Paprika Pulled Beef (Gluten free, clean eating, paleo) + Other advantages of bulk cooking

IMG_2239 (640x427)How many times can you “pull” a meat? Many I think! I spotted this gorgeous looking chunk of brisket at the butcher and could not resist myself. It was like the meat was calling for me. I wondered- would it be rendang? or perhaps pulled beef. Hubby pipped up that we have not tried making pulled beef before and the challenge came on! 

Many recipes out there called for the beef to be smothered with bbq sauce. We do not like those sauces as it often has fillers and plenty of sugar in it. Instead we marinated the beef with paprika and made sure the sauce was filled with fresh tomatoes and garlic. I did use some bacon to add flavour. The cinnamon may appear odd but it adds to the sauce for sure. IMG_2240 (640x427)

 The 1+ kg brisket was enough to feed 5 meals. Three dinners and two lunches. It was awesome. Why? It saves time, electricity from cooking and that means when I’m tired, I know there is some pretty lovely tender pulled beef waiting in the fridge for us. Bulk cooking, I realised, provide other benefits too. We do less washing in the week, and the kitchen remains cleanly for longer. That means we can spend post dinner time doing more fun things like reading stories and having a longer bath time. IMG_2241 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’75’]

Quinoa Coconut Chocolate Bars (Clean eating, nut free gluten free) + What is your food philosophy?

IMG_2238 (640x427)When someone asks me what my food philosophy is, I struggle to come out with words to describe it. Often, I would use words such as “Paleo + principles of clean eating”. I identify with the paleo, mainly with their back to the basics way of eating. We have a lot of plant based foods at home with a healthy amount of protein. Do we indulge in rice, legumes and dairy? I would say we do. I have a greek or just natural yogurt in the morning for breakfasts, and hubby loves a few slices of cheese in his snack box. Does that make us paleo then? Perhaps not in the true sense. IMG_2235 (640x427)

Then perhaps clean eating describe us better? Not completely either. We hardly ever have oats (somehow it doesn’t sit well with us?)and we do not have legumes in every meal. How about “no sugar”? You can say that too. We have very little refined sugar in our diet. Does not mean we do not have a bite of dessert here and there. 

Imagine me in a social situation saying “cheeky paleo, clean eating, no sugar, sort of gluten free” (Insert social suicide + confusion). IMG_2232 (427x640)

Honestly, when did it get so hard? It hit me though, that labels should not define us. We do not fit into those boxes neatly. Truth is I seek recipes and look at inspirations from all the above labels. Often I would just say 

“We aim to eat very little processed food, pretty much no gluten and no refined sugar” 

or 

“We eat as naturally and plant based as possible with little processed ingredients.”

or 

” Yes we eat a lot of vegetables, meat, seafood with some cheese and yogurt” 

And I think that’s our food philosophy. 

As part of our “spring cleaning” exercise, I have been trying to keep track of ingredients and food in our fridge, freezer and pantry. I wanted to finish using half open packets of ingredients before purchasing others. Sitting at the back was my bottle of quinoa flakes. Quinoa flakes doesn’t quite fit into the “paleo” category since it is technically a pseudo grain. However, I do think that as a carb, it provides more protein than other carbohydrates sources out there. 

So in that went in a bowl together with some random ingredients. You know how yummy recipes appear through randomness? This is one of them. It was crisp, and yummy. I love the texture and the crunch! IMG_2234 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’74’]

Hazelnut Coffee Cookies with a Chocolate Drizzle (Paleo, Gluten Free, Eating Clean)+ Eating Socially

IMG_2163 (640x427)One of the challenges about choosing a lifestyle on clean eating is saying “no” at social events. Having worked on site and at home for about a year following Asher’s birth means there is little or no reason to have food with colleagues on site. Usually there would be some salad options or cold meats that I would happily have. At other social events, I would simply choose vegetables and meat, avoiding any sauces or baked goods usually. I make exceptions of course. When I know how much effort the host makes or it simply looks too good to say no to, I pick my battles and choose to indulge. 

