Category Archives: home made

partnering with local crafters

appreciating all things handmade…


As an artisan producer myself, I have deep appreciation for all things handmade. I have mentioned before that I am not very artistic myself, so knowing ladies who are artists in their own right is a privilege.


The lady behind Banonay (@banonaystore) is Turo’s childhood friend. She makes beautifully handcrafted jewelry and accessories with gemstones, beads and charms. I’ve ordered a couple of necklaces from her before. This time, I asked her to make customized brand tags for The Garden Kitchen, which I can give away to loyal clients. The end product… these hand stamped charms! They’re really nice up close and truly one-of-a-kind. They add so much oomph to my own products.


I also recently learned that my friend’s sister, Lovely Grace (@jaded_jade_things) has been doing calligraphy and watercolor painting. Calligraphy is so “in” these days that I wanted to get in on the bandwagon myself. Besides I also find them really pretty. So I asked her to make product labels for The Garden Kitchen. And voila!


She wrote the product names using brush lettering, and painted the product ingredients in watercolor. It’s so inspiring to see the different herbs and vegetables that I use in my own products as works of art. These are produce that we grow and harvest and cook with, and being portrayed in such a creative way, even in something as simple as a product label, just makes my heart skip a beat.


supporting a local farmers’ market

we are a farming family and a farmers’ market is our happy place

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a pizza feast for my favorite baker

i am both proud and mortified by the fact that my grandmother is the greatest cake baker of all time..

It was my grandmother’s seventy-nth birthday and we threw a pizza party in her honor. Too bad she didn’t have a birthday cake to blow that day. I dare not get her some store-bought cake that she would only pretend to like, and all the more could I not bake her a cake that pales in contrast to her own masterpieces. I still don’t have the guts to pull that off, although I know she would appreciate it if I do. Maybe next year.

Continue reading a pizza feast for my favorite baker

a new tea concoction

i owe this one to my friend day and her beautiful wedding where i snatched sampaguitas and rose bouquets that were part of her church decor. after the ceremony, of course.

I had skipped sipping tea for quite a time now because the latest pack of loose-leaf Oolong I bought from a wellness sanctuary somewhere in Batangas tasted terrible. Have I mentioned that Oolong is my favorite kind of tea? But this Oolong (I reckon it’s pretending to be Oolong) was just disastrous to my tea habit, even when i had drowned them in dried mint leaves.

Thank God for that wedding in May, now, all the sampaguita and rose buds I had stolen were completely dried. I crushed the dried flowers a bit with my hands and added them to the dusty bottle containing the (fake) Oolong and mint. I tasked Ari and his little boy muscles to shake up the bottle until the flowers were evenly distributed throughout. And then I steeped a pot of tea from my new concoction.

It tasted just as I had imagined it would. My very own rose-jasmine-mint-oolong tea mix. Tea time, I am sooo back.

pizza weekends

my arm muscles are firming up from making too much, too thin wholewheat pizza crusts. at least everybody loves my pizza, big arms and all.

Ever since I took a bread, pizza and pasta class several months ago, wholewheat flour and instant yeast became a kitchen staple at home. I used to make soft crust pizza of medium thickness all the time until making my favorite crust became all too easy. So I looked for thin crust recipes online, one that makes a pliable crust yet crispy at the bottom. Only, thin crust pizzas are so much harder to make. This kind of dough is much tougher, and needs much effort to roll out to desirable thinness.

Arugula is one of our favorite toppings. While these greens normally sell for at least P400/kg, we need only to pull them out from our garden. They grow easily and taste wonderful, whether raw or cooked. They’re great toppings for pesto pizzas, by itself or with tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheese. If our pizza budget allows, we use soft buffalo mozzarella otherwise, we use white cheese or kesong puti. For the kids, a ham and arugula pizza is just perfect.

A recent pizza topping discovery is pickled jalapeno peppers. Unfortunately, we only use the bottled ones at the moment. Jalapeno peppers have a bit of heat, so they’re rated SPG (for adults only).  I dice up the peppers, throw over a tomato puree coated dough with lots of chopped onions and olives, and a little cheese.

Chilled bottles of beer or ice-cold Coke makes our pizza weekends always worth looking forward to.

strawberries and forever

Today we celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. I took the day off and spent half of it cooking, ain’t that celebration enough?

These are organic strawberries.

They were grown in Benguet State University and cost a little more than off-season prices of regular (chemical-laden) Baguio strawberries.

Most of them we ate fresh eons ago. The rest were preserved in sugar syrup and took residence in our refrigerator for months. Today we were reunited and I made strawberry jam out of them.

I added powdered sugar and cooked the strawberry mixture in hot as hell charcoal fire. In a few minutes my fingers were almost sugar-burnt. Surprisingly, there was no burnt sugar taste. My homemade strawberry jam had a very light strawberry flavor. Which makes me wonder what kind of strawberries (or strawberry flavoring) went in to those commercially produced jams.

Of course they were great with bread and now I have something to pair tea with. What was left of the strawberry syrup I made into strawberry iced tea for the kids. Then I was their darling mother once again.

how the dough’s not as tough as before

 My grandmother is a baker by profession. She’s tried to teach me to bake cakes since I was in grade school. But I cursed baking ever since my first (flop) pineapple upside down cake, and the rest of the flop cakes and flop cookies that followed.

For reasons I could not explain, Turo and I find ourselves with much more free time now than when we’d lived in the city. We’ve started to enjoy lazy weekends even when we have more housework now than when we lived in my parent’s house. Before we had a laundrywoman and an ironing lady, now I am both. It used to be my parents who took over house repairs and garden work, but in our tiny apartment, this was Turo’s domain. In addition to the usual cooking and cleaning and looking after the kids, now we also take turns fetching Ari to and from school.

Running a household on our own certainly means a lot of work. But it’s the kind of work we lovingly attend to however physically exhausting it gets. Still, at the end of the day we get to sit down with a cup of coffee or a couple bottles of beer before getting some real rest. And in the morning we are woken by our hungry little monsters clamoring for breakfast that we all enjoy without the rush.

I also found myself accessing the internet less, reading more, bonding with my kids more, even cooking more. Proof of this is my recent reunion with la germania. After years of enjoying my lola’s perfect pastries without ever having to learn to make them myself, I realized I still wanted to learn how to bake—bread in particular. I love bread, I love herbs in my bread, but gourmet bread is not as easy to find here. No Rustan’s, no delicatessen anywhere close. If you can’t buy them, why not bake them yourself.

After some serious consideration and more second thoughts, I signed up for Italian Bread, Pizza and Pasta lessons in Sylvia Reynoso-Gala’s Culinary Studio. Up until the first day of my cooking classes I felt reluctant to go. What if I start baking perfect flops again?

But my hands found themselves kneading dough for the first time that day. I felt liberated and satisfied.

Continue reading how the dough’s not as tough as before

blueberry breakfast

I finally woke up early. I didn’t get to jog. But I finally got to make those blueberry pancakes I’ve long planned to make.

Yes, some wild variety of blueberries grow in this country. I bought a few grams of fresh blueberries when we were in Baguio last Feb. I love blueberries because they’re among the superfoods. Together with avocados, apples and pomegranates, they’ve got tons of antioxidants and lots of anti-aging properties, including fighting memory loss. These little berries have also earned the distinction as the fruit with the greatest anti-cancer properties, compared to other fruits.

Continue reading blueberry breakfast