Our Parents in Us

We learn from and are shaped by our experiences, circumstances, our own innate nature, and the things we consume (for example, what we hear others say, what we see and hear on television and what we read about), amongst many other things. One of the greatest influences on who we become, I think, are our parents.

Even if they are (or were) perhaps not there in our lives, their absence influences us. If their parenting style was not good, that influences us too – perhaps it determines us to be different as parents ourselves. Our parents start to influence us from birth and continue throughout our lives. They are there with us as we form our very first thoughts and perspectives. They lead not only by their words but by what they do every day as we are growing up.

Today, I am feeling very reflective of my own life and upbringing; of who I am and how that has been shaped by my parents. My parents were (and are) not perfect. Like all human beings, they have made mistakes and learnt – and are learning – how to be better in all the different aspects of life, including parenthood. But today I want to express my deep gratitude for all they have taught me and the values that they have instilled not only through their words but through their own behaviour.

From a very young age, I was taught things like “don’t lie” and “don’t cheat”. I know, these may be basic things that all of us are told, but my parents meant it and lived by these principles. I cannot remember any single instance where they have lied or tried to cheat anybody. They have walked the straight path and taught us, their children, to do the same. My father always, always, plays by the rules and acts with honesty. That is something I have inherited from him.

They showed me to be selfless and to care about, and for, others. From little things, like my dad’s concern that we should be on time for any events and meet any promises made to others, so that others are not left waiting for us. To bigger things like my mum’s numerous selfless acts – one which I remember clearly is when her sister-in-law fell sick with late stage cancer. She couldn’t walk or take care of her own basic needs. My parents took her into their home and took care of her when her own family couldn’t. My mum, who was working full-time as a nurse whilst also taking care of two young children, nursed her, stayed by her side and devoted her time to look after her. My mum’s heart is a well of compassion and empathy. My dad has exemplary values such has honesty, loyalty, righteousness, and integrity.

My siblings and I are incredibly lucky that we were blessed with such parents, to have such people influencing us by their actions and teachings from childhood to adulthood. My parents are not wealthy in monetary terms, but we have inherited a wealth of values from that which have shaped us into the people we are today. That is not to say that we are perfect. Far from it. I am a work in progress, as are we all. I have made many mistakes and I am sure to make many more. But I was fortunate to have instilled in me values that I can use to guide my actions and thoughts as I continue this journey through life. My husband says sometimes such things like, “You have a heart of gold,” or “Your super-power is to love and care for others.” I feel a sense of guilt and discomfort when I hear that, because it is a great exaggeration of the truth. Those are not my innate qualities; those are things I have learnt from my parents and which I try to nurture in myself.

My parents both have an innocence about them. Some might even call it gullibility. It is a big part of what makes them who they are – their selflessness and capacity to love springs from that innocence – but it is also something that others have at times taken advantage of. For better or (more likely) for worse, I did not completely inherit that innocence. I feel there is a mix of things inside me, the innocence from my parents but also my own innate nature to judge myself and others. To love and care for others is not something that I had an intrinsic propensity for, but something that I was taught and shown from a young age; and which I try to emulate.

I am a work in progress. I am learning, evolving and growing. But there is a core part of me that is my parents. When I look down at my fingers, I see my dad’s fingers. When I look at my toes, I see my mum’s toes. When I look at my face, I see them there. But when I look more deeply, I see them in who I am, in my words, my actions and my values. My parents live in me, and they always will no matter where I go.

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Rocket Salad

A few days ago, both Max and I discovered that we our clothes are feeling a bit snug! 😳 We blame it entirely on this coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown we have been in for what seems like a lifetime here in Melbourne. This ‘discovery’ prompted us (Max in particular) to think about cleaning up our diet a bit. We decided that we will cut out oil and processed foods from our diet (although some things like soy milk and nut butters are staying in out of necessity and the fact that neither of us has the time to make those things from scratch). I must admit, I cannot imagine eating food without oil. I mean, I don’t like foods with too much oil (we never deep fry anything) but I do like some oil in my food. So, the challenge, then, is how to cook food that tastes good but doesn’t require oil? And how in the world can I fry stuff without oil?? That is a tough one for me.

