Friday, January 17, 2014

[Food] Celebrating 5 at "Underbelly"

Today is our 5th Wedding Anniversary (cue in "Your Everything" by Keith Urban) and we are just grateful to God for giving us another year with each other.

Five years seemed to have gone so fast and now it's time for a C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-O-N!  We went to "Underbelly Houston" to discover the "story of Houston Food."  The restaurant is owned by Executive Chef Chris Sheppard who is also Food and Wine's 2013 Best New Chef.  

We loved how they decorated the place because it was spacious and homey.  They added the a lot of wood panel that reminded me of our place in Manila.  Their wall features other local establishments such as Korean and Vietnamese restaurants to show how diverse Houston's restaurant world is.  The kitchen is open to guests so you can see the chefs prepare what they do best.  The shelves were full of jars of picked vegetables, sauces and stuff to fill your pantry.
with Exec. Chef Chris Sheppard of Underbelly Houston
And now, for the good stuff.  

We tried the Korean Braised Goat and dumplings which is one of their more popular appetizers.  It was delicious!  The meat was so tender with a hint of spice and the dumplings were soft with a bit of crunch.  The portion size was enough for both of us but if you're with a bigger group, you'd have to order more.  It's served family style so order several kinds to share with the group.

I got the Vietnamese Stew with Beef, Carrots and rice noodle.  The soup was thicker than the traditional pho and the beef was very tender.  Mr. C got the UB smoked burger which was really good.  The beef patty and thick slices of onions  topped with cheese was just yummy!

We didn't finish our main course because we had to leave space for dessert.  I got the Vinegar pie, salt brittle.  Be prepared to tickle your taste buds with this dessert that combines sweet, salty and sour in one bite (I know you are starting to drool right now).   

He got the Meyer pound cake, kissel, sezamki and butter ice cream.  The whaaaaat?  I've never heard of kissel only to find out it's an Eastern European dessert of crushed berries that have been thickened with starch.  Sezamki on the otherhand is a Polish candy dessert using sesame seeds and sugar.  It's similar to peanut brittle or "bandi" in the Philippines.  

Well, we were able to meet, chat and shake hands with Chef Chris who was very friendly and accommodating.  We had a good experience and would definitely return to try their dinner menu.  The price of their lunch menu ranged from $7 - $16 with desserts at $4 and $9.

Oh, the price of good food, great company and cherished memories. 

We definitely left with our bellies satisfied and our hearts filled with joy.  
♥  michelle  ♥

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

[Love & Marriage] Celebrating Five Years!

This is the week where Mr. C and I celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary so brace yourselves for a lot of "mushy" reads from us.

It's just the two of us ever since.  No babies.  No pets.  

The photo that you see was taken during our pre-wedding pictorial.  Oh, that was a fun day spent with our wedding coordinator and the camera crew.  Lots of laughs and memories.  Oh yes, it's been five years and -- lbs ago.

I am amazed at how we have changed as a couple, all by God's grace.  One of the books given to me by my sister was "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas where he posed the question:  

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"

Let me start with the premise that there is no "Perfect Marriage."  You've got to put your mind and your heart in it. It's like going on a road trip that takes a lot of preparation, strength, and patience.  We've had our share of tantrums just as toddlers do but in the end we just laughed at ourselves when we realized that more than our commitment to love each other is our commitment to love God above all else, including each other.  We can never love each other more than the way God loves us.  

I am truly grateful for my dear one who never fails to brighten my day.  

I will always love you!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

[Shopping] Archiver's Going Out of Business Sale

My sister-in-law introduced me to the world of stamping and handmade cards when I moved to the US.  We would frequent craft stores, big and small that's why I was saddened when I read the notice from Archiver's that they will be closing their stores after "14 years and countless memories."  They are currently having their "Store Going Out Sale" with 25% off everything in store with a few exceptions.  
Photo from Archiver's
We live far from their store but nevertheless, Mr. C drove lovingly me there last Saturday (emphasis on lovingly, please).  As always, I got immersed at all the different products... too much eye candy made me dizzy.  LOL.  I got a couple of their small metal display stands ($10 each) and one large stand ($20).  It was expensive but it now beautifully holds our cards and a dear friends' beautiful wedding invitation.  What else did I buy?  Hmmm... white envelopes, a stamp, stickers, beads, a crop-a-dile metal eyelet, ball chain, an EK glass mat, a few copic markers and Faber castell aquarelle pencils. Well, I did shop a lot but it's the last time I'd shop in their store.

