Series: Family Favorites

Having a big family comes with its challenges. The biggest challenge for us was stretching a dollar especially when it came to food. So naturally to save money, I cooked all of our meals – seven days a week. Today the kids are older and can, generally, fend for themselves. Their normal go to’s are quesadillas, sandwiches, or whatever frozen items I have stocked in our freezer.

With the older girls more self sufficient, I am learning how to let go of cooking for them and allowing them to cook dinner more. Its probably the last “big chore” I do for them besides driving them all around the East Valley. My 15 year old, recently said she wants to learn how to make our favorite dinners. So I am happy to pass along recipes to my kids in hopes that it will bring the “back home” no mater where they are.

Cooking from the heart

Filipinos love to cook for their family, friends and guests. I believe its one of our main love languages. I have vivid memories of my mom, dad, grandpa, and relatives cooking up a storm when I was a child. Their eyes lit up the moment we took our first bite of our ulam – main dish. Today, I enjoy seeing my kids faces when they take their first bite of my food.

I am not the typical Filipino Mom who only cooks Filipino food. I actually cook a wide variety of dishes from Japanese to India to American. It was my way of giving my kids the ability to taste different ethnic foods without breaking our budget. Because of this creativity, our kids enjoy a wide variety of foods and I’m so proud of their ever growing love of different dishes.


Today, I will be sharing a tried and true recipe in our house. I typically make Tinola at least twice a month. Its easy, inexpensive, and a quick meal. This dish is an adaptation of my mom and mother in law’s versions. The main difference between the two was the vegetables. My mom added chayote only while my mother in law added spinach only. So to appease my husband and I’s expectations of the dish, I added both vegetables. The kids love to slurp up the sabaw, broth, and pour it generously over their rice.

I have found most of the ingredients for this dish at our local American supermarket. If you have a hard time looking for these items at your local supermarket, you best bet will be an Asian grocery store. As with all recipes, especially if Filipino food is new to you, make the entire recipe exactly as it and then adapt to your taste.


“Tinola is a soup-based dish served as an appetizer or main dish in the Philippines. Traditionally, this dish is cooked with chicken, wedges of green papaya, and chili pepper leaves, in broth flavored with ginger, onions and fish sauce. A common variant substitutes pork for chicken, chayote instead of papaya, or moringa leaves known as marungay or malunggay, instead of pepper leaves. It is best served with fresh chicken” (

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 in piece of ginger, peeled and sliced in to large coins
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 chayotes, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 bundles spinach, washed thoroughly and stems removed
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon or 1 cube
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a large stockpot to medium heat with canola oil and saute onion, ginger, and garlic until onion is translucent.  Put chicken pieces in pot and turn heat up to medium high. Saute chicken until the chicken turns light brown.  Add the chicken base and water. Bring up to a boil and cover.   Reduced heat to medium low and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the chayote and cook for another 5 minutes or until chayote is fork tender.  Add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning (you won’t need to really add more salt because the fish sauce is plenty salty).  Serve with rice and fish sauce.

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