What Made the Holidays Special

I love January for several reasons:

The promise of a new year; a fresh start. My birthday month. The cold weather that welcomes hot chocolate and comfort food.

But I also love January because I am inevitably still brimming with good cheer from the holidays that just passed. I feel like the joy of Christmas spills over to January, which is when we have the time to relax and remember just how good December was – we look at the pictures, appreciate the gifts, smile as we recall all the moments that made our hearts grow bigger and warmer.

So even though we are almost two weeks in the new year, I still think about what made the past holiday season so special to me: my family, my friends, and the FOOD in the Philippines! Here are 15 of my favorite photos from December:

1 – of course the best thing about my holiday was that I was able to spend it at home in the Philippines with my family. This is our family house in Manila.

2 – I’ve talked about ube (sweet purple yam) multiple times already and my love for ube-flavored desserts. I think I may have eaten ube ice cream daily when I was in the Philippines! Here I ate it with sugared garbanzos (chickpeas) and macapuno (sweet coconut).

3 – I hosted a small dinner at home and not only was the food fantastic, but so was the company. You’ll notice at this pic that I look a little sweaty – that’s because I was chasing a really cute boy around! He is the one in yellow (and he looks like he’s ready to bolt).

4 – these are some of my college friends who have become some of my best friends. I can’t believe we’ve known each other for almost 14 years!

5 – and these are my friends from high school. I am not going to say how long we’ve known each other because I suddenly feel very old.

6 – and speaking of old, these are century eggs. Have you ever seen anything like it? This is a Chinese specialty which is a preserved chicken or duck egg. It is preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice. This is unlike any egg I’ve ever tasted because well, it doesn’t taste like an egg at all! I know that the color may be off-putting to some but up close it is actually beautiful: the egg white turns into a translucent dark brown, with a jelly-like texture, while the yolk turns into a dark green/grey color. According to trusty ole Wikipedia, it’s the alkaline in the preserving process that transforms the colors and the textures. It tastes very earthy, with lots of umami, and almost briny. I think century eggs are one of those hate-it-or-love-it delicacies, and I’m definitely on the latter side.

7 – from hundred year olds to one year olds! I was around a lot of cute babies (like my cousin Dylan) and kids while I was in the Philippines – and they definitely made my vacation memorable.

8 – if you recognize that little triangle on top, then you can guess that this is a toblerone cake. A sublime toblerone cake. I guess I really like cakes made with candy bars (I still think about the 3 Musketeers cake from the W, and Megan of Delicious Dishings just posted about some Milky Way tartlets that I am drooling over). I also really like going out with friends at 11 pm just for cake, which is when I tasted this mouth-watering creation.

9 – I ate lots of seafood in the Philippines, and these giant prawns with garlic were cooked at home by my beloved Tita Ine. Traditionally, grilled or fried prawns are served with a vinegar dipping sauce, but I love eating these with aioli. So good.

10 – another specialty at our house: lengua (braised beef tongue) with a creamy mushroom sauce. I’ve eaten lengua many other times from different places (my favorite in Boston is the lengua tacos from La Verdad in Fenway) but this is by far the best I’ve ever had. There is something about food made at home that always make it the best, right?

11 – There is also something about food made by my mom that tastes like absolute perfection. This is her braised beef and ox tail stew that we had for Media Noche (New Year’s Eve dinner). My mom slaved over this for hours, and it is so thick and wonderful and meat-y.

12 – this is a falafel salad I had for lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant called Lu. The salad was good but what I really liked about this dish was the siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili) garnish on top. It represents just how prevalent those little chilis are in the Philippines (my parents have a chili bush in their backyard) and how much I miss it!

13 – this is kalabasa (butternut squash) soup. Nothing fancy, just pureed squash, a little drizzle of cream, topped with sage (I love that combination). While this doesn’t scream “vacation food,” it was homey and nourishing – exactly what I needed during the busy holiday season.

14 – my holidays were extra special because not only did I get to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family, but I was also able to celebrate my dad‘s birthday, and my sister Monica‘s birthday. I love my sisters with all my heart, but only one of them knows how to blow out a birthday candle properly. Monica blubbered and sputtered over her white chocolate strawberry cake, which might have been a smart strategy because no one wanted to eat it after. (Okay I lied, that didn’t stop me from having a few bites.)

15 – last but not least, I love this picture of my parents’ front yard, because it is so peaceful and just really feels like home.

Do you have a favorite month too?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for tablea – to make authentic Filipino hot chocolate! You can enter to win until this Friday.


31 Responses to “What Made the Holidays Special”

  1. #
    Meghan posted January 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for bringing us home with you :) Everything is so beautiful.

  2. #
    Heather posted January 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    That purple ice cream reminds me of the grape ice cream I used to love as a kid!

