Friday, May 31, 2013

Honey Facts and Home Spa Ideas


Honey has been consumed throughout history. In biblical times, God gave honey as part of his blessings to His people. He gave the Israelites "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8) and He provided manna from heaven that "tasted like wafers made with honey." (Exodus 16:31). 

Honey has played an important role in cultures not only as food, but as medicine as well. Pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or flowers. It is a naturally flavored sugars that contains trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Honey is made by bees in one of the world's most efficient facilities, the beehive. The 60,000 or so bees in a beehive may collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey. The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees' nectar source. In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor. Honey is considered a superfood. Did you that for a period of time, honey was one of John the baptist's main sources of food?

"John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." - Matthew 3:4


Honey can be consumed internally or applied topically to heal wounds as it has antibacterial and antibiotic qualityHowever, this property is easily destroyed when exposed to heat and light. You will not benefit from its antibacterial and antibiotic properties if you cook with honey, but it is a good natural sweetener and alternative to refined sugar. Make sure you buy and use honey that is pure, raw, and unpasteurized.

Honey is also nourishing for our skin. It's natural and has antibacterial properties. We don't have to buy expensive skin products that may contain toxic chemicals. You can create the following to nourish your skin with honey:

- Facial scrubHoney mixed with ground almonds or oats makes an excellent facial cleansing scrub.

- Moisturizing pack. Mix two tablespoons of honey with two teaspoons of whole milk, smooth over the face and throat for 15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

- Lotion. Mix one teaspoon of honey with one teaspoon of olive oil and a half teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply to dry patches or skin on hands, elbows, heels of your foot, or other parts. 

- Lip Balm. Honey works well on chapped lip because it has antibacterial properties.

Do you use honey a lot in your home? What is your favorite way to consume or use honey?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Natural Air Fresheners Recipes

The theory of air fresheners is nice. It eliminates odor and gives fragrance to a place. However, I always get a major headache whenever I smell store-bought air freshener in the malls or in the cars. Store-bought air fresheners contain synthetic perfumes and ingredients that are toxic when we inhale. They are unnecessary chemicals that we don't want around us. 

One day I was in a taxi and I smelled a nice earthy aroma that didn't give me any headache. When I turned around, I saw a few bunches of fresh pandan leaves at the back of the car. Oh it smells wonderful, natural, and mild. What an awesome way to freshen a car (why did I never think of that?). 

I don't use any air fresheners at home, but I can see there are times and places that a good air freshener can help. If you ever need one, here are some natural ways that you can put together to eliminate odor and freshen things up:

Odor Removal

1. Baking Soda. Put an open box of baking soda in small areas such as refrigerators or cupboards.

2. Ground Coffee. Put some fresh ground coffee at the bottom of a new trash bag to absorb the odor from the trash.

3. Vinegar. Vinegar is a good deodorizer. Spraying a mixture of vinegar and water in the drain or toilet bowl will eliminate stinky smells.

Air Fresheners

1. Essential OilsAdd a few drops of your favorite pure essential oils (lemon, orange, lavender, etc.) on cotton balls and place it inside your drawers and closets. Put a few drops of essential oils inside a toilet paper roll to freshen up your bathroom.

2. Vinegar. In a spray bottle, put about 1/4 parts of white vinegar and 3/4 parts of water. Add your favorite pure essential oils. The more the essential oils in a higher vinegar-to-water ratio will give you a more concentrated spray.

3. Potpourri. Make your own potpourri using dried flowers and herbs and put it in a bowl in your bathroom or living room. Or put it in a mash bag with a string and hangs it on the door knobs or put it in the car. You can add a few drops of essential oils on your potpourri too.

4. Baking Soda and Lemon. Put a cup of baking soda and slices of lemon skin in a plastic container to absorb odors while freshen things up at the same time. See the video of how to make this here

5. Try putting fresh pandan leaves like the taxi driver :)

What is your favorite way to remove odor and freshen your home?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Getting To Know Your Milk

Milk has been in the diets of many people since the beginning of time. It is the first food that babies consume when they are born and it is consumed throughout growing years and adulthood. Milk and milk products are mentioned many times in the Bible and it's usually as a reference to God's providence and blessings to His people.

