Updates from Early Morning Oats!

Hi! It’s been 10 months since my last post. During this period it was a time of finding myself. During and after the intensive vegan mofo period, I felt I was pressurized to create recipes and labeled as a “food blogger.” I moved my blogging platform onto Instagram (@thecuriousgreen) as a microblogging site, but you know, it’s hard to post recipes there.

Anyhow, through instagram I got to know many people and they have opened my eyes to the world, their worlds and creative ideas. And I think I found myself now. I am Sabrina, christ-centered, saved by grace. I like to create plant-based, gluten-free, vegan and refined sugar-free recipes for all, from my apartment kitchen in Singapore. So this may sound like any other health food blogger. Sometimes I wonder if it is a trivial matter to have a food blog and blog about food when there are so many people starving out there. But I find peace in writing, photography, creating and life is so short, just do what makes you happy. You can do anything, but not everything. Leave each to do what he does best.

And the major announcement: I am now blogging at nutrisabby.com. Actually I hate this name now because it sounds a tad self-centered (I do not like my name as part of the domain). On instagram you can find me as kaleandhearty. Most unfortunately, the domain kaleandhearty.com is registered and will only expire next year. The alternative TLDs are .me, .net and .co, which I may consider, if worst comes to worst. Otherwise, I might have to scratch my names for a new monkier…. again.

See you at my other site. I hate the design there, and in the midst of a makeover. The annoying thing is that my IP keeps getting blacklisted by Bluehost.

New Site in the Making

It has come time to say farewell to this blog.

After four years of blogging as earlymorningoats, I no longer identity with its personality. Within these span of months, I’ve changed. However I love writing and I will continue to write, on a broader range of topics, at a new site which is currently in the making. Not wanting to set deadlines, there is no guarantee when the new site will be up. But probably within the next one or two months.

Thank you, readers. It’s been a joy while this journey lasted.

Meanwhile I will still be active on my Instagram account (@thecuriousgreen).

Vegan Mofo 7: H is for vegan Hollandaise (and vegan cheese disaster)

That thick yellow sauce poured over eggs benedict – that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hollandaise. Although meaning Holland-style or from Holland, it roots are actually French, specifically originating from a small town in Normandy called Isigny-sur-Mer, which was famous for its creamy butter. However during World War I, butter production ceased in France, and butter was imported from Holland instead. Hence from its original name Sauce Isigny, it was rechristened Hollandaise sauce. Today it remains one of the five Mother sauces in haute French cuisine (the other sauces being bechamel, veloute, espagnole and tomato sauce), and is a traditional topper for eggs benedict, asparagus, or fish.

History lesson over; what’s actually goes into this artery-clogging pale mustard custard-like sauce that so many people seem to lap up with gusto? Egg yolks. Butter. (And a touch of lemon juice and/or vinegar). Doubly unvegan. I was never really taken to eggs benny or hollandaise because of the richness, but a lightened up vegan Hollandaise served over tofu patties sounds much more palatable and appealing!

Today I cheat again by not posting an original recipe, but sharing three vegan Hollandaise I curated from over the web, made using different bases: tofu, cashew or cornstarch. Although I have not tried them out, I expect that using a cashew base would give a fuller body and heavier texture while the tofu one would be milder and lighter. Happy Holland-azing! (Pictures are taken from the respective blogs’ website).

Tofu-based Hollandaise sauce from Chez Bettay (served with smoky bacon tempeh) – has quite a lengthy list of ingredients, including soy creamer and vegan butter.

Tofu Hollandaise Sauce

Cashew-based Hollandaise sauce from Keepin’ It Kind (served with chickpea patties) – the simplest of all three, made with just cashews, nutritional yeast, mustard and seasonings.

Cashew Hollandaise Sauce

Cornstarch-based Hollandaise sauce from Cookbook Aficionado (served with tofu patties) – for the lazy ones who don’t want to dirty the blender or food processor!

Cornstarch Hollandaise Sauce

Meanwhile I’d take this opportunity to share the outcome of Vegangela’s vegan cheese, which was also one of the recipes I bookmarked in the list for Vegan Mofo ‘C’ ingredients recipe round-up.