This morning was our first whole food plant based oil free meal. I was unsure what to make so I looked in our fridge and went based on what was there. I ended up making this delicious salad that is just the right combination of sweet, acidity and a bit of bitterness from the tahini. It is filling and oh so nutritious!

Serves: 2 very hungry adults

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rocket leaves
  • 1/2 capsicum, cut into pieces
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 can of chickpeas (400 g can, which is 240g drained)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground paprika powder
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Creamy Tahini Maple Dressing

Method

  1. Cut the sweet potatoes into cubes. In a large bowl, mix the sweet potato pieces, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and some freshly ground pepper. Add a tiny bit (1 or 2 tsp) of water so that the spices stick to the sweet potatoes. Put the sweet potatoes on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes. Then turn and bake for another 10 minutes.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, put together the other salad ingredients: wash 1 cup of rocket leaves and put it into a big bowl. Add 1/2 a capsicum, cut however you like.
  3. Start cooking the chickpeas: drain and rinse the can of chickpeas and add them to a pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 paprika powder and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. “Fry” the chickpeas, adding a tiny bit of water at a time if they start to stick too much to the pan. Once done to your liking, remove them from heat.
  4. As soon as the sweet potatoes are done, add 1 clove of minced garlic and 1/4 tsp of dried rosemary to them and mix well (I did this in a separate bowl).
  5. Once the sweet potatoes and chickpeas have cooled down a bit, add them to the bowl that had the rocket and capsicum.
  6. Make the Creamy Tahini Maple Dressing.
  7. Take the salad out in bowls and add the amount of sauce you want to it. Enjoy 🙂

Creamy Tahini Maple Dressing

This sauce is creamy, a little sweet from the maple syrup, with a hint of acidity from the apple cider vinegar. It pairs wonderfully with our Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Rocket Salad. And, to top it off, it is oil free!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp tahini paste
  • 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened plant milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method

Mix everything together in a small bowl. That’s it!

Vegan No-Caffeine Rich Tea (Teh Tarik)

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One of my fondest memories from our visit to Honk Kong is discovering Teh Tarik for the first time. We just arrived after a long flight (as all flights going out from New Zealand are) and I happened to be a little bit tired and most likely caffeine deprived as well. The rich, strong tea was just what I needed and I subsequently tried drinking as much of it as possible during our visit.

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Teh Tarik in Hong Kong Anno 2011

Since then we became vegan and try to avoid caffeine as much as possible. Not good news for Teh Tarik. Thus I was much delighted when I discovered a beverage by accident which immediately reminded me of the rich flavour of Teh Tarik. I don’t know if it would have had the same affect on me as the original that morning after the flight but it sure pleased me now. So without further ado, here the recipe for two mugs.

Ingredients

  • 1 level teaspoon of fine ground roasted chicory and dandelion root tea (we use Bonvit Roasted Dandelion Blend)
  • 2 cardamon
  • 2 teaspoons of raw honey
  • 1/2 mug soy milk
  • 1 1/2 mugs of water
  • 1 very small piece of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ginger powder

Method

  • Put all ingredients into a small saucepan and heat under low flame
  • When the tea becomes steaming hot (but not boiling), drain into two cups

Done, enjoy your tea!

 

Tomato Bulgur with Kale and Fava Beans

img_0439I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate greens and beans into our food. This tomato bulgur recipe with kale and fava beans is a great way to do just that. It’s also very YUMMY. Max absolutely loves it (so do I!). And the great thing is that it uses ingredients that I usually have in my pantry/fridge. To top it all of, it is also super easy and fast to put together.

