Tomato & Bread Salad

Summer. You’re not over yet, and yet you are kinda over. School starts tomorrow, homework too, and I even saw Christmas decor in the aisles of Costco. Which is a kinda WTF early, but, well… you’ll be missed summer.

But before you totally bail on us, I thought it would be nice to hang with you a bit. Enjoy the fruits of your bounty, even if I didn’t actual grow them myself. See, we never quite made it around to the tomatoes this year. Of our micro-garden undertaking, we ended up with a handful of peas and green beans and a crap-load of plums. Though a pesky possum pretty much gnawed through most of the plums leaving sticky, smashed remnants all over our yard.

mini-bounty

mini-bounty

Our Peas, all six of them

Our peas, all six of them


But I digress.

So tomatoes… we were backup babysitters for our neighbor’s chickens and in addition to some fresh eggs, we also got to help ourselves to some lovely ripe tomatoes. Additionally, I had pilfered a left over loaf of bread from a work event that was too stale to eat but perfect for croutons.

BINGO: Tomato & Bread Salad!

I am not really sure how you make a traditional bread salad. I didn’t even really want to know. I just wanted to make it up as I went and see how it all came out.

(Didn't end up using the olives)

(Didn’t end up using the olives)


Tomato & Bread Salad
– Loaf of day (or so) old bread
– Lots of Olive Oil
– Three finely diced cloves of garlic
– Course Sea Salt
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
– Five or so large tomatoes
– Olives (optional, in fact I didn’t even end up using them)

How To:
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
– Slice the bread into large cubes.
– Whisk together garlic and 1/4 cup Olive Oil
– Toss together the olive oil/garlic mix and the croutons with your hands in a large bowl.
– Generously sprinkle salt, parmesan
– Toss and add Olive Oil until all cubes have a light coat
– Bake for 8ish mins, then toss them and sprinkle more parmesan and back for another 8-10 mins. They should be a golden brown.
– Remove from oven and put in a bowl, save the little crumb pieces to sprinkle on the top at the end
– Slice the tomatoes into large chunks and, in a separate bowl, toss with a little olive oil and salt
– Then toss it all together with the bread, sprinkle the crumbs on top, and let it sit for awhile before serving

Croutons

Croutons


It turned out ok. Maybe a little dry. I wonder if I should have put something like a vinaigrette over it and really let it soak. Or maybe it just needed to sit longer in the tomatoes. My goal was for it to be moist but with some crunchiness. All in all though, it was a super easy summer dish that could morph with varied ingredients like fresh mozzarella, basil, various salad dressings, olives, etc.

And not bad for a leftover loaf of bread and some tomatoes from the garden.

Tomato Bread Salad

Tomato Bread Salad

Restaurant Challenge: Sampaguita Fil-Am Cuisine

Sampaguita Fil-Am Cuisine

Sampaguita Fil-Am Cuisine


Nestled next to a laundromat on a quiet strip in the middle of the island is Sampaguita Fil-Am restaurant. I’ve been wanting to check this place out since spotting it way back. These types of unassuming, out of the way spots always intrigue me in a treasure hunt type of way. So when it got pulled from our restaurant challenge bucket I got excited by the possibilities ahead. Like this could be the hidden gem on the island! The kind of place I’ll kick myself for not having come to sooner. The underdog waiting for it’s moment.

Oh boy… it kills me to say it, but it just wasn’t it.

And it’s even harder to say that after we were greeted so warmly by the lovely ladies who worked there. But I just didn’t really like the food. And I kinda like most food. But not so much this time around. Sorry nice ladies!

BUT there’s a silver lining here… I am just one opinion amongst a family of four. The typically picky one in our group (ahem, Jack) threw a curve ball when he said he would go back FOR SURE and rated his meal with triple-quadrupal thumbs up. Elise seemed indifferent though mowed down her Adobo and Mike said “Yep, just like the cafeteria at our Manila fab.”

So really, what do I know.

our MO, sample a little of everything.

our M.O., sample a little of everything.


My Thoughts:
Everything was lukewarm at its hottest. Cold Chicharones are kinda gnarly. Lots of the dishes were swimming in grease. Overall most of the dishes I tried tasted kinda bland.

