PUMPKIN SOUP WITH DRIED LILY BULBS| VEGAN BEAUTY SOUP

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This month, I'm rolling out a "Bless my hair, skin and nails" mini recipe series, starting with this pumpkin soup with dried lily bulbs. If you're on a mission to go meatless on Mondays, this one sweet pot of earthy soup will fit the bill!

Initiating this mini series is my call to action for a natural glow and better physical appearance, who doesn't want that? As we age, the condition of our hair, skin and nails are the most apparent components that reflect how hard we battle through a busy, stressful lifestyle every single day. With all that maintenance and moolah 💸💸💸from our visits to the hair salon, beautician and manicurist to be at tip-top version, (psst...I visit them when I'm feeling rich), the most essential and cost-effective method we can practice is through what we consume.

I was born with fine hair that bothers me every morning when I look into the mirror. My heart sank on a bad, and flatter hair day. When visiting the dentist is your nightmare, well for me is the hair stylist. Every time I visit a new hair salon, a harmless comment like "Why is your hair so fine, thin and dry? Did you do something crazy before?" affects me.

I am embarrassed 😳, and responded, "It is hereditary" with a dry laugh 😁.

I was actually crestfallen😔 Additionally, this imperfection of mine eats me when the media frames beauty standards of woman with thick, shiny and luscious hair I knew I will never own it. 

Until recent months, I was inspired by women of power and confidence, sharing about their imperfections and how they flourish with them. Their voices shape the way I look at myself now. This time, I scrutinise what I love about my features and my imperfections concurrently in front of the same mirror. I slowly learn to embrace who I am, value what my mama has given me and be unique in my own way. Since I am blessed with this amount of hair that I can blow dry them in a jiffy, I should hella cherish this hair supply with foods that boost the growth and condition. You make the best out of what you have, amirite?

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This Chinese pumpkin soup with dried lily bulbs has its purported cooling effect and was served for dinner four times in the month of July due to the immense heat. The soup is vegan, meat free and seasoning free. 

What is dried lily bulb (百合, bai he)?

Dried lily bulb are cleaned and sun dried from the fresh ones. They are part of the edible root vegetable family which are commonly used as herbal remedies, more highlighted in Traditional Chinese Medicine for making soups, stir fries, and desserts.

The light sweetness and cooling properties of the lily bulbs help to 

  • relieve sore throat
  • moisturise lungs
  • relieve heart burns
  • tranquillise the mind
  • relieve dry coughs. They are ineffective against wet coughs with phlegms.
  • promote better sleep at night, especially if you're experiencing insomnia

Veggiebeast and my family loved it! Therefore, meat is certainly not necessary to enhance the flavour when pumpkin, daikon and carrot and red dates did a splendid job!  Whilst preparing the soup, I prefer to chop them all in large chunks. They will reduced in size by a quarter over the cooking time. Having them chopped in bite sized pieces will lead them to crumble into odd shapes, especially for pumpkin. 

To prepare such Chinese herbal soups, it is advisable to own a linen filter soup bag for your convenience. With the soup bag to contain the herbs or spices, it saves the hassle to separate residue from the soup before serving.  

If you're planning a light dinner, this soup can feed you to your heart's content. Alternatively, I will recommend serving it with your choice of carbs in the soup, or as a side on a hungry day. For me, I love slurping these eggless pumpkin yee mee (noodles) with the soup. 

Let me know once you've tried this recipe! I'll love to see your version and you can tag me on Instagram @poutchow or #poutandchow. 

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PUMPKIN SOUP WITH DRIED LILY BULBS (serves 4)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.7kg pumpkin
  • 1.7kg daikon (white radish)
  • 60g medium sized carrot
  • 4 dried red dates
  • 3 tbsp dried lily buds (from Hock Hua Tonic)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 can button mushrooms (425g)
  • 3 tbsp whole white peppercorns
  • 4 Pumpkin Yee Mee Noodles Cake
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander for garnish, optional

