Gardening for fun, profit, and health

First of all, I don’t have a green thumb. My thumbs are pretty brown actually. I have attempted gardening before, and failed miserably. But here I am, growing vegetables in my home again anyway, and I love, love, love it.

Gardening is such a perfect activity for a diabetic – or anyone interested in a healthy, active lifestyle. Here are seven reasons why I love gardening – or more specifically, growing vegetables.

(1) Gardening is great exercise. Try digging, or shovelling compost, or battling to remove that useless patch of agapanthus, and see how quickly your blood sugar level drops. Seriously, it’s a win-win situation. Exercise, check. A new garden bed, check!

edible gardening

(2) Gardening is fun . Remember making mud pies when you were a kid? Or making rainbows with a hose on a sunny day? We did it because it was fun. Why not do it as grownups – in the (more socially approved) context of gardening? Bury your hands in soil, smile at the happy wiggle of an earthworm, feel the splash of water from a hose, and your days may be a little more fun-filled.

And fun is essential for a diabetic life, just to counter all the un-fun things we need to deal with like, pricking your fingertips 6 + times a day, or injecting yourself wiht insulin (or taking handfuls of pills), or having to see doctors all the time.

(3) Gardening promotes healthy diet. The best of part of growing your own vegetables is, of course, you can eat the fruit of your labour. And they taste so.much.better than store-bought ones.

cucumber

Freshly harvested cucumber? They taste nothing like the ones you buy in supermarkets. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you’ll be eating more healthy, naturally organic vegetables without even knowing it.

harvest in summer

(4) Gardening gives you variety. Where I live (up in the Blue Mountains in Australia), we don’t have good farmer’s markets or adventurous organic green grocers. So my vegetable and fruit choices in shops are rather limited. When you grow you own vegetables though, you can have an endless variety.

I love cooking with zucchini flowers, for example. These flowers are stuffed with soy pulp (okara) and almond “ricotta” with lots of herbs. It was so good, I’ll write a recipe soon.

zucchini flower dish

I also grow Japanese herbs, like mitsuba and shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) – delicious in salads, but not commercially available around here.

tomatillo

Now I’m patiently waiting for tomatillos to ripen, and daikon (Japanese white radish) to sprout. How exciting is it?

(5) Gardening is profitable. You’ll save money by not buying exorbitant organic produce when you grown your own. For example, a small plastic bag of salad greens at a local co-op costs $3-4. Now I can pick as much greens as I like to eat from my veggie patches for free. I mean, you do spend a little on seeds and seedlings at first, but it does save a lot of money in the long run.

You can also save money by giving your home-grown produce as gifts. Instead of buying an expensive bottle of wine to a dinner party, why not bring a bouquet of herbs and greens from your garden? Or even a basket of zucchinis you’ve grown? Chances are, people are more appreciative of those gifts, too.

(6) Gardening can foster friendship.

I had a lot of help from my friend Nicola when I started gardening. Now, Nicola is a professional grower, and has her own business (Mountain Herbs – do check out her website and blog!) growing medicinal herbs and other plants. She is one of those rare souls full of kindness and uncalculating generosity. Nicola gifted me with lots of advice, free seedlings, gardening books, and even drove me to a landscape shop with her trailer, so I can buy a year’s supply of compost.

My point is, gardening is a great way to connect with people, and make new friends in your area. And in my experience, gardeners are most likely to be kind, generous, and warm-hearted people – people who you want to be friends with.

(7) Gardening boosts happiness 

I have read somewhere that gardening is scientifically proven to have an anti-depressant effect. Something about bacteria in the soil having an uplifting effect in your brain. All I know is, it works. Maybe it’s the combination of those friendly bacteria, exercise (which is also a natural anti-depressant), the joy of being outdoors, the satisfaction of watching beautiful things grow, and resulting healthy diet. But since I started gardening, there is no question about it, I feel happier.

eggplant flower

And when you are happier, you have less stress in your life, and you can better manage your diabetes.

 

Zucchini pasta with creamy, lucious okara alfredo sauce (low-carb, vegan)

Have you had a chance to make your own tofu? Or at least soy milk? How did it go?

Well, if you did give it a try, you are probably wondering what the heck to do with okara, or white, fibrous soy bean pulp leftover after making soy milk. And what about that liquid that’s left over after tofu is strained?

Well I have great news for you.  First, whatever you do, don’t throw away the soy pulp. Half the reason I make my own tofu and soy milk is this mound of pulpy deliciousness. And I’d love to share some of my favorite okara recipes with you! The only catch is these tofu byproducts don’t last more than a few days in the fridge, so it’s best not to wait too long.

