Chicken Tinola Soup

There are certain times when you need a little bit of comfort food:
A rainy day
someone sick
bad day at work / school
a cold winter night
or even an unusually cold spring evening.
This weekend just so happened to be one of those in the B&B household.

Friday night, the poor hubs came down with a bad chest cold and cough
So I thought, what better time to make his and my favorite chicken soup -- Filipino style!
{After all, I have to represent my roots!}
{And not to mention, it really is super nutritious!}

So I learned how to make this soup from my mom
who got the recipe from her aunts {a.k.a. my grandmother's sisters = my great aunts = some of my most favorite people. like ever.}
who were taught the recipe by the MASTER herself, my great grandmother.

I know that they'd probably hit me upside the head with a wooden spoon
and my grandmother might actually turn in her grave
because not only am I sharing culinary secrets of our family
I have also changed the recipe a little bit and made my own variation. 

So here it is: My tongue-in-cheek version of The De Guzman Family Chicken Tinola Soup

This recipe serves 4-5
and is approximately 267 calories per standard bowl


6 chicken thighs
{you can use chicken breasts if you want}
2 chayote squash
{traditionally, papaya is used instead}
1 bunch of spinach
{you can also use the de-stemmed salad bag. if you are, use 2 bags for this recipe}
1 large yellow onion
ginger root
{the amount depends on your taste. we use a lot because we heart it so much!}
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup {or to your taste} fish sauce
{found in most Asian food aisles in regular supermarkets}


Peel the chayote squash {or papaya, if that's what you're using}. Remove the pit and cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes.

Peel the onion and also cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes.

Peel the ginger and cut into 1 inch julienned pieces

Remove the stems from the spinach. I take the whole bunch and twist the stems off.


Remove the skins off and trim the fat from 3 of the 6 pieces of chicken.
In a hot stockpot, place the chicken skins and fry until golden brown.
The fat will be rendered and this is the oil you will use. That way you are not adding any extra oils or fat to the soup.
Remove from the oil and set aside.

{and a little side note}

Using the same pot {and oil}, cook the ginger until light and golden on the edges

Then, add the onions and cook until translucent and tender

Add the chicken. Stir the pot as best as you can so that it is coated with the oil and vegetable mixture. Let the chicken get to a light golden brown a little bit on each side.

When most of the chicken is golden brown, add a bouillon cube and enough water to cover.  Stir in the chayotes. In this case, I added about 2 1/2 cups of water. Add the fish sauce and stir well. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes

After simmering, turn off the heat and add the spinach. Cover the pot again and let the spinach steam and cook down {kinda wilt} . . . about 5 minutes. When the spinach is cooked down, stir the pot.

Serve with steamed white rice.

That's it!

Now, much like many family recipes, everyone's got a version.
Everyone's mom or grandmother or great grandmother makes "the best".
And I'm not here to convince you that the one from my family tops them all. 
{although after making this recipe, you may just think so yourself}
But what I know is this: This recipe is the best for me and my family.
And while I can tell you that my mom's side of the family really is known for their cooking
and they have received countless praises
and numerous accolades
and masses of people saying that their cooking is the best...

All I can tell you is that this dish is made with pride
simply because it is exactly that: it is made by my family.

keeping busy

I'm killing time.
J and I have a goal: to try to get pregnant again around the beginning of 2012.
We're saving money, healing ourselves physically and emotionally, and preparing ourselves to embark on the journey again. Needless to say, I'm anxious to get the process of IVF started again, but part of this whole learning experience has been to teach myself patience. At the same time, I am giving myself space and time to miss my little girls. Just because you lose your child, doesn't necessarily mean you immediately jump back onto the babymaking wagon and get pregnant right away. Though my knee jerk reaction is to wish I was pregnant like YESTERDAY, I know that I owe it to Aub and Fin to mourn them too. I am their mommy and they have to know that my mourning will be a lifetime of it.

I know I shouldn't plan too much, and I've been told to just kick back and let things happen.
But that just isn't my style.
If you know me, you know that I've kept a planner since the age of 12 {I had this cute Sanrio one that my aunt gave me for Christmas and I kept it and actually used it!}
and in my adulthood, not much has changed.

So in the spirit of killing time, I've taken up a hobby... or five.

{1} The BLOG
{duh} Obv, I've been trying to keep up with the blog, and change direction a little bit -- instead of just my wallowing hole, I've diverted it to include crafts, recipes, maybe even a travel piece here and there. I'm planning on taking this blog places and I have to say I'm having fun doing it.

You've see me post one last week, and I'm using several resources to discover more to practice and share. Last week, John asked me if I felt good doing my crafts, and I explained that it's much like his video games -- to me, it's mindless but fun. I shared with him and our amazing therapist last week that while I do think of my girls when I'm making headbands, jewelry, wall art, and such, I still get to, in a way, get away. Our therapist encourages me to continue it because while it's a good distraction, it doesn't mask reality for me. And the best part? I have products to share with friends and family through the blog and also to start my Etsy shop with {coming soon!}

Filipinos are funny people. They somehow think that just because they are family, it's okay to tell someone they're fat or that they've gained weight. Newsflash for my fellow brethren: It's not cool to be called fat in any language, culture, or setting. I get it, you mean well, but still not cool. I get it, you're family, but that actually just makes it worse. So here I am, a few pounds heavier since I met my wonderful husband {happy eating, what can I say?} and beat up quite a few times by several comments made my way, and I am fighting my way back. Two days ago I started a boot camp and calorie counting {big time}. I am so sore that I have trouble even going to the potty, but I am on my way back. 

