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Toilet Training Adventures + Raw Papaya Salad (Paleo, Clean Eating, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

IMG_2734 (640x427)Asher is toilet trained! Woohoo! What a milestone…and what a journey it has been. Asher started using the potty real early on- when he was 4 months young. Some thing changed at around the year mark where he just refused to sit on it. He could even tell me that he is scared. My pre assumptions is that he is starting to notice many different kinds of feelings then, and perhaps that was a tad over whelming. I should have persevered though because fast forward, he was no where close to being off his nappies. 

That was when hubby and I discussed doing a dual approach. We read books, brought him to the loo with us, we even showed him you tube clips (yes! they have potty songs too!). We went shopping for underwear and told him what big boys do on the toilet. Then we picked a date- 1st of Jan for us to say good bye to nappies. On the day itself, we simply told him we are saying goodbye to nappies through the day, and we are teaching him to use the toilet. 

The first day was HARD. Our goal was just to help him get acquainted with the toilet. There were close to 20 accidents that day.  By the end of the day, he was comfortable on the toilet. We went through times where he had no realisation that he was going, till he realised but it was too late, to actually doing it on the toilet itself. By the end of the first week, we had moments where we totally felt he was not ready. Day care was really helpful by maintaining consistency (as much as they could), but it was also a regression since it was a new toilet and new people telling him to use the toilet. Smart kid told educators that he goes to the toilet at home but not at school/day care. Other heart string moments was when he asked is mama not happy when he had an accident. Much as I have tried to re assure him it was an accident, I guess I must have showed a disappointed face at times. 

Something clicked by day 8. He was compliant going to the toilet and when we were at a restaurant, he TOLD us he wanted to go. Wow! Day 9, we had a play date where there were NO accidents, went to the toilet with me when he was ready and then later in the day, whispered “go potty” to me. 

Still early days, and we have night and sleep time to go through. There are accidents when he becomes pre occupied. That’s ok. He is still learning. We still need to work out travelling as well, but again, we will just have to cross that path when we are close to it. 

For me, I’m just not sure how quickly that 2 years + have flown by and another milestone clicked. 

Raw Papaya Salad

If you have endured through the toilet training story, well done! I have never been squeamish around topics like this given the nature of my work in my early days with children with autism, and being used to baby sitting but I do agree that having Asher makes me think of toilet as another developmental milestone as natural as it can be! IMG_2737 (640x427)

And of course, while it seems “wrong” to pair our story with food. I can’t help myself but to share this lovely salad recipe. We love our salads in my household. Perhaps more so with hubby and myself as Asher finds salad leaves fibrous for him. I actually don’t have a “proper” recipe for this. It was just shredded vegetables that come together. Asher even tried some. Quick, easy and yummy! Now to find more raw papaya! IMG_2735 (640x427)

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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)

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Cinnamon Beef Ribs with Silverbeet + Childled play

Cinnamon Beef RibsI am learning about play lately. Specifically child led play. The notion of letting Asher takes over and just do what he wants while I follow his lead. 

Play has so many layers of meanings to it. A child’s ability to explore in a safe environment, experimenting and working out what goes where and what sounds it makes. I know that if given an option, Asher love having the two of us watching him and being with him play. 

Child led is really a skill. It is so tempting to correct him or encourage him to pick up a different toy. My mind wanders to the messy kitchen or what can I make for dinner next week. Child led play forces me to be present and just enjoy being with him. It tells him that he is important to me. It demonstrates respect to him. IMG_1896 (640x427)

And so we set it up. It was post lunch and I reminded myself to be present. Asher asked me to open a box consisting of 4 mini cars and a car transporter. He wanted me to help him set it up. Then it was a game of sliding the cars. He named the colours and I repeated it, praising him as we go along. His attention went to the bigger cars and attempted to slide the it onto the truck that did not work. We laughed and we started a game of bumper cars. Suddenly he pointed to the slide and he asked me to be on it. I said “mummy is too big” but attempted to slide down which made him laughed. He went under the slide and pointed that out to me. I followed him and it became a game of chasey. His attention went back to the car transporter and started playing with it again. Then he handed me a car and I said “mummy’s turn” and he nodded. That two words turned into a game of turns, and cuddles. He went to the shelves and wanted some help with the cashier toy. We pretended to go shopping and paid for some items. We even pretended to eat an apple and drink some milk. He was having such a ball and giggled each time we pretended to eat something. IMG_1899 (640x427)

25 minutes later, I told him that we have 5 more minutes and then it is nap time. He said “no” and pulled me to a book. We did some reading and I told him we have a minute left. I sang the pack away song and he started helping. He took a book and walked towards the stairs. In bed, I read to him and he gradually drifted off to sleep. 