One great way to use both okara and soy whey at the same time is to make a white sauce. It’s very simple: add some miso, tahini, avocado, garlic, vegan cheese, seasoning, and blend to a creamy consistency.

zucchini pasta with okara alfredo sauce

It’s delicious on its own by the spoonful!

okara alfredo

But I especially love the sauce tossed with spiralized zucchini for a luxuriously creamy, satisfying, and low-carb salad. Add some vegan sausages or grilled mushroom, and you are in salad heaven.

zucchini pasta with okara alfredo sauce

This recipe was inspired by a traditional Japanese tofu paste salad called shiroae. “Shiro” means white (referring to tofu, obviously), and “ae” means mixed together. The paste is made with freshly toasted and crushed (with a mortar and pestle) sesame seeds, tofu, and miso. Mix heaps of the paste with cooked vegetables like spinach and carrots – and it’s the most flavourful vegan Japanese dish ever. I particularly love shiroae that my aunt makes – with her homemade miso that is aged for one year in her basement.

Here, I’m using okara and whey instead of tofu, and tahini instead of fresh sesame for simplicity.

The basic recipe is below. Enjoy, and remember, the quantities are there as a guidance only. If you feel extra indulgent, add even more mayonnaise (which I admit I often do). Experiment with add-ons like pesto, mustard, and wasabi. The sauce is good with regular pasta, too, if you are okay with eating carbs.

zucchi salad with okara alfredo
zucchi salad with okara alfredo

Zucchini Pasta with Okara Alfredo Sauce (Vegan, Low-Carb)

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February 19, 2018

Low-carb salad doesn't have to be boring! Luxuriate in this filling zucchini pasta salad with okara and miso alfredo sauce. If you made tofu from scratch, this is an excellent way of using both okara and soy whey at the same time.

 

 

  • Yields: 2 servings

Ingredients

Alfredo Sauce

1/2 cup okara (soy pulp)

1 tbsp miso (whatever kind is fine)

1 cup soy whey, soy milk, almond milk or soup stock

1/2 ripe avocado

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced

2 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp vegan mayo (optional)

For the pasta

1 medium zucchini

1 cup shredded red cabbage, carrot, or chopped red or yellow capsicum

1 tbsp toasted pine nuts, pepita, or sesame seeds (optional)

1 tbsp nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese

1 tbsp or more of chopped fresh herbs (mint, chives, parsley, coriander, and oregano are all good)

Directions

1Spiralize the zucchini. Shred or spiralize other vegetables (I use red cabbage here - for the pretty colour, but you can use any colourful raw vegetables) and toss with the zucchini noodle.

2Toast pine nuts (if using) in a dry pan over medium heat.

3Make the sauce: In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend well, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high. You want a smooth sauce consistency, a bit thinner than hummus but thicker than normal salad dressing. Aim for a pancake batter consistency.

4Taste the sauce, and adjust seasoning to your liking (more lemon juice, for example). Be careful not to use salt because miso is very salty already.

5Toss a generous amount of the sauce with the zucchini pasta. Top with toasted pine nuts or pepita, chopped herbs, and nutritional yeast or vegan cheese if you want - and voila! The most luscious, luxurious, and low-carb vegan salad ever.

If you don't have okara, you can use tofu for an even more luxurious sauce. Reduce the stock/water to 1/4 cup, and as you blend, add more liquid as needed to reach the right consistency. Because tofu has richness and smoothness already, I'd also omit the mayo.

Of course, you can use any vegetable combo for the salad - raw or cooked. Sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, steamed spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli - all would be delicious additions to the basic zucchini noodle.

You can also spiralize raw sweet potato, raw pumpkin, raw beetroot, and raw carrots. Make them pretty and colourful!

For an even more filling salad, add grilled tofu or tempe cubes, or grilled mushrooms. Delicious, even for non-vegans.

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Homemade Tofu (Medium Firm)

When you are on a plant-based and low-carb  diet, tofu can be your best friend. I love everything about tofu – how versatile, nutritious, and tasty it is, not to mention being super low in carbohydrate. I also love how wallet-friendly and easy it is to make your own organic tofu.crispy friend tofu

Make your own tofu, you ask? Oh yes I do – and so can you!  It’s easy – just one little step away from making your own soy milk – and today, I’ll show you exactly how, step by step, with photos.

