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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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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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?