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 8: J is for Jicama – peanut delirium spicy thai quinoa Jicama pomelo salad

Jicama (HEE-ka-ma/HIK-ka-ma) is an irony. Gnarly, gigantic and intimidating in its exterior, underneath its rough peel lies a mildly sweet, crunchy and refreshing surprise. Some consider it to have the same flavour as the water chestnut; my best analogy would be a radish without it peppery pungence, or an Asian pear without its sweetness.

For me, Jicama is something familiar yet unfamiliar. I had been eating jicama long before I knew what what it was. In local cuisine, it is the scrumptious filling for popiah (Fujian-style fresh spring rolls) or kuih pie tee (savoury mini pastry cups). It is also usually boiled, usually with carrots, to make a light Chinese-style soup. Yet I have never really bothered with jicama; after all there are plenty more prettier and more tasty vegetables around. However in the name of Vegan Mofo, I decided it was time to familiarize myself with some local vegetables!

Upon further research on this tuber, I was surprised to learnt that jicama is also popular in Mexican cuisine and in fact, it actually originated in Mexico. In the 17th century it was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish, and from there taken to China and Southeast Asia. Whereas Asians like to have their jicama cooked, in Mexico it is usually eaten raw – sliced and sprinkled with salt, chili and lime. What a interesting idea; it never occurred to me that it could be eaten raw!

Fusing the ideas of Mexican jicama crudites with Asian cuisine, this Peanut Delirium Spicy Thai Quinoa Jicama Pomelo Salad with Sriracha Glazed Peanuts was conceived. A mouthful of a title, but I promise, you too will want a mouthful of this salad. Full-on peanut flavour from the dressing and crunchy sriracha roasted peanuts (seriously, the bomb!) with a blast of punchy spice from the copious amounts of more sriracha and red pepper flakes. I know that jicama was supposed to be the star ingredient, but who can compare when peanut butter is around? Nevertheless, it does play an important role – impart a pleasant crunch to the salad which makes it so incredibly good.


I’m really happy with the outcome of the dressing because I’ve been trying to perfect the Thai-style peanut butter dressing. Rather than consulting and comparing numerous recipes, I went by taste, adding a bit more agave and squirting more sriracha as needed. If you’re looking for a spicy peanut butter dressing with the kick of limes, this is it.

Peanut Delirium Spicy Thai Quinoa Jicama Pomelo Salad with Sriracha Glazed Peanuts
3-4 servings.
Vegan. Gluten-Free.

Ingredients
For the Sriracha Glazed Peanuts

  • 1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 1/4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (Huy Fong brand)
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper (optional)

For the Spicy Peanut Delirium Dressing

  • 3 tbsp natural unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp mirin or 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3/4 tbsp sriracha
  • Juice of 3 small limes
  • 1 tbsp water to thin (f necessary)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (use less if prefer less spicy)

For the Salad

  • 1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup jicama batons (from about 1/3 of a medium jicama)
  • 1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced (from about 1/2 a medium pepper)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pomelo sacs (more recommended, up to 2 cups)
  • Few bunches of cilantro, chopped

Directions
For the Sriracha Glazed Peanuts

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/170°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, sriracha and seasonings. Add the peanuts and mix until evenly coated.
  3. Spread the nuts evenly onto the parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 mins until toasted. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

For the Spicy Peanut Delirium Dressing

  1. In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for the dressing except for the water and red pepper flakes. If necessary, add water to thin out the dressing to desired consistency (I added 1 tbsp). Finally add the red pepper flakes until preferred spiciness level. As a guide, 1 tsp red pepper flakes would give a very spicy dressing.
  2. If not using the dressing immediately, store in the refrigerator.

For the Salad

  1. Cook quinoa. First rinse the quinoa, then place it in a saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook about 15-20 mins or until all the water has been absorbed and quinoa is cooked through. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
  2. Add the cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining salad ingredients (jicama, red cabbage, red pepper, carrots, pomelo sacs and cilantro) and mix until well combined.
  3. To serve, mix in the peanut dressing and top with the sriracha peanuts.

Caution: Please have a cup of cold water ready by the side!

 

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?

Weekend Recap

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. Remember the balsamic cherry oatmeal? This morning I decided to do a version with blueberries and grapes instead (recipe below). A duo of blueberries and grapes are roasted in coconut butter. The bubbling mixture is then mixed with balsamic vinegar and the sweet blue syrup is glazed over chocolate quinoa. So troublin’ good!

After church service at about 11 am, while the horde of Sunday crowd had yet to throng the malls, I finally went to neaten my eyebrows. The last time I did them was seven years ago for secondary school graduation dinner, and seven years later I’m doing it again for university graduation. The beautician was, to say the least, quite flabbergasted at the state of m unruly brows. 15 minutes later and with skin as pink as a raw salmon, my brows were transformed. I suppose I should start putting more effort into my appearance?

It is a tradition for my family to eat out for Sunday lunch. Today I managed to persuade my mum to go vegetarian at Real Food (Novena Square 2). She was bowled over by her simple Garlic Mushroom Aglio Olio, just as I was with my Mushroom and Celery Tomato Penne. It may sound and look boring, but their homemade tomato sauce was punchy with lots of herbs and garlic. Tucked away at the basement of the mall, this cafe is large, spacious and away from the maddening crowds. With their unpretentious healthy dishes, I consider this vegetarian cafe a hidden gem.

That said, I can’t really live without my proteins, so for dinner I did a quick Sake Misozuke (Miso-marinated Salmon). Pan-seared then broiled, it yielded the most tender flaky flesh sealed under a caramelized cripsy crust.

Graduation ceremony tomorrow. Gotta turn in early!

