LOTUS ROOT NIAN GAO SANDWICHES WITH TANGERINE GLAZE | 莲藕年糕和柑橘糖衣

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Sink your teeth in these crispy festive sweet treats, you won’t stop after one for the gooey-ness

Quick question, what are the sweet things that come to your mind during Chinese New Year? If tangerines, and Nian Gao (sweet sticky rice cake) popped up, then we have a match!✨

Today’s recipe is a modern twist to the deep fried Lotus Root Nian Gao my late 啊嬷 (grandma) used to make for our reunion dinner. This oven-baked crispy crumbed lotus root lend a striking contrast to the melted traditional sweet sticky rice cake. With a sparing swirl of tangerine glaze over them, it gives a desired citrusy flavour for this festive occasion! For a festive gathering with Asian relatives who are obsessed with auspicious symbolisms, the snack holds a few homonyms you can share with them, it will warrant their desire to have more.

  • Tangerines: Wealth, good fortune, and abundant happiness

  • Lotus root: Abundance, the holes represents a mind open to new ideas

  • Nian Gao (sticky rice cake): Increasing prosperity

Now you know what I mean? 😏

This is the first Chinese New Year without my late grandma around, and it wouldn’t be the same as before. I believe in preserving her recipes to reminisce the fond memories we shared together and to leave a trace of her during this occasion.

The traditional version of her Lotus Root Nian Gao consisted of a thick slice of Nian Gao sandwiched between lotus root or any other root vegetables like sweet potatoes and yam, coated them in a thick batter and deep fried till golden brown. The first bite was crispy on the outside, delicate on the inside, and you got the “mozzarella pull” from the melted, and gooey Nian Gao. Usually I stopped after one, satiated by its richness and oiliness that I knew one was enough. Anything more will be less of an indulgence.

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In this space where I am constantly exploring for ways to eat better without compromising the goodness, less oil was used. Both Lotus Root and Nian Gao are sliced about 1 cm each, dipped in a well-beaten egg wash, coated with panko crumbs, brushed with remaining egg wash and baked on a melted ghee base. While you’re waiting, brew a pot of osmanthus tea. Once they are pipping hot from the oven, quickly swirl a wee amount of citrus glaze on the Nian Gao, take a careful bite and a sip of aromatic osmanthus tea!

What is ghee?

  • Ghee is typically made from cow’s milk. It is a highly clarified butter melted from regular butter. When butter is melted, it separates milk solids and liquid fats. Ghee only contains liquid fats as milk solids are removed.

  • Ghee contains lower levels of dairy proteins such as lactose and casein, which may be suitable and better for individuals who are intolerant to lactose and casein. They may use it as a substitute for butter.

  • The nutrient profile of ghee and butter are similar as they are byproducts of cow’s milk. They contain saturated fats, which a moderate amount is still essential for a healthful diet.

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LOTUS ROOT NIAN GAO SANDWICHES WITH TANGERINE GLAZE

Quantity: 22 pieces

Preparation Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 40 mins

Difficulty: 4/10

Diet Notes: Vegetarian

Notes:

  • Choose lotus root that has a firm texture. Cook within one week of purchase.

  • Rinse lotus root with cold water and tangerine thoroughly.

  • Use one hand to dip lotus root nian gao sandwiches in the egg wash and use the other hand to coat it with panko crumbs.

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate lotus root nian gao sandwiches up to 3 days. Be sure to reheat and eat when its hot.

  • You can substitute eggs wash with melted butter, ghee, or olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g lotus root, peeled, chopped in 1 cm circles for 22 pieces

  • 300g store bought New Year Nian Gao (wrapped in banana leaves), sliced in 11 squares, approximately 5 cm each.

  • 1 cup panko crumbs (Fry top)

  • ¼ cup plain flour

  • 2 cage-free eggs, beaten

  • 1½ tsp ghee (House brand)

TANGERINE GLAZE

  • 1 mini tangerine, washed thoroughly and peeled

  • 1 tsp mandarin orange rind

  • 5 tbsp powdered sugar (icing sugar)

KITCHEN TOOLS

  • Sieve

  • Baking Sheet

  • Basting Brush

  • Vegetable Peeler

  • Cleaver

  • Kitchen Towel

  • Whisk

ADDITIONAL (optional)

  • 1 litre osmanthus tea (consists of 2 tbsp dried osmanthus from Hock Hua Tonic)

DIRECTIONS

  • Turn on oven to 180°C at upper and lower heat setting. Lay baking sheet on the tray and brush ghee over the surface.

  • Arrange lotus root slices on kitchen towels to pat them dry on both sides. Pour plain flour into sieve and lightly dust over one side of lotus root only. Turn over lotus root to the un-dusted side facing up.

  • Place nian gao on 11 pieces of the un-dusted side of lotus root, and cover with remaining lotus root, with the dusted side facing up. Dip each sandwich into egg wash, followed by panko crumbs. Gently shake excess crumbs and lay them on the baking sheet, with minimal space in between.

  • Brush remaining egg wash on top of the sandwiches. Bake for 40 minutes. Then, bake for another 10 minutes at the upper heat setting. Slice each sandwich into half.

  • For the tangerine glaze, squeeze tangerine juice in a bowl. Remove seeds, and add powdered sugar. Whisk till a smooth flowing consistency. Grate 1 tsp tangerine rind and add into the mixture. Give a quick stir, drizzle a desired amount on the lotus root nian gao sandwiches. Enjoy with a pot of osmanthus tea.

Lots of love,

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)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

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