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 2: B is for Buckwheat – sprouted Buckwheat, quinoa & oat granola

Vegan MoFo Day 2 and I’m back with a big bang for the letter ‘B’: Sprouted Buckwheat, Quinoa and Oat Granola (technically this may qualify for letters Q, O or G, but stop being nitty-picky). Homemade granola has been a stubborn stain on my Recipe Bucklist List. Although crunchy granola can never replace pillowy soft doughy freshly cooked hot-off-the-stove oatmeal for breakfast, it comes in handy for hunger crisis or snack-attack situations. This is one of the things I love about Vegan MoFo – apart from getting to know other bloggers and sharing recipes – the impetus to tackle the Bucketlist.

Commercial granolas often come sweetened with refined sugars and many unnecessary ingredients. The “healthier” types like Back to Nature or Love Grown Foods Granola are expensive. Others contain too many raisins, too many nuts or too much coconut. With homemade granola, you are the boss; you get to control and customize the add-ins to your heart’s content. My ideal granola? A simple blend of medium-sized chunks of grains, nuts, seeds, with the grains predominating. It should be lightly sweetened without being cloying. Flavour-wise, I’m a traditionalist preferring the classic combination warm vanilla and cinnamon.

I initially considered doing a basic oatmeal granola. But the masterchef in me was not satisfied. I thought: if you are making your own granola, why not make it the best it can be? I decided to put the best use of the multiple grains at home to create this Sprouted Granola, made with buckwheat, quinoa, steel-cut oats and rolled oats.

Why soak and sprout your grains? Grains contain phytic acid which behaves as an anti-nutrient; it binds to zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium in the intestinal tract and has reduces mineral absorption. Phytic acid is also an enzyme inhibitor of digestive enzymes (eg pepsin, trypsin and amylase), and thus may further interfere with digestion. Studies have shown that soaking, fermenting or sprouting the grains before cooking or baking reduces the phytic acid content, so that the minerals and nutrients become available for absorption. A wonderful summary about phytic acid in grains and legumes can be found here.

This recipe will take three days: soaking on day one, draining on day two and finally baking the granola on day three. Technically, buckwheat and quinoa need only be soaked for a few hours because they do not have a high phytate content. However because oats have significant levels of phytic acid, it’s recommended that you soak them for 24 hours.

Another perk of this recipe is that it is mainly fruit sweetened with banana puree. Coating the grains with the banana puree also reduces not only the amount of honey used, but also the oil. **Bonus!** To make the granola you can either use a dehydrator or conventional oven. I used the oven and baked them at low heat (300°F/150°C) for one hour.

Three days worth of effort culminated in a most delicious granola! Loose clusters of lightly sweetened buckwheat, quinoa and oats kissed with the warmth of cinnamon, vanilla and coconut. The grains, nuts and seeds and dried fruits were in perfect harmony in terms of proportions; not one overwhelmed the other. I’m really pleased with the results of my first attempt at homemade granola!

If there is anything I’d change, it would be to bake at an even lower temperature or shorter amount of time. The buckwheat came out a bit hard and popcorn-ish, perhaps being over-dehydrated. But a good soak in almond milk would soften the texture a little, with still lots of crunch factor to enjoy!

Sprouted Buckwheat, Quinoa & Oat Granola
Makes 16 oz (slightly more).
Vegan.

Ingredients
About 1/3 cup of each grain

  • 50g raw buckwheat groats
  • 50g raw quinoa
  • 40g steel cut oats
  • 40g rolled oats **See Note**
  • 4 tsp shredded coconut
  • 1/6 cup seeds (I used a blend of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, 4 tsp each)
  • 2 tsp flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup banana puree (mashed from 1 small banana)
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey (if non-vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup nuts, coarsely chopped (I used a blend of almonds and walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup dried fruits (I used a blend of dried cranberries and sultanas, 4 tsp each)

