The Way We Ate- Green Pastures

I've been wanting to try Green Pastures ever since it opened last year, but because of the considerable distance we have to travel to get there, it's only recently that Bianca and I got to check out this restaurant since we were in the vicinity last weekend.

Green Pastures, located at the sprawling new wing of Shangri-La Plaza in Ortigas Center has been drawing in the crowds for their unique farm-to-table dining experience. 
It literally means that the food that you are served at the restaurant's table comes directly from a farm. This translates to meat, fruits and vegetables served at their freshest so this usually means you are eating healthier because the ingredients that they use are not canned or processed.

Duck You! - duck fat fries, duck skin chicharon, duck confit.

Green Pastures uses the best natural and local ingredients, and everything from the ketchup, the pasta, to the cheeses are all house made. Nothing is imported except the olive oil. Knowing this made me quite impressed with all the effort put in each dish we ordered and made me understand that I was getting what I was paying for because their prices are not what you would usually pay for at a regular restaurant.

Scampi Chorizo Pasta- river shrimps, ALBA'S chorizo, light sofrito, linguini.

We actually arrived at Green Pastures with not so hungry stomachs because we had just come from having some yogurt and fruit snacks elsewhere. Thinking that we had a long drive home, we decided to get something light for our dinner to tide us through the traffic we were expecting to encounter. We ended up ordering one dish after another and realized that we had already spent a good 3 hours at the restaurant! Time flies when you're having fun and lots of good food to keep you company : )

80/20 Burger- 80% Wagyu beef 20% double smoked organic pancetta with house made stracciatella, buttered brioche. Served with sweet potato fries.

Milkeggshoney- organic honeycomb. house made Greek yogurt, citrus curd.

Whenever we eat out, Bianca takes charge of all the food photos plus she likes snapping unguarded photos of me. I try to take photos of her too when I have a steady hand : )

Here's a pic I took of Bianca, rocking her new specs. She's gone back to wearing her glasses for her astigmatism and nearsightedness. She looks a a bit, uhm, scholastic, don't you think?
And that's me on the right. Bianca caught me trying to take a selfie. Lol.

Green Pastures
4th level East Wing
Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas Center
Mandaluyong City

Cuts Against Cancer

I'm quite attached to my hair and I've almost always kept the length of my hair past my shoulders for many years now. Every trip I make to the salon, I ask the hairstylist to trim not more than two inches off. I'm not too adventurous when it comes to my hairstyle and I prefer to keep things simple and uncomplicated.

Just before summer vacation started, I learned of an inspiring story of generosity of two very young girls who decided to cut their beautiful locks to donate to children who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. One word came to mind when I found out about it. Brave. These girls must be so courageous to even think of giving up something so personal to help other kids.

Carissa Parco (6 years old) and Cassie Parco (10 years old) during our storytelling activity at Fully Booked in Alabang Town Center last November 2013.

After the haircut, March 2014.

For younger sister, Carissa, it was an easy decision. She volunteered to have her hair cut, which came as a surprise to their mom who said that both girls had always wanted long hair. But for the older sister, Cassie, the decision to cut her hair was difficult at first. She was the last to decide, having her hair cut just the day before they left for a family trip.
"I actually didn't want to cut my hair at first but it's for the children who have cancer. I have to care for others, not just for myself." - Cassie Parco

Cassie and Carissa are donating their hair to Cuts Against Cancer - Donate Your Hair Today Foundation, an organization based in Lahug, Cebu City that aims to help children and women who have lost their hair to cancer by providing them with high quality medical wigs made of real human hair.

The effects of hair loss because of cancer treatments, most especially on children, goes beyond physical appearance. Hair loss can affect self esteem and confidence. By helping kids look like themselves, they attain a more positive disposition, and improve their attitude toward getting treatment as they go through their health challenges.

Cassie and Carissa's story actually puts me to shame because I don't think I'll ever be brave enough to chop off and donate my hair. It really is true that children unknowingly teach us adults some of the most important life lessons.

We visited them the day before Easter, so we made some Easter crafts with them.

 Thank you, Carissa and Cassie! We learned so much from both of you on how to be kind and selfless.

Many thanks to parents, Mark and Tiffin Parco for allowing us to do this feature. Let's all strive to be kind : )

DIY Easter Baskets

We're finally spending some quiet time at home today! My summer vacation has been mostly about tagging along with mom on her errands almost every day. I'm dragged to the supermarket, the bank, and the doctor's office, among other places. She makes me get out of bed, and I don't understand why - I'm perfectly comfortable being a bum for the remaining days of freedom I have left. Well, at least there's air conditioning and free lunch out if I'm lucky : )

On Monday, I start review classes for the college entrance tests I'll soon be taking. It'll last for a month, leaving me just two more weeks before school starts and I finish my very last year in high school. I hate growing up and having to be responsible. I wish I could stay a kid forever, but I know it's not gonna happen. My mom gives me regular pep talks on how to reach for my dreams - and though most of those conversations are one-sided, : P I'm really thankful for all of the love and support she gives me.

On our free days, it's fun to do a bit of arts and crafts together, like we did today. We always use the available art materials we have lying around the house. So, go ahead and improvise with what you have at home. These cute Easter baskets were really easy to make, and we hope you enjoy making them!

Easter Baskets

Paper cups or bowls- we used plain white bowls but you can use patterned paper cups if you like.
White board paper
Assorted scrapbooking materials and gift wrapping paper
Green Japanese paper
Washi tape
Round head fasteners
Hole punch

We have lots of these ribbon and flower foam cutouts at home that my mom hoards from the bookstore.

Step 1: Cut white board paper into a 1.5" x 10" strip to create a handle.
Step 2: Punch two holes, one on each end of the handle, and along opposite sides of the paper cup.
Step 3: Cut out a 2" x 12" strip of green Japanese paper. Snip the edges of one side of the Japanese paper to resemble grass.
Step 4: Attach the handle onto the paper cup using round head fasteners.
Step 5: Glue on the "grass" on the inside of the paper cup.
Step 6: Decorate your basket with washi tape, scrapbooking accessories or cover with pretty wrapping paper. 
Step 7: Fill with Easter treats!

Easter Baskets! 

The Way We Ate- Spectrum at the Fairmont Hotel

I've been busy with family matters lately and I am finding it difficult to sit down and blog. Please forgive us for the lack of posts. Hopefully, everything falls in to place soon so I can relax my weary mind and start enjoying the summer before Bianca gets busy with all her planned activities.

Thank goodness for friends who provided a welcome distraction by planning this super fun lunch date at the Spectrum at Fairmont Hotel, Makati. It's always good to catch up with good friends. All the food and laughter we shared certainly cheered me up. Thank you!

The Spectrum buffet was actually on our 23 Restaurants last summer. We didn't get a chance to go then, but I'm glad we're finally ticking it off. That makes Spectrum no. 22 on the list, leaving us with Zubuchon in Cebu City as the only restaurant we haven't tried yet. We might not get to go to Cebu anytime soon, but I'm hoping we could ask someone to hand carry some dishes for us from their outlet at the Cebu airport. We'll keep you posted!

Spectrum is an all-day dining restaurant featuring an array of cuisines from across the globe. Dishes are prepared in an open kitchen so you can easily request for made to order food such as stir fried noodles, pasta and pizza.

Here are some highlights of the food we had.....

Honey Station with live bees!

 Roast beef and Porchetta.

Fresh Manila Clams.

 Strawberry Pannacotta.

White Chocolate Raspberry ice cream.

Cafe Macaron at Fairmont Hotel

Since we were already at Fairmont, we decided to also drop by Cafe Macaron. Serving an array of gourmet sandwiches, bakery items, cakes and handcrafted macarons, it's the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee with their sweet or savoury offerings. We experienced excellent and attentive service here and we'll definitely be visiting this outlet again soon.

 Cafe Macaron's unique selection includes flavors such as White Chocolate Calamansi, Dark Chocolate Panucha, and Apricot Pistachio macarons.

  Assorted local fruit jams from Antonio's and The Fruit Garden.

Spectrum and Cafe Macaron
Fairmont Makati, Philippines
1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue
Makati City

Kitchen Stories- Creamed Beef

Creamed Beef is one of my favorite comfort foods. It is a beef stew recipe comprising of either ground beef or chipped beef (dried & salted) in white sauce and served on top of toasted bread. It actually has its origins from the US Army- dried meats and other food that didn't require refrigeration were sent to feed US troops back in the 1900's and they came up with this delicious combination of ground meat in a creamy sauce that can be served on toast, with mashed potatoes or even pasta.

I had my first taste of Creamed Beef in my younger years, during the summers my family and I would spend in Baguio City. After Sunday mass, we would proceed to Camp John Hay, a former rest and recreation facility for American soldiers, to have brunch at the 19th Tee Coffee Shop. I remember looking forward to having my fill of this now standard diner fare. If you grew up in the 70's & 80's and spent at least a summer vacation in Baguio, I'm sure you can relate to this. I actually miss the old Camp John Hay and our steak dinners at the Main Club and all those ice cream sundaes at the Scout Hill Snack Bar.

My mom, on seeing how much we loved this Creamed Beef dish, recreated the recipe at home. We were more than pleased with the results and knowing that we could enjoy it anytime in the comforts of our home made us very happy.

Today, my sister is the one in charge of cooking this dish for us and I'm glad Bianca loves it as much as I do. We have our regular "taco nights" and now we'll be adding "creamed beef nights" just to add some excitement and make us look forward to having dinner at home.

My sister's recipe uses lean ground beef instead of dried beef and with the addition of red bell peppers and fresh mushrooms, I'm thinking this is a  healthier version than the original. Give it a try!

Creamed Beef Recipe

500 grams lean ground beef
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 red bell pepper diced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms cleaned & sliced (we used portobello)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt, stirring frequently until mushrooms start to release their moisture, about 1-2 minutes. Continue cooking until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms start to turn dark brown. This should take about another 5 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms are cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

In another pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add diced red bell pepper and cook about 1 minute before adding beef. Season with salt and pepper. Cook beef until browned, stirring often. Pour in mushroom soup and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Serve hot over sliced bread or mini french baguette and top with cooked sliced mushrooms. Serves four.