Just about four months ago my best friend K and her husband J brought a lovely new human into this world. Their new baby is happy, laughing, and good natured...seemingly content with everything going around her and pleased with the attentions of her family (including her big sister, my awesomely terrific godchild!).
How wonderful it must be to be a child...napping and drinking milk, having people bathe you and comb your hair. I sometimes wish I could go back to that time, if only to relish this life of being absolutely care-free. I would store this feeling for stormier times to come, when I can then take it out and rub it against my cheek like a blankie.
Then again, I don’t know how long I could be on a diet consisting of milk and milk.
I suppose there is a lot to be said about every stage in life, and the important thing is to make sure we don’t forget to savor each one – embracing all the good that comes with the moment you are in. Like being a child (Kids, don’t try to grow up too fast! You will miss those carefree days when you have rent to pay!). Like being an adult (Yay! My own kitchen...all the raw cake batter I can eat!).
And for all ages, except the strictly milk-drinking set, there’s chocolate cupcakes...
Chocolate and Fig Preserve Cupcakes
(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate-Cherry Cupcakes in How to Be A Domestic Goddess)
For the cupcakes:
For the icing:
- Place butter in a saucepan and put over low heat to melt. When it is almost completely melted, add chocolate. Once the chocolate has softened a bit, remove the pan from heat and stir until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Add the fig preserves, sugar, salt, and eggs to the chocolate mixture, then mix until everything is well incorporated. Stir in the flour, to which you’ve added the baking powder (do not overmix!).
- Pour into a 12-bun muffin tin lined with papers and bake in an 180C oven for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out fairly clean.
- Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out. Wait to cool completely before icing.
- For the icing, melt chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk until it’s smooth and thick. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Garnish with a candied nut on each – I used candied pili nuts.
The changes I made to the recipe were substituting the original cherry jam with fig preserves, and using a mixture of all purpose flour and baking powder instead of self-raising flour (which I didn’t have)...and using candied nuts instead of glace cherries for garnish. If you own this book you will notice that the recipe is pretty much the same as her Chocolate Orange Cake a few pages earlier (which I adapted for Yummy Magazine last march), using the cherry jam instead of the orange marmalade. I love both the orange cake and this fig preserve cupcake version – adding the jam/marmalade/preserves to the batter does two things: it yields a moist and rich cake as opposed to a light and spongy one, and it gives another dimension of flavour...the fruit underlying the chocolate. It also makes for a supremely satisfying raw cake batter to lick off everything! I will be experimenting with other fruit preserves soon...
I made these to take to K’s house for a small tea party. We sat outdoors and enjoyed K’s lovely spread of tea sandwiches (in a proper multi-tiered, afternoon-tea-type tray) and buttermilk scones with cream cheese icing. We chatted and played with the baby and whiled the afternoon away together...enjoying the moment :)
One day we will introduce K’s little one to chocolate...and I hope to be present on that special occasion. Until then, she’s happy chugging away at her milky sustenance and we are happy just to watch (while having tea and scones and cupcakes) :)
Decisions, decisions. Some of them are easy to make, some of them will keep me up at nights, splitting hairs and weighing a mountainous list of pros and cons. Some I actually enjoy deliberating on, some I enjoyed in the beginning but am now losing steam. Some make my forehead pound. Decisions – not a personal strength but something, as an adult I have to make every day. And these days there seems to be more of that than ever!
I’m a Libra you see, and decision-making is not something that comes easily to me. I’m not a huge believer in things zodiac but I can say this, what they claim about Librans being indecisive, and being able to see all sides of a story or question (some sides even purely hypothetical and not very likely), is 100% on the ball when it comes to me. I need to dissect every single possibility and permutation before making a decision...a long and sometimes painful process. This goes for everything from life-changing choices to what I want from a menu!
Thank goodness there are some decisions that I actually enjoy pouring over. Not that I totally abhor decision-making, I understand it comes with that thing called “being a grown up”, but it’s nice to know that there are some that give me less wrinkled-forehead moments than others.
Like what kind of beans to buy.
