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Salted Caramel Coffee Slice with Chocolate Swirls (Paleo, Gluten Free and Dairy Free) + 16 years in Australia

I arrived in Australia in 2000. 2 huge luggage cases full of stationery* and “must haves”. My mother and grandmother came with me. As an interim place to stay, I was housed in St Thomas along UWA. I was a teenager. Fresh out of secondary school. I was excited and fearless.IMG_2754 (640x427)

I moved into a little shared housing. For the first time in my life, I learned how to cook, do my laundry and clean the house. My mother checked in with me but together with my grandmother, they left following a week and a half in Perth. They decided that it was time that their little girl grow up and just learn how to be independent. 

I have never been away from them before. Till this day, I still remember how sad my grandmother’s eyes looked but how she smiled courageously. Over the years, I had the privilege of her visiting for long periods of time through my University life. Those memories are precious. Coffee Caramel Slice

There is much to write on. I was home sick. I wrecked up $300 bills worth of calls to friends and text messages to my family. In those days, we even had “icq” to connect with friends. My best girl friends would save money and call me. I would purchase “calling cards” and use public phones. I survived on packaged pasta sachets, and would drenched every thing with oyster sauce. Indo mee was a staple. With an fried egg of course. IMG_2757 (640x427)

The better memories. Road trips. Late night suppers. Chats with friends. The rush to get my thesis(es) done-till the point I was sleeping surrounded by papers and books. The eerie corridor of the university labs at 1am. Learning new “words” in the aussie slang. Enjoying pub food and wineries. Embracing different cultures. Loving cafes and coffees. 

Then, with a blink of an eye… I’m in Australia for longer than I was in Singapore. IMG_2761 (640x427)

This year, marked the start of the 17th year. Fleetingly, the thought came in my head a few times about this. After all, I consider myself a Singaporean and still holds a Singapore passport. Yet, I also identify myself with Australia. This is my home now. I have a son who is Australian. A husband who will soon hold an Australian passport. We love our life here. 

It’s a start of more to come. 

What is best to celebrate with a slice. A relatively creamy slice with the almond butter, coconut milk and tahini. It’s pretty addictive. I find it hard to stop at one! IMG_2759 (640x427)

*I still have left over stationery!

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We have arrived in 2016! Happy New Year!

Did you have a relaxing Christmas and New Year break? We worked through but certainly enjoyed the public holidays. We had a pretty chilled Christmas with us attending an awesome lunch with extended family members. On Boxing day, we hosted a lunch for some close friends. IMG_9237

Lunch with family- what a feast!!!

 

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We hosted lunch at our place on Boxing day! Friends brought over delicious food. Another round of feast- Healthy food with Prawn and avocado salad, broccoli and goats cheese salad, my christmas cookie tree, ham, japanese potato salad and turkey.

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Asher is now 2 years 5 months. He is growing to be a sociable child who loves a good laughs, anything with wheels and books. He is enjoying the outdoors and pretend play. His language is growing and he is actually negotiating (Insert horror face!). 

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Early in the year, we said that we want to chill more and really go back to basics. I felt that it was just yesterday that I wrote that resolution. I wanted to build upon existing relationships. I wanted to learn how to not sweat the small stuff, and also, have a bigger respect for functionality of the body- learning and re establishing my relationship with myself, food and fitness. 

 

  • Continue to provide my family with clean and healthy meals. I would like to make more chinese style broths and get back to my roots with more Chinese clean cooking. – We have chinese broth style soups weekly now! I’m learning more and more each month using different herbs and vegetables to make broths. 
  • See beyond the number at the scale. Getting stronger. Doing more drills with full pushups, using heavier weights for thrusters, deadlifts, turkish get ups and squats. I mastered the turkish get up! Definitely doing more full push ups, deadlifting heavier and even managed to do a 150kg leg press. 
  • As a wife, be kinder. I would be the first to admit that I have not been kind throughout the year. It’s something that I struggle with constantly. More on this in another post. 
  • Talk and communicate with my parents more. Weekly a couple of times! 
  • As a mother, to be patient and stay in the moment. Asher is growing too quick. I think I have a few testing parenting moments in 2015….
  • Maintain a gratitude journal.Ok, not doing a good job there. I did maintain one but did not do it consistently or daily. Will aim for 3 times a week rather than daily. 
  • Pray more. I don’t think I do enough of praying and reflection.  I’m praying more and especially with Asher. Never enough.
  • Schedule in rests. Ok, still pretty bad at this. I’m “resting” now. I rest by reading, cooking and doing housework! I guess this is another post by itself on what rest is. 
  • Connecting with friends. Regular meet ups with my mummy girlfriends. Maintaing contact with my close friends through whatsapp, phone conversations and any channels we can think of. Being a better gift giver. Happy with this goal! I can do better with a few friends. I have learned to maintain a few really close friendships but also be realistic on what can be achieved. 
  • Bringing this website to a wider audience ok, not so. Thank you for reading my little space if you are. I have not done any big changes or have a quest to reach a wider audience. I guess I have resigned to the fact that I cannot “not sweat the small stuff”, work on my marriage, relationship on myself AND market a small blog. I’m not even sure if that is a priority anymore! 

 

In 2016, I like to focus on my marriage a lot more. Being more mindful of how our marriage is going, spending time connecting with each other in addition to work and Asher. Saying no and not over scheduling! 

So where to in 2016

  1. Schedule in devotional time daily. Even if it is 5 minutes. 
  2. Learn how to play again. Be mindful and targeted when playing with Asher. 
  3. Utilising more fruits in my baking and snacks with naturally occurring sugar and try not to add any other sweeteners to it. 
  4. In our marriage, start prioritising and setting aside dates regularly. 
  5. Maintain a gratitude diary 3x a week. 
  6. Continue to grow stronger. Working out with heavier weights and focusing on strength
  7. It is ok to do things for myself. 
  8. Start a new hobby- I’m looking at learning about essential oils. 

A new year = new beginnings. Let’s begin!

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A Simple Orange Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Yogurt Frosting (Not quite paleo, gluten free) + Christmas and Feasting

Simple orange coconut cakeIt’s beginning to look a lot like christmas…

I’m a huge fan of christmas. The decorations come up, the songs are playing and presents wrapped. It is a time to remind ourselves of the love that God has sent us.IMG_2660 (640x427)

It is also when people seem to think we can “let it go” and “indulge”. Instead of an “all or nothing” thinking, I prefer to think of it like any other day or time of the week. We decide consciously if we are going to eat it. Sometimes we may take a bite and decide against it (I’m the girl who takes the smallest slice/taste, nibble on it and then go have a bigger helping if I like it). If I have a glass of wine, I’m going to enjoy the glass. I choose to say no when I want to say no. If I say yes, I choose to enjoy it.IMG_2671 (640x427)

I view the same way with birthdays or any other special occasions. I know that the slice of cake will not cause me to gain 5 kg. Maybe christmas means we are expose to more of these treats. I think it is perfectly ok to have them. It is not about using it as an excuse to go crazy. 

There are many articles about feasting and “eating healthy” at Christmas. The formula I believe can be simple. More veggies, more salad, some protein and enjoy the treats- but acknowledge they are treats. Move and enjoy moving. 

I made this cake for my birthday back in October. I love oranges and I wanted to share cake with my dearest workout mates. It is really simple but it hit a spot in me. Perhaps it was my birthday, or that it is a layered cake. This year, I learned that celebrations are best with people I enjoy around me. IMG_2675 (640x427)

Cake can be nutrients dense with the right ingredients. Then, we can enjoy every bite and every slice with pleasure. This Christmas, I’m going to practice being kind, being less critical and really just treat food the way it is suppose to be treated. Food. Nourishing. Enjoyment. 

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Lemon and Passionfruit Slice (Raw, Paleo, Gluten Free, Clean Eating, Dairy Free)

IMG_2174 (640x427)When we decided to build our home, I was more interested in the indoors bit than the outdoors. Hubby who lived in Malaysia growing up saw that as my city influence-given that I have stayed in small apartments during most of my childhood. I’m not a big fan of gardening, though I love what the garden can produce. He on the other hand, loves greenery and insisted on having a backyard. 

I wasn’t keen at first. I said gardening would take up a lot of our time-something we tend to struggle with. I would much rather cook and bake than do weeding! He convinced me, painting a picture of a herb patch, citrus trees and even rose bushes for my grandmother. IMG_2179 (427x640)

It has been 2 years since we moved into this home. I have to give him credit that the garden is a winner when grandmother was alive. My side of the family helped with the planting of 3 fruit trees and enjoyed spending time in the alfresco area. My dad in particular didn’t even mind the weeding and helped hubby out with some reticulation problems. The herb garden was mostly a success with Asher helping us collecting some herbs for cooking. That is still one of my favourite bit of the garden. Asher loves watering it. The fact that he is learning more about food appeals to me too. Lemon and Passionfruit Slice

We have two rose bushes. One that we planted in memory when grandmother passed away. It sits directly opposite my kitchen sink where every day, I look at it and think of her. The other was given to us by a friend at her 1 year death anniversary for similar reasons. If only we managed to plant more when she was alive. 

The fruit trees? We harvested two mandarins and finally this year, LEMONS! That was really exciting. Fresh lemon juice for the morning and heaps of lemons in our cooking and baking. I wanted to squeeze the juice and freeze it but I was overzealous in our lemon creations and was left with … none. IMG_2181 (427x640)

I made this Lemon and Passionfruit Slice for our joint mother’s group birthday celebration. I figured out that more liquid and longer time in the food processor made this slice super creamy without the cream. A very refreshing raw dessert. 

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Asher’s 2nd Birthday Construction Theme Party (Paleo, Clean Eating)

20150725-IMG_3117 (640x427)Finally a chance to record what we did for Asher’s birthday. This year has gone particularly fast and it seems like yesterday when we had Asher’s 1st birthday bash

What a contrast a year made. Last year, Asher was shy and a little shell shocked. This year, he had fun and greeted almost everyone at the door. 20150725-IMG_3132 (640x427)

We noticed that he has an interest in all things that has wheels. With a few construction sites on the way to swimming and shops, he is frequently pointing out to us what those construction vehicles are. With that in mind, we decided to throw up a small party featuring construction! 20150725-IMG_3220 (640x427)

Last year, we threw a party and catered for around 60+ people for lunch. This year, we hosted an afternoon tea for 30 adults and 10 kids. We kept the menu simple but with a range that would hopefully suit everyone. Once again, I decided that we would have food that we would feed our family usually and avoided adding any menu items with refined sugar and minimally processed ingredients.

The best thing about it being a construction theme is that everything is as rustic as it can be. Very much our style πŸ˜‰ It was definitely home made! For our decorations, we kept it simple and had balloons with a “Happy Birthday” sign across the play room. The sign was on when we hosted an early joint birthday celebrations with mothers’ group and we kept it there! We found a $7 flag banner with pictures of trucks from spot light, and got a roll of yellow/black tape as a border decoration from Bunnings. All in all, decorations plus the take home goodie bag costed us around $100. 

For our savoury items: 

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Sweet Potato Frittata 

20150725-IMG_3136 (640x427)Vietnamese Smoked Salmon Roll with zucchini, avocado and carrot 

Miso Chicken Nibbles 

20150725-IMG_3139 (640x427)Sushi

20150725-IMG_3140 (640x427)Popcorn that we popped ourselves

20150725-IMG_3142 (640x427)Cheese platter 

 

For our sweets

20150725-IMG_3115 (640x427)Lemon Tart – A walnut and date crust with a lemon custard on top, Tapioca Kueh which an Auntie made, Fruits and banana dipped in my home made chocolate and toasted coconut.

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Apple and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Yogurt and Dark Chocolate Coconut Ganache

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I was most proud of the cake because other than the cream cheese, it was pretty much paleo, clean and healthy. With only 6 tsp of honey for a 3 layer 9 inch cake + 14 cupcakes, it tasted sweet with the apple and carrot combined. The whole cake was GONE by the end of the party. Looking at pininterest for decoration ideas, all I did was to place 3 small construction figures on the cake with some home made chocolate chia cookie crumbs for decoration. Looking at the photos, I could have done a better job with the frosting- perhaps frosting a layer first, chilling it before placing a thicker layer on it. Lesson learnt πŸ˜‰ 20150725-IMG_3326 (640x427)

The cheeky boy was very much in love with all his party and that’s all it matters!

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Zucchini Sundried Tomatoes Slices

IMG_1647 (640x427)I really can’t complain as Asher is an excellent eater. Most of the time anyway. He likes his vegetables and would go for his fruits any day. He would eat what I make for him and usually looks like he is enjoying his meals. Yes as a toddler, he has his fussy days, but overall, I think we have been very blessed with a good eater. IMG_1652 (640x427)

On my “off days”, I like to make something extra to freeze. Sometimes, these can be used as snacks. Other times, it can be a breakfast item. I freeze bigger meals as well so that I know that there is something we can pull out of the freezer for him on busy evenings. 

