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.

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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.