A rich natural plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds make for a convenient and nutritious breakfast/ snack. Simply pour soy milk/ almond milk over and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The chia seeds plump up and turn into a creamy, pudding-like consistency that becomes the perfect base for fruits (sliced bananas, berries etc.), nuts or seeds. Want to jazz up your chia pudding? Try adding spices like cinnamon powder, vanilla essence, or check out the numerous recipes online. Cinnamon-flavoured chia pudding with bananas is one of my favourite combinations.
The concept of Kombucha (fermented tea) might sound strange, but GT’s Synergy range tastes like fruity soda with fizziness created by the bacteria culture. Like all fermented foods, kombucha does wonders for digestion and infusing them with fruit juices makes for a pleasant drink. GT offers many flavours and all the ingredients are raw and organic (http://synergydrinks.com/index.php). Kombucha will be a nice alternative when I’m tired of my usual teas.
I’d like to introduce two vegan-friendly food brands that I’ve recently discovered. I’m heartened to find that more companies with such philosophies are springing up and making it easier for people to adopt this lifestyle. Preparing vegan foods doesn’t have to involve extensive prep work.
BAO Fermented Food & Drink
BAO uses the process of fermentation to create all-natural products that are free of preservatives and boost digestion (http://www.baofoodanddrink.com/). The only one I’ve tried so far is the Tangy Raw Slaw, a tasty, mildly sweet combination of cabbage, daikon radish, carrots, green onions, apples, pears, garlic, ginger and sea salt (all organic). If you like kimchi or sauerkraut, the raw slaws will really hit that spot. It was really yummy and addictive simply paired with steamed greens. I’m sure it’d taste great in a salad, wrap, sandwich, as a hot dog or burger relish or over rice or quinoa.
I’m excited to try their kombuchas (sweetened fermented teas, often with fruit added) and their condiments and hot sauces. I love adding a kick of hot sauce to anything.
Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods
Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines because of its strong, aromatic blend of spices. While for religious reasons there’s a plethora of vegetarian Indian food options, vegan ones are harder to find. Curries or chutneys often contain ghee (clarified butter), paneer (cheese) or yoghurt. Maya Kaimal (http://www.mayakaimal.com) offers a number of vegan pre made curries and sauces that take the hassle out of cooking. Specifically, the Coconut Curry, Vindaloo and Tamarind Curry are vegan. For the sauces, the vegan options are the Madras Curry, Kashmiri Curry and Spicy Ketchup. Everything else is vegetarian.
I simmered the Vindaloo sauce with diced vegetables (carrots, celery, spinach and tomatoes) for a quick, easy, delicious curry. Other possible ingredients are any type of beans eg. chickpeas, mushrooms, eggplant, tofu, squash, potatoes, string beans, peas etc. I served it with Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Brown Rice Tortillas, which remind me of prata or naan bread. Perfect for mopping up the delicious sauce. Needless to say, the curry would also taste great over freshly-steamed, fluffy rice.
Veggie burger patties are one of my favourite vegan products because of the convenience they offer. Premade and easily reheated in the microwave, they can be used not only for burgers but also in sandwiches and salads. They are not a replacement for real, fresh vegetables and should be eaten sparingly as a processed food, but I find them handy for supplementing meals, packing to the office or as a quick fix. Besides, why pay a hefty price for a veggie burger at a restaurant when you can recreate one at home? These are the brands that I’ve tried and liked (all vegan).
Hilary’s Eat Well
Hilary’s is a great option for vegans sensitive to nuts, soy, corn or gluten. The flavors I’ve tried are the Adzuki Bean and the Root Veggie Burger. Both were yummy, perfectly-seasoned and had great texture. They don’t fall apart easily, making them suitable for packing lunches. The flavors are versatile and easy to air with salads.
The California Veggie Burger is the flavor I tried. It’s a nice go-to veggie patty and is purportedly a healthier choice with lower sodium (though I won’t trust labels too easily- read the ingredient list). It is important to note that, as with all processed foods, veggie patties can contain quite some salt.
I really like the well-balanced taste of Trader Joe’s Veggie Burger but the texture is slightly crumbly and tends to fall apart after heating. I don’t particularly mind but this could be a problem when making sandwiches/ burgers. The Vegetable Masala Burger is a special treat, especially if you like Indian food or are craving something a little spicy.
Other than weather, nothing spells a change in the season like food. Fall has brought with it a bountiful produce of apples, squash, brussel sprouts and other goodies. I find my body starting to crave hearty, warm soups, stews and root vegetables. Pictured is a dish of quinoa, steamed kale, simmered brussel sprouts, squash and Japanese hijiki (a type of seaweed) with soy sauce. A delicious, wholesome bowl of comfort food.
