My Health Journey – Recipes Part I

This post is part of my Health Journey series. You may read the first two entries here and here.

When I was younger, I used to watch a lot of cooking shows. I enjoy watching the whole process from selection of ingredients and the preparation to the cooking, plating, and of course, the tasting. I used to joke around that I’d love to be a judge in a cooking show someday, but that will remain a dream.

Even up to now, I still enjoy watching cooking shows! I also love watching those short videos showing quick recipes and the finished meals.

But during high school and college, despite my interest in cooking shows, the only food I could prepare was hotdogs, eggs, rice, and pancit canton. However, when I graduated last 2013 and moved to the city and lived by myself, I had to learn how to cook my own meals. This was the only opportunity besides at home, because we weren’t allowed to cook in my old dorm. My Mom and Dad taught me the basics, then for the rest of the years I stayed in the city – far from the delicious home-cooked meals filled with love by my Mom – I had to figure out myself, with the help of watching cooking shows during weeknights or weekends!

I started stir-frying sausages, making omelettes, preparing salads too – a few fast and easy recipes.

Until I started getting more adventurous.

One time, I cooked chicken with my own experimental marinade. When I took it out of the pan, it looked so good, but when I cut through the meat, there were a few red marks in the middle. It wasn’t cooked through.

Back to the pan.

Non-Existent Skills Now Simmering

Throughout 2013 and early 2014, that kind of scenario happened, but as time progressed and I gained experience from my mistakes and from reading articles and looking up recipes, I was able to grow more in this interest of mine. Meals I never dreamt of preparing – I was able to prepare for my family and a few close friends. Some, I’ve looked up for references, while some, I experimented on by myself with the ingredients and condiments I had in the kitchen. I’ve tried preparing my own versions of chicken satay, tofu and stir-fried vegetables, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, tofu and fish tausi, chili garlic shrimps, stir-fried noodles with vegetables, peanut butter chocolate ice cream, banana pancakes…

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Cooking is tremendous fun for me, an adventure in itself which starts in the market or grocery, happens in the kitchen, parties in the taste buds, and ends as one of the body’s sources of nutrition. I’ve only done a few meals, but there’s still just so many possibilities like pairing this and that, Balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard, ketchup and soy sauce, and goat cheese and grapes with shortbread and jam (thank you to my cousin, Ouel, for introducing this combination to us!).

So for anyone who hasn’t had any experience in cooking, it’s never too late to learn. There will be lots of half-cooked chicken scenarios or complete disasters, but we will gain experience from those. We can start with what we have and what we want to prepare for our families and friends.

Beginner at Baking

I wanted to learn how to bake too before, but since we didn’t have any oven, I didn’t get to try. The first time was when we stayed at our Tita Mila’s house during our vacation last December 2014, and I made us some cupcakes! It was a good thing I followed the instructions – the reason that the cupcakes went out all right. Baking is an altogether different cooking method from what I was familiar with – you’ve got to have the exact measurements given in the recipe.

Thankfully, we got to buy our own oven here in our home last 2015! My first few baking experiments didn’t go well. Try brick-like cookies and very bitter sweets – all because I rushed, and I didn’t follow the instructions (see EXACT measurements). Patience is one of the virtues that one will learn with baking for the first few tries.

I baked an avocado cake for my Mom one time. One of my experiments again, if I may. I scraped way too much of the meat that clung to the avocado’s inner skin and put it in the batter, so the end result was a bitter avocado cake. It tasted so bad, even the cream cheese icing did not alleviate any of the bitterness. But I was touched when my Mom tried to eat some of it. Haha!

To cut this long story short, cooking as a beginner will bring us to many kinds of situations like that bitter avocado cake. But if we have the passion to learn, the eagerness to discover more amazing dishes, and prepare meals with love and care for our family gatherings or simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, we can grow slowly as a better home cook than before.

TR90 Meals

In regards to health, it’s definitely a cleaner and more wholesome option to cook our own meals. Since I’m in the TR90 weight management program too, it’s recommended we prepare our own food. For the past 21 days I’ve been in the 90-day program, I was able to try healthier recipes – some I just experimented on, while some that my Mom taught me to make like this tuna sandwich!

Tuna Sandwich with Boiled Egg, Feta Cheese, and Romaine Lettuce

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Before, my Mom and I would mix the tuna to the mayonnaise and put them in a container, but since I’m in the program and I want to lessen the calories I take too, we keep them separate. We also opted to have an organic variety of mayonnaise, but regular mayo is fine – just put a little amount, enough to cover the surface of the bread!

For the sandwich, you can choose to add the boiled egg if you want like what I did after taking the above photo. Because my portion for carbohydrates is 1 slice of whole wheat bread only, I cut it in half to make the sandwich.

For the lettuce and Feta cheese salad, I decided to include ponkan with the grapes as an experiment.

This sandwich is a quick recipe especially for those who do not have much time to prepare complex meals everyday. Boil the tuna and shred it to smaller pieces, then keep it in a container. Take a piece of bread, put the spread, add lettuce and/or tomatoes, and top with tuna.

Chicken Sandwich with Feta Cheese

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Instead of tuna, you can also try boiled chicken and add spinach to the vegetable mix! I tried adding the feta cheese to the sandwich, and it added extra saltiness to the whole sandwich.

Chicken Sandwich with Dijon mustard

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For the first two sandwiches, we tried chipotle mayonnaise. For this third one, you can try Dijon mustard with the chicken strips. Instead of boiled egg too, you can try adding fried egg with basil leaves.

Feel free to make your own experiments too. The sandwich is a good platform for curiosity and creativity. In the words of Remy from Ratatouille:

“I know I’m supposed to hate humans, but there’s something about them. They don’t just survive, they discover, they create. I mean, just look at what they do with food!”

A Balanced Diet

You will notice that all these meals have a source of carbohydrates, non-meat and lean meat protein sources, and fruits and vegetables. The TR90 calls for a balanced diet, and that’s what I’m trying to achieve every meal. Before taking this weight management program, I had more rice than what was appropriate, and little or no servings of fruits and vegetables.

Try to have a balanced meal too as much as possible to get the right nutrients in your body and not just an excess of carbs or protein. or vegetables. Too much of something is always a bad thing.

I’ll share more of the meals we’ve prepared and cooked again soon! Happy cooking!

How about you – what are some of your favorite sandwiches?

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