Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sharon in the kitchen (at last!)

Happy Holidays and Welcome December!

Hmm... what should I say? Being a foodaholic, of course I must mention... FOOD! 

One of the things on my holiday bucket-list is to cook. Yes, I love cooking. Unfortunately, I do not have the patience to make anything that calls for thirty minutes of preparation time (Well, Libras are quite lazy, so yeah), so my so-called “cooking masterpieces” are so easy that even kids may handle it with adult supervision. Anyway, food is meant to nourish your body, ensure your survival and make it happy, so why complicate the matter with complicated recipes which call for a bazillion number of ingredients, slaving over the stove and an uncertain result? I mean, after cooking the complicated food for like two hours or so and the food does not taste good, your hard work will go to waste. Life is too short for that!

Anyway, since food is going to have a large impact on my body, I might as well choose to make simple food from healthy ingredients (Okay, maybe not really squeaky-clean healthy because I still use conventional produce and cooking oil here and there.) Simple food is not always healthy, but healthy food is mostly simple. Complicated recipes usually demand copious amounts of fat, salt, sugar etc. anyway, or a combination of desserts as in marjolaine and Baked Alaska, or a mixture of everything. NOT FUN.

Let's start with snacks and desserts, shall we? Who loves having snacks and/or desserts ALL DAY? Hands up please. (Le me raising my hand now) I am not joking here. I can munch 18 hours a day (six hours for sleep) if not for the random love handles, bat wings and carrot legs. Of course, I must make snacks which can also double up as desserts because food is the best cure for blues. Ha ha. Snacks are also easy to make, rendering it suitable for novice cooks and lazy people who just can't be bothered to be soaked up in thick smoke and kitchen grease.

Excuse me while I share the recipes as well...

#1: Popsicles

Let's face it, this is Malaysia where it is literally summer for all seasons. Naturally, most of us will need a snack to chill. Let's go to BASKIN ROBBINS! How about Haagen Dazs or, for the budget conscious (like me), Walls or Kings? WAAAAIIIIITTT. Look at the label. Sugar, Tartrazine, Emulsifiers, Milk Solids... Okay this is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Instead, spend just 3 minutes (I am serious, THREE MINUTES), get your popsicle moulds, load them with frozen berries, frozen fruits or cut fresh fruits, pour in desired liquid like nondairy milk, fruit juice, coconut water etc., freeze for at least two hours, remove from the fridge and eat up. How complicated and energy-draining is that?

This tasted exactly like a popsicle,which was light and refreshing. Duh. If you want something (supposedly)decadent, here they are. Guess the secret ingredient. (Hint: Not cream)

Based on my extensive research in the quest of searching the perfect recipe for the most delicious yet friendly-on-the-figure popsicles, I can conclude that:

1.They are so simple that even idiots novices can do it
2. Two variations: 
   -Dump the fruits into the mould and fill it with liquid. Freeze.
   -Make a smoothie and freeze in moulds
   -Make several multicoloured smoothies. Fill the mould with a bit of the first. Freeze for awhile. Layer with next. Freeze. Repeat the entire process for more. 3 to 4 layers are enough. It will result in a beautiful, multicoloured frozen dessert.

Of course, the last option is way too difficult for me, so I might not be doing it anytime soon. If you have the tremendous amount of patience for it though, congratulations! Go for it.

#2: Lunch salad

Yes, if you do read my blog, you should know that I am very fond of salads and always make them in the campus. I even wish that I can start a salad business if not for the ban on refrigerators and blenders there! 

Repeat after me: NO SAD SALADS! By sad salads, I mean side salads which are comprised of two leaves of iceberg lettuce and a sad slice of tomato as seen in restaurants. No wonder many people dislike salads, well, at least the people around me. NOBODY DESERVES THIS ATROCITY!

Now this is what I call a salad, served with instant rice. Of course I had this in campus. I don't think this salad is mindblowing but at least it's pretty decent with a small head of broccoli, three baby corns, a carrot and some cherry tomatoes, seasoned with herbs. I challenge you to resist salivation if you see FullyRawKristina's salads. I dare you.

I would love to have salad like hers but I doubt I can go through even a quarter of her rainbow-on-a-platter!

This is another campus lunch-mixed veggies salad, fruity salad and failed carrot-potato soup. Talk about 90% fruits-and-veggies meal! Oh yum.

Anyway, this is my salad...

Mixed veggies and fruits salad with Orange-carrot-sesame dressing! I LOVE this dressing because it was sweet, savoury and for holy goodness sake, CREAMY! I only used like two drops of sesame oil for that Asian hint in the dressing. This is definitely my favourite meal salad by far. 

