Pecan Banana Bread

One of my favourite things to do is to bake. I simply love the warm comforting smell and taste coming out of the oven and diffusing to the whole house. There is something about baking that helps me to process the day, and even makes me feel a little better if I’m feeling sad, tired or down.

I wrote about my ambivalence about returning to work or staying at home.  I think at the end of the day, it’s about what fits for your family and you. I count my blessings that I have a choice. My mum for instance, did not have a choice and had to return to work when I was 3 months young. Again, I’m one of those blessed kids that was surrounded by many loving family members- including my maternal grandmother whom I’m very very close to.

It’s a little strange that I am in this position. I remembered that when I was younger, I thought that I will definitely stay at home. I love my mum and she is a strong independent woman who is a fantastic had working role model. But I also recall times when I wished she is at home. Perhaps that is why, I thought that when I am a mum, that decision will come easily to me.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying paid employment. I work in the area of psychology and am very pleased that I am able to reach out to others. It is what God has directed me to do and I have accepted this gift with both hands. But what happens when God bless you with another gift- a gift of life where you can stay at home and nurture a life at the same time?

I’m a big believer of being attune to your child and respond to his needs. As he grows bigger, I believe I will put him in day care anyway for social interaction with adults and children. Having little immediate family around, I do think it is important to expose him to other activities and children besides the games and classes we attend together. It’s finding the balance as we go along I think that could be challenging.

My answer is this- I’m going to pray and wait and see.  If a door opens and it is an opportunity that I know God has directed me to, I will go towards it.  However, if the door closes then, I know where I’m being lead to. I think returning to full time work will not be in the equation.

The hard bit for me, is to stay in the moment. To simply enjoy time with Asher and being a housewife. A role I am so proud to be.

This pecan banana bread is from a recipe that I adapted from a friend. Besides baking being therapeutic, it also makes my hubby happy. I wrote before that he wakes early in the morning to go to work, so that he can be home to be with our son in the evening (and for me to head to the gym). Pecan banana bread is a nutritious quick morning breakfast where he could toast eat and go.

And that makes me happy.

Pecan Banana Bread (12 serves)
4 bananas mashed
1/4 cup nut butter of your choice
2 tablespoons of honey
1/4 cup of coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla paste
3 eggs
1/4 cup of pecan nuts crushed

handful of crushed pecan nuts

Preheat Oven 180C. Line baking loaf with baking paper.

Whisk honey,  banana, nut butter, vanilla and eggs together. In a separate bowl, place flour, nuts baking powder and soda. Pour wet to dry and fold. Spoon into baking tin. Sprinkle pecan pieces on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes till brown.

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Carrot Spinach Salmon Congee – Asher’s starting solids.

Most asian families introduce congee to their babies at an early age. It’s comforting and filling. Most of all, congee absorbs nutrition from meat or fish through its stock.

We, however, waited a little. Asher started solids at around 5.5 months/6 months. His first food? Mashed up avocado with breast milk. I was surprised as he took to it so quickly. Then it was banana which he disliked (texture perhaps?) and apple which he also didn’t like (too sour?). When we travelled back to KL/SG, he tasted sweet potato (japanese variety too! lucky baby), pumpkin, carrot, papaya, pear and….even durian! As his system got used to food, we decided to introduce congee to him at 7 months.

Why? Well, I truly believe that it is harder to digest rice and wheat than vegetables and fruits. For a delicate baby system, it just seems that the right time to introduce congee to him is when he is actually starting to enjoy his solids and ready for a bigger meal. His first congee was threadfin carrot and spinach and he ate it up real quick! I could tell he really enjoyed it.

At the moment, he has congee a few times a week. His favourite would be spinach and carrot with salmon- a combination that seems to work well. As for me? I’m just pleased that he is a good eater.

Carrot Spinach Salmon Congee (Serves 3)
handful of rice
1 bowl of water
100 grams chopped spinach
1/4 of grated carrot
50 grams of salmon

Placed rice and water into a rice cooker. Simmer and cook congee for 1 hour or so. About 20 minutes before serving, place spinach, carrot and salmon in porridge. Just before serving, mashed salmon up making sure there are no bones.