It's true that you can buy everything online these days some even offer free shipping, however, it's nice to see and feel the actual product and at the same time interact with fellow crafters in the store.  Furthermore, some of the new brands and products aren't available in the big box craft stores who usually have a very limited variety of goods.  Oh well....

It's always disheartening to see a good company go out of business.  So long, Archiver's.  Thank you for the memories (sigh).

♥  michelle  ♥

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

[Shopping] Peter Pauper Press and Moleskine Journals

When I was in my teens, I kept a notebook, a diary or as it is popularly called today, a journal.  It was nice to read my silly stories and crazy antics years later.  I missed that and thought I should start one.  Then, I saw Ms. Lori's blog which  inspired me to act and work on it.  LOL.  She shared Five Year journals with her lucky readers - I wasn't one of the lucky ones so I bought my own.

Mr. C and I made a trip to Barnes and Noble today where I bought a couple... well, 4 different kinds to be exact.  I love notebooks - spring or bound, cheap or expensive, I love 'em all especially the pocket-sized ones.

This journal shown below is from Peter Pauper Press:  "Cherry Trees Journal."    
"Richly-hued cover image by Japanese artist Hiroshige II Utagawa is made extra luminous with iridescent and glossy highlights. Raised embossing is pleasing to the touch."   The photo doesn't show it well but the tree trunk and flowers are embossed... so nice to touch!  The pages are lightly lined and the binding allows the it to lay flat to make it easier to write on.
Peter Pauper Press "Cherry Trees Journal"
 While browsing through the Moleskine shelf at B&N, I saw this Passions Recipe Journal.
Moleskine Passions Recipe Journal
It was $19.99 AND I really needed it, right?  It had tabs for appetizers, main course, desserts and even cocktails.  Each page has an outline where you can write your own magical recipes.  Cool, huh?  I copied recipes from my mom's cookbook in regular pad paper so re-writing then will keep me busy the next few days.

Let me encourage you to write or keep notes, my friend but please write and keep track of the good things more than the bad.  If you do write about a bad story or experience, share how good it turned out in the end.

I remember the photo in my Dad's office of a rabbit sitting in the grass that says, "May my words be sweet and tender... for tomorrow I may have to eat them."

Have a blessed day!
♥  michelle  ♥

[Cards] Botanical Birthday Cards

Welcome back!
We have several loved ones who are celebrating their birthdays this month of January.  Here are a few of the "feminine" cards - lots of leaves and flowers.  Lovely, huh?
Botanical Birthday Cards
May your day be blessed!
♥  michelle  
Recollections Floral and Leaf Embellishments

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

[Jewelry] "Circles" - A Polymer Clay Pendant / Brooch

It's been so cold recently with temperatures falling -16 in Chicago with wind chill warnings in effect.  We are feeling the cold in Houston too, with 29C Monday morning and even colder today.  So we've been dressing extra extra warmly, scarf and all.

I bought this lovely scarf at a shop as a gift for my sister-in-law.  The design inspired me to make a pendant / brooch from polymer clay that incorporated circles.  I used Premo polymer clay, both regular and translucent clay.  It was a fun and beautiful project to make.  Pardon the messy backing - I redid it but forgot to take another photo.  Ngek.
Polymer Clay Pendant / Brooch
It can be worn as a pendant or as a brooch.  I think it's simple but elegant.
I hope she likes it.  Happy Birthday!

♥  michelle  ♥

Monday, January 6, 2014

[Baking] Leche Flan / Caramel Custard

The thing with making meringue is that you get a lot of eggyolks.
Remember the Silvanas that I made?  
That recipe used 3 eggwhites which left me with 3 eggyolks and 1 broken egg.  Ngek.  I didn't want to waste it so I added 4 more eggwhites, milk, a squeeze of calamansi  or calamondin and made me some Leche Flan.   It is the Filipino version of creme caramel or caramel custard.  

In my opinion, leche flan should be soft, melts-in-your mouth and with perfectly caramelized sugar.  The secret to making a smooth, bubble free flan is to gently stir and strain the mixture.
I didn't have a small oval pan (llanera) so I used one of my small corrugated pans.  The sugar was perfectly caramelized but it was difficult to release the baked and cooled flan, hence the irregular bumps in the photo below.

Leche Flan
There are a lot of variations in making this popular Filipino delicacy.  The result of my experimentation tonight was delicious - it was smooth but not too creamy.  Maybe because I used 1 whole egg in addition to the 7 eggyolks.  I don't know.  One of my kumares (the mother of my godchild) shared with us her homemade flan that was oh so velvety smooth, creamy and yummy!   Mr. C and I slowly indulged on it over the New Year.  LOL.

