Asian Celebration – Gastropost Mission

Gong Hei Fat Choi 2014!

Chinese New Years is celebrated pretty well in Filipino culture. Philippines has a lot of Chinese friends as China isΒ  a close neighbour. See here for colorful pictures of this year’s celebrations.

I missed out when I was living in the Philippines because there just weren’t any held in our itty bitty island. However, I do remember the treats and the food that came along with it around this time of year.

And now that I’m in Canada, it’s our tradition to partake in the Calgary celebrations held in the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown. However, when my friends and I went there today (Saturday, Feb 1 – ONE DAY AFTER the actual Chinese New Year), we were disappointed to discover that we were a week late!!! What!!?? Is it just me or does it make sense to hold it the day after instead of a week before the actual holiday!? Craziness!! I missed my Chinese fortune too which was my favorite part T_T

Yes the food and the performances are great…but really it’s all about those sticks and the excitement of finding out what I will get for this year’s fortune.

Okay back to the food…

So to appease our disappointment, our friends took us to a dim sum place we’ve never been to: Ho Won. My review of this place is at the bottom of this post.

I was so hungry that I only remembered to take a picture AFTER we’ve pretty much devoured everything! *gasp* How very non-Asian of me!! *hangs head in shame*

Photo copyright: Gracelyn Masangkay/mgracelyn.wordpress.com. Please ask permission before use.

I do not know the Chinese terminology but my best description of the dishes from top left to right are:

  1. Steamed Shrimp Balls
  2. Steamed Shrimp Wraps
  3. Ho Won Fried Rice (in house special)
  4. Deep Fried Squid
  5. Pork & Shrimp Balls
  6. Tea

My friend also ordered a tofu, eggplant and meat ball dish but we inhaled those right away so there were no leftovers to snap a picture of.

After the meal, we walked around Chinatown hunting down bakeries with leftover moon cakes. Tip: Don’t delay buying this stuff. They will laugh at you when you ask the day after.

Although we didn’t find any there, we did come across the Dragon Dance as it blessed the shoppes. It brought my spirits back up as it felt like we were part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

We headed to T & T, an Asian supermarket in the NE, to see about the moon cakes. Success!! There were 3 left *hallelujah!* We ended up buying so many treats but it was all good. It made my Mom very happy and later that evening, her and I bonded over these yummy treats. She used to live in Hong Kong “back in the day” so she told me stories of her experiences there and what the treats signified according to the Chinese culture. I ❀ my Mom. I definitely get my sweet tooth from her.

Treats
Photo copyright: Gracelyn Masangkay/mgracelyn.wordpress.com. Please ask permission before use.

From top left to right:

  1. Assorted rice cakes
  2. Hopia bean cake package
  3. Citrus (round fruit)
  4. Hopia bean cake (round with Chinese characters)
  5. Egg tarts (my Mom’s favorite)
  6. And the three moon cakes! (lotus)

These sweets are heavenly! Enjoying them with tea/milk and great conversations, it is a great way to learn about a culture. May you all have a very prosperous year.

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My review of Ho Won: 1/5✩

We came in 30 mins before closing time so they were already shutting down operations and judging from their expression, they were non too happy to see us. However, money is king so they seated us anyway. I was not impressed. The food was mediocre and the service horrid. The rice was really salty on some parts. There is a server (an older man) who seems to have forgotten that his job description is to serve the customers. He would ignore us (there were only 4 tables occupied) and when a friend who spoke Chinese finally caught him as he attempted to breeze past us again, he would glare and then leave before were even done telling him what we needed. Rude! We looked at each other wondering if we would even get anything at all! We did get them but the wait was long and we had to repeat our request to another waitress. He brought us the items but there was definitely no “Service with a smile”. It put a damper to a meal that I was looking forward to. On the positive note, the women servers are not so rude so should you visit here, maybe stay away from the guy waiter. From what I’m told, that’s how he is all the time. Also, come early so there’s a better selection. My friends say it is cheaper but I’d rather pay a little bit more at another place where the service is good. There are far better places in Chinatown so I would suggest checking those out first.

LetterMo Go! – A Month of Letters Challenge

It’s February so let LetterMo commence!

January’s Love Letters for Seniors project (Cards of Caring – Valentine’s Edition) is coming to an end. With one more week to go until Calgary Meals on Wheels’ deadline, the quota has been filled with extras thanks to the help of friends.

For a week now, I have been getting ready for the start of a new month-long project for February that combines both my love of snail mail and the ever budding hobby of crafting.

lettermoHow it works: After signing up, a LetterMo participant sends out mail for 23 days in February excluding Sundays where there’s no postal service in some areas. It also includes any reply mail if your recipient decides to send you a letter back.

I am SOOOO ready for this challenge! I found out about this 2 years ago but I had so much going on at the time that I didn’t go through with it. February is going to pick up for me but to help offset the stress, I have a list and I have a plan ^_^ And of course…I’m adding my own twist to this.

I will follow the rules by feeding the mailbox daily (min of 23 days if excluding Sundays). However, the mail will not consists of just letters. Creativity will guide me and it will be a surprise what the recipient will receive. There’s an added twist that I’ve decided to keep private for now too πŸ˜‰

If you would like to receive a little something from me in the mail, please add your mailing address to my Postable at https://www.postable.com/mgracelyn. I will send mail everywhereΒ in the world as long as there’s postal service available. However I do have a few rules:

I will NOT be sending out the following:

  • Money
  • Application Forms/Sponsorship to come to Canada (I don’t work for Immigration. As a regular citizen, I do not have that kind of influence to pull any strings. Best of luck though!)
  • Personal information (No I do not wish to cash that cheque for you)

Other than that, if you are also a LetterMo participant and are looking for someone to send mail to, please comment below. This is going to be an exciting month and I’m excited for what happens from this challenge!

Click on photo for LetterMo website.

A thought: If everyone sends mail out/into Canada, will it put a dent in helping with Canada Post’s woes?

All Day Breakfast – Gastropost Mission

Great surprise for Hump Day! I received a tweet saying my photo is in today’s (January 22, 2014) Calgary Herald – Gastropost section πŸ˜€ I am so honored!!

tweet notification

Last week’s mission was:

jan 22 banner 2

My unexpected entry is this simple homemade Sunday Brunch meal that I “whipped out” at 2 pm in the afternoon.

A bowl of rice, two slices of tomatoes, over easy eggs and sweet skinless longanisa I bought from Loriz Bakery.

Having grown up with the “normal” longanisa with skin, I was curious to see how easy the skinless version is to cook and most importantly, how it would taste.

My first impression review:

I still prefer the regular longanisa with skin. The skinless version taste dry compared to the the regular one. This is mostly due to having no skin that can encase all that oil. It might be healthier, but it’s just not that tasty. On this round…

fat = tasty = good!

To see the online copy of the article, click on the image below.

Postcrossing Haul – Jan 18/14

I am back to Postcrossing again!Β  Links below for what this project is about and my Postcrossing page.

This is actually my third haul for January of this year. The other dates I received postcards were on Jan 8 (x2 cards) and Jan 13 (x5 cards).

This haul consists of postcards from Russia (x2), France, Ukraine (x2), Germany and Slovenia! (This is my first mail received from Slovenia!!)

All

Below are the individual postcards. They are featured in no particular order.

1.Β  This cute card is from Germany. I really like the different designs of paper cardstock look of this postcard, the bird on the stamp made me laugh (dance bird dance!) and she even put a Hello Kitty sticker on there! DankeschΓΆn

2. Received from France, this postcard reminds me of meditation. It’s simpleness excudes calm. And ❀ the yellow – my favorite color!

3. My mind wandered to the beach thanks to this card from Russia. Calgary is not the only one to be experiencing a warm winter at the moment. I love that she drew the flag and wrote the temperature. Also, I now have a 2014 Winter Olympics Sochi postage stamp that is bound to be collectable. Go Team Canada!

4. How very debonair is this owl! Reminds me of Sir Edgar Allan Poe. Owls are one of two of my favorite animals so it’s quite exciting to have received this in the mail. From Russia.

5. My first card from Slovenia! This picture is of Lake Bled. The sender is also a fellow Hello Kitty fan and she put three stickers on there! Hvala!

6. What a beautifully vibrant card from Ukraine! This is why I do postcrossing – to receive cards like these! Ukrainian Christmases has always intrigued me. Stamps are gorgeous as well! Π”ΡƒΠΆΠ΅ Π΄ΡΠΊΡƒΡŽ!

I love the national clothes shown here. And the angels.

7. Last but not least, the second card from Ukraine is a handmade beauty. Made with stamps (a whole lot of them), feather, newspaper clipping, feather and wax. I am so grateful that this sender took the time to make such a beautiful card and also wrote a story in the back. This is my first postcard that was mailed inside an envelope.

Stamps galore!!

She drew a dreamcatcher that she makes with good gnomes. Interesting!

Thank you so much to all the senders. Happy Postcrossing friends! ✍

Links:

My blog introduction of the project: Postcrossing: Travel by Mail. Feel free to browse my postcard wall on my profile. My other blog posts about Postcrossing.

Get Comfortable – Gastropost Mission

This week’s mission is all about comfort food. Cue “Happy Exhale”: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

gastro comfo

Comfort food to me means quick and simple because I need to be comforted ASAP! Quick gratification on bad days is what it’s all about.Β  When in need of comforting, I always revert back to childhood favorites. One of them is heaven in a bowl – champorado! Containing two of my favorites ingredients ever: chocolate; rich, dark chocolate yumminess! and rice because as an Asian, I need rice like I need air.

Champorado translated in English is Chocolate Rice Pudding/Porridge.

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Homemade by me with help from Mom
This simple porridge holds a warm memory for me. I cannot eat champorado without remembering the laid back afternoons spent with my Aunt Clara. She was a remarkable lady, beautiful both inside and out, who had a passion for cooking and sharing her culinary creations with everybody. She didn’t seem to mind cooking over a hot stove amidst the sticky humidity of the tropics. Among her many scrumptious creations, the one that got me really giddy, was her champorado. I remember running to their big round dining table and looking forlornly at the empty bowls just waiting to be filled with chocolatey goodness. Trying not be a bother and get underfoot, I would sneak around the kitchen and sit on one of the little stools just watching her stir the labour intensive champorado in her big pot, impatience tempered just a little bit by the sweet aroma of tablea (blocks of cacao).

When she was done, she would carry the pot and put it on the lazy susan, pick up the empty bowls (more like deep plates) on the table and fill them to the brim. Since the porridge was boiling hot, she wouldn’t allow us to sit down and dig in until they were cooled. What torture! 10 minutes to a 5 year old is a lifetime away! I would blow and huff on that bowl just to speed up the process. When she deemed it okay to eat, I would grab my big spoon and scoop around the sides of the bowl/plate, just twirling and eating the cooled parts while the middle section cooled off some more. With a big dollop of brown sugar, this meal transported me to heaven and still does to this very day.

For this week’s mission, I challenged myself to re-create this dish with my Mom’s help. Now, when cooking with my Mom, I’ve learned that she doesn’t really follow exact recipes. It’s more of a look, taste and feel process than exact science. But it works! Also, since we don’t have access to fresh tablea, I had to substitute with Hershey’s cocoa powder.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Β½ cups of gelatinous sticky white ricechamporado ingredients
  • 3-4 cups of water depending on how sticky or watery you want the porridge consistency to be
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (depends on your sweet tooth)
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (tip: mix with a little hot water in a separate bowl before adding to porridge to avoid the annoying clumps)
  • Optional: Milk – evaporated, condensed or regular whole milk. I used condensed milk to make the heart above.

Instructions:

Its simpleness is offset by its need to be babied. This is not a dish to “set it and forget it”. You do that, and you’ll have a sticky mess to clean in the bottom of your pot. And heaven forbid all that wasted rice *gasp* Sacrilegious!!

  1. Wash rice. Put it in the pot with the water in medium-high heat. Keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  2. Boil a little bit of water in the kettle. In a small bowl, add this water to the cocoa powder just till it’s all incorporated into a thick paste (about less than 1/4 of a cup).
  3. Once the porridge thickens and has a transparent look, add the rest; sugar, cocoa mixture and vanilla extract.
  4. Stir. And stir some more.
  5. Let the porridge simmer while stirring in low heat. There’s no time I can give you here. Just taste the rice to see if it’s soft and if the dish is sweet enough. If it’s too thick, don’t be afraid to add more water, and if it’s too thin, the rice will soak up the water if you leave it simmering.
  6. You’re still stirring right? Switch arms maybe? Employ help from the kids?
  7. Once done…sing halleluja! Remove from heat and scoop into a bowl. Ok..maybe remove from heat THEN sing halleluja?
  8. If you want to add a swirl of milk or designs, I recommend letting it cool for 10 mins or so. I did not do that and as you can see from my heart, the condensed milk melted and sank quicker then I could take a picture.
  9. Stuff your face and ENJOY!!!

This post is in memory of my Auntie Clara – my inspiration for keeping a lovely home full of love, laughter, food and simple living. Thank you for your legacy.

Nostalgic Brunch On A Budget

Today’s brunch was made in collaboration with a close girl friend. It brings back memories of the past: sleepovers, shopping for breakfast items and gossip over cutting vegetables.

This time around, her and I cooked brunch at her place while our men hung out in the living room.

We cooked without a recipe, using a carton of eggs as an inspiration and then looking around her kitchen for ingredients we could use. With all the talking and laughing that we did,it was difficult to concentrate on what we were doing but the end result was a meal that could feed 10 people instead of 4!

On today’s menu:Β (from top left to right)

  1. Corned Beef Hash – Canned corned beef, baby potatoes, red onions, garlic powder, green onion, seasoning spice to taste.
  2. Spinach Scramble – Eggs, frozen spinach, red onions, tomatoes, green onions, seasoning spice to taste.
  3. Meatless Fried Rice – Day old rice, tomatoes, garlic powder, seasoning spice to taste.
  4. Sweet and Salty Mangoes – Toyomansi (soy sauce with lime – you can purchase this at Filipino restaurants or the asian aisle of your supermarket), mangoes

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Unfiltered original photo
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Filtered via Instagram
Approximate cost of this meal is under $20!

Cards of Caring – Valentine’s Day Edition

Remember Valentine’s Day cards and candy grams at school?

Remember the excitement of picking out the perfect box set and maybe adding goodies such as candy hearts, or the dreaded by yours truly…yuuck…cinnamon hearts?

What about the giddy feeling you had; that sense of excitement in guessing who would give you a card, even if we knew it was going to be pretty much mandatory. And let’s not forget that one card we were really looking forward to receive from – the crush, the love of our 12 year old lives!Β  The one that held those precious words we really wanted to see and hear –

“Will you be my Valentine?”

Let’s bring it back but this time, let’s send it to seniors in need of cheering up!

This new project is inspired by this article from DoSomething.Org which is a program they’re collaborating with Mentor Up, Meals On Wheels Association of America, and Victoria Justice (the singer/actress). The campaign is called Love Letters which according to the website is

… encourage teens to make handmade Valentine’s Day cards to lift the spirits of older adults across the country during a peak time of isolation and depression.

There’s even a PSA…

Strip away the school age requirement, the scholarship and the fact that Love Letters is for US only, we have ourselves… *drum roll please*…

CARDS OF CARING – Valentine’s Day Edition

How it works:

  1. Create homemade Valentine’s Day cards by yourself or gather friends to help out
  2. Collect cards to give to Calgary Meals on Wheels (or another charity in your area) Deadline TBD
  3. Meals on Wheels then sends them out to seniors to be included in their meal delivery service.
  4. The senior valentine receives the card and will hopefully feel loved!

I have committed to 20 cards and am reaching out to friends who helped me with the Christmas Edition for Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society. Of course, anyone else who would like to be a part of this project please comment below or contact me! Ideally, I would love to get together for craft time but seeing as how we all have busy lives, pledging to make some of the 20 cards on your own would be of great help!

The tweet from Meals on Wheels

And just like in the Christmas Edition, where we surpassed our goal of 30 cards, I’m hoping to do the same for the Valentine’s Day Edition.

I highly encourage you to join in, even if you want to do this on your own, and feel the priceless feeling of gratitude for donating your time and for warming a senior’s day this Valentine’s.

For all you on Pinterest, I’ve started a group board here so feel free to share your ideas/finds on Valentine’s Day card designs. Please let me know if you’d like to be invited.

Thank you so much and can’t wait to see your creations!