Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle and Diet

MY CHOLESTEROL REDUCTION CHALLENGE

boiled chick peas

 

healthy food

This blog post is about my cholesterol reduction challenge – my greatest challenge of the year. In retrospect, I collected my annual blood test results last week and was upset to know that my cholesterol level is still high. What was worse was that I was told my high cholesterol was hereditary which I may have gotten from my father. The doctor said that no matter how much I exercised or changed my diet, my cholesterol level would remain high unless I took medication. And I had to take it for life. So after that day, I vowed to completely change my diet and stick to a strict regime.

My Plans 

I have been thinking a lot about my situation and have done lots of research. Resulting from that, I plan to stick to the following:

  • Switch my food servings to 70% plant based including legumes and nuts, 20% protein and 10% wholegrain carbs.
  • Eat more blueberries and apples and other fruit that lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise almost every day for at least 30mins.
  • Take Apple Cider Vinegar every day before dinner.
  • Take fruit smoothies for breakfast, if not daily perhaps on alternate days.

So with reference to the above, I’m thinking of:

  • investing in a blender to prepare my veg smoothies
  • conducting research on veg smoothie recipes and cholesterol lowering meals
  • taking my prescribed statin only for 3 months and then go without for the next 3 to 4 months before testing for cholesterol again.

My Actions Thus Far….

So far, I have been extra mindful of the food I consume and have been staingy away fromfried food, pastry and savoury ghee laden rice.

apple cider vinegar

As an example, lunch will consist of macaroni soup with steamed chicken and leafy veg while dinner comprises a veg and bean burrito. It is satisfying and I feel clean after being extra mindful of my food choices. I have also started taking apple cider vinegar (ACV) and sipped it through a straw as ACV can erode the teeth enamel over a long period of time. To take extra precautions, I brush my teeth right after taking it. Take note that the apple cider vinegar must be organic and contains the Mother which is actually the sediment (in rudimentary terms) which makes the end result effective. 

Reflecting over the past year, my cholesterol reduction goal has not been successful as there was only a reduction of 1 mg in my LDL, the bad cholesterol. My HDL is  good in contrast and the doctor reckons the high cholesterol level has nothing to do with my diet. And I weigh 55 kg. So I’m determined to prove the doctor wrong that people with hereditary cholesterol level cannot lower it without medication.

I will have to try very, very hard to forgo pesto, cheese containing high cholesterol especially my favourite Laughing Cow cheese, potato chips and oily as well as pastry-related food. Sinful food will only be a luxury that can be consumed once in a while. Aren’t we humans after all? I will chart my journey and share my recipes with you in my attempts to lower my cholesterol levels without medication. All I need is strong will power to avoid temptations and keep to my strict diet. Would love to hear from those who have successfully lowered their hereditary cholesterol levels without statins. 

CREAMY RICOTTA SPIRALS WITH MUSHROOMS

ricotta spirals with mushrooms

ricotta spirals with mushrooms

Creamy pasta can no doubt be fattening. I love creamy pasta once in a while but feel the guilt after having it since it is laden with heavy cream. I decided to go for the low fat version and prepared creamy ricotta spirals with mushrooms. Yes, you’ve got it. I’ve substituted cream with ricotta. The result is tasty, sans the richness of cream. Here’s how I did it: 

ricotta spiral with mushrooms

Ingredients

grape seed oil 

3/4 packet of spiral pasta 

salt for boiling pasta 

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

250 g mushrooms, sliced

8 cherry tomatoes, diced

1/2 anchovy cube

250 g ricotta cheese 

1 tbsp chili flakes

pepper to taste

handful of coriander, chopped

Shaved Parmesan for serving 

Method

1. Fill a pot with water and add salt. Boil it over medium heat. Once boiled, add spirals and cook for 8-10 mins or till al dente. Save 1 cup of pasta water, drain the rest of the water into a colander and set spirals aside.  