Have you tried eating leche flan?  Try it.  
You might love it.
Let me know if you do.

♥  michelle  ♥

Saturday, January 4, 2014

[Baking] Sylvanas / Silvanas: Meringue, Cashew Nuts and Buttercream

One of the  desserts from the Philippines that I miss is Silvanas.  
Simply put, it is a melt-in-your-mouth goodness of thin cashew meringue sandwich layered with buttercream, coated with cookie crumbs and best served cold.  Ohhhhh... yum!

I tried to make it and realized that it takes skill, practice, technique and patience.  LOL.
There's something about working with meringue that's so challenging.  Have you tried making French macaroons?  Aaaargh!  I wasn't too happy with my experience that I vowed to try making it again only if I have a stand mixer like a Professional series Kitchenaid (isn't that a good excuse?)

So this is what my silvanas looked like.  The meringue had a good crunch and was deliciously chewy but the buttercream was a tad bland.  Hmmmm.... Mr. C said it was delicious.
I will tweak my recipe and if they turn out perfect, I will share them with my friends, very willing tasters and critics.  

Have a wonderful weekend!
♥  michelle  ♥

Friday, January 3, 2014

[Health] 30 Day Plank Challenge

It's the 3rd day of the New Year and it's time to do a reality check.  
Did you a lot of food with empty calories? - Check
Did you exercise regularly and consistently? - No
Did you eat enough vegetables? - Check
Did you avoid eating fried food? - No

I could list a lot of things that sadly, hurt my body.  Well, there is hope.
With the New Year comes New Goals.  

So, to kick off the New Year, I will do the 30 Day Plank Challenge.  It is a great way to tone up your ab and core muscles whether you are at home or at the gym.  The challenge is to start doing a 20 second plank on day one and gradually increasing the duration on the succeeding days with rests on designated days. 

Check out the chart below for reference... ladies, don't be distracted.

It is important to do the form correctly.  This blog has a nice illustration and description on how to do it.


As you go through the challenge, take note of the changes.  Kelly of this blog recommends doing an evaluation to monitor the development and improvement of your core strength.  If you can complete the test fully, you have good core strength.  If not, then you need to practice three or four times each week until you improve.

One of the ways to get motivated in doing a challenge is to do it with someone.  I'm proposing this to Mr. C so we can start doing it together tonight.  I am also joining one of my friends from our guild so we can keep track of each other.  Why don't you join me too?

There you go.  

Philippians 4:13
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

Oh, and don't forget to smile while you're doing it. ☺
 michelle  ♥

Thursday, January 2, 2014

[Challenge] Scharffen Berger Chocolates: A Sweet Welcome to the New Year

Today is the deadline for Scharffen Berger and Tuttifoodie's

I am a fan of good chocolate, and I love Scharffen Berger's 70% cacao bittersweet and 62% cacao Semisweet chocolates.  So of course, I joined.  At the last minute!
70% Cacao Bittersweet Dark Chocolate
62% Cacao Semisweet Dark Chocolate
The theme was to create a recipe for any type of BAR:  baked or no-bake bars like brownies or cookie based bars, ice cream bars or chocolate bark.  

The challenge was to combine Scharffen Berger chocolate with one or more of the designated adventure ingredients as follows:

  • Bourbon
  • Oat Flour
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Carrot
  • Pomegranate
  • Hibiscus
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Peppercorn (Black, White, Green, Red—any type)
  • Pandan Leaf or Pandan Leaf Extract
  • Coconut Milk, Coconut Cream, Coconut Butter or Coconut Oil
  • Sesame Seeds (Black or White)
  • Fresh Croutons or Crostini

Here's their inspiration board:
Yummy, huh?
So what did I make?  Let's keep it a secret for now and hope for the best, ok?  

Well, to give you a hint - I bought a Wilton Delectovals Mini Cake pan especially for the contest.

Do you know why I want to win?  
I promise, it is not for selfish reasons.

Well, our church is going to the Philippines in June 2013 for a Mission trip to help those who were devastated during Typhoon Haiyan.  My husband and I don't have extra money to spend for airfare and other expenses hence, it would be a huge blessing if I win the cash prize.  

This is the first time that I entered a recipe and I am super thrilled at that so don't worry if I don't win.  I will still bake and share my stories with you.

Have a sweet day!
♥  michelle  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

[New Year] Welcome 2014!!!

As we welcome the New Year, I pray that your home will be filled with love, joy, good health and blessings from the Lord above.

We have great plans for The Cabby Crafter this year.  Thank you for your support.

♥  michelle  ♥