"And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey." - Exodus 3:8

"Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate." - Genesis 18:8

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." - 1 Peter 2:2 

As a new baby longs for mother's milk, so every Christian is to desire God's Word. The way God uses "milk" as a metaphor in this verse is fascinating. To me it means that milk is highly valued. And we know in Biblical times that having lots of cattle and sheep meant wealth. Milk is good. The way God created milk is perfect, rich in naturally-occurring nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. That is, raw milk - unprocessed, unadulterated, full-fat milk that are naturally produced from animals who live and eat on pasture. Mother's milk is a form of raw milk. It's as natural as it can get and is perfect for newborn infants, providing all the nutrients that they need without having to alter or process anything. You can read all about raw milk here.

Notice the layer of cream on top.
It's what raw milk or non-homogenized milk looks like.

Pastured Whole Milk Supplies:

- Calcium, for bone strength and protects against bone loss. A study showed that adults who drank raw milk absorbed more calcium from the milk than those drinking pasteurized milk.
Vitamin A, which supports vision, calcium and mineral absorption, bone growth, cell division and differentiation, hormone production, thyroid gland, and vital to the immune's system's production of white blood cells.
Vitamin Dis important for phosphorus and calcium absorption which builds your bones, helps your body deal with stress, and is needed to produce insulin and a variety of hormones. 
- Enzymes, which assimilate the milk's various components, making it easy for you to digest.
- Glycosphingolipids, fats that protect against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly. Children who drink low-fat milk have diarrhea more often than those who drink whole milk.

But that's not what it's like today. What was once highly valued is now demonized, declared as bacterially unsafe, disease-causing and fattening product to consume. We rarely know people who drinks full-fat (whole) milk, what more raw milk. The conventional "fresh" milks that we see in the supermarket are low in nutritional values because they come from cows who live in confinement, cramped against one another, never in their lives see the sun or eat green grass but grains and manure, injected with hormones and antibiotics, and they are over-worked to produce much more milk that they can naturally produce so the manufacturers can make as much profit as possible. It's unnatural and completely the opposite of what God created them for. 

Problems With Conventional Milk:

- Pasteurization, which destroys the beneficial enzymes that aids in digestion. Our body needs to work harder to supply its own enzymes to break down the milk protein, sugars, and fat. Pasteurization takes away the important nutrients from raw milk, making it less effective in inducing height increases in children and promoting healthy bone growth. 
- Ultra pasteurization (UHT). Even worse than pasteurization is ultra pasteurization. Milk is heated at a very high temperature to extend shelf life which milk manufacturers love because they can ship UHT milk all over the world without the high cost of refrigerated transportation. You can't make yogurt with UHT milk and "since ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk will not adequately support microbial life, it is unlikely that it will adequately support human life either." (source)
- Homogenization, a process which is deemed as unnecessary and leads to milk related allergy and heart disease. A good read on whether homogenization is dangerous.
- Adultered. Many conventional milk has synthetic vitamins added back in to make up for the loss during pasteurization. Synthetic vitamin D is less digestible (or may even be indigestible), thus it can't absorb the calcium in milk.
- Unhealthy cows. Cows are supposed to eat grass, but in reality most cows don't. They eat a mix of grains, dirt, and manure, which equals to less nutrients, more bacteria, and more diseases. The cows are injected with hormones so that they produce more milk than they naturally can, which dilutes the nutrient content, giving you less vitamins per glass of milk. A study showed that milk from barn-raised cows contained less available calcium than milk from pasture-raised cows.
- Milk companies focus on profit, not our health.

Where To Buy Milk From Pasture-Fed Cows?

If you're blessed to live in a place where raw milk is available and purchasing is legal. You can check here or here to look for raw milk sources. Unfortunately in Singapore, it is most likely impossible to get raw milk. All of the milk I've seen are pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized, although there are some that are not homogenized. So given what is available, if you still like to drink cow's milk, I would say the next best thing would be to consume:

- Pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk from pasture-raised cows: Straus brand from Super Nature or B.-d. Farm Paris Creek brand from Nature's Glory. I've tried drinking Straus a few times but I have a hard time with the taste and the milk tasted sour a majority of the time when I purchased it. B.-d. Farm Paris Creek milk is the one I'm currently giving my toddler since weaning her off breastmilk.
- Pasteurized, homogenized whole milk from pasture-raised cows: I haven't found any that fit this category. 
- Ultra-pasteurized, homogenized whole milk from pasture-raised cows: Organic Valley brand from Cold Storage or Market Place. 