This is made with cashews and non-dairy (almond) milk as the body, seasoned with nutritional yeast and miso for the cheesy taste, and set with agar. I poured the mixture into a mini springform pan to set and it was ready after a few hours in the fridge. It came out weird, like a child born of a cheese father and a jelly mother. A more succinct description would be a savoury cheese jelly. Apart from the strange texture, the miso taste came out too strong rather then blend into the background. Overall I would classify it as a kitchen failure, and the bulk of the cheese is now languishing in the fridge. It may or may not have gone bad already.

I kept to the original recipe, except omitting the garlic and onion powder as I didn’t have them. Although it was a failure, here’s the recipe in case you’re interested.

Homemade Vegan Cheese
1 4.5″ block.
Vegan.
Adapted from Vegangela.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1+3/4 cups plain unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 8 tsp agar powder
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp yellow or white miso (I used white)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Grind cashews in a food processor (do not allow the cashews to turn into a paste). Add the nutritional yeast and salt. Pulse a few more times to blend in the spices.
  2. Combine the milk, agar, and oil in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 10 mins, stirring occasionally, or until the agar is dissolved. With the food processor running, gradually pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and into the cashew mixture. Blend until the mixture is very smooth and creamy. Then blend in the miso and lemon juice.
  3. Transfer the cheese to a container (ramekin or springform pan). Cover and refrigerate until it is very firm, about 4 hours.
  4. Once firm, unmold from the container. Grate or slice the cheese as desired.

 

For now I’ll stick to the basic liquid nutritional yeast sauce for any cheese needs!

Loaded Spanakopita Money Bags with Rags to Riches Tomato Balsamic Sauce

This dish is an entry for the Nom Yourself Birthday Challenge. Mary Matten is the amazing chef behind the creative dishes at Nom Youself. To celebrate her first year blogaversary, she is holding a contest with amazing prizes to be won, including a Vitamix and Nom Yourself cookbook! All you have to do is to recreate any dish from the Nom Yourself instagram account (@nomyourself), but to put your own creative spin on it. You can read more about the contest description and rules here.

NomYourself blurlots backgd final

The dish that I chose to recreate was Crispy Spinach Puffs with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce. Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes, typically rectangular slices or triangular parcels. Yet another fun way to pack in those delicious creamy spinach fillings would be in the form of money-bag-shaped dumplings. I borrowed this idea from the classic Chinese wanton money-bags, a perennial dim sum favourite. To make the money-bags from phyllo, simply cut the pastry into circles then fold inwards to form a pouch.

Spanakopita_04

To make it a more wholesome and satisfying meal, the filling comes with lentils in addition to the staple spinach and “ricotta” cheese, which is based on a cashew/tofu blend. Plump phyllo pockets loaded with lentils, tofu, cashews and spinach – now, you’ve got a balanced mix of carbo, protein, greens and healthy fat. I’ve seen versions of spanakopitas that come with chickpeas and black beans; it’s pretty versatile so you may use whatever you have on hand.

As for the accompanying sauce, the original Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce was given full-blown upgrade to a rich and hearty tomato sauce, with lots of garlic and just a hint of sweetish balsamic dancing in the background. It is certainly the tomato sauce that made this dish so nom-worthy!

Nom Yourself Crispy Spinach Puff
Spanakopita Money Bags with Tomato Balsamic Sauce

 

So that’s my take on Crispy Spinach Puffs. In case you were wondering about the pun with money, that’s because NomYouself has a way with words and the name of her dishes always tell a story. So this is my (amateur) attempt at word play. I hope you enjoy!

Loaded Spanakopita Money Bags with Rags to Riches Tomato Balsamic Sauce
Makes about 12 money-bags; Serves 4.
Vegan.
Ingredients

  • About 18 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
  • Bunch of spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 150g box fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup cooked green lentils (prepared from 1/4 cup or 50g dry)

Cashew Tofu Ricotta (adapted from Vegan Yumminess)

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked 2+ hours
  • 3/4 cup crumbled firm silken/pressed tofu
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

