Salted Caramel Popcorn Double Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free)

IMG_3339 (640x427)One of the things I love to do, is to create cakes for birthdays. It allows me to go “Indulgent” but staying on the relatively healthy side.

I often spoke about how parenthood open up many doors. In this case, it allowed hubby and I to build friendships out of our usual circle. Humans likes predictability. Over time, we sat in the same spot at church, speak to the same people, and even park at similar spots each time! Parenthood ignited our quest to learn how to parent with Christian values, seeking like minded people to discuss dilemmas. Often there may not be any solutions, but it feels good having people to have the discussion, and a community that will look out for each other. IMG_3337 (640x427)

So when a birthday comes by, and it was our turn to host, I jumped on the chance. Oh ok, I couldn’t resist the challenge of making a cake for someone who doesn’t always like the “healthified” version of things. Truth is, I just think if we eat real, it will be ok. IMG_3344 (640x427)

So here come this cake. Yes there is some chocolate, and yes, we used coconut milk for the ganache. The popcorn isn’t “Paleo” BUT i love the salty and crunchiness it adds to it. By the end of the day, we had NO cake left. And that made me happy. IMG_3336 (640x427)

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Apple Crumble Cakes (paleo, gluten free) + How I de stress

IMG_2634 (427x640)What? Only a week since my last strawberry post.. No! Strawberry withdrawn symptoms already. So at the farmers market we go to, I walked past a sign that says 2 boxes for $7. They looked big, luscious and practically calling my name. So into our basket (stroller) they went. IMG_2636 (640x427)

Once I got home though, I realised that these strawberries weren’t going to last for long. That’s ok because I have plans to make the banana strawberry loaf again… only to realise that my bananas aren’t ripe enough. I know. Tragedy. 

I do love a good crumble. With some macadamias in the pantry, I decided to whip some of these baby cakes out. Crunch on top and softness of the cake beneath it. It was yum.Apple and Strawberry Crumble Cakes

Baking is my de-stressor. I’m not a good “relaxer” my mind whirls and I can’t stop thinking. Being a mum makes it worse as I’m constantly planning ahead. Doing something though means it takes off my mind off the constant stream of thoughts. Baking and exercises are both things that forces me to focus.

So this is a result of one of my “de-stress” mornings. Thanks to Asher, I generally wake at around 6am, if not earlier anyway. It is not uncommon for me to bake either before he wakes or while he is eating his breakfast. That sets my day right. 

How do you de-stress? hit me with more ideas. 

 

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Raw Coconut Chocolate Brownies (Raw, Vegan, Paleo, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

IMG_2271 (427x640)So Asher discovered chocolate. 

He whispered “chocolate cake” the other day when I asked what would he like for morning tea. That reply reminded me of why I should not ask him what he wants but just offer him some options instead. IMG_2277 (640x427)

So we made brownies. Raw ones that goes into the food processor and he can eat via the spoonful. I made a version before using coffee but given that coffee is one that we do not want asher to try, we had to sneakily eat it. This one, was adapted so if he has a square, it would be alright. IMG_2273 (640x427)

Interestingly, it only works with coconut milk. I find that almond milk or normal milk just doesn’t give it the right texture. Perhaps coconut milk gives it a creamier taste. I had to freeze half a batch though. For many reasons including portion control and not snacking on a whole heap of them at once. The other, is that I can show Asher an empty box and said “finished” when in actually fact there is half of it left in the freezer for hubby’s snack. (sneaky sneaky!) IMG_2275 (640x427)

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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)

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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. 

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Macadamia Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies + What introverts need…

IMG_2054 (427x640)There is something about morsels of cookies that make people happy. Crisp, slightly sweet with a crunch. It goes with tea and coffee or for Asher, a warm cup of milk. Asher has mastered the art of dunking too! 

H-A-P-P-Y. That emotion that most people are pursuing. 

Most people are guided by their emotions. Their behaviour follows what they feel. Feeling sad might mean a day in bed. Feeling happy to some people would mean they might schedule in an extra night out.  

Often though, our actions determine how we feel as well. What is more complicated, is how our belief system shape the way we think about situations and response to them. IMG_2040 (640x427)

As life gets into its daily grind, everything seems overwhelming. Then I read this article, and somehow it clicks. I’m not a social psychologist, but I do take an interest in how systems affect our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. I believe that we are responsible for decisions we make and the domino effects around us. 

Is this an admission that I’m an introvert? I do not once think I am an extrovert or even categorise myself in those terms. There will be situations where I’m more expressive, while mostly, I really just like a coffee with a friend or two. I like attending parties, but I would prefer to have a cheese board or a small dinner party. I love surprises but would like an intimate personalise surprise than a big bash. IMG_2055 (427x640)

When I feel unhappy, it is easy to play the blame game. Truth is, I have probably over commit. The weeks leading up to Asher’s birthday have been fun and enjoyable. However, over the past 10 months or so, I think I over thought what I can do. Suddenly, I feel stressed and anxious. 

