Happy Birthday to ME! Orange Almond Cake

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GASP! I’m another year older. What a year it has been. Last year, I had 4 month young Asher celebrating with us. Now he is 15 months young! Every year, we learn more. This year I learned

– that sleep is a wonderful commodity.

– coffee makes me happy

– slowing down is a joy.

– family is everything.

– that balance to be fit, strong and happy with my physical appearance.

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– I have drawn closer to my parents following my grandmother’s passing.

– work is work. While I enjoy what I do, my priority remains family.

– I might love my bargains, but quality matters more when it comes to shopping.

Today is family day. Life simplest pleasures. Having a day out with my boys makes me happy. Oh. Yes. And a slice of cake.

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This is another experiment of mine that I loved! Steaming the orange brings out the sweetness and juice. It was moist and satisfying. One recipe to keep for sure.

Orange Almond Cake

1 cup of almond meal

1/4 cup Coconut flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

4 eggs

1 tablespoon of honey

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 orange steamed for 45 minutes.

Optional- orange glaze.

half an orange juiced

1 orange zest

1 tsp of honey

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Pre heat Oven 180C. Place chopped steamed orange in a food processor. Blitz it for 1 minute. Then add all other ingredients. Switch it on and watch it come together. Spoon into a lined 9 inch cake tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes till done! To make the orange glaze, place half an orange juiced, zest and honey in a saucepan. Gently heat it up till it thickens slightly. Spoon onto warm cake. Top with some toasted sliced almonds. Serve with greek yogurt.

Roasted Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

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Ok, I’m a cheapie at heart. How can I resist when carrots are on sale at $1kg? I ended up with 3 kgs of carrots in my fridge. That’s quite a lot of carrots! I wrote often about my love for soups. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Making a big batch means I cook less- that means less washing up and more time spent baking and playing with Asher. That’s a big win for me!

I realised that this year, I have not made pumpkin soup. Horror of all horror. How can I forget that? I make pumpkin soup every year. It’s one of my winter favourites. So late in winter and early spring, I roasted pumpkin and those 1 kg of carrot and cooked it with home made stock. Stunning result. As I was putting my hand blender through it, I realised… hey! This actually looks like baby food! So Asher’s dinner is sorted too. Another win!

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Hubby wanted some meat. So just before serving, we pan fried a few slices of chopped up chorizo. It makes a perfect garnish I think!

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Roasted Pumpkin and Carrot Soup (Serves 6 and 3 baby portions)

1 pumpkin halved

1 kg of carrot chopped

1 tablespoon of honey

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of cumin

salt

500 ml of chicken stock

1 tablespoon of garlic

1 onion chopped

pan fried chorizo to serve

Pre Heat oven at 200C. Drizzle oil, honey, cumin and salt over pumpkin and carrot. Roast for 45 minutes. Cool vegetables down. Heat a deep pot with oil and sauté garlic and onion. Spoon pumpkin into the pot together with the chopped up carrot. Simmer with stock for 20-25 minutes. Cool and blitz with a hand blender. Serve warm with pan fried chorizo for the adults.

Lemon Curd Tart

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I really really love the gym I attend. Looking back, I think I have been there for at least 4-5 years. I started with going for 1 zumba class as I was bored with running. Gradually, that changed to 2 zumba classes, then a konga class, and eventually I tried boxing and fell in love with it. Now, I do a mix of boxing and metabolic conditioning mostly, but enjoy a class of Konga here and there.

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Why? It’s the people. The warmth yet encouraging atmosphere makes a big difference. Yes, metabolic conditioning can be intimidating at the start, but everyone is keen to help. People come up to each other and point out what has been done well. If I struggle with something, another member would provide tips. Recipes are shared. Frustrations are heard. Coffees are enjoyed. It goes beyond exercising.

So when one of my closest gym buddy decides to move interstate, we held a farewell. Since it is a gathering of like minded people, you can imagine the feast of clean eating food. This is my contribution.

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Lemon Curd Tart

To make the tart base

1 Cup of Almond Meal

1 Cup of desiccated Coconut

2 soaked dates

2 tablespoon of nut butter

2 tablespoon of oil

Process everything till it comes together. Press into well oiled tin. Blind bake at preheated oven 180C for 10-15 minutes or so.

To make the Curd

6 Eggs

1.5 cups of lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

2-3 tablespoon of coconut oil

1.5 tablespoon of honey

Whisk eggs, lemon juice, zest on very low heat in a saucepan. Slowly drizzle in oil and finally honey. Keep whisking till it becomes thick. Cool and fridge it as it will thicken further.

To Assemble

4-5 strawberries sliced

1/2 cup of toasted coconut flakes

On a cooled tart base, place strawberries. Spoon curd on top and smooth it. Sprinkle coconut flakes on it. Chill. Serve with love.

