown the ground beef and drain any extra fat.  I browned a package at a time.  We prefer the meat to be fine and not chunky pieces.  Add the garlic and onion and mix thoroughly.  Mix in the cans of crushed tomatoes.  To rinse the cans, we used half of a can of water to each in order to get all of the can incorporated.  Add the tomato sauce and rinse can with the half can of water into the meat sauce as well.  Measure about 2 handfuls of Italian seasoning and sprinkle in.  (I know a handful is not a scientific measurement so it’s probably about 1/4 cup?)

Mom and I first used the wok to cook this sauce and realized that was a funny choice.  I think we are used to the wok and worked great for browning the meat but we transferred everything to a sauce pot when our ingredients were dangerously approaching the rim!  I also was cooking in a white blouse with no apron!  I deemed myself very brave (or stupid?)   You can be the judge, but there was no bleach needed in writing this blog…just sayin’.

image

We let this sauce come to a boil, then simmer for hours.  If it starts to dry out, add water.  You can add more Italian seasoning if you taste it and want more.  You can add a very little bit of sugar to counteract the acidity of all of the onion too.  It’s your choice to add salt and pepper to taste.  We usually let the eater add their own.

image

This sauce tends to be better the second day as well.  It may not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s really just a bunch of meat and tomatoes so you can’t go too wrong?!

image

Arrivederci…until next time!

A Dia To Remember

A couple of friends of mine were interested in celebrating Dia De Los Muertes on November 1st in honor of a friend that passed away way too soon last year.  So we started in Old Town Pasadena for their celebration but we only found a few window displays (and a few shopping items).  We all got the memo, and dressed in black and wore as many flowers in our hair as possible.  It’s November but it was 90 degrees out so we were in summer attire.image

We understand that Dia de Los Muertes is a celebration of remembering loved ones that passed before us.  This seemed fitting and so we went on this mission to check things out.  There seems to be lots of symbolism or traditions that have evolved such as sugar skulls, gold marigolds, altars and displays.  Some of it seems scary, but I gather that culturally it’s meant to honor or show respect for the deceased.

image

Since Pasadena wasn’t quite what we were looking for, we decided to go to Olvera Street in downtown LA cause if there was going to be a celebration near us, that would have to be where it was at!  We were right.  There was a ton of traffic, hard to find parking and lots of crowds to navigate which proved we were right and it accomplished our mission.  It was a feast for our eyes!

image

The day proved to be a cultural feast that helped us hold significance for a passed loved one for the girls.  Even though it was crowded, it was great fun to see the traditions, colors, fabrics, altar displays and hear the music!  We, of course, ended the day at a Mexican restaurant with food and margaritas.  It was a great Dia to remember!

image

image

image

Do any of you celebrate Dia de Los Muertes?  What are your traditions?

 

The Family Tree

My dad planted two trees when I was about 4 years old, a peach and an avocado.  My favorite tree was the peach tree because as a kid, it was one fruit that I couldn’t get enough of.  His favorite was the avocado tree.  Over the years, a decision had to be made – which tree to keep as they grew bigger.  There wasn’t room for both trees in the backyard, so the avocado tree won and there went my supply of peaches.

image
Here’s a pic of the avocado tree on the left and the peach tree on the right.

You should know that I was introduced to the avocado in a strange way.  My dad liked to mash it up, sprinkle sugar on it and pour milk over it. Being Filipino, he called this his merienda. No one in the family was a fan of this dish so it always served a party of one.  Today I like avocados, but not even sugar could get me to eat them as a kid!

image
Me when I was about 5 years old.

It dawned on me that the avocado tree has truly grown up with the family and is like a second sibling to me.  We have various pictures with the tree and of the tree.  It’s been a backdrop for birthday parties, bbqs and backyard shenanigans.  I’m sure the tree would love to tell the story of when my brother and I launched his Hot Wheel cars off of the roof.  (It was my brother’s idea but I was a great cheerleader).

image
Avocado tree when it was about 3 years old.

One year, there was a fruit fly infestation that was coming to the area.  We couldn’t give the tree preventative shots or take the tree inside to protect it.  Worried about the health of the tree, my dad found an advertisement for a local forum on the fruit fly.  He attended this meeting along with several community farmers.  They all shared with each other to gain insight to their problems, “How many trees do you have?”. Dad answered, “One”.  They were all growers for local groves of avocado farms and fruit trees.  Dad had a grove of one.  After the initial shock from the farmers that dad had a single tree, they tried to offer him suggestions.  They had ideas, products and suggestions for lots of trees if dad had a farm, but with one tree…it wasn’t going to work.  So dad had a good story to tell family and friends about his interaction with the farmers but ended up concocting his own recipes to help the tree and prayed for the best.  It seemed to do the trick as we still have the tree standing today.  (There’s a recipe for this concoction that has gone through several versions to perfect it, but I was sworn to secrecy!)

image
A photo close up of avocados when the tree was about 11 years old.

