Carob-Coconut Banana Buckwheat Muffins

Whenever I am lucky enough to get a carton of berries–strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, heaven bless if elusive blackberries are attained–it feels like sacrilege to bake with them. They’re not cheap at this part of the globe, and no matter how abundant the minimal abundance can get, they seem too precious, too much of a luxury to put into baking. Not that baking isn’t worth it–glorious bursts of roasted berries amidst soft, fluffy muffin or cake is an absolute joy–but it seems so much of a waste to drown perky, bright and amazingly radiant berries amidst thick claggy batter and wilted under the full on glare of the oven. Such Neanderthal brutality we subject such dainty, fainting fancies to! However, the very versatile banana is alright. They’re pretty much everywhere every year every time, and come in several varieties to boot. And the beautiful sugary sweetness they lend, plus a tender moist crumb and a delicate creaminess, is a definite asset when it comes to the flavor throwdown. In fact, I think I eat more cooked banana than raw–mashed into oatmeal, mashed into baked oatmeal, mashed into muffins. Absolutely lovely, plus the minimal and gentle flavor it holds means that it can either be the forefront star or a canvas/platform to boost other flavors–it goes with just about anything under the sun, from nuts to vanilla to berries to chocolate to caramel, and all sorts of weird and wicked and weirdly wicked combinations. It’s a sturdy ‘un, banana. One you can rely on when things get tough. It’ll lend you a peel to blow your nose on, and a curve to cry on.

All weird banana personification aside, these are wonderful breakfast muffins. I find making a batch of 6 ensures you have a decent amount to tide you over a few days without being positively drowned in them–which, although it is a great thing to be surrounded by copious scrummy bakes, may prove insurmountable when good ol bacteria and mold decides to take root in uneaten beauties and scar them for eternity, dooming them for a sad spiral down into the trash bin, which is both a horrid waste and a horrid shame. Not that these will last long anywhere though–I just have a family that gets bored of one type of food very easily. They lose interest after a muffin or two, no matter how delicious they are. Which is sad, but means more for me! I guess! And more of these muffins are definitely a great thing.

Some time ago the lovely guys at Muma Health sent me a pack of their Raw Core Love to try. Raw Core Love is, in essence, a seeded grain mix–a soft mix of flakes, grains, and seed that came in a packet with a transparent front that shows the complex shades of differently shaped components within, dotted predominantly with the black scatter of chia seed. The blend, along with chia seed, includes quinoa flakes, sunflower meal, psyllium husk, linseed meal, millet meal and poppy seed–quite an exotic blend of grainy goodness! It’s gluten free and vegan for those with particular diets, and flavor-wise it’s quite neutral–you get a lot of texture from all the different meals and seeds and flakes, and overall a sort of nutty, oaty toastiness, but the blank canvas allows you to paint many flavors on it whether sweet or savory. The guys over at Muma Health mean for it to be a condiment–a little scatter of texture to add on your meals, scatter over a dish and whatever you may choose for a little boost of fibre and Omega-3, along with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and proteins. It’s a lovely idea, and I’ve tried it a number of ways–stirred into oatmeal, mixed into pancake batter (so good! adds so much texture and thickness to boot), mixed into baked oatmeal, folded into muffins and cakes…it’s come out amazing all ways, and even sprinkling over toast or oatmeal! As a garnish or as an ingredient, it’s a great one to have, and adds both volume to your mix and a fresh funky hit of texture too.

You can see creations used with Raw Core Love on my Instagram here–I’ve certainly had a lot of fun using it left, right and centre in all matters of food, and I haven’t been disappointed yet! It’s like the chameleon of the seedy food world. Not seedy as in dubious, but seedy as in full of seeds…oh, you know what I mean. It can take on any flavor and add to it, plus it’s cool. Here I mixed it into muffins for an interesting crunch and texture amidst what can be an endlessly doughy muffin, and it gives the crumb a wonderful pillowy-ness and thickness too with all the meals and flakes. I’ll definitely recommend Raw Core Love–it takes just a pinch or so to ensure you get a little more of what does your body good, and gives you a boost to start the day!

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These muffins are lovely. I’ve only just started using carob not too long ago and I’m addicted–it gives such a rich, caramelly, almost date like fudginess and sweetness to the normal chocolaty flavor. It’s not as intense as cocoa, but gives another dimension, of fruity rich and fudgy goodness that I’ve come to really like. Added to the tropical, very unique sweetness and toasty flavor of coconut and with the creamy banana mashed into the batter, you get a very lovely plump little muffin with a toasty, nutty buckwheat flavor to boot. Dark with rich fudgy chocolate, with a fluffy soft crumb that melts on your tongue with banana and a bright ribbon of coconutty flavor, and topped with toasted coconut–my new addiction–that promises a burst of bright buttery coconut on top, these are absolutely gorgeous. They fill you up very nicely with the buckwheat and Raw Core Love, and have a host of lovely natural ingredients.

I honestly love using buckwheat flour in baking due to the lovely texture it gives, and the Raw Core Love really gives it a right boost in terms of both fibre and body. These sturdy, soft muffins straddle the line between dessert and breakfast quite closely–they could almost be brownie-ish with all their fudgy glory, if you close your eyes and stir in some chocolate chips into the batter and underbake them ever so slightly. What better way to start your day with chocolate–and a side serving of fibre and energy-boosting nutrients too?

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carob-coconut banana buckwheat muffins

You will need:

-1 cup buckwheat flour

-1/2 cup spelt flour/oat flour/wholewheat pastry flour

-2 tbs carob powder

-2 tbs Muma Raw Core Love

-1/4 cup shredded coconut

-1/2 tsp baking powder

-1/4 tsp baking soda

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-scant pinch salt

-1 large banana, mashed

-1 egg (flax egg if you’re vegan)

-1/4 cup Greek yogurt

-1/3 cup coconut milk (or any plant based milk)

-2 heaped tbs dark chocolate peanut butter/Nutella/normal peanut butter

-3 tbs coconut oil

-2 tbs coconut sugar/raw cane sugar

-2 tbs maple syrup

-1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

-toasted coconut

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 6-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients until thoroughly combined (buckwheat flour through to scant pinch salt). In another, whisk the wet ingredients until thoroughly incorporated and emulsified. Slowly add dry 1/2 at a time and mix with a wooden spoon well–it will be a wet, rather craggy and thick batter. Divide amongst the 6 muffin cups, filling just about to the top, and top with the toasted coconut. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick emerges only slightly moist. Let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

(disclaimer: I was not paid to advertise these products, Muma Health sent them to me for review. All opinions expressed are mine, and I think it’s pretty darn delicious.)

Muma Health

Website: http://mumahealth.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MUMA-Health/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/muma_health

Email: Holla@MumaHealth.com

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Chai-Spiced Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Oh look, another post in which I have five false starts of horrible rambly blabber and a fair bit of delirious dribbling. Hopefully this time I don’t sound like full-on-drunkard yodelling about the meaning of life sitting in a shopping trolley in a parking lot at 3am, which might scare you away.

Is it snowing where you are? Here in Singapore we have the fun yo-yo of heavy rain every afternoon or scorching sun with 90% humidity, what fun! Don’t get me wrong–even though the air here is thicker than the earth’s crust and everything is wet and hot and sweaty and…moist…hear that, MOIST–I guess we are quite lucky that there is sun all year round and we have our sun rises and sun sets quite regularly, I couldn’t live with 3pm sunsets like some of you guys in the UK do! I’ll be awfully depressed.  And we also don’t have to deal with massive snow storms, which is a plus I guess, but man I’ve never honestly been to a winter country before. Until this year; I’ll be going to Sapporo in Japan for vacation in about a week’s time! And it is SNOWING there. At least the roads are white and icy and the temperature is set quite nicely around freezing point. I’m not going to lie, it is exciting, but also intimidating.