Having start work in a clinic recently, it hit me that colleagues bond by eating. Being invited to a few morning teas means it is inevitable that I will look odd sitting there with my cup of green tea and not partaking in any of those delicious looking brownies or lemon tart that is on display. On my first day, I choose to have a slice of dark chocolate tart. The birthday girl said it was dark chocolate with some custard powder. The headache that I had after that lingered for hours and that totally reminded me of how my body has responded to not having too much sugar and processed food after a while. All a little strange though as I still have small bites of sweet desserts when I dine out with hubby or with friends, but I have not had one of those headaches for a while. It was a tiny wedge too which again, reminds me of how easily sugar or processed ingredients add up. IMG_2165 (640x427)

Since then, I have been careful to avoid most sweet treats at work. I explained that my body appeared to not respond well to sugar, gluten and processed foods in general and have been advised to avoid them. So far, it worked and it didn’t look too awkward with my hot cup of tea and conversations. What reinforced me was the recent check up where my bloods and ultrasound showed PCOS symptoms as being managed. My GP stressed that I need to continue to be vigilant about my diet. In my head, I know that if I ever choose to indulge, it has to be awesomely good (and be willing to bear with the effects after. Not at work for sure!) 

I think to the outside world, it must seem contradicting. A piece of dark chocolate, a spoonful of cake or taste of ice-cream seems ok but not a slice of chocolate tart? How controlling do one has to be in food then? Is it borderline being food obsessed or having an eating disorder? I can see why those questions can start to occur. IMG_2159 (640x427)

We headed out to dinner the other day with some friends. We had slow cooked beef ribs with carrots, sausage with sauerkraut and a bunch of other sides. For dessert, between the 4 of us and 2 toddlers, we had pumpkin pie and panna cotta with meringue and lemon curd. Did I taste any? Of course I did. Did I stop after some small bites? Yep. I was able to put my fork down after enjoying some. I tasted it enough to enjoy and did not feel like having any more. Did I freak? Not really. Naturally though, I did not want any other fruit or other foods when I came home except for a hot rooibos tea. The next day, I ate what I usually do on a Sunday. 

It is about seeing the whole picture. Loving my food means I like to try new things. Yet, I have to be conscious and in tune with how my body will react to it. Did I die from having that chocolate tart and headache? Nope. Did I obsess around it? Nope. I live and learn. I like to think it is about maturity and reading my body better. There are people with food allergies (think coeliac and nut allergies) and health conditions (e.g. diabetes) where people have no qualms saying it is ok to be selective. I truly think that there is no one size fits all and if that works for your family and body, then we should embrace it.  I would also like to think that it is ok to give myself permission to make that judgment on whether or not I want to eat that. Food is to be nourishing and enjoyed. IMG_2166 (640x427)

I made these hazelnut coffee cookies one Friday afternoon when hubby had a tough week. I know he loves cookies and the smell of freshly baked goods when he walk in the door. Having some hazelnut meal at home, I paired it with coffee which turned out really lovely. It didn’t taste crisp for long though and I had to double baked it. still, I enjoyed that hazelnut crunch and change from almond meal. That is one cookie that I’m good with feeding my family (except for Asher with the coffee!) with. 

[yumprint-recipe id=’73’]

“Red Velvet” Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Yogurt Frosting (Nut Free, Clean Eating, Gluten Free)

IMG_2219 (640x427)I hand these little cupcakes out to Asher’s educators on his birthday.  I was so happy with my experimentation that I made another batch for some friends. They look so decadent and pretty. I wait for their response. “Oh, it tastes like a normal cupcake” they say. 

Healthy baking can be delicious and pretty too. People often associate healthy and clean eating as lettuce leaves with plain grilled chicken breasts.  I like to challenge that for sure. IMG_2216 (640x427)

Truth be told I have not made cupcakes since Asher was 1 month old (When I made carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting). I’m not a great froster and so I never quite had the patience for them. This time round, I was “in the zone” and actually thought to myself that I could do this! 