These may seem like regular munggo beans (mung beans) to most but they’re not. They are actually lighter in color and slightly longer than the common munggo. The reason I know this is because when I saw them at the market they sat side by side with a bag of the usual green, roundish munggo, so the difference was apparent. Plus I eat my weight in munggo every month, so I should have learned something about these beans by now. I found them at the stall of my favourite organic veggie & herb grower at our neighbourhood Saturday market (Gil Carandang at the Salcedo Market – such a treasure trove!). He was busy with another customer so I discussed the merits of the beans with his son. He knew they were a different type but wasn’t quite sure of the name – he did mention that he liked them better and they had been having it for dinner. After a few back and forths I decided to buy a small bag full and went away quite pleased with my purchase.
These are the kinds of simple choices that help me de-stress from the bigger more “grown-up” choices we all have to deal with. It may sound trifling but let me tell you, therapy does not get any cheaper than a 250-gram bag of beans.
No recipe for today – I used up various leftover bits for this batch of munggo. I prepared it the same way as I always do, using garlic, onions, tomato, and a combination of smoked and dried-salted fish as the flavorings. Filipino dried-salted fish (daing) is wickedly potent and does wonders in flavouring munggo – you can use dried shrimp (hibe) as well. I added malunggay (moringa) leaves at the last moment.
Happy weekend everyone! I hope you have something nice and relaxing planned :) Me, I will be heading to the market to unwind over some produce related shopping :)
UPDATE 7/26: Thanks to a nice commenter, Bea, I now know what the beans are! They are called tapilan or rice bean and although a relation to munggo, they are not the same. To Manila residents: Bea also sells a wonderful selection of natural, eco-friendly products (lovely soaps and more!) at the Sunday Legazpi market...you can also check out her stuff here.
*Some of these have also been added to the shop. The rest will be available really soon at the Xtabay in Portland, OR. The Xtabay recently had a super glamorous make-over and now has a large bridal section...So I made some extra shiny, extra fancy pieces for them to go along with those extra fancy dresses.
*Many new items added to the shop!
*Most of the slightly older pieces in my shop have been marked down to make way for the next collection.
Check out the sweet, sweet deals! : http://www.papertreasure.net
***(photogrpah by Alicia J. Rose)***
Check out the new music video from local Portland band, the Builders and the Butchers. I was already a fan of their music and now I love them even more! Their amazing video was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Henry Darger and was styled using props from one of Portland's coolest shops, Flutter (http://www.flutterclutter.com where my jewelry is now being sold). And... My butterfly locket necklace is used throughout the video!
check it out here:
We have completed our contribution to the global "Hope Card" effort to support those effected by the Australian fires and flooding this past February!
If you are interested, here are the specifications of our card.
Illustrators and authors create ONE HOPE card
a.. with drawings from your illustrators
b.. words and/or signature by your authors
c.. to the Australian KIDS and FAMILIES
d.. sending love and hope
We received 17 submissions from IN SCBWI and I have found a great way to display ALL 17 in a single card. Please take 17 seconds and watch this clip. You will see a demonstration of the "map book" card which I have come up with to make this a fun thing to read.
By taking an 18X18 piece of colored paper, I was able to get 9 individual 6X6 squares totally 18 individual mounting sides. I added a cover with a title, Hope Card from Indiana USA SCBWI. When folded, just right, you have a single 6X6 hope card - tied with a bow!
Although it took a while to come up with a suitable way to include everyone's effort, I think we will have done it! Thanks to all that took the time to help make the IN SCBWI Hope Card a success!
Our family doctor believes that the egg is still the golden standard when it comes to protein. I have to agree – not that I know anything about protein, or much about nutrition, but eggs, in my book, are a wondrous food. They can be a complete meal unto themselves or used in a myriad of different ways from breakfast to dessert. They come in their own container, are simple to find and use, and you can dress them up or down as you see fit. Plus they are delicious. And yes, golden.
So in keeping with the doctor’s advice, I’ve prepared eggs for breakfast...as I’ve done, in one way or another, many times before. I must confess, I am not the healthiest person, nor am I a star patient, and the reason I eat eggs (or anything else I love for that matter) is because I love them, not quite because they were given someone’s seal of approval. But it’s still nice to know that sometimes, my opinion does coincide with that of someone of the medical profession – it’s not often the case so when it does happen I feel it cause for a little celebration.
