Cashew Miso Tofu Dip (Vegan, GF, Oil-free, Low-Carb)

Cashew is magical. It can morph into anything, it seems. Milk, butter, white sauce, sour cream, and of course cheese. All nuts and seeds are amazing in their shape-shifting abilities actually (and godsend to people on vegan, plant-based and/or raw food diets). But cashew? Cashew is the reigning Queen of Creaminess. Plus it’s more affordable than, say, macadamia nuts or pine nuts.

Cashew miso dip

Here’s a quick cashew miso dip recipe that’s one of my current favorites. Miso makes it extra tasty, and tofu adds more creaminess, substance, and balance. Without tofu, the combination of cashew, miso and garlic create way too much flavor in my opinion – umami overload. Tofu brings the whole thing together.

The dip is diabetes friendly, but cashew does have a rather high carbohydrate content, and high calories, so it’s best to watch your portion size even if you are tempted to eat it by the spoonful.

cashew miso dip

Try the dip also as a sandwich or wrap spread, in lieu of mayo, as a salad dressing with a bit of thinning, or on (zucchini?) pasta, fritters, vegan schnitzels… anything really. I hope you give the recipe a go, and let me know how you like it!

cashew miso dip

cashew miso dip
cashew miso dip

Cashew Miso and Tofu Dip

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October 2, 2017

A quick, creamy, and addictive cashew dip with a subtle Asian flavor.

  • Yields: about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup dry cashew, soaked for 2-3 hours or overnight

1/2 cup momen or medium-firm tofu (not hard tofu)

1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp tahini (optional)

1 tbsp miso (brown or white)

1/2 cup vegetable soup stock or water

Directions

1Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until very, very smooth. I have a high-speed blender and it takes 1-3 minutes.

2Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Garnish with chopped coriander, green onion, or chives for a pretty presentation.

If you are avoiding soy, try using vegan yogurt instead of tofu. I tried it with Nudie coconut yogurt (natural), but I wasn't crazy about the noticeable coconut flavor. But a different brand might be okay.

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The Breakfast Conundrum – and Sichuan Mushroom Sauce Recipe (Vegan, GF, Low-Carb)

Sichuan mushroom sauce

Breakfast is often a tough decision for me. What do I want to eat this morning, or rather, what can I eat this morning? Being diabetic, I gave up on sweet breakfast a long time ago, and high-carb items like wheat bread, cereal, rice, or even porridge are out. Fruit is also out (too much sugar), except maybe berries. Meat, fish, and dairy are also out because I’m trying to stick to a plant-based diet. Well, except I do eat occasional eggs from our happy backyard chooks.

What does that leave me with? Well, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts of course! And thank goodness there are so many delicious things you can make with these.

Here’s what I eat these days when I’m pressed for time, like getting the kids ready for school: a couple of slices of low-carb seedy bread with avocado. Plus a big mug of real coffee with homemade almond milk – because, friends, coffee is happiness. If I’m still hungry, I’ll munch on raw veggies or have a big spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

seedy bread breakfast

On weekends though, I make something more elaborate. Last weekend, I made this Asian portobello mushroom sauce with garlic, ginger, chilli, and Sichuan peppercorns. I poured it over homemade tofu and devoured it. It was utterly delicious. It’s actually pretty simple to prepare, too, if you want to give it a try.

portobello mushroom sauce ingredients

The basic recipe is below. The key flavor here is Sichuan peppercorns. You can omit the chilli if you like but please give Sichuan peppercorns a try. It adds a distinct, strong and fresh flavor kind of like coriander or fennel seeds – but not really. It’s hard to explain but I love it. Using whole peppercorns also adds a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

You can use whatever mushrooms you have lying around, or in any combination. Portobello or shiitake would be great though, because of their meaty texture that can match the strong flavor combination. But if not, white button mushrooms would work just fine.

If you want to make the sauce but are avoiding soy, try pouring the sauce over lightly steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, etc. If you are okay with carbohydrate, the sauce would be delicious over noodles, rice (cauliflower rice would also be fantastic for a low-carb option), quinoa, etc. Enjoy and, if you happen to make this dish, please let me know how you go!

Sichuan mushroom sauce
Sichuan mushroom sauce

Spicy Sichuan Mushroom Sauce (Vegan, Low-Carb, GF)

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September 27, 2017

Kickstart your morning with this spicy and scrumptious (and low-carb of course) Asian mushroom sauce with tofu!

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 cup portobello or other mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp sesame, olive, or coconut oil for cooking mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)

1 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free if you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot, for thickening

1 cup water or vegetable soup stock

1 cup momen or silken tofu

Directions

1Slice or chop the mushrooms. You want relatively chunky bits - not too small, not too large. Mince garlic and ginger together.

