The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

Archive for the ‘My Crazy Inventions’ Category

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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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.

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?

Whole Wheat rotini with Japanese-style Curry Sauce

Whole wheat rotini coated with a simple Japanese-style vegetable curry sauce. Super simple, very healthy, great taste!

Photo by Matthew Chung

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Being a busy student, I know how difficult it is to cook healthy when you’re pressed for time. So, I like to prepare basic sauces in large batches and freeze them in individual portion sizes. Then, during the weekdays, after I come home from a long day of school, I can simply pick and choose a sauce from the freezer, reheat it, and stir it into whatever grain I choose to have that day (e.g. spaghetti, rice, rice noodles, etc.). Making sauces ahead of time allows me to prepare simple and well-balanced meals during the busy weekdays and ensure that I stay on track eating fresh foods and stay away from junk food and processed foods!

I find that sauces freezes and reheats well. And by jazzing it up with some herbs and tossing in a handful of mixed veggies, I get a very satisfying and healthy meal ready in minutes!

This week I made a simple vegetable curry sauce. Although I call it Japanese style, it really is just a mix of all curry variations – I’ve added in some garam masala (Indian), a splash of coconut milk (Chinese? Asian?) and a-half-block of Japanese curry base. In the end, I decided to call my curry sauce Japanese style because it has a hint of sweetness which is a characteristic of Japanese curry!

Beware! This curry sauce contains a lot of veggies – so it’s perfect for those who can’t seem to eat enough vegetables! From the vegetables and the legumes hidden in this recipe, it’s a fiber galore, so make sure you drink lots to help with the digestion!

Japanese-Style Vegetable Curry Sauce

Makes 4 servings.

  • 1/2 cup mung beans, rinsed and soaked in water for 20 min
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet pepper, any variety, diced
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 – 4 pieces of ginger, minced
  • 2 chili peppers, deseeded
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 block of Japanese curry base (found in Asian markets)
  • Pinch of turmeric, cumin, garam masala
  • 1 piece dried bay leave
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Coconut milk
  1. After soaking lentils for 20 minutes, pour lentils and water into small pot and let boil. When it boils, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In another non-stick skillet, add olive oil and sauté onions and sweet peppers until slightly softened. Add in ginger, garlic and chili peppers, continue to sauté until fragrant. Pour mixture into pot with lentils. Add in bay leave now.
  3. Reheat lentils until it boils, then let simmer until lentils become “mushy” and sauce thickens. Continue to simmer until desired consistency.
  4. Add in corn.
  5. Add in your seasonings (spices, Japanese curry base, honey) except coconut milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!

Have it now or save it for later! You can choose to have the sauce immediately or let it cool and separate it into 4 individual serving sizes for later on. The flavour will improve if you let it sit overnight.

When to add in coconut milk? As the sauce cools, it will continue to thicken slightly. Thus, before adding it onto your rice / pasta, you can thin it out by adding in 1 – 2 tablespoons of coconut milk.

Believe it or not…According to Dietitians of Canada’s recipe analyzer, each sauce serving actually has 1.5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 0.5 serving of meats and alternatives. The onions and peppers not only add flavour to the recipe, they also greatly boost the vegetable content. The mung bean is a good source of protein and fiber, which makes it a good alternative to meat products, with the added benefit of no cholesterol!

By using a mix of spices and Japanese curry base, this sauce has really strong and complex flavour even though it does not contain any meat products.

Try this recipe! This is the no-fuss solution to squeezing in some more vegetables into your diet – you practically won’t realize that you’re eating so much vegetables (and you probably won’t even know it until you make this yourself). So what are you waiting for? Make it!

Simple, nutritious and fulfilling quiche!

Delicious mini quiche loaded with veggies!

Photo by Matthew Chung

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I made a simple quiche for lunch. Coming from an Asian culture, I have no idea what a quiche is at all. So, this is one crazy and brave attempt for me!

Instead of following a solid recipe, I was inspired by Stacy Snacks’s Quickie Quiche recipe and MindBlogging’s Mini Mushroom Quiche recipe and I ended up whipping up my own version.

The end product: a crustless mini quiche in a 6oz ramekin featuring onions and orange peppers.

How did it taste? A little flat, but with a little bit of ketchup, the flavour was greatly enhanced!

Mini Quiche with Onions and Sweet Orange Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon egg white (can be substituted for an extra tbsp of milk)
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 small orange pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk scallion, diced
  • Handful of grated cheese
  • Seasoning: Dijon mustard, salt
  • Olive oil
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • Ketchup (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Spray ramekin with cooking oil spray.
  2. Whisk together egg, egg white and milk. Add in mustard and salt to mixture. Set aside.
  3. Using olive oil, saute onions and orange peppers until slight soften.
  4. Pour egg mixture into ramekin. Scoop in sauted vegetables until 2/3 full.
  5. Stir in scallion and grated cheese (leave a small amount for garnishing).
  6. Put into oven and bake until egg sets in the center, about 25 – 30 minutes. Quiche is ready when toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center.
  7. Garnish with cilantro and grated cheese. Serve hot!

I love how versatile this dish is. You can practically add in any vegetables you have on hand, and if you want, you can throw in some meat to add flavour (or leave it out like I did). Regardless of what you add in or leave it, the quiche would still taste wonderful.

What makes this dish healthy? The egg is a good source of protein, and the vegetables will help you fit in an extra serving of vegetables (or 2 servings if you use a bigger ramekin). The grated cheese will also help to boost your dairy intake. Serve with a piece of whole wheat toast and this could be a well-balanced breakfast meal or a nutritious, fulfilling side dish at lunch or dinner!

Do you have a favourite quiche recipe? Share it here!

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What’s so great about cauliflower? It belongs to the cruciferous family which includes broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and kale. Many researches 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.. For a more in-depth discussion of cauliflower’s health benefits,  visit The World’s Healthiest Food.

To me, cauliflower has always seemed to be a boring food. It doesn’t have a distinct flavour and so it’s never good eaten alone.

Until one day when I was flipping through Ellie Kreiger’s amazing cookbook, The Food You Crave, I bumped into a recipe for roasted cauliflower. Tempted by Ellie’s promise that roasting will breath new life into cauliflower, I adopted her recipe for making roasted cauliflower and tweaked it slightly to my liking.

The end result? A light and delicious healthy vegetable side dish to complement my homemade cheese pizza on Saturday night (post on the pizza dinner coming soon)!

Roasted Cauliflower with Mustard-Mayo Sauce

Adopted from Roasted Nutmeg Cauliflower by Ellie Kreiger (my tweaks)

Ingredients

    • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 good long spray with my olive oil mister)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 -2 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise (can be substituted with regular mayonnaise)

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F (since I was using a toaster oven, I set the temperature higher, 400F).
    2. Place cauliflower into a large baking dish (ideally the cauliflower should fit snugly on a single layer). Toss (or spray) with the oil, and sprinkle with nutmeg and salt.
    3. Cover the dish and roast for 30 minutes.
    4. Remove the cover, give the cauliflower a good stir. If it looks dry, give it another good spray with the oil. Then, roast another 30 – 45 minutes uncovered, until the cauliflower is tender and nicely browned. Make sure to stir occasionally to ensure even browning.
    5. In a separate bowl, mix together the Dijon mustard and Japanese mayonnaise.
    6. When done, remove from the oven and mix in the mustard-mayo dressing. Serve hot!
  1. Roasted Cauliflower by Laurel Fan

    Photo by Laurel Fan — I forgot to take a picture so I borrowed one from Flickr…

The recipe is very simple and requires little ingredients. First try the cauliflower without adding in the dressing and see how you like it. When I tried it, I found it to be lacking a special kick and so I got creative and added on the dressing!

The sharp mustard was balanced out by the mild Japanese mayo and the end result was delicious! The mustard added just the special kick I wanted, and the dressing really enhanced the flavour and the dish felt much more full-bodied and fulfilling. Yum!

Try this dish out! The key step of this dish is really to make sure the cauliflower browns nicely. When that is done right, the cauliflower will taste good no matter what spices or what dressing you add to it!

The next time I make this, I think I’m going to give it an Oriental taste by adding in turmeric, curry powder, and cumin seeds.

How do you like to eat cauliflower? Share your recipe here!