Type what?

seedy bread breakfast

Hello friends. I’ve been busy wandering in the land of nearly dead – but the good news is I made it back! Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but my health had deteriorated badly after I came back from Japan early this year. I had no energy, lost so much weight, my brain was constantly foggy, most of my hair had fallen out, and I felt depressed. I had also become such a bad mother – yelling at my poor kids for the smallest infractions. Yikes and yikes! What was wrong with me?

I seriously thought I had cancer – or something else equally dreadful.

Turns out though, it was just my diabetes: Type 1 diabetes that is, not Type 2 as I thought I had for three years…. Seriously? Was I misdiagnosed? Or has Type 2 morphed into Type 1 over the years? How is that even possible?

According to my new endocrinologist, I was probably Type 1 from the beginning (and misdiagnosed), but had a long “honeymoon period” where my pancreas was still producing some insulin.

After a few hours on the Internet though, I found there is yet another type of diabetes called LADA, which is also known as Type 1.5. This type of diabetes starts out like Type 2, then ends up in Type 1 somehow. Very confusing. I thought diabetes was black and white – Type 1 or Type 2. What are all these shades of grey? And why didn’t any of the doctors – and I saw about six different doctors over three years – mention this possibility before?

Well, there is no point in pointing (!) fingers at these doctors, or wallowing in retrospective self pity. Big lessons learned here: (1) you can’t trust your doctors – doctors often present themselves as all-knowing, but they are not, especially in complex areas like diabetes; (2) you need to do your own research, and make your own decisions on how to treat your illness.

Now that I’m on insulin, the change has been dramatic. My energy level has shot up within days, and I have regained 3kg within a week (including a big chunk of muscles I had lost). I can walk for miles again without getting tired – and even run with the kids to school. I’m also getting a renewed thrill out of my home-based business. Life is rosy again.

And the biggest plus side about all this? Thanks to the misdiagnosis, I had already gotten used to this healthy lifestyle of low-carb, mostly plant-based diet, regular exercise, without sugar cravings. See, if I had known I was Type 1 from the beginning, I could have been the kind of “bad” diabetic who’d shoot up heaps of insulin before digging into that cream pie.

Another plus side? I’m no longer constantly hungry. Before insulin, I was eating like a horse because I was hungry all.the.time. My body wasn’t absorbing most of the nutrients. What a waste of good food that was! Now my meals are lighter (like my breakfast this morning in the photo) – and my wallet happier.

Tokyo Vegan Eatery Review No. 1 – T’s Tantan Vegan Ramen

Woohoo, I’m back in Tokyo, for the first time in 11 years! Actually, I’m staying at my aunt’s house in Chiba, which is technically not Tokyo but is the next prefecture – about one hour away from central Tokyo. I have two weeks in Japan, and I have so much to do and see.

Included in my to-visit-list are a whole bunch of craft shops, kitchenware shops, food shops, stationary shops, book stores, department stores, an organic farm, and of course, vegan / vegetarian restaurants and cafes. Oh and I’ll be helping my aunt and my mother cook amazing festive food for the New Year’s Day. And in between all these activities I’d like to squeeze in some exercise and relaxation time as well. Does it sound too much? Impossible? Probably. We shall see.

Today was my first trip to Tokyo. And my first goal was to have lunch at a vegan ramen place called “T’s Tantan” – which is located inside Tokyo Station (i.e. you have to buy a train ticket or one of prepaid train passes like this, and then get inside the station first). If you’ve never been to Tokyo Station, it’ll shock you. It’s a huge, multi-level monster of a station, complete with hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, bento shops, takeaway shops – and of course dozens of different train platforms and subway stations scattered every which way. It’s scary.

I always get lost here, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever find this magical vegan ramen place – but miraculously I managed.

 

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

To get here, you have to first get inside the Tokyo station, and go towards “Yaesu Minami Guchi” (South Yaesu Exit / 八重洲南口), but not out to the street. You can also follow the sign for “Keiyo Sen” (Keiyo line / 京葉線). And just before the exit, on your right side, there is a little row of eateries and shops called “Keiyo Street.” The ramen joint is at the end of Keiyo Street, on your right hand side.

Here it is. Vegan ramen!

