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! 🙂

IMG_20150920_180607

“Fall-ing” Back into Routines & Avocado Vegan Milkshake Recipe

While I was away in South Korea, I didn’t have frequent access to the internet/computer so I didn’t really have a chance to announce the winner to my book giveaway. Congratulations to my reader Safu79 for winning the book! 🙂

Even though September has arrived and a new school year and season has begun, which is always a busy month for me as I adjust back to regular and new routines, trying to achieve work-life balance again, I plan to slowly catch up with what all my blogger friends have been up to, and will be posting some more summer adventures or discoveries in Vancouver and Korea whenever I have time. I have so many things to tell you about!!

Without further ado, I would love to tell you about this new drink I discovered and fell in love with…

When I returned from Vancouver, my friend Faith and I met up at her favourite Vietnamese restaurant. Every time she has a meal there, she also orders the avocado milkshake. I was curious as to how it tasted since I love avocados so I ordered one to try that night. To my delight, it had a very creamy rich taste and it wasn’t as sweet as I thought. Therefore, I felt it was healthier than most milkshakes.

Before I left for Korea, I recreated my own healthy version using almond milk and pure maple syrup as the natural sweetener. Today I followed the same recipe with only one more addition which was the banana, and it tastes absolutely divine! This milkshake is reserved for days when you feel like having something totally decadent but at the same time you want something healthy too. 🙂

Below you’ll find my Vietnamese-inspired dairy-free naturally sweetened Avocado Milkshake recipe. Enjoy and savour every single sip! 🙂

Happy Fall & September!

XO,

Violet

Avocado Milkshake

 

Makes: 1 milkshake

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Blending Time: 1-2 minutes

Total Time: about 8 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 ripe medium avocado

1 ripe banana, chopped

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 cup unsweetened cold almond milk (if you prefer a sweeter taste, go with original)

Optional: 1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs for topping

 

Instructions:

1. Put all ingredients (except the cacao nibs) into the blender and mix.

2. Sprinkle with cacao nibs on top, and enjoy drinking with a straw! 🙂

 

Special Note:

I also added 1 tablespoon of Macro Greens. It is a greens product that is abundant in antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and probiotic cultures.  It is also gluten-free, raw, organic and vegan. I have it almost every day. I find it boosts my energy level and helps with keeping my immune system stronger.

If you would like to learn more about it, this is the one I use: http://www.iherb.com/macrolife-naturals-macro-greens-nutrient-rich-super-food-10-oz-283-5-g/7385

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I feel like I haven’t posted a recipe for a long time, so to match with today’s freezing cold wintry day (where I live), here’s a scrumptious, soft and sugary but healthy bite sized cookie to go with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee!

Also, I have it on good authority that children love eating these cookies as a healthy snack, so I’ll say this recipe is kid-friendly too! 😉

Here is my Cinnamon Sugar Cookies recipe, adapted from Bulk Barn’s Sugar Cookies recipe.  Enjoy! 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Makes: 24 cookies

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 13-15 minutes

Total Time: about 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 cup organic coconut flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Mix eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and oil together.
  3. Stir in coconut flour and leave batter for 5 minutes so it can thicken.
  4. Combine cinnamon with 1 tablespoon sugar in a little bowl.
  5. Take 1 tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball.
  6. Roll ball into cinnamon mixture completely.
  7. Put on cookie sheet and flatten ball a little bit.  Cookies should be placed 1 inch apart.
  8. Repeat steps 4-6 until dough is done.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes.
  10. Let cookies cool completely or enjoy a warm one after waiting for about 10 minutes! 🙂

 

Special Note:

-Cinnamon: This sweet and fragrant spice has a lot of health benefits.  To name a few: it regulates blood sugar, reduces pain linked to arthritis, is anti-microbial so may help to stop the growth of harmful bacteria or fungi, and has fibre, calcium and manganese which are all good for the body.

 

Resources on Cinnamon:

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.livestrong.com/article/22014-cinnamon-health-benefits/

Healthy Holiday Baking Recipe #2: Mint Chocolate Chip Christmas Cookies (Gluten-Free)

When I went shopping for baking ingredients, I got inspired by the mint chocolate chips and Christmas-coloured chocolate chips (red, green and white) at the store.  Therefore, I couldn’t resist buying both to create these yummylicious and fun Christmas cookies!

