Sunday, September 29, 2013

Interview with Owners of Bud of Joy (Healthy Bakery in Singapore, Finally!)

I was a happy camper when I found out about Bud of Joy, a bakery in Singapore that sells healthy bread and baked goods. Recently, I got a chance to visit their bakery and met the owners. I got to try a wider variety of their products, talked for hours about healthy living and surprised how similar we are on our beliefs. I interviewed Sarah, the wife of the engineer-turned-baker Lim Her-Yi, about starting this bakery, the challenges, and rewards while running this business. Hope this will help you understand about them and their products!

What inspired you to start this bakery? 

We have been eating organic since our school days as we have a number of friends and relatives who also eat organic. However, it was very difficult to find a good range of breads and other baked goods that met our requirements, meaning bread that is fully organic and preferably made from whole grains. Since we also have a group of relatives and friends who were looking for such food but were too busy to keep baking at home, we decided to start this bakery. So basically, you can say we started this to feed ourselves and our friends. We also considered that it would be good for our family life as we could spend more time together. 

Did you (or your husband) learn to bake professionally or is this a hobby? 

My husband basically learned baking at home, through reading, reasoning and experimenting. When he felt ready to be a full-time baker, he attended a 2-week course on professional baking. I don’t bake. I just taste his yummy baked goods and help by giving some comments! 

What were some concerns, if any, of starting a business like this (e.g. did you think there is a market for healthy baked-goods in Singapore (because price could be an issue)? 

Our main concern was whether such a business could be sustained long-term, whether it would be viable, especially since much time and hard work would have to go into the baking process. The cost of our ingredients is also high as we use the best certified-organic ingredients we can find. However, as we pondered over how meaningful it was, we decided to go ahead. There is definitely a market for healthy baked goods. We have had a substantial number of customers who have come to our bakery from different locations in Singapore because they can’t find what they need elsewhere. Some are looking for baked goods that are fully chemical-free. Some are looking for freshly-baked gluten-free products. Some are looking for low GI foods for themselves, their friends or their family members who have diabetes. Some are looking for 100% wholemeal breads. It is always a joy when customers tell us they are glad to find a bakery they can trust. Price is an issue as it is not cheap to eat organic in Singapore. However, when customers come to know the ingredients we use and the kinds of things we avoid using, they know what they are paying for, so they spend willingly and gladly. For those who eat organic as a lifestyle, they know the cost of organic food so they don’t have issues with the price. In fact, we have had comments from different people that our organic baked goods are very reasonably priced. People are very well-read these days. They go online, do a search and within seconds, they get a whole lot of information. Because of this, we have customers who are very discerning when it comes to food. These people are more than happy to pay for high-quality organic baked goods. God has also been gracious to us to provide us with this space to start this business. 

What is the biggest challenge, if any, of running this business? 

The biggest challenge, for now, is actually finding enough time and energy to fulfil all the orders that we receive. We do not use chemicals to speed up the baking process so it is very time-consuming and labour-intensive. However, because we know we are providing our best to our customers and we are contributing to the welfare of others, we find joy and strength. 

What is the biggest reward of running this business? 

The greatest reward is really getting to know our customers, knowing their concerns and needs and addressing their needs. We find it very meaningful to provide a variety of healthy baked goods for them. Some of them have become our regulars and friends, and they enthusiastically promote our baked goods to others on their own initiative, which is very cute. 

What are the top-selling products in your bakery and why are they special? they made and delivered fresh daily? 