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

There was a little line of people waiting to get inside the ramen place. It was lunch time though, and today was a public holiday, so I wasn’t surprised. The wait was only about 5 minutes thankfully. The place is open from 7am till 11pm.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Inside the restaurant was simple but clean, tastefully decorated with vegan messages on the walls, and surprisingly spacious. There were tables for multiple people, but you’d feel completely comfortable eating on your own. The wait staff were all friendly, kind, and efficient (they were very good at refilling your glass of cold water). Despite the line of people waiting, nobody rushed you into ordering or eating. Once inside, everyone seemed relaxed and happy. I heard relaxed chattering in several languages, as well as lots of audible slurping sounds as you’d expect in a ramen joint.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The menu isn’t very long. There were 5 main ramen dishes -ramen with white sesame, black sesame, golden sesame with peanut sauce, soy ramen, and something called “Su-Ra Tanmen” which has vinegar and chilli sauce in it. You can also order extra veggies, which I did. There were also a couple of side dishes, like dumplings, mini curry-and-rice dish, and mock fried chicken nuggets. For the drink menu, there was coffee, tea, orange juice, and (wow) beer, organic red wine and organic white wine.

I ordered the most expensive “golden sesame” ramen (with peanut sauce) with extra veggies and a side of mock chicken nuggets. What can I say, I was starving. All their mock meats are all made from a high-quality soy product brand called “daizu marugoto” (whole soy). I’ve had these before, and they are pretty great.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Here’s my meal! How exciting. And it was yummy! I’d say 8.5 out of 10. The soup was amazing, with rich peanut sauce, satisfyingly salty, oily enough but not too oily, and with deep rich sesame flavour. My setup came with a little jar of homemade chilli pepper mix, and I put a generous amount of it in my soup. I recommend ordering extra veggies, because there weren’t much veggies in the bowl by default.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The potions size was sufficient for a normal hungry woman. I felt like I over-ate with the deep-fried nuggets. I’d skip that next time.

The only negative thing I could find about the ramen was that the noodle seemed just slightly overcooked – lacking in al dente texture. But that could be because I was too busy taking photos before actually eating.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The “chicken” nuggets were a little on the sweet side for my taste buds, but still very tasty. I threw them into the bowl of noodles and ate them all together. So yum.

As for the pricing, considering I ordered two extras, the total cost was still very reasonable at 1450 yen (about AU$16). Compared to the high cost of lunch in Sydney, it was quite reasonable, I thought.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

I’d love to go back there another time to try other ramen dishes – particularly the white sesame one, which most everybody else was ordering.

PS. On the other hand… ramen is not very diabetes friendly… The noodles probably shocked my blood sugar into a soaring high! But I’m on vacation – and on a mission to find vegan-friendly eateries in a sea of mostly non-vegan places in Tokyo, so it was okay. After all, I’m still alive and ready for my next adventure! Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The REAL Benefits of Exercising

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard a million times that exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. That’s true of course, but it took me two years to realise how important it was. And in ways that no health care professional has ever explained to me. I know, I’m so slow to catch on sometimes.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 2 years ago, my doctor (as all reasonable doctors would) prescribed me daily exercise, along with a hefty dose of medication. He also added: “Your diabetes is very serious. It won’t do you much good to walk 30 minutes a day – you must walk 1-2 hours every day.”

Which was a lot to ask of me I thought, since at that time I was doing exactly zero exercise. But I did my best to amend my ways. In a few weeks I was walking an hour a day. A few months later I started running, too, clutching my iPhone in one hand, listing to the robotic commands of the “Couch to 5k” application. It took me 6 months to reach the 5k goal but I did it. I was running pretty much every single night for 5-7 kilometers. I felt virtuous.

But all this time, I had the wrong idea about exercising. I thought it was just to lower my blood sugar level for that day. So I’d eat a nice dinner, pop my medication, and go for a run to let my sugar level drop to a normal level. Life was under control.

Then, a few months ago, I began to slack off and stopped exercising. It was a rather stressful period of my life, what with separation and moving to a new house (not to mention it was in the middle of a freezing mountain winter). I know, excuses, excuses… But the point is I did let regular exercising slip away…. I mean, if you skip one day, it’s so easy to skip the next day, and so on. You know how it goes.

And just like that, my health started to fall apart. My blood sugar was high. I lost a lot of my muscles because I wasn’t moving – which made me avoid exercising more. Before I knew it, even walking around my backyard began to hurt my legs.

