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 11: M is for Mooncake

Today is the 15th day of the eight month of the lunar calendar, which marks Mid-Autumn Festival. Walking lanterns, donning papier mâché masks and offering foods to the gods are all part of the festivities, but let’s be honest, most of us associate this holiday with the indispensable delicacy called mooncakes.

Traditionally, mooncakes are palm-sized Chinese pastries with an egg yolk center that is embraced by a sweet rich paste made from lotus seed, red bean or jujube and a variety of nuts and seeds. The sweet/salty contrast is what makes mooncakes so irresistibly good. Additionally, crusts can vary from being thin and glossy (Cantonese-style), flaky (Suzhou and Taiwan-style) or chewy (modern snowskin varieties). As far as symbolism goes, its round-shape signifies the completeness and unity of the family while the bright golden yolk represents the full moon and also wealth.

I was surprised to learn a few years ago that lard is commonly used in traditional mooncakes to achieve a smooth texture and impart fragrance. For vegans/vegetarians, snowskin mooncakes are a safer bet because the skin is made from cooked glutinous rice flour and vegetable oil (although you may want to check the ingredients first). Although my family is not big on mooncakes, this year I got to enjoy some heavenly nuggets – either gifted/bought from restaurants or friends, as well as a rather inauthentic version that I invented at a last minute.

Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake, Peony Jade

Source

Generous chunks of 100% pure premium bittersweet Mao Shan Wang durian in organic pandan snowskin. I didn’t really care for the skin, which I found too sweet and lacking bite, but the durian… delicious, divine, decadent or heavenly, but truly, no words can do justice to describe it. Just so good! They were swiped clean in a matter of a few days hence the borrowed picture.

Pandan Lotus Paste with Brown Rice Snowskin (left) and Red Bean Paste with Glutinous Rice Snowskin (right) from Chen Xi (@peabrainner on Instagram). Both mooncakes are vegan.

I got to know Chen Xi through Instagram. Her pictures, mainly of food but also of street shots and architecture in Singapore, are colorful and varied and I was drawn to her account immediately. Moreover how often to you “meet” a fellow vegan friend in Singapore? Anyway her mother was having a mooncake sale and just the descriptions of the mooncakes alone was enough to entice me into buying. The skin of snowskin mooncakes are usually made with cooked glutinous rice flour (koh fun/gao fen), so a brown rice snowskin was novel and certainly worth a try.

Both mooncakes impressed with their not too sweet paste. There was none of the cloying oiliness that can sometimes be present in commercial mooncakes, but instead had a clean natural mouthfeel. The texture of the snowskin was the highlight – springy and thick, and infused with a gentle hint of pandan or red bean. Usually I’m a fillings person and abandon the skin (too sweet/doughy), but for the first time I actually found a snowskin that was palatable! The brown rice (pandan) snowskin was also noticeably softer than the glutinous rice (red bean) one – an interesting observation worthy of experimentation. Of the two, I preferred the pandan which came filling came studded with bits of brown rice, imparting the mooncake with a unique texture different from the usual crunchy nuts/seeds.

Matcha Buckwheat Mooncakes with Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Yolk, a creation by earlymorningoats.

Essentially, you may consider this a buckwheat peanut butter cup masquerading as a mooncake. I initially planned on making traditional/snowskin mooncakes, but eventually had to abandon the idea because of the lack of time and resources. Then last night a spark of inspiration hit; why not a buckwheat mooncake?

An ashen brown, the colour of buckwheat flour makes the perfect mimic for lotus paste. The buckwheat bake is made with a banana-flax base and stippled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a satisfying crunch. For the yolk, I went with a ball of sweet potato, rolled oats and peanut butter. Not only does it resemble the golden egg yolk/moon, the peanut butter adds a savoury touch similar to the salted duck egg yolk in traditional mooncakes. Finally for the “skin”, I went with a green tea cashew frosting. Green tea is a popular flavour in mooncakes because its bitter notes help balance out the sweet filling. Initially I was afraid that the earthy buckwheat and bitter matcha might be too overwhelming, but the flavours all worked out beautifully in the end.

I had some leftover sweet potato “yolks” which I baked alongside with the mooncake. This might just be the best snack ever.

Matcha Buckwheat Mooncakes with Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Yolk
1 3.5″ mooncake.
Vegan. Gluten-Free.
Buckwheat Bake adapted from Edible Perspective. See Ashley’s blog for a wonderful collection of buckwheat bakes.