This post features a vegetarian restaurant in Singapore specializing in Asian fusion cuisine. Korean Brown Rice– this dish didn’t really taste Korean but the sautéed mushroom stems were an interesting addition.
Avocado Hand Roll– Vietnamese rice paper was used to wrap these, which were fresh and light-tasting.
Forest Mushroom Soup– this soup had a natural mushroom taste but could do with more flavour.
Pumpkin Salad– a combination of greens, roasted pumpkin, and a garnish of plum vinaigrette, pumpkin seeds and goji berries made for a satisfying, well-balanced dish.Green Tea Soy Yoghurt– this dessert was of average quality; light and not cloying.
Visit 7 Sensations if you fancy a light meal or are open to trying fairly innovative, pan-Asian vegetarian concoctions.
I find that what I eat varies with the weather, which makes sense since diet is a reflection of our body’s needs. In summer I want light, refreshing, clean-tasting foods and in fall (or on a cold, rainy day) more complex, satisfying, umami-filled flavours are what I desire.
SUMMER The combination of sweet and tangy notes in this fresh-tasting, light dish will energize and lift your spirits. When chilled, it is refreshingly cool and perfect for summer.
INGREDIENTS (serves 1 as an entrée; over rice, salad, tortillas/ chips)
½ of a ripe mango
½ large cucumber
(optional) ¼ red/ green bell pepper
(optional) ½ large avocado
1 small lemon/ 2 limes
sprinkling of cilantro
(optional) 1 small bird’s-eye chilli/ dash of Tabasco sauce
– Dice the mango, tomato, cucumber, pepper and avocado. Thinly slice the onion.
– Place in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon/ lime juice.
– If desired, add the finely-chopped bird’s-eye chilli or a dash of Tabasco sauce to taste.
– Stir until everything is evenly mixed and coated with the juice.
– Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours to get the juices to blend together.
– Garnish with sprigs of fresh cilantro before serving. Enjoy!
Black-eyed Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms and Hijiki
FALL The earthy flavours of this dish will warm and nourish your body, giving a boost of minerals like iron (from the hijiki).
½ cup of black-eyed beans
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
sprinkling/ ¼ cup of hijiki (dried Japanese kelp)
(optional) ½ of a long carrot
(optional) 1-2 teaspoons of mirin
– Soak the beans in water for at least 3 hours or overnight. Drain the liquid.
– Soak the dried mushrooms for 1 hour. Set the liquid aside and slice them into quarters or strips according to your preference.
– If desired, peel and julienne the carrot into fine strips.
– Transfer the beans to a pot and add the water from the mushrooms. Add another ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
– Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add more water if needed.
– Add the mushrooms and carrots and simmer for 5 minutes.
– Add the hijiki and mirin and bring to a low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
– Serve and enjoy!
RICE PAPER ROLLS
To make these rolls, steam any kind of green leafy vegetable e.g. bok choy or use fresh lettuce. Sprinkle the rice paper with water to make it soft and pliable. Place the greens in the middle and the beans, mushrooms and hijiki on top. Fold into a roll and serve.
As you may have gleaned from the food photos on this blog, I’m mostly vegan. Occasionally I do eat eggs, seafood and dairy products, but I’m trying to eliminate those completely as well. I’ve not touched other kinds of meat including chicken, beef and pork for quite some time. Frankly, I can’t stomach the taste of them anymore and even the sight of raw meat repulses me. I guess it’s a rejection mechanism that my body has adopted.
Why Vegan? I view veganism not only as a diet but a holistic lifestyle and attitude. A combination of many factors in my life drew me to this movement. One of them was the videos on factory farming my sis shared with me. The cruelty towards animals I witnessed disgusted and shamed me. The fact that we could be so blasé about where our food comes from when we hold the lives of countless creatures in our hands, that somehow our eating habits justify such treatment, is extremely disturbing to me. It’s true that our Neanderthal ancestors were hunters and meat-eaters, but do I have to be one? Am I biologically ‘wired’ as such? Do I need meat for sustenance and health?
The difference between us and our Neanderthal ancestors is that they didn’t cause prolonged suffering to animals by confining them in small spaces, separating them from their babies, etc. I reached the conclusion that with the resources available in the modern world, it’s not necessary for me to eat meat anymore. In fact, this brings me to another reason for becoming vegan- I’m convinced that meat is not essential for health, and is even a detriment to health.
Around the same time that I was grappling with the ethical issues of my diet, I was dealing with the problem of acne. I’ve had acne in varying stages of severity since puberty, but it worsened when I graduated from high school/ junior college. I’ve tried all kinds of supposed cures, from cleansers and pimple creams to antioxidant pills and antibiotics. I stopped short of doing something drastic like Accutane, because instinctively I was scared about how my body would handle it. I’d applied steroids and chemicals to other parts of my body for prolonged periods to treat my eczema. I did not want to absorb any more of that stuff.
