Monthly Archives: May 2007

Easy-Easy Kare-Kare

I’ve always associated the dish with painstaking, tedious preparation and that kept me from trying to cook it myself. It seems too big for a tiny kitchen and too much of a task for one person. Thankfully, it’s the era of short cuts and substitutions. A bottle of peanut butter can take the place of pounded peanuts, toasted rice and achuete (annatto) seeds. So let me share with you my version that’s still full-flavored but done in half the time. The longest part of the cooking process is pre-boiling the meat (preferably oxtail, as tripe needs more cleaning, boiling and brushing to take out the stinky smell). If you plan to have the dish ready for lunch, you can do that bit in the evening or about 3 hours before hubby remembers he’s hungry.

And now for the recipe, good for 2-3 meals for 2 homesick people:

Cook about 6 oxtail cuts, for at least an hour or until the meat is fork tender. Remove part of the broth, and just leave some liquid about the same level as the meat.

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Saute lots of onion and garlic in oil. Add the sliced eggplants, string beans (and banana hearts, if you have). Let them cook for a few minutes then transfer all into the pot of oxtail and broth. Add peanut butter (about a little jar of Skippy) and stir. Pop in 1 beef cube and simmer for 15 minutes. This is also a good time to add in your leafy greens.

While that’s simmering away, saute shrimp paste in garlic and chilli peppers, then set aside. Be sure that steamed rice is ready by the time you finish cooking. Waiting for it is torture if your olfactory nerves are already eating up the scents of bagoong and kare-kare.

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Computer Says No

Got a new hard drive with the latest OS. Well, sort of new. It’s a hand-me-down from our studio, part of the computer upgrade program for the creative department. The thing is, since it’s “new” it doesn’t have all the applications I’ve painstakingly downloaded from way back. And worse, it doesn’t seem to have IPhoto! How can it not have IPhoto!!! It’s supposed to come with the whole ILife lot!!! Argh!

Over at the other side of the wall, my fellow writer is up in arms. His computer was also “upgraded” to a G5 that only has Microsoft Office. Sheeesh. Like me, he likes doing his layouts and tinkering with Photoshop. I’d like to try out Illustrator myself, but I’ve been told earlier on, that being a writer, I have no use for those kinds of software. Sigh. Anyhooo…

On the upside, the lack of basic apps like Groupwise and Pegasus gives us an excuse not to do our timesheets and check our office emails or get reminders for meetings from the office calendar. What can I do? In the words of my favourite bank employee from Little Britain, computer says “no.”

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Sounds Amazing!

Mike and I seldom see a movie in a theatre, except for movies that are supposedly best seen on widescreen, like 300. Add to that, movies tickets, which are much higher on weekends, cost us $10 each. So we always end up buying DVDs instead and enjoying films at our own leisure, with popcorn straight from the microwave oven and soda from Cold Storage. Yep, we are cheapskates hee hee. But we do buy original DVDs.

It has become our Saturday ritual to drop by HMV and see if there are new titles out. We grab a few we could watch that night. After which, we’ll talk about how the movie could have sounded better with a proper home theatre system. The next day we’ll be out in an audio store and Mike will be checking every speaker set and like a little boy, he’ll look at me as if saying, “can we take that one home with us, puh-leeez”. So after lots of rationalising and justification, I signed on the dotted line and got him a Harman Kardon Symphony home theatre system for his birthday. Damage to credit card: Ay caramba! Expression on Mike’s face: Priceless.

The audio guys delivered it in a few days and hooked it up with the DVD player, cable box, and tv set. 4 tower speakers, 1 front speaker, 1 subwoofer and an AVR. (Harman Kardon, Mike says, is a good brand. And from my little knowledge and 2 year personal experience with my simple HK Soundsticks, I have to agree.) The audio guy tested out Babel on it. It was amazing hearing the sounds from the speaker system, every little detail comes out crisp and clear. Well, for the price we got it, I’m expecting to be blown away. And blow us away it did. We jumped when the sound of a gun being fired (in the film) blasted through the subwoofer. Awesome!
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So there it is in our living room, fitting in nicely with the rest of the stuff at home. American Idol contestants sound so much better through it and you can literally feel every heart-pounding minute of 24 and Prison Break. Funny though, lately we’ve been too busy to watch a movie with the home theatre system we’ve always wanted. Now that sounds awful.

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Monday Night Carbonara

It’s always hard to think of what to cook for dinner on a Monday night but the fifteen minute walk home was helpful. After mentally going through my mom’s repertoire of easy-to-cook dishes and what I had in the fridge and cupboard, I was torn between chicken soup and pasta. What tipped the balance was the super-salty bacon I’ve been trying to ignore. So with a side trip to the grocery for some parmesan cheese, I headed home to make quick and painless carbonara. It goes a little something like this:

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Cut the bacon strips into little square pieces then put them in a hot pan and let the fat melt. Sautee onion and garlic in the bacon oil. When the bacon squares have browned, mix in cooked spaghetti. Then sprinkle with lots of grated parmesan and a dash of pepper. Finally, pour in a cup of low-fat milk, mix it well with the pasta then turn off the heat. If there seems to be too much milk in the pan, let it stand for a while to let the noodles absorb it. Other than that, it’s good to go.

