Rice Cooker Recipe #1: Vegan Noodle Soup (Gluten-Free)

My globetrotting friend Karen once told me that the rice cooker was her best investment while living abroad in London, England. And you know what? She is absolutely right about the rice cooker!

It’s my third week in Taipei, and I’m quickly discovering that I love using the rice cooker! As mentioned numerous times previously in my blog, I’m not really a cook. However, when using the rice cooker, I can be a great creative cook. 😉 The rice cooker is quite versatile: I can make simple, quick AND healthy delicious meals with it.

I’m so excited to share the following vegan recipe with you. I’ve made it a few times this week and it’s definitely going to be one of my go-to recipes from now on.

I call it my comfort food recipe, as it was created when I was not feeling well a few days ago. I think it’s comparable to chicken noddle soup, except it’s a vegan gluten-free version with a Taiwanese influence as most of the ingredients were bought in a local vegetable market and organic grocery store in Taipei. 🙂

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They're so yummy! :)

So happy to have found these organic buckwheat noodles in a nearby small local organic grocery store. They’re so yummy! 🙂

 

Serves: 1

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: approximately 50 minutes

Total Time: approximately 60 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 cups filtered water

1 tomato, cubed

1 teaspoon ginger, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sesame oil

a pinch of sea salt

a pinch of ground black pepper

a handful of shiitake mushrooms (or more if you like)

a handful of snow peas (or more if you like)

1/2 cup tofu, cubed (or more if you like)

a handful of buckwheat noodles (or more if you like)

 

Instructions:

1. Put water, tomatoes, ginger, sesame oil, sea salt and black pepper  into rice cooker. Allow this soup base to cook and simmer for about 40 minutes.

2. After 40 minutes, put the remaining ingredients into soup base and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

3. Put vegan noodle soup into a big bowl. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you like.

4. Bon appetit! 🙂

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A Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipe: Vegetarian Fried Rice

One of my favourite easy home-cooked meal is finding whatever is in the fridge and putting them together in less than 30 minutes. It definitely comes in handy when one is starving! I know I can always count on my vegetables and my go-to main staple, leftover brown rice, to make a yummy bowl of fried rice for dinner.

I am by no means a superb cook (as I’ve mentioned many times already; I’m more of a baker!) but this bowl of fried rice is quite satisfying, if I say so myself. 😉

In honour of Lunar New Year a.k.a Chinese New Year in my world, I am excited to share this simple and quick vegetarian fried rice recipe, à la Violet style, with you. The beauty of this recipe is that any rice and veggies will work!

I hope you will add this recipe as your go to when you need to make a quick and healthy meal within 30 minutes! 🙂

Happy cooking!

XO, Violet

Fried Rice

 

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Oil (I like to use grapeseed or avocado oil) for stir-frying

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, finely chopped

1 cup leftover cold cooked rice

½ pound of broccoli , chopped stalks and florets

1 tomato, chopped

1-2 tablespoons light soy sauce

Toppings: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts (almonds/walnuts) and/or raisins

 

Instructions:

1. Heat a wok or frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil or less (according to your preference) over medium-high heat and when the oil heats up, add in the egg. Cook and stir until the egg is lightly scrambled, not too dry. Remove egg from wok/pan and place in a separate plate/bowl for now.

2. If needed, add a little bit more oil into the wok/pan and add the garlic and ginger; briefly stirfry until they just show signs of changing colour or until fragrant.

3. Add the rice and stirfry it for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, to break it apart.

4. When the rice is heated through, add the broccoli and tomato, and cook, until the broccoli is crisp-tender.

5. Stir in the soy sauce as desired and add the scrambled egg back into the wok/pan. Mix thoroughly and quickly.

6. Serve hot in a bowl, and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

 

Special Note:

-If you want to add other ingredients, or serve more people, simply double or triple the recipe.

Quick, Easy & Healthy Vegan Recipe: Avocado Pesto-Inspired Pasta

Last week, when I returned from St. Lucia late, tired and starving, I quickly looked at what was available in my kitchen so I could make a quick and simple meal. What resulted was a quite filling meal that was made in about 20 minutes. It is inspired by the following recipes:

http://loveandlentils.com/2014/03/24/walnut-hemp-seed-pesto-pasta-with-fresh-tomatoes-olives/

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pesto_pasta_with_spinach_and_avocado/

http://againstallgrain.com/2013/04/05/dairy-free-pesto-sauce/

Due to lack of certain ingredients, such as basil which really gives pesto its flavour, I modified between these 3 recipes and made my own yummy and healthy vegan version.

 

Avocado Pasta

Serves: 1 or 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup fusilli or penne pasta (I used gluten-free fusilli)

1 tablespoon organic almonds

1 tablespoon organic pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon organic sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

ground black pepper

 

Instructions:

1. Boil pasta as indicated by package instructions. Remove from heat, drain and pour pasta back into the pot, and set it aside.

