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Instagram: Avocado Pudding: 1/2 ripe avocado, 1 banana, 1/4 cup soy milk, 1/2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp granola. #BaconTunaMelt #altbrekky

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Life

Rainy Day Noms

And just like that, the rainy season is here again. The soft steady rain was so calming this morning that getting out from under the covers and heading for work was insanely difficult. There’s something about waking up to the soft pitter-patter of raindrops on your windowpane that makes you want to stay in bed all day. What eventually got me out of bed today (besides the thought of deadlines, that is) was the thought of a hot, rainy day dish in my belly. And it got me started with this post. Today, I give you my list of my favorite noms for rainy days.

8. Ramen

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Ramen

Although not inherently Pinoy, the Japanese ramen has slowly creeped its way into our hearts. The big steaming bowl of hot noodle soup flavored with soy or miso and thinly sliced pork, soft boiled egg, and seaweed is fantastic for rainy day weather (or any kind of weather, come to think of it). It doesn’t hurt that ramen places are aplenty within the city and it’s fairly easy to head to one come a cool wet day.

7. Puto Bumbong

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Puto Bumbong

Traditionally steamed in bamboo tubes, a freshly-cooked serving of the sticky, purple Pinoy snack that’s usually topped with butter, coconut shavings, and sugar (sometimes latik) is an excellent thing to nom during a wet afternoon. Although most widely available during the Christmas season, sgiving those of us who associate the purple stuff with happy memories to relive them in the middle of a dreary rain.

6. Arroz Caldo

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Arroz Caldo

Arroz caldo is as comforting as it gets. The smell of hot rice porridge topped with boiled egg, chicken bits, and fried garlic can make me get up from bed any day.

5. Bibingka

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Bibingka

This soft, tasty rice cake is best eaten fresh out of the pugon (but I’ll take it whichever way). Like the puto bumbong, the bibingka is most widely available during the Christmas holidays but thankfully, some restaurants like Cafe Via Mare offer it all year long.

4. Champorado

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Champorado

Hot chocolate porridge normally drizzled with evaporated milk and eaten with dilis (salted and dried fish), this very Pinoy breakfast is a perfect rainy day nom. This thing has chocolate and rice and we call it breakfast? Win!

3. Sinigang

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Sinigang

Sure, this is regular fare for many but I’m sure all of you would agree that sinigang is best eaten on a cold, dreary day with an endless supply of piping hot white rice.

2. Tsokolate de Batirol

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Tsokolate de Batirol

Your regular hot chocolate has nothing on our very own tsokolate de batirol. To me, the bits of chocolate, the texture, and the richness of this drink makes for a happy rainy day drink that brings back fond childhood memories.

1. Taho

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Taho (Photo borrowed from Dubai Chronicles)

Topping my list of favorite rainy day noms is the easiest to acquire from all those in this list- taho. Hot soft soy pudding mixed in with (lots of) arnibal and topped with sago is the best rainy day fix. You can have it for breakfast, as a snack, or even as a nightcap.

So what will you be having on this cool wet day?

Noms

Balai Ilocos: Na-B.I. Ka Na Ba?

The family went on a beach trip to Quezon last weekend which seems to be the last weekend of summer for the year, if we’re basing it on the gloomy weather we’ve been having for the last few days. En route back to Manila, we were looking for a good place to nom and didn’t find any promising establishments until we got to the town of Pagsanjan (yup, we were all quite hangry by then). Luckily, it was Balai Ilocos along National Highway that caught our eye.

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Balai Ilocos near Pagsanjan

Stepping inside the premises of Balai Ilocos feels like being transported to a different time. Balai Isabel is a grand house from generations of old. You’d half expect ladies in sayas and men in barongs to come out and start singing kundiman (or you know, start stabbing you with bolos/itaks for trespassing). There are even old pictures displayed in one area of the restaurant that gives it a homey feel.

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The homey interior of Balai Ilocos with all wooden things.

Then again, we’re here to talk about the food. But instead of me rambling on and on about the noms at Balai Ilocos, I’ll just let the pictures tempt you (I’m mean like that).

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Di Makakalimutang Mechado (p250)

One of Balai Ilocos’ specialties is the Di Makakalimutang Mechado. That is actually what they call it. And yes, the dish does do the name justice.

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Bagnet (p220)

Another specialty is the dish simply called Bagnet. This heart stopper is well known in Ilocos, and Balai Ilocos’ version does not disappoint.

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Ginataang Gulay (p150)

The Ginataang Gulay was one of the healthier things on our table at that time, it’s like your typical pakbet minus the bagoong plus gata. I liked it so much I’ll be attempting to replicate it at home.

Buco Pandan (p85)
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Turon Ala Mode (p80)

Pinoy desserts are always a yummy treat.

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The restroom is labeled as kasilyas (the child in me keeps snickering).

Oo, na-B.I. na ako. Magpa-B.I. ka na din!

DIY

5 Happy Desserts You Can Have While On A Diet

No matter how many times my husband tries to convince me that sugar is the devil, I just cannot give up sweet stuff. When I imagine a life without sweets, I imagine it to be a sad one. Now that I’m attempting to eat healthier, I’m having a particularly rough time avoiding desserts after meals. So I don’t.

Instead, I looked for healthier alternatives. Below is my list of desserts to make life a little happier while on a diet.
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1. Gelatin

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Jell-O (image from Mom on Timeout)
They’re so happily-colored, like candy, that you may think you’re eating something sinful and delicious. Take away the ‘sinful’ and that’s what you get with gelatin. With no cholesterol and a minimal amount of sugar and sodium, it is an excellent alternative dessert. There are sugar-free versions for those who are watching their sugar intake down to the last microgram (either diabetics or crazies).

For special occasions, use pandan flavored jelly, add some coconut meat, some cream, a bit of conedensed milk and you’ve got yourself a festive buko pandan salad.

2. Fresh Fruit Popsicles

Happy Desserts (4)
Fruit Popsicle
When it’s hot outside, a happy way to cool yourself down would be with a sweet popsicle. As an alternative to your regular store-bought pops, homemade fruit popsicles are the way to go. They’re easy and cheap enough to make. My current favorite is the Strawberry Banana Yogurt popsicle. All you need to do is to puree a couple of bananas (or simply mash with a fork) and mix in a cup of strawberry yogurt. When that’s done, pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, and freeze. A few hours later and you’ve got yourself a healthy summer dessert.

Go crazy and mix and match your favorite fruit and yogurt combination (throw in some cucumber while you’re at it). They’ll all turn out delicious.

3. Buko Sherbet

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Buko Sherbet (image from Casa Veneracion)
The name sounds fancy, no? Don’t be fooled, it’s one of the easiest desserts to make especially in this country where coconuts are easy to come by. Pour the contents of 2-3 coconuts in a container you can freeze (an old ice cream tin would work) and scrape the meat into the tin as well. Depending on taste, add in one or two packets of Stevia or any sugar substitute and freeze. Take out of the freezer every hour or so and mix it until you get your desired consistency.

Coconut isn’t called the fruit of life for nothing. It has been known to have several positive benefits for health- it can increase your good cholesterol, help prevent strokes, boost your metabolism, among a few.

4. Fruits on yogurt

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Try not to eat this much in one go.
Fruits are always a healthy source of sweetness. Toss in some of your favorite mixed fruits cut up into bite-sized pieces in a bowl and dig in for a sweet and healthy dessert. Jazz it up with plain yogurt (Greek yogurt is the best nutrition-wise) and drizzle with honey if you want to sweeten it up some more and you’ve got yourself a healthy and sweet palate cleanser. Add in an avocado when you can. That sh*t has so many nutritional benefits it’s almost unbelievable.

5. Frozen banana + Nutella

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Banana + Nutella
When I have extra bananas that are already about to be overripe (which is every week), I slice it into small pieces, freeze in a freezer-friendly container and leave it there for whenever I need a pick-me-up. When that time comes, I get my pre-frozen bananas, scoop out a teaspoon of Nutella and indulge in healthy (ish) self-gratification.

I know that Nutella isn’t as healthy as the world would like it to be since one serving (2 tbsp) has 21 grams of sugar. But if you only get one teaspoon (just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth craving), it’ll cut down the sugar to a third, or just 7 grams, which is semi-acceptable.

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Me whenever I nom.
Don’t completely deprive yourself of all the happy things in life. From time to time, give in to your cravings. It’s better to be chubby but happy rather than be sexy but dying inside.

