Vegan Mofo 16: Q is for pretty pink breakfast Quinoa in pink guava soup

A nutritious breakfast with a girlish charm.

Perhaps you saw this coming; I mean I racked my brains for other ‘Q’ ingredients but Quinoa is all I could think of. Nevertheless working with quinoa is fun since it’s so versatile and can be used in practically any dish from sweets to savouries. In a double stroke of luck, pink guavas and fresh figs were on sale this week and so I thought of combining these exotic fruits with red quinoa to create a pretty breakfast.

Quinoa is riding a popularity resurgence and much has been written about it (in fact I wrote about it in my Superfood Series which sadly has failed to take off) so there’s no need to delve too much into explanation. A gluten-free pseudo-grain, it is often highlighted for its complete amino acid profile (including lysine and isoleucine – the limiting amino acids in other grains) and highly concentrated nutritive value such as calcium and flavaoids (quercetin and kaempferol). Did you know that 2013 is also officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Year of the Quinoa? In fact, it is the only food ingredient to make this list apart from the humble potato.

Between red and white quinoa, I prefer the former for its more intense nutty flavour and visual impact. Apart from breakfast quinoa porridges and granola, which I enjoy occasionally as a departure from oats, some quinoa recipes I’ve got my eyes on include the famouus Life Changing Loaf of Bread (My New Roots), and a quinoa quiche or pizza. Quinoa flour is also something I want to experiment with, but probably not anytime soon, given the growing number of half-opened bags ingredients in the kitchen.

If guavas are not available, I suppose you may use guava paste of another intense-colored fruit of choice, like mangoes or strawberries. The main idea is to have a nice thick pool of fruity smoothie for the quinoa to swim in. I also added protein powder and pectin to the soup, which added a nutritional boost as well as help to thicken it.

Pretty Pink Breakfast Quinoa in Pink Guava Soup
Serves one.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup uncooked red quinoa
  • Flesh of 1 pink guava (about 1/2 cup), seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used hazelnut milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp pectin powder (optional – for thickening)
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • Your choice of toppings (I used fresh figs and desiccated coconut)

Directions

  1. Soak the quinoa overnight in a bowl of water. The next morning, place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under running water.
  2. Cook quinoa. Place the drained quinoa into a saucepan. Add about 1/2 cup water, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 mins until the water is absorbed and you can see the white curly rings of the quinoa. Fluff and set aside.
  3. Make the guava puree. Place the guava flesh into the saucepan and add the milk and water. Bring to boil, and simmer for about 5-10 mins or until the guava flesh becomes soft.
  4. Add in the vanilla, cinnamon and other powders (if using). Stir well.
  5. Pour the mix into a blender and blend (for less clean up use immersion blender).
  6. To serve, place quinoa into a ramekin and using a spoon, press down to make the quinoa stick together. Invert the ramekin onto a plate, then pour the guava soup over. Garnish with fresh figs or other fruits and nuts.

 

Vegan Mofo 5: G is for Greens & Grass

After the indulgence of the Birthday weekend and the whirlwind of the Nom Yourself Contest, I’m wanting culinary simplicity, freshness and greens. However in the spirit of Vegan MoFo and to keep up my commitment, I ditched the quick-and-easy ready-made salad mix to create a big, bright, colourful and cheerful blog-worthy salad. May this Rainbow Broccoli Salad with Avocado Orange Dressing bring you smiles and miles of happiness!


This salad is not merely a rainbow of colours, but also of textures and tastes. Crunchy carrots and toothsome florets; sweet corn kernels and peppery peppers; reds, orange, yellow and greens. Rainbows are not an everyday occurrence, but we can always make [and eat] our own!


For the dressing, I was inspired by the sweet zesty flavours of an Orange Cilantro Slaw. However I wanted to incorporate a creamy element amidst all the crunchiness, avocados being the most obvious choice. The Avocado Orange Dressing is then further spiced with ginger, cider and pepper flakes for the flavour punch. The result? A midly sweet, tangy and buttery dressing that nicely percolates through the salad. This dressing would certainly work well as a sauce for zucchini noodles or other pasta too.

Finally, as a double dose of greeness, I made my first glass of wheatgrass juice! On a whim, I bought a packet of wheatgrass from the supermarket a couple of days ago, despite not knowing how to use it. After turning to Google, here’s what I gathered:
wheat grass

  • Wheatgrass (or Wheat Grass) refers to the the young grass of the common wheat plant Triticum aestivum. It is usually cultivated in a greenhouse or grown at home in trays for the purpose of juicing and drinking.
  • Wheatgrass can be grown and harvested after 7-10 days.
  • It is recommended that specially designed wheatgrass juicers be used to juice wheatgrass. Compared to regular juicers, wheatgrass juicers act like a press to extract the juice at a very slow speed (80-120 RPM vs 1000 RPM). Extracting the juice at a high speed would oxidize and damage the enzymes. Moreover normal juicers or blenders may risk clogging from the high fiber content of grass.
  • Wheatgrass is ranked as a superfood. It is a complete protein (contains 17 amino acids); packed with minerals (contains 92 of the 102 known minerals found in soil including calcium, iron and zinc); rich in enzymes (30 enzymes including digestive enzymes – amylases, proteases and lipases); and chlorophyll (70%).
  • The many health benefits of wheatgrass: as an energizer, cleanser and builder – primarily attributed to chlorophyll.
  • Wheatgrass is also available as supplments in the form of tablets and powder. (Not sure how it compares in terms of nutrition to the juice though).

