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As you know, I’ve been on a moderate wheat and total dairy free diet because of Benji’s eczema. Since then, I’ve been trying out different recipes that use different wheat and dairy substitutes. Today, I tried making spelt vegan pancakes for breakfast and it was amazing. Okay, so spelt is not gluten free; it’s a subspecies of wheat and who knows maybe Benji’s also allergic to it? I *don’t* think so, since he seems to tolerate traces of wheat (I’ve been eating soy sauce, for example). We shall see. Anyhow, I’ll say this recipe is even better than the traditional wheat, dairy, and egg version. Even Bry, who is rarely one to truly enjoy ‘new age’ ‘healthy’ foods remarked that it was quite possibly his favorite pancake: much lighter and fluffier than regular wheat ones. He was surprised when I told him the ingredients and especially when I said there were no eggs involved.  Here’s the link to the recipe. Next time I’ll also try a bit of vanilla extract for more flavor.

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Nice, smooth batter

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Cooking

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Couldn’t resist. Looked so fluffy and light (and it was!).

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Topped off with some olive oil spread and maple syrup. And strawberries on the side.

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For those who know me personally, or have known me from reading my blog, you’ll know that both Bry and I are foodies. We love eating and making foods from a lot of different cultures. It also helps that both Bry and I, although we look fairly similar in skin, eye, and hair color, are actually of different cultural backgrounds: he is Korean-American who was born and bred in Los Angeles, and I am Singaporean Chinese. Through him, I got a solid introduction to Korean food (among other foods such as Mexican, which seems to be more of a comfort food to him than Korean – Hmmm!, Southern, and Jewish) and I LOVE it.

Over the years, I picked up a few Korean recipes from his mom and after Benji was born, she wrote me telling me to make Myeok Guk (seaweed soup) which was a staple post-partum dish in the Korean culture. It is supposed to be rich in calcium and iodine, which is said to help with the supply and quality of breast milk. At that time, my mom who flew over from Singapore to help me out with my post-partum cultural confinement was already making me all sorts of post-partum dishes (which were awesomely delicious, by the way) so I did not make it until much later. But OH MY when I did, I just wanted to keep eating it. The Koreans really know what they’re doing, making a winning combination of both healthy and tasty food. My mother-in-law was pleased that I made the soup and enjoyed it so much. In fact, even Bry had some of it and demanded for more. Apparently, this soup is also traditionally served at birthdays. I think in our household it will be enjoyed at anytime, just because it’s so yummy.

It’s also simple to whip up, so busy moms can make this easily. The only trick is getting the seaweed, which would be available at any Korean grocery store if you can get to one. The recipe I used was mostly “by taste.”  Here’s an actual recipe if you want to try it out. In one version, I used ground pork and marinated it for a couple hours in soy sauce, crushed garlic, and sesame oil, then sauteed it, added some chicken stock (was lazy!), then the seaweed, and let the ingredients cook for about 30 minutes, and the soup was done!

(A side note: I’m really into cross-cultural experiences and love how every culture seems to have their own post-partum beliefs and staple foods to help with breastmilk quality and supply. A friend of mine who is Russian Jew swears by cow’s milk and said to have it with tea “mother’s milk tea.” in the Philippines, I believe, it’s green papaya, in Cantonese, it’s red snapper, in Korea it’s seaweed. In the west, it’s milk tea, too, and fenugreek. Here’s an interesting article to read about cross cultural post-partum beliefs. )

Omg. There are so many thoughts racing through my mind as I read this.
For one, it would be a total hit with friends and family.
I could also totally see myself using this in the near future with birthday parties for Benji.
It would also be super for speech-language pathology therapy sessions around language:vocabulary building (gotta name the types of furniture), sequencing (steps needed to make the waffle batter), descriptors (sprinkles/colors/taste).
How very exciting. I just have to figure out how to get my hands on this fun toy.

PS: If you haven’t already, check out Whollykao’s blog it’s full of creative and fun posts (Whollykao was one of the WordPress featured sites not too long ago).

whollykao

I just saw this on Design Sponge and had to post it. It’s a waffle iron that cranks out a set of miniature waffle furniture. And you can decorate the pieces however you want. The question is: breakfast decor (aka fruit and syrup), or dessert decor (sprinkles, chocolate, whipped cream). Perhaps the answer is both!

This waffle iron was concocted by designers Ryosuke Fukusada and Rui Pereira. You can read more about it here. Now…when can we buy one?

The Texas-shaped waffle iron may have just been one-upped by this furniture one!

(photo by Sew Caroline)

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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?

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Yesterday I added yet another item to my “safe foods” list. I have been on the Dr Sear’s total elimination diet for almost 3 weeks now since Benji was diagnosed with eczema last month and had flare ups so bad the sides of his face started weeping for at least 3 weeks.

Doctors we visited (at least 5) said a diet change wasn’t going to work because they claimed his eczema was not triggered by food allergies but that it was simply hereditary (I had asthmatic bronchitis as a kid n my brother had eczema when he was young; his rashes were triggered by consumptions of cheese n beef).

Desperate, I still did this diet anyway because of so many success stories I had read on forums and from friends. The first two weeks I had only rice milk, turkey, chicken, rice, quinoa, pears n apples. And the only seasoning allowed were olive oil, salt n pepper.

Then we went to Seattle and this diet became unrealistic to follow. We couldn’t really eat anywhere! I ended up adding salmon, edamame (soy), coconut, cilantro, and scallions which all turned out to be safe foods for him. WHEW. I have since added sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, and last night, organic tomato based pasta sauce which all seemed okay for him. The one time I had miso soup, which I now learned contains wheat and possibly MSG, we saw bumps around Benji’s eyes almost immediately. I’m  not sure if it’s the wheat or the MSG or just pure coincidence but that put me off trying wheat or miso soup again anytime soon.

Today I bought some tofu and tomatoes…and am planning on trying out more soy products to test the waters soon.

Meanwhile Benji’s skin has been really good (with the exception of the flare up after the miso soup which was very minor compared to what it was before). People who saw him a month ago and saw him again this week when I started taking him out to activities again all commented what a vast improvement he has made. We are so grateful.

But I won’t lie: I MISS BEING ABLE TO EAT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING. Most of all, I miss my sweets: chocolates, cakes, desserts, and bread. Ugh, it kills me somedays when I walk past bakeries and can’t get anything. OH, well, sacrifices have to be made…this is part of the job description right?

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I’m all about the soups these days: they’re simple to prepare and are great comfort foods for the cold weather. Since having to look after a newborn, I’ve had to whip up meals that are easy yet not compromise on the quality or nutritious value especially since I’m still breastfeeding.

Tonight I made a rendition of kimchi jigae. Jigae means stew in Korean. I first had it at Bry’s parents’ place. Bry’s mom makes the most delicious Korean food and this dish was one of the many she made that I absolutely love. As I didn’t have the spicy bean paste or any other korean soup bases in our still rather poorly stocked pantry, I had to be creative. I used:

  • Kimchi – lots of it and used the juice as well for the soup base
  • Chicken Stock
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Tofu
  • Tofu puffs
  • Chicken
  • Scallions
  • Little xiaobaicai
  • Mushrooms

The great thing about this was I just threw all the ingredients in a pot and let it cook, then boiled up some rice on the side…and voila, we have a delicious and healthy dish full of vegetables and protein. This was not as good as my mother-in-law’s Jigae, tho it came quite close and satisfied my craving for Korean food.

Did I mention how much I LOVE being settled in to our new place and have a nice, clean  kitchen where I’m able to cook again? 🙂

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Now that we’re more or less settled into this place and into a routine, I’m experimenting with new recipes and cooking again! Above, I made a quinoa vegetable and chicken soup which tasted really nice with a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. Perfect for winter!