Homemade tofu is a revelation – so sweet and delicious straight out of the pot, with nothing but a tiny drizzle of soy sauce. You also will have two lovely tofu byproducts, the soy pulp (“okara”) and liquid whey. They are both nutritious and versatile (like tofu itself), so please don’t throw them away.

Did I mention how economical it is to make your own tofu? One cup of organic soy beans cost me about $1. From that, you can make 300-400g of  organic tofu, about 1.5 cups of okara, and 700g of whey. Now, isn’t that the best use of $1 ever?

Now are you convinced to give tofu making a go? I hope so!

Ingredients: First, let’s gather the ingredients – which are just two:

bulk soy beans

(1) organic soy beans (non-organic might be genetically modified, so avoid that if you can): I buy soy beans in bulk from this shop, which I think delivers Australia-wide. But to start out, try your local food co-op or health food shop.

(2) nigari  (magnesium chloride) flakes to coagulate tofu.. You can get nigari online. Nigari comes in either liquid form or as flakes. I much prefer the flakes. You never know how diluted nigari is in liquid, so flakes are easier to control the amount you use. A 100g bag of nigari flakes will last for years, if you don’t make tofu that often.

nigari flakes

Equipments: You don’t need any special equipments. But you’ll need these (which you probably already have in your kitchen):

(1) a blender (does not have to be high speed)

(2)  a BIG pot (the biggest pot you have, like a stock pot – the bigger the better)

(3) a wooden spoon

(4) a large metal strainer or colander

(5) a clean tea towel

That’s it – now you are ready to make your own tofu. The recipe and step-by-step instruction are below. You can double or triple the batch if you like, but I find it hard to squeeze more than one cup of beans at a time. So start with 1 cup and see how you go. Happy tofu making!

homemade tofu
homemade tofu

Tofu (Medium-Firm)

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December 5, 2017

Homemade "momen" tofu using a metal strainer - with step-by-step photos and instructions. It's easier than you think! The tofu made with a round strainer may not look as pretty as the store-bought ones, but much tastier. Plus, you can enjoy the bonus products of soy pulp and whey.

  • Yields: about 350g of tofu, 1.5 cups of soy pulp, and 700mil of whey

Ingredients

1 cup organic soy beans

1 tsp nigari flakes

1 3/5 liter filtered water for cooking, plus more for soaking

1/4 cup filtered water, for dissolving nigari flakes in

Directions

1Soak the soy beans in filtered water for 12-24 hours.

soaking soy beans

2Throw away the soaking water. Give the beans a quick wash. Drain, and put them in a blender. Add about 1 litre of the filtered water, and keep the rest in a jug. This is just because most blenders can't hold all 1.6 liters of water at one time.

blending soy beans

3Blend the beans and water. It takes about 30 seconds in my high-speed blender. You don't need the beans to liquify though.

blending soy beans

4Empty the blended soy beans/water into the largest pot you have. Use the remaining water (that didn't fit into the blender) to rinse out the blender, and add it to the pot. Put a lid on the pot (to speed up the cooking time). Set your timer to about 8 minutes (in case you walk away from the kitchen), and start heating the pot at medium-high heat.

cooking soy beans

5While the soy mixture is heating up, prepare for the next step. Place your metal strainer over a deep bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean cloth, like a tea towel or muslin. Get a container ready nearby to store soy pulp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6After about 8 minutes, the bean mixture should be close to boiling. Turn the heat down a bit, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom so burned bits don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Don't walk away at this point, and keep heating and stirring till the soy mix reaches a boiling point. You can tell immediately because the whole thing starts to rise up the pot, threatening to overlfow (and it will, if you let it!)

cooking soy beans

7Turn the heat down to low. Re-set the timer to 5 minutes. Then keep stirring/scraping with the wooden spoon, to prevent overflowing (and if it does, well, you are not alone. I've done this so many times. Just continue with the recipe and clean up without despairing - you'll still have some yummy tofu). You need to cook the beans here because raw beans are indigestible.

cooking the soy beans

8When the timer goes off, pour the soy mixture over the cloth-covered strainer. Leave it to cool a bit, so you can squeeze the pulp out. This takes about 20 -30 minutes. You want the soy mix not too hot (it'll burn your hands), and not too cold (it'll be more difficult to squeeze when cold).

straining soy milk

9Wash the pot meanwhile. But since you'll be using the same pot again to heat up soy milk soon, it doesn't have to spotless clean at this point.