I felt tired and weak all the time, so I craved more sugary, high-carb, oily food to comfort me. I was also eating all.the.time. Forget Dr. Fuhrman’s mandate to avoid snacking between meals – I just had no will power to stop snacking. I mean, if there was a cake lying around, I’d just eat it. My brain was also foggy, so I drank coffee after coffee just to stay afloat mentally.

My energy level dropped to an all-time low. Often I’d wake up in the morning and just sit there in front of my laptop for hours, mindlessly surfing the net and not having an ounce of energy to do anything else. Then I’d stay up till wee hours in the morning just catch up on work – drinking more coffee and snacking. The resulting lack of sleep made me even more tired the next day.

In short, it was a bad case of vicious cycle – a spiral down to an early death no doubt!

Which is when I finally had the lightbulb moment: I need to start exercising again. And this time, I realised it’s not just about lowering blood sugar level temporarily after meals. It’s to alter my entire lifestyle, and to reverse this downward spiral.

So here it is people – the list of real benefits of exercising regularly:

(1) Regular exercising builds and maintains your muscles (I know, it is obvious but please read on).

(2) When you are physically strong, you have more energy to do more stuff – more work, more gardening, more housework – in short you are more productive.

When you are more productive during the day, you feel okay about going to bed earlier. And getting enough sleep does wonders to your mood and energy level the next day.

(3) When you exercise, you are not craving food. It’s true! You are not hungry when you are sweating in a fitness class or fast walking around the neighbourhood. Even when you come home afterwards, I’m often not hungry for hours. So yay, I can stick with Dr. Fuhrman’s “no snacking” regime better.

(4) Your body affects your mind directly. When you are physically strong, your mind is clearer and stronger. I don’t have foggy brains after I exercise. It helps a lot with my work to have a clear mind.

And guess what, when you concentrate on your work (or blog writing or gardening), you don’t feel the compulsion to eat. Eating had become a way of procrastination and distraction for me, when I didn’t have enough mental energy to do anything much.

(5) With a clearer mind, you also have better self-control when it comes to food. Should I have a green smoothie for breakfast, or make that carb-rich sandwich with gooey vegan cheese in the middle? When your mind is strong, you have the will power to opt for that smoothie. And what about those leftover muffins I made for my kids? Well you don’t have to eat them. Toss them into the compost bin, I say!

So there you go. It only took me two years to realise all these real benefits of exercising. I can blame my doctor for not explaining all this to me in the first place, but really, I wonder if he knew himself.

It is hard sometimes to get yourself out there to walk, run, or got to a fitness class every day. But now that I realise your entire life is at stake, I am extra motivated to keep up with exercising this time around.

 

 

Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! I’m not a Halloween kind of person actually. But when your kids are so excited about a school Halloween party, does a parent really have a choice but to go along with it? My ex got them scary costumes, and I – reluctantly – agreed to help with the “best curved pumpkin contest” bit. There were a couple of obstacles though.

First, we couldn’t find any Halloween-like orange pumpkins. We drove around town knocking on different veggie shops and supermarkets – but nobody had any, not even for display. Seriously? I mean, come on veggie shops! Where is your holiday spirit? So our only choices were (1) Japanese pumpkins (too ugly and bumpy, what with green and brown patches on the outside), (2) Kent (smooth skin, but boring beige colour, and they were too huge anyway), or (3) butternut squashes. The choice was kind of obvious. Butternuts were cute, came in just the right size for the kids, and had a smooth orange-y skin. First problem solved!

Second, I had no idea how to curve a pumpkin. I’ve never done it or seen it done before. But then – Youtube to the rescue! After watching three random pumpkin-curving tutorials, I felt confident enough to give it a go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best part was seeing the kids super excited and engaged! Even I got into the activity and enjoyed it a lot. I helped quite a bit with sharp knives and linoleum curving chisels (which I conveniently had in my craft supplies). But my six-year old grabbed a chisel at some point and started curving on his own – and he was surprisingly careful. I should just trust my kids more.

pumpkin curving for halloween

Even my ADHD daughter stuck with the activity for two whole hours.

pumpkin curving for halloween

And how cute are these pumpkins when lit up at night?