Mini Matcha Madeleines

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Ok, I have a slight obsession with matcha. I really really like matcha desserts. Problem is, most desserts or cookies out there with matcha is too sweet for me.

Stopping by the clearance rack at Myers a few months back, I picked up a “mini” baking tin set. With it came with mini madeleines shaped tin. I have never made madeleines but have tasted a few. I love how these tiny little light sponges tastes.

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Inspired by The Foodie Teen” , I adapted and made quite a few of these. They are really moorish. The good thing is that they are mini so having 2-3 with your cup of matcha latte or green tea is justified.

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Mini Matcha Madeleines (Makes 70)

1.5 cups of Almond Meal

2 tablespoons of Coconut Flour

3 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Flour

1 tsp baking soda

3 tsp of matcha powder

3 eggs

1 tablespoon of malt rice syrup

1/3 cup of coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla paste

Pre heat oven to 160C. Grease pan. Whisk all dry ingredients. In a jug, whisk eggs, malt rice syrup, coconut milk and vanilla. Fold wet to dry. Spoon into madeleine tray. Bake for around 8 minutes. Repeat till batter finishes!

Indian Style Beef Cheeks on Spinach and Paneer Cheese

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When the going gets busy, I tend to shove food in my mouth. Most days, I portion out my lunches or dinners as I know that I will probably put spoonfuls while thinking or doing other things. Eat fast so that I can get on and do other things is usually what goes through my mind.

While I have learned a lot of things from my hubby, slowing down and chewing is one that I did not expect to learn from him. Over the years, he taught me how to drive, garden, use certain softwares on a computer and even put together some pieces of furniture (still not his forte but he is better than me in that department!).  Food is my area but I realised that I have lots to learn from him.

See, hubby has a healthier relationship with food. He eats when he is hungry. He does not deliberately seek out snacks or treats. I used to feel annoyed that he isn’t liking or appreciating what I make. His response was simply “I’m not always searching for it does not mean I do not like them. I do. Each time I eat it, I’m conscious that I’m enjoying it”. In his way, he is trying to tell me that he is savouring what I make and by chowing down means he isn’t giving the food respect that it deserves.

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During meal times, I teased him that he eats slow to get off duty from feeding Asher. However, he has been brought up to chew his food slowly and deliberately.

For the past week or so, I have been consciously slowing down my speed in eating and drinking a hot beverage. Strangely, this act of slowing down not only makes me tastes my food more but calms me down. I did not realise that my mind is frequently on the go. Eating slow is almost like giving myself permission to enjoy what’s in front of me. Sometimes, I put a timer on for 10 minutes and just eat without checking my phone or iPad. I might flip through a magazine, slowly reading each article while chewing my food. That 10 minutes break in the day recharged me.

Another thing I learned this winter (It’s spring now!) is to cook with different cuts of meats. I usually slow cooked beef cheeks in red wine. Now that we are incorporating family dinners in our menus, it does not seem appropriate to feed Asher red wine infused beef! Instead, I marinated the beef with indian spices and cooked it in beef broth. I love the melt in your mouth meat with the dances of spices on my tongue.

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Indian Style Beef Cheeks (Serves 4 and 3 portions for toddlers- I froze some for a rainy day)

4 generous sizes of beef cheeks cut into half (that makes 8)

1 tablespoon of cumin

1 tablespoon of coriander

2 tsp turmeric

1 tablespoon of garam masala

1 tablespoon of garlic

500 ml of beef stock

1 tomato chopped

1 can of diced tomato

1 cup of button mushrooms

1 cup of peas

1 onion chopped

Marinate beef cheeks overnight with spices. In your pressure cooker or slow cooker, brown beef. Remove and sauté onion and garlic. Add in beef cheeks, stock , peas, mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook in pressure cooker for 45 minutes.

Spinach with Paneer Cheese

1 packet of Paneer cheese cut in cubes

500 grams of baby spinach

1 tablespoon of chopped garlic

Brown cheese cubes. Remove and set aside. Heat some oil up and brown garlic. add spinach and cook till it wilts. Toss paneer cheese through.

Lemon Coconut Loaf

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A working mum. It has been over a month once since I started working. Some days are tricky and some days are easier. I thank God everyday that my work is flexible and I can shift my hours around. It has also given me full admiration to full time working mums out there, juggling home and family life balance.

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For me, it’s all about being organised. I make meal plans anyway but now I have to consider 1) Can Asher eat this, 2) How much time do I have that day? and 3) budget. On the days I work, we tend to have either soups made from the day before, or perhaps an oven baked dish that I have pre marinated and prepared in the fridge. That just require me to pop it in the oven before I head to the gym or pick Asher up from day care. I’m also using the thermal cooker that my mother gave me a lot more. Nothing beats having a warm, chinese style broth after work. My kind of comfort food.