Many health advocates would say that if we can't raw milk, don't bother drinking milk at all. It's a statement that is hard for me to take and I don't know enough to agree or disagree with this, but there are other alternatives that we can pursue to get the important enzymes, vitamins, and minerals from dairy (unfortunately for some of us who love soy milk, it is not one of them):

- Nut milk (almond, hazelnut, etc.), which offer nutrients from nuts, protein, good fats, and calcium. Unfortunately, we don't know how store-bought nut milk is made. Nuts need to be soaked to reduce the anti-nutrient content and for easier digestion. You can try making your own nut milk here.
- Coconut milk tonic.
- Full-fat yogurt from pasture-fed cows. Super Nature sells Barambah Organics pastured yogurt and Market Place and Cold Storage sell Stonyfield yogurts.
- Kefir
- Butter and cheese from pasture-fed cows.

What do you think of consuming raw milk?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vote for Pasture Living (Singapore Blog Award 2013)

I know I'm new in the blogging world, but I am so passionate about healthy and natural living that I started this blog to share with other people how to live healthily and naturally because God has called us to be good stewards of everything we've been blessed with. Increase awareness about natural and healthy living through Singapore Blog Award 2013!

Pasture Living Blog has been nominated as the top ten finalists of the:

Panasonic Best Eco Challenge category

Voting is open from today, 27 May 2013 until 23 June 2013. I hope you've been blessed by the blog as I've been blessed learning about living healthy and naturally myself. Please vote for Pasture Living and "like" the Panasonic Facebook Page. You can vote once a day until voting period closes. 

Your votes means a lot to me. If you are Singapore residents, you can stand a chance to win prizes when you vote. 

Thank you for your time!

Update on 5/29/13

A few people have asked how to vote for my blog, Pasture Living, for the Singapore Blog Award 2013. 

To vote:

1. Please login to your Facebook account and click on this link.

2. Click "Vote Best Eco Challenge" and "like" Panasonic Facebook page to vote.

3. Register.

4. Under the Voting Gallery, filter "Best Eco Challenge Blogs," and vote for Pasture Living.

Elin thanks you too!

His Presence Through His Creations

I didn't grow up being exposed to a lot of nature. The place I grew up at didn't permit much outdoor activities because of a few reasons such as pollution and safety issues. Most of my childhood used to be riding the car to and from school, followed by indoor extra curricular activities, lessons and tuitions at home, six days a week. We'll go to church on Sunday mornings, walked around the malls in the afternoons, and ate in the restaurants. But when I moved to California for a few years and as I travel more often, I experience the beauty of nature that I never knew before. I started to appreciate God's creations through outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and biking. The sunset, the mountains, the waterfalls, the fresh air, the rainbows, they all represent God's work of arts. There was a sight I will never forget. I was about to take the plane home from Portland and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. The pilot told us that it would be a bit bumpy on the ride up but once we got above the clouds, he promised us that we would see the sun setting on the left and the moon on the right. And sure enough, after we went through a roller coaster ride up to the sky, I saw the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen. The sky was calm with a mix of blue, pink, and orange, the sun was setting on my left, and the moon was on my right. God is the ultimate Artist. Words can't describe how majestic it was. I wish you were on the plane with me to see what I saw.

Not long ago, I came across a simple, yet beautiful poem about God's presence in our daily lives in this book "I Wanted to Know All about God" by Virginia Kroll. It is a reminder that even though we cannot see God with our eyes, but we can feel his love and presence through His creations. Just like how we can't see the air we breath, but we know it is there. And just like how we can't see the wind, but we can feel it when the winds blow. This is my version of "I Wanted To Know About God." May it be a blessing!

I wanted to know all about God, 

so I went out looking for Him in signs of His creation.

I wondered where God is in the morning,
and I see the cotton candy clouds in the sky.

I wondered what God does in the evening,
then I see the majestic sunset behind the mountains. 

I wondered if God is gentle, 
and I feel the soft wind on my body. 

I wondered if God is mighty, 
and the thunder roared in my ears. 

I wanted to know if God likes science,
and I see each part of my body functioning together like a masterpiece.

I wanted to know if God knows His math,
then I see a perfectly shaped, six-sided honeycombs.

I wanted to know if God likes music,
then I hear the birds chirping on the trees. 

The rainbow we saw in New Zealand

I wondered if God likes art, 
and I see a beautiful rainbow across the horizon.

