Thursday, April 23, 2009

Superfood Sushi

Because my partner sticks to a pretty high protein diet because of his workouts, I’m always looking for new ways to make high protein meals varied and interesting. Pre-vegan days, that was simple, but it’s a little more challenging now. It also happens that I used to be sushi obsessed (well, I still am, but it was mostly for the raw sea animals before) and that I promised a quinoa recipe today, so I concocted a way of making high protein sushi! Okay… I didn’t do much, sushi IS high protein. But once you cut out the rice, its even higher, and hey, I get credit for figuring that out.

Yep, despite my Chinese heritage, I have come to find that rice is pretty overrated (blasphemy I know, just don’t tell my family…)! Plus it always makes me feel bloated afterwards, so to make sushi why not use quinoa? Aside from quinoa already being a complete protein, I always use veggies and some other form of protein to feel like I’m having a balanced and complete meal… I’ve done everything from seitan strips, to baked tofu, to tempeh and today to these Chicken-less Trader Joe’s strips that I don’t know what to do with because they kind of have a weird texture.
As I’m sure you all know, seaweed is great for vegans! Nori in particular is high in iodine and iron and pretty high in protein too. It’s also high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and B2. And for those who care, it’s low fat. I think the benefits of the healthy fats of avocados have been talked about enough, as have the benefits of carrots (they make your eyes pretty), and cucumbers (they make your skin pretty). I like to keep it simple. Here goes:


Makes 1 roll
¼ C quinoa (I like Incan Red the best, but any kind works)
1 tablespoon of brown rice vinegar (or more to taste)
1 sheet of nori (there are plenty of organic seaweeds out there now!)
couple strips of avocado
couple strips of carrot
couple strips of cucumber
couple strips of some form of protein

1. Cook quinoa according to its packaging directions. When almost all the water has evaporated from it (or after but I think it infuses better this way), add the brown rice vinegar and stir.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, slice the veggies of your choice into strips.
3. The make sushi part! I don’t have a sushi mat, so I just use a cutting board: Lay the sheet of nori onto whatever surface you have. Place the quinoa along the TOP edge of the nori closest to you. Spread it out so it takes up about ¼ to 1/3 of the nori. Lay the strips of avocado, carrot, cucumber and protein choice as tightly fit together as you can along the quinoa (the tighter you make it the less likely the sushi will be crumble when you try to cut it).
4. Roll the nori starting from the edge closest to you, and roll as tighly as you can. Every time the nori has rolled around itself once, I tuck it in tightly and keep doing that at every turn. (if your roll doesn’t want to seal at the end, dampen the edge of the ends of it with water and try again)
5. Slice (or not and just eat it whole) the roll with a wet serrated knife. For me, it’s key to rewet my knife after every slice. But hey, if you mess up, you just get to eat the piece then and there!

The many faces of Quinoa

With the end of classes coming around and procrastination from papers increasing with the end of the semester, I'm hoping to be posting more frequently from now on (along the lines of twice a week).
It seems like people are looking for all sorts of substitutes recently (myself included!) whether it is to make something vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, low-sugar, low calorie, the list goes on… this is why this week’s ode is to quinoa.
Quinoa: it’s something of a grain, but it’s gluten free and you can use it for ANYTHING! It can substitute rice, couscous, breakfast oatmeal, you can find quinoa flour, you name it!
Like I mentioned in one of my last posts, I always find it fascinating (but mostly scary) how far removed we have become from our food. When we consider that traditional South American diets understood the need for complete proteins, or that traditional Chinese cooking emphasizes the consumption of ‘internal body cleansers’ or 'energy balancers' like ginger or five spice powder, or even the entire concept of Indian Ayuverda, I wonder why we created our own unhealthiness by moving away from traditional knowledge to sipping Starbucks lattes and scarfing down bagged chips! I certainly don’t get it… Honestly, there’s a reason people didn’t have a billion allergies back then.
My rant aside, quinoa is another one of those foods that has been in use in South America for thousands of years and was apparently a sacred crop to the Incan. The upside of quinoa? It’s a complete protein on its own! Now fitting under the catchy category of ‘super foods’ it has all 8 essential amino acids... how much more nutritionally simple does it get?
On top of that, quinoa has a whole slew of vitamins and minerals: manganese, iron, magnesium, iron, copper, riboflavin (aka. Vitamin B2) and phosphorus. Because of the magnesium it’s wonderful for people prone to migraines, and has been proven to reduce hypertension and the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. It also has really high levels of fiber, calcium and iron.
If you’re eating it whole (so in its more rice/couscous form), there are many different types of quinoa, red, gold, etc. Though the ‘yellow’ coloured kind is the most common and is really tasty, my favourite by far is the Incan red.
Also, my partner and my little quinoa secret is that it tastes surprisingly like peanut butter when used in its flour form. So if you have a peanut allergy, use it in your basic chocolate chip recipe, and they’ll come out more peanut buttery. Or just use it with a peanut butter recipe and give it an extra kick!
As always, here are two more original ways of using quinoa. Both these recipes are from Heidi Swanson's blog, 101cookbooks: Delicious Big Bowl and Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Recipe.
And stay tuned for my own quinoa recipe, coming up next!