Directions

  • Fill 20ml room temperature water into a bowl to soak dried red dates and dried lily bulbs for 5 minutes. 
  • Scoop pumpkin seeds and fibres, and discard them. Next cut away pumpkin skin using a cleaver and cut them in large chunks.
  • Chop both ends of daikon and carrot. Peel skin off and chop them in thick circles, about 1.5cm thickness. Cut both ends of yellow onion, peel skin off and cut them in large wedges.
  • Fill whole white peppercorns in a linen cotton filter soup bag and tie a tight knot.
  • Boil 9 cups water in a deep sauce pan over medium high heat. Gently lay soup bag, soaked red dates and lily bulbs (without the water in the bowl), and vegetables at a low height to avoid water splashing. Boil soup for 45 minutes. 
  • Wash canned button mushrooms and add them into soup. Put lid on and simmer at medium heat for 30 minutes. 
  • Remove lid, use a chopstick to poke through daikon and carrot to check whether they have softened (not crumbly). Remove soup from heat.
  • In a separate pot, boil 1.2 litres water to cook pumpkin yee mee (noodles) for 2 minutes. Divide noodles between four bowls. 
  • Ladle soup and vegetables over noodles, and garnish with fresh coriander. 

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally

AVOCADO CASHEW NO BAKE CHEESECAKE

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It has been exactly one month since I put my body into a Green vs Red challenge. Committing a promise to myself to go red meat-free is a game changer to my mind and body. I'm welcoming more greens, legumes, mushrooms, and seafood in my meal preparation, Asian style. Some were tested and approved by many, watch this little space to recreate them easily at home!  

This Avocado Cashew No Bake Cheesecake that I'm sharing with you is a celebratory treat. If avocado and peanut butter rules your life just like mine, these pretty green squares will blow your mind. Psst...its a dairy-free cheesecake, so there ain't no cheese in here if you're wondering😝

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They contain all the vital good fats that possibly offer you some motivation to make better intentions for a balanced life! Check out how do make them in my video above!

To create the "cheese" filling, I combined 3 healthy good fats: cashew butter (tastes like peanut better, but better in nutritional value), raw cashews and an avocado. And no, they are not going to make us "fat" by growing widthways. Healthy fat lingers in our body a little longer, it helps to control our hunger, and lower our temptation to snack subconsciously, yay! 

For a long time, fat in food has been vilified by the media. We perceive all foods that are high in fat as "bad" for us, and we choose those foods labelled as low-fat and no-fat. Unfortunately, little do we know that only fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat. Processed low-fat foods like cereals and yogurt are high in sugar *jaws dropped*.

Why do we need healthy good fats?

Having good fats can promote healthy weight, good cholesterol levels and give you that gorgeous shiny hair, nails, and skin. Our bodies need good fats to support cell growth, and to form a protective layer to our vital organs. Most importantly, fats assist our body in absorbing nutrients, transporting vitamins, all that good stuff we need to stay warm, steady and strong.  

Hmm..what are the bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats)?

  • Red meats (beef, pork, duck, lamb)
  • Processed meats (bacon, sausages, luncheon meat, salami, pepperoni)
  • Fries
  • Ice-cream 
  • Margarine

Coming back to this Red vs Green challenge I mentioned above, some of you might know that Ryan (aka veggiebeast aka my fiance) turned vegetarian 2 years ago. Throughout our relationship, he enlightens me on the environmental cost of consuming red meat, and with Dr Greger's Nutritionfacts Youtube videos on the adversity of red meat in our body systems. Back then, I was not ready to cut down my meat portions and be a killjoy to say "I don't take red meat" at times in making lunch/dinner plans with family and friends. 

Up till last month, I felt that my body was flashing a big yellow warning sign, alerting me to cut down on meat. I was having abdominal cramps, constipation, and nausea at the sight of seeing pork😷. Everything was "clogged". These were repercussions of eating red meat (duck and pork) almost every meal during that fateful week of my late grandma's passing. A day after the wake, I listened to these signs. At that instant, I felt determined and ready to stay away from red meat.

It's true that we are what we eat, and undeniably, we feel what we eat. Making small changes, choices, actions outside of what's familiar in my family dinners, and in my diet require tons of willpower, self discipline and practice on giving polite "no, thank you, I'm abstaining from red meat" smiles. But the reasons behind going red meat-free are enough to motivate myself further.  

