The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

Posts Tagged ‘Asian

[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!

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Picture by sweetbeetandgreenbean

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To me, brown rice is craveable. I eat it everyday. Whenever I cook a dish that needs to be served over something, brown rice is my number one option. There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy brown rice and here I have boiled them down into 4 main points:

Brown rice is a whole-grain option.

As a population, we overconsume refined grains and gravely underconsume whole grains. Refined grains are highly processed food products and hence, they are stripped of virtually all nutrients (even though food manufactures will enrich their final product, the added nutrients will not completely replace what has been lost). Essentially, refined grains offer nothing but empty calories.

Whole grains, on the other hand, undergo minimal processing. Much of the nutrients are retained and they act in a synergistic manner that offers many health benefits:

Heart Health – Whole grain consumption has been shown to have strong inverse correlation with heart disease risks; the ability for whole grains to help control and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) plays a strong part in contributing to this potential effect. Brown rice is also rich in magnesium; this nutrient is involved with coordinating muscle contractions and considering that our heart is a major muscle group, magnesium will have an important role in keeping the heart going.

Diabetes management – Whole grain foods often have low Glycemic Index (GI) scores because they contain a whole lot of fiber which helps to slow down digestion and prevents rapid fluctuations in blood glucose level.

Weight management – Fiber is the major player here. The indigestible fiber bulks up the whole grain foods and make them less energy-dense. Fiber will also makes you feel fuller and more satisfied; it helps to lowers the tendency for you to nibble and stack on extra calories after your meal.

There is so many good reasons to choose brown rice more often. If you’re interested in finding out the scientific evidence about how brown rice can benefit your health, I strongly encourage you to visit WHFoods: Brown rice and to take a thorough look over at the nutritional analysis of brown rice vs white rice.

Brown rice is not just a whole-grain, it is an intact grain.

Under the new FSA guidelines, “whole grain” is defined in a more elusive manner.

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.”

To consumers, what this really means is that now when you see a food product that is labelled “whole grain”, you cannot be absolutely sure that it does contain the goodness of wholesome ingredients because the food processors could have easily broken down the whole grains, processed it in crazy ways and then just added back in components of whole grains to make their products fulfill the criteria to be called whole grain.

In this recent journal article, researchers looks at the impact of the new FSA guideline. They reviewed past studies that involved whole grains and tried to apply the FSA new definition  and see if the health claims of whole grains’ ability to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases could still hold true. They found that most studies done in the past defined whole grains on broader terms. Based on only a handful of studies that fulfilled the FSA definition, the researchers were unable to find strong evidence to suggest whole grain consumption could reduce cardiovascular risks.

So, it would definitely seem to be wiser to choose whole grains that are wholesome and intact, rather than whole grain products that have been processed and packaged into a box.

The bottom line is choose intact grains, like brown rice, and pass on processed whole grains, like whole-grain pasta.

Brown rice is the ultimate substitute for white rice.

If you are a huge rice lover, brown rice is definitely the choice for you.

Don’t even think about white rice — it’s a refined grain and it is no different from dumping white sugar straight down your throat. Brown rice is a lot more nutritious for you (re-read the long list above!).

It’s really simple to kick the white rice habit. All you got to do is pick up a bag of brown rice from the grocery store today. Then, you just prepare it like you would with white rice (rice-cooker, stove-top or oven-baked, you name it). Just keep in mind that brown rice is chewier and so if you’re looking for a more soft, more mushy mouth-feel, just add more liquid and cook your rice longer.

Brown rice can replace white rice in any recipes. This exchange will not reduce your dining pleasure. In fact, it will most likely enhance your meal, making it taste more full-body, more satisfying and more deliciously healthy!

Brown rice taste good!

Let me repeat myself: it taste good! You have to believe me on this. I come from a Chinese background where I lived and breathed white rice my entire life. Considering that I’ve been fed white rice all my life, and now I say that brown rice is more tasty than white rice, then it definitely is! Period. No doubt about it.

If you say you’ve tried brown rice before and it just didn’t taste good, it’s probably because it wasn’t prepared in a way that brought out the goodness of it. Give it one more chance and bake it – it is the foolproof method for making brown rice sing.

When I first made the switch to brown rice, I prepared it with a rice cooker. It tasted similar to white rice, nothing extraordinary. Then, I tried the stove-top method using chicken stock instead of water; that method made brown rice more aromatic and gave it more flavour, but it also made it slightly too salty for me. Then, I tried the oven-baked method by Alton Brown. The method was easy; it required only water and salt and 1 hour unstirred and covered cooking time in the oven. And the result? Unnnnbelievably flavourful brown rice that was not too chewy nor too mushy, just right. This method is truly a 5-star method. Try it and you’ll love it.

Brown rice is seriously better tasting than white rice. If rice is a blank canvas that allows a dish’s flavour to shine, then brown rice is the top quality canvas that has the magical power to turn a ordinary dish into a good dish and turn a good dish into a remarkable dish. Trust me on this one! And if you are still not convinced, read what Siri has to say about brown rice!

Conclusion: Buy brown rice now and start cooking!

If the idea of eating more healthily has crossed your mind lately, then you should making brown rice the first thing on your to-do list for tomorrow! Adding brown rice to your diet or substituting it for white rice is only a small change in your diet, but it can really make a huge difference in your health!

As a bonus, here are two recipes that pair perfectly with brown rice: Ginger, Jalapeno & Coconut Cauliflower and Creamy Coconut Tofu Rice. YUM!

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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.

Salad of Lost Jewels with Sweet Chili Dressing

A simple and delicious sweet chili dressing makes this salad taste amazing!

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This is a very simple recipe that I put together for a light lunch. It is perfect for times when you want to enjoy healthy food that takes little time to prepare. All you need to do is just takes whatever veggies what you have in your fridge or pantry and whip up some dressing. Putting together this salad probably took no more than 10 minutes. (Eating it will probably take even less ;))

The dressing is slightly sweet, balanced out with a splash of fish sauce and lemon juice. Quite refreshing and has a slight hint of Thai flavour. I highly recommend adding in cilantro; it really greatly boosts the flavour!

Salad of Lost Jewels with Sweet Chili Dressing

Serves 1 – 2 (depending on how much veggies you want to have~)

What you’ll need…

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate
  • 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 avocado, diced into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, plus extra for garnish

For thedressing:

  • 2 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 drop soy sauce
  • A drizzle of sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Dice half an avocado into small chunks. Add in lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Peel and slice cucumber into very thin strips. Sprinkle sliced cucumbers with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand for a few minutes. Squeeze out excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. Combine sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, water, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small and mix well. Stir in cilantro.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together cucumbers, corn and avocado. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.
  5. Sprinkle in pomegranate (here’s a simple guide on how to open pomegranate). Add garnish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or cooled.

I intentionally made this salad meatless, but you can definitely add in some meat (chicken or seafood perhaps?). Also try tossing in a handful of nuts or some feta cheese to top it off! Use this recipe as a basis and play with it!

Salad of Lost Jewels with Sweet Chili Dressing

Healthy and Delicious!

Thai Pasta Salad -- the perfect light and healthy lunch option for a lazy and relaxing Saturday afternoon!

Thai Pasta Salad -- the perfect light and healthy lunch option for a lazy and relaxing Saturday afternoon!

Photo by Stephanie Chung

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I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to enjoy pasta. A few days ago I came across Casual Kitchen and found this amazing Thai Pasta Salad. It takes only a few minutes to put together and the flavour is so light and refreshing, perfect for a lazy and relaxing Saturday lunch!

The recipe itself is already a healthy and well-balanced lunch option. But to make it even more nutritious, I decided to use whole wheat spaghetti to boost the fiber content and also added in more vegetables and skipped out on the meat (I’m trying to cut down my meat consumption :))

As for the dressing, I followed the instructions precisely and it turned out really tasty (only a tad bit more sour than I would have liked, so I’ll probably use less lemon juice next time around).

Note: The original recipe made clear that the cilantro is an essential part of the salad — I totally agree! It really enhances the dressing’s flavour and really pulls the dish together. (Don’t even think about skipping cilantro, it’s a must!)

Thai Pasta Salad

You will need:

  • 2cup broccoli, cut into mini florets
  • 1 cup sweet peppers, diced
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4-6 oz whole wheat spaghetti

To make the dressing…

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. During the last minute, add in the broccoli.
  • In the meantime, you can cook the vegetables and prepare the dressing.
  • Heat olive oil in small non-stick skillet, sauté onions until slightly soften. Add in garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant. add in sweet peppers and cook until slightly softened. Remove from heat, add in remaining ingredients to finish making the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the pasta and broccoli is ready, add them to the skillet and stir well. Stir in cilantro leaves.
  • Served at room temperature or chilled. Serves 2 (big generous servings, loaded with veggies!)

I really enjoyed the Oriental flavour of the dressing. I highly recommend adding in broccoli into the salad as it really soaks up the dressing!

For next time, I’m planning to add in a difference mix of vegetables and substituting rice noodles or vermicelli for the pasta. Yummy!

Thai Pasta Salad on Foodista