The “making an omelette with earthy mushrooms and softly caramelized onions bathed in cream for breakfast” kind of celebration.
Creamy Mushroom & Onion Omelette
- Olive oil or butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large white onion or 2 medium ones
- 200 grams Swiss brown mushrooms
- 1/4 cup cream
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 eggs
- Heat a glug of olive oil or a pat of butter in a non-stick pan (olive oil if you want to be healthier, butter if you want it to be richer – you can also use a combination).
- Add garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté until cooked. Add the cream, stirring continuously (don’t let that cream burn!). The cream should reduce slightly and get into all the nooks and crannies, picking up mushroom flavour and taking on its nutty brown color as it goes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
- Clean pan and return to heat with another small glug of oil.
- Beat 2 eggs gently in a separate bowl, then pour into the pan. When the bottom sets but the top is still moist and jiggly, add half the mushroom mixture to one side of the egg. Flip the other side over the mushrooms to enclose. Slide onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs and mushroom mixture.
- Serves two.
This is no fluffy omelette – I can’t seem to master that particular artform. This is more a flat picnic blanket of egg made for the purpose of enfolding some luscious filling. Don’t discount the egg for its flatness though – I love the taste of egg, flat or not! I am, however, very much open to the secrets of the fluffy omelette if anyone out there is inclined to share :)
You can make this breakfast for two, or, just use 2 eggs and half the mushroom mixture for a breakfast for one. In which case you can then toss the other half of the mushroom mixture with pasta, or serve on toast, for a nice lunch for one. You can also add 2 slices of camembert or gruyere to each omelette if you are feeling particularly decadent, or are in need of cheering up, or the morning is grey and gloomy. I don’t know how your family doctors would feel about that though...
I am almost finished his hat. I used the Spud and Chloe Flap Happy Hat pattern until I got to the crown shaping. Then the pattern lost me or I perhaps I just felt the need to do it differently. I still need to add a pom-pom. Isn't it darling? I had fun with the the three colors. Now I am starting one for Big A and I was told that I needn't put so much green in his toque. So funny, I don't even think that anyone around here knows what a toque is and I think that the earflaps might disqualify it from being an actual toque.
When I woke up this morning, I discovered that I had won a copy of Photoshop CS4 over at the Pioneer Woman. [Thanks, Ree!] She's so funny and generous. Her new lodge is beautiful. She should have a quilt retreat there! I'll teach! Now I have no excuse to laze about and not design, right?
I’ve mentioned Tagaytay before, just a drive away from the city and fairly easy to get to...although anything south of the city can be quite a headache right now as they are doing works on the highway. In any case, mum-in-law gifted us with a night’s stay in a hidden gem of a place she discovered.
Appropriately enough, in these frenetic times, the place is a pocket of absolute tranquillity. It’s filled to bursting with brilliant foliage that seems to tuck themselves into every nook and cranny. Secret corners are hidden about where old wooden benches share the space with wild flowers and creeping vines. Kick-knacks like ceramic moons and elephants pop up in unexpected place, peeking out in between the plants. Huts with big comfy sofas lie as if floating in the middle of ponds lined with lily pads.
This is exactly the place to be if you need some time to exhale and listen to the crickets – which I think we all do once in a while, even the most boisterous and crowd-loving of us!
Our casita seemed almost overgrown with vigorous vines with big shiny green leaves and unidentified fruit. A wrought iron table and chair sat beside it, right next to a small field of pineapple. I had no troubles settling in immediately for a deep, worry-free nap, lulled by the comforting swish of the ceiling fan.
They grow their own organic vegetables on the grounds (plants thrive here...as they do all over Tagaytay) and, predictably because of this, they serve an awesome house salad. With something like four kinds of lettuce and seven kinds of vegetables, and two kinds of dressing, it was delicious and fresh and a perfect example of how fantastic salads can be when well-cared-for ingredients are used and a little thought is put into it.
Because C and my jobs don’t allow us any long vacations at present (no weeks-long, cross continent holidays for us right now!), I like to make sure we still take these short little jaunts “away from it all” to relax and recharge. With the right outlook even the shortest hops can seem like a holiday, and a night in a new place can be an adventure :)
More food (in particular breakfast!) soon...I promise!