Monday, April 25, 2016

You are what you eat

If, as they say, you are what you eat, then essentially, I'm a chicken. Oh wait, that's my Chinese zodiac animal! Cluck.

In our household, we eat very well, thanks to our long-time helper who has a fantastic knack for cooking. Her Chinese recipe repertoire, learnt from my mil, is pretty impressive. Anything from stir fried beef and popiah to curry chicken and char siew.

Sweet and sour pork
Kong bak pau
She's equally adept in the western food department, from recipes I've given her over the years. Shepherd's pie, lasagna, boeuf bourguignon - she's got them under her belt. She also makes a mean oxtail stew with mash. Better than the one from Jack's Place, in my opinion!

And just when we thought her cooking couldn't get any better, she ventured into Indian, learning from her friends who have Indian employers. Here was the spread she laid out for a gathering - mutton curry, brinjal curry, fried chicken and chickpea salad with homemade chapati.

So as you can imagine, we're very much foodies in our household. We'd never been part of the healthy eating camp just cos we love our food too much (and so much of what's bad for you tastes so good!)

Only Lesley-Anne was very careful about her diet and that kinda happened by accident. When my kids were young, I tried to impose vegetables at every meal (okay, every dinner). Actually, since we adults weren't so keen on the veggies either, it was usually a half-hearted attempt and if they'd eaten a few strands, we'd let it pass. I know, bad role models, us parents! Andre would eat his favourite dishes first, then plead to be let off his veg. Lesley-Anne however, who believes in saving the best for last, would always eat her veg first even though she didn't like it. Through this habit, she astonishingly enough, grew to love veg, so much so that when we eat out, we have to order veg for her. As time went by, she become more conscientious about taking care of her body. She would religiously work out and watch her diet, especially over the past year.

Then earlier this year, Kenneth's doctor advised him to cut out simple carbs from his diet to improve his health. That's when I realised this constant throwing caution to the wind regarding our food intake could not go on forever. We're not spring chickens any more and much as I would like to deny it, I knew this uncontrolled intake of sugar would only have detrimental effects.

When I suggested we make some changes at home, Lesley-Anne of course, cheered. Quite to my surprise, Andre instantly agreed as well. Influenced by his sister, he had started recognising the benefits of eating healthier. Since my mil lives with us, we had to go slow because I was afraid she wouldn't be used to the new taste. We began by changing white bread to wholemeal bread. My mil didn't take to the grainy wholemeal taste so we found an alternative - Sunshine Extra Fine Sprouted Wholemeal bread. It's still wholemeal but the bread is soft so it works for everyone.

Next was the rice. I wanted to change the rice to brown rice but again, I was afraid I would face resistance from my mil, since she's from that generation that believes unrefined food is inferior. Then out of the blue, one day she told me that if I felt changing to unrefined rice would be better for the family, she was open to it. That taught me never to assume anything! That pioneer generation is hardier than we like to believe.

So we tried the Fairprice Thai Rice Blend - a mix of white, brown and red rice. And whadya know, everyone in the family loves it! Andre declared it tastier than white rice (which he was never a fan of to begin with) and for the first time, started having second helpings of rice at dinner. It definitely has more flavour and more bite.

We're trying to take things one step at a time. More veg, less fried food. I have to say it's a lot easier when you have the support of the whole family. I'm most encouraged by Andre's attitude. First, you need to know that Andre loves food. I mean it - he lives for food. This is a boy who can't remember when his exam is but can recall what he ate at a restaurant four years ago. When we go to Sushi Express, he easily polishes off 17 plates. That's 34 pieces of sushi, by the way.

Pic from 2 years ago
Yet, he has embraced this healthy approach with gusto, for which I'm very proud of him. One Saturday, I brought him and Kenneth to my chef friend Tat Hon's restaurant The Bento People for brunch. I had written a review of the restaurant previously, about how I was pleasantly surprised to find that healthy food could actually taste good!

I was a little apprehensive but I needn't have been. The food there is honestly so tasty that my two boys gobbled it up and were happy campers. Since then, Andre has been clamouring to go back, so we returned again last Saturday.

This is our favourite combi - brown rice, salmon and broccoli in green curry. It's amazingly delicious and satisfying, and fills you up all the way till dinner. I suspect the Bento People will become one of our regular brunch haunts.

As Tat Hon once told me, make the change when you can still make the choice, not when illness strikes and you have no choice but to make the change. This way, the healthy transition will be more painless and once your palate adjusts to the taste of natural foods, you might find that you never want to go back to the processed and refined options.

Slow and steady, we'll get there!

Monday, April 11, 2016

19 candles

For quite a few years now, Lesley-Anne hasn't had a big birthday celebration because there always seemed to be something going on - school, exams, CCA, etc. So her birthdays were typically celebrated with just a dinner and cake.

Since she didn't have school this year, I insisted she organise something special. So she had her friends over for a sleepover last weekend and they had a blast. They played games, ate lots of food and chatted the night away. No pics though cos teenage girls don't like having their photos plastered online. Bah!

However, I do have pics of our family celebration. We went to Prive at CHIJMES and the food was not bad at all. The ambience is lovely - we sat inside which was cool but still gave us a great view of the surroundings.

Here are some pics of what we had:

Salmon penne in pink vodka sauce
Signature burger
Pulled pork ciabatta
Fish and chips
On Easter Sunday, Lesley-Anne had an early birthday surprise. We were conducting a creative writing workshop for 12 kids organised by Jenn, a mum and long-time blog reader. After the workshop, Jenn brought out a specially made Danger Dan cake for Lesley-Anne!

Pwoar! The fact that Jenn remembered Lesley-Anne's birthday was astonishing enough to me. Can't believe she went out of her way to have the cake made. 

We're very touched by the thoughtful and generous gesture. Thank you, Jenn! In case you're interested, Jenn blogged about the workshop here.

Workshop kids singing the birthday song
Back home, we had our very own cake-cutting session yesterday. Nothing quite so elaborate as a Danger Dan cake. Just chocolate would do.

As for presents, Lesley-Anne is a simple girl with simple needs. She never asks for anything, except books. Which makes gift-shopping really easy. Books then!

With that, my precocious daughter is now 19. Not gonna go on and on about how time flies because that would be repeating myself every year (plus it makes me feel really old). So I'll just say how very blessed we are to have her in our family and I hope that she will continue to shine a light in the lives of those she meets.

May God shower her with boundless joy and love always ♥ ♥

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