Taste of Home: Chicken Macaroni Salad

Two weeks ago, I was craving for some pasta so I decided to make chicken macaroni salad. I have two versions of macaroni salad that I love: First, a desert, without meat. Second, a main course, that meat is being added into the dish.

I’m nuts about macaroni pasta! 🙂

In the Philippines, macaroni salad is usually serve as a desert during parties or even in an ordinary meal at home. It is also a perfect dish for picnic or BBQ, just make sure you pack it with plenty of ice to keep it nice and cold, both during transportation and on the table.

I like chicken macaroni salad which is creamy but light. I like it with some sweet and spicy kick.

Ingredients for 8 servings:

  • 500 grams of chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 can of 340 grams Luncheon (pork) meat
  • 500 grams of macaroni pasta
  • 340 grams of cheese
  • 250 mL fresh cream
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 450 grams of pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 3 spoons of pineapple juice from the canned tidbits
  • 425 grams of Kernel corn
  • 1 medium size carrots, cubed
  • 1 large size onion, cubed
  • 2 medium size cucumbers, peeled and cubed
  • Celery, chopped
  • White pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Prepare the macaroni. Put some water, half-filled into a big pot. Add olive oil and salt. Boil it. When the water is boiling, put the macaroni in. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain then set aside.
  2. Prepare the meat. On a separate cooking pot, put some water and boil it. Once the water starts boiling, add 1 teaspoon salt and the onion then put in the chicken. Boil the chicken for about 20 minutes. Drain and let the chicken cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, fresh cream, garlic powder, pineapple juice, salt, and white pepper. Mix well and then taste. Adjust the taste as necessary.
  4. Add the chicken, luncheon meat, macaroni, carrot, celery, pineapple tidbits, kernel corn and cucumber in the mixing bowl. Toss thoroughly until the ingredients are well distributed. Add the cheese. Mix it gently. Cover the bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Serve and enjoy!
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Philippines: A Day at Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

With its dripping and refreshing Cagpangi Falls canopied by thick foliage, swimming pools overlooking the gorgeous and well-groomed garden coupled with its friendly staff, Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort is beautiful!

Cagpangi Falls in Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

Swimming pool in the middle of the jungle

So, before my sister-in-law left to work abroad, we spent a day at Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort simply to unwind, relax, swim, eat and enjoy each others company. We prepared our food at home, brought it there and had a good lunch while enjoying the great natural milieu. My son and my nephew really enjoyed themselves. All in all, we had a great time there and it was a wonderful get away from the heat and noise of the city.

Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort is owned and managed by Atty. Tony Azarcon. It is just about 30 minutes away from Tandag. It is situated in Barangay Cabangahan, Tago, Surigao del Sur, Philippines.

It is a good place for family as it offers great family ambiance. It has a nice playground where children can play and have fun. The peaceful environment is ideal for retreat, early yoga, Zumba, picnics, small meetings and even camping. The tranquility of the place encourages you to chill with a book, take a stroll or simply relax in the cottages.

Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

Unlike other waterfalls in the Philippines, Cagpangi Falls in Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort is a seasonal waterfall, which means that during the rainy season it flows like a broken dam while during the dry season it dribbles like sweat. Even though it is small and the height is not impressive, but it is quiet and mesmerizes you with its ethereal beauty and graceful cascades.

Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage other families and travelers to consider this wonderful place in Surigao del Sur. Soon they will offer more fun activities such as zipline, sky walk and many more.

Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort

Because of its awe-inspiring power and great value for money, Villa Azarcon Mountain Resort is a place to celebrate nature and life.

Little Lilly travel Tip:

  • It offers air-conditioned cottages and a dorm-type accommodations.
  • It charges each visitor with a Php 25.00 ($0.50) entrance fee.
  • It has a small shop where you can buy drinks and order some food.

Philippines: Beautiful Bucas Grande Island

Just like any other families out there, my family’s most awaited part of the year is summer as this is when we get a break from a long school year and enjoy a great holiday getaway with the whole family. Since everyone in the family anticipated for it all year long, we wanted it to be as enjoyable and rewarding as it could be.

Bucas Grande Island

So, during our summer holiday and even though my son had school we still managed to escape for a few days to a secluded island, away from our daily schedules and responsibilities. This island escape was the ultimate family holiday idea that we looked forward to. We decided to visit Bucas Grande Islands in Socorro, Surigao del Norte, Philippines. Bucas Grande Island is a group of islands and islets beautifully scattered in a tranquil clear turquoise waters. It is endowed with such untainted magnificence and it is groomed today to become one of the finest eco-tourism destinations in the country.