I wanted to know what God does at night,
and I see fireflies twinkling harmoniously like a Christmas tree.

I wondered how God looks like when he smiles, 
and I see the little shining stars in the dark blue sky.

I wondered how God feels when I am sad,
and baby Elin comes to me and gives me a big hug.

I wondered what God's love feels like, 
and I realize I'm one blessed woman to be called Evan's wife.

Now when I go out looking for God, 
I know exactly where to find him.

If you wonder where God is in your life right now, go look out the window and feel God's love and presence in nature and the blessings He has bestowed upon you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Recipe: Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

This is one of our favorite dishes to make and eat. It is simple, healthy, and refreshing. It is best eaten together with someone else as you get the fun of making your own wraps while enjoying the fellowship with other people. All we have to do is prepare the sauce and the fillings.


Raw garlic, chopped small
Red chili, chopped small (optional)
Rice vermicelli
Pastured ground meat
Small shrimps
Any kinds of vegetables you like (green onions, lettuce, cilantro, mint, thinly sliced carrots)
Fresh basil leaves
Coconut oil
Salt and pepper
Rice wrappers

Dipping Sauce:
Fish sauce
Fresh lime juice
Coconut palm sugar


1. To make the dipping sauce, mix together fish sauce, lime juice, and grated palm sugar until you get a balanced taste of saltiness, sweetness, and sourness. I always lose track to measure exactly how much to put because I keep adding bit by bit until I get the consistency that I like. Also, fish sauce tastes different from brand to brand and the sweetness of palm sugar also varies, some prefers more sweet, others prefer more sour, etc.
2. Boil rice vermicelli and shrimps separately until soft and drain. Set aside.
3. Sautee ground meat with coconut oil. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Cut up vegetables and set aside.
5. Dip one wrapper into water for a few seconds to soften. Lay wrapper flat on your plates. Place your fillings in the middle. Fold uncovered sides inward, then roll the wrapper. Dip your roll into the dipping sauce.

Bon app├ętit!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coconut Oil for Beautiful Skin

Sea Coconut

Besides that amazing health benefits that we've learned about consuming coconut oil internally, it is also very nourishing when it is applied on our skin. Therapists have used coconut oil for decades to massage away stressed muscles. Coconut is often an ingredient in many beauty products sold in health stores. 

Coconut oil is ideal for skin care. Taken internally, it keeps our skin soft, minimize wrinkles, and helps to heal eczema and other wounds. The synergic combination of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil and long-chain super unsaturated fatty acids in cod liver oil contributes to beautiful skin by helping keep the right fatty acids in the cell membranes. When coconut oil is absorbed into your skin, it helps to keep our connective tissues strong and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making our skin smoother.

Coconut oil also helps prevent hair loss by supporting thyroid function. Hair loss is one of the first symptoms of low thyroid function. When thyroid function is restored, hair usually grows back. Unrefined sea salt, seafood (particularly fish broth), and butter from grass-fed cows also support thyroid function by providing iodine. Eliminate soy foods, as it inhibits thyroid function.

Elin loves sea coconut. The meat tastes like nata de coco.

How do Our Family Use Coconut Oil Topically?

I apply coconut oil to Elin's head daily after shower. I also apply it to Evan's hair with hopes that his balding hair will grow back, in addition to the tablespoon he drinks daily (not that balding is a bad thing, honey, I love you anyway!). I applied it on my eczema and dry spots and now they are gone. I don't usually feel greasy when I apply coconut oil on my skin, which I like. But it does leave Elin's hair oily when I apply it to her head, so I only do so when she stays at home.

Other uses of coconut oil for our body:

Moisturizer/Lotion - use as you would with other lotions.
Aftershave Cream
Hair Conditioner - use as a leave-in conditioner.
Make up remover
Stretch mark lotion for pregnant women - it helps to sooth the itch and stretching skin.
Nipple cream for nursing mama - for sore and cracked nipples.
Diaper cream for baby - it's anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
Cradle cap "ointment" for baby.