Another year, I visited my parents and there was tension in the air.  I asked my mom what was the problem and she explained that they had had some plumbing issues.  They were trying to decide if they were going to take care of the problem.  In most houses, this wouldn’t be such a big decision?  Of course you would fix the problem!  But because the pipe ran under the avocado tree, this became an impossible situation.   One thought was to just let that bathroom be non-operational.  That’s not an option in my mind but I guess if you gave my parents a decision of harming their third child vs. fixing their toilet…they just couldn’t bare it.  Luckily another plumber came up with another solution, so they didn’t have to compromise the tree.  It was plumbing or the tree, and the tree won again.  Thankfully the toilet works again too!

Proud dad with his 11 year old youngest kid.
Proud dad with his 11 year old youngest kid.

My dad loves to give avocados to family and friends.  If you express any desire to eat them, you can expect a bag the next time daddy sees you.  They have been gifts to people far and wide.  Recently, a family friend from the Czech Republic asked dad for some avocados to take to her grandmother on a visit.  We weren’t quite sure she could get through the airport checkpoints with an avocado?  She got nervous and gave the carefully brown paper covered grenade-looking item to her husband to take back home with her after dropping her at the airport.  Before he left, he chatted to a TSA agent about the avocados and they said she could take them with her!  So he quickly passed them to her in line and she flew happily Continue reading The Family Tree

Heat Wave Cooking

I don’t mean that I have some fancy schmancy “Heat Wave” or confectioner’s oven or anything.  I am referring to the unbearable heat that Southern California has been experiencing this Summer and into now October!  We’ve had record highs and unusual humid days like the South.  I can’t begin to know for sure how prayers work, but my affinity for the South might have been heard a bit too loudly?!

So in the middle of this heat, I was asked to co-host a baby shower for a dear friend. Three others and myself split up duties of décor, food, games, etc. We managed to plan the entire party via text, which was a first for all of us. Some days, you came back to your phone with 20 messages, but you got the gist of the conversation and knew it was all coming together.  I can’t take credit for anything but the crust-less quiches and having talented friends!  Thanks to my co-hosts Amy, Nancy and Sharon!

image image image

After some discussion, we decided on brunch menu items and I offered to make crust-less quiches. I asked my pal, Debi to help me. She often is the Ethel to my Lucy antics. (Although she has red hair, so we should really think of her as the Lucy!)

On a 100 degree night in Pasadena, we sweat and cooked up the party food in my small bungalow with a window air conditioning unit in the living room. I should add that Debi doesn’t even like eggs. I am really lucky to have friends like Debi in my life. She’s proven it on more than one occasion!

IMG_2999

I decided to make four different quiche-ish dishes. 1. Carmelized onions, prosciutto, gruyere cheese 2. Veggies 3. Spinach, tomatoes, and 4. Meat lovers

Each crust-less quiche is made essentially the same, we used about 8 to 12 eggs depending on the size of the dish that we were baking it in. We whipped eggs with some milk to lighten the eggs and to make sure they were fluffy and well mixed.

IMG_2210We prepped the ingredients for each dish first by roasting the veggies, cooking the sausages and bacon. Nothing like frying up some bacon when your kitchen feels like 400 degrees.

image

Oven was set at about 375 degrees. To be honest, we probably didn’t even need to put the food in the oven. It probably would have cooked just fine in the kitchen air.

image

You can layer any ingredient of your liking in these quiches. I prefer to roast or cook the ingredients first. The flavor tends to come out more and not just get lost in the eggs plus it’s a good idea to make sure any meat is fully cooked before you bake the quiche.  We also prepped and chopped bite size ingredient pieces so that lady party goers wouldn’t have a long piece of spinach to chew or chomp on a giant piece of eggplant.

image

They bake about 15 to 20 mins depending on the size and the amount of layered ingredients. I always stick a fork or a skewer in the middle to make sure they come out clean.  Notice my special cooling racks…we had chairs and stools all over the place to hold dishes cause I don’t have adequate counter space in my 1920’s bungalow kitchen.

image

We baked these the night before the party and they definitely would have been better fresh right out of the oven and not re-heated. Nobody seemed to complain though, so let’s just call this a win especially for having not lost a friend in the process or spontaneously combusting from our own body heat.

image

Now!  Somebody else have a baby, get married or celebrate something special!  I’ve cooled off and I’m ready to get planning and cooking!

 

It’s a Wrap! Lettuce Wrap, that is.

Once again, I take you back with me to a Palm Springs trip.  This particular recipe was used for our Palm Springs Memorial Day 2015.  There were about 8 of us on this trip.  It was a great house with a round pool and a round living room, very Palm Springs.  It seemed like miles to get from one end of the house to the other.  I’d say it was a successful house for the group but we never stay in the same house twice.

For lunch one day, I made a lettuce wrap.  I found the recipe on pinterest which was a post from damndelicious.net and it seemed easy, so I attempted it.