My reasons for going red meat-free

  • Better hormone balance, particularly estrogen. 
    • Grain-fed, hormone-injected meat slows down our digestion, making us feel bloated, constipated, and raises our estrogen levels. A high meat intake diet is resulted to higher body mass index (BMI), and having harmful meat sources will slowly lead to estrogen dominance symptoms
  • Lowers risk of colon, breast cancers, and cardiovascular diseases
  • Lowers mortality rate
    • Substituting 1 serving per day of other foods—like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains—for red meat could lower the risk of mortality by 7% to 19%. (Source: Harrison Wein, Ph.D, National Institute of Health)
  • Animal cruelty
    • Factory farming methods are unbelievably cruel. Pigs for instance, are genetically selected to grow so obese and so fast. They are butchered with no pain relief, when they are capable of feeling pain and suffering. Pigs are smarter, and trainable than other domestic animals like dogs and cats. Yes, they are bred for human consumption but it does not change an animal’s capacity to feel pain, fear, or sorrow😞

I'm halfway there to cultivate this new habit, when on average, it takes 66 days before a new habit becomes automatic, according to Phillippa Lally's study on "How long it actually it takes to form habit". Certainly, red meats supply lemen iron and vitamin B12, which can be easily absorbed by our bodies, especially women. Hence, I am taking iron pills during and after my period, and vitamin B12 everyday. 

So I'm celebrating this change that makes me feel good and sharper with all that high vibes stuff I'm having. It's a slow, long process to embrace. My advice to you is that you can make better selections and portions of red meat you eat, learn the source of your food and choose grass-fed beef than grain-fed, they are leaner which makes it lower in total fat and saturated fat. 

To end this post, I would want to leave you with this impactful quote from my last read "A Tribe Called Bliss":

Look at each choice and ask how it will make you feel. What emotion does it feed and nurture? The more we bring our awareness to our food the more we will know what to eat to feel the way we want to feel.
— Lori Harder
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AVOCADO CASHEW NO BAKE CHEESECAKE (serves 8 squares)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Refrigerate: 4 hours

Crust

  • 7 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios
  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Pinch of pink himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tsp Brain dust by moon juice (optional)

“Cheese” Filling

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 4 tbsp cashew butter 
  • 4 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp green barley (optional)

Toppings

  • Drops of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • A handful of washed edible flower petals, i used chrysanthemum flowers

Bakingwares

  • 2 pcs 18cm x 27cm non-stick baking paper
  • 1 pc 11cm x 21.5 cm aluminium foil tray

Directions

  • Add all crust ingredients into a food processor and blend them for 30 seconds at high speed, or untill they become crumbs. Pinch the crumbs using your thumb and index finger, they should be sticky. Add another pitted date if its too dry. 
  • Lay one 18cm x 27cm non-stick baking paper on a 11cm x 21.5 cm aluminium foil tray. Roll the crust into 2 huge balls, and press them into the tray evenly. Set aside. 
  • To make the cheese filling, wash your food processor and blend all filling ingredients with it at high speed till they are smooth and creamy. If the filling is too thick, add a splash of nut milk (approx 1 tsp) and blend again. 
  • Pour the filling over to the crust and spread evenly. Add a few drops of lemon on the surface (to delay browning), and sprinkle desiccated coconut over.
  • Cover the cheesecake with another baking sheet and refrigerate for 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry to make this, put it in a freezer. 
  • Slice the cheesecake into 8 squares, and sprinkle petals over to serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • This is a dairy-free, gluten-free with no refined sugars added.
  • If dates are not in season, you can substitute them with 8 dried figs or prunes. 
  • I am using barley grass powder to enhance the green tone of the cheesecake! This green booster is high in alkaline, and actually helps to neutralise the acidity of our bodies. 
  • Braindust is a blend of adaptogens of superherbs and supermushrooms to help promote focus, mental clarity and concentration. 

Enjoy!Xx

Ally

ELDERFLOWER & CHERRIES SMOOTHIE

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Rise and shine fellas! I'm stoked to release a series of floral recipes alongside Windflower Florist over the span of three months. Be sure to look out for more alluring, floral recipes! 

Convenience is key to prepare breakfast when we live by racing against time once we get off from bed. Therefore, for the first item of this floral repertoire, I'm serving a light, zingy and filling Elderflower & Cherries Smoothie, perfect for a quick breakfast. Does elderflower remind you of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's stunning wedding cake? 

I was inspired by the royal wedding and the fragrance of elderflower cordial when I first drank it last Summer in Scotland. It is heavenly😌 

Fixing this smoothie comprising of cherries, frozen bananas, grapefruit, coconut oil and turmeric, you'll be certain that this combination is packed with power antioxidants, and good fats to last you through a long morning.

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Even if you only have 5 minutes every morning to fix a breakfast, you can pit the cherries and slice the grapefruit the night before. Then, put all sliced cherries and grapefruit in a bowl, and cover them with a cling wrap or a plate to prevent them from drying up. 

Blending them up and filling the pink mixture into a see-through tumbler take barely 5 minutes. It's beautiful to hold and drink on the way to work that it makes me happy! (I'm guilty for pretty things, how can you not?)

