Vegan Flower Salad

For the past two weeks I was enclosed in a magical nature place called Te Moata Retreat Centre, where every day I lived and breathed yoga, and ate healthy wholesome delicious vegetarian or vegan meals.

The following vegan salad recipe is inspired by the talented creative chefs at Te Moata who made us beautiful salads daily. It is from them that I learned flowers can be put into salad and eaten. I never knew that flowers had so many variety of tastes, from spicy to sweet!

A few days ago, when I saw edible flowers being sold at a farmer’s market near my friend’s home in Auckland, I let my creative culinary juices run and created my version of a vegan flower side salad, inspired by the kitchen crew at Te Moata!

My friends who ate this salad loved it a lot and it actually took us longer to take photos of it than to eat it! They said it was too gorgeous to eat! 🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy this simple salad recipe and will be inspired to include edible flowers into your own recipes from now on!

 

IMG_2948

Serves: 4 people

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 bag of kale

1 box of cherry tomatoes

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, sliced

1 apple, sliced

1 box of edible flowers

Optional: your favourite nuts and seeds as toppings, and salad dressing

*My favourite homemade salad dressing is a mixture of olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

 

Instructions:

  1. Wash, drain and dry kale.
  2. Toss all ingredients together in a salad bowl.
  3. Decorate salad with edible flowers as garnish.
  4. Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Korean Cuisine: Homemade Healthy Bibimbap

When I was teaching English in South Korea a few summers ago, I fell in love with the Korean culture especially its food.  I found the food delectable, diverse and healthy.  I learned that Hansik (Korean cuisine) is known for its healthy and well-balanced meal, using fresh and natural ingredients.  For example, the vegetables are almost always lightly blanched which means they have retained most of their natural nutrients.  Hansik uses less meat than most cultural cuisines.  Also, the meats are usually boiled or steamed which indicate they are low in fat and calorie.  Fermented foods are a large part of Hansik, and as research demonstrates, fermented foods benefit our health and digestion, because they are rich in probiotics (friendly bacteria), enzymes and minerals.  Kimchi, the most well-known Korean side dish and the staple of the Koreans (aside from boiled rice), is an example of fermented food.  In fact, it is considered one of the world’s top 5 health foods. ( http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410299,00.html)

According to Han Bok-ryeo, the Director of the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine: “Korean food is a great source of energy, and for Koreans, energy goes beyond physical strength, it pertains to strength of the mind and soul.”  Also, Korean traditional wisdom states that “food and medicine are grown from the same root,” and therefore “there is no better medicine than food.” (taken from Korean Cuisine: Refresh Your Senses by Korea Tourism Organization, December 2009)  This philosophy demonstrates that food is very important to the Koreans, and it is made with care and thought into the overall well-being and health of its people.

After discovering I am gluten sensitive, my naturopathic doctor said that I can still have rice, because it has no gluten.  Thank goodness I can still eat rice, since rice is a staple of Korean food, and I especially love its signature dish: Bibimbap!

The direct translation of Bibimbap is “mixed rice”.  It is steamed/boiled rice mixed with a variety of vegetables and/or meat and Korean chili paste (a.k.a hot pepper paste).  I find the taste so delicious, nutritious and healthy for my body, mind and soul.  It’s like comfort food. 😀

This weekend I decided to give it a try, making homemade Bibimbap, as I’m discovering I enjoy cooking more and more, and this version is so much healthier than eating out!

The following recipe is taught and given to me by my dearest Korean friend Chris.

 

Serves: 4-6 people

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-I decided to make this bibimbap vegetarian; you can add a bit of ground meat (beef/chicken/pork); sautéed first if you like to have your meat. 🙂

Vegetables: You can substitute the vegetables in this recipe with any veggies you like.  The idea is to make it as colourful as possible so the bibimbap looks beautiful and eating a rainbow of vegetables is good for you!!

Rice: Make water less than normal in the rice cooker/pot so the rice is not as soft as usual, since after you still need to cook it in a big pan.

Spicy level: You can adjust the spiciness of the chili/hot pepper paste to your preference by either decreasing or increasing the tablespoons used for flavouring.

Egg: You can cook it sunny-side up if you like.

Optional: Roasted seaweed.  I personally like putting it in the bibimbap because it gives that extra crunch and flavour!

 

Ingredients for Bibimbap: 

All the vegetables needed for the bibimbap.  Only spinach is missing.

All the vegetables needed for the bibimbap. Only spinach is missing.

1 white radish, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long

1 package of soy bean sprouts, washed and drained

1 big carrot, peeled and sliced into small, thin strips about 5 cm long

2 big zucchinis, peeled and sliced (see photo above)

1 big eggplant, washed and sliced (see photo above)

1 box/bag enoki mushrooms, washed and drained

1 bunch/bag spinach, washed and drained

4 tablespoons sesame oil (this is an approximate, but it is up to you to decide how much sesame oil you want to drizzle on top of the vegetables)

2 1/2 cups cooked white rice

a dash of salt

4-6 eggs

2-4 big sheets of roasted seaweed

 

Ingredients for Hot Pepper Sauce:

You can get this from any Korean supermarket and my friend recommended buying a big tub, since it can be refrigerated and lasts for 6 months!

You can get this from any Korean supermarket and my friend recommended buying a big tub, since it can be refrigerated and lasts for 6 months!

2 tablespoons hot pepper paste

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 tablespoon sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

 

Unlike the bibimbap I'm used to eating in Korean restaurants, where the vegetables are on top of the cooked rice in a bowl (and I need to mix everything), this bibimbap's toppings are already mixed in while cooking!

Unlike the bibimbap I’m used to eating in Korean restaurants, where the vegetables are on top of the cooked rice in a bowl (and I need to mix everything), this bibimbap’s toppings are already mixed in while cooking!

 

Instructions:

1. Lightly blanch (about 30 seconds, and for the carrots, a bit longer like approximately 60 seconds or less) each vegetable in boiling water, and drain.

2. Put all vegetables in a big pan.

3. Pour sesame oil all around the vegetables, but not too much.

4. Put rice into pan with vegetables and start mixing on medium heat.

5. Slowly add salt to the mix for seasoning.

6. Add hot pepper sauce all around and start mixing until evenly distributed and cooked.  Set aside and it’s best to cover the bibimbap in the pan with a lid so when you serve it, it’s still hot.

7. Fry eggs in a frying pan.  One egg per person/bowl.

8. Cut seaweed into strips or squares.

9. Place bibimbap into bowls, sprinkle some seaweed and put an egg on top of each bowl.

10. Masissge Deseuyo!! ^^ (Korean for Bon Appetit!)

 

One simple hot bowl of nutritious, delicious meal for yourself, family and/or friends! :)

One simple hearty hot bowl of nutritious and delicious meal for yourself, family and/or friends! 🙂

 

*If you want to find out more bibimbap (and get another recipe) and its history, check out this site: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_5_2_3.jsp