My only problem was that I should have made double the amount and fed them with lots of other items like egg rolls, potstickers, and rice to make it complete meal for them.  I was thinking this was a light lunch item.  It was a bit too light.  The group loved the flavor of this but it wasn’t enough food and I made it too late in the day so I think they were starving and starting to get restless!  I think each person only got about one lettuce wrap, so you can see why they all weren’t that happy that afternoon.  Nobody complained, but you can tell I needed to serve more when they were grazing for whatever snacks they could find. (That might have also been the reason why some don’t remember ordering their food for dinner cause there was not a lot soaking up any of the Margarita-drink of the day.)

IMG_1105
Here’s the menu board that I usually set up each morning in Palm Springs.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken (I used turkey – would be ok to use chicken, turkey or beef)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (I bought mine from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste
  • 1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 head butter lettuce

Instructions from DamnDelicious.net

  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks; drain excess fat.
  • Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chestnuts and green onions until tender, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style.

IMG_1106

Notes – I think I left the Sriracha out of the recipe and let everyone spice up their individual servings.  AND Make sure you know your audience before you plan the meal.  Don’t want them to get hungry on you!

We’re on our way back next week for a Palm Springs vacation, so I’m planning on much more food!  Stay tuned for more recipes.

 

Roger’s Gardens – A Delish Shopping Trip!

We celebrated my mom’s birthday recently.   We usually like to drive my parents places that they don’t get to go to on a regular basis, so this birthday weekend was no exception.  I think we tired the parents out but hopefully they had some fun in the process.

There’s a nursery and gift shop in Corona Del Mar called Roger’s Gardens.  It has a great selection of plants, patio furniture, pots,  knowledgeable staff and a great gift boutique.  They also decorate for seasonal gifts and decor, so the Halloween Boutique had just opened this same weekend.  If you like Halloween, this is sure to spark your creativity!  Mom loves this place, so it was a good idea to take her there.

The theme this year for the Halloween boutique is “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and it’s truly like entering a magician’s tent with a maniacal display of whimsy, gross, scary, absurd and glittery objects.  Heaven.

Beware – tons of pics to follow!   If you can’t visit this year, then I’ll bring the store to you here.

IMG_2181Being a marketing person, I look at signage way too much even when I’m personally shopping. They had my attention with old timey fonts and ribbon motif. Well done, Roger’s Gardens!

AND…those pumpkins!  Love!  They had a variety of pumpkins, different shapes and colors scattered around the nursery.

It was 100 degrees outside, but the pumpkins made me long for cooler weather so I can comfortably cook in my kitchen again.

Page 1 blackPage 2 black

 

  Page 3 black_b

Page 4 black_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 5 black_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 6 black

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 7

Delish-able Mention #2

This week I found a special Delish-able Mention from my friend Debi.  As you probably know, California is having a drought right now.  We’re supposed to have a very rainy winter, but that doesn’t help our brown grass now.  Lots of California residents have taken to zero-scapes or rock gardens.  Debi’s answer to an empty water fountain in her back yard is a perfect way to showcase her creative talent and not have a huge water bill and waste water.

As you can see, this fountain was a cat haven but she’s working on a better place for her cats to hang out.  She also had overgrown grass around it and a vision to change it!

IMG_1917

IMG_1918Sorry, this pic is a blurry, but you can see how the fountain fit into the backyard and once a upon a time with water…it would have been peaceful and a nice feature.

Debi started to clear the area and give eviction notices to her cats to get her project started.  She was determined to make it a planter!  Succulents would eliminate having to water it excessively and give her enough variety of plants to create movement in her design.  Her husband wasn’t quite sure he understood the project but alas went shopping to collect plants with her for the project.

IMG_1916From this point, she had a few ideas for the ground.  We brainstormed the possibility of creating mosaic stepping stones in water patterns.  That sounded great to both of us but then Debi started the project and quickly learned that it was too ambitious.  Sometimes you gotta know when to pull the reigns in and do something achievable so you don’t get frustrated.  She made the right choice to scrap that idea and go to plants and rocks to cover.

IMG_1914Here’s more of her work in progress, as the statue gets placed with plants surrounding.

IMG_1915

IMG_1912The finished project is finally filled in with plants, rocks and statues.   It makes me reminisce for days of carefree water usage as the plants mimic water but I couldn’t be more proud of her staunch effort to pull this project off!  It took her about 2 weeks to devote to working on this.  (It was a few hours here and there in the two weeks , not 24 hours/day!)  She’s onto the next project and I’m sure plenty of Delish-able Mentions in the future as well.

Here’s a glimpse of another fabulous fun project on her patio.  I have no idea how she is hanging these parasols, but it must have something to do with Mary Poppins?

IMG_1919Congrats to Debi and if you have something to recommend to me as a Delish-able Mention, please leave me a comment below.  Thanks for reading!