Alternatively, you can blend the smoothie and store it an airtight mason jar or container overnight to stop it from oxidising. However, do not be alarmed when that rosy pink mixture has browned overnight, it is still nutritious and drinkable. The browning effect is a result of cherries, or any berries added in the smoothies. Shake it up before you drink in the morning. 

Before we start making this smoothie, let's talk about cherries! Cherry is the fruit of this summer harvest. The sweetness of cherries are addictive, and amazingly nutritious to snack. Step into any nearby supermarket, look out for the shelves at the front of the store, you'll never missed containers of cherries on promotion. 

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How to choose cherries?

  • Select cherries that are dark red, firm and glossy on their surface. 
  • Dark coloured cherries indicate their ripeness and sweetness. Handpicking them will be ideal instead of buying them in a plastic container. If you're thinking of storing them for more than a week, choose those with a lighter red tone.

How to store cherries?

  • To maintain its best sweetness and condition, refrigerate them in a plastic cover crate, or plastic bag for a week. 

Here's some benefits of cherries

  • Reduces belly fat
  • Helps to maintain body's ideal pH balance with its high alkaline content
  • Increases melatonin level which promotes better, beauty sleep and helps cure insomnia
  • Lowers blood sugar level
    • With a low glycemic index of 22, lower than blueberries (54) or strawberries (41). Therefore with a lower GI level, it will not have much impact to increase our blood sugar levels, which make them better for healthy snacking. 
  • Slows the aging process, reduces post-exercise muscle pain.
    • Cherries ranked as the highest antioxidant level amongst any fruit. Antioxidants help the body fight the free radicals that make us look old and form a protective layer to reduce muscle damage and pain after strenuous exercises. 
  • Boosts hair health
    • Vitamin A,B,C and E are present in cherries. The abundance of vitamins improve blood circulation that results in regenerating of existing hair cells and boosting hair growth, strengthening of hair follicles, and maintains moisture in the hair and scalp.  

If you have any questions regarding this recipe, leave a comment below!Hope you enjoy this perk me up smoothie as much as I do! 

Also, to end sign off, here's my summer playlist of soothing beats to get ready every morning! 

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ELDERFLOWER & CHERRIES SMOOTHIE

Serves 1

Time: 10 minutes (including preparation)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp elderflower cordial (Belvoir)
  • 10 cherries
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 frozen large Cavendish bananas
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp organic coconut oil (Aunt Patty's)
  • 200ml almond milk (Ecomil) 

Directions

  • Peel bananas skin, cut them in quarters and freeze them at least one night before using.
  • Give the cherries a good wash to remove any remaining pesticides. Pluck the stem, take a knife to cut around, give it a twist, and remove the pit. 
  • Slice around the grapefruit to remove skin. Remove the pith (white bitter part) of the grapefruit, and cut the remaining into bite sized chunks. 
  • Place all ingredients into a blender, and blend for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth. 
  • For a thinner consistency, add 2 tbsp almond milk each time and blend again till desired.
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Enjoy!Xx

- Ally

 

  

GATHER | A BOHEMIAN INTIMATE HENS PARTY

Just on the last Good Friday, I had the pleasure to collaborate with several talented, and incredible vendors on a hens party Morrocan Boho style shoot. I've been dreaming about styling a beautiful food spread for a long time! This boho theme party was largely inspired by a Morrocan Inspired Elopement shoot from Nicole Ashley when I was looking for a wedding photographer for my own wedding. From hanging a floating floral sponge foam covered with baby's breath on the ceiling to donning models with a spectrum of blush bridal robes- it was absolutely amazing to feel and see how everything came together delicately. This is definitely one of my highlights in March😌

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Planning a memorable hens party for the bride is one of the most significant duties for the bridesmaids. Recently, there's a shift from having lavish party; whereby over-spending is a first-world disaster, to having a cost-effective, cheerful, and comfortable stay-home party. We all might be money rich, but we are time poor today. Therefore, an intimate, stay home hens party also serves as an opportunity for ladies to own their space, and pick up where they left off. 

Essentially, the bride certainly wants to enjoy a hella good time with all her closest girl pals over a gorgeous spread of food and drinks. To prepare for a party, we are expecting that someone will be late, and nobody prefers to indulge in a dish that turns cold. With this in mind, the recipes I am going to share with you are communal and ideal to consume at room temperature. They are quick and easy for both amateur and experienced ladies in the kitchen!  