2Preheat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I love my Lodge cast-iron pan). Spread whatever oil you are using, and when the pan and oil are nice and hot, carefully lay the mushroom bits in a single layer. You want the mushrooms to brown, so don't overcrowd the pan. Leave the mushroom alone (don't stir) for 3-4 minutes till one side has browned and shrunk a bit. Flip the mushrooms over with a spatula, and let the other side brown for 2-3 minutes.

3Add chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, minced garlic and ginger to the pan, and cook for a minute or so. Add soy sauce and stir for a few seconds (it should sizzle), until it all starts to smell amazing.

4Dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in water or stock, and pour it in the pan. Mix, until the water has boiled (shouldn't take long), and the sauce thickened. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let the sauce cook gently for a few minutes. If the liquid evaporates too much, just add more water or stock to bring it back to a nice saucy consistency. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

5Pour the sauce over a good chunk of tofu and any other vegetables you have around. Scatter a few leaves of cilantro / coriander or chopped scallions if you have any.

The sauce is great over homemade tofu. If you are buying tofu, organic "momen" (or medium firm) or silken tofu is best. I don't recommend hard-firmness tofu - it's a bit too tough to eat raw in my opinion. But you can cook slices of hard tofu until crispy in the oven or in another frying pan. That'll be delicious with the sauce. And of course, this will make a lovely lunch or dinner dish as well.

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Adzuki Bean Hummus (Vegan)

adzuki bean hommus

Did you know that you can make hummus from any beans? Adzuki beans, for one.

adzuki beans

In Japan (where I grew up), cooked adzuki beans are often mixed with sugar to make fillings for sweet treats like mochi and buns. Adzuki inherently tastes sweet, even without added sugar. So I was a little skeptical at first of making savoury dishes with adzuki beans.

adzuki bean hommusUntil I tried this hummus. Totally delicious! Adzuki beans are one of the most nutritious and diabetes-friendly beans around, apparently. It has lots of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and potassium, for starters.

Making adzuki hummus is simple, except you need to cook the beans from scratch. Unlike chickpea or other more common beans, it’s hard to find canned (and unsweetened) adzuki beans in supermarkets. But don’t let that stop you. Adzuki is one of the easiest, fastest beans to cook from scratch.

And the hummus is so pretty! It has a beautiful light purple colour. Enjoy it as a dip for all sorts of veggies (raw bok choi is so delicious, and conveniently shaped like a spoon for scooping up hummus).

I hope you enjoy the recipe.

adzuki bean hommus

adzuki bean hommus
adzuki bean hommus

Adzuki Bean Hummus

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September 23, 2017

Move over, chickpeas! Make this tasty, nutritious, and pretty-in-purple adzuki bean hummus for a change. I guarantee you'll fall in love.

  • Yields: about 3 cups

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked adzuki beans

4 tbsp tanihi

1 tsp salt

2-3 garlic cloves

Directions

1Soak the adzuki beans overnight in filtered water.

2Cook the soaked beans until tender. I cook all beans in my beloved Instant Pot – an electric pressure cooker – and it takes about 5 minutes of pressure with natural release. Not long at all, unlike black turtle beans that take whopping 35 minutes in the pressure cooker. You can also cook the beans in a pot of simmering water on stovetop – just add a little more water several times as the water evaporates. You'll have about 3 cups of cooked adzuki beans.

3Drain the beans well. In a food processor fitted with an S blade, process the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and salt until smooth (or with a bit of texture if you like it that way). Adzuki beans are pretty juicy when cooked well, so there is no need to add extra water or oil (as you would when making chickpea hummus).

4Taste, and adjust seasoning / lemon juice / tahini to your liking.

Try different flavour additives. Reduce salt, and try adding a litltle soy sauce, miso, or vegan fish sauce. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for a more intense flavour. You can also try adding cumin and/or paprika for a more Mediterranean flavour, but keep it simple because you don't want to overwhelm the delicate, subtle flavour of adzuki beans.

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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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Spring 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

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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.

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Chickpea Flour and Corn Pancake with Sauteed Greens (with Recipe)

Mornings are hard for me. It’s cold, first of all – so I struggle to even get out of bed. And while I’m doing my best to get out of bed, I dream of breakfast – sweet breakfast. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, for example. Or hot toast slathered with real butter and marmalade…. or just a handful of chocolate chips to begin my day….

Oh no no no no. I might give in (and I sure will) to sweet temptations at some point during the day, but these days, I try to start the day right – with healthy, wholesome, savoury breakfast. So eventually I do struggle out of bed and grudgingly start prepping in the kitchen.

Here’s today’s winning concoction: Chickpea (besan) flour and corn pancake with sautéed medley of leek and greens, with avocado, chopped red onions, and a squeeze of lemon juice (and a drizzle of soy sauce – just because I’m Japanese and I love soy sauce with everything). Yum and yay! A Mount Everest of morning sweet temptation conquered. Pat on my own shoulder et al.

