Monday, August 10, 2015

Quick Meatball Stir Fry Dinner

Today's dinner was an easy to fix meal for 5. I had half a bag of frozen meatballs from IKEA, 2 large bell peppers and 1 large sweet onion, so I searched for a recipe with these ingredients. From the three recipes that I liked, I ended up using this one from Yummly (how can you go wrong when the site is named like that?):

I did the following changes:
1. Halved the soy sauce and rice vinegar (to reduce sodium)
2. Used 1.5tbsp of cornstarch
3. No green onions on hand, so I used a whole giant sweet onion instead
4. No sesame seeds :(
5. 1.5tsp of hot chili oil for a tiny kick (which my husband did not detect, because he lives by sriracha)
6. Used 2 green bell peppers because those were what I had

Here's the end result:

Mmm :) next time I'll try a homemade chicken meatball recipe with this, and hopefully I'll have sesame seeds and green onions by then hehehe!

Happy cooking!

Lotsa love,
Julie P.

Lay's Do Us A Flavor 2015 Finalists: A Review

Hi, everyone! I still have to finish moving into our house and also get my PC from my family's place, so I'll post about food (which is easier to talk about, am I right?). Hopefully this will be enough to tide you over and give me adequate time to write a well-thought out series of posts about our suppliers and our whirlwind of a wedding :)

Lay's potato chips. I grew up being deprived of snacks when I was a kid, being sickly and all, so you can imagine how fast I scarfed down junk food whenever I had the chance! Growing up I tried to be on the healthier side of life by allowing myself to snack in small portions, and trained myself not to indulge in one of God's greatest creations: the fried potato. Fries and chips are my Achilles' heel, especially if the fries are made fresh (bonus: a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning) and the chips are the sweet barbeque kind. Enter the Lay's "Do Us A Flavor" contest that began to run yearly since 2013. These days my kryptonite is Wasabi Ginger, the winner of their 2014 contest, which perfectly balanced the kick of wasabi, ginger and soy sauce onto thick, kettle cooked chips. Thank goodness their large bags aren't as large as their normal ones, or else that one time I ate a whole bag for dinner would have ended in disaster (don't worry, I ate healthy afterwards). Lay's, stop stocking Safeway! (Not really, no, I just have to learn to eat this in moderation).

This year's flavor finalists are as diverse as the previous years'. Needless to say, my coworkers and I (no, they're not chip connoiseurs, just your average chip-loving Americans) have mostly the same views on each flavor. They'll never top my love for Wasabi Ginger chips, though!

1. Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro

This was the least favorite. It didn't conjure images of the beloved gyro for us, instead it was the last one to be finished, if someone did finish the last few chips it had when I last saw it in our break room. It was tangy and the smell was not appetizing at all - you're better off just eating the real thing at your favorite Greek place even if it's a couple of miles away. We're still boggled by the fact that this was a finalist, much like when we scratched our heads at how Mango Salsa and Cappuccino were able to get through the internal voting process at Lay's. Ick, such a waste of potatoes.
Score: 1 out of 5

2. Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries

Ever since truffle oil started popping up everywhere (if it's cheap then it's most probably faux/synthetic), I've been wanting to try the expensive French variety that sells for $100/1oz at Amazon (but of course I can never bring myself to buy those as-expensive-as-gold slivers of mushroom). Quite honestly, I felt that this flavor was a bit of a cheat since it's already originally on another version/cut/form of fried potato. I didn't get the truffle at all, and we all agreed that it actually tasted vaguely of sour cream and onion, albeit a lighter version of the much-loved flavor. We did manage to finish the bag, but it's nothing I would buy again when I go to the grocery store.
Score: 3 out of 5

3. New York Reuben
This was one of the office favorites, they said that it had all the notes of the Reuben down pat. Some have said that the sauerkraut flavor is too overwhelming and lingers on your palate, but since I haven't had the chance to try the real sandwich, I'm left with the option of just going with what everyone had to say. I can definitely taste the corned beef and the tanginess of the sauerkraut, with just a hint of cheese.
Score: 4 out of 5

4. Southern Biscuits and Gravy

This was also a crowd favorite, invoking memories of big family dinners, or for immigrants like me, road trip lunches at the nearest Cracker Barrel. The thin chips carried a perfect balance of the smoky and peppery flavor of sausages (one of the key ingredients in white gravy), the creaminess of gravy, and a hint of buttery biscuit (side note: biscuits, which in the Philippines/UK means the harder version of cookies/digestives, while in the US the term is used for buttery, crumbly and savory confections usually paired with fried chicken). This was a win-win: someone forgot they were eating the last 1/4 of the bag until he demolished it.
Score: 4 out of 5

There you have it, I hope you get to enjoy the newest batch of Lay's chips (and sneak a lap or two around your neighborhood while you're at it)! As always, eat in moderation :)

Wasabi Ginger is love!

