Carrot Ginger Soup

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Does anyone remember that episode of The Magic School bus when Arnold turned orange and no one could figure out why until they realised that he had eaten too many Sea Weedies with beta carotene? Eating this soup always reminds me of that, because it’s 99% carrots and not much else. When I was a kid, turning orange seemed pretty cool. Now, I associate orange with someone extremely unpleasant and would like to avoid that as much as possible.

All that to say, this soup is light, fresh, gingery and nothing at all like Mr Trump, but beware of eating too much of it.

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Curried Pumpkin Soup

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Every January, my church fasts for 21 days. It’s a physically intense experience and, coupled with jet-lag – as we always return from overseas the same day the fast starts  – you’ve got a complete meltdown just waiting to happen.

Despite the meltdowns, fasting is a spiritually rewarding experience and it can also be physically rewarding, if done correctly. The most common way to fast at my church is to do a full liquid diet. No solids for 21 days. Last year, I failed big time not because I ate any solids but because my diet consisted of a lot of really, really unhealthy liquids – ie, melted ice cream, melted chocolate, gross amounts of Milo.

This year I vow to do better. I am going dairy, added-sugar, grain and legume free.

Over the next few weeks I will share some of my favorite vegan soup recipes with you. The amazing thing about soups is they are intensely flavorful without needing much additional anything. The vegetables will give you all the flavor you need.

Let’s make some soup!

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Hummus

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Hummus is fully responsible for keeping any meat on my bones when I was a poor and half-starved college student. Back then, a ‘normal’ meal for me was pita chips liberally dipped in hummus with a stack of baby spinach leaves piled on top. I probably ate my weight in hummus, plus some. (Although, if I’m honest, the substance that was actually responsible for keeping me at a healthy weight in college was wine. Cheap boxed wine, to be exact. I met and started dating my husband during my boxed wine phase. You should have seen his face when he realised he was dating a boxed wine drinker. It’s a miracle we survived that first date and are still together today.)

Those were the early days of my culinary adventures and I honestly did not know that you could make hummus at home until one night I was at a sorority hummus party (yes, you read that right. They do exist) and one of my sorority sisters made 6 batches of homemade hummus. That really opened a new world for me, and I haven’t bought a tub of homemade hummus since.

You’ll be shocked by how easy and fast (and cheap!) it is to make hummus at home. Say goodbye to preservatives and unnecessary additives. Never buy store bought hummus ever again!

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Banana Blueberry Muffins

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These muffins are sweet and tart, banana-y and blueberry-y. You would’ve never guessed that from the title, huh?

The ingredients are whole (besides the 1/4 cup of white sugar… if you’re extra hardcore you could even substitute raw sugar), which basically makes these muffins healthy.

We call this breakfast. Because if you have dessert before 9am it’s called breakfast, not dessert.

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Vegetarian Bolognese

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Before I stopped eating meat, spaghetti bolognese was a weekly staple in our house. Once I stopped eating meat, I stopped making bolognese. Sorry if that last sentence was obvious.

I never intended to make a vegetarian copy-cat of bolognese because I don’t believe in being vegetarian if all you want to do is eat non-meat things that taste just like meat.

So why this vegetarian bolognese? It was entirely the result of Isaiah, who was leafing through one of my vegetarian cookbooks out of some vague curiosity and stopped at a photo of vegetarian bolognese, declaring, “GOOD!” That was his not-so-subtle way of saying, ‘this vegetarian deal is nice and all for you but why am I being punished and deprived of bolognese after being nothing but a kind, patient, and supportive husband?’. Isaiah is all of those things and more, so I came up with this recipe out of the goodness of my heart. It is an adaption of this recipe with many amendments because following instructions is not my forte.

This vegetarian bolognese is savoury, deep, and complex. No, it does not taste like beef. It tastes better. You willl shovel it into your mouth. If you have kids in the house who refuse to touch vegetables even with a ten foot pole, make this. They won’t even know there are vegetables in it.

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Kale, Broccolini & Caramelized Onion Pizza

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PIZZA!

I could eat pizza everyday. Sometimes I eat so much pizza that I make myself sick. Something about that ooey-gooey-melty-cheesy topping over a soft-chewy-crispy crust just makes my life.

In this post I will show you how to:
1) Make pizza dough from scratch – it’s easy
2) Make pizza sauce from scratch – a child could do it
3) Bake a crispy-crust pizza without a gajillion pound baking stone in my small, uneven Singaporean fail oven/microwave

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Thai Red Curry

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Otherwise known as Ang Mo Thai Red Curry.
Otherwise known as NOT authentic Thai Red Curry.
Otherwise known as All The Veggies in Your Fridge Curry.

Once upon a time I lived in rural Thailand with an amazing host family and taught English at a local public school. I learned a bit of Thai, ate a lot of Thai food, and got bitten by approximately ten thousand mosquitoes.

Some things I learned:
1) Thai kids are the stinkin cutest
2) Papaya salad (my favorite food in the whole entire world) is most delicious when it is pounded in a mortar and pestle attached to a moto at the side of a dirt road with so many chillis it makes you cry tears of happiness and pain
3) Thai food in rural Thailand is very different from Thai food at a Thai restaurant in Seattle

Now, I won’t get into what is authentic and what isn’t authentic, because firstly, I have no idea, and secondly, people can cook whatever they want however they’d like. But this recipe includes two spoonfuls of peanut butter (trust me on this one), which I am 99.9999% positive they do not do in Thailand OR in Thai restaurants around the world, and an absurd amount of vegetables that don’t even grow in Thailand.