2. Blend almond, seeds, garlic, rosemary leaves, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil in a food processor/blender until smooth.

3. Put sauce into the pot of pasta over low heat and quickly combine pasta and sauce together until warm.

4. Put pasta onto a plate.  Add avocado on top and sprinkle some black pepper to taste.

5. Mix avocado and ground pepper with pasta; to be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-I found one plate of this pasta very filling due to the avocado, so my suggestion is to take half of the portion and pair it with a mixed greens salad tossed in a few drops of raw apple cider vinegar and olive oil. That way, you can share the other portion with someone else, or you have extras for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner!

Travels, Healthy Foods & Tomatoes

One of the many reasons I love travelling is that I get to meet and learn from people from all walks of life! The world is so big and beautiful with so many different kinds of people living in it. 🙂

During my stay in South Korea this summer, I had the fortune to stay with my dear friend Lucy and her wonderful family after my teaching assignment ended. I was excited to experience the Korean family lifestyle!

I discovered that Lucy’s family usually eats a very big breakfast to start the day which includes all sorts of vegetables and fruits, from fermented vegetables to fresh vegetables and fruits, and a combination of hot and cold dishes. They do not eat meat for breakfast. From my previous readings when I was exploring the possibility of becoming vegetarian or vegan (I’m still on the journey), I already know that consuming too much animal protein creates toxins and acidity in the body and eventually ages the skin and body (The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder, page 14). Furthermore, animal protein is the most complex of all foods, and it takes almost twice as long as other foods to pass through the digestive system, which allows a greater chance of toxins to be created. Eating whole, unrefined plant foods with some fermented foods (has probiotics and enzymes that are good for healthy digestion and elimination) and complex carbohydrates is a much better choice in improving overall health and energy. Therefore, I loved the healthy vegetarian concept behind these big delicious breakfasts!

A healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast that includes salad, pumpkin porridge, cold Korean Soybean Noodle Soup (Kong Gooksu), rice,  kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plum, garlic and grapes.

A typical healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast from my friend’s family that includes salad, pumpkin porridge (hobak jook), cold Korean soybean noodle soup (kong gooksu), rice, kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plums, fermented garlic and grapes.

One morning I was introduced to this healthy, hearty delicious soup cooked by Lucy’s dad, Mr. P. Mr. P is an active, happy, health conscious and nature-loving gentleman who frequently hikes up on the highest mountain near his home. He loves cooking and eating this soup for breakfast. It just requires two ingredients: tomatoes and olive oil. Mr. P told me that both tomatoes and olive oil are very healthy and when combined, they are very good for the body because they lower risks of many diseases and cancers. I would never have thought of having soup for breakfast, but the inner healthy foodie in me was eager to give it a try. We also sprinkled some pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into the soup. The minute I tasted it, I was sold on having soup for breakfast and gained a new appreciation for tomatoes! I asked Mr. P immediately for the recipe and he simply told me to put these two ingredients into a pot and then you have a meal.

I cooked the Tomato Olive Oil Soup successfully this morning and I can’t wait to share with you this simple recipe made literally in under 15 minutes! I think Mr. P would be so proud of me!!

I hope you give this soup recipe a try and let me know what you think! 🙂

Happy Cooking!!

XO,

Violet

Tomato Soup_Korea

 

Serves: 1 person

Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 washed and chopped tomato

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,

Toppings: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds/hemp hearts, raisins

Optional toppings: any type of nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds

 

Instructions:

1. Put one tablespoon of olive oil into pot on medium heat.

2. Place chopped tomatoes into pot to be cooked with olive oil.

2. Mash and stir tomatoes for a bit. Leave some tomatoes in partly whole form.

3. Allow soup to simmer a few minutes.

4. Once the soup boils, pour it into a serving bowl and add one tablespoon of olive oil.

5. Sprinkle a handful of your favourite toppings and mix everything. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

Tomatoes- has carotenoid lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red colour and may be useful in decreasing the risk of some cancers and heart disease; cooking tomatoes increases the lycopene content

Olive Oil- rich in monounsaturated fats which is important for optimal health; it can help with healthier blood cholesterol level and control blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and a fatty liver and lower the amount of fat around the abdomen; good quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of around 210 degrees so it can be used for stir-fries, roasting foods in oven and pan-frying

*Information for both ingredients are taken from Superfoods by The Australian Women’s Weekly, pages 103 and 112

http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/australian-womens-weekly-weekly/aww-superfoods-9781742454733.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Quick, Easy & Healthy Homemade Dinner :)

A quick and simple healthy homemade meal: seasoned salmon, Chinese greens and buckwheat soba noodles.

