Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Hubby and I, avid meat-eaters, have been making an effort to try to eat healthier. We are now trying to incorporate more chicken into our meals to replace beef and pork. We're still a long way off from being totally healthy and I won't even dare suggest that we become vegetarians, but this is a start.

So we've been buying chicken during our weekly grocery trips and we are fast running out of options for preparing chicken. So I turned to the net and my favorite cooking site,, and
I found a recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken Fillets.

We tried the recipe and the dish turned out good on our first try except that it was too sweet for our taste. We have since revised the recipe to suit our tastes and to make use of the ingredients that we have in our kitchen and this is the result.

1.5 lbs Boneless & skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
seasoned salt
flour (for dredging the chicken)
cooking oil (for deep frying the chicken)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger (we grated this instead)
1 small bell pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
1 cup water
1/8 cup vinegar
1/4 cup - 2 tbsp sugar (subtracted 2 tbsp sugar from the original recipe)
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp tmato paste
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sesame oil
pineapple chunks (new addition)
toasted sesame seeds (new addition)

  1. Season chicken strips with seasoned salt and then dredge in flour.
  2. Deep fry the chicken till golden brown, drain on paper towels and set aside.
  3. Saute garlic & ginger. Add the vegetables and stir fry over high heat for around 45 seconds.
  4. Stir together water, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and cornstarch.
  5. Return chicken to the skillet or wok and pour in the sauce. Stir till sauce thickens and clears.
  6. Add the pineapple chunks and stir around to coat the pineapple with sauce. (Note that by adding the pineapple chunks at this stage, it probably didn't lend a lot of flavor to the dish. We like it this way).
  7. Turn off the heat and drizzle with sesame oil just before serving.
  8. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

This is good for 4 to 5 servings.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hubby's new toy

I bought hubby his PSP last week. I had gone to Massachusetts for my regular visit to the company HQ and I decided to visit a friend & his family - they'd just had a new baby - over in New Hampshire.

My friend lives across a shopping complex where there is a best buy, a circuit city, 2 gamestop branches, among many others. I was driving to my friend's place and hubby was keeping me company over the phone and on an impulse, I asked him, "o ano ? We get your PSP na ?". New Hampshire does not have sales tax. So compared to a 7% tax rate in NJ, you get around $12 back if we buy in NH and we can easily put the $12 to good use, say, for PSP accessories.

In fairness, hubby's been wanting a PSP for a long time (since we moved here, actually) and I agreed so long as he gets a job first and saves up for it. It's not something that I would agree that he buy up-front. He's been saving a while now... kaya lang, it just seems that the more you save, the more inspired you get about saving more. So it's more nakakahinayang to just buy another toy and he's just been using my classic Nintendo DS - which is now so heavily used that the labels / stickers are all faded smooth now, and I am not exaggerating when I say this.

Anyway, hopefully, he gets to drop by E's (a friend) place tonight so that he can get his firmware updated and he can start using it. Magastos rin pala because we just *had* to buy an 8GB mem stick for the PSP, haha! sneaky. he did not tell me about this earlier.

and now that he has his PSP slim, he's like... "hun, maybe you should upgrade to a DS lite?".
No, thank you. I'd rather just get a nice designer bag *hint hint*.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stir-Fried Chicken

We keep hearing that it's easy to prepare stir-fry dishes. You just keeping stirring the ingredients until they're cooked,... supposedly.
The thing is, what do we use to flavor the dishes ?

My mom sent me a Chinese cookbook - it's more of a pamphlet, really - and this gave us a starting point in terms of the sauce.

