Category Archives: Happenings

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DIY Food Gifts for the Holidays

I prefer beating the holiday rush by avoiding going to the malls because it seems like they could offer only two choices: expensive fancy stuff or inexpensive generic stuff.  I plan to keep it smart and simple by baking and cooking homemade food gifts.

Making my own gifts means I get to save time and energy. One might argue that cooking and baking take forever and too much effort.  I think it’s more grueling to drive to the mall, find a parking spot, roam from one crowded store to another, then report to a seemingly endless line at the checkout. I rather be at the comfort of my home, listening to my favorite playlist, and taking my own sweet pace.

I also get to save more money with homemade gifts because one recipe go to two gift recipients -or more depending on the serving size.

And generic, thoughtless gifts? Forget it. Homemade gifts are one of the most thoughtful gifts you could give to your loved ones. After all, it’s the thought that counts!

Here are four simple and inexpensive food gifts that I’ll be making for the holidays. Feel free to try them too!
persimmon cookies 1



Persimmons are in season here in the US and are growing so bountiful that I didn’t even need to buy them at the market. Family and friends that have persimmon trees keep giving me bags of persimmons from their overflowing tree. I never get tired eating the fruit because they are sweet as a candy and juicy as a peach especially when very ripe. If you don’t have any persimmon harvests, I’m sure you could find them at an affordable price at your local markets.

The persimmon cookies came out soft, chewy, and sweet. I got the recipe from the site, My Eclectic Kitchen. If you really don’t have the time to bake it (or don’t feel confident baking or don’t have an oven at home), then simply print out the recipe and gather all the ingredients and give them as a cookie kit.


As for the gift wrap, I simply re-used and upcycled a candle jar.

To remove the leftover candle from the jar, I put it in the freezer for at least four hours. You may also do this overnight. Using a small knife, I lightly stabbed the leftover candle to divide it into pieces then picked out the broken candle pieces and washed off all the wax contents. I suggest using a strong dishwashing liquid to scrub off and clean the container.

I thoroughly washed the lid too. My candle lid had a brand name etched on it so I hid the brand name by using a decorative tape I got from Daiso. I simply taped all over the lid and along the sides. This step didn’t need complicated measurements or procedure. Because the tape’s design pattern was not for Christmas, I also put a red holiday ribbon on top of the lid.


vegan choco truffles gift



This recipe is ridiculously easy and very hard to mess up. I had so much fun making these and playing with my favorite truffle coating like coconut, toasted almonds, and cocoa powder.  Next time, I’d also like to use pistachios, chocolate syrup, and many more.

You could shape these truffles any way you want – flat bottom, sphere, big, bite size, or even heart-shaped.

You could check the recipe from my earlier post: Vegan Chocolate Truffles.


I simply  re-used and upcycled an empty jar. Just like the persimmon cookies, I also thoroughly washed the jar and its lid.

Conveniently, the lid didn’t have any markings, labels, or anything written on it so there was no need to tape it over.

To put a holiday touch to the gift, I placed a red ribbon on top. I bought the ribbons in bulk at a nearby convenience store.




I’ve featured this recipe on my YouTube show, Astig Vegan Cooking. The recipe is super simple and does not need any special handling, kneading, or other delicate baking procedure. Just make sure that the water is very cold and the rest will be easy.


I used single pie pans so I could maximize my budget. The recipe is good for four mini pie pans. But if you plan to give this dish to a couple or a family to share, you could use the recipe as one serving using a 5-inch pan. I got the mini pie pans on Amazon but I’m sure you could also get them at big stores like Smart and Final or Safeway.

To package it, I used a Saran plastic wrap that I already have in my pantry and tied it using a red ribbon that I also found around the house.


vegan bibingka gift



I make Bibingka every time there’s a special occasion. Recently, I’ve baked some for a baby shower and they were a hit!  Now I’ll be making Bibingka as gifts for Christmas.

The recipe takes less than an hour to prepare and bake. It also yields plenty of servings especially if you use a muffin pan.

To make the Bibingka extra special, sprinkle some evaporated cane sugar and coconut shreds as toppings. You could get the full tutorial on my YouTube show, Astig Vegan Cooking.


