Monday, August 25, 2014

Home made lasagna

After the baking "experiments" in the recent weeks, the Clairvoyant decided to try making lasagna for lunch. This was actually the second time but the first one without guidance or help from our friend who taught her to make apple pie. This time she decided to make lasagna for lunch after ruling out spaghetti and baked macaroni. The latter was her "specialty" and she did make good baked mac for Christmas or New Year's eve dinners. That she did at her parents' home where they have an oven. She hadn't made baked mac for quite some time now so I thought she cook up some for our guests last weekend.

Unfortunately, I was not able to take photos of the process and the final product after it came out of the oven. I only have two photos to show what's left of the lasagna after we had enjoyed a bit of it. It was a hit so I guess the photos would at least give an idea of what we "feasted" on over lunch last weekend with our cousin and her family who were visiting from Hong Kong.

What's left of the lasagna after we had a few servings...

A close-up of the scrumptious layers of sauce and pasta doesn't really give justice to the taste; but the wife got the best ingredients for the sauce and the cheese so I already knew it would be good even before the lasagna was finished.
I wasn't able to get the lasagna noodles that had ridges. We only had the flat ones available from the nearby supermarket so it was a bit tricky to make the layers for the pasta dish. Nevertheless, this didn't affect the final product as it still tasted great (though I may certainly be biased in this case). I am looking forward to the baked macaroni the next time we're using the oven for some pasta.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Delightful gyoza!

I have not been to SM Megamall for quite some time now and have been curious about the new restaurants and shops at the new wing of the mall. The new wing looks like it was inspired by the SM Aura by the look and feel of its design. It is more spacious and better lighted than most SM malls. The shops are different and not the usual anchor stores you will find in the typical mall. But what interested me were the restaurants and cafes. I have seen at least three that are definitely worth eating at - Tim Ho Wan, Lucca and Osaka Ohsho. The first is a Chinese restaurant is easily the most popular restaurant in SM Megamall given the long lines forming once the mall (and the restaurant) opens its doors. The second is more like a cafe and has a full menu of baked delights aside from sandwiches and pasta. Lucca reminds me a lot of Wild Flour and is a most welcome option, an alternative to rice meals that are the staple of most restaurants in the Philippines.

We decided to have an early lunch and saw from afar that Tim Ho Wan was already full of people and had a very long queue of customers waiting for their turn to eat there. Our first interest was Lucca but then the wife recently ate at Wild Flour and wanted to have Japanese food. There was already a crowd at Osaka Ohsho but there were no lines yet so we easily got a good table at the restaurant.

Menu and chopsticks
The menu contained a lot of familiar items including katsu, teppanyaki and curry. What distinguishes Osaka Ohsho from other restaurants is that they are supposed to have one of the best if not the best gyoza (fried dumplings). And this shows in their menu where there is a gyoza set and most if not all sets have gyoza. Each set had miso shiru, fruit and unlimited koshi hikari rice.

Fresh lemonade and house tea
Chicken karaage set
Salmon teriyaki set
The chicken karaage was cooked and presented donburi style.
The best gyoza I've tasted so far in the Philippines is plump with the fillings.
The salmon teriyaki was just right if not perfect. I look forward to the saba next time.
Osaka Ohsho is a restaurant we'll definitely go back to especially when we feel a craving for Japanese food (which is quite often). Their menu has a lot of items worth trying aside from the usual offerings you'd find in Japanese restaurants that some of us regard as comfort food. In the case of Osaka Ohsho, they definitely cook up good Japanese comfort food. I for one love gyoza and have always ordered gyoza whenever it was available even at the shokudo at the university when I was still studying in Yokohama.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Remembering our forever puppy

Troy will be forever with us and we will always remember him as a puppy. He simply refused to grow up and be the adult dog that he already was. Malambing is an apt but probably an understatement in as far as Troy was whenever he was with us. With the 'ber' months coming up fast, we couldn't help but reminisce past Christmases with our forever puppy. As a further tribute to Troy, following are a few more of our favourite photos of him taken during his first Christmas with us back in 2004.

Troy at 11 months always loved to hop on our sofa, often to peek out of the window whenever we drove into our garage. (December 2004)
He loved Christmas perhaps because he loved the smell and taste of the food. He knew he would always get his share of whatever it was we had. Of course, his favourites were the bread and fruits that we generously fed him on Christmas and New Year's Days.
Our Christmas dorgy all dressed up for the holidays.
Post Christmas cuddling at the sofa. He wasn't light as he had quickly grown over the 8 months that we had him. The puppy in him loved to sit on our laps despite his size. And it wasn't difficult to make him pose for a few photos. 

Wherever you are now, it will be Christmas everyday and forever enjoy being a puppy! Thanks for the happy memories of those Christmases you spent with us. You were truly a joy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Missing our Troy

It's a nice sunny morning and we can't help but miss the company of our lab, Troy. It doesn't really hit you until you start wondering why it's so silent now at home and you didn't have to ask if someone wanted to go "Out! Out!" to pee and poop. It is also painful to not have someone wait on you at the dining table for whatever scraps you could spare (though we always gave him his share of good food). 

