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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The Breakfast Conundrum – and Sichuan Mushroom Sauce Recipe (Vegan, GF, Low-Carb)

Sichuan mushroom sauce

Breakfast is often a tough decision for me. What do I want to eat this morning, or rather, what can I eat this morning? Being diabetic, I gave up on sweet breakfast a long time ago, and high-carb items like wheat bread, cereal, rice, or even porridge are out. Fruit is also out (too much sugar), except maybe berries. Meat, fish, and dairy are also out because I’m trying to stick to a plant-based diet. Well, except I do eat occasional eggs from our happy backyard chooks.

What does that leave me with? Well, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts of course! And thank goodness there are so many delicious things you can make with these.

Here’s what I eat these days when I’m pressed for time, like getting the kids ready for school: a couple of slices of low-carb seedy bread with avocado. Plus a big mug of real coffee with homemade almond milk – because, friends, coffee is happiness. If I’m still hungry, I’ll munch on raw veggies or have a big spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

seedy bread breakfast

On weekends though, I make something more elaborate. Last weekend, I made this Asian portobello mushroom sauce with garlic, ginger, chilli, and Sichuan peppercorns. I poured it over homemade tofu and devoured it. It was utterly delicious. It’s actually pretty simple to prepare, too, if you want to give it a try.

portobello mushroom sauce ingredients

The basic recipe is below. The key flavor here is Sichuan peppercorns. You can omit the chilli if you like but please give Sichuan peppercorns a try. It adds a distinct, strong and fresh flavor kind of like coriander or fennel seeds – but not really. It’s hard to explain but I love it. Using whole peppercorns also adds a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

You can use whatever mushrooms you have lying around, or in any combination. Portobello or shiitake would be great though, because of their meaty texture that can match the strong flavor combination. But if not, white button mushrooms would work just fine.

If you want to make the sauce but are avoiding soy, try pouring the sauce over lightly steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, etc. If you are okay with carbohydrate, the sauce would be delicious over noodles, rice (cauliflower rice would also be fantastic for a low-carb option), quinoa, etc. Enjoy and, if you happen to make this dish, please let me know how you go!

Sichuan mushroom sauce
Sichuan mushroom sauce

Spicy Sichuan Mushroom Sauce (Vegan, Low-Carb, GF)

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September 27, 2017

Kickstart your morning with this spicy and scrumptious (and low-carb of course) Asian mushroom sauce with tofu!

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 cup portobello or other mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp sesame, olive, or coconut oil for cooking mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)

1 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free if you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot, for thickening

1 cup water or vegetable soup stock

1 cup momen or silken tofu

Directions

1Slice or chop the mushrooms. You want relatively chunky bits - not too small, not too large. Mince garlic and ginger together.

2Preheat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I love my Lodge cast-iron pan). Spread whatever oil you are using, and when the pan and oil are nice and hot, carefully lay the mushroom bits in a single layer. You want the mushrooms to brown, so don't overcrowd the pan. Leave the mushroom alone (don't stir) for 3-4 minutes till one side has browned and shrunk a bit. Flip the mushrooms over with a spatula, and let the other side brown for 2-3 minutes.

3Add chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, minced garlic and ginger to the pan, and cook for a minute or so. Add soy sauce and stir for a few seconds (it should sizzle), until it all starts to smell amazing.

4Dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in water or stock, and pour it in the pan. Mix, until the water has boiled (shouldn't take long), and the sauce thickened. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let the sauce cook gently for a few minutes. If the liquid evaporates too much, just add more water or stock to bring it back to a nice saucy consistency. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

5Pour the sauce over a good chunk of tofu and any other vegetables you have around. Scatter a few leaves of cilantro / coriander or chopped scallions if you have any.

The sauce is great over homemade tofu. If you are buying tofu, organic "momen" (or medium firm) or silken tofu is best. I don't recommend hard-firmness tofu - it's a bit too tough to eat raw in my opinion. But you can cook slices of hard tofu until crispy in the oven or in another frying pan. That'll be delicious with the sauce. And of course, this will make a lovely lunch or dinner dish as well.

