Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle and Diet

CREATIVE SUSHI FILLINGS

sushi

creative sushi filing

Sushi is regarded a healthy food as it is supposedly low in calories. The salmon and tuna slices, slivers of prawn and cucumber and slices of avocado and egg that fit snugly within sticky rice rolls are low in fats and high in nutrients. Sushi doesn’t need to contain raw fish. In fact, you can include anything you want in your sushi rolls. The key here is to imaginative and bold. 

Below are a few sushi filling ideas I’ve tried. They taste superb. 

creative sushi filling

Avocado and sliced fried egg

Avocado and peeled cooked prawns

Stir fried mushrooms and sliced fried egg

Cooked salmon chunks 

Stir fried mushrooms

Ingredients

150g mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp pepper

oyster sauce

Method

  1. Heat oil in pan.

     2. Add mushrooms to the pan till cooked.

     3. Add oyster sauce and mix well. 

     4.  Sprinkle pepper to taste. 

     5. Drain excess juice before preparing sushi.

 

Cooked salmon chunks 

Ingredients

1 can salmon chunks

1 tsp chili flakes

pepper 

juice from 1/2 lemon 

Method

  1. Heat oil in a pan.
  2. Drain brine from can of salmon.
  3. Add salmon into the pan and cook well. 
  4. Add chili flakes, pepper and lemon juice and stir well. 
  5. Drain all excess liquid before preparing sushi. 

 

There you have it. Creative sushi fillings for an adventurous palate. The options are endless. Stir fried squids, scallops fried in butter, tempura prawns, spiced tofu, chicken slices, barbecued turkey slices……….I’ll leave it to your imagination. Haven’t I convinced you that sushi needn’t be traditional? 

SOAK IN THE ENERGY OF THE SUN TO BE MORE POSITIVE AND PRODUCTIVE

A_warm_minute (1)

balcony work

http://videohive.net/

Feeling down and unmotivated? Is winter making you feel less productive? This is the reason why. The area you work in lacks sunlight. Yes. It is true. If you’re not on top of things and feeling depressed, chances are, you’re working in the wrong part of the house. Ask yourself these questions: Is your home office dark and closed up? Are the curtains closed and obstructing the sunlight and view? If your answer is yes, then, you need to soak in the energy of the sun to be more positive and productive. Consider the tips below to energise yourself and change your state of mind.

  1. Soak in some sunlight

Work in the balcony or the backyard if such places are brighter and warmer due to more sunlight streaming in. If you work in a home office, draw the curtains to allow more sunlight to brighten the room. Sunlight helps to change your mood and mindset. Chances are you’ll be more productive and feel much better working when exposed to some natural light. Sunlight is indeed a natural source of energy that recharges your body and soul that are much needed for a positive mindset. Why do you think people feel lazy and unproductive when it’s gloomy and grey outside and are more active when the sun is shining brightly outside? The sun has got amazing energy that revitalises you inside out. So ensure that you have plenty of sunlight where you work. 

2. The pleasures of warmth

You work better when your home office is warm. This is because warmth brings comfort. Ensure that you have a heater or a fireplace near you. Warmth is inviting and comforting. You need it to stay productive. 

Van_Gogh_Twelve_Sunflowers

3. Yellow is gold

Painting a yellow accent on a wall will change the mood to any room. If your living room or work space is dull, try giving one part of the room a hint of yellow. Alternatively, introduce a vase of sunflowers or a painting that has predominant yellow colours to promote the flow of energy and the change of mindset. 

4. Reflect more light 

Use a long mirror to reflect and introduce light in the room. To do this, you need to position the mirror directly opposite a window. This helps to brighten your room and works as mood switcher. In no time, you’ll feel more energised and productive instead of feeling down and depressed. 

So, soak in the energy of the sun to be more positive and productive. Try one of or a combination of the above the next time you feel unproductive. Don’t take the sun’s rays for granted as it is the source of life and energy. Amazingly, it changes your mood and lifts up your spirits. Do share your stories about how the sun’s energy bring positivity to your mind and energises your body. 

SPECIAL AGLIO OLIO WITH A TWIST

San Remo Fettuccine Egg Noodle

special aglio olio

You’ll agree with me that aglio olio is a very simple, fuss-free dish. Though only a few ingredients are used, the taste is satisfying to the palette. I’ve reinvented the aglio olio to enhance its flavour and appearance. In this dish, I’ve added pine nuts for texture and some greens, soy and grated parmesan for flavour. There are so many egg pasta available in the market. For this dish, I’ve chosen to use San Remo Fettuccine Egg Noodle.  

Ingredients

1/2 packet fettuccine 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

3 fresh tomatoes, sliced

100g fresh spinach

a handful of pine nuts

1 cup frozen peas

grated Parmesan

1 green chili, sliced

1 tbsp soy sauce

ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the fettuccine in salted, boiling water till el dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Roast pine nuts in a small and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the onions till caramelised. 
  4. Add garlic and mushrooms. Cook till mushrooms soften. 
  5. Add chilies, tomatoes, spinach and peas. Mix well. 
  6. Add fettuccine and season with Parmesan, black pepper and soy. Mix well. 
  7. Lastly, add the pine nuts. Mix the ingredients together to ensure they blend well. 
  8. Serve while its is hot and sprinkle some grated Parmesan for that added kick.

I use grated Parmesan from Pantalica Cheese company. Its grated cheese is flavoursome and makes good pasta topping or seasoning. The dash of soy enhances the flavour of the dish and adding some greens like spinach and peas transforms its appearance and improves its nutritious value. Bon appetite!

EGYPTIAN PHOOL DISH

Egyptian Phool

Egyptian Phool

 

I’ve been craving for Egyptian Phool, a spicy, hearty dish consisting of Fava beans and minced meat. Since I’m not sure if I can get Fava beans here in Australia, the next best option is to use red kidney beans. The dish is pretty straight forward but be prepared to do some blending. Thankfully my small blender works well. For this dish, I’ve tried to substitute meat with blended oyster mushrooms. Phool with meat seriously tastes better, for it gives that full-bodied flavour. For the beans, it’s best to use Foul Medammas or Fava Beans. If those aren’t available, the next best alternative is to use red kidney beans. They work just as well. 

Egyptian Phool_blended ingredients

Ingredients

2 cans of Foul Mademmas/Fava Beans/Red Kidney Beans

150g ground beef

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garam masala

1 can, diced tomatoes 

salt to taste

Blended

3/4 large red onion, sliced 

1cm ginger, sliced

6 cloves garlic, sliced

3-4 dried red chilies 

Egyptian Phool_beans and tomatoes

Accompaniment 

2 eggs, sunny side up

1/4 red onion, diced

2 green chilies, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

2 calamansi limes, cut into wedges

 

Method 

  1. Blend onion, ginger, garlic and dried red chilies and set aside. 
  2. Blend beans with water separately and set aside. 
  3. Heat oil in a pan and cook ground beef. Once cooked, set aside.  
  4. Add oil to the same pan and fry the blended paste till fragrant. 
  5. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, ground black pepper and blend well. 
  6. Add in the blended beans and stir well. 
  7. Add salt to taste and mix well. 
  8. Add cooked ground beef into the mixture and stir well.
  9. Add canned diced tomatoes with liquid and stir mixture well. Add a bit more cumin powder, pepper and garam masala if needed. 
  10. Simmer the mixture on low heat for 20 more minutes or till it is reduced.
  11. Serve the dish in a bowl. Sprinkle diced green chilies, diced tomatoes, diced red onions and top up with sunny side egg. 
  12. Squeeze a wedge of calamansi lime and enjoy! 

Egyptian Phool

 

Phool accompaniment

 

This Egyptian Phool dish is suitable for lunch or dinner. Best served with sliced baguette. Scoop it, dunk it with baguette slices or enjoy the bean mixture from a spoon. It is a very filling and wholesome dish in any season. I won’t be surprised if everyone at the table goes for a second helping. So make sure there is plenty of extra phool.  This dish has been modified over time and place. Does anyone know what the original Egyptian Phool comprises of? Do share your knowledge on this phenomenal Egyptian dish. 

SPECIAL THAI PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

Thai pineapple fried rice

Thai pineapple fried rice

 

When you have leftover canned pineapple and rice, what could you prepare? Fried rice, I hear you say. Well…why not transform ordinary fried rice into something special? Thai pineapple fried rice is the perfect answer. Throw in some prawns and voila! You have a dish to impress your guests. It’s not as difficult as you think. A short cut method and cooking trick is to use Thai red curry paste in a bottle. My favourite is Ayam brand which is not a challenge to find. Woolworths and Coles have them in stock.

Ingredients

leftover rice

6 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 onion, sliced

1 cm ginger, chopped

200g shelled prawns

1 red capsicum, diced

canned pineapples, diced

pineapple juice

2 tsp dried shrimp, made into a paste

2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste

2 tbsp. green peas

A handful of cashew nuts

pepper

cucumber for garnishing

Method

1. Put your pan to a high heat and add oil.

2. Fry prawns till cooked and put them aside.

3. Next, lightly fry the cashews and leave them aside.

4. Heat oil in a wok and fry onions, ginger and garlic.

5. Add pineapples and green peas and mix well.

6. Add in shrimp paste and Thai red curry paste and dilute the paste with pineapple juice from the can.

7. Add the rice and mix well.

8. Add cashews and mix them into the rice before serving.

9. Garnish rice with coriander and add cucumber on the side.  

There you have it – special fried rice. The pineapple, shrimp paste and Thai curry paste create an explosion of taste, transporting you to the land of smiles. The cashews introduce an interplay of texture and crunch while the cucumber as well as coriander provide a refreshing after taste and cools off the heat.

 

UDON NOODLES IN MUSHROOM SOUP

udon noodles

 

udon noodles in mushroom soup

 

The weather has been dreary since last week’s terrible storm. The drop in temperature has triggered my cravings for soupy dishes. Today seems like a suitable day to prepare soup noodles – comfort food in the middle of autumn. I’m tempted to prepare udon noodles in mushroom soup. For this dish, I need a medium-sized saucepan and a frying pan, one for the soup and the latter for light frying. Fresh seafood can be used in the dish but I choose to lightly fry fish balls instead. 

Ingredients

1 packet udon noodles

1 onion, sliced

1 inch ginger, chopped

5 cloves,garlic, chopped

1 green chilli, sliced

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 bak choy, sliced

100g cup mushrooms, sliced

1 packet shitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 packet fish balls

250 g vegetable stock

 2 cups water

1/2 cube anchovy stock

pepper

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce

cooking oil

For garnish 

fried shallots 

1 sprig spring onions, chopped

 

Method

Prior to soup preparation, soften udon noodles in boiling water. Drain noodles after 2-3 minutes. 

1. In a saucepan, heat oil and fry onions till soft and transparent. 

2. Add garlic, ginger and green chili and fry for a minute. 

3. Add mushrooms till they soften. Add 1/2 anchovy stock, crush it and mix it well. Add a little water. 

4. Let the ingredients simmer for another 3 mins. Cover saucepan with a lid. 

5. Once the mushroom juice has oozed out, add vegetable stock and water. 

6. Add pepper, dried chilli flakes and soy sauce for taste and mix well. 

7. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add thawed fish balls and fry them lightly. 

8. Remove the fish balls and leave aside. 

9. In the same pan, add chopped bak choy and oyster sauce. Mix well. 

10. Add pepper to taste. 

To serve

Place noodles in a bowl. Add bak choy and fish balls. Scoop up soup with a ladle and pour over the ingredients. Then, garnish with spring onions and fried shallots for added taste and texture. 

After thoughts

If you prefer to have additional protein in your dish, introducing hard boiled egg to the dish is an option. Add more chilli flakes or fresh red chillies for that added kick. Udon noodles work better in a stir fry dish as they cling well to the sauce used in cooking. However, when prepared in soup, the noodles may be a little bland. Hence to counteract this, the soup has to be spicy. Best served hot, this is one nutritious dish you should try in winter or on a damp, rainy day. 

EXOTIC SPINACH AND CHEESE PIE

exotic spinach and cheese pie

exotic spinach and cheese slice

I have tried my hands at baking spinach and cheese pie as well as triangles many times before. Just recently, I came to learn from a friend that adding tahini (sesame seed paste) would enhance the flavour of the pie. So a few days ago, I reinvented my spinach and cheese pie by adding tahini. I must say that adding the paste gave some depth to the flavour. Since tahini is used in Middle Eastern, Greek and Turkish cuisine, I have named the pie ‘Exotic Spinach and Cheese Pie’ in order not to confuse it with the standard pie. You may also be interested in trying out my Spinach and Three Cheeses Pie which is also special as the three kinds of cheeses create a complex cheesy flavour. As an after thought, adding some fish stock to the pie mixture would have enhanced the taste further. I have added this to the ingredients list for this recipe although I didn’t use it in my pie. 

Ingredients 

3 sheets filo pastry

1 onion, sliced

100g fresh spinach

1 packet, frozen spinach

10g margarine, melted

250g ricotta cheese

1/2 cup vintage cheddar cheese, grated 

2 eggs

3 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp fish stock

cooking oil

pepper 

1 tbsp chia seeds

Method

1. Grease casserole with melted margarine.

2. Heat oil in a pan and caramalise onions. 

3. Heat frozen spinach in a microwave. Set aside to cool. 

4. In a big bowl, mix both types of spinach, ricotta, grated cheddar and 1 whisked egg. Add tahini, fish stock and pepper to the mixture. 

5. Place 1 filo sheet at the bottom and sides of the casserole and spread the caramalised onions on it.

6. Pour the mixture from the bowl and even it out. 

7.  Add the last filo sheet on top and fold in the sides. 

8. Glaze the top with egg wash.

9. Sprinkle the top with chia seeds.

9. Bake the pie at 180 degrees for 50 mins. 

exotic spinach and cheese pie

I use Mainland Vintage cheddar for its sharp flavour. The ricotta will balance out the overall cheesy taste. For an added twist, I sprinkled chia seeds for added texture and of course to take advantage of its nutritional value. It’s best to let the pie cool after removing it from the oven before serving. It is quite an easy dish to prepare despite the grating of the cheddar. Enjoy! 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHORT CRUST PASTRY

curry puff

short crust pastry

 

If you’d like to bake apple or potato puff pastry, you’d be met with two options. One is to use commercial short crust pastry, the other is to prepare your own. While using commercial pastry is an easy option that doesn’t require much time and effort, making your own short crust pastry is actually the more satisfying choice. Home-made pastry is healthier as you can control the ingredients that make up the pastry. You can add less butter or margarine, less salt and forgo the preservatives and colouring that are synonymous to store-bought pastry. 

The result is guilt-free eating. You may be surprised at how easy it is to prepare your own pastry. It is truthfully more messy and time-consuming to prepare but the outcome is worth the time and effort. The trick is to prepare extra so you can freeze what is not needed now to be used later. This will save time. 

Ingredients 

500g plain flour

1 tbsp salt

150 g to 200 g margarine

1 to 2 cups water 

Method 

1. Pour plain flour into a big mixing bowl. 

2. Add salt and mix the ingredients.

3. Cut margarine into cubes. Rub the margarine into the flour until the texture is fine and less crumbly. 

4. Add water gradually to form a dough. 

5. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle some plain flour onto it to make rolling easier. 