Directions

  1. Three days before baking the granola, soak your grains. Place in three separate bowls raw buckwheat groats, quinoa and steel cut oats. Cover with at least twice the volume of water. Let soak overnight or at least 8-10 hours.
  2. The next day, drain the water from each bowl and rinse through thoroughly until water runs clear. Buckwheat in particular exudes a mucilaginous slime, but that is normal. Once rinsed, leave the grains in the sieve overnight to let it drain fully and sprout. You may choose to combine the grains in one large sieve or use three separate sieves (if you have that many!).
  3. On the third day, you may start to see tiny tails sprouting from the grains (only the buckwheat grew sprouts in my case). You can choose whether to allow the grains to sprout. If not, proceed to start making the granola.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the soaked buckwheat, quinoa and steel cut oats. Then add in the rolled oats, flax, seeds and coconut. Mix well.
  6. In another bowl, mix together the banana puree, coconut oil, honey and cinnamon. Add the wet ingredients to the grain mixture. Stir well to coat the grains with the banana mix.
  7. Spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then bake for 60 mins at 300°F/150°C until dry and crispy. Make sure to stir every 15 mins to break up large clumps and prevent burning.
  8. (Receive copious praise from your family or flatmates as you make the house smell incredible.)
  9. Remove from oven and let cool before storing in an air-tight container. It should keep well for about a week.

Note: I did not soak the rolled oats as I was afraid it might be too soft. But feel free to soak it if you prefer, and do share how it turns out!

 

Have you tried sprouting grains before? How did it turn out and how did you use them?

Rawsome Raw Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Cheese Frawsting

Attending the IRFD has been a monumental event. Although I’ve always had a plant-based diet, I did not consciously eat raw foods, salads and such. However of late I’ve been purposefully trying to incorporate more raw veggies into my diet, usually in the form of salads during lunch. As you know, typically Chinese like to have their veggie stir-fried, and while that’s not detrimental in itself, I can sort of feel the difference in “energy” when consuming raw veggies vs cooked ones; it leaves my body and spirit more energetic.

But sometimes one has and needs to be a little naughty and indulge in some desserts, so why not make it raw? A raw carrot cake is pretty common, which there are many recipes online. The basic ingredients for the cake body are shredded carrots, nuts, dates and spices. Most recipes also include shredded coconut, and even more elaborate recipes may call for crushed pineapples. My ideal carrot cake is dense and jam-packed with carrots, so I upped the ratio of carrots in my recipe. Since this is my first attempt at a raw carrot cake (or any raw dessert for that matter), I made a mini-cake and kept the ingredient list fairly simple. The deal breaker was really the “cream cheeese” frawsting. Although it certainly did not have the mouthfeel of real cream cheese (or maybe because I added too much soy milk), it still paired beautifully well with the carrot cake. All it all, one word – RAWsome!

A minor modification in the future would be to use just one medjool date for the cake (it was a tad sweet). Otherwise, it was perfect! Of course, maybe some experiments with other nuts such as pecans instead of walnuts and a different flavoured frawsting can be done also!


Cake ingredients pictured above: carrots, walnuts, coconut, dates, spices, orange peel.


The ingredients mixed together…


And placed into a mini springform pan. Alternatively, you may use muffin tins or molds to make it single-serving.


The cake unmolded after an overnight refrigeration. Looking good!


Decorated! I’m so happy I finally fixed the problem with the piping gun! Yay for beautiful desserts. 🙂


Another shot just to appreciate 🙂


Sliced up and time to serve. You want a slice, don’t you?

Rawsome Raw Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Cheese Frawsting
Makes one small (4.5″) cake.
Vegan. Gluten-free. Raw.
Recipe adapted from here and here

Ingredients
Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup shredded carrots (about 1/2 large carrot)
  • 1/4 cup (35g) walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1/4 cup (22g) shredded coconut
  • 2 large medjool dates (may use just 1 as I found the cake a little sweet)
  • 2 tbsp dried fruits (I used a mix of cranberries & raisins)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg or ground ginger)
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 small orange
  • 1/4 tsp minced fresh ginger (if not using ground ginger)
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Cream Cheese Frawsting

  • 3/8 cup (48g) cashews, soaked for 6-10 hours and drained
  • 2 tbsp soy milk
  • 3/4 tbsp manuka honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of the other 1/2 orange
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil/butter

Directions

  1. To make the cake, place all the cake ingredients into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds, until slightly crumbly. Do not over-blend or the cake will end up pasty!
  2. Pour out “batter” into a mini springform pan or muffin tins/molds, pressing down slightly to compress.
  3. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or better yet, overnight.
  4. When about to serve, make the cream cheese frawsting. Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Pipe onto the cake, and let chill again for another 30 min until slightly firm.