These red velvet cupcakes are made with beetroot and coconut flour. Somehow, I managed to find the ratio that works. It isn’t too eggy, and it looks and tastes like cake. My only issue is that I’m used to not having much sweetness now, hence mostly I’m good with the sweetness coming from the beetroot. The cacao though does gives it a bitter after taste so I have to consciously add 2-3 tbsp of honey more than what I would do usually to give it a lift. Still, 3 tbsp + sweetness from beetroot for 12 cupcakes is pretty good I say. IMG_2220 (640x427)

Now I would be the first to admit that the frosting is not paleo. It has cream cheese AND yogurt in it. You can choose to make a butter cream frosting, or whip up some coconut cream one. Or you can do a double chocolate by melting some dark chocolate with coconut milk to make a ganache! Now that would be decadent. IMG_2221 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’72’] 

Fennel Basil Tomato Soup (Paleo, Gluten Free, Clean Eating) + updates on my battle with PCOS

IMG_2213 (640x427)Recently I went for usual routine blood test just to make sure everything is going ok. Asher had wean off breastmilk and my GP wanted to check that my iron and hormones levels are getting back on track. To top if off, I requested to check if my symptoms of PCOS persist or are they under control.

After 3.5 years of clean eating, and exercising, I’m pleased to say that my ovaries are back to its normal size, and there are no other indication of PCOS. My testosterone level remains “normal”. However, I’m still working on making sure my pituitary gland “communicates” with my ovaries to keep everything happy- especially since I have just finished my breast feeding journey and my body may not have calibrated back to it’s usual self. With that, I’m seeking acupuncture and alternative interventions rather than having other intervention. At this stage, my doctor has agreed that any medication might shut my system further. IMG_2207 (640x427)

Does that mean PCOS can be in remission? I think not. Rather, I see PCOS as needing to be managed. It is still early days to be popping champagne but I’m (silently but dancing internally) pleased that the hard work behind working out and eating clean is showing its effect. It reinforces why we are doing what we are doing (Asher being proof).IMG_2208 (427x640)

While I have some other hurdles to go through, it is comforting. My body remains sensitive to weight gain, and in particular, I have to be conscious about feeding myself the right nutrients and balance of clean carbohydrates.

Still, right now, I’m reading my bloods and scans with a smile. I’m taking pause for this moment because hat is music to my ears. IMG_2214 (640x427)

Sometime back, I shared this lovely soup on my Instagram. Hubby has recently requested it again and I thought I would take some time to record this down. While winter is coming to a close and it is Spring, I still take the opportunity to make as many soups as I can. Asher enjoys it, and it is much easier to make a big batch of soup and drink it every alternate day rather than to cook frequently. I love the tangy flavours, but the winner of it is because we pick up an free range pork hock from the markets. The yummy ham with the tangy tomato simply works well. 

Healthy can be delicious too. 

 

[yumprint-recipe id=’71’] 

 

 

Raw Matcha “Cheesecake” Bites (Raw, Paleo, Clean Eating, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)

Matcha CheesecakeI love a a good matcha latte made with almond milk. I have even tried having a “Dirty Matcha” which was a shot of coffee with matcha powder and your choice of milk. That one didn’t quite make the cut with me though. I simply love matcha the way it is! That says a lot since I’m a big coffee person!

I have been embracing the raw dessert/treats lately. It is so simple to do. I’m still quite a novice in that area and somehow always ended up with whizzed up version of “cheesecakes” by soaking cashews and macadamias. I am very sure though that there are many other sorts of raw desserts that does not feature heavily on nuts. A few people are definitely inspiring me. It is also so wonderful that there are people right here in Perth loving healthy delicious food such as Tales of a Kitchen  . Other blogs such as “The Rawtarian” seems to have some gorgeous photos and tips too. IMG_2198 (427x640)

It goes to show there is always something to learn when it comes to food.IMG_2203 (640x427)

Since I have increased in my work days, I realised that I need to be even more creative in my time management of making snacks and food. This raw matcha cheesecake can be frozen, and when I’m caught out of not having time to bake or just wanting more variety to add in to Hubby’s snacks, these frozen bites come in handy. As for myself, sometimes I just want something sweet to end the day. A piece or two of dark chocolate usually does the trick (Or a mug of hot chocolate made with a piece of dark chocolate and cacao), but it is nice to have matcha for a change. 

I love the vibrancy of the green. This is one that I found it tricky not to lick the food processor when it was done! IMG_2197 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’70’]

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta (Gluten Free, Clean Eating)

IMG_2079 (640x427)There is a myth out there that if you are eating well and exercising well, you will look good. Fundamentally, I think the concept rings true. Looking after yourself comprises more than that though. Often I have heard comments about how why should I worry about how I look or feel if I am exercising well, and eating good? 