IMG_1650 (427x640)I LOVE zucchini. I think we can have it every week if we want to. We can roast it, grate it, fry it, add them in stews.. the possibilities is endless. I have not yet make them into cakes yet but that day might come just yet. In the mean time though, I do like grating and adding them in fritters or frittatas. I like to think they increase the nutrition value of whatever we are making. 

This has a few slices of sundries tomatoes with the added protein of eggs. I love how well they freeze- making them easy to defrost. They are portable and makes a good snack if not breakfast. 

I hope you like it too!

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Eating Clean while Travelling- We went to Hong Kong! Plus Coconut Banana Ice Cream (Paleo, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar free)

IMG_4728Travelling is one of our biggest passion. We are very privileged to be able to head back to see our family in Singapore, Malaysia and even take a short trip to Hong Kong to see my Grandaunt recently.  IMG_4812

I have often said that eating clean is a lifestyle. What happens then on holidays? My family and I subscribe to the 80/20 rule mostly. During the trip, I ate carefully. Being on holidays means we have our indulgences. I’m all for a good egg tart or dim sum, but generally I try to stay clean as possible (with allowances). IMG_4746

In Singapore and KL, My mum and mother in law are wonderful cooks. Chinese cooking can be quite healthy. We had steamed fish, plenty of broths and soups, stir fry vegetables like bitter gourd and sambal eggplant, steamed chicken with mushrooms. Eating at home, where I didn’t have to cook was a luxury. 

When we do eat out, hubby and I tend to share certain treats. Instead of having a bowl of herbal jelly each, we shared one. We drizzle honey onto our bowl rather than pouring into it. (We had one! The other one in the photo belonged to my mum)IMG_4665

We came across one of my favourite- Pierre Hermes Macarons. Given that it has been nearly 6 years since we went to Paris, and it brought us lovely memories, we indulged-Sharing one between us every few days. IMG_4710

More importantly, we stayed active. Nearly everyday, we tried to move. We walked a lot of course (especially in HK), but I did body weight workout and used the weights at the hotel gym. I didn’t go over excessive. I just moved. It was probably of a lower intensity that my normal workout but that’s alright. My body needed to rest and so I rested. There was at least 2 days I did not workout. I simply felt tired. 

Other things?

– I packed small packets of nuts. It’s easy enough to buy roasted unsalted nuts at groceries stores.

– I pack my muesli. I try to start my day having a healthy, clean breakfast. Sometimes I would have eggs but I really enjoy my muesli with some greek yogurt.

– Mum makes cold pressed juices at home which I quite enjoyed!

– Taste. If I really like it, I will have the whole thing without guilt. 

– Stay hydrated. We purchase plenty of bottled water.

– We brought our vitamins. However, we find that it is more helpful taking them at least before the trip to build our immunity up.

– Instead of watching TV, we were usually in bed by 10 or 11pm. Sometimes even 9:30! It was actually quite nice to take advantage of not having to do household chores and just catch up on sleep!

– On the plane, I would either order the low carb meal or have the meat and vegetables portion. I would skip the dessert (as it is usually not as nice!) and have a piece of dark chocolate if I feel like it. 

– Don’t forget to have some fruits. We enjoyed bells apple, guava, jackfruit… Asher loves his fruits too! IMG_4753

With Asher, we mostly allowed him to have what we eat at restaurants. Thankfully, he likes his vegetables and would attack the broccoli with gusto in Hong Kong. In KL, he had cucumber and jiacama as snacks. 

All in all, we had a great trip and I can’t wait to visit Hong Kong in the future again. IMG_1608 (640x427)

I know we are in autumn but I cannot resist not sharing this Ice cream recipe with you. It’s so quick and simple. You can do it with or without the ice cream machine. I find that with the machine, it is creamier. 

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Frozen Banana and Mango Slice

IMG_1374 (640x427)Do you often find yourself with packed to the brim weekends? I know we do. Gym sessions, social gatherings, groceries, church..and suddenly, we found ourself exhausted, tired and snappy at 5pm on a Sunday afternoon. 

Back to Basics- we learned that it is ok to schedule in family time. It is not unproductive to have a stroll to the local park and just let Asher run wild. Or perhaps as a couple, taking advantage of the time when Asher naps to sit on the couch and have a chat. On the contrary, that is productive.

Over the past few weekends, we decided to schedule nothing in for a few hours in the weekend. Simply put, it was our “Quiet family time”. We realised how important it is to be with each other with no agenda but just enjoying time together.  

