Holiday shopping with the Healthy Options gift boxes

My favorite health store has come up with items you can give for Christmas that are both healthy and natural – Healthy Options gift boxes!!!

Healthy Options stained glass gift boxes
Stained glass-themed gift boxes at Healthy Options


I’m always at Healthy Options, being a Gold cardholder. We get our supplements from there as well as our regular supply of oats, nuts, superfoods like chia and quinoa, and even snacks sometimes. But recently, I was invited back to be part of a small group of bloggers who got an early look at their different holiday gift boxes. Set in one of their larger branches at Glorietta 2, we spent several hours taste testing some of the items that came with the gift boxes and had a sumptuous and very yummy lunch as well, courtesy of The Sexy Chef.

Each gift box is themed after one of the holiday’s most popular and meaningful customs that have become symbolic of Christmas. For people who hate shopping and just want to go into a store and pick out a gift box that is already prepared, decorated and wrapped, this collection of gift boxes will be perfect.

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Bring the family to Meralco’s Liwanag Park this Christmas season

Looking for some place to bring the family this Christmas aside from the malls? Check out Liwanag Park, Meralco’s annual Maliwanag ang Pasko tradition on the grounds of Meralco’s head office in Ortigas. The lighting up of the park fronting the main building has been an annual tradition for years and a popular Christmas destination for families and tourists in Metro Manila.

Continue reading “Bring the family to Meralco’s Liwanag Park this Christmas season”


A Purefoods Lunch featuring Fiesta Ham Classic + New Variants

I can’t imagine Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or Media Noche (New Year’s Eve) without ham. It’s really a staple of our family dinner.

At a recent event with the Purefoods Fiesta Ham people at Via Mare Cafe and Oyster Bar, I was introduced to the familiar, classic fiesta ham as well as its new variants. One trivia: I didn’t know Purefoods has been around since 1956??? No wonder we all practically grew up with its products!

This year you will find more than just the traditional 1kg Fiesta Ham in supermarkets. The new variants of the Fiesta ham are the 1.5kg thinly-sliced version of the Fiesta Ham for bigger gatherings; the 200g Fiesta Ham slices that are more affordable and conveniently packed; and the 3.5kg Smoked Bone-in Fiesta Ham.

Celebrity Moms showed us table settings that they themselves did to introduce the different Fiesta Ham variants.

Barbie Almalbis-Honasan

Classic Fiesta Ham
Singer-songwriter Barbie Almalbis-Honasan (popularly known as Barbie) and a Mom of two prepared a European table setting, complete with wine and cheese, to go with the Classic Fiesta Ham. Teapots on top of the vases were used to hold flowers, a nice touch, I thought. Barbie told us their family celebrates 3 Christmas dinners – one with the grandparents, another with titos/titas, then finally dinner at their own home.
Suzi Entrata-Abrera

Smoked Bone-in Ham (3.5kg)
TV host Suzi Entrata-Abrera designed a table setting to hold one of the new variants – the Smoked Bone-in Ham. She chose red because that was also the color theme for their own Christmas decor at home done by a friend. She lets her kids help in the decorating because oftentimes they come up with fresh ideas. For their fiesta ham, her family loves putting lots of sugar on top of the ham, frying it, and just putting it in pandesal.
Danica Sotto-Pingris

Classic Fiesta Ham
Danica Sotto-Pingris chose the Filipiniana theme for her table setting. She celebrates Christmas first with her dad, Vic Sotto, then with her mom, Dina Bonnevie. This year she plans to hang tree ornaments that reminds them of the year that passed. As a Mom of two and a culinary expert, she plans to make a Christmas Day breakfast – Fiesta ham on Eggs Benedict.

Chef Glenda Barretto
Our lunch was specially prepared by Chef Glenda Barretto, owner of Via Mare, and of course each food item served had Fiesta Ham incorporated into it in some form. 
Ham Canapes

The appetizers were Ham Canapes with celery, dressed with sour cream and a little mayo on crostini bread. Chef Barretto said you can add other veggies, mix with pineapple, pear.

Fruits and Vegetables Ham Salad
You’d think that a salad should be just either all fruits or all vegetables but the Fruits and Vegetables Ham Salad nicely combines both into one salad. Made of romaine lettuce, carrot strips, honeydew melon balls, beet slices, and sliced ham wrapped around stalks of asparagus make up this salad paired up with a citrus dressing. This was my first time to bite into asparagus stalks wrapped in ham and it actually tasted good!
Green Peas and Ham Broth served
with Knacker Bread
I love pea soup (maybe next to pumpkin soup and cream of mushroom) and this one was served really piping hot. That’s how I like to take my soup. The bits of ham mixed in with the pea soup added texture to the soup’s creaminess and the Knacker bread with sesame seeds went quite well with it too.

The main dish was Glazed Bone-in Leg of Ham with Candied Sweet Potato Gravy. For some reason, I have no photos of this dish. Maybe in my excitement I forgot to take aim and shoot. *sigh* But suffice it to say I loved the glazed ham. It was soft and tender and the sweetness of the potato gravy was a good complement.

To one side of the room, the Via Mare chef was also demonstrating to us the proper way of cutting the smoked bone-in ham.

Here’s a tip from Chef Glenda Barretto for your smoked bone-in ham. You can still simmer it in in beer, pineapple juice, cloves and brown sugar. Beer enhances the flavor of smoked ham. Simmer only for 45mins to 1 hr. Reduce the sauce.

Finally, we were served dessert. I had been wondering from the beginning what dessert would taste like with ham in it. Normally, ham is not a dessert ingredient.

As I was a bit full already, and knowing I was going to another meet-up with friends where there would be food, I did not touch the bibingka, thinking I’d forego it. But after thinking it over I just thought, oh why not just go ahead and take a small bite so at least you can say you tasted it. I ended up finishing the whole bibingka! The Petit Bibingka Galapong with Ham and Queso de Bola was a winner! Via Mare has always been known for its bibingka – buttery and soft – but this time the ham toppings actually added that extra ooomph flavoring to it. No regrets about all those extra calories!

At another event, I was able to get a special sauce recipe for Purefoods Fiesta Ham from Chef Ed Quimson so it’s another opportunity for me to try something different this year.

Because it is so reasonably priced, Purefoods Fiesta Ham is always the most popular item in gift packs, corporate baskets and giveaways to employees during Christmas. And in my own home, there can be no Noche Buena without ham. It’s no wonder then that the Purefoods Fiesta Ham is called The Star of the Noche Buena Table.


San Miguel Great Food Club brings an early Christmas to Mercato Centrale

My friend Kitty invited me to her media event recently at Mercato Centrale. Actually, I went for two purposes. One, I have not seen Kitty in over 3 decades. Second, I wanted to check out what the San Miguel Great Food Club was all about. I was not a member (it shows that I’m no culinary person) but I do love good food. And the theme for this event was “The Flavors of Christmas”. How can you resist such a title????

The event revolved around making the celebration of the Yuletide season as easy as possible, stress-free and yet festive enough.

It all began with Danny Dela Cuesta, a food expert and event stylist, who briefed the audience on different ways of decorating the Christmas table, even using recycled Christmas decor. He gave tips on different topics: the menu, the buffet table, the dining table and food presentation. Danny works as the VP for Food Business Marketing of Contagious Consultancy Group and was schooled in culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine et de Patisserie in London, England under the tutelage of Chef Jean Claude Boucheret.

I could not stay long enough to see the actual demos but I was able to interview the 3 chefs who were part of the program.

Chef Dennis Edillon

Chef Edillon is the Corporate Executive Chef of Urban Chef. He said he was speaking about how to prepare just the right portions for Christmas meals so as to minimize or totally eliminate food wastage or over-preparation. Now this really caught my fancy because I do see that in many Christmas parties, there is either too much or too little food for guests. Here are some tips I picked up from Chef Edillon:
  • When buying meat to prepare a dish, consider that you will be trimming off fat and bones. What remains must be adequate for the dish you want to prepare.
  • People eat 250-300 grams (max of 400-450 grams for bigger appetites) of food per his estimate so this is his general benchmark for estimating portions
  • There are different ways to apportion for appetizers, main dishes and dessert. If you have 3 kinds of viands, portions will be smaller. If you only serve a single main dish, portions should be larger. For cocktails, it depends on time of day or depends if cocktail party takes place of dinner, in which case you serve more for people to feel full. If you serve cocktails before dinner, you can serve smaller portions.
  • When it’s a potluck get-together, ask how many people are bringing food and what they plan to bring so that you don’t end up with too much food or similar food.
  • Stick to your favorites for Noche Buena because you can never go wrong. Kids will always remember the occasion by the food that was served.

Lori Baltazar

Lori is well known in the blogosphere as a very popular food blogger who specializes in desserts. She blogs at Dessert Comes First. She developed 2 desserts for San Miguel: Brownie-in-a-Cookie Cookie (like chocolate chips in a cookie but instead it’s frozen brownie chunks) and Chocnut-Queso de Bola Cheescake in a vanilla wafer biscuit crust.

Chef Ed Quimson

Chef Ed Quimson calls himself a high school dropout who just loves to cook and cook, which is why he says that all his recipes are so easy that a housewife can easily follow them. Chef Ed says he’s not technical at all. For San Miguel, Chef Ed developed his special sauce for the Christmas Ham using Purefoods Fiesta Ham (yay, I have 2 hams here that I can prepare using this recipe!), Roast Jumbo Chicken with Green Grapes and Cranberry Jelly, and Pork Pata with Yellow Lentils (recipes are also in my Yogini Foodie blog).

Guests at the event got to try these goodies as well.

For more delish recipes from San Miguel Great Food Club, register FOR FREE at


Make Miracles Happen with the Miracle Machine

Kraft, through Miracle Whip, wants to whip up miracles outside the kitchen for this Christmas. It is inspired by the collective efforts during Typhoon Ondoy last year when many people turned to social networking sites like Facebook to mobilize rescue, feeding and rehabilitation efforts.

Out of this inspiration, they created the Miracle Machine, a Facebook application whose objective is quite simple: to get people, their friends, and their friends’ friends working together to make miracles happen for the less fortunate.

11 beneficiary organizations were selected after a screening process. Each organization was asked what their Christmas wish was. Beginning December 1 and every day thereafter, an organization will be featured by the Miracle Machine with a list of tasks that volunteers like us can fulfill if it is within our capabilities.

The idea is that each of us is a working part of this machine. For every task that each of us can do for any or all of these beneficiaries, your name will be put on a cog and added to the Miracle Machine. If all tasks are fulfilled by the end of the 12 days, the Miracle Machine will work perfectly and all 11 beneficiary organizations would have their Christmas wishes fulfilled.
Will you help whip up miracles for these 11 beneficiaries? It’s very simple.

1. Join the Miracle Machine on Facebook and click ‘Like’ to be a follower.
2. Go to the Miracle Machine tab. To go to the Miracle Machine application, click the image of the machine (similar to the one above). When prompted, click ‘Allow’.
3. Check the tasks under each beneficiary’s page and see which is do-able for you. Most are not difficult at all. The task could be as simple as donating something needed which you have at home already. Or rallying friends to donate or support. 
(Note: When you volunteer to fulfill a task, someone from the beneficiary organization will contact you to verify the task you wish to fulfill and make arrangements if logistics are needed.)
If you get your friends on Facebook to join the Miracle Machine as well, we can collectively grant the wishes of these beneficiaries. The more people who join and become part of the Miracle Machine, the more amazing things can happen.
Below are the wishes of the 11 beneficiaries as well as the tasks needed to make them come true. Do look over the tasks and see which ones you can volunteer for or donate to. Or which ones you can get family and friends to pitch in for. I’m sure you can pick out several from the list that you yourself can fulfill.


Delifrance’s Joyeux Noël

I really and truly love fruitcake (yes, my kids and some friends still roll their eyes as to why I still crave this). I love Christmas because this is the time when I can receive fruitcakes from friends. But in recent years, this practice has dwindled due to the changing trends. Last year, wine dominated the gift trend. I wonder what it will be this year?

Several years ago, I bought a fruitcake from a good friend in January, kept it for months in my ref, lovingly taking it out every few weeks to baste the top and sides in brandy. And at Christmas time, we opened it up and it smelled and tasted so good! One day I will do that again.

But if you are a busy mother or a working person with no time on your hands to look around for the perfect fruitcake or pastry to give as a gift on Christmas, take a look at the gourmet offerings of Delifrance, aptly called Joyeux Noël.

Premium English Fruitcake
Always one of their bestsellers, the Premium English Fruitcake is soaked in brandy and fruit juices months in advance. They use only imported ingredients and have one of the most generous toppings of crunchy pecans, flavorful walnuts, tangy glazed fruits, and cherries and dates.
For those who want variety, Delifrance has also come up with a twist to the classic fruitcake — the Strawberry Walnut Fruitcake, topped with sweet strawberries and walnuts.

Christmas Revelry Hamper
This is only one of 3 different hampers that you can choose from.

Delifrance’s Christmas Warmth Hamper is a coffee gift set that spreads the warmth of holiday cheer with a prime selection of handpicked Arabica beans, packaged with an assortment of Christmas Bars and a batch of Choco Chip Almond Biscotti. Another option would be to indulge in holiday merriment with the Christmas Cheer Hamper, which features an irresistible mix of Christmas Bars, Premium English Fruitcake, specially selected Coffee Beans and an authentic bottle of French red wine. Finally, the Christmas Revelry Hamper mixes the rich flavors of French Wine and specialty coffee with the decadence of holiday favorites such as the Premium English Fruitcake, Chocolate Bars and Chocolate Chip Almond Biscotti.

All these premium items come in a limited edition picnic hamper.

Assorted Bars
The assorted bars feature a delectable assortment of chocolate-based pastries: Dark Choco Chip Butterscotch, Choco Chip Cookie Dough Brownie, Butter Pecan, or the Turtle Brownie.
There are different-sized boxes containing these assorted bars so it fits whatever budget you have.

For inquiries, please call the Delifrance main office at 643-8401 or visit