Our top-selling products include our muesli, almond butter, wholemeal breads and chiffon cakes. Our muesli is freshly toasted, fragrant, crunchy and makes for a heart-healthy breakfast. It is yummy with milk or yoghurt. Nut lovers love it. Those always on-the-go usually opt for our granola bars as you don’t need a spoon to eat the bars. Our almond butter is highly popular as it is freshly ground in our bakery and contains no preservatives. It is nutritious and fragrant. Our almond butter consists of only two ingredients: freshly toasted organic almonds and a pinch of Himalayan rock salt. Its natural sweetness comes from the nuts themselves. It is superb when spread on cookies and breads. We do not have any peanuts in our bakery as there is the risk of aflatoxins in peanuts. Our wholemeal breads are popular because while they are fully wholemeal, they are not coarse. We are delighted to hear repeated comments from customers who love the taste and texture of our breads. Our breads are among the healthiest baked goods in our bakery and we are proud of them. Our chiffon cakes are also freshly baked and without chemicals. They don’t even have baking powder or emulsifiers, so there is no chemical after-taste at all. They are soft, moist and fragrant. We use fresh fruits and juices pressed here in our bakery. The ingredients are also organic. Where there are no organic counterparts, we use pesticide-free ingredients, e.g. garden-grown pandan leaves. 

If you do make them fresh daily, what happens to the leftovers (unsold bread)? 

We freeze them as bread can be kept frozen for 2 to 3 months. We steam them for 10 minutes to eat them. They are soft and delicious when steamed. We minimize wastage by requesting that people order online for our baked goods. We do not bake a lot and then display a variety in our bakery though that would look very welcoming and appetizing. It is a waste to throw away nutritious food. 

Do you cater for parties (can we order birthday cakes, etc.) and do delivery? 

Yes, we do make birthday cakes and cupcakes and we provide small parties or gatherings. We also provide refreshments for those working in offices. We are currently looking into hampers as we have had some enquiries on that. We are currently also sourcing for a courier that charges a low delivery-rate so that our customers only need to pay a small fee to the courier for delivery. 

Feel free to add additional information that you like my readers to know about your bakery. 

Our bakery does not use trans fat (e.g. margarine), preservatives, GMO ingredients, artificial coloring, synthetic hormones, artificial flavors or sweeteners, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, refined white sugar or corn syrup, bread improvers/ emulsifier or added gluten flour / vital wheat gluten. In addition, our breads do not contain dairy, eggs, sugar or white flour. All our ingredients are listed on our website and on our packaging so that buyers can make informed choices as to they consume. We are also looking into providing a wider range of baked goods for those on a gluten-free diet. We sprout our buckwheat grains before fermenting them and our wheat sourdough goes through at least 8 hours of fermentation before being baked.

Vicky's Note: I have to just add my comments on leftover bread. There is a bread vending machine where I live and a bread truck comes daily to take away yesterday's bread and replenish with new bread. I asked the driver where will yesterday's bread go and he plainly stated they will be thrown away. Isn't it unfortunate? I love that Bud of Joy's owners encourage customers to order online to minimize waste and that they don't display and sell too many fresh bread in their store. That's a way of being a great steward to our resources that God has blessed us with!

Drop by and say hello! They are located on 71 Circuit Rd #01-31, Singapore 370071. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11AM-6PM. Tell them you heard about them from Vicky (Pasture Living), maybe they will give you free samples ;)

Disclaimer: I'm not an affiliate of Bud of Joy and this post is not sponsored by them. All opinions are of my own.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weaning Process: From Breastfeeding to Cow's Milk and Sleep Training

I am grateful that the process to wean my little off breastfeeding has been relatively easy. She was down to nursing three times a day since she turned one year old and I started weaning her off breastfeeding when she was twenty months old (about a month ago). I began by dropping her night time feed (before bed) and gave her a glass of fresh milk instead. Then about three weeks after, I stopped nursing her before her afternoon nap and started giving her another glass of fresh milk after she woke up from her nap. In two weeks' time I will be weaning her completely and stop nursing her in the morning, when she wakes up. 

The Process in Details and Some Issues I Find During Weaning

1. When I dropped her night feeding, she would neither take the fresh milk in her bottle not in a cup using a straw. It took forever to finish her milk as she bit on the teats or the straw. After several days of trying, my patience ran out and I started spoon-feeding the milk to her. It's not ideal but she finishes her milk quickly this way. So it's fine for now. She has been sleeping at night without being nursed for a couple of months already so going to sleep wasn't an issue, especially when it's dark at night. 