Ingredients
For the Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Yolk

  • 1 1/2 tbsp sweet potato puree (preferably from a yellow sweet potato which is starchier than the orange ones)
  • 2 tsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp natural peanut butter

For the Banana Buckwheat Lotus Paste

  • 5 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbsp raw buckwheat groats
  • 2 tsp cacao powder (optional; added for a darker colour)
  • 1-2 tbsp protein powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal + 3 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 medium banana, mashed (about 3-4 tbsp puree)
  • Non-dairy milk, as needed
  • 1 tsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seeds

For the Matcha Cashew Frosting

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F°/175°C. Lightly oil a 3.5″ mini casserole or ramekin and set aside.
  2. First make the flax egg. In a small bowl, mix the flax meal with water, whisk and let stand for 15 mins to thicken.
  3. Make the sweet potato yolk. Steam a (yellow) sweet potato and mash a few slices to get about 1 1/2 tbsp of puree. Add in the rolled oats and peanut butter, then roll the mix to form a ball about 1.2-inch/3 cm in diameter. Press down gently to flatten slightly. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-size bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for the buckwheat bake. In another bowl, mash the banana then add in the flax egg, which should have thickened. Then create a well in the dry ingredients and fold in the banana-flax mixture. The batter should be thick and sticky. Add non-dairy milk to the batter if necessary. Then, fold in the pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds.
  5. Pour half the batter into the mini-casserole, place the sweet potato yolk in the center, then add the remaining batter around it. Bake the mooncake at 350F°/175°C for 30 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile as the mooncake is baking, prepare the matcha frosting. Add the matcha powder to the cashew frosting, then refrigerate until needed.
  7. Once the buckwheat mooncake has finished baking, remove from oven and let cool 5 mins then slide a knife around the edge to release. Let cool another 10 mins.
  8. If the top of the buckwheat bake is domed, you may want to slice the top mound off. Then frost with the matcha cashew frosting.

This is probably the only mooncake which you can devour whole and not feel the least bit guilty! And you can enjoy it at any time of the year too!

Durian Strawberry Tiramisu Oatmeal

Tir-a-mi-su, the wonderful Italian dessert composed of heavenly layers of espresso-soaked savoiardi ladyfingers, cocoa, fluffy eggs, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, sugar, and booze, often Baileys and/or rum. In short, you could say it’s a mouth-watering heart attack. But with this Durian Strawberry Tiramisu, I’ll show you how you can have your cake an eat it too. There is a prerequisite, however; you must first enjoy durians. Passed the test? Let’s move on.

I can think of no other fruit that boasts the same creamy texture as durians. Mix in a little milk and its thickness and richness is similar to that of cream. So why not use it as a substitute for mascarpone and cream? Of course there is the potent aromas (or pungency, depending on how you view durians), but fear not. The bitterness and slight alcoholic kick, especially in the mao shan wang (猫山王), XO or huang zhong wang (皇中王) durian varieties, actually does pair very well with the coffee and rum, and a very indulgent tiramisu. To cut through all the boozy and bitters notes from the durians and coffee, I thought the sweet and slightly tart strawberries would do the trick.

Instead of espresso-soaked ladyfingers, oatmeal cooked in coffee is used as the body. I used a blend of steel cut oats and oat flour. Oatmeal won’t give the traditional spongy texture of tiramisu, but in exchange, you get to delight in the contrast between the chewy oatmeal and ultra-creamy mousse-like durian.

Another crucial point that will make or break your tiramisu is the type of coffee the oatmeal is cooked in. In the original recipe by The Oatmeal Artist, coffee granules are added directly into the oatmeal as it cooks. However I decided to go one step further and brew the coffee with a moka pot, then cooked the oats in the espresso, along with milk and water. I believe this gives a stronger, more concentrated coffee flavour. Specifically, I used Hawaiian Kona coffee flavoured with macadamia, and it paired so well with all the other flavours. Not the mention the nutty fragrance!

Here is Tiramisu made healthy and vegan, but still bursting with a unique flavour. To my friends who don’t have access to durians, I’m sorry but until I improvise further, this will have to do. Otherwise, you could attempt The Oatmeal Artist’s version made with greek yogurt, which looks yummy too!

Durian Strawberry Tiramisu Oatmeal
Serves one.
Vegan.
Inspired by The Oatmeal Artist’s Tiramisu Oatmeal.
Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp steel cut oats
  • 1 tbsp oat flour (freshly ground from steel cut oats)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup freshly brewed espresso
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice or coconut)
  • 1 tsp cacao powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp chocolate extract (or vanilla, but I’m out of it!)
  • 1/4 tsp rum essence
  • 1/3 cup fresh durian puree
  • 1 tbsp chocolate sauce (I used melted DCD peanut butter)
  • 1-2 strawberries, sliced
  • Ground cinnamon for dusting

Directions

  1. Cook steel cut oats and chia seeds in water until most of the water has evaporated, about 20 mins.
  2. Pour in espresso and cook a further 10 min, until thickened again.
  3. Pour in milk and oat flour and cook a further 10 mins, until thickened again.
  4. Add in cacao powder, protein powder (if using), chocolate and rum extracts. Give it a good mix, and turn off heat. Let stand for about 5 mins.
  5. To make the tiramisu oatmeal parfait, layer alternately oatmeal and durian puree, then drizzle a bit of chocolate sauce. Halfway through, place the sliced strawberries against the glass and continue layering. The above recipe should give about three layers each of oatmeal and durian puree. The top layer should be durian puree.
  6. Dust with cacao and cinnamon.

 

Zesty Apple Pie Oatmeal

It was bound to happen; apple pie in all forms had been manifesting everywhere. First a salted maple, apple, and pecan oatmeal was featured on The Oatmeal Artist’s blog. Then I had an amazing apple pie for dessert to end a sumptuous feast at a relative’s house last night. It was a no-holds-barred apple pie: a buttery flaky pastry base, tart cinnamony apples and a sugary crispy crust. To continue the apple pie saga, I was greeted by the cutest interpretation of apple pie oatmeal by Brittany, as I checked Instagram just before I turned it for the night (she was recently featured on The Oatmeal Artist’s blog too). You can’t fault me if I dreamt of apples, pies and apple pie. This morning that was turned that into reality.

However instead of the usual applesauce-based apple pie oatmeal, I did a twist using a zesty orange-passionfruit-banana sauce which I adapted from here. The original recipe was meant to be a sorbet, but I left it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer, and it turned out the consistency of applesauce, so I thought it would be a fun substitute.

It definitely was. The citrusy notes from the orange and passionfruit added a unique, refreshing dimension to the classic cinnamon apple pie flavour we are all so familiar with. Here’s to apple pie! Excuse my amateurish attempt at being artistic. If you can make it out, it’s actually maple almond butter drizzled in the shape of an apple and filled with baked apple pieces.

Zesty Apple Pie Oatmeal
Makes one bowl
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 apple, chopped (I used Jazz)
  • 2 tbsp orange passionfruit sauce (see below; can use applesauce)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • Nut butter to drizzle (I used Maranatha maple almond butter)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/180°C. In a small oven-proof casserole or ramekin, mix chopped apple pieces with orange passionfruit sauce, spices and vanilla extract. Bake for 12 mins until slightly softened.
  2. Meanwhile as the apple is being baked, prepare oatmeal. Bring oats, chia seeds and water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 mins until thickened, add milk and simmer another 5-10 mins more.
    Note:the apple should have finished baking before the oatmeal is done; if not turn off heat and let oats stand.

  3. Mix the baked apples and protein powder (if using) into the oatmeal. Pour everything into a small oven-proof casserole and bake for another 10 mins to achieve a crispy “pie crust.”
  4. Top with nut butter of choice.

Orange passionfruit sauce
Makes 3/4 cup.
Ingredients

  • 1/2 large orange, peeled
  • 1/2 passionfruit
  • 1/2 banana, sliced

Directions

  1. Remove veins and pith from orange and cut into segments. Blend orange until very smooth.
  2. Blend orange puree together with passionfruit and banana.
  3. Chill in refrigerator to thicken (you may also freeze it to make a sorbet).

 
P.S. I tried a new Japanese brand of organic soy milk today called Meiraku, which I bought from Isetan supermarket. It claims to contain at least 10% soy beans (if I read the Japanese label correctly) and boasted a super beany and creamy taste! I’ve been using Silk or Pacific for years, but I may have uncovered a new gem!

P.S.S. I’ve got a job interview for Medical Technologist at a local hospital tomorrow. Super nervous and excited!

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.

 

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.

 

Banana Peanut Butter Brownie Batter Oatmeal

Banana peanut butter brownie batter. Try saying that thrice as fast and I think we’ve got a tongue twister.

Oatmeal chocolate banana brownie PB batter [banana] (010713)

Sitting on the kitchen counter were some leopard-spotted bananas at the peak of their ripeness and that could only mean one thing – banana oatmeal! But not just any banana oatmeal. I wanted thick, doughy, stick-to-your-ribs fudgy throaty deep dark decadant chocolatety oatmeal. Why not? It’s the first of July, it’s Monday, and we need something to kick start the monthly and monday blues.

Oatmeal chocolate banana brownie PB batter feature (010713)

This oatmeal features chocolate in three forms: cacao powder, dark chocolate, and chocolate peanut butter. If this is not intense enough, you could even cook your oats in chocolate milk. The bananas were so sweet that this bowl didn’t even need any sweetener, apart from some medjool dates. And yes, please do use steel cut oats and not your instant kind or even rolled oats. The chewy texture makes all the difference in the world and justifies the 40 min simmering time. Yes, the preparation of steel cut oats rivals that of risotto.

Oatmeal chocolate banana brownie PB batter (010713)

I served this on a plate instead of the usual bowl because you have to admit, plates are more photogenic, and you know how difficult it is to make this lump of brown mess look appealing. Another advantage of plates vs bowls is that it makes licking up the last few stubborn oatmeal stains much easier! Deeply satisfied, I’m now ready to face the new month and new week. Happy July!

Banana Peanut Butter Brownie Batter Oatmeal
Serves one.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats (I use Country Choice Organic)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1/2 large banana, mashed
  • 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 square dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 72% Twilight Delight)
  • 1/4 medjool date, chopped
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (I use Garden of Life)
  • Peanut butter
  • Ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chocolate extract (may substitute with vanilla extract)
  • Extra fruits, nuts & seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions

  • Place oats in water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer until thick, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Pour in soy milk and coconut milk and simmer another 5-10 minutes then stir in mashed bananas, and simmer another 5-10 minutes until thick.
  • Mix in cacao powder, chocolate, dates and protein powder. Stir well to combine.
  • Serve and top with extra fruits & peanut butter.