Sunday, August 3, 2014

Healthy Alternatives to Our Favorite Dishes: Pork-Quinoa Meatballs and Fish & Tofu Kare-Kare

I love to experiment in the kitchen. When I plan the week's menu before going to the grocery, I browse through recipes books and also find inspiration on food sites online. I rarely follow the exact recipe though because I always like to add a personal touch to the dishes I prepare. But of course, just like any experiment, there are hits and misses. Thankfully, most of the dishes I try are much appreciated by my husband and son. Either that or they're just forgiving. 

I thought of sharing some of these recipes here in my blog. I hope that you can also find inspiration in preparing something new for your family.


I wrote a blog post about the start of my love affair with quinoa where I shared its many health benefits. Among others - it is a complete protein, high in fiber and is a known anti-oxidant. You can find a lot of quinoa recipes online, but here's one that is more familiar to our Pinoy taste. My son loves this so much, he was trying to sneak a bite while I was still cooking. This dish is so versatile. It will make a healthy baon for your kids, a filling pica-pica for wine and cheese night with your hubby or a great substitute for your Spaghetti with Meatballs. Just use with your regular spaghetti sauce recipe to give your kids' favorite dish a healthy twist.


For the Meatballs:

3/4 kilo Lean Ground Pork
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 medium-sized carrots, finely chopped  
3 eggs
pinch of oregano powder/ dried oregano
pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

all-purpose flour
Japanese breadcrumbs
corn oil for frying

For the Sweet & Sour Sauce:

1 pack Knorr Sweet & Sour Sauce
1 cup warm water
1 red onion, sliced
1 small green bell pepper, Julienne (cut into thin strips)

Cooking Procedure:

1.  Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs and form into small bite-sized balls
2.  Roll the meatballs into flour and breadcrumbs. Fry
3. Meanwhile, dissolve 1 pack of Knorr Sweet & Sour Sauce (or any brand you prefer) in 1 cup of warm water 
4.  Saute the sliced red onions and green pepper and add the Sweet & Sour mixture
5. Serve on the side or pour over cooked meatballs

Pork - Quinoa Meatballs with Sweet & Sour Sauce 


The classic Pork Pata Kare-Kare is my ultimate favorite dish. Even as a young kid, I always requested my mom to cook this dish for me. I remember when I was 8 years old, I asked mom to cook this for me and she said that we don't have vegetables and ground peanuts. Determined to have that kare-kare I was craving for, I volunteered to buy the ingredients myself. At that time, our house was only a few blocks walk to the public market. Back then, it was also safe for kids to walk by themselves around the streets of Manila. Mom probably was not thinking I was that determined so she gave me the market list and money. I remember the look on her face when I came back with plastic bags of vegetables and ingredients which I bought from the public market all by myself! Looking back, I can't believe I did such a brave thing as a young kid... all for the love of kare-kare! That experience actually began my interest in cooking.

Fortunately today, we can find all we need to cook kare-kare in the supermarket. The only draw back to this dish is that it takes so long to cook! Well you can use a pressure cooker to easily tenderize the pork pata, ox tail or beef. And because the meat used for this dish is not too friendly to your cholesterol. Kare-Kare often comes as a treat and often served on special occasions only. 

Luckily, you can find recipes online that uses fish, seafood or just vegetables as substitute for this popular dish. For my healthy version of kare-kare, I added yet another favorite food of mine - tofu! If you like tofu, you're going to love this recipe. Not only does tofu add a different texture and flavor to fish kare-kare, it is also very filling like meat.  And because fish and tofu are easy to cook (no tenderizing required!), we can all enjoy kare-kare in just 30 minutes, less the guilt!


1 piece onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 kilo Dory fish fillet, drained and cut into thick slices,  
4 pieces regular tofu or tokwa, cut into 1/2 inch blocks
2 tablespoon Peanut butter
3 pieces eggplant
1 bundle string beans (sitaw), cut into 2 inch slice
1 bundle pechay
salt and pepper to taste
prepared bagoong/ shrimp paste, to be served on the side

1 pack Mama Sita's Kare-Kare Mix
250 ml warm water

Cooking Procedure:

1. Pan-fry tofu/ tokwa until lightly brown. Drain oil on paper towel and set aside.
2. Saute onions, garlic and add Dory fish. Cover and simmer for a couple of minutes
3.  Add dissolved kare-kare mixture and peanut butter
4.  Add cooked tofu/tokwa
5.  Blanch all vegetables (eggplant, sitaw and pechay)
6.  Add vegetables on top of the kare-kare before serving. Serve with bagoong on the side

Fish and Tofu Kare-Kare

Hope you get to try these healthy alternatives and please feel free to share what you think. Happy cooking and happy guilt-free eating!

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