I hope you will too 🙂

Difficulty level: Absolute beginner

Time: 45 minutes, including preparation time

Serves: 2 – 3

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups of bulgur (I used the quick cook type that only needs soaking)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 5 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tightly packed cups of chopped kale
  • 1 large, or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp Passata
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper and chilli to taste

For the beans:

  • 400g can fava beans (I used a mix of fava beans and chickpeas), slightly drained (I got rid of some of the liquid but kept around half or more)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

Method

  1. Soak the bulgur in hot water for 10 – 15 minutes (if you have a different type of bulgur, cook it according to package instructions).
  2. In a small pot over low heat, heat the 1 Tbsp olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the garlic slices and fry for a few seconds (until the garlic starts to change colour near the edges).
  3. Add the beans with their liquid.
  4. Add the 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp salt.
  5. Cook over low heat, uncovered for a couple of minutes.
  6. Then, add the lemon juice, cover, and let it simmer slowly while you cook the rest of the things. Stir it from time to time.
  7. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add some oil (about 1 Tbsp) and the onion. Cook until onions get soft and start to change colour.
  8. Add garlic and cook for a few more seconds, until garlic is fragrant.
  9. Add the kale and tomatoes and continue cooking until the kale is wilted and tomatoes are soft to your liking.
  10. Drain and add the bulgur, and continue cooking for a minute or so.
  11. Add the 6 Tbsp of passata, 3 Tbsp dried parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper & chilli to your taste. Mix well and let it cook for a couple of minutes so the passata is not raw anymore and is combined well with the bulgur.
  12. Take both the frying pan and the small pot of beans off heat and serve with optional avocado on the side.
  13. Enjoy!

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Quick Soba Noodles Salad

Dinners that are QUICK and TASTY are the best. This is ticks both of those boxes.

This recipe doesn’t make an authentic soba noodle salad. No, my friend, but it is yummy and it is healthy. And, its quick and easy to make, taking only 30 minutes including Win-win-win 🙂

Ingredients

  • 180g soba noodles
  • 1 carrot – julienned
  • 100g – 200g shiitake mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • 3 stalks of spring onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • Olive oil (for frying the mushrooms)

Optional:

  • baby spinach
  • edamame beans

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds: Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Let it roast, stirring constantly, until a delicious aroma starts coming off it and the seeds begin to get lightly golden. Transfer it to a small bowl and put it aside.
  2. Return the frying pan to the heat. Add a little bit of oil and the sliced mushrooms and spring onions. Cook on medium-high head until the mushrooms begin to get browned. Add a pinch of salt. If using baby spinach, you can add it now and let it wilt. Remove from heat and transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
  3. Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. If you are having edamame beans, you can add it to the pot of soba noodles in the last couple of minutes of cooking. Once noodles are done, drain and rinse under cold water. Add it to the bowl with the mushrooms.
  4. Add the carrots to the bowl of mushrooms and noodles.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the 2 Tbsp of sesame oil, 1 Tbsp mirin, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp soy sauce. Add it to the large bowl.
  6. Finally, add the toasted sesame to the large bowl. Mix everything together and enjoy!

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Yummy Sweet Potatoes, Kale and Chickpeas Salad with delicious creamy Tahini Dressing

We don’t eat many salads around here. Mainly because of two reasons: 1. I’m not a fan of raw food, and 2. I’m often looking for quick dinners after work and making a salad adds to another thing to worry about and increases the time it takes to get dinner on the table!

BUT, I’ve made this particular salad multiple times already in the past month. I really like it very much. Why? Because it is not raw and I can make it on a day where we are having leftovers – this salad is quite filling so it makes the leftovers into a whole meal! Win!

I’ve adopted this from She Likes Food. The original recipe had raw kale, which I have opted to cook a little bit. Check out my modified recipe below and I hope you enjoy this, especially on a day when you don’t feel like making a whole meal.

Difficulty level: Absolute Beginner

Time: 30 – 40 minutes, including prep work (I had the kale pre-washed, which would otherwise have added more time to this)

Serves: 2 – 3 people as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into cubes, approximately 2 cups
  • 4 cups tightly packed chopped kale (I just tore into bite sized pieces with my hands)
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas (half of a 425g can)
  • 1/2 large avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/8 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil (for the kale)
  • 2 tsp olive oil (for the sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tahini Dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3/4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 heaped tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water (I like my dressing not too thick but if you want it thicker just add less water)