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Adzuki Bean Hummus (Vegan)

adzuki bean hommus

Did you know that you can make hummus from any beans? Adzuki beans, for one.

adzuki beans

In Japan (where I grew up), cooked adzuki beans are often mixed with sugar to make fillings for sweet treats like mochi and buns. Adzuki inherently tastes sweet, even without added sugar. So I was a little skeptical at first of making savoury dishes with adzuki beans.

adzuki bean hommusUntil I tried this hummus. Totally delicious! Adzuki beans are one of the most nutritious and diabetes-friendly beans around, apparently. It has lots of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and potassium, for starters.

Making adzuki hummus is simple, except you need to cook the beans from scratch. Unlike chickpea or other more common beans, it’s hard to find canned (and unsweetened) adzuki beans in supermarkets. But don’t let that stop you. Adzuki is one of the easiest, fastest beans to cook from scratch.

And the hummus is so pretty! It has a beautiful light purple colour. Enjoy it as a dip for all sorts of veggies (raw bok choi is so delicious, and conveniently shaped like a spoon for scooping up hummus).

I hope you enjoy the recipe.

adzuki bean hommus

adzuki bean hommus
adzuki bean hommus

Adzuki Bean Hummus

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September 23, 2017

Move over, chickpeas! Make this tasty, nutritious, and pretty-in-purple adzuki bean hummus for a change. I guarantee you'll fall in love.

  • Yields: about 3 cups

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked adzuki beans

4 tbsp tanihi

1 tsp salt

2-3 garlic cloves

Directions

1Soak the adzuki beans overnight in filtered water.

2Cook the soaked beans until tender. I cook all beans in my beloved Instant Pot – an electric pressure cooker – and it takes about 5 minutes of pressure with natural release. Not long at all, unlike black turtle beans that take whopping 35 minutes in the pressure cooker. You can also cook the beans in a pot of simmering water on stovetop – just add a little more water several times as the water evaporates. You'll have about 3 cups of cooked adzuki beans.

3Drain the beans well. In a food processor fitted with an S blade, process the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and salt until smooth (or with a bit of texture if you like it that way). Adzuki beans are pretty juicy when cooked well, so there is no need to add extra water or oil (as you would when making chickpea hummus).

4Taste, and adjust seasoning / lemon juice / tahini to your liking.

Try different flavour additives. Reduce salt, and try adding a litltle soy sauce, miso, or vegan fish sauce. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for a more intense flavour. You can also try adding cumin and/or paprika for a more Mediterranean flavour, but keep it simple because you don't want to overwhelm the delicate, subtle flavour of adzuki beans.

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Type what?

seedy bread breakfast

Hello friends. I’ve been busy wandering in the land of nearly dead – but the good news is I made it back! Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but my health had deteriorated badly after I came back from Japan early this year. I had no energy, lost so much weight, my brain was constantly foggy, most of my hair had fallen out, and I felt depressed. I had also become such a bad mother – yelling at my poor kids for the smallest infractions. Yikes and yikes! What was wrong with me?

I seriously thought I had cancer – or something else equally dreadful.

Turns out though, it was just my diabetes: Type 1 diabetes that is, not Type 2 as I thought I had for three years…. Seriously? Was I misdiagnosed? Or has Type 2 morphed into Type 1 over the years? How is that even possible?

According to my new endocrinologist, I was probably Type 1 from the beginning (and misdiagnosed), but had a long “honeymoon period” where my pancreas was still producing some insulin.

After a few hours on the Internet though, I found there is yet another type of diabetes called LADA, which is also known as Type 1.5. This type of diabetes starts out like Type 2, then ends up in Type 1 somehow. Very confusing. I thought diabetes was black and white – Type 1 or Type 2. What are all these shades of grey? And why didn’t any of the doctors – and I saw about six different doctors over three years – mention this possibility before?

Well, there is no point in pointing (!) fingers at these doctors, or wallowing in retrospective self pity. Big lessons learned here: (1) you can’t trust your doctors – doctors often present themselves as all-knowing, but they are not, especially in complex areas like diabetes; (2) you need to do your own research, and make your own decisions on how to treat your illness.

Now that I’m on insulin, the change has been dramatic. My energy level has shot up within days, and I have regained 3kg within a week (including a big chunk of muscles I had lost). I can walk for miles again without getting tired – and even run with the kids to school. I’m also getting a renewed thrill out of my home-based business. Life is rosy again.

And the biggest plus side about all this? Thanks to the misdiagnosis, I had already gotten used to this healthy lifestyle of low-carb, mostly plant-based diet, regular exercise, without sugar cravings. See, if I had known I was Type 1 from the beginning, I could have been the kind of “bad” diabetic who’d shoot up heaps of insulin before digging into that cream pie.

