Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (16 of 31)

Save the money buying almond milk and make your own. Creamy, lightly sweet, and so satisfying—homemade almond milk (without the additives and preservatives) is a true luxury!

It also contains no animal byproducts, allowing vegans and vegetarians to enjoy it without guilt.

Personally, my favourite flavour combo comprises of utilising an entire vanilla bean, a couple Medjool dates, and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. The secret to an intense vanilla flavour is blending the entire vanilla bean; just chop it up and toss the whole bean into the blender. Not to worry if you don’t have one on hand though: a half a teaspoon of vanilla extract will work just fine in a pinch.

This milk is delicious served with cookies, cereal, in a smoothie, or simply on its own.

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Almond milk’s high vitamin E content makes it a superfood for skin, helping to protect it from the  sun damage. 

I am now going to rave on about the merits of almond milk. First, for those who are looking to lose weight, almond milk is your solution. Did you know that one cup of almond milk contains only 60 calories, as opposed to 146 calories in whole milk, 122 calories in 2 percent, 102 calories in 1 percent, and 86 calories in skim? Enough said – it makes for a great substitute that will help you lose or maintain your current weight.

Moreover, almond milk won’t impact your blood sugar levels. Home made almond milk (with no additives) is low in carbs, which means it won’t significantly increase your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk for diabetes. Because of its low glycemic index, your body will use the carbs as energy so the sugars aren’t stored as fat (score!).

Almond milk also keeps your heart healthy as there is no cholesterol or saturated fat in almond milk. It’s also low in sodium and high in healthy fats (such as omega fatty acids, typically found in fish), which helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

For those who care about beauty and skin, the vitamin E boost in almond milk will work wonders. Containing  50 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, almond milk contains antioxidant properties essential to your skin’s health, such as protecting it against sun damage.

For those who are lactose intolerant (i.e. have difficultly digesting the sugar in cow’s milk), almond milk is particularly fitting as unlike cow’s milk, there is no lactose. Lactose intolerance is prevalent amongst the Asian population and impacts about 25% of the US population.
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Almond milk is a suitable, lactose-free substitute for cow’s milk.

Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

TIME: 15 minutes | SERVES: 4 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large cup of  almonds
  • 3.5 cups of filtered water
  • 4 pitted dates
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of himalayan sea salt

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METHOD:

  1. Soak the raw almonds in a bowl of water overnight. Hint: the longer you soak, the creamier the almond milk will become.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (30 of 31)
  2. Drain water in colander. Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (29 of 31)
  3. Place drained almonds in a Vitamix (or any powerful blender will do).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (28 of 31)
  4. Add the dates, vanilla bean and a pinch of himalayan sea salt in the Vitamix. Fill up the container with filtered water at a ratio of  roughly 3-4 x as much as the volume of the almonds. Here I used 3.5 cups of water.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (26 of 31)
  5. Hit the on button, at first on low, before slowly increasing the speed to high and blend for 1 minute.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (25 of 31)
  6. Once everything is blended, strain the contents into a large bowl using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag/sprouting bag (as if milking a cow).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (20 of 31)Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (19 of 31)
  7. Once done, pour the almond milk into a jar and store in the fridge. Almond milk can be stored for 2-3 days (since there are no preservatives) in the fridge.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (10 of 31)
  8. For variations, feel free to blend in some cacao and banana for an almond milk smoothie to best kick start the day. Otherwise, the almond milk makes for a refreshing alternative to milk when served chilled.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (18 of 31)

 

Grilled vanilla peaches on truffled ricotta rye

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VANILLA DREAM | Vanilla and maple glazed peaches layered on a  ‘truffled-up’ ricotta rye toast.

If the thought alone of grilled peaches is enough to excite your taste buds, try adding a smidgen of vanilla bean and a dash of maple before subjecting them to grill pan. Trust me, you won’t regret. It adds that extra oomph of sophistication to coat the soft, warm fruit.

These grilled peaches are as versatile as you want them to be. Serve them as a dessert, with vanilla bean ice-cream and drizzle of warm balsamic if you may. For me though, since the occasion was to host  a birthday lunch for my dear friend, I decided to deploy them as a convincing starter.

