Lenten meal planning can be so daunting to plan for in advance. There are many reasons why others fall off the wagon or just don’t want to participate. They don’t know how to cook, they don’t have the budget, or there’s not enough of healthy options around them. Here’s a few secrets: You don’t always have to have your grandmother alive to show you how to cook. My grandmother wasn’t always around to show me how to cook. When I didn’t have my mom, I resorted to Ina Garten on Food Network, cooking channels, cookbooks and my own curiousness. You can eat healthy on $30-$50 a week for a grocery budget. Sometimes, I’ve done less. I live two hours away from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and other than a few health food stores and the farmers markets which I fully support, my options are slim.
As you can see, there’s so many options around where we can learn how to cook. A big option comes from family. Heritage and cultural family recipes play a large influence in what and how we consume our meals. When you think of your culture and your significant other’s culture, you already have a variety of options to explore. With this in mind, I am reminded of the Filipino dish called pancit.
I remember my mom and dad used to rave about this simple noodle dish on their and some of our visits to my cousins when they used to live in Washington DC often in the Spring when the annual blossoms would peak. My cousin’s wife, Victoria, is Filipino and used to make pancit for all of them. It’s a very simple dish almost like a stir fry that doesn’t seem like much but it’s amazing how, no matter how simple or complex, homemade dishes can seem special when prepared with love.
It is Spring again and I was talking with my cousins on the phone not too long ago. Spring always reminds me of my visits to Washington DC, the blossoms, the Smithsonian museums, the monuments, the diverse neighborhoods of the DC area and of course pancit. My dad barely remembers this memory. Ever since his struggle with cancer three years ago, he took a stroke which affected his memory and at one point, his taste. He is in remission and everything has been improving slowly. I was talking on the phone a few days ago with my cousins where they were helping me to recall pancit because I was planning to make it for my mom and dad sometime.
“Go easy on the soy sauce! And add lime or lemon wedges!”
Pancit (pronounced pon-zeet) uses two different kinds of noodles: vermicelli and rice noodles. If you cannot always find rice noodles, ramen noodles work surprisingly well and they even sell organic ramen noodles now. Also, you’ll need organic tofu and your vegetables with bok choy or cabbage if bok choy is unavailable. With the farmers markets just coming into bloom like the floral blossoms above, fresh vegetables may not be readily attainable but frozen vegetables work just as fine and are economical. I also highly recommend using a wok or a deep pan to make it because you’ll be doing a lot of mixing when you’re waiting for your liquids to reduce in the pan.
Upon serving, my mom and dad were both pleasantly pleased by being able to recall a favorite recipe from days gone by. Cooking engages the five senses a little each time and every day so it has such power in memory recall for sharing a memorable meal together.
2lbs uncooked noodles – use vermicelli and rice noodles (ramen noodles work well too)
4 cups sliced mixed vegetables – cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and green onions. (If buying frozen, try to look a similar bagged mix. Green onions or scallions can often be found separately and are usually very economical in price.)
8 oz of organic tofu
1/2 cup of organic extra virgin coconut oil
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 vegetable boillon cube (If you use stock, you’ll just give yourself extra time to mix and more muscle mass. It’s up to you.)
4 cups of spring water
1. Salt the water. Boil the noodles and drain.
2. Brown the tofu in some coconut oil with onion, garlic and onion.
3. Add the water and boillon cube to the tofu and bring to a low simmer. Add the vegetables and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the noodles and cook, mixing until the noodles soak up the broth. Serve hot and immediately.