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Why Oh Wireless!

Mike bought me the new airport extreme base station two weeks ago. I was pretty excited about finally maximizing my laptop’s airport features. Ready to begin my love affair with wireless technology, finally set free from the web of wires and cables growing beside the power outlet. It worked fine for the first week then suddenly, it just went bonkers. Tried every imaginable reset combinations, soft reset, hard reset, plug, unplug, on, off… but nothing seems to work. It was really frustrating specially that it happened in the weekend and got worse Sunday night. So I decided to give Apple technical support a call. A guy with a thick American accent answered but we didn’t go farther than he asking my name and contact number and me telling him what my problem was. He had to know the serial number of my macbook, which was sitting at home. Sigh. So I’ll call back later when I get home. And if nothing happens, it’s back to direct connection. Too bad, I was beginning to enjoy being unattached, while surfing that is.

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NGT 846

My father drove a yellow car. I barely recall what kind of car it was, must be a Celica or a Mustang, one of those pointy-looking cars that strutted the streets in the 70s. At my age then, 7 or 8, I didn’t have a clue and it didn’t matter anyway. He drove us everywhere in it – to my grandparents in Nueva Ecija, to the CCP and Philtrade for an early morning jog, to Aristocrat in Roxas Boulevard, to the Magnolia ice cream parlor in Aurora Boulevard, to my school, to Rizal Theatre, to the hospital where I was confined for a whole month when I was 9, to my auntie’s graduation from law school, to my mom’s own graduation. It was this way, every Saturday, so I’d wait for the car Friday night. On a good day, it would already be parked outside our house and I’d see it as I came down from my school bus. My dad worked for the government as a trade agent, (not the James Bond type but he did carry a gun) and was usually assigned to some far-flung city which meant he was only back with us on weekends. Having him around was already a treat in itself. If we weren’t in the car going around town, I’d be playing with my cousins for a while then spend the better part of the day being my dad’s shadow and the center of his attention.

Being his only child and daughter (well, that’s as far as I know from my set of parents), I was proud to be told by people that we look like each other. My mom said I take after him, in a lot of ways. He loved the arts, he drew well, he loved building things for the house, he danced and sang well too. Sometimes I would sit with him as he wrote calligraphy to label my books and notebooks for school. I’d try it myself but Speedball was just so messy so I didn’t enjoy it at all. What I loved was dancing with him. He’d put a record on the turntable and we’d dance the cha-cha in the living room. He’s a great dancer, sexy in a daddy sort of way and we looked really funny bouncing around the house, all 6 burly feet of him and me, half his size. We also shared a love for Rocky Road and Double Dutch ice creams, Hershey’s chocolate bars and kisses and homemade chocolate porridge. One time, he went all fruity and tried making papaya ice cream which turned out bitter and mushy. Although he never failed with his original recipe pork barbeque and chicken soup with pasta he made from scratch. My uncles and aunts loved his cooking and they would troop to the house whenever he was home.

One weekend, when I was ten, just after Christmas, he came and left. I didn’t see him drive away. I wish I did so I could have hugged him and kissed him before he was gone. I waited for the car to come back weekend after weekend but it never did. The weeks became months that became years. And every time I’d see a yellow car that almost looked like my father’s car, my heart would stop and I would stare at it and try to catch the driver’s face or the plate number — NGT 846. My memory of that car’s color might explain my love for yellow. I do wonder how I could recall such an odd set of letters and numbers. Maybe, because in my head, it’s the last strand of connection I had with him. I forget that I am his living memory.

The other night, by some strange imagining or wishful thinking, I saw him again…in my dream. We were on the road, in a car. Was it yellow? It wasn’t so clear. He was leaving, so what’s new. But this time I get the chance to hug him and kiss him goodbye. I thought I would never hear his voice again. I know it was just a dream, and probably just my subconscious processing an episode of Heroes. But his words, I will keep in my heart, together with all the happy times in that yellow car and the wonderful man I first danced with. Papa.

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Perfect Day

Someone said in some tv show, “You wait all your life to find Mr or Ms Perfect. Not perfect in themselves but perfect for you. That person who can see throulaugh.jpggh your eyes. And you, through his. You wait and wait, and sometimes you just run out of time.” Thankfully I didn’t have to wait that long. I found him more than 10 years ago, in a McDonald’s restaurant. I didn’t wish for someone like him. I only prayed that God bless me with a good person. And that’s what I was given. For all his flaws and weaknesses, he makes up with so much love for me and my family. A few days ago, he celebrated another birthday and all I could wish for is many, many, many more years with Mr. Perfect.

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