For this chicken-stir fry dish, we used the following:

Skinless & boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1 head of broccoli florets (did not know that the stem is edible so I threw it away, argh!)
1 carrot, sliced
quail eggs
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp grated ginger

2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp lite soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
  1. Blanch the vegetables - broccoli and carrots.
  2. In a wok, saute the garlic and the ginger in hot oil.
  3. Add the chicken and stir around until chicken in cooked.
  4. Pour in the sauce and then add the vegetables and the quail eggs.
  5. Let the sauce boil and thicken.
  6. Serve

Monday, August 25, 2008

Carrot Cake

I got this recipe from my Aunt in California when I visited last June. She was on a carrot cake cooking binge and would cook different batches (she'd be giving most of the cakes away) while she experimented and looked for the best recipe & combination.

Dad isn't too fond of eating sweets but he liked the frosting on this one.

When I got home, I decided to try this out and see if I got the recipe right. This turned out good but yielded a lot of cakes! I will halve the recipe next time I do this so we don't get stuck with carrot cake for several weeks.

I have to give a word of warning to first timers though, shredding carrots is a hard job! My arms were so sore afterwards.

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup cooking oil

1/3 cup cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup chopped cashews
  1. Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  2. Add eggs, cooking oil and beat for 5 minutes.
  3. Grease 13x9 in pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Stick a toothpick and pull it out, if nothing sticks to the toothpick, your cake is done.

Perfect Blend of Friendship Award

I'm tagging Berryblitz and Sheryll :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ultimate Power Shopper

We usually do our grocery shopping on Saturdays. Depending on how much we need to get, it usually takes us between an hour to a few hours (around 4?) to get everything done and oftentimes, we buy different products from different stores because of availability, product quality and cost considerations.

With this in mind, I usually spend Friday nights making lists and sort of planning the meals that we will be preparing for the rest of the week. I also take the time to go over the weekly ads and any manufacturer coupons (they're usually inserted in our weekly city journal) that we might have received.

Sometimes, we get lucky and get the ultimate power combination of advertised sales + manufacturer coupons + grocery coupons. This happened last week. We paid $13 for $39 worth of groceries. This was very significant because we didn't buy a lot, just $39 worth. I feel lucky that I'm blessed with a husband who doesn't feel embarassed whenever I whip out the discount coupons.

Prior to last week, the best buy that I had was for L'Oreal shampoos and conditioners. My local store offered a Buy 1 Get 1 promotion for them and I had a few manufacturer coupons for Buy 1 Get 1 which I've been saving for a time such as these. Tamang tama, malapit na mag expire yung coupons ko when I got to use them. When used together, the B1G1 promotion from the store and the B1G1 manufacturer coupons actually let me pay for 1 and get 3 bottles free.

$4.49 for 4 big bottles of shampoo/conditioner. Things can't get any better than this, even if you compare to Manila prices.

It took me a while to explain the concept to hubby, he was so amazed and couldn't quite believe how we could take home 4 bottles and just pay for 1. I was explaining to him while I was choosing what I wanted from the different varieties.

Bottle 1 - You pay for this
Bottle 2 - from the store's B1G1 promo, free from buying bottle1

Bottle 3 - free from the manufacturer's coupon
Bottle 4 - from the store's B1G1 promo, free from buying bottle3

Ang saya no?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Crunch time

When hubby moved to the US with me last year, he decided that he wanted to go into a more technical line of work. He's had different types of work and responsibilities before but his love has always been hardware and he wanted to make the transition.

During his job-hunting days, we found out - it was actually more of a confirmation rather than a surprise - that one would need to get certifications to move ahead in his line of work. Hubby had none.

Hubby was blessed enough to find a company who was willing to overlook his lack of certifications and take a chance on him. This is such a huge blessing for us because up till now, we don't really know how this company came across his resume. He did not apply for a position with them and their hiring personnel can't remember how they even got hold of his information.

Modesty aside, I would have to say that his company lucked out when they hired hubby because he did not only have the skills that was needed but he also had the drive and a natural ability to diagnose and address technical issues. His benefits package wasn't bad either, aside from the usual health and dental benefits, he also gets to get certified for free. The company pays for all certifications that you pass.