Are you a warm or a cold person? Not in terms of temperament, but I think I deal better with heat than chill for both facets (and really need to work on my temper). Don’t get me wrong, on the days where the sun goes full-on turbo in Singapore the lovely frosty kiss the fridge gives you when you open the door is more incentive than any to make that trip off your couch there (and grab some ice cream, or frozen bananas, or a bowl of yogurt with 1000 toppings), and many times the sweet air conditioning of a mall is utter, sheer bliss to sweat-beaded skin after the sun’s relentless battering. But the few times I’ve been hit with cold–especially chilly, chilly RAINY wind in New Zealand, good grief–I was frozen like an icicle. It’s one thing to be under extreme heat–Australia and Singapore have that, and while it’s certainly blistering and potentially hazardous, in Australia it wasn’t too humid so at most it was just uncomfortably hot, and in Singapore I’ve learnt to just…bear through the sticky humidity and thick clotted heat of the tropics. Whereas cold is just–it has you jumping around or frozen to the spot, and it goes deep down to your bones. At least for me. Sure, you have to deal with sunburns (does anyone else find peeling skin fascinating? No? Okay) but for cold it requires defrosting, and clumsy fingers, and basically a sort of uncomfort I have yet to adapt to.

But whilst I am still slightly skeptical and hesitant about diving into frostbitten weather, I must say man–it must be nice to see autumn. All the beautiful auburn and crisped leaves like a veined kaleidoscope of crunchy crispness, and seeing wizened stooped skeletons of trees, and getting all het up over pumpkins and such. And then I am very much looking forward to actually asking someone “Do you wanna build a snowman?” and meaning what I say because there will be snow abound to build legions and platoons of Olafs. And all Frozen references shall stop here because I do not even like it that much. But yes–don’t you think it’s weird how we all share the same globe but have so much different weathers and daytimes and nighttimes and surroundings? Man, don’t call yourself a multitasker unless you’ve met Mother Nature.

Then again, you don’t need snow to appreciate the loveliness of seasonal flavors like chai, and warm spices like cinnamon, and I’m loving persimmon so much lately. Have you tried it? When I was young I remember my mum slicing up beautiful large persimmons–ours are massively orange, not the red ones I’ve seen some of you having–that are so soft and ripe that a gentle prod with your thumb would tear through the skin into sweet, ripe, juicy persimmon. So good. If you haven’t tried it persimmon is lovely–when it’s not mush ripe it has a sort of firmer-than-pear bite but not quite the quick crunch of apple, and a sort of honeyed nectar sweetness without the richness of peach–a very clean, bright sweetness. At any rate they are delicious, and I’m glad to see more people persimmon-appreciating every year. Join the persimmon platoon! Anyway!

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Recently the lady called Sweet Mama Mel (could be a superhero name, to match the wonderful lady) behind the company Sweet Spreads sent me some of their goodies to try. Apart from a particularly enthusiastic slogan (“Spread it! Dip it! Spoon it!” Yeah!) I was immediately drawn in to their line of coconut butters. I’ve never tried coconut butter and have only seen people create homemade ones by whizzing shredded coconut to a smooth, icing like ivory cream but if anything this certainly made me very, very interested to try them. Because man–anything that comes in the flavors Sweet Spreads has named their line of charmingly termed coconutters (6 of them–vanilla cupcake, white chocolate, brownie, cinnamon roll, maple pancake, dark chocolate mint. That is all, ladies and gentlemen) will make you very, very interested indeed. For someone who really loves nut butter, I couldn’t wait to try this coconut butter. And boy, are they great…expect a full post coming soon, but for now the star here is the cinnamon roll coconutter. I put it in the pancakes and boom! pow! You get a hit of festivity like a beautiful firework display, and in pancakes to boot. So amazing.

So, let’s get down to the pancaking. Breaking down each component: we have

chai-spiced cinnamon roll pancakes stuffed with chunks of pear,

vanilla bean caramelised cinnamon apples,

and

a salted chunky whipped date-peanut butter cream

alongside any other nobs you may choose to add, like aforementioned persimmon, toasted coconut chips and pomegranate. If that doesn’t sound good to you, I don’t know what will.

Remember Mother Nature re:multitasking? This is certainly just a little more complex than some of my other recipes–just because there are a few components–but I’ve got it all planned out for you. This baby can be done in practically 20 minutes flat–all you need to do is ensure the apples get on the hob and the cream gets whipping at the right times and voila–everything will be on your plate, no sweat at all. And boy, was this a beautiful plate. You get a massive stack of brown, fluffy cakes, warm from the pan and with a beautiful soft plush crumb scented with the husky notes of chai–cinnamon, star anise, black tea, cardamom and more–and the sticky sweetness of the cinnamon roll coconutter from Sweet Spreads, filled with soft chunks of sweet pear; and then you get apples, beautifully bronzed, smelling absolutely wonderful like apple pie and apple strudel and all kinds of apple-y perfection, cooked and caramelised down to sweet syrupy gooey perfection with the floral, complex musk of deep gritty vanilla bean and the spicy, sweet kick of cinnamon; and for something to cut through all the apple-pear-spice thing we have going on, a dollop of tufty, thick date-peanut butter cream whipped to airy, light and caramelly perfection with the rich lovely roastiness of peanut butter, a hint of sparky salt, and the occasional chunk to keep things interesting. Altogether, it makes an absolutely stonking stack, and is absolutely delicious.

So yes; have this on your plate and you’ll certainly be a very happy camper with your tall stack of spicy, warm, caramelly perfection. And if you have any tips regarding surviving the cold or Sapporo, feel free to leave them down below.

 

chai-spiced cinnamon roll pancakes

You will need:

For the Pancakes

-6 tbs flour (buckwheat/all purpose/whole wheat/spelt/oat are all fine)

-1 tbs coconut flour

-1/4 tsp baking powder

-1/8 tsp baking soda

-1 tsp cinnamon or to taste

-1 large banana, ripe and mashed well

-1 tbs Sweet Spreads Cinnamon Roll Coconutter (optional, but recommended)

-1.5 tbs ground flaxseed soaked in 1/4 cup water overnight or for at least half an hour, or 1 egg

-2 tbs Greek yogurt/coconut cream if you’re vegan

-120-140 ml plant based milk

-1 chai tea bag

-1 tbs maple syrup

-1/2 to 1 pear, chopped into small chunks

For the Apples

-3/4 to 1 apple

-1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1/4 vanilla bean pod, scraped

-1/2 tbs coconut sugar

-about 1 to 2 tbs water

-1/4 tsp coconut oil (can be omitted, but recommended)

For the Cream

-2 to 3 medjool dates, very soft and pitted

-2 tbs creamy/chunky peanut butter

-1 tbs Greek yogurt/solid coconut cream

-1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste

-1 tsp maple syrup

-pinch Maldon/himalayan sea salt

First, make the pancakes: heat the plant based milk until warm and then steep a chai tea bag in the milk for 2-3 minutes, until infused. Let the milk cool, while preheating your pan on the lowest heat. Then whisk the wet ingredients together, add the dry ingredients on top and mix gently till all incorporated before adding the pear and folding in. Let this sit until the pan is hot enough such that a drop of water hisses loudly and evaporates immediately upon contact; grease well with oil of choice before cooking your pancakes on top. Once the pancake’s edges dull and bubbles appear, they are ready to flip.

When you are halfway through cooking the batter, chop up your apple into small chunks and toss with the coconut sugar and cinnamon. Mix the water, coconut oil and vanilla bean paste in a small saucepan and add the apple on top, scraping out all the juices and sugar/cinnamon in the bowl, and cook on low heat next to the pancakes stirring every so often until soft, golden and when most of the water has gone with only a syrupy residue. Remove from the stove.

