Letters that make my day… CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL (Sponsor a Child)

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Back in 2013, Bok asked me what I want to do when we grow older and what will make me happy during those times.  I clearly remember that day when he asked me that question, we were driving with the kids and when we do long drives, Bok and I enjoy talking about life, our families, our goals, plans and dreams.

I remember thinking deeply and asking myself, what will make me happy specially when I get older, after we raise our own children.  Only one thing came to mind… CHILDREN.  In 2014, I discovered Children International.  Together with my girls, we scoured profiles of needy children and finally picked Ariana and Arjon.  Ariana is a girl from Legazpi, Philippines and she is the same age as Jade (my eldest daughter) and because we don’t have a son in the family and we lost our little boy when I had a miscarriage in 2010, we decided to pick Arjon, a 5-year-old boy from the Philippines.

We’ve been sponsoring these two beautiful children for more than a year now; and to us, this journey is just beginning and we enjoy every moment and opportunity that we are able to help these children live better lives through our sponsorship with the help of Children International.

How does it feel to sponsor?  It’s PRICELESS.  No burden, no worries, no pressure, no second thoughts.

We love hearing back from Arjon and Ariana after we write them.  It keeps our relationship going as we learn about each other’s lives.  Funny thing, both of them don’t know that we are a Filipino-Chinese-American family.  We’ve been writing them in English and I never mentioned to them that we speak the language they speak.  We do this because we want to surprise them.  This coming December (2015), in coordination with Children International, we will be meeting these children face to face.  We will visit their homes, school and community in Legazpi, Philippines.  It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime.

Thanks to Children International for this great program, thanks to their great staff both from the U.S. and all around the world.

Thanks to Ariana and Arjon for these letters that always make my day.  See you soon!

 

Für Elise (For Elise) after 7 Years…

JADE IS 3 YEARS 11 MONTHS OLD WHEN WE RECORDED HER FIRST VERSION OF FUR ELISE. NEVER DID IT OCCUR TO ME THAT AFTER 7 YEARS, WE WILL BE RECORDING ANOTHER VERSION OF THIS SAME SONG – THIS TIME DONE BY HER LITTLE SISTER MEI.

MEI IS 4 YEARS 4 MONTHS OLD ON THIS VIDEO.

ENJOY!

 

 

Cua Pao (Gua Bao) – Lovingly learned from my Mom-In-Law

My special Cua Pao

I first tasted Cua Pao when my mother-in-law visited us in California and she made her own version.  From then on, because of the savory, sour, sweet and nutty taste of Cua Pao, it’s become one of the family favorites.  Cua Pao also known as folded steamed sweet buns with filling is an authentic “Chinese” recipe.  Similar to when you order Peking Duck, stewed pork belly cut in slices are placed in a steaming hot sweet bun. It’s very easy to make and it’s a sure hit to anyone who loves to explore authentic Chinese meal.  Definitely NOT a vegan recipe but it’s a classic hand-me-down family recipe :)

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Pork Belly
  • Soy Sauce
  • Mirin
  • Cooking Sake or Rice Wine
  • Ginger
  • Star Anise
  • Cilantro
  • Sour Mustard
  • Chopped garlic
  • Chopped peanuts with white sugar or crushed peanut cake
  • Folded white steamed buns

PROCEDURE

First, prepare the stewed pork belly.  In a large pot, boil pork belly with crushed ginger for 30-45 minutes making sure to remove the scum for a clear/clean broth.  The broth should reduce then mix in soy sauce, mirin, and sake.  Reduce for another 15 minutes.

In a wok, heat oil and brown the chopped garlic.  Mix in thinly sliced sour mustard and stir fry for 5-7 minutes making sure you squeeze out the water from the mustard before cooking.

Prepare cilantro leaves.

Steam store-bought buns for 10-15 minutes.

Assemble your cua pao… and enjoy!

My Children… 

 

I am a Mother of our two most precious Angels, God-given, Life-motivating, and our source of Happiness. Having our children changed me as a person, made me a stronger woman, taught me to be more patient, fearless, selfless, brave, God-fearing, creative, hardworking, silly, nagging, fun-loving, and compassionate.  As our children grow, and as I age, I slowly realize my stages of growth when I was a child myself, growing up with 3 siblings being raised by our parents back in The Philippines.  Every stage, I tend to flash back and discern the struggle my parents had to overcome.  It’s not easy to raise children but it is definitely The Best thing in my life, my family.  My husband and our children they are the source of my strength. 
I got this book today from the Thrift Store in Tustin for only $0.50.  I am excited to learn more and understand how to inprove my parenting skills.  That’s another thing I learned as a parent, spending money wisely 😉 and THAT, is very important.

Thanks for reading!

Gotgamssam Salgussam 곶감쌈 (Walnuts wrapped in Persimmon/Apricot)

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One of my favorite snack recipe that I learned from Maangchi is Gotgamssam Salgussam.  I enjoy how easy it is to make these and I also love how healthy and filling it can be.

It’s been a couple of years since I last made some of these but last week, I was able to buy good quality dried persimmons at our local Korean Market (H-Mart).  I also purchased organic dried Turkish Apricots from a Persian market here in Laguna Niguel.

