lift that weight

May 21, 2014 § 2 Comments

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homemade baked spicy potato crisp

This post is inspired by Felicia’s “the weight we carry”. Her words are always heartfelt and honest, which in this day and age, it’s hard to come by anything real like her. I live in a city where women are impossibly annoying and too cautious about their figures. The way their hips sit in a skirt, the size of their arms in a sleeveless top and the amount of food they put into their mouth. They take pride in “low-fat” food and work out regimes during lunch breaks and after work. Putting their social/family time on hold and taking heed of their looks rather than how lovely they already are inside.

I was that fat kid in the field, the last to finish, the kid who got teased at for being chubby, the one who did not want to celebrate her birthday because she knew her family members would be calling her names for eating a slice of cake. So at one point, I got tired of it all, started working out right, eating cleaner food and lost so much weight, everyone around me got worried.

At some point, I got wary of other things around me. Not the way my hips sit in a skirt, the size of my arms in a sleeveless top or the amount of food I put into my mouth. I took heed of how food fill us up inside and where our food came from. Restoring health and balance in a positive light: local ingredients, sustainable eating, cooking at home and feeding simple food.

Perhaps at one point, I lost control of myself and put a restraint on the food I enjoy. But that soon went away too. The amount of time wasted on projecting a perfect image, which could jolly well be focus on the happiness of your life.

Whatever it is, someone has something to say about the way you lead your life. Whatever it is, listen, accept or change, and just be yourself.

These days, there is no doubt to move on to bigger things. The awareness of finding balance through yoga, sustainable food, creating a holistic environment for the people I love and spreading these messages across, just like how Fel is doing. Thank you for the timely reminder, sending love to Brooklyn!

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a happy kitchen crew serving simple food at afterglow

“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.”

― John Robbins, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

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Recently, we took a short break to Hong Kong, the city will still be beautiful when it is done. This time, we had too much to eat and was way over our budgets. But nothing compares to the splendid time spent with loved ones.

Next time in Hong Kong put these places in your list:
Cafe Corridor
Ronin
Amber
Hazel & Hershey’s

banana loaf made easy

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

For all alternative baking, there ought to start from the basics. A quintessential staple on a kitchen counter top, sitting quietly in a wooden bowl and deepening in flavours as time passes daintily. The banana is a versatile fruit that can be easily consumed on the go or forgotten. When that happens, turn it into a delightful treat. Banana bread or loaf should be a breeze to make. Thus it is also easily made dairy/gluten free.

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The banana skins should be browned or very soft to touch. When you mash them, they should smell sweet and slightly musky. The mushier the mash, the moister the cake, the tastier it will be. So always buy more bananas than you need, a loaf is always welcome in a home.

for a 9 inch cake tin

1 tsp vanilla extract
two very ripe bananas, mashed
45g Bob’s Mill buckwheat flour
100g Doves Farm gluten free plain white flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
80 ml vegetable oil
50g unsweetened applesauce
50g non-dairy milk
150g Lundberg brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a 9 inch cake tin.

In a small bowl, add the mash bananas and vanilla extract and set aside.

In another deep mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk and brown rice syrup. Pour the wet mixture into the deep mixing bowl, whisk until there are no lumps. Then fold in the mashed bananas gently until everything comes together.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. If the cake tester/knife comes out wet, set it for another 5-10 minutes. It should be golden brown and the cake tester/knife should be clean. If you like your bread loaf a little denser, take it out of the oven when it is still a little moist. The cake tester/knife will have a some batter stick to it. Let it cool for at least ten minutes before indulging it with a knob of butter or a squeeze of honey and a cup of tea.

a new carrot cake

March 25, 2014 § 4 Comments

As part of Supernature Organic April baking theme, I had baked a gluten free vegan carrot cake. While carrot cake is often available at bakeries and cafes, it is easily replaced with gluten free flours and sugar free options. Try Bob Mill’s quinoa flour, buckwheat flour or Doves Farm plain white flour. For sugar free option, Wholesome agave or Lundberg brown rice syrup. The agave gives a richer and pure sweetness to the cake, while Lundberg produce a wholesome rustic taste. This is my favourite combination by far but I do suggest trying a few flours to suit your taste.

