almond butter granola bar

Almond butter grain-free “granola” bars

almond butter granola bar

Since increasing the weights in my strength training program (Chalean Extreme by Beach Body), I find myself feeling hungrier than before. There’s a grocery store at the ground floor of my building (sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes, it’s a bad thing – they sell my favorite Lindt chocolate!) so I go down and see what I can eat. I picked up a few items and when I was at the cashier, the lady offered me energy bars “on sale”. Get two bars for the price of one.

I checked the ingredients and put it down.

Then I spent a good hour that night to search for cleaner energy bars and found this from one of my favorite food blogs, Against All Grain: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bar.

I just made my first almond butter using my Braun Multiquick 7 (that cool kitchen gadget I won from a contest a couple of years back.) Store bought almond butter is expensive so I thought I’d make my own with the food processor. It takes a bit of time since the cordless handheld mixer always dies on me and I have to recharge over and over again but it did the job!

homemade almond butter

Now what to do with all the almond butter I have?

Since finding at that granola bar recipe, I just couldn’t pass up the idea of making my own so I went to Lulu to buy the nuts required in the recipe. I love how we can buy all sorts of nuts here, by weight and the dates used to sweeten this treat is also readily available.

I replaced the peanut butter in the original recipe with my homemade almond butter.

[yumprint-recipe id=’4′]See how simple it is? My 10 year old daughter was helping me and wanted to make the next batch alone. No doubt she can manage to do this by herself!

And the bars? They taste amazing! However, I feel they’re too sweet for my taste so I’m going to try to half the amount of honey next time. Great clean treat to curb the random sweet cravings. I’ll keep some in my fridge/freezer for sure.

Easy Black and White Cake – Almost Paleo!

black and white chocolate cake

I don’t know about you but I eat chocolate when I am stressed. Because duh, chocolates solves half of the world’s problems. Maybe. Almost. In my case, at least. I found this very easy recipe from one of my favorite gluten-free (I should say wheat free because it sounds less fanatical) recipe creators, Elana of Elana’s Pantry dot com.

It’s very easy to make, basically just mix and bake, like most of her recipes are. This one is almost Paleo as it uses no wheat flour and sugar but has white chocolate chips so it’s not entirely great for someone who’s trying to lose weight (me!) but it’s a good weekend treat when I miss chocolate cake. It is hands down less evil and because it’s made from almond flour rather than wheat flour, I don’t have to worry about the carb load and the roller coaster of blood sugar spikes. It’s also very filling so I can’t eat two small portions at one time.

[yumprint-recipe id=’3′]There you go! The next time you have a chocolate cake craving, try this. My family loves this (except for Benjamin who is allergic to nuts). Yummy and so easy, a definite win in my book! 

Thai cooking class

Gourmet Cooking Class at Benjarong

Thai cooking class

Sometime last week, I got a random email saying I’ve won a place in a cooking class at Benjarong Thai Restaurant in Dusit Thani Hotel. I’ve been to a cooking class before, at Amita’s Cooking School in Bangkok so I was really looking forward to it. Plus, I really, really love Thai food. 

* Top photo is satay sauce we made at the cooking class in Bangkok

I first visited Benjarong in 2011 – just a day after I got back from a bloggers’ trip in Thailand. I missed the food so much I just needed to have it again. I was stubborn. Also, I was pregnant that time so the craving (I didn’t know I was already pregnant that time). If you have not been to Benjarong Thai Restaurant, it’s highly recommended. It’s definitely more pricey that what you’ll ever have in Bangkok or in any other Thai restaurant here in Dubai but the restaurant offers authentic Thai flavors and have withstood the test of time. They’ve been here for 13 years now. You’ll love even the ambiance as the teak woods will make you feel you’re in Thailand.

Here are some photos during the cooking class:

Benjarong Cooking Class

Now, I couldn’t say much about the cooking class except that there was only 1 stove for a group of 5 or 6. And frankly, this style only works when no one hogs the stove to himself/herself! If only all members consciously give each other a chance to participate even if it means just to make a quick stir for 3 seconds each! (Because attending a cooking class to just stand there and watch is not my idea of a cooking class – of course I could have been more proactive but it was really difficult to interrupt the very eager participant!)

We made three dishes: a glass noodle salad, Thai Green Curry and water chestnut with iced coconut water and coconut milk (now this, you’ve got to order when you go to Benjarong!)

Glass noodle salad

The cooking class lasted for two hours. I’m grateful for the chance, the chef (and her staff) was really nice – Thai people are known for their warm hospitality and humor and she was no exception. But if you’re a cooking enthusiast that would love to do a more interactive cooking class, this may not be for you. I myself would prefer a cooking class where each participant has his/her own stove and ingredients (like the pair cooking experience at SCAFA in JLT here and in the cooking school in Bangkok) and all sit down later on to eat what they made or cross taste (taste what the other members came up). 

