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.

 

Peaches n’ Coconut Cream Oatmeal

One of the perks of having a sister as a flight stewardess is that you get to enjoy a carefully curated international selection of goodies, that is, the “best of” what each country has to offer, and at the cheapest price. Going to Australia? Nuts! New Zealand? Honey and kiwis! Belgium? Chocolate! Yesterday When she returned from London with a bagful of Summer, namely, summer nectarines – at three for a pound to boot. In Singapore it’ll cost more like one for three dollars instead. In this sense, the title of this post is a misomer; it should be “nectarine n coconut cream oatmeal,” but its more fun to say “peaches n cream,” no?

Oatmeal peaches coconut cream [peach] (030713)

These sun-kissed orbs of gold were bursting to its seams (or or accurately, skin) with nectar-sweet juices. To do this delectable summer treat justice, I decided to feature them au natural with oatmeal. No stirring them in as it would dilute out its peachy flavours; no baking as it would destroy its vitamins. Simplicity is the call of the day.

Oatmeal peaches coconut cream (030713)

The “cream” here is actually coconut butter. The creamy melted coconut butter helps enhance the delicate fragrance of the nectarines. I think peanut butter will be too assertive. The oatmeal is made even more creamy and nutritious with protein powder, and sweetened with medjool dates.

Oatmeal peaches coconut cream [top] (030713)

Embrace summer with this peachy/nectariney delight!

Peaches n’ Coconut Cream Oatmeal
Serves one.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats (I use Country Choice Organic)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (I use Garden of Life)
  • 1/2 large nectarine or peach, sliced
  • 1/4 medjool date, chopped
  • Coconut butter, to drizzle

Directions

  1. Bring oats, water and chia seeds to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20-25 mins until thick or when most of the water has evaporated.
  2. Add milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Continue to simmer for another 10 mins or until it reaches your desired consistency.
  3. Towards the last 2 minutes add in protein powder and stir in thoroughly.
  4. Pour out onto a plate or bowl, decorate with nectarine/peach slices and top with dates and coconut butter.

 

Stuffed Banana CocoChoc French Toast

A humble title belies a mind-blowing delicious breakfast. A thick hearty slice of stale rye bread is soaked and fried in eggy goodness, spread with a gleaming glorious banana-coconut-chocolate spread, layered on with pan-seared bananas sitting in its caramelized goo, and then sandwiched together with another thick hearty slice of stale rye bread. This is stuffed banana cocochoc french toast, washed down with a shot of black bitter luwak (cat poop) espresso.

French toast banana cocochoc [all] (020713)

The banana-coconut-chocolate spread was concocted on a whim. Frozen banana slices were first microwaved briefly to melt them, then mashed together with a spoonful of coconut butter, dark chocolate dreams (DCD) peanut butter (PB&Co), and a dash of cinnamon. The resulting amalgam of brown gloop was probably the best instant spread I’ve created in a while. Because the banana stuffing is bursting full of its natural sweetness, there’s no added sugar involved in this french toast recipe. Yup, no cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave. Just pure sweet banana juices. Is it just me, or does frozen bananas taste even sweeter than fresh ones?

French toast banana cocochoc [top] (020713)

If you do not have coconut butter or DCD spread, fear not (although I highly recommend to invest in these two products). I believe desiccated coconut and a square of dark chocolate melted in with the banana mash will work equally well.

French toast banana cocochoc [side] (020713)

Have you ever pondered on the origins of french toast? The French call it “Pain Perdu,” translated as Lost Bread or Wasted Bread. The recipe has been documented as early as a millenia ago in a 15th century English (ironically) cookbook. Stale bread is reformed with a egg mixture, fried in butter and sprinkled with sugar.

pain perdu

To bring the philosophy of not-wasting-food even further, I fried the leftover egg (white)+chia mixture to go with the french toast, and surprisingly the slightly sweet vanilla-spiked egg whites+chia turned out fabulously eggy and delicious on its own! Have you ever tried sweet egg whites?

