The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

[This picture isn’t the best quality, but considering I was in a rush to enjoy it, this was my best shot! Next time I eat it, I’ll take better photos…]

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Oatmeal, hands down, is the ultimate healthy breakfast option for me, the perfect wake-up call to a busy weekday morning.

Today is the start of the school week, and it is also the finish-the-leftovers day. So, combining the goal of pumping myself up with fuel for a busy day at school and the objective of getting rid of last week’s leftover produce, I came up with a crazy oatmeal  flavour. It is a meatless dish that includes bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage as the key ingredients, infused with Sichuan flavour (inspired by one of my favourite Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles).

Quite frankly, if I didn’t need to finish the not-so-fresh product, I would never have thought about putting bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage in oatmeal. And I would definitely would never consider extracting the flavours of Dan Dan noodles and working it into my oatmeal. Even as I was cooking the dish, I knew this was a risky attempt and I prepared myself that it might not taste as good as it sounds in my head. But somehow, in the end, my oatmeal turned out creamy, spicy, peanutty, and overall, very flavourful. I enjoyed every bite.

So far, my adventure to discover new ways to enjoy oatmeal has taken me in all directions; I’ve tried many new food combinations and played with the sweet and savory flavours. But this episode has really got beyond my imagination, and I must say, from the looks of it, this adventure will only get more crazy, more exciting and more dangerous. Can’t wait until a new crazy oatmeal idea pops into my head!

Oatmeal, Sichuan flavour

What you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup cooked steel cut oats (regular / quick oats work as well, just not instant oatmeal)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste
  • A drizzle of sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup Taiwanese cabbage, shredded (Taiwanese cabbage is a different variety from Green Leaf cabbage; it has a sweeter flavour and a more tender texture.)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium preferably
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped

What to do:

  • I’m assuming that you have already cooked up a big patch of steel cut oats and have them in individual servings sizes alright — If not, follow these instructions and make some now!
  • Boil a pot of water, put in bean sprouts and Taiwan cabbage, simmer on medium heat until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In the same pot, pour in chicken stock and stir in the oatmeal and the veggies. Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together chili sauce, peanut butter and sesame paste. If mixture is too thick to stir well, add in a splash of hot water to help the paste blend together better. Set aside.
  • When oatmeal is heated thoroughly, add the sauce and scallions. Stir well. (At this point, you can adjust the seasoning to taste – if you want a more prominent sweet, nutty flavour, stir in more peanut butter, or if you are looking for more heat, add in chili sauce or chili oil for an extra kick.)
  • Remove from heat, cover pot and let sit for 2 – 3 minutes (let the flavour of the scallion infuse into the oatmeal). Drizzle on sesame oil before serving.

This is really a delicious way to start the day. I can savour the flavours of my favourite lunch dish while treating my body to a bowl of whole grain goodness.

If you’re the type of person who prefers savory breakfasts over sweet ones (and if you enjoy hot and spicy food), then you’ve got to try this recipe, it won’t disappoint you. I promise!

Photo by Alvin Kwan
[Stars in the photo: Whole wheat rotini, Pasta shells, Stir-fry broccoli & mushrooms, Veggie-loaded tomato sauce, and Boiled cauliflower]

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On the last few days of 2009, I went on a 4-day ski trip with my friends to Mt. Baker, WA. At first I was terribly worried that I would not be able to eat in a balanced manner but somehow, with determination and creativity, I managed to feed myself (and the Boyfriend) nutritious food most of the time.

My friends and I rented a cabin near Mt. Baker. I was so thankful that the cabin was equipped with a small kitchen. Without that I would probably have had much more difficulty in eating healthily.

On the first day before checking in, we went grocery shopping at a huge Walmart store on the way. The goal was to buy enough food so we could make home-prepared meals at the cabin and save money. In my opinion, Walmart is far from being an ideal place to buy groceries, especially fresh produce, but it was the best option we had, and I guess it sufficed. We split up and shopped separately. Unsurprisingly, the Boyfriend and I lingered at the fresh produce section for the longest time; meanwhile my friends quickly darted for the frozen entrees and junk food aisles deeper into the giant store.