Another plus side? I’m no longer constantly hungry. Before insulin, I was eating like a horse because I was hungry all.the.time. My body wasn’t absorbing most of the nutrients. What a waste of good food that was! Now my meals are lighter (like my breakfast this morning in the photo) – and my wallet happier.

Tokyo Vegan Eatery Review No. 1 – T’s Tantan Vegan Ramen

Woohoo, I’m back in Tokyo, for the first time in 11 years! Actually, I’m staying at my aunt’s house in Chiba, which is technically not Tokyo but is the next prefecture – about one hour away from central Tokyo. I have two weeks in Japan, and I have so much to do and see.

Included in my to-visit-list are a whole bunch of craft shops, kitchenware shops, food shops, stationary shops, book stores, department stores, an organic farm, and of course, vegan / vegetarian restaurants and cafes. Oh and I’ll be helping my aunt and my mother cook amazing festive food for the New Year’s Day. And in between all these activities I’d like to squeeze in some exercise and relaxation time as well. Does it sound too much? Impossible? Probably. We shall see.

Today was my first trip to Tokyo. And my first goal was to have lunch at a vegan ramen place called “T’s Tantan” – which is located inside Tokyo Station (i.e. you have to buy a train ticket or one of prepaid train passes like this, and then get inside the station first). If you’ve never been to Tokyo Station, it’ll shock you. It’s a huge, multi-level monster of a station, complete with hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, bento shops, takeaway shops – and of course dozens of different train platforms and subway stations scattered every which way. It’s scary.

I always get lost here, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever find this magical vegan ramen place – but miraculously I managed.

 

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

To get here, you have to first get inside the Tokyo station, and go towards “Yaesu Minami Guchi” (South Yaesu Exit / 八重洲南口), but not out to the street. You can also follow the sign for “Keiyo Sen” (Keiyo line / 京葉線). And just before the exit, on your right side, there is a little row of eateries and shops called “Keiyo Street.” The ramen joint is at the end of Keiyo Street, on your right hand side.

Here it is. Vegan ramen!

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

There was a little line of people waiting to get inside the ramen place. It was lunch time though, and today was a public holiday, so I wasn’t surprised. The wait was only about 5 minutes thankfully. The place is open from 7am till 11pm.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Inside the restaurant was simple but clean, tastefully decorated with vegan messages on the walls, and surprisingly spacious. There were tables for multiple people, but you’d feel completely comfortable eating on your own. The wait staff were all friendly, kind, and efficient (they were very good at refilling your glass of cold water). Despite the line of people waiting, nobody rushed you into ordering or eating. Once inside, everyone seemed relaxed and happy. I heard relaxed chattering in several languages, as well as lots of audible slurping sounds as you’d expect in a ramen joint.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The menu isn’t very long. There were 5 main ramen dishes -ramen with white sesame, black sesame, golden sesame with peanut sauce, soy ramen, and something called “Su-Ra Tanmen” which has vinegar and chilli sauce in it. You can also order extra veggies, which I did. There were also a couple of side dishes, like dumplings, mini curry-and-rice dish, and mock fried chicken nuggets. For the drink menu, there was coffee, tea, orange juice, and (wow) beer, organic red wine and organic white wine.

I ordered the most expensive “golden sesame” ramen (with peanut sauce) with extra veggies and a side of mock chicken nuggets. What can I say, I was starving. All their mock meats are all made from a high-quality soy product brand called “daizu marugoto” (whole soy). I’ve had these before, and they are pretty great.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Here’s my meal! How exciting. And it was yummy! I’d say 8.5 out of 10. The soup was amazing, with rich peanut sauce, satisfyingly salty, oily enough but not too oily, and with deep rich sesame flavour. My setup came with a little jar of homemade chilli pepper mix, and I put a generous amount of it in my soup. I recommend ordering extra veggies, because there weren’t much veggies in the bowl by default.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The potions size was sufficient for a normal hungry woman. I felt like I over-ate with the deep-fried nuggets. I’d skip that next time.

The only negative thing I could find about the ramen was that the noodle seemed just slightly overcooked – lacking in al dente texture. But that could be because I was too busy taking photos before actually eating.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The “chicken” nuggets were a little on the sweet side for my taste buds, but still very tasty. I threw them into the bowl of noodles and ate them all together. So yum.

As for the pricing, considering I ordered two extras, the total cost was still very reasonable at 1450 yen (about AU$16). Compared to the high cost of lunch in Sydney, it was quite reasonable, I thought.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

I’d love to go back there another time to try other ramen dishes – particularly the white sesame one, which most everybody else was ordering.

PS. On the other hand… ramen is not very diabetes friendly… The noodles probably shocked my blood sugar into a soaring high! But I’m on vacation – and on a mission to find vegan-friendly eateries in a sea of mostly non-vegan places in Tokyo, so it was okay. After all, I’m still alive and ready for my next adventure! Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The REAL Benefits of Exercising

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard a million times that exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. That’s true of course, but it took me two years to realise how important it was. And in ways that no health care professional has ever explained to me. I know, I’m so slow to catch on sometimes.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 2 years ago, my doctor (as all reasonable doctors would) prescribed me daily exercise, along with a hefty dose of medication. He also added: “Your diabetes is very serious. It won’t do you much good to walk 30 minutes a day – you must walk 1-2 hours every day.”

Which was a lot to ask of me I thought, since at that time I was doing exactly zero exercise. But I did my best to amend my ways. In a few weeks I was walking an hour a day. A few months later I started running, too, clutching my iPhone in one hand, listing to the robotic commands of the “Couch to 5k” application. It took me 6 months to reach the 5k goal but I did it. I was running pretty much every single night for 5-7 kilometers. I felt virtuous.

But all this time, I had the wrong idea about exercising. I thought it was just to lower my blood sugar level for that day. So I’d eat a nice dinner, pop my medication, and go for a run to let my sugar level drop to a normal level. Life was under control.

Then, a few months ago, I began to slack off and stopped exercising. It was a rather stressful period of my life, what with separation and moving to a new house (not to mention it was in the middle of a freezing mountain winter). I know, excuses, excuses… But the point is I did let regular exercising slip away…. I mean, if you skip one day, it’s so easy to skip the next day, and so on. You know how it goes.

And just like that, my health started to fall apart. My blood sugar was high. I lost a lot of my muscles because I wasn’t moving – which made me avoid exercising more. Before I knew it, even walking around my backyard began to hurt my legs.

I felt tired and weak all the time, so I craved more sugary, high-carb, oily food to comfort me. I was also eating all.the.time. Forget Dr. Fuhrman’s mandate to avoid snacking between meals – I just had no will power to stop snacking. I mean, if there was a cake lying around, I’d just eat it. My brain was also foggy, so I drank coffee after coffee just to stay afloat mentally.

My energy level dropped to an all-time low. Often I’d wake up in the morning and just sit there in front of my laptop for hours, mindlessly surfing the net and not having an ounce of energy to do anything else. Then I’d stay up till wee hours in the morning just catch up on work – drinking more coffee and snacking. The resulting lack of sleep made me even more tired the next day.

In short, it was a bad case of vicious cycle – a spiral down to an early death no doubt!

Which is when I finally had the lightbulb moment: I need to start exercising again. And this time, I realised it’s not just about lowering blood sugar level temporarily after meals. It’s to alter my entire lifestyle, and to reverse this downward spiral.

So here it is people – the list of real benefits of exercising regularly:

(1) Regular exercising builds and maintains your muscles (I know, it is obvious but please read on).

(2) When you are physically strong, you have more energy to do more stuff – more work, more gardening, more housework – in short you are more productive.

When you are more productive during the day, you feel okay about going to bed earlier. And getting enough sleep does wonders to your mood and energy level the next day.

(3) When you exercise, you are not craving food. It’s true! You are not hungry when you are sweating in a fitness class or fast walking around the neighbourhood. Even when you come home afterwards, I’m often not hungry for hours. So yay, I can stick with Dr. Fuhrman’s “no snacking” regime better.

(4) Your body affects your mind directly. When you are physically strong, your mind is clearer and stronger. I don’t have foggy brains after I exercise. It helps a lot with my work to have a clear mind.

And guess what, when you concentrate on your work (or blog writing or gardening), you don’t feel the compulsion to eat. Eating had become a way of procrastination and distraction for me, when I didn’t have enough mental energy to do anything much.