2. When I stopped nursing her before her afternoon nap, she'd cry and ask to be nursed to sleep. I told her that she will get her milk after she wakes up. For the first to days, she cried to sleep with me by her side. It took five days for her to realize that she will not get her milkies before napping and on average it takes her about twenty minutes to one hour to fall asleep each time. So I try to put her to sleep earlier to calm her down and put her in the mood to sleep. Then I spoon-feed her milk after she wakes up from her nap.

3. I find morning feeding will be the toughest. For the longest time she'd wake up around 5.30AM and asked to be nursed. I've always given in as I considered it to be her first milk of the day and then she'll fall back to sleep until 8 or 8.30AM (she goes to bed around 9.30PM). But I realize it is a bit of a problem now. What I want is for her to sleep through until 8.30AM (11 hours) without milk. So when she wakes up at 5.30AM and she asked for milk, I gently tell her it's not time yet and she needs to go back to sleep. The first few days she'd cry and took her about an hour to go back to sleep. After a week or so it got better, she would wake up between 6:30-7AM and I nurse her. However, she doesn't fall back to sleep again after that. And it's been that way for the past couple of weeks, which means she's getting about 9.5 hours of sleep. I wonder if that's enough? Her afternoon nap is around 1-1.5 hours. Soon, I will be weaning her off completely off breastmilk and give her fresh milk in the morning as well, something that I have a mixed feeling about, but a reality that I have to face. I think she's more ready to be weaned than I do. I really don't have an answer to this yet.

What are your experiences on weaning your babies off breastfeeding? How did you do it? Are there better and more effective ways to do it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where to Buy Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in Singapore?

A number of people asked me where is the best place to buy cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil. Many organic stores in Singapore sell them, but they cost a fortune for just a small bottle. I've been buying mine through Vitacost and it so happens I have relatives who live in the US who are willing to bring them back to Singapore every time they visit. A while ago I came across iHerb, another US-based online store that sells more 35,000 natural products including skincare and food products. And what differentiates them from Vitacost is that iHerb ships internationally, including Singapore, for a very reasonable price. It costs just $4 for direct delivery through Singapore Post for weight up to 10 pounds (4535 grams) and value up to $200. And it takes just 4-8 business days, with tracking number.

So, if you are still wondering where to get your cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil, you can now buy it through iHerb. I recommend NOW coconut oilIt costs US$29 for a 1.6 liter coconut oil and if you're first time customers, you can use my affiliate code RKF401 to get $5 off $20 purchase or $10 off $40 purchase.

You can read my post about the health benefits of coconut oil here and how we can use it to nourish our skin here.

Do you know any other place in Singapore that sells cold-pressed coconut oil for a reasonable price?

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Diet for My "Picky-Eater" Toddler

It's been a real challenge feeding my little one since the beginning. I spoon-fed her purees, then semi-solid, and now solid food. She doesn't seem to ever enjoy food and I only have myself to blame. Maybe I didn't do it right, maybe I fed her food too early when she wasn't ready, and maybe I "forced" her to eat and she's associated food as something negative. She would shut her mouth, turned her face away, pusedh the spoon, the food, or my hands away, she'd cry, she didn't want to sit on her booster seat to eat, and so on. It always ended up with me being so frustrated and baby melt-downs. I knew about baby-led weaning and tried it for a while, but I just wasn't patient enough to see all the food thrown on the floor and her eating so little worried me. When she was able to spoon-feed herself at around fifteen months, I gave her independence to eat on her own only to find that all she wanted was just the plain carb (rice, noodles, or pasta) and nothing else. So I thought it couldn't work that way, she needs much more nutrients than that for her growing body. It was back to spoon-feeding her. Every meal time was a battle which took one to two hours each time. 

Being someone who is passionate about giving the best nutritionally to her family, especially her little one, this feeding issue is very frustrating. It was hard to see that she doesn't like anything but plain carb (I was already so thankful she likes fruits). I even wished that only if she likes eggs, I would be more than happy. Pastured eggs (eggs that do not come from chicken raised in confinement) are very nutritious. It's considered a brain food and supplies almost all nutrients that the body needs. I tried many ways to cook the egg and she had no interest. One day I just decided this was it, I had to find another way because I didn't want the effects of mealtimes to take the joy of motherhood away (because honestly it was affecting me in a negative way!). 
And I re-considered the "baby-led weaning" approach again for lunch and dinner, i.e. letting the baby eat on her own, at her own pace. So this what I did to give her a more well-rounded meal.