for a 9 inch cake tin

45g Bob’s Mill buckwheat flour
100g Doves Farm gluten free plain white flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
80 ml vegetable oil
60g unsweetened applesauce
50g non-dairy milk (hazelnut milk is a big hit)
150g Lundberg brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
a handful of chopped walnuts
1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, shredded

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a 9 inch cake tin. In a deep mixing bowl, mix buckwheat flour, gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk, brown rice syrup and vanilla extract. Add the wet mix into the dry mixture, whisk together until well combined. With a spatula, fold the chopped walnuts and shredded carrots into the batter till it is evenly incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake it for 30-35 minutes. Use a knife or cake tester, it will come out clean when the cake is done. If there are little crumbs sticking to the knife or tester, return it to the oven for at least five minutes. Careful not to over bake as gluten free cakes gets drier when it cools.

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. – Julia Child

friday night thoughts

March 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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For every camera phone users out there, there was once upon a time when pictures were taken from actual cameras and developed with films. Food photography was nothing less than the first black and white pictures in Le Cordon Bleu by Dione Lucas. The focus has always been in the cooking and taste of food. The dynamic flavors with simple ingredients and culinary techniques mastered by chefs.

Tonight I baked fennel for the very first time along with some red onions, garlic and thyme. Then sautéed half of a red onion and sliced garlic, then pour in a quarter cup of couscous with water. Season to taste, put the lid on and let the flavours soak in. Oh, and there were portobello mushroom and a sprinkle of cumin seed baked beside the fennels. It was one of the most delightful dinner one can possibly have on a Friday evening.

I only eat couscous when you cook them – m

I cannot stress the importance of simple cooking along with fresh ingredients more than what we eat today. Make your food worth the salt, your meal worth the time and most of all, be mindful and present to life.

Eating used to be a time for family bonding. It used to be a time when people said grace, relaxed together and appreciated each other’s company. It uses to be a time when the heart was fed. It could be that way again.
- John Robbins

 

renewal

January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

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New beginnings call for restorations and continuations. As I grow deeper with writing and baking, I’d increasingly started to realize the importance of feeding and treating the body better. I wake up to feeling fresh and renewed, preparing for life’s offerings, to take everything in with a stride and translate all the bad energy to good things slowly and surely.

It is not difficult to choose a balanced lifestyle. While we all choose to complain, we can all choose to walk the talk more often. Take time for yourself, cook better food, choose less process or greasy, more wholesome, healthier ingredients with the simplest meals. Your body probably won’t agree from the start but will gradually be thankful at the end of the day. Feel light and happy.

There was once when your body, mind, soul and heart felt wonderfully whole. Find that tender moment, practice the positivity and keep them.

the heart feels more secured
the mind feels more pure
the soul feels more alive

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Figs are often regarded as a symbol of renewal. With the start of the new year, we’ve decided to enjoy what’s left of the season by reducing them with warm spices, sweet onions and dark brown sugar. Then slowly bringing them to a simmer until each flavour immerse into a lovely chutney. Jar them while its hot, allowing the fruits soak in the spices and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, spread it over hot toast, melt some soft cheese like brie or camembert, throw a handful of fresh arugula or pea sprouts and drizzle a touch of extra virgin olive oil.

It’s a simple way of eating, and so tasty!

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your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny

- mohamand ganhdi

allowing

December 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

the year of letting go, of understanding loss. grace. of the word ‘no’ and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’. the year of humanity/humility. when the whole world couldn’t get out of bed. everyone i’ve met this year, says the same thing ‘you are so easy to be around, how do you do that?’. the year i broke open and dug out all the rot with own hands. the year i learnt small talk. and how to smile at strangers. the year i understood that i am my best when i reach out and ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’. the year of sugar, everywhere. softness. sweetness. honey honey. the year of being alone, and learning how much i like it. the year of hugging people i don’t know, because i want to know them. the year i made peace and love, right here.