Anything else that you can add to the list?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Wonders of Coconut Oil

We've learned in the fat series how important it is to eat good fat and avoid bad fat. And we've learned that good fat is not the cause of high cholesterol or heart disease and is actually vital for many bodily functions. If you cook at home, most likely cooking oil will be a staple in your pantry. Before I learned about healthy fats, I used to buy vegetable oils for cooking because they were cheaper. I don't even want to think how much damage I've caused to my body by consuming a lot of vegetable oils through my cooking, but I'm glad that I've found another cooking oil that is far more healthy and effective than any other oil and that is coconut oil

Coconut oil has been in the diet of tropical people for thousands of years. Dr. Weston Price who traveled the world in the 1930's to examine traditional diets and their effect on health, found that people who consumed a lot of coconut were healthy, trim, and virtually free of heart disease despite the high fat content in coconut. Coconut oil consists of mainly naturally-occurring saturated fats which makes it very stable for cooking and it is resistant to rancidity. Rancid oils like vegetable oils form free radicals that cause a host of health problems. Coconut oil is also the most readily absorbed and utilized by the body compared to butter, cream, eggs, and red meat (and may help you lose weight!). What is it that makes coconut oil so special?

Two Special Properties of Coconut Oil

1. Contains high amounts of lauric acid that is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. It helps defend against viruses, bacteria, and other pathegons and strengthen our immune system, protecting us from a wide range of diseases. Lauric acid is also found in mother's milk which protects newborn infants from infections.

2. Contains abundant medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that boost metabolism, give quick energy, prevent low blood sugar, support the thyroid gland, and stimulate weight loss (as MCFAs are not normally stored in our body as fat, but quickly converted to energy). Coconut oil is the ideal fat for anyone suffering from gallbladder ailments because the MCFAs in coconut oil do not require bile for digestion, while longer-chain fatty acids found in many foods, need to be digested by bile salts (secreted by the gallbladder). Coconut oil is nature's richest source of MCFAs!

How does coconut oil helps us maintain or even stimulate weight loss?

- It speeds up our metabolismThe MCFA's in coconut oil are not normally stored in our body as fat, but quickly converted to energy, making it an excellent source of instant energy to our body, a function usually found when consuming glucose. We know how consuming too much glucose will cause an insulin spike in our bloodstream and it is not a good thing. It makes feel sugar low and our body thinks we need even more sugar, which may lead to gain weight if we don't control it. However, unlike glucose, coconut oil will not cause an insulin spike in our bloodstream and thus, it helps to stabilize weight gain and even stimulate weight loss!

- It slows down the digestion of food. Consuming coconut oil helps you feel fuller after a meal. You will be less likely to snack when you feel full. This particular point has been true for me. I realize I rarely snack anymore since I added coconut oil to my diet. I drink a tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning and cook food with coconut oil for lunch and dinner. I have no urge to snack because I don't feel hungry at odd times of the day and I guess it is a good thing. 

- It improves thyroid functionCoconut oil helps the proper functioning of our thyroid gland. You may have heard that a sluggish thyroid makes it very hard to lose weight no matter what you do.

Coconut oil works synergistically with essential fatty acids. Your body needs saturated fats to most effectively retain and use essential fatty acids, such as cod liver oil. The combination of the two is ideal combination for fighting bacterial infections, provides the fats our thyroid needs to function properly, helps the body make the adrenal hormones it needs to deal with stress, and when bone broth is added to the equation, it gives us special amino acids the liver uses to detoxify, providing excellent support for liver function. 

While researching about how to reduce the occurrence of colds and flu, something my family experience often, I realize how coconut oil is also helpful in cold prevention. Flu is caused by a virus that has lipid coating. Coconut oil makes pathogenic virus disintegrate and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. Adequate vitamin A is critical for fighting infection, so the combination of coconut oil and cod liver oil is ideal for preventing bacterial infections. 

Any side effects from adding coconut products to our diet? Unless you are allergic to coconut, you can still probably take coconut oil, because the allergenic components of coconut are the protein compounds found in the meat of the coconut, not in the oil. You can take coconut oil before meals with warm water or herb tea. 

Consuming coconut oil will not only make you healthy, but will also nourish your skin, making you look youthful and beautiful. To derive full benefits of coconut oil, make sure you buy cold-pressed, unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil. Be careful with "organic" labels, organic doesn't mean cold-pressed. I know very well that coconut oil is much more expensive than regular vegetable oil but I believe it's well worth the cost. You can buy coconut oil in most organic stores or here.

Have you tried coconut oil before? Do you see a difference in your health and skin?

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Travel: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (and The Story of A Tea Farmer)

We visited Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, early May of this year. It's a place I wanted to visit for its varieties of farms. I thought Elin might enjoy strawberry picking and we can escape the hot weather in Singapore and enjoy the cool weather there for a few days. 