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the chopped sweet potato with 1 tsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp of salt and some cracked pepper. Transfer it to a baking tray lined with baking paper and put it into the oven. Cook for 25 – 30 minutes. No need to turn it.
  3. In a large frying pan, add 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil and when it is warm, add the kale and a splash of water. Add 1/8 tsp salt and cook until it begins to get bright green and starts wilting. Take off the heat and 1/2 Tbsp add lemon juice. Transfer it into a salad bowl.
  4. Add other ingredients into the salad bowl: 1/8 of a red onion, chopped, 1/2 can of chickpeas, drained, 1/2 large avocado, chopped, 1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/4 cup chopped almonds.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes are made, add it to the salad bowl.
  6. Make the dressing by mixing together everything listed under “Tahini Dressing”.
  7. Enjoy!

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Creamy Kale and Mushroom Pasta Bake

I love pasta bakes – but it has proven difficult to make vegan versions with the same satisfying taste of comfort food. That is, until I found this pasta bake recipe from Izy Hossack. It tastes delicious and has all the warmth and satisfaction of comfort food without being unhealthy! The secret? Cauliflower! Yes, there is a whole head of cauliflower hidden in this recipe! My version below is slightly changed from the original recipe from Izy.

It is a bit of an involved recipe and requires some time but is oh so worth it.

I hope you try it and I hope you love it 🙂

Difficulty level: Confident Cook

Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes (I had the cauliflower pre-cut and washed and also had the kale pre-washed)

Serves: 3 – 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
  • 1 small potato, sliced into about 1 cm slices
  • 250g penne pasta
  • olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml unsweetened soy milk
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 200g button mushrooms, sliced (not super thinly sliced)
  • 6 -7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups tightly packed chopped kale

Topping:

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Add the cauliflower and potato to the pot of boiling water and bring back to a boil. Once it is boiling again, lower the heat to simmer and let it simmer for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, remove the cauliflower and potatoes to a large bowl.
  3. In the same water (add more water as necessary), add the pasta and let it come to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain pasta, mix with some olive oil to prevent it from sticking and set aside.
  4. Mix together 200 ml of stock and 200 ml of soy milk in a bowl or jug.
  5. In a medium pot, add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir over low/medium heat and let it cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Then, add the stock and milk mixture gradually, mixing it constantly.
  6. Once all the liquid is added to the pot, let it come to a simmer and continue to simmer for 2 minutes – stirring frequently to avoid clumps forming.
  7. Pour the liquid over the bowl of cauliflower and potato, add a tablespoon of dijon mustard and blend it all together using a hand blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I used 1 teaspoon of salt.  Set aside.
  8. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  9. In a medium fying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic and 1 teaspoon of thyme and cook for 6 minutes, uncovered.
  10. Add the kale to the frying pan, turn heat down to low, cover with a lid and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the lid and set take the frying pan off the heat.
  11. Now, make the topping: in a small bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, and 4 tablespoons of vegan parmesan.
  12. In a medium casserole dish, mix the pasta, mushrooms & kale, and the cauliflower sauce. Mix it well to combine. Sprinkle the topping on top and drizzle with some olive oil.
  13. Bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes until the top is golden brown (darker in some places is absolutely okay).

 

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Udon Noodle Stir Fry with Mixed Beans

My poor wife had to work very long hours one day last week and so I got command of the kitchen again. I cooked up something interesting since I wanted to use both udon noodles and beans. Anyway, it didn’t taste all too bad and thus I present here without further ado the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 270 g Udon Noodles
  • 400 g White Button Mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 bunches of baby Bok Choi, sliced in half
  • 1 can of Mexican Mixed Means (Red Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beans)
  • 8 cloves of Garlic, chopped
  • 1 small Red Onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon Kikoman Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Cooking Sake
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil

Preparation

  • Heat canola oil in a large wok or frying pan
  • Fry onion on low heat for 5-7 minutes, until it starts to brown
  • Fry garlic for 2-4 minutes, until it starts to brown
  • Add mushrooms, slightly increase heat and fry for 2 minutes
  • Cook udon noodles as per instruction in a separate saucepan
  • Add soy sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar and Cooking Sake and increase heat to medium high, cook mushrooms and sauce for 8 minutes
  • Add beans and cook for another 2 minutes
  • Add bok choy and cook for 3 minutes
  • Add sesame oil
  • When udon noodles are ready, add about a 1/4 cup of the cooking water to the wok, then drain udon noodles well
  • Add udon noodles to the wok and mix well
  • All done!