- Warsan Shire

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It has been a great year. I started wanting a clean slate and pretty much got myself into a hot mess. Somehow there was an epiphany amidst them all, if not a few. We went through several changes in the cafe, we passed the six months marked and even so, we are still learning and growing. For this, I am thankful for the people that made it so special and lovely. On the gloomiest day, we will still be laughing and singing.

I stopped to ask myself, wondering if there was a chance to leave all these and feed on the wanderlust’s appetite. A year ago, I didn’t plan to be here. A year ago, I didn’t think I would feel this way. A year ago, I could not stand on my forearms or feel so grounded. A year ago, I didn’t think I would be writing a cookbook.

A year later, yoga became easier. I found myself surrounded by people who are true, I let those who aren’t, go. I’ve met amazing people who continue to be themselves and give love always, in yoga, in writings, in cooking and in drawing. They keep life simple and as it should be. Nothing more than just the ordinary to keep an everyday life fulfilled.
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Next year, would be unknown to me. I have no plans but to travel and continue to share the heart’s longing. Feeding people honest wholesome food, stay trim and be happy. Through cooking, writing and perhaps a little more time on the mat . The cookbook will be out and hopefully, we will be having more gatherings to share our hearts.

Thankful for all the support through emails, comments and snail mails. It’s been a wonderful ride. Never expect, always allow. Yes, allow. Allow all good and bad things to happen, to find what is truly yours.

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slowly

December 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

“I would like to be even more minimalist than I am” – Alice Waters

Listening to Alice Waters’ interview on the monocle podcast has inspired me to turn the pages. There are days when I wonder if feeding the crew or customers are enough to raise an awareness to simple living. While we are always chasing trends, I chase sustainability.

It starts from home like charity, of keeping things as it is and simply using basic ingredients to make a good honest meal. From using quality olive oil to freshest produce can determine even the slightest differences in flavours/textures. Bringing awareness to having a meal with either yourself or in company and paying attention to how your body reacts to the food. Food is fuel, feed the car good gas and it runs well, feed the car bad gas it runs badly, it is as simple as that. Feed your body a piece of greasy donut to satisfy that awful feeling isn’t going to help, go indulge in a wholesome easy nutritional dish and feel happy, inside out.

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Before you go, oh here she goes again talking about green hippie vegan food, I am not going to tell you to clear your fridge out and start digging your garden or order just salad but to begin with the daily baby steps of taking notice of what you eat on a daily basis. Eat more whole food and less of other stuff. Yes stuff, stuff you cannot pronounce when you read the labels or cannot identify when you look at the dish.

A couple of days ago, someone ordered macdonalds into the kitchen and I flipped but kept my cool because it was so busy and everyone was really hungry. When the delivery boy came, one of our friendly regulars pointed that we “should be ashamed of that because the cafe serves such good food” and sniggered away. I was ashamed for not being able to feed them better food but there was no way to slow down service and keep customers as well as the staffs happy. We laughed about it of course, even I did and took a few guilty slurps of coke when honestly, it was quite refreshing but after a few more gulps, the sugar started getting into my teeth and the fuzz was making my tummy oozy.

“How long has it been?”, she asked, when she saw the wide grin on my face after my lips touched the straw.
“Way too long, I feel like a virgin.”, she broke out laughing in tears and I did as well.

Somehow, knowing that bad food is bad but can be good when we need a hearty jest to just get by with the day.

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We take our time by using fresh ingredients, our hands to make food and serve customers with delight. Often, we use our hands to whip up egg yolks and sugar, emulsify oils and squeeze citrus with just a the back of the spoon. There is something so gratifying in using bare necessities to connect the food and us.
Perhaps that is why slow food movement has grown on me since I started cooking and having a plant based diet just allows me to take simple pleasures with even more comfort.

By slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better: They eat better; they make love better; they exercise better; they work better; they live better. – Carl Honoré

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Encounters is a bilingual local magazine creating unique experiences and featuring stories from local writers of everyday lives. I contributed a piece about visiting the local wet market and reliving memories of early morning visits with my parents. Pick up one to read and walk that mile in the wet/farmers’ market again. It’s still one of the best way to start the day.

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