roasted pumpkin bits

Here are the pumpkin shreds that got scooped out. After the kids went to bed, I roasted them with a bit of olive oil. They were so sweet and tasty, I ate nearly a quarter of them straight out of the oven with a spoon. The rest, I pureed in a food processor and….

sourdough pumpkin bread

Made them into pumpkin sourdough bread and scrolls the next day. Mmmm. I am loving the 100% whole rye flour and wholemeal spelt flour combination. I also threw in some almond and soy pulp from making milk.

pumpkin seeds roasted

I saved all the seeds, too. Roasted till crunchy, they make nutritious, tasty – and free! – snack. I’ll be enjoying these healthy and nutritious jack-o-lantern offcuts today, while my kids will no doubt be eating too many of those supermarket candies at the party tonight. But so it goes!

 

How to convert a recipe to be diabetic friendly (plus a carrot muffin recipe)

If you follow a plant-based diet, you have probably heard of the term “veganise.” It means converting a conventional recipe into a vegan one. For example, if a recipe calls for an egg, you omit the egg and use flax meal or chia seeds instead.

If you are diabetic and follow a plant-based diet, the conversion becomes a bit more complicated two-step process. One: veganise it. Two: make the recipe more diabetic friendly (I’ve been looking for a snappy term for this process – but sadly can’t find one yet. “Diabetise”?

Of course, you can start with a vegan recipe to begin with, and make it just a one-step process of “diabetising” it – and there are plenty of amazing vegan recipes available these days.

So how do you make a recipe more diabetic friendly, you ask? Here’s what I do when making sweet treats.

(1) reduce the amount of sugar – sometimes a recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of sugar, I can halve the amount and it still tastes sweet enough to me. I normally start with less sugar, and taste the mixture as I make it. If I want more sweetness, I gradually add more sugar until I’m happy.

Keep in mind that baked sweets taste less sweet than uncooked dough or batter. In other words, when tasting unbaked batter/dough, make it a little sweeter than you’d like.

(2) replace refined sugar with low-GI, low-carbohydrate sugar, like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or sometimes, even fake sugar (though too much of that might upset your tummy).

(3) replace plain flour with low GI, low-carbohydrate flour, such as besan flour, almond meal, peanut flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour, and wholemeal wheat flour. These flours are generally interchangeable with plain flour. I stay away from coconut flour and flax meal, because they are not interchangeable with regular flour – and requires significant modifications elsewhere in the recipe.

(4) use more nuts and seeds, and less dried fruit. Or omit dried fruit.

(5) use more vegetables, rather than fruit or other high-carbohydrate ingredients.

(6) replace oil or fat with apple sauce, mushed banana, pumpkin puree, or vegan yoghurt.

Sometimes I do all these things for one recipe, and sometimes I only do one or two modifications. Sometimes the result is just delicious! Sometimes I go too far into the “healthy” realm and my family and friends reject the modified creations (for not being rich or sweet enough, or for having the wrong kind of texture) – in which case will have to polish them off all by myself in order to avoid wastage. How tragic! Very rarely do stuff go in the compost bin though. I think it happened only once or twice.

Yes there is a bit of guesswork involved when making these modifications, but with trial and error and an adventurous spirit, you’ll soon get a hang of it. Just remember, it’s okay to fail sometimes! I fail all the time actually, but even failures can be quite tasty.

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Take these carrot muffins, for example. The original recipe is from a book called “Vegans with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It’s a fantastic book on vegan cooking, but the recipes do often call for plenty of sugar, oil, and high-carbohydrate ingredients – things that wave red flags for diabetics.

Even though this particular recipe was pretty healthy to begin with, I still made a few modifications.

(1) I swapped the plain flour with a mixture of gluten free, lower-GI flours. I used a combination of buckwheat, brown rice flour, and oat flour (make sure you use gluten-free oat flour – not all oat flour is gluten free, apparently).

(2) Because the gluten-free flours tend to make muffins more crumbly, I added a tablespoon of flax meal to give more binding power.

(3) Instead of canola oil, I used apple sauce.

(4) Instead of regular sugar, I used coconut sugar.

(5) To add more kiddy appeal to the otherwise very brown, plain, and hippy-looking muffins, I decorated the muffin tops with blueberries, bananas and walnuts.

And the result? Very tasty muffins! Not too sweet, but just sweet enough for breakfast or for school lunch box. They also have a perfect structure – neither crumbly nor mushy. My kids gobbled them up, with a bit of vegan butter on top.

diabetic friendly carrot muffins

Here’s my modified, more diabetic-friendly carrot muffins. You can of course play with it anyway you like! You don’t have apple sauce? Try mushed banana or coconut yoghurt. Don’t have carrots? Use grated zucchini or sweet potato instead. Omit the raisins and use nuts and seeds instead (if I were making these muffins just for me, I would have omitted the raisins – but I made these mostly for my kids, so I left them in). Add more spices like vanilla, cloves, or orange zest. Have fun and remember, it’s okay to fail!

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

 

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)
Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free and Diabetic Friendly)

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October 21, 2016

This recipe is adapted from a carrot breakfast muffin recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from her Vegan with a Vengeance book.

  • Yields: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mixture (I used brown rice flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour, in equal amounts) - if using oat flour, and if gluten-free is important to you, please make sure you are using gluten-free kind of oat flour!

1 tbsp flax meal

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or fake sugar, if you prefer)

2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 and a half smallish carrots)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup apple sauce

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup blueberries, chopped bananas, or other fruit or nuts for topping

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup oat milk, soy milk, or nut milk of your choice (I used homemade oat milk)

Directions

1Preheat your oven to about 200 degree Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).

2Soak the raisins (if using) in hot water to plump them up - for about 10 minutes. Then drain.

3Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl - flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, flax meal, salt, and sugar.

4Add grated carrots and raisins to the dry mixture and mix them with a spatula.

5Pour apple sauce and non-dairy milk into the flour/carrot mixture, and mix well with a spatula. The dough shouldn't be too dry or too wet - the batter should gently drip off your spatula. Add a bit more milk if it's too dry. Add a bit more flour if it's too wet.

6Prepare your muffin moulds. You can either use a non-stick mould and brush or spray it with oil, or use store-bought paper muffin liners, or just cut up little squares of baking paper and line the moulds with them (like I did in the photos).

7Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. You can gently press the top of the muffins with your hands, and if it feels firm and springy, they are baked. Or you can insert a bamboo stick into the muffins, and if it comes out clean, it's baked. Take the muffins out of the oven and let them cool for a bit before devouring them.

Instead of carrots, grated sweet potatoes is tasty, too (though slightly higher in carbohydrate).

00:00

 

 

Holiday survival guide for diabetics

On the last weekend of Spring holidays, we drove on a whim to Canberra for a two-night mini holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday for a while, so I was super excited! But even for a little trip like this, your diabetic head spins around with a few little worries. Such as, will I be able to stay on a healthy diet for entire time? Will I be tempted to eat junky holiday food and treats that my kids might no doubt demand? What about exercise?

The first day was easy. My mother (who was visiting for the school holidays) and I woke up early and made a healthy lunch and dinner for that day – vegetable sticks, roasted capsicum and chickpea hummus, Japanese rice balls, cooked green lentils, cut fruit, and a big container of salad greens. I had also made some wholemeal bread and healthy treats. We packed everything in a cooler bag and off we went.
floriade 2016 canberra

Canberra was wonderful. We visited the beautiful annual Floriade flower festival.

national gallery australia

We visited the National Museum.

old trailer at national museum

This old wagon / camper trailer was my favourite thing at the National museum – I mean, wouldn’t you like to travel in one of these around Australia?

Then – we ran out of all the healthy food we brought. Oh no… Ignoring all the cafes / restaurants / street food vendors, we hit a local supermarket instead.

What an amazing selection of ready-to-eat healthy food I found there! It was an eye-opening experience re-discovering good old supermarkets. Just look at the huge selection of pre-cooked rice and grains alone.

supermarket rice selection

Instead of soaking rice overnight and cooking in a pressure cooker (which is what I do every day), these packets of rice and grains are ready to eat in less than 2 minutes (in a microwave or stovetop). And it’s not just white rice. Brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, chia seed, in all sorts of combinations. Wow. Honestly, I never knew.

I also “discovered” a myriad vegan tofu products – some looking healthier (less processed) than others. Then of course there is the fresh produce section. I narrowed my choices to these.

holiday supermarket food

Thanks to the local supermarket, my healthy dinner was ready in minutes.

holiday food

Of course, it helped a great deal that we stayed in a cabin accommodation, with a fully equipped kitchen.

canberra cabin

Things would have been a bit more difficult had we stayed in a motel or hotel.

Canberra street food

So even though there was a few moments like this when I had to resist a bit of holiday temptation… it was good overall foodwise.

Oh, and exercise? Well, that was sorted as well – accidentally.

canbera wagon ride

See that four-seater wagon bike? I thought riding that cute little vehicle around the lake was a leisurely experience. Wrong! It turned out to be such hard work… Pedalling this monster of a wagon for nearly two hours was the most excruciating torture – I mean exercise – ever!

Matcha Latte (Coffee Alternative Part 1)

I love coffee. If I’m not careful I can easily drink 5 or 6 cups of coffee per day. And let me confess that I actually did drink that much coffee before, even in the middle of the night. Bad girl, I know! Here’s my beloved Breville espresso machine (next to my beloved high-speed Optimum blender).

coffee machine

I thought I had a good reason for being a coffee addict though. Which was this: when you are trying to follow a restrictive diabetic diet in which you can’t have anything fun in life, like sugar, oil, bread, processed food, potatoes, white flour, white rice, animal products, alcohol, cheese, butter, and other dairy – something has to give. And that something was coffee (I mean, aside from dark chocolate and nut butter…). And what could be more innocent than coffee, as far as addiction is concerned?

Now I’m trying a little harder to restrict my coffee intake though – to a more reasonable two cups a day. Enter the wonderful world of coffee alternatives! I’m discovering quite a few satisfying coffee alternatives. Matcha latte is my favourite at the moment.

Matcha is the very best of green tea. It is bright green powder made from the most precious part of green tea leaves. It is good for you, being full of antioxidants and other health benefits compared to regular green tea.

matcha

It is also super expensive. We are not talking about cheap versions used to colour ice cream green – the real matcha costs hundreds of dollars per kilo.  One online source in Japan sells them at $750/kilo, and that’s just medium grade matcha! You can find it in Australia at Japanese grocery shops or online.

matcha

Traditionally in Japan, we didn’t drink matcha tea on a regular basis. It was reserved for special occasions like tea ceremonies.

Nowadays, matcha is widely available, at so many different price levels, and anyone can enjoy a casual cup of matcha tea. And matcha is suddenly super popular through the world.

Anyway, back to matcha latte. It’s pretty simple to make. I use about 1/3 cup hot water, 2/3 cup milk (I use soy milk or almond milk), 1 scant teaspoon of matcha powder, and 1 heaping teaspoon of fake sugar. It’s delicate, fragrant, delicious, and soothing. Sometimes it tastes even better than coffee. Give it a try!

matcha latte

(1) Mix matcha in a little bit of hot water well, until there are no lumps. This is the most important part. I don’t own a chasen (traditional Japanese bamboo whisk we use to make matcha tea), but any small whisk is better than a spoon here. Add more hot water if you like.

milk frother for matcha latte

(2) heat up your soy or almond milk, and froth it with a milk froth whisk thingy if you like.

matcha latte

(3) Pour the frothy milk goodness into the matcha / hot water mix, add sugar, and enjoy!

Oh, if you buy good quality matcha, you should store it tightly wrapped in the freezer. Otherwise it’ll lose its delicate flavour quickly.

Vegan Tour of Sydney

There are so many vegan places popping up in Sydney these days – how exciting is it? Bursting with curiosity, I took a two-and-a-half hour train ride this week to visit just a few of these places.

zeitgeist cafe sydney

My first stop, after getting off the train at Town Hall station, was the Zeitgeist Cuisine cafe. The place was pretty small, and the menu was limited.

zeitgeist cafe sydney

After a long train ride though, this cup of homemade almond milk latte and raw brownie was wonderful. The coffee was subtly sweet and creamy, a welcome change from the usual Bonsoy that most cafes use here in Sydney. The brownie (though a little too coconutty for my taste) also wasn’t too sweet, and hence not too guilt-inducing for a diabetic like me.

Zeitgeist cafe Sydney

They had wraps and salad for lunch (and dinner?), but this is more of a snack, coffee, and light meal kind of place.

Bodhi sydney yumcha vegan

Next, I met up with lovely Toshi-san (who, by the way, has an online shop selling vegan-friendly Japanese groceries) at a vegan yumcha (dumpling) restaurant called Bodhi. Located minutes from Hyde Park in central Sydney, this was one of the best yumcha places I’ve been – vegan or not!

The extensive outside seating area was blissful on a warm Springy day. The staff was friendly and attentive. And the food! You wouldn’t even know they are 100% vegan because every dish was super tasty and fresh.

passionfruit puff at bodhi sydney

They had a variety of dessert dishes as well – but honestly, by the time desserts came we were completely full, so we just tried this passionfruit dumpling / puff thingy. It was doughy but delicious.

Next, I took a bus to Glebe to check out Cruelty Free Shop to see what kind of vegan goodness they had. There was a LOT of vegan sweets (stuff I can’t eat unfortunately). They were also well-stocked on jars of condiments like mayonnaise and nut butters.

But what wowed me the most was their huge freezer section full of… mock cheese and meat. I’m normally not a fan of meat-shaped soy product (why not eat just vegetables or tofu?) or cheese-shaped vegetable oil product (I’m content with nutritional yeast). But I was too intrigued not to try a few.

Cruelty free shop finds

Jackfruit! I have seen this novelty fruit going around the internet so often, I just have to try what it tastes like. Also I got a can of fishless tuna to try (later I heard it’s pretty disgusting though… hmm… disappointed). The sausages and the cheese might go on a kids’ pizza night menu soon.

Also in Glebe, I stopped by this bulk food shop chain called the Source. What a lovely shop full of organic, high-quality produce! I got some bulk chocolate from Loving Earth and organic turmeric and ginger powders there.

Finally, dinner was in Newtown, where veganism is all happening. With so many restaurants to choose from, picking just one place was hard. But I settled on a all-vegan Vietnamese place called Golden Lotus.

Golden Lotus Vietnamese vegan newtown

It’s famous for mock meat dishes. Even though I’m not crazed about mock meat, I was curious. Also, there is not one good Vietnamese restaurant in the upper Blue Mountains – so I was craving Vietnamese flavours.

You’ll need to make a booking for this place. It was packed on a Tuesday night. But the food was amazing! My friend and I shared an appetiser plate, which had mock duck, mock chicken, and other vegan goodness. Next I had laksa with an assorted mock meat toppings. Yum! They were all delicious. Now I *might* be a mock meat convert. Their deep-fried “chicken”? I couldn’t tell if it was real chicken or not. Honestly.

While in Newtown I couldn’t help checking out another vegan eatery called Lentil As Anything.

lentil as anything

They are famous for being voluteer-run, and their pricing is all by donation (you pay what you like, though they have pricing guides). Their menu changes daily as well. Last night they had Sri Lankan curry, tomato-rice stuffed capsicum, and lentil soup.

lentil as anything

They all looked good. My tummy was full, but I couldn’t help ordering a takeaway.

Capsicum stuffed rice from lentil and anything

Here it is for my lunch today, with added greens.

It was such a productive, fun-filled trip. I can’t wait to visit Sydney again – there are still so many places I’d love to check out….

 

Springter Pot-Au-Feu (Vegan)

Spring might be here during the day, but on most evenings it still feels like winter. Apparently where I live in Blackheath, you’ll need to light your fireplace until as late as November. Yikes! But thankfully I still have heaps of these expensive hardwood firewood left from a delivery two months ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s another proof that the earth is still slowly awakening from a long winter – my weekly delivery of fruit and veggies from a local farm – lots of root vegetables!

vegan pot-au-feu

So on these “Spring-ter” nights, you often just want to eat soup, or stew, or anything that’s slow-cooked, comforting, and warming to your bones.

pile of delivered firewood

Here’s a simple winter stew that’s a little classic French: pot-au-feu, or braised root vegetables in stock. Normally pot-au-feu has meat in it, but this has none. And it tastes amazing without any popular vegan “tricks” like, nutritional yeast, cashew, tomato paste, oil or faux meat.

The secret? Good-quality, fresh homemade soup stock, white wine, and (preferably) organic, farm-fresh vegetables. Cooked this way, you’d be surprised, shocked even, that those humble vegetables taste swooningly flavourful all on their own.

Is this starch-heavy dish actually diabetes friendly, you might ask? Well, root vegetables are rather rich in carbohydrate. And some diabetes experts recommend eating them in moderation.

Other experts say that starch is not a problem, but actually beneficial for diabetics. Most Japanese health books I have been reading agree with this view, recommending a diet based on brown rice and seasonal vegetables (which means, in winter, you should be eating lots of cooked root vegetables, not raw salad greens).

So I think the scale might tip in favour of eating a healthy doze of starchy vegetables in season. I did refrain from using white potatoes though in this recipe. They are high GI, like white rice, so I can do without them. Serve it with some cooked brown rice, with a sprinkle of sesame salt, and your taste buds will be in Sprinter wonderland.

vegan pot-au-feu
vegan pot-au-feu

Vegan Pot-Au-Feu

  , , ,

September 25, 2016

  • Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

1 Parsnip

1 Turnip

1 Swede

1 Small fennel

1 Carrot

1 Leek, white part only

1 Red onion

1 Litre homemade vegetable soup stock

2 Bay leaves

1/2 Bunch parsley

2 Whole garlic cloves

1/2 cup White wine

1 tsp Salt, or to taste

1 tsp Soy sauce

Directions

1In a large pot, pour soup stock and wine. Add garlic cloves, salt, soy, sauce, parsley, and bay leaves, and bring to the boil.

2Meanwhile, prepare the root vegetables. Peel the turnip, swede, carrot, and parsnip. If they are organic, and well washed, you don't have to peel them (if you don't mind a slightly rustic look). Cut them into chunks. Add them to the soup mix.

3Cut the leek into half lengthwise and wash between the layers well. Cut it into big chunks. Peel the onion, and cut onion into 1/8 size. Cut fennel into a quarter, and remove the hard core. Cut it into big chunks and toss all these veggies into the stock mix. You want the veggies *just* submerged in the liquid - not have them floating freely.

4Once the stock mix (with the veggies in it) boils, turn the heat to medium/low, and let the whole thing simmer for a good 30 minutes or longer, until all the vegetables are meltingly tender. Don't cover with a lid - you want the broth to reduce a little, and become richer in taste. You might have to add more stock (or water, if you run out of stock) to keep the vegetables submerged though.

5Check the seasoning, and add more salt to taste. Serve with a bowl of rice or hot toast.

All vegetables are guides only. You can use whatever root vegetable you have lying around in your kitchen, and feel free to omit any of them listed here. For example, cabbage and potato would work well here. I wouldn't probably use pumpkin because they cook too fast and tend to disintegrate, making a mess. Beetroot might turn everything red, but that might be pretty as well. Have fun, but remember to keep it simple.

00:00

Pickles

I wouldn’t have thought of making pickles in the first place – if not for a friendly farmers market vendor from Bilpin who sells home-grown veggies at a local market. One day, she had a whole array or just-dug-up, earth-covered baby root veggies: turnips, baby carrots, and black radishes.

What I can possibly do with these, I asked. “Well, you can pickle them,” she said. How interesting! I’m always game to make something I haven’t tried before. So I bought the whole lot of those dirt-covered babies to take back home.

Apparently pickles are easier to make than jam or other preserves, because bacteria hates vinegar. So all you need is vinegar, water, some salt and spices for the brine. The jars can happily live on a kitchen counter or pantry, even without proper canning. Best of all, they are ready to eat in a couple of days.

baby root vegetables pickles

 

Here’s my first attempt. I used 100% apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, a small amount of salt, and bay leaves. I didn’t even cook the baby vegetables. How cute are these? A day later, they sort of softened in the vinegar, and were a little less crunchy. Delicious, yes, but sour!

baby root vegetables pickles

A few days later, by chance, my son “discovered” these hidden carrots growing in our backyard. The previous residents must have planted them and left them for us to eat. And I thought they were weeds!

backyard carrots

How funny are all these odd-shaped carrots?

backyard carrots

Have you ever eaten carrots straight from the garden? They are incredible. Nothing like store-bought ones, putting those packaged “organic” ones from the supermarket to shame.

After munching on a few straight away, I made more pickles with the remainder, with a bit of turnips mixed in for colour variation.

backyard carrots pickles

So pretty! This time I used 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar (with mustard seeds and bay leaves). They were not vinegary enough though…. I think 75% vinegar and 25% water might be more to my liking. I think I might be getting hooked on home preserving.