Kapampangan Recipes Good for the Soul (and Thyroid): Treasured Recipes from My Kitchen

Kapampangan Recipes Good for the Soul (and Thyroid): Treasured Recipes from My Kitchen

WARNING: NAKAKAGUTOM BASAHIN
We had the gracious opportunity for a virtual interview with Dr. Maria Luisa Cecilia Rivera-Arkoncel, a boardcertified endocrinologist from The Medical City-Angeles in Pampanga. Here she shows us eating healthy need not be boring, but actually delightful and rewarding!
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Tofu-Potato Sisig This tofu recipe is actually one of our favorites. It’s eating sisig without guilt. And it is nutritious! Potatoes need to be cooked with skin on them, either baked or fried, to get iodine and many other nutrients. The egg gives a good amount to meet our daily iodine requirement (one large egg contains 24 µg of iodine, around 16% of the recommended intake per day). The tofu and the eggs are also very good sources of protein. I found these recipes from the internet, and added my personal tweak here and there. You may also use oyster mushroom as replacement for tofu and potato!

1 piece tofu (1/2 inch cubes)
4 tablespoons oyster sauce (add to taste)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon liquid seasoning (add to taste)
1 small green bell pepper, minced
2 calamansi pcs, juiced
2 white onions, minced (the more the better!)
2 pcs medium-sized potatoes, 1/2 inch cubes, unpeeled
2 pcs siling haba (for sinigang), minced (remove seeds to lessen heat)
Iodized salt and pepper to taste

Fry tofu and potatoes until golden brown.
Drain from oil and set aside.
In a separate pan, sauté onion, green bell pepper and siling haba.
Add oyster sauce.
Cook for 2 minutes. Add fried tofu and fried potatoes.
Season with liquid seasoning and calamansi juice.
Mix well.
Top with mayonnaise and fried egg.
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Choco Banana Smoothie
This smoothie is a great source of iodine, from the milk, the Greek yogurt, and even the bananas! One cup of milk contains an impressive 56 µg of iodine, about 37% of what the average person must consume each day4. On the other hand, yogurt, aside from being a good source of calcium and protein, is also a great source of iodine. A cup of plain, fat-free yogurt his 75 µg of iodine, which translates to 50 percent of what you should have for the day.

2 bananas
1 cup fresh milk (Nestle low fat)
2 tablespoons yogurt (Nestle Greek yogurt)
½ of Cadbury chocolate powder sachet
6 ice cubes

Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a serving glass and it’s ready to serve!
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How did you come to learn how to cook?
I grew up in Pampanga. I guess that pretty sums it up! Our home was always filled with the smell of good food, especially during the time when my grandmother was still alive. Parang araw-araw fiesta! Our usual Sunday breakfast after attending early morning mass was her homemade chocolate de batirol (which for me is the best and nothing has come close to it!) together with warm pan de sal and rebuelto (not the Spanish revuelto1 egg dish, but ours was my Lola’s ground pork recipe in perfect combination with warm pan de sal!).

My Dad taught me how to cook adobo. I’m sure everyone has a “secret touch” to the adobo, but the Kapampangan version is the adobong puti. It is superb in its simplicity. It has no trace of soy sauce. We cook either pork or chicken, combined with vinegar and garlic (lots of it!), pepper, bay leaf and salt (a little patis I think is the secret!) until the meat nearly falls off the bone. It was perfectly served on boiled steaming rice.

So there, I grew up in a family who loves food and loves to cook food.

And we imagine that is what you also do now with your own family. How do you make them eat healthy?
My husband Chot and I have four kids: Luis (12 years old), Mica (9), Sam (5) and Daniel (15 months)2. Three months ago, Chot and I decided to become vegetarians (lacto-ovo vegetarians3). And we still are up to now. Why? Actually, it was really more for health reasons. Both of us have very strong family history of diabetes, coronary artery disease and cancer. Surprisingly, becoming vegetarians wasn’t difficult.

This is probably because of the “togetherness thing” factor, and also, we know that our decision was primarily motivated by our willingness to be healthy (and eat healthy!) for our children. I started downloading recipes and it was a challenge to come up with a nice meal considering I grew up in Pampanga, the land of tocino, longganisa, sisig and kare-kare and so much more!

I learned how to make tofu sisig, mushroom sisig, fried oyster mushrooms (my kids thought they were eating fried chicken fillet!), barbecued cauliflower (which I tasted in Myanmar) and kare- kareng gulay or pocherong gulay. It was fun in the kitchen doing all these experiments.

For our kids, they still eat meat. One major move we made was talking with them about our decision to remove certain foods from our usual diet: Spam®, sausage, hotdogs, corned beef, tocino and longganisa. For every meal, they should eat vegetables. For dessert, we usually have fresh fruits. Sometimes I make them their favorite pie, with the crust made from finely ground graham cracker crumbs mixed with finely chopped cashew nuts or walnuts (whichever is available). I make the filling from whatever fruit is in season: their favorites are mango, banana walnut and strawberry (if somebody brings me some from Baguio!). For pancakes, I put oatmeal in the batter and they don’t mind at all!

So how do I make my family eat effort to make the dishes—healthy dishes for that matter—as inviting and interesting as possible. As Dr. Andrew Weil puts it, “There is another reward of cooking that fascinates and motivates me: it is excellent training in practical magic.”

The moms are excited to know: How do you find time to cook?
I guess the answer to this is really simple. We make time for the people we care about. I am also tremendously blessed to have people who help me and make things so much easier for me: my mom, my dad and our help at home, who is already considered part of the family, for having been with us for 7 years already.

Are there any treasured recipes you would like to share?
Hahaha! I do not claim to be an expert, but I am humbled and flattered to be asked. I understand this is in connection with the thyroid, so I guess I just have to pick up from what I cook that contains foods that are rich in iodine. Iodized salt! This is the easiest way to ensure your iodine intake, because all you need to do is sprinkle your food with it. Salt, however, might not be the best option for some people. Other great sources are seafood like shrimp, tuna and seaweed (my daughter loves dried seaweed!).

A few weeks ago, Chot and the kids made their first smoothie at home. While not really a “treasured” heirloom recipe, it was special because Chot actually did his research and revised the recipe he got from the internet based on what we had at home. It was like creating from what was just there at that very moment, making do of what was on hand, which still turned out to be something healthy.

What is your personal advice to people who want to try cooking and eating healthy?

If you want to try cooking, make it personal. Enjoy it! It is an art—creating from scratch, working on it, and imagining how the people you love will react to it.

Eating healthy is a choice. It is a decision that you have to make every single day. If you love yourself and you love the people who depend on you, the decision is quite easy.

1 – from www.spanish-fiestas.com: Revuelto is a scrambled egg type of dish which is served all over the country as a starter.
2 – Eating the healthy way with the Arkoncel family!
3 – from www.dietitians.ca: A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), seeds, nuts, dairy products and eggs. It excludes any meat, fish, poultry and any products that contain these foods.
4 – from www.fnri.dost.gov.ph: The recommended nutrient intake of iodine for adults age ≥19 years is 150 µg per day. Pregnant women need 250 µg per day.