But see, the hardest part is deciding to make savoury breakfast. Once I get up in the kitchen to make it, my sugar-addict part of the brain switches off (well, temporarily). And I love the wonderful aroma of herbs and spices, the sizzling of leek cooking in the frying pan, and crispness of freshly chopped onions. And sitting down to eat this breakfast – with a steaming cup of almond milk coffee – is totally satisfying.

Here’s a recipe for the pancake in case you’d like to try it. Chickpea flour is very low in carbohydrate, so it’s super diabetes friendly. It’s also gluten free. A bit of fresh corn for texture doesn’t hurt you, either, but you can also omit it if you are on a very low-carb diet. Or use other vegetables like frozen peas or shredded carrot.

besan and corn pancake
besan and corn pancake

Chickpea flour and corn pancake with sautéed greens (GF, Vegan, Low Carb)

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September 19, 2016

Sky is the limit when it comes to the topping choices. I used sautéed leek, beetroot greens, and cabbage (because that's what I had in the fridge), with avocado slices, fresh chopped red onions, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Other suggestions are: (1) sautéed mushrooms, capsicum, and onions (2) sprinkles of vegan cheese with salad greens (3) chopped tomatoes / cucumber / avocado salsa, with coriander and lime juice (4) cooked and fried potato cubes, vegetarian sausages, with ketchup (my kids will LOVE this).

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1/3 cup chickpea flour (besan flour)

1 heaping tablespoon of nutritional yeast

1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup nondairy milk or water (I used unsweetened oat milk)

1 tsp oregano, or other chopped herbs (optional)

1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil (for frying)

Directions

1Get your dry ingredients plus corn ready, and mix them in a bowl. Make sure there are no lumps.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping - ingredients

2Add optional herbs - fresh or dry.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

3Add milk or water, and mix to make a smooth batter.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

4Here's what the batter looks like.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

5Make sure your frying pan is HOT, and spread a bit of of oil in it. Pour the pancake batter. We are making one giant pancake! But you can of course make a few smaller ones, too, instead.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

6Cook on a medium heat until the edges of the pancake is well and truly dry and cooked. It can be a bit tricky to flip a giant pancake, so make sure the other side is well cooked first.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

7And flip! Oops mine came out *slightly* on the scorched side, but no matter.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

8Cook the other side for another minute or so, and plate with your choice of healthy, wholesome topping. Enjoy!

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

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Springtime Smoothie – with Pineapple, Greens, Mint and Lemon

Yay, Spring has come to the Blue Mountains.  Winter was fun and games, too, what with scraping frozen car windshield in the morning, or scavenging for twigs and tree branches in the bush to light my slow-combustion stove. But after months of it, I’m ready for Spring.

And just like that, with the warm rays of sun smiling on me in the morning, I am in the mood for green smoothies again.

Fresh greens from the garden

What happiness is it to harvest fresh greens from your backyard in the morning! Here’s kale, silver beet, Vietnamese mint, and celery – full of juicy goodness.

Here’s my favourite springtime smoothie recipe I’ve been enjoying for the last couple of days. It’s so refreshing, and still pretty low in sugar. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

The recipe makes about 3 cups of the green goodness – which might be enough for two people. But this morning I drank all of it in one go. It was that delicious. So what I’m saying is, you might want to make a double batch for two people.

PS. To crush ice and kale into oblivion, you’ll need a fairly powerful blender. I love my new (well, second-hand new) Optimum 9400 blender. I also have a Nutri Ninja, which works really well for smoothies.

Springtime Smoothie
Springtime Smoothie

Springtime Smoothie

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September 15, 2016

The ingredients are of course flexible. The key elements for the "freshness" of the smoothie are: pineapple, greens, lemon/lime, mint, and ginger. A bit of kombucha or coconut water will add a bit more subtle sweetness and freshness, too. Feel free to experiment with other ingredients though.

  • Yields: about 3 cups - enough for 1 to 2 people

Ingredients

1 cup water

0/1 cup kombucha or coconut water

1/2 peeled lemon or lime, but with the membranes intact.

1/2 cup pineapple, peeled but with the core

1 cup green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and lettuce

1 stalk of celery

1 small handful of mint (I used Vietnamese mint)

1 cm piece of ginger

1 cm piece of tumeric

1 tbsp chia seed or ground flax seed

1/2 cup ice cubes

Directions

1Gather up all the ingredients, and put them in a blender jug.

spring smoothie ingredients

2Blend everything together at high speed for about 1 minute, or until all smooth. That's it!

smoothie in blender

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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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How to Make Coconut Yoghurt from Scratch

It’s easy to find good-quality vegan yoghurt these days, even at mainstream supermarkets. Coconut yoghurt is my favourite – it’s creamy, subtly sweet, and utterly delicious. Even tastier than normal Greek yoghurt in my opinion.