I’m also getting better and cutting vegetables and preparing ingredients the night before or perhaps even on the weekend. Most of the time, cooking is the easy bit. It’s the prep work and washing up!

Whenever I can, I make snacks and cakes in batches. I stock up on nuts, and we cut up a batch of vege sticks every few days. Some nights, I might even boil a few eggs and put in the fridge for some quick and handy protein attack. On nights I choose not to cook, we have tins of tuna or salmon on stand by or a frozen batch of soup. Otherwise, it could also be a roast chicken from the deli with salad for dinner.

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The one thing excellent about cooking and eating clean is that everything is simplified. Even baking. Take this lemon and coconut loaf that I have adapted from WholeFoodSimply. It took me 10 minutes max to whipped the batter up. The washing up took a bit more but hey, it was worth it. I have changed the ratio a little and find that it makes the loaf a lighter one. Sometimes coconut flour makes cakes quite dense, but you might find it’s the reverse for this. Perhaps a little too crumbly but it was delish with a cup of tea. Lemon desserts are certainly growing on me!

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Lemon Coconut Loaf 

2.5 cups of desiccated coconut

1/4 cup of coconut flour

3/4 cup of coconut milk

4 eggs

1 tablespoon of rice malt syrup or honey

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1.5 tsp of bicarb soda

1 tsp of vanilla paste

pinch of salt

 

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Whisk eggs, honey, lemon zest and juice, coconut milk and vanilla in a jug. Combine coconut flour, coconut, bicarb soda and salt in another bowl. Fold wet to dry. Bake for 40-45 minutes till done.

Mushroom Chicken Burgers with Avocado Basil Slaw

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I recall those days. Where money was tight and we could barely get through the end of the month without going red. We ate a lot of mince then.

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Now, we eat a lot of mince too. For a different reason. I find that Asher could chew and eat more meat if it is in mince form. We have meatballs, meat loafs and of course, patties. As Spring arrives, this made a very nice light dinner. We used mushrooms as the “bread” and it works so well. I have also re discovered the beauty of red cabbage! Oh how did I miss it? As life gets busy, I was filling our vegetable basket with the same vegetables week in and out. It has such a lovely texture and sweetness to it. I mixed both kinds of cabbage up, blitzed up avocado and basil with a splash of water and yogurt and a dressing was done.

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Mushrooms Chicken Burgers with Avocado Basil Slaw (makes around 10 burger patties)

500 grams of chicken mince

1 onion chopped finely

1 tablespoon of garlic

1 carrot shredded and chopped

1 egg

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 tsp of cumin spice

pepper

20 pieces of field mushrooms

Mix everything up (Except the mushrooms). Shape into patties and fry in coconut oil. Grill mushrooms. Sandwich mushrooms with patties.

Avocado Basil Slaw

1 cups of shredded red cabbage

2 cup of shredded cabbage

1 shredded carrot

1 avocado

1/4 cup of greek yogurt

big bunch of basil leaves

pepper and pinch of salt

tabasco if not feeding to young children.

1/2 a lemon juiced

toasted almonds to serve

In a food processor or blender, blitz avocado, basil, salt, tabasco, lemon juice and yogurt till smooth. Toss through slaw and serve with toasted almond pieces.

 

Matcha Fudge Brownie Bites

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In recent times, I came across pretty damning reported news on the Paleo diet. Some articles like this and this. While I’m not 100% paleo all the time, I find myself a little upset as I scroll through these stories.

Upon reflection, I realised why.

1) For many, the word diet is prescribed. Almost like a manual of this is what you SHOULD eat and it fits EVERYONE. Honestly, I disagree with that. Everyone is different. You got to find what works for you. It’s like finding a good pair of jeans. There are many kind of jeans, but not every design will suit you. Keep trying and eventually you will find it (I hope. I’m still searching).

Personally, I have went off grains, dairy and gluten before. I wanted to know how my body react without and with it. I found that I can tolerate some grains like rice and legumes, and full fat yogurt, some cheeses and sometimes even milk. Gluten is a hit and miss so I tend to avoid it but I do have it from time to time as well with little impact. I believe that my gut is getting better and can tolerate more things. I like this article by Chris Kresser and agree with his conclusion on legumes. I identify myself more with eating clean because I do not follow every single exact “shoulds” as some paleo police have indicated. I prefer to follow and listen to my own body. Having said that, the framework of paleo provided a guideline and direction which I certainly appreciate it when I first started on my journey of eating clean.

2) The fundamentals of the paleo diet is this- clean, natural, as close to the source as possible and as less processed as we can. Let’s be realistic here, life has revolved. We do not hunt and gather. I’m not a believer of evolution either, but do believe that as humans we have adapt and change over the years. However, I think we over complicate things as technology takes over. Sometimes, it’s just makes sense to go back down to basics and enjoy food the way it could be enjoyed.