Without a wheatgrass juicer, I did the next best thing – blended the grass using an immersion blender (specifically 1/2 cup cut wheatgrass with 1 3/4 cups water) then strained it to remove the pulp. Surprisingly it was all very easy because the pulp clumped together just under the blades and can be readily removed – and be saved for use as a facial mask if desired. To take green to the extreme, I added in spirulina and matcha powder. This produced a mildy grassy and vegetal juice, but in a enjoyably refreshing manner. It’s definitely going to be a regular on the green smoothie roster! Note that both my sister and mum couldn’t stomach the “grassiness” of it, so you may want to add more water or blend it other fruits or fruit juices to dilute the taste.

So here is a double dose of greens: a salad and a juice. Have your eyes turned green yet?

Rainbow Broccoli Salad with Avocado Orange Dressing
About 4-5 servings.
Vegan.
Inspired by an Orange and Cilantro Slaw.
Ingredients
For the Salad

  • 1 head medium broccoli, cut into florets (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 head small red cabbage, shredded and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2/3 cup sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

For the Dressing

  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • 1 tsp apple cider vingear
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Bunch of Italian parsley (optional)
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

  1. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam until tender but still bright-green, about 3-4 mins. Immediately transfer the broccoli to an ice bath to stop the cooking and then drain well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli florets with the remaining salad ingredients – bell pepper, carrots and corn.
  3. To make dressing, place all the ingredients for the dressing into a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy. Best if dressing is made several hours in advance and refrigerated.
  4. About 15 mins before serving toss salad with dressing. Toss and enjoy!

 

Basic Wheatgrass Juice (using blender)
About 2 cups.
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup wheatgrass, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 3/4 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/4 tsp spirulina powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp matcha powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Place wheatgrass and water into blender and blend on high.
  2. Pour juice into cups through a sieve to remove pulp.

I think an immersion blender works better as it will be easier to remove the pulp. You may save the wheatgrass pulp for composting or use as a facial mask.

 

Have you tried making wheatgrass juice before?

Pomp and Circumstance [with a smoothie to boot]

What an awesome and fulfilling 4 years in NUS it has been. Reminiscing back on the experiences which led to this milestone: rugged freshman orientation camps in year one when I was still a bright-eyed bushy-tailed eager-beaver freshie, my first real summer lab research on cell division in Year 2, exchange at King’s College London in Year 3, and the year-long Final Year Project in year 4 where thousands of Drosophila flies bravely sacrificed their lives in the name of cancer research. Also through these four years I have made some new friends, reunited with the old. As we go our separate paths from today, I hope these friendships will not be mere memories but continue for many years ahead.

These four years do not define me, even though it has taught me a lot. Behind all these notions of achievements and success lives a support network of family, friends, communities and of course, God, who propelled me to take inspired actions, challenge status quo, and to engage in the creative process of life. And with that, another chapter of my life comes to an end. And another one begins. What next? As Pablo Picaso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” Medical school? Clinical research? PhD? Work? Start a business? As I go on to find my calling, I once again am deeply thankful for all the blessings in this beautiful life.

To celebrate in style, I whipped up a Funky Monkey Bananamon Smoothie for breakfast this morning, also in part to quell an inexplicable monstrous peanut butter craving. This is a a dark chocolatety peanut buttery smoothie made with bananas and chocolate peanut butter, spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. With added oats and protein powder, this made a healthy, filling breakfast.

Ingredients
Makes one cup.
Vegan.

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice or coconut)
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 3/4 tbsp cacao powder (Pacari raw)
  • 3/4 tbsp chocolate peanut butter (or peanut butter and a square of dark chocolate)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (Garden of Life)
  • 2 tbsp oats, plus extra for topping (raspberry Galaxy Granola)

Directions

  1. Blend everything together until smooth. Garnish with extra oats or granola if desired.

 

Let’s Get Started

This morning we have a simple breakfast of leftover carrot cake + layered banana-beetroot protein smoothie. Layered banana beetroot smoothie

Layered banana beetroot smoothie

Bottom layer: 1/2 frozen bananas + 1 tbsp coconut milk + Garden of Life/sesame protein powder
Top layer: beetroot + mango + 3 tbsp soy milk

Actually I intended it to be a three-colour layered banana-beetroot-mango smoothie but I suppose because I did not use frozen mango, the mango layer became too liquidy and infiltrated into the beetroot layer. Oh wells, at least it’s still quite pretty to look at 😉

I really have and need to stop procrastinating and get started on graduate school applications – writing the personal statements, asking for recommendations and preparing for the MCAT, which cost a few hefty hundreds of dollars. If there’s anything to motivate me, I should remember the following quote:

You’ve gotta wake up every morning and ask yourself, ‘How bad do you want it?‘ How much work are you willing to put forth for the things and people you want and need in your life? Nothing great comes without effort. But I promise you that if it’s something of great meaning in your heart and something you need in your life…EVERY risk, EVERY step and EVERY drop of sweat will be worth it.