1. Vitamins. I steam a variety of vegetables and cut them into cube sizes. Place them in a nice jelly mold and fun picks from Daiso (two-dollar store).

2. Protein. I found a way to make her eat her eggs! I cook the egg with coconut oil, a bit of unrefined salt, and green onions, cut them into small sizes, and call it "snack!" I'd give her the egg first before her veggies and she doesn't mind eating it this way. I also give her cooked kidney beans along with the other vegetables for additional protein and fiber. As for meat, so far she only likes to eat chicken apple patties.

3. Carbohydrates. I know she likes rice and she can spoon-fed herself, so sometimes I cook her (brown) rice in homemade broth to make it more nutritious and sometimes combine it with fermented tempeh for more protein. She doesn't like tempeh just as is, but she doesn't notice it when I mix it with her rice because they look the same (hah!).

4. Fats. In addition to the fermented cod liver oil and coconut oil that she consumes every morning (and also the coconut oil used to cook her egg), I add a little pastured butter in her vegetables or soup. You body can better absorb the vitamin A in your food if you add butter (or other fats), so I add it to foods such as carrots, pumpkins, and butternut squash

5. Soup. I spoon-fed her whatever soup we are having (she likes salmon miso soup) or just plain homemade broth, as much (or as little) as she likes.

6. Dessert. She doesn't eat much dessert other than fresh fruits, but occasionally I make palm sugar jelly and fruits' popsicles.

So it's not yet a perfect diet and it still takes her a while to finish her food sometimes, but it is a major improvement from how I see it because it makes mealtimes much more peaceful for both of us. Sometimes she eats more, sometimes she eats less, but for the most part, she eats more than before. I hope this way works in the long term.

Do you have any advice or ways that work to make the little ones eat and make mealtimes more peaceful?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking Photos of Your Little Ones and A Giveaway!

Capturing memories of our baby when she was little is so precious. The physical strain that parents go through during the first few months of having a baby sometimes overshadow the joy of parenthood, only to realize that our babies grow up so fast and where did all the time go? Having professional photographs of our little ones are keepsakes that remind us that children are beautiful no matter how hard it is to care and nurture them, and it brings out the special moments that we don't want to forget. Experienced photographers know much better than us amateurs how to take good pictures - what to focus on, how to capture them, what angle is best, what details are important - to make sure that the pictures come to life. And this is what Natalia and Tata, the founder of The Wagyu Story, know best. They took pictures of Elin when she was a month old and then at seven months old.

And here is the good news! 

They are hosting a giveaway for Pasture Living blog readers! Three winners will each get a one hour photoshoot session with The Wagyu Story (worth SGD$350)*. They will randomly choose the lucky winners after the giveaway ends on 30 September 2013 (Singapore time). To enter:

1. "Like" Pasture Living Facebook page, if you haven't done so.

2. "Like" The Wagyu Story's Facebook page. Then, tell them on their wall why you would like them to capture your moments in twenty words or less! (Quote that you are commenting for the Pasture Living giveaway).

3. Share this giveaway on your Facebook or Google+ page. You can find the link at the bottom of this post.

*This giveaway is open to Singapore and Bandung residents only. T&Cs apply.

Good luck, everyone!

Update on October 1, 2013: The three winners have been announced on Facebook. Congratulations!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Healthiest Bakery I Found in Singapore So Far

I love eating bread with jams. I used to eat them everyday, but I have cut down significantly since I started this journey of healthy living, just because I don't know of any place in Singapore that sells healthy bread and baked goods. Most conventional breads are made of refined flour, grain, and sugar and many use high fructose corn syrup, margarine, trans fat, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, additives, and GMO ingredients. Yes, I still eat conventional bread and cakes occasionally, but just not to the extent that I used to. If I used to eat a few slices of breads/cakes at one go, now I just eat one slice. When I buy conventional bread, I choose wholemeal over white bread (although conventional wholemeal bread is not 100% wholemeal). I choose organic jams and try to eat my bread with grass-fed butter instead of margarine. I can't completely avoid the junk, but I try to minimize them the best I can.