His behaviour reminded me that there is so much joy in play. So much contentment and just being with him. I’m joining in his world. He loved the attention but most of all, he almost seems to be calmer. As I stared at him sleeping, that 30 minutes reminded me of what being a parent is about. I’m sure fast forward 18 years later, he will not remember these moments. But I do. and that’s what’s matters. 

IMG_1896 (640x427)You hear me talk about the dilemma of making fast dinners but also wanting to add different variety to our meal planning each week. Winter is exciting to me because I can start braising and experimenting with different cuts of meats again. I am a fan of pressure or slow cooking and is determine to utilise our pressure cooker more. At our local markets, I picked up some gorgeous looking beef ribs and decided to experiment using a Pete Evan’s recipe from his Family Food Cook book. The flavours are wonderful, the meat melted in our mouths and it tasted even better the next day. The best bit about this kind of cooking is that that leaves me more time to play! 

And that’s the bit about parenthood that I love. 

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Ricotta Chives Waffles + Work Life Balance

IMG_1845 (640x427)Balance is such an subjective word. What is balance for you may not be balance for us. A recent conversation with a close girlfriend got me thinking….

Balance is the perceive notion that there is even weight given. Work-Life Balance would suggest that one has managed to figure out how to ensure both are given equal amount of attention and work. Equal. That word lies heavily on me. I would love to say I’m happy with the “balance” on the day in and out basis. Sure I like my job, and I certainly like being at home. Is it balance? I think “balance” means fine tuning takes place on a weekly, if not daily basis. IMG_1849 (640x427)

In reality, I believe that it is what we choose to prioritise. What we choose to concentrate and focus on, and perhaps  even what we choose to let go. Balance is perhaps not the best word for us. Like most people, we have bad and good weeks. We have events that throw us off. Our emotions get better of us. Or perhaps someone falling sick means plans need adjustment. 

Balance perhaps is what you perceive as working for your family. Each family takes it quite differently because most of us have different priorities plus developmental changes What we choose to do depends on that too. Balance for us means we have to accept that at our stage in life, we may not get as much time together as a couple than what we have before. However, we choose to spend time as a family figuring out Asher’s personality, likes/dislikes and how can we develop him in his potential. We chose for me to work which means we have to make do with simple or batch cooking for meals, adequate cleanliness and ironing that sometimes pile up. We choose for hubby to concentrate on his career, which means he looks for opportunities to develop himself. I choose to concentrate on strength and performance at the gym, which means I’m trying to focus less on image but more on development. IMG_1845 (640x427)

Do we want more of something? That’s a big YES! Perhaps it is human nature, but hubby and I love to have more time together. We are still learning how to be a couple again on top of being parents. We like to spend more time doing up parts of the house, and most of all, be able to have more time with both sides of our families. There are times when hubby and I give up going for courses because we have other priorities even though the courses might interest us. 

Is balance a series of choices then? 

It’s a really interesting topic because hubby and I never talked about being “balance”. We spoke about how we need to shift things around to make things work. One thing that works to our advantage is that the working hours in Australia is shorter than Asia. That provides the perceive notion that we have a more balance approach to life. Somehow I do agree with that because the shorter hours means there are more option provided to us. I also feel for my family and friends whose life seem to be consume with work. I believe we do work hard here though. I think it is such a myth that being in laid back Australia means there are no hard workers around. Sure we all know of people who slack or we might even question why some individuals are in certain positions. However, I know more people who takes work seriously and commit themselves to it when they are there. Hubby starts work 7ish, and I know that he has already started replying emails and working while on public transport, right down to when he comes back. My part time hours means I generally do not have a break (Yes, I know, probably not legal but I like to make sure my minutes are well accounted for) on some days. I have friends who push themselves and work longer hours than they should. 

Balance perhaps is a cultural option as well. Perhaps we are luckily here because we have the option. That I count us very very lucky.

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware that whenever I can, I like to have breakfasts at any time of the day. On our wedding anniversary, I made some waffles for lunch. It was a real simple savoury one that we enjoyed with some lovely gluten free lamb and rosemary sausages. I did have a small side salad that was not shown in the picture. For these waffles, I attempted to whip the egg whites to give it more of a lift. However, I neglected to note that my waffle maker does thin and crispy waffles. Not the Belgium style type. So…. my waffles turned out crispy anyway! Major DOH moment. IMG_1848 (640x427)

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Tahini Zucchini Carrot Salad (Raw, Paleo, Gluten Free)

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I realised that it is difficult to live with a recovering perfectionist. My poor hubby often gets the brunt of it. Living with a perfectionist means for him, I’m always on a mission.

