Simple Sunday Snack: Cheesy Baked Tahong (Mussels)

When my siblings and I were still kids, our mom would prepare a huge bowl of hot mussel soup with onions, ginger, and leaves of chili and a generous serving of cheesy “baked” tahong at home. Sometimes, she even let us help out by putting garlic, melted butter, and cheese on the mussels before they were toasted. More than a decade later, I still enjoy these dishes. Not only are they very easy to make, but they also have a naturally sweet and rich taste as well.

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Since the market and supermarkets close to our place rarely sell fresh mussels, we don’t get to cook mussels as often as we did before. So, when I had the opportunity to visit Farmers Market in Quezon city a few weeks ago, I only had one goal in mind: To buy fresh mussels. Hahaha. Okay, fine. I had three goals. The another two were: to scout for fresh ingredients and take photos around the market just because it was my first time to visit the place. After a few hours in the market, my mom, brother, and I went home with plastic bags full of fresh fruits, vegetables, root crops, and seafood. Yes, including a kilo of fresh mussels. Yay!

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As soon as we got home, my mom and I started to work in the kitchen. For our dinner that night, I was assigned to do the baked mussels and my mom was in-charge of the other dishes. While I was cleaning the mussels and trimming the beards (stringy part in the mussels), I noticed one opened mussel. My mom taught me about bad mussels when I was still a kid, so I knew that the opened mussel was a bad one. The shells of fresh mussels must be tightly closed before they’re cooked or they should at least close tightly when they are tapped. Otherwise, they are already dead and not fresh enough for us to eat.

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I was a bit disappointed because the opened mussel was going to go to waste. So, in my attempt to salvage it, I double checked and asked my mom again: “Mom, are you sure we really can’t cook and eat this anymore?” She looked at the mussel and said: “Yes. We can’t since it has already been open and dead. Opened mussels may be contaminated too.” And just like that, it became clear to me again. I realized that I shouldn’t use it anymore.

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While I was assembling the cooked mussels, I remembered the bad mussel in the trash. It would have been crazy if I decided to include it in the batch of fresh mussels for our dinner. Thankfully, my mom was there to reassure me of how to distinguish fresh mussels from bad ones. In that moment, I realized that it’s sort of similar to being accountable to a family member, a friend, and God in the different moments in our lives. Yes, we know what is true and what we ought to do. But, sometimes, we get distracted along the way and we think that it’s okay to do things our way or to depend on our knowledge and strength.

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It is during moments like this where we see the good and beauty in accountability. When my mom reassured me that it was a bad mussel, she was helping me understand the nature of mussels and was protecting me and our family from possible sicknesses and bacteria that may come from it. In the same way, having family members or friends who can graciously correct and guide us according to God’s Word is one of the many privileges and blessings that God allows us to experience. When we remain accountable to God and others, we can be more intentional in fleeing from sin, making wrong decisions, or stepping out of our comfort zones so we can grow in areas of weaknesses.

It says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It might sting a little, but it would definitely be a good practice for us to have our hearts checked by others regularly.

How can we encourage accountability at home, in school/office, or at church? Let me know your thoughts about this! :)

Oh, and feel free to make Cheesy Baked Mussels this week!

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  1. CLEAN. Rinse and scrub the shells to remove the dirt. Trim the beard attached to the mussels.
  2. STEAM. In a large pot, bring two cups of water to a boil. Cook the mussels until they open up.
  3. OPEN UP. After removing them from the pot, open up the mussels and separate the shells from each other by breaking off the hinges.
  4. ASSEMBLE. Place the shells with mussels on them on a tray. Add crushed garlic, butter, and grated cheese on each shell.
  5. TOAST/BAKE. Using an oven toaster, heat the mussels for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese on top starts to sizzle and become brown. Using an oven, bake the mussels in 375 F for 10 minutes.

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Hello, 2016!

It’s the first day of 2016 and I couldn’t be more excited! Woohoo! There’s always that wonderful feeling whenever I am reminded of a brand new start. Because of the New Year, I’ve been seeing quite a lot of resolutions in my news feed. Some of my friends plan to avoid eating junk food this 2016, while, others will do their best to refrain from shopping for a year.

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I’m still working on my action steps and resolutions. But, more than these things, I find delight in knowing that we can place our hope in God, whose mercies are new every morning. It is because of Him and through Him that we can experience breakthroughs, miracles, and personal transformations this 2016. Yes, regardless of our past, weaknesses, and fears.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” –Lamentations 3:21-23

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As we welcome another year, I would like to share one of the treats that remind me of having and enjoying a fresh start. It has been two years since I last prepared Jell-O. So, recently, I tried to make a batch again. This time, I used oranges and watermelon as my base. If you have the time, I encourage you to give it a try as well! For starters, I recommended making the orange wedges first, since the watermelon is a lot more tricky to handle.

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Here’s to enjoying a brand new start and to having a hopeful and fruitful year ahead! God bless you!

“You’re making me stronger. You’re healing my heart.
With Your hands You hold me and You set me apart.

Now I’m made new because of You.

You hold my head up. You remind me who I am.
You hold my head up, I’m alive in You again.
I’m made new.”

-Lincoln Brewster’s “Made New”

(Special thanks to Mom and ate Camille for lending a helping hand. :P )

ORANGE JELL-O WEDGES

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WATERMELON JELL-O SLICES

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Nutella S’more Waffles

Every November 19, our family celebrates our fire anniversary. We have this special occasion because eleven years ago, our whole house burned down at 1:30 in the morning. But, by God’s grace, He saved us from the fire and allowed our family and helper to get out of the house just in time. You can read more about the experience HERE.

s'more waffles
s’more waffles

Whenever we celebrate our “fireniversary”, we usually eat out at a restaurant with grilled food (since it reminds us of the fire) or we sometimes have a special meal together at home and remember God’s faithfulness. However, last Thursday (Nov. 19), we couldn’t meet up and have dinner as a family since we had prior commitments that we couldn’t postpone. We also tried to have breakfast or dinner together last Saturday, but some of us needed to attend other important activities too.

waffles cooking in the Krups waffle machine
waffles cooking in the Krups waffle machine
s'more waffles
s’more waffles

Hopefully, within the week, our plan to have dinner as a family will push through. (Hello, family! If you’re reading this, you know what to do. Haha!) In the meantime, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite snacks when we were still living at our old house in Kapitolyo. The lovely, gooey, and yummy S’MORES! But, this time, I made a little twist. Instead of using whole graham crackers as the base, I added crushed graham crackers to my waffle recipe and used the waffles to complement the toasted marshmallows and nutella spread. I hope you can try this one soon! It’s really a simple snack that can be prepared in 20 minutes or less. Enjoy!

Special thanks to my Dad and Mom for lending a helping hand (literally. hehehe.)

crushed graham crackers
crushed graham crackers
Nutella
Nutella

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NUTELLA S’MORE WAFFLES

Recipe makes 10 square waffles

 

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

4 tsps. of baking powder

½ tsp. of salt

½ tsp. of cinnamon powder

1 tbsp. of white sugar

1/3 cup of crushed graham crackers

 

Wet Ingredients:

½ tsp of vanilla extract

1 ½ cups of whole milk

2 eggs

½ cup of vegetable oil

 

S’more ingredients:

Nutella (or other chocolate spread)

Big, white marshmallows (4-5 marshmallows per pair of waffles)

 

Steps:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.
  4. Cook the batter in the waffle machine.
  5. Once the waffles are done, you can spread the nutella chocolate on each piece and top them with toasted marshmallows.
  6. In case your waffles cool completely, you can heat them up in the toaster for 3 minutes. Make sure to spread the chocolate on the waffles and add the marshmallows before toasting them.

Note: Waffles can be stored in a sealed container in the freezer for a week. When ready to eat, you can bring them out from the freezer, store at room temperature for 5 minutes, and toast for 3-5 minutes.

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s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
nutella
nutella
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles
s'more waffles
s’more waffles

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God is Always on Time

I have recently embarked on a new gardening adventure at home. By faith, I am growing watermelon vines in a container bed! Yay! It all started when I was eating a slice of sweet watermelon in the cafeteria at work. My colleague and I were talking about some of the vegetables I’ve planted and I made a joke about planting the watermelon seeds from the slice of fruit that I was eating. Nonetheless, I went home that day with a small container filled with seeds and I planted them in a cup of soil. I really enjoy planting and growing seeds because I get to experience the privilege of knowing God more and I get to witness the seeds grow and bear fruit. I still have a couple of months to go before I harvest (by faith!) sweet watermelons. But, for now, I would like to share more about what I am learning from the vines I’m currently growing and how I am encouraged by God — who is always on time.

