Thursday, September 17, 2015

Keep those coins!

I am sure that at one point in our lives, we had piggy banks!  I don't remember being able to fill up mine though.  I think I wasn't patient enough haha!
If piggy banks were a test of a person's patience, well, my husband is a winner!  (Actually, I don't need a piggy bank to tell me that, he is one of the most patient people I know)

This is his "piggy bank" (well, it is a baby bottle that is a piggy bank. . . I know you know what I mean, haha)

He has been religiously filling this up with all the loose change he gets for two years now.  Care to guess how much is in it?  (Make a wild guess before you reach the end of this post, it will be fun!)

One day, this bottle just had enough that we can't drop coins anymore.  So it's time to take everything out.  Actually I don't mind counting all the coins!  But thanks to Coinstar, it just makes counting coins so much easier and faster!

I call it the green ATM, haha!  

Coinstar was actually a brainchild of Jens Molbak and was used for his Graduate School project in Stanford University.  Please click on this link to know more about Coinstar's History.

How does it work?

Before you put your coins in the machine, you get to choose whether you want cash, an e-gift card or a charity donation.

If you choose cash, there is a 10% fee which they deduct from the total amount of coins.

If you prefer Gift card, there is no fee, thus, you will get the total amount at selected establishments like Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Starbucks, Nike, Chili's, Sears, to name a few.

How easy can counting coins get with this machine?

Just drop the coins in a tray which would then lead to a slot.

Before you proceed, have you picked a number for the total amount of the coins in the bottle?!  If not, make one now and let's see how close you are! =)

At the end, the machine would show you the total amount of the coins and the breakdown:

It would probably have been $400 if the Princess didn't get some of the coins, haha!

So did you make a good guess?!

Honestly, I would have preferred a gift card from Home Depot than Nike but unfortunately the machine we went to only had Nike, Starbucks and Chili's!  I don't want to spend all that money just for coffee or food???  We thought it is the same for all kiosks but probably the one we went to had system problems.  We should have gone to other kiosks!  Oh well. . . we can start again!    

Remember, every penny counts!  Start saving those loose change, you will be surprised how much you'll save.

For more details about Coinstar, please visit their website.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The LA County Fair 2015

I grew up in the province in Philippines and one of my fondest childhood memories was going to the perya (local carnival) with the whole family during our town fiesta.  There were several game booths and rides we enjoyed.  My favorite ride was what they call the "Caterpillar" and my favorite game booth was the Balloon Popping game (where you had to use darts to pop  the balloons)!  I hated the Horror Train because I was really scared of it!  Yes, even if I knew everything was not real and were just badly made scary props haha! There were also "special shows" like those that featured a pair of Siamese Twins.  Simple joys from visiting the carnival included eating cotton candy and those old-fashioned pink-colored popcorn.  Carnivals have a special place in my heart because they bring me such happy and good memories!  This is the reason why I wanted to go to the LA County Fair which opened last September 4 (and would run until September 27, 2015).

The first County Fair I've been to in LA was Orange County's (which we visited last year).  After experiencing the LA County Fair, I have to say that I like it bettter because it is bigger and there were more rides for the kids to enjoy.

If the kids were excited about the rides, I was excited about food tripping! Haha! 

So we started our Carnival day with a Gyro Sandwich and a burger.   . . . 

Then my little girl looked up to me and said. . . "I like rice!" Haha!  So sh ended up eating just the pita bread (which she liked) from the Gyro sandwich. 

The kids enjoyed different rides . . . 

And Hubby enjoyed playing hoops!  He was in good shape (or was he just lucky??? Haha!) that day (Nahhh, he was really good) that he won two basketballs for the kids! (Woohoo!  Huney, I just have to say that you're so sexy when you play, hahaha!!!)

Some of the game booths we saw. . . .

I wanted to try this one BUT they didn't use darts!  They use bean bags to pop the balloons which I think makes it harder to do.  I don't have a good arm!  Haha!

Saw this giant slide!!!!!  It's one thing. . . . I will . . . NOT do! 

Besides Rides and Games, they also have a number of expo halls where you can find a myriad of things!  

From artificial grass (if you want that lush green garden without having to water it, haha), to a Tempur Bed . . .

And this is probably the most interesting thing I spotted  . . . .  

The company actually made one like this for a client . . . goes without saying that the client was a die-hard Dodgers fan!