Troy passed on to dog heaven yesterday and even the vets who took care of him this last 7 years were in tears as they also said goodbye to Troy before he was put to sleep. Two of the vets at the clinic were the ones who usually took care of Troy and Barbi for check-ups and whenever they were sick. They both made the trip to our home for Troy's final house call and we appreciated very much their concern about our lab. They were the ones who made sure Troy had been comfortable these past two months after his diagnosis of bone marrow cancer. His passing was inevitable given that at his age, it would have taken so much from him if he were to undergo cancer treatment.

Missing the snout and the company - Troy was always there and especially when we were relaxing or working from home. He will make an effort to squeeze himself in whatever space was available just so he could be close to us.
Even at the last moment, we could tell Troy wanted to assure us that he was okay and though weakened by his condition, he made a last effort to try to get up and do what he did best - comfort us. We restrained him and I had to tell him that it was time for him to rest. He had given us so much and we will never forget all these happy memories. We lost a dear friend yesterday but he will always be in our hearts and remembered. You are now with Our Creator Troy. Rest in peace and enjoy the rest of eternity with your friend Debra. Run free, eat whatever and whenever you can. Make everyone happy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Troy: 2004 - 2014

We lost our Troy today. After battling what was suspected to be bone marrow cancer, he finally succumbed after his deteriorating condition forced us to finally let him sleep. He was very dear to us, always providing comfort and laughter every time we were at home. He was a house dog or "dorg" as we referred to him - a play on dog and dork. His favorites were pandesal and bananas though he also liked whatever bread or fruit you gave him. He knew where the pandesal or bread was and would usually take our hands to lead us to the table or the refrigerator and waited for us to reach for the food before he let go of our hands.

He loved to go on walks or runs, being my jogging mate during his younger days when we still resided in a nice village along Marcos Highway. He was always a puppy even in his advanced years. He always snuggled up to us and seemed to know when we were happy, excited, tired or sad, even angry. He had this knack for matching our moods and knowing what to do around us. We liked to call him doctor dog whenever we didn't feel well and he stayed at our side even just to provide company. He would sneak into our bedroom and lie down to sleep beside our bed. Sometimes, he snored so loud that we couldn't help but laugh or giggle. He enjoyed life and he shared his life with us. He had a full life - 10 years and 7 months in human years roughly translate to about 74 dog years. And so it is only right that we give him a fitting farewell...

Troy as we want to remember him - a shiny, happy dorgy!

Farewell Troy! Thank you for all the happiness you shared with us. You will be missed! We know that you are now in dog heaven with Our Creator!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Barbi and Troy

We have two old dogs - Barbi and Troy. Barbi is a mixed breed (Terrier?) and what people would usually refer to as askal (asong kalye). Her name is derived not from the doll but as a shortcut to barbecue. She was quite thin when we got her from my in-laws many years ago (around 2005). We sometimes refer to getting her as "rescuing" her as she seemed to be stressed out by living with the three Doberman dogs of my father-in-law. She initially was hostile to Troy, who wanted nothing but welcome her to our home. At times, she would bare her teeth as we tried to house-train her (it took some months for her to learn to pee and poop outside). She eventually warmed up to us and to the other dog once she probably figured that Troy wasn't like the more aggressive Dober-dogs she had to live with for some time and the two have been inseparable since and have their own ways of endearment.

Barbi and Troy looking out the door to the garage of our former home at a village along Marcos Highway in Antipolo
Troy is a purebred Labrador Retriever. He has papers showing his birthdate to be January 4, 2004. We got him when he was about 2.5 months, prior to moving into our then home in lower Antipolo. If we refer to Barbi as our "adopted," we refer to Troy as our "firstborn." He chose us when we first saw him with the rest of the litter. We sometimes wonder whatever happened to his siblings as there were still many of them (5 or 6) when we got Troy. He's over 10.5 years now and has had some health issues lately. Though it pains us to think that he will soon pass, we're trying our best to take care of him and make sure he's comfortable. He always behaved like he's a puppy, our puppy, and you know he's not feeling well when he's slowed down. Still, he gets excited whenever its feeding time and whenever our new puppy Mocha, a Golden Retriever, is around. We know we would eventually have to let go so we're making the best out of when Troy is still with us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Home made apple pie and cookies

Yesterday, I posted on the "baking exercise" at home last Saturday. I was only a fringe participant in that activity, which I would say was "highly anticipated" given that it had to be postponed several times due to various reasons including the inclement weather two weeks ago and our commitment to bringing our dog to the vet every Saturday the past few weeks (Our beloved Lab was very sick but he's better now.). This post is the conclusion to yesterday's as I feature the finished products. I would have had more photo for yesterday's and today's posts but for the hazy photos taken that I thought did not do justice to the apple pie and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies the wife and our good friend had laboured over (baking is not an easy thing).

