Delicious, Fun & Healthy Food


"Vietnamese Style" Rainbow Noodle Salad

Salad, Dinner, LunchLina LiwagComment

It feels like an endless summer here in Toronto and I'm loving it!  Salads are still the way to go when it's hot and sticky outside.  Vietnamese vermicelli salad used to be one of my favourite Asian-inspired dishes and I've since tweaked this classic to make it more enjoyable for my family and guests.  My friend Pressie loved it when we had her family over three weeks ago.

"Vietnamese Style" Rainbow Noodle Salad

1/2  package brown rice and millet noodles (cooked according to package directions)
or your choice of gluten-free noodles
3 cups shredded purple cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and  spiralized or cut into thin julienne
1 zucchini spiralized or cut into thin julienne
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/3 c. sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 c. mint leaves, thinly cut
1/4 c. cilantro, thinly cut

1/4 c. lime juice
4 Tbs. Braggs liquid aminos
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1  1/2 Tbsp. avocado oil or walnut oil
1  1/2  Tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced

Prep all ingredients and assemble the salad 30 mins. before serving.  Leave some of the herbs, peas and sunflower seeds for topping.  This can serve from 6-8 people.  See some variations below.



There's a lot of ways this can be made:  adding your own choices of veggies and protein.  Sprouts and cucumber are great as well.  For a 100% plant-based option, I added green peas and toasted sunflower seeds.  Instead of using rice vermicelli, I went for brown rice and millet noodles (I used this brand).  For the dressing, I've replaced fish sauce with Braggs liquid aminos like this but  feel free to use coconut aminos or soya sauce or tamari. 

I hope you've been enjoying the last part of the Summer.  Tomorrow most kids go back to school in Canada.  My son started University a bit early last Thursday...exciting times for our family!  We're so grateful for this new milestone.    To celebrate the Labour Day weekend, we get to join our friends at a beach day yesterday.  We drove 2 hours to the Sandbanks and we had a blast!  I'm sharing some of the photos we took.


Black (Un)fried Rice + Happy Chinese New Year

Lunch, Dinner, AsianLina LiwagComment

Gong Hei Fat Choy!  The Lunar New Year's celebration is underway in many parts of the world, even in my own city.  It started on January 31st and will last for 15 days.   As custom goes, food is a huge part in all these festivities.  I'm not sure if you're familiar with the top "lucky foods" to eat at this time. Clementines or oranges, noodles and dumplings to name a few.  Take a look at the list here  or here.  At first I thought I'd be using one of these for the main ingredient to my Asian-inspired post but I had a change of heart.  Instead, I'm going back to my childhood memories.

 And so I started reminiscing about the  foods that I ate growing up in a place located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. The town is called Aparri and I just realized that it can now be found on Google map.   However, our small village which is on the western side across the huge Cagayan River will never be on Google map, I'm afraid.  Rice is grown big time here being an agricultural land.  It's eaten 3x a day -  yes even at breakfast!  Before my grandparents moved to California in the mid-70's, they were seasoned rice farmers back home....successful enough that they were able to send all their 6 children to university.  So let's just say that on several weekends and summer vacations in the 60's and  70's, my siblings and I experienced rice farming 101.  It was hard work, let me tell you.  And as a young child, I didn't really like it much then,  but I loved all the the foods that were being prepared during rice planting season and harvest time.  My grandma was a great cook.  She also grew a lot of vegetables and fruits, even coffee and cacao!  Our first experience with hot chocolate was from cacao beans harvested from her own backyard.  The word "fair trade" was not in foodies' consciousness yet at that time I don't think! 


Many of those rice fields have been passed down to the next generations and at this time, my sister who's an agriculturist manages them...don't know how she does it but  I'm glad she does as I would be totally lost having no experience and passion for farming nor a green thumb for that matter. 

So to celebrate the Lunar New Year and those awesome food memories of my childhood, I've decided to make "fried rice" but with a little twist of the classic. My family still grows Milagrosa, Jasmine or sticky rice in those fields but I've chosen black rice for this recipe.  Great for its fibre, nutrients and especially its antioxidants, it's usually the variety that I choose if ever I make a rice dish.  Check out these recipes that I've shared from over a year ago, here and here.  

The trick to this rice dish is using minimal oil (a total of 2 Tbsp. only). The 1 Tbsp. of oil is used to cook the garlic, ginger and scallions and the rest is mixed with the sauce. The vegetables were also lightly steamed.   This way the dish is not heavy and the vegetables still has a crunch and not overcooked.  


Black (Un)fried Rice
Ingredients (Preferably Organic):

For the Rice/Veggies:
1 cup organic black rice preferably soaked for up to 6 hours
1 1/2  cups water for soaked rice, 2 cups for unsoaked rice
2 cups broccoli florets, cut in small pieces 
1 1/2 carrots,washed, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes 
1 cup  frozen peas 
25 snow peas, thinly cut diagonally, about 1/4" thick and 2" long
3  cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped 
1" ginger grated 
4  scallions/green onions chopped into small pieces or cut diagonally
(separating the lighter parts (dark green parts for topping) 
1  1/2 Tbsp. avocado oil (see suggestions)

For The Sauce:
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil 
1  1/2  Tbsp.  mirin  (or 1 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 tsp. maple syrup)
3 Tbsp  wheat-free tamari or Braggs
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted 

1. Rinse the rice in a strainer under cold water then transfer to a pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil then simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 40- 45 mins. Fluff and cool it down.  Soaked rice cooks faster at 30 minutes.
2. After all the veggies have been prepped, place them except the snow peas in a steamer. Cook briefly making sure the veggies are still crunchy, about 5 minutes.  Add the snow peas on the last minute then remove from heat. 
3. Place the the avocado oil into a pan and on low heat, cook the garlic, lighter portions of the green onions and ginger until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes then turn off the heat.  Mix in the sauce then add the rice and veggies stirring a few times to incorporate all the flavours .  Transfer to serving bowl then top with sesame seeds and the rest of the scallions.  Enjoy!