The veggies were coral leaves, tomatoes, carrot slices and bell pepper slices (I used 1/4 of the pepper. I don't really like eating huge amounts of raw pepper). The fruits were apple, orange and mulberries. I topped it off with some crushed walnuts for healthy fats and satiety. I should have used a larger plate instead so that I can make a pinwheel pattern. Whatever. I am eating it so the appearance does not matter (not if you serve me ONLY vegetables, though. I want my veggies in beautiful patterns rather than like a rubbish dump or I won't touch it.)

Dressings can really make or break a salad in terms of taste and nutrition. I will discuss about salad in my dusty blog which badly needs an update later! Stay tuned.

#3: Mega Fruit Bowls

I call these "MEGA FRUIT BOWLS" because there are at least 7 servings of fruit. These may look tiny for hardcore fruitarians but for me as a commoner, this is overwhelming.

For some reason I got constipated despite eating lots of fruits and veggies (At least 5 fruits a day and I don't count my veggie servings) and drinking lots of water. I workout twice a day too. Mum told me to eat lots of fruits. 
By the way, on the left are a whole Korean pear and two bananas with a dash of cinnamon; on the right are two oranges, a Packham pear and around 1/2 cup of mixed berries.
Apparently berries are heaty and cause constipation? I don't know. I love my berries and I have little knowledge on nutrition, if any. God please tell me that berries do NOT cause constipation!
After this breakfast (Around 650 calories), I got hungry within half an hour. My past experiences told me that I do not do well on a meal with solely fruits. I need some nuts in there at least. Fruits are rich in fibre and water but cannot fill me up. WHY?

#4: No-Bake Cookies

The best things in life are always simple: friendship, love, life, precious time, and of course great desserts which can be whipped up in minutes. Behold, my NO-BAKE COOKIES...

I choose Steffi's peanut butter. Granted, it has food conditioners (not good!) but it has the least ingredients (peanuts, food conditioner, salt) compared to other brands around. Plus, Steffi's is the only peanut butter without hydrogenated oil, palm oil and sugar.
I used this recipe but I tweaked it after reading the comments, i.e. reducing the salt, adding chocolate chips, mixing brown sugar and white sugar and adding a pinch of salt. I was glad that my sister loved it! This was actually the ONLY stuff made by me which my sister would actually eat, mainly due to the peanut butter.
There was no such thing as vegan butter in my area, so I used the only butter available which was basically a mix of palm oil and milk fats. It was not that good to the environment, but there was no choice and it was definitely far cheaper than pure butter! I am guilty.
The cookies were sweet and chewy, but I might consider reducing some salt and the sugar. I finished 1/4 of the batch in one sitting. It was SO good that I could finish the entire batch if not for self-control (so-called). Try making this and stop at three.
I used around 1/3 to 1/2 of the recipe because the original yielded a HUGE batch.
My sister loved it so much that I will make it again! Probably I won't just make a single flavour though this time. I might want to vary them like using half oats and desiccated coconut, make PB, chocolate and raisin cookies, add seeds into the mix, etc. That is, if I am hardworking enough for the extra minutes of work.

#5: Dreamy dessert smoothies

If I were skin-on-bones, I would love to gorge on pies and cakes and all sorts of desserts all day long. The problem is that I am chubby. I WANT PIES!

Luckily there are the kind folks in the world who create delicious and healthy dessert smoothies. Thank you folks so much.

Here are my blueberry-pie smoothie and berry-banana smoothie. They are really simple.

Blueberry Pie Smoothie (adapted from this recipe)

1 cup milk (I used cashew milk)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup oats
dash of cinnamon

soak oats in milk for 5 minutes. Blend all the ingredients. Pour into a tall glass. Sip and enjoy.

I made the cashew milk myself. It fooled my dad into thinking that it was cow's milk! This is a good thing actually-cashew milk must be addictive then. I had to restrain myself from drinking the entire batch.

Best of all, cashew milk is easy. Soak the nuts, add water, sweetener and cinnamon (vanilla extract if you have) and blend. No straining required. Here is the recipe.

Banana-berries smoothie

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup of frozen berries
Optional greens

Blend it up. Pour into a tall glass. Sip and enjoy.

See, how easy are these? 

Basically these are what I did during the holidays. I know that this is NOT the end of my so-called cooking adventures. In fact, every day is a learning process. Fingers crossed, I can eventually cook well and make vegan treats when I start to live on my own.

And oh, here's dinner for tonight, which I made with mum. Today is the fifteenth day of the lunar moon, which is a vegetarian day. Vegetarianism is observed by Buddhists on the first day and fifteenth day of the lunar moon, No alcohol, egg and five pungent roots (onion, garlic, shallot, leek and chives) are allowed.

Here it is...

Bon appetit!

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