And I'm taking it a step further.
I'm looking into joining a half marathon by the end of the year.
Yes, you heard it here first {and really, it's here first. J is asleep next to me and I haven't even told him yet... so, surprise, Honey!}

Just because you're on a diet, doesn't mean you can't look at the menu.

I know we {meaning J and I} are on another weight loss kick, but who's to say we can't eat well? I understand that {as a former co-worker used to tell me} we are pretty fancy with our  foie gras and steak tartare addictions {i mean seriously, who snacks on Iberrico and Jamon Serrano on a week night? or takes a trip to Los Olivos just to get a Kobe beef patty melt or find cave aged gouda?} -- We get a little food crazy, but I figure, that doesn't mean that we can't eat healthy while we do so, right? I mean there must be a reason those French people eat so decadently, but still remain skinny, right?? {I'm trying to find a way to justify a daily midday nap too}

And my plan with these recipes? Why, share them on the blog, of course! Why keep the deliciousness to myself? 

No, not in the way I used to in my early 20's. {I think my liver would disown me if I ever went through that phase again!} I mean like collect ideas for parties to throw. Last year, J and I threw an amazeballs {if I may say so myself} Spanish Tapas party and exhausting as it may have been, I would have to say that it was so worth it. I figure, why not share more of that experience with friends and family?

So that's what I'm doing now. Before you know it, the blog will have more articles {and hopefully followers}, I will lose weight!, parties will be thrown, food will be cooked, a marathon will be run, and hopefully, just hopefully, babies will be on the way again.

What are YOUR goals and hobbies this year?
{use the comments section below to share!}

First Giveaway!

In the effort to keep myself busy and not wallowing
I've decidedly been busier with crafts and blogging.
But I need your help!
I would like to build my followers and make this blog legit! So I decided, what better way to get followers than to do a giveaway -- that way, I win and you win!
Here's what you have to do:

 Follow my blog {go to the right hand column and click "Follow"

{this is KEY!} Tell as many of your friends to follow the blog too.

3. On the comments section of this post, put in the name of the person who told you to follow my blog {or in your friends' case, have them put YOUR name in because YOU referred them!}

4. At the end of this week, I will tally up who has the most referred followers and that person wins the prize!


So what's the prize, you ask?

For the guys:
TWO tickets for Regal Movies

or for the ladies
{and this is good}
an exclusive handmade BENCHMARKS & BABIES ruffle flower necklace!

so go ahead! get your friends to follow Benchmarks and Babies!

good luck!

DIY Canvas Wall Art

I've been obsessed with crafting lately. I guess it's a good way for me to keep my mind busy. I told J that I feel about it probably the same way he feels about playing video games. It's mindless, relaxing, and at the end of the day, I have products as a result.

At any rate, I saw these canvas wall art pieces on a board on my other obsession / inspiration: Pinterest. I promise you all, once you try out this version of virtual crack, you will never be not busy. Here is my version of applique canvas wall art:

What you need:

How to make it:

1. draw and cut out the shape you want to use on the brown paper bag. for this particular project, i used balloons. {but you can use any other shape -- clouds, banners, birds, leaves, etc.}

2. using the paper bag cutout as your template, cut out pieces of different colored fabric.

3. WITHOUT using the glue {just yet}, set up the fabric cutouts on the canvas.

4. when you have a general idea of where you want to place your cutouts, put a teensy bit of hot glue on the center of each one. try to put the glue on as flat as possible instead of a big glob. glue each cutout on the canvas in the place you allotted.

5. from your skein of thread, separate two strands and set it up on your needle.

6. put a little bit of the fray block on the edges of each cutout. pat it down so that the fabric lightly adheres to the canvas.

7. hold the canvas up to a light source to determine where to place your first stitch. {i made two stitches on the bottom part of the balloon first, where the knot would be on a real balloon}

8. {the tedious part} place a simple running stitch on the edges of all your shapes. 

in this case, for the balloons, i also put a back stitch on the top part of the balloon "string" but I let the bottom ends fall freely.

when all the balloon strings are complete, gather and glue them to the bottom and back of the canvas.

10. to stitch the word, i poke holes in the shape of each letter to use as a guide for when i am doing the back stitch on the canvas.

11. as extra precaution, i like to run my hot glue over all the stitching and especially the knots on the back of the canvas.

And ta-da!! You have yourself a pretty piece of handmade art!
You can use any word, phrase, and shapes you want.

Yes, I know I used "faith" and "hope"... no, the next one is not going to be "love"... the next will be "grace" {we are planning on giving our next daughter the middle name HOPE, for many obvious reasons}.

happy crafting!