Just a week ago I came across a bakery that sells healthy bread and baked goods in Singapore. It is called Bud of Joy. Upon reading what's on their site, I was delighted to know that their philosophy of "healthy" is in line with mine, i.e. sprouting/soaking our grains, using wholesome grains, natural sweeteners, natural salt, and no artificial or unnatural ingredients. If you think that it is impossible to eat 100% wholemeal bread because the bread will be hard in texture, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise. They have mastered the skill to make 100% wholemeal bread soft enough that I don't mind eating everyday, especially the fact that I know all the ingredients that go into them. I was so delighted to find out that in many of their baked goods they use coconut oil, organic eggs, butter, and milk. Not only are the butter and milk organic, they are grass-fed! If you've been following my blog long enough, you may know that grass-fed products are best nutritionally. They use milk and butter from B.-d. Farm Paris Creek, which I personally use at home as well. 

For example, their 100% wholemeal bread are made of:

- Certified organic stoneground wholemeal flour
- Filtered water
- Certified organic raw honey
- Certified organic coconut oil
- Yeast
- Himalayan rock salt

Yes, they are not as soft as conventional bread, but I will choose Bud of Joy's bread over any other bread anytime.

You can find a variety of healthy breads, cupcakes, chiffon cakes, cookies, homemade muesli, granola bars, kaya spread, and nut butters, which they make fresh at their bakery from scratch. 100% wholemeal/sourdough bread and their homemade nut butters will make very healthy, high fat (good fat) breakfast, which is what I've been eating the past few days (yum!). Even the colored frosting of their cakes and cupcakes are of natural food, such as organic beetroot! 

They have a section in their store where you can buy selected organic products such as organic jams, wholesome grains and seeds, sauerkraut, healthy oils, etc. They even sell fresh whole young coconut with the outer skin still intact (green outer layer), unlike those sold in the supermarket, where the skin has been cut off and often bleached to prevent oxidation (white outer layer). Coconut is very good for us and it makes a very refreshing drink in Singapore's hot and humid weather. Reminds me of my Bangkok trip, where we drank coconut water every single day!

You can tell I am very excited about this bakery. I do. Because I finally found a place where I can buy bread without worrying about many of the ingredients and how they may affect my health. Sure they cost more than the average baked goods, but I really don't mind it, because I know the cost of organic ingredients in Singapore is high and I know exactly what my bread is made of. It really gives me a peace of mind.

Click here for my interviews with Bud of Joy.

Where to buy their wholesome 100% organic, wholemeal bread and other baked goods in Singapore?

In their store (or by ordering online)

Visit their facebook page for Bud of Joy's latest baked goods treats!

Is there any other place in Singapore that you know of that sells healthy bread and baked goods?

Disclaimer: I'm not an affiliate of Bud of Joy and this post is not sponsored by them. All opinions are of my own.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weaning the Baby off Breastmilk, What Milk Next?

My Feelings and Thoughts of Weaning My Baby

My baby is not a baby anymore, she is now twenty one months and I will be weaning her off breastfeeding soon. It's a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, I can be more free and wear my nice shirts again, and not bound to the few pieces of tops that allow me to nurse while I'm out and about. No more nursing tanks and no more pumping. On the other hand, I treasure the bond, relationship, and time spent when I nurse my sweet baby. The comfort and peace it gave her when she's hurt and sick. The connection that I felt from the first day I nursed her in the hospital and I knew without a doubt she's mine. The amazing miracle I witnessed on how God created a little being to know how to suckle the moment she's born and knew exactly where her mama's milk was. Her eagerness and smile when I offer her milk. Those are memories I do not want to forget to remember. Now the time has come for me to wean her off. I will be traveling without her soon and as much as I'm not ready to wean her off, I know I have to. Knowing exactly when I need to wean her off has helped me prepare myself mentally for what's to come.

The Search for Milk Post-Weaning

I have been searching for the milk for her to drink post-weaning and I must say that it is not as easy as I thought but glad that I have finally decided on what milk to give her. There are so many brands of milk, be it formula or fresh milk, cow's and goat's, soy or nuts, and the more I read, the more information-overload I get. Before I continue on, I just want to put a my disclaimer that many studies say this and there is no right or wrong answers. What works for us may not work for others, and each person has different health conditions. This post is what works for us and reasons why I decide to choose one brand over the other, based on my research of what is best for my child currently, with what is available in Singapore. I do not claim that this is the best choice for everyone and I'm not affiliated to any of the brands mentioned and this finding is just based on my personal experience and research. You are free to use this as your reference but I cannot be held responsible for any decision you make regarding your own health choices.

The main reason why I have been nursing my baby for this long is because it is a fact that mother's milk is best. It's kept her relatively healthy through her babyhood. The part where I try to work hard to keep nursing and pumping regularly to keep my supply up all this while is because honestly I did not know what milk to give her after she's weaned. I really didn't. When I started researching about milk, the pros and cons of raw milk, formula, pasteurized milk, ultra pasteurized milk, homogenized milk, soy based milk, not to mention the source of the milk, whether the cows and goats are grain-fed or grass-fed, I was overwhelmed and at a loss! So I hope this post will shed some light to those who are interested in this subject.

Different Options of Milk

There are generally two kinds of milk available in the supermarket: Powdered milk and fresh milk. Within each kind, you can find cow milk, goat milk, or soy based, in addition to nut (fresh) milk. I know soy is not an option and I read too many articles where giving soy-based formula to children is like giving them an equivalent of x number of birth control pills a day. The risks of consuming soy is something I would rather avoid. I also do not prefer powdered formula, be it from cow or goat milk. I haven't done much research on the pros and cons of infant formula but if I can choose a more natural alternative, I would. So that leaves me with fresh milk: cow, goat, or nut-based. Nut milk is a good alternative if your child is allergic to cow or goat's milk. Making homemade nut milk ensures that you know everything that you put in and don't have to worry about any ingredients that come with store-bought nut milk. Since my baby hasn't shown that she's allergic to cow's milk, I'm now down to cow or goat's milk.

- Goat's Milk. There is a local farm in Singapore which sells fresh goat's milk, called Hay Dairies. However, their goats are not grass-fed and they don't get much direct sunlight. They are fed alfalfa hay and live under sheltered roof. I believe in the superior nutritional quality of milk which comes from grass-fed animals, which automatically means they get direct sunlight most of the time, and for these two reasons, this goat milk is not my top choice, although it is probably the freshest milk I can get in Singapore.

- Cow's Milk. Most brands of cow's milk you see in the supermarket aisles are all grain-fed. The most important factor for me personally would be that the milk comes from grass-fed cows. In my original post about milk, I explained the differences between the different types of milk processing and listed a few brands that are grass-fed. And given that raw milk is not available in Singapore, the next best thing would be pasteurized and non-homogenized milk from grass-fed cows. Here are my reviews on the three brands available in Singapore that I know of are grass-fed:

1. Organic Valley - I must say that this milk taste good. However, I've only seen the ultra-pasteurized ones. So it is not ideal. You can find this in Cold Storage and Market Place for about $16 per 2 liters.

2. Straus Super Nature carries Straus's pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. I've bought from them a few times, but it's not been a pleasant experience taste-wise. Since the first bottle we purchased, the taste has always been sour, much like expired milk. Since then I've ordered it again at different times hoping that it was just an anomaly, but the milk has been consistently sour and I really didn't like it. A 2-liter bottle costs $12.

3. B.-d. Farm Paris Creek - I have been buying B.-d. Farm Paris Creek butter for a while and I love the fact that it is pastured butter. I recently saw that Nature's Glory carries this brand's pasteurized, non-homogenized milk, which is air-flown from Australia to Singapore every biweekly. I pre-ordered two 2-liter bottles, which costs $16.40 per bottle and I think I found the milk I am looking for. For now, this is the milk that I am giving my little one. I love that it's grass-fed and it's air-flown fresh every biweekly. I love that the milk doesn't sit on the shelves for long so it is as fresh as I can get, considering it's not locally produced. Yes it's the most expensive one compared to the others, but I believe if I were to calculate the cost per nutrient, it's worth it. Just as with anything, we get what we pay for.

I would add that I would only give whole milk, not reduced-fat or fat-free milk to children. Growing children needs all the nutrients from pastured whole milk. Good fats from good sources don't make us fat. You can read more about it on our series on fats here.

Is there any grass-fed milk in Singapore that you know of that is not listed here?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Chili Sauce

I love chili and spicy food. I like to eat chili with almost everything, although I try to limit them now because I find that when I eat too much chili, acne starts to pop up. I used to buy bottled chili sauce from the supermarket but after I started reading food labels, I realize there are ingredients in bottled chili sauces like MSG, additives, and preservatives that I would rather avoid if I can. So I prefer making my own chili sauce at home. This is a simple homemade recipe with an Asian flavor and ingredients that I always have on hand.


Shrimp Paste
Red Chilies
Coconut oil
Kaffir Lime Leaves


1. Mix tomatoes and red chilies in the blender.
2. Heat up coconut oil and add the rest of ingredients, simmer until fragrant. 

My dear friend, Ci Kiki, also makes a delicious homemade chili sauce. You'll be impressed!

Bon app├ętit!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Clearing Controversies and Confusion With Fermented Cod Liver Oil

Is fermented cod liver oil a by-product of a "rotting process?"
Is fermented cod liver oil that nutritious?
Is it really a traditional food?
Is fermentation safe?
What is the difference in nutrients between regular and fermented cod liver oil?

These are questions that we have when cod liver oil comes to mind. To give a peace of mind, here's a very helpful article to clarify some of the confusions you may have. Written by Alison Birks, MS, AHG, CNS, who is a nutritionist and researcher who has looked into the issue of cod liver oil, fermented and otherwise. 

Excerpts from this article that I found useful and interesting:

The process of preparing cod liver oil by fermentation is similar to that used in traditional Thai cuisine to produce fish sauce (Nam phrik) and fish paste (Kaengtai pla).

In general, the process of fermentation has been shown to reduce toxic components in food. In one dramatic example, a recent study showed that the deadly nerve toxin in “fugu” or puffer fish, (terodotoxin) was virtually eliminated by traditional methods of food preparation such as prolonged fermentation, and that it yielded a non-toxic, edible food product. It is also well established that anti-nutrients in plant foods are degraded during fermentation. Based on these assumptions, fermented CLO quite possibly may have less naturally present toxins than other forms of CLO.

Putrefaction versus Fermentation 

Putrefaction or "rotting" is very different from lactic acid fermentation. The formation of putrescine and cadaverine are biomarkers for incomplete lactic acid fermentation. Both are foul-smelling, toxic biogenic amines produced during putrefaction. Cadaverine is a breakdown product of the amino acid lysine, while putrescine derives from the amino acid ornithine. Both are components formed during decomposition of the proteins in rotting meats through anaerobic bacterial action. Interestingly, small traces of these compounds are often present in fermented meat products and contribute to the overall flavor profile without causing any harm to human health. Some individuals are intolerant of even trace amounts of biogenic amines in the diet and need to restrict intake. Many factors can affect the formation of biogenic amines, and the process needs to be tightly controlled. A quality manufacturing facility can optimize the environmental conditions to allow only beneficial microorganisms to thrive, and for complete fermentation to occur. According to Dave Wetzel of Green Pasture, Green Pasture Fermented CLO has repeatedly tested free of undesirable biogenic amines such as putrescine and cadaverine."

To learn more about fermented cod liver oil, click here.

Hope you find this article helpful!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Do You Eat Breakfast?

You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is true. Skipping breakfast or eating the wrong kinds of food for breakfast is a recipe for weight gain and attention-deficit disorder (ADD), not only for children but also for adults.

How can children sit still in school and concentrate when their diets do not provide the nutrients that their brains need to function properly? Breakfast such as cold cereals, bread, jam, pastries, and sweet juice provide few nutrients and rapidly flood the bloodstream with sugar, resulting in a letdown an hour or two later. More than any other organ, the brain needs sugar, in the form of glucose, so when our blood sugar drops after the morning rush brought on by low-fat, high-sugar foods; distraction and unclear thinking result. Instead, assure a steady supply of glucose, by eating fats (not sugar), which slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Consuming cod liver oil provides vitamin A and D to ensure that the minerals in your food, especially calcium, are absorbed. Many studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil can improve brain function, memory, learning, and behavioral disorders. Vitamin D and calcium combined with a good diet that includes trace minerals can improve disorders such as ADD. Anyone with ADD must avoid all trans fats as research has demonstrated that trans fats promote ADD/ADHD (hyperactivity disorder) in children.

Eating breakfast is also a key factor in maintaining successful weight loss. A study found that overweight adolescents were less likely to eat breakfast than those whose weight was normal. Dieters who eat breakfast lose more weight and are less likely to engage in impulsive snacking. Snacking constantly undermines your health and your attempts to lose weight:

1. You never give your body a needed rest from digestion, freeing your energy for other life tasks.
2. Your body loses touch with key signals that help you know when you've had enough.
3. You begin to eat according to psychological or emotional responses, rather than physiological ones.

Examples of good high-fat breakfast:
Scrambled eggs with buttered toast or bacon
A smoothie containing coconut oil and whole milk yogurt
Oatmeal with butter or cream
A cheese omelet
Smoked wild salmon with toast and butter or coconut oil

What Do We Eat For Breakfast?

For a few months now Evan, Elin, and I eat soaked steel-cut oatmeal cooked with apple or banana, organic raisins, and a mix of nuts such as almonds and walnuts. We sometimes add organic maple syrup and vanilla extract for variety. I drink one glass of milk from pasture-fed cows. On top of that, we both drink one tablespoon of coconut oil and a serving of cod liver oil. Remember that cod liver oil works synergistically with coconut oil. Sometimes I make toasts out of whole wheat bread and eat it with butter and cheese.

I realize I haven't felt the need to snack in a long time because eating a full breakfast keeps my hunger away until it's time for lunch. I also try my best to not buy or bring snacks home. I'd be too easily tempted if I see custard-filled bread or chocolate bread on the table. So that is also one way for me to avoid snacking. There is just no snack at home and I like it that way. Sometimes in the afternoon I have "fruits' time" with Elin and we both get to enjoy fresh fruits as snacks. Read here for tips on how to prevent children from excess sugar and overeating.

What does your breakfast look like? Do you have recipes that you can share?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why I Do Art and Craft

I would like to start by saying that although this blog primarily focuses on healthy and natural living, I will be posting about arts from time to time as well. Crafting with my hands is a big part of my life. 

It is one when I am most focused. 

It is one where I feel a strong sense of accomplishment of finishing a project. 

It is one that teaches me to be patient (those of you who sew know how painful it is to unpick and to do it again for the hundredth time!). :) 

It is one when I get to be excited when I'm able to pass on this skill to other people. 

It is one where I see a reflection of God's creation - just like how a piece of white canvas turned into a painting or a plain fabric sewn into a dress, so it was how the world was without form and empty and God turned it to a place so beautiful to live. His presence through nature is a beautiful reminder of that and taking care of this earth is a way to thank Him. I hope I don't forget to remember that in everything we do, we are reflecting our faith as Christians. Destroying His work of art is doing disservice to ourselves and it certainly is not the way to appreciate the Master Artist. 

Most of all, doing art with my hands is a miraculous realization of how God has created our body parts to work together in symphony.

"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." - 1 Corinthians 12:18-26

I think the human body is one of God's greatest work of art. Being able to create in the smallest form through simple arts and crafts gives me a glimpse of the gentle and loving characters of a Father, who created our inmost being and knitted us together in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13).

Click here if you are interested to see my arts and crafts collection.

Thank you for visiting and happy crafting!