The Wonderful Watermelon

For those who have never been in the Philippines, watermelon is alive and kicking here. Most of the watermelon sold in our area of Bacolod City are from the Iloilo area, which is less than 2 hours by ferry or ship.

Going south of Bacolod in the area before Villadolid, there are many roadside vendors selling watermelon.

Squeezing the Melon

Yeah, he is at it again! One of my brothers in law is squeezing the watermelon at a roadside stand.

The nose knows!

My beautiful, adorable, charming wife has a better technique. She can smell the good watermelons and ferret out the best from among many to choose from.

Choose One?

There are many to choose from.

Watermelon is much more than just splitting them open, adding salt if you like and eating, as the juice runs down your hands.

With the right ingredients, watermelon will make a mean salsa. Add chopped watermelon, chopped bell peppers, kalamansi juice or lime juice, chopped green onions, sili peppers, chopped chili peppers or jalapenos, a dash of salt and now you got it! It is great with nachos, tortilla chips or corn chips.The cool watermelon is a nice balance with the hot peppers.

If you have a juicer, blender or a food processor, then you are in business. You can make many different kinds of watermelon drinks. You can have it plain or you can add other things to kick it up a few notches. Add coconut milk to have a wonderful watermelon shake. If you want a frozen treat, pour the watermelon shake into paper cups and put in the freezer. When about half frozen, add popsicle sticks and you will have a watermelon popsicle before too long. You can add mango juice and rum to watermelon juice to make a cocktail.

Adding watermelon to salads is always a nice treat. Just add chopped watermelon to your favorite salad.

Watermelon can be added to your favorite sandwich. Instead of tomato, add watermelon. You may be surprised!

The Wonderful Watermelon. It can bring a new love into your life.


 

 


 

Green Shell Mussels

Mussels have long been one of my favorite seafood even before I ever came to the Philippines. I am blessed here in that you can buy a kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of mussels in Bacolod City for less than $2 USD. P50-P70 is the going price at the public market where we shop, depending on what you can bargain them for. Many local people in the Bacolod Area refer to mussels as “Green Shells.”

When steamed or boiled, the green shell mussels have a nice, natural red color.

Green Shell Mussels

These mussels were prepared by boiling them in salt water, taking off the top shell, garnishing them with fried slivers of garlic and grated cheese, and then baking until the cheese melted.

WoW! Now, we are talking. I really enjoyed these mussels, as always.

Mussels and Fries

I don’t  eat much rice on a daily basis, so my wife prepared fries instead. The ketchup with the fries is mixed with wasabi, to kick them up a notch. I also like wasabi as a dip with the mussels. My lovely wife studied Culinary Science in Singapore and she also knows the gadgets to use. She has a cutter to turn out the crinkle cut or waffle style potatoes when doing the French Fries. All this was done in our home, as you just can’t get food this good in a restaurant! My wife also taught me about cooking, although, I must say that I was not a novice before. I have improved!

Mussels are very healthy, so no need to be concerned. Mussels are grittier and chewier than oysters but they are still very good  for you and they make your tum, tum, tummy very happy!

Mussels are actually low in calories and low in fat but rich in protein. Believe It… Or Not? It is true, you can believe it!

Mussels are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins B, Vitamin C, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and selenium. Vitamin B-12, especially! Mussels are sounding better all the time.

There are many ways to prepare mussels and you can use them to create many dishes. For me, I like them on the half shell. If I am preparing mussels only for myself, I like to steam them in beer. Beer steamed mussels. Don’t worry, the alcohol in the beer is not in the mussels. Beer is not only for drinking but good to use in steaming seafood. Beer steamed crabs also rock!

Green Shell Mussels are available very cheaply in every area of the Philippines that I have ever visited or where I have lived. Mussels are really an incredible seafood! Great taste, healthy and packed full of nutrients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food in the Philippines

Philippine Cuisine is diverse and I could write a book about it based on my experience in the country. But, I am not going to do that here!

When I first visited the Philippines and lived here as an academic in 1986-1987, I had read and was told that the Philippine food was Chinese, Spanish and Malay influenced. There was a Shakey’s Pizza on Roxas Blvd that I enjoyed very much. It had pizza, spaghetti, draft San Miguel Beer and live rock bands at night. Not exactly Chinese, Spanish and Malay! 

Ma Mon Luk in Quezon City was my favorite Chinese Restaurant. The Aristocrat Restaurant on Roxas Blvd was one of my favorite Filipino restaurants in Manila back in those days. Back to the Future!

I moved to the Bacolod area 3 years ago and the Filipino food here is a little different from the fare in Manila but it is still food. Nowadays, we have Mexican, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern, German, American style, Italian, Mediterranean and many other locally owned cuisine restaurants. We don’t have a Chili’s Bar and Grill or a Taco Bell or a Burger King. There is McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC.

