Vegan Mofo 16: Q is for pretty pink breakfast Quinoa in pink guava soup

A nutritious breakfast with a girlish charm.

Perhaps you saw this coming; I mean I racked my brains for other ‘Q’ ingredients but Quinoa is all I could think of. Nevertheless working with quinoa is fun since it’s so versatile and can be used in practically any dish from sweets to savouries. In a double stroke of luck, pink guavas and fresh figs were on sale this week and so I thought of combining these exotic fruits with red quinoa to create a pretty breakfast.

Quinoa is riding a popularity resurgence and much has been written about it (in fact I wrote about it in my Superfood Series which sadly has failed to take off) so there’s no need to delve too much into explanation. A gluten-free pseudo-grain, it is often highlighted for its complete amino acid profile (including lysine and isoleucine – the limiting amino acids in other grains) and highly concentrated nutritive value such as calcium and flavaoids (quercetin and kaempferol). Did you know that 2013 is also officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Year of the Quinoa? In fact, it is the only food ingredient to make this list apart from the humble potato.

Between red and white quinoa, I prefer the former for its more intense nutty flavour and visual impact. Apart from breakfast quinoa porridges and granola, which I enjoy occasionally as a departure from oats, some quinoa recipes I’ve got my eyes on include the famouus Life Changing Loaf of Bread (My New Roots), and a quinoa quiche or pizza. Quinoa flour is also something I want to experiment with, but probably not anytime soon, given the growing number of half-opened bags ingredients in the kitchen.

If guavas are not available, I suppose you may use guava paste of another intense-colored fruit of choice, like mangoes or strawberries. The main idea is to have a nice thick pool of fruity smoothie for the quinoa to swim in. I also added protein powder and pectin to the soup, which added a nutritional boost as well as help to thicken it.

Pretty Pink Breakfast Quinoa in Pink Guava Soup
Serves one.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup uncooked red quinoa
  • Flesh of 1 pink guava (about 1/2 cup), seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used hazelnut milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp pectin powder (optional – for thickening)
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • Your choice of toppings (I used fresh figs and desiccated coconut)

Directions

  1. Soak the quinoa overnight in a bowl of water. The next morning, place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under running water.
  2. Cook quinoa. Place the drained quinoa into a saucepan. Add about 1/2 cup water, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 mins until the water is absorbed and you can see the white curly rings of the quinoa. Fluff and set aside.
  3. Make the guava puree. Place the guava flesh into the saucepan and add the milk and water. Bring to boil, and simmer for about 5-10 mins or until the guava flesh becomes soft.
  4. Add in the vanilla, cinnamon and other powders (if using). Stir well.
  5. Pour the mix into a blender and blend (for less clean up use immersion blender).
  6. To serve, place quinoa into a ramekin and using a spoon, press down to make the quinoa stick together. Invert the ramekin onto a plate, then pour the guava soup over. Garnish with fresh figs or other fruits and nuts.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients
About 1/3 cup of each grain

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

Directions

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

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

 

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

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.

A Morning Miracle // Loaded Quinoa Pancakes

I woke up this morning and as per usual, stretched out my hand to reach for my [new Samsung Galaxy 4] phone. “7 new messages,” my phone notified me. I pressed the email icon without much interest, expecting most of the mail to be spam. But one mail immediately caused my groggy, half-opened eyes to pop wide open:

Nomination Annie Tan

Whoa! A nomination for the Annie Tan Medal and Prize academic award, with top prize being S$3000 cash and second prize S$2000. Of course, the appeal of the award goes beyond monetary benefits. Just being shortlisted for this prize left me pleasantly shocked, dumbstruck, baffled and open-mouthed in awe. Out of thousands of students from the Science faculty, it’s truly unbelievable to be picked. Thrills of excitement and nervousness ran down my spine as I read and re-read the mail, slowly absorbing the details and the implications. Gotta. Prepare. for. Interview. Of course, everything now hinges on how well I promote myself through the application form, interview and my final grades (out on 4 June). The eligibility entails having First Class Honours (yikes!).

Coincidentally, I had planned a pretty special recipe for breakfast. The proud stack of Loaded Quinoa Pancakes was a befitting celebration of the good news.

Quinoa pancake stack

Normal pancakes made using flour only don’t cut it anymore. While I love cutting into a stack of puffy pancakes, they don’t have much sustenance power and two hours later I’d be trawling the kitchen again. I thought, how about incorporating some whole grains, such as quinoa, into the pancakes. And so, a recipe was devised.

Loaded Quinoa Pancakes [chocolate, strawberries, cherries, coconut, durian, nuts]
Serves one.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp (17 g) dry [red] quinoa
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp (17 g) 10-grain pancake mix [Bob’s Red Mill]
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white, beaten until frothy
  • 1/4 cup soy milk [Pacific, unsweetened]
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 large strawberry, chopped
  • 2 red cherries, chopped
  • Flesh of one durian seed
  • 3/4 tbsp raw cacao powder, for dusting
  • Macadamia nut butter
  • Vanilla almond coconut macaroon [Laughing Giraffe], crumbled
  • Cashew nuts, crushed
  • Dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Cooked qunioa and chia seeds in boiling water for about 15 min.
  2. Meanwhile, measure out pancake mix, prepare the dry ingredients (flour and cinnamon), wet ingredients (egg, soy, vanilla) and chopped fruits.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix gently, then add in cooked quinoa and mix a few more times.
  4. Oil a non-stick skillet. Over medium-low heat, pour 3-4 tbsp (slightly less than 1/4 cup) batter. Immediately after pouring, add a desired amount of chopped fruits (strawberries and/or cherries) into the batter. Cook for about 2 min per side.
  5. Repeat until all batter is used up. (The above recipe yielded three pancakes)

 
Most of the joy of pancakes lie in the infinite permutations of toppings. Being the fickle and greedy me, I love a little bit of everything. So here was how I layered mine today:
Pancake 1 – dustings of raw cacao – Pancake 2 – 1/2 macadamia nut butter, 1/2 crumbled macaroon – Pancake 3 – heaps of durian (mao shan wang)!