With the aid of creamy ricotta – which I magnificently combined with a drizzling of Pukura’s much loved truffle flavoured extra virgin olive oil (yes, going gourmet I am) – you can transform this simple fruit into an attractive starter even for the most discerning palate. Simply grill some sourdough or rye bread and spread a generous layer of the truffled-up ricotta cheese, then top with two slices of these grilled peaches. Finish with a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze and chopped mint for garnish. Voila…a crowd pleaser.

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A simple to make crowd pleaser sure to impress even the most discerning palate.

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Crostini anyone?

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Grilled Vanilla Peaches on Truffled Ricotta Rye

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INGREDIENTS (makes 5-6):

  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 6 slices of rye bread, cut 1 cm thick and about a palm size each.
  • 2 peaches, cut into wedges  (1/8th each).
  • 1 vanilla bean (substitute for powder of essence if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of Pukara’s truffle extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of truffle salt (optional)
  • Balsamic glaze (or reduce one cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • Handful of shredded mint (for garnish)

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METHOD:

  1. Wash peaches, pat dry. Slice open and take out seed. Cut into 8 wedges.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (7 of 26).jpg
  2. Mix cut peaches with vanilla bean (I have a vanilla bean grinder) and tablespoon of maple syrup.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (8 of 26)
  3. Turn heat on grill pan on high. After pan heats up, layer wedges on the pan and grill until beautiful char marks form on both sides (roughly 2-3 minutes each side). Be careful not to overdo it.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (10 of 26)
  4. In the meantime, mix the ricotta with the truffle oil using a tablespoon. Add a pinch of truffle salt (or regular salt) and combine thoroughly.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (2 of 26)Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (4 of 26)
  5. Toast the rye or sourdough bread on a grill pan or oven. Generously spread the done up ricotta over each toast. Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (11 of 26)
  6. Layer 2 grilled peaches on top of each crostini. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Finish off with a sprinkle of the shredded mint for garnish. Serve while warm. Enjoy!Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)

 

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

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BUTTERNUT SMOOTHNESS | A silky textured soup bursting with vibrant colours and nutrition to brighten up your day or evening – all without the extra addition of cream or butter. 

Okay, so this was my first time making butternut pumpkin soup and boy was it delicious (not to mention the extreme ease at which it was achieved thanks to my hefty investment in my first Vitamix blender).

For those who tend to get confused between butternut squash and pumpkin, here are the facts: all pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkin. Squash is a botanic term, while pumpkin is a culinary term. The name ‘pumpkin’ is a derivative of the French ‘pampion,’ meaning sun-baked squash, from the Greek word ‘pepon’, meaning large melon. The English modified ‘pampion’ to ‘pompkin,’ which was changed to ‘pumpkin’ by the American colonists.

Pumpkins are one of the most nutritious of vegetables, being very high in fiber, vitamins A (over 2,500 units), B and C, beta-carotene, and minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. Smaller “pie pumpkins” are of smoother texture.

So seeing it was my dear friend’s birthday I decided to whip out a healthy birthday lunch for him and some of his close friends (after all, we are all trying to lose weight). I have always wanted to experiment making soup with my new Vitamix so here I was experimenting first time with whipping out a dairy-free pumpkin soup (saving the calories from the much un-needed cream and butter).

To brighten the orange color, I added a carrot or two which gave the soup more vibrancy (plus an extra dosage of Vitamin A and beta-carotene). Simply chuck all the ingredients into your Vitamix and turn the setting on the ‘soup’ function. I was simply amazed that within 5 minutes, all the ingredients have combined together miraculously to produce a soup that was steaming hot (due to the fast friction of the blades churning).

Butternut Squash Soup (11 of 14)

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g butternut pumpkin peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 green apple
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock
  • pinch of cinnamon, to taste
  • pinch of sea salt, to taste

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METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.Butternut Squash Soup (5 of 14).jpg

2. Select soup function if using a Pro 750 model. Otherwise select variable 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase to variable 10.Butternut Squash Soup (7 of 14).jpg

3. Blend for 6 minutes, or until hot. Serve immediately. Garnish with mint sprigs or croutons if desired.

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Refreshing Watermelon and Mint Salad

Watermelon Mint Salad (8 of 8)REFRESHING SUMMER SALAD | Rehydrate with a cooling watermelon salad tossed with lime and mint leaves. 

Yearning for something cooling in the hot summer months? Then look on further than the watermelon. Juicy, sweet and available in seedless varieties, watermelon is not just comprised of water and sugar, but is in fact a nutrient dense food, providing consumers a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a low amount of calories.

So for those craving something refreshing and light, without the associated guilt-trip, try tossing together watermelon cubes, a dash of lime, chopped mint leaves and for those who fancy the extra, some feta and finely sliced red onions. It won’t take you longer than 20 minutes all in all – I promise!

Watermelon Mint Salad (4 of 8).jpgMade up of 92% water and full of important electrolytes, watermelon is a great snack to have on hand during the hot summer months to prevent dehydration.

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

TIME: 20 minutes | SERVES: 4 as a side 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-7 pound seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Dash of balsamic vinegar
  • Bunch of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Small handful of feta (or crumbled feta)
  • 1/4 finely sliced red onion (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Cut a refrigerated watermelon into 2cm cubes and throw into a large salad bowl.Watermelon Mint Salad (1 of 8)
  2. Juice the lime and remove pips. Pour juice into bowl with watermelon cubes.untitled (1 of 1).jpg
  3. Drizzle a dash of balsamic, add the crumbed or cubed feta and the chopped mint. Toss together to ensure watermelon cubes get coated with the lime juice. Garnish with few mint sprigs and sliced red onion. Serve whilst cold. Watermelon Mint Salad (7 of 8).jpg

Saffron Couscous with Cranberries and Almonds

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COUSCOUS | A versatile and popular alternative to rice and pasta

Couscous. A staple in North Africa, not many know how versatile these small steamed balls of semolina can be. Consisting of many tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat, couscous has become a popular alternative to rice and pasta.

In Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, couscous is steamed over a simmered stew after being tossed with a little water or oil and water. This takes much longer than the ‘instant’ method, whereby couscous is boiled in water or stock for 5 minutes and then steamed for another 5 minutes before being “fluffed up” with a fork.

For myself, the beauty of couscous lies with its cross functional applicability between a pilaf and a salad. For this simple recipe, I have added a pinch of saffron to add a bit of colour and delicate taste. For some tangy sweetness I added some cranberries and for the crunch factor, some crushed roasted almonds. Feel free to throw in some pine nuts too!

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TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes | SERVES: 4 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chopped shallot
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup of wholemeal couscous (or plain)
  • 1.5 cups of water (if using wholemeal)
  • pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oilSaffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (12 of 14)

METHOD:

1. Soak saffron threads in half cup of boiling water to release the flavours. Remember, a little pinch of saffron goes a long way.

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2. In the meantime, chop the shallots.

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3. Roast the almonds on medium-high heat by stirring gently on a pan (about 1-2 minutes). Once roasted, crush with mortar and pestle. Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (13 of 14)Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (7 of 14)

4. Pour tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan on medium-high heat. Throw in shallots and stir for one minute.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (9 of 14)

5. Add the remaining cup of water. Once boiling, throw in the couscous, add a pinch of salt and pepper and let it cook for 5 minutes before closing the lid. Let it rest for another 5 minutes.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (8 of 14)

6. Juice the lemon and remove the pips.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (6 of 14)

7. Once couscous is done, remove the lid from the saucepan and pour in the lemon juice, cranberries, and crushed almonds. Fluff with fork until fluffy in texture.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (5 of 14)

8. Serve while warm. Feel free to sprinkle some pine nuts an additional cranberries on top for garnishing.Saffron couscous with cranberries and almonds (4 of 14)

 

Wasabi Beef Cubes

wasabi beef cubes (1 of 1).jpgThe combination of steak, wasabi and garlic is too compelling of a concoction to miss.

I love Japanese-inspired dishes so and came up with this wasabi beef cube recipe using Wagyu beef from Japan (but feel free to use a rib-eye or sirloin cut too).

Don’t worry, the wasabi is not that overpowering. It just adds a little ‘kick’ factor to the beef. Then add a dollop of mustard and the rest of the ingredients – diced garlic, sesame oil and some light soy sauce – for an Asian marinade that complements beef very well.

P.S. Remember to take the steak 30 mins out of the refrigerator before cooking.

