Veganite Tendencies (2) – Bulgar wheat salad with char grilled red peppers, chickpeas and blanched snow peas.

20140105-163016.jpg

To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. – Buddha

So after raiding my fridge, I found a bag of bulgar wheat. A few months ago, a friend of mine had a catering stint for a Spa event. One of the dishes on the menu was Bulgar salad with a citrus dressing. Prior to the event, I had the pleasure of doing a taste test. And I was amazed at how yummy Bulgar is.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Bulgar, what is that?!

According to Wikipedia, Bulgar (or bulgur) is a cereal food made up of several kinds of wheat species. It is most common in European, Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, of which the name, bulgur, is of Turkish origin.

And this stuff’s amazing. It is low in fat and high in fibre, low on calories and vegetarian and vegan safe. According to CalorieCount, one cup of cooked bulgur wheat provides 151 calories, 0.4 grams of fat, 8.2 grams of dietary fiber and a healthy 5.6 grams of protein. Further, bulgur is naturally cholesterol-free.

Cereal, wheat, low calorie.

If you’re one of those skeptics, but still curious about going vegetarian – yes I know. It’s a cereal food, its a wheat, its low on calories, it will probably taste less than delectable. Must be the bad experience that came with badly prepared quick oats, or that the only low calorie food on this earth are celery sticks and cucumbers.

NO.

This is grainy and nutty, its got a bite and chew, and the perfect vehicle for soaking up flavors from stocks and gravies and dressings and oils. And if you don’t believe me, then you very well should try some bulgar yourself.

So what I made today was a bulgar wheat salad with char grilled red peppers and chickpeas with blanched snow peas.

On a side note, Chick peas are one of my favorite foods to have when I need to eat right. I always have a can at home.

Why chickpeas are so great is because of how much goodness these tiny peas have. Packed with 6grams of protein, and only 1gram of fat, with a further plus at being only 88 Calories per serve. Yum yum.

20140105-172155.jpg

Ingredients (Serves 2):

1/2 Cup of bulgar wheat

1 Cup of water

1 Red bell peppper

1 small punnet of snowpeas

1 can of chickpeas, drained

1 tbsp of cooking oil for the skillet – I used grape seed oil. Olive oil will do great too.

Salt and pepper to taste

20140105-162735.jpg

1. Measure out 1/2 cup of bulgar wheat, dump that into a bowl.

20140105-162750.jpg

2. Boil up 1 cup of water, add boiling water to bowl of bulgar wheat. Soak for 35 minutes.

20140105-162807.jpg

3. While the bulgar is soaking, wash your snowpeas and de-vein them. Blanche them til they turn a bright green before removing them from the heat. Dump cooked snowpeas in a bowl of iced water. This keeps the color, and prevents them from overcooking. What you’ll have will be nice snappy snowpeas.

20140105-162821.jpg

4. Oil goes into the skillet. Ensure that the skillet is nicely greased with the oil. Heat the skillet, and once the pan is hot, add sliced red bell pepper. Cook skin side down first

20140105-162827.jpg

5. You want to get the skins slightly charred. Once that happens, flip them skin side up and turn down the heat. Pop the lid on the skillet to let the bell peppers cook further. Remove from pan once the bell peppers are soft but not mushy. Leave to cool.

20140105-162940.jpg

6. To your hot skillet, add the chick peas to cook them slightly.

20140105-163005.jpg

7. Once the 35mins are up, drain the bulgar wheat of whatever water that remains. Slice the bell peppers that have cooled into smaller pieces. Mix chickpeas, bell peppers and bulgar wheat together. Adding salt and pepper to taste.

8. Once well mixed, add the snowpeas and give the salad a quick stir. And its done!

Total Calorie Count – about 382 Calories, based on MyFitnessPal App for iPhone.

Enjoy!

T.

Salad Days – Apple Celery Salad with Lemon Greek Yogurt Dressing

20140104-143846.jpg

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self esteem, and personal satisfaction,” – Margaret Thatcher.