French toast banana cocochoc (020713)

Stuffed Banana CocoChoc French Toast
Serves one

Ingredients

  • 2 slices stale bread (I used rye; brioche will be extra-decadent)
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tbsp soy milk (can use coconut milk, which unfortunately I ran out off)
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 frozen banana, sliced and divided into two equal portions
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Spoonful of coconut butter (or desiccated coconut)
  • Spoonful of chocolate spread (or square of dark chocolate)
  • Other nut butters of your choice (eg peanut butter, almond etc)

Directions

  1. In a shallow dish, whisk together lightly the egg whites, milk, vanilla extract and chia seeds, if using.
  2. Soak bread in egg mixture for about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Grease a skillet and fry bread for about 3 minutes per side.
  4. To make the banana-coconut-chocolate stuffing, melt one portion of the frozen banana slices in the microwave briefly (20 sec). Add cinnamon, coconut and nut butters. Mash & mix well until smooth.
  5. Sear the remaining banana slices so that each side is slighlty brown and caramelized.
  6. If there is any remaining egg mixture, you can choose to make a “sunny-side-up” or a scramble out of it. Uphold the no-wastage philosophy!
  7. To assemble, spread the banana-coconut-chocolate stuffing on one slice of bread, top with caramelized banana slices, and the leftover egg “sunny-side-up”/scramble, and the second slice of bread.
  8. Inhale and enjoy!

</div) 

Haze’s In, Bake Out With Cupcakes!

This morning I woke up to the choking smell of acrid smoke that hung in the air like cobwebs. The sky was a foggy gray and the sun was like a struggling child, it’s rays futile in trying to penetrate through the haze. And so it’s another day of being quarantined indoors. Luckily I had plans. Next week I’m participating, for the first time, in a baking meet-up, and the theme is “chili.” Immediately, chili chocolate sprang to my mind. However chili chocolate is rather commonplace and I wanted something more exotic. I brainstormed with keywords associated with chili: red, spicy … and then suddenly, Wham! I got the most marvelous idea: spicy red velvet cupcakes filed with a chili chocolate ganache. The red colour of the cupcakes was supposed to forwarn the impending spiciness to come. Unfortunately it appears my idea wasn’t that unusual after all since I found many similar recipes upon Googling. Anyhow, I stuck to my idea and improvised/combined several recipes. And this was how the mini two-bite cupcakes were born.

Feature

This is one of the rare times I’m baking, my only previous experience being bread. It’s also my first time making a ganache and frosting. I mean I don’t eat muffins or cupcakes on a daily basis so I don’t see/feel a need to bake them. However this baking meet-up has bestowed on me a challenge, which I am happy to take up.

Although many recipes use red food colouring to achieve the “red” in the red velvet, I wanted to go natural (my food phiosophy) with beets. For the spiciness I used cayenne pepper, as well as red chilies in the ganache. I was all excited/apprehensive about this challenge. Along the way there were 128499 mishaps, cursing myself as I made yet another mistake each time. Nearly four hours later and forehead beaded with perspiration, the babies were finally ready, ugly as they look, but I did it!

Batter

Here are some of the mistakes that I made:

  • Forgot to weigh the amount of beetroot puree. In attempt to get the beet puree as smooth as possible, I poured in all the wet ingredients into the food processor, with the unmeasured beet puree inside. It was only a few seconds later that I realized and at that moment I truly wanted to kick myself in the ass. Based on the consistency of the batter and texture of the muffin, I’m thinking there was way too much puree.
  • Spilled the coconut oil into the milk mixture while measuring it out. That makes the 1/6 cup (1/4 cup + 2 tsp) supposedly rather inaccurate.
  • To grease or not to grease the cupcake linings. I did not grease for the first batch but Mum said it’s supposed to be greased. But the sticking was only a mild problem and while the second batch (greased) did not stick as much, I don’t think the hassle of brushing the linings is worth it.
  • The chocolate. I intended to use high quality Ghirardelli Twilight Delight 72% dark chocolate but because I left it out on the table top, it was all melted. As a quick solution I used the more inferior Hersheys instead, which made the ganache slighlty more sweet than I wanted.
  • Melted (microwaved) butter instead of softened butter for the frosting. Obviously it turned out quite a watery consistency.
  • Major problems with the piping gun. I bought a piping gun in preparation for this and I don’t know if it’s because I’m dumb and using it wrongly but the frosting just couldn’t get ejected out of the gun. I gave up on the gun and with Mum’s help, she did a DIY piping bag out of baking parchment. Must be because the gun was a cheap product. Another reason to avoid cheap products.