It was fun though and I met a very interesting lady who’s into food styling. She showed me her work, meekly saying, “I only keep this in my phone”. The lady needs to seriously start a blog!

Almond flour chocolate cake

Almond flour Chocolate Cake

Almond flour chocolate cake

We had a lovely weekend last week and I thought, what better way to celebrate it but by baking a chocolate cake. Because even if you’re watching your diet, there are times that you just need a chocolate cake. Like nothing else would do.

Chocolate cake, mmm.

This chocolate cake doesn’t involve wheat flour and has only 4 main ingredients. Put down those eyebrows, this doesn’t taste like burned card board! It actually tastes like real cake and would be great to cook once in a while for a weekend treat. Put in the fact that this is gluten-free gives it an extra oomph in my books. 

This is basically a mix and bake cake. It’s very easy – don’t take my word on it, make it yourself to see what I’m talking about. (I got this recipe from Elana Amsterdam’s book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook).

Here’s the recipe:

[yumprint-recipe id=’2′]chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting

Many are asking, “why are you going gluten-free if you’re not diagnosed with celiac?!”. My answer is, this is not just about gluten. This is about the other stuff that’s in wheat that creates compromises our wellness. And how a high carb diet is a major contributor to obesity and other autoimmune diseases. I have read the books, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter – it is easier to stop eating wheat and grains when you know the real, scientific reason why.

I won’t ask you to jump into this gluten-free bandwagon but even if you’re not a diagnosed celiac, it’s undeniable looking at the rate of obesity and diabetics on the rise how consuming carbohydrates (highly glycemic food that raise blood sugar, and wheat raises blood sugar, not to mention stimulates your appetite so you crave for more) is contributing to health woes and medical expenses of many people.

I could go on and on but to make the preachy statement short, I feel better without wheat in my diet. I won’t convince people what and what not to eat, it’s just that, this way of eating is better for me.

So, all that serious talk aside, dive in to that chocolate cake! You can even make a fluffy Marshmallow frosting using just 2 egg whites and 1/2 cup agave nectar. Double the recipe to make a layer cake.

Have a great weekend!

gluten free carrot cake

Classic Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting…gluten-free!

gluten free carrot cake

Is 5 am too early to get excited over carrot cake?

I have not posted something about the stuff going on in my kitchen, not that I have stopped cooking but because I have not found anything exciting to mention…until I decided to go gluten-free for health purposes and bought the book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook and experimented on the recipes in it.

Suddenly my kitchen was exciting again. Sort of.

Going gluten-free, eliminating wheat from my diet is not a fad for me. I’ve been a migraine sufferer for years and years not knowing what is the cause but speculated on fatigue, stress, astigmatism, etc. I never thought it had anything to do with what I eat. My typical nutrition is fairly what every other person (at least those around me) eats: toast for breakfast, some fruit juices, sandwiches for snacks. Then I read Dax Moy’s Elimination Diet a few years back where it says, “how you look and feel can be traced back to what you eat” and it struck a chord in me. 

Dax suggested to eliminate potential allergens for at least 7 days or as long as you can and then see how you feel. Then re-introduce those foods and see how you feel again. I know this sounds so advertorial but this is my personal experience: the moment I got off from wheat, my headaches were gone. And I used to have headaches at least 4 out of 7 days a week!

So from then on, I knew wheat was the culprit but who can ever avoid wheat completely? Scary enough, wheat is practically in most foods available (especially when you’re eating outside): breads, cookies, cakes, thick soups, sauces, store brought burgers, sausages and most processed foods. Anyway, I’ve been avoiding wheat as much as I can but do indulge in a slice of birthday cake or a piece of bread…and bam! the day after, the headaches would come back.

Long story short, I searched for gluten-free options of snacks and treats for me and my family…something that don’t taste like cardboard or require hours of hard work in the kitchen.  Because, duh, I have a two year old boy, I can’t linger in the kitchen that long. Elana Amsterdam who blogs at opened doors for people like me wanting to go gluten-free and enjoy their food, without feeling sluggish, common effect after consuming wheat – I made Cinnamon Muffins before using the recipe on Elana’s website and from her book, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook – Banana Blueberry Muffins, Chocolate Chip Scones, Chocolate Chip Cookies, all gluten-free and using almond flour. All of Elana’s recipes are fool proof, even a 10 year old can make it.

With Elana’s permission, here’s the recipe of this rich, moist carrot cake that is healthy and high-protein. Bonus: your room will have that wonderful aroma of cinnamon and coconut so if you’re into those things like me, then this recipe is for you. 

[yumprint-recipe id=’1′]Here’s the ready to serve carrot cake with all that creamy coconut frosting! I baked the cake last night and prepared the frosting but only frosted this morning, at 5 am.  The cake is moist and nice and the kids can’t stop licking the coconut cream frosting! Ok, me too, me too.

