Category: Watercolors

The Sourdough Project

Yesterday’s food journal entry was about starting to learn  how to make sourdough bread. It has always  been a secret dream of mine to learn how to bake bread. Not cakes or brownies or pies…bread. I’ve just always been so intimidated by the thought of it that I always found a reason to put it off. Reading Michael Pollan’s books encouraged me to dream again. It would be a shame to not learn something new just because I felt intimidated by the process. At the very least, it would be an educational experience. So yeah, that’s my birthday gift to myself, since September is my birth month. I made a list of things I would need to get started and bought them all.

I bought a nice 5qt dutch oven through a seller I met at a cast iron enthusiasts group on Facebook and it was delivered last Monday. Really heavy piece of cookware but I can already see that it’s a great investment. Besides, I got it for a great price. The kitchen scale I ordered was delivered yesterday. Everything else will be delivered in the next few days. I didn’t want to go out to  buy supplies so I bought everything from local sellers online.

I guess learning how to bake bread is part of my commitment to my household that I will be more circumspect about what we eat. Bread from grocery stores are cheap and readily available but they’re also hardly bread anymore. All the good stuff from the flour had been removed mechanically or chemically and some nutrients individually added  back chemically. They’re over-processed and already has a lot of ingredients that traditionally aren’t used to make bread. That’s the major reason why I want to learn how to make bread. The other reason is because I hope that I can learn to make something with my hands that connects me to real food culture. Not something we outsourced to large corporations but something actually done by hands, lovingly and with great effort.

Before I decided to try my hand at making bread, I’ve already stopped buying commercialized loaves. This whole quarantine period, the bread we’ve been eating at home came from friends who make them. Homemade bread may  be more expensive but they’re more delicious and a lot healthier than the factory-made ones.

I hope the whole wheat I ordered gets delivered today, I see that it’s already out for delivery. I’m eager to try and get my starter going.

Plantita

My recent journal entries are about little choices that help us eat healthier at home. Because of the pandemic, my family and I haven’t eaten out since late February, which translates to more home cooked meals. It’s definitely more labor intensive and takes a lot of planning, plus buying more groceries or having them delivered. I’ve never cooked so much in my entire life. I think that’s great, though. We do still support our favorite restaurants, but it’s easier to avoid eating outside when you’re rarely outside. People have a lot of time to cook these days and learn new things. The effort we give with thinking about what to cook inevitably results to giving our food more careful thought.

I bought several plants a few weeks ago because I’ve always wanted to have my own herb garden. Not all of them are flourishing, though. The curly parsley’s so hard to raise, the leaves are so delicate. As usual, the basil plants are the easiest to raise. I’ve propagated new plants a couple of times already. I’ll have a lot of them soon enough. I have a new plant that came in the mail today, a pot of chives. Yum. I already trimmed the leaves to prevent transplant shock. My favorite is my dill plant, though. It’s so lush and it’s getting quite big. Also, wow that plant is delicious. I put it in omelette and pasta sauce, etc., it’s so yummy. Having more herbs to use in cooking just makes everything more flavorful. I’m enjoying it a lot.

The Magic of Fermentation

I finished reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked several days ago. This journal entry was written over a week ago. It’s about the section of the book devoted to fermentation and how this little magic of nature does wonders to our body. I particularly enjoyed the section about cheese. Of course I had to order kimchi right away (good thing one of my friends is selling it an had some in stock) and I thought I’d start with something basic…kimchi fried rice. Now my husband doesn’t want to eat spam any other way. The kimchi was delicious, and knowing that it introduced friendly bacteria in my stomach’s ecosystem is a lovely bonus.

Maiale al Latte

Today’s journal entry is about a dish I cooked yesterday called Maiale al Latte, pork  braised in milk. I read about this in Michael Pollan’s book, “Cooked”, in the chapter that talks about braising and what actually happens during this cooking process. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first because the traditional  bolognese style of this dish only has three ingredients, and pork isn’t exactly my favorite meat. I followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe because I wanted to see what the least amount of ingredients would taste like. I like how Michael Pollan broke down the different steps of  braising meat in his book and described how this affects the taste. Browning the meat in a bit of butter starts the Maillard reaction or caramelizing the proteins and fats. Gently braising the meat, with only the bottom part submerged in milk coaxes out the flavors from the pork and infuses it into the slowly forming curds while the top part continues to caramelize slowly. The fats are rendered further and incorporated into the meat and broth and the meat becomes very tender over the next few hours. So tender that they’re falling off the bone.

It was so easy to make, but it takes a long time to cook. In fact, time is the fourth ingredient that one can’t afford to scrimp on. The resulting dish was really amazing. I’d love to cook this again soon.

Sunday Routine

Yesterday’s journal entry was about our typical Sunday. After months of disruptions (some of them heartbreaking), we’ve begun to slip back to our normal daily routine. My husband and I would eat out, talk about our week, what we’re currently reading, what we’re currently watching, news, our cat…we would just spend hours talking. I would read, he would read or play his games on his phone, and we would talk in between. We take our time before we buy groceries and head back home. This is comforting. Even the luxury of not being in a hurry is comforting. Happy Sunday, indeed.

Self-Care

Today’s journal entry is about self-care. I suppose we all have our way of taking care of ourselves after a week of working. Personally, I believe that self-care needs to happen every day, not just on weekends or on vacations. It’s about creating a routine that isn’t toxic so that you won’t feel completely spent by the end of the week.

I work from home so it’s a lot easier for me to do that, since I can create a work environment that minimizes the stress for me. In my case, it means really, really quiet. Like a library. I don’t play music when I work, I don’t talk, I even have my phone on vibrate. That, for me, is the most conducive work environment. I also log in a few hours earlier so that I can finish my daily tasks even before my colleagues log in. So I work on the daily to-do list uninterrupted, without new emails or chat messages popping in. I look forward to the long stretches of relaxing quiet while I putter on my computer, tap-tap-tapping away through the night (yes, I work at night). This works for me. This means that I am not completely exhausted by work, and that I have a lot more of me to share with my husband (and the cat) every day.

My typical weekend is more of less the same–I spend lots of reading and writing, lots of satisfying conversations and a few hours watching TV with my husband, cat cuddles. It’s quite predictable, but I feel better prepared to face the coming week when I’ve had this kind of predictable, restful weekend.

Write Until You Meet Yourself

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I was very young when I started writing in journals. My mother, being an introvert herself, bought me my first diary, and I took to it quite naturally. I was extremely uncommunicative with people, very rarely raising my voice to talk or make conversation, but I was expressive in my writings. On paper, my thoughts were easy to pour out.

Much of writing is unpacking ourselves from the tightly-wound package of public perception and social pressures. The deliberate act of putting words on paper requires a certain measure of introspection and openness.

Perhaps more importantly, when I write, I am brave. I open doors that I never opened before. I confront my ignorance and willingly accept self-correction. I ask myself those very difficult questions, and I am able to write down and face the answers, painstakingly thought out and laid down, letter by letter. I write honestly, without trying to cover anything up, without trying to make me look better. Without judgment.

In writing, I meet a version of myself. One that’s inaccessible outside the pages of my journals. Through the years, it has  been my safe space, helping me understand and love the person I meet through introspection and quiet meditation.

“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” – Natalie Goldberg

Cáscara

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I recently started my very first health journal. Not a diet journal or a fitness journal but a health journal. It helps me keep track of my daily physical activities, food intake, how many cups of coffee I consume, my mood for the day, general thoughts about health, etc. It also helps me plan our menu for the week. I’ll delve more into that in another journal entry. Today’s entry in my health journal is about this “tea” that I recently discovered through Everyday Coffee PH (Not affiliated with them BTW, I’m just a happy customer. They’re my main source of freshly-roasted coffee beans).

It’s called Cáscara which is Spanish for husk. It’s made of coffee cherry skin and pulp that’s dried and lightly roasted. It’s actually not at all like tea leaves but it’s called coffee cherry tea. It’s also called sultana in some places.

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A few grams of these husks are steeped in hot water for about 5-7 minutes and can be enjoyed hot or cold. I’m not an avid tea drinker but I really enjoy this drink. By itself, it tastes sweeter than other teas that I’ve tried. You don’t actually need to add any sweetener to it, but you can add a bit of brown sugar or honey if you want it to be a bit sweeter. It tastes like sweet raisins and has a subtle hint of berry. If you use honey, it tastes a bit like wintermelon tea. It’s surprisingly good, actually.

It’s also found to be rich in flavanols. This secret superfood is said to have more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s great that Cáscara gives coffee farmers another stream of income from what used to be considered as a byproduct of harvesting coffee beans. It gives an additional income boost for the farmers.

If you want to read more about Cáscara, check out: The Truth About Cascara.