    My favorite month would have to be December because I love the holiday season but I always get sad when they are over.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Ooooh grape ice cream! Never had it, but sounds interesting!

  3. #
    Michelle posted January 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Take me home with you!!! :-)

  4. #
    Chiara posted January 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Love, love, love picture #10. Lengua with white mushroom sauce (made by my Dad or my Lola) is going to be my last meal, er ten meals, on earth. I’ve converted my picky eater boyfriend, who is not Filipino, to loving it too. Now I have competition whenever I take home the dish from my parents’ house. :)

    I’m glad to have found a fellow Pinay who share the love for beef tongue, Filipino style, with me!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

      One day I will attempt to cook it myself ;)

  5. #
    Liz posted January 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Kalabasa soup…century eggs (I’ve always wanted to try them)…lengua (love this, but never tried it in a cream sauce)…all solidifies my desire to visit the Philippines.

    And what a beautiful house! I second Meghan’s comment – thank you for bringing us with you through these wonderful pictures!

  6. #
    Daisy posted January 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I absolutely love this! all of it! thank you for sharing these awesome photos of your home and family.

  7. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted January 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Your visit looks like it was perfect – so full of great food and company!! And you look so happy in these photos!

  8. #
    MelissaNibbles posted January 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    It looks like you had a fun and delicious visit. I really want to try lengua. It sounds like something I would love!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Thanks Melissa! You should def try lengua if you see it on a menu somewhere! Aside from La Verdad in Fenway, I know Anna’s Tacqueria also offers lengua tacos :)

  9. #
    Rachel @Healthy_Chicks posted January 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    So neat to read about your culture and where you came from Bianca. I love the flow of this post, and all the beautiful pictures! I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time spent with your family over the holidays.

  10. #
    Megan posted January 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Toblerone cake? Challenge accepted! So great to see pics from your visit.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Love it! I will come over when you make it…. Hmmm time for another potluck? ;)

  11. #
    Dan posted January 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Have you seen those purple yams for sale anywhere around here? I could make a killer gelato…

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Hey Dan! No, I always look for them but only see purple potatoes :( But if I find some, I will holla at you for some gelato!

  12. #
    Tracey posted January 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    wow, what a beautiful family, gorgeous home and amazing food!

  13. #
    Courtney (Pancakes and Postcards) posted January 12, 2012 at 2:20 am

    What a beautiful post, Bianca! I felt like I was living your adventures. Amazing.

    I might be going to Manila this year. If so, I’ll definitely have to talk to you about it first :)

  14. #
    Leng posted January 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I love how homey this post is! I remember going to your family home a few times to work on JMA-related stuff and it’s truly special and comforting.

    My favourite month is my birthday month too, October. There’s something about settling into the fall season. =) Have an awesome year, a kickass month and a delicious birthday, Bianca!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

      Ahhh Courtney that is so exciting!! Definitely hit me up if your trip pushes through. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  15. #
    Michelle Collins posted January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I love these pictures! Looks like you had an amazing trip home. And happy early birthday!

  16. #
    Shannon posted January 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    what a great way to think about January :) and i’m totally intrigued by those sugared chickpeas…

  17. #
    Juliana posted January 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Bianca, thank you so much for sharing all the pictures form home…I enjoyed them very much.
    Hope you are having a great day :-)

  18. #
    Lyndsey@TinySkillet.com posted January 12, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Loved that you shared your beautiful photos with us. It’s so nice to get to know you a little better. The food looks amazing. I would love to visit just for the food (since I don’t have any family there, that’s a good excuse to go) :)

  19. #
    Alaina posted January 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I love these pictures!! Your family’s house is gorgeous. There really is nothing like coming home. Food always tastes the best coming from the family kitchen table. :-)

  20. #
    Baking Serendipity posted January 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I love your January attitude :) Your December in pictures looks gorgeous and such fun! Wishing you more great things this month as well.

  21. #
    Samantha Angela posted January 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Your house in Manila is beautiful! I love the bright yellow colour. It looks so inviting!

    It sounds like you had an awesome trip to the Philippines. I think being able to spend the holidays with family and friends really make it the best time of the year. I love that my whole family comes together at Christmas time.

    My friend just went to the Philippines in November and brought me back a Cakes and Pies cookbook which I’m really excited to try.

  22. #
    Joanne posted January 14, 2012 at 9:07 am

    This was such a fun recap of your past month! I can feel the love and happiness emanating off your screen…which makes me positively giddy!

    Thanks SO much for the gift, by the way! i keep meaning to email you, but it absolutely made my day!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 14, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Aww you’re welcome sweetie! Hope you get to make some hot chocolate soon! xo

  23. #
    Susan posted January 17, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts! Thanks for bringing us to your home :)


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