Hence the name: Ang Mo Thai Red Curry.

Here’s how you make it.

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Tajarin: Egg Yolk Pasta (with Tomato Sauce)

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Last month, Isaiah and I spent 2 days in the Barolo wine region of northwest Italy. We stayed a gorgeous little hotel called La Villa and drank so much wine that I couldn’t really even look at wine when we returned to Singapore. There were a lot of favorites on this trip – amazing food, wine, sun-drenched vineyards, wine, total quiet – but my favorite part was a private cooking class we took with the head chef at La Villa. Isaiah joined mostly to humor me, but turned all eyes and ears when he heard we were making homemade pasta. Pasta is his absolute favorite food. The very next day, we went to a market in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and purchased a pasta machine.

I’ll start off by saying that I am in no way a pasta expert, but I learned that pasta is a very regional dish and there are many variations to how you make it depending on what part of Italy you’re from. In Piedmont, they make a very egg-yolk heavy pasta called tajarin. That scored a lot of bonus points from Isaiah, who has for years been trying to convince me for that pasta is ‘healthy’.

Sure. You guys can decide for yourself.

The accompanying sauce starts with a huge amount of good quality extra virgin olive oil (luckily evoo is good for you, right? Kind of in the same way pasta is). In goes minced garlic and shallots (or onions) cooked on low for 10-15 minutes, before jarred passata and peeled whole tomatoes are added. Salt, sugar. Simmer for as long as you have time for. That’s it. It sounds simple, and it is, but the flavour is rich and complex, so good you would have never guessed it was only 5 ingredients. Make this basic tomato sauce, coupled with tajarin, your Saturday night staple.

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Measure 250g of flour onto your work bench and create a well in the middle. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (save the whites for an egg white omelette or scramble) and add the yolks + 1 whole egg to the well. If you buy high quality, cage-free eggs (I buy freedom eggs from Cold Storage), the yolks will be a gorgeous deep orange, and the eventual colour of your pasta will be much deeper.

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Pull flour into the egg mixture (this part will get messy but don’t worry – it will quickly come together) until you get a messy dryish ‘ball’ of dough that barely holds together. Stop adding flour at this point. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. The dough will be tough so if you’re a weakling like me, you may want to recruit assistance from your buff husband for this part. If you don’t have a buff husband, don’t despair. Just throw your entire body weight against the dough as many times as you can until your arms turn to jelly and then give up. So long as your end result looks somewhat like the ball of dough on the rightmost picture above, you’ll be fine. This pasta is very forgiving (aaand all pasta experts around the world roll in their graves. Hey, I started this post by saying I am in no way a pasta expert! The end result is good enough for plebeian me).

Cover the dough with saran wrap and pop it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

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When ready, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 pieces. Flour your work surface. Assemble and secure your pasta machine. Flatten the first piece of dough with your palm and run it through the widest setting. Keep on going until you get to the narrowest setting, running the dough through 2-3 times at each setting. Once you’ve got a thin sheet of pasta, cut it in half with a knife and run the half sheet through your spaghetti cutter. Lightly flour the strands, place on a tea towel, cover to keep from drying, and repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough.

(If you don’t have a pasta maker, go buy one. We got ours for 20 euros. Theoretically you could roll the dough out and cut by hand, but I feel like that would take a lot of effort.)

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Keep going until you get four gorgeous piles of homemade pasta. A serious work of art. I could look at this photo all day. Beautiful.

At this point you just chuck the pasta into boiling salted water, let it cook for 3-5 minutes, fish it out, and serve it however you’d like.

Moving onto the only tomato sauce recipe you’ll ever need to know, because it is seriously that delicious.

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Here’s the ingredients: passata, EVOO, whole peeled tomatoes, shallots, and garlic (+ salt and sugar, not pictured). Passata is an unseasoned Italian tomato puree that you can find on the bottom shelf of the tinned tomato section of Cold Storage.

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Finely mince the shallots and garlic.

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In a heavy pan (I’m using enameled cast iron), heat 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Your house will soon smell delicious. Cook on low for 5-10 minutes until the garlic and onion is golden, add the passata, chopped whole tomatoes, sugar and salt. Stir to combine as best as you can – at first the oil will be stubborn and refuse to marry the tomato sauce. But like any relationship, patience and persistence will win out and the oil and tomato sauce will combine to create one whole that is greater than the sum of its two halves.

Continue to cook on low for as long as you have the patience for. The longer you cook the sauce, the richer, thicker, and more delicious it will get.

Here’s the printable recipe.

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Mexican Sides: Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and Black Beans

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Mexican. My absolute favorite cuisine of all time. I enjoy both tex-mex and for-real-mex. One of my favorite restaurants in the world is Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo in Chicago, and one of my favorite meals is $1 tacos with horchata from LA food trucks. Oh my word, horchata. YES. Whenever I’m in LA I become something of a crazy woman. All I eat is Mexican. All I drink is horchata (ok, fine, and the occasional margarita). All I want is tacos and horchata and margaritas.

I used to joke that when I become pregnant I will have to move to LA because Singapore has no good Mexican food. This shouldn’t be surprising given that the Mexican population here probably isn’t very large, BUT the American population is huge, so how do they get by without their Mexican fix? I don’t know.

We have tacos, quesadillas, or burritos at least once a week in my house. The following 3 sides go well with basically anything. Eat it with rice. Put it in soups. Eat the leftovers straight from the fridge with a spoon. You get the idea.

Enjoy! -2Ns

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