There are plenty of ways to gift wrap these mini cakes but I went with a tin container that I got at Daiso. For presentation, I lined a sheet of parchment paper before placing the Bibingka cakes inside the tin.

Because I had the tin container a long time ago (I think it was meant for Valentines Day), it didn’t have a holiday look. It was colored red and white and had red hearts all over. I topped the tin container with a red ribbon and it instantly became more appropriate for Christmas .

If you don’t have a tin container in a similar holiday color scheme, you could either paint it white or glue on a decorative pattern paper. You could also use a basket or a nice glass bowl or container then wrap it in cellophane or plastic wrap.


To go with this blog post, I also have a quick video explaining what I’ve done:


The holiday shopping could be stressful year after year. Make it more enjoyable by making your own holiday gifts. You’d be surprised by how easy and even relaxing it could be. Have fun and happy holidays!


toast to the turkeys wp

Thanksgiving Toast to the Turkeys

The past weekend, my friends and I headed to Harvest Home in Stockton to visit animals rescued from neglect, abuse, and other forms of cruelty.

It was my first time visiting an animal sanctuary so I was very excited. I had seen photos before but meeting the rescued animals up close and personal undoubtedly gave a different experience. For one, I got to pet them, feed them, and discover their individual personalities. Mohawk, the hog for example was very friendly and social. Monica on the other hand, was very weary and aloof. Apparently, Monica was rescued at a university after a group of frat boys made a big prank and abused her. I could understand why she doesn’t trust humans anymore. I wouldn’t either after that traumatic experience.

The most recent rescue were the chickens and the turkeys who were bought out from being slaughtered.

toast to the turkeys with henry and me
mohawk harvest home


kimo the turkeyOn top of interacting with the animals, my friends and I also enjoyed a vegan buffet, silent auction fundraiser, as well speeches from Harvest Home’s Christine Morrissey and guest speaker, Miyoko Schinner.

Toward the end of the event, all guests were given an apple cider drink and we all gave a toast to the turkeys. The silent auction winners were declared (I won one bid!). Afterward, we enjoyed a lovely spread of vegan desserts and ice cream.

The video below encapsulates my experience at the event:

This year produced the biggest attendance turnout yet for Harvest Home’s annual event. Hopefully next year the turn out would be even bigger.

Have you been to an animal sanctuary? How was your experience like?



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Vegan Restaurants and Food Demo in LA

This weekend I was invited by Pitzer College in Southern California to teach a class on how to veganize Filipino Food.

This was only my second time doing a demo so I was very excited and nervous at the same time. Plus, I was going to cook not just one but three vegan Filipino dishes so the idea was pretty nerve-racking. I featured: Vegan Roasted Eggplant Salad (Ensaladang Talong), Vegan Sisig, and Vegan Bibingka.

Professor Todd Honma, who organized the whole thing, asked me to emphasize the health aspects of my cooking so I did adjustments to my recipes by replacing natural sugar to agave, rice flour to coconut flour, and white rice to quinoa.

Below are snapshots of the demo:

pitzer-demo-wide-shot wp pitzer-sisig-cooking wp

pitzer-sisig wp

pitzer-eggplant-salad wp

pitzer-demo-the-students wp

I love that the students were so receptive. The workshop took about four hours and they paid attention the entire time! The students asked tons of great questions and remained inquisitive all throughout the demo.

I felt so lucky and fortunate to have been there sharing what I learned about vegan Filipino cooking. I’m grateful to Pitzer College as well as Professor Todd Honma for their interest in my work.

pitzer demo

Before heading back to the Bay Area, of course I had to check out some vegan restaurants in LA.

It’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of vegan restaurants in LA. In fact, a new one just opened a couple of months ago: The Springs LA, an all raw vegan restaurant that houses a wellness center as well as an office for the organization, Farm Sanctuary. It also has sections for cute shops which I’m assuming also sell vegan products.