2) The jokes about how our ancestors do not have “paleo desserts” -like treats made out of almond meal and dates blended together. Again, I think it comes down to common sense. I can see why the jokes like that appear, but to me, life is to be enjoyed and should be filled with “yeses’ instead of “nos”. Yup, they do not fit into the “evolutionary picture perhaps but we have evolved and have grown to know about treats. So treat them as such (ha ha, pun intended). If I feel like something sweet, why not choose something that is nutrient dense rather than something that has empty nutrients? Mind you though, I had some delicious non paleo brownie and muffin over the weekend and totally enjoyed every bite in conscious awareness that they probably do not fuel my body the best way possible. It was purely for taste. The other point was that I was able to put my fork down after having a few tastes of it. I tasted it, it was good, that was enough.

The same principle though lies with clean desserts. I bake and make heaps at home. I taste some and I eat some. But do I eat everything? Nope. I give some away, freeze some and pack some for hubby’s work or my work to share. I think people forget that dates do contain sugar. And so does sweet potato and pumpkin. Nuts is another one that I think is over eaten. They are good for you but they do not have to be in everything.

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While I bake and make treats with nut butter, I actually prefer having them in its form itself. Same with dark chocolate. As a working mum, I prefer having a stash in the fridge, pantry and freezer because I know my husband and son, will be more likely to have them and less likely to have packaged muffins and biscuits when they are hungry. I try to vary it and play around with coconut flour or just plain coconut. Hubby’s snack box is a mix of vege sticks, maybe dip, perhaps a fruit based muffin or even an egg, perhaps some cheeses and rice crackers or nuts. It varies.

3) The “its a fad thing”. It’s a concern that living healthy and eating clean is considered as a fad. Again, I think it comes down to many individuals strictly following every rule in the “paleo rule book”. Just because I eat legumes and dairy doesn’t mean I do not believe the benefits for the other individual who have decided NOT to eat those same food. My body is mine, their body is theirs. I do understand that legumes and dairy can be inflammatory and less is more but everyone reacts differently.

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Now that my rant is over, I was experimenting with some matcha powder (again). I know green tea and chocolate seems to contradict each other but they are really a good match! They are pretty rich with the use of nut and coconut butter, but I cut them into truffle bite size pieces. It makes around 20 tiny pieces but it does pair well with a hot drink (like coffee- which again, isn’t paleo but I love it and have found a happy medium of how much is ok and how much is too much). Because of the richness of cacao, and slight bitterness of matcha, I found that I needed a little more sweetness and added in some honey. Feel free to play around with the amount of honey or dates.

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Matcha Fudge Brownie Bites (Makes 20 bite size pieces)

2/3 cups almond meal

1/2 cup almond butter

1/4 cup coconut butter

3 dates soaked in water and then pitted and chopped

reserved 1/4 cup of the water

2 tsp of cacao powder

3 tsp of matcha powder

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon of honey

1/4 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup of coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla paste.

Preheat Oven to 160C

Whisk wet ingredients like eggs, honey, oil, milk and vanilla up. In another bigger bowl, add all dry ingredients. Spoon into a small baking tin (say around 6by6 inch or use slice tray but only filled half of it. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Once cooled, dust with matcha powder.

 

Earl Grey Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

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Some days, you just know you nailed a recipe. While I often like experimenting and drawing inspiration from other amazing bloggers, more recently, I am attempting to re create some items myself. I asked myself, why am I blogging? Have I turned into a recipe reviewer? What do I really want to accomplish here?

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I thought to myself that I want to show that clean eating isn’t as difficult as what people frequently think. It’s easier really because we are simply eating fresh produce and good protein. Nourishing the body heals the gut and helps with immunity issues. This winter, we have narrowly escaped any major sickness. I was down one day with a fever, and Armand had a cold. Asher had two minor colds that he got over rather quickly. My mother was surprised that I was down with ONE day and attributed it to our lifestyle (which is very pleasing to hear!).

With that, I thought ..maybe I can try to create ad experiment easy every day bakes and cooks. I don’t succeed all the time but it’s good fun. This is one of them.

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Earl Grey Hazelnut Chocolate Cake 

1 cup of hazelnut meal

2 tablespoons of coconut flour

2 tablespoons of cacao powder

3/4 cup of Earl Grey Tea made with two tea bags

2 medjool dates soaked in the tea and chopped

1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips

3 eggs

1 tsp of vanilla paste

1.5 tsp of baking powder

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of honey is optional

1) Preheat Oven to 180C.

2) Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blitz it. Taste to see if the sweetness is sufficient. Add honey if needed. For some reason, I think this cake balances out with a little more sweetness. Honey and dates bring out the earl grey tea I think.

3) Spoon into 9 inch cake tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes.