Chinese New Year Food: Bee Koh – Sticky Glutinous Rice Pudding

“Bee Koh” is another item on the list for our Chinese New Year festivities. It is basically just sticky glutinous rice pudding with sugar, pandan and coconut milk.

Bee koh

Here’s how it’s made…

Ingredients:

  • 1kg glutinous rice
  • Santan from 1 coconut
  • 3-5 pandan leaves
  • 400g sugar

Method:

  • Soak glutinous rice overnight. Steam for 1 hour.
  • In a wok, add sugar with some water and stir over medium heat until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add santan and pandan leaves. Stir over medium heat.
  • Remove from heat. Add glutinous rice. Mix well.
  • Return to heat and continuously fold the rice until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  • Remove from heat. Remove pandan leaves.
  • Scoop the rice onto a plate or into a bowl and mould the rice cakes by hand, packing them well so there are no air spaces inside.
  • Decorate the top with goji berries.

Super Smoothies: Maca and Lucuma

I first stumbled onto Maca when I saw it listed as a “booster” on “The Perfect Smoothie“. While I was looking for it at the shops, I stumbled onto Lucuma. Both have been touted as “superfoods” by various health food sites and are recommended smoothie boosters. Like the regular skeptic that I am, I had to do a little digging separate the fact from fiction…

Figur8 - undomestic nutrition

About Maca

Maca is a Peruvian plant that has been used for centuries in the Andes for nutrition and to enhance fertility. It is related to such plants as rapeseed, mustard, turnip, black mustard, cabbage, garden cress, and water cress. There are three types of Maca – black, red, and yellow. At the time of writing, most of the studies are quite preliminary as they have only been performed on animals. Based on these studies, the results demonstrate some differences in the beneficial properties between the different types of maca, although all types of Maca offer potential benefits for osteoporosis, libido, mood, mental focus, prostate issues, and metabolic syndrome.

…natives in the central Peruvian Andes ascribe to the use of maca in children improves school performance – Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012.

The key benefit of maca that caught my interest was its effect on latent learning and memory, and its antidepressant effect. Although all three types of maca had beneficial effects on latent learning and memory, it appears that black maca has the most potent effect.

…different evidences suggest that maca, particularly black maca, improves learning and memory – Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012.

Other beneficial properties of maca:

  • antioxidant – protect cells from oxidative stress and scavenges free radicals
  • decreases levels of very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL), total cholesterol, and triacylglycerols
  • improves glucose tolerance and lowers glucose levels in blood
  • improves bone mass

About Lucuma

Lucuma is a subtropical fruit of the Pouteria lucuma tree – native to Peru, Chile and Equador. It contains 14 essential trace elements, including a considerable amount of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Lucuma is also a good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, carbohydrates and vitamins (especially beta-carotene and vitamin B3) necessary for bodily functions and beneficial to the immune system.

Beneficial properties of lucuma:

Maca and Lucuma for Kids?

The biggest concern I have about any “supplement” is whether it is okay for the children to consume.

So far we’ve been quite conservative with our use of both maca and lucuma. We occasionally add 1 to 2 teaspoons in a smoothie serving for three – usually no more than a couple of times a week. I believe that the key with nutrition is not to get carried away – superfood or no. At the end of the day, the best diet is still from a wide variety of sources.

How do my boys tolerate maca and lucuma? So far so good…

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Wholegrain Butter Cookies for Chinese New Year

Yep… Even Chinese New Year shall be made “a little healthier” with our wholegrain and spelt butter cookies! And they taste just as good!

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We took the original “Melt-in-the-Mouth” Butter Cookie recipe and substituted 80g of plain flour with either wholemeal flour or spelt flour (we used Bob’s Red Mill organic flours).

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The result? I challenge you to try the recipe and tell me that it isn’t “more-ish”. Maybe next year we can increase the wholegrain portion… Now there’s a thought.

Chinese New Year Food: Nian Gao

Nian Gao – literally “year cake” – is a common feature in our Chinese festivals (especially the biggie – Pai Ti Kong). Being a mere peon in my MIL’s kitchen, I get the simple task of un-moulding and decorating so I don’t really know how to make these yet. As far as I understand, making Nian Gao is technique sensitive if you want to get it perfect so that automatically disqualifies me.

Still, I wanted to know how it was made so I looked it up. This is the recipe I found from Messy Witchen. It’s quite involved so I suggest you head over there for the step-by-step visual instructions. Given how involved it is, the mere thought of making this fatigues me already…

Ingredients:

  • 400g glutinous rice flour
  • 400ml water
  • 500g sugar

1 banana leaf
3-4 round tins (8cm-10cm diameter, 10cm height)
cotton string or rubber bands

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the rice flour and water to form a thick batter-dough. Mix in the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile blanch banana leaf to soften it. Use the leaf to line the tins in three layers. Allow leaf to extend above the tin; this can be folded back around the rim of the tin and tied with string or rubber bands. If you’re unable to find banana leaf, you can substitute with glass paper (also known as cellophane paper).
  3. Pour batter 3/4 way into the lined tins. Then cover the tins with muslin cloth to prevent vapour/water dripping into the cake. Secure with string or rubber bands. Note: I used batik cloth here (make sure it doesn’t stain) or I guess you can use any white cloth or aluminium foil.
  4. Steam over high heat for 10-12 hours, or until Ti Kuih has a nice brown color. Tsk I, myself steam the Ti Kuih with low heat. Remember to add water to steamer from time to time.
  5. Cool and allow to set overnight (preferably for 2-3 days) before removing the tins and trimming off the leaf for a neat edge. Leave aside for a week to allow Ti Kuih to harden slightly before cutting.

There is also a video from Nyonya Cooking:

The Smoothie Breakfast…

Eating a breakfast rich in protein may lower food cravings later in the day so here’s a protein breakfast smoothie for Mummy…

Morning Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp barley grass powder
  • 1 tbsp soya protein
  • 2 tbsp 5 grains powder
  • 1 date
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 tbsp nutella
  • milk

 Notes:

  • Dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from Cacao so I would a non-dairy milk instead, like soy milk. We didn’t have any, hence the milk.
  • The mix is very thick so depending on how you like your smoothies, I would add as much liquid as you require to get the dilution you prefer.
  • Not awesome like the Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie but quite palatable.

Soy Good or Soy Bad?

When it comes to nutrition, the information on soy seems controversial. It was once hailed as a superfood, but in recent times, it has been receiving some negative reviews. So what’s the low-down on soy? Is it good for us or not? After reviewing some of the arguments, my conclusion is this:

  • Don’t believe everything you read, even if the article quotes scientific literature for support because they’ve either misunderstood the source article or they’re hoping you won’t check it. Even when the arguments are factually correct, it can be misinterpreted.
  • There are instances when soy should be avoided, like when you have an existing thyroid problem and take medications for your thyroid (Dr Oz) but otherwise there is no indication to avoid soy in our diets.
  • As always, consume everything in moderation and eat from a wide variety or sources to ensure adequate nutritional intake because even too much of even a good thing can be bad.

For a more detailed run-down, read on…

About Phytates

One common argument against soy is that it contains phytates which inhibit the absorption of certain minerals. Although this fact is true, it appears to be misconstrued. While soy does contain phytate and phytate does reduce our absorption of several minerals, soy is not a particularly exceptional source of phytate (Vegan Skeptic). Additionally, Dr Weil adds:

  • phytates aren’t really as big a concern as it’s being made out to be because there is “no scientific data suggesting that eating whole soy foods leads to mineral deficiencies in humans”. As long as you are eating a balanced diet, phytate-associated deficiencies shouldn’t be a problem.
  • to reduce the phytic acid content, cooking and soaking your soy beans can help.
  • phytates have health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects. In laboratory research, phytates have helped normalize cell growth and stopped the proliferation of cancer cells. They also may help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower a food’s glycemic load.

About Omega-6

One article I read stated that soy is high in Omega-6 fatty acids and that we should avoid foods that are high in it. While too much Omega-6 fatty acids may not be good, we can’t do without it. It needs to be consumed through our diets because our body cannot produce it.

There are several different types of omega-6 fatty acids, and not all promote inflammation. Most omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come from vegetable oils, such as linoleic acid (LA). Be careful not to confuse this with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Linoleic acid is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. It is then further broken down to arachidonic acid (AA). GLA is found in several plant based oils, including evening primrose oil (EPO), borage oil, and black currant seed oil.

GLA may actually reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Having enough of certain nutrients in the body (including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.

Omega-6 has been linked to beneficial effects for various health conditions.

– University of Maryland Medical Center

Once again, we’re back to “everything in moderation”.

Fermented Soy

There is an argument that the reason why Asian populations do okay eating soy is because they consume fermented soy and only in small quantities. It is said that the amount of soy that Asians actually consume is something like 2 teaspoons. The example cited were the Japanese who consume soy sauce, tempeh and natto as condiments rather than as foundation meals.

Speaking as an Asian individual, this argument is flawed because the Chinese consume much higher quantities of soy and it is mostly NOT fermented. We eat tofu in our stir-fried dishes, in dim sum, and as a sweet dessert (tofu fah). We also drink soy bean milk – not the kind that is used as an alternative to milk. I think all this consumption qualifies for far more than the few teaspoons of fermented soy that Asians supposedly consume as part of a regular diet.

Photo Credit: Let’s Cook Chinese Food – Stir Fried Tofu with Mince Pork

About Isoflavones

The argument here is that isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors and can have similar effects to estrogen. However, according to Dr Oz, its effect is not nearly as strong as animal-based estrogen and human estrogen is over 1000-times stronger.

Isoflavones also have non-hormonal effects on the body that are very positive. They help regulate cell growth, which actually safeguards against some cancers. They also play roles in regulating cholesterol levels (Dr Oz).

See also:

The Bottom Line

You don’t need to go mad adding soy into everything that you eat, but neither do you need to avoid it altogether. Common sense could have told us that.


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