10When the soy mix is cool enough, squeeze it to get as much soy milk out of it as you can. Think of it as a good workout!

squeezing tofu pulp

11Now you have rich, creamy soy milk, and a chunk of pulp ("okara") left in the cloth. Store okara in a container, and keep that in the fridge for another dish. Pour the soy milk back into the (clean) pot. Wash your hands and give the cloth a quick rinse (you'll be using the cloth again soon).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12Heat up the soy milk at medium heat. It won't take long this time to heat up, so don't walk away from the kitchen. You want the milk to nearly reach the boiling point. You can tell by the tiny bubbles forming up around the edges, and then the surface of the milk start to move.

squeezing tofu pulp

13While waiting for the soy milk to heat up, dissolve a scant 2/3 teaspoon of nigari flakes in about 1/4 cup of filtered water. Put the strainer and cloth over the bowl again. You are nearly at the end!

nigari flakes in water

14When the soy milk is nearly at the boil, turn off the heat. Pour the nigari water into the pot, and give it a very quick stir with a spoon or spatula. Now leave it alone for 15-30 minutes, without stirring or moving the pot. You can leave it like this for an hour or more if you like.

nigari

15Magic happens while you wait - nigari coagulates the tofu, just like when you make ricotta cheese. After about 15 minutes, you can see gorgeous white tofu floating in a clear, yellowish liquid (whey).

tofu nearly ready

16Gently pour the tofu/whey combo into the strainer lined with cloth. Let it strain naturally, without disturbing it, for 15-30 minutes. Or if you are impatient, you can give the cloth a gentle squeeze to help strain the tofu a bit faster. The longer you let it naturally strain or squeeze the whey out of the tofu, the firmer it gets. So you can adjust the consistency of your tofu to an extent here, depending on what you plan to use it for.

tofu nearly ready

17Ta-da! This is your tofu. It may not look like a pretty rectangle tofu you get at shops (having used a round metal strainer for shaping), but it is way tastier. I now use a rectangle metal strainer that I found in Japan to make rectangle tofu - so experiment with what you have around your kitchen next time.

homemade tofu

18If you are not eating or using the tofu right away, gently store it in a container, and cover with a bit of water to keep it from drying out. Store in the fridge till needed. It'll keep for up to 5 days or so.

mome dofu

19Finally... don't throw out the whey! You can use it as soup stock - for miso soup, curry, vegetable soup, sauces, etc. Whey is tasty and nutritious. Also, I love using it in lieu of water when making bread. It makes the most fluffy, wonderful bread dough.

tofu whey

If the whey looks a little milky, and not clear, don't worry about it. You still have most of the tofu there. Next time though, make sure the soy milk is nearly at the boil before adding nigari water. You can try using a bit more nigari flakes as well, but nigari tastes bitter, so if you use too much, you'll end up with a bitter-tasting tofu and whey.

I make tofu while cooking breakfast or dinner - or while doing other food preps, just so I can keep an eye on the initial cooking process and avoid unfortunate overflowing accidents.

Also, you don't have to make tofu in one go. Do it in stages. Blend up the soaked beans in the morning, cook it at lunchtime, and finish it at dinnertime, etc. You can even keep the soy milk in the fridge (and drink a bit of it for your coffee) overnight, and use the remaining milk to make tofu the next day.

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Mini holiday in Adelaide

My family lives in Adelaide, and last week I hopped on a plane for a two-day mini holiday there. It was fun! Two night might not seem like much, but it’s amazing how much (mostly food-related) stuff you can cram in in the short period of time.

foodland adelaide

This was one of the highlights from the trip  – Foodland, a supermarket of your dreams! I’m such a food geek. But live piano music? Beautifully displayed organic produce? Seriously, they just make my day.

foodland adelaide

Anyway, short holidays are great, because it means I can still manage my diabetes pretty well. Here’s what worked for me:

(1) Packing my own food: On the way to and from Adelaide, I packed my own meals, so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat carb-rich (and expensive) food when on the move. Extra “fun” stuff to treat yourself always helps – like avocado, salty cheese, falafels, extra mayo on the salad…

(2) Having a supportive family. Once in Adelaide, my family was extra supportive of my very limited diet.  My mother had stocked her house with organic vegetables, tofu, and plant milk. A food lover herself, she probably has more spices and exotic plant-based ingredients than  I do. It was easy for me to cook and eat the kind of food I normally eat at home.

mulberries

And check out my mother’s gorgeous mulberry tree. I enjoyed these as a snack all through my stay there. A nice break from my usual snack of nuts, more nuts, and coffee.

