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).

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Pumpkin Soup Bread

One of the first bad news I learned after my diagnosis was that bread is bad for you if you have diabetes. I loved bread – baking and eating – so this was devastating news. I vividly remember the first endocrinologist I saw bluntly telling me: “they say wholemeal bread is better for you, but bread is bread, and they are all bad.” I might have imagined her sporting devil’s horns on her head at that moment.

After dutifully avoiding bread (along with other carbohyrdrate-rich food, like rice and pasta) for nearly two years though, I came to doubt my carb-avoiding regime. I’ll do another blog post later, but I began to read books on naturally healing type 2 diabetes, not by avoiding all carbohydrates, but by consuming good carbs – wholegrain, low-GI carbs – as part of your daily diet. Here’s one such person who advocates this diet. Here’s another. Many Japanese books on natural healing advocates eating brown rice every day as well.

So I began to eat bread as an occasional treat these days. I still won’t touch white bread, but homemade sourdough bread, featuring low-GI whole grains like spelt and rye seem okay to me. I use homemade sourdough starter for my bread (I used the method in this wonderful book), so it takes 24 hours or more to make one loaf of bread – but oh they are so worth it.

One of the best things about making your own bread (whether you use sourdough starter or not) is that you can incorporate a lot of different things in it – nuts, seeds, almond or soy pulp from making almond/soy milk, veggie pulp from juicing, etc. And it’s super cheap to make. Forget that $10 loaf of sourdough bread from artisan bakeries (as good as they are). I buy my organic flours in bulk here.

Last night I had a big jug of leftover pumpkin soup that my kids refused to eat for dinner (so heartbreaking. It was such lovely soup…). What do I do with it? I’m not a big fan of sweet soups, either…. And then I had a lightbulb moment: make bread with it of course!

leftover pumpkin soup

I used pumpkin soup in lieu of water when mixing up the bread dough. It worked beautifully. The bread was moist and subtly sweet, but not overwhelmingly pumpkiny. In fact you won’t even know there’s pumpkin in it. With all the brown flour I used, you can’t even see the pumpkin yellow colour. Oh how I’m happy I didn’t waste all that soup!

pumpkin bread with soup

Heres’ my indulgent breakfast this morning. Fresh-baked toast – with green smoothie. Yum.

pumpkin bread for breakfast

Here’s the recipe for you if you’d like to give it a try. The measurements are not precise, so you can play around with it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, no problem. Just go without and use the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have a stand mixer, no problem as well, just use a big bowl and mix everything and knead with your hands. A bit more messy, but not hard at all.

pumpkin bread with soup
pumpkin bread with soup

Pumpkin Soup Bread (Vegan, Low GI, Oil-Free)

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September 14, 2016

  • Yields: One loaf

Ingredients

3/4 cup sourdough starter (optional)

2 cup wholemeal spelt flour

2 cup wholemeal rye flour

1 tsp instant yeast

1-2 cup pumpkin (or other) soup

some water, to adjust consistecy

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp chopped rosemary (optional)

1 handful of pepitas (optional)

Directions

1Mix all the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer bowl.

2Turn the mixer on at low speed. Add about 1 cup of pumpkin soup, and then Gradually add more liquid (more soup, or if run out, use water) until you get a fairly wet dough. The dough should stick to your hands if you touch it. But don't get too fussed about it! As long as all the dry stuff is wet, and the dough isn't all gathered around the dough hook, it'll work fine.

3Keep mixing for about 5 minutes. Rye flour doesn't have much gluten, so it's not important to knead it for a long time.

4Remove the dough hook, and use your wet hand to smooth out the dough. Cover the bowl with a saucepan lid or wet towel. Leave it on your kitchen counter for 12-24 hours - until the dough doubles in size, approximately.

5Line a loaf pan with parchment paper - this way it'll be easy to get the bread out when it's baked.

6Sprinkle a good 1/2 cup of flour onto your kitchen counter, and tip the soft, risen dough onto it gently. You don't want to "punch" the dough down!

7Cut the dough in three equal portions. Using flour on your hands so the dough won't stick, *gently* shape each portion into a rough ball. Resist the urge to mix in more flour into the dough. Soft dough makes tasty bread. Squeeze those dough balls into the lined loaf pan, cover with a wet tea towel, and leave it to proof on your kitchen counter for 1-3 hours, until it puffs up.

8Preheat the oven at about 200 degree Celsius. It takes about 15 minutes for an oven to heat up.

9Brush to top of the bread with a bit of milk or oil, and sprinkle some pepitas on top if you like.

10Once the oven is hot, and your bread dough looks puffed and ready, gently put it in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, and when the top of the bread looks golden, take it out.