Classic Carrot Cake

My daughter said she can’t wait to bring this to school to share with her best friend! If you’re looking for a gluten-free recipe for carrot cake, this really works and it looks like you really labored for it. Guaranteed to impress anyone!

World Food Day Cooking Class at SCAFA

strawberry sauce

Who knew attending a cooking class would be so much fun? I self-taught myself to cook and the only ‘formal’ training I had was when I was 15 and we had the whole year dedicated to cooking and baking for our Home Economics classes.

That was years and years ago! Here in Dubai, SCAFA or the School of Culinary & Finishing Arts is a Dubai based culinary arts institute with programs for professional and enthusiast students. It offers professional courses for aspiring chefs, and anyone looking at a future in culinary media, as an entrepreneur, restaurateur, critic etc. They conduct various cooking classes such as Cooking Classes for Two, Mini Master Chef series, Baking and Desserts and Fundamentals of Cuisine among others.


I attended SCAFA’s cooking class for two with the theme: World Food Day. Here is Rosell, my partner from Kero’s Celebration blog. She’s a very dedicated blogger and I wanted to meet her for the longest time. Don’t you just love it when nice people you ‘meet’ online are also nice in real life?

The dishes that we have to cook were:

Starter: Salmon and Red Snapper Tiradito

Main Course: Veal Saltimbocca with Gnocchi with mushroom sauce

Dessert: Baked Cheesecake with Strawberry Coulis

The Cooking for Two is a cooking class is ideal for friends and loved ones in search of an enjoyable evening that brushes up their cooking skills in a fun and educational environment. We were a group of 6 (3 pairs) with different personalities and cooking experiences.

at the stove

We all look very serious! I am glad my sister came with me – she was the paparazzi for the night! Otherwise, it would be impossible for any of us to document this event with photos without coating our phones/cameras with flour, grease and grimes!

We learned to slice fish into very thin slices for the Tiradito. We made a special dressing for it as well.


Unfortunately, I don’t eat raw fish. Yeah, yeah, yeah…10+ years in Japan and never came to love sashimi (raw fish). Maybe when I grow up. Here is the fish dish anyway, all ‘dressed up’.

Salmon and red snapper tiradito

One of the highlights of our evening was being able to make a Flambe effect even without adding alcohol to the dish. Fire searing

Our strawberry cheesecake baking in the oven (ours is the one in the right). Nice and ready! The smell is d-i-v-i-n-e. baked cheesecake

Baked strawberry cheesecake. It’s so simple to make, practically mix and bake type of thing. The chef made it so simple, it’s scary – I could make it again and again at home!

baked strawberry cheesecake

Since I don’t have a decent photo of our veal steak with potato gnocchi immersed in the goodness of white cream and sinfulness of brie and parmesan cheese, here’s one of the participants grating parmesan over the gnocchi.


After the class at SCAFA, students can relish their dishes at SCAFA’s in-house French bistro SCAFÉ.

My favorite was the cheesecake of course, followed by the richly flavored potato gnocchi but with all the ingredients in it (approximately a thousand calories per tablespoon!), I have to be a bit cautious! The potato gnocchi was also simple to make and I have made it twice at home, to the delight of my kids!

If you’ve always wanted to join a cooking class but don’t know where to go, check out SCAFA – I think the whole environment is very laid back, the chef makes it so simple for everyone, no matter which level of cooking expertise they have.

This is definitely one of those things you might want to try out in Dubai. Bring a friend! I’m glad I did!

team work!

Thanks for reading and do check out my cooking partner’s blog post too about our SCAFA cooking class experience!

School of Culinary and Finishing Arts (Scafa) is tucked under the Gold, Silver and Platinum high-rises in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. You can connect with SCAFA on their Facebook page  or Twitter with hashtag #scafaltd.   

cassava cake

Filipino Cassava Cake

Cassava cake

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe here I can’t supply reasons why not, only excuses. Oh well. Here’s a recipe – actually an outcome of a baking experiment lately.

I loved cassava cake since I first had it when I was 8 in that rustic school cafeteria in the Philippines. It’s chewy, sweet, delicious. And cheap. It’s cake (at least the name says so) but an affordable cake I am able to buy that satisfies my sweet tooth.

Fast forward so many years later, in Dubai, we chanced upon these Filipino ‘kakanin’ (snacks) and bought it at Lulu Hypermarket or Al Maya Supermarket but alas, like all commercial stuff, it’s either too sweet, too gluey or laden with cornstarch used an extender to the real cassava (tapioca).

I don’t like if I don’t know what is in my food.