Tomato Balsamic Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

  1. The night before making the dish, defrost phyllo pastry in the refrigerator and soak cashews in water.
  2. The next day. If preparing lentils from dry, place the lentils into a saucepan and fill with water to cover the lentils. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 mins until tender but not mushy. Set aside. If using canned lentils, measure out about 3/4 cup and set aside.
  3. In a medium frying pan, saute onion with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion turns translucent, about 3-4 mins. Then add in garlic and saute 1 min, followed by the spinach. Cook the mixture until the spinach is just wilted.
  4. Next, prepare the cashew tofu ricotta. In a medium sized bowl, mash about 2/3 block of tofu with a fork until it fall aparts. Take about 3/4 cup of your crumbled tofu and put it in the food processor with the soaked cashews and the remaining seasonings. Process on high until the mixture is smooth. Then add in the cooked spinach mixture and pulse a few times until the spinach is just chopped up.
  5. Remove the spinach/ricotta mixture and place into a large bowl. Add the cooked lentils and fold in to incorporate. This will be the filling for the money-bags.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Cut out phyllo circles for the money bags. Take a stack of phyllo pastry and place on a flat surface. Place a 7″ dish or cake tin over and using the knife, trace around the dish/tin to make an indentation. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut out the circles fully. Altogether you should get 36 circles to make 12 money-bags (3 circles per money bag).
  7. To make each money-bag, brush each circle generously with olive oil. Lay another circle on top. Brush again with olive oil. Lay one more circle on top. Place about 3 tbsp of the filling into the center of the circle and fold to create a bag. Secure with spring onion stalk. Repeat the same for the other money-bags. Finally, brush each money-bag with olive oil and bake for 20-30 min until the outsides are browned and crispy.
  8. Meanwhile as the spanakopitas are baking, prepare the tomato balsamic sauce. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, wine, and basil. Simmer 15 mins.
  9. To serve, ladle tomato balsamic sauce onto a plate and place about 3 money-bags on top. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Vegan Mofo 3 – ‘C’ Ingredients Recipe Round-Up

C is for Cauliflower•Cheese•Chickpea •Chocolate•Chili•Coconut•Corn•Courgette

Today I’ll keep it simple and share some recipes featuring ‘C’ ingredients used in unusual ways. These are recipes that I’ve been dreaming to make, or have been made by yours truly. The photos are directly taken from the respective blogs’ website. Hover over the image to read a short description of the dish. Enjoy!

Cauliflowersecret ingredient (cauliflower) brownies // spicy buffalo cauliflower wings // cauliflower “no-potato” salad (my recipe!)

secret ingredient (cauliflower) brownies
spicy buffalo cauliflower bites
cauliflower no-potato salad

 
Cheesehomemade vegan cheese

homemade vegan cheese

 
Chickpeaburmese chickpea tofu

burmese chickpea tofu

 
Chocolatereal deal chocolate ice cream (no avocado, banana, cashews or coconut)

real-deal chocolate ice-cream

 
Chilispicy au natural red velvet cupcakes with chili coconut ganache (my recipe!)

spicy red velvet cupcakes with chili coconut ganache

 
Coconutwhipped dairy-free butter

whipped dairy-free butter

 
Cornsweet corn & blueberry oatmeal // summer blues layer (corn) cake

sweet corn and blueberry oatmeal
summer blues layer (corn) cake

 
Courgettehasselback zucchini (courgette)

hasselback zucchini

 
Any unusual recipes featuring ‘C’ ingredients that you have come across?

Fig & Almond Galette (vegan)

You haven’t known figs until you try a fresh one. Sure, the dried ones are available all year round, but there is nothing like the lusciously sweet taste and unique texture of fresh figs. Plump, soft, yielding, bright and juicy – no other fruit is as sensually pleasing. Delicate when fresh, bubbly when roasted, jammy when mashed. Oh, I could go on ravishing about this exotic fruit but I should probably stop lest there’ll be no end.

The appeal of the fig goes beyond its sensual delight. Here are some interesting information that you might want to go figure. Thought to originate in Asia Minor, humans have revered the common fig tree Ficus carica since antiquity. Fossil remains from the Jordan Valley indicate they have been cultivated for more than 11,000 years. In fact, the fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible. For example, right in the beginning Genesis 3:7 indicates that the fig tree provided the first clothing for Adam and Eve: “… they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig eaves together and made coverings for themselves.” And henceforth, the fig leaf became the symbol of modesty, as you may see so often in Renaissance art.

Moreover, the fig is also a nutrition powerhouse – an excellent source of potassium, calcium, manganese and vitamin B6. So all the more seize the opportunity to load up on figs this season! Here is one idea how: make a Fig Galette!