This was pure bliss in every bite, in both taste and texture. Although there’s quinoa in the batter, the pancake texture does not suffer, as I had worried. It was still packed with airy pockets, but in addition boasted a chewy solid bite thanks to the quinoa. Then, the combination of all the various fruits culminated in a very happening party, accentuated by bitter notes of raw cacao. As is my habit, I saved the best for the last, which is none other than the creamy bittersweet durian pulp!

A whole boxful of mao shan wang (cat mountain king) durians from Geylang (Lorong 17) bought last night. On hindsight, I think I might have been swindled. At $18 per kg, the 2.4 kg durian cost $43. Although this durian had quality, overall it isn’t particularly value for money. But why dwell on things that have past? Focus and celebrate the good food, and in particular, with the good news of today!

mao shan wang lor 17 geylang

Keen on Quinoa? A New Superfood Spotlight Series

Banana mango quinoa
This morning’s breakfast: Banana Mango quinoa porridge. Red quinoa cooked in soy/coconut milk, sweetened with mashed banana and chopped mangoes, spiced with vanilla and cinnamon, topped with macadamia nut butter, crushed cashews and almonds, and a crumbled vanilla coconut snackaroon (Laughing Girafe). Tropical paradise in a bowl! I bought the mini Philippine mangoes from PasarBella market yesterday. These babies were smaller than the size of my palm and were so cute! It’s perfect for single serving (I hate having to leave cut fruits in the open).

I’d thought I take this opportunity to start a new weekly Superfood Spotlight series, to shed light on a particular food, fruit, or ingredient. Rather than just rambling on about nutritional profiles and gloat over the food’s nutritional quality (which can easily obtained on websites such as WHFoods), my aim is to provide an informed overview, and where possible, look at pre-clinical or clinical studies. I suppose my more scientific approach to this series stems from my background in Biomedical Sciences which emphasizes on critical analysis and appraisal of scientific articles. I hope this series will be enlightening to you as it is for me as I dig the literature.

For the inaugural superfood, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) takes the spotlight!

Quinoa red and white

This tiny, ancient Peruvian seed has cultivated along the Andes for the last 7000 years, and was even conferred sacred status as “The Mother Grain” by the Incas. While quinoa is an ancient grain, it is only recently resurrected as a superfood due to its remarkablly balanced nutritive profile, as well as its resistance to environmental stress. Quinoa (together with amaranth and buckwheat) are the seeds of broadleaf plants rather than grasses, which is it is considered a pseudo or false grain. Thus, quinoa is also particularly suited for those with gluten sensitivity or those looking to avoid gluten. Seeds color varies from white, yellow, red, purple to black depending upon the region and can be bitter, medium, and sweet on the bases of environment. The information below is mostly summarized from a review article by Antonio Vega-Gálvez et al. [1].

Protein
Do not belittle these innocuous-looking seeds for they pack a whooping 15% of protein far higher than in common cereals (eg ~7% in brown rice). Moreover, quinoa is further recognized as a complete food for it contains all eight essential amino acids, providing it with a similar value to casein, the protein of milk.

Carbohydrate
In qunioa this is mainly in the form of starch (60%), which powers the major source of energy in the human diet.

Lipids
Total lipid content in quinoa is about 14.5% (70% unsaturated), mostly being linoleic and oleic acids. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and the regulation of insulin sensitivity.

Vitamins and Minerals
Quinoa is particularly high in calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. However mineral concentrations have been found to vary dramatically, which may be due to the soil type and mineral composition of the region and/or fertilizer application. Vitamins of note include vitamins B and E. The latter is important as it acts as an antioxidant at the cell membrane level, protecting the fatty acids of the cell membranes against free radicals oxidation. Other compounds include polyphenols, phytosterols, and flavonoids with possible nutraceutical benefits.

The not-so-desirable side
For all the praises piled onto quinoa, it does have some undesirable qualities, including saponins, phytic acid, tannins, and protease inhibitors. Saponins are a class of glycosides and there appears to be good and bad ones. While some saponins can be toxic, others have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antiangiogenic activities and are sometimes used as an adjunct to chemotherapy [2]. I wouldn’t worry too much about the saponins except that they do give a bitter taste. If you’re concerned, you can soak qunioa for a couple of hours and rinse properly before cooking.

Cooking
Qunioa is as versatile as rice but is much easier and quicker to cook. Simply boil in water for 15 min, (or stock), using one part quinoa to two parts water. You can tell that the quinoa is cooked once the white germ ring (curly thread-like spiral) has separated from the seed and the quinoa itself has become translucent. Let stand for additional 5 minutes, then fluff with fork and serve.

So far I have only tried red quinoa for aesthetic reasons: it’s deep red colour! It has a mild nutty flavour and slightly crunchy/chewy texture. I’ve tried it both sweet (eg. see featured picture) and savory styles, and it works well both ways. [In contrast, I can’t seem to get savoury-style oats right!]

References:

  1. Antonio Vega-Gálvez et al. (2010). Nutrition facts and functional potential of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.), an ancient Andean grain: a review. J Sci Food Agric 90, 2541-2547.
  2. Man S, et al. (2010). Chemical study and medical application of saponins as anti-cancer agents. Fitoterapia81,703-714.

Have you tried quinoa? Red, white or rainbow?
Favourite ways to enjoy quinoa? Sweet or savoury?