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After Benji was diagnosed with Eczema, I spent countless of hours researching on this topic and decided to make a concerted effort to figure out what exactly is triggering his rashes. So far, I am pretty certain that wheat and possibly sesame oil are causing some of the flare ups.

Since starting this elimination diet, my eyes have been peeled open to the concept of diligently reading the ingredients labels on every single food item I purchase or use. Even though I have been a foodie for quite some time now, I have never quite paid so much attention to what goes into my packaged foods and sauces before this. For instance, I only just found out that there is wheat in soy sauce, and in some kinds of fish sauces, and there may be traces of milk, soy, and wheat in the tortilla chips we love that I have always thought were purely corn, oil, and salt.

One of the blog posts I read recently, about how a mom decided to be more conscientious about buying quality food products after her son’s diagnosis of eczema, resonated strongly with me. (Her blog contains lots of good information on eczema and other allergy related stuff go to: www.itchylittleworld.wordpress.com). For awhile I bought only organic chicken and turkey because I was not sure if Benji was affected by hormones or genetically modified foods that were fed to the animals. Sure, it was more expensive, but I had to do it.

There was an op-ed in the New York Times just a couple days ago by Nicholas Kristof, titled Arsenic in our chicken?”. There were some startling facts revealed in that article, like, “almost 9 out of 10 broiler chickens in America were fed arsenic,” and that chickens were fed caffeine so that would presumably have longer waking hours and feed more, but were also fed Benadryl to calm them down because calmer chickens produce better tasting meat. Seriously??? WTH?!

I remember complaining about the high cost of groceries and fresh food when we first moved to Australia from America in 2008. Chicken was the most differently priced meat: one kg of whole chicken sold at the Queen Victoria Market (where one would find the most competitively priced food) is about AUD 6 (USD 6.20 or so; that would be about 1lb for about USD 3.00). The average price for a whole chicken at Ralphs is about USD 2/lb. That is quite a bit cheaper.

It did not completely register that we were paying more money in Australia for our foods, especially meats, because they were organic. Meaning, chickens were being fed grain, not injected with hormones, were allowed to roam freely and not force fed in a tiny, overcrowded chicken coop the way their American cousins are. The epiphany came only after watching the docu-movie Food, Inc, which unraveled for me the darkness of the American food industry and how they are able to keep food costs down by doing dodgy things to their animals like feeding their cows corn or other cow carcasses (how is that legal. Vomit.).

After that, the cost of my food in Australia made total sense to me. Whenever I visit the US, I still have a hint of uneasiness as I eat the meat and wonder whether they come from one of the shoddy chicken or cow farms that were featured on Food, Inc, or that I read about in “Fast Food Nation.” Even vegetables are not spared these days, as I found out after reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

Now that we’re in Canada, I am relieved to know that most meats and fresh produce sold are Canadian. Not that I know much about the Canadian farming industry, but surely it would not be a screwed up as the American ones.

Like a lot of others, it took some kind of allergy or food related problem to alert me to be more prudent about what I put in my system. I never had to deal with weight issues and never cared about the calories I put in my system or had to think twice about what I ate, but for the sake of Benji, I have to do it. But the more I learn about the types of foods I eat, where my food comes from, and what goes into my food, the more I realize how much more judicious we need to be because there is a lot of weird stuff out there being put into our foods these days.

Do you know where your food comes from and what goes into your food? Do you think it’s time to pay more attention to what you’re eating?

Some good places to start to learn more about the crazy food industry in the US:

  • Fast food nation by Eric Schlosser
  • Food, Inc a film directed by Robert Kenner
  • Supersize me a film by Michael Moore
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Do you have anymore resource to share?

It’s the Chinese New Year: Year of the Ox! And I guess the Korean New Year, too. [I’ve always been saying “Chinese New Year” assuming that all the Asians who celebrate it are Chinese. But Bryan reminded me that Koreans celebrate it, too, and I guess they’re more PC about this because they call it the Lunar New Year.]

Oh, well. Here is another one of my attempts to recreate the Chinese New Year 氣氛 “atmosphere” away from all the family back home: rolled oat cookies! These super delicious yummies, first introduced to the YAP family by my Aunt Christine years ago, have pretty much had their presence in our YAP homes every New Year, along with the other typical goodies like pineapple tarts, little curry puff like cookies, coconut cookies, pork jerkies (bah-kuah; WAAaay better than beef jerkies), etc.

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And as you can imagine, I’ve been gobbling down a mixture of these cookies and pineapple tarts that I made a couple days before, to “celebrate” the festive occasion. Got to hit the swimming pool or the running track sooon.

步步高升,身體健康!!(Reach to greater heights, and stay healthy! — well, do that after the Chinese New Year feasting.)

Our Christmas dinner was really nice and mellow. We had three friends over for dinner, then played some mahjong. My dinner menu, as mentioned in my previous post, was also a big hit (yay!). I made cream of broccoli soup, green beans casserole, and a cherry pie all for the first time. And THANKFULLY they turned out well.

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TWO more days to the new year. Crazy!

Went shopping this morning @ around 8 for food to make @ our Christmas dinner , and GOSH was the Vic Mart packed full of people rushing to get their orders for their feasting sessions. Thereafter, went to a friend’s place to bake gingerbread men cookies. They were so fun to bake and decorate…and to eat! 🙂 I might try making oatmeal cookies tomorrow, too, if I have the motivation. I love the holiday season!

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It’s gonna be a busy week ahead…we have Christmas eve dinner @ my cousin’s, then Christmas service at church on Christmas morning, then possibly lunch @ some church member’s house…and then we host our own Christmas dinner @ our place.

Finally got a Christmas dinner menu!

  • Garlic bread (because we ❤ bread AND garlic)
  • Broccoli and cheese soup
  • Roast chicken with wild mushroom and bread/rice stuffing (from the success I had at Thanksgiving!!)
  • Beans casserole
  • Cherry pie
  • Apple crumble (per request of a guest)

And sometime this week (before Thurs) a friend and I are gonna bake Christmas cookies together. YAY! I am gonna try baking gingerbread men, some rolled oat cookies, and maybe some cherry spiced cookies if there is such a thing (to use up my cherries!!).

I love the Christmas season! Let the feasting begin continue!!! And of course let us not forget the true meaning behind the season…the birth of our Savior. 🙂

I finally tried roasting my own coffee beans today!

Yes, my coffee consumption habits seem to be moving toward one often associated with elitist gourmet type snobbery. In my defense, I would like to say that…I can REALLY taste a difference between instant coffee, freshly brewed coffee, freshly ground and brewed coffee, freshly ground and brewed in a french press (or plunger) coffee, and now, freshly roasted, ground, and brewed in a french press/plunger coffee. And there is no way my taste buds can take anything less anymore.

Am I nuts? No. (Although if you ask Bryan he may tell you otherwise. Heh.) I just love GOOD coffee too much AND I just happen to have a lot of free time.

Here are photos documenting my little experiment! I tried the skillet method from Sweet Maria’s Home Roasting site.

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Raw, green coffee beans from New Guinea

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Coffee beans roasting in the hot skillet

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Roasted coffee beans with chaff still on

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Roasted coffee beans cooling down

Quite a success! Although the coffee beans weren’t roasted as evenly as I had hoped; as you can see, some beans are lighter than others. It kind of works out for me, actually, because I enjoy a mixture of darkly and lightly roasted coffee beans anyway. But next time, I will be more aggressive in mixing the beans in the pan for a more even result; it’s a skill! I would recommend this to anyone who cares enough about coffee. It’s really fun! You will get the best, freshest, and most satisfying cup of coffee ever, and your apartment will smell of coffee all afternoon! MMMmmhmm. 😉