There have been quite a few changes in our household lately. There was around two months where we were aware there would be changes but not knowing what was stressful itself. Then my beloved gym was closing, and while we are still working out together, it is a huge sense of loss. Then we have my in laws visiting, Asher’s birthday to organise and a few other events to coordinate. My brain was screaming “too much” 

So I think I might re treat to my little shell for a while. Focus on what I usually do to function best. Quiet time. And heaps of cooking and baking. Deep breathing. Most of all, dunking my cookie into a hot cup of tea/coffee. IMG_2040 (640x427)

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Mini Orange Coconut Cakes (paleo, gluten free, nutfree, dairy free) + How I survive early mornings and late nights

Orange Coconut CakeYou know those days where setting the alarm is important? It hardly exists in my household anymore. Asher loves waking up early in the mornings. We rejoiced when he wakes between 6-7am. Sometimes it is between 5:30-6:30am. It’s what makes parenthood interesting. You never know what time you will wake. Take this morning, he woke up at 6:50am aka meaning I had a SLEEP IN! How good was that! 

I’m finding it really tricky to sleep earlier though. Since starting work, those quiet evenings when Asher sleeps becomes even more precious. He usually goes to bed between 7:30-8pm. It does varies depending on his nap times and if we are out on weekends. Generally though, he is asleep by 8:30pm latest. Hubby and I would then clean up, prep for the next day, put a load of washing on and watch an episode of Masterchef with a bowl of fruits and hot tea. That is when we attempt to have a decent conversation and plan for the weekend or whatever event we have on. That means we try to get to bed by 11pm, though realistically, it’s closer to 11:30pm. 

IMG_1929 (640x427)So if we have sleep between 11:30pm-5:30am, that’s around 6 hours. Give and take an additional hour or so. Hey, pretty good right? Not on the nights where Asher has difficulty settling or falls sick. On average, Asher will wake once a night. Most nights, it doesn’t  take long to re settle him. He just want to know we are around and nearby. A comfort hug and light strokes and he is back down in 15 minutes. Other nights, we have NO idea why he is up. We would have gone through the list and he would still be upset. It could be toddler nightmares or teething. Whatever the case is, we try to comfort him the best we can by being present. 

So really? On some nights, one of us will have less than 5 hours of sleep. Maybe 3-4 hours. How do we manage to get through the day?IMG_1925 (640x427)

– Hubby and I try to take turns. We learned that it is easier to take turns by days. So at least one of us have a decent night sleep on some nights. This usually makes the next night more bearable.

– Coffee. I would need a shot by 4pm. I try to delay drinking coffee till the late afternoon when I really need it. Some people struggle with sleep having coffee so late in the day. I need it to stay awake till 11pm!! hubby would have his earlier in the morning though. 

– We have a mattress in Asher’s room. Some nights, it is just easier to sleep there or with him on the mattress. That buys us an additional hr or two sleep. Plus it’s more comfortable than sleeping on the carpet. 

– Eat well. I cannot stress how important nutrition is. Just keeping vegetable sticks, nuts, protein like eggs around helps to keep the sugar level balance and not range for sweets when the 3pm slumps hits. Also, breakfast. If I have to wake at 5:30am, give me my food! 

– I may look like a zombie at the gym at 5:30pm but I always feel better after a workout. That endorphins hit is so good…

– First thing I do when I wake up is to hit the loo, brush my teeth and wash my face. Part of my morning routine is put on make up and going out clothes. That helps me feel a little more human and look slightly more presentable. 

– Keep busy. I try not to think about how little or much sleep I have. I just have to keep moving and doing things. 

– On days that I do not work and put Asher down for a nap, I might rest with him. It might be between 10-20 minutes but it makes a big difference. 

– Having something positive to look forward to. On weekends, we have family lunches. A good coffee always makes me happy. And a trip to the farmers markets. 

I like to think that I can be more productive if I wake earlier. On my work days, I tell myself that I get an extra 30 minutes or so with Asher before work begins. On my non-work days,  I might do a quick vacuum around the house before our swimming class. I might schedule in an activity with Asher. Like these cakes for instance. Asher has developed a curiosity  around what we do in the kitchen. Plus he loves oranges. IMG_1924 (427x640)

Using the pressure cooker, I steamed the orange for 15 minutes while he ate breakfast. Then all I did was to sit him on the bench, and get him to tip measured out ingredients into the food processor. He watches it whirls while giving me a cuddle (It still scares him a little!), and then we try spooning it to the little cups. I place it in the oven, and tell him that he made it. He patiently waited for those cakes to come out of the oven, cool and had one before his swimming class. Then he looked at me and said “asher made” with that bright look in his eyes.

That made me melt a little. Perhaps that 5:30am wake up was worth it (who am I kidding…?!?) 

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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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Dark Chocolate Macadamia Pistachio Happy Cookies + Thoughts on guilt (Paleo, Clean Eating, Gluten Free)

IMG_1530 (427x640)Hello APRIL! Are you kidding me or is it that we are done with 1/4 of the year already? Soon we will be talking about Christmas shopping and cooking again. 

