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Making Flan

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Food | 0 comments

We always tend to remember food from our childhood where a few recipes stand out and stay as lifetime favorites.  For me as a kid, one of my all-time Filipino/Spanish desserts is flan or leche flan, as Filipinos often call the dish.  I like my flan a certain way — sturdy (not soggy or runny), right shade of yellow (not too bright or too pale), and not super sweet.  Picky, you might say…

Not too long ago, I decided to take up the challenge of making my own flan, partly because I wanted to see whether or not I can make one that’s as good as those that my aunts made when I was kid.  While I cannot objectively tell you how my flan turned out, I can honestly say that my girls devoured them — an overall positive sign.

To make flan, I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe, which is as follows:

Flan with Condensed Milk

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
One 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1  1/2 cups of water
Zest of 1/2 Lime, removed in large strips
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of Salt
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2 – Prepare caramel by combining in small heavy saucepan without stirring the sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Do this over medium heat, swirling the pan gently as the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should not boil until sugar is blended. Increase the heat to high and bring syrup to a rolling boil, cover the pan tightly and boil for two minutes. Uncover the pan and cook until the caramel darkens. Gently stir once again and cook until caramel turns into deep amber color. Then, coat 2 to 2 1/2 quart mold with caramel.

3 – Combine in a saucepan the milk, 1 1/2 cups of water, lime zest, cinnamon stick and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer gently for five minutes.

4 – Remove from heat, cover and let stand until just warm. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup with pouring tip.

5 – Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla until blended. Gradually whisk into the milk mixture. Pour into the caramel-lined molds (see #2).

6 – Bake in a warm water bath until firmly set in the center, about 45 to 55 minutes for individual cups or 50 to 70 minutes for a single dish.

7 – Cool and unmold the flan.

This dish is pretty easy to make with the caramel preparation as most challenging step. If you feel like adding a little Spanish/Filipino touch to your dessert menu, I highly recommend making this dish.  Yes, it’s indulgent but oh so good…

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flan2 Before going into the oven

flan3 After the oven and just chillin’

Week 34/52

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Family and friends | 0 comments

Weekly snapshots of life in 2016

Two more weeks to go before school starts! A part of me is beginning to feel a little unsettled already, moving away from that easygoing summer mode I’ve been operating from the last couple of months. There’s back-to-school shopping for Ines that still needs to get done — thankfully, Chiara’s portion is finished already. Slowly this week, we’ll try to go back to sleeping a bit earlier at night, which should be easier now that the Olympics is over.

I am thankful to have caught up with some family and friends last week.  It’s the bonding time with loved ones that always make us feel positive and affirmed that we’re all in the bumpy rides of life together.  I always appreciate the lack of pretense when I’m with close friends and family — there’s no need to impress, just the familiar rhythms of catching up, sharing a meal or two and lots of laughters.

In a few days, we take off Brady’s cone, which he’s been wearing since his surgery two weeks ago.  He’s been such a sport about everything and so sweet, though he did have a teen moment this week when he ate part of our carpet.   I just blame it on his frustration of not being able to gnaw on his toys and bully stick because of the cone.  Luckily for us, the damaged carpet was one we wanted to replace anyway.  Ahh, the joys of having a pet…

Have a great week!

Some moments from last week…

iandbrady

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happyb Happy Brady

movie

vanvleck A little yoga action at Van Vleck Gardens in Montclair courtesy of my sister

clafoutis Clafoutis pie I made this weekend

Paul Klee – Artist Beyond Definition

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Art, France | 0 comments

Before we left France a few weeks ago, we checked out the very comprehensive Paul Klee exhibit at Centre Pompidou in Paris. I’ve always loved Klee’s work primarily because of the colors he used in his art as well as the humor involved. To anyone who first sees work, the simple lines and drawing of his paintings may seem a little childlike and naive. But upon closer look and further scrutiny, one sees the serious message behind a lot of his paintings (even some that were anti-Hitler, pretty bold move at the time) and the careful choice of colors for his compositions.

It’s always fun to see how artists evolve over time, to see how their craft buoys them through their lifetime. With this exhibit, I saw how Klee started out as an illustrator and dabbled a little in sculpture. His trips to Italy and Africa led him to be more brazen with color choice and combinations in his works. He was an artist associated with various art movements — Expressionism, Abstraction, Surrealism, Cubism — but the chronology of his works do not classify him as an artist of these movements.

The other thing the I learned from this exhibit was how Klee suffered from a degenerative disease called scleroderma toward the latter years of his life.  This condition explains his shift toward simpler and larger works at the end of his career.  Yet despite of his illness, he still created a tremendous amount of work, well over 500 in one year.  I suppose that’s one of the things I love about artists, it’s their passion for their craft despite illnesses and everyday realities, many of which can throw us off the usual course. The other thing I love about these creative souls is how they always subject themselves to change, experimenting with the various styles and techniques that may appeal to them but always persisting. Now if I only can mimic these traits and incorporate them in my life.

Here are some of the images I took from the exhibit…

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Week 33/52

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Family and friends | 0 comments

Weekly snapshots of life in 2016

These summer weeks are simply going way too fast!  I know I should count my blessings considering school has already started in some parts of the US. But a part of me wants to simply press the pause button for now and take everything in — to be thankful, to be in the moment, to be joyful.

