I bought paleo rosemary bread from Nature’s Bakes

Did I mention that I love bread? Because I love bread, I’ve been baking on my own using paleo baking ingredients. I’ve had some successes (banana muffins and “pizza” turned out well) but had experienced many more failures. It’s not easy. Every measurement must be precise and the slightest change in the recipe can cause problems.

I decided to go to the experts and order a loaf of Rosemary bread from Nature’s Bakes. Not only is Pauline an excellent baker, she also coaches at Crossfit Singapore.

We met up for the first time today at an MRT station. I felt like I was on a blind date. “I’m wearing a sleeveless grey top,” I messaged her, “I’m sitting on the left hand side.”

The reason why I was meeting her was to buy a loaf of rosemary bread. The base of this bread was coconut and almond flour. There was no sugar or honey or fruits. Pauline warned me that it might be a bit plain so it was best to eat it with butter. Personally, I prefer my bread without sugar or fruits so then I can add whatever toppings I want.

The bread was given to me wrapped in plastic.

paleo rosemary bread Continue reading I bought paleo rosemary bread from Nature’s Bakes

Useful carb and calorie counters

One advantage of being on a paleo “diet” or lifestyle is the freedom from counting calories. No longer do you have to worry about creating a calorie deficit to lose or maintain your weight. You simply eat unprocessed, nutritious and anti-inflammatory food and the rest will follow. Or so the theory goes.

I’ve found that it has been useful for me to keep track of the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) I consume because it makes me aware of what I’m eating. This is especially pertinent if you’re trying to limit your carbohydrate intake to lose weight. I also want to know the nutrition content of my baked goods so that I know I’m not going overboard with the honey or nuts.

The first useful tool is My Fitness Pal, which is available online as well as on your iPhone and Android phones. You have to sign up for an account and you can add friends and view their intake for the day. You can also leave encouraging messages for them so there’s a whole community to spur you on. Continue reading Useful carb and calorie counters

Where to get paleo baking ingredients

Having experimented with paleo baking for a few months now, I must say it has been tedious trying to get ingredients. I’ve scoured the island and this is what I’ve found. I don’t use all of the ingredients listed below because it’s too complicated but I’ve seen them pop up often in paleo recipes:

Flour

  • Coconut flour – replacement for wheat
  • Almond/or any nut flour – replacement for wheat

For texture

  • Gelatine – helps hold baked goods together because there is no gluten in the flours
  • Arrowroot powder – thickener from a starchy tuber, used for sauces and to make almond flour products lighter

For moisture and taste

  • Coconut oil – to add moisture
  • Coconut milk and cream – replacement for dairy
  • Almond milk – replacement for dairy

Sweeteners

Restaurant review: Mookata Tradtional Thai BBQ

I didn’t know what a Thai BBQ steamboat was until I tried Mookata Thai BBQ for the first time yesterday. In fact, yesterday was the first time I stepped into Golden Mile Complex, which is located at Beach Road. I’ve only been to Golden Mile to take the bus to Malaysia and didn’t know that it’s considered to be “Little Thailand.”

I wanted to do a review of Mookata because I think it’s a great place for paleo eating. The first thing I noticed when we sat down to eat was that lard was used to coat the grill.

thai bbq golden mile Continue reading Restaurant review: Mookata Tradtional Thai BBQ

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day

I love breakfast, more so than lunch and dinner. Some people can just have a cup of black coffee in the morning. My brother often skips breakfast because he “isn’t hungry.”

Not me. I often wake up half starving and raring to sink my teeth into a hot slice of toast, bacon and eggs. Or prata. Or pancakes. Or scrambled eggs with garlic and cheese. One of my favourite things to do in hotels is to pig out at the breakfast buffet (also to be cheap and skip lunch after). I wouldn’t be interested in the Asian breakfast like the noodles or congee but I would wolf down pancakes, toast and eggs. Nothing has changed now, except that I try not to eat prata or other grain-based food.

My old favourites:

roti prata Source: Tonight@MyQueenstown Continue reading Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day

The perils of eating at Chinese restaurants

We set off for dinner with the best of intentions. We were only going to a Chinese restaurant to eat the meat and vegetable dishes and leave out the rice and starchy stuff. It wasn’t going to a perfect paleo night out (when is someone going to open a paleo restaurant in Singapore?) but we should be at least 80% in line with clean eating, right?

This restaurant that we chose was called the Penang Seafood Restaurant right next to Aljunied MRT Station. It was known for its assam Penang Laksa, which of course we were going to avoid because of the noodles, and order the other dishes instead.

Little did we realise that the dinner we were about to have would be the most un-paleo meal in a long while.

penang food restaurant

We picked two meat dishes – pork ribs and pork belly – and one vegetable dish – broccoli with mushrooms.

The pork ribs and broccoli arrived first.

mongolian pork ribs

Both these dishes were covered in a thick sauce. The vegetable dish looked like it contained oyster sauce. What is oyster sauce, you may ask?

“Oyster sauces today are usually made with a base of sugar and salt and thickened with corn starch. Oyster extracts or essences are then used to give flavor to the base sauce. Other ingredients, such as soy sauce and MSG may also be added to deepen the flavor and add color.” – Food Reference

Sugar? Corn starch? ARGHH. I don’t understand why vegetable dishes can’t just be cooked in garlic and oil. They are always covered in some brown sauce that almost always happens to be oyster sauce.

The next dish was the mongolian pork ribs. It had no bones, which was greatly disappointing for me because I like to gnaw on them as I rip off the meat. But the main problem was that the meat was covered in a very thick red sauce. No, it was definitely not paleo. A quick search online suggests that the sauce contains sugar, some bean paste and soy sauce.

The last dish was the worst. This was what we thought we ordered:

pork belly

Now, nothing in the picture suggests that it would have any sauce. It looks like your typical siew yoke, which is roasted pork belly with a crispy skin. Siew yoke is not a perfect clean food but it’s as good as you can get from Chinese dining.

This was what arrived:

breaded pork belly

It was breaded pork belly. Now, please tell me I’m not blind. This dish looks nothing like the picture in the menu. This clearly has a batter and the picture shows the pork belly in its naked glory. How am I going to eat grain-free when the picture in the menu doesn’t look like the real dish and the description doesn’t say “deep-fried breaded pork belly?” ARGH.

Despite all my complaints, we still polished them off because we were hungry. From a purely food tasting perspective, the food wasn’t that great and I wouldn’t go back again. To get good Mongolian pork ribs, I would recommend Dian Xiao Er, where they serve pork ribs with the bones and a non-paleo but very yummy coating of sauce. Dian Xiao Er also serves this amazing duck meat dish. Just ask them not to pour the sauce over the duck and you’re good.

Eating at Chinese restaurants is definitely treacherous. Any tips to avoid this problem again in the future would be much welcomed!

We are made of corn

I like reading books and watching documentaries about health and our food system. The only problem is that it makes me afraid of food I buy from supermarkets. I went to Cold Storage recently and they were having a sale of “jumbo chickens.” Instead of salivating, I looked at them suspiciously. They were all the same jumbo size with the same massive breasts, looking very swollen and brown.

Jumbo roasted chicken

(They looked something like that)

These thoughts raced through my head:

  1. Why is the chicken so big? Has it been pumped full of antibiotics?
  2. Where is the chicken from? Were they caged up with no space to run around and fattened up on corn?
  3. What’s the sauce they use to coat the chicken? Is there sugar in it?
  4. Why do I need to think so much before I buy a piece of poultry?

This makes grocery shopping very stressful.

In one of the documentaries I watched recently, a scientist examines the hair shaft of two Americans to see how percentage of their carbon originated from corn. He found that more than 50% of their diet derive from corn. But this doesn’t mean that the film makers eat corn on the cob half of the time.

Rather, corn is processed, broken down into so many additives and added to so many processed food that it manages to sneak into our diets without us realising it. Some of these industrial products are:

  • High-fructose corn syrup – a sweetener used in Coke and other soft drinks
  • Dextrose – a sugar added to French fries
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – flavour enhancer used extensively in Singapore hawker centres. I have a big problem with MSG. Too much of it and I get a very bad neck and spine ache. They feel numb and start tingling at the same time. The last time this happened I ate a fish cake from a hawker centre, which turned out to contain more MSG than fish.

This is a great resource that lists the ingredients derived from corn.

To read more about the industrial food industry and the impact on our health, check out:

The documentaries are:

  • Food, Inc
  • King Corn

Healthy oils – where to find them

Most people I know use vegetable oil for cooking. I grew up thinking that they were the healthiest. I mean, they were from plants right? How fatty can they be? I learnt that ghee was bad for me. I learnt that margarine was better than butter. But when you eat paleo style, you realise that these beliefs passed down from our parents are wrong!

First, vegetable oils tend to come from genetically modified plants such as corn and soybean. They also contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes them easy to oxidise through contact with air or heat. When that oxidation happens, these fatty acids release free radicals that damage our bodies. Margarine is made from these vegetable oils and faces the same problem. To find out more about the problems with vegetable oils, go here. To find out what kind of oils are good oils, go here.

The good oils are the ones that contain saturated fatty acids and monosaturated fatty acids. This makes them shelf stable and they do not turn rancid as easily as vegetable oils. To start with, we have:

Coconut oil

Photo 30-5-13 10 05 48 PM Photo 30-5-13 10 06 21 PM

These were purchased from Nutrimax Organic shop at Golden Landmark. They sell two brands. The one of the left is from the Philippines and the one on the right is from Thailand. I paid $20 for 500ml. I’m quite surprised that it’s so expensive actually. Maybe I haven’t been buying them from the right places.

EDIT:  I stumbled upon Naturaworks, which is an online store selling the same 500ml coconut oil for $17. They also have another brand that is selling for $24 for 1000ml.

I love coconut everything so this is my favourite oil for cooking and baking. It gives off a sweet smell when heated and conjures images of rustling palm trees at the beach for me! Its health benefits are numerous too. It contains lauric acid, which helps to boost our immune system. Most importantly, according to Dr Oz:

“One¬†2009 study¬†found that women who consumed about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.”

If there is anyone who needs help with her abdominal fat, that is me!

Armed with knowledge of all these health benefits, I told my mum to buy coconut oil for cooking and she said, “No, it will make you fat!” Looks like coconut oil has truly been villainised. This¬†article¬†explains why the oil gained such a bad reputation in the past.

Macadamia oil

Macadamia oil Fairprice

This bottle of macadamia oil was purchased from NTUC Fairprice. It’s cheaper than coconut oil. I think I bought it for about $8.

I love macadamias! They are my favourite nuts – so buttery and satisfying. So when I saw this at Fairprice, I thought it would make a great oil for Paleozilla to cook with (Yes, the man cooks in this instance and the woman cleans.)

Macadamia oil has a high smoke point so it’s good for cooking. The smoke point is the the temperature at which it begins to break down, losing nutritional value and releasing potential carcinogens.¬†The taste is also less strong than coconut oil so it won’t overwhelm the food you’re cooking. From a nutritional perspective, it has more monosaturated fats than olive oil and seems to contain some amount of antioxidants.

Avocado oil

unrefined_extra_virgin_cold_pressed_avocado_oil

I have also seen avocado oil in Fairprice but have not purchased it yet. This will be next on my list once our macadamia oil runs out! It’s also more expensive than macadamia oil so I didn’t purchase it. The smoke point is higher than olive oil, which makes it more appropriate for high-heat cooking. It would be interesting to use this in baking as well, I think, to see what kind of flavour it will impart to my paleo bread.

Nutrimax Organic sells a bottle of 375 ml avocado oil for $21, excluding shipping.

Olive oil

2013-05-31 10.15.07

Olive oil, or more specifically extra virgin olive oil, has been touted for its numerous health and beauty benefits. I’ve read about people using it to remove makeup on beauty blogs (no need for a $100 bottle of Shu Uemura cleansing oil!). When you are not slathering it on your face, consuming olive oil will purportedly help protect your cells from damage, thanks to the high content of polyphenols antioxidants.

I like the mild taste of olive oil, although some people have suggested that we shouldn’t use it for cooking because its smoke point is not as high as the other oils. That being said, it’s still a good oil to drizzle on salads and with vinegar as a paleo bread dip.

Ghee

Sunflower

Out of all the oils I ate while growing up, ghee was the most demonised. I remembered my mum telling me not to eat too much Indian food because it was cooked in ghee and was bad for my heart. Ghee is similar to butter; they are both made from the fats of whole milk, but ghee may be preferred by people who are lactose-intolerant because there are no milk constituents.

I read somewhere that most roti prata stalls here in Singapore now use hydrogenated vegetable oils instead of ghee because the vegetable oils are cheaper. I’ve even seen signs at stalls saying that they don’t use ghee. This is quite sad since ghee is part of traditional Indian cooking and is actually much better for our health.

Let me end here with this hilarious quote about oil:

“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.” – George Bush,¬†Sept. 25, 2000

Where to eat at Raffles Place

Eating paleo can be treacherous if you are dining out. The best way is to cook your own food at home and bring it to work. However, if you find yourself around Raffles Place without home-cooked food, here are some places that are good for paleo eating. Most of them still require careful thought on your part in choosing the correct ingredients. In order of decreasing cost, they are:

1. Urban Bites Mediterranean Cuisine $$$

532633_415895891779234_1179339792_nSource: Urban Bites

Address: 161 Telok Ayer Street

Urban Bites serves Lebanese food, which includes lots of meat, cheese, yoghurt and fresh salad. I visited their restaurant last week for dinner and was blown away by the food. I wanted to try everything on the menu! Even before the meal was finished, I was planning my next visit. Just remember to pass on the rice and flat bread.

2. Sushi Tei $$$

3869635453_52bf18231c_oSource: Camemberu

Address: 20 Cross Street, China Square Central, #01-28/30

I love Sushi Tei’s sashimi salad. The sashimi is always fresh and portions are generous. Very strict Paleos may have issue with the salad dressing, which contain soy sauce. The problem with soy is that it contains phytoestrogens, which can contribute to breast cancer.¬†I also can’t tell if the dressing contains sugar.

3. The Rotisserie $$

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Address: 51 Telok Ayer Street #01-01, China Square Food Centre

I go to The Rotisserie for both breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, they serve something called the Aussie Breakfast, which is essentially a “full breakfast” or “English breakfast” that allows you to choose from a variety of fried dishes, including eggs, bacon, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. It’s not cheap at $12 but it can be an occasional treat. The meal comes with two slices of sourdough bread that you can request to be left out. For lunch, you can order their roasted chicken, which comes with a choice of vegetables or salad.

4. Salad Stop $$

20130527_173203

Address: 1 George Street, #01-01

Salad Stop sells quality salad. The variety is really good, which means that it should be quite easy to pack your salad with hearty, clean ingredients. You can choose your own ingredients or take one of the pre-designed salads. It’s better to make it yourself so you have full control over what you’re eating. The dressing will be the issue here as I can’t tell what goes into them. If in doubt, choose the oil and vinegar dressing.

5. Platypus Gourmet2Go $$

platypus

platypus gourmet2go

Address: 50 Market Street, Goldenshoe carppark, #01-14A

Platypus Gourmet2Go deserves kudos for their twist on the burgeoning salad trend. Instead of having a huge variety of ingredients, they focused on a few well made dishes and is cheaper than Salad Stop. You can stuff a small lunch box for just $6.50 with a maximum of two meat dishes. The salmon is the best and the most popular. Alas, by the time I headed to Platypus, there were none left and I had to go with two chicken dishes. Buried underneath the meat are olives and almonds – yummy!

There are no seats. Everything is take away.

6. Munch Salad Smith $$

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munch china square

Address: 112 Robinson Rd

Munch is located at China Square food court. They are similar to Platypus in that the salad is warm and cooked rather than cold and raw. One meat and two side dishes (as above) cost $13.90. They also sell breakfast including bacon and eggs, as well as mushroom omelettes – those go for $5.

7. Sarnies $$

Sarnies paleo

Address: 136 Telok Ayer Street

Sarnies is a nice little cafe tucked way at Telok Ayer Street. Two items on the menu caught my eye when I last visited:

  1. Paleo steak salad with mixed lettuce, tomato and guacamole $16.50
  2. Grass fed steak with mushrooms, caramelised onions and mix greens. $16.50

This is paleo heaven. Plus the coffee was really yummy. Pricey but then good quality food is always pricey.

8. Yong Tau Foo $

yong_tau_foo_550Source: Travelfish

Address: Mei Hua Foodcourt, 9 Raffles Place, #01-01 Republic Plaza

Yong Tau Foo can be found in most hawker centres and foodcourts. These are all the ingredients you can put into your bowl of soup, including vegetables, tofu, fish balls and squid. I usually take a glance at the type of ingredients the stall has before deciding to eat there. If everything is stuffed with tofu, I will not eat at the stall. Fishballs are not to be eaten too. Contrary to the name, the balls contain flour and sugar as well. But if the stall is selling lots of vegetables and meat, yong tau foo dishes are a good and cheap choice for healthy eating.

My favourite is the yong tau foo at Mei Hua Foodcourt. The portions are generous and they have a good balance of leafy and starchy vegetables. I always go for the pumpkin, tempeh and brinjal. Beware though, it gets extremely crowded during lunch time.

9. Chicken rice $

6098121673_f4f213fea4_zSource: Camemberu

Similarly to yong tau foo, chicken rice can also be found in most hawker centres in Singapore. Order chicken rice (without rice) and you’re all set to go. Yummy yummy.

10. Economy rice $

The final option is economy rice, also known as cai fan in Chinese. I love cai fan. I practically grew up on it. I love that you get to choose your dishes so every meal is different and interesting. Technically, you can order meat, vegetable and egg dishes without the rice but I find that most stalls drench their dishes in questionable sauce. The sauce tends to be thick and contain thickeners like corn starch. There are very few dishes cooked simply in just garlic and oil. So I would avoid those dishes that are covered in sauce.

What do you think of these paleo options around Raffles Place? Do you have your own favourite restaurants and eateries?