    red velvet #1

    When it came to the ganache, I wanted to test two methods. The first is the “coring” method in which the ganache is poured into a “cored” cupcake after baking (batch 1); the second is to place the ganache on top of the batter and bake them together (batch 2). Ideally the ganache should sink to the center of the cupcake. Above is the result of the batch 1 after being baked and prior to being filled with ganache. As you can see, it does not resemble a cupcake at all with the center being sunken. Too much beet/not enough flour? Below is batch 2 prior to being baked. I did not chill the ganache as I did not have the patience to wait. That’s why it’s so liquidy and it turned out more like a chocolate glaze. But I was too hot and frustrated in the kitchen to care.

    red velvet brownie

    Finally, the tasting notes and comparisons between batch 1 (ganache after baking, left) vs batch 2 (ganache before baking, right). First off I’m quite pleased with the Burgundy colour of the cupcakes. At least they are not some Frankenstein garish red. However, the spiciness was not to my desired level, probably level one on the Scoville scale. In fact, cinnamon was dominant, probably a wee bit too much. More cayenne pepper and chilis next time please.

    Comparison

    Tastewise, I prefer batch 2, which tasted more like brownies than red velvet with their crackly chocolate tops (which did not sink as supposed to). This is kind of sad because it’s supposed to be red velvet cupcakes and not brownies. The texture of batch 2 was also better, probably because I baked it for 20 minutes straight and did not intermittently remove from oven for checking as for batch 1. Presentation-wise, the red colour of batch 1 wins hands-down.

    Comparison #2

    Overall it was a fun, tedious and quite an experience for my first proper cupcakes. Although the results are nowhere Nigella-worthy, they were still delicious albeit ugly. Next time I will fine-tune the recipe by (1) use more accurate amount of ingredients, (2) more chili, (3) darker chocolate, (4)use a date-based vegan frosting. Below is the recipe for batch 1.

    Feature cupcakes

    Spicy [Au Natural] Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chili Coconut Ganache and Chili Cream Cheese Frosting
    Yields 24 mini cupcakes or 8 muffins.
    The red velvet cupcakes were adapted from here and here while the vegan coconut-based ganache was adpated from here and here.

    Ingredients
    Spicy [Au Natural] Red Velvet Cupcakes

    • 1/2 cup soy milk
    • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 6 tbsp beet puree (from roasted beets)
    • 1/6 cup coconut oil
    • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
    • 10 tbsp AP/whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1 heaping tbsp natural cacao powder (not Dutch)
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder

    Chili Coconut Ganache

    • 1/4 cup (55g) coconut milk (Ayam brand, trim)
    • 1/2 red chili, sliced
    • 1/2 cinnamon stick
    • 1.5 oz (55g) dark chocolate (Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips)

    Chili Cream Cheese Frosting

    • 4 oz (113g) cream cheese (Philadelphia Neufchatel 1/3 less fat)
    • 1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter, softened (Lurpak)
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
    • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

    Directions

    Prepare the ganache

    1. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, bring coconut milk, chilis and cinnamon to gentle boil. Cover, turn off flame and let steep for 20 mins.
    2. When the coconut milk has steeped, bring to gentle boil again, then strain it over chocolate. Whisk mixture until completely smooth.
    3. Chill for about 30 min (alternatively, I froze it for 10 min and the texture was just right)

    Make cupcakes

    1. Preheat oven to 375F.
    2. In a medium size bowl mix soy milk and vinegar, allowing it to curdle. This will take about 5 min.
    3. Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and baking powder. Stir in sugar.
    4. Once milk has curdled, mix in beet puree, oil and vanilla extract.
    5. Make a well in dry ingredients and slowly add in wet ingredients. Mix well.
    6. Divide among cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 mins.
    7. Let cool completely. Once cooled, “core” each cupcake and fill the hole with chilled ganache, placing the “lid” over.