This brings me to the matter that's weighing on my mind right now. Hubby has always been scared to take chances and to get exams. I have to admit that this is quite normal, after all, who enjoys taking exams and being graded, anyway ? So his first sets of certifications were easy ones but it took him months to get ready. Most of this time was really spent conditioning himself and building up confidence to take the step.

His colleague, who is very happy with hubby's work, took the initiative and started a conversation between their boss, him and hubby. He then put hubby in the position where he had to set an exam date, para matapos na. Everything went well :)

Oh, by the way, did I mention that hubby is entitled to get a salary increase for every certification that he completes?

So with the first test completed with flying colors, hubby was inspired by his success and went on to take up some more tests. These tests resulted in 3 total certifications (some certifications required multiple exams on different but related topics).

Now, the momentum is gone. I don't see him reading books or review materials instead I see him playing all the time. When home, he's either holding on to a Nintendo DS or playing games on his PC. :(

To be fair, I am also in the same situation. I keep saying that I want to complete a certification as a personal goal and yet, I'm in front of the TV when I'm not working. Bad, no ?

I came up with an idea early this week and challenged hubby to commit to an exam date. Sabi ko, we should both commit to an examination time frame, say X months from now, and work to meet that deadline. I figure that with both of us studying, there's lesser chances of him feeling bad that he has to study while I just laze around watching TV.

I have not gotten him to agree to my plan yet, so I still have some cajoling to do. In terms of studying, it's been a couple of days since I issued him that challenge and I have yet to take up a book. I really really need the motivation.

I'll start tonight. Pramis. I hope....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye, bank

Hubby and I had a little money left over from paying bills last year and we decided to put that into a CD - Certificate of Deposit. When we opened the account, we opted for the promotional 8-month CD that the bank featured in their website and were given good rates. It was around 3.xx%, I think.

8 months later, I didn't bother to check out the rates anymore and just let it rollover and renew itself. A month after the renewal, I noticed that we got a very low 1.xx%. I called to ask about my account and was told that we shouldn't have let it roll over by itself, that we should've gone to the bank and talked to a representative about better options and rates, and that what we did was the worst thing that we could've done (financially) for our account.

Okay, I get the point.

So with that thought in mind, I decided to be vigilant and kept a countdown of the days leading to the CD's maturity.

Hubby and I visited the bank and talked to a rep about our account the weekend BEFORE - I said that we were vigilant, didn't I ? - the CD was about to mature. We wanted to know and be clear about what our options were and how best to handle this at maturity. We talked to a very helpful agent, Carmen, who told us that there was nothing she could do at that point because our CD has not matured yet but that we could come in up to 7 days after the maturity date to decide what to do about our account.

We asked about online promotional rates and was told that they (the bank) would be able to arrange for us to get the same rates, even if we did not apply for anything online, and that if we were to add a little bit more to our CD, she would also be able to give us an extra 0.1% rate.

This was music to our ears. Our other alternative was to just apply for an online savings account - one online bank offers 3.5% interest with a $1 minimum deposit. Yes, I did not mistype that, it's a $1 minimum deposit and your money does not get tied up for any period of time. The only reason why I wanted to keep our CD with the local bank was that it seemed easier to access funds if there was a local branch. With an online account, you will have to transfer funds to a checking account and it takes around 3 days before the transfer clears.

So this weekend, we went to the bank and asked for Carmen. Unfortunately, Carmen was with other clients and there were 2 other representatives who were free to talk to us. We politely declined them when we were approached and explained how we had already talked to Carmen before that we would rather that she handle our inquiry.

20 minutes later, Carmen was still occupied. By this time, the 2 other representatives and manager have already approached to ask if we were sure that we wanted to wait for Carmen. The manager came to us again (for the 3rd time) and asked if we were sure that we wanted to wait for Carmen. He convinced us that it would still be a while before she gets freed up but that another representative - Javier - would be more than happy and very qualified to help us out.

We caved with the pressure and agreed to talk to the other guy.

Javier didn't sound happy to talk to us. He was probably offended/hurt that we didn't want to talk to him at first - I don't know this for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case. Bottomline, he didn't agree with Carmen's statements to us the previous week. We would have to do everything online if we wanted to avail of the online promotion.

When we got home, I found out that any changes we want to apply on our CD would have to be done over the phone and for that, we'd have to wait till Monday and do that during regular business hours. So we wait again.

This afternoon, I called and got connected with a bank rep. Bottomline ? If I were to renew my CD, I would NOT be eligible for the advertised rate because that is only for new accounts. To qualify for that, I would have to NOT renew my CD and then apply for a new one. Also, the additional 0.1% that Carmen told me about ? They would not be able to honor that online, they only honor that at the local branch - apparently, this was something that the managers / staff can give out at the local branches.

Hay. Kainis no ?

I'm not really sure if this is because I'm not a big-time account holder, I hope that this wasn't the case. But since this bank isn't even trying to keep our business, we decided to terminate the account. Online na lang, $1 to open and maintain - this would leave us with the flexibility of having funds available for DP on a 2nd car (if / when we need to buy one).

Why is it that while these institutions try so hard to tempt one into opening an account with them, they don't do anything or offer incentives for someone to maintain their account in good standing ?

I remember making lambing to the bank manager or the account manager in Manila and they would make the extra effort. Why doesn't this work here ?

I have a similar gripe about cellphone companies but that's a whole new post altogether.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beijing 2008 - Opening Ceremony

Hubby and I Tivoed the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympics because we had to go out on Friday night. We didn't get to watch it till Saturday afternoon and boy, did our jaws drop when we saw the intricate production numbers.

If I had to choose from all the great performances that I saw, it would have to be these two:
(1) the human printing blocks
(2) the light drums
mostly because if the timing and precision involved in order to make this work and gosh, the Chinese made it work! And they made it look beautiful and awe-inspiring too.

I cried several times throughout the opening ceremony. Ang galing. I wish I could've been there to witness the spectacular event. The Chinese people and government must be so proud.

Photo credits:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Brillante Weblog Premio 2008

I received an award from Berryblitz - I've been blogging since 2000 but this is the first blog award that I've received. Pathetic ba ? Anyway, this is some sort of a milestone for me. *smile*

I got this award from: Berryblitz's blog

Rules of this award are :
1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

I would like to nominate the following blogs for this award to:
Mec: for being such an interesting blogger, a wonderful wife and a loving mom. I love her blogs more for the fact that her posts remind me how important it is to keep the romance going long after the giddiness of the wedding day (and the preparations!) are gone.
Berns: for being blessed with a new life.
Arlene: for sharing her courageous and inspiring journey in her quest for a baby. Good luck sa IUI :D We hope to hear some good news from you in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fun with high school friends

We were able to convince Elijah to make one more trip to NY with us. Aliw rin because his (supposedly) short term project was extended another few weeks. Hubby has always been a fan of sea creatures and has been looking forward to the NY Aquarium visit since last year so we took advantage of Elijah's project extension ;).
On the left is a picture that we asked someone to take of us on the boardwalk. We look like an AT&T commercial here, "more bars in more places", kasi naman, in order of height pa. Haha! I love this picture, except for the fact that we look so much chubbier standing next to Elijah, he's so tall and thin kasi. Yeah, blame it on the other guy.

We then made our way to the MET after the aquarium, met up with yet another high school friend, Steven. Sayang lang that it was already late when we got there. We would've loved to walk around some more, we only got to see a few sections during our visit.

We had our picture taken at the indoor Chinese garden on the 2nd floor. We were so tired by then and just wanted to relax and catch up with each other. It wasn't such a nice picture because I was so concerned about the camera falling off of my purse (I propped it on top of my purse because I forgot to bring our Gorillapod) that I forgot to set the flash.

Dinner at Brother Jimmy's was great too, it was a bit noisy but we were still able to reminisce - tell high school stories - and exchange chismis ... este... updates about other batchmates. I hope that we can meet up with old friends more often.