Monday, November 24, 2008

Cooking ng Ina Mo

Unbeknownst to most people, I love to cook. It's actually a new-found passion. It is in the kitchen where I feel my most comfortable and...at home. I always look forward to snatching my apron off the hook, chopping up my onions, garlic, and basil, and heating up my gas stove to High...and filling up the dirty kitchen space with the heavenly aroma of my cooking. Of course, the occasional blisters, cuts, and burns usually round up the experience of feeling gourmet chef. And the experience of the first bite is usally either mouth-watering or simply...ethereal.

I grew up to a family of cooks--my Lola being the Grand Momma of Cooks in my town. She was called Justinang Baboy...because she sidelined as a slaughterhouse employee. All but two of her seven children were amazing cooks--each specializing in their own cuisines. So you can just imagine the feast my aunts and uncles would whip up during our town fiestas. They'd cook days before the actual event. And my role in all this? I was the official taster. Yes. They'd cook, and I'd taste. I'd judge whether a dish was lacking (or exceeding) in saltiness, sweetness, sourness, etc. So I was literally their food critic...and it served me well to actually know how to perfect the tastes of dishes--because it helped me to this day how to make my cooking close to umami, as the Japs would call it. =)

I remember leaving the Philippines more than five years ago knowing nothing about cooking except for the occasional sunny sideup (which always ended up being sunog), scrambled egg (which also was either too salty or sunog as well), and the staple sinangag. Of course, there were hotdogs, and Ma-Ling (yum!), and other quick-no-brainer fried straight-from-the-can fried meats. Remember, I said I was a food critic/taster...but never a cook!

But born out of necessity...and the predilection for actually living longer than 35 years old (read: living in the States made me eat McDonald's, Long John Silver, Wendy's, and Whattaburger for every freaking meal of the day), I decided to finally heed the call of the kitchen. It was two days after Thanksgiving, when I've reached my threshold of eating turkey sandwiches, that I decided to cook my very first dish. I called my sister and she literally guided me de numero with my recipe. What was my first recipe? Lechon Paksiw ala Turkey Meat. Haha! That turned out to be a very expensive dish...that is, if you factor in the overseas call minutes that I've spent while being coached by Taba on the step-by-step procedures of the dish. Everybody loved it! They actually thought it was the most yummy and unique "Teriyaki Turkey". I was like, "Duh. Whatever." ;-)

Coming back from the US, I've literally left everything there except for my passport, my few essential belongings, and of course, my kitchen savvy-ness. And boy, let me tell you, my friends and family actually get a kick out of my cooking, that they actually gimik at my house just to make me cook for them. Cheapskates! LOL

So...I've decided to let some of my "top secret" and family-kept recipes...and even my own personal concoctions. ABANGAN!

RECIPE: Paradadas

Para...what??? Paradadas. Don't ask me the etymology of that...but as long as I can remember, my Lola Justina would make us these yummy beef-filled French-toast style bread every merienda time or breakfast. Hers, of course, because there was no Teflon pans yet at that time, were really oily. But who cared about cholesterol in our youth anyway? Blech!

So, here it is. I especially dedicate it to my good friend Erik from NooYorrrk. It's because of this recipe that we found each other from literally both ends of the globe. So, Erik...first bite's for you! ;-)

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What you will need are:

Filling:  can of corned beef, onions, garlic, ripe tomatoes, potatoes, and freshly-ground pepper

The whole thingamajig (hehe): 10-20 pan de sal, 2 eggs, liquid milk, salt to taste, cooking oil

(If you know how to make corned beef hash, then that's all the instruction you'll need. Hehe)

Cut potatoes into small (about 1cm) cubes. Slice tomatoes into strips. Chop the onions and garlic into stir-fry size/shape. Stir fry the onions and garlic (in that order!). Throw in the corned beef. After about 2 minutes, throw in both potatoes and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft (but with a bit of a bite still). Set aside.

Tear open the pan de sal into halves--but not all the way. Stuff with just enough filling. Set aside. Then, in a hollow bowl, beat the eggs with some milk and a dash of salt...until almost fluffy.

Heat up the pan...preferably Teflon. Optional: coat the pan with Pan spray cooking oil. Dunk the filled pan de sal into the egg mixture--as if you're making French toast, that is--and fry in the pan until golden brown to dark brown. Flip and wait till both sides are cooked. 

Place on absorbent paper towels to drain the extra oil. And....serve with gusto! Hehehehe. Eat while warm and crispy. =)

Enjoy!

Am I Strong Enough to Be Your Man?

To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, in the 2001 management book Now, Discover Your Strengths. The book spent more than five years on the bestseller lists and ignited a global conversation, while StrengthsFinder helped millions to discover their top five talents. In its latest national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular assessment. While you can read this book in one sitting, you'll use it as a reference for decades. Loaded with hundreds of strategies for applying your strengths, this new book and accompanying website will change the way you look at yourself -- and the world around you -- forever.

After taking the assessment (we're having a seminar on this later), this is a brief summary of my top 5 strengths ("themes") and descriptions:

1. COMMUNICATION -- People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

2. WOO -- People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

3. INDIVIDUALIZATION -- People who are especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.

4. STRATEGIC -- People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

5. EMPATHY -- People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others' lives or others' situations.

Read more about this book http://www.amazon.com/StrengthsFinder-2-0-Upgraded-Discover-Strengths/dp/159562015X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209068281&sr=1-1"> HERE

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Buddy-buddies

I got a "Friendster smile" from a lady named Jennifer from California. I clicked her profile, and her shoutout happened to be one helluva nice one...thought I'd share it with you.

There are three types of friends. One is like FOOD--those you cannot live without. The other is like MEDICINE--those you need occasionally. And there's one like ILLNESS--those you never want to have.

So...I am pulling out my hard-bound notebook and folding one page into three columns...Let's see which column YOU fall under. ;-)

OK, OK...Back to work!