Watermelon vine
Watermelon vine

About a week after I planted the seeds, I came home from an out-of-town trip with friends and I remember checking my plants first before I slept that afternoon. To my surprise, I saw several sprouts growing in the cup where I planted the watermelon seeds! The sprouts looked so sturdy compared to the other fruit/vegetable sprouts I’ve grown. Also, they were beautifully long and happy. They even had the brown watermelon seeds attached to the leaves which gave me the assurance that they weren’t just weeds.

watermelon seedlings
watermelon seedlings

When the sprouts grew bigger, I transferred them to a larger bed. Every day for five weeks, I watered the plants and provided fertilizer and mulch to help them grow. Taking care of vines at home is pretty exciting especially since it’s my first time to grow them. As I studied the different stages that the vine goes through, I learned that watermelon plants have male and female flowers too. When I found out about it, I remembered how my corn plants also had male and female flowers and how they also needed to be pollinated by hand in order for them to produce kernels of corn.

Pollinating the male and female watermelon flowers by hand.
Pollinating the male and female watermelon flowers by hand.

However, the main difference between pollinating corn plants and watermelon flowers is the TIMING. Yes, for both plants, it is advisable to pollinate in the morning so that the sun’s heat can help activate the pollens once they touch the female flowers. BUT, corn plants can be pollinated everyday for a week since the tassels can produce pollens for days. If you missed a day, you can still pollinate the corn plant the next day. On the other hand, for the watermelon vines, the female flower opens its petals for only ONE DAY. If we don’t get to brush the pollens from the male flower to the female flower in the morning on the only day it opens up, the watermelon fruit from that female flower won’t grow. It will only dry up and die.

Talk about PRESSURE. Haha.

watermelon vine
watermelon vine

Last June 28, I saw the first few male flowers growing on the vines. Every day after that, 1-2 male flowers would grow and then, dry up. I was already starting to panic because more and more male flowers were growing and I knew that in a few days, the female flowers would then start to appear and open its petals for only a day. Finally, two days later, the first female flower appeared. You could tell that it was a female one since it had a small watermelon-like body below its petals. The male flowers only had a thin stem. But since the petals of the female flower weren’t open yet, I had to wait until the morning to pollinate them.

Male and female flowers of the watermelon vine.
Male and female flowers of the watermelon vine.

Before I slept that night, I remember thinking about it and telling God “What if it doesn’t open tomorrow morning before I leave for work? What if it opens when I’m already out of the house? If that happens, I’ll miss out on pollinating the flowers and the fruit won’t grow!” I guess it was nerve-racking for me because after weeks of taking care of the vines, as much as possible, I really would want them to bear fruit. So, I prayed about it that night and surrendered the concern to God. If He wanted it to happen, I knew that He would allow me to pollinate in the morning.

Watermelon vine's female flower
Watermelon vine’s female flower

When I woke up the next day, I rushed to our veranda (where the vines were) and I saw that the female flower had already bloomed. Oh my goodness. It was time! By God’s grace, the flower opened its petals early and I had the opportunity and time to pollinate it! It only took a few seconds, but the future of the watermelon fruit greatly depended on it. Haha.

After pollinating the flower and watering the plants, I was ready to take a shower and go to work. However, while I was preparing my clothes, my mom informed me that there were some concerns with our transportation. To make the long story short, my sisters and I needed to help each other and my dad go to our respective destinations that morning using only one car. Because of the slight delay, I knew that I was going to go to work at a later time. So, while waiting, I decided to make good use of the extra time that I had at home. I ended up making a temporary cover/shield to protect the seedlings and plants from heavy rains, which was something that I couldn’t do in the evening.

watermelon vine
watermelon vine

After about an hour, my sister graciously drove me to work and I remember thanking God in my heart for His perfect timing that morning. Even though I was worrying about the flowers the night before, He gave me peace to trust in Him and to wait on His best timing the next day. He certainly knows how to grow watermelon vines. He created them! So, I really didn’t have any reason to worry about not being able to pollinate on time or not being able to grow fruits from the vines.

I started the day with a grateful heart because I was encouraged by God to always trust in His perfect timing even when things don’t make sense or when I am faced with the unknown. God can and He will do anything if He thinks it’s for the best.

“Faith in God includes faith in His timing.” –Neal Maxwell

Male and female flowers. Watermelon vine.
Male and female flowers. Watermelon vine.

When I went home that night, an interesting thing happened. It suddenly rained after a hot day. It didn’t rain in the morning while I was pollinating the flowers. It also didn’t rain while I was preparing the covers and shields for the plants. But, by God’s grace and in His perfect timing, it rained at night when everything was done and alright.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

[Jeremiah 17:7-8]

watermelon female flower
watermelon female flower

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)