 

When did we decide that we need to be busy to be productive? Did it feel funny to have a quiet afternoon? Sometimes. We look at each other, and is sometimes tempted to take the clothes in, fold them or do a spot of spring cleaning.IMG_1372 (640x427)

Asher loves it. Having two parents with undivided attention at the park or play ground makes him very happy. He would give us cuddles and kisses in turns, or make each of us read his favourite books. He points to the slide and would go up by himself but yet wanting us close by. 

That is one thing about parenting that we learned is that time as a family is what nurture the child. It’s not fancy gadgets or toys. It’s simply…time. 

The irony of it all is that it makes us refreshed and even more productive during the week. Choosing to be in each other presence calms our mind. That helps get us ready for the week. We are less stressed and are more present focused. 

We love our weekends even more. IMG_1371 (640x427)

I made these slice as it was a hot day and we had some frozen mango and banana in the freezer. I made 2 versions of it before, but the 2nd version which has desiccated coconut on top just doesn’t seem to work. This one, tastes more like ice-cream on a biscuit base. The frozen banana and mango blended together with coconut is good enough to eat by itself. I’m pretty sure a few tablespoons went into my belly.

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Cherry Coconut Ice (Paleo, Raw, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free)

 

IMG_1272 (640x427)How are you celebrating Australia Day? 

I’m not sure how time just seem to fly. I could recall the day I arrive into Australia. A fresh faced chubby 16 year old girl. Excited to see the world. I came here to study. Armed with two huge luggages, life was thrilling. 

It’s like someone pressed fast forward on the remote control. I can see myself graduating, getting married, having a baby and calling Australia home.

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It was never the intention to stay. I was meant to complete my studies and leave. With my father’s encouragement, I studied more. Then I fell in love and together, we decided that Australia is home. 

We love Australia for the seasons. The clear blue skies and fresh air. The opportunity to work. Abundance of cultures and food. The wider roads for driving. The fresh fruits. More importantly, the people. 

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Was it hard to settle down? Looking back, I grew up here. I learned about the culture, the food and the language. I grew to enjoy having a barbecue and those lovely gourmet sausages from the butcher down the road. I enjoyed the friendly conversation at the restaurant with a stranger I met just 5 minutes ago. How about the appreciation of excellent coffee and lovely people to talk to at the same time? We are blessed, having meet people who are open and generous in work and other places. 

So while I miss Singapore- the food, my parents and my gorgeous friends… I can’t help but say I’m proud to be in Australia. 

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I made this coconut ice for our nephews who are gluten free, dairy free, and nut free. They loved it so much that they asked for seconds! Proud aunty moment! What better way to celebrate Australia with coconut and cherries? Who knows, I might even try making lamintons today. 

Happy Australia Day! 

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Sesame Snaps (Paleo, Clean Eating)

IMG_1000 (427x640)I stumbled to to this recipe while browsing at Merry Maker Sisters website. What a delicious find. We love sesame. As a kid, one of my favourite dessert to share with my grandmother was a bowl of black sesame paste. She goes for the almond paste of course- I try to have a bowl of it (sugar and all), everything I visit Singapore. It reminds me of her.

Back to the sesame snaps though. I bet these will make great Chinese New Year “cookies”. Definitely saving this one for next year. Every year for Christmas though, I shortlist some holiday bakes to share with friends as gifts. This is in my shortlist!

 

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The crunch and snap of it makes a great textural feel in the mouth. Hubby loves munching through them for his snacks. Making one batch lasts us for some time. I gave some away just because I didn’t want hubby to over eat them! Seriously that good. I made these a few times now, and each time I had great feedback.

As suggested, I halved the amount of honey and changed the other half to rice malt. I also played around with the quality of honey/rice malt- trying to reduce it without compromising the taste. I realised we do need the stickiness to make this recipe works. It’s a lot sweeter than what I am used to make at home, but certainly a very very addictive treat!

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Sesame Snaps- easily makes two containers of it!

2 cups of white sesame seeds untoasted

1 cup of almond meal

1/4 cup of honey

1/2 cup of rice malt syrup

2 tablespoons of cacao nibs/chopped by pistachios

1/4 cup of coconut oil.

 

Preheat oven to 160C. Prepare 2 cookie trays. Mix everything together. Split into half for each tray- rolling the mixture between two pieces of baking paper. About 1/2 cm thick. Transfer to cookie tray and remove the top baking paper. Repeat for 2nd batch. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Watch the oven. I like mine a little more brown so it stays crispy.