My wife and I enjoy preparing food at home but we still go out to restaurants several times a week. We thank all those Boyz from Bacolod Food Hunters for telling us about new places to go and eat when dining out. Way to go guys! Two thumbs Up!

I enjoy Japanese food but some of the Japanese restaurants leave a lot to be desired in our area, however, I have not tried them all.

This past week, I took a simple can of Century Tuna in oil and turned it into a nice delight!

I put the canned Century Tuna in the freezer for about 40 minutes to chill . In the mean time, I whipped up a Japanese style Mayonnaise. I used the non-sweet mayonnaise, about two tablespoons. I added one half tablespoon of wasabi paste from the tube, one tablespoon of soy sauce and one half tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I mixed all together and put in the ref for about 30 minutes to chill. Japanese Mayonnaise.

I don’t really like boiled eggs in tuna salad but you can do that if you like. I opened the can of chilled Century Tuna and drained it especially well in a strainer, as I don’t want oil or much liquid in the tuna when making the tuna salad since it really becomes watery. The less oil left in the tuna, the better!

Tuna Bowl

I like to do things right and be authentic as possible.

One portion of tuna

Japanese Mayonnaise

Waiting to be mixed! The Japanese Mayonnaise and the tuna. I had this last night and munched on Skyflake saltine crackers, as I enjoyed eating the tuna salad. Will this work served over rice? You betcha! If you want to go that route. It will also work on a bed of lettuce and you can add mango slices, too. Now, that is a tropical delight right from the Philippines!

Food in the Philippines can be kicked up a few notches for creative flavor and your meal is only limited by your imagination.

 

 


 

Drum Competition at the 2012 Panaad sa Negros Festival

Yesterday, April 15, was the last day of this year’s Panaad sa Negros Festival. We did not attend until the late afternoon.

I am by no means a professional drummer but I have my own set of Timbales drums with the cow bell attached and I have played since the early 90s. The highlight for me during the last day of the Panaad Festival was the drum competition. Cities and towns from around Negros Occidental take the drum competition seriously and they practice year ’round until the next Panaad Festival.

Drum Competition

Drums, drums and more drums! Congas, bongos, timbales, steel drums, kettle drums, bass drums, homemade drums and professionally made drums. Music to my ears!

A break from the action

Waiting for their round again in the competition.

Last turn!

Such fast, furious and excited drumming was hard to capture on camera but they were really cooking! I wish the late great Tito Puente, King of the Timbales, was still around to see the local talent. He would be proud.

Encore!!

They certainly had the beat! The drummer blowing the samba whistle during the drumming really made the Panaad Festival a Carnival Event. Cabasa shakers, cheese scrapers and other hand shaken instruments added to the wonderful sound! Percussion at its finest.

Time to start practicing again, as the Drum Competition of the 2013 Panaad sa Negros Festival will be here before we know it. Only about 364 more days left to practice!!



Calamansi or Kalamansi

Don’t worry, either spelling will work. For those not familiar, calamansi is the native Philippine lime and there are many uses for it.

Calamansi

We have calamansi growing in pots in our subdivision in Bacolod City. At our farm, south of Bacolod, we have calamansi growing naturally.

Calamansi Close Up

The calamansi, Philippine native limes, are smaller than limes we are accustomed to in the USA but they are still very good. Calamansi is sometimes referred to as golden limes because the flesh is golden color.

Just One More Tine!

Another calamansi growing. Calamansi is a staple in the Philippines.

Chicken inasal, the local version of BBQ chicken, always requires a dipping sauce. The customary sauce is calamansi, soy sauce and vinegar.

Many are aware of dried mango. Well, there is also dried calamansi fruit!

Calamansi is diverse and it can be used in beverages, purees, syrups, marmalade, jam and candies. It is a perfect condiment or flavoring ingredient to food, which require lime juice. Yeah, such as seafood, my favorite.

One of the first beverages I ever had in the Philippines, way back in 1986, was calamansi juice. A simple native juice drink. It can be served hot or cold.

Let’s not forget the health benefits of calamansi. It is loaded with Vitamin C and it reportedly helps with digestion and with blood circulation.

Whenever you are in the Philippines, especially in the Bacolod Area, you will see calamansi most every day. Squeeze a calamansi today!

 

 

 

 

Homegrown Tomatoes

A little bit is better than nada and I am happy with my tomato plants. It is not so easy to grow large tomatoes in this part of the Philippines. It is much easier in the cooler climate of Don Salvador Benedicto and Mt. Kanlaon, aka “The Salad Bowl of Negros Occidental.” Those areas are higher elevation and it is cooler there. Great weather for growing many vegetables and the tomato that are not hindered by the intense heat.

Homegrown Tomatoes

There are a few little green tomatoes and soon, they will become larger red tomatoes, ready for picking and eating!