 

Irrelevant to the carrot cake, last night I had a supper, a rare event. However I’m getting serious about gaining weight now and not just dabbling around like I used to in the past. It was a Nakd bar (Cocoa Loco). Initially I planned on having just half the bar but ended up consuming the whole thing, partly because it was so tasty I couldn’t stop and partly because I wanted to challenge myself. Feeling somewhat ambivalent about this; mostly proud that I didn’t restrict myself, yet a teeny sense of fear that one day I might loose control (this sounds silly as I’m typing out now). But overall, mostly proud of myself. People say, “no pain, no gain” when it comes to losing weight; but the converse applies for myself to gain weight. Gotta push aside all doubts and just do it! Best of all, I daresay I had a better sleep because my stomach was happily filled.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; I’m in the midst of applying to medical schools (finally made the decision) and I’ve got tons of administrative stuff and essays to write!

A Recipe for Faith

Puffin faith

To be afraid of failures is natural. Often we get so caught up in copying someone else’s perfected, no-fail, tried-and-tested recipes that we forget the basic essence of cooking: creativity. The fun of just throwing ingredients together, designing my own recipes, spontaneity and finally seeing the outcome was what sparked my interest in cooking. It was an outlet for my otherwise perfectionistic streak, although sometimes I do get anal about the measurements especially when it comes to baking. Nevertheless this morning I rediscovered the joys of spontaneity by conjuring my own recipe for banana nectarine puffins (a pancake muffin). It uses the exact recipe for a basic pancake; the only difference is that the batter was baked in my new mini-springform pan, which I was eager to put to good use. I had no idea how it would turn out, but by faith, I knew that a mixture of flour, eggs and banana could hardly go wrong. At most, I would suffer a lacklustre breakfast. So the experiment got going.

Puffin faith 1

This was beyond what I had expected. It resembled a giant pancake souffle. Light, moist, squiggly, eggy insides were encased within a thin crust. Pieces of nectarine helped cut through monotony while crushed cashews, almonds and macadamia nut butter provided crunch for textural variations.

Puffin faith 2

Likewise, today’s Bible reading was about Faith. Hebrews 11 is a description of faith in action — how God’s people, including Abraham, have always lived by faith and never once hesitated to listen to God’s call. In contrast I am still often gripped by a fear of the unknown – where these unknowns are big issues (unknown future) or small trivial things (unknown calories). Today’s reading is a timely reminder to give my life completely to Him, that things in world is just worldly, a passing sojourn onto something better.

Banana Nectarine Puffin
Serves one.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (32g) 10-grain pancake mix [Bob’s Red Mill]
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds + 3/4 tsp water
  • 1 (real) egg white, beaten until frothy
  • 2 tbsp soy milk (Silk, unsweetened)
  • 2 tbsp light coconut milk (Native Forest)
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 (38g) small banana, mashed
  • 1/4 yellow nectarine, chopped
  • Toppings: macadamia nut butter, crushed cashews, almonds, crumbled almond coconut macaroon (Laughing Giraffe), more chopped nectarine

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Make the chia egg and let stand 15 min or until it forms a gooey film.
  3. Measure the dry ingredients (flour and ground cinnamon) into a medium-sized bowl.
  4. Mix together the chia egg, beaten egg white, soy/coconut milk, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas.
  5. Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Fold in chopped nectarines.
  6. Pour batter into mini-springform pan or muffin molds.
  7. Bake 15-20 min.
  8. Topping time!

 

[Banana Mango Coconut] Pancakes for Your Thoughts

Banana mango pancakes

Round #4 came a little sooner than expected because of the deluge of bananas and mangoes (Honey Thai, Thai rainbow, Philippine Chanook) that have flooded the kitchen. That set my brains whirring on the next pancake recipe, no doubt featuring these fruits. And I think I’ve got the basic batter nailed down! These were everything you could wish for in a pancake – fluffy, airy, even bordering on being squishy, and loaded with the tropical delights of caramelized bananas, mangoes and coconuts, which I would say, are The Tropical Trinity of Fruits. Mashed banana and mango puree were incorporated into the batter and to take it further, banana slices were added to the pancakes while cooking. Finally, the proud pancake stack was topped with more fresh mango cubes, a medley of nuts (macadamia butter, crushed cashews and almonds) and a crumbled coconut macaroon. These will definitely bring you to rise beyond paradise (hey, it rhymes!). Unbelievably, there is NO added sugar and NO added fat (apart from the oil used to coat the skillet).

