Buttered Steam Cake (Puto) Recipe with Cheese

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Sorry for the long hiatus. There’s just too much that is going on in my life right now and so my brain does not want to function normally lately. Stress can do that to the brain, you know. I have a lot of information that I want to share but the moment I’m in front of the laptop, the words won’t just come out. This isn’t the usual writer’s block that they always talk about. When a person is too stressed out and too anxious, the brain focuses more on the stressor or the source of anxiety that other things which used to be enjoyable becomes a task that needs to be accomplished — like, writing in a blog. And that’s what I don’t want to happen: I don’t want my writing or my blogging becomes a mere task. So as long as I can help it, I will make this as something that I enjoy doing.

Anyway, Halloween is over which means that Christmas is just around the corner. The church that we always go to held its annual Christmas Boutique and Bake Sale recently. Every year for three years now, I volunteer to bake cookies for the Bake Sale. But this year, aside from cookies, I also made some steam cakes which are very famous in Pampanga, my hometown in the Philippines. By the way, these steam cakes are commonly known as puto in the Philippines.

So for today, I will share the recipe that I use to make puto. I already forgot where I got this recipe from but I have been using it for so many years now.

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Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients starting from the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Mix well.

2. Add the butter, evaporated milk, egg, and water. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

3. Pour the mixture in individual puto molds.

4. Pour the water in the steamer.

5. Arrange the molds in the steamer then steam for about 20 minutes.

6. After 20 minutes, remove the cover of the steamer and top each puto with cheddar cheese then continue steaming (with the cover on) for 2 minutes.

7. Remove the puto from the mold and arrange in a serving plate.

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See you on my next blog…enjoy cooking!

Daydreams

When I took my second course in college, which is Education, one of our subjects in school was Child and Adolescent Development. One time, we were discussing about early childhood (about 2 to 6 years old) and late childhood (about 6 to 12 years old).  I found out from that particular lesson that one of the favorite amusements of those in the late childhood stage is daydreaming.

When I was at this age, I remember that I was daydreaming a lot.  Actually, mine went even past late childhood stage — until my sophomore year in high school, I think.

Daydreaming for me was a hobby then.  At night, to lull myself to sleep, I daydreamed (or night dreamed??!) instead of counting sheep. I daydreamed of things that I didn’t have and would want to have.

I daydreamed about me being so wealthy that I have so many luxury cars and a very big house with a very wide and spacious garden. In my daydreams, I was so wealthy that I could buy EVERYTHING I wish to have and visit ALL the places I want to go to.

I daydreamed about being so famous and popular that ALL the people I know will know me too.

I daydreamed about me being perfect.

All these years, I almost forgot about these daydreams until a couple of nights ago when I couldn’t sleep and I suddenly found myself contemplating on them. I suddenly thought about how stupid and shallow they were. But hey…I was young back then! At that time, I didn’t have any idea of the realities of life.

A little more contemplation from that sleepless night and I came up with the following realizations, after having lived the life I have now:

Realization No.1: Being super wealthy is not so impressive at all

I used to work in a bank and I have seen how problematic rich people are.  Wealth and riches are things that I can’t bring with me when I die.  So these are really very temporary and very complicated at the same time.  Money is so hard to gain (or earn) yet so easy to spend.

I realized that in real life, what matters most is that I have a place to live in, I have a stable source of income to provide for my family’s needs, I have some savings for rest and recreation, I  have enough for emergencies, and most importantly, I have good health. Yup, I don’t really need to become super wealthy or super rich to have all these. I just have to embrace the simplicity of life.

Realization No.2: Being famous and popular is not really a good thing

Why? I have just three words: LOSS OF PRIVACY. If I were super duper famous, people would be looking for skeletons in my closet.  They would be digging for secrets and information about myself for their own personal gain. I would be pressured in doing what the public wants or expects me to do. In other words, the public owns me! Wow, that’s not a very good thought. If it were to happen, I would most likely be banging my head on the wall while telling myself over and over again about what a chaotic world I have put myself into.

Realization No.3: It is perfectly all right if I am not perfect

Nobody is! Perfection is shallow and boring. Well actually, it is unreal.  What really matters is that which is inside the heart.

So, did I stop daydreaming?  As a matter of fact, I didn’t.  But now, my daydreams are the reflections of my hopes and dreams for a better future.  They are somehow attainable, especially if they are what God plans for me.  Some of these are:

I daydream about my children being all grown up and so successful in life.

I daydream about old age without regrets.  This means that whenever I look back, I will be thinking that all has been well and that I don’t regret any single day of my life.

I daydream about me— old but happy and contented.  I will be sitting by the beach, watching the sunrise from the horizon, and thanking God for another beautiful day.

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Oops…this isn’t the old me yet. But I will be doing more of this as I grow old. I love nature. I love sights like this because it calms me…it calms my restless soul.

Quick Stir-fry Mushroom Recipe

I have been unwell for the past couple of days because of my unpredictable migraine. But this morning was the worst…my head hurt very bad that I thought I will be wheeled away in an ambulance stretcher again just like what happened before. So I had to inform my co-teachers that I will be absent today.

Fortunately, it was just a migraine and I was breathing normally so I didn’t have to be rushed to the ER. Before, I had the migraine plus palpitations plus chest pains plus high blood pressure and hyperventilation. So Sophie, my daughter, had to call 119 for an ambulance. It’s good that today was different because I hate the ER big time! And it’s not because of the doctors or nurses…it’s just the atmosphere of gloom that the room has.

Anyway, we were supposed to be discussing about mushrooms with the kids today and I was supposed to cook these mushrooms in butter while they watch. I bought the ingredients yesterday but since I didn’t go to work today, I decided to cook them for my late lunch.

Here are the ingredients:

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Directions:

1. Wash the mushrooms. These mushrooms come in clusters so you have to separate them and put them in a strainer to drain.

2. Mince the garlic. Set aside.

3. When the frying pan is already hot, put 30 grams of butter. Then add the garlic.

3. After a few minutes, add the mushrooms. Then add the remaining 10 grams of butter.

4. Stir well. Water will come out from the mushrooms so do not worry about the butter getting really dry.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When it was done, it actually tasted really good!

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Now off to bed I go again. I need all the rest I can get for this migraine to go away.

Lightning Show in Tokyo

Photo credit: tamegoeswild

Last night was crazy!

I was to meet my son, Zach, at Aeon Mall after work. I was sleeping inside the train (as always!) when a frightening sound woke me up. I looked around and saw the surprised and scared faces of the passengers. The train was still moving so I knew that there wasn’t any accident.

Then it came again…first a flash of light, then a sound which was so loud that for a moment, it felt as though my heart leapt out from my chest. Thunder! I looked out and it wasn’t raining. I checked my phone and the weather said that there won’t be any rain. Good!, I told myself. I didn’t have an umbrella with me. Then, another flash of light and that loud, cracking sound again.

Inside the bus, the thunder and lightning came nonstop. I was just about to fall asleep (again!) when I suddenly heard a continuous and a very loud rapid dripping sound from the roof of the bus. I looked out and there was heavy rain already. I got worried because I was just three stops away from where I will get off. Uh-oh, this isn’t good, my brain told me over and over again.

At my stop, I braced myself for the rain that was waiting for me the moment the door opened. I let out a shriek once I got off because the rain poured heavily on me. How heavy? It was like someone was continuously pouring a bucket of water over my head. So by the time I got to the mall (which was, by the way, just less than a hundred steps from the bus stop) by running, I was soaking wet.

To make the long story short, both Zach and I were soaking wet by the time we were home. Apparently, Zach didn’t bring an umbrella because he said, he checked the weather forecast on his phone and it says: 0% chance of rain. Yup, hooray to Iphone’s weather app for accuracy!

Maybe some of you might ask, why the hell didn’t we just buy an umbrella from the mall? Well for one, umbrellas inside that mall are freaking expensive! The cheapest is around 1,800 yen! Also, during our trip in Kawagoe a few days before, we already spent unnececessary yen just buying umbrellas which we never used. That story will come up on one of my blog posts soon.

Anyway, I have compiled some pics from last night’s lightning storm. They are so beautiful and scary at the same time. Nature can be so freakingly amazing sometimes.

photo credit: twitter @iyphotooffice

photo credit: twitter @KAGAYA_11949

photo credit: twitter @KAGAYA_11949

It is Wrong…

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photo source: ClipartXtras

…to put all your knowledge on something;
you’ll end up being brain-drained

…to expect too much from anything;
you’ll end up disappointed.

…to rely too much on anybody;
you’ll end up frustrated.

…to put all your effort in a relationship;
you’ll end up exhausted.