It is always best to use whole walnuts but I only found halves and pieces at Trader Joes.

When you try it, have it with your favorite Tea.  Enjoy!

 

Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake)

 

Another way to make my children eat vegetable is by making vegetable pancakes where I chop and mix all kinds of veggies into a pancake a mix and serve it with sauce to make it more appetizing.  In my older posts, I have shared my recipe of the Korean Pancake, my children’s ultimate favorite vegetable dish.

This time, I made Okonomiyaki, the Japanese way of cooking savory vegetable pancake.  I used yam flour, wheat flour and eggs for the batter.  The main ingredient is thinly shredded cabbage leaves, then I added fried tempura batter for texture and some chopped scallions.  After grilling the pancake on a non-stick pan, I topped the pancake with aonori (seaweed flakes), bacon (optional), katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and some Japanese mayonnaise.

It was another hit!  My kids love it ♥

Pinakbet (Filipino steamed mixed vegetable dish)

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When I saw this Veggie grab bag ad in one of my favorite Asian grocer (Tokyo Central formerly known as Marukai Market) magazine, I thought the veggies will be more like green beans, carrots, Brussel sprouts but when we went to the market, I grabbed a veggie bag and filled it with cherry tomatoes, okra and mushrooms.  With all that I have, plus my left-over quarter kabocha (a Japanese variety of winter squash), today I cooked Pinakbet.

Store magazine ad for All-You-Can-Fit-In-A-Bag
Store magazine ad for All-You-Can-Fit-In-A-Bag (Vegetables) for $1.88/bag

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Bento School Lunch

Whole-wheat flat bread ham & cheese sandwich, Persian cucumbers, Mr. & Mrs. banana, cherry tomatoes and biscotti for desert

Bento is a Japanese style home-packed complete meal which typically holds rice, fish or meat, pickled or steamed vegetables and some fruits.  Bento is an art and to me it’s a meal I make from my heart to nourish my children’s body and express my love for them by creating simple, satisfying and healthy packed bento lunch. I have tons of bento accessories but I am not an expert like others.  I mix bento making with my American-style lunch box and jarred salads or fruits.  It makes eating more fun and I enjoy hearing stories from my children about how much fun they enjoyed eating their lunch at school. Bento box is easy, just make sure you have simple portioned left-overs or ingredients that can be pre-cooked and stored in the freezer then warmed up before bento assembly.  Bento can even be prepared the night before because the goal of preparing bento is to serve food at room temperature using ingredients that can hold itself fresh until ready to eat within a day.

Whole-wheat flat bread ham & cheese sandwich, Persian cucumbers, Mr. & Mrs. banana, cherry tomatoes and biscotti for desert
Whole-wheat flat bread ham & cheese sandwich, Persian cucumbers, Mr. & Mrs. banana, cherry tomatoes and biscotti for desert
Bento accessory I purchased on Amazon to make fun and cute sandwiches for my kids
Bento accessory I purchased on Amazon to make fun and cute sandwiches for my kids
Big Sister Bento.  I prepared this bento for my elder daughter for school lunch. It includes Paleo turkey avocado wrap, Berkshire sausages, star-boiled egg, baby carrots, sliced kiwi and banana
Big Sister Bento. I prepared this bento for my elder daughter for school lunch. It includes Paleo turkey avocado wrap, Berkshire sausages, star-boiled egg, baby carrots, sliced kiwi and banana
Little Sister Bento - after making the bigger version, I have some left-overs, I made this smaller bento version for my little one.  This one has a heart-boiled egg.
Little Sister Bento – after making the bigger version, I have some left-overs, I made this smaller bento version for my little one. This one has a heart-boiled egg.
Another bento accessory, I bought it for $1.50, it turns the sausages into cute animals
Another bento accessory, I bought it for $1.50, it turns the sausages into cute animals
Bear rice balls (onigiri) filled with grilled salmon (left-over from dinner last night), Japanese fried chicken (Karaage), cherry tomatoes, and Hello Kitty Jello for desert
Bear rice balls (onigiri) filled with grilled salmon (left-over from dinner last night), Japanese fried chicken (Karaage), cherry tomatoes, and Hello Kitty Jello for desert
Bear rice balls (onigiri) filled with grilled salmon (left-over from dinner last night), Japanese fried chicken (Karaage), cherry tomatoes, and Hello Kitty Jello for desert
Bear rice balls (onigiri) filled with grilled salmon (left-over from dinner last night), Japanese fried chicken (Karaage), cherry tomatoes, and Hello Kitty Jello for desert

Super easy Crispy Fry Chicken your family will LOVE

Crispy Fry Chicken Karaage

Cooking made super easy using this pre-packed Crispy Fry Mix from my sister in The Philippines.  She sent this to me and I was super excited to try it.  It’s very easy to make.  I bought my favorite boneless chicken cutlets from a Japanese market.  These chicken parts are from thighs and legs used by Japanese to cook “Karaage” (Japanese style fried chicken).  I just heated my non-stick pan with Canola oil, placed my chicken in a zip-lock bag, mixed in the Crispy Fry powder then deep fry on medium high.

It turned out well.  Extra crispy, juicy and very easy to make.

The Crispy Fry mix is available in Filipino and Japanese supermarkets here in California.