1. For better digestibility, soak the rice for a minimum of 4 hours to 6 hours.  I've tried both ways and either one works.
2.Some other options for vegetables are: mung bean sprouts, Chinese napa cabbage, cauliflower or bakchoy.  This is a versatile dish so you can go creative.  
3. Please note that when it comes to oils, there are healthier options to use.  You can read a very informative article  "What's the Best Oil to Cook With" on this link here.


As I was reminiscing, I can't help but be thankful for all those wonderful experiences I had  in the Philippines.  We grew up where the air was clean and the ocean was pristine.  We ate fresh seafood and seaweeds from the ocean nearby.  Sunshine was abundant all year round.  Free Vitamin D!

My dad planted the biggest orchard in our neighbourhood.   It produced a variety of tropical fruits...all we did was climb up the different trees to pick the freshest and purest fruits in season. No chemicals or preservatives or no storage necessary.  And most of these trees are still bearing fruits over 50 years later.  We grew our own vegetables in our gardens.  We had many moments playing in our backyard or in the muddy rice fields connected we were to the earth...grounding, anyone?   Mind you, we never knew how lucky we were then.  Thank you Lord for all of these!

I hope you'll start reminiscing about your own childhood memories too.  Happy Lunar New Year!



Black Rice Noodle Salad With Purple & White Cauliflower + A Few Healthy Tips

Lunch, Salad, Asian, DinnerLina LiwagComment

When I saw this purple cauliflower at the market the other day, I just knew right away that I had to buy it.  Some girls are charmed by pretty flowers...I get carried away with fresh and colourful produce!  I originally wanted to make soup out of this pretty thing. Purple soup would really be amazing but it's summer and having soup now just didn't feel right to me so I've decided to postpone that soup for the fall.  Here's a noodle salad that's a little bit more appropriate for the season.  

Why purple? The colour actually means the presence of anthocyanin.  Anthocyanin  is responsible for the red, purple and blue colours present in vegetables, grains and fruits like blueberries or blackberries. Health experts say it’s a cancer fighter and  helps prevent  heart disease and improves memory.  Cauliflower (both varieties) is rich in vitamin C.  It also provides a good amount of fiber,  B Vitamins as well as Vitamin K, manganese and potassium. 



Before I get to the recipe, let me talk a little bit about a couple of  healthy tips.  In a previous post, I touched on Primary Foods (check the article here)   which I consider to be the core of  my health and wellness journey.  At this time, I would like to share  some of the practical things that I've done and continue to do.

Tip #1 - I was open to learning and the first book  I read was "Fit For Life" by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.  It was in 1994 when I made a shift from an all-Filipino diet to a lifestyle of eating differently.  The reason I desired for a change was due to regular migraine headaches that I was having then. 

Tip#2 - It's not easy to make a lifestyle keep it simple and start slowly. Based on my culture, eating white rice (and a lot of it) with meat was a norm.  Although I was not a big meat small change came about  by being more conscious of eating less rice and  then adding raw foods in the form of salads.



Black Rice Noodle Salad With Purple & White Cauliflower
Ingredients (Preferably Organic) 

1 pack (250 g.) black rice noodles (I used this brand) 
or soba noodles 
2 c purple cauliflower, cut into florets and lightly steamed
2 c. white cauliflower, cut into florets and lightly steamed
3 heads baby bok choy,  chopped to bite size pieces, lightly steamed

3 Tbsp. tamari (can also use coconut aminos or Bragg liquid aminos)
1 Tbsp. roasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp. brown rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. coconut nectar or maple syrup
1/2 to 1 tsp. grated ginger
a pinch of cayenne

3 Tbsp. unhulled sesame seeds, dry roasted
3 spring onions, sliced

1.  Mix together all the dressing ingredients in a small dish.  Adjust the taste if necessary and set aside.
2. Boil a pot of water, approximately 6 cups.  Cook the noodles according to package directions, about 4-5 minutes for this type and brand.  Make sure not to overcook as they will get mushy beyond those cooking times.  Rinse with cold water and set aside to cool down.  It's a good idea to let the noodles soak in filtered water if the dish is not being assembled for serving right away.  It prevents them from getting sticky. 
3. In a skillet or toaster oven, dry roast the sesame seeds until they turn fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.
4.  Lightly steam the cauliflower, about 3-4 minutes from the time the water boils.  Add the baby bok choy at the last minute of steaming then remove the vegetables right away to cool them down.
5. To assemble: mix noodles and vegetables, add the dressing and top with sesame seeds and green onions.  Serves 3-4.  Enjoy!

Note:  The purple cauliflower can stain other vegetables so it's a good idea to separate them when steaming or even when mixing the salad.  I think preserving their own colour especially if serving guests is a good tip so they would look even more pretty! You may also like this other noodle recipe here.