Food-venture at Bleu Boheme

This evening, I met my dear friend from college, Jan, for dinner. Over 10 years later, I realize that we still have what makes our friendship so special to me – commonalities, easy conversation and a natural connection. One of the things we have in common is our love for the culinary world – in fact, we agree that a culinary degree is more appealing to us today versus the business degree we earned. We decided to meet at Bleu Boheme in the Kensington area for an early dinner.

Bleu Boheme has a sweet deal – an early bird prix-fixe menu if you are seated before 6pm. It’s $22 per person for a three course meal. We both started with their petite soupe a l’oignon gratinee (french onion soup). Now, I don’t love the texture of onions, but I do love the flavor. Weird, I know. The soup was tasty and the perfect portion.

French Onion Soup

For my entree, I was torn. I had been craving moules and pomme frites, but I’m pretty sure I would be ordering that on my date night with Hubby this Friday. Jan suggested the duck confit. I think I’ve only ordered duck once in my life and although it was good, it was quite greasy. But I was  game to try something outside of my culinary comfort zone. I am SO glad I ordered the duck – it was delicious, well seasoned, cooked perfectly, NOT greasy, and the best part…the crispy skin! Mmmm…this came with pomme frites.

Duck Confit with Pomme Frites

For dessert, we each had the chocolate mousse, which was the only option on the prix fixe. It was decadent and just enough – it was served in what I would describe as a “baby ramekin”.

Chocolate Mousse

Definitely a spoon and fork up to Bleu Boheme – I’d love to take Hubby there sometime. I raved to him about the duck in detail and I can tell he was a wee bit envious when I mentioned the crispy skin. :)  I’m so glad that I got to catch up with an old friend and indulge in a wonderful dinner with her. Happy early birthday, Jan!

Jan & Shaye

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Getting Ready for Easter

Another Easter holiday is just around the corner! As the kids get older, the more challenging it gets to assemble an Easter basket that is fit for their age. Sometimes I wonder whether or not it would matter if they got a basket of goodies and had an egg-hunt or not…but as a mom, I vote “yes”! :) If anything, it’s fun just to get “something” from the “Easter Bunny”.

Ella and her cousin Addy will be doing an egg hunt on Saturday at Liberty Station, but I’m also assembling a little Easter “bucket” for them this year…still have to finish filling it up. But I’m finished assembling the petite buckets for our two older girls (14 and 9) as well as our son’s girlfriend – Hubby says that we “adopted” another girl. LOL. I just think it’s a nice gesture to get something from your bf’s family on the holidays, even if it’s something small – plus…I like her and think she’s been very good to him. I asked him yesterday “So, do you still like her?” jokingly. And he said “Yes” laughing. And I said “Just checking in…I like her, that’s why I made her an Easter bucket.” And he smiled. I think it makes him happy that we are supportive of his gf. I can only pray that our daughters’ future bfs and bfs family will be just as good to them…but that’s a long way down the road (in my mind).

In the girls’ buckets, I put fun and practical things. I tried to avoid the stuff that they’ll never use or too much candy because that stuff ends up being “kalat” (mess in Tagalog) around the house. I found  pens and mechanical pencils in a really cute spring design from the Dollar Tree store, packs of mini Hello Kitty nail polishes, Hello Kitty nail files and Helly Kitty lip glosses from Target. I also put in those “claw” clips from the Dollar Tree store. I threw in a couple of these Cookies N Creme chocolate eggs. I put everything in these mini tin buckets I found in the dollar section at Target, added a little Easter grass, and wrapped them up in cellophane, tied with a bright ribbon and made tags that resemble green grass personalized with the names Ella calls them (Nini and Sisi) using scrapbook letter stickers.

Easter goodies for Nini & Sisi

We plan on doing a little Easter egg hunt around the house – some eggs will be filled with chocolate and some will be filled with money! Money becomes appealing as you get older. LOL. And weather permitting, we’re thinking of having a picnic in the park and bringing a football, our gloves and balls, and just enjoying the day. If it rains, we’ll probably just stay home and bake and spend quality time together…or maybe rent a movie OnDemand.

Last night for dinner, we had Beef Pra Ram. Hubby has made this a couple times before, and it’s pretty darn good. Son has been requesting this dish for several weeks and since it was just him last night, we thought it would be nice to cook this for him. While I was assembling Easter buckets with Ella, the “boys” were downstairs cooking – our son made the sauce. Sooo good! He’s definitely just like his Dad. :)

Beef Pra Ram

Speaking of our son, I was so surprised by a text I received from him yesterday morning. It read: “Good morning Mom. Did you forget your lunch?” I didn’t forget my lunch, I just left something out for him that he could eat for lunch that afternoon, and he thought it was supposed to be for me. But how sweet is it that my 5 ’11 17 year old stepson who has a very deep manly voice would even care that his stepmom may not have anything for lunch that day? Melted my heart – these moments I cherish. I am so lucky to have him. :)

Q&A Time

In my April 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping, I read an interview with Guy Fieri. Guy, along with Anthony Bourdain, Robert Irvine, Mario Batali, Andrew Zimmern, Duff and Aaron McCargo, is my Hubby’s favorite foodie TV personality. Here are my responses to the questions GH asked Guy Fieri.

The best road trip I’ve taken with my family was…
when we drove to San Francisco. We had just gotten engaged, and I remember the ring was a wee bit loose on my finger and I had a moment of fear when I thought I had lost it! We pulled over to look for the ring and found it in a bag of wings we packed from the BBQ the day before! It wasn’t funny then, but it makes for a good story now! LOL. We took the 1 thinking it would be scenic and fun…it was a  big mistake! Kids were antsy and like the old Travel Lodge commercial, all we heard was “Are we there yet?” like 1,000 times! Hubby and I both admit that it was a very LONG ride and know better to just take the “shorter” route. But we definitely made the most of it – we saw zebras grazing outside of Hearst Castle, we stopped at Bubba Gump’s, Cannery Row in Monterrey and finally made it to our final destination. It was an amazing trip with lots of wonderful memories made.

The one thing I always do around the house is…
do the family’s laundry – wash and fold! This is the chore that I don’t mind doing and for me, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see my family has a neatly stacked pile of clean clothes ready for the week. Plus, when Hubby does the laundry, he tends to mix up mine and the girls’ tank tops and socks! I also cook meals for the family and make it a point to cook breakfast on the weekends, sometimes with the Hubby which is a lot of fun!

The one thing I never do around the house is…
clean the kids’ rooms or bathrooms. That is their territory, and we’re teaching them to take care of their designated spaces. Even though this happens outside of the house, I never wash our cars. The kids wash our cars to earn a little bit of cash and I have to say that they do a much better job than I ever could.

The best part of being married is…
having a best friend around all the time – we bounce ideas off each other, vent to each other, go on adventures together, comfort each other, dream together, and you are guaranteed that hug whenever you need it. Being married is always having someone there to love you, forever, no matter what.

The one habit of mine that drives my Hubby crazy is…
leaving my many purses, shoes and bobby pins around everywhere…and changing my mind at the last minute, which he calls “Making an executive decision.” I love you. :)

The one habit of my Hubby’s that drives me crazy is…
he is a perfectionist, which means that he takes a little longer to do most things – cooking, work around the house, homework with the kids…but the end result is truly a “perfect” product of his tenacity and patience with everything. I’m still learning to be more patient, thanks to him.

My favorite thing to do on a Saturday is…
it’s a 3-way tie…1) I like to go grocery shopping by myself early in the morning when it’s not crowded in the store and I can take my time and enjoy that hour to myself. 2) I like making a nice hearty breakfast for the family so they can wake up to the smell of bacon or whatever it is I’m cooking up. 3) And if the weather is beautiful, I like sitting in our patio with a cup of coffee or refreshing drink – that is absolutely the most relaxing part of our home for me.

I’m really proud of the fact that…
at a young age of 26, I made the decision to love and help raise my Hubby’s 3 children. Now with 1 of my own, I am a mother of 4. It is definitely a difficult task and committment to take on – to compromise, be understanding, nurturing and patient – through good times and bad. We’ve had some very trying times, but I have made a committment to myself to keep improving upon myself to be the best mother I can be, to continue to teach them new things and show them new experiences, and to find a healthy balance within myself as an individual and as a mother.

The one family ritual I never mess with is…
saying grace before every meal and eating together as a family. I didn’t grow up saying grace before meals or eating with my family at the dinner table – this is something that I just followed suit with when I became part of this family. I realize the impact “giving thanks and prayer” has on our children – it teaches them to be thoughtful and grateful for what they have, and to say it out loud will hopefully help them be affectionate and expressive with those in their lives. The dinner table is our gathering place, where we learn about each other’s days and talk about anything and everything. It keeps us close and connected.

Remembering Inay

I always look at Ella and think “How lucky are you to meet both sets of your grandparents?” I never met either of my grandfathers, who both died at an early age. I was happy to have both grandmothers in my life – Inay (maternal) and Nanay (paternal). I was extremely attached to Inay since she raised me. Nanay lived in Jacksonville, Florida, so it would only be infrequent visits that I would spend time with her.

I was attached to Inay, and as an adult, I smile at all the thoughtful things she did for me. Never wore a big smile, or said ‘I love you’, or gave out hugs. But she loved me, no doubt. And when I think of all the special memories of her, it inspires me to keep on doing the “little things” because I want my kids to have those same special memories of us together to look back on when they’re grown up.

I remember her making me an angel cake with buttercream frosting for my birthdays – she would use food dye to make colored frosting and would pipe “Happy Birthday Sheryl” through a plastic bag. I remember her making “ice candy” – a creamy version of popsicles. I remember her sewing my Barbie dresses. I remember her buying me a toy ironing board because she saw that I always wanted to do what she was doing. I remember her always smelling like AVON powder – that was the extent of her vanity – she never used make-up and would always use a comb for her hair, not a hair brush. Oh, and I loved loved LOVED her cooking and the patience she showed with those delicate Filipino desserts (brazo de mercedes). Her empanadas were my absolute fave!

When I got married, I wanted our photographer to snap shots of my mom putting on my veil the same way my grandmother did for her. I miss my Inay, and wish that she lived to meet Joe and our children, especially little Ella.

Inay, Mom & Me

2: Story Behind The Food

Today we had an early celebration for my father-in-law. If you’ve been to one of our parties, you know we cook for an army! It doesn’t matter if two people are coming or twenty, we always throw down in the kitchen. I think it has a lot to do with having a large family – we are already trained to feed the masses, and we enjoy it!

For Papa’s birthday, we decided to have a “plate lunch” menu. Plate lunches usually consist of rice, a protein (usually BBQ chicken or beef, shrimp or kalua pork) and the other carb-staple macaroni salad. Hubby attempted for the first time the famous kalua pig and ooooh baby….it was so ono! He nailed it! Great job, hon. He also made (for the first time) shrimp-truck style shrimps. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, this is the garlicky, buttery goodness that the shrimp is pan-fried in. Again, he nailed it! Today’s food was reminicent of our trips to Hawaii, and specifically to the North Shore. Here are some photogs of our creations.

Shrimp-truck style

Kalua pork - so ono

Mom's mac salad (tried to re-create)

Bibinka - Hubby & I used to make this a lot...even sell it!

Notice the candle is a "?" - Happy Bday Papa! :)

Aly added some flavor with her party signs - like father, like daughter. NATE1 would be proud. :)

Ella picked out what she wanted to wear today - a tutu!

On The Foodie Radar

I’m always up for a new foodie adventure, whether it’s trying a new recipe in the kitchen or a new dining experience – food excites me!

So, this weekend we have a full squad at home. :) We love getting the kids involved in cooking, so we will be asking each kid to tell us a vegetable they want us to create a dish with – it will encourage us all (especially me) to eat more vegetables, and be creative with how to prepare it next week. I will be having fun perusing through my magazines for recipes this weekend!

We are also inviting the in-laws over for lunch this weekend – early birthday get-together for my father-in-law. As Hubby put it, we’ll be preparing a Hawaiian/Filipino plate lunch. He’s going to attempt kalua pig, we’re going to make our BBQ chicken (kids’ fave) and I’m making palabok (noodles with a creamy chicken based sauce with toppings including sliced boiled eggs, green onions, crushed chicharones, and lemon slices) – my in-laws seem to enjoy it every time we cook it and as a Filipino tradition – you should always have noodles on your birthday to signify a long life! I’ll post pictures of this feast next week.

Every holiday, I always try to find a culinary craft for the kids to take part in. In past Easters we’ve made Mini Cheesecake Easter Baskets, PEEP Chicks in Green Grass Cupcakes, and although it wasn’t really a craft, one of my more memorable creations was my homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – a classic!

This year, I think we will make homemade marshmallows. I remember when my friend Karen brought some to work years ago and although I am not a big fan of marshmallows, hers were so delicious – you can tell they were homemade and made with love. I think I will have the kids drop in some food coloring and swirl it around to make “pastel” marshmallows.

Next week, I have a dinner date with my dear friend from college. We reconnected via FB and it turns out that we both have this “foodie” side to us – we both review restaurants on our personal blogs and love venturing out to new places. We’re checking out Blue Boheme in the Kensington area and I’m so excited (and excited to see my old friend too :) )

Happy Friday, everyone!

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • This week flew by because it was extremely busy! Midweek softball game, reports due, appointments, new daycare arrangements, and lots of dealing with the “non-listeners” in the family…and it gets busier into the weekend. Hope we find time to unwind. :(
  • I’m convinced that our children got together and decided “Let’s drive mom and dad crazy all week. Ready? GO!”
  • Have to finalize what we’re doing for Easter weekend – we’re taking Ella to Liberty Station for the big egg hunt on Saturday, but all the other kids will be back with us on Easter Sunday. We may do an Easter egg hunt where the “green” eggs have a dollar value. As the kids get older…money seems to be more of a motivator to get them to look for eggs. LOL! And I think Hubby and I decided that instead of dealing with the crowded restsaurants on Easter Sunday, we’ll just cook good food at home, thank you very much! Menu planning…
  • Praying for my *friend* during this difficult time – I keep thinking about her and imagining what she is going through.
  • Was really proud of Ella for getting through her first day at daycare. When I arrived to pick her up, she ran so fast towards me saying “Mommy, Mommy!” and gave me a great big hug! One of the best feelings. :)
  • I heart our new couch and how much space it has freed up.
  • The smell of coffee coming out of McDonald’s this morning reminded me of roadtrips Hubby and I would take together – we’d always stop by McDonald’s to pick up coffee and breakfast before heading out on the road. We’re planning our next weekend getaway.
  • So random, but this week I watched the We Are The World videos on youtube – I got chicken skin just seeing all these artists gathered together (then and now) to sing their hearts out for a good cause. I still like the original more because of MJ and it seemed more “raw” – everyone seemed to record their parts in each other’s presence, as oppose to being “alone” in a recording booth and doing multiple re-takes of their part. Enjoy.

USA for Africa – We Are The World

Help for Haiti – We Are The World

It’s Just a Fly Love Song…

Pandora is pouring through my Paul Frank headphones, and an oldie but goodie came on – “Come Close” by Common. For you non-believers, hip-hop can exude romance in lyrics. It’s like poetry in motion…enjoy!

Here’s the music video – but check the lyrics too (last verse is my fave)!

[Intro]
[Common:] It’s just a fly love song, what
[Mary J:] Mmmmm
[Common:] It’s just a fly love song, what

[Verse: Common]
Are we living in a dream world?
Are your eyes still green girl?
I know your sick and tired of arguing
But you can’t keep it bottled in
Jealousy, we got to swallow it
Your heart and mind baby follow it
Smile, happiness you could model it
And when you feel opposite
I just want you to know
Your whole being is beautiful
Im going to do the best I can do
Cause i’m the best when i’m with you

[Chorus: Mary J. Blige]
Come close to me baby
Let your love hold you
know this world is crazy
What’s it without you

[Verse: Common]
Put down your bags love
I know in the past love
Has been sort of hard in you
But I see the God in you
I just want to nurture it
Though this love may hurt a bit
We dealing wit this water love
You even give my daughter love
I want to build a tribe wit you
Protect and provide for you
Truth is I can’t hide from you
The pimp in me
May have to die with you

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
I know what you’re thinking, you’re on my mind
You’re right, you’re right, you’re right
You runnin’ so fast you just might take flight
Hope your not tired, tonight, tonight

[Verse: Common]
You help me to discover me
I just want you to put trust in me
I kind of laugh when you cuss at me
The aftermath is you touching me
It’s destiny that we connected girl
You and I we can affect the world
I’m tired of the fast lane
I want you to have my last name

[Chorus]

[Bridge (2x)]

Turn That :( Upside Down

Not feeling very well – wish I didn’t have to work today. Meetings, projects, deadlines…and on top of it all, I feel icky. Headache, nausea, exhaustion. Everytime I watch this clip of Ella and her cousin Addy, I feel better.

Headphones are going on, and I’m tuning out the world. Time to work.