A lot of this past week was spent on taking care of Brady who had his operation on Tuesday. It’s heartbreaking to see this little guy navigate around with his little collar but he has been a pretty good sport through it all.  I just keep telling myself that we only have “xx number of days” left and then he can go back to life without any encumbrances.

The girls finished one of the camps that they’re doing last Friday.  This week’s camp was Fashion Design where they both created pajama bottoms, a skirt (for Ines), and a purse (for Chiara).  They had such fun at this camp that Ines is already begging me to do it again next year.  This week, both girls will try something different as they go to Theater Camp, which they have never done before so it will be interesting to see how they’ll like it.

We ended the week with a visit to Ocean Grove in the Jersey shore.  It’s a quaint little town, just over an hour away from us, with lots of quaint Victorian homes and a friendly, low-key vibe.  Despite the sweltering heat, the beach wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be.   We’ve been experiencing a heat wave out here in the East Coast that’s not suppose to break until today so we thought anything that can cool us off a bit would be a good idea.

How about you?  How was your weekend?

bradyandi

bradywcone

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skirt.camp Skirt made by Ines

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Doing Amsterdam In Four Days

Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

It’s crazy to think that we were able to see so much of Amsterdam in a four days. I think it’s the fact that the city was easy to navigate and everything was relatively close that we were able to see all the places we wanted to check out. Plus, the Dutch are also very helpful and friendly and pretty fluent in English that everything just came easy.

I want to share some of highlights of our trip — what we did, where we ate, what to eat, and how we got around.   I’m sorry that this post is a bit long but I hope it helps some of you who are thinking of going to Amsterdam in the near future.

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amsterdambeauty

Things to Do:

Amsterdam is teeming with museums and historical sights. Here are some of our faves:

* Koninklijk Palace – Built in 1648, this old town hall is still sometimes used by the Dutch royal family. The grandeur of this place is symbolic of the civic pride the Dutch felt after winning the 80 Years War against Spain.

koninklijkpaleis

* The Dam – Right by the Palace, the Dam is the town’s main square that’s bustling with tourists and street entertainers, much like Times Square in NYC.

dam

* Van Gogh Museum – A must-see especially since Van Gogh is one of Amsterdam’s most well-known artists. There are lots of facts on Van Gogh here — his life, his passions, obsessions, illness and family.  My fave was reading his correspondence with his brother, Theo.

vangoghmuseum

* Rijksmuseum – A majestic museum with its impressive architecture.  It  has a wonderful collection of Dutch art.  The only down side for me personally was not seeing my favorite Vermeer works here though there were lots of Rembrandts to offset Vermeer’s absence.  A museum guard told me that some of Vermeer’s popular works are at The Hague.  Oh well…

rijksmuseum

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rembrandt

* Museum Van Loon – It’s a great museum to visit if you want to see how the rich families in Amsterdam lived in the 17th century. More on this on a future post.

* Westerkerk – It is Amsterdam’s most impressive and largest church.  It’s also where Rembrandt is buried.

westerkerk

* Anne Frank’s House – A very sad part of Amsterdam’s history but I consider it a must-see. Chiara is supposed to read the Diary of Anne Frank next year for school so I thought it would be interesting for her to see where Anne wrote her journal.

annefrankhouse

* Canal Cruise – The best way to see Amsterdam.

Where to Eat

A sampling of restaurants we tried, mostly in the Western Canal Ring…

* De Vergulde Gaper – Good pub-type food with some Indonesian influence from the Netherlands colonial days.

deverguldegaper

* Lieve – Our favorite! This Belgian restaurant has three tasting menus with wine pairings for adults. We chose the slightly indulgent and delicious Mrs. Bubbles menu that the girls loved. The table setting was decorated with pearls as napkins holders and candles in martini glasses — just the kind of girly decor my Ines loves.

lieve

* Seasons – A trendy but unpretentious restaurant that specializes in the freshest ingredients of the seasons. We also got to hang out with the owner’s dog during dinner — a great antidote to missing Brady.

* Pancake Bakery – For indulgent savory and sweet pancakes. The portions are enormous so I highly recommend sharing.

What to Eat:

We pretty much had great food the whole time we were in Amsterdam. The restaurant options were so diverse ranging from South American to Thai. I do recommend indulging in two of my favorite Dutch treats: poffertjes (Dutch mini-pancakes) and stroopwafel (Dutch waffles).

poffertjes

Getting Around:

I think the best way to get around is by walking around and discovering the different neighborhoods. You do have to be very vigilant while walking as there are bikes everywhere and most bikers do not follow street rules. We were there the last week of the Dutch school year and it was amazing to see parents take their kids to school on their bikes with no helmets or other protective gear we’re used to in the US. Taking the tram and taxis are also other options if you feel like you can’t walk anymore.

Hope this post is helpful.  Amsterdam, even for just four days, was so much fun that I would definitely go back in a heartbeat!

edamcheese

swayingsisters  Buildings are called “Swaying or Drunk Sisters” because of the way the different houses tilt in their own merry directions