The word Galette is derived from the French word “galet”, a weatherworn smooth pebble. In culinary terms, this refers to various types of flat cakes, including the crepe-like pancakes of Brittany and Normandy (Galette De Bretagne) as well as freeform pies. Today we are interested in the latter, because, what’s better than filling a dough purse stuffed full of bubbling roasty figs? Traditionally made with a butter-based pie crust or puffed pastry, I never thought that a vegan version was possible. Not until I came across several recipes using frozen coconut oil as substitute. I was very intrigued and couldn’t wait to try it out.

In fact this was my first time making a pie dough, vegan or not, so after some extensive research, here’s what I gleaned. Pie dough is made by cutting butter (or other solid fat) into flour until the butter and flour looks crumbly and has pieces of butter the size of peas. Then, just enough water is added to form the dough into a ball. Most importantly:

Keep things cold, very cold.
It is especially important for the fat to be cold because pockets of unmelted fat within the crust that melt away during baking are what makes a deliciously flaky pie. Thus, refrigerate the oil, flour and use ice-cold water when making the dough, and work quickly.

For a tender crust
Do not overwork the dough; over handling will lead develop the fluten and lead to a tough pie crust dough. Thus, also choose a low protein flour such as pastry flour. I used a blend of pastry flour and buckwheat flour for nuttiness and to make it more nutritious. Buckwheat flour is also gluten-free so I though it may work well. Nevertheless, all-purpose flour is readily available and works well for all pie crusts. Sift the flour before measuring it.

I understand that pictures speak more than words so below is a pictorial on how to make the coconut oil pie dough.

Assembling the galette is easy. I used an almond cream base and layered the figs on top, then folded in the edges to form a mini-dumpling. So cute isn’t it?!

First of all, I was very pleased and amazed at how the dough came out. It was pliable and very easy to work with, though you need to let the dough “defrost” slightly after chilling because coconut oil becomes very hard when chilled and takes even longer than butter to melt. Second, I have to admit that the crust didn’t come out flaky at all. Nope, no beautiful layers of flaky pastry was in sight. Instead, it came out crumbly, but in an oh-so-delightful crunchy graham-cracker style. That was exactly my first thought when I bit into the crust: Mmm…graham crackers!

With the bubbling hot cinnamon-spiced figs sizzling in its sugars and in all its glory, this was pure perfigtion. Crunchy graham base with pulpy caramelized figs, and a heady almond cream to pair the two together – this galette is definitely worth making. It’s a free-form tart; you don’t need a lot of skill yet it presents a level of rustic sophistication that will surely impress. This is what I call a cheat dish!

Fig & Almond Galette
1 medium galette, about 4-5 slices.
Vegan.

Ingredients
Pie Dough

  • 3/4 cup flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1/4 cup buckwheat flour)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, frozen until solid
  • 2-3 tbsp ice-cold water (I used 2 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Almond Cream

  • 1/4 cup almonds, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 large medjool date, chopped
  • 2 tbsp non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut)
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Fig Layer

  • 3-5 figs, depending on size
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions
Begin by making the galette pie dough.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubes of frozen coconut oil from the ice tray. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the coconut oil into the flour mixture until the texture becomes lumpy, with the pieces of coconut oil no larger than small peas. Add the water and knead with your hand just until the dough pulls together. Alternatively, the dough can be made using the food processor.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat into a round disk. Wrap tightly with a cling film and chill for at least 30 mins (can be prepared ahead).

Make the almond cream.

  1. In a food processor, combine the almonds, dates, milk and almond extract and process until smooth and creamy. Place the almond cream in a small bowl and refrigerate to thicken.

Assemble the galette.

  1. Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  2. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to a circle of 1/8″-1/4″ thick.
  3. Place the galette dough onto a baking sheet. Spread with the almond cream mixture, leaving a 1.5″ border around the edge. Arrange the figs concentrically from the center. Lift the edge of the dough and fold over filling to make a nice, crimped border.
  4. You may choose to refrigerate the dough if it has become too soft. Bake at 350°F/175°C for 45-50 mins until figs are bubbling slightly and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving.

 

I just had to shove this picture up your face. Enjoy!

The Skeleton Is Out of the Closet

Starting is always the hardest part. How does one condense one’s life history into mere paragraphs? The answer is… you don’t. You use pictures.

