Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle and Diet

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. 

JOIN ME ON A JOURNEY TO LOWER MY CHOLESTEROL LEVEL

lower cholesterol level

lower cholesterol level

 

I’m on a journey to lower my cholesterol level. Flashback to January 2017…..I was shocked to discover I had high cholesterol when I went for my recent check up. My blood test showed my overall cholesterol level was 170, which is considered high. Weighing 58 kg at that time, I was far from overweight and my BMI was 22. So since weight is not an indicator of high cholesterol, I never would have thought I had high cholesterol level. At the clinic, I tried to reflect what I had consumed throughout the whole of the previous year so I could pint point on the food culprits that had spiked up my cholesterol level. Truth be told I relished high fat cheese – in sandwiches, baked dishes and on pizzas. I had my fair share of prawns – perhaps in excess. I was guilty of devouring juicy, tasty Quarter Pounder burgers at McDonald’s whenever I felt like treating myself on Friday afternoons to mark the end of a busy week. High fat in content, the meat is devilishly delicious but at the same time, it is filled with tons of salt that makes it all the more tempting. Pathetic way to end the week, I know, but could I help it when McDonald’s is just a stone’s throw away from the bus stop I was headed for? You’ve done well McDonald’s, at enticing the weak. Well, undeniably all of these added together could have raised my cholesterol level. 

What have I done to lower my cholesterol level? To date, I’ve tried to record what I eat on a daily basis. I’ve made it a point to exercise at least thrice a week on my treadmill for about 20 to 30 minutes to burn 100-150 calories each time I’m on the equipment. I’m more mindful of what I eat. This requires a lot of self-restraint, especially when I’m at the supermarket and am tempted to grab food items on specials that are not on my to-buy list. 

I’ve adopted the following strategies on my journey to lower my cholesterol level:

  1. Refrain from shellfish for a while 

For the moment I’m trying to abstain from shellfish for a few months. Temporary abstinence may be the necessary to adjust cholesterol levels, judging from the fact that shellfish may be the primary culprit. 

2.    Substitute high fat cheese with low fat ones

I used to consume high fat cheddar cheese on a daily basis. These include Coon and Bega slices as well as aged Mainland cheddar cheese blocks. These cheeses would also be included in my cooking especially in bakes and as pizza toppings. I now choose to have Kraft cheddar slices that contain low fat. They may not be as tasty as its high fat alternatives but hey, I feel less guilty in my attempts at lowering my cholesterol level. 

3. Cut down on snacks and fried food

I have not consumed potato chips and fried chicken for two months now. I’m mindful of not buying these either. As an alternative, I munch on nuts namely walnuts, almonds and pistachios that fill me up. I also indulge in dark chocolates once in a while as these are better substitutes for the sugary milk chocolates. I limit myself to a square each time. 

Mindful eating isn’t easy when there is a wide variety of food available at food courts, on streets and in the supermarkets. It all boils down to self-restraint and the desire to achieve a specific goal, in my case, to lower my cholesterol level. Currently, I am taking a nutritionist course which will hopefully help me in making informed food choices. I invite you to join my journey to lower my cholesterol level and lead a healthier lifestyle. I’m more than happy to hear from you if you are on a similar journey. Let’s embark on this together and make a head start to better health. 

SPECIAL THAI PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE – IMPROVED VERSION

thai-pineapple-rice-1

Special Thai Pineapple Fried Rice - Improved Version

I posted a recipe entitled Special Thai Pineapple Fried Rice some time ago.This time I’d like to share the Special Thai Fried Rice – Improved version. Why the improved version? That’s because I’ve added a few ingredients and altered the cooking method to produce an even better tasting dish.

This dish was one of my favourites and I dare say, tastes better than the ones served in the restaurants I’ve dined in. If you’re entertaining, a fun way of serving is to load the rice up in half an empty pineapple. Your guests will appreciate the concept and enjoy the dish even more.

So, last night, I tried am improved version of the same dish, this time adding more Thai flavours to it. The result is phenomenal. The kaffir leaves added an extra kick and a delicate Thai flavour.

The additional ingredients are just kaffir lime leaves, 4-5 red chilies and kecup manis or sweet soy sauce.

So if you refer to this post showing the recipe, you need to blend the following instead of chopping and frying them in the wok:

6 cloves garlic

1 cm ginger,chopped

4-5 red chilies

2 tsp dried shrimp

4 kaffir lime leaves

Add a little water and blend to form a paste. 

After frying the sliced onions till transparent, add the above paste and fry for a a good 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients such as red capsicum, green peas and pineapple chunks. Then, add the rice and blend the ingredients and paste together with the rice. Now, add kecup manis or sweet soy to balance the heat from the red chilies. The rest remains the same. 

The flavour of the fried rice will transport you to Thailand. I got complements about this dish and am so pleased with my creation. The rice is moist in texture and the taste is a mixture of sweet, limey and spicy all rolled into one. 

Special Spanish Potato Omelette

Special Spanish Potato Omelette

Special Spanish Potato Omelette

If you have some potatoes in the pantry and are cracking your head about what to do about them aside from preparing the normal mash potatoes or wedges, try using it for your breakfast preparation. Hmm…what can it be, you may ask. Well, the dish I’d like to share is my Special Spanish Potato Omelette. It can be shared with 3 others and be enjoyed on toast. I gave this recipe a special twist and added some red chilies and Spanish onion for extra flavour. To make the omelette tastier, the diced potato should be lightly fried first and the onions caramelised. 

Ingredients

1 Spanish onion, diced

2 large potatoes, diced

2 large cayenne chilies, sliced

3 eggs, whisked

salt

pepper

oil

Special Spanish Potato Omelette

Method

  1.  Cook diced potatoes in the microwave for 7 minutes. Put some water in a bowl and cover it before cooking. (Check if the potatoes are cooked after 5 minutes and then increase cooking time to a few minutes more, depending on how much potatoes are used.)
  2.  Drain excess water from the bowl once the potatoes are cooked and set aside. 
  3.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a cooking pan under medium heat. 
  4. Add the potatoes and lightly fry them till brown. Set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a small pan. Fry onions and caramelised. 
  6. Add chilies and mix well. 
  7. Throw in the fried potatoes. 
  8. Crack eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk.
  9. Add the whisked eggs to the ingredients in the pan. Swirl the pan to even out the egg. 
  10. Cook one side for two minutes. 
  11. Take a large plate and cover the pan. 
  12. Lift the pan and turn the plate over such that the omelette slides onto the plate. 
  13. Put the pan back over the heat and slide the omelette back onto the pan. 
  14. Cook the other side for another 2 minutes. 
  15. Remove the omelette and enjoy.

The omelette transferring process is tricky. The first time I used a big pan and found it hard to transfer to my big plate as it was a tad smaller than the pan. I used the fool proof method the second time: a small pan and a big plate. This worked out well. A thing to note is excess egg that does not cook off on the surface before transfer. The trick is to slightly tilt the pan to pour the excess egg into a small ramekin. Before you transfer the omelette back into the pan, pour the excess egg onto the pan to cook off. Then slowly slide the omelette over the cooked egg so that they stick together and gradually cook at the same time. The result is amazing and delicious at every bite.  

Special Spanish Potato Omelette

HOW TO MAKE CREAMY, NUTTY PESTO

creamy, nutty pesto

home made pesto

I’ve not craved for pesto in a long time but the sudden urge to make my own pesto was triggered by a humble sandwich I bought on Saturday. Yes! It’s funny how a sandwich can trigger such a yearning that propels me to create my own special creamy, nutty pesto. I wanted to recreate the pesto for the one that drove me to unleash my culinary talent tasted acidic and sweet. 

So off I went to my herb garden to gather some basil. Might as well put it to good use or else they will wither. Being adventurous I added some parsley and coriander to give the pesto an added hint of freshness. Cashews and pine nuts also came into play to add depth of flavour. The result is phenomenal! 

freshly gathered herbs

Ingredients

1 bunch of basil

handful of parsley

handful of coriander

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

1/4 cup roasted cashews

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts

1/2 juice of lemon

salt

olive oil

basil

Method

  1. Separate the basil leaves from the stalks and wash them.
  2. Do the same for the parsley and coriander.
  3. Roast pine nuts and cashews. Se aside.
  4. Blend basil leaves, parsley and coriander.
  5. Add some olive oil, lemon juice, cashews and pine nuts and blend them thoroughly till they form a creamy paste.
  6.  Add  shredded Parmigiano Reggiano. And continue to blend.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Mix the paste to ensure that the ingredients blend well in between intervals.
  9. Spoon out the paste into a steralised bottle.
  10. Add olive oil on top to add moisture before closing the lid.

 

pesto in a bottle

 

I made the pesto in batches as my Nutribullet blender cup is small. I added half the basil, parsley and coriander, some Parmigiano Reggiano, some cashews and pine nuts and some live oil and blended till a paste is formed. Then, I added the remainder of the basil, along with what was left of the other herbs, Parmigiano Reggiano  nuts and repeated the process. Some olive oil will need to be added to this paste to add moisture. If the paste is too thick, I suggest adding a bit of water to facilitate the blending process. Finally, when the two batches of ingredients have been thoroughly mixed, add salt followed by lemon juice. Blend again till all ingredients form a well-mixed paste. Keep on tasting the paste after adding additional ingredients such as nuts and lemon juice till you’re satisfied with the flavour. Observe the consistency as well to discern whether you need to add extra water or olive oil. A substitute to water is vegetable stock.

There you have it! Your very own creamy, nutty pesto. Pesto is best used in pasta as well as sandwich spread. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados  and rocket leaves to your sandwich and enjoy. Seriously, pesto adds flavour to a plain sandwich. So instead of butter, think of pesto.

So my verdict….a creamy, nutty home-made pesto you wont ever get anywhere on the supermarket shelves. The freshness of the basil, parsley and coriander leaves a refreshing taste on the palate and the nuts provide depth of flavour. The Parmigiano Reggiano adds cheesy sharpness to the pesto while the lemon juice adds some sexy tang to it.

SPECIAL FRIED VEGETARIAN NOODLES

noodles

fried noodles_v2

Fried noodle dishes seem simple to prepare but a good memorable one involves thought and pre-preparation. The secret to preparing a tasty dish is to reuse oil that has been previously used to fry fish. This also works well with the juice of stir fry mushrooms. In this post, I will share with you the secret of preparing special fried vegetarian noodles. 

Ingredients

1 packet Hokkien/egg noodles

leftover oil used to fry fish

1 onion, sliced 

bak choy, chopped

spring onion, chopped

1 egg

baby corn, sliced into halves

puff tofu, cut into halves

juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1 tbsp kechup manis

fried shallots for garnishing

Method

  1. Put noodles in a pot and pour boiling water over it. Drain the noodles in a colander after 3 minutes.  Set aside. 
  2. Heat used oil previously fried in fish in a wok. 
  3.  Add onions and cook till transparent. 
  4. Add egg and break it up in the wok in the process of cooking, so it becomes scrambled in texture. 
  5. Add puff tofu, spring onions, bay corn and bak choy.  Mix the ingredients thoroughly. 
  6. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, Hoisin sauce and ketchup manis. Mix well.  
  7. Lastly, add the noodles and mix them thoroughly till all ingredients blend together.
  8. Serve noodles on a plate and garnish with fried shallots.  

The taste is simply delicious and texture of the noodles is moist and silky. You’d surely want to have a second helping. Don’t feel guilty about it. Bon appetite

THAI FISH CAKE WRAP

fish cake wrap

If you’re at wits end about what to prepare for dinner, think wraps. It’s easy, convenient and best of all quick to prepare. Consisting of a handful of ingredients, mostly vegetables, this Thai Fish Wrap is a no brainer to prepare.

fish cake wrap 1_V2

 

Ingredients

1 cucumber, sliced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 red capsicum, chopped

Thai basil leaves

2 fish cakes, sliced

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

juice of half a lemon

tortilla wraps

Method

Mix cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum and basil leaves in a bowl. Add fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice to the vegetables and mix well.

Place the salad on tortilla wraps. Top it up with sliced fish cake. Wrap the tortilla tightly. Enjoy!

 

fish cake wrap 2_V2

Get ready for the refreshing taste of basil and the zesty tang of the salad dressing. The fish cake, of course, gives the palate an enriched meaty flavour. Enjoy!!!

SPECIAL FRIED SPRING ROLLS

pre fried spring rolls

special fried spring rolls

I’d like to share with you a special type of finger food I prepared last weekend. Mind you, it is filling and has so much zing that it can be eaten for lunch. 

Preparation for this finger food is simple but needs some planning and organisation. So, a trip to the local Asian grocery store is mandatory. I would recommend selecting the medium-sized skin as this is just the right size for the type of filling I’ll share in a while. Also, this recipe calls for Shitake mushrooms. Getting this is a no-brainer as they can be found at the local supermarkets. Why Shitake? I insist on using this variety because of its flavour. It’s tasty and meaty and will definitely give  your spring rolls a lot of zing. Oh, so here it is:

Special Fried Spring Rolls

spring roll ingredients

Ingredients

Spring roll skin

1 packet Shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, sliced

4 red chilli, sliced

1 inch ginger, chopped

200g cooked prawns, sliced

half cup bean sprouts

vermicelli noodles, half a block

4 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. Kicap manis

2 tbsp. Hoisin sauce

pepper

cooking oil

cornflower and water mixture (to seal the skins)

special fried spring rolls

Method

  1. Slice the onion, Shitake mushrooms and red chillies.
  2. Peel and chop ginger.
  3. Boil water and pour over vermicelli noodles in a pot. Once soften, drain and leave it for a few minutes to dry. Pour soy sauce, kicap manis and hoisin sauce into the bowl of vermicelli and mix well. Leave the mixture till ready to use.
  4. Meanwhile, de-shell the cooked prawns , slice them and set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a pan and once hot, add the onions. Cook till transparent. Then add the mushrooms, chillies and ginger. Mix well and let the juice ooze from the mushrooms. Remove the ingredients and set aside to cool.
  6. Pull out two spring roll skins each and them on a big plate. Lay the cooled vermicelli on one side of the skin and spread it out.
  7. Add the mushroom mixture and then the sliced prawns.
  8. Top it up with the bean sprouts.
  9. Fold in the sides and roll the skin away from you. Ensure that each roll is tight.
  10. Seal the end of the skins with cornflour and water mixture.
  11. Prepare the rolls until all ingredients are used.
  12. Heat oil in a pan and once hot, fry the spring rolls till brown.
  13. Serve the spring rolls hot and enjoy it with sweet chili sauce.

spring roll filling

 

The special fried spring rolls keep longer pre-fried and in the freezer. They come in handy when unexpected guests arrive at your doorstep.  The skins aren’t suitable for baking. If you’re not a fan of fried food, use  short crust pastry instead. As an afterthought, the vermicelli needs something thick to coat it. Hence, I’ve used kicap manis and hoisin sauce as they not only coat the vermicelli well but also gives better flavour. The trick is to leave the soaked vermicelli longer so it soaks up the flavour of the sauces better. These are the best spring rolls ever, not found in restaurants.

STIR FRY MAGGI NOODLES WITH FISH

2-min-maggie-web-200x200 (1)

magii mee stir fry_v2

The next time you’ve contemplating which sort of noodles you should use in your stir fry dishes, don’t look too far. Open your kitchen cabinet and you’re bound to find a few packets of Maggi noodles. You may cringe at the thought of using Maggi noodles in your cooking. Shouldn’t we use healthier options? I hear you say. Well, what I’m trying to convey is the idea of using just the noodles and throwing out the sachets of condiments that accompany them.

Maggi noodles have got this slimy texture compared to its distant relative, the vermicelli or white flat noodles. Also, if you prefer thinner noodles, the humble Maggi is the one to use. Adding to this debate, Maggi noodles are tastier than the white ones and contain less oil and colouring compared to its cousin, the Hokkien noodles. Still unconvinced? Well, why not have a go at preparing this delicious dish. 

Ingredients 

2 Maggi noodle blocks

150g flat heads

bak choy  

1 packet sun dried tomatoes

tofu, diced

4 red chilies, sliced

bean sprouts

onion, sliced

Shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup frozen green peas

2 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce

cooking oil

pepper to taste

Method 1

  1. Pour boiling water over Maggi noodles in a pot. 
  2. Let it sit in boiling water for about 2 mins or till noodles are softened. 
  3. Drain noodles and set aside. 

Method 2

1. Heat oil in non-stick pan.

2. Fry tofu and fish separately till cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside. 

3. Heat oil in the same pan. 

4. Cook onions till soft. 

5. Add chilies and Shitake mushrooms till the juices ooze out. 

6. Then, add green peas, sun dried tomatoes, bean sprouts and bak choy. Stir fry the vegetables till cooked.  

7. Add oyster sauce and mix well. 

8. Add the fried tofu and fish including the oil that comes with them. 

9. Then add the noodles and mix the ingredients thoroughly taking care not to break the fish.  

10. Lastly, add soy sauce and season with pepper. Mix well. 

The outcome is predictably delicious. The Shitake mushrooms, fish and sun dried tomatoes take the dish to a whole new level. The Maggi noodles do not disappoint. The tip is not to overcook the noodles or they’ll end up being too soft in texture. So the next time you’ve craving for a special noodle dish, give the humble Maggi a go and take the dish to a whole new dimension.