Here are some of the nice exteriors and interiors of The Springs:

the springs facade widethe spring mural wp

the-springs-sign wp

the springs stores

the springs entrance

the-springs-tableset wp

For food, we got the raw vegan carbonara, hummus and crackers, raw tea leaf salad, raw rangoons (made of dried coconut skin wontons!) as well as raw vegan green curry.

springs-coconut-appetizer springs-raw-appetizer spings-color-carbonara

the spring carbonara wp


For dessert, we got the raw cheesecake with blood orange ice cream, ice cream trio (black sesame, peach, and chocolate), and chocolate cake.

the-springs-desserts the-springs-ice-cream the-springs-cheesecake


The place was spacious but homey. It also has a feel of both a luxurious loft and a tropical resort.

the-springs-ambiance wpthe springs dining

I went with my sister, my boyfriend, my uncle, and why yes, that’s Hiram Camillo at and Yvonne Ardestani at My Ecclectic Kitchen.

It was my third time meeting up with Yvonne and my first time meeting Hiram who was very nice and friendly in person.

the-springs-dinner wpThe executive chef also came out to meet us, Chef Michael Falso.

The next night, my family and I went to Bright Star Thai Vegan restaurant. Interestingly enough, the sign “Bright Star” looks way too small compared to the sign “Thai Vegan”. I think that’s cool though that they’re proud to be a vegan establishment.


bright star interiors

Bright Star reminds me of the vegan Thai restaurants in the Bay Area. It offers a variety of fresh vegetables and tofu as well as mock meats.

I highly recommend getting the orange tofu.

bright star orange tofu


bright star meal combo



Bright Star restaurant is a personal recommendation of my sister and her husband who both frequent this place.

On top of my photos, I also shot some videos from the trip. I’ve put the footage together for a quick two-minute video. Please feel free to check out the video below.

Thanks for watching!

Have you been to LA? What’s your favorite vegan spot?


My Top Vegan Face and Bodycare


I’m no fan of big label skincare that are expensive. There are ingredients in my kitchen that could also do the job at a fraction of the price. But when I do buy for skincare products, I go for the ones that are made of natural ingredients and vegan, and of course affordable.

Below are the products I’ve bought or made myself that I highly recommend for you. These products are tried and tested over the years and have personally worked for me with wonders.

For the DIY directions below, the amount of oil and astringent are ultimately up to you as each skin is different so feel free to adjust to your preference.



Coconut oil as make up remover (among other uses)

Honestly, I think makeup removers are overpriced and they leave my face feeling gross. I use coconut oil instead. I simply swipe a cotton ball in coconut oil and gently wipe on my face. The coconut oil removes the makeup instantly and leaves a pleasant aroma. Depending on how heavy your make up is, you might need to use more than one cotton ball.

Coconut oil could also run expensive so I buy the ones that are in the lower end quality. I save the high quality ones for cooking and baking, but I wouldn’t mind grabbing some in the kitchen if I run out of the cheap kind. I just make sure to transfer to a different container so I don’t contaminate what I use in my food.

Sometimes, I also use coconut oil for my scalp and hair as deep conditioning cream. I’ve been lazy these days to do it but if you are inclined to try, simply dip a comb in melted coconut oil (make sure the oil is not hot), then comb through your hair. Cover your hair and scalp with a plastic bag to conceal the moisture, wait for at least 30 minutes then rinse.  I suggest trying this right before taking a shower.

There are TONS of other uses for coconut oil including: facial moisturizer, body oil, lip balm, etc.


tea sugar scrubTea Sugar Scrub

I love tea. I have it every morning as part of my morning ritual. Although I could drink a whole pot to myself, I sometimes end up with leftover.

Instead of throwing it away, I add about a tablespoon of sugar to about two ounces of leftover green tea then I scrub my face with the tea infused sugar.

Tea has tons of antioxidants. In fact, there are fancy skincare lines that brag about having green tea in their products, so why not use the tea directly to yourself and skip the fancy shmancy tea infused skincare?



Baking Soda

I also swear by using this in the shower to exfoliate my underarms. I rub baking soda to my underarms and exfoliate well then I do a final rinse. As a result, I leave the shower very clean and odorless. My shower is never without a container of baking soda.