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Wasabi Beef Cubes

TIME: 20 mins | SERVES: 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 380g wagyu beef cubes (can substitute with ribeye or sirloin)
  • ~8g of wasabi paste (3 small 2.5g packs)
  • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • canola oil
  • butter (optional, for frying)
  • spring onions, diced (for garnish)

METHOD:

  1. Wash and pat dry wagyu beef cubes. In a bowl, marinade beef cubes with wasabi, sesame oil, mustard, and soy sauce. Wasabi Beef Cubes (11 of 15)
  2. Make garlic chips (for garnish). Heat pan on medium heat, add a dollop of canola oil and take one clove of sliced garlic to pan-fry until golden brown. Set aside to cool for use later.Wasabi Beef Cubes (10 of 15)
  3.  While pan is still hot add a knob of butter and throw in rest of the sliced garlic. Add the beef cubes and fry until colour changes and cubes give off a golden brown hue (~5-6 minutes). Wasabi Beef Cubes (8 of 15)Wasabi Beef Cubes (7 of 15)
  4. Once cooked to your desired ‘wellness’ factor for beef, remove from the pan and transfer to serving dish. To serve, garnish with the garlic chips set aside and sprinkle the chopped spring onions.Wasabi Beef Cubes (5 of 15)Wasabi Beef Cubes (6 of 15)

Coffee Pecan Financiers

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A PERFECT CONCOCTION | Pecans, ground sumiyaki coffee powder and a shot of nespresso add subtle warm undertones to the traditional financier.  

I love how baking brings out the perfectionist streak lurking deep within me. This Valentine’s day, me and my (single) girlfriends decided we’d get our hands dirty and do some baking.

To challenge ourselves, we set an ambitious goal to master the basic vanilla soufflé (which we managed to achieve). I also added another to our baking agenda for the afternoon  – to recreate Ottolenghi’s famed Coffee Pecan Financiers that sells likes hotcakes at his restaurant NOPI in London.

Coffee and pecan financiers (1 of 1)

Still missing Paris a lot, I was keen to make financiers again, but this time, I was set on making an adaptation of Ottolenghi’s Coffee Pecan Financiers from his well-known restaurant NOPI. Not too fond of anything too sweet, I reduced the icing sugar quantity by half and did away with the coffee pecan cream that often accompanies these little bars of gold.

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Coffee and Pecan Financiers

TIME: one hour | YIELDS: Makes 12 financiers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g pecans
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g plain flour
  • 65g malt powder (or Horlicks)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground coffee beans
  • 8 egg whites (300g)
  • 2 shots of espresso (60ml)
  • pinch of coarse sea salt

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METHOD:

  1. Roast the pecans. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5. Spread the pecans for both the financiers and the cream out on a parchment-lined baking tray and place in the oven for 12–15 minutes, until they have taken on a bit of colour. Use the flat side of a large knife to lightly crush them. Set aside half of the pecans for the financiers and half for the cream.Coffee and pecan financiers (1 of 39)
  2. To make the financiers, put the butter into a medium saucepan and place on a high heat. Once it starts to foam, cook for 3–4 minutes, until it turns golden-brown and smells nutty. Strain through a muslin- (or clean J-cloth-) lined sieve and set aside for about 15 minutes, to cool slightly.Coffee and pecan financiers (2 of 39)
  3. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl with the ground almonds, flour, malt powder, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and ground coffee. Mix together and set aside.Coffee and pecan financiers (4 of 39)
  4. Place the egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk to form soft peaks: this should take about 3 minutes if you are whisking by hand and just 1 minute with an electric whisk.Coffee and pecan financiers (6 of 39)
  5. Fold the whites into the dry ingredients by hand, followed by the espresso. Next pour in half the browned butter, continuing to fold by hand as you pour in the remaining butter. Finally, fold in the pecans. Coffee and pecan financiers (13 of 39)Coffee and pecan financiers (12 of 39)Coffee and pecan financiers (10 of 39)
  6. Bake the financiers by preheating the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7. Grease mould of muffin tray or financier tray. Spoon in the mix until three-quarters full and bake for 10 –12 minutes, until the cakes are golden-brown on top and only just cooked through: a knife inserted should come out with a tiny amount of mix on it.Coffee and pecan financiers (15 of 39)
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 5 minutes, before removing them from the tray. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a cup of tea if desired.
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