Jack:
Jack loved the Nilagang Baka (Beef Stew in Clear Broth). In typical Jack style, he gravitated towards: beef, potatoes, rice. He gets a variation of this at most restaurants. He liked this version more than most. The Halo Halo dessert was also a hit.

Halo Halo Dessert

Halo Halo Dessert

Elise:
Pork Adobo and rice were her favorites. She also loved the act of eating the Halo Halo. She kept calling it fishing as she searched the dessert with her spoon for beans and pieces of coconut.

Mike:
Mike travels to the Philippines often and has eaten many a meal just like this. The choices, the flavors, even the small white plastic bowls used to serve the meal all felt familiar. He liked it ok, a similar feeling he has when eating in the Philippines. It’s ok.

So, and please no offense to my Filipino friends, it did get me thinking why this cuisine just hasn’t taken off like other Asian foods in our area. California has one of the largest Filipino populations in the country yet you rarely see or hear of Filipino restaurants. Why is this?

This isn’t the end Filipino food, I don’t give up that easily. I do want to figure you out. I’ll be seeking out answers (and further attempts) to find what I like about you.

Sampaguita Fil-Am Cuisine
1216 Lincoln Ave
(between Bay St & Sherman St)
Alameda, CA 94501

Restaurant Challenge: Sidestreet Pho

Mike & Elise

Mike & Elise


OK people, dreams have come true this time around on the restaurant challenge. My children actual begged to return to a Vietnamese restaurant we recently picked from the bucket. Never mind that it’s mostly due to a dessert piled high with mango shaved ice, bits of marshmallow, and tapioca pearls.

I love Vietnamese food. I am glad it’s now a part of our regular rotation of restaurants. I am glad that my kids have found new foods they like even if it was a dessert that got ’em in the door.

Overall Thumbs Up

Overall Thumbs Up


SIDESTREET PHO
http://sidestreetpho.com/
Since pulling this from the restaurant challenge bucket we’ve been here a couple time. The restaurant is simple and nicely designed. The food is good and the service is friendly. In our various trips we’ve tried the following:

Elise:
Pho Ga but with Egg Noodles: Thumbs Up!

mmm, soup.

mmm, soup.


Jack:
Com Tam Bi Bo (Grilled Beef with Rice): Thumbs Up for the rice (as usual). Thumbs medium for the steak, although I thought it was delicious. Thumbs way up for the pickled daikon, cucumber, and carrot salad.

Mike:
Banh Mi Bo Kho (Beef stew with french bread): Thumbs medium, he liked it ok but not overwhelmed.
Bo Luc Lac (Beef stir fried with egg noodles): Thumbs up, tasty.

Me:
Cha Gio Heo Nuong (Rice Vermicelli Salad with imperial roll and grilled pork.) MMM, one of my favorites and this one didn’t disappoint.

Pho Ga: Thumbs Up, the broth was really flavorful and good.

Vermicelli with Pork and Egg Roll

Vermicelli with Pork and Egg Roll


                                                  
And then there is this magical snow ice dessert…
WARNING: Fingers could get accidentally bitten off during the feeding frenzy this causes.

Mango Snow Ice Dessert.

Mango Snow Ice Dessert.

Sidestreet Pho: Now in our regular restaurant rotation.

Easy Watermelon Cooler

Refreshing

Refreshing


I was cutting up a watermelon tonight and was left with a pool of juicy looking pulp sitting in the rind. Rather than pick it up and drink it down, a light bulb popped. Watermelon cooler.

I grabbed a spoon and started scraping. Of course you could do this with chunks of watermelon but I got kinda excited that I found a use for something I would have just tossed in the compost. Then I gathered a lemon, a bit of white wine (I used a table white but Prosecco would be good too) and some ice. Easy breezy like summer. What resulted was a refreshing, crisp drink with a hint of natural sweetness cut a bit by the lemon.

Ingredients:
– Dry White Wine or Prosecco (I used a table white that was 80% Sauvignon Blanc/20% Chardonnay)
– Watermelon leftovers
– Ice
– Lemon

Watermelon Leftovers

Watermelon Leftovers


To Make:
– Take the spoon and scrape down the rind, making as much pulpy juice as possible.
– Fill a glass with ice.
– Fill the glass half way with watermelon juice and pulp.
– Then fill with wine.
– Cut some lemons, squeeze one small piece into the drink and stir. Then drop a couple slices of lemon on top.

