celebrar la libertad

Today marks the 1st anniversary of me being single. I’m celebrating it because:

  • This is the first time in a decade that I’m not in a relationship for longer than 1 month
  • It feels great and I’m looking forward to more years of being free and accountable to no one but MYSELF
  • Life is beautiful and so am I

Haha! That last one came out of nowhere and try as I might, I cannot bring myself to delete it. Mwehehe!! :D

Seriously, though. They say that a pregnant woman should never make life changing decisions because her hormones are wreaking havoc on her brain. I say there are exceptions. Because I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t make the decision that made me single exactly one year ago, my son’s health would have been in jeopardy. 6 months into my pregnancy I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. Such condition wouldn’t have tolerated the daily screamfest I used to have with the boy’s father. And it certainly wouldn’t have tolerated me being left alone often, while he goes out & satisfies his need to drink & be merry until the wee hours of the morning.

Back then, I felt that my son needed me to be his mom. I had to step up or I was going to lose him. So I made a choice, and I’ve never looked back.

People have called me bitter for deciding to cut the father off completely after I gave birth. Others have questioned how his absence will affect SEAN. I’ve thought about that, a thousand times, over and over again. And I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • My son will only suffer if he has to deal with a father who can only be one when it doesn’t cramp his lifestyle
  • A father should think of his son’s needs FIRST, and put everything else second, INCLUDING those of his own family.

I know that I will never be able to fulfill the role of a good father. But the thing is, I’m here for my boy, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Yes, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to get up to change diapers or give a wriggling baby a bath. Sometimes, I scream into my pillow whenever my son cries for me for the nth time.  But still, I get up and pick him up with the brightest smile I could muster. I do it because I’m his mother and I love him. A father should be able to do the same. Or at least try.

To end this post on a positive note, I’m very grateful that I have such loving parents who are more than willing to forego their retirement from child-rearing duties just to be able to help me raise my son. From day one, they have been nothing but supportive. Over the years, I’ve given them a lot of heartbreaks and not once have they raised their hands in surrender. Now, every time I see them with SEAN, I feel at peace. My son may not have the father that he deserves, but he sure does have the best MAMA (granny) and PAPA (gramps) in the whole wide world. Oh and let’s not forget an uncle who dotes on him, since Day 1.

And because of that, tomorrow, as soon as I get off work, I’m making my favorite no-bake dessert, Mango Float. Stay tuned :)

mangofloat

My first ever Banana Bread

Two days ago I was looking for a simple Banana Bread recipe and I came across this blog. On impulse, I decided to try and make her version as soon as I got off work so I could enjoy a freshly baked slice for breakfast:

Best Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 stick Butter, softened*
  •  2 Eggs, room temperature
  • 3 very ripe Bananas
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed Lemon or Orange juice
  • Grated zest of one Lemon or Orange
  • 1/2 cup Pecans or Walnuts

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Grease a loaf pan.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • Beat the softened butter and sugar until whipped-creamy roughly 5-6 minutes.
  • Peel and mash the bananas.
  • Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time.
  • Add the mashed bananas and continue to beat until smooth and no more lumps appear.
  • Pour in the lemon or orange juice and the grated zest. Beat just until combined.
  • Fold in the dry ingredients (flour mixture). Gently fold in the nuts.
  • Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45-55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Here’s how mine looked like fresh from the oven:

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These were great tasting, especially when paired with hot coffee. I probably should have added more sugar (I cut the amount suggested in the recipe in half) and used less bananas but all in all, I’m pretty happy with this first try. The whole kitchen smelled so good and the crunch that the pecans lend to every moist slice is heaven! Next bread on my list is the Filipino favorite PAN DE SAL :) Do watch out for it.

Baked Mango Cheesecake

When my son’s first month rolled around, I was too exhausted to even think about baking a cake. Fast forward to his 3rd and 4th month when I decided to get him a store bought one. Alas, the choices I found at the nearest bakery were simply too sweet & well..store bought looking! Right there and then I made up my mind to go back to the original plan of baking a cake at least once every month, for special occasions & Sean’s milestones.

Since then I’ve never looked back. For every special occasion in our family & Sean’s monthly birthdates, I’ve managed to try a new cake recipe and I’m proud to say that my creations have been met with much enthusiasm.

Since today is my maternal grandmother’s 3rd death anniversary, I decided I’d bake something with our all time favorite fruit — sweet & juicy, yellow mangoes.

Recipe found here:

Mango Cheesecake

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 large very ripe mangoes (each about 13 ounces), peeled, pitted, coarsely chopped
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • Sliced peeled pitted mangoes

preparation

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Stir cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake until crust is set, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Puree mangoes in processor until smooth. Set aside 2 cups mango puree (reserve any remaining puree for another use). Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 cups mango puree and beat until well blended. Pour filling over crust in pan.

Bake cake until set and puffed and golden around edges (center may move very slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 25 minutes. Cool cake 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. Run small knife between cake and sides of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve with sliced mangoes.

Here’s my tropical beauty, before and after a garnish of cubed & pureed fresh mangoes:

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cheesecake

I’m happy to note that my cheesecake didn’t crack on my first try. The gash that you see on the first picture is where I inserted the thermometer to make sure it’s done. As soon as I turned off the oven, I propped the door open and let the cake cool for 1 hour. Then I put it in the fridge after making sure the sides didn’t stick to the springform pan that I used. I didn’t have to do a water bath for this recipe which made me so happy because it was almost midnight when I started working on this cake & I had to be up early in the morning to visit my Lola’s grave. It was a surprisingly easy bake and a good one, if I do say so myself :)

This cheesecake is so dense and creamy one slice is all I can eat in a week! Actually, this is not a surprise because I’ve long since accepted that cheesecakes are not my thing.I mean, I like them well enough but if I have to choose between a pecan custard filled Chocolate Cake and any kind of Cheesecake (even blueberry), I’d pick the former without thinking twice, no matter how nice or how appealing the latter’s presentation is.

That being said, I’d probably not be making this cake again unless someone from my family specifically asks for it. It’s yummy, make no mistake about that but definitely not something that EVERYONE in our home loves. It’s an acquired taste, I guess, much like yoghurt or caviar.

As for other Mango based pastries, well I’m certainly not done with them. Our entire family loves mangoes, we eat them everyday and even the little one adores snacking on them. So yes, there will certainly be more mango themed goodies to be found here in the coming days :)

How about you? Do you have a favorite fruit that you always add to your go-to cake recipes? Do share, I’d love to check them out and perhaps try making them at home for our family’s next special occasion :)

Sean and his Birthday Cakes

Last week, our family celebrated the little boy’s 7th month. Here’s some pics of him with the chocolate birthday cake that I baked for the occasion: Downloads15

The day after this was taken, he got sick with high fever and some rashes on his tummy :( Thankfully, he’s well now and is back to his playful self. Last month, I didn’t bake him a cake because Dad brought home boxes and boxes of Cinnabon rolls from his trip to Manila. For the baby’s 5th month, I baked a Whipped Cream Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting. Photos below:

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Growing up, I never had birthday cakes, not even on my 18th. Now that I have a kid of my own and have rekindled my love for baking, I’m making it a project to bake at least one cake every month until his 1st birthday, or until he tells me CAKES are not really his thing :)