NEW WEBSITE! :)

Good day! :)

Thanks for dropping by! However, I will not be posting in this blog anymore because Encouraging Treats has a new website! :)

Check out the latest posts here: http://www.encouragingtreats.com

 

God bless you! :)

 

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My Sinigang Moment :)

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and I got myself ingredients for Shrimp in Sour Tamarind Soup. This dish is also known as SINIGANG NA HIPON. Haha. For the past years, my mom has been making Sinigang using the commercially sold instant Sinigang mix. However, this time, I wanted to try cooking Sinigang by using only natural ingredients.

At first, I was enjoying myself while I was preparing the ingredients. Siyempre! I was cooking Sinigang, tapos Shrimp pa! :)

However, halfway through the process, I was already feeling tired and getting impatient because I had to mash the boiled tamarind with seeds to get its puree (which was the main ingredient in the dish).

I think it took me around 45 minutes just to get the needed amount of puree. HAHA! I was actually telling myself, “Nicole, just use the instant Sinigang mix. It would be much easier. It will only take a few seconds to pour it into the dish.” But for some reason, God encouraged me to continue mashing the fresh tamarind. After 2 hours of preparing and cooking, by God’s grace, I was able to produce my first Sinigang from scratch! :)

While I was mashing the tamarind, I was having a conversation with God. And it was awesome because I realized that He was actually teaching me to BE PATIENT…again. Forty-five minutes of getting and putting the tamarind puree in the dish vs. a few seconds of putting the instant Sinigang mix was actually a no-brainer. Of course, we would prefer the fast and easy way. But, in order for me to make a healthier Sinigang dish (using only natural ingredients), I knew I had to patiently mash the tamarind.

I found myself enjoying my tamarind moment because I was actually able to spend time talking to God and listening to Him. He then reminded me of a similar experience that I had with Sinigang before.

About TWO YEARS AGO, I saw our helper cook Sinigang na hipon. My heart leaped the moment I saw the kangkong, onions, shrimps and other ingredients in the kitchen.

I was really excited to eat it that I kept on telling my siblings how happy I was because we were having Sinigang for lunch. I even tried to control myself from eating snacks so that I wouldn’t spoil my appetite.

I decided to wait in the kitchen because I was hoping that our helper would finish cooking it. However, she realized that she lacked some of the instant Sinigang mix. Our helper had to postpone cooking and wait for mom who was still buying groceries.

When I found out about it, I started to get impatient because I wanted to eat Sinigang already. However, I decided to wait for mom because I knew that without the extra spice, the Sinigang would not taste great.

While waiting for mom, I found myself helping prepare the other dishes for lunch and cleaning the kitchen, living room and our bedroom too. And after about two hours of preparing and cleaning, I realized that mom had already put the needed spice and finished cooking the dish.

Finally, mom called us for lunch. I got a bowl and filled it with the hot soup, shrimps, kangkong, gabi and other vegetables. I couldn’t believe it! SOBRANG SARAP! I was smiling while I was eating my share and was indeed very grateful for it.

Surprisingly, I learned two important things during my Sinigang experience that day.

FIRST, GOD MADE ME REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO WAIT ON HIM.

Let’s be honest. Who loves to wait? NO ONE. Haha. Okay, so maybe a few out there are actually fond of waiting. However, I guess, most of the time, when we want something, we want to have them NOW. I don’t know about you, but honestly, waiting is not really the number one thing that I love to do, especially if the period of waiting is uncertain.

I guess it is challenging to wait in any situation. Right now, I’m actually waiting for certain things to happen in my life and I can tell you that it is a struggle. There are even times when I am tempted to just take what’s in front of me and not think about whether it is God’s will for me or not.

In my Sinigang moment, I realized that if I didn’t wait for mom to put the extra spice in the soup, I would not have enjoyed my lunch that day because of it’s so-so sour flavor. Also, I appreciated the fact that God encouraged me to help prepare the other dishes and clean while I was waiting for the Sinigang.

I know that I’ve already done some things in the past that show how I did things my way in “my time” and did not choose to wait on God. But by His grace, I know I can improve more as He continues to teach me to wait on His perfect timing. Why? It’s because I believe that He knows better than us and in the process of waiting, He can actually help us develop and prepare ourselves even more.

Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be. – John Ortberg

Is there something in your life that you really want to do or have now but somehow God is telling you to wait more?

Well, I just want to encourage you to keep on waiting proactively and to trust that God will give it to you if He thinks it will be the best for you. If He does give it, then praise Him! However, if He chooses not to give it to us (whatever that may be) then we can praise Him even more, because He definitely loves us so much not to give us what is less than best!