Everyone probably knows when they feel a little “off”. That usually means you are not functioning and operating at an optimal level that you know you can. For me, I have noticed that in the past 6 months or so, I have become more sluggish with a more noticeable lower belly. I believe I have been working out well, and managing my food pretty ok. However, I know that something isn’t quite right as I’m increasingly feeling heavier, with not quite my usual self. 

A quick check with my food diary indicate that I’m sub consciously snacking more. A quick reduction of that and more food planning appears to make a difference. I still feel off though and when I finally have a chance to think through what has been going on, it hit me. IMG_2084 (640x427)

Stress. 

That quiet enemy of mine. 

Over the past few months, there has been some level of uncertainty in our household. We had a few pending changes with my work, having to make some tricky decisions around routines, my gym closing down, stress at work itself and nursing Asher through a few minor colds have threw me off. On top of hubby’s work stress, and our juggle with parenthood and sleep deprivation in general, stress have creeped up on me. For me, it was the feeling that I’m not able to be “the best I can be” and having to compromise both at home and work. I really struggle with that feeling. IMG_2081 (427x640)

That heaviness on my lower belly- I remember now. I had 3.5 years ago when I was tired and feeling over it at work. With my previous diagnosis of PCOS, my body is just simply more sensitive to cortisol. 

I’m managing better now, and needing to have quiet time more often than before. It did however, reinforce my thoughts and feelings about health, self image and food in general. It is not often as simple as “eat well and exercise well”. It is mostly, but there are certainly many factors in play. IMG_2083 (427x640)

You would have also noticed that I am introducing more dairy and some grains in our diet. Our family seem to work well with this ratio. Banning and saying ‘No” completely has never worked well in our books. That way, we get to read our bodies and judge what it can process and digest. 

I had some left over greek yogurt and did not want to waste it. Whisking some gelatine through and ta dah! A wonderful after dinner treat that tastes indulgent! IMG_2087 (640x427)

[yumprint-recipe id=’63’]

Carrot and Cauliflower Soup (Paleo, Clean Eating)

Carrot and Cauliflower SoupOne of the things I do when I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed is to de clutter and clean. It is almost like I feel calmer through the process but by knowing that the house is cleaner and toys has its place. On the other side of the coin, wanting to clean and organise is something I’m trying to not stress about because I would much rather play with trains, run around or do colouring with Asher. 

It’s the same with cooking and baking. The irony of life is that I love to create things in the kitchen. I like that when we put different ingredients together, they turn into something edible, smells lovely and warms our tummies up. As life takes over, I find myself “over thinking” meals, feeling hurried while I cook or that I have not baked for a while. Hubby starts frowning when I said “oh! Here’s 20 minutes! Let me whip something up in the kitchen for yours and Asher’s breakfast”. He was seeing signs that I’m doing that for the sake of doing rather than actually enjoying the process. IMG_2172 (640x427)

It’s one of those little life long lessons that I’m learning this year. Enjoying the process. I accept that there will be days or weeks where cooking or baking is part of what I do as life. The enjoyment bit comes after all the chores are completed and kitchen bench is wiped clean. Then there are more special times when an idea arrive for how I can put ingredients together to create something and I excitedly venture to the kitchen to see if it works together. 

I mentioned batch up cooking before and that soups is one of my favourite things to do. There is just something magical about the warmth of a bowl of soup. Maybe it is my Cantonese heritage where soups is just what we have-though probably more as a supplement than a whole meal. Or that I know I can have all the nutrients in a bowl- protein, carbohydrates and heaps of vegetables. IMG_2171 (640x427)

This soup is so simple that I wasn’t even going to take a photo of it or record what I did. I just don’t photograph or ladle soups neatly! Then my dearest hubby ladled it up ever so perfectly and even top it with crispy chorizo with precision. I was so impressed that it didn’t looked the usual hurried way that I do it usually. 

And so here it is. My Carrot and Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo. (officially making it the 4 C soup!)

[yumprint-recipe id=’68’]