Another tomato plant

These tomato plants are potted and growing at our home in Bacolod City. We have a farm but these tomatoes are city tomatoes!

I remember as a child, I would get a big ole ripe tomato from my dad’s garden, put some salt on it and eat it just like I would eat an apple. Now, that is good eating on a hot summer day, especially if you chill the tomato in the fridge first.

Living in the Bacolod area the past 3 years, I discovered it is more difficult to find the larger tomatoes in the public markets but they are available. For a price. Now, I am trying to grow my own tomatoes and it looks like I have a good start!

There are many things you can do with tomatoes. You can make your own salsa or make your own tomato relish. There are hundreds of ways to eat a tomato and you are only limited by your imagination. I like a BLT, Bacon/Lettuce/Tomato, sandwich on toasted bread with lots of mayonnaise. Sometimes, I eat just a tomato sandwich with lots of mayonnaise.

Sliced tomatoes are good at breakfast and go with most anything. We sometimes forget that tomatoes are actually fruit.

I enjoy fried green tomatoes very much. This is the way I do fried green tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes on the thinner side but not too thin, so about 1/2 inch thick. Beat one or two eggs for dipping the tomato slices, depending on how many you need to dip. You can add a little milk to the egg if you wish but it is not required. Put flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper on one plate for dredging the tomato slices and put cornmeal on another plate for dredging the tomato slices. In order, dredge the tomato slices in flour to coat, dip in the egg mixture and then dredge the tomatoes in the cornmeal. Now, you are ready to fry the tomatoes in cooking oil over medium heat. Don’t overcrowd the skillet or wok, which you are using, and the tomatoes should not touch each other when frying. When the tomatoes are brown, flip over and brown the other side. Drain on paper towels before eating. Fried green tomatoes are best eaten while hot.

As you can see, I am already thinking about what I will do with my homegrown tomatoes. You can buy tomatoes in many places but you just can’t buy your own homegrown tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Panaad sa Negros Festival

The Panaad Festival kicked off on Monday, April 9, and will end on Sunday, April 15. The weekend will be the highlights of the Festival but every day is good. We heard the fireworks from our home on the opening night.

Tropical Treasures

There is a little bit of everything at the Panaad Festival. Almost every city, town and municipality in Negros Occidental has an exhibit.

More Tropical Treasures

Food and drink are one of the many pleasures at the Panaad Festival. Luscious fruit, fabulous vegetables, native cuisine and native drinks make an enjoyable experience.

Miami Dolphins??

Not today! Philippine Dolphins at Panaad. 

More Luscious Beauty

It really is more fun in the Philippines!!

Oh, yes! We have some bananas!

There are many types of bananas grown in Negros Occidental and this is one showcase.

Five more days to go in the Panaad Festival. I will be there every day and I will share more. If you have a juicer, blender or food processor, just imagine all the great drinks you can whip up from the fruits and vegetables from the Panaad Festival. The Showcase of Negros Occidental, my home. It is Showtime!

 

 

 

Oysters

One of my favorite foods ever since I lived for years near Apalachicola, Florida has been oysters. The best oysters in the USA come from Apalachicola Bay in Florida, my old hometown area.

Great news! The oysters from Iloilo and Panay Island, readily available in Bacolod City, are every bit as good as the oysters from Apalachicola, Florida. On Lacson Extension, going from Alijis Road, right next to a bridge, you will see a sign that reads, “Talaba.” That is the local language for “oyster.” P150 (pesos) will buy a lot of oysters! That is less than $4 US Dollars.These oysters in Bacolod City come from Iloilo or Panay Island.

My wife, family and friends love oysters and they do not require any special preparation before eating. Steamed, boiled or grilled is fine. I enjoy oysters any way possible, even right out of the shell, but I don’t eat raw oysters any longer. I have a wife and son to think of!

Over the Easter weekend, we had oysters. My wife loves me a lot! She prepared some of the bounty of oysters we bought especially for me.

Cheese and Garlic Oysters

One of the ways I enjoy oysters is having them baked, after steaming, boiling or grilling, for a short period of time after garnishing them with cheese and fried garlic. Just long enough to melt the cheese.

Horseradish is one of my favorite condiments. I use horseradish to make my own cocktail sauce, which is great for seafood. However, with oysters, I like Wasabi, the Japanese horseradish. Louisiana style hot sauce is good, too.

Cheese and Garlic Oysters with Wasabi

For you horseradish lovers, wasabi can be purchased at SM Supermarket and they keep a large supply on hand. It seems many of the Koreans in the area also like wasabi, so no problem. Cafe Bob’s on Lacson sells horseradish from USA and from Germany in their deli grocery section.

Can I see those oysters once more?

Cheese and Garlic Oysters with Wasabi

One lone oyster without the cheese and garlic but I like oysters straight, too!