PSALM 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

SECOND, GOD WAS SHOWING ME HOW HE LONGS FOR US TO LONG MORE FOR HIM EACH DAY!

I longed for Sinigang na Hipon so much that I kept on telling my siblings how happy I was that we were having Sinigang. I even stayed in the kitchen just because I was so excited to see the result and taste the Sinigang.

In that moment, God gently rebuked me: “Nicole, do you also get that excited when you think of Me, bond with Me, or even share Me to the people around you?” And it hit me! “Oo nga noh, Lord. Honestly, not all the time.” :(

What’s amazing with God is that He is FAITHFUL and GRACIOUS, still, in spite of us. And every time I remember how good He has been, I can’t help but want to get to know Him more! :)

Two years have passed and God continues to use something that I love (Sinigang na Hipon) to speak to my heart. :)

Are you waiting for “the cook to finish making your sinigang dish”?

Is your patience tested as “you’re mashing the tamarind to get the puree”?

Are you waiting for your prayers to be answered? For answers to your questions in life?

As we wait on God, I hope that we can spend the time that we have to seek Him more (through prayer or the Bible). We may not always know why things happen or when things would happen in our lives, but we can be secure in our God who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the EndHe knows our hearts, our desires, what is best for us, and He is always in control.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

SHRIMP IN SOUR TAMARIND SOUP

Ingredients (estimated):

6 tablespoons of Tamarind puree (about half a kilo of tamarind)

2 tablespoons of salt (you can adjust this according to your preferred taste)

9-10 cups of water

1/2 kilo of shrimps (you can add more if you want)

1/2 kilo Gabi

1 stalk of kangkong

6 tomatoes (cubes or quarters)

2 onions

5 pcs. of okra

2 pcs. green sili

*you can add more vegetables if you want, such as radish, eggplant, sitaw, etc.

Steps:

1. Boil half a kilo of raw tamarind for about 6 minutes (or until ready for mashing).

2. Peel off the outer covering of the tamarind fruits and place the meat (with seeds) on a strainer over a bowl.

3. Carefully mash the tamarind and press it firmly on the strainer to get the puree.

4. Place the pureed tamarind on a separate bowl.

5. Boil water and add the onions and tomatoes in a large pot.

6. Add the pieces of gabi and boil for 10 minutes (or less). It depends on your preferred texture and the type of gabi.

7. Add the pureed tamarind to the mixture in the pot and stir well.

8. Add salt.

9. Add the shrimp and let it cook for about 4 minutes.

10. Remove the shrimps from the pot and place in a separate container (to prevent them from being overcooked)

11. Taste the dish and add salt/water/tamarind puree if you want to make adjustments.

12. Add the green sili to the soup.

13. Add the kangkong leaves and stalks and okra. (If you want them to keep their bright green color, let them boil for 5-8 seconds in the soup and remove them immediately. Place the kangkong and okra in a separate container and serve them only when the dish is ready. If you let the kangkong and okra boil in the soup, they will have a light and pale color.)

14. Turn off the heat, add in the shrimps again (and the kangkong if you want them to be cooked further) and taste for the last time before serving.

15. Enjoy! :)

Encourage yourself one treat at a time! :)

When the Chocolate Bits Don’t Melt

I have always wanted to bake. When I was 7 years old, I remember wishing that our old, broken oven at home would miraculously work. However, fixing the oven was not our family’s priority at that time. Years later, after our first house burned down, a couple gave us an oven! How cool was that? I really thank God for people with generous and sincere hearts. YAY! I felt all giddy inside when the oven finally arrived at our house! As soon as I could, I baked my very first treat: Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I know a lot of people who really want to learn how to cook and/or bake. If you are interested and you actually want to bake from scratch for the first time, I would suggest that you make chocolate chip cookies! I know that others would agree with me when I say that it is a simple yet awesome recipe. But before I share the recipe, I want to write about some of the reasons why I like baking Chocolate Chip cookies.

3 REASONS WHY I LIKE BAKING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES:

1. I can easily customize the cookies (I guess, in general, cookies can easily be customized :P)

Even without cookie cutters, I have tried making cookies (in different sizes) that are shaped like hearts, Mickey Mouse, Alphabet letters, smiley faces, and others. As much as I enjoy eating these delicious treats, I love being able to creatively play with the appearance of the cookies.

2. I love its interesting history.

Based on research, there are actually two versions of the history of the Chocolate Chip cookie. However, in this blog, I want to focus on the history mentioned in the website: www.thenibble.com.