My brother’s family was awesome as well. Even though they are omni people, they invited us for a fully vegetarian, low-carb dinner from this book and this. I felt so spoiled. The dishes were all delicious, particularly the mushroom pâté and quinoa salad!

vegan eats food

(2) Exercise-wise, I did manage fine. I walked everywhere I could – up and down airport terminals, taking the stairs instead of elevators, roaming the platforms while waiting for my train. I also went on solo walks at night. Because really, every step counts (as anyone with a pedometer knows).

(3) Shopping temptations? Adelaide is food heaven. I toured not one but two Foodland supermarkets, the Central Market, and a Sunday farmer’s market. Oh, and I also did a Haigh’s chocolate factory tour (how can I resist?)

Strangely though, I wasn’t even tempted to buy and eat lots of unhealthy stuff – as I normally might have been. Maybe it was my altered taste buds now naturally craving more savory, plant-based food. Maybe it was the fear of spiralling back to bad health again.

Maybe a bit of both… But it sure did feel wonderful to have your blood sugar level under control throughout my trip.

strawberry mulberry tart strawberry mulberry tartLR_1

See, I made a vegan mulberry and strawberry tart, and I didn’t even want to eat it myself. Very strange!

 

 

 

 

10 Big Changes Since Insulin

It’s been just over three months since I started on insulin (and a new-to-me diagnosis that I have Type 1 diabetes rather than Type 2). These three months have been amazing – I feel like I got my life back. Here are the ten major changes that occurred since insulin came into my life:

One: My blood sugar is now under control. This might sound obvious (insulin, duh) but trust me, it wasn’t easy. It has taken me 3 months to strike the elusive balance between (1) insulin dosage, (2) exercise, and (3) carb intake. I often felt like a losing boxer being knocked around this three-poled ring. Truly exacerbating… I still have a lot to learn, but these days, I feel more like a graceful tightrope walker with a smile on her face.

What helped to find this balance? Learning to count carbs (quite a challenge since I’m horrible at maths), writing a food diary, and then having a kind endocrinologist figure out the carb/insulin ratio for my body. She also got me this blood glucose meter that automatically calculates insulin units needed for each meal – I love this devise.

Two: I gained back most of my natural body weight in the first two months – I’m talking about nearly 8 kilograms in two months. Given that I was literally skin and bones before, this is a healthy weight gain. It feels particularly good to have proper functioning muscles again.

Three: I am full of energy every day, nearly all day long. I wake up in the morning and want to dig up dirt to expand my veggie patch. Or move my furniture around the house. Or run outside in the sunshine – before my first coffee. I know, I can’t believe it myself.

Four: My hair stopped falling out like crazy. This was going on for months before insulin – to the point I thought I was going completely bald. At one point I grabbed a pair of scissors and chopped off my hair short in front of a bathroom mirror, because I was sick of looking at long strands of hair everywhere, especially in food I cooked. Yikes!

Five: My old bruises started to heal. I had these ugly, dark bruised-up toes for nearly a year. I have no idea how it happened initially, but it never went away. Then one day recently, I noticed that they were almost gone! Woohoo.

Six: My brain fog has cleared (well, as much as it can clear after two children!). Before insulin, it was so sad having to struggle with the simplest mental tasks, such as making a shopping list. My naturally short attention spun got even shorter, to the point of surpassing my daughter’s – who has ADHD. What was my excuse? Early onset Alzheimers? But no (I hope), it was just my brain not getting any food.

Seven: I can see better, literally. Before insulin, I often had blurry visions. I blamed my optometrist for not prescribing the right contact lenses. But it wasn’t his fault after all. Now that my blood sugar is under control, I see my old contact lenses work just fine.

EightI sleep much better now. Before insulin, I used to wake up 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom. What a pain! Now I wake up just one time, max.

Nine: I’m back to mostly plant-based diet – and it feels wonderful. I initially chose this diet for health reasons two years ago, persuaded by all the evidence provided in books written by Joel Fuhrman, Neil Barnard and Michael Gregor. Unfortunately, two years ago was when my diabetes took a turn for the worse. Instead of getting better, I got thinner, weaker, and sicker. Everyone – including myself – felt like the diet was failing me.

So I strayed a bit, following advice of GPs, naturopaths, and well-meaning friends and family members who kept advising me to eat more animal protein.

In the end, eating animal protein didn’t help, either. It was insulin that did. Now back on my near-vegan diet, I feel healthier than ever. My omni kids often succumb to germs they catch at school, but I almost never do. Dr. Fuhrman was right after all.

TenI am no longer depressed. For nearly a year before insulin, I hardly smiled, laughed, or found much joy in life. I found my kids more annoying than adorable. These days, I catch myself laughing at my kids’ silly jokes, singing silly songs with them (instead of telling them to be quiet), and just enjoying their cuddly bright presence in my life.