 

My favourite, easy, go-to Dal

I read this article from Dr Michael Greger about the significantly lower rates of cancer in India as compared to the USA and was absolutely blown away.
I mean, US men get 23 times more prostate cancer than men in India?! Whaaaat?


Americans get between 8 and 14 times the rate of melanoma, 10 to 11 times more colorectal cancer, 9 times more endometrial cancer, 7 to 17 times more lung cancer, 7 to 8 times more bladder cancer, 5 times more breast cancer, and 9 to12 times more kidney cancer. And this is not like 5, 10, or 20% more, but times more. So hundreds of percent more breast cancer, thousands of percent more prostate cancer—differences even greater than some of those found in the China Study.


https://nutritionfacts.org/video/back-to-our-roots-curry-and-cancer/

That is crazy!

What causes such a crazy difference? Well, the main thing seems to be turmeric – you see, Indian’s use a lot of turmeric in their cooking. But, it’s not just the turmeric, it’s a combination of things such as the fact that 40% of Indians are vegetarian and the population overall does not eat much meat. It may also be the fact that they eat not only turmeric but many different spices, and lots of it.

So, after reading this, I thought I would share my favourite lentil/dal recipe with you. This version does not use any stock and is, in my view, more authentic and more delicious than my Simple Dahl recipe.

Lots of onion, garlic and ginger
Did you know, most Indian recipes (at least the ones from Fiji) start with onion (and then garlic and other spices)?
Then in go the lentils
The magic, healing ingredient: turmeric 🙂
The lentils should be fully broken down. You can add as much (or as little) water as you like – if you like your dal thicker, add less water; if you like thin dal, add more water.
The garlic and chilli for later
Garlic is now all chopped and the chilli is cut roughly
Time to put together the additional spices and fry it in oil and butter
Then adding the garlic and chilli
Lastly, some chopped coriander, and you’re done. Yummy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • A small piece of fresh ginger, crushed, or some ginger powder (about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 cup of lentils, soaked in water over-night or for a few hours (I usually mix 3 different types of lentils, 1/3 cup each. I use any of the following, depending on what I have at home: red lentils (masoor dal), yellow split peas, toor dal, moong dal, channa dal)
  • 4 cups of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (heaped)
  • Chopped coriander
  • Optional: tomatoes, carrots, other veggies

For the tempering:

  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 chilli roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (whole, not the powder)
  • Just over 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon butter/vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Method

  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it is hot, add the onions. Cook until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a few more seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. If you like, you can add some fresh chopped tomatoes at this point and cook until the tomatoes are soft.
  4. Wash and drain the lentils. Add it to the pot. Stir to mix and let it fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add 3 – 4 cups of hot water and the turmeric and ginger. If you are using additional vegetables like carrots or potatoes, you can add it at this stage. Bring it to a boil then lower the heat a little bit, cover it partially (if you cover it fully, it will boil over!) and let it simmer away until the lentils are breaking apart and mixed into the soup. I did not time this part but I estimate it takes about 45 minutes.
  6. After about 20 minutes you can add some salt to taste. I usually add about 1 teaspoon or a slightly more.
  7. If the dal is looking too thick, feel free to add some more hot water until it reaches your desired consistency.
  8. When the dal is almost done, heat a small pot/saucepan over medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil for tempering. When the butter starts to melt, add the cumin and mustard seeds. Let it sputter then add the garlic and chilli. Let the garlic fry until it starts to turn golden brown, but be careful not to let it burn!
  9. When the garlic starts to get golden brown, take the small pot of the stove top and add the oil and spices to the pot with the dal in it. Mix well. Taste to check the salt and add more if needed.
  10. Add chopped coriander to the dal, stir to mix and turn off the heat.
  11. Enjoy with rice, roti or by itself 🙂