Find a porch, kick back, and sip.

Ouch Sun, That Hurt! Weird Sunburn Remedies.

Awhile back I watched a video on the internet with a doctor talking about common household remedies for sunburns. I can’t find it now but I could swear they said that applying tea or vinegar within the first eight hours after your skin gets sunburnt not only soothes the immediate pain, but also stops and even reverses some of the sun damage that nasty burn inflicted on your skin. Could it be true?

This stuck in my head when I found myself, after a day in the sun, looking like a crispy critter. What the heck, might as well give it a shot. So I soaked a paper towel in white vinegar and applied it all over my sunburn. The next day, I swear there was a noticeable difference between the area I easily reached and applied more vinegar to (shoulders), and the area in the middle of my back (still a deeper red).

Shortly after I noticed that my mother-in law carries around a small water bottle with a half water/half vinegar solution to apply after being in the sun… at the suggestion of her dermatologist. I think we’re on to something here!

I’ve since applied vinegar many times to pieces and parts of my family’s skin that have seen too much sun and it always seems to help. At the very least it doesn’t hurt. So, as you head out to enjoy some July 4th fun in the sun, remember your SPF! But should you still find yourself a little pink around the edges, grab for the vinegar asap. Or one of these other household items…

(NOTE: I am no doctor, nor is the internet from which I gleaned this info, this is all just anecdotal)

VINEGAR:
Apparently there is acetic acid in vinegar. Acid?! on a Sunburn?! Yeah, seems like it helps relieve pain and restore the pH balance to your skin which promotes healing. I go straight-up-hard-core pure white vinegar but you can also mix half vinegar/half water, soak a washcloth or paper towel, and hold on your skin for awhile. Or dab all over the sunburn and repeat a few times. Seems Apple Cider and white vinegar are the best types of vinegar to use.

Tea
Sitting out on the deck eating some lunch, soaking up the sun and OOPS sunburn! Order an iced tea, soak a napkin, hold it on the burn, move into the shade and lunch on. Tea has healing properties. The internet seems to think black tea works best.

Yogurt
Turn your crispy skin tandoori-style with a little yogurt slathered on. I’ve never done this but people out there online say it’s the best way to heal a sunburn. But there’s evidence to support lots of “best ways” so I say grab what’s handy, slather it on, it’s better than nothing.

On that note, some other items said to help:
– Cold Water
– Milk
– Cucumbers
– Oatmeal
– Coconut Oil

Enjoy your 4th of July, use sunscreen, and keep that vinegar handy.

“This is my Pajamas”: Customize Your iPhone Ringtones

My daughter, out of the blue, started to occasionally speak with an accent that sounds somewhere between a southern drawl and a cartoon character. Around the same time, she also started doing this random thing where, while getting ready for bed, she would stand there naked and dramatically point to herself and say “This is my pajamas” in her newly affected accent.

These two things combined always make us bust up in laughter. Surely there must be some way to immortalize this memory. So I recorded her saying it one night with the Voice Memo utility on my iPhone. Then it dawned on me, it must be pretty easy to turn this little tidbit into a ringtone or alert. Why wouldn’t the rest of the world want to hear this soundbite every time I get a text? Totally entertaining, not at all annoying.

Elise’s iPhone Alert

Like back when phones started getting more sophisticated (what, 5 years ago?) and as a joke I changed my ringer to play Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean. Seriously, nothing turns a dead silent workspace or BART car into a chuckle-fest like getting a phone call with that as your ringtone.

Billy Ocean – Carribean Queen. You’d laugh, right?

Back to today, it turns out it’s pretty easy to make your own tones for the iPhone 5. I can’t speak to other phone makes and models but with a little googling, I am sure you could make magic happen on your device.

MAKE CUSTOM RINGTONES & ALERT TONES – w/ Voice Memo on iPHONE 5
Step 1: Open the Voice Memo recorder in your phone’s utility folder.

Step 2: Record what you want to use as a tone. I found that 1-2 seconds was plenty for an alert. 5-10 seconds seems good for a ringtone.

Step 3: When you’re done recording tap the “list” button to listen to your sound. If your sound needs to be trimmed, tap into the sounds info and then select “Trim Memo” and a yellow slide bar will appear. tap/hold/slide in the left and/or right side to trim off what you need. When you’re satisfied with it, tap “Trim Voice Memo”

Step 4: On the sound memo’s Info page tap “Share” and email yourself the sound file.

Step 5: Go to your computer and download the sound memo file from your email to your desktop and rename it to something you’ll remember when it appears in your phone’s tone list. When you’re renaming, also change the name of the file extension from .m4a to .m4r. You’ll get an alert saying “Are you sure you want to change the extension from .m4a to .m4r?” go ahead and click “Use .m4r.”

Step 6: Connect your phone to your computer. These are iPhone to MacBook instructions but I assume PC or Mac, as long as you have iTunes the following is universal. Double click the .m4r file to open it in iTunes. This will add it to your iTunes library under Tones.

Step 7: In iTunes, go to View -> Show Sidebar. Then in the left sidebar, open the “tones” folder in your library. You should see your new sound tone listed. Drag and drop this tone down to your phone. This adds it to your phone automatically under ringtones (because of the .m4r extension).

Step 8: On your phone, go to Settings->Sounds and then Ringtone (and/or individual alerts). You should see your new sound listed at the top of the “Ringtones” list. Select it and voila! Then call/text/email yourself to hear your new tone.

It sounds like more steps than it is. Once you have it down it’s quick. Experiment and personalize your phone with your kid’s laugh, your cat’s hiss, or your first ukelele chords strung together… whatever, play around and let me know what you come up with

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Forts!

Bunk Forts!


After all of this adventuring lately, I was itching to do something hands-on creative today so I dug out a project that’s been sitting in the back of my head for awhile. Ever since getting the kids a bunk bed I’ve wanted to make it into a bed-fort and today I finally pulled it off.

My kids share a room and at the rate we’re going with house hunting they will continue to do so until they graduate high school. Lucky for me, at 6 & 4, they don’t mind sharing and actually I don’t think they would have it any other way. But when four people live in 1000 sq ft, it never hurts to find creative ways to carve out a little more personal space and privacy. Plus the fact that bunk bed forts are obviously awesome.

I headed to Ikea to pull together the few items I would need to perma-fort the bunk bed…

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

A Few Simple Things

A Few Simple Things

                                                    
MATERIALS
– 2 curtain wire packs
– screws
– wire cutters
– Phillips screwdriver
Curtains
Kura bed tent for top bunk

TOP BUNK
This should have been the no-brainer in the project. Go to Ikea, get the tent thingy that goes on an Ikea bunk bed, put it on the bunk bed. DONE! Nope. Oh Ikea, why do you almost make it easy but then make that last 5% such a pain in the butt? Of course this tent thing doesn’t fit ALL Ikea wooden bunk beds, just the one we don’t have. So it’s up there for now, but the hooks don’t fit so it keeps getting knocked off. I need to rig it to be more sturdy maybe get some velcro strips and wrap then around the tent poles and then around the bed.

Wire curtain hangers in progress.

Wire curtain hangers.


BOTTOM BUNK
For this I got two of the curtain wire packs from Ikea. Dang it Ikea, really? Everything BUT the screws included? Ok, so I fumbled around the tool area in the basement and dug up a couple but I don’t think they were long enough to really anchor in the wood. I went ahead with them and screwed one set in along the inside ledge of the bunk bed along the length, then one along the width (see pic). While the curtain wire did hang, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough and I had one already pull out of the wood. The screws I had were not right. I’ll probably change them out with a screw or bolt long enough to go entirely through the wood and then fasten a nut on the other side. Or maybe just a longer screw and a little wood glue. I am going to research but for now, it’s in place and looks good.

For the fabric, I found these owl curtains in the kids section of Ikea. They were way too long so I cut them to the size I needed and (GASP!) fake sewed them with the iron no-sew adhesive stuff. Let’s see if it holds up. I made the third curtain with the leftovers from the original panels and might make some pillow cases with the remaining scrap.

So there are some things I need to work on to make this concept more solid so that 2 hyper kids can’t take it all down in an instant, but those adjustments should be simple. The entire project, including Ikea-time, took only a couple of hours. The kids seem to love their new forts and, coincidentally, have their first sleep over friends here enjoying them too.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Elise's new bottom bunk fort.

Elise’s new bottom bunk fort.

Sleep Over!

Sleep Over!

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Bed Forts!