Through the years

7 years ago, July 2006 – the journey into the devil’s lair begins. It was an innocuous, harmless intention that I’m sure could have bloomed in any normal 16-year-old teenager’s mind: I wanted to bake a birthday brownie cake for my junior’s birthday. Back then, I had limited zero kitchen experience and so turned to the WWW for guidance. The floodgates opened. Recipes, Allrecipes, FoodNetwork, individual blogs – I was bombarded with innumerable permutations of brownies, but most importantly was the “nurtition information” that accompanied some of these recipes. I was horrified by the copius amounts of calories, saturated fat and sugars of some recipes, yet enthralled by others that appeared so healthy. Being the perfectionist that I am, I started my quest to devise the healthiest brownies ever. In short, a simple idea of a birthday cake morphed into a complicated task. In the process, the Medusa monster called Eating Disorder reared her ugly head.

I think my condition could be described as “orthorexia,” otherwise known as healthy eating disorder. I started a food diary which made me aware of how much junk there was in my teenage diet. Then I started eliminating the fast food, the processed food, “unnecessary” drinks like bubble tea and snacks like cookies, chocolate and biscuits. I became conscious about serving sizes and started comparing my intake to others. Nevertheless, I never harboured an intention to lose weight but with such a minimal diet, the weight came off expectedly and unsurprisingly.

I was born with a small built, and remained skinnily scrawny as a child and teenager, despite my weekly McDonalds/KFC indulgences after band practices and snacking without care. At my heaviest I was barely 40 kg (1.6 m), and by December 2006, I was a ghastly 35 kg.

Through these trying years I am most grateful and indebted to my mum, although our relationship has been tested many times by ED. I was inpatient only once, in December 2006, where I nearly had to spend Christmas in hospital (the horrors!). Staying in that ED ward was a living nightmare: you could feel tensions and competitiveness in the air, among all the bulimic/anorexic girls. Furtive glances would be cast around during communal meal times, brawls and tears over food were common occurrences. It was a dreadful place and I wonder how could anyone really recover phyically and mentally under such depressing environments. I emerged from the hospital a couple more kilos, but mentally, I was still adamant that I did not have an ED.

Since then I have been switching dietitians and doctors as frequently as one changes one’s clothes (okay, maybe it’s a stretch of an exaggeration, but you get the idea). I’ve been to the doctors at SGH, RH, a naturopathic and currently a gasteroenterologist at GH. Clearly, something was not working right. The problem was I wasn’t fully committed to recovery. Each visit to the doctor was a chore, a dreadful task that I did on my mum’s behest, and each visit was uneventful, like a broken record on rewind mode.

Doctor: How are you doing?
Me: Uh, ok.
Doctor: Let’s review your meal plan.
Me: [describes meals)
Doctor: Let’s check your weight.
Me: (stands on scale)
Doctor: Hmmm… you’ve not gained weight. Do you think you could drink one more packet of Ensure every day?

So basically what they do is to prescribe more supplements when things aren’t right, though I can’t really blame them since on my part I wasn’t putting in much effort, or any effort really, to eat more.

And so 7 years later, I’m still stuck at square one. Actually, that’s a lie. Physically, I’ve regressed further to square zero. I hate to type the numbers out but I need to face reality bluntly and in the face: I’m 30 kg now and it’s horrible and dangerous (I think most of my weight loss is due to bone mass loss). Mentally, I like to think I’ve progressed a fair bit, in the sense that guilt no longer overwhelms me after consuming a cookie or chocolate or whatsoever. Still, that’s 84 months, or 30, 660 days wasted, and counting. I’m 23 now, just graduated from university, and have to face the working world soon. Yet I don’t look a day older than a secondary school kid. From an employer’s viewpoint, I understand that no right employer would even hire me. Reality has finally caught up and hit me in the face.

Not wanting to border on effusive prolixity, I should sum up my life story. Today and from now on, I am fully committed to recovery, to put in my best effort to earn back what was snatched away from me – physically, mentally and socially (yea, I barely have “true” friends since I excused myself from most social events). And so this blog will document this effort. It will be a test of discipline, determination, strength, hope and faith, but I know it is possible and I will show that it is possible. Apart from weighty (pun intended) issues, this blog shares my other loves in life too: good food (mostly vegetarian though I’m a great fish fiend as well), travels and of course, spiritual wellness. So expect recipes, restaurant and product reviews, travel photos to populate this space!

I would like to start a new habit, that is to end each post with a (relevant) verse from the Bible. And so for this seminal post, a good reminder is to have faith in the Lord.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58:8

Oh, in case you are a complete voyeur (which I unashamedly admit), you can view my previous blogs here: