Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tips to great cupcakes

(pictures credited to:
A few months back, I was in this small group of little daughters and moms in a baking class. It was a fun get-together. We baked 2 kinds of cupcakes: lemon and vanilla, and the most moist "food for the gods".

The baking stint with the little ones was, as expected, messy! You know, after these little hands measure the dry ingredients, you will find them running around and playing hide and seek. Then, they come back and gather again in the kitchen to do some more measuring. I felt for a time I was in for a merry-go-round ride. The cupcakes turned out fine... but some were just flat due to over beating. Nevertheless, it was quite a wonderful experience for both mother and daughter activity.

The only thing I need to emphasize about cupcakes is how to bake them the right way. If there’s one thing I am known for, it’s the "excellence" in me. Call me a perfectionist or a spoiled little snot: either is an apt description. When something doesn’t go right or looks like it needed mastery, I would try again until I get excellent results. That is why, baking more cupcakes and learning from my mistakes made me take note of some points to remember to bake the almost-to-perfect ones.

Here are some tips:

1. Fill your cupcake wells 1/2 to 2/3 full. Any more and you will get a gooey mess instead of a beautiful cupcake. If you use less than 1/2 a well of batter, then you will get wimpy cupcakes and will have to use extra frosting to make them look larger. The picture below is an image of a simple batter mixture.
2. Choose the right cupcake pan. Good cupcake pans are shiny and on the heavy side. They will cook 6 to 12 cupcakes at a time. Large muffin pans don't work well for baking precious little cupcakes. Make sure you have 2 pans available because then you won't have to cool a pan before you finish baking your cupcakes. Two 12 well cupcake pans should be enough for one batch of cupcakes.

3. Make it easy o remove the cupcakes from your pan. Either use paper or foil wrappers or spray the individual wells with a nonstick spray. If you are using the new silicone pans, wrappers or nonstick spray work fine in these also.

4. Don't overmix or overbeat your batter. I will emphasize this again.... Never overbeat your batter!!!! Trust me, this has been my dilemma. This will cause your cupcakes to end up like flat shoes or to be rather chewy instead of perfectly moist. How do you do this? It's safe to mix your dry and liquid ingredients manually rather than with a mixer. You want to see some flour in your batter... this means it's not over mixed/beaten. Or follow the directions in your cupcake recipe. If your recipe calls for a hand mixer and you are using a stand mixer, you will need to reduce your mixing time. Stand mixers mix batters faster than regular hand mixers. Consult your owners manual for mixing time adjustments.

5. Bring all ingredients to room temperature before mixing your cupcake batter. The items will mix evenly, and the result will be a wonderful cupcake batter. By mixing cold items into your batter, you risk having a lumpy batter which might cause you to overmix your batter. GASP! What a No No!

6. Bake your cupcakes at the proper temperature. Preheat your oven to the correct temperature BEFORE you put your cupcakes in the oven. An oven thermometer would also be a great idea to make sure your oven is set to the right temperature. If your oven cooks food faster at the rear of the oven, then make sure you rotate your cupcake pan halfway through the baking time.

7. Use your favorite cake batter to make cupcakes. Batter for an 8 inch layer cake usually makes 20-24 cupcakes. Just make sure you have mixed the batter well, and only fill the cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake approximately 20 minutes, and check for doneness using a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcakes.

8. Test for doneness after the minimum cooking time. If the cupcakes aren't finished cooking after the minimum time, then place them back in the oven for some additional cooking time. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

9. Cook only one pan of cupcakes at a time. Place your cupcake pan in the very center of your oven. If your oven tends to cook items more that are towards the back, then rotate your cupcake pan halfway through the cooking time. If you absolutely have to bake 2 pans of cupcakes at one time, make sure you switch cupcake pans halfway through the cooking time. By this I mean put the bottom pan on the top and move the top pan to the bottom.

10. Cupcakes are best eaten the same day they are made. Undecorated cupcakes can be frozen up to 3 months.
Why don't you bake your favorite cupcakes now? Enjoy one as soon as it's ready and then either share the rest with friends or freeze them for your future enjoyment!

Strong Woman vs. A Woman with Strength

My Jonathan Prayer partner and very dear friend, Jessa, sent me this poem. You must have read this before... but it has reminded me who I am and what I should be in the Lord.... "A woman of Strength!" We all are. I hope this will bless you as it has blessed me today.

A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape ... but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape...

A strong woman isn't afraid of anything ... but a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear...

A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her ... but a woman of strength gives the best of her to everyone...

A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future... a woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be God's blessings and capitalizes on them...

A strong woman walks surefootedly ... but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls...

A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face ... but a woman of strength wears grace...

A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey ... but a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong...

It's in the valleys I grow

(Thank you, Micca Campbell)

My devotional for today:
Have you ever been down in the dumps and felt all alone? I have. I've been down lately with just the stress and pressures of life. Sometimes I feel like a whiny little child when I'm in the dumps. I find myself complaining and sniffling about everything. Then, while reading my bible, God reminded me AGAIN that no matter what circumstance I'm in, He's there and He's enough. God is not only there, but He's growing me up in the midst of it all.

As I was thinking on this truth, I remembered a poem I had tucked away. I'd like to share it with you. If you're down in the dumps today, let this truth speak to your heart and know that you are standing on Holy ground as the Holy One draws near to your side.

It's In the Valleys I Grow
By Jane Eggleston

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
then I have to remember
That it's in the valleys I grow.

If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.

I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys I grow.

I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.

My little valleys are nothing
When I Picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank you for the valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Left-over adobo, anyone?

This is called Pinitaw. I'm sure you are familiar with this. It's origin is shredded chicken flakes, seasoned and sauteed until dry and flaky. I make mine from left over adobo. All I do is shred them into small pieces, saute continuously on hot skillet until it appears dry, flaky and resembles into hair-like appearance. I use them to top my green salad, rice, some pasta dishes and with just plain buttered french toast. Try it! It's something that melts in your mouth!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Early this morning, somebody dropped off these real nice gifts for the kids! Who ever you are, thank you from the bottom of our hearts! God will reward you for your generousity.

jed solved the rubik's cube

He did it in 1 minute, 30 seconds!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Children see

A powerful ad. A must-see for both parents and children.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My boy is dating!

(For my CJ)

Oh how the years go by,
how fast time can fly.
For once your little fingers cling,
Unto crib railings and fluffy paddings.
At six months were your first steps,
Then you jiggle at kitchen counters
With loud laughters at nine months.
Your favorite were chocolate crunch!

And when you turned one
You were either flying or biking.
with a superman cape,
You wished you could roller skate!
How I prayed you’d never grow
Ah, those eyes that always glow
I have held you, nurtured you, fed you,
all the joy you give me, you do not know.

And now you’re fourteen
A handsome man, I have never seen,
My sweet little boy has all grown so tall
Every day I pray you’ll never fall!
And now that you’re all grown up
A time to discover, a time for adventure
Each step, be careful when you take
Especially when you go out on a date.

Oh no, my boy is dating!
My jealous heart , how nerve-wrecking!
Yet, I can’t stop you becoming a man
What we taught you, I hope you will always stand.
When tough times come
The difficulties and some
“Pray, you need to pray”
That is what we always say.

You shall spread your wings,
Your destiny for you to find.
We know your life's forever bound
To these roots you grew up behind.
Go! Fly, my son and dream big dreams,
You say impossible, so it seems
Honey, as long as you’re on His path
I trust, you’ll never go off track.

And when the day comes when you are on your own,
Oh please, never feel that you are alone.
No matter how near or far apart
I am always right there in your heart.
Always remember whatever you go through
that no matter what, I will always love you.
My little baby, now all grown, my precious son,
Go, take heed and shine like a man!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life's greatest moments!!!!

My kids received academic awards in school today. These are the times when I can just jump and thank the Lord for His faithfulness in the lives of my children.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drying your own herbs?

Yes, nothing beats the taste of fresh herbs picked from your own garden and added, seconds later, to the pan simmering on your stove.

But when fresh herbs are no longer in season, there's no reason to resort to those jars of stale supermarket herbs that have lingered in your pantry for years.
Last weekend, my family had a chance to visit a place where herb plants were in abundance. My herb plants in the garden have passed their season. Unfortunately, only the chives survived. So, I snipped a handful of the herbs I could find.
It was a good thing we were there early morning just as the dew evaporated and before they are subject to direct sunlight. I carefully picked the ones just before the flowers open as this is when the oil in the leaves are at it's highest level, providing the greatest flavor. But if there are a few flowers, I guess it won't matter too much. If you plan to dry your own herbs, this is what you’ll do. If you've harvested entire "branches" you can air-dry them by tying the stems together and hanging them upside down in a large brown paper bag or plastic bag with holes around it for ventilation. Make sure there is plenty of room inside the bag so leaves do not touch the sides of the bag. Label them and date each bag. Look for a dry, fairly warm area away from direct sunlight to hang your herbs.. There is no need to wash them first, unless they have dirt or other inedible bits attached. If you do need to rinse them briefly in cold water, pat them dry immediately with paper towels before hanging.
It should take between two and four weeks to yield an excellent supply of dried herbs. Test them periodically to see how they're doing. The leaves should be brittle but not so dry that they crumble to dust between your fingers! When herbs are dry and crumbly, remove leaves from stems. Crush leaves with a rolling pin or leave whole. Pack in an airtight container, preferably dark, or zip-top bag with air removed. I combine half of the yield in one container for my roasts, pastas, pizzas and soups. Some recipes dictate individual portions so I keep the rest in separate containers. Use within 6 months.
Reminder: Sage, thyme, summer savory, dill, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and marjoram are sturdy, low-moisture herbs that are best suited for air-drying.
Basil, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly. So the oven, dehumidifier or dehydrator methods work better.
Chives are best frozen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Celebrate life!

You are magnificent
Wonderful, Jesus!
I can celebrate life
because you reign!

Mama's Uyap....Cardava nga saging ug uyap

(picture taken in an excursion.... boiled bananas and red egg ensalada).

That's a cebuano term translated in Ilonggo as, "Cardava na saging tinanuk kag ginamos". I know, it's a gustatory puzzlement but I grew up eating them with so much zest! I was born in San Carlos City, that's somewhere west of Negros Island fronting Cebu island, and I speak Cebuano fluently. At a tender age, I remember very well the times when I accompanied my Mom to the wet market. She would buy a bunch of either ripe or green cardavas and have it boiled immediately after our trip from the market. I recall that with the bananas was her prepared "uyap" (shrimp paste fried with garlic and pork fat or tulapo). It was so good that I had to make 50 bottles of homemade a couple of christmases ago to give to friends and family.

I almost forgot about this favorite of mine until yesterday. My sister in law brought some boiled cardavas and red egg ensalada at the excursion. Food memories with my mom flashed picturisquely to mind as if it was yesterday. And so, I thought why not revive those memories by cooking my favorite "uyap" the way my mom prepared it. With some cooked ripe bananas, I'm lost in translation! And with the typical ripe mangoes? Ah, I am catching myself drooling at the thought of it.

Recipe for Uyap:

About 1 half block (2-inch x4-inch) of ginamos (shrimp paste)
1/2 kilo of pork fat, cut into cubes, fried until crisp, set aside
chopped garlic
1/2 cup "very sour" local vinegar
1 medium can tomato sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
freshly cracked pepper

In a bowl, mix the "uyap", vinegar and tomato sauce together. Set aside. In a pan, fry the cubed pork fat until crisp (tulapo), set aside. In the same pan, use some of the oil to saute the garlic. Add in the creamed uyap mixture. Stir for 15 minutes. Add in the brown sugar, fried tulapo and some freshly cracked pepper. Serve with the boiled bananas. The rest, cool and keep in clean glass container with lid. Refrigerate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Things I learn from my children (and other parents' kids too!)

I learned that:

.....A 3-year old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

.....The glass in windows doesn't stop a soccer ball hit by little hands.

.....Certain decorative stone will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old.

.....Super glue is forever.

.....Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

.....To always look in the oven before you turn it on. Plastic toys do not like ovens.

.....My expensive make-up will only last seconds once they're in the hands of a little princess.

..... My heart literally melts when my child comes to me, teary-eyed saying, "I'm sorry, please forgive me, Momi"

…. There's pleasure in brushing my daughter's long hair.

…. I get jealous when a girl calls my teen-age son.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The cousins

Stop, have a break…. have a cup of tea

Woman, you’re up before the sun appears,
Chin up, you know you’re blessed.
You raise your hands, you cast your cares
To Him, who knows what’s best.

You begin in the kitchen,
Then scurry to the garden
Then you load some in the washer
And spin ‘em in the dryer.

You work your hands
And scrub some pans
You hustle and bustle
Oh, what trouble!

Stop, have a break
Heaven knows, you can’t do much
Drop everything
Or you will crash.

So bring out the best china
And sit in your “butaca”
Open a book and read some stories
While munching sugar cookies!

Recommended cookies: Sugar Cookies available at SM groceries. (Tita Myrna, thank you for the lemon sugar cookies.... from Denmark! )

Health benefits of green tea:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Daisy's Daily Assignments

My husband and I require our children to do chores around the house. With my kids, getting children to do chores regularly and completely can be a problem.

It is a good idea for us parents to teach our children at an early age that all family members must work together to make the household run, and that each person must do his or her share of the work load.
Chores are beneficial for children - even very young ones. Being responsible for doing chores teaches children many important skills such as cooperation and responsibility. Chores also teach children about fairness and commitment. The skills and values learned by doing chores will benefit children throughout their lives.

Friday, November 2, 2007

For the love of Quilting

My quilting days are going
From all the days of sewing.
All my squares, blocks and patches
And all my pretty stashes
All moving and going
From all days of sewing.
My quilting hoop,
For almost 20 years of trusty service
My quilting magazines and books
My needles, shiny threads
Roller cutters and special scissors.
My bestfriend thimble,
I recall, my fingers nimble
on tiny stitches bind three layers
On quilt tops and coasters.
My quilts, they all have a story
From my eldest son down to my youngest girl
Each one has one.
Many hours were spent, many gifts were sent
All labored with love
For that is what they’re meant
To give warmth, on chilly nights
To hug one dear very tight.
All little bits of fabric
Sewn into a beautiful, cozy blanket.
All sewn into a quilt
Where all memories are built.
I remember I gave one to a couple
And another wall hang to a dear friend
Oftentimes they are such blessings
Far better than material things!
I made all patterns of blocks and applique
Trapunto and Bonnet Sue.
But now, I’ll give them a rest
And put some precious ones in my treasure chest.
Of hues of green and baby pink
Oh I will forever think
That someday, when I’m old and gray,
Quilting was one that made my day!
"Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber". Proverbs 31:19

Beef Stew

Beef Stew... Aaahhh. The thought of it makes my mouth water. This was a sought-after, reinvented recipe from my foster mom, Janet Crouch, some 24 years ago in Hoopeston, Illinois. This one works well if you're a busy mom. Just invest in one of those crock pots (slow cookers) with a ceramic base. Dump in all the ingredients before going to work and forget about it. Then for lunch, your home will be saturated with the sweet aroma of sumpteous, homemade stew!

1 kilo lean beef cutlets (preferably from the femur or the tibia part)
4 pcs chorizo bilbao (from a can of purefoods bilbao or Spanish sausages) cut into diagonal slices
1 pack of chopsuey mix (composed of ready made cuts of carrots, cauliflower, cabbages,sayote, etc)
2 large bulbs of white sweet onion, peeled and cut quarterly
1 med pack ginisa flavor mix
1 tsp. Chili powder
freshly cracked pepper
A handful of cherry tomatoes
A handful of cherry potatoes (unpeeled and cleaned well), cut in halves
a can of button mushrooms, drained and sliced thinly
4 cups Water
1 tbsp. butter

If using a slow cooker:
Arrange the meat at the bottom of large slowcooker, followed by the chorizos/sausages, the cherry potatoes, then lay over the rest of the chopsuey mix then the onions, then tomatoes last. Crack a handful amount of pepper and ginisa flavor mix on top of the casserole. Pour in the water and pop in the butter. Turn on the slowcooker for a minimum of 6 hours on low heat or 3 to 4 hours on high heat. Do not touch until cooked. Serve immediately.

If using a pressure cooker:
Tenderize the meat first with 3 cups water (or more) for 30 to 45 minutes using the pressure cooker. After 30 minutes, exhaust and open the pressure cooker and check if meat is tender. Proceed with cooking the stew on the same pot. Do not take out the tenderized beef. Pour in the rest of the ingredients mentioned above until vegetables become tender for about 20 minutes. Avoid turning or tossing the vegetables while cooking.

Serve hot with crackers, buttered toast or rice . Good for 4 hungry people. Approximate cost Php. 600

She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. Proverbs 31:15