Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Lately, Buzz and I have been going to my local library on Saturdays. It’s the perfect place to do some work on Saturdays, especially since the weather has heated up for summer and I don’t have air conditioning at home. On these days we go to the local café (Victoria Park Cafe) for lunch and we end up getting falafel rolls each time, every time, without fail. I surprised myself with the fact that I could actually have the same food… again, and again, and again. I used to be more adventurous and would refuse to order the same thing from a restaurant as it seems like ‘wasted calories’ but it seems that as I am getting older, I’m less fussed about these things.

But one thing hasn’t changed. The foods I eat when I’m eating out still inspire me, and I still like re-creating them at home.

Quinoa Tabouleh

When we order our falafel wrap, we always ask for ‘extra tabbouleh’ (also called tabouleh or tabbouli). We both love our tabbouleh! One day, the café owner was so generous that he gave us much more ‘extras’ than anticipated and couldn’t finish our wrap. Guess there’s only so much falafels and tabbouleh one can eat in a single sitting. By the way, for those who are unfamiliar with tabbouleh, it is a traditional (and very popular) lebanese salad served as part of a mezze plate or use to fill a wrap.

Like our giant falafel wraps.

Falafel wrap-1

One day, back at home, I felt like some tabbouleh and decided to make my own customised version. I used quinoa to increase its protein content and I ended up accidentally making it gluten-free and wheat-free. And since there’re no falafels in the house, I added beans to the salad to make it more substantial and satisfying.

Not sure if you can get addicted to salad but it was hard to put the fork down once I started eating this.

Quinoa Tabouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Ingredients:

  • 10 springs of parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup of quinoa
  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 large cucumber, finely diced
  • ½ can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to season

Method:

  1. Cook quinoa in 1 cup of vegetable stock until tender but not too soft. Check this post for the complete instruction on how to cook quinoa. Set aside to cool.
  2. Transfer parsley, quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber and red kidney beans into a big bowl.
  3. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil. Toss gently.
  4. Season with  freshly ground sea salt and cracked pepper and serve

Though we love our falafel roll, we like to eat our quinoa tabbouleh salad with some Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages :)

Quinoa Tabouleh

So, have you had tabbouleh before? Do you like it?

How To Cook Quinoa

Quinoa is another of my favourite superfoods. It’s slightly chewy (when you don’t overcook it) and it has a delicate nutty flavour. It is also easy to cook compared to rice and it’s also much more nutritious.

5 facts you should know about quinoa:

  1. It’s pronounced ‘keen-wah’.
  2. It’s technically a seed not a grain
  3. It’s high in protein and a good source of iron and fibre.
  4. It’s gluten free and has Low GI
  5. It comes in a different varieties, there’s white, red and black quinoa. I think they all taste pretty much the same.

If you never made quinoa before, it can be a little daunting so here’s a simple and easy recipe to make perfectly cooked quinoa everytime.

How to cook quinoa

Ingredients:
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups of vegetable broth (use 1 ½ of liquid if you like it slightly chewier)
Note: Vegetable broth gives quinoa a nice flavour but you can also use plain water with a pinch of salt to cook and add flavour to the quinoa.

Method:

  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water in a fine mesh strainer and gently rub the seeds together with your hands to ensure that any residual dust and saponins have been removed. Saponins are just chemicals produced by the plant to protect themselves against microbes and fungi. They are bitter-tasting so they might make your quinoa slightly bitter if not removed properly.
  2. Add quinoa and vegetable broth into a pot.
  3. Cook over medium heat uncovered and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until all the water has absorbed and the quinoa seeds have become translucent.
  4. Rest for 5 minutes and fluff it up with a fork before serving.

Quinoa is so versatile. You can serve it so many different ways: You can make quinoa salad with roasted vegetables; you can add it to a soup or use it to replace rice. You can also cook quinoa with almond milk and serve it as a ‘power’ porridge with some chopped nuts and fruits. The choices are endless.

My favourite Quinoa and Tabouleh Salad. You can check out the recipe here.

Quinoa Tabouleh

Vegan lunch at Yulli’s, my birthday, and some gratitude

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday with a few close friends. It’s strange how the year flies so quickly. I still remember back when I was young-er and how I couldn’t wait for the next year to come, for the clock to go faster, for me to get older. It is now the complete opposite. I want to do so much that sometimes I wish I could stop the clock so I’d have time to do everything I want before I can no longer.