    Frosting

    1. Beat together cream cheese and butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla extract.
    2. Sift sugar, pepper and cinnamon.
    3. Add to cream mixture and beat some more until incorporated.
    4. Pipe onto cupcakes.

     

Mango Lassi Oatmeal Pancakes

It was a case of indecision (what’s new?). Oatmeal or pancakes? Oatmeal or pancakes? Finally I decided to combine the two to form an oatmeal pancake. The Benishan mangoes had finally ripened into a shade of sun-kissed orange, so I decided on the theme Mango Lassi Oatmeal Pancakes.

Mango Lassi pancakes

A lassi is a yogurt-based drink that originates in the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan. Mango lassi is probably the most popular sweet lassi (since mangoes are produced abundantly in India). A typical mango lassi is made of mangoes, yogurt, milk and a touch of spice, such as ginger, cardamom or clove. That said, I guess my version of Mango Lassi Pancakes isn’t that authentic after all, since there’s no yogurt and the only spice involved is cinnamon. I’ll be glad to attempt a more authentic version in the future, but today’s misnomeric ones were still yummy in their own right.

Mango Lassi Oatmeal Pancakes
Serves 1 (stack of 8 silver-dollar sized mini pancakes).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp (12g) Scottish oats (or oat bran)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) mango puree
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (21g) 10-grain pancake mix (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Toppings: strawberries, honey, raisins, sunflower seeds, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter

Directions

  1. Mix oats and chia seeds (if using) in soy milk overnight.
  2. The next day, mix mango puree, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract into the overnight oats and beat in egg white until frothy.
  3. Fold in pancake mix/flour until it forms a thick batter.
  4. Heat a large heavy-set frying pan over medium heat and lightly oil surface. Spoon batter in 2 tbsp-sized. Cook for about 2 mins per side.

 

Because of the Scottish oats, the pancakes had a little more chew to them, yet still managed to remain moist and fluffy. Today I topped the pancakes with fresh strawberries and a nut/raisin mix. Lately I’m on a macadamia and coconut butter kick. These nut butters went very well with the mango lassi pancakes.

7th [Pancake] Heaven

Howdy! It’s been a while since I’ve tended to this space and that’s because I was enjoying a relaxing retreat in the land of thousand temples, Bali. Actually I returned a week ago so the truth is more of laziness. Anyhow, I’m back with a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, swoon-worthy recipe! Here’s a show-stopping stack of seven Nutty Banana-Berry Chocolate Chip Pancakes.

P1080286

Inspired by the Balinese luwak kopi (coffee), I went to the library to source for more information on the history, types and recipes for coffee. I scored a treasure book that not only was on coffee, but on chocolate too – 300 Chocolate and Coffee Recipes This is not just any run-of-the-mill recipe book. It has multiple sections, including the background, history, types and cultivation of chocolate and coffee, techniques section and recipes, making it highly informative, intriguing, detailed, useful, varied, colourful and easy to read. Although most of the recipes are not very easy (esp the cakes section), it’s fun to marvel and ogle at the beautiful creations. However, a few recipes were within my capabilities. One of these is the Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes.

After analyzing the recipe, I realized it’s not that different from my original pancake recipe (1:1:1 flour-egg-milk ratio), but I did add chocolate chips into the batter this time round, on top of cocoa powder. Another change I made was to cook the pancakes on a heavy-set frying pan instead of the mini-skillet. Additionally, I cooked the pancakes in 2-tbsp drops. This resulted in less burn and more even cooking. Hoorah! The recipe also called for the flour to be sifted. I tried unsuccessfully to find a sieve, so I cannot conclude if sifted flour maketh a fluffier pancake. If anyone has tried making pancakes using sifted flour before, do drop a comment!