Home made apple pie fresh from the oven
Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies still on the pan
Home made apple pie and cookies ready for eating
I may be biased but the wife and our friend did very well and came up with really good apple pie. The cookies were okay but we all agreed they could be better the next time around. I was telling them that the cookies were good enough and comparable to what we could buy from the major bakeshop chains but obviously, the perfectionists in us wanted cookies that were "5-star hotel grade." There will be a next time for this.

There's still some cookie dough (ready for the oven) in our freezer and I remember there's also another pack containing a second pie crust dough. I recall that the original plan was to bake two apple pies but after the first one and a few hours work, they had to be satisfied with one big pie. And there were only five cookies so perhaps the leftover dough can still be improved for the next batch of cookies to be better than the first. Anyhow, we are now looking forward to more pies (mango?), cookies and perhaps brownies, cupcakes and more complicated concoctions in the future.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's baking?

The wife and one of her BFFs got together last weekend to do some baking at our home. They had planned this activity a long while ago but the rainy days and other intervening events made them postpone until last Saturday. Their agenda focused on apple pie (which our friend loves and is her specialty) and cookies. Prior to the baking "spree" the wife already bought the ingredients and equipment including measuring cups, mixers, bowls and a rolling pin. Following are a few photos of them mixing all the ingredients for the wife's first foray into baking and the inauguration of our oven. I was only a bystander and took a few photos for posterity so I won't be talking in detail about the process nor the ingredients used.

Mixing ingredients for the crust.
Pie crust being flattened with a rolling pin.
Crust laid out on the pan
The apples are spread unto the crust on the pan.
Ready for the oven!
Next up: the result!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sampling Sauternes - Grand Vin De Bordeaux Reserve Dulong

I was browsing the wines at a branch of Santis and found among the sale items bottles of Sauternes. Sauternes are sweet wines and are commonly used for dessert (dessert wines) together with cheeses, chocolates or fruits. The term Sauternes comes from the region in France where the grapes are grown, harvested and transformed into wine. Similar dessert wines may be found elsewhere and in the New World our favourite is the Botrytis Semillon from Australia (try De Bortoli Noble One). Sauternes are quite expensive in the Philippines and you will usually find them inside wine display cabinets along with other more expensive bottles of wine. The key to taking a chance with a bottle like this was to have a basic knowledge of wine labels and what they tell you. That I learned from my Japanese professors when I was a student in Japan. One professor was married to a connoisseur and the other just loved wines and preferred them to hard drinks like brandy and whiskey.

The 50 cl bottle of the 2010 Dulong Sauternes packs 13% alcohol
The label along tells us that this is a good, legit wine being a Grand Vin de Bordeaux
More information at the back describes the taste or flavors to be found in the wine.

The wine was perfect with cheeses or with chicken or seafood. It is a dessert wine so it should be perfect with fruits or chocolates (or both!). I forget how much a bottle cost us but from what I remember when I picked up the bottle, it was definitely a steal compared to the usually expensive Sauternes in the shop cabinet. I hope we find a bottle or two the next time we're at Santis. It is usually good to keep a bottle in reserve for when you're entertaining guests or to give as gifts to family and friends who enjoy wines.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Home gardening

We had the surroundings of our home professionally landscaped last summer and it took a while before the plants and the grass finally grew and "stabilized" on those hot days. These days, we try to add to the plants as there are many spaces where we think plants are appropriate. Among these are spaces along the fences where instead of planting directly on the ground, we decided to use large pots to hold fruit trees and flowering plants. Fruit trees now lining the adobe fence of our neighbor owns and which we share include atis, chico, dalandan and kalamansi. On top of our fences, we have placed flowering plants, what are popularly known as Vietnam roses, which are always nice to look at because of their continued flowering. These and other flowers now growing in our modest garden are visited regularly by butterflies, bees and other insects that feed or harvest the nectar from the flowers. We have also noticed that fireflies have become regulars, too, during the evenings. These encourage us to grow more of these plants as they are truly pleasing to us.

Transplanting Vietnam roses and another plant - gifts from my mother's garden to ours
Organic fertilizer and garden soil that we mixed with the "regular" soil, which appears to be composed much of clay.
We expect to have more plants soon as we are trying figure out what will survive under the shade of the neighbor's fire tree. The tree has affected the grass beneath its branches and practically stunted the growth of the frog grass. This is partly as it prevents the sunlight especially nowadays during the wet season. We also think the fire tree's flowers are also to blame when they rained and covered the grass. Then there is also the wind and the cooler climate here that needs to be factored in the selection of plants. Fortunately, the most important part of our mango tree (the trunk and roots) survived the onslaught of the recent Typhoon Glenda. It's main branch fell on the road but the smaller branches were spared by the winds and will grow to bear the sweet fruits we enjoyed last summer.