11Gently take the bread out of the loaf pan. Remove the parchment paper, and check the bottom of the loaf. If it looks crisp, brown, and sounds hollow when tapped, it's done. But if not, put it on a baking tray (no need to put it back into the loaf pan), and bake for another 10-15 minutes. It's hard to be precise because every oven is different. When the bottom of the bread is crisp, your bread is ready.

12Leave the loaf to cool on a wired wrack for about an hour before slicing and eating (I know it's hard).

This recipe is very flexible, so please don't be afraid to experiment! If you have only a bit of pumpkin soup left, that's not a problem. Use water for the rest of the liquid content. I had a LOT of soup left over, so I used pretty much all-soup for the liquid bit. Homemade bread is very forgiving, so it's hard to get it to fail!

The only thing that's important here is: (1) use whole grains, and (2) use only a small amount of yeast, and let it ferment slowly for 24 hours or so. Wholemeal flours need that kind of time to open up in flavour and develop. It'll be easier to digest and better for your sugar level (which is my understanding). In hot summer, you might want to put the dough in your fridge overnight and let it ferment in there, instead of a kitchen counter.

Oh one more things: This bread is vegan only because the pumpkin soup I used is vegan. If you used non-vegan ingredients in your soup, naturally the bread isn't vegan.

 

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My Sort of Diet Regime, and Breakfast Dilemma

Happy Sunday, everyone! Before I go on any further, I should briefly tell you what kind of diet regime I’m following to heal my body from diabetes. The short answer right now is – mostly plant-based (and by that I mean 95% plant-based, with occasional eggs), whole grains (mostly brown rice), with lots of vegetables (cooked and raw), and beans. I also try to minimise oil, and I try to make almost everything from scratch, and avoid processed food as much as possible. Oh, and most importantly, NO SUGAR – but this is the hardest part by far!

I’m such a sugar addict, so quitting sugar is hard enough. I fail every day. But the biggest “enemy” to my alleged sugarless regime is… my kids. My kids who love to eat sweet things.

Breakfast, for example. I now try to eat healthy, veggie-filled, savoury breakfast like this:

 

salad breakfast

Tofu scramble! I love it. Sometimes I have miso soup and brown rice. Or a big bowl of leftover salad from the night before. With a cup of coffee of course.

This morning though, my kids had a different idea for their Sunday breakfast.

chocolate pancake

Chocolate pancakes with raspberry and orange sauce, homemade coconut yoghurt and apple sauce. How can I even resist eating just one of these fluffy, pillowy, chocolatey pancakes? Impossible really. I had one and a half. With a heaping spoonful of raspberry sauce. It was delicious beyond belief.

Then I recovered from my blunder and quickly made myself cabbage and wakame miso soup with brown rice. It wasn’t as delicious as those fluffy pancakes though, but at least it wasn’t a total loss for me. One point lost and one point gained I say.

Now off to a nice long walk in the sun to burn off that yummy pancake!

PS: The pancake wasn’t all that unhealthy actually – I used 1/3 part chickpea flour, 1/3 part wholemeal rye flour, and 1/3 part brown rice flour + organic cacao powder + homemade soy milk + baking powder + baking soda – so low GI and no added sugar. Hmm. Maybe I can eat just one more for morning tea?

 

 

Homemade Apple Sauce – Continued

Well the second batch turned out much better! Now I have figured out how to use the Kitchenaid mixer strainer, it went without much mess at all.

And I love the extra spices. Forget about using the sauce as an oil substitute in cooking – you can just eat it straight from the jar with a big spoon and it is so.beautifully.sweet I can’t believe there is not a grain of sugar in it.

 

apple sauce in instant pot

I used my Instant Pot again for “steaming” the jars for (hopefully) proper preservation – so these babies can live in my pantry for a while, not in my fridge.

 

apple sauce in jars with labels

Ta-da! Nothing like a personal, final touch of labels. I love Photoshop, too. On to my next kitchen project…

 

Hello from Sydney, Australia!

Woohoo, so excited to write my first post here. My name is Asako, and I live in beautiful upper Blue Mountains about 2 hours from Sydney. As you might have guessed already, I have type 2 diabetes. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of two years since my diagnosis. It’s never been easy, and I’m struggling daily how to deal with it. One step forward and one step back, is how I feel about my progress towards wellness.

But it’s not all bad news actually, not at all. How many times have you heard that “diabetes is a life-changing serious illness”? Well it’s true, but life changing in a GOOD way, too. Having a chronic illness opened up a whole new, exciting world of adventure and learning – about health, exercise, dealing with stress, and most of all cooking healthy and amazing food.

So stay tuned and I’d love to share my daily ups and downs, along with cooking tips and random thoughts here – whether or not you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or just wanting to try different, healthy food.

xx

Asako