A quick and simple healthy homemade meal: seasoned salmon, Chinese greens and buckwheat (soba) noodles.

If you have been following me for a while here, you may notice that I have more baking recipes than recipes on meals. The reason is that I LOVE baking and find it super fun and easier than cooking. I think cooking is very challenging and time-consuming. The few times I tried cooking a meal, the food and taste usually do not turn out the way they are supposed to, and it takes me at least 3 hours to prep and cook. Plus, I’m really lucky that when I go home at the end of the day, I already have a warm meal waiting for me. 🙂 Perhaps that is why I don’t venture into cooking that much.

Today I discovered that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated and I’m proud to tell you that I experimented and created an easy and healthy meal in less than an hour.  I could not believe that I made such a quick delicious meal! There were various factors that propelled me to cook my own dinner tonight: heavy workload that required my full concentration and focus, my mother was out of town so no one was home to cook for me :P, lack of time to go out to eat (I cancelled dinner plans to eat out because of workload)  and a desire to eat healthy.

Below, you will find a short and sweet description of how I made this meal in about 45 minutes.

 

Serves: 1 person

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients: 1 salmon fillet, freshly squeezed lemon juice, drizzle of honey, ground black pepper, a few grape tomatoes, buckwheat (soba) noodles, a handful of Chinese greens, cooking oil

 

Instructions:

1. Rinse the fillet in cold water and dab it dry with paper towel.

2. Place fillet in the middle of parchment paper on baking tray.

2. Squeeze lemon juice, a drizzle of honey, and sprinkle  black pepper and put some grape tomatoes on top (cut in half if you like) of fillet.

3. Fold the parchment paper to seal the fillet, seasoning and tomatoes, allowing salmon and the tomatoes to cook in its own juices. I learned this cooking trick,called “baking en papillote” (in paper), from here: http://www.wikihow.com/Bake-Salmon

4. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

5. Rinse noodles under cold water before cooking to remove excess starch.

6. Add noodles to boiling water and cook for a few minutes.

7. Add a little cold water two or three times while noodles are cooking to reduce the temperature which helps the noodles to cook evenly. I learned this tip from here: http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/3908/soba+noodles

8. Rinse and soak greens 3-5 times.

9. Add a drop of cooking oil (I used olive oil) into the pot of water before blanching the greens. The cooking oil coats the greens so they look fresh and green, not purple. I learned how to blanch Chinese greens from: http://rasamalaysia.com/restaurant-style-chinese-greens-with/

10. Drain excess water from noodles and greens before serving with salmon on plate or bowl. Bon appetit! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-Thank you to my mom for teaching me the trick to cooking a quick meal. It is simply to cook a few things at the same time. 🙂

 

-To learn more about the health benefits of buckwheat (soba) noodles (a type of noodle from Japan, and it is gluten-free), see these links:

http://www.healthhokkaido.com/files/Articles_Oshimi/soba.cfm

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/healthy-benefits-buckwheat-noodles-6583.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quinoa for Breakfast!

Quinoa Breakfast

I first tasted quinoa when I was travelling throughout Peru in 2011 and learned that it was a staple to the Peruvian diet.  While I was in Peru, I really enjoyed quinoa in a variety of culinary ways, from hearty soups to delicious desserts.  In fact, my favourite memory of eating quinoa was having it as a scrumptious strawberry quinoa pudding for dessert after dinner on top of a mountain, as we settle in for the night, eagerly awaiting to see Machu Picchu at sunrise the next day. 🙂

Fast forward 2 years later, quinoa seems to be the new health buzz word in North America.  Everywhere I go, it is on restaurants’ menus and in grocery stores.  It is even included in all the health books and magazines I’m hungrily reading to learn more about healthy food and diet.

To sum it up: Quinoa is a seed (many people assume it is a grain, but it isn’t!!) that comes in white, red or black.  It is a superfood because it is a good source of protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamins B and E.  It is also gluten-free!  Therefore, it is perfect for vegetarians, vegans and people with gluten sensitivity or celiacs.

As I’m now gluten-free and also trying to cut down on my meat consumption, quinoa is another great alternative I can turn to for protein, and substitute for rice or pasta.  I am by no means an expert in cooking quinoa, and have been reading books and websites to learn how to cook it well, and getting some more recipe ideas.

Anyways, I got really excited when I was chatting with my vegetarian friend Mythili and she mentioned she eats quinoa for breakfast!  I thought what a wonderful way to start off the day with energy and happiness!!

I will now share with you a recipe Mythili passed on to me, and I tweaked it a bit with whatever I found in my kitchen, and as you know, I like to experiment with some of the ingredients in recipes.  After all, creativity in the kitchen is so much fun!! 😀

 

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Total TIme: about 25 minutes

 

Special notes:

-Turmeric- has health and beauty properties, mostly anti-inflammatory effects and helps increase blood circulation thus contributing to healthier and radiant looking skin!