P1080279
Above is a leaning tower of pisa seven pancakes (hence, 7th heaven!), undressed. There was a slight improvement in the texture in that it had a more cakey texture rather than “steamed egg” feel of my original pancakes. I attribute this to the smaller size of the pancakes, hence the insides were more cooked. I really loved the mouthfeel of these pancakes.

nut butters

And now for the fun part: toppings! This time I went with chopped fresh strawberries and a trio of nut butters – DCD, coconut butter and macadamia nut butter. These were smothered alternately between the pancake layers. What a chocolately nutty gastronomic party (rhyme intended)!

P1080289

Nutty Banana-Berry Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Serves one (stack of 7 mini-pancakes).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large banana (~60g), mashed
  • 1 egg white
  • Scant 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (33g) 10-grain pancake mix (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder (Pacari raw)
  • 1/4 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips (Hersheys)
  • Choice of toppings: e.g. chopped fresh fruits, nut butters

    Directions

    1. Mash the bananas in a bowl.
    2. Beat in the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
    3. Mix in the flour and cocoa powder, then the chocolate chips. Fold the mixture until it makes a thick batter.
    4. Heat a large heavy-set frying pan and coat with oil. Spoon the pancake mixture into 2-tbsp heaps, allowing room for them to spread. When pancakes are lightly browned underneath (~2 min), flip and cook the other side. Slide onto a plate and cover with a kitchen towel to prevent drying out.
    5. Top pancakes with fruits/syrup/nut butters of choice.
  •  

    The End and a New Beginning

    NUS results

    Four years of hard work, enduring lectures on seats as hard as rock, numerous projects, essays, lab work … all these has has been distilled to a mere three-digit figure: 4.59. At 7.40am when my phone buzzed, my heart started thumping and stomach did some super somersaults. I didn’t immediately open the message but steadied myself for disappointment, since I felt I didn’t do well in the last exams. Finally, I decided to open and read the message, but did so in slow motion, to prevent any potential heart attack. Using my palms as a shield, I unveiled the message line by line, taking in the results of each module before the final CAP score. And then my eyes peeked at the all-important grade and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Was I still dreaming? I rubbed my eyes, blinked a few times, but no, the numbers stared back clearly and unmistakably. I took in the implications: First Class Honours. I didn’t feel a surge of happiness, more of like, disbelief and “okay, that’s good, what next?” Maybe it does make it easier to secure a postgraduate position or research job, but it doesn’t help to improve my interpersonal skills (no doubt lacking) or physical image. If only such success can be replicated in other areas of my life. Is that being too greedy?

    As if it was a augur to the good news, I received my parcel from iHerb yesterday. It was timely since I was getting a bit sick of the macadamia nut butter, as lovely as it is. After the major haul (and burnt pockets) from RawFoodWorld, my order was relatively small this time, consisting of a few delicious items only: Galaxy Granola (raspberry), Chia Seed Peanut Butter (original and chocolate) and Artisana Coconut Butter. A year ago I would have scoffed at consuming coconut in any form (saturated fats!); I can’t believe how the Laughing Giraffe macaroons have transformed by outlook and now I’ve even a huge jar of coconut butter!

    iherb haul This morning as a prelude to the results I whipped up a hot bowl of Banana Mango Peanut Butter Oatmeal. It featured the original Chia Seed Peanut Butter. Bits of swollen chia seeds were embedded within the sticky paste; the paste itself was fairly smooth but it had a slightly stale taste, definitely not in the league of Maranatha’s peanut butters. I had a tasting of the chocolate version; the cocoa had drowned out the peanut taste a fair bit, which defeats the purpose of eating peanut butter, so I prefer the original version.