Believe it or not, the Chocolate Chip cookie recipe happened by accident! (Haha)

The inventor of the recipe, Mrs. Ruth Wakefield, a proprietor of Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, originally wanted to add regular baker’s chocolate in her butter cookie dough. However, she didn’t have any and so, she decided to include chopped up bits of her bar of Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate instead. She was actually hoping that the chocolate bits would melt, but after baking them, they retained their shape in the cookie dough. The cookies became a hit so much that the company, Nestle, made a deal with Mrs. Wakefield. She eventually gave her chocolate chip cookie recipe to Nestle and received free Nestle chocolate for life! We can actually see the Toll House recipe printed on the bags of Nestle Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate.

The chocolate chip cookie recipe remains to be a famous cookie recipe around the world. That kind of cookie continues to be a delicious treat for any occasion. Moreover, different bakers and food companies even tried to make their versions of it, through the years, and we can see those cookies being sold in the market now.

3. I am humbled and encouraged.

Why do I say so?

Well, while reading its history, I wondered if Mrs. Wakefield got discouraged when she found out that the chocolate bits did not melt after baking. What if, instead of tasting and sharing them to others, she just threw the cookies away because things did not go the way as planned?

You see, she originally wanted to let the bits melt in the dough, and I’m guessing that that was her idea of making the best batch of cookies at that moment. However, I think that God did not allow the bits to melt in the process for a very special reason – to encourage us today. Hehe.

She ended up tasting and sharing the cookies to others. She maximized the opportunity that she had even if what she originally planned did not happen. In the end, the recipe was successful, especially because of the numerous benefits that she had and the fact that the whole world is still able to enjoy such treats!

I was reminded that there are times when I definitely get discouraged and disappointed when things don’t happen the way I want them to. For example, when a certain company decided not to push through with my job application, I was deeply crushed because I desired to work for that company so much. I was tempted to complain and get angry at God because He allowed it to happen. There were even moments where I would just lie down on my bed, stare at the ceiling, and want to give up on my job hunting.

However, God spoke to my heart and He reminded me that even in difficult situations, I can still be comforted by the fact that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Sometimes, what I think is best for me may not really be the best for me at that time. And instead of pushing my way, I’m learning to surrender what I desire to God and trust that He definitely knows better than I.

He also encouraged me that I can be secure in His love for me, even if I don’t like what is happening in my life. Because He loves me very much, He definitely would only want what is best for me.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Mrs. Wakefield did not allow herself to get discouraged when her plan did not happen, when the chocolate bits did not melt in her cookie dough. She just decided to make good use of her situation and share the cookies to others.

I want to do that too. I want to maximize what God has given me right now and make good use of it even if “the chocolate bits do not melt” in my life too.

Clearly, God allowed “Mrs. Wakefield’s accident” to happen so we can enjoy chocolate chip cookies today!

As of now, I still am not employed. However, God continues to encourage me to still be faithful to Him and to do my part as I wait on Him and His best job for me.

Whatever you are going through right now, I hope that you too are encouraged to persevere still; to hope in our God who is able to do anything more than we can ever imagine; to believe that He does not make mistakes, that His word is flawless, that He knows better than us, and that His perfect love will always be enough for us each day.

“I’m not gonna worry. I know that You got me right inside the palm of your hand.Each and every moment, what’s good and what gets broken, happens just the way that You plan. But You’re here. You’re real. I know I can trust You.”

–Kari Jobe

Nestle Toll House’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts (I usually use unsalted cashew or almond nuts).
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 


TIPS/NOTES:

1. Make sure not to over bake the cookies.

I did this a lot of times before. :( haha. I left the cookies in the oven until they were golden brown (as specified), however, when I got them out and let them cool, they ended up being hard, super crispy, and they had a darker shade of golden brown. :P So for the next batches that I made, I removed them from the oven a little earlier (even if they looked a bit pale) and they actually tasted great after they were cooled! When you remove the pan/sheet from the oven, the cookies will still actually continue to bake a bit since the sheet is still hot.

2. To make CHEWY cookies:

Follow the given recipe and change the proportions of the two kinds of sugar. Use ½ cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.

3. To make CRISPY cookies: 

Follow the given recipe and change the quantities of butter and granulated sugar. Use 2 and a half sticks of butter and 1 and 1/4 cups of granulated sugar.

4. Effects of white sugar and brown sugar.

According to Shirley O. Corriher’s book: Bakewise (2008), high quantities of table sugar make crisp cookies. On the other hand, low quantities of it make cookies moist. In addition, brown sugar will make cookies more moist as it helps absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

5. If your butter is still hard.

You can soften it up by cutting it into cubes and letting it sit at room temperature.

Encourage yourself one treat at a time! :)

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