And all it took? Was a bit of insulin. See, amazing.

 

 

 

Wraps! Part 4 – Sesame Flatbread with Recipe (Vegan, GF, Soy Free)

I hope you have enjoyed my series on low-carb sandwich alternatives, and hopefully tried one or more of them? If not check out Part 1 (Mountain Bread), Part 2 (nori sheets), Part 3 (raw chard leaves).

But here is one more, and I saved the best for last. This one is closest to actual bread-based sandwiches that I crave often. It’s so good I’ve been eating this for many days in a row for breakfast.
low carb flatbread toastie

Homemade flatbread toasted sandwiches! This comes together in about 20 minutes, all from pretty basic pantry items. Plus each bread only has about 4g of net carbs – now that’s a good (carb) bargain, I say. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

(a) Super low-carb. Based on my recipe below, each flatbread has about 4g of carbohydrate. You can easily have two per meal, with all kinds of fillings you desire, and you are likely to go well below the 30g-carb goal.

(b) Gluten free, soy free, and oil free (well, the dough itself is oil free – cooking oil is optional).

(c) Quick and easy to make at home. The dough only takes a few minutes to assemble and roll. And you can roll it out and cook them right away. No resting or rising necessary.

Rolling out the bread is pain-free and mess-free as well, because you’ll be rolling it between two sheets of baking paper. Just don’t skip the arrowroot starch.

If you are feeding a few people, just double or triple the batch, and put multiple frying pans on for quick production.

(d) The ingredients are readily available at most supermarkets -and while I haven’t done the cost analysis, they are all inexpensive. Craving a hot, cheesy toasted sandwich in the middle of the night? No need to drive to the shops and spend money on stale bread.

(e) Full of nutritious goodness and no nasties added – flaxseeds, almond meal, and sesame seeds are packed with nutrients. Use organic when possible, and you’d feel much better than eating anything wrapped in plastic in supermarkets.

(f) Incredibly delicious. Seriously. The flavour of toasted sesame seeds and almond meal is amazing. Most importantly, the bread has just the right amount of fluffy, bread-like texture (thanks to the baking powder).

(g) If you make a toasted sandwich, you can make it right there in the same pan you cook the flatbread (see below).

(h) The recipe is versatile. You can use it as a pizza base, or for sweeter fillings like peanut butter. You can also cook it in the oven till a bit crunchy, and use it like a cracker to scoop up hummus and other dips.

Cons

(a) Although quick and easy to make, you’ll still have to make it yourself.

(b) Being homemade, and gluten free, my flatbreads tend to end up looking a little, well, “rustic” around the edges. But is this a problem? Not in my aesthetic realm.

(c) The bread won’t last forever. It’s best to eat it straight away, though it’ll probably keep for a few days in the fridge, and longer in the freezer.

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

How to: Melty Cheesy One-Pan Toasted Sandwich

(1) Make the flatbread dough from the recipe below. Heat up a frying pan, and when hot, spread a little olive oil (olive oil adds so much to the flavour and texture of the sandwich, but you can use a nonstick pan without oil if you like).

(2) When the oil is hot, cook a flatbread for about a minute or two. Flip to the other side, and on one half of the bread, place your fillings. Here, I used vegan cheese, mustard/mayo, and spinach and radish leaves.

(3) Fold up the bread in half with a spatula, so the filling is covered up inside like a sandwich. Turn down the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and gently cook the sandwich until the cheese melts and greens wilted.

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

Enjoy right away – perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and/or hot sauce.

low carb flatbread toastie
low carb flatbread toastie

Quick Sesame Flatbread (GF, Low Carb, Vegan)

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October 25, 2017

Quick and easy, low-carb flat bread that is super tasty! Great for satisfying your bread cravings without the guilt (and high blood sugar). Great on its own, as a toasted sandwich, or as a pizza base. Don't skip the arrowroot starch here - despite the high carb content of the starch, you only need a tiny bit, and it helps to make the dough more workable.

  • Yields: 2 flatbreads

Ingredients

2 tbsp almond meal

2 tbsp flax meal (linseed meal)

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp sesame seeds, plus more for rolling

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup water

pinch salt (to taste)

1 tsp olive oil, for fying

Directions

I love the flavour of toasted sesame seeds, but experiment with other seeds and nuts - like hemp seeds, fennel / cumin / coriander seeds, coarsely ground hazelnuts and walnuts, pine nuts, and so on. Also try adding herbs and spices for variety!