Once you are done cooking your pancakes, set them aside with the apples and whip the peanut butter together with the yogurt or coconut cream with a spoon or a small whisk until thick and tufty. Mash the dates against the side of the bowl until a chunky puree and whip together with the peanut butter-yogurt mix before adding the vanilla bean paste, maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Add a small splash of plant based milk if needed to loosen the mix slightly; you should get a thick, frosting like cream. Serve with the pancakes and the apples and enjoy!

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Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal

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There’s something to be said about the turbulent teenage years stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going out for keggers or partying till dawn or sneaking out of my window at 2am to meet my nonexistent punk boyfriend, but everyone around me is having some form of existential crisis or another, or so it seems lately. We’re dropping like flies, quashed by the weight of the long sticky clot between adulthood and childhood. There’s no such thing as teenagehood, did you realise? Because we’re not an official hood. We’re this awkward squiggly poochy segment squashed between two slices of legitimacy, wrapped up like a burrito on the couch and hissing at sunlight or anyone who comes close and waiting for the day of self actualisation. Or maybe that’s just me.

Whether it’s about what we do–sports, writing, studying, living–or how we feel (emotions! feelings! so messy, so awful), I think it’s the time of the year for people–my age at least–to start finding conflicts popping up left right centre like some wretched rash. Maybe it’s because school is out of the way and now we have time to worry about the things that needed worrying, but were eclipsed by bigger worries that could possibly affect our futures and potentially increase the worry quota like GPAs and grades and all the pleasantries that come along with package that is academia. Now we’re left with more good free time, which is blessed, but also the acquiring snowball of little doubts and questions that gathered and grew like a pufferfish. Perhaps that’s not the best analogy. But also perhaps because this might be a preview to post-education life–no school system, no homework, just you and your abilities and whatever you have that can help you survive in the massive pool of adulthood, be it cunning or hard work or talent.

Is that why we have this teenage year thingum stuck in the middle? Are we supposed to work things out now like some jigsaw puzzle so everything will perfectly fall into place once we step into the real world? Probably not. But it’s definitely meant to toughen us up or teach us something. I think this is a year of learning for me, at least. I was made to face a lot of things in the past few years, but I think they just mediated a quick, sudden, lurchy and rather nauseating rocket up from childhood–goodbye, farewell, so long to infancy–and this year has been finding my feet after the crash landing, once the wounds have scabbed over. Standing up shakily, digesting what’s around me, figuring out what and where am I. Figuring out where do I go next from here. And that’s why this year has been one of the most confusing so far, but I’ve learnt quite a bit.

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Which brings us to Bad Days! I’ve learnt the importance of asking people if they’re alright–one of the key points this year. Everyone has bad days, no one’s life is a massive ball of sunshine and daisies and rainbow farting unicorns and glitter and confetti and linking arms singing ‘La Vie en Rose’. Storm clouds come, sometimes they stay and no matter how long or how hard you swat they just hover over you like oppressing, obstinate omens of gloom and doom. With both teenage turbulence and adult awfulness and perhaps childhood craziness alike we will all have bad days, and it’s important to show your concern for those around you who are fighting battles of their own that may be different to ours, but still a battle. Take care; I use that to sign off chats with people, to accompany a comforting (or I hope) pat on the shoulder as I go. It’s a tidy package that’s quite able to sum up your, well, care and concern for the person in question. Take care. Take your showers, don’t bash yourself up, get in your requisite amount of happiness and smiles and hee-hees and ha-has. But the art of Taking Care is a tricky one that’s as hard to get right as a complicated ballet solo in high-heel pointe shoes (if such things exist, but just for sake of the metaphor) and about zero motor skills. I haven’t got it pat down, that’s for sure.

Take yesterday. I had pancakes for breakfast, but that didn’t save the day. Sometimes you can feel the miasma of dread and “Oh no” creeping up on you like the slow scuttle of black rim across the moon during an eclipse. I felt it, and tried to do the usual prevention measures–my burning-sage-to-ward-off-evil equivalent–I made my bed with vigor and threw open the windows, washed everyone’s dishes with vengeance, tied my hair up into the highest ponytail I could that hurt my scalp and splashed water on my face. But nope–I was reduced, like most bad days, to a melting mess on the couch drowsily scrolling through Tumblr and Youtube and feeling like absolute crap due to a very confusing mix of emotions and thoughts crashing over into one another like a cartoonish pile of clowns. Throw in a few coincidentally bad things that happened and you have your perfect steaming pile of turd that comes with a side serving of loud self loathing and general disgust and aggressive apathy.

 

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Sometimes you can’t do much about that but just grit your teeth and wait for the day to pass. Maybe have a square of chocolate to help tide you over. But the next day will almost always bring a better start, and I return back to the usual base of low level self disdain instead of full blown gross and internal bashing-up.

I used to think that, to feel better, one had to reach this sort of Enlightened Stage of things through stuff like Yoga For Peace With Your Inner Self and like going for a Run or Drinking Tea While Meditating. And while I firmly believe in the importance of health I realise that it’s not about trying to be a Successful Holistic Human Being that will bring joy to the world, or trying to emulate a paradigm of human perfection. It, I find, just means that: on the days that are hardest, on the days where you hate yourself most, on the days where you feel like you’re wading through a knee-high sludge of black gritty poop, you still manage–deep inside–to dig up some semblance of kindness, a little neutrality and acceptance, and hold that to yourself. Yourself, who is a person at that particular bad time that you don’t really like. And from there, you take baby steps; anything that can break what will inevitably become a vicious cycle of hate and hate and self loathing and self pity and whining and moaning and low, low self esteem. Take charge, take the wheel even though you feel like you’re clawing through clotted air, and just stop. Don’t just let things lie and continue melting into your couch. Do a few things that you know through common sense and logic will make things a little better–brewing a hot cup of something comforting, putting your work aside for the day, going out for a walk, taking a square of chocolate. It’s the little things that count.

So, that was my day yesterday. I couldn’t do much to change the situation, but I did what I could and hey–that’s alright. No one’s perfect. And this morning, at the start of what has already became a much better day, I made this apple pie baked oatmeal. Simple, comforting, warming. Ideal to make myself feel comfortable, be kind to myself through nourishment, and enjoy the new start we are blessed to have every 24 hours. It takes no time to put together as most of my breakfasts do, and is full of rich warm nutty fragrant spice like cinnamon and nutmeg combined with a comforting caramel golden sweetness and creaminess from mashed banana and coconut sugar, a luxuriant butteriness from just the smallest amount of coconut oil, a slight floral musk from vanilla bean paste and–paramount to anything named, well, apple pie–chunks of juicy, soft roasted apple with just the right amount of bite–straddling crunchy and mushy perfectly with a tenderness that releases the flavor that comes from gentle oven heat that radiates through the baked oatmeal and reaches every chunk nestled softly in the muffin like batter.

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apple pie baked oatmeal

You will need:

-1/2 cup rolled oats

-1 tbs coconut flour

-1/2 tbs maca (optional) (I use OrganicBurst Maca)

-1/2 tsp baking powder

-1/4 tsp baking soda

-cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

-1 tbs coconut sugar

-1 large ripe banana

-1/2 tsp good quality vanilla bean paste (or extract if that’s what you have on hand)

-1/4 cup Greek yogurt/coconut cream or dairy free yogurt if you’re dairy free

-5 tbs plant based milk of choice

-1 tsp coconut oil, softened (optional but recommended)

-1/2 to 3/4 of an apple, chopped into chunks

-A handful of chopped walnuts, if you wish

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, mash the banana and add the Greek yogurt, plant based milk, coconut oil and vanilla bean paste. Add all the dry ingredients on top and mix to combine, adding a little more plant based milk if needed till a muffin-type batter consistency is reached. Add in your chopped apple and walnuts if desired, stir in and pour into an oven safe dish. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and set on top and let cool for at least 5 minutes before consuming.

