Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spaghetti and sliders and cupcakes, oh my!

It's been a while since I last cooked for children. It's also been a while since I've seen my friend Vanessa, who moved to the Island after getting married. So when she said she'd be in town for the day, I jumped at the chance to have her and her family over for lunch. I made spaghetti and sliders and for dessert, these yummy cupcakes. They are so delicious, I don't mind if Vanessa's kids associate me with them forever in their memories. And I hope these cupcakes helped me to win their hearts, because they've certainly won mine.

adapted from The New Best Recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream or buttermilk (click here for an easy buttermilk substitute)
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

To bring chilly eggs up to room temperature more quickly, place them in a bowl of warm water. Eggs are also easier to separate when they're not so cold.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure that the oven rack is in the middle position. Line a standard-sized muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Add the butter, sour cream or buttermilk, egg and yolks, and vanilla. No special mixing required, just throw everything into the bowl.

Beat everything together with a mixer or a sturdy wooden spoon until the mixture is well-blended, smooth and glossy.

Divide the batter evenly into the cups of the muffin tin. Since the batter is quite thick and sticky, I find it easiest to use two teaspoons. Let a big dollop of the batter fall from one teaspoon into the center of the cup, pinning down the liner, and scrape it down with the other spoon. Add another dollop before moving on to the next cup.

Bake for 20-24 minutes or until the cupcake tops are pale gold and a knife blade or toothpick comes out clean from the center. Lift out the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool.

When the cupcakes are cool enough, top with your favourite frosting (I just use Nutella).



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Filipino Spaghetti

Oh, the things I've done for my siblings.

Being the oldest child has its perks. You never get hand-me-downs. You get to do everything first. You get to call the shots.

On the other hand, when something goes wrong, it's always your fault. If you had something to do with it, then you should have "known better." If you were nowhere near the scene of the crime, then "why weren't you around to prevent it from happening?"

Also, as the oldest child, you often have to make the delicate decision: when do I side with my parents, and when do I side with my siblings?

With apologies to my parents, I have to admit that often I've chosen to side with my siblings. I've lost count of the times I've heard the words, "Don't tell Mom and Pops." I've had to defend their transgressions, clean up their messes, bandage their wounds, and keep so many confidences, it's a wonder my hair isn't completely gray.

And yet, even my parents will have to admit that we five Olagueras are a pretty tight bunch. Sure, we squabble frequently - sometimes violently - among ourselves. But none of us will let any harm come to the others. And I know my siblings would do anything for me, just as I would do anything for them. (Right, guys??)

My brother in pasta nirvana
Which brings us to why I'm here in my kitchen this Sunday evening, doing something I have never done before: cooking ground beef in ketchup. Fellow Pinoys, you know what I'm up to. Yes, I am making Filipino spaghetti. That furiously red, startlingly sweet meat sauce, containing ingredients that have no Italian origins whatsoever.

What brought me to this, you ask? It's a touching story really. My brother got down on his knees the other day, hugged me around my legs, and begged me to make it for him, "the way Lola used to make" when we used to go over to her house for Sunday lunch.

As a friend of mine pointed out, how could I say no to that?

So here it is. Filipino spaghetti. Actually it is very nourishing, rather good, and super-easy to make. I just hope it turns out the way my brother remembers it. Kain na!


1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups tomato (or banana) ketchup
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 carrot, sliced
4 hotdogs, sliced

Heat the oil in a skillet or pot. Add the garlic and onions and saute till soft, about a minute or two. Add half a cup of the ketchup and mix well. Cook until semi-dry but not sticking to the pot. Be careful not to let it burn.

Add the meat and the rest of the ketchup. Mix well, cover and cook for about twenty minutes at medium-high heat. Stir a few times to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom. Add the sliced carrots and hot dogs and cook ten minutes more.

Serve on hot cooked spaghetti. Serves two generously.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

"The aftermath"

The sun finally decided to shine in Vancouver today, but for many it only served to reveal, all the more harshly, the aftermath of last night's madness and mayhem.

There was dismay, shame, outrage....and a huge unanswered question.

But there was also a show of solidarity, as Vancouverites, united in celebration just a short time ago, came together once again to clean up their city.

Most of these photos were taken by my friend Marissa during the volunteer clean-up in downtown Vancouver today. This is the Vancouver I live in. I'm prouder than ever to call it home.


Real fans don't riot

Canucks fans rioting?

What Canucks fans?

Want to know about some real Canucks fans?

There's that young father with three kids, all of them sporting blue jerseys.  And the nice South Asian lady in my church who loves hockey.  And the homeless guy who set up a tiny TV set in an alley so he and his buddies could watch the games.  And my former coworker, a grandma and a big Linden fan (as am I).  And my cousin, who's been following the Canucks and playing hockey ever since he could walk.  He cried back in 1994; I'm sure that up North or in eastern Washington or in Calgary - wherever he is at the moment - he's crying again.

We're all crying, because we're all disappointed - understandably so.  But I can guarantee you that none of us was pillaging, looting, or setting cars on fire in downtown Vancouver last night.

Real fans don't riot.  Period.

And real fans stay faithful, even if it takes another seventeen years to get this close again.  Go Canucks Go! 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

If these walls could talk

It was the most unconventional history class I ever attended. Conducted on the streets of downtown Vancouver, among teeming crowds watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, distractions were sure to happen, and they did. Loud cheers and boos erupted around us from time to time, and even the teacher himself had to be dragged back from getting his picture taken with a couple of giggly girls in Canucks jerseys. “I love Vancouver,” he said, grinning.

But with the aid of volunteers pulling speakers mounted on hand-carts, carrying props and holding up visual aids, Carlos Celdran soon captured our attention and imagination. Our bodies may have been standing on a Vancouver street, on a chilly evening in late spring, but our minds were transported back through time and space to a Manila we had never known in our own lifetimes.

Talking for over two hours straight, without the aid of any notes, Celdran had us fascinated and captivated by his rollicking, irreverent, whirlwind tour of Intramuros, through centuries of Spanish rule and thirty decades of American government, through the death and destruction of World War II from which the walled city never recovered, despite reconstruction.

Any Filipino student is familiar with the dates, places, and cast of characters. The Spanish king and his explorers. The rajahs and the city of Maynilad, named for the little white flowers that grew along the Pasig River. The heroes, the friars, the warriors, the general who promised, Terminator-like, to return. The walls, the churches, and the tanks and bombs that destroyed them. The thousands of men who went to war, and the many more thousands of innocents who died, caught between the two armies who used their city as collateral damage.

Celdran made all of these and more come alive in his narrative. He helped us Filipinos understand our roots, and therefore ourselves, a little better.

“I heard someone once say the Jeepney is the perfect metaphor for the paradox that is Manila,” says Celdran. “Is it beautiful or is it grotesque? Is it inefficient or is it entrepreneurial? Is it just a common utility or is it a progressive work of art?

“Personally, I think Manila is more like the Halo-Halo, that afternoon snack made out of a mind boggling myriad of sweet beans, flan, shaved ice, and ice cream.

"Manila is like a halo-halo."
To help us understand this better, we each got one.
“Manila is a reflection of how different flavors can make up a greater whole, and how too much can sometimes be a very good thing.

“If we want to change the way Manila looks, we need to change the way we look at Manila,” he concluded.

Carlos Celdran’s If These Walls Could Talk tour has been brought to Vancouver and Toronto by Tulayan and Kapisanan, in celebration of Asian Heritage Month and Philippine Independence Day. In addition to the Friday and Saturday shows, an extra show will now take place on Sunday afternoon. Admission is by donation. Reserve your spot at Eventbrite.

For more photos of Friday's event, click here.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My goodness, it's June!

I've been having too much fun with my folks around. In between bouts of redecorating and shopping expeditions to Ikea, we've been playing tourist. Last Friday night we went to the Richmond Summer Night Market, where we indulged in Asian goodies like takoyaki, Mongolian grilled meat, and duck pancakes.

Takoyaki is my absolute favourite treat. I first discovered them in a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant near work, and once I tried a plate of these hot, crisp, soft, tasty puffs, drizzled with onomiyaki sauce and mayo, and with a little moist and chewy surprise nestled in each one, I was hooked.

Click here for a video demonstration on how to make them at home. But if you decide it's easier to just run out and get some ready-made, I won't blame you! Once you get a yen for takoyaki, it's hard to wait.

The Richmond Summer Night Market is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights May through September.

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