Love lots,
Julie P.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Snowy Shoot

Shivering in between takes, our photographer friend Jay kept telling me "tiis-ganda!," a Filipino term which roughly translates to "suffer for the sake of beauty." I had to remind myself through our seemingly long, grueling engagement shoot that I was the one who persuaded Jomar that the snow would look lovely in photos. Looking back though, all the teeth-chattering and silent prayers for warmth were worth it :)

Here are some tips for my fellow brides-to-be when shooting in the snow:

1. It's a given that it will be very cold, especially if you choose to not wear weather-appropriate attire or you're simply not a winter person, so get a photographer that will be patient enough to wait for you to get out of your jacket in between takes and will tolerate your (well, my) whines of "I'm soooo cold, why is it soooo coooold." Jay has been a good friend of ours for years, so thank God he and Jomar were used to me hahaha.

2. Make sure to do your due diligence and check that your venue will be open on the day and time of the shoot! We originally planned on having it in a park in DC, but ended up relocating to a smaller park in Silver Spring, MD. Because of the change of venue, we had to make do with tighter shots since we were also sharing the space with local joggers.

3. Wear color. If you're going for a more muted look, then by all means do that, but if you want to stand out and take advantage of the snowy landscape then you'd want to opt for brighter shades like the red I chose for our shoot. To tie your look with your fiancé's, you can make your own bouquet and a matching boutonniere for him. The bouquet took about 20 minutes to assemble, while the boutonniere took me just minutes to make.

Outfit details: 
Me: Dress from Nordstrom rack / Heattech tights from Uniqlo / Patent bow flats from Nine West
Jomar: Slim necktie from Penguin / Suit from Express / Black slip-on leather shoes from Rockport

4. Practice your poses beforehand. If, like us, you're awkward in front of the camera, look up engagement photos online for inspiration. Browse through,, and I wanted ours to not look too cheesy and I had a general idea of what I wanted our pictures to look like, but we ended up being coached by Jay because "winging it" did not suffice. It's not obvious, but there were a lot of "what do we do?!?", "where do I look" and "my arms feel so weird, I have no idea where to put them!" moments in between takes.

5. Practice your hair and makeup a day or two ahead and take a picture for reference. The two hours leading to the shoot was a blur of hair products and makeup, littered with problems that kept popping up, e.g.: a. my inexperience with fake eyelashes (I had trouble aligning them with my real eyelashes, but they really make your eyes more beautiful in photos, so use them even if they look ridiculous to you in person) b. my hair refused to hold a single curl, so I had to rush online and find an easy yet appropriate updo, and c. my forehead pimples kept trying to rebel against the barrage of concealer, primer and foundation I piled on them (thank goodness I was victorious!).

6. Have your winter jacket within easy reach so you can warm up in between photos. Or you can be sneaky and pretend to want to use your fiancé's suit jacket as a prop for some of the pictures (hehehe).

7. Remember the reason why you're out languishing in the cold (instead of doing the sane thing, which is staying at home, sipping a cup of hot chocolate in your warmest pajamas): it's to commemorate you and your fiancé's love for each other. So relax, have some laughs at the ridiculous situation you've put yourselves in, and patiently wait for the beautiful pictures you'll soon be getting. All will be worth it.

8. Ah, so you thought I was done? Wrong! After the shoot, you're going to be tired and hungry, so you might want to hit up a nearby restaurant for some good, tummy-warming eats. We went to Thai Taste by Kob, which serves your normal Thai fare alongside street-style food.

Obligatory after-shoot pic with Jay at Thai Taste
Wishing you all the best on your engagement!

<3 lots,

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

This was taken on such a nice day before the temp started to drastically fall, I asked Jomar to walk with me to the train station next to my place for a mini shoot because I was wearing a really cool outfit. Thinking back on my younger years, I was constantly an awkward kid. I was always at the sidelines, and desperately wanted to belong. I always wished that if I were to leave this world, I'd like to leave at least a small stamp on it. I wanted the Hollywood hunk bf, a great job I'll brag about to everyone, and host an annual New Year's Eve party at my penthouse in Manhattan. None of those happened to me, but I know now that happiness does not lie on these temporal things. It's in finding beauty wherever you are at life, and being thankful for the big and small blessings. As I giggled at my bf squatting so awkwardly so he can take a nice shot of me in a soon-to-become fave outfit, I mentally ticked off all the things that were perfect in that moment. I smiled. *click*

<3 and smiles,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In The Spotlight: Jackie Francois

While browsing through my Facebook wall, I came across a post by a young friend of mine about her role model, Jackie Francois. Having never heard of her name before, I did a quick Google search and learned that blogs via her website
A singer/songwriter and speaker, Jackie also blogs about different issues that are connected with her Catholic faith. If you're a young lady as well, I highly recommend her blog as it deals with a lot of issues that I had been blessed to have discussed about in my own church group, Youth For Christ, when I was growing up. Her blog is very insightful, witty and not condescending at all, and is very helpful especially if you're searching for answers to sensitive questions. With the month of November looming near, the topic of overtly sexy Halloween costumes is trending once more, and I find her and Leah Darrow's insight on the topic to be respectful and guided by the much-loved and applauded Theology of the Body teaching by Blessed John Paul II. Check it out here :)
Here's my more secular take on the trend back in 2012:

I don't really celebrate Halloween (except of course if I have a really cool, geeky idea for a costume), but I'm curious as to what you're planning to wear that night! Tell me what it is in the comments section :)