Mineral Deodorant Body Spray

I’m very cautious of using vegan deodorants that don’t last long. Unfortunately almost all of the vegan deodorants I know don’t last long.

I remember in the Philippines, Filipinos use a crystal mineral called “Tawas” that act as a deodorant. I have used it before and it didn’t work well for me.

The only brand I could trust is Crystal Essence. I am not sponsored by this brand by the way, they probably don’t even know I exist but I’m telling you to use their product because it works.

Crystal Essence does have “Tawas” crystals but also other ingredients that keep me odor free for full 24 hours. I also like that this comes in a spray bottle. I got this product at Rainbow Grocery San Francisco. I’m sure you could grab one at similar stores like Whole Foods or online.



Vegan and Natural Bar Soaps

When I was a kid, my family would use bar soaps as our main soap in the shower. Then on to my teens and 20s, I switched to using liquid body wash and body puff. Now I’m back to using bar soaps but with a little upgrade.

I’ve come to appreciate the natural, fragrant bar soaps similar to the French milled versions. I just make sure they are 100% vegetable oil based and the palm oil is sustainably sourced. Some brands like Pacifica would disclose this kind of information so you don’t have to do the legwork.

Anyway, I’m particularly fond of Rose flavored bar soaps that has a romantic, soothing aroma. Funny thing is, I used to despise this kind of scent because it smelled “old” to me, I guess I am getting old! If you’re not fond of the French Rose scent, I suggest to go with Gardenia, Vanilla, or Coconut.


I hope you find this list helpful. The list has worked well for me over the years and I hope it’ll work for you.

If you have your own list, please feel free to share. I’m constantly learning and in search for great vegan face and bodycare products.



Vegan Soups Collaboration

Aside from this blog, I also share my recipes on my YouTube channel. At first I thought, because everybody uses YouTube I would have instant slew of subscribers watching my cooking tutorials. Little did I know that it takes a lot of hard work to produce a shoot and there’s no guarantee if somebody aside from your family and friends, whom you urged to check out your page, would organically click on your video let alone recreate the dish you’re featuring in the episode.

Despite the sobering realization, I kept at it. Slowly but surely, more folks discovered my channel. After my Sisig recipe, people on Instagram started tagging me showing off the Sisig dish they made from the tutorial. Of course I had to repost! It’s so rewarding and humbling to find out that people have tried my recipes and enjoyed them.

Another great news came when my YouTuber friend, Cobi at Veggietorials, emailed me asking if I’d like to participate in a vegan collaboration on YouTube, called “Soup-er Vegan Soups Collaboration“. I had the least number of subscribers out of everyone invited so once I again I felt humbled and honored.  Of course I said yes to the collab.

vegan soups collab

I knew the collaboration was going to boost my views so I thought I better step it up and produce a great episode with a kick ass recipe.

Cobi was so organized and detailed. She sent us deadlines for the beauty shots, recipe name, etc. Although she was very diligent and on point, she was also very flexible and pleasant, never pushy. No wonder she has tons of YouTube followers, Cobi has a great personality.

By the time we had to decide which soup to make, I chose to stick to what I know best: vegan Filipino. I chose a childhood favorite, rice porridge or Lugaw.  The traditional version is far from vegan. You would think that because it’s rice porridge, it’ll be easy to veganize. After all, similar dishes from other Southeast Asian countries have congee and juk. The Filipino version has great Spanish influence so we had only two kinds: the chicken and the beef kind. I thought it would be fun to do a vegan version.

My vegan Filipino Rice Porridge:

vegan lugaw side shot

vegan lugawAnd here’s the playlist featuring my vegan Lugaw recipe as well as recipes from Eco Vegan Gal, Veggietorials, Brown Vegan, Vegan Cooking With Love, Fellowship of the Vegetable, Simply Bakings, and Divine Hostess. I hope you enjoy!


From this collaboration, I’ve gained at least 80 new subscribers on YouTube. I’ve also seen more than five recreations of the Lugaw recipe on Instagram. The result is very encouraging and makes me very excited about making more videos.

