Thursday, March 21, 2013

Silk: Non-dairy Yogurt

Just had to post this while I'm eating it...

I've tried some different non-dairy yogurts before and have not had too great an experience until now. I have tried the soymilk ones from Whole Soy & Co. The texture was slightly grainy and not thick and creamy like regular yogurt. I have also tried almond milk yogurt from Amande. This was like eating flavored almond milk agar jello (if you know Vietnamese "tat", a firm white jello made with coconut milk and (I think) agar). The texture was not creamy but too light and gel-like.

I have recently bought the Silk "fruity & creamy" soymilk yogurts and these really hit the spot. The first was Black Cherry, which I thought was pretty tasty. But the flavor that prompted me to write this is the peach mango flavor. It's just so good! It is not as creamy as 2% or whole milk yogurt, but has a light creaminess and the right consistency.

It's made with soymilk, cane sugar, maltodextrin, peaches, mangoes  natural flavor, tricalcium phosphate (calcium source), pectin, sodium citrate, citric acid, vegetable juice (color), sea salt, locust bean gum, malic acid, Vitamin D2, and Live & Active Cultures

The sugar content, 19g, is lower than most milk-based flavored yogurts (often topping 20-30g of sugar per serving). It also has 6 g of protein, which much be from the soymilk, because no other source of isolated protein is listed in the ingredients. I think this is great because Americans are getting too much chemically-isolated proteins in their diet. We do eat enough meat, nuts, and legumes to give us enough protein. We do not need soy or milk protein isolates. They are usually derived through strenuous chemical and physical separation processes that wastes the rest of the original material and puts the final product through too many chemicals and treatments. If you want more protein, people, don't suffer those chalky powders! Just eat a handful of almonds or a chicken thigh. I assure you that you'll enjoy that better.

This was not endorsed or sponsored  by Silk. I just really liked this yogurt and wanted to share my experience.

Question of the day: Have you tried alternative yogurts/ice creams? What is your favorite brand and flavor?

Happy Springtime!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cooking with Love: Steamed Flounder and Pumpkin Cheese Pie

My boyfriend is a sweet guy. He is willing to try new things (to an extent) and willing to help out when I ask him. I believe that what makes our relationship work so well is that we communicate to each other when something is problematic. He keeps me modest with his honesty and pointing out awkward or inconsiderate mannerisms of mine. Things I cook, bake, and other things I do, he points out what is good but also what I could improve on. Truth be told, it irks me sometimes because I may not be looking for perfection right then, just somethibg passable so I can move on. Nevertheless, I give consideration to his comments, even if I respond defensively at first.

I have been trying to teach him how to be more self-sufficient and proactive lately. As we are both becoming independent adults, I believe it is necessary to learn how to take care of oneself. Cooking and household chores are basic skills every person should be able to do when they become an adult, regardless of sex/gender. Eventually, our parents will not be there to take care of us all the time, and we have to rely on ourselves for food, comfort, and care. Furthermore, one cannot subsist on eating out for nearly every meal. You would go broke before you even pay rent. 

This is why I have been teaching my boyfriend how to cook, wash and dry clothes, and some minor cleaning.  Also, he had to learn how to take care of my dog - that's a life skill too! But, I have to admit that I have alternate motivation for teaching him these skills. As a graduate student, volunteer, and dancer, I don't have that much time to take total care of two dependent boys (bf and dog). So I wanted my boyfriend to learn how to cook and do some simple household chores. Then, I could come home from my usual 8-9 hour workday and not have to cook, clean up, and study before attempting to get a decent amount of sleep before another long workday. A woman's dream: to have dinner prepared when she gets home and not have to bother with cleaning everything.

I talked with my bf about this and he was understanding. So wonderful, to have a bf who listens and tries to improve. After our talk, the rest of the day was splendid. What unfolded was a scene I had always fantasized about in my future settled life. My bf and I cooked dinner together and he helped with baking my pie. We had dinner together, no TV (although small distractions intermittently from his cellphone game) and the food was spectacular.

I guess that food just tastes better when you take time to prepare it with someone you love.
The dish that we created together was a soy steamed flounder with sauteed zucchini and steamed rice. My bf is learning how to cook perfect rice on the stovetop through trial and error. Eventually,  he'll finally remember the process. Nevertheless, the rice he made was not too bad. A tad mushier than "perfect" white rice but still I enjoyed the creaminess of the moist rice. I dont make perfect rice yet either, nothing like my mom's. So, as you can see, we are both still learning.

The flounder recipe was prompted by a sale of wild-caught flounder fillets at a local grocery store. My bf always comments how his Cantonese family generally steams food. It is healthier, simple, and focuses on the freshness and flavor of the food itself, instead of the taste of oil or sauces. So I decided to do a steamed flounder, which was also recommended by the butcher at the fish counter. He suggested steaming because flounder falls apart if pan fried.

I used a recipe online as inspiration and ended up sauteeing zucchini, garlic,  ginger, and some sweet pickled carrots and daikons my mom made for Tet (Vietnamese New Year). I seasoned the fillets with hot shot black & red pepper blend (McCormick) and lemon pepper seasoning, placed it on top of the vegetables with soy sauce and let that steam until cooked. 

I started making the pie earlier, finishing the graham cracker crust, when he came over and asked to help. We proceeded to make the filling together and I put it in the oven. As I had hip hop dance class for the next hour, I entrusted him with taking out the pie when done. When I came back, the pie was on the counter, beautifully browned and set.

We set the table with the pots of rice and main course, alongside the pie we made together. It was a proud and happy and loving moment for me and for us. This is a memory that will live on in my tastebuds and my mind, to remind me of how much I love my bf and how lucky we are to have one another.

Steamed Flounder and Vegetables (serves 2)
1 12 oz flounder fillet (preferably wild caught), cut into two pieces
Lemon pepper seasoning
Hot shot black & red pepper blend (McCormick) (can just use black pepper)
1 large zucchini (any squash works fine), cut into 1/4" thick slices then into fourths to sixths
(Carrots and radish, sliced thinly and marinated in a sweet vinegar brine, optional. Add other veggies if you want)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Tbs minced fresh ginger
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, green parts only, thinly sliced
Sesame seeds for garnish
Rice and soy sauce to serve

1. Heat large skillet (one that has a cap) over medium. Add olive and sesame oils. Add zucchini, garlic, ginger, and other veggies if using. Saute until veggies just start to soften. Add soy sauce and 3 Tbs water.
2. Season both sides of fish fillets with lemon pepper and hot black pepper seasoning. Make a bed of the vegetables in the bottom of the pan. Top with fish fillets. Cover pan and let steam till fish is cooked through and flakes easily (about 6 mins).
3. Remove pan from heat, top fish with cilantro, green onion, and sesame seeds (optional).
4. Serve with rice and soy sauce.

Pumpkin Cheese Pie (8-10 slices)
(Recipe adapted from Crust adapted from Dessertswithbenefits, a superb blog with nutritious, cute, easy, and innovative sweets)
Crust Ingredients
1.5 cups (cinnamon or honey) graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbs coconut oil
1.5 Tbs Smart balance butter (or softened butter)
1.5 Tbs Biscoff spread (cookie butter)
*(alternatively, just use 3-4 Tbs softened butter in place of the above three fats)
Filling Ingredients
1 cup pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup (unsweetened vanilla almond) milk
1/4 cup brown and/or cane sugar
1/4 cup apricot jam (no sugar added, not Splenda-sweetened)
2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 oz (1/2 bar) plain cream cheese
1/4 cup honey

1. Prepare the crust: preheat oven to 350 deg F. In a food processor, grind down crust ingredients to a coarse powder. Press into a 9" pie plate (don't have to press all the way up the sides). Blind bake for 10 minutes till lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Change oven temperature to 325 deg F.
2. Make filling: beat all filling ingredients till smooth and creamy. Pour into par-baked graham crust.
3. Bake for 40-50 minutes in the oven at 325 deg F till filling is set (edges not too browned, knife inserted into center comes out clean). Remove from oven and let cool at least 45 minutes before cutting and serving.
Both creations turned out very tasty. The fish was creamy, although next time I would saute my zucchini for a short time to preserve some of that nice crisp veggie texture. Also, I will reduce the sugar in the pie by removing the 1/4 cup of sugar and just relying on the jam and honey to sweeten the pie.

I hope you try these easy recipes out and make long-lasting memories with someone you love in your life too.