Travel

[TRAVEL NOMS] Taipei Street Food

Hey guys! I hope you all had an fantastic weekend like I did. As we get ready to go back to the daily grind, I thought of flooding you with pictures of noms from a recent trip to Taipei.

As a first timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unlike Bangkok which is known for tasty meals and cheap shopping, or Japan with their endless Kawaii stuff and their vending machine noms, Taipei is a bit on the down low. There were many surprises as soon as I got there. Firstly, did you know that Taiwan was under Japanese rule for half a century? No? Neither did I. Secondly, did you know that weather in Taipei could get as chilly as 8°C in spring!? Yes? Oh, so it’s just me. Thirdly, did you know that they have really interesting and tasty noms? Yes too? Okay, I really need to brush up on International cuisine.

Anyway, check out some Taipei street food I saw and tried while I was there-

Ximending

Ximending is one of Taipei’s busiest shopping areas. To the left there’d be a Starbucks, to the right, there’d be a booth with roast duck and pork. It’s a fun fusion of local and international food and goodies.

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They seem to have a thing for ampalaya (correct me if I’m wrong), making them into shakes and other things.
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Roast duck and pork by the sidewalk.

Nanmen Market

Nanmen Market is a building near the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. The first thing you should know about this building is that is entirely powered by solar power (air conditioning and all). On the ground floor, you can buy fresh fruits, meat jerky, nuts, and dried fruits by the gram.

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Fruits galore!

Upstairs, there is a food court where you’d be hard pressed to find an English menu. So, you’d have to copy whatever the person ahead of you in line ordered and pray it weren’t something weird like lizard eyes or something.

Shilin Night Market

It would seem like EVERYTHING can be bought in Shilin Night Market. From dog clothes, to cellphone accessories, to bike parts, to clothes, you name it, they’ve got it. Outside of goodies, there are a bajillion food booths all over the place, it smelled like food whichever way you turn.

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Not actually frog eggs, it’s just sweet milk tea.
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Fruits are really sweet. <3
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Taipei’s version of isaw and other weird animal parts.
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These are later fried with batter and served on skewers, much like our own kwek-kwek.
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Sausages aplenty!
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So many food booths next and across each other.
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Candied strawberries (I think) and tomatoes (yep).
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Fried seafood.

All in all, the food culture in Taipei is a thumbs up. There’s still so much to discover from this pleasant city, will definitely go back again.

Noms

Diet Schmiet

Right now, I really should be in a gym pretentiously working off some calories because I’m on a “diet” but I have a couple of excuses tonight*. Instead, I choose to write about food, oh the irony. I say “diet” because I’m not exactly on a strict regimen, but I am actively trying to lose weight. “Slowly but surely.” is my current motto (or the default motto of the lazy) mostly because it has been known that crash diets do not end well.

The general rule for weight loss is 70% food, 30% exercise, so ensuring that my food intake is controlled was top priority (also, I hate exercise). To jumpstart my weightloss, I decided to enlist the help of diet food programs. Thankfully, there are many choices available for chubbies like me.

The Good Box

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The Good Box | Php2,750/1200cal

The first one I tried is The Good Box. For Php2,750, you get 3 meals + 2 snacks a day totaling 1200 calories per day for five days from Mondays through Fridays. What I liked about The Good Box is that they include healthy flavored drinks with your meals. The drawback however is that because flavored drinks have calories too, they take out those calories from the main meals, making meals less than what you’d expect (or at least what my stomach expected).

I won’t deny it, the first week on a controlled 1200 calorie diet was terrible. It’s not that the food was bad, but I was just really used to eating much more. I scarfed everything down to the last grain of rice everyday like the glutton that I am, that’s just how hungry I was.

Delicious Diet

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Delicious Diet | Php1,800/1200cal

Since I was hungry most of the time the first week, I decided to test the waters and try other delivery food companies. Delicious Diet caught my eye because it was cheaper for the same amount of calories. Their 1200 calorie plan costs Php1,800 per week. You get 3 meals + 1 snack a day from Mondays through Fridays. What I really liked about Delicious Diet are the premium drinks that came with the plan, you’d usually get a rich tasting coffee or a uniquely flavored tea. What I didn’t like was that the food was mostly tasteless and uninteresting ground meat and a bunch of brown rice (rice carbs are the devil).