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#SKIN BlendCo Bonanza: 3 Recipes

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Alright, so here’s the deal. If you haven’t heard of BlendCo, sit down and take a scroll/stroll down the screen. If you have heard of BlendCo, do the same anyway because there are THREE RECIPES on this whopper here and they are awfully yummy and defo worth a make. Plus they were really fun to think up.

Basically, an ocean away (very sadly), somewhere in Melbourne, Australia under the blazing sun there is a little white truck, or van. The little white mobile juice van (I’m obviously such a vehicle connoisseur) has a long strip of black around it saying BLENDCO. SMOOTHIES. JUICES. SUPERFOODS. WE BLEND. Yeah, IT DOES. And also some cute lil fruit and veg illustrations to boot. From beneath the awning of the truck you’ll probably see some matching very friendly and cute faces and an abundance of fresh fruit, veg, and the latest blending machinery. And if you’re lucky enough to actually BE THERE, you’ll probably walk away with a gorgeous smoothie or a cup topped with superfood sprinkles and banana coins and maybe a bliss ball or two, but most definitely a giant loony grin of foodie infatuation on your face and a very happy stomach.

That is BlendCo–they call themselves blenders by definition and alchemists by trade, and I’m quoting from their about page here. They’ve got a cool funky vibe and are primarily made up of the ongoing drivers, aka the very friendly and cute faces you will see in the van–the Blend Boys Charlie, James and Morgan. Besides rolling around Melbourne and Australia’s biggest music festivals blending away and making legions of stomachs happy, they also have the superfood skin blend. It also comes in a funky fresh packaging, and is made of 7 organic superfoods with the aim of supporting healthier skin. They believe in a healthy, nourished lifestyle full of fresh ingredients that are good for you inside out–and advocate this view from the nutrition aspect, which is where their amazing juices and skin blend come in.

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Yeah, that blend. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll probably see photo after photo with BlendCo tagged and with their signature golden-green-red party confetti of goodness lashed liberally across whatever I’m eating at the mo. Be it pancakes, a raw cake or oatmeal, the skin blend not only adds a funky pop of color to the dish–it’s also very darn tasty. I’m very lucky to have them sponsoring me and sending packs of this goodness my way for review every now and then–I have quite a lovely BlendCo supply right now and I’m beyond grateful. These bunch of guys are very passionate, whip-smart and witty, incredibly kind and thoughtful and I couldn’t ask for a better company to help promote–I wholeheartedly support BlendCo with every chocolate-loving cell in my body, and this is my unprejudiced personal opinion. So hopefully after reading this you’ll a) Take a look at BlendCo and hopefully love them as much as I do b) Get some skin blend in yo life c) Take a hack at one of the three recipes to come because man, are they delicious.

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty–every last flake of coconut and shred of pumpkin seed. What exactly is this mysterious party confetti skin blend made of? As mentioned previously, there are 7 superfood ingredients–and in creating the formula for this blend, BlendCo applied the power of synergy – different ingredients in the right ratio’s leading to a blend that is far more healing than the ingredients taken separately. So it is, in essence, a power punch of radiant goodness, tailored carefully to ensure that you receive all the greatness of these superfoods in optimum amounts.

The ingredient list is simple: coconut, activated pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, organic raspberry, acai, himalayan salt and goji berries. It’s gluten free, dairy free, nut free and vegan so if any of you have allergies related or have diets that omit such food groups have no fear–you can still enjoy the taste and benefits of this delicious fairy dust, no problem. The BlendCo dudes have put together these ingredients with the highest concentrated percentage of antioxidants, minerals and the right sorts of fats which work to fight the free radicals doing damage to our skin, and it’s rich in iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese to boot. And the goodness doesn’t stop there–it’s very much anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial too.

If you break down each ingredient, it’s already easy to see the benefits–coconut is known to be bursting with healthy fats, and these have been proven to effectively tackle acne and age spots and other facial blemishes as well as rejuvenate skin, which is why you see a lot of coconutty facial products out there. Pumpkin seeds also help to improve your skin tone, and goji berries are another sucker punch that stimulates the production of collagen in your skin, therefore helping it retain moisture and promoting anti-aging. We tend to use goji berries a lot in Chinese cuisine, and they’re often paired in herbal soups with other ingredients that are collagen rich for health benefits–so the BlendCo guys definitely know what’s up. Cacao nibs, besides being beyond delicious, also improve skin texture and hydration; and acai, the lovely super berry (a-sai-ee, not ah-kai)(on that note, it’s keen-wa not qui-no-ah for quinoa. just sayin’) helps combat against skin diseases. Fun fact: Brazilians have been eating acai berries for centuries to treat skin conditions. These together are a happy bunch that are supposed to support a healthier and happier skin.

But does it really work? The BlendCo people advise a two-week eating plan that is vegan, gluten free, alcohol and processed sugar free along with daily doses of 1-2 tablespoons of the skin blend to see a positive change in skin, more energy, a brighter complexion and a reduced appearance of dark circles. I certainly don’t drink alcohol, but I’m not vegan, nor am I gluten free, and it’s currently a not very feasible diet plan for me even if it’s two weeks so I was unable to test out this theory in full, but I can definitely attest that it does give me more energy for the day. A healthy smatter of skin blend, I’ve found, does make me feel more energized after my breakfast as compared to skin blend-free breakfasts of the same kind, and–all health benefits and magnesium and iron and whatever aside–it is very tasty. You first get the tropical, rich fragrance of coconut on your tongue in chewy shreds; then you get a hint of the salt, alongside with the sweetness of the soft chunks of goji berry which work the same way that makes salted caramel so delicious; then you get some tart fruity tang from the raspberries and the wholesome, deep nutty crunch of the pumpkin seeds. It’s a blend packed full of tangy, coconutty, salted-sweet goodness with a lovely texture as well–the skin blend can form into clusters occasionally so it becomes a kind of soft granola, and the crisp coconut and the crunchy pumpkin seeds along with the gooey softness of goji berries means that it isn’t just jaw-tiring crunch all the way or flaccid softness all the time.

So, besides taking a peep at my Instagram to see how I use BlendCo, I’ve decided to make a BlendCo Bonanza of three recipes that use this scrummy blend so you have ideas on how to use it, and also see how versatile it is! First up: we have the BlendCo Blizzard.

image1A nice pink frosty glass of thick, slurpworthy and refreshing smoothie pleasure–this beauty uses frozen berries for a pop of tart sweetness and berry flavor, acai for the antioxidants in acai oil that give your skin a lovely glow, bananas for that luscious creamy richness and ice cream smooth texture, and peach–which contains Vitamin A and C, making them a great natural moisturiser, and apparently according to Google helps maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin…I’m not too sure if anyone is looking to boost their mucus membranes, but this was definitely a delicious glass of fruity, creamy smoothie goodness, and topped with the BlendCo skin blend it definitely will help give your skin the nourishment it needs for the day. Plus, it takes about 5 minutes to whizz up in your blender–et voila, you have a lovely pink punch of skin goodness that will nourish you from the inside out!

blendco blizzard

You will need:

-1 large banana (freeze these in coins if you want extra thickness to the smoothie)

-1/2 cup frozen berries of choice

-2 capsules acai (I used Organicburst acai)

-1 small ripe white peach/yellow peach, sliced

-1/4 cup greek yogurt

-a splash of juice/water

-1 tbsp BlendCo Skin blend+more to top

Blitz these ingredients up in your blender, adding as much liquid as you wish to reach your desired consistency. Pour into a glass, top with more skin blend and serve up!

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Next up is the BlendCo Bliss Balls–if you need a power snack to fuel you through the day, these babies have you covered. Rolled in skin blend, these taste like a nutty, caramelly cookie dough–you get chunks of almonds, a hit of fresh sunny citrus, the rich sweetness of medjool dates and the lovely texture of the skin blend. They’re sweet enough to boost your sugar levels and energy and kill those sugar cravings, ridiculously easy and quick to make (plus very much cheaper than energy bars), can fit into your bag for emergency snacks be it on the go or after exercise or when you’re feeling peckish, and have a whole host of nutrients that will make your cells happy. In short: pure goodness that will get you rolling with the punches.

 

blendco bliss balls

You will need:

-1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

-1/4 cup dessicated coconut

-1/2 cup almonds

-a shake of cinnamon

-zest and juice of half an orange

-1/2 cup medjool dates

-2 tbsp BlendCo skin blend+about 1/4 cup to coat

Blitz the pumpkin seeds and almonds in your food processor till gritty but not too fine–just break them down into manageable chunks. Add in your coconut, skin blend, cinnamon, dates, and orange juice plus zest and blend until a soft, slightly tacky ball forms–add in a little more juice if needed for it to come together. Roll into balls of your choice of size and then roll them into the skin blend to coat, pressing a little for the larger chunks to stick. Refrigerate till needed.

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And last but DEFINITELY not least…these bebes are the BlendCo Bombs. And yes, they are the bomb. Dot com. Little raw cakes in which I have snuck the different components of the skin blend into, so it’s like deconstructed BlendCo in cake form! The base is a thick layer of cacao nib goji fudge brownie–chewy, fudgy, chocolaty brownie studded with crunchy cacao nibs that utilises 3 skin blend ingredients: pumpkin seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs. Next up you have a salted caramel layer–date caramel with himalayan salt, which is the skin blend ingredient in this jazz. And on the top, a thick wodge of raspberry-coconut cheezecake–luscious creamy cashew cheezecake flavored with the tart berry burst of raspberries and the tropical rich toasty flavor of coconut, and this layer is also a minefield of dark chocolate buckini bark chunks–essentially crunch bombs of luscious dark chocolate and shatteringly crispy toasted buckwheat. To top it off, I drizzled these bubs in tahini and skin blend–so good. These are absolutely divine, so tasty, and absolutely decadent. When you bite in you get the extremely chocolaty and fudgy soft, almost melty brownie layer with a sort of nuttiness from the pumpkin seeds and a crackle of cacao nibs; then you get a salty sweet hit of salted date caramel, oozy and luscious, smooth and sassy; and then the cheezecake–rich creamy berry mousse with a roasty-toasty coconut fragrance, punctuated and cut through with slivers and splinters of crisp buckini dark chocolate crunch bark. Beyond amazing–do give these a try!

blendco bombs

You will need:

For the cacao nib goji fudge brownie

-1/3 cup almonds

-1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

-1/3 cup pitted medjool dates

-1/3 cup goji berries

-1.5 tbs cacao

-1/2 tsp vanilla

-1 tbs tahini

-2 tbs cacao nibs

-2 tbs BlendCo skin blend

Blitz the almonds and pumpkin seeds until a mealy flour, then add the dates, cacao, goji berries, vanilla, and tahini. Process till a slightly sticky dough forms, pulse briefly to incorporate the cacao nibs and skin blend, and press into the base of a 6-cup silicone mould, or a muffin tin lined with parchment paper. Freeze while you make the other layers.

For the salted date caramel:

-1/4 cup medjool dates, soaked

-2 tbsp tahini

-1 tsp vanilla

-liberal pinch himalayan salt

Blend the soaked medjool dates, the tahini, vanilla, salt and enough soaking liquid for it to form a pasty caramel. Divide evenly over the silicone mould and spread out evenly. Return to the freezer.

For the dark chocolate buckini crunch bark chunks:

-about 60g melted dark chocolate

-1/4 cup buckwheat groats

Toast the buckwheat groats in a dry pan over low heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring every now and then, till they are crisp. Pour into the melted dark chocolate, stir to combine, and spread out in a thin even layer over parchment paper. Freeze till solid and break up into chunks of desired size.

For the raspberry-coconut cheezecake:

-1/2 cup frozen raspberries

-1/3 cup cashews, soaked overnight

-2 tbs coconut flakes

-2 tbs coconut oil

-3 tbs plant based milk

-3 tbs maple syrup

-1/2 tsp lemon juice

-1 capsule acai (optional, but for the sake of the skin blend I put it in) (I use OrganicBurst acai)

Process ingredients together in a food processor, adding more plant based milk if needed, till a creamy smooth mix forms. Scatter in the previously prepared buckini crunch bark and stir in before dividing evenly into the moulds. Freeze for 3 hours at least or overnight before removing from moulds and serving with a drizzle of tahini and more skin blend.

(disclaimer: I was not paid to advertise these products, BlendCo sent them to me for review. All opinions expressed are mine, and I think it’s pretty darn delicious.)

BlendCo

Website: http://blendco.com.au/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/blend_co

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blendcoaustralia

BlendCo Blog: http://blendco.com.au/the-blog/

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Gingerbread Sticky-Date Caramel Pear Baked Oatmeal+ Organic Burst Baobab

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HELLO. I am back! On my holiday resolution to post more! And I am here with a breakfast recipe. Something to ring in the season, now that it’s officially November and we now have calender-certified license to aggressively Christmas all over our food. Something that you can start colder mornings with, since seasons are changing at different parts of the globe. Of course, it’s still sunny here, hotter than Hades’ armpit and with haze to boot, but I can always pretend.

Flashback to my first experience of gingerbread…it wasn’t a pretty one. It was Christmas itself and the adults decided to give us all a gift of a gingerbread cookie–nutty dark dough cut into reindeer heads and Santa heads and I think a snowman, decorated with crumbly Royal icing in vibrant shades and little pearly hundreds-and-thousands and sprinkles. It looked promising–I mean, how bad can anything covered in 1000 different forms of sugar be, right?–but the moment we bit into it everyone kind of made a little wrinkled moue of distaste. I think only my brother managed to finish his–my cousins lost interest in the cookie over the allure of wrapping paper and ribbons under the Christmas tree, and I couldn’t really stomach the pungent, funnily spiced biscuit, which was awfully weird to my young tastebuds. Perhaps it was because we were raised on predominantly Oriental flavors and the sudden train of noxious spice barrelling into our mouths was too much to handle and a sensory overload, icing and hundreds-and-thousands or no. But that was my first gingerbread brush, and it wasn’t the best!

Now, however, I’ve developed quite a taste for it. There’s something oddly comforting and ancient about the mix of spicy ground ginger, allspice, sweet cinnamon, roasty cloves and toasty nutmeg combined with the dark, fruity, fermented sweetness of molasses and rich, buttery brown sugar. It brings a spiced, woody, nutty warmth and a bittersweet richness to a normal biscuit and makes me think of forests and pinecones and dark, rough wood and golden gilt. Yeah, I’m a weird person. But isn’t it funny how people develop flavors? Who decided to first dump all these different spices together into a biscuit? Who decided to take a weird looking black pod from a tree and scrape out its claggy, crumbly wet-soil insides, discovering vanilla? Who decided to take a knobby scaly thing they dug out from the ground and take a tentative bite of its pale yellow insides, discovering the fiery kick and subtle heat of ginger? I always think about these things…it must have been an awfully confusing time for our very early ancestors. Did they go around tasting different things and plucking oddly shaped fruit off trees? Or did they just observe what animals ate all day long to prevent any of them kicking the bucket from some toxic berry? At any rate, I’m very much grateful that they did that for us, and we no longer have to worry about whether raspberries would give us the runs, or something similar.