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Winter Melon Soup

One of the things I picked up during my recent trip to Singapore is to brew soups. As I grow older, I’m realised the nutritional value of having a bowl of slow cooked chinese soup for dinner.  It nourishes and is packed full of antioxidants.

In Singapore, my grandmother and mum cooked up a mean winter melon soup. The used a longish melon and would shred the fruit till it becomes “noodle” like- perhaps it is also called a winter squash. Here though, all i can find is the round version of winter melon. Hence I tend to chop it up in cubes.

I love the sweetness of this soup. The addition of dried oysters and scallops just brings it to another notch. Best of all, I’m sure this gets the nod from my family and in laws as a asian housewife.

Winter Melon Soup
300 grams winter melon in cubes
Reserved melon skin (Just 1-2 slices)
300 grams pork ribs
5 red dates
2 dried oysters
2 dried scallops
1 dried fig

Scald pork ribs. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker or thermal cooker. Slow cook for 5 hours or so. Enjoy!

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Berry Coconut Cake

Recently I met up with a girlfriend of mine who has decided that she will be a stay at home mum when her baby arrives. For me though, the decision isn’t clear.

I’m really lucky that I am able to take a full year off- a combination of paid and unpaid leave with some government incentives. It does not come without sacrifice as it would potentially mean slowing down my career progression as my peers continue to chug on with gaining more experience and going for trainings. It also does not mean I do not enjoy this time off. The ability to concentrate on my child and family is precious and priceless.

Asher is now approaching 8 months. Sooner or later, I will have to make a decision. To return to work or not? To change pathways? To stay at home? All these weigh up in my mind. Personally, I enjoyed my work before Asher and certainly missed being able to operate in that capacity (plus the adult conversations).

Then it’s the question on how do I juggle with work and family. Do women really have the balance? Or will I get to the stage where I really do MISS work and have a break away from Asher? How about the guilt most women face while not spending time with their child.

My husband- the ever supportive partner recommends me taking more time off so that Asher will be older when he attends day care. He likes having me home. It makes life simpler and he thinks we are happier. I like being home too. Although I know that I don’t hate work that much either.

And so what do I do when I ponder? I bake of course.

This is another of Teresa Cutter’s recipe- I loved it! It’s moist and coconuty.  She made it in two layers and coated it with frosting. I made mine in a single layer and made an avocado banana cacao frosting.  It is a lot of eggs but hey, they are good for you. The frosting? I can’t believe I have not posted this before- it’s AWESOME and it can be a pudding as well. That cake with a mug of coffee or tea is just divine for afternoon tea.

Berry Coconut Cake  (Cut into 12 serves)
6 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup of coconut oil
2 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla paste
1 cup of frozen berries
1 tablespoon of honey.

Preheat Oven to 180C. Line cake tin with baking paper.

Whisk eggs, honey and vanilla in cake mixer till it foams and becomes light. Fold in dry ingredients to wet. Spoon into cake tin and bake it for 45 minutes. Cool and frost with your favourite frosting.

Banana Avocado Cacao Frosting
1 banana
1 avocado
1/3 cup of cacao powder
1 tsp of honey

Blitz everything up!! Eat it as it is or use it as a frosting.

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Almond Coconut Crusted Chicken

The recent happenings at home means I cared for Asher by myself for a few weeks in Singapore. It was a truly humbling experience, as I reflected on the mums who are single parents or who have partners flying in and out. Perhaps I missed hubby but more so, I missed that extra pair of hands to look after Asher.

Back in Singapore, I’m regularly faced with questions such as why am I not working? I guess the easy answer to that is Asher needs me and I have no other help in Perth. I’m sure that when the time comes for me to put him in day care, it wouldn’t be a tear free (on my part) one. However, right now, I get to cherish time at home and I’m planning to do just that.

Staying in the moment or mindfulness is actually harder than it seems. As a mum and wife, my mind is constantly running a million miles an hour. This trip overseas, caring for my grandma made me realised how important is it to just cherish the minute that we are in. When Granny was in ICU, all i could think about was to be thankful that she is well looked after and be grateful for every extra trip I can make to the hospital to see her. Same thing when she returned home. I’m grateful for every cuddle she gave Asher as she slowly regained her strength.

