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Cooking with my Air Fryer | White Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe.

I'm on a baking roll lately. I've been baking almost twice a week, ever since I've achieved my goal of baking a cake from scratch. Maybe because I have become more confident with my baking skills (after all, it's been almost half a year since I started experimenting with my air fryer), or maybe because my son is very appreciative of my cooking - he pretty much eats (and compliments) everything I cook or bake, and he devours it with so much gusto. 

Yue requested for cookies again today, because he wanted to snack on something sweet while studying for his exams. (Yes, it's hell week again, lol!) I made Chocolate Chip Cookies for him last week, so for a change, I made White Chocolate Chip Cookies instead. This recipe is inspired by Chef RV Manabat, whose YouTube channel is a treasure trove for homecooks/homebakers like me. Thank you, Chef RV for your easy-to-follow cooking videos! :)

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Because I have a cookie monster at home. :)

1. Preheat air fryer to 170° Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, mix the butter with the white sugar and brown sugar until well-combined. 
3. Stir in the egg and vanilla until incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt until well-blended. 
5. Add the white chocolate chips and walnuts and mix until the chocolates and the nuts are well-coated with the flour.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until just combined. 
7. Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.
8. Set your air fryer to bake mode and bake at 170° Celsius for 12-15 minutes. (Kindly make adjustments to the temperature settings if you're using a conventional oven.)


3 Reasons to Have Live Music at Every Party.

In the recent Power of Live Study conducted by Live Nation in partnership with Culture Co-op, nearly three-quarters of respondents stated they believe the moments that give them the most life are "live experiences." 

That alone should tell you how much importance people place on live music experiences but if you're still on the fence about whether you should book a musician for your party, think back on the parties you've attended. Which were your favorites? Did they include a live, interactive band with great musicians that made them stand out in your mind? If the answer is yes, you'll immediately understand why you should have live music at every party - otherwise, consider these three reasons to always provide this unforgettable experience to your guests. 

The doctors of Hospital Playlist (2020).

It Makes the Event More Exciting and Engaging
The energy and excitement that comes with live music really can't compare to even a very well thought out playlist. Live performances carry an energy that recordings just can't match - by the time that recording plays, it's been changed multiple times, assessed and adapted to radio, but when it's live, the artist or group of artists are performing their craft directly to the audience. That type of one-on-one communication is powerful and can't be matched by any playlist.

Live musicians also know how to get the crowd excited and engaged, giving any party more of an upscale feel. An experienced leader of any band not only sings or plays an instrument, but knows how to interact with guests while also assessing the atmosphere of the room to choose the best tunes to play. It's a communal event that transforms the group of people who are all sharing the experience together, creating a tangible sense of community. Other research focused on live experiences confirmed this, with an Eventbrite survey revealing that nearly 80 percent of millennials stated that attending live events typically makes them feel not only more connected to the community and other people, but to the world.

Park Hae Joon in The World of the Married (2020).

You'll Have Fewer No-Shows
One of the best ways to get people excited about attending your party is to have live entertainment. It automatically brings that "wow" factor most are looking for - they'll immediately know it's not going to be a boring event where everyone is sitting around twiddling their thumbs trying to come up with something clever to say.

The Liar and His Lover (2017).

Higher Quality Sounds and Songs
With live musicians, they can change up the style or tempo to accommodate your requests or the feel of the room. With recorded tracks, the songs will always sound the same no matter how often they're played. When it's live, the artists often add their own unique flavor and style. Plus, the sound will be much higher quality than what you'd get with a playlist.

Another issue with using a playlist is that it takes a significant time to put together something that will last throughout the party, and no matter how much thought you put into it, it's extremely challenging to accommodate everyone's preferences. Having live music frees you from this arduous task, eliminating the need to consider the music preferences of every guest. Good musicians will have lots of experience performing live and will know how to keep the energy up with a playlist that's much more likely to be a widespread success.


4 Ways To Stay Young.

As we age, a lot of us try to look for ways to stay younger. While there may not be a magical solution to stopping aging once and for all, there are ways to help you stay younger mentally and physically. Take a look at some of the best tips for looking and feeling younger than you are.

Park Bo Gum in Record of Youth (2020).

Stay Busy
One of the best things that you can do for your mental and physical well being is to stay busy. Fill your schedule with plenty of activities so that you don't have time to get bored.

Beyond just working, you should also have things that you do in your free time. Having a hobby is a great way to keep your mind active and challenged.

Find a hobby that you have a passion for, and it will keep you young and mentally alert. Some people enjoy hunting, while others like playing chess. There are all sorts of things that you can choose from that can challenge your brain to stay engaged.

Bae Suzy, Nam Joo Hyuk, and the rest of Samsan Tech.
Photo credit: Bae Suzy on Instagram.

Stay Social
One of the biggest determining factors of mental decline is self-isolation. Isolating yourself from others is one of the worst things that you can do for your well being. It's important that you stay around others as much as you can.

That's not to say that you can't enjoy being alone once in a while; however, you should see people regularly when the chance presents itself.

Social time can be anything from going to church or simply inviting a friend over. The idea is to share your time with other people and fulfill the social aspect of your life.

Lee Joon Gi loves surfing.

Stay Physically Active
In order to keep your body as healthy as it can be, you should stay physically active regularly. Exercising can be anything from walking briskly to cycling.

People who spend more time moving their bodies don't just look better, but they actually feel better, and they have less body fat. Staying active throughout your life can ward off all sorts of diseases, particularly obesity-related ones.

Bonding with the ahjummas, Crash Landing on You (2020).

Eat Well
While it's perfectly fine to enjoy yourself from time to time, the majority of your foods should be as healthy as possible. Rather than eating fast food, or extremely oily foods, you should eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.

Don't forget that macronutrients aren't the only thing you should be paying attention to in your foods. Micronutrients are also an important part of what you should be paying attention to. Eating foods with certain nutrients and vitamins will not only keep you looking great, but it will also ward off things like diabetes and even arthritis. Even though you can take vitamin supplements, the majority of your vitamins should be through the foods that you eat.


Cooking with my Air Fryer | Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

My son turned 12 yesterday, and for this year's birthday, I took it upon myself to cook everything on my own for his (simple) birthday dinner. No take-outs, no food deliveries, no 'paluto' from other restaurants, including the birthday cake. Yes, even the birthday cake! I think this has got to be one of the highlights of my airfryer experiments - baking a cake from scratch. I feel so accomplished, haha!

I baked the cake on the eve of his birthday (November 11th), while Typhoon Ulysses (international name Vanco) was starting to cause havoc in the country. It was raining heavily that night, with roaring winds and all, and I was awfully worried that the power might go out any minute. Thankfully, I was able to finish the cake without a hitch, despite the power fluctuations here and there.

I was dead tired after baking this cake, and my arms were stiff from all that grating (tip: use a box grater to make your life easier), but I wasn't able to sleep soundly that night because of the strong typhoon. I was afraid that the roof might start leaking, or worse, be blown off by the strong winds. Good thing none of those happened, and we were able to celebrate Yue's birthday at home with a simple dinner of tuna pasta, roast chicken, and this carrot cake. Sharing with you the cake recipe inspired by InspiredTaste, and my own version of the buttercream frosting. :) 

Carrot Cake with Buttercream Frosting

2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
4 large eggs 
3 cups grated peeled carrots 
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 

For Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup Nestle All-Purpose Cream (chilled)
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat the airfryer to 190° Celsius. Grease two round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease the top of the parchment paper. (I used an 8" springform pan and cooked two batches since I only have one pan.)
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon until well-blended.
3. In another bowl, whisk the oils, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.
4. Using a spatula, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three parts, gently stirring until they disappear and the batter is smooth.
5. Fold in the carrots and walnuts.

Carrots and walnuts!

6. Pour the batter into the cake pans.
7. Set the airfryer to Bake mode and bake at 170° Celsius for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake is springy when touched and when a toothpick inserted to the center of the cake comes out clean.
8. Cool the cake in the pan for 10-15 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment paper and cool off completely before frosting.

Buttercream frosting, before chilling. 

9. To make the frosting, whisk the butter, cream cheese, and Nestle All-Purpose Cream. Add the powdered sugar in four batches, whisking the mixture until thick and smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
10. To assemble, spread frosting on one part of the cake and place the other part to sandwich the frosting. Spread frosting on all sides of the cake. Top with extra chopped walnuts. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. (I refrigerated mine overnight.)

My first-ever carrot cake! Neighbors loved it! :)

P.S. Many thanks to everyone who greeted Yue on his birthday! He truly appreciated all the greetings and well-wishes! :)


Cooking with my Air Fryer | Creamy Tuna Rice Casserole Recipe.

And just like that - it's November. This year will soon be over, and well, it's not as fruitful or as eventful as I had hoped it to be. I guess most of you feel the same way because of the situation we're all in (damn you, coronavirus!). On the bright side, the community quarantine made me rekindle my love for plants and gardening, gave me a chance to binge-watch all sorts of series on Netflix, allowed me to indulge in aromatherapy and essential oils, and made me very productive in terms of housework (kitchen work, to be exact). 

Speaking of kitchen work, I'm back with a new recipe. Yay! I just realized that I have been out of circulation for almost two weeks. Sorry for the lack of updates, but we've been busy with school stuff - projects, unit tests, you know the drill. Thankfully, Yue won't be having classes this week (both synchronous and asynchronous) because the school will be giving the kids some sort of 'health and wellness break'. That means plenty of time for me to bake and try out new recipes, and finish the first season of Black Clover on Netflix.

Today's recipe is Creamy Tuna Casserole, which I discovered in Nestle Cream Philippines' Create with Cream website. I tweaked it just a bit to my liking. Here goes:

Creamy Tuna Casserole

2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 can shredded tuna, drained
1 cup mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green peas)
1/2 cup water
1 pack 125 mL Nestle All-Purpose Cream
2 cups cooked rice (Japanese rice or Dinorado)
1/2 bar quick melt cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Creamy Tuna Rice Casserole.

1. Saute garlic, onion, and tomato in butter.
2. Once the onion has slightly caramelized and the tomato has softened, add the mixed vegetables to the pan. Saute for a minute, then add the shredded tuna. 
3. Add the water and Nestle All-Purpose Cream. Gently simmer and season with salt and pepper. Remove from fire once the mixture thickens.
4. Spread the rice in an oven-safe pan. Pour the cream mixture and grate cheese on top. 
5. Set your air fryer to Bake mode and bake at 170°C for 15 minutes or until the cheese turns light golden brown. Serve warm.
6. Optional: Scoop them on seasoned nori sheets, Sushi Bake style.

Enjoy! :)


6 Financial Steps to Take Before Buying a House.

Buying a house is an exciting next step in your life, but it also comes with plenty of responsibility and financial planning. If you don't take the time to sit down and think about your finances seriously, you could end up with more headache and frustration than you bargained for. 

The home-buying process can be intimidating, especially as you navigate the waters of your financial health, which is why it is so important to plan carefully and intentionally. The good news is that you don't have to work out all of this alone. Read on for our guide on the financial steps to take before buying a house.

Lee Joon Gi in Flower of Evil (2020).

1. Check Your Credit Score
While you don’t need a perfect credit score of 800 to qualify for a conventional mortgage, it’s typically advised that you have a score of 650 or above. If your current score doesn’t quite measure up, you might need to pump the brakes and put your pursuit on pause. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to improve your credit score to set yourself up for home buying success in the future.

2. Save for a Down Payment
Although most lenders don’t require a 20% down payment, they definitely prefer one. At the end of the day, the more you can put down, the more stable you’ll look in the eyes of potential lenders. And, the more money you're able to put down for that first down payment, the easier it'll be to get approved for a mortgage. Not only will your monthly payments be lower, but you'll end up spending less altogether over the duration of the home loan.

Lee Min Ki and Jung So Min in Because This is My First Life (2017).

3. Determine Your Budget
It's easy to daydream about finding the ideal home with all the bedrooms and bathrooms your family needs, the neighborhood you love, and at a price you can afford, but fantasy and reality are two very different things. Based on where you want to buy a home, the price of your dream home could be out of your budget scope. But you won't know this until you determine your budget.

Consider starting with a tool like an affordability calculator. This calculator can help figure out how much house you can afford without putting a strain on your pockets. From there, you can begin to budget other factors like furniture, moving expenses, and other inevitable costs.

4. Optimize your DTIR
Your DTIR— or your debt-to-income ratio— is the ratio between the sum of your existing debt (including a prospective mortgage) to your current income. Generally speaking, mortgage lenders typically prefer to lend to borrowers that have a DTIR under 43%.

If you need a few easy ways to improve your DTIR, use the following tips:
● Increase the amount you’re paying toward monthly debt repayments
● Pay off loans ahead of schedule
● Refinance your debt with a new lender

5. Pick the Right Mortgage
It should come to no shock that you shouldn’t settle for the first mortgage you find. Instead, take your time and shop around to find the best quotes from local lenders. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference a lower interest rate can make in the short term and long term.

Outside of conventional loans, there are several different types of specialized home loans that may be worth pursuing, as well. The most common mortgage loans available include:
● FHA Loans
● USDA Loans
● VA Loans

If you’re curious to learn about VA entitlement or what an FHA loan entails, be sure to complete this research before settling on a conventional loan.

Park Bo Gum in Record of Youth (2020).

6. Create an emergency savings account
Owning a house is a big commitment in every sense of the word. The reality is that things happen, and for more costly events, you may need to tap into savings to pay for unexpected repairs, expenses, and so on. As you venture into the homebuying process it’s important to have emergency savings set aside.

Aside from saving for a down payment, make an effort to create a rainy day fund. Start by setting aside at least six to twelve months’ worth of expenses in a separate savings account.

Wrapping Up
Purchasing a house requires a thousand moving parts and complex to-dos. Using these steps, you will be able to walk into the next chapter of your life with confidence in yourself and in your finances!