Incidentally, they also have a specialized sister company called Diabetic Diet which targets diabetics or those who just want to cut down on their sugar intake. Meals are Php2,500 for 1200 calories but they are worth every extra centavo (I won’t cover them in this post because  we’re focusing on the generic 1200 calorie meal plans for now).

Lunchbox Diet

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Lunchbox Diet | Php1,700/1200cal

One of the biggest and most organized diet food delivery companies these days is Lunchbox Diet. They offer their 1200 calorie plans at only Php 1,700 per week including delivery fee. My thought bubble then went: “They’re cheaper than all the others I’ve tried, the food must be gross.” But a friend of mine recommended it so I gave it a go despite my misgivings. I’m glad I did too, because the food was not only tasty, they were also proportioned nicely. By that, I mean I don’t get 1 cup of rice for a tablespoon of meat. Instead, I got half a cup of rice with a decent amount of meat dish. Plus, I regularly got fruits as a snack. 

The only con is that sometimes, not all the time but it happened a few times, their meals would smell funky as soon as they were delivered.

They can also swap the default red rice to white (and other various requests like “no raisins” or “no nuts”) for an additional Php50 per day for extra handling.

Yummy Diet

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Yummy Diet | Php1900/1200cal

Next, I tried Yummy Diet. 1200 calorie plans cost P1,900 per week, Mondays through Fridays. Three meals, 2 snacks, you know the drill. What I love about Yummy Diet is that 1. There’s a surprise weekly freebie (who doesn’t love surprises?), 2. They have the most fresh veggies out of all I’ve tried at this price range, 3. They give you a pair of metal spoon and fork for the week (yay, environment!), 4. They give you a week’s worth of coffee, tea, and Stevia, 5. They have promos for longer reservations (I got a 5% discount when I ordered for 2 weeks). Their food is pretty tasty and you get a good variety every week.

One of my favorites would be the famous Yummy Diet’s Ham Breakfast Cups. It’s eggs baked inside ham used as cupcake liner. No grains, no extenders, no carbs.

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Yummy Diet’s Ham Breakfast Cups
Another favorite of mine is  Yummy Diet’s Healthy Beef Stew. The rice came separately but I’m a child and I choose to mix in my rice with my meat and veggies (It’s better that way, try it!). The meat is so tender it melts in your mouth and although the dish looks tiny, the whole meal is very filling. Thats a good summary for Yummy Diet food- you get a well-portioned meal but you don’t really feel like you’ve been deprived of all that is good in life.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with Yummy Diet meals and have not jumped ship since starting. That’s just how good the noms are. I’m also losing some weight, huzzah!

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Yummy Diet’s Healthy Beef Stew
Excuses for not working out tonight:
1. I have a headache.
2. I just came back from the hospital.
3. I’m lazy (What’s new?).

Noms

RECIPE: Homemade Pesto Sauce

Hi guys! There have been tweaks here and there but as a whole, the blog update is still in progress, please bear with me. In the meantime, I thought to put up this recipe post to immortalize a simple but versatile homemade sauce that should be a staple in anyone’s kitchen- Pesto Sauce.

Besides being used as pasta sauce, pesto also goes well with chicken and fish, be it baked, boiled, broiled, or even fried.
Pesto sauce goes well with chicken and fish, be it baked, boiled, broiled, or even fried.

Pesto is made traditionally with pine nuts, while they can be hard to find* on this side of the planet, you can easily substitute pine nuts with cashew nuts, which is happily readily available most anywhere in this country. Since I already had me some pine nuts bought from a recent trip to Taipei, I had my mind set on making Pesto when I got some free time.

And free time there was last Monday, election day for us Pinoy folks aka a non-working holiday, so I set out to make some homemade Pesto sauce. Here’s what you’ll need if you want to make your own-

Ingredients:
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup EVOO
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (or cashew nuts)
4 cloves of garlic
Salt & pepper

Procedure:
In a food processor, dump in the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and blend until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, add EVOO to the mixture and your Pesto sauce is done.

That’s how easy it is. It took me about half an hour to finish and I had enough pesto sauce for dinner for two that night plus some more for future use. If stored properly, it should keep for about a week or so. For dinner that night, I boiled spaghetti noodles, mixed in some of the pesto sauce, and topped it with boiled pepper chicken. My official taste tester/husband was pretty happy.

Easy pesto for dinner.
Easy pesto for dinner.

*Recently, I found pine nuts for sale per gram in a Rustan’s supermarket.