…to put too much passion on things that matter most to you;
you’ll end up being taken advantage of.

…to put all that you have —body and soul included—on a love;
you’ll end up feeling that you will never be enough.

..to give all the love that you have to anyone;
you’ll end up getting hurt.

…to think that love is all that matters;
you’ll end up wondering, “Where the hell is love when I need it??”

But…is life not worth all these risks and pains?

Bon Odori Matsuri

It was an unusually cool August evening…it was the perfect timing for a Bon Odori Matsuri.

Bon Odori is a festival dance which is held in the evening during Obon. In the old days, Bon Odori is performed to welcome the spirits and to send them off again. The people danced while wearing a yukata to the beat of the flute and the Japanese drum called taiko. But nowadays, Bon Odori is usually done as part of the summer festivities of the towns or villages.

My son, Zach, and I went to a Bon Odori in our neighborhood this evening. At first, we were just walking around, trying to find something to eat from the stalls that were aligned in the different corners of the place. They held the festival inside a big bamboo park.

After munching on some popcorn, we lined up for yakitori. Yakitori are grilled chicken skewers. The sellers were volunteers around the community so these yakitori were home made. And I tell you, they are 100 times better and tastier than the commercial ones.

After we finished the yakitori and the cotton candy which Zach tasted for the first time, we decided to watch the festival dance.

There was a make-shift stage and the main dancers were on the stage while the people playing the taiko (Japanese drum) were on the upper most part of the stage.

Below the stage, the other dancers performed and guests such as ourselves were welcome to join.

The dancers were so lively that one will be enticed to join them. So I did! I danced with them for the last 30 minutes of the festival with Zach joining us later on. There was one very nice lady who taught the steps to us and to some Junior High School boys while we were doing the dance.

We definitely had fun and it was one of those moments when how I wished I can speak fluently in Japanese so I can tell the people there how much fun we had. But since I can’t, all I could utter, especially to our “dance instructor”, was a heartfelt Arigatou Gozaimashita!

Obon Yasumi in Japan

photo source: Wikipedia

Last Monday, I was so surprised when I got in the bus…it was practically empty! The more surprised I was when I saw the main road— there were only a few vehicles and so the usual 25-minute ride to the station took only less than 20 minutes!

At the station, the train was almost empty as well. Then I remembered that it was, after all, the start of Obon Yasumi here in Japan.

August is considered the “ghost month” by the Japanese. Obon Yasumi is something like the Halloween in the United States or the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the Philippines which fall on Nov 1 and Nov 2 respectively. However, this Japanese celebration usually lasts for 3-4 days or sometimes a week long in other prefectures.

Some Japanese say that Obon Yasumi falls on the third week of August. But others are more specific. They say it starts on August 13 and ends on August 16. Actually, the date really depends on where in Japan you are.

But what really is Obon? Obon is a Buddhist tradition in Japan that is meant to honor one’s ancestors. My Japanese co-teacher said that for them, it’s not really about ghosts or those entities which we believe to be lost souls. Obon is about being reunited with their ancestors who passed away.

They say that on the first day of Obon, they need to go to the grave sites and bring lanterns or anything that can light the way for their ancestors. This light will guide them on the way back to their homes. Then on the last day, they will have to guide them back to the grave sites. In other places, they would bring the lanterns near the river and they let these lanterns float away to guide their ancestors to the other world.

photo source: Japan Rail Pass

So around this time, the Japanese people go back to their hometowns which is usually outside of Tokyo to honor their dead loved ones, which explains the empty buses and trains in Tokyo. Obon Yasumi is like a big family reunion for most of them.

But for the modern Japanese people who are not very traditional, this is the time to travel outside of Japan wherein they use up their work holidays and the kids enjoy their summer break. Plane tickets to go abroad tend to be higher around this time.

Another interesting thing to note is that during the Obon weekend, Japanese TV shows usually feature ghost stories…and I tell you, these are very scary because for one, they happened in real life!

For this year, Fuji Terebi (Fuji Television, Channel 8) has one on August 18, Saturday, from 9pm to 11:10pm. It has the title Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi ( Scary Stories that really Happened). I always look forward to shows such as this here every year.

The Japanese people have a very beautiful culture. They have a lot of very colorful celebrations and many holidays that are very unusual like Ocean Day or Mountain Day. I will try my best to explain how these holidays came to be and I will share them with you as they happen.