Bucas Grande Island

We traveled about three hours by a private car from Tandag City to Hiyanggabon, Surigao del Norte where we embarked in our boat to the small slice of tropical paradise. All the glorious natural wonders abound: blue lagoon, cobalt-blue water teeming with marine life, wooden seafront beach houses, pure white sand beaches, bountiful jungle, beautiful tropical forest in the hinterlands, lush vegetation on craggy islands, several caves and lakes which are mystical and enchantingly mesmerizing, non-sting jellyfish kingdom, and superb stargazing. For families seeking a totally relaxing and pleasurable holiday experience, Bucas Grande Island is one of my most favorite family destinations.

The craggy islands

Beautiful beach

Lovin’ the dense vegetation

During the trip, we celebrated my sister’s birthday. We prepared food from home such as: 1 roasted pig, a chocolate cake, spaghetti bolognese, pork adobo, paklay, fruits and drinks and brought it there. We invited the boat men and the staff in tourism office as our guests. It was a happy birthday indeed!

Happy birthday sistah!

Can’t wait to eat my fave roasted pig, haven’t had it for 2 years.

homemade spaghetti bolognese, native chicken adobo, paklay – yum!

Bucas Grande Island offers many activities that both kids and adults enjoy. Here are the list of activities we did:

1. Exploring Sohoton Cove – Sohoton cove is the masterpiece of Bucas Grande Island. It is only accessible during low tide, as high tide closes the entrance/exit of the cove. We paddleboard in the cove and it took our breath away as we entered in the only entrance and exit of the cove.

The only entrance and exit of Sohoton Cove.

We’re nearly there.

Exploring Sohoton Cove.

Inside Sohoton Cove

Before we reached the entrance of Sohoton Cove, we were greeted with naturally crafted rock formations. They were all beautiful sightseeing. The water is cold and crystal clear. We saw beautiful coral formations and colorful fishes below our boats and made us feel nature at its finest. While we were exploring the cove, our guide showed us the horse-shoe rock, which is the landmark inside the Sohoton Cove. He also showed us the islet with white rock formation. He said that some people believed that it is a place for “not like ours” as they could hear strange sound during the Holy Week season.

Horse-shoe rock

The islet with white rock formation

Inside the Sohoton, we first stopped in the Hagukan Cave. It is an underground river with very cold water. According to our guide this cave is named from a Visayan dialect Haguk which means to snore and hear a snoring sound while inside the cave.

The entrance of Hagukan Cave.

Our second stop was in the Magkuku-ob Cave. It is also an underground river. Our guide told us that the most exciting part of this cave adventure is the trail up to its exit on the top of the small mountain with a diving platform at the edge. He told us that the only way to exit and get back in the boat is by jumping off the cliff straight to the clear blue water.

The diving platform to exit of Magkuku-ob Cave.

We had a beautiful experience exploring the Sohoton Cove.

2. Jellyfish Sanctuary– We hired 4 small boats which were good for 2 to 3 persons, each boat going to the Jellyfish Sanctuary to watch the non-sting jellyfish swimming in gleaming, emerald green water. The sanctuary was surrounded by calm water and virgin forests. We were all fascinated and stunned looking at these lovely sting-less jelly fish swimming and the beautiful coral formations below us. My son really wanted to swim with the jellyfish, but my dad didn’t allow him. He got the chance to hold one of them, anyway. I was amazed by awe-inspiring nature. It was a marvelous and exhilarating adventure!

Watching the non-sting jellyfish swimming

My son and dad were so fascinated with jellyfish.

A swarm of jellyfish

Mama tried to hold the non-sting jellyfish.

3. Caving at Crystal Cave – Since I love caves, caving at Crystal Cave was included in our itinerary before we left home. I have been to Hang Sung Sot Cave in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and I’ve been spelunking at the Cave of Kampong Trach in Cambodia. However, this crystal cave gave us so much thrill and we all enjoyed it. We climbed for about 5 minutes uphill and then about 3 minutes downhill to see the crystal cave. It was an extraordinary experience.

The islet where the Crystal Cave is.

Inside the Crystal Cave.

4. Boating, island hopping and swimming on a blue lagoon – We enjoyed boating, island hopping and swimming on a blue lagoon. The never-ending turquoise-clear water and the transcending serenity of the entire environment was so enchanting that I felt like I was in a magical beautiful world. It is pristine and it is a paradise! The feeling was surreal and inspiring. I would say, just the lagoon itself is worth the trip.

Pure white sand beaches.

My son was having fun.

Finally, we had a good swim.

We stayed at the Hidden Island Resort to make sure that we had a totally restful and quality time with the family. The staff was friendly and accommodating. It has an absolutely welcoming and warm ambiance. It features a dormitory type of room, which can accommodate a family of ten. You can bring your own food there or you can also order food from their restaurant. You can enjoy your dinner or lunch just like at home by gathering and sharing your homemade meals in their kitchen and barbecue facilities. Hidden Island Resort will sweep you off your feet as your view of the resort gets wider and nearer.

Hidden Island Resort

with my little man.

my son and my parents

Feeding the fish with some bread.

I would say, the call to visit Bucas Grande Island once again is irresistible. It is one of the magical places, truly an untouched paradise on Earth which promises truly memorable island hideaways.

Truly, a paradise!

Breathtaking views!

Little Lilly Travel Tip:

  • There are many other things to do while you are in Bucas Grande Island such as visit the Titikan Lake and explore other caves.
  • There is one area in Bucas Grande Island (near the Hidden Island Resort) where you can see loads of non-sting jellyfish when compared to the area near the Tourism office. You can visit this area for free and see plenty of sting-less jellyfish. Just ask the driver of the pump boat and he will bring you there.

Taste of Home: Chili con Carne

We appreciate good meal and delicious flavor!

Tonight, the skies are covered with dark clouds plus we are lazy to go out, so we decided to stay home. Instead of going out somewhere to dine in the restaurant, We cooked a heavenly luscious Mexican dish called Chili con Carne. In this dish, we didn’t put some chili as it is too hot for us.

I love it!

It is one of my favorite dish. It’s really yummy!!! To me, it is best served with a white wine.

Ingredients for 6 servings:

  • 650 grams minced beef
  • 2 cans of 432 grams Kidney Beans
  • 4 cans of 411 grams Hunts tomato sauce
  • 2 cans of 425 grams of kernel corn
  • 2 table spoons of Black pepper
  • Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 1 table spoon of Graham masala
  • 2 table spoons of cumin
  • 100 grams of Emmental cheese, grated
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 table spoons of cooking oil.

Method:

  1. Put the minced beef in a big bowl. Add the Kikkoman soy sauce, cumin, graham masala, black pepper, onions and garlic. Mix properly.
  2. Put the oil in the pan. Put the meat mixture the in the pan. Stir fry the mixture for 20 minutes.
  3. On a separate cooking pot, put the kidney beans, tomato sauce and corn. Stir to mix. Cook the sauce for about 30 minutes, with a slow fire.
  4. Add the cheese to the sauce. Stir.
  5. Add the meat to the sauce. Stir. Leave it for 15 minutes.
  6. Serve.

Taste of Home: Beef Shepherd’s Pie

I work, I travel, I cook, I eat!

On Wednesday, we had a guest, so a day before I was thinking of what dish to cook. I decided to make Beef Shepherd’s Pie. I was hesitant at first since I haven’t tried cooking it yet, but then I was confident that I could make it right. So, I took my cook book, made some twists to the recipe and gave it a try. In this dish, I used oyster sauce instead of Worcester sauce as I couldn’t find it the supermarket. I also used fresh tomato sauce instead of a ready-made tomato sauce. I added a teaspoon of oregano and 1 bulb of garlic.

yummy! 🙂

It was my first time to cook this dish, but I would say that it was tasty and delicious and everybody was pleased with the result. In fact, our guest had 3 servings of it.

To inspire the home-cook-to-be, I would like to share with you all my first Beef Shepherd’s Pie.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 500 grams of minced beef
  • 1 carrot, chopped into cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can green peas
  • 1 bulb of garlic, chopped
  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 6 medium to large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Butter
  • milk

Method:

  1. Cook the meat. Add 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Break the meat up with a wooden spoon until the meat has turned browned.
  2. Cook the vegetables. On a separate pan, heat up the pan with some butter. Add onions, garlic, tomato, carrot, peas and oregano. Stir. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Prepare the mixture. Once the meat and vegetables are cooked, mix them together. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture in the pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Prepare mash potato. Boil the potatoes with salted water. When the potatoes are cooked, mash it with some butter and milk.
  5. Spoon the mashed potato over the mixture of meat and vegetables in the pan. Put it under the grill to brown for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve.

 

Philippines: Caving in Crystal Cave in Bucas Grande Island

Last July, we had an island family escape at Bucas Grande Island in Socorro, Surigao del Norte, Philippines. To me, the most exciting part on this island escape was the caving activities.

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave

One of the caves we explored was the Crystal Cave. It is an open-ended cave. It is called Crystal Cave because of the shining diamond like coated stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave. It has a very long path inside, little-known, and still remained mystical. Our tour guide brought us to the limit because as we went deeper into the cave the path became very difficult, we had to crawl and fitted ourselves into holes and narrow fissures before getting to what is called castle of crystals.

Crystal Cave

 

Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave

The guide gave one flashlight each before we went into the cave. Then we hiked up a moderately steep slope just to get to the entrance and once at the entrance, the cave itself gently slopes downwards. The first chamber of this cave was big and had a big pathway so it was not very difficult to explore and made the trek easy. It has a lot of very interesting formations, many of them milky white and really beautiful. Exploring this cave will surely give you a thrill and excitement. You will surely love and enjoy it.

On our way to the Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave

I like exploring the caves in the Philippines because they are left in their natural state and I don’t get a feeling of being in an amusement park.  I would say, it was a fabulous adventure and a special fun day shared among family members.

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Inside the Crystal Cave

Be prepared to be amazed and discover what is right beneath your feet as you walk around the Crystal Cave.