Psss…want to know the secret? Well, truthfully I can’t nail it down to a single ingredient or trick because there were many changes to the recipe this time. But I’m all happy to share some tips that probably contributed to the birth of these scrumptious babies:

  • Increased egg white ratio in batter
  • Chia seeds
  • Food processor? I mixed the dry and wet ingredients using the processor this time. However there seems to be two contradicting ideas: on one hand the high speed blending may help to incorporate air into the batter and thus makes it fluffier but on the other hand, it may also result in overmixing and burst the delicate air bubbles. The results support the former, though I shall test the two hypotheses justly next to see if mixing by hand would make a difference.
  • Getting the batter consistency right. It should be consistency of single cream.
  • Pouring the right amount of batter onto the skillet. For my mini 10 cm-skillet, slightly less than 1/4 cup works best.
  • The importance of the afterworks: drizzling syrup or milk onto the pancakes will obviously help soften them. To improve permeability, I used a satay stick to poke holes through the pancake stack before drizzling coconut milk over.

Banana mango pancakes stack

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there was nobody to share the pleasures of today’s almost perfected pancakes. Since it’s a school day Mum has to rush to school, and Hamm is off to Manila. Having pancakes alone is a little sorrowful, though I enjoy my quiet, undisturbed breakfast mornings.

Banana Mango Coconut Pancakes
Serves one. Yields 4 small pancakes.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (32g) 10-grain pancake mix [Bob’s Red Mill]
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds + 3/4 tsp water
  • 1 (real) egg white, beaten until frothy
  • 2 tbsp soy milk (Silk, unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp light coconut milk (Native Forest)
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 (48g) medium banana, sliced thinly and divided into two portions
  • 2 tbsp mango cubes, and extra for topping
  • Toppings: macadamia nut butter, crushed cashews, almonds, crumbled almond coconut macaroon (Laughing Giraffe), homemade cacao honey chocolate spread

Directions

  1. Make the chia egg and let stand 15 min or until it forms a gooey film.
  2. Measure the dry ingredients (flour and ground cinnamon) into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Place the chia egg, beaten egg white, soy/coconut milk, vanilla extract, one portion of sliced bananas and mango cubes into a food processor and blend for just a few seconds. The consistency should resemble that of single cream.
  4. Coat a heated skillet with oil and wipe off excess with kitchen towel.
  5. Pour batter onto heated skillet in ~3 tbsp portions. Immediately add some banana slices (3-4). Cook about 1 – 1.5 min per side.
  6. Get creative with your toppings, serve and savour!

 

Banana mango pancakes food for thought

Incidentally, today’s Bible reading was along the lines of food, albeit metaphorically, and I though it really spoke to my thoughts. In John 4:26-38, Jesus had encountered the Samaritan woman at the well and as she goes back to the town to testify about the man who knew her inside and out, the disciples are concerned that Jesus needs to eat something ((31)”Rabbi, eat something”). Yet, Jesus’ response was “(32)I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” He then explains to his disciples of another kind of food he lives off of – God’s work and God’s will. Jesus begins to open their eyes to his (and our) mission, using an agricultural metaphor of the harvest and reaping and sowing. “(37)Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. (38)I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Like the disciples we sometimes get so caught up on getting our own food that we fail to see the big picture and mission of our lives: to do God’s will and finish what God started; His work for you. Yet, it’s discovering this that’s the hard part. For each of us has a different purpose. Where can I sow seeds? Are there any seeds that are ready to be harvested?

I pray: What is your will for me, God, and what is the work I need to finish?

This is especially pertinent in my life right now, as I decide stand at the crossroads of working vs further study, and Masters vs PhD. Is my calling really in neuroscience, Lord?