There is no need to hide the veggies or to run after your kids to make them eat their greens when you make the forty dishes, drinks, and dessert in “Mesa Ni Misis: A Guide to Cooking and Enjoying Native Filipino Vegetables” that have all been tested and tasted by the communities, beneficiaries, friends and family who have partaken from the hearty table of Juana Manahan-Yupangco.
There is something for everyone in the carefully-crafted plant-based recipes. Consider some of the popular entries: BBQ Sigarilyas Wings for the K-drama fanatics, Langka Burger Steak for the kids and adults weaned on fast food, Vegan Laing for the Uragon, and Upo Lasagna, a favorite of the author’s dad, famed director Johnny Manahan. For dessert, there is Sayote Crumble, which, according to Juana, has fooled many a sweet tooth.
Not only are the recipes approved by children, some are even made by them. There is Ampalaya Ala JASMS, a winning dish concocted by students from Jose Abad Santos Memorial School. And Juana’s daughter, Rosanna, has her own contribution – the refreshing Princess Potion – made from pechay, buco and banana. It is really no wonder, because Juana’s children are her foremost inspiration for embracing healthy eating.
“Nothing motivates a mother more than making healthy choices, especially putting her family’s health first,” she said.
This fascination has led her to discover cooking techniques while finding healthful substitutes for meats.
“I wanted to use local vegetables to create international dishes; this way, eating vegetables could still be exciting. Filipino food is not big on vegetables, and when we do have it, it’s topped with pork,” she explained. Aside from promoting nutritious and delicious food, Juana has been spreading the word that healthy food can also be affordable. Her newly published cookbook complements this mission. “Mesa Ni Misis” provides costing for its recipes, and Juana’s outreach programs has made her more aware of the struggles of daily wage earners.
“All my recipes are calculated for four to six people and the range is P250 to P350. That was a very important factor for me in creating the book,” she said. “When I went out to really learn what they eat and how much they spend and how much they are able to spend on food, that was the rough number. So minimum wage is P540, and after they take away a bit for pamasahe, what’s left is between P250 to P350. I really tried to stick to that in the book, plus [the dishes] should feed a lot of people.”
She revealed that it is in her outreach programs that she received the best praise and the encouragement to continue with her passion.
“The best compliment I’ve gotten is when I cook for the communities. Number one recipe ko diyan is Upo Lasagna, which they can’t believe is that good. When I was able to make them smile and make them happy at nabusog sila, that’s when I said, OK, I can make a good cook,” she said.
“Mesa Ni Misis: A Guide to Cooking and Enjoying Native Filipino Vegetables” is priced at P250 and is on Lazada, Shopee and bookstores.