I’m all chilled at the moment as we are on our holidays. Grandparents looking after Asher. Good food, fresh juices and home made broths. Yes, it’s awesome getting spoilt. 

Self care is under rated. Self care SHOULD be emphasised more. I was talking to hubby one evening about the awful feeling of guilt. 

IMG_1534 (640x427)GUILT

-The feeling I get when I have to ask hubby to take a day off to look after Asher because I have some work meetings that would be difficult to reschedule. 

– Leaving a pile of clothes not sorted or folded for a few days.

– Ironing pile appears to be bigger

– Hubby getting up in the middle of the night to re settle Asher.

– Asking hubby to get up to re settle Asher when I was coughing 

– Scheduling a hair cut, getting a pedicure done or a massage.

– Thinking that I can always do MORE with Asher. I would love to organise more sensory play with him.

– Flopping onto my sofa and just want to do nothing but drink tea and watch mindless TV. 

-Having that extra coffee

– Working more hours= less time for Asher. Working less hours = less contribution to our household. 

– Not calling my grandaunty enough

– Not calling my dad on weekdays enough

– Not messaging or touching base with my friends enough IMG_1537 (640x427)

It seems that on some days, everywhere I turn, the feeling of guilt could lurk. Hubby turned to me and said that no one puts that on me but myself. How true is that. 

On reflection, my feelings of guilt would occur more when I’m feeling tired and run down. On a car ride one day, hubs said that from his perspective, he sees that everything is running fine and Asher is flourishing..and then bam! He realised that I have kept it all up but forget that it is me that needs to chilled.

SELF CARE. Best two words ever.

No more running errands just for the family on any precious day or few hours that I have off without Asher occasionally. No more blaming or thinking that I can do better. Truth is, I can always do better- there is always something to thrive for. Right now, I want to thrive for rest and recovery. Right now, I’m going to be kind to myself, enjoy the food, enjoy my friends and time with my family, quick workouts and some awesome shopping time. 

And that will make me a better wife, mother, friend and daughter. 

No guilt. 

I made these little cookies for a friend who was feeling a little run down. No guilt. Just some happy pistachios, dark chocolate and macadamias with coconut oil- full of happy ingredients. IMG_1536 (640x427)

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Carrot Cake Bliss Balls (Paleo, Gluten Free)

IMG_1439 (640x427)I have the best of both worlds. I work part time, and also get to be with Asher at home on some days. Compared to my family and friends in Singapore, where the option is pretty much non-existent, it is a luxury. 

I don’t take this opportunity lightly. No matter how tired and exhausted I am juggling between life at home and being with my son, I remind myself that many women would love to be in my position. 

Sure I get cranky. Housework does not always get done. My mind has an endless running list of things to do or organise. I find myself switching off when hubby speaks to me because I’m busy trying to figure out how do I fit in groceries, swimming and cooking in 4 hours. 

It hit me how disrespectful it was when hubby gently told me that he has repeated the same thing 4 times. While I seem to be listening, I was not present. 

The term working mum is misleading. Yes, I’m a mum. Yes, I work. I’m also a wife, a daughter, a friend, a niece, an auntie and despite my granny’s passing- I’m always her grand daughter. I cannot help but wonder, have I stopped being a wife just because I’m working and busy being a mum? 

My days are filled with work related commitments, play groups, play activities for Asher, an occasional coffee with a fellow mother, baking, cooking, organising appointments, planning meals, cleaning and goodness know what else I have forgotten with this ongoing never ending list. It is so easy to think that cooking his meals and doing his ironing as part of being a wife. Or perhaps making sure that the house is decently clean so that he can enjoy Asher over the weekend without needing to worry about most housework (sorry hun, you are still on laundry duty). 

A wife. It means being a partner. Someone to share his life with. Listening, sharing his joy and pain. Problem solving, being supportive but honest. Being forgiving when one makes mistakes. Showing care, concern and gentleness. Calming his anxiety, but being his cheerleader when it is needed. 

I haven’t been consistent in meeting my “jdf” of what a wife should do. Sure I can say that balancing work and looking after a toddler is challenging. I prefer to keep myself in check at times because there is no way that I want to disrespect my husband or put my marriage in the back burner because I’m too busy working or chasing after a toddler.

I did an experiment. 

Almost every morning, especially on weekdays, I would send text messages to hubby. I decided that I would thank him for at least ONE action. It has to be concrete- no fluffy statements like “Thanks for loving me”. I would write it as “thank you for bringing me a cup of tea when I couldn’t move from the couch last night. I know you love me.” or “It was so helpful this morning when you took Asher down so that I can have 10 minutes to get ready”. 

It took him nearly a month and suddenly he texted me. “Thank you for these morning messages. I look forward to it every day.” 

 

That. made. me. smile. 

IMG_1438 (640x427)

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