The bad news is, these precious tubs of vegan goodness are pricey! At $7 or more for a small, 400g-500g tub, it feels like a luxury item for occasional indulgence, rather than for everyday consumption. And most of them aren’t even organic.

But here is good news for you: you can make your own 700g tub of coconut yoghurt – organic, too – for just about $1.5. Yes that’s right. It took me a few trial and errors to get the right result, but I think I finally figured it out. Hooray! Interested? Let’s get started then.

Here’s what you need:

coconut yoghurt ingredients

(1) 2 heaping cups (110g) of organic coconut flakes. I buy it in bulk here. Desiccated would work as well. It may seem like a lot of coconut, but when you do the math, it’s only about $1.5 for organic coconut, if you buy it in bulk.

(2) 3 cups (750ml) of boiling water;

(3) 2 giant tablespoons of arrowroot powder / tapioca flour (40g). You can also use cornstarch probably, but I haven’t tried it yet.

(4) 1 tablespoon of white sugar (I’ve used caster sugar, and artificial sweetener like Natvia, and both work fine). I wouldn’t use brown sugar or any sugar with colour in it –  because it just makes the whole yoghurt brownish and not visually appealing.

(5) A tiny tiny bit of probiotic culture. I got this “nondairy” yoghurt culture here. Or you can use about 2 tablespoons of any yoghurt with active culture in it (save some of those pricey vegan yoghurt for this project – you can freeze it, too, until you decide to make your own yoghurt).

Equipments: You also need a blender, a nut milk bag (or a strainer and some cheesecloth or tea towel), and a clean jar or container.

That’s it! First, we make coconut milk. If you want to use canned coconut milk, that’s fine. Just skip the first part of the recipe below.

MAKE COCONUT MILK

Step One: Put the kettle on and boil some water (you’ll need 3 cups).

Step Two: Measure 2 heaping cups of coconut into a blender jug (here I’m using the largest jug for my Nutri Ninja blender).

coconut milk steps

Step Three: Add 3 cups of boiling water to the coconut flakes.

coconut milk steps

Sep Four: Blend it up for a good minute or so in your blender. Be careful, it’s hot!

Step Five: Pour the hot mixture into another clean jug or bowl, lined with a nut milk bag (or a sieve lined with tea towel or cloth). Let it cool for a bit.

milking coconut flakes

Step Six: When the mixture is cool enough to handle, squeeze all the milk out of the coconut mix as much as possible. Now you have about 3 cups of warm, fresh, creamy coconut milk.

fresh coconut milk

You can use the pulp for something else – like a pie base, or muffins or cakes or muesli).

It’s best to make the yoghurt straight away now while the milk is still warm.

MAKE COCONUT YOGHURT

Step One: Pour about a cup of the milk into a small bowl, and whisk in the arrowroot powder and sugar. Make sure there are no lumps and the mixture is smooth. Whisk that into the rest of the coconut milk.

arrowroot powder

arrowroot powder

arrowroot powder

Step Two: Pour the whole milk mixture into a saucepan, and bring it to the boil, whisking it continuously to avoid lumps. Once it boils, the mixture should thicken considerably. Keep whisking for a few more seconds for a good measure, then turn off the heat. Can you see the gooey consistency in the photo, like very thick custard?

cooking coconut yoghurt

Step Three: Pour the hot mixture into a clean jar. Then wait till it cools down to about 40-45 degrees celcius- like a warm bath water.

Step Three: Once it’s cool enough, whisk in yoghurt or yoghurt culture and mix well.

non-dairy culture

Step Four: Put the jar in a yoghurt maker (I use the yoghurt function in an Instant Pot), or if you don’t have one, wrap the jar in an electric blanket, or place in an insulated container like an Esky with warm water in it) and keep it warm and still for 6-8 hours.

yoghurt in Instant Pot

After 6-8 hours, your coconut yoghurt should be ready. Chill in the fridge and enjoy!

yoghurt in Instant Pot

My kids love it so much they devour it while it’s still warm. The texture firms up more in the fridge though – and become more yoghurt-like, rather than like a wobbly sauce. Either way it’s super yummy. I love having it with homemade muesli and fresh fruit.

Actually, you might want to double the recipe – it does take a bit of work to make it, and you’ll be sad to see it gone in one or two mornings – which is the case in my household.

coconut yoghurt with muesli

PS: I have used agar agar in the past as a thickener, but it didn’t work very well – the consistency was too solid, like hard-set jello that you can cut with a knife. The trick in my recipe is using enough arrowroot starch. Don’t skimp on it, otherwise you’ll end up with runny, drippy and stretchy yoghurt that is not very appetising…

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?