While my friends were madly stocking up their carts with pre-packaged food, I chose to load my cart with as much fresh produce as possible. The produce section was small; it only occupied a small corner of the giant store (literally, the baked goods section adjacent to it was the same size, if not bigger). I was slightly disappointed to see such a small selection of fruits and vegetables, but nonetheless, I was determined to buy as much fruits and vegetables as I could to keep myself happy for the entire trip. I chose mostly vegetables that can be prepared and cooked quickly. My top choices were: tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. As for fruits, I picked out a huge bag of Fuji apples and a few lemons. Other items that I threw into the cart included a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing, canned beans, canned corn, whole wheat pasta, canned tomato sauce, a carton of chicken stock and a small bottle of ketchup.

From the limited food selection that I picked out from Walmart, I managed to make 10 different food combinations which truly helped to keep me eating well and avoid myself from slowly sinking into the quicksand of filling up on junk food and prepackaged frozen entrees for the entire trip. Curious about what I made? Here’s the list!

1. Jarred tomato sauce + bell peppers + onions + tomatoes + mushrooms

End result: enhanced tomato pasta sauce loaded with veggies.My idea was to add extra veggies to a basic tomato sauce from a jar to add more flavour while boosting the amount of vegetables in a serving. I chose to add in diced onions and bell peppers to add sweetness and a little bit of a crunch to the sauce. In addition, I put in cubed mushrooms and tomatoes for a meaty texture. Lastly, I sprinkled in a dash of steak seasoning and squeezed in fresh lemon juice to add a little kick to the sauce (adding in steak seasoning may seem odd, but since I had no other dried herbs, it was my best option).

2. Broccoli + mushrooms

End result: delicious Asian style broccoli & mushroom stir-fry. This was a simple dish to prepare and cook. Simply blanch broccoli and mushrooms. Then to add a delicious Asian flavour, simply stir-fry them in a large pan with garlic, ginger and a generous splash of soy sauce.

3. Cauliflower +veggie-loaded tomato sauce + shredded cheese

End result: cheese and tomato sauce covered cauliflower. Cauliflower by itself is not interesting at all to me. But, I bought it anyways because it requires little preparation work (just rinse, cut and boil in water). With my greatest effort to make boiled cauliflower taste the best it possibly can to give, I served it over the tomato sauce. To upgrade it even further, I sprinkled on some shredded cheese. Not the most creative way to eat cauliflower, but definitely a simple method to spice it up (and use up the huge batch of tomato sauce that I made too).

4. Tomatoes + leftover rotini + canned corn + chicken stock

End result: comforting tomato pasta soup. While my friends toasted garlic bread and frozen eggo waffles for breakfast, I chose to make a simple tomato and pasta soup by making a soup base from mixing together chicken stock and water (1:1 ratio). I then added corn, the entire can of whole kernel corn (I love corn!) and stirred in cooked whole wheat rotini (leftover from last night’s pasta dinner). As a finishing touch, I stirred in a heaping spoonful of ketchup for a subtle sweet and sour taste.

5. Broccoli + cilantro

End result: simply vegetable additions to make a not-so-healthy meal a little more diet-friendly. After a long morning of snowboarding, I was exhausted and ravenous when I got back to the cabin. Hence, lunch was simple: instant noodles with a side of boiled broccoli and cilantro. I know, instant noodles isn’t the best option, but since I chose to supplement it with a large side dish of fresh vegetables, the meal is less detrimental and in fact, more satisfying (since I know I’m not giving in to eating solely junk food, I’m still mindfully choosing what to put into my mouth and giving it every ounce of effort to include fresh produce in my diet! Kudos to me!)

6. Canned white beans + canned corn + bell peppers + balsamic vinegrette dressing

End result: amazing tasty and satisfying bean salad. When I bought bell peppers, I planned to simply slice them up and munch on them like I would with carrots sticks. Instead I got adventurous and created a bean salad by combining diced bell peppers, canned kernel corn and canned white beans. This was a super simple salad to put together; the most time consuming part was just rinsing and chopping the peppers. Then I just simply tossed the ingredients together and dressed the bean salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegarette dressing and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This salad was delicious! I immediately devoured about half of it, and saving half of it for later.

7. Lettuce + balsamic vinaigrette dressing

End result: simple, delicious, refreshing salad. This was served on the dinner table along the fatty steaks that my friends prepared for dinner. I was really glad that I made the salad because it was the perfect light and palette-cleansing side dish to offset the richness and heaviness of the steak main course. I ended up loading a ton of the salad on my plate, pushing aside the poor less-appealing steak (half of which ended up in the BF’s belly, hehe).

8. Leftover bean salad + cremini mushrooms + leftover rotini + ketchup

End result: a hot, hearty and healthy breakfast option. For my next meal, I took out about half of the bean salad leftover and transformed it into a hot, hearty pasta dish. I also added in cremini mushrooms to try to fool the BF that this was a new dish ;).  This dish is easy to put together, takes no more than three steps; step 1: rinse and slice the mushrooms; step 2: saute them until soft in a large pan; step 3: add bean salad and cooked rotini (from day one dinner) into the pan, let it reheat and season with ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Viola!

9. Leftover bean salad + leftover rotini + extra tomatoes + more balsamic vinaigrette dressing

End result: a variation of the previous bean salad, still equally yummy. Once again exhausted from a full day on the mountain, I was glad that I had saved half of the bean salad for lunch. Simply by tossing in diced tomatoes and drizzling in more dressing and lemon juice, my lunch was ready in no time. It was exactly what I needed, a simple and refreshing lunch.

10. Cremini mushrooms + portabella mushrooms

End result: a vegetable side dish with satisfying, bold earthy flavours in each meaty bite. Again, this dish required little prep work. Simply rinse and drain mushrooms, then saute them over medium heat until soft, and season with steak seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.

Spending time with friends (a.k.a away from family) is almost always an exciting and memorable experience. This ski trip has proven to be one of the most memorable yet because not only did I get to snowboard ’till I drop, I also got the opportunity to prove to myself that I am in control of what I eat and how I eat and as long as I am determined to eat well, I will somehow find a way to do so. And along the way, as a bonus reward, I have somewhat convinced my junk food maniac friends that eating healthy foods can be very delicious and enjoyable, nowhere near boring as they have imagined before!


Do you have any tips on how to eat healthily while on vacation?

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To celebrate the end of the school term and to reward myself for the hard work I’ve done, I decided to make a small batch of biscotti (this was really just an excuse, I just wanted to bake during the weekend!). I had lots of dark chocolate chips and peanut butter at home, so it was only right that I made the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Biscotti from Food Network.

This was my first time making biscotti and it was super easy to make. It was very fun and if you haven’t tried before, I highly recommend trying this recipe out. Simple ingredients, easy steps, exceptional flavour!

I made a few small changes to the original recipe. I added in a tablespoon of cocoa powder (gives it that extra chocolaty flavour) and substituted in walnuts instead of peanuts. The original recipe makes 3 logs, I roughly modified the amount of the ingredients to make 1 log. The recipe posted here reflects the amounts I used for my recipe.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Biscotti

Slighted modified from Food Network

What you’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4/5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/5 cup sugar
  • 2/3 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 40g (40ml) peanut butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. The butter will foam and when the foaming subsides, the butter will brown fairly quickly. When it starts to brown and develop a nutty aroma, quickly remove from heat and let cool slight. This step should take about 5 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg with an electric mixer until light and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar while beating. Then, slowly add the butter and vanilla extract until evenly mixed. Add the peanut butter and mix until combined.
  • While mixing slowly, add the dry ingredients to the wet, in 2 additions, mixing just until absorbed.
  • Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips (it will look like an awful lot amount when you dump it into the batter, but trust me, the amount is just right!).
  • Dump the dough onto the parchment paper. Using clean hands, shape the dough into a fat log (about 2-inches wide and 15-inches long).
  • Bake until set and brown around the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool log on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lower the oven temperature to 325°F
  • Remove log from baking sheet and place onto cutting board. Cut crosswise at a 45-degree angel into 12 to 14 pieces using a long serrated knife.
  • Place cookies cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 8 minutes. Flip the cookies over and bake until golden brown, about 8 more minutes.
  • Cook them on the baking sheet. Makes 12 – 14 pieces.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Store well in the freezer for up to 3 months.

I just had a biscotti today after a long walk in the cold, chilly winter afternoon. It was SO good! Nothing can be more relaxing and heart-warming than a crunchy, chocolaty, homemade biscotti dipped in a glass of hot, frothy cocoa! SO good…

How do you like to eat biscotti?

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I think I just found a new favourite way to eat my steel cut oats.

During the last month or so, I got totally obsessed with adding kabocha squash puree to my oatmeal, along with a handful of dried cranberries and a drizzle of maple syrup. But after eating that for breakfast for a month straight almost, I must say that the sweet combination hast lost the wow factor. And so I started to crave savory oatmeal now.

So this morning when I opened the fridge and saw a tube of silken tofu, I instantly knew that would be the star ingredient in making savory oatmeal today!

The end result? The melt-in-the mouth tofu made the oatmeal extra creamy and a small handful of chopped scallions added a refreshing Asian touch to the oatmeal. Absolutely delicious!

Oatmeal with Tofu

What you’ll need:

  • 3 oz silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup edamame
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 3/4 cup cooked steel cut oats (I’ve written about how to prepare stove-top oatmeal before)
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Soy sauce, to taste

What to do:

  • I’ve assuming that you have already cooked up a big patch of steel cut oats and have them in individual servings sizes alright — If not, follow these instructions and make some now!
  • In a small pan, add in all the ingredients, except the egg and the scallions. Break the tofu into chunks and stir the mixture well. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer until the tofu is heated thoroughly. Add in some water if mixture gets too thick (the longer you cook the oats, the more water it will absorb and thicker it becomes).
  • Once oatmeal is heated well, slowly pour in the egg while slowly but steady stirring the oatmeal (like you’re making egg drop soup). Bring mixture to a boil again (to make sure the egg gets cooked).
  • Remove from heat and stir in scallions. Serve hot with a splash of soy sauce, if desired.

The bowl of tofu oatmeal was surprisinglysatisfying. This simple meal really hit the spot for me! 🙂

If you’re tried Mark Bittman’s Savory Oatmeal with Scallions before and thought that was pleasant, then you’ll definitely fall in love with this recipe!

It’s honestly THAT good.

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I like eggplant. But I don’t like the fact that it absorbs too much oil when I stir-fry it. So, I decided to find new recipes to cook eggplant in a less greasy manner. On One Hot Stove, I found a recipe for grilling eggplant.

Miso-Marinated Eggplant

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Asian eggplant, sliced into thick rounds (any variety will work, but I find Asian eggplants are naturally sweeter)
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish

Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (apple cidar vinegar will also work)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • Hot water

What to do:

  • Turn on the broiler. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • While the oven preheats, prepare the marinade. Simply combine all the ingredients and stir well. Add in hot water slowly to thin out marinade to desired consistency (I like the consistency of a thick yogurt).
  • Dip eggplant rounds into marinade, making sure both sides are well coated. Place eggplant slices on a single layer on cookie sheet. Sprinkle sesame seeds on each piece.
  • Broil for 20 minutes, turning once, until eggplant rounds are nicely browned and cooked thoroughly.

My thoughts: This is my first attempt at grilling eggplant, and it sure tasted different from stir-frying eggplants. By marinating eggplant in miso sauce and then broiling it in the oven, eggplant comes out tender, soft (not mushy!) and takes on an unique, completely new flavour that just kept me eating one after another!

What’s so great about eggplant? Eggplant belongs to the nightshade vegetable family (other members include: bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes). It is loaded with different nutrients, especially phytonutrients which have potent antioxidant properties. These compounds have protective effect on the heart and protect our cells from free radical damage. Find out more at WHFoods.



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A few weeks ago when I tried roasting cauliflower for the first, I thought it was already the best way to enjoy cauliflower. But now I have found an even more delicious way to cook it. When I came across Cookin’ Canuck‘s blog, I got immediately attracted to the delicious photo of the cauliflower side dish. Right away, I put it at the top of my to-make list and made it for dinner on the next day!

I followed the recipe for the most part, with a few minor amendments. I used 1 whole jalapeno pepper (I like it spicy!) and instead of stirring in brown rice, I just served it as a saucy side dish.

This side dish turned out amazing. It was rich and creamy… so filling and satisfying!!

Ginger, Jalapeño & Coconut Cauliflower

Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck’s Ginger, Jalapeño, & Coconut Brown Rice with Cauliflower

What you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I used my oil mister)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, finely diced (use less if you don’t like it as spicy)
  • 1 pound cauliflower (about 2 cups), cut into tiny florets (smaller florets will hold the sauce better)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, stirred well
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish

What to do:

  • In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium heat (I gave it a good 2 to 3 sprays with my mister).
  • Add onion and sauté on medium-heat until it turns brown (takes quite a few minutes). Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper, stir well and sauté until fragrant.
  • Add cauliflower and continue to sauté until it starts to soften, about 7 – 8 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low and let it simmer until cauliflower is tender and the sauce is slightly thickened.
  • Transfer to serving plate, stir in cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Serves 2 (original recipe serves 4, but at my house we serve gigantic vegetable portions :))

Cauliflower may not be very popular, but it can be made into a very tasty dish! Plus it offers a wide array of health benefits. I’ve praised the goodness of cauliflower before, but just in case you’ve missed it, here’s my little blurb on what’s so great about cauliflower…

“…belongs to the cruciferous family which includes broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and kale. Different studies have indicated that consumption of cruciferous vegetables can help to reduce the risks of developing cancer. Sulphur-containing compounds, in particular sulforaphane, have been suggested to have a potent ability to trigger liver to produce detoxifying substances. These substances inhibit enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body and enhance the activities of other enzymes involved in disabling and eliminating carcinogens. “

This vegetarian side dish is a scrumptious (and healthy!) way to enjoy cauliflower. If you have never been a cauliflower fan, now’s the time to give it another chance! Try roasting it to bring out its nutty flavour, or try making this spicy, coconut-y cauliflower dish.

Roasted Kabocha Squash Sauce

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I was getting tired of serving pasta with tomato sauce and so I went on Google to find new recipes to try. My mission was to find a recipe that makes a rich and creamy, yet healthy pasta sauce.

I stumbled upon Poor Girl Eats Well‘s blog and her recipe for Linguine with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spinach & Ham really caught my attention. I had never thought about using sweet potatoes to make a pasta sauce…this seemed like the perfect solution to my dilemma!

Unfortunately, I had no any orange flesh sweet potatoes on hand, but I did have a Kabocha squash lying around in the corner. So, instead of going out to buy sweet potatoes, I ended up using Kabocha squash as the star ingredient for my pasta sauce.

The end result? Creamy, sweet Kabocha squash sauce exploding with flavour. Delicious!

Roasted Kabocha Squash Sauce

Inspired by Linguine with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spinach & Ham

  • 1 small Kabocha squash (about 1 pound), scrubbed clean
  • 2 bell peppers, deseeded and cut lengthwise into four pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Milk (I used 1% milk, but any type is fine)
  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Roast Kabocha squash whole. Spread bell peppers onto a baking sheet. Roast at 425°F for about 45 minutes, or until squash skin is easily pierced with fork and bell peppers nicely blackened. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet, about 15 minutes. Cut open squash and scoop out flesh. Mash with fork or potato masher until smooth and creamy (add a little milk if too dry). [You can also puree it using a food processor.]
  • Heat olive oil in nonstick pan on medium-high heat, sauté onions until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic, sauté until fragrant, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add in celery and carrots, sauté for an additional 1 minute. Add in half cup water and bay leaves, let simmer on medium-low heat until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Add in mashed squash and roasted pepper. Remove bay leaves.
  • Transfer 2/3 of the batch into a blender and blend until smooth. Add puree back into pan and heat to boil again. If sauce is too thick, add in water or milk to thin to desired consistency.
  • Let cool and separate into individual portions. Makes about 3.5 cups (about 7 – 8 servings).
  • Note: Sauce will thicken over time – add in milk / water / broth to thin it out before using

Bonus: Although this sauce was made to be a pasts sauce, it can easily be served as a chunky, creamy vegetable soup on a cold winter day. This would taste equally good served over rice too. The possibilities are endless — just play with the consistency!

What’s so great about this recipe?

Healthy and savory sauce disguised as a rich and creamy sauce! It’s meatless – all the flavour comes from the vegetables. Plus, most of the vegetables are pureed – creating a thick and creamy texture and helping to boost your daily vegetable intake at the same time!

Do you like Kabocha squash? What’s your favourite way to enjoy it?