Here's the spread that caters to 4-6 servings, three of which are showcased in my video above:

1. Beetroot Hummus with wholegrain crackers:

It's pink and feminine, especially for a girly-girl affair. Hummus is a great protein source in this spread, when you have friends who are vegan or vegetarian. This savoury dip is irresistible and the most popular dish during the shoot😻. By the looks of it, there's nothing intricate but simple ingredients to make hummus every day- with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon juice as your base ingredients. Then spice it up with beetroot, coriander, cumin and paprika to expand the antioxidants content in this humble dip. 

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2. Rice cakes in 2 ways:

I was first introduced to rice cakes by my beloved veggiebeast fiance. We regard them as one of our staple, healthy snack because they are fat-free and low calorie. For those that are salt-free and sugar-free, they are inevitably tasteless. Fret not, because these rice cakes balance out your palate nicely against any sweet or savoury toppings on them. After much experimenting, avocado with hot peri peri sauce is my final top choice, followed by strawberries on cacao almond butter with bits of cacao nibs. 

* Be sure to prepare rice cakes just before the party starts as they soften and lost its crunch within a short period of time. Upon buying rice cakes, do look out for the "wholegrain" stamp to ascertain that they are made from brown rice, with no added sugar, salt or flavourings. 

3. Glowy fruit 🍓🍉🍋🌿 infused water:

You can prepare this a night before the party. Hydrate away with this effortless fruit infused water to a fabulous, smooth and glowing skin. Watermelon is rich is lycopene, an antioxidant to get us soft and glowing skin. With its topical Vitamin C content that is also found in strawberries and lemon, it helps to promote collagen production, protection from our daily exposure to UVA and UVB rays. In addition, it helps lightening pigmentation too. I love the cooling sensation from mint leaves, and I recommended adding at least 2 sprigs in each carafe, let it sit for at least 20 minutes or overnight for a richer sweet tone. Mint allows our body to improve digestion, relieve our fatigue and headache from a bad night sleep. This can be a morning drink after a mandatory glass of water. 

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4. DIY simple cheeseboard:

Get a good quality spread of different types of cheese: soft, aged, and funky. In this style shoot, brie, aged cheddar and blue cheese were selected to fit the categories. They are inexpensive and readily available at any large supermarket. In addition, lay some rice crackers, salami, grapes, figs, dried apricots and any nuts of your choice to complete this perfect cheeseboard. Last but not least, pour a glass of wine each for a little fanciness. 

Wine and Cheese pairing examples:

  • Brie & Charddonay
  • Cheddar & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Blue & Riesling 

5. Roasted Pumpkin Salad with White Miso Tahini Dressing:

Salads are one of the less intimidating meals to prepare ever. They are versatile, colourful and satisfying to crunch into a forkful of freshly dressed ingredients at any occasion. In this salad, Japanese pumpkin cubes are tossed with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and coated with coconut oil before heading to the oven. A thick, dense white miso tahini combination is as versatile as a thousand island dressing for any shredded veggies or greens. Of course the guilt-free version, haha. Now that its spring time, or summer all year long in Singapore, this light appetiser mirrors the freshness of the weather outdoors, which makes it ideal choice as part of this spread. 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 medium squash/pumpkin, deseed and cut in cubes
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted black sesame seeds
  • 250g napa cabbage, shredded
  • 250g red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 10g coriander, finely chopped
  • 10g scallion, finely chopped 
  • ¼ cup croutons 
  • Himalayan pink sea salt

Dressing

  • 1½ organic white miso paste
  • 1 tbsp tahini sauce
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp fried shallots

Directions

  • Remove skin from carrot using a vegetable peeler, shred it thinly. 
  • Pour coconut oil over squash cubes, toss lightly and sprinkle with sea salt. 
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.. Lay a baking sheet on a baking tray. Arrange squash cubes on the tray with a little gap in between. Pour remaining coconut oil over squash, place it o the middle rack and roast it for 15 minutes. Remove tray from oven, flip squash cubes on the other side and roast for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • To make the salad dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients in a bowl until it forms a smooth consistency. Add 1 tsp of water to the dressing each time and whisk the sauce if it is too thick for your preference.
  • Assemble all the salad ingredients and roasted squash into a huge salad bowl. Drizzle white miso tahini dressing over salad and toss to combine. 
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Photography: Antelopestudios

Prop Styling: Wulalaaa

Food Styling: Poutandchow

Robes: Bellsandbirds

Makeup: iheartblooms yuhui_aw

Blooms: windflowerflorist

With lots of love,

Ally