– Eating clean

– Creating and making most if not all of our meals and snacks

– Moving efficiently. My workout times are precious times.

– Making sure that Asher is stimulated. Thinking about different concepts and games to play.

– Creating better recipes. I have made a lemon tart 3 times in a week because I didn’t quite get it right. 

– Being the best I can at work means sometimes I do work on most evenings and have my mind ticking away on it even when I’m supposed to rest. 

I stopped myself the other afternoon in realisation how blunt, and even unkind when I was on the phone with him. Often, I do my meal prep the night before, and for one ingredient, hubby had chopped chorizo roughly. 

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In a rush of me trying to get dinner done, wanting to complete a few household chores, making Asher’s lunch and prep for an outing that afternoon means I was in a rush. That was still no excuse for being unkind. With the filter not on, I said “darling, why is the chorizo chopped in such big pieces! That’s not how I usually do it”.

As quickly as it came, it made me realised how ungrateful and rude I was. He apologised and said “oh! I’m sorry, I just did it without thinking”. That shattered my heart. I quickly regrouped and said “no, it was not your fault. I was in a hurry and rushed and in the scheme of things.. it does not matter really. I’m sorry for being rude”. 

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It highlighted to me how kind and how generous my husband was. How he tried to help but I dis credited him. 

A girlfriend and I had lunch the other day and asked how do we make our marriage work? We seem happy and content to the outside world. The truth is, we are a work in progress. In our pre marriage counselling sessions, I realised I am often abrasive and impatient. He is the patient one. I want answers now, while he needed time to digest things. Fast forward nearly 6 years of marriage, I’m still practising holding my tongue and being patient. He tries to speed up and is learning how to verbalise how he feels. 

It is what makes our marriage ticks. We agree that we are a work in progress and continue to work on ourselves to strengthen our relationship. It is not perfect but we do not strive to be. We strive to be partners in life. 

This is our current favourite salad. A big bowl of zucchini noodles. Sometimes, I would make it with kelp noodles and place them in a container. This huge salad would last us 4-5 days, meaning that I need to prep dinner less. I would dress them up differently. Sometimes a nut butter dressing suits us. Other times with just olive oil and drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Who would have thought raw zucchini noodles are so delicious? Certainly a game changer when it comes to salads. One thing did not change. We eat from ONE big bowl to save washing up. 

And that is us too. ūüôā 

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Poached Chicken aka Hainanese Chicken Rice

IMG_1024 (640x427)My grandmother used to tell me stories. Her voice often filled with emotions and eyes lit up as she talked through them. Why wouldn’t they be as they were adventures of her own life.

A resilient and resourceful woman, she took on a small business selling mixed vegetables and rice once upon a time. Few years back, she would be a helper/nanny to a young caucasian girl (she cared a lot for her and kept a photo of this girl in her drawer). She recounted climbing up roofs, running away from the police when she worked in an underground casino. She steamed savoury yam cakes and made her own chill sauce so that she could make some money and stay at home to supervise her young children.

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As a working mum now, those stories replay in my head with a deeper meaning and feel to it. It’s quite different of course. She was pretty much a single mother to 3 kids and work is… survival. They needed her income. Yet her dedication to her family, and love and plain determination to make it work shone through and spoke to me. Those are values.

In my head, I wondered what would she say if I tell her stories of Asher enjoying day care. Charming the socks of his carers with his smiles, protecting his toys, and participating in painting activities? I wondered what would she say about not cooking a Chinese soup every other day, or at times struggling to keep a house as clean as what she would do. Sometimes, I can hear her in my head, empathising with me. Other times, letting me know how spoilt I really am because she did not have a choice and she managed.

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My skills in steaming a whole chicken (and chopping one) are still under development. That was HER signature dish. This time though, I tried poaching a whole chicken and I loved it. Tender, juicy and full of flavour. I wished I could tell her what I have done and listen to her advice on how can I make it better.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice 

1 1.6kg free range chicken

few stalks of spring onion. Reserve a a few and tie into a knot.

1 knob of ginger sliced. Reserve 2-3 slices.

4 garlic cloves

salt

sesame oil

drizzle soy sauce or coconut aminos

drizzle of shaoxing chinese cooking wine

 

Method:  Cut some fat off the chicken. Place it aside. Blitzed up spring onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Stuff chicken with the mixture. Rub chicken with some salt, oil, wine and drizzle of soy/coconut aminos. Bring a large pot of water (big enough to fit the chicken completely) to boil with the reserved ginger and spring onion. Submerge chicken into the stock. Bring it back to a simmer. Switch off the heat and leave the chicken in the pot for a good 1-1.5 hours.

 

Rice

Chicken fat

1 cup of rice (we use basmati rice but you can use jasmine).

Few slices of ginger

Method: In a cold pan, cook chicken fat till it renders. You can sauté some garlic with it if you like.  Wash rice. Then put the usual amount of water. Place fat and ginger in rice and cook accordingly.

 

Chili sauce 

3 chili padi

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp of grated ginger

1/4 of lemon juice

salt

Method: Put everything in a food processor and blitz it up!

When everything is ready. Chopped up the chicken. Drizzle more sesame oil. Serve with veges, rice and chill.

Miso Chicken Cutlets on Zucchini Noodles

IMG_0900 (640x427)The weather is warming up. The sun is shining. Spring is here and summer is approaching!! While I’m embracing salads, there is something warm and comforting having a cooked dinner. I’m still using the oven heaps despite the warm weather- it really is my best used kitchen appliance in the house. Placing marinated meat and putting the timer on allows us to do a little more in the evening.

I’m usually faced with the dilemma on the weekend. I have a little more time now, so I would like to cook something that takes more effort. On the other hand, I prefer to take a step back and “just relaxed”. A break from the kitchen makes us better cooks no? Over the weekend, we did just that. We put food in the oven and went for a family walk. Then we stopped by the playground and played slides with our son.

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Relaxing is easier said than done isn’t it? I have to literally schedule in rest time and “no bakes” days. I’m not very good and switching off and even if I have to switch off, I need to do something. Like reading a magazine or writing a post here. I argue that baking relaxes me- but suddenly I’m stressing over having to cook dinner and bake. Yup! It’s all abit ironic in my head.

Nevertheless, life is a journey. You learn about yourself but only if you give yourself permission to. Every emotion carries a meaning in our life. While I enjoy being productive, I’m learning that having a cup of tea and breathing does wonders to my head and mood. And who says taking a breather isn’t productive?

I’m loving my spiralizer. Zucchini and Carrot noodles makes its appearance pretty often in my household. I enjoy seeing Asher trying to place long strands of veges in his mouth and being proud of himself as he worked out how to eat it. To make sure noodles doesn’t get too wet, I would salt it and squeeze water out of it. Then it’s light saut√© in some coconut oil on a pan. The chicken? Easy peasy. Marinating it with tahini, miso, mirin and sesame oil, I simply place the dish in the oven, sprinkle with sesame seed and bake it.

Walking into the home with the lovely chicken aroma hits us. And as Asher would say… it’s “nana” time (He calls banana “nana” and use the same word to communicate that he is hungry).

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Miso Chicken Cutlets on Zucchini Noodles (Serves 4+2)

3 zucchini and 2 carrots spiraled

1 tablespoon of garlic

salt

Around 9 chicken cutlets

1 tablespoon of miso paste

1/4 cup of warm water

1 tsp of sesame oil

1 tablespoon of mirin

1 tablespoon of tahini

1/2 a lemon juiced

To make the marinate, mix miso, lemon, warm water, oil, mirin and tahini in a paste. Spoon over chicken and rub it over. Place in fridge for 30 minutes or so to marinate. Or if you are short of time, bake in pre heated oven for 30 minutes.

Squeeze liquid out of vege noodles. Heat pan and sauté garlic. Add vege noodles and toss gently till it cooks. Place on plates with miso chicken on top.

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.

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.

 

Coconut Crusted Chicken

IMG_0479 (640x427) I was making dinner one Sunday night. Hubby turned to me and said “I really feel like having some crispy chicken.” He went on to say how he would probably feel sick buying KFC or fried chicken though and regret it later. He was very lucky because I was just about to cook a batch of miso chicken drumlets and winglets up for our dinner. I grabbed some desiccated coconut, whisk an egg up, and coated a few chicken with coconut. I was surprised with the results as it turned out slightly golden with a light crunch. Best of all, no after oily taste. IMG_0481 (640x427) ¬† Coconut Crusted Chicken¬† 10 mini chicken winglets/drumlets or tenders 1 cup of desiccated coconut pinch of salt an egg whisked sesame seeds Preheat oven at 180C. Sprinkle salt on the coconut. Coat chicken with egg, then with the coconut mixture. Place on oven tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes till golden.