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Finding Solace in Your Kitchen Through Food

Finding Solace in Your Kitchen Through Food

Food & Entertaining | August 31, 2021
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Amid the pandemic and quarantine, we turn to food for solace. Pair safe days at home with these comforting recipes by Nina Daza-Puyat.

Every morning upon waking up, I give thanks to God for the gift of another day. With the pandemic raging outside and no end in sight, it’s made even worse by bad news coming from TV, social media, and alarming texts from numerous group chats. There is so much information to process and sift through—leaving many of us overwhelmed by worry and anxiety.

Staying Safe and Staying Sane

“Stay safe!” is a common phrase these days, but sometimes what I want to say is: “Stay sane!” But how can we keep our sanity when many things around us are falling apart?

One of the ways I’ve learned to cope is by constantly reminding myself that I have choices in everyday decisions—no matter how small or trivial. What will I wear today that will make me feel good? What type of exercise will I engage in today to make my body feel strong and healthy? What will I cook for dinner tonight that will make my family happy? Compared to feeling helpless and powerless, knowing that I have some control over my decisions makes me feel more optimistic.

This approach also applies to cooking and baking. I allow myself the pleasure of choosing a dish to cook or bake for the day that will spark joy. It could be an old family favorite that I suddenly remembered. Or something I saw on TV, a Netflix show, or a Youtube video that stirred up a craving.

Provided all the ingredients are on hand, I will surely find a way to make it happen. And if an ingredient or two is missing, I will order it from an online grocery app!

The Therapeutic Effects of Food and Cooking

Choosing to engage in every step of the cooking or baking process can also be quite therapeutic. I take the time to appreciate, smell, taste, and touch each ingredient and allow myself to savor the experience while listening to the cacophony of sounds in my kitchen. Even the rituals of pouring and measuring, peeling and slicing, mixing and sautéing—they somehow give me a reassuring feeling that everything will come together in the end.

Yes, knowing that something delicious and edible will result from that little act of love is an affirmation that all will be well.

Here is an excerpt from the cookbook Mad Hungry Family by Lucinda Scala Quinn. They are simple but profound words of advice that truly resonated with me and I hope they will do the same for you:

Cooking is a life-affirming gesture—both of self-reliance [when we prepare meals for ourselves] and generosity [when we feed others].

Practice the daily ritual of cooking and it can act as ballast in rough waters. And I don’t mean making fancy meals or hosting little dinner parties. I mean something as simple as establishing a daily rhythm via food: brew a pot of tea or coffee, squeeze some fresh juice, simmer some oatmeal, or even just butter some toast.

Let these rituals ease you into the day. The key is in seeing that the making of food is as much of a pleasure as the eating of it. When homecooked meals and moments are peppered throughout a busy life, peace and relaxation are possible. See cooking as an active meditation. To do so is to build a foundation for your life—a predictable place of solace. The kitchen can become your bunker—that safe and secure location.”

Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Comfort Food Recipes

Here are two of my special sandwich recipes that will surely satisfy those midnight cravings. Both are equally indulgent—one sweet and the other savory. Take your pick!

Crunchy Stuffed PBJ

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices white bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Favorite fruit jam
  • 1 batch pancake mix batter
  • 1 cup cornflakes, crushed
  • 1 cup cooking oil, for frying

Procedure:

  1. Spread 1 slice of bread generously with peanut butter, then a layer of fruit jam.
  2. Top with another slice of bread to form a sandwich. Using a bread knife or any serrated knife, slice off the brown crusts on all sides.
  3. Pour pancake batter into a shallow bowl—big enough to fit the sandwich.
  4. Spread crushed cornflakes in another shallow bowl.
  5. Dip sandwich into the pancake batter, then invert to coat the other side. Lift up with two forks (letting excess batter drip), then transfer to the other bowl to dredge both sides with crushed cornflakes.
  6. Heat at least 1” of cooking oil in a frying pan or sauté pan. When oil is hot, gently lower the coated sandwich into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides.
  7. When done, transfer to a colander lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil. To serve, slice diagonally into two. Serve immediately.

Monte Crispy Ham and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices whole wheat bread
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard or yellow mustard
  • 2 slices ham (any kind)
  • 2 slices cheese (Havarti, Monterey Jack, Provolone, cheddar)
  • 1 batch pancake mix batter
  • ½ cup Japanese bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cooking oil, for frying

Procedure:

  1. First, prepare pancake batter according to package instructions. Set aside.
  2. Make the sandwich. Spread 1 slice of bread with mayonnaise. Top with ham and then spread with some mustard, followed by a slice of cheese.
  3. Top cheese with the second slice of bread. Spread mayonnaise on that second slice, then top with ham, more mustard, and another slice of cheese.
  4. Spread mayonnaise on the third slice of bread and top the sandwich with that last slice—mayo side-down.
  5. Using a bread knife or any serrated knife, slice off the edges of the sandwich on all four sides.
  6. Prepare two shallow bowls. Pour about ¼ cup pancake batter into the first one, and spread bread crumbs on the second bowl.
  7. Gently set the sandwich on the pancake batter. Pour some of the remaining batter over the sandwich, coating all sides.  
  8. Next, transfer the coated sandwich onto the plate with breadcrumbs, coating all sides.
  9. To cook, heat at least 1” of cooking oil in a frying pan. When oil is hot, gently lower the sandwich into the oil.
  10. Fry the Monte Crispy Ham and Cheese on both sides first. To cook the sides, baste with oil using a long spoon; or fry each side, one at a time.
  11. When done, transfer to a colander lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil. To serve, slice diagonally into two. Serve immediately.

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A proud home cook and cookbook author, Nina is in love with the cooking process. She believes there's something magical about bringing random ingredients together to create a cohesive dish that's delicious, nourishing, and satisfying. She likens cooking in the kitchen to a dance, with its many movements, rhythmic sounds, and stimulating smells, all working together in perfect harmony and synchronicity.
More from Nina Daza-Puyat

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