"Ginger Three-Ways" Cookies

So, I recently decided that Liz Lovely’s Ginger Snapdragons cookies are the best thing that ever happened to cookies! In fact, Liz Lovely is the best thing that ever happened to cookies. Because I only have access to them when I got to MOM’s near my parents’ place, I decided to try to make my own version to lessen the craving til I can get out there. I think I did a pretty good job! And they’re extra gingery because that’s the only way to go! I made mine in different sizes to get the small flat crispy ones and the bigger chewy ones. And as always, use organic ingredients!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup soy milk

3/4 cup cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanillafreshly grated ginger (to taste)
chopped pieces of crystallized ginger to put on top
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Except the sugar and chopped ginger, sift the dry ingredient into a mixing bowl and set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and the sugar, and mix well until blended.
4. Progressively stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. My first shot was a little dry, so I added a couple teaspoons of maple syrup).
5. Shape into cookies and place on cookie sheet (make flatten them if you want them crispy, and make them into more ‘normal cookie shapes’ if you want them big and chewy). They do spread out a big.
6. Lightly press in a few pieces of the crystallized ginger on top of each cookie.
7. Bake for about 10 minutes.
8. Eat!

Tip of the Week: Using Chickpea Flour

Despite the fact that it's Easter long weekend, this week means papers, papers, papers for me to write so instead of posting a recipe I wanted to give you a quick baking tip that I have found more and more vegans have been adopting recently: using chickpea flour!
Lately, I’ve been substituting about ¼ (or more, I've done up to half) of any flour in my cookierecipes with chickpea flour and it always ends up tasting amazing. It gives cookies a much richer, nuttier taster, and a warmer darker color. Because I tend to only use flours like whole wheat, spelt, etc. I find that you can substitute it one for one no problem.
Since I’m straying further and further away from really sweet desserts, I find that by providing a richer taste, chickpea flour makes baking less cloyingly sweet. I haven’t tried it on anything other than cookies at the moment though (like cakes, muffins, etc.) so if you have insight into that let me know!
On the nutrition side, using chickpea flour is also very good for you! As many of you may know, to get your complete proteins as a vegan (aka. all 8 essential amino acids which you need daily), you can't just eat beans or complex carbs on their own but have to pair them together. That's why so many plant-based South American diets always eat beans & rice, or beans & tortillas, etc... they knew their stuff before veganism was big! What better way to get a complete protein then by eating a cookie?
Chickpeas are also particular high in folic acid (important especially for us ladies!), and minerals including iron, magnesium,copper, and zinc. Who can beat that with plain old flour? Low on the glycemic index, it's good ingredient for people with diabetes, people seeking to lower their cholesterol, and obviously the gluten intolerant.
So try it out! I guarantee you it's yummy!
P.S. Check my reply to Michelle's comment to this post for a way you can put this to practice right away :)

Vegan Fen Zheng Rou

First things first: I love my mom. Why? Aside from all the obvious reasons, she took it upon herself to veganize one of my favourite recipes this weekend. Fen Zheng Rou (Beef) or Fen Zheng Pai Gou (Pork) has always been one of my favourite dishes growing up and I was kind of sad to have to let it go when I became vegan (this is despite the fact that I loved the dish despite the meat). BUT, because my mom is awesome and loves me lots, I introduced her to seitan and she decided to attempt to veganize her age old recipe for me and it turned out better than ever! I can’t tell you enough how much I love this woman.

Considering what I said about “Cooking is like Piracy”, I apparently learned that from my mom. This is all based on me watching her and having to estimate a recipe she now does more by memory and reflex than ever needing to measure things out:

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled
4 small taros, peeled (don't forget to wear gloves or your hands get itchy!)
1 lb of seitan (west soy chicken style)
2 boxes of Chinese steam powder (you can find it at any Chinese grocery store, check that the only ingredients are rice, anise, cumin, pepper, or that it doesn't have added 'stuff' in it like MSG)
1 big chunk of ginger, cut as my mom just said in the shape of “whatever mood you are feeling”
8 tbsps of rice wine
8 tbsps of light soy saucesea salt (to taste)

1. Soak Seitan with 8 tbsp of rice wine + 8 tbsp light soy sauce + ground sea salt (a three or four turns of the grinder or a couple 2 tsp.) + ginger for about 10 minutes The way my mom puts this dish together is kind of like making lasagna in the sense that it’s layer upon layer of ingredients
2. Lightly line the bottom of a medium-sized corning ware (or something you will uses for a double boiler) with olive oil
3. Line the corning ware with one layer of the peeled sweet potatoes chopped into rounds
4. Evenly spread half of one of the boxes of Chinese steam powder over the rounds
5. Pour in half the seitan and 1/4 of the sauce over that
6. Line that with one layer of the peeled taro chopped into rounds
7. Pour the other half of the seitan and half of the sauce left (try to keep at least the sauce for the end)
8. Evenly spread the other half of the box of Chinese steam powder
9. Place half of the rest of taro and sweet potatoes
10. Sprinkle half of the second box of Chinese steam powder
11. Repeat 9 and 10
12. Add rest of sauce on top of everything (you want to try to keep everything pretty moist so that when everything cooks in the taro and sweet potato really take in the sauce)
13. If you have a steamer, you should just place the corning ware in it. Otherwise, if you don't have one (which we don't) put 2 cups of water into a pot and place the corning ware in it creating your own steamer/double boiler. Steam over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes and make sure there is also water in your steamer/made up steamer!

The dish is ready when the rice powder puffs up like couscous and the sweet potatoes and taros are soft all the way through!
As always, email me or message me if you have questions and enjoy!

Seitan in Tomato Mango Sauce

This recipe makes a really addictive caramelized seitan that’s great with anything from rice to stir-fried veggies or on its own. All the ingredients in this recipe can (and should!) be bought organic if possible. You can always add salt to taste, but I try not to. And yes, I will learn to enhance the photo quality of my food.
1 package of
seitan (I love the Westsoy Chicken-Style kind)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons of mango jam (adjust more or less for sweetness)
2 teaspoon apple cidar vinegar
2 teaspoon of soy sauce (low-sodium is always best!)
1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
sesame oil for frying (you can substitute with canola or olive but pay attention to the effect that will have on taste!)
chopped onion (optional)
1. Mix everything except the seitan and the onions in a small bowl to make a sauce. Always taste it to see if it’s to your liking (the finish product gets m

ore sugary and thick so keep that in mind)
2. Lightly oil the bottom of a frying pan over medium-high heat
3. If you like onions, caramelize them when the pan is hot by throwing them in with 1/2 tsp. of cane sugar and mixing them until well browned and translucent (about 3 minutes)
4. Add sauce in the center of the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes
5. Add drained seitan and stir until sauce has completely covered the seitan
6. Stir well to avoid sticking and until the sauce has been absorbed by seitan and looks thick and caramelized
7. Enjoy!

What is Dance?

I don't know who wrote this, but it's become something of a mantra to many in the dance community. After reading it, I understood why right away. I love this poem because it very much incapsulates what dance means to me and just wanted to put that out there.
For Some, dance is not just a pastime,

Its an undeniable fact of living,
A blissful slavery of mind, and body and soul.
To rise above the ashes of mediocrity is rare,
Yet the gift of dance is freely handed out to anyone
Who cares to receive it
Instantly shattering our daily drudgery.
The path to pursue more than the usual
More than what is safe and known
Is wrought with time-sharpened jagged blades that cut deep,
Blocking many from the road to something greater,
Beyond the stunted imagination of their peers.
Within the veins of the few
Passion fills every sinew with sweet unquenchable purpose
Calming the fear of those treacherous paths,
Through each slice burns and bleeds,
Still they take each cut,
And wear the scars with pride to signal their choice
That undying pursuit of greater joy within every step.

Statement of Purpose

This post and the next few are cross-posts from my old blog on Vox. I switched over to this site in the hopes of increasing my readership, but also because unforunately, only Vox members can post comments on that site. It was a pretty snazzy site though, but not fully suited to my needs! This is from March 4, 2009:
Of all the hundreds of things I learned at Powershift ’09 this weekend, this is one of the comments that stuck with me the most: “98% of people who blog just want to be heard.” This seems like a really obvious statement and though I’m sure that the ‘98%’ was just pulled out of the air, it speaks volumes. ‘Why am I starting a blog?’ it made me wonder. What is it that I want from this? For me, it’s not just about being heard, it’s also about listening. I don’t just want to rant, I want to teach, educate, and above all, I want to share. Now more than ever we have access to so much information. We have so much to learn from each other and we can now communicate those things to each other in ways we would have never even imagined using only a few decades ago.
What’s my angle though? There are three things I want to blog about, and this has been made obvious by my blog’s title and my first post: Eat Dance Live. In other words: Feed your body. Know your body. And just live.
Eat: Organic. Healthy. Unprocessed. Sustainable. These are the key things I stand by. These words encompass the diet that will best feed your mind and ultimately your soul. Our society has totally lost touch with food, not just how to eat it, but especially how it’s made and where it comes from. It's not that much more expensive to care about your food (hey, I'm a student) and the benefits are huge.
That aside, I’ve got to admit, I’m notorious for my baking. I’ve baked cookies for a campground of 500 people every morning for a week. I’ve concocted crazy vegan cakes and brownies for my parents whom I’ve quickly convinced that you can eat indulgently without feeling guilty or being unhealthy (thank you to all my fellow bloggers for their decadent vegan dessert recipes to help me with that!).
Now, I’m hoping to post exciting, healthy and absurdly delicious recipes and food creations for you to try out. I also guarantee that I’ll probably be ranting about food and agricultural policies that have to be improved. I know I’ll share my most recent finds on food and everything about it whether its through other blogs, new culinary hideouts I’ve found around town, or petitions I think we have to sign to improve the quality of our food system.
Dance: By dance, in the largest sense, I simply mean you should celebrate your body. To me, dance is one of the ultimate artistic expressions of the self. Some find themselves through painting, meditation, music; I think dance encompasses all those things. It’s meditative in that you have to go deep inside yourself and know yourself to truly create something. It forces you to be in tune with the rhythms of the earth, with the emotions conveyed by the musicians who play for you to express the way you feel. And similarly to painting or drawing in which you express yourself through your hands, you only have your body to show the world how you experience it.
We’ve lost touch with our bodies, especially women. We fight them instead of embracing them. We complain about them as if we had no control over them. Paired with diet you have to exercise, dance, or find some way to reclaim yourself from your toes to the crown of your head. Amongst many other ways, I do this through dance. It’s my mental therapy and I’m striving to make it a bigger part of my life.
Live: Ah living, the culmination of all things. The ultimate expression of having found your center, the balance between you heart, your mind, and your body. If you eat well, if your mind is quiet and happy and balanced, you’ll feel yourself click back into place with both the universe and within yourself.
I know this entry hasn’t given away a lot about me in the way of ‘facts’. I could have told you where I’m from, how tall I am, what my favorite color is, but what does that achieve? The things I’ve said are who I am. They tell you this more than any list of facts could have done.
I promise that what will follow will not always be as philosophically indulgent, but this is my statement of purpose. This is the groundwork I’m laying down to join those 98% of people who feel like that they have something valuable to share.

Why Cooking is like Piracy

WARNING: Recipes are like the Pirate Code, they’re just guidelines
I find exact proportions in cooking totally overrated. I love the way old medieval recipes were written: they just listed ingredients and then gave you a rough idea of how to assemble them. I admire the confidence that old recipes required that you have in the kitchen, the ‘just wing it’ attitude that compels you to trust your ability as a cook. Consider this awesome fourteenth century recipe for apple pie from The Forme of Cury compiled in 1390 by the master cooks of King Richard III:
XXVII For to make Tartys in Applis
“Tak gode Applys and gode Spycis and Figys and resons and Perys and wan they are wel ybrayed colourd with Safron wel and do yt in a cofyn and yt forth to bake wel.”
In other words, mix together apples, pears, raisins, figs and spices—probably cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and saffron—mix and put it in a pieshell, the ‘cofyn’, and bake. That’s it! Seems very low maintenance, doesn’t it? It also implies you know how to make a pie shell though… It is REALLY tasty though (I add honey).
This so makes sense to me. Everyone has their own taste preferences, so why not just give guidelines that you can accommodate to your own or your guests' taste? There’s nothing quite like being comfortable enough in the kitchen to feel that you can just ‘go with it’. Cooking requires a certain rhythm, and everyone has to find their own. Stop thinking and just do what feels right, that’s good advice for many aspects of life and I definitely think it applies to cooking as well.
All of this is my own way of warning you about the recipes I will post. Though I hope my recipes will be yummy beyond your wildest imaginings, veganism and a fairly unprocessed diet has caused my taste for sugar to have plummeted. Whenever I bake for others, my partner always tells me to remember that I’m “baking for normal people”, in other words, he’s telling me to add more sugar. If you believe yourself to be like most, then just add more sugar/sweetener, I can definitely see why you’d seek to do this, I’ve just lost the taste for it. I find my doses sweet enough though, but who knows, you can just use them as a baseline and increase (or decrease) them as you see fit!
So in general or when using my recipes, cook like a pirate: recipes are just guidelines, they’re only the beginning. I write measurements down only because I feel like I have to. Keep in mind that they are always “give or take”. Feel free to add up to an extra tsp for ingredients measured in tsp or tbsp and up to ¼ of a cup for ingredients measured in cups. Yarrrr...