(5) With a clearer mind, you also have better self-control when it comes to food. Should I have a green smoothie for breakfast, or make that carb-rich sandwich with gooey vegan cheese in the middle? When your mind is strong, you have the will power to opt for that smoothie. And what about those leftover muffins I made for my kids? Well you don’t have to eat them. Toss them into the compost bin, I say!

So there you go. It only took me two years to realise all these real benefits of exercising. I can blame my doctor for not explaining all this to me in the first place, but really, I wonder if he knew himself.

It is hard sometimes to get yourself out there to walk, run, or got to a fitness class every day. But now that I realise your entire life is at stake, I am extra motivated to keep up with exercising this time around.

 

 

Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! I’m not a Halloween kind of person actually. But when your kids are so excited about a school Halloween party, does a parent really have a choice but to go along with it? My ex got them scary costumes, and I – reluctantly – agreed to help with the “best curved pumpkin contest” bit. There were a couple of obstacles though.

First, we couldn’t find any Halloween-like orange pumpkins. We drove around town knocking on different veggie shops and supermarkets – but nobody had any, not even for display. Seriously? I mean, come on veggie shops! Where is your holiday spirit? So our only choices were (1) Japanese pumpkins (too ugly and bumpy, what with green and brown patches on the outside), (2) Kent (smooth skin, but boring beige colour, and they were too huge anyway), or (3) butternut squashes. The choice was kind of obvious. Butternuts were cute, came in just the right size for the kids, and had a smooth orange-y skin. First problem solved!

Second, I had no idea how to curve a pumpkin. I’ve never done it or seen it done before. But then – Youtube to the rescue! After watching three random pumpkin-curving tutorials, I felt confident enough to give it a go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best part was seeing the kids super excited and engaged! Even I got into the activity and enjoyed it a lot. I helped quite a bit with sharp knives and linoleum curving chisels (which I conveniently had in my craft supplies). But my six-year old grabbed a chisel at some point and started curving on his own – and he was surprisingly careful. I should just trust my kids more.

pumpkin curving for halloween

Even my ADHD daughter stuck with the activity for two whole hours.

pumpkin curving for halloween

And how cute are these pumpkins when lit up at night?

roasted pumpkin bits

Here are the pumpkin shreds that got scooped out. After the kids went to bed, I roasted them with a bit of olive oil. They were so sweet and tasty, I ate nearly a quarter of them straight out of the oven with a spoon. The rest, I pureed in a food processor and….

sourdough pumpkin bread

Made them into pumpkin sourdough bread and scrolls the next day. Mmmm. I am loving the 100% whole rye flour and wholemeal spelt flour combination. I also threw in some almond and soy pulp from making milk.

pumpkin seeds roasted

I saved all the seeds, too. Roasted till crunchy, they make nutritious, tasty – and free! – snack. I’ll be enjoying these healthy and nutritious jack-o-lantern offcuts today, while my kids will no doubt be eating too many of those supermarket candies at the party tonight. But so it goes!

 

How to convert a recipe to be diabetic friendly (plus a carrot muffin recipe)

If you follow a plant-based diet, you have probably heard of the term “veganise.” It means converting a conventional recipe into a vegan one. For example, if a recipe calls for an egg, you omit the egg and use flax meal or chia seeds instead.

If you are diabetic and follow a plant-based diet, the conversion becomes a bit more complicated two-step process. One: veganise it. Two: make the recipe more diabetic friendly (I’ve been looking for a snappy term for this process – but sadly can’t find one yet. “Diabetise”?

Of course, you can start with a vegan recipe to begin with, and make it just a one-step process of “diabetising” it – and there are plenty of amazing vegan recipes available these days.

So how do you make a recipe more diabetic friendly, you ask? Here’s what I do when making sweet treats.

(1) reduce the amount of sugar – sometimes a recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of sugar, I can halve the amount and it still tastes sweet enough to me. I normally start with less sugar, and taste the mixture as I make it. If I want more sweetness, I gradually add more sugar until I’m happy.

Keep in mind that baked sweets taste less sweet than uncooked dough or batter. In other words, when tasting unbaked batter/dough, make it a little sweeter than you’d like.

(2) replace refined sugar with low-GI, low-carbohydrate sugar, like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or sometimes, even fake sugar (though too much of that might upset your tummy).

(3) replace plain flour with low GI, low-carbohydrate flour, such as besan flour, almond meal, peanut flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour, and wholemeal wheat flour. These flours are generally interchangeable with plain flour. I stay away from coconut flour and flax meal, because they are not interchangeable with regular flour – and requires significant modifications elsewhere in the recipe.