I’ve searched the internet for a Filipino cassava cake recipe and found a few good ones (Cassava Cake from Ang Sarap blog, Cassava Cake from Jun Belen). But I’m still disagreeing on the amount of sugar. Blergh. So I experimented on making these cakes myself. Pristine loves them and now finally, she can enjoy it as often as she would like to.

It’s easy, even a 10 year old child can do it (except for the grating task – the cassava is hard and requires strength to grate!).


  • 500 grams cassava (tapioca, yucca root)…yielded 3 1/2 cups when grated
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • grated young coconut meat (optional)


Preheat oven to 180C.

1. Grate the raw cassava.

cassava cake

I used the bigger slits of the grater to make it faster. This will result in a more chewy cake, rather than gluey.

2. Melt butter and mix with the grated cassava along with the condensed milk, coconut milk, sugar, eggs and young coconut meat if you decide to put it. Mix well.

3.  Place the mixture in buttered square pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Now, there is an option to add a sweet, custard like topping – this is the norm in store-brought cassava cake and in the recipes you will find in the internet. I didn’t put toppings because (1) it was already delicious as it is (2) I am saving up on calories!

But in case you want the toppings, you need 1/2 cup of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of condensed milk and 2 egg yolks. Mix it all together, pour on top of the baked cassava cake and put back in the oven until the toppings turn a little brown.

Chicken in Sweet Tamarind Marinade

That bowl of rice with pan-fried chicken in the above photo? It required almost zero effort that even my 8 year old can do. Seriously.

With the help of Indonesian Sweet Tamarind Marinade & Stir Fry sauce from the hamper I got from World Foods, a quick meal is born!

From the World Foods website:

The combination of sweet, tangy and savoury flavours of tamarind blended harmoniously with garlic and chillies is perfect to enhance chicken, pork or seafood. Ideal for roasting, grilling, pan-frying or barbeques.

The recipe calls for only chicken breast, cut in slant to bite size pieces and a bottle of the marinade. Pour the marinade sauce on the chicken pieces until they are covered and pan fry. Serve on top of hot rice on a bowl for a quick fix real YUMMY food that will satisfy your hunger.

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

World Foods products are available in the UAE at Carrefour, Spinneys and Geant supermarkets.

Masaman Chicken Curry

I love Thai food. I love the rich, tangy flavor that lingers in your mouth and in your mind long after you’ve left a Thai food joint. I’ve always wanted to cook Thai food but honestly intimidated by it all – even from looking at the ‘exotic’ ingredients alone!

Lemon grass, galangal,masaman paste, etc…the list goes on.

Thankfully, World Foods sauces, pastes, marinades and ready to pour sauces will hopefully lessen the difficulty barrier.So here goes my first challenge.

Recipe: Masaman Chicken Curry


  • 400 grams Chicken
  • 2-3 pcs potato, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup World Foods Thai Masaman Curry Ready to Pour Sauce
  • chili
  • 2 pcs star anise
  • 4 cumin seeds
  • small chip of cinnamon bark
  • small piece of galangal, minced
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, finely chopped
  • TAMARIND SAUCE (mix all):
  • 3 Tablespoon World Foods Indonesian Sweet Tamarind Marinade & Stir-fry
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon palm sugar


  1. Make herbal paste: In pan, roast star anise, cumin seeds, cinnamon bark and cardamom seeds. Place in mortar and pound finely.
  2. Add in lemon grass and galangal. Pound some more – this is your herbal paste
  3. In 2T oil, saute onion and garlic until garlic is translucent.
  4. Add chili and herbal paste.
  5. Add chicken and potatoes. Stir fry.
  6. Add chicken stock and World Foods Thai Masaman Curry Ready to Pour Sauce. Simmer.
  7. When the chicken and potatoes are cooked, add coconut milk and tamarind sauce.
  8. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

The Masaman curry sauce was mild and I did not have to worry about my daughter not eating it. The potatoes go so well with this curry dish that even the baby loved it (mashed). If you can find the ingredients in your area, try this recipe. It’s so delicious with rice!

If you love Asian cooking please check out what the other UAE food bloggers have made using World Foods!

// <![CDATA[
// ]]>

World Foods: Asian cooking made easy

I love Asian food. Duh I am Asian! I’ve started cooking Thai food at home after my visit to Thailand last year because that would be cheaper than going to a Thai restaurant whenever I crave for something Thai. (And I get that craving many times) I just need the right ingredients and easy recipes to follow.

I received a hamper from World Foods through their blogger campaign get the word out there that anyone can cook Asian (or Thai) with a little help from their range of sauces and pastes!

A little about World Foods:

WORLD FOODS is a pioneer in the Fusion and Asian food industry. Each WORLD FOODS recipe is developed from local blends using 100% natural ingredients, traditional herbs and spices. They have a range of fusion flavors whether you are a Chef or a busy homemaker; with a range of Asian sauces from Thailand, Malaysia, China and