Still, I have to remind myself that even if there’s only person who I’ve convinced to watch and recreate my dishes, then I have made significant progress.


My Top 12 Vegan Food Basics

my top 12 vegan food basics

Over the years, I’ve developed my favorite vegan food ingredients that I couldn’t live without. These ingredients dominate my kitchen, my purse, and my travel bag. These products help me cook delicious food as well as keep me full when I’m on the go. 

If you’re vegan then I’m sure you also have your own list. If you’re not but curious as to what does a vegan eat, or at least what does a Vegan Filipina eat, then please do watch the video below.

I’ve teamed up with Rainbow Grocery, an all vegetarian grocery store in San Francisco, to curate and show you my top 12 vegan food basics.

Although I shot at an all veg market, I still made sure that the products I featured are something you would find at a regular grocery store.

I hope you found this video informational. If you’re curious about the vegan lifestyle, please feel free to ask if there’s something I haven’t answered yet on my food essentials.

If you are already vegan and have your own list, please do share! I’d love to hear about your list too!


Scenes from Savor Filipino Food Demo, Plus Kare Kare Videoa

Here are some highlights and my favorite moments from my first (live!) food demo at an event called Savor Filipino, a Filipino Food festival in San Francisco.

Thanks to my friends who snapped these photos. My mind was preoccupied on the demo that I didn’t get a chance to take any photos at all. And to think I was planning on doing a vlog on location!

Here’s my set up. A nice demo table with angled mirror on top to show the audience what I’m cooking. I also asked for volunteers in the audience to come up and cook with me. I think it was nice to get the audience to interact with me especially because the demo was at an open tent with so many distractions around where I could lose the audience’s attention easily.

savor demoHere are my mom and dad waving and saying hello after my brief introduction about myself and the demo.

parents looking over
Thanks to my good friend Julie who went to see my demo and took this photo.
savor demo julies pic

After the demo, I served my vegan Kare Kare to those who purchased for a ticket. My friend Rosie was beside me, making sure everything runs smooth.

Backstory: I was encouraged to cook a separate pot of Kare Kare ahead of time so by the time my demo is done, my crew and I will be handing already prepared Kare Kare dish to the patrons.  Unfortunately, on events like these, there’s always something that doesn’t go as planned. My prepared pot and ready to serve Kare Kare was going bad!

An hour before my presentation, my crew and I were deliberating whether we should serve it to the crowd because some people say it tastes delicious while some say it’s bad. I didn’t want to risk anyone’s health and safety so I decided that I won’t use the one I cooked ahead of time and I’ll just serve what I’ll be making during the demo.

My concern about serving the one I’ll be demonstrating was that the eggplants might not cook through and soften enough by the time I have to end the demo (we were given an hour per demo and I was already running late in schedule). Also, my crew was supposed to start plating half way in my demo. We needed to scratch that plan out because they’ll have to wait for the Kare Kare to cook! Rosie suggested that they plate everything else, the rice and Bagoong on the banana blossom to at least cut back on some time.

The plan worked! The eggplants were cooked nicely and we finished on time. The audience enjoyed their meal and had no idea there was a slight hiccup in the plan.

savor demo plating

I also had some of my vegan Bagoong available at the event so I was happy to give one to my friend Chuck who also went to support my demo.

savor filipino bagoong

Chuck’s wife and my good friend, Julie got a free tote bag for participating in the demo. She helped me make and adjust the sauce.
astig vegan tote bags

A photo collage courtesy of Rosie who, along with Jen, helped out as my assistants during the demo. I could not have done it without them!rosies pic Here’s a photo with Joanne Boston, the head organizer and brain behind Savor Filipino. with joanne savor filipino organizerAnother awesome friend of mine, Ava, was kind enough to videotape the live demo.  I had asked her to film the demo so I could share the recipe with YOU!

I hope you’ll find this video helpful and informational. If there’s something you didn’t understand, just leave a comment and I’ll reply to your questions. I couldn’t have a mic at the time so I had to adjust my voice and sort of yell to the crowd. I think it went well and people didn’t mind. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. Kain na, let’s eat!