Roasted Coconut Balsamic Blueberries & Grapes on Chocolate Quinoa
Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 2 large grapes, quartered (Red Globe grapes)
  • 1/2 tsp coconut butter or oil (Artisana)
  • 1/8 tsp aged balsamic vinegar (Il Borgo del Balsamico)
  • 1/4 cup quinoa (I used Ally Amino cereal, which consists of a blend of quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat and sesame)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut)
  • 1/8 tsp chocolate extract (or vanilla)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (Garden of Life)
  • 1/2 tbsp cacao powder (Pacari raw)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. In a small oven-proof casserole, mix coconut butter with blueberries and grapes. Bake for 15 mins until bubbly. Remove from oven and drizzle balsamic vinegar over. Set aside.
  2. While the fruits are roasting, prepare quinoa porridge. In a small saucepan, bring quinoa and water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 mins until most of the water has evaporated and quinoa has turned translucent.
  3. Pour in milk and chocolate extract, stir and simmer another 5-10 mins until the porridge reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Towards the last 2 mins, stir in cocoa powder and protein powder. Turn of flame and let stand for 5 mins.
  5. To serve, pour balsamic blueberries and grapes over chocolate quinoa. Serve with nut butters and dried fruits if desired.

Product Review: An Ally to Aminos

Ally amino quinoa amaranth

While I would rate myself as a loyal Bob’s Red Mill fan when it comes to grains, I also love trying out new products. So when I saw this pack of Ally Amino Grains on the supermarket shelves, I got all excited.

Sold conveniently as 6x30g packs, each contains a blend of (white) quinoa, amaranth, millets, buckwheat and sesame. You know how you get bored with one type of grain, and how a pack of quinoa can languish in the pantry for months? This is a wonderful solution – by having the medley of grains, it provides varied textures, making for an interesting mix in each mouthful. Although the instructions recommend adding the grains as a supplement to rice or soup, I had it just as it is, cooked in water first, then soy milk stirred in. Seeing that the pack was small, I topped it up with a handful of Raspberry Galaxy Granola (that I bought from iHerb). Finally, I added chopped fresh fruits (mangoes, banana, cherries, grapes) and layered with chia seed peanut butter.

As expected, the grains had that characteristic nutty taste/smell, but mostly it was infused with the saccharine sweetness of the Benishan mangoes. Though not as creamy as oats, it’s a good change from the usual.

On a side note, I unearthed a (Forever Italy) moka pot from the kitchen cupboards yesterday while trying to find a sieve (in preparation for making red velvet cupcakes – to come soon). I was really excited as it meant proper coffee – finally! After watching a youtube video on how to use it, I made my first pot of (luwak) espresso this morning. What a heady, potent brew it gave! I’m in love with this new equipment. Sometimes, such small unexpected finds give the most pleasures.

Weekend Candies

How was your weekend? Mine was a triple ‘L’: lazy, languid and laid-back. Sunday started off blissfully with yet another stack of winning-combination pancakes – Chocolate Pancakes topped with Puree of Durian Banana (Durianana).

Chocolate pancakes w durianana puree

Just look at that luscious durianana! Creamy and pungent, this certainly added some kick to the otherwise languorous Sunday. The chocolate pancakes was stodgier than usual, perhaps because of the cacao powder (which acts somewhat like a thickener), or because I cooked them slightly longer than usual (too much multi-tasking in the kitchen). Nevertheless, these pancakes made one happy belly.

Remember my mention of the Annie Tan prize? Well, I received a mail yesterday from the University informing that I was no longer on their shortlist, with no specific reasons provided. Truthfully, I’m superbly relieved to hear this news. I don’t feel as I meet the qualifications and now I don’t have to bear the burden of the interview on my mind. [Graduation] results will be released tomorrow, and I’m quite excited, nervous and scared all at the same time. You bet my eyes will be glued to the phone at around 8am tomorrow.

The family had Sunday lunch at Ichiban Boshi, which was my idea so that I could make use of the rewards card (it’s a pretty worthy card since most of their main dishes already cost $20, which entitles you to a stamp, which can be redeemed for free dishes or vouchers). I ordered the Salmon Head Pirikara Claypot Udon.

Ichiban Boshi Salmon head pirikara Snapseed

This consists of thick udon noodles in a heady garlic onion broth, with battered salmon pieces (tempura style), and silken tofu, egg, shitake mushroom and cabbage. It left me with a garlic breath that lasted many hours! In total we earned 5 stamps from the lunch; pretty awesome!

Dinner time rolled around and I exercised some creativity in another clean-out-the-fridge operation. A Sweet Potato Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf Salad was conjured.

SP quinoa mushroom pilaf

I had no patience for proper photos of the cooking process so this is the best I have. I loved the sauteed garlic [again!] mushrooms best. I was intending on sweet potato fries but because I overcrowded the casserole, it came out soft and steamed rather than crispy and caramelized. I well-learnt lesson – fries don’t like friends!

Otherwise, the other half of my weekend was spent playing Candy Crush. Addictive game; I supposed it’s a good thing then that you have limited number of lives (5), which only can be replenished once every half hour.

Oh-so-fickle oatmeal-quinoa durian pudding

Oatmeal quinoa durian pudding

Base: Scottish oats, red quinoa, 10-grain BRM pancake mix, soymilk, Garden of Life protein powder, vanilla, cinnamon > baked 15 min at 180C.

Pudding: frozen durian (mao shan wang), banana slices, slice of mango, one strawberry > blend.

Toppings: Laughing Giraffe vanilla almond macaroon (last one!), macadamia nut butter, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins

Result: simply beyond words, sublime, and breathtaking. Especially the potent, head-spinning durian pudding.