My Heart, our Stomachs… Ohio

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While I’m sitting in this car, I’m going to backtrack a bit to our stay in Ohio. We stayed just a little over 3 weeks. Mostly to visit family, spend time with dear friends and of course indulge in our favorite gastric treats. Since all of our kids were born in Cincinnati, it only seems fitting that they’ve been feasting on nearly all their favorite establishments. Graeters, Skyline Chili, Buffalo Wings and Rings and the list goes on!




We came in on a rainy day. Actually, we went through a blinding rainstorm. It was a white knuckle trip for about 150 miles. I was a mess because we discovered our Arizona native trailer has never really seen rain. Yeah, she’s got a few leaks that we would have never known about. I guess we do now 😉 and I suppose that’s our next project for Silvia to replace some of the failing seals around the vents and windows.

Ahh… lets see, what else? Oh! We drove up to the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio and took a tour. What a cool piece of history! Definitely worth a day trip to see it. The kids even got a shot with the one and only “Gold” airstream.

I tell you, three weeks seemed like a long stay when planning but it went by so fast. We spent time with family in Cleveland, enjoyed the Clermont County Fair and Fireman’s Parade and had a great time at a good old Catholic Summer Festival.


Yeah… Life is Good! So grateful to be living it!

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Picture Joy with Pajamas & Pancakes

For kids, birthdays are filled with fantastic JOY and oodles of enthusiastic anticipation. Days and days before the momentous occasion harks the question “Is today my birthday?” Well, FINALLY! The day is here! Our youngest daughter turned 6. It was a day of pajamas and pancakes; cereal and donuts; yogurt parfaits and sugar-ladened cupcakes. 20 or so little kids, dressed in their pjs, playing on our outdoor playset and jumping in the bouncy house.

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Never mind the late nights sculpting pancake shaped cupcake toppers, or the frantic frenzy of frying up 8 pounds of bacon the morning of the party. Or, the panicked feeling that the bouncy house may not arrive in time for the party. What would we do with all these kids?!  I always think I have these things all planned out… then the night before, I begin to freak out. But just like past festive gatherings… it all turns out just fine. I mean, in the words from my husband, “Come on, these are 6 year olds. They just want to run around, laugh and scream”. We’ve got that covered!

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Much to my amazement, we had representation from several food groups:  carbs – pancakes, cereal and donuts; dairy – milk, yogurt; fruit – orange juice, berry fruit salad;  protein – LOTS of bacon (which disappeared VERY quickly) and of course for the grown ups… strong pots of coffee. Not sure that counts as a food group… but it’s a must in my book.  Everyone was happy, caffeinated and sufficiently full. We were left with many smiling, tired children. Success!

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Note: I simply could not take credit for this wonderful theme. It was easy, fun and who doesn’t want to spend their day in pajamas? You can check out the many great ideas here.

In My Kitchen: Who would have thought taro roots were so slimy?

20130122-192402.jpg If you like sweet coconut treats, you’d probably like this one. It’s kind of like a coconut porridge with sweet tropical fruits, mild root vegetables and in most cases sticky rice dumplings. But before I go too far, yes, I did say root vegetables. Taro root and sweet potatoes to be exact. I guess as a child, I grew up just eating it and since it didn’t taste like any type of vegetable, it didn’t raise my flag that I’m NOT suppose to like it. The other fun part of this dish are the little rice balls, similar to dumplings. In Tagalog it’s referred to as bilo bilo. Made from glutinous rice flour they add a touch of sweetness and contrasting texture to the root vegetables with its tender stickiness. Not to mention that they are fun to eat. My grandmother had shown me the basics of making ginataang bilo bilo, rice dumplings in a sweet coconut stew. Just to be sure I remembered correctly, I googled the recipe for ginataan or ginataang to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any ingredients. I’ve used this basic recipe as an outline and modified it a bit by using light coconut milk and less sugar. I also don’t always add the bananas, but the jackfruit is a must in my book. I also like adding tapioca pearls, the big ones that you see in bubble tea, when I can find them.

So where do I start? It’s a pretty quick recipe once you have all the vegetables peeled and chopped and the Mochiko balls made. I usually start with making the dumplings. Kids can help too. Mochiko is a brand of japanese rice flour or sticky rice flour that can easily be found in most groceries that have an international aisle. I just measure out about a cup of the flour and add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of water. Just enough to get a “dry” dough. You want it to be dry enough that you can handle, but wet enough that it holds together. When forming the balls, I wash my hands every so often to remove the excess. Otherwise it sticks to your hands making it impossible to form any type of ball. Once those are made, set them aside.

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Peel and chop the taro root and sweet potatoes. Much to my surprise, taro root is pretty slippery… and slimy! Every chop up okra? That’s what it reminds me of. So be careful when handling them so that you don’t slip with your knife!

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For the longest time, I thought jackfruit was pineapple. They are similar in that they have that brilliant gold color and syrupy sweetness along with a fibrous texture. Paired with coconut, it’s phenomenal. Coconut ice cream with jackfruit and crushed peanuts? Mmmmm…. I’ll have to save that for another post. For this I use canned jackfruit in light syrup, chopping up the fruit and saving the sweet syrup as an ingredient to add in place of some of dry sugar called for in the written recipe.

Once all the ingredients are prepared, mis en place, right? 😉 we can put the whole dish together. Simmer the light coconut milk with the dry sugar until it reaches a slow boil. Add the Mochiko balls slowly. They sink, so when you drop them in, be weary that it doesn’t splash back up at you. Gently stir occassionally to prevent the balls from sticking. Next add the root vegetables, jackfruit and syrup and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Serve warm. Yum! I have to be careful to make this recipe just a few times a year. I seriously could eat the whole batch myself! 🙂

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Why won’t it freeze? The trials of making our own ice cream…

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How hard could it be? Visions of having a never ending supply of our very own homemade ice cream danced through my head. I remember doing it when I was really little. I was 7. I was in the Philippines visiting family for an entire month. It was jungle hot and as kids we were probably bored. For a fun activity, my grandmother brought out an old fashioned ice cream maker. I’m not sure who made the recipe or even what was in it, but I remember helping put in the ice, adding chunky salt and turning this metal crank for what seemed hours. Simple in process that became harder work as the ice cream thickened. I remember too, the joy of seeing and tasting whatever ice cream we made. Anyway… I’m browsing Amazon and come across an old fashioned ice cream maker. It’s a prettier version of the one my grandmother had, but made out of lightweight plastic, a pretty baby blue and most importantly, electric! So I ordered it.

Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looked or as I recalled. I really do think, my grandmother must have done most of the work. Seriously. This is what I learned: Lesson #1, a single recipe requires a lot of milk and cream…. I mean A LOT. Lesson #2, buy the right salt. There apparently is salt specifically needed for ice cream making. I thought I could just use more of the rock salt I had in the house. More does not equate to equivalent or better. I kid you not, it seemed like days before any ice cream magic would happen. Lesson #3, if you’re fortunate enough to get your ice cream to thicken up, it’s still very soft out of the machine. To get solid ice cream, you still have to pour your milkshake into a container and freeze it. This means waiting and fending off little and big hands with spoons trying to sneak tiny tastes.

Don’t get me wrong. The stuff tasted fantastic. It wasn’t so pretty the first few (and yes, I mean few) times we did it. We made several super rich milkshakes because the kids couldn’t wait for the frosty treat to firm up.

Would we make it again? Of course! Especially now that I think I know what I’m doing. I’ll have to buy a small cow and tons of ice cream salt… but we’ll do it again.  Someone did tell me that there are spherical type ice cream makers… Hmmmm… may be an idea for our road trips.  I can have the kids roll the “ball” to churn the ice cream!  See related posts below.  I even found one that gives a recipe on making ice cream in a bag!

You’ll note that I don’t have any finished dessert pictures. It took so long before we could get the finished product that I completely forgot about capturing any pictures as everyone was lapping it up.  Sorry!