Yet being mindful is so important to our well being. It makes me a better mum. I tell myself to be in the moment with Asher. He doesn’t know that my mind tends to run away, but his delighted smile that I’m with him will always stay in my mind. It makes me a better wife. How many times I have to put down my social media equipment and just listened attentively to what hubby has to say? In food and fitness wise, it made me sit up and listen to my own body. Did I push myself too much? Or do I need to work on my strength further? I certainly hope it has made me a better person overall.

I try not to stress over meals. Or household chores. I try to use whatever equipment I have to help me to do my best to cook. It is no secret that I adore using my oven to cook. I love being able to set it and leave it. After settling bub into his night time slumber, hubby and I enter the kitchen and dinner is freshly cooked.

I was looking at jazzing up plain chicken breast without the use of breadcrumbs. Who doesn’t like crispy chicken? This is a coconutty version of it. I happened to have moist coconut flakes but I think desiccated coconut would work just as well. The moist coconut flakes did add a little sweetness to it though.

Almond Coconut Crusted Chicken 
2 x chicken breast cut up in finger fillet size
1 cup of almond meal
1 cup of coconut flakes
1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp of cinnamon
salt and pepper

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 200C. Line trays with baking paper.
Mix almond meal, coconut, spices and seasoning together on one plate. Egg beaten in another. Dip chicken into egg then almond meal. Place on trays. Oven baked it for 30 minutes or so. Serve with a salad.

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Paleo Lemon Chai Muffins and My Trip Away

Oops! It’s the month of March already? I promised I would blog more but I was away for a good reason. We took our first plane trip as a family back to KL and SG to celebrate CNY. Alas, I had to stay a few weeks more to look after my grandmother who was in hospital.

Family portrait before granny was admitted. I love this shot of my family and us!

It was a very traumatic few weeks as we had to call an ambulance and witness my beloved grandmother being in ICU and intubated. She is a strong lady and gradually responded to the treatment. I was so pleased that she is home, that I could barely let her off my sight and monitored all her food and vitals closely.

This episode also taught me family love. Relatives from Hong Kong flew back to be beside her. Grandmother’s sister stayed with us for a few days to care and cook for her. Through her, I learned more home cooked cantonese dishes which I’m keen to replicate at home. My mother learned how to make soups and I learned a few more slow cooked Chinese soups (you can literally hear the glee in my husband’s voice here). I get to spend more time with my family including my parents. Of course, it means that Asher gets to meet heaps of his uncles and aunties, grand uncles and grand aunties, cuddles from many relatives that he wouldn’t be able to meet or greet otherwise.

Hubby and I were also apart for a few weeks as he had to fly back to work. It was a tough few weeks as I learned how to juggle

All these though, brought us closer as a family unit. I can’t wait to see my parents and grandmother again. I have learned to appreciate time- and be in the moment even more. 

I’m back sharing this recipe by Slim Palate. I have only recently discovered Joshua (who is 18 by the way and cooking fabulous food) and his blog. Browsing through his story makes me ashamed of how basic and simple my cooking is compared to his! He comes up with amazing real food recipes and this one caught my eye.  I love how he used chia seeds as “poppy” and use of apple cider vinegar to give it a tang.

I have been experimenting more with coconut flour and is growing to LOVE it. The dense nature of this flour means more liquid has to be added. But once the right ratio is achieved, it provides unlimited experimentation of different cakes and treats. I increased the baking soda in this recipe as I find it gives it more of a lift and a lighter feel to the muffins.  Since I love my lemons, I added more zest and juice as well. I think I can make further improvements- it’s still a little more dense for my liking so I might add some other raising agent. Certainly more lemons will be better as well. There is always a next time!

Paleo Lemon Chia Muffins (makes around 8 for me)
1/2 cup of coconut flour
2 tablespoon of chia seeds
1/2 tsp baking soda
zest from 2.5 lemons
4 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of almond milk
1 tsp of honey
4 eggs
1/4 coconut oil

Preheat Oven to 180C. Line liners into muffin trays.

Whisk dry ingredients (coconut flour, chia seeds, baking soda, and salt) together. In a separate jug, whisk all wet ingredients such as the juice, vinegar, almond milk, honey, eggs, oil and zest. Pour wet to dry and fold.  Bake for 25 minutes. Cool and eat.

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