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It was the first time I’ve had a birthday lunch instead of a birthday dinner with some of my close friends. Almost everyone has a family with a young child or a baby in tow so lunchtime is much more convenient for us to meet up these days. I thought long and hard initially on where to go, restaurant-wise. None of my friends are vegan (none of them are even close to being vegetarian, for that matter). I wasn’t sure whether to go to a normal, non-vegan restaurant or to a strictly vegan venue. But deep in my heart, I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable supporting a non-vegan restaurant on my birthday so in the end, we went to Yulli’s in Surry Hills, one of my favourite vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants.

Since I’ve been to Yulli’s plenty of time I know they do good food. However, it still was quite nerve-racking to see if the others liked the food as much I do, especially since I was, and I still am, I believe, the foodie in the group. But nevertheless, I ordered all my favourite foods from Yulli’s.

Panang pizza. Housemade pizza based topped with sweet potato, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini with a panang sauce. Soft base, creamy and peanut-y topping, mildly spiced.

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My favourite Trio.  Yulli’s Falafel Plate - herbaceous falafel balls served on betel leaves with a spicy tomato chutney and a pickled ginger and pineapple salsa, Steamed Leek Ginger Dumpling served with a fresh plum sauce and Salt and Pepper Tofu -served with a green papaya and peanut salad. They were all delicious, flavoursome and fresh!

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Ong Choy. Water spinach lightly sautéed in a garlic and mushroom sauce

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More Salt and Pepper Tofu. I think we ordered 3 of this dish. It was quite popular. Who doesn’t love crunchy, deep-fried salt and pepper tofu anyway.

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Green Mango Fried Rice. Snake beans, young baby corn, green mango and kaffir lime leaves with a lemongrass and tomyum sauce. An interesting twist to your usual fried rice. This one doesn’t feel as ‘heavy’ as the normal fried rice. I love all the different textures and flavours in this fried rice.

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I think it probably was the only time everyone at that table (except Buzz and myself) ate vegan food and drank vegan beer and wine, but they loved it. They liked how the food was ‘different’, in a good way, than what they ordinarily would have. I gave a silent sigh of relief and felt silly for having worried in the first place. It is my birthday after all.

Crispy Lily Bulb and Quinoa Rosti. Served with a shaved fennel salad and harissa dressing. First time I had this. Crispy fried outer, soft innards and taste quite herbaceous with strong aniseed flavour from the fennel.

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And so another year has gone by almost unnoticed. I still can’t see any fine lines under my eyes, but I know they will appear one day. Hopefully that day is still a while away. But forthcoming wrinkles aside, I’m feeling very grateful. I am grateful for still being alive, since so many don’t make it this far, through no fault of their own. Life is so unpredictable and tricky sometimes. Anything could happen in a blink of an eye.

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My mother tells me that she prays for me everyday and I truly believe I have an angel watching over me. I’m also grateful for being in good health. I think our health is the most valuable asset we have in our lives and we need to do what we can to protect it. Getting older makes me realise this more and more. You can buy the best medicine and the best doctor in the entire world but you can’t buy health. You need to guard it like it your most precious gem (or Rolex watch, according to Buzz – his Rolex watch was stolen during a break in earlier this year and I don’t think he’s over that yet).

And last but not least I am grateful for having my family on my side and for the opportunity and freedom to learn, to grow and to be whatever it is I want to be. I feel so fortunate for having the knowledge and experience I have, knowing the people I love and for living life itself.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West.

Here’s to another year of doing it right.

Keren x

Eat Me Skinny Kohlrabi Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is diet-changing stuff. I’ve asked myself how something so creamy and yummy can also be so healthy and light. Oh, but it can. It’s called Kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi

Like most vegetables, kohlrabi is healthy and nutritious. This one is particularly rich in Vitamin C, though. Just a hundred-gram serving gives you all your daily Vitamin C requirement. And, my goodness, it is so low in calories it is almost criminal. It has the creaminess of potatoes but it has just one third of the calories.

One kilogram of raw kohlrabi has 270 calories. To put this in perspective, that’s less than a calorie count of 100 grams of bread. Amazing, isn’t it?

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Geeky science fact: Kohlrabi is actually man-made. Along with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts, it was created by artificial selection from the wild mustard plant (brassica oleracea).[1]  Artificial selection of a plant means the intentional selection of certain traits you like from the plant, so for example:

  1. Brocolli resulted from the suppression of flower development.
  2. Kale was the outcome from the enlargement of leaves
  3. Cauliflower came from sterile flowers
  4. Cabbage arose from suppression of the internode’s length (the bit of the plant stem between the nodes); and
  5. Kohlrabi was the result of enhancement of the lateral meristem (part of the plant cells involved in lateral/sideways growth)

Thankfully, contrary to artificial selection and cultivation, cooking Kohlrabi is not a complicated undertaking. Here’s as perfectly basic, easy-to-make soup with a great clean flavour which you can tweak to your heart’s content – wants spice, add cayenne; dreaming of Italy, add bay leaves and rosemary; or like it exotic, add cumin powder, you get the gist.jizz.

EAT ME SKINNY Kohlrabi Soup

Eat Me Skinny Kohlrabi Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A creamy, comforting soup, without the calories. Great to have warm or chilled.
By:
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and chopped
  • 2½ cups vegetable stock
  • 2½ cups almond milk
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegan parmesan (I use
Method
  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add onions and cook gently until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kohlrabi and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add vegetable stock, and almond milk to pan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 25 minutes or until kohlrabi is tender. Let cool for a few minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender, bench top blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls with freshly cracked pepper and a generous sprinkle of vegan parmesan.
Notes
Vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free

Reference:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlrabi

How To Find Healthy Takeaways

I created this video clip during the Christmas holiday when I was faced with a challenge of finding a ‘healthy’ takeaway to go with our movie night at home. Normally our Saturday night in would comprise of pizza or burger but this time I put my foot down and said, “we’re getting healthy takeaways tonight”. Easier said than done, because, not only that it needs to be healthy, but it also needs to be vegan-friendly. But never say never. It is possible to find a healthy, vegan-friendly takeaway. Especially now that we have a growing number of health-conscious restaurants.

I found my healthy takeaway, Oriental Healthy through EatNow.com.au, a service where you can find your local takeaway and food delivery services all in the one location by simply entering your postcode. It was the first time I’ve used their service and I’m happy to say that it won’t be my last. The website is quite intuitive and easy to navigate. You get an instant SMS confirmation once your order has been placed and what I love about it is that you can pay by Cash, Card or Paypal – quite handy if you have no cash in your wallet which is pretty much my situation normally. It has a pretty huge list of over 4,200 restaurants Australia-wide so you’re bound to find something. You can customise your takeaway dishes with the customise/add options which I think is important if you want to make sure if the food is vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free etc.

Screen Shot eat now

Like I said in the video, avoid Pizza, Pasta, or Burger places if you’re trying to look for healthy takeaways. In my case, initially I thought I’d get all the vegan-friendly restaurants on the Vegetarian Restaurant list but I actually found more option when I just search for Asian restaurants (could be that they didn’t want to put themselves under two categories). I long for the day when ‘Healthy, Vegan, Raw and Gluten-Free’ make it to the standard Restaurant Category list.

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The restaurant I was lucky enough to find is called Oriental Healthy. It is an Asian restaurant that serves a great selection of healthy dishes with lots vegan options. They have high reviews and a lot of positive comments on the website, which is a great indication that I would get something decent. I ordered nearly everything that says ‘vegan’ on the menu and yes, I did order some deep fried spring rolls to sweeten the deal. Not the healthiest thing, certainly as a stand-alone meal. But, can they be part of a healthy meal in combination with green vegetables and other nutrient-dense, low-calorie food? In my humble opinion, absolutely. On that note, I also ordered dessert. Vegan, gluten-free, delicious sweet sticky rice dessert.

Bring it.

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So it is possible to get healthier takeaways. Don’t be afraid to try new things and keep an open mind. When it comes to health, every little thing counts. I hope this post inspires you to eat better the next time you feel like some takeaway dinner. Check out EatNow.com.au and see if you’re up for a Healthy Takeaway Challenge.

Take care and Keep Smiling,

Keren

Note:  Disclaimer applies to this post. Please refer to my disclaimer page for more info.