Milk- you can replace the unsweetened almond milk with any other type of non-dairy milk you like!  For example, Mythili used rice milk for this recipe.

-Spice- instead of turmeric, you can replace it with cinnamon if you prefer a more flavourful tang, as turmeric is slightly bitter to taste

-Fruit toppings- you can put any fruits you like on top!  Mythili put blueberries in hers.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup unsweetend almond milk

1/2 cup filtered water

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 banana, sliced

handful of sliced strawberries

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix the quinoa, almond milk, water and ground turmeric into a pan at medium heat.
  2. Mix contents once in a while.
  3. Add sliced banana into the pan.  When the quinoa is cooked, take the pan off the stove.
  4. Plate the food and add a handful of strawberries.
  5. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Resources I used on learning about and how to cook quinoa:

The Power of Food: 100 Essential Recipes for Abundant Health and Happiness by Adam Hart, page 111

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-quinoa-63344

http://lowfatveganchef.com/how-to-cook-quinoa-perfectly-every-time/

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101/kitchen_tips_techniques/how_to_cook_quinoa

http://www.queenofquinoa.me/get-to-know-quinoa/

Spicy & Sweet Purple Potato Fries

I have a confession to make, and I guess if you know me very well you know that, I’m obsessed with the colour PURPLE!!  As long as something is purple, I love it!  Therefore, it’s no surprise that even when it comes to food, I get excited about purple too. 😛  I’m totally in love with purple sweet potatoes!

Here are some healthy facts I found out about this beautiful and sweet vegetable that may entice you to love it as well! 🙂  They…

-are a good source of calcium, iron, manganese, copper, vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (this is the kind of carbohydrates that are recommended for us to include a lot of to be healthy and have sustained energy throughout the day)

-have anti-aging properties; makes skin glowing and radiant!

-have anti-cancer properties; the purple pigment (anthocyanin) is an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and actually the antioxidant level of a purple sweet potato is 150% more than blueberries!

-help protect against cardiovascular problems and inflammation-related health issues

-are diabetic friendly as they are low in sugar; help maintain and regulate stable blood sugar level

-are low in fat and sodium

 

Now that you know the nutritional benefits of eating purple sweet potatoes, why don’t you try making the following easy, quick and healthy recipe?

If you’re craving for something spicy and sweet at the same time, this recipe can satisfy both too. 🙂

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer!  They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

These baked purple sweet potato fries are perfect for a snack or appetizer! They are not burnt at all; the purple colour of the sweet potatoes makes the baked fries dark.

Makes: 1 serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 12-15 minutes

Total TIme: about 25 minutes

 

Special notes:

-Purple Sweet Potatoes- they have a natural sweetness already 🙂

-Nutritional Yeast- it is gluten-free and a great substitute for cheese (it tastes cheesy!); plus 3 tablespoons of it supply 9 grams of complete protein (has the 18 amino acids); because it is rich in B-complex vitamins, and along with the protein, it keeps the hair strong, shiny and healthy!

-Cinnamon- regulates blood sugar, improves colon health and protects against heart disease (see under “Resources” section for links if you want to know more health benefits)

-Sea Salt- helps with digestion, builds a strong immune system, prevents cardiovascular-related health problems, and helps maintain consistent sugar level (see below in “Resources” section to learn more)

-Olive Oil- builds a strong immune system, and fights against disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis etc.

 

Ingredients:

2 large purple sweet potatoes, peeled

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Slice sweet potatoes into thin pieces like french fries.

3. Mix nutritional yeast, cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt in a big bowl.

4. Add the sweet potatoes and mix using a spoon or spatula, until all the pieces are well coated, and place them on baking tray.

5. Drizzle fries with olive oil on baking tray.

6. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked.

7. Enjoy! 😀

 

Resources on Purple Sweet Potatoes, Nutritional Yeast, Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Olive Oil:

http://cancer.vg/en/ipomoea-batatas-purple-sweet-potato

http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/okinawan-sweet-potato-purple-powerhouse-nutrition

http://www.livestrong.com/article/286212-purple-sweet-potato-nutrition/

http://herbalacup.blogspot.ca/2013/05/purple-sweet-potato-eating-can-increase.html

The Beauty Detox Foods: Discover the Top 50 Beauty Foods that Will Transform Your Body and Reveal a More Beautiful You by Kimberly Snyder, pages 117-118 on Nutritional Yeast

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-surprising-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html?page=1

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68

http://www.seasalthealth.com/2012/04/11/health-benefits-of-sea-salt/

http://readynutrition.com/resources/10-health-benefits-of-sea-salt_15092011/

http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-benefits

http://www.naturalnews.com/041521_olive_oil_heart_health_skin_and_hair.html