Salad, some people call it a dirty word. But I don’t care. You see, while it is fine to wine and dine and enjoy what the culinary scene has to offer, equal to that is the need to nourish one’s body. And if by strict, meaning not wining and dining out often, then so be it, that I am enforcing a stricter diet upon myself.

But you see, salads and fresh foods needn’t be a torture, or a diet regime/tried and tested way to shed pounds. It needn’t be that way. What fresh foods provide is more than just not having unnecessary fat, or refined sugars – trust me, your body is going to thank you if you feed it well. What helps, is viewing this as a feel good thing, and you’ll be surprised that after day 3 of eating clean, it gets easier and easier to make better decisions as you go along, it becomes natural!

What might we have on the plate today? Basically I raided my fridge and found pretty yums ingredients to fix up a sumptuous salad.

What you will need:

Ingredients (Serves 1 as a main dish)

1 medium Apple – Red or Green your choice

1 stick of celery

1 cup of salad greens – I used mesclun in this, you can choose to have a romaine body instead.

Dressing:

1 tbsp of Greek Yogurt, Natural – I don’t do non fat when it comes to yogurt

Lemon Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

20140104-143853.jpg

20140104-143900.jpg

1. Slice and dice the apple and stick of celery.

20140104-144139.jpg

What I have here is Greek Yogurt Natural by Farmer’s Union. Greek yogurt is tangy and sharper than yogurt in general. I wouldn’t advice using flavored yogurt as this is a savory salad. I don’t do non fat when it comes to yogurt either because non fat is thin and runny, and it is filled with sugars in place of natural fats. The natural fats and balance in yogurt is good for your body anyways, compared to say, that from a bag of chips. So if you’re gonna eat chips and have non fat yogurt, I suggest you reflect on your food choices.

Regular sea salt is fine, what works too is some light soy sauce. The salt will help cut the tangy-ness and the sourness from the lemon juice. And freshly ground pepper always. On hand too is my handy bodum whisk, which is actually a milk frother. But it works!

20140104-143914.jpg

2. Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Assemble the salad and drizzle the dressing all over.

20140104-143920.jpg

I garnished my salad with 3 whole walnuts. You can choose pine nuts or almonds if you prefer. More pepper too if desired.

And there you have it! Bon A-petite!

Total Calories – 187 Calories (based on food logged in MyFitnessPal App for iPhone)

T.

Veganite Tendencies – Grilled Eggplant “Unagi”

20140101-143404.jpg

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” – Virginia Wolf

Believe it or not, my diet was once bordering on becoming vegan.  The move was a natural progression from being anti fast food at 16, to almost vegan at 20. One thing that made it non-vegan/non-vegetarian was eggs and fish, of which are two things I find very hard to not have at least once a week.

In my last year of university though, and the past year, I had re-awakened the carnivore in me, and went on this mission to eat everything yummy in Singapore.

Surely life is too short to not have good food, but reflecting on the feasts that I had put my body through, its high time to start feeding my body with what is good (again).

So if you’ve never been a vegetarian, of if you’re convinced that vegetables cannot taste any greater than green and becoming vegetarian will be the hardest thing to do – Well some people are meat eaters, some people are herbivores, but being vegetarian doesn’t just mean salad greens and celery sticks. Vegetarian can be yummy too. (Note: Author does not like Chinese vegetarian – all that mock meat stuff is…. you’re better off eating meat)

Eggplant Unagi

So one evening, I was watching a Japanese variety program, Kenmin (wherein featured are the secret foods unique to each prefecture in Japan), I was very inspired by a particular recipe – Eggplant Unagi.

What is it?

Essentially, it is sliced eggplant grilled with unagi sauce, or Kabayaki sauce. And its really easy to make!

Ingredients (Serves 3)

1. Aubergines – 4 small – medium sized ones
Kabayaki Sauce – This can be bought in the supermarket, about 2 tablespoons per serving, or more if you prefer a saltier taste. You can also make your own:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. sake

You will also need:
1. A large bowl of cold water
2. A large grill/skillet, that is hot and well oiled
3. A Microwave oven

20140101-143250.jpg

So how do you make it?

20140101-143258.jpg
1. Peel your Eggplants

Here I have aubergines instead. Get all the skin off, but you have to work fast cause eggplants and aubergines will oxidize.
20140101-143307.jpg

2. Slice them up

Lengthwise, and dunk them into a bowl of cold water to keep them from turning brown.

20140101-143317.jpg

3. Chuck them into a microwave

For 2 minutes or until soft.

20140101-143327.jpg

20140101-143336.jpg

4. Place them on a grill/on a hot skillet

I found it easier to coat them in the kabayaki sauce first, before placing them on the pan. You can also try grilling them first and then brushing on the sauce, coating them generously.

20140101-143343.jpg

5. Once nice and almost charred, they are ready!

20140101-143356.jpg

Grilled eggplant in kabayaki is amazingly simple, and amaaaaaazing on steaming hot Japanese rice. It is flavorful and wholesome, and the great thing about eggplant is that it is a good vehicle for soaking up flavors and sauces.

Serve with grilled chicken if you need some meat in your meals, otherwise great on its own with a warm bed of Japanese rice.

Itadakimasu!

T.

P.S.: Stumbled upon very pretty recipe blogs while writing this,

Just One Cookbook. 

Unintentional Vegan

hello 2014

20140101-150731.jpg
“It is important for all women to remember that if you’re lying in bed next to someone who doesn’t make you feel like the goddess that you are, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is that you need as a woman,” – Lady Gaga

Happy 2014! Now that 2013 is done and dusted, its best we leave all that has past to rest. Move along because it is a new year; new surprises, new challenges. It won’t be getting easier, but I’ll tell you something – that is precisely why it is all going to be worth it. I am a believer of the saying “without struggle there can be no progress,”

Keeping to the tradition of resolutions, this year instead of attaining THINGS, here are 5 things for a happier year ahead:

20140101-152427.jpg

(Iced Thai Coffee – OZ Specialty Coffee)

1. Stop, have coffee and be happy.

Good coffee makes me happy. Greater yet is a good cup enjoyed with close friends and honest conversations. In my years in university and in the year that had just past, I realized how busy I had allowed myself to be, and I am sure this is a routine many of us fall into. So while I work hard to achieve some other set goals in life, I think what is important too, is to attend to loved ones, discover and rediscover the persons that they are and are growing to be.

Also, taking time to actually BE in the moment and BE happy with the things we have in the now, before you continue in your pursuit of happiness.

20140101-152434.jpg

2. Breathe

Breathe in and let it go. Situations affect you only insofar as you allow them to. Worry and fuss less over what you cannot control, always think of moving forward.

20140101-152442.jpg

(Yoga Movement at Tanjong Pagar)

3. Move out of your comfort zone.

I think being comfortable is the death of all life and passion. Constantly challenge yourself and explore spaces that feel different or are not part of your routine. Do something different, a new arm balance in yoga class, a new move on the dance floor. Maybe even doing some volunteer work. Anything that challenges you, helps you grow.

20140101-152451.jpg

(Maple and Market)

4. Learn something new

If there is one thing that I would hope my future children to have, is that lifelong desire to learn. We often say, how the world seems to be getting smaller. But how much of this world do you actually know? Whatever school has taught you, take it as a skill set to apply that to learning for the rest of your life. There is always something that we do not know, always something yet to be discovered. This year, I’m gonna explore the world of wines, and if time should allow me, what makes good cupcakes taste so good. How about you?

20140101-152457.jpg

(Rose and Gingerbread – Laduree)

5. Be kind and respect yourself

I know. You should’ve done better. Why aren’t you doing enough. I have disappointed myself, my friends, family etc. Pushing yourself on, and at times failing, are all part of growing and and learning about the world and even of yourself. Talk like that is normal, but remember to be kind to yourself and respect that you are human, you and your other humans will make mistakes. Remember that, remember #2 (breathe and let it go) and move forward.

T.