(4) use more nuts and seeds, and less dried fruit. Or omit dried fruit.

(5) use more vegetables, rather than fruit or other high-carbohydrate ingredients.

(6) replace oil or fat with apple sauce, mushed banana, pumpkin puree, or vegan yoghurt.

Sometimes I do all these things for one recipe, and sometimes I only do one or two modifications. Sometimes the result is just delicious! Sometimes I go too far into the “healthy” realm and my family and friends reject the modified creations (for not being rich or sweet enough, or for having the wrong kind of texture) – in which case will have to polish them off all by myself in order to avoid wastage. How tragic! Very rarely do stuff go in the compost bin though. I think it happened only once or twice.

Yes there is a bit of guesswork involved when making these modifications, but with trial and error and an adventurous spirit, you’ll soon get a hang of it. Just remember, it’s okay to fail sometimes! I fail all the time actually, but even failures can be quite tasty.

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Take these carrot muffins, for example. The original recipe is from a book called “Vegans with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It’s a fantastic book on vegan cooking, but the recipes do often call for plenty of sugar, oil, and high-carbohydrate ingredients – things that wave red flags for diabetics.

Even though this particular recipe was pretty healthy to begin with, I still made a few modifications.

(1) I swapped the plain flour with a mixture of gluten free, lower-GI flours. I used a combination of buckwheat, brown rice flour, and oat flour (make sure you use gluten-free oat flour – not all oat flour is gluten free, apparently).

(2) Because the gluten-free flours tend to make muffins more crumbly, I added a tablespoon of flax meal to give more binding power.

(3) Instead of canola oil, I used apple sauce.

(4) Instead of regular sugar, I used coconut sugar.

(5) To add more kiddy appeal to the otherwise very brown, plain, and hippy-looking muffins, I decorated the muffin tops with blueberries, bananas and walnuts.

And the result? Very tasty muffins! Not too sweet, but just sweet enough for breakfast or for school lunch box. They also have a perfect structure – neither crumbly nor mushy. My kids gobbled them up, with a bit of vegan butter on top.

diabetic friendly carrot muffins

Here’s my modified, more diabetic-friendly carrot muffins. You can of course play with it anyway you like! You don’t have apple sauce? Try mushed banana or coconut yoghurt. Don’t have carrots? Use grated zucchini or sweet potato instead. Omit the raisins and use nuts and seeds instead (if I were making these muffins just for me, I would have omitted the raisins – but I made these mostly for my kids, so I left them in). Add more spices like vanilla, cloves, or orange zest. Have fun and remember, it’s okay to fail!

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

 

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)
Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free and Diabetic Friendly)

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October 21, 2016

This recipe is adapted from a carrot breakfast muffin recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from her Vegan with a Vengeance book.

  • Yields: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mixture (I used brown rice flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour, in equal amounts) - if using oat flour, and if gluten-free is important to you, please make sure you are using gluten-free kind of oat flour!

1 tbsp flax meal

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or fake sugar, if you prefer)

2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 and a half smallish carrots)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup apple sauce

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup blueberries, chopped bananas, or other fruit or nuts for topping

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup oat milk, soy milk, or nut milk of your choice (I used homemade oat milk)

Directions

1Preheat your oven to about 200 degree Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).

2Soak the raisins (if using) in hot water to plump them up - for about 10 minutes. Then drain.

3Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl - flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, flax meal, salt, and sugar.

4Add grated carrots and raisins to the dry mixture and mix them with a spatula.

5Pour apple sauce and non-dairy milk into the flour/carrot mixture, and mix well with a spatula. The dough shouldn't be too dry or too wet - the batter should gently drip off your spatula. Add a bit more milk if it's too dry. Add a bit more flour if it's too wet.

6Prepare your muffin moulds. You can either use a non-stick mould and brush or spray it with oil, or use store-bought paper muffin liners, or just cut up little squares of baking paper and line the moulds with them (like I did in the photos).

7Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. You can gently press the top of the muffins with your hands, and if it feels firm and springy, they are baked. Or you can insert a bamboo stick into the muffins, and if it comes out clean, it's baked. Take the muffins out of the oven and let them cool for a bit before devouring them.

Instead of carrots, grated sweet potatoes is tasty, too (though slightly higher in carbohydrate).

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