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Wraps! Part 3 – Raw Rainbow Chard

Did you have a chance to make wraps with Nori sheets? I still eat nori wraps all the time, but here is my current favourite: rainbow chard wraps! I first learned to use it as a raw wrap by watching a Laura Miller video, and it changed my life.

Raw rainbow chard / lettuce (gluten free naturally)

rainbow chard

See how and flat these leaves are? They are just made to be wraps. I chop the stem off and keep them for other dishes.

Pros:

(a) Rainbow chard is super tasty and beautiful to look at – I particularly love the pink and yellow ones.

rainbow chard wraps

Chard (at least the kind I find here in Sydney), like celery, also has a naturally salty flavour. So if you are on a low-sodium diet, you’ll love the “free” salty taste. I often just munch on these leaves as is as snacks for this reason.

(b) Chard has next to zero carbs, like nori. Have as many as you like, all guilt free!

(c) It is inexpensive and widely available. If you can’t find rainbow chard in a shop near you, try silverbeet or kale (though a bit tougher to chew raw, and the leaves are not as big and flat as rainbow chard). Iceberg and cos lettuce are also good options. So is napa cabbage and pak choi (all delicious raw).

(d) Rainbow chard leaves are so large, flat, and pliable – it makes a superb wrap for a large amount of filling.

(e) You can go organic.

(f) They are super nutritious. You can check “leafy greens” off your daily healthy-food list while eating delicious wraps. (g) relatively mess free to eat! See how neat these wraps make? You can eat while reading a book and not worry about things dripping onto the pages.
chard wrap

chard wrap

What are in these wraps, you ask? They are (1) walnut and sun-dried tomato taco meat (per Laura Miller) with tofu sour cream, (2) Cajun barbecue jackfruit on cauliflower rice, an (3) tofu hummus, yellow capsicum, with homemade sauerkraut.

chard wrap with chickpeas

This one has the same walnut taco meat, with cooked chickpeas, fennels, and raw broccoli.

Cons:

I can’t think of any cons. Seriously.

If you haven’t tried any of these wraps, give them a go. Happy low-carb wrapping, everyone.

 

Wraps! Part 2 – Nori Wraps (Not Just for Sushi)

 

If you think nori sheets are just for sushi – it’s time to think outside the bento box. Nori make tasty, nutritious wraps for just about any filling – well, so long as it’s not too wet.

Here’s my pros vs cons list:

Nori sheets (gluten free, vegan)

nori rolls

Pros:

(a) Nori sheets have nearly ZERO net carb and extremely low in calories. What a bargain! You can eat as many as you like, and save all your carb allowance for more fun fillings.

(b) Nori is super tasty on its own, unlike Mountain Bread. My kids love to devour them as is for snacks. Nori also has a very satisfying crunchy texture.

(c) Made from sea vegetable, nori is nutritious.

(d) Nori goes with all kinds of fillings and flavours, not just Asian stuff. Go for vegan sausages and schnitzel slices, veggie sticks, sauerkraut, tofu scramble, baked beans, cauliflower rice… Be creative, because the possibilities are endless.

Nori wrapsOf course, you can make traditional sushi rolls, too. To make the rolls hold together though, you’ll need to use some rice replacement. I mean, there is nothing wrong with rice at all if you are not diabetic, but for those of us on a low-carb diet, rice is sadly too extravagant.

cauliflower sushi cauliflower sushi

Here I made these rolls with cauliflower rice (steamed and moisture squeezed out), okara (soy pulp) scramble, avocado, cashew miso dip, and oven-roasted sweet potato. Delicious, fun, and veeery low-carb.

(e) Nori sheets are widely available in most metropolitan supermarkets or Asian shops.

(f) Nori lasts pretty much forever. Store original packages in your pantry, and once opened, tightly seal them and store in the fridge or freezer.

(g) Nori is gluten free.

Cons:

(a) Nori can be on the expensive side, like Mountain Bread. At big supermarkets in Australia, you can get a packet of 10 sheets for $3-4. High-quality nori are more expensive, however.

(b) If you live in the country, you may not have access to nori locally – though there is always online shopping.

(c) Nori does not have the similar bread-like chewy texture or taste.

(d) Nori sheets are rather fragile. It also doesn’t like moisture (it’ll get soggy), so it’s best to eat nori wraps straight away. Which makes a great sushi party idea!

Make a stack of mini nori sheets (cut one large sheet into 4 square-ish sheets with scissors), and serve with various fillings. Your guests or family can choose their own filling combination, wrap them in nori, and eat immediately. Can’t be easier!

Nori wraps

 

 

Wraps! Part 1 – Mountain Bread

I don’t miss sugar much anymore, but I do miss bread. And by “bread” I don’t mean almond croissants dusted with powdered sugar – I’m not that unreasonable at this stage in my diabetic journey. It’s the humble sandwiches I miss the most.

Well, I used to miss toast in the morning, too, until I found this fantastic seedy bread recipe, which I make on a regular basis. This bread, however, is not really suitable for sandwiches unfortunately.

Why are sandwiches so… desirable? Well, I thought about it. It’s the softness of the bread, the joy of eating with your hands, and the “surprise” of tasty filling inside, all melding together in your mouth in one happy bite…. Most bread is too carb-rich for me, but is there a guilt-free alternative?

Enter wraps. Wraps are great! Here is the most bread-like commercial (i.e. most low-carb per square cm) wrap I found, after searching high and low through supermarket aisles. Here’s my low-down “pro vs con” analysis:

Mountain Bread (or similar, super-thin wrap bread)

mountain bread wrapPros:

(a) Relatively low-carb (13.6g per wrap for Mountain Bread rye version) and low calorie.

(b) Each wrap is large, and can hold a decent amount of fillings. If you fill it with low or zero-carb veggies and other food, you can have two wraps per meal and be on track at nearly 30g per meal. That’s not bad at all. I usually have just one though, with salad or soup on the side, or with more substantial and fun (read: high-carb) fillings like beans and vegetarian sausages.

(c) Mountain Bread is conveniently available at most Australian supermarkets.

(d) They last for a week or more in the plastic bag it comes in. Great for camping trips!

(e) I haven’t tried it, but you can make a toasty version of it – oozy vegan cheese and tomato, anyone?

Cons:

(a) It is a bit pricey. In stores in Sydney, they cost 50c per wrap.

(b) The wrap dries out quickly if left in the open. At a picnic on a sunny day, I left the wrap on my plate for a few minutes while attending to my kids, and the wrap had gone all brittle and cracker like. What a disappointment.

(c) Mountain Bread itself has very little flavour in my opinion.

(d) 13.6g is still a chunk of carbs. If you eat two wraps, that’s it for your carb “allowance” – no room for much else, like dessert.

(e) It’s not gluten free, and it’s not organic.

mountain bread wrap

Oops, this was too much filling! See what I mean? But see black thingy hiding behind my Mountain Bread? Could it be a back-up wrap for the spilled food? That’s for the next post.

 

Cashew Miso Tofu Dip (Vegan, GF, Oil-free, Low-Carb)

Cashew is magical. It can morph into anything, it seems. Milk, butter, white sauce, sour cream, and of course cheese. All nuts and seeds are amazing in their shape-shifting abilities actually (and godsend to people on vegan, plant-based and/or raw food diets). But cashew? Cashew is the reigning Queen of Creaminess. Plus it’s more affordable than, say, macadamia nuts or pine nuts.

Cashew miso dip

Here’s a quick cashew miso dip recipe that’s one of my current favorites. Miso makes it extra tasty, and tofu adds more creaminess, substance, and balance. Without tofu, the combination of cashew, miso and garlic create way too much flavor in my opinion – umami overload. Tofu brings the whole thing together.

The dip is diabetes friendly, but cashew does have a rather high carbohydrate content, and high calories, so it’s best to watch your portion size even if you are tempted to eat it by the spoonful.

cashew miso dip

Try the dip also as a sandwich or wrap spread, in lieu of mayo, as a salad dressing with a bit of thinning, or on (zucchini?) pasta, fritters, vegan schnitzels… anything really. I hope you give the recipe a go, and let me know how you like it!

cashew miso dip

cashew miso dip
cashew miso dip

Cashew Miso and Tofu Dip

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October 2, 2017

A quick, creamy, and addictive cashew dip with a subtle Asian flavor.

  • Yields: about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup dry cashew, soaked for 2-3 hours or overnight

1/2 cup momen or medium-firm tofu (not hard tofu)

1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp tahini (optional)

1 tbsp miso (brown or white)

1/2 cup vegetable soup stock or water

Directions

1Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until very, very smooth. I have a high-speed blender and it takes 1-3 minutes.

2Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Garnish with chopped coriander, green onion, or chives for a pretty presentation.

If you are avoiding soy, try using vegan yogurt instead of tofu. I tried it with Nudie coconut yogurt (natural), but I wasn't crazy about the noticeable coconut flavor. But a different brand might be okay.

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