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.

 

 

 

 

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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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

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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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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.

 

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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Preserved Lemons

Just over a month ago, a whole lot of beautiful lemons fell onto my laps from a generous friend. Her Greek mother-in-law in Sydney grows several lemon trees – lucky her! And lucky me to have such a sharing friend. So what did I do? I made a big batch of preserved lemons.

You can use bay leaves or spices, but mine were just lemons (cut into 1/8 wedges), salt (about 20% of the lemons), and lemon juice. It’s important to wait for a week for the lemons to release juice naturally in the jar. Then, if some lemons are sticking out at the top, you need to fill up the jar with more lemon juice, so all the lemons are submerged in juice.

I didn’t do this well, so after a few weeks moulds appeared at the top. (I just removed the mouldy bits, but what a waste of lemons…).

preserved lemons

Anyway, today, the lemons are ready to eat. I learned from my lemon-giving friend that, if you blend the lemons up in a blender, it’s easy to use them for everything. Just use a spoonful to add to salad dressing, or soup, or sauces, and the lemons impart wonderful tanginess and aroma. So blend them up I did, and I got three good jars of beautiful preserved lemons out of them.

preserved lemons blended up

These would now live in my fridge (to avoid moulding) – and hopefully last quite a few months.

My preserved jars of vegetables are multiplying fast.

preserved jars

Happy weekend, everyone!

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

00:00

Nut Butter Addiction

Like most people with type 2 diabetes, I’ve been avoiding sugar since my diagnosis. It’s been very hard, I tell you – I was a pastry chef and all. I used to wake up in the morning and munch on chocolate. Then go on to bake all kinds of sugary goodness and consume a whole lot of it. Ah how I miss those happy days.

Well, those golden days may be over (at least I had good 43 years, I tell myself), but I continue to have cravings for (slightly healthier) sweet things – like sweetened soy milk coffee, bananas, and nut butter. Homemade nut butter, that is. With roasted nuts, and a good dash of vanilla in it, processed till it’s super runny. It tastes amazing, like a pot of gold.

This nut butter is so good, it has become kind of an addiction for me. Whenever I feel my stress level rising, like when my kids start fighting, I grab a spoon and go for it. Or when I need to be sewing at home, but don’t feel like it, I wander into the kitchen and eat a big spoonful, or two, or three. Or when it’s late at night and I’m feeling hungry again, I eat it straight from the jar again. Wouldn’t you call this an addiction?

Maybe it’s because there is no sugar in it, technically, that I feel impunity to eat lots of it. But as healthy as nuts are, they are loaded with fat, so no one recommends eating unlimited amounts of it.

I won’t reinvent the wheels by writing a recipe here, because there are so many good recipes on the internet. This raw almond butter recipe is how I made it the first time. If you google “homemade nut butter”  – you’ll find hundreds of good recipes.

The kind of nut butter I like to make now use: (1) roasted nuts – not just lightly roasted, mind you, roasted and until the nuts breaks easily in your mouth and gives you an amazing aroma and flavour (about 10 minutes in a 200 degree oven), (2) mix of almonds and cashew, and sometimes walnuts and brazil nuts, and (3) a spoonful of vanilla powder. All processed in my beloved, 12-year-old Kitchenaid food professor until super ruuny.

Here’s how it begins. Roasted nuts.

roasted mixed nuts for nut butter

Then everything goes into the food processor. Just turn it on and watch the magic happen. In my processor it takes about 5-8 minutes.

nut butter in food processor

nut butter in food processor

First it becomes a coarse meal.

nut butter in food processor

Then it becomes more sticky.

nut butter in food processor

Nearly ready but not yet!

nut butter in food processor

Then finally super runny and creamy nut butter. Mmm it smells so good.

runny nut butter in a jar

Pour in a jar and enjoy.

Why homemade, you ask? Well it is cheaper. For a small jar of it, you can make it yourself for about $5. A store-bought one costs nearly $10. But most of all, homemade one tastes far superior. So much more fragrant, sweet, and just tasty. Try and see for yourself, but I have to warn you, you might develop a dangerous addiction to it as well – whether or not you are diabetic!