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Baked oatmeal is incredible. Oats are incredible. They are the best little grains ever. They obediently soak up liquid and flavor, fluff up under heat and expand to form puffed softness but still with lovely texture, and can be used for so many things. This was like a massive gingerbread muffin, stuffed with soft juicy chunks of roasted pear and plump morsels of caramelly, sticky sweet dates. And it has a very special ingredient–baobab!

If you’re scratching your head going “bao-wHAT?” at your screen, have no fear. Remember this post, which featured a superfood called maca by the lovely company Organic Burst? Now here comes another of their lovely superfoods and it is baobab! Baobab, firstly, comes in this light orangey-brown powder. When you open the cap and give it a whiff, it has a sort of slightly sour-plum sweetness in its scent, and a hint of tropical fruitiness. Its original form is a sort of smallish watermelon-shaped fruit, with a long rod-like stem. You can view a video of the harvesting process here–the baobab powder is quite simply the raw, naturally occurring contents of the baobab pod. This 100% pure, nutrient dense powder is not heat treated in the process of manufacturing, so all the Vitamin C and enzymes are preserved–bonus points for baobab! Nutrition-wise, it packs quite a hefty punch–it has double the antioxidants than acai, making it an unsung powerhouse of antioxidant goodness, and has a lovely amount of ultra-healthy, soluble fibre. It is also the planet’s highest plant source of calcium, which makes it great if you don’t quite fancy cow’s milk or cheese or other animal sources to get your bones well fed and strong! Your immune system and nervous system also get some extra support from the Vitamin C and potassium that can be found from the baobab, and it gives a powerful iron and magnesium boost to boot. And–very importantly too–it is ethically sourced, and Organic Burst supplies the baobab whilst keeping in mind both the welfare of the local village communities where it is sourced from and the protection of the baobab trees themselves as important components of the biodiversity of the world.

But all the nutrition and information aside, we know that the proof–and the selling deal–is in the flavor, and baobab has a lovely taste. Predominantly it is sweet with a hint of tang, and a sort of mango-reminiscent tropical freshness. It also has a sweet, caramelly fruitiness that reminds me personally of molasses. I used it in this recipe to support the blackstrap molasses for the gingerbread flavor of the baked oatmeal, and it gave an incredible body to the otherwise straight-and-true dark molasses flavor; it added an element of lightness and a sort of sweet spice of it’s own. Organic Burst has more about baobab here and how you can order it from them; it’s awfully fun to add to different dishes, incredibly versatile to both sweet and savory alike, and definitely worth a try. If you really can’t get it, the recipe will work just fine, but its a great addition that you shouldn’t pass up.

So we have baobab in the baked oatmeal party, and things are getting good.

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HAHA. Do you see it there? The melty chocolate, barely regaining it’s Lindt-stamped and four line pattern integrity above the molty, dark velvety goodness? It’s what every food photographer dreams of achieving, so I can waggle it in your faces and tempt you into making this, or at least consuming more chocolate. Dark chocolate has a lot of antioxidants. Nah, I’m not as mean as that. I promise. But it does make for a pretty shot!

The baked oatmeal comes out lovely deep golden, thanks to the baobab and the molasses. Crusty on top too, which is great. The texture is like a fluffy muffin–crumbs of fluffed oat kernels swollen with flavor and moist butteriness, with a burnished slightly crispy top. It’s like a massive, oaty, gingerbread muffin. You can taste the subtle fruity tang of baobab beneath the rich molasses and the warm toasty gingerbread spice, forming the classic gingerbread flavor, and a dark sugary hit from the brown sugar. Then, in case you get bored of all that goodness (which is virtually impossible, I promise), it’s studded with chunks of medjool dates, swollen and plump with caramel, sticky gooey goodness, for an even more decadent hit of sweetness–and also chunks of pear, baked till soft but not melty, mellow and creamy. So good. And if you put the melty Lindt chocolate into the equation, and some nutty tahini…I’m sold. Aren’t you?

This takes barely any time to come together, and takes a mercifully quick time to bake. Once you’re done with the dishes, all you have to do is flip through the papers, or do some morning stretching, and then brew your coffee or tea–and this will come out of the oven, nice and ready for a lovely spiced seasonal breakfast. You can dig in, and dig in, and it will be gone too soon. But it fills you up nicely, and makes for a wholesome start to your day.

And just in case those weren’t enough photos…

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Go forth and gingerbread.

gingerbread sticky-date caramel pear baked oatmeal

(possibly vegan and gluten-free)

You will need:

-1/2 cup rolled oats (you can use gluten free oats/quinoa flakes for a gluten free version)

-1 tbs coconut flour

-1/2 tbs Organic Burst baobab

-1/2 tsp gingerbread spice, or cinnamon+ground ginger+allspice+nutmeg+cloves to taste

-1 tsp fresh grated ginger (optional, for a little more kick)

-1/2 tsp baking powder

-1/4 tsp baking soda

-1 large banana

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-1/2 tbs molasses

-1/2 tbs dark brown sugar/coconut sugar

-3 tbs greek yogurt/coconut cream

-about 6 tbs plant based milk

-medjool dates, chopped

-about 1 ripe pear

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, mash the banana and add the greek yogurt, plant based milk, sugar, molasses and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the oats, coconut flour, baobab, gingerbread spice, and baking powder+soda on top of the wet mixture and fold in to combine. Add a little more plant based milk if needed–it should be a muffin/pancake consistency batter. Add your medjool dates, as much as you want, and about half of the pear diced into chunks. Fold the additions in and scoop the batter into a baking dish. Top with the leftover pear half, sliced, and/or banana coins. Bake for 20 minutes till golden and crusty; let cool 5-10 minutes before eating.

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Maple Nut Banana Muffin Pancakes

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As you can see, I really liked these pancakes. Hello, photogenic! Tyra Banks the secondth, in essence.

I like pancakes. They’re my arena. Some people can sprint like a gazelle with a horde of angry lions behind it, some people can swim like their middle name is Ariel, some people can science like Newton blessed them with an apple infused with the knowledge of Darwin and Einstein dropped on their head… the closest thing I have is pancakes. Give me a bowl, a whisk, and a frying pan and I will feel at home even though I may be in the middle of Antartica with a polar bear for company. But give me ingredients too, of course…fried air doesn’t quite cut it, somehow.

Anyhoo. Maple Nut Banana Muffin Pancakes. Say WOT? Combine breakfast with breakfast, and you get heaven. Bliss. Bananas. Is there rehab for hooligan breakfast obsessed teenage bloggers? Not that I’ll want to go, I’m perfectly happy with the way I am. Just curious.

I have resolved: It’s been a while, but I am finally ready to get BACK into BLOGGING. I have finagled Lia back into writing her columns after she took a break due to the school assignments being ploughed on top of her like white on rice–she’s spending her days now obsessively watching anime, that girl has no excuse. So expect her back on this space soon, whereas I am going to BAKE again, and post posts! I’m sorry my activity took a gradual decline down, down, down in a spiral of lacklustre posts and one-try recipes after the school year started to seep in. But now I am blessedly liberated from exams and I have a whole tab full of things to make and Word documents stuffed with ideas of recipes and flavor combinations, so I have no excuse either. It’s time to ensure that the rest of the year isn’t spent Pinterest-ing and Tumblr-ing and YouTube-ing my days away in a spineless, amorphous blob of lethargy and laziness on the couch. I will get things done! I will move my lazy tush! Of course all of this is easier said than done, but I’m kind of counting on the fact that if I throw out (quite rashly) this Holiday Resolution out here, I will be Obliged by the law and divinity of wordpress to stick to it. Poke me if I get to potato-y, won’t you?

Man, I can’t wait. Can you feel it in the air? That’s the sound of the pumpkin and gingerbread-y and spiced things and Christmas tsunami roaring in the distance. It’s coming. And it will rain down soon in a roaring crash of Ho-Ho-Ho and tinsel and pine leaves and cranberries and citrus and spice. And I can’t wait. Is it fall already where you are now? Here in Singapore we are stuck in perpetual Summer-Spring–either it’s blazing hot and so humid you can feel every sweating pore on your body, or it’s raining so hard it floods. And hails. And knocks down a wall. No joke. It’s nice that it does get considerably cooler when November comes close–some trees even turn AUTUMN SHADES, bless their bark–but it’s never going to snow here, or get chilly enough for long underwear. Oh well–at least hot chocolate is appropriate in rainy weather.

This October started badly–with a horrible, horrible case of CHICKEN POX that caused me to miss some exams, become a stressed and depressed and very spotty lump, and recover only to be faced with a beautiful week of exams after exams. That combined with other commitments has been a struggle to say the least, and I’ve wanted to give up many times. But thanks to friends–special shout out to a certain Watermelon Pal that has stuck with me throughout the school year and that has helped me so much through this time–and people who upload Coldplay and Bastille concerts onto YouTube in HD sound that make excellent no-click study soundtracks, I’ve made it. I finished my last exam today and man it has never felt better. I came home, made these pancakes,  it’s 6.50pm now and I don’t have to worry about an exam tomorrow/the last 5 sides of notes to memorise. Tis a beautiful, glorious feeling indeed. Hopefully, it’ll be the start to a great end of the year. Man, 2014 sure has whizzed by, hasn’t it?

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Okay, back to these pancakes. Have you ever wondered how bakeries do their muffins? I try at home but I never get that beautiful bell-shaped muffin top, swelled pompous and dewy rich above the fluted muffin cup, like a sort of weird and wonderful mushroom. I’ve tried baking soda, I’ve tried baking powder, I’ve tried baking powder and baking soda, I’ve tried butter VS oil, I’ve tried filing the cups 3/4 to all the way full…to not much avail. I’ll keep trying, though. Because I am stubborn, and also because it means more banana goodies bakery-style or not. Have you had a banana walnut muffin then? I think most people have, and it’s incredible–I’ve had some really good ones, with the mix of banana creamy sweetness and flaky chunks of robust walnut amidst soft, fluffy rich crumbs. It’s one of those classic flavor combinations that can’t go wrong, so when mixed into pancake batter it makes for an incredible explosion of happiness.

Man, was this great as a post-exam celebratory lunch. They came together in no time, fluffed up beautifully in voluminous rounds of golden, nutty brown pancake in the pan, and yielded a soft muffin-y crumb scented with subtle vanilla and the sweet spice of cinnamon, a lovely mahogany maple note, and creamy moist banana flavor, studded throughout with the glorious gritty-wholesome richness of toasted walnut in buttery chunks. I tell you, this is the Blue Ivy to the Jay-Z and Beyonce (banana walnut muffins and pancakes) of the breakfasting world. I tell you, I don’t believe I just used that analogy. I tell you, this is really great and you should make it ASAP.

Sometimes life throws you lemons and no matter how you try, you know you’re going to make a really shitty lemonade, but you still put in effort and that is what matters. It’s alright if your lemonade goes blue, or is too sweet, or is too sour, or looks like armadillo bile. As long as you tried, and tried your best, you can serve up that gross as lemonade with a huge grin on your face because you gave it your all and you never wanted to be a professional lemonade maker anyway. And at the end, you get these maple-nut banana muffin pancakes. This is the life lesson du jour for me…I hope you understood that analogy, or at least got your own interpretation of it.

Anyway, I’ll just give you the recipe now. And one more shot, in case you weren’t already convinced to try these.

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PANCAKES!

maple nut banana muffin pancakes

(vegan, possibly gluten free)

You will need:

-2 tbs flaxseeds, ground OR 2 tbs flaxseed meal (I find freshly ground flaxseeds are best)+6 tbs water

-a handful of walnuts, or as much as you like

-6 tbs wholewheat/buckwheat/spelt/all purpose flour

-1 tbs coconut flour

-1/4 tsp baking powder

-1/8 tsp baking soda

-1/4 tsp cinnamon, or as much as you like

-1 large banana

-1 tbs maple syrup

-1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste/ 1/4 tsp vanilla essence

-140-150ml plant based milk

The night before, or at least 1/2 an hour before you make the pancakes, mix together the freshly ground flaxseeds or flaxseed meal and water in a small cup or bowl. Cover with clingwrap and let this sit for at least half an hour to create flax eggs.

After half an hour, or during, toast the walnuts in a dry pan over low heat, shaking it to allow them to toast evenly every now and then. Once you start to smell the fragrance of the walnuts, remove from the heat and let cool before putting into a ziplock bag and smashing with a rolling pin/mug into chunks of your desired size.

Mix together the wholewheat flour, coconut flour, baking powder and soda and cinnamon in a small bowl. In another bowl mash the banana and add the 2 flax eggs that you prepared earlier, maple syrup, vanilla and plant based milk (start with 140ml first). Whisk the wet ingredients till combined and add the dry ingredients plus the walnut chunks before whisking until just incorporated and without any pockets of flour–it’s okay if it’s lumpy! The batter should be thick at this stage, not runny–if you want thinner pancakes, adjust the amount of liquid to your preference.

Let the batter sit while heating a pan on low heat till a drop of water hisses and evaporates immediately upon contact. Grease with oil and coat the entire surface before dropping 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions of the batter onto the pan. Let the pancakes cook until the edges start to dull and solidify before flipping and cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Once the underside is golden brown, transfer to a plate. Serve warm, with toppings of choice, and enjoy!

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World Mental Health Day, 2014

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copyright sofinewasthemorning 2014

Hello friends! It’s been a while, but I promise I’m coming back to life. Exams are being tackled, time is being let out on parole from the study jail, pumpkin season is coming, the weekend draws nigh, RIPE BANANAS ARE WAITING TO BE MADE INTO SOMETHING DELICIOUS but today’s post is a little something special. The only food you’re getting today is food for thought, sorry about that, but it’s great food for thought. So I sit here after a tiring math exam (that felt like it was a troop of sumos that marched into my skull with wooden spears and stiletto boots and started doing the can-can aggressively while poking the spears viciously in every orifice of my brain) with an important message to spread, so please-if you could be so kindly bothered-have a little read. And ignore my photography that is peppered throughout because I haVE NO IDEA WHAT TO PUNCTUATE MY BIG BLOCKS OF TEXT WITH.

Today is Friday the 10th of October, and that means it’s World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. It aims to provide an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

In case you are new (in which case HELLO! Be ready for a lot of chocolate) or just know me as the girl who really, really likes peanut butter and often spams your feed with pancakes and moans frequently about math and life, I receive many messages on a daily basis for help regarding mental health, because I have an eating disorder. I’m actually not too sure whether to say “I have” or “I had”, to be honest. I no longer struggle as badly and do not consider myself to be considered by my eating disorder any more, but I don’t think I can consider myself to be fully recovered either, so For Diplomacy’s Sake I’m just going to stick with “In progress”. So while I may not be a Celebrity or an Organisation or a Very Influential and Popular Figure, I know many people follow me for my food, and a large amount of those include teenagers, especially females, who suffer from eating disorders. And as a person who has been in their position before, I feel like it’s only right that I speak out about the issue and share a little, especially in light of World Mental Health Day.