In between the rides and walking through the expo halls, we tried the following Carnival eats!

From left to right (Clockwise) - Dippin dots ice cream, Grilled Corn on the Cob, Fried Chix in a Stick and a Hollywood fave since 1939. . . Pink's Hotdog!

Also spotted. . .ginormous turkey legs!  (Haven't tried this yet.)  Seeing these remind me of the Medieval Times, haha!  I think they would totally fit in the set of Game of Thrones!  Di baaa?!! 


And for something different, we tried the chocolate-covered bacon. . . which I didn't like, haha!   I still prefer my bacon as it is.

On our way out, we dropped by the Petting Zoo. . .  

I wish though that they had something like this which our little boy enjoyed at the OC fair last year. (If they have it, please let me know so I can update this post accordingly.)  

We had an amazing (and tiring!) day at the LA County Fair!  I was telling Hubby that probably we burned at least half of the total calories of everything we ate, haha!

I may have seen a number of carnivals that are fancier than the perya I know.  But my perya still has the No. 1 spot in my heart because it brings me back home, to my family and to my happy childhood. (Okay, I'm getting homesick again)

For more details about the LA County Fair, please visit their website.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Recipe Exchange from the East and West

Yes, this post is about a recipe exchange . . . The "East and West" in my post's title refer to my friend E (who is based in NY) and me (I'm in LA).  If there is one thing we share and are passionate about. . . it's our love for food!  Haha!

When you live overseas, there are days when homesickness just kicks in.  When those days happen, I just cook food which reminds me of home and my family.  Kare-Kare is one of my favorite Filipino comfort food.  It is a pork stew simmered in a peanut-based sauce.  Some people grind roasted peanuts and some (like us) use peanut butter.  In my book, my Ate Fely (she has been part of the family for more than 50 years!) makes the best Kare-Kare!  It's one of the things I request from her whenever we go back home for vacation.  There are several Filipino restaurants near our place where we can buy Kare-Kare. But sometimes, you just want some home-cooked meal!  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  Let's just say, I was forced to learn how to cook Kare-Kare, haha!  While I would prefer to have Ate Fely's Kare-Kare, it felt good to be able to say that I was able to cook it on my own. 

So my friend saw this in my IG and asked for the recipe. 

I was able to give her only a part of the recipe (Haha!) because we were having a nice time catching up and talking about different things!  During our conversation, I asked her if she has any Adobo recipe because the the one that I was following was just okay and I would like to try other recipes. So she gladly shared her go-to recipe (a recipe of her sister's mother-in-law) . . . and it was so good!  It was the best Adobo recipe I've tried!  It's a winner!

So I decided to do a post about these two recipes because I owe my friend the rest of the Kare-Kare recipe (Haha!) and to thank her for the Adobo recipe.

E, thank you very, very much!  Until our next recipe exchange!

By the way, the recipes don't have exact measurements.  Please feel free to adjust the seasoning as you cook to suit your taste.


Part I - Meat
Pork leg and other meat cut good for stews
Bay Leaves

Directions: On medium fire, boil the meat until tender (remove the scum).  Please save the broth as you need it for the sauce.

Part II - Vegetables
String Beans

Directions: Boil water in a pot and  add a little bit of salt.  Blanch the vegetables until you reach your desired tenderness.  These vegetables (except the pechay) require only a couple of minutes to cook. After blanching, put them in an ice bath (a bowl filled with ice and water) to stop the cooking process.

Part III - Sauce
Garlic, choopped
Onion, chopped
2 tbsp Fish sauce (for a kilo of meat)
1 pouch of Mama Sita Kare-Kare mix (I used broth to dissolve the mix)
2- tbsp of Annatto seeds soaked in 1/4  to 1/2 p of water (optional)
1 - 1 1/2 cup of peanut butter diluted with 1/2 cup of the broth
Broth from the Meat

Part IV - Shrimp paste to go with the Kare-Kare - very important!
We just got a bottle from the grocery.

Saute garlic, onion and fish sauce.  After a few minutes, add the water from the Annatto seed mixture and let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add the Kare-kare mix and stir and let it simmer for a few minutes.  Then add the peanut butter mixture, stir and add about a cup of the broth.  Let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add more broth depending on the consistency you like, adjust the seasoning if needed. Then add the Pork and let it simmer with the sauce.