2. Add oil to a pan over medium heat. Once heated, add onions and cook till they are nearly caramelized. 

3. Add garlic and let it cook. Then add mushrooms and let them sweat, that is, juice oozes out. 

4. Next, add tomatoes and mix the ingredients well. 

5. Add anchovy cube and break it to form a paste. Stir the paste together with the ingredients. If you can’t find anchovy paste, you can add tinned anchovies but ensure that they are finely chopped. 

6. Add the ricotta and then add pasta water to dilute it. The consistency should not be thick. 

7. Add pepper to taste and as an option, as chili flakes. 

8. Stir the mixture and then add the cooked spirals. Blend the ingredients well. 

9. Add coriander for added taste. 

10. Serve on plate and finish with Parmesan shavings. 

This dish is easy and quick to prepare. Ensure that you use anchovy cubes or the ones in the tin for flavour. The pepper and chili flakes with lift the pasta dish to a new level. Alternatively, you can add prawns or shrimps. If you feel generous, use Shitake mushrooms instead. The result is light, satisfying, tasty pasta that keeps the whole family happy. 

SUMPTUOUS FISH CURRY NOODLES

fish curry noodles

fish curry noodles

I craved for fish curry noodles last week and prepared it using a variety of ingredients. Fish curry can be prepared many ways. This recipe is different from the curry noodle dish I shared many posts ago. For this dish, I decided to add a little variation, that is, pulping tomatoes and combing it with caramelized onions for an added sweetness. Use tasty, fleshy white fish like perch or snapper. The noodles used is based on preference. In this dish, I use vermicelli noodles instead of egg noodles. I suppose the latter is tastier and if you decide to use it, look for the one in the refrigerated section as it is preservative free.  

 fish curry in pan

Ingredients

1 large onion, sliced

3 large tomatoes, diced

250g snapper, cut in cubes 

3 small sweet potatoes, diced 

2 tbsp plain Greek yoghurt

1 tsbp tamarind paste 

3 sprigs curry leaves

coriander, chopped finely

cumin seeds

mustard seeds

1-2 green chili, sliced

a bunch of asparagus, slant sliced

1 can coconut milk 

1 cup water

1 tsp tumeric powder

2 tsp garam masala

3 tbsp curry powder

salt to taste 

1/2 packet vermicelli noodles 

Method

  1. Heat oil in a cooking skillet at medium heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds and let them pop. Then add curry leaves. 
  2. Add onions and cook till they caramelize.  
  3. Add tomatoes and allow them to soften to near pulp. 
  4. Then add green chili and asparagus. 
  5. In the meantime, shallow fry fish in a separate pan and set aside once cooked. 
  6. Peel sweet potatoes, cut into cubes and cook in microwave for about 6 minutes. 
  7. Place vermicelli in a pot, heat water in a kettle and then pour boiling water over vermicelli to soften it. Leave it aside for 8-10 minutes before draining the noodles.
  8. Add garam masala, tumeric powder and curry powder to the onion and tomato mixture. Mix well.
  9. Add coconut milk and stir ingredients. Add water to slightly dilute the mixture.
  10. Add salt to taste and stir.
  11. Then, add yoghurt to add depth to the taste. 
  12. Add in fish together with the oil that it is cooked in. 
  13. Add tamarind paste and stir. 
  14. Add sweet potatoes and let the curry simmer. 
  15. Lastly, add coriander and stir the curry. 
  16. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes before serving with vermicelli. 

fish curry noodles

The ingredients can easily be found in any Asian supermarket. I like to use Ayam brand curry powder for its taste and texture and Chili brand vermicelli as it is less floury and odourless. Cook the fish curry for a day’s meal as fish leftover the next day will not taste good as it will lose its freshness. This is a delicious meal that can be enjoyed with you family or when you have guests at home. You can choose to add boiled eggs or substitute fish for chicken. Alternatively, serve with rice. 

SPECIAL HOMEMADE PESTO USING THE NUTRIBULLET

pesto 4

homemade pesto

Last Sunday, I prepared pesto using the Nutribullet in two goes. I harvested a bowlful of basil and half a bowl of parsley that grow thick and wild in the herb garden. Since the Nutriibullet is small, I split the ingredients into two and blended the first batch. After the first set of ingredients had been blended, I repeated the procedure with the second set of ingredients. This worked just fine.  The pesto easily filled up 3/4 of a bottle. 

homemade pesto

Ingredients

One bowl of basil

Half bowl of parsley

4 cloves of garlic

3/4 cup pine nuts

a handful of raw unsalted cashews

3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

extra virgin olive oil

Method 

  1. Grate cheese and set aside.
  2. Blend basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts and cashews in Nutribullet. 
  3. Add olive oil every now and then, until all the ingredients turn into paste. 
  4. If paste is thick, dilute it further with more olive oil until it reaches desired consistency. 
  5. Transfer paste from Nutribullet capsule into a sterilized bottle.
  6. Store in fridge and use pesto when required. 

homemade pesto

Pesto is great for slathering on wraps and sandwiches as it adds depth to the taste. It can also be used as pasta base or as a dip.  

SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, BEANSPROUTS AND SPINACH FILLING

wrap shitake

shitake beansprout and spinach filling

Vegetables need not be boring. If you prepare it the right way using the right condiments, vegetables taste great. On most weekdays, I’d prepare a sandwich or wrap for lunch in the mornings using prepared filling. One of my favourite fillings is shitake mushroom, beansprout and spinach combo filling that can be stuffed in wraps or in sandwiches. This will be the base ingredients and I will add others that take my fancy such as sweet potatoes, avocadoes, tomatoes, cucumber, just to name a few.

 shitake beansprout and spinach filling 2 shitake beansprout and spinach filling 3

Ingredients 

2 packets of shitake mushrooms, sliced

half a packet of bean sprouts 

half a packet of spinach

3 tbsp oyster sauce

pepper to taste

fresh chilies, sliced or chili flakes

some butter or margarine

Method

  1. Add some butter or margarine to a hot pan over medium heat. Let the butter or margarine melt. 
  2. Add sliced shitake mushrooms to the melted butter or margarine, mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or spatula and let it sweat and soften. 
  3. Next, add beansprouts and then spinach. Mix them thoroughly till the spinach wilts. 
  4. Add oyster sauce and mix the ingredients well. 
  5. Add pepper to taste and chili flakes. If you prefer to add fresh chilies, you should add them after the mushrooms have softened. 
  6. Remove ingredients, place them in a bowl and let them cool. 

This filling should be placed in the fridge. It lasts a week. While it is great to be used as fillings for wraps or sandwiches, it can also be served with rice. Enjoy!

 

HEALTHY LOW CALORIE SNACKS

boiled chick peas

 

healthy snack

Talking about calories these days, I’m proud to say that I have lost some weight. Weighing 53.5 kg, my aim is to maintain it. Boy it is a challenge. I must say, a lot comes from being conscious of what goes into my body and having self-restraint. My goal is also to lower my cholesterol level by year end when I have my annual check up. 

I used to treat myself to unhealthy food especially on Fridays after work, to mark the start of the weekends. I’d sink my teeth into chips or juicy Big Mac. I had to have cheese in my sandwiches. Mind you, they are high calorie cheeses. I ate a lot prawns that contributed to my high cholesterol levels. 

Fast forward, I’m now mindful of what I eat. I do crave for sinful food at times, but I’m able to manage my cravings. These days, I’d prefer to have small, light food portions and feel full easily. I cringe at the sight and taste of sugary food and my taste buds have low tolerance for food containing high salt content. How does all that happen? Well, I would taking food with low sugar and salt content over a long period of time somewhat trains your taste buds to go for healthy food. 

When I trawl the supermarket aisles, I’d tune in to my radar to look for less guilty snacks. I would get enticed to Pringles and other chips on discount but my mind would go ‘How would you feel when you’ve eaten these?’, ‘What are the side effects?’ blah blah blah. Yes, it takes a lot discipline to go past these tempting snacks. 

I’d substitute Tim Tams for dark chocolate bars (70% -78%) which contain no biscuits and low sugar content, chips with corn cake crisps and hummus dips and other high salt content snacks like sweet potato crisps with boiled chickpeas and edamame beans. My taste buds cannot take milk chocolate now that I’ve substituted my cravings for chocs with plain dark choc bars or buttons. 

So, I will be going for a weekend escape to Bowral today and have packed boiled chickpeas and edamame beans for my road trip to the Highlands. 

boiled chick peas

How to Soak Chickpeas

how to soak chickpeas

I buy raw chickpeas in packets from the local supermarket and empty one packet in a big bowl. Soaking the chick peas overnight will ensure that less boiling needs to be done the next day so that the chick peas are soft enough to chew on. You will notice that the water level will reduce as you soak the chic peas for some minutes. Pour away the water and replace it with fresh water to re-soak. This is drain away the starch from the chick peas. You will notice that the colour that is drained away is dark amber. Continue to drain the water and replace it about 4 times throughout the day. Leave the chickpeas in water overnight. You will hear crackling sounds coming from the chick peas and that’s common. 

Boiling Chickpeas

Drain away the water one last time and fill a sauce pan containing chick peas with fresh water. As you drain the water away, the colour is noticeably light yellow. Pour a tea spoon of sea salt into the water and mix through. I use sea salt as it is known to be healthier than table salt as the latter has additive in it to prevent clumping. Boil the chickpeas for about 20 minutes, till chickpeas are soft enough to eat.   

For me, munching on chickpeas can be additive. I chew them away guilt free knowing it contains low calories and contains dietary fiber and protein. Chickpeas also control blood sugar levels, increase satiety, improves digestion, helps protect against heart disease and cancer and provides essential vitamins and minerals. 

Boiled chickpeas are easy to prepare and makes a healthy snack for the family. I can go on my road trip and munch on my chickpeas and edamame beans which also contain lots of fiber and protein without guilt. Have a good weekend and I will fill you in on my Bowral trip which includes visiting gardens and parks. What a great way to enjoy spring! 

SCRUMPTIOUS STIR FRY VEGETABLE VERMICELLI

stir fry vegetable vermicelli

fried vegetarian vermicelli

To prepare this stir fry vegetable vermicelli recipe, you need good vermicelli. I use chili brand for its quality. Some vermicelli gives off an awful after taste of flour but this brand is the perfect one for my noodle dishes. The trick to preparing this dish is to make use it is moist enough. This can be addressed by using vegetable stock. Another is to complement your cooking with that of the microwave to soften your hardy vegetables. This way, you don’t have to cook the vegetables for too long which takes the nutritious value away. 

Ingredients

1/2 packet of vermicelli 

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bak choy, chopped

1 broccoli, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

1 packet bean sprouts

2 tbsp oyster sauce 

4 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp kicap manis

2 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce

250g vegetable stock

pepper to taste 

some fried shallots for garnish

Method

  1. Pour boiling water over vermicelli in a pot till it softens. 
  2. Drain the vermicelli in a colander and leave aside. 
  3. Heat oil in a skillet. 
  4. Fry onions till caramelized.
  5. Lightly fry garlic. 
  6. Soften broccoli and carrots separately in microwave for 3-4 mins. 
  7. Then add them in the skillet. 
  8. Add oyster sauce and mix thoroughly. 
  9. Add bak choy and then the vermicelli. 
  10. Then add soy, kicap manis  and Hoi Sin sauce. Mix well. 
  11. Pour in vegetable stock to add moisture. Taste and add soy and kicap manis if needed. 
  12. Lastly, add bean sprouts for the crunch. 
  13. Add pepper to taste. 

Serve while it is piping hot. This is a great dish to serve to guests. For protein, you can choose to add fried tofu or even prawns or chicken if you’re a non-vegetarian. 

 

TASTY BROWN TOMATO RICE

brown tomato rice

brown tomato rice

 

This is the first time that I’ve prepared tomato rice using brown rice. I must declare that the brown tomato rice has been a success. It tasted just as delicious and for sure it is healthier than white rice. This rice can be eaten on its own with chicken or fish or with gravy. If you don’t already know, you should use 2 cups water to one cup brown rice ratio.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice

1 large onion, sliced

4 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 bottle of Provinicial Italian Tomatoes with Grilled Bell Peppers

pepper to taste

Method

  1. Fry sliced onions till caramelized.
  2. Add tomatoes till they soften.
  3. Add Provincial Italian Tomato sauce or any bottled sauce of preference
  4. Add a dash of pepper and mix thoroughly.
  5. Once the brown rice is cooked, pour in the mixture into the rice cooker and mix it thoroughly with the cooked rice.
  6. Serve with side dishes or with gravy.

 

This rice is packed with all the goodness of tomato and is undoubtedly delicious. Serve it with salad, fish or chicken or pour lentil-based gravy or tomato chicken gravy over it.

 

 

HOME MADE CHILI FLAKES

fresh chili from the garden

chili flakes

We have had a bountiful harvest of chili recently and have dried some of them to make into flakes. Yes home made chili flakes. We couldn’t use all of them at one sitting so some had to be stored in the freezer as well. We just love chilies as they add zest to food. They go well with omelette, tomato based pasta, fried rice, pizza, you name it. 

chili plants

The cayenne chilies are suitable for making flakes since they are long and fleshy. They make cutting easy and the amount of flesh they have translate to a sizable volume of flakes. 

 

fresh chili from the garden

dried chili

 

How I Made Chili Flakes

First of all, the chilies were dried in the sun for days till they crisped up and turned maroon. Then, they were dry fried in a pan for 2-3 minutes to release trapped moisture. If some of the chilies get charred, don’t worry as long as they don’t get burned. Charred chilies give off that intoxicating charred flavour, if you know what I mean. 

After that, I removed the chilies from the pan and left them to cool. Once cooled, it was time to snip off the ends into a good sized bottle so they formed into flakes. 

Voila! Home made chili flakes you can get your hands on for that added flavour. You need a good amount of dry chili to fill up a bottle. Try sprinkling the flakes on pasta, pizza and tuna dishes. They taste awesome. 

CREAMY PESTO PASTA WITH AVOCADO

pesto pasta

pesto pasta with avocado

Last Sunday, I decided to prepare pesto pasta. I racked my brains for dinner ideas and came up with pesto pasta with a twist. Simple to prepare, this dish needs quality Shitake mushrooms and fresh spinach leaves.  In my case, I happened to have some rocket leaves in my fridge so those became part of the ingredients. 

I’ve made this dish previously but have omitted some ingredients. In this dish, I have also made sure that the pasta is moist and creamy. Using a cup of pasta water prior to draining the spaghetti is a brilliant idea. It not only adds some moistness to the pasta, but also enhances its flavour. 

Ingredients

1 big onion, sliced

1/2 cup Shitake mushrooms 

1/2 cup fresh button mushrooms

a bunch of asparagus, sliced at an angle

1 cup frozen green peas 

handful of fresh spinach/rockets

1 small bottle of pesto

1 avocado 

handful of lightly fried pinenuts

3/4 packet of spaghetti

1 cup of spaghetti water

pinch of salt

pepper

Method

  1. Add some salt to water in a pot and set to boil. Once bubbles have formed, add spaghetti in and boil till al-dente. Pour some spaghetti water into a cup for use later.   
  2. Add onions and fry till caramelised. Then add asparagus and mushrooms. Let the latter sweat.
  3. Add green peas and mix till cooked. Then, add pine nuts.
  4. Add pepper to taste and blend well. 
  5. Then empty pesto from the bottle into the mixture and then add spaghetti water into the mixture. Mix thoroughly. 
  6. Add in the spinach/rocket leaves and then the spaghetti. Mix well. 
  7. Add more pepper if needed. 
  8. Scoop avocado from its shell and mix them into the pasta. 
  9. Serve and enjoy.

The pesto pasta is creamy and delicious. If you are planning a healthy and satisfying meal, this is the one to consider. 

The green peas and onions add a tinge of sweetness to the pasta. This is truly a scrumptious creation.