Category: Journal Art

Food and Mourning

My first food entry for this year. If 2020 was difficult, the entrance of 2021 for our family is even more challenging. We opened the year faced with challenges we’ve never had to face before. When your heart is grieving, you tend to try and seek out places that made you feel safe and happy. A lot of those involve happy food memories. It can’t make things better, but it can help you get into that headspace where you can gather your thoughts in peace and quiet while enjoying an uncomplicated bowl of pasta.

Mmmmm. Warm Rolls.

Yet another late post. This year I saw that there’s a stand mixer on sale at S&R so I bought one. Of course one of the first things I tried making is dinner rolls.

I followed a simple recipe for it, not using sourdough first because I wanted to eat it right away lol. I will make the next batches with sourdough, for sure. These turned out pretty well, although it could be a bit more fluffy inside. Maybe I didn’t proof the dough enough.

The smell that fills the house while baking bread is just amazing. Even the memory of it has a way of making me feel peaceful and happy inside. Like the smell of marinara sauce simmering, the smell of bread is just bound with happy thoughts of home.

I’m happy to be able to make dinner rolls now. I can’t believe that I only started learning to bake bread last year, because that’s on my birthday wishlist of things to learn. I’ve always been a little intimidated with the thought of learning to bake bread, but I realized that I had a lot of time on my hand, might as well knock a few things off my wishlist.

Next item in my to-learn list is sandwich bread. 🙂

My First Plate of Gnocchi

Late post. This is a journal entry I made late last year about making (and eating) my first plate of gnocchi.

I’ve never actually tried gnocchi before, but I’ve always been curious about it because it seemed so easy to do. So I thought I’d make some, since I had some potatoes and 00 flour at home, and since our sage had a growth spurt and was just branching out all over the place. I figured it was the best time to try something new.

It really was quite easy to make, I enjoyed it a lot. I wish I had a better surface to make the ridges on the gnocchi more pronounced but I just rolled the little nuggets of dough against a fork to make shallow ridges.

I browned the gnocchi in butter, took them out to cook the butter and sage some more, and then tossed the gnocchi back into the sauce to finish it. The sage crisped in browned butter sauce is incredibly delicious. I would recommend frying more of it and putting it on the side.

My husband enjoyed this a lot. I’ll be cooking it again soon. I think I want to try making this with white, creamy sauce next time. Or even my homemade marinara.

Outdoor Dining

Late post, this was from late last year. My husband and I went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. We picked an odd day and off-peak time, so there were hardly any people. On normal days (as in pre-COVID19), not a lot of people would be at the mall during weekdays after lunch time. These days, there are even fewer people. The place didn’t have air conditioning on, and we were seated beside the window. There were barely any other diners there aside from us, and everybody was staying away from other people. Even when walking through the mall, people were mindful of social distancing, and hardly had to be told to avoid others. Everyone wore face masks and face shields. Thankfully, nobody makes a fuss about that here. The feeling of eating a well-cooked piece of fish in a restaurant again was awesome. Not having to hurry because there weren’t crowds to be stressed about is even better.

Happy Kitchen

Today’s food journal entry. I have completed a few pages on this food journal. I wish I thought of this earlier, it’s pretty awesome to have a compilation of entries that are just about one topic. I’m looking forward to finishing this journal and making a flip-through. In this entry, I wrote down my pasta sauce and meatballs recipe. I don’t measure my ingredients, I just cook the amount that I need and take my cue from how it smells and tastes throughout the cooking process. I made it this weekend and I added a lot of herbs from our garden. Far from making it taste too herb-y or vegetal it had layers of complex and complementing flavors. We used dried penne for it, though, because I wanted to bake it with cheese sauce. I must say that I really missed freshly made pasta and wished that I made some instead.

I count myself blessed to have a quiet and loving home during this pandemic. We’ve been hibernating, rarely going out. We’re enjoying the peace and quiet of our home. I understand how others can have a drastically different experience during this time. The least we can do is to reach out and check on our family and friends. It’s been a long year.


My food journal entry from a few days ago. I recently learned to bake a basic banana bread. My husband loved it a lot so I baked it a few times these past few weeks. I realized that it uses so much sugar though, so I told my husband I wouldn’t be baking too often anymore. Maybe just once in a while, as a treat. We usually go through a bag of sugar in several months. The last 2-kilo bag that we bought was from waaaay back in March. We don’t use sugar a lot at home. It shocked me how quickly we used up the sugar when I started baking, and I realized that sugar is one of those things that you can consume so much of when it comes in the form of yummy baked goods. Out of sight, out of mind. When you bake stuff yourself, though, it becomes harder to ignore.

Open Crumb, Hooray!

This journal entry was written last week. It’s about the first time that I was able to achieve a sufficiently open crumb in my country style sourdough bread.

I was so excited when I sliced into it and found this. While I was reading Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked”, I was so fascinated about the chapter on fermentation. These little pockets of air contain a smell that the mouth translates for the brain into flavor. Retronasal olfaction is our ability to smell food that’s already in the mouth.

For this bake, I changed a few things. I increased the hydration of the dough to 76.6%, lengthened the autolyse to a little over 3 hours, and did my stretch and folds according to how the dough looks like instead of following a rigid s&f schedule. I also sprayed water into the dutch oven before popping it in.

It tasted marvelous. I can see what Michael Pollan meant when he wrote about how an open crumb is more flavorful. I really enjoyed this bake.

I bought a small oval banneton so that I can try a batard shape next time. I’m super busy this week so I’m going to schedule my next bake next week, during my Thanksgiving break. Can’t wait!

The Occasional Sweet Treat

Today’s journal entry is a recipe for shortbread cookies. The Husband doesn’t eat store-bought shortbread cookies but he seems to like mine just fine. I made this batch using better butter and organic, unbleached all-purpose flour. It tasted much better than my first batch.

I only learned to cook when I got married, but I have to admit that I only really enjoyed cooking fairly recently. Probably because we really needed to stay home and cook our own meals because of the pandemic.

I am not really interested in learning how to bake because I’m not too much of a pastry person. I like the occasional treat while drinking coffee but it’s not too important to me. Since my husband was diagnosed with diabetes, we removed sugary drinks, processed foods, and desserts from our home, except to satisfy cravings once in a while.

The short bread cookies aren’t healthy treats, by any means, but it’s okay to indulge once in a while, especially if you make the treats yourself.

I am looking forward to this weekend. The past few weeks have been so busy at work that I hardly had time to read during the weekdays. This is alright, I’m glad there is a lot of work to do, especially these days.

I have big plans this week! I plan to catch up on my reading, snuggle in bed with the cat, maybe bake bread because we just ran out, and sleep, sleep, sleep.

Hoping for a peaceful end to the US election, and an orderly transition of leadership. Happy weekend, everyone!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

A food journal entry from a couple of days ago. I just started reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan, and I find his approach to food very thoughtful and accessible.

I wish he would make a companion video to this, like his book Cooked, which has a companion documentary on Netflix. The reason I really love Pollan’s books is that they all inspire me to make more conscious decisions about what to cook and eat. I also learned how to bake our own bread because of it, that was pretty awesome. Any book that compels you to take action is worth the time you take reading it.

One can’t deny that unsustainable ways of producing food has led to a lot of environmental as well as health problems. We’re all connected. The more conscious we are about what we buy and eat (and where we buy our food), the better it is for the planet and for us. It’s like we’re all connected with silky threads that are easy to ignore because it may sound inconvenient to care, but at the same time, the impact of industrial farming and eating so much processed food is becoming hard to ignore. Little decisions like where to source your coffee, or the rice you buy every month, or the vegetables and meat you order every week–they make an impact. Especially on your health.

The pandemic has made apps like Session Groceries quite useful for people who are staying home and getting their groceries delivered. I’m sure there are a lot of other similar apps but this one has been the most reliable for me. It makes “farm to table” a reality in the absence of a farmer’s market. These days, more people are discovering the joy of brewing your own coffee at home, and a large part of what makes a good cup has to do with getting great beans. There are a lot of small businesses that have direct connections with coffee farmers and are more than happy to help you get to know your beans better.

I’m almost done with the first part of the book, which is about the Industrial source of food. Can’t wait to get to the next part, which is Pastoral.

Pasta Day

This is a food journal entry I wrote some weeks back. I had tweaked my ever-reliable meat sauce and meatballs recipe to incorporate garlic confit and it was pretty awesome. The Husband bought me a pasta machine, seeing that I have this newfound interest in making things by hand recently. Today I made a nice pasta lunch, which took some time to put together but was really well worth the effort.


I realized through Michael Pollan’s books that the only way to eat healthy is to cook what you eat as much as possible (because I still like to eat out and support local food businesses). Majority of what we eat at home should be cooked at home, though, because it’s the best way to know what’s going in your food. This decision is a journey, and I realized by the dearth of usable ingredients at home that I had initially, that this decision can completely transform a home’s kitchen if taken seriously. Today’s pasta lunch took a lot of effort, but I make it because it’s my husband’s favorite. This time, though, I included more handmade components. The night before, I had already prepared the meatballs and sauce, and before I even had anything simmering in a pot, I had baked our bread so that it will have cooled down sufficiently the next day. Before I went to bed, the meatballs were ready, the sauce was simmering on very low fire to gently coax out all the flavors of the herbs and tomatoes in it while I slept. The bread is cooling on a rack, and the pasta dough is in the fridge. I had laid out the pasta machine and the drying rack so that it will be ready for use the next day when I wake up.

I was so glad to see that the bread has a more open crumb today, despite the fact that I accidentally degassed it the night before because part of the banneton wasn’t sufficiently floured and the dough had stuck to it during cold fermentation. I snipped some chives from the garden and mixed it with butter to toast the bread with. Topped that with some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano while hot. The Husband cooked the pasta I rolled out and finished it with the sauce.

It was a delightful lunch, and I must say that the bread was really good. I’m not too good at baking country-style bread yet and my little creations still have so much room for improvement, but even at this point you can taste right away the difference between mass-produced bread and one you bake from home. The depth of flavor and the textures are simply not the same.

I didn’t learn how to cook until I got married, the day after my father died. Previous to that, I was completely dependent on his cooking and takeout food. When he died, I learned to cook more out of expediency than a real interest in it, but that was the time when I understood my father’s love language. He was a man of very few words, but he showed his love for us by lovingly preparing every meal. At that point, my relationship with food and cooking was never the same. Michael Pollan’s books just reminded me how wonderful the connection of food to not just our culture but our personal story can be. For me, it’s not just a nice pasta meal, it’s an expression of love, and a great way to remind myself that if I really want to learn something, I can learn it. Love is a great motivator, after all.