2014-06-03 19.26.23b

copyright sofinewasthemorning 2014

I do admit, this is rather tough for me. Having been featured by Instagram earlier this year and published on sites such as Huffington Post, I’ve been facing a certain awkward sticky spot. Articles with titles like “15 year old Girl uses Instagram to Recover from Eating Disorder”. I felt like I was being known purely as “The girl who had an eating disorder”, and it was an uncomfortable umbrella to stand under, hat to wear, shoe to stomp around in. It was a sudden thrust into a spotlight cast in a rather uncomfortable shade, especially as someone who was trying to step out of her disordered past into something bigger and perchance brighter. I didn’t want to always be pinned down and tacked with a massive EATING DISORDER HERE in neon lights on my forehead, and so tended to keep quite mum about my past unless probed. When asked for interviews, majority of the questions would inevitably revolve around my disordered past, and it was something I started to run away from. I didn’t want to be stuck with this label forever! I don’t want to always talk about my recovery! I started to conspicuously avoid talking about it on the context that I was trying to leave it behind me, which was true. But recently I’ve been more and more aware, thinking more, looking at statistics, brooding. Stewing like, uh, like a stew. Brewing thoughts like tea. I don’t know. But I’ve come to a realisation.

While I don’t ever want to be forever pinned with such a category, or a label, or a title, or whatever you may call it–I need to accept that it’s okay. It’s okay to have had an eating disorder, it’s okay for people to come to me for help, it’s okay that people know. Because here it is–the big, black balloon that had caused so much late-night-worry and thinking about, that is hard to say but I’ll say it anyway. I’m ashamed. Ashamed that I’m ashamed for having an eating disorder. Ashamed that I had an eating disorder. Ashamed that I wasn’t as strong as I thought, and that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I could be. Ashamed that I caused my family so much pain and was a total noxious brat, isolated myself from my friends, lost 3 years of my life trying to die. Ashamed that I didn’t know I was dying. Ashamed that I was trying to die. I feel ashamed.

I feel like this bit from here helps to kind of explain what I was/am feeling:

“Of all the stigmatized conditions in current society, mental illness is near or at the top of the list, generating the kinds of stereotypes, fear, and rejection that are reminiscent of long-standing attitudes toward leprosy. Mental disorders threaten stability and order, and media coverage exacerbates this situation by uniformly equating mental illness with violence. As a result, stigma is rampant, spurring family silence, outright discrimination, a lack of parity for mental health care coverage, and social isolation. The pain of mental illness is searing enough, but the added layer of stigma affects personal well-being, economic productivity, and public health, fueling a vicious cycle of lowered expectations, deep shame, and hopelessness. “

Many people avoid seeking help for mental illness because they are afraid of the stigma that is attached as firmly as a bulldog with cemented jaws on a bone; the stigma of “Dude, you’re crazy.” “Dude, what were you thinking?” “Is this person nuts?” “Wow, that’s weird.” “Woaaah, you have a mental illness??”. The stigma that will bring about rejection, isolation, ostracisizing. Discrimination, judgement, misconceptions. These are incredibly daunting especially when you have your mental illness that inevitably will want you to reject help already–with all the heavy, daunting prospects and what-ifs, it’s no wonder people are afraid to step out. But what else is truly worrying are the recent mental health statistics.

About one quarter of the population will experience some form of mental health problem, within a year alone.  Depression affects 1 in 5 people. 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time. Suicide remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35. And eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness–50-70% who seek treatment will recover; 20% will improve with treatment but still struggle with the disorder, and 10-20% will die. And these are only some of the frightening ones out there regarding mental health.

What I’ve learnt is that I’m not going to be scared anymore. I still do not wish to be always known as “the girl from Instagram who had an eating disorder”, but I have come to accept that it’s an integral part of my past which has contributed to who I am today, and will continue to shape who I am in the future. I can’t run away from it; I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but I have to accept it. I know that I can do something to help those who are currently struggling, and while I will take care of my own mental health, I will help those who come to me for assistance. I will speak out about it, because this is an issue that I believe is highly pertinent and has the potential to be massively destructive if awareness is not spread, and because people need to know about it and also know that they’re not alone in suffering from mental illness. The illness I battled for 3 years was one I won’t wish on anyone, ever, and even though I lost that period of my life and won’t be able to get it back, I will now try my damn hardest to make sure it doesn’t extend the utter misery and darkness it brings on any further on anyone. If I can’t get back my time, I will try my hardest to make sure it doesn’t take any one else’s.

And I will forgive myself, because I can’t help anyone or do anything if I spend my life resenting who I was and what I did.

2014-06-03 19.25.49

copyright sofinewasthemorning 2014

So, more about mental illness. Mental illness tend to be the lesser-known and even lesser-recognised gamut of disorders; they are illnesses of the mind, which are deceptive and certainly not easy to diagnose, because they do not have physical manifestations. This is something many people have yet to but need to recognise: mental illnesses are not defined by physical manifestations. They are illnesses of a psychological plane, not physical. You may look fine, you might be able to run a mile in a second, you might take 5 hours to run a mile, but that has no weight in deciding if you have a mental illness or not. Sadly, mental health is often treated with flippancy and dismissal, which is dangerous as many of them will accelerate over time, and can be potentially life threatening without a full course of monitoring, medication, or help. A mental illness is just as important as any other illness–you’d be concerned if you had a heart disease, or kidney failure, or lung cancer. Why should an illness concerning another organ–your brain–be any less regarded?

And like previously mentioned, the stigma plays a huge part:  65%  of people believe that being treated for a mental health issue is a sign of personal failure, according to a survey by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. Some 20% of people are unsure they would want to live next door to someone who previously had a mental health problem, and 15% are not sure if people with mental health issues should have children. But research tells us that people who experience mental health difficulties are no more likely than those who don’t to commit a serious crime and, indeed, some research suggests that they are less likely. Personal despair rarely transfers to violence against other people. This requires anger, premeditation and motivation; feelings not normally associated with mental health difficulties.

And, most importantly: seeking help for a mental health difficulty is not a sign of failure, but is, rather, a courageous step towards addressing issues that one has been struggling with, recognising that one needs help, and acknowledgement that this can no longer continue. Seeking help requires self-awareness, commitment, and courage, and is no easy feat. It’s not a sign that you have failed, unless you count failed at being miserable for a long, long while, which isn’t a failure so that doesn’t count. Clearly I am very eloquent. But you get the point.

So today, I want you to be aware. Ask those around you if they are okay; take the effort to give a hug, lend a listening ear, be a shoulder to cry on. Everyone is fighting their own battle, and it’s only right that we treat others the way we would want them to treat ourselves-with kindness, compassion and understanding. Be there for yourself, too: if you are experiencing trouble, if you aren’t okay, please don’t feel afraid. Don’t lose hope, don’t believe that you are at a point of no return. Know that no matter what, you are a glorious, glorious piece of the universe–how beautiful is it, that you can walk and talk and laugh, sing badly or sing well, jump and skip, and breathe? Isn’t it glorious how you can give joy through a hug, or create something with your hands that can touch and feel and shape? You are amazing. You are a miracle. You are fierce, dude. And you deserve happiness. You deserve to be free of mental illness, deserve to love and accept yourself for who you are, deserve to have every single joy in the world. And if you are so experiencing such an issue, know that you are not alone–there are people who care for you, love you, and are willing to help you. Be brave, be courageous, be hopeful.

In case you guys need some help, here are some useful links (just a few I found, feel free to comment more below or research!):

For UK:

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/getting-help/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

For Australia:

https://www.ruok.org.au/

http://www.headspace.org.au/

http://mentalhealth.org.au/

For Singapore:

http://www.samhealth.org.sg/

http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/article?id=348

And for this year’s World Mental Health Day, the focus is on schizophrenia. To read more about World Mental Health Day and schizophrenia, you can find them here and here and here.

Phew, that was a long one. Thanks for sticking through it if you did. In which case, hi. What is the difference between a nicely dressed man on a tricycle and a poorly dressed man on a bicycle? A tire.

Love to everyone. Stay safe, and stay well x

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