6. Roll the dough till the thickness is just right.

7. Use round moulds to shape the dough and prepare it for the filling process. 

 

You can add any filling that takes your fancy to each circular shaped dough: potatoes, carrots, peas, meat, apple etc. The list goes on. You may want to egg wash each filled pastry to prepare them for baking. Have a go at it and enjoy the fruits of your labour! 

SIMPLE EGG CURRY SANDWICH

curry sandwich

When you’re stuck about what to bring to a picnic or at a cabin stay, think of something egg-based. Eggs are not only nutritious but is delicious and fills you up quickly. One important and portable ingredient in this simple yet delicious sandwich is curry powder which gives off an earthy flavour and subtle fragrance of spices. 

In this instance, I’d like to recommend preparing curry egg sandwich which can be enjoyed by the family.

Image result for curry egg sandwich

Here are the ingredients you’d need:

4 eggs, boiled and mashed

lettuce leaves

1 1/2 tbsp curry powder

1 tbsp plain low-fat yogurt

margarine 

pepper and salt to taste

Bread slices 

Method

1. Boil eggs in a pan till hard-boiled. 

2. Peel the eggs and mash them in a separate bowl. 

3. Add curry powder and yogurt and  blend in thoroughly.

4. Add pepper and salt to the egg mixture.

5. Put a lettuce leaf on each bread slice. 

6. Spread some margarine on each bread slice. 

7. Spread the egg mixture on the lettuce leaf on each bread slice. 

8. Make sandwiches and cut them into halves. 

The yogurt serves to bind the egg curry together as well as add moisture. This sandwich can be served as finger food at any gathering or casual outing. The key to the recipe is to get the right kind of curry powder. Add chopped coriander in the curry mixture for colour and added flavour. Enjoy! 

SAVOURY MUSHROOM, SPINACH AND CHICKEN PARCELS

SAVOURY CHEESE AND SPINACH PARCELS

SAVOURY CHEESE AND SPINACH PARCELS

There are days that I crave for finger food. These cravings usually occur on the weekends, when pockets of time are available for creative hands-on sessions like baking. I decided to include mushroom, spinach and chicken in this recipe for contrast in flavour and texture. Instead of frozen spinach, I opted for fresh ones and added caramelised onions for a hint of sweetness. 

Ingredients 

2 tsp grape seed oil

250g fresh spinach

1 big onion, sliced 

pepper to taste

3 tbsp soy sauce 

mushrooms, sliced

250g chicken breast, diced

frozen green peas, 1/2 cup

puff pastry sheets 

20g butter, for greasing

1 egg for glazing

Method

1. Pre-heat oven at 180 degrees Celsius. 

2. Thaw frozen puff pastry sheets 

3. Slice one onion and fry in a pan till caramelised.  

4. Add chicken and cook it well. Then pour in soy sauce for taste.  

5. Once chicken is cooked, add in spinach and green peas and pepper to taste. Mix ingredients well. 

6. Leave aside to cool. 

7. Grease baking tin with melted butter. 

8. Cut pastry into 4 to 9 squares, depending on preference. 

9. Spread the cooked mixture on each pastry square.

10. Brush whisked egg on the sides of each pastry square to facilitate sealing.

11. Take another pastry sheet and cut the same number of squares.

12. Take each square and place it gently on top of each piled square so it covers the ingredients securely. 

13. Glaze each parcel with egg wash and place the baking tray in the oven for 20-25 mins.

14. Remove the baking tray from the oven once parcels have turned golden brown. 

15. Cool parcels on a cooling rack before serving. 

Shitake mushrooms provide better flavour compared to ordinary button mushrooms as they have a deep earthy flavour. Alternatively, you can substitute them with white button mushrooms. The parcels are best eating warm. If you prepare excess parcels, don’t bake them all. Put a few unbaked ones aside and store them in the freezer. They come in handy for a busy weekday snack or when unexpected guests come knocking at the door. Unbaked parcels can keep for up to a month.