As promised, here’s the second recipe to my healthy holiday baking.  These gluten-free and light cookies are perfect for anyone who is health conscious but loves chocolate, or the combination of mint and chocolate!  My sister-in-law, who is one of the fittest person I’ve ever known, came over last night and ate about ten of these.  Trust me, you eat about 6 of these, and you won’t feel bloated or guilty overindulging! 😉

XmasMintCookies

Makes: 24 cookies

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 13 minutes

Total Time: about 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups gluten-free all purpose baking flour (I used Robin Hood’s Nutri Flour Blend Gluten Free: http://www.robinhood.ca/Products/Nutri-Flour-Blend-Gluten-Free)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Wet Ingredients

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup organic coconut palm sugar

2 organic eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

Extra

1/2 cup mint chocolate chips

1/2 cup Christmas chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix olive oil and sugar until well combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add vanilla.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  7. Slowly add chocolate chips into batter, making sure both mint and Christmas chocolate chips are evenly distributed.
  8. With damp hands, roll 1 tablespoon of the batter into a ball, place it on the baking sheet and flatten it slightly.  Continue until batter is gone, spacing the flattened balls 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake the cookies for 13 minutes.
  10. Enjoy! :)

 

Special Notes:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  used in replacement of butter/margarine because it’s not only healthier (cuts back on cholesterol and saturated fat content) and dairy-free, it also makes the baked goods lighter and moister!

Here’s a good site for more information and it even has a butter/margarine to olive oil conversion chart for baking: http://thepassionateolive.com/wp/baking-with-olive-oil-instead-of-butter/

Organic Coconut Palm Sugar: I’m really loving this new natural sweetener I discovered recently for baking.  As mentioned in my previous post, this natural sugar has a low glycemic index; it also has a high nutrient profile (to name a few: iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium).  To learn more about it, read this very informative article about it: http://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/

-To reduce the sugar, you can decrease amount of sugar and chocolate chips to your liking.  Also, you can replace chocolate chips with same amount of dried cranberries, raisins and/or nuts.  Be creative! 🙂

-If you don’t have mint chocolate chips, you can replace it with crushed candy canes to give it a minty taste.

 

Wishing you all love, peace, joy, hope and light this wondrous holiday season with your family and friends! 😀

xoxo, Violet 

Healthy Holiday Baking Recipe #1: Candy Cane Breton Brittle

Dear readers,

I’m thrilled that my holidays has officially begun, despite the ice storm raging outside, and I can finally relax and enjoy this time with family and friends, and have some personal me time as well. 🙂  It’s been a crazy past two weeks trying to balance everything from Christmas shopping, personal appointments and commitments to work demands  etc.

During these past two intense weeks I also began my holiday baking.  In fact, I have been baking daily for about a week now.  I have decided that this year I just want to bake for family and friends as gifts. While it is time- consuming, it is also very pleasurable and rewarding!

I’m super excited to share with you two easy and quick yummy recipes that was a big hit with my family and friends, and these baked goods also look very festive as part of a dessert platter for any party this holiday season!

Here’s recipe #1: Candy  Cane Breton Brittle

*I got this Breton Brittle recipe from a classmate in my cooking class; I altered it slightly to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and “Christmas-y” too!

CandyCaneBretonBrittle

Makes: 1 pan

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: about 20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Crackers (I used Glutino’s Gluten Free Crackers, see: http://www.glutino.com/products/crackers/)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar

1 cup vegan margarine

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used this one that is dairy-free and gluten-free: http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/chocolate-for-baking/mini-chips/)

1/2 cup crushed candy canes

 

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (instead of crushed candy canes)

 

Instructions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Arrange a layer of crackers on the foil/parchment paper.  Fill in spaces with broken crackers.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and margarine.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil and appears “frothy”.  Keep stirring and don’t let the mixture burn!
  4. Pour the mixture evenly over the crackers.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 6 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  When the chips become soft, spread evenly over the cracker mixtures.
  7. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
  8. Chill until chocolate is set.
  9. Break into pieces to serve.
  10. Enjoy!! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-The longer you let the sugar/butter mixture “froth”, the harder the caramel will be.  If you like a softer caramel, pour it on the crackers right after it comes to a boil.

Here’s a picture of how the caramel should look when it is frothy:

frothycaramel

-I used 1/2 cup of organic coconut palm sugar instead of an entire cup of brown sugar because I like the fact that the organic coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index (this holiday treat is so sweet already so trying to look for a way to “lower” a bit of the sugar level and make it slightly “healthier”).  Plus, it has a richer caramel and/or butterscotch flavour than brown sugar.  I wish an entire cup of organic coconut palm sugar could have been used to make the caramel.  Unfortunately while experimenting with only a cup of coconut palm sugar, I discovered it wasn’t combining well with the margarine, so a little bit of brown sugar had to be added in order for the caramel to form.

 

Recipe #2 for healthy holiday baking is on its way soon so stay tuned! 🙂

Happy Baking!!

 

Cheers, Violet

 

BretonBrittleSanta