Getting to Cameron Highlands from Singapore (and back)

On the way from Singapore to Cameron Highlands, we took a 9-hour bus ride using Konsortium. One way ticket costs about $60. It makes a total of four stops: Singapore immigration, Malaysia immigration, and two toilet stops. When we arrived in Cameron Highlands, the bus makes stops at various hotels, Tanah Rata, and Brinchang. It doesn't stop at all hotels, including the one that we stayed at (Cameron Highlands Resort). We got off at Brinchang instead and took a 5-minute taxi ride to our hotel. We chose to do this because the timing was just nice for us. It leaves Singapore at 10.30PM, about when Elin goes to sleep, and arrives in Cameron Highlands at 7.30AM the next day. If we had taken the plane, it would take us at least 5-6 hours door to door during the day and we didn't want to waste a day on the road because we were there for only three days. The bus was surprisingly very comfortable and the seats recline very far. I would do this again if we have to go there. On the way back, we flew using Firefly partly because the bus leaves Cameron Highlands at 10.30AM, which means we will be spending the day in the bus. Elin will be up most of the time and we cannot feed her in the bus. The flight is 1.5 hours long. We took a 1.5 hours bus ride from Tanah Rata to Ipoh, ate at a nearby restaurant, and a 20 minutes taxi ride to the airport to catch our mid-afternoon flight. The flight however was delayed. And so it took us more than 7 hours from the time we left our hotel to Changi airport. Not much difference than taking the bus but we still prefer the plane on the way back, because it allows us to grab lunch and feed Elin at our own pace and she can walk around the airport before we depart.

Places We Visited in Cameron Highlands

1. Strawberry Farms
- Big Red Strawberry Farms: This is the biggest strawberry farm there but we weren't allowed strawberry picking when we visited. There was no guide to show us around. We did try their strawberry with yogurt and honey there.
- Raju Hills Strawberry Farms: It's a small farm and only had three rows for picking strawberries. It's not worth going.
- Mountain Strawberry Farms: We like this the best. It's not crowded, in fact we were the only ones there and we were greeted by someone who became our guide while we picked our strawberries, tomatoes (the sweetest cherry tomatoes we tasted, unfortunately they are not organic and so are the strawberries), and showed us the vegetable farms. He also took these funny pictures for us.

2. Butterfly Farm
If you like butterflies, turtles, chicken, and insects, it's a fun place to go. We saw leaf frogs. They really look like leaves!

3. Tea Plantations
- BOH Tea Plantation: This is the biggest and (maybe) oldest tea plantation there. You can watch how tea leaves are processed and they have a nice cafe on top of the tea farm.
- Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation: It is smaller but nicer to take a picture.

 4. Ee Fung Bee Farm
We went here to see how bees make honey and bought some raw honey.

 5. Lavender Farm
It's called a lavender farm but there isn't much lavender products to buy. It's still nice for photo-taking.

6. Parit Falls, CHiMP Cameron Highlands Mountain Park
It's a small waterfall not far from our hotel that we decided to check out.

7. Time Travel Tunnel
This one is surprisingly good and worth every penny. We didn't know what to expect when our taxi driver suggested this place. But this place is a treasure. You can see all kinds of antiques that will remind you of the good old days.

8. KEA Farm
It's an open market where you can buy fruits, vegetables, and souvenirs. I call cameron highlands is a strawberry city because all their souvenirs are strawberry-themed. When I first saw it, it was cute - strawberry pillows, key chains, socks, hair accessories, clothes, bags, anything you name it. After seeing the hundredth souvenir store, I got a strawberry overload.

9. Brinchang Night Market
It's only open on weekend nights. It's fun to stroll along the market and try Cameron corns, apples, strawberries, and their savory, alas unhealthy, dishes.

I love the simple life of Cameron Highlands. My highlight of the trip though, is our encounter with a taxi driver who drove us around on our last day. He is a third generation Indian man who was born, raised, and now lives there with his family. He shared his life story that rebuked and humbled our hearts. His grandparents and parents moved from Chennai, India to Cameron Highlands and worked as tea farmers at BOH tea plantation. He knows everything about growing and harvesting tea leaves and knows too well about how tough working at the tea plantation is. It's the kind of work that used to be very labor intensive and requires very long hours, rain or shine. In fact, when we visited the plantation, it was raining very hard, and I could still see people on the field harvesting tea leaves. A typical worker will earn 10-15 ringgit (about $5) a day harvesting tea with their hands. That’s how much his grandparents and mother earned in the past. Now with the help of tea harvesting machine, a worker can earn roughly 50-80 ringgit a day, but requires two men to operate as it’s very heavy. 

As a child, our driver went to elementary school at the plantation where all the workers and their families lived. When he started secondary school, he had to walk two and a half hours each way to go to school in a neighboring town and he couldn't ride a bike because the hills were too steep. He would wake up at 5AM and get to school by 7.30AM and then he would walk home another 2.5 hours every school day. After he got his college education he decided to work as a mechanical engineer in Kuala Lumpur before going back home to Cameron Highland to take his parents out of the plantation and give them a better life. Then it hit me - how blessed my life is compared to many people but I still grumble and complain about little things. There are people out there who longs to study and go to school, who barely makes it through the day, who gets minimal wage and food just to survive, and many of us who are blessed with a good and comfortable life often take things for granted. Our parents have to force us to go to school, force us to eat healthy food, and we even put up an attitude for not being able to do whatever we want. It's a humbling reminder that I need to be thankful of the blessings God has given me and teach Elin the value of hard work and to have a heart of gratitudeHe will give us our daily bread (not more, not less, but enough).

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" - Matthew 6:26

So when you sip a cup of tea, remember to give thanks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bone Broth

Soups are very common in our Asian diet. When we are sick, our parents make us chicken soup. When we just gave birth, we were told to drink a lot of bone broths. When our babies start solid food, people advice us to give them porridge cooked in homemade chicken stock. Bone broth has in the diet of people for as long as we know it. The older generations may not know the science behind why bone broth is so nourishing, but they knew full well that homemade bone broth or soup stock is not only delicious, but very nutritious, hearthy, aids in healing, and full of health benefits. Bone borth is an important source of calcium since our culture do not consume a lot of milk or cheese in general.

Traditionally we would boil bones to make soup stock and we could taste the rich and flavorful broth in our soup. Unfortunately the modern way to make stock is by adding in buollion cubes of MSG to flavor our soup. Sure it taste very rich and strong, but you are missing all the nutritional values that you would have gotten from the bones. We're just tricking ourselves thinking we are eating healthy soups (whether canned soups or homemade soups with MSG), but the truth is there is nothing healthy about any of it all. Properly prepared soup stocks are extremely nutritious, containing bone minerals, cartilage, marrow, and gelatin in a form that is easy to assimilate. Consuming bone broth provides the liver with certain amino acids to cleanse our body. Gelatin in meat broths can help treat many intestinal disorders. It allows the body to utilize proteins from other foods better. Making gelatin-rich broths is also a good way to stretch our dollars, a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets. 

Homemade beef bone broth that has been cooled in the
fridge. The broth turned into gelatin-like texture.

How to Make Bone Broth?

1. Use bones preferably from organic, free-range/kampong chicken or bones from grass-fed cows.

2. Cover the bones with cold water in a slow-cooker or stock pot, adding a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and let it sit for about one hour. Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium, out of the bone and into the broth. The broth will have a slight sour taste but I actually like it better that way.

3. Add some carrots, celery sticks and onions in for a sweeter taste with added vitamins. (It also helps to cover the strong meat flavor that is hard for me to take, especially in beef stock).

4. On low heat, simmer for at least 6 hours. The longer the better as it needs time for the gelatin to be released from the bones into the broth. I typically start my broth at night and it will be ready the next day for lunch. I use a slow-cooker and out it on low heat, so I don't have to keep an eye on it all the time.

5. Once done, you can add salt to bring out the flavors, and enjoy it right away or cool it in the fridge and freeze for future use. 

You may find that your broth (especially chicken broth) doesn't have gelatinous texture after it's completely cooled. It may just mean that there are not enough cartilaginous joints in there. In this case, you can add chicken feet to make your broth thicker. Chicken feet are widely available in supermarkets or wet markets and they are very affordable. You can buy bones from grass-fed cows at The Butcher in Holland Village or Parkway Parade.

Yes, the stock will not have the strong and rich taste that you find in soups with MSG. But overtime you will get used to the milder yet richer homemade broth, knowing all the nutritional values you're getting from it. We eat bone broths almost everyday now. It's easy to make and we love it.

Did you know bone broth is this nutritious?