Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Snapshots

I just stepped out from church and my phone signals me that I have 6 missed calls. Who would call me six times on a Sunday morning, I thought as I was checking the call log. It was my friend Teyene, who announced that she was on her way to visit me and she is travelling by train. "By train? Who takes the train in SoCal?" I asked. "Well I want to try riding the train, especially now that it's raining" she excitedly told me. Sigh...another hopeless romantic... just like me!

Teyene and I are good at impromptu moments like this, more spontaneous and random than planned, but I got excited for her and her hubby about the train ride. "Train thrill starts" was the next text that I got from her. I was thinking how crazy romantic the trip would be for the both of them, with the panoramic coastal view of the Pacific as their backdrop.

With my husband in tow, we met Teyene and her husband, Buddy, at the Solana Beach Train Station, located a few miles north of downtown San Diego. It turned out that we were about to discover that across the station lies a charming design haven called the Cedros Design District. I liked the vibe of the place. So full of creative energy, stylish stores, good bargain finds... a farmer's market, gourmet cafes, ahh it was like a kindred spirit enclave. And to think that this was only 5 minutes away from my place, how could I have missed it???

I don't want to use the trite saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case I must, to share with you my fun Sunday get-together with one of my dearest friends. Also, I'm hesitant to post my pics because it seems amateurish, (I told my husband it's the camera... *wink, wink* a good Christmas present maybe...), but here it goes.

Christmas Snapshots ...

It was a late hazy afternoon, hazy due to the rain or maybe it's due to the cheap camera I was using, hahaha... but that's me and my friend and her hubby.

One of my favorite stores, where you could buy novelty gifts from around the globe. So chic! I went back the next morning! It's definitely another place to get a lot of inspiration from!
...it's so cool!!!

Off to downtown we went. Took the 101 highway to see more views of the ocean...and we passed Del Mar, just next to Solana Beach(train station).

Right in our backyard... a view of the Pacific Ocean... living in SoCal has its benefits, and with a view like this??? It's priceless!

We're now at the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. This is one of our favorites... NO! This is NOT a STRIP CLUB, so calm down folks!! It's only a steak house.

Our hubbies grilling our own steaks... that's the fun part that men enjoy in this joint.

Our next stop was a gelato place called CHOCOLAT...

Their Tiramisu was the bomb! It blew my mind away...
Guess what happens when you had a really good time? You go back the following day. This time with our kids... Right after we picked up my daughter from the airport, who's on her winter break from Berkeley, my hubby took us to CHOCOLAT again.

Different flavors yet...

my three children found a common love... for gelato!

With the colors of Christmas around me, it definitely puts me in the mood to make my Brownie Mini Pizza . This is something fun to do with younger kids, wherein they could put their creativity to use.

We need:

Brownie Mix (using a ready mix simplifies this recipe)
A can of fruit salad
1 cup of cream cheese spread (so easy to spread, no need to use a mixer)
1 cup of Whipped cream
chocolate chips


For the "crust":

Prepare the brownie mix as per the manufacturer's instructions. Put a thin layer on a lined round baking pan. The liner will make it easier to remove the brownie crust from the pan. Bake it for about 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Keep a close eye on it as it may burn. Allow the brownie crust to cool down before removing it from the pan.

For the "sauce":

Mix the whipped cream and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl. Make sure to blend it well. Set Aside.

How to Assemble:

Apply a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on to the brownie "crust". Arrange the fruits on the brownie "dough". Sprinkle chocolate chip cookies. The mini-pizza dessert is ready.

This will give you a "heavenly" piece to savor... Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Red Raincoat

Twas a rainy Wednesday morning and I loved it! So there I was in the mini-van waiting for the kids to take them to school, as I was enjoying the blaring sound of the car stereo: the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hit single Snow. Perfect music to go with the weather. Ok fine, it was not snowing, it was just raining but I love it anyways, and I love the music, so it was all good… for me it was still perfect music for the moment.

I get excited when it rains here in San Diego because it seldom happens. My husband says that if that’s the case, we should move to Seattle. I guess he wants to see me in a happy mood for most times of the year. But San Diego‘s weather is almost perfect and it can’t get any better… but with the rains right now I'm just loving the change in the weather.

So after I took the kids to school, I grabbed my red raincoat and I stepped outside not afraid to get wet. And like a little girl, I just wanted to splash in the puddle with my boots…and I walked and sang in the rain!

I walked to the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, our neighborhood shopping arcade. I love the area, it kinda gives you a feeling of Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow, only with a modern twist… and it’s just a 15 minute walk from where I live. We have a tall Christmas tree (it’s not like the tree at the Rockefeller Center in NYC) but it’s still tall enough to say that Christmas is here. Climb the stairs and you have a good selection of places to eat with an al fresco dining setting… it’s just simply lovely! Our favorite place to eat for breakfast is Champagne Bakery and Bistro… I love their crepes! Then I went to a store called Papyrus: I love to take inspirations from there. I don’t buy their cards, oh no, I make my own. Of course there’s Barnes and Noble, where I love to skim the pages of cookbooks and my favorite magazines… Hahaha yes I do sound like I’m el cheapo, right? Next stop is Bath and Body Works, where I love to smell and try every scent of their hand soaps and lotions… there are boutiques and jewelry shops, very tony! And oh our Mcdonalds is not your usual Mcdonalds, with its modern/eccelectic interiors, along with serving Panini, soups and several gourmet selections. I just felt like suddenly, I began to appreciate all the things around me that I usually take for granted. It’s one hallmark moment, that I wish I could permanently capture. That’s how much I loved the moment.

I spent most of my time people watching, and this time of the year is the best time to do that. I see people rushing frantically down the wet pavement. I see ladies all made up and clad in designer outfits. I felt amused because they don’t seem to impress me anymore, I was just there feeling content, as I sipped my hot cocoa…wearing my red raincoat.

In the few stores I stepped foot in, I saw people scavenging for gifts, trying to cross them off their lists. I saw kids bored in their strollers trying to get mom’s attention, but their moms were oblivious as they were busy scouting for anything with red tags. But what caught my attention was an old man trying to reach for a musical stuffed toy on a shelf. I reached for it and gave it to him, and with his fragile old frame, he asked me what I thought about the toy. I said it’s beautiful, and he said, ”it’s for my great grandson… not grandson, it’s MY great grandson… he emphatically pointed out, “I’m a lucky old man ain’t I? That I lived long enough to see my great grandchildren and it gives me profound joy!” I wanted to hug him, or wished he was related to me… and I wanted to take him home because I was afraid that with the rain, he might slip, or afraid that with the rain and knowing how people drive crazily, he might get into an accident. Cut it out Malou! Probably, he’s just like me, who wants to be out there in the rain… I greeted him "Merry Christmas"...I smiled and left him.

It was such a lovely morning walk… and when I went home, all wet, chilly and cold, I craved for a creamy rich soup. Oh what a morning.. a lovely morning indeed. I wanted to sing: "listen to the rhythm of the pouring rain"… ok enough… here’s the recipe for the creamy potato shrimp soup!

Creamy Potato-Garlic-Shrimp-Soup


1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 pcs. Potatoes with peel, diced
4 cups broth (chicken or shrimp bouillon dispersed in water)
1 cup milk or cream
butter -garlic croutons
1 stick butter
1 medium egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
pre-cooked shrimp

Microwave the potatoes for about 4 minutes. Then mash together with butter and the cracked egg. Don't mash it too well, you may want to leave some lumps so as to give the soup some texture. Set aside.

In a stock pot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in butter. Add mashed potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Add a handful of croutons. Turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes get mushy and croutons are soft.

Remove from heat and add milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper. You may now add the cooked shrimp. Leave it for a few minutes to warm up. Garnish with croutons and toasted garlic. You may also add cheddar cheese if you choose to.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Express

I always have a perfect description on how to spend my weekends: purely having fun and relaxing. It makes you feel like time is on your side, no deadlines and pressure from work and home. Well you know how it goes during the weekdays: when the alarm starts to buzz, you crawl out of bed, find your way to the kitchen, make coffee, then breakfast, (and well for me it includes preparing 3 brown bags for lunch). Thank goodness for weekends... the days to recharge myself... no jumping out of the bed early, spending my time instead to sleep, cuddle up in bed, sleep some more and as a bonus I have the privilege of waking up to the sweet aroma of bacon and toast that my hubby makes.

After breakfast, the pace of the day often changes. Ok if this was a movie this is the part where the calm music fades and changes to a different rhythm... I'm thinking from the piano-based music of Amelie to the orchestral bombast of The Gladiator. Having 2 teenage kids who are actively involved in serving the community, I have to drive them around, and on some weekends having an early start. Yes, early as in 5:30 AM when they volunteer for fun runs for charity, like Run for the Hungry in downtown San Diego, or Race for the Cure held at Balboa Park.
This weekend was one. A battle between the alarm clock and the comforter ensues. “Wake up!” the alarm clock commands, while my comforter seduces me to tuck myself in tighter and place the covers over my face. On a chilly December morning, the comforter wins… zzzzz. I need more sleep, I justify. My son comes in to my room and reminds me that they have to go in a few minutes… “Why do you volunteer so early!" I protested. "I think you’ve overbooked yourselves again this weekend” I whined some more... and my son was stunned, and sheepishly reminds me that I should be proud that they are part of the concerned youth movement trying to make a difference in the world.

Embarrassed by my own behavior, I instinctively got up. My son's words shook me and awakened me... Act like you’re the mom here I challenged myself… So off I go to the kitchen. I have to have breakfast ready in 20 minutes... so think fast Malou, work even faster... as I was trying to think what to prepare for them. I wanted to serve them something that would say, “Mommy is so proud of you!", like a cheerleader, I wanted their breakfast to say GO Kids , GO !

STUFFED FRENCH TOAST… came to my mind. Yes stuffed with a combination that is out of the ordinary: BACON and Nuttela. They love French toast and the extra stuffing should be able to perk them up. I love to see their pleasantly surprised faces after having a bite...Seeing their faces transform and hearing their praises for the food, the feeling is PRICELESS! So let’s begin:


2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp French vanilla creamer
8 slices of white bread
3 tbsp butter
Break the eggs into a bowl. Whisk it lightly then add milk and French vanilla creamer.

Spread the nuttela on one slice of bread and arrange the bacon strips on a second slice. Pair them together.
Heat a skillet coated with a thin layer of butter.
Soak the pair of bread with the egg mixture then put it on the skillet. Cook it until golden brown. Flip it and brown the other side as well

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish it with chocolate chips all around the plate. Serve it hot. As they bite, the bacon and nuttela will reveal itself. It would be gooey sweet and the saltiness of the bacon will stand out yet complement the chocolate spread… No need to add syrup.

Thank you for the emails and the FB messages you've sent me... I got a suggestion from one of the readers, Cathrina (check out her amusing blog about design, shopping, food, and being a career-mommy at http://cathrinadionisio.blogspot.com/) that I should start a series where I'll be answering questions from the readers, and I think I'm convinced based on the emails that I receive. So I'd love to hear from you! If it’s a recipe, an ingredient or maybe a suggestion I would prefer that you ask it on the comment section of the post. That way everyone can benefit from the information. I will turn your questions and suggestions into a blog post.

Thank you and looking forward to hear from you!

a.k.a Impromptu Diva

Friday, December 4, 2009

Orange You Glad It's Chicken

“Who's going to drink all the soda dad?" I overheard my son, Joey, asking my hubby about the sodas he just bought. We usually don’t drink soda at our house, so my son was puzzled as to why my husband bought a few 2-liter bottles. I thought that he just got it because it was on sale, but then I heard him say, "No, mom is sick and soda will help her feel better." I don't know if there is any scientific explanation to it, but thinking back on it, soda was one of the "comfort" drinks that we had growing up. Is it just a Filipino thing? Maybe, but I don't really know.

I was so touched by my husband’s sweet gesture. Even if there is no scientific reason as to why you feel better after drinking orange soda, I know for a fact (and apparently so does my hubby) that it works for me. I guess that’s what having “comfort” food or drink is all about. It’s all about the feeling of being wrapped up, cuddled and cared for… especially when you are sick. It makes you feel like a child again. The sweet tangy taste of orange soda (we had Royal Tru Orange back then but Sunkist is close enough!) and the faint fizz from the carbonated drink warms your heart… You might think it is über cheesy, but hey let me savor the moment.

I think my husband over did it though because a week later most of the Sunkist was still sitting in our pantry. So I used the orange soda as a cooking ingredient. And I used it to take center stage in cooking my Orange Glazed Chicken. I wanted to capture the sweetness of orange and let it stand-out by adding orange rinds and wedges. The result was a sweet orange flavored dish.

Along with the Orange-Glazed Chicken, I prepared a bean sprout (togue) and cucumber salad. I got the salad recipe from my Mama. She calls it Kimchi. I always tell her, “Mom kimchi is most commonly served as spicy pickled cabbage, not bean sprouts,” but she still insists in calling it kimchi salad up to this day. LOL! Oh well, that's why I love my Mama. But let me name the salad- Bean Sprouts-Cucumber Duo.

The combination of the Orange-Glazed Chicken and the Bean Sprouts-Cucumber duo is so divine… it’s like a perfect marriage. Plus, when it’s all laid out on the plate with all of the garnishing of orange wedges and toasted sesame seeds, it will definitely get an oh-so-delish remark from your loved ones… Happy cooking!

Orange Glazed Chicken


10-12 pcs of chicken (I used thighs)
1/4 c soy sauce
1 c orange soda (I used sunkist)
1/4 c white sugar
Pepper and salt to taste
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3 bay leaf (crushed)


Wash the chicken thoroughly (I use salt to clean my chicken). In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and let it simmer. You want all the ingredients to blend well. Place the chicken on the pan, skin side down. Cover and cook until chicken is done. Cooking time takes about 30 minutes but if chicken is not cooked yet add water. Wait until it dehydrates. You must turn the chicken twice so that the sides won’t burn but allowing it to caramelize.

The chicken at this point needs some TLC - never allow it to burn, as it will have a bitter/ burnt taste. Add orange rinds and cook for a few more minutes. When serving, garnish it with orange wedges and toasted sesame seeds.

Bean Sprouts and Cucumber Duo


1 package of bean sprouts
1 whole cucumber (sliced)
1 c white vinegar
¾ c white sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 medium onion (chopped)


Blanch the bean sprouts. Drain and set aside. In a pan, boil the vinegar and sugar together. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the onions and sesame oil. Let it cool.

Arrange the bean sprouts and cucumber in a serving plate. Pour in the vinegar mixture. Make sure that the vinegar is already cold.
Serve the Orange Glazed Chicken alongside the Bean Sprouts–Cucumber Duo… ENJOY!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Warm Hug Is What it Takes

Mother knows best, so the proverbial saying goes but oh well, don’t look at me because often I don't! I feel like I have too many misadventures as a mom. In fact, I’m sure my kids could write an entire book entitled MOMMY’S (MIS)ADVENTURES and it will be as thick as a Webster dictionary.

Just this morning, I got a text from my daughter Izzy. She said I have to check her out from school because she wasn’t feeling well. Frantic that it may be swine flu (see, I didn’t even know the symptoms of swine flu despite the flood of emails I get regarding the disease) I called my sister, Marvie, who is a physician in Orlando. “Does Izzy have swine flu,” I asked anxiously, “because she said she has a throbbing headache and an upset stomach?” She answered my question with another question, “Did she take something this morning?” “Yeah, I gave her ascorbic acid to remedy her sniffles,” I responded. My sister then asked a pretty simple, yet vital question, “Did she eat something before taking the ascorbic acid?” I responded no and she said, “Well then that’s the culprit, ascorbic acid should be taken with a full stomach.”

I felt bad for my daughter having to suffer through the pain. As I drove to her school, thoughts of my past misadventures as a mom rushed to my mind. One time my son complained about a terrible pain and I gave him Tylenol to try to ease it. However, it’s a good thing my husband overheard the conversation, and probed further, asking him where the pain was coming from, and when it started. The next thing I knew was we were at the ER. I was grateful to have a husband who has a medical background… I don't even want to think of what could have happened next.

So on the way home, I asked Izzy what she wanted for lunch. “Soup,” she replied. I made this soup that is "tinola-esque". Tinola is a soup dish traditionally served with chicken cut ups, slices of green papaya and chili leaves. But since I wanted to serve something fresh and hot right away, I didn’t have to go through the process of sautéing. With a left over breast from the rotisserie chicken we had last night and the chayote squash, I did what Rachel Ray calls “chop and drop”. It gave a welcome relief to my daughter’s upset stomach, plus the soup gave her a warm hug in this cold December weather.



Slices of chicken breast (left over from a store bought rotisserie chicken)
3 slices of ginger (crushed)
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 medium tomato (chopped)
3 cups chicken broth (I used knorr chicken bouillion dispersed in water)
Fish sauce (patis) to taste

As I’ve said, this is easy to prep: just chop, drop, cook the dish and it’s done. Pour the chicken broth in a pot, and add all the sliced ingredients in as soon as the broth is boiling. You’ll have the taste of tinola in no time! Enjoy!

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