I researched endlessly on possible causes of acne, from hormones to underlying health disorders like leaky gut syndrome. I came to realize that my skin is a reflection of how I am on the inside. It is a result of the accumulation of toxins, chemicals and stress. If I want to heal my acne, I have to heal my body. I started reading books on diet and health, including The Okinawa Diet Plan and Healthy at 100. I learnt that the cultures that thrived in terms of health and lived the longest were those that ate mostly natural, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. I knew then that I was a victim of the modern diet, of processed carbs, refined sugars, meats with saturated fats, salt etc. Cutting down on those improved my skin tremendously, along with exercise. I also removed the harsh cleansers and opted for more natural products, including Dr Bronner’s Soap and olive oil as moisturizer.
I don’t have completely clear skin yet, as I’m still recovering from the abuse I put my body through. The drugs, stress, insomnia, crying jags, unhealthy eating habits and harsh cleansers have all took their toll. Who knows what damage all those steroids have done? I look back on the way I treated myself and can’t help cringing. I remember being upset at comments that I was too skinny as a teenager, and forcing myself to eat meat to put on weight. Then later on I got obsessed about staying thin.
The funny thing is, I’m probably considered completely normal and healthy in this modern world. That’s what aggravates me. Doctors think it’s ok to just prescribe drugs that actually mask the problem, not get to the root of it. Once, I started a new antibiotic for my acne and immediately felt so sick that I knew something was wrong. I respect people like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who dedicate their lives to researching and educating people on nutrition. People just don’t stop to question their diet or where their food comes from. And the fact that a teenage girl is made to feel uncomfortable about her own body? That’s just wrong.
Increasingly, I find myself thinking about what kind of world I want to create for my children. I think that’s a responsibility we all share. Given the prevalence of venereal diseases in developed countries and the problem of global warming, the future seems bleak. Because of rising meat consumption, the livestock industry is straining our natural resources and polluting the environment. Being vegan is a choice I make for ethical, health and environmental reasons.
I call it a diet of love and abundance, because it’s about loving the Earth, the animals, and yourself. In no way do I feel deprived. Sure, I get cravings especially in the early stages, but my taste buds have adapted. I crave the freshness of fruits and vegetables more these days. The sensation of biting into a ripe, juicy peach, its sweet juices filling my mouth, is indescribable. I think the main reasons people eat meat, including me, are for taste, pleasure, convenience, cultural customs, habit and social acceptance. None of these are compelling enough for me to want to hurt another living being.
So what’s the next step? I’ve been gravitating towards raw foods after watching videos (check out Megan Elizabeth, Rawfully Kristina and Ka Sundance). I believe that the less processed the food, the higher in nutritional content. Raw fruits and vegetables are pure unadulterated goodness. Ultimately I wish to have a diet that’s completely sustainable- something that comes from my own garden and goes right back into the earth, generating zero waste. I envision myself living to a ripe old age and remaining hearty and strong, like the Okinawan centenarians. I want to defy the notion that illnesses are inevitable in old age. Why not, if we free ourselves from what society dictates?
For the past week or so I’ve been living without Internet at home. Curiously, I rather enjoyed it (though I’m immensely relieved to have the problem fixed). In today’s digital age, we’re constantly plugged in from the moment we wake up in the morning. Checking my email while munching on breakfast is pretty much a daily routine. It felt good to be relieved of this duty.
It’s a little disturbing to consider this nebulous web extending its reach into the nooks and crannies of our lives. Nothing ever remains private anymore, and every aspect of our existence is recorded on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. The Anthony Weiner saga is proof that text messages don’t just disappear when they are deleted- they remain stored in some kind of massive database.
So what did I do instead of surfing the net? I spent quiet times leisurely reading magazines and a book, and just pondering things in my life. This feeling of solitude and privacy has been diminished in the hyper-connected modern world. With our fast-paced lifestyle, time and space to pray, meditate and contemplate is sorely lacking. Instead we are tweeting, posting photos and status updates by the hour.
I view our online activity as a form of overexposure that mimics celebrity culture. Anyone can become famous these days by doing the silliest, most trivial act as long as it generates controversy. True glamour, like that possessed by film stars in early cinema, has largely been eroded because of the loss of mystique. It’s hard for stars to retain aura and mystique after a photo of them inebriated or flashing underwear is splashed on the cover of a tabloid. Or if they constantly post tweets that reveal the shallowness of their thoughts. The classiest people are the ones who do not feel compelled to sell themselves and put their thoughts and actions on show.
The lesson, I suppose, is to not communicate by phone or whatever kind of digital interface if you have a shadow of a doubt about the appropriateness of your words. Better to say it in person (just watch out for listening or recording devices).