If wasabi is too sharp for you, a dash of Mama Sita’s hot sauce or Mother’s Best hot sauce will add a little spice for you. Tabasco Sauce will kick it up a few notches higher on the heat index!

No need to be concerned about eating oysters. They are healthy. Oysters have Tyrosine, which is an amino acid, the building block of all proteins that helps regulate mood and stress levels in the brain. Comfort Food! There is very little fat or cholesterol in oysters. Seriously! Oysters are also rich in Zinc, Iron, Calcium and Vitamin A. All good for men and women, too.

I don’t suggest eating raw oysters but they are great boiled, steamed, grilled, broiled and baked.

Oysters Rock!!

 

 

 


 

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play

Fantasy Baseball! It is that time of the year again and this year’s MLB season officially began in late March with two games played in Japan between the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners.

Having an online Fantasy Baseball Team has been one of my past times or hobbies for the past 8 years. Fantasy Baseball gives me something to do while I am semi-retired in the Islands of Paradise, the Philippines. I also have more hobbies but more on that later.

I have three teams on CBS Sports Fantasy Baseball, which is my favorite site to have teams. This year, I have three teams.

El_Banditos

After Week One, I am 1-0.

El_Scorpions

After Week One, I am 1-0.

El_Caiman

After Week One, I am 0-1. Cute logo but  no win yet. Hopefully, in Week Two, I get a W for Win.

Ladies having a Fantasy Baseball Team is not so popular but there are a few who do. One of my leagues not only has a lady but a Chinese lady who has a team and she is a baseball fan.

ESPN and Yahoo Sports also have Fantasy Baseball Leagues, where one can join, draft a team, set a logo, set the team line-up and you are good to go.

I only join the Free Leagues, as I don’t join the Pay Leagues where each team owner puts up money in a pot and the Champion in October gets most of the pot. I play for fun!

I have been a baseball fan and have followed Major League Baseball since 1965. A long time, huh? I was 10 years old at the time. That was also my first year to play Little League Baseball. I was on the Old Dixie Chickadees, sponsored by the then famous fried chicken restaurant in Orlando, Florida. I continued playing and honing my baseball skills while I was growing up. In 1972, I attended the Cincinnati Reds tryout camp held in Gadsden, Alabama. Nope, I was not signed to a contract but it was fun and I tried. I gave it my best shot! I was too small, the scouts said.

During my adult life, I switched to softball and played every year on the team where I was employed. The last year I played, before hanging up the spikes was in 1996, at age 42. Yeah, even to this day I can still hit, I can still field the ball with my glove, I still have a rocket arm to throw the ball but man, that running is what gets me! Especially trying to lumber from First Base to Home or from First Base to Third! From Base to Base is not a problem.

One of my hobbies is giving tips to the Girl’s Softball Team at the Barangay High School. Hitting! Swinging from the waist with a bat and only using arm strength is not the way to do it. Weight on the back foot and putting the entire body into the swing is the key to power hitting. I learned the Charlie Lau theory of hitting when I was a college freshman. Even though I was only 5’4 and 128 pounds, I could launch a baseball or a softball a long distance. I am still 5’4 but now weigh 138! Not bad gaining only ten pounds over the past 39 years!

Fantasy Baseball is only one of my hobbies in the Philippines. I also enjoy writing about the Philippines and giving advice to other expats who plan making a retirement move the Islands of Paradise.

It really is more fun in the Philippines! My honeymoon with and in the Philippines has never ended, as each day still unfolds a new adventure. Bacolod, “The City of Smiles”! You gotta love it.

He Is Risen!

I am wishing everyone a very special and blessed Resurrection Sunday.

When I was a child, I enjoyed every Easter because I always received an Easter Basket filled with chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs and marshmallow chicks. My Mother always colored boiled eggs and she hid the eggs for me to find during the Easter Egg Hunt. It was all great fun.

Easter Treats

My Mother also taught me the true meaning of Easter when I was old enough to understand. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38). My mother taught me that those in power hated Jesus and he was crucified but on the third day, God raised Him from the dead.

It was right around Easter time in 1972 when I fully grasped and accepted the message of Resurrection Sunday and the true Revelation of Jesus Christ in my life, as a teenager. This is my 40th year anniversary of being a Born Again Christian.

This is one of my favorite messages that is appropriate today. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18)

Beginning with Palm Sunday, Holy Week is celebrated in the Philippines. For two days, the major malls were closed and many employees enjoyed time off from work to spend time with their family for Holy Week.

Church

Today is a time that I reflect back on my life and fully appreciate all the blessings in my life. I am very happy today, as I am married to a very wonderful woman and we have a fabulous son. We are all in great health and while we are not considered rich among those who financially are, we are rich in many ways and even richer than some who have millions and billions. Thanks to the Resurrection Sunday message, the One who is Risen has taught me not to just survive the storm but how to dance in the rain!