For the vegetables, some people prefer to put the blanched vegetables on top of the Kare-Kare when they serve it.  I prefer to mix it with the sauce before serving it so it would absorb some of that good sauce!

Don't forget the bagoong (Shrimp paste)! Oh and get ready to eat more than a cup of rice! Haha!



Adobo is one of the most popular Filipino dishes and may well be considered as the National Dish of the Philippines.  It is a simple but a dynamic recipe!  It makes use of basic ingredients but somehow each Filipino household (or each Region in the country) would have their own take on it.  Some would prefer it to be dry, some would like it with more sauce, some cook it with or without the soy sauce, etc.

I like mine a little dry with a thick sauce but since the kids like to eat rice with the Adobo sauce, I had to make ours with more sauce.

Thank you again E for this wonderful recipe, it is a keeper!


1 Kilo of pork (we use Pork belly and Pork Butt)
Lots of crushed garlic (2 heads, with the peel)
* My friend told me that adding the peel does make a big difference in your Adobo's taste
*Onions, chopped (optional, a personal preference)
1/8 cup oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2-3 pcs of Bay leaf

Fry the garlic in the oil and then add the pork until lightly brown.  Add  the vinegar and let it boil for 5 minutes (with no cover).  I've read that you should do this to let the acid in the vinegar cook off, so you don't get that raw taste of vinegar in the dish.  Then add the soy sauce, bay leaf and pepper corn. Since I want more sauce for the dish, I added 1/2 cup of water.  Let it boil and then simmer for 25 minutes or until pork is tender.  

As a special treat for Hubby (because he was craving for some), I've added boiled eggs too.  =)

Hope these recipes helped  you in any way!  

Happy Cooking!  

Friday, September 4, 2015

LA Eats: Porto's Bakery and Cafe

In my earlier trips to LA, one of the things that friends told me to include in my "Things to Eat" in LA are In-N-Out (which I blogged about here) and the Cheese Rolls of Porto's Bakery.  During that time, the nearest Porto's to our home is in Glendale which was 30 miles away from us!  So you can say that I don't get to eat at Porto's regularly.  I get to try their goodies when friends bring some when we have potluck dinners.

Thankfully they opened one in Downey in 2010 which is closer to our city!

We got the chance to visit this special place over the weekend.

I called it special because more than the sweet and savory treats they are offering, what makes it special is the story behind the success of this bakery.

Porto's has an inspiring story because it is a realization of the American dream of the Porto family who left their home in Cuba in 1960 to go to America (they settled in California) in search of opportunities and a better life. With their determination and perseverance, they were able to achieve their dreams and are a living proof that wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you are, as long as you put your heart and work hard, success would come to you.

We went there one Saturday afternoon. . .and looked quiet from the outside.

Until we got inside, haha!

This is just half of the crowd (because this is just half of the place).  The line is long (and I heard that it can get crazy especially during Holidays) but don't be discouraged, haha!  It moves pretty fast.  There is a dedicated lane for customers who are buying whole cakes and a different queue for bakery and other food items like salads and sandwiches.

I have one tip before you go to Porto's.  I suggest you go online and look through their menu already because there is A LOT. . . like  A LOT to choose from!  At least when you go there, you already have an idea what to get.    

During our visit, I kept it simple and got the most popular items in the menu:

The famous Cheese Rolls (I suggest you buy a dozen because they come out cheaper and because they are simply gooood)

These cheese rolls have Cream Cheese inside as a filling

Potato Balls

The potato balls have a minced meat filling which is seasoned with some spices and then fried.  

They also have Cheese and Spicy Potato ball which I love because. . . well, I love cheese!  This potato ball has 4 cheeses (Mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago and Ricotta) mixed with roasted onions and a variety of peppers, yummmm!!!

Another item which friends have been raving about and which I haven't tried is their Tres Leches cake. 

It is a yellow sponge cake topped with a meringue (which was good, not overly sweet)

And has that milky, custardy-like syrup inside. . . .milk heaven!  (And I don't even like milk, haha!)

As I've mentioned, this place has lots of things to offer which means we are definitely coming back!  I want to try their Cubano sandwich (something I've never had!). . . oh and their Empanadas . . .and their Dulce de Leche cookies. . . and I heard their Fruit Tart is good . . . and. . . .the list just goes on.  Haha!

Porto's Bakery and Cafe
8233 Firestone Blvd,
Downey, CA 90241

For more details about Porto's products and locations, please visit their website.

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