My mother is arriving tomorrow and staying for a couple of days. She’s 74 years old, a retired trial court judge who still has a pretty active social life and who likes to go shopping as a form of exercise. Yeah, you read that right. She goes shopping to exercise. She says all that walking when she shops is exercise. Anyway, we used to live next door to her until we moved to the suburb in 2001. Then, my brother and his family lived next door to her until my brother’s kids’ schooling mandated that they move — in a semi-permanent way — to a condo near the school.
For the last year and a half, I had been floating the idea to my mother that she buy the vacant property across the road from ours or move in with us. We have an extra bedroom, we have the space and she won’t have to live on take-out and fast food delivery which, I’m sure, are partly responsible for her last two or three hospital confinements. She resisted. She’s an independent woman and she likes her lifestyle.
Well, two weeks ago, she was in the hospital again with blood pressure issues. Nothing that serious, as far as the tests showed, but she seriously needs to consider a lifestyle change. When we went to see her at the hospital, I enumerated her options, she caved in and she admitted that her best option is to move in with us. In a week or so, that is, so she can take care of whatever she needs to take care of. I told her she can’t bring her whole house, we don’t have space for all her junk (she’s as much a hoarder as Speedy is) but she’ll have her own space here — lots of space — for everything she needs. And better food seven days a week. It could be a win-win situation, really, and I told her I’d make money out of her yet by developing and publishing recipes para sa matandang may sakit (for a sick elderly person) to which she responded with a frown. Apparently, I hurt her vanity. Whatever.
But. BUT. Knowing my mother, I know that her decision to move in with us is a 50-50 thing, that she might change her mind again and stay at her house in the city after all. Heck, we offered the same deal to Speedy’s mom when she was taken ill, she refused to move out of her house for sentimental reasons, so I’m very familiar with that kind of thinking. So, when my mother called up the other day to say she would be spending a few days with us, I think she wants a dry run of sorts. You know, see if she can adjust, how much she’ll miss her city friends, and so on, although she gave me a totally different reason for coming over.
So, anyway, when Speedy and I had this chicken, tofu, shiitake and spinach stir fry for dinner tonight, I told him I was practicing cooking dishes para sa matandang may sakit. I don’t care what my mother thinks of that phrase. It is accurate.
But just what exactly is food para sa matandang may sakit? Definitely not food for the invalid. I mean, if you want to make an elderly person healthier, you don’t feed her unappetizing food, right? You want her to eat — and eat well — but paying attention to minimize things that aren’t recommended for elderly people. For instance, I so abhor the mentality that “low sodium” means absolutely no salt or soy sauce or fish sauce. Low sodium doesn’t mean tasteless. And it doesn’t entail substituting all those expensive “health stuff” either like egg substitute and all that crap. Natural is still best and it’s just the sellers of “healthy substitutes” that want us to think otherwise.
So, for the next couple of days (and ad infinitum if my mother does decide with finality to move in with us), you can expect to see a lot of dishes like this chicken, tofu, shiitake and spinach stir fry.
Recipe: Chicken, tofu, shiitake and spinach stir fry
- 6 chicken thigh fillets with some skin on (use skinless breast meat if you prefer an even lower fat version of this dish)
- 1 tbsp. of cooking oil
- 1 tbsp. of finely minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. of finely minced ginger
- 1 tbsp. of tausi (fermented black beans), mashed
- 4 to 5 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded
- 1 cake of silken tofu, about 300 g.
- a large handful of spinach leaves
- fish sauce, to taste
- crisp onion slices, to garnish (optional)
- Cut the chicken meat into half-inch cubes.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger and black bean sauce.
- Stir fry until the chicken cubes are lightly browned. Pour in half a cup of water, bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for seven to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Pick the spinach leaves if you haven’t already.
- Cut the mushroom caps and tofu into half-inch cubes.
- Taste the chicken. Remember that you will be adding mushrooms and tofu, both of which soak up flavors, so if the chicken tastes bland at this point, it is the ideal time to add some fish sauce.
- Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms to the chicken. Stir.
- Next, add the tofu…
- And the spinach leaves.
- Stir gently so as not to break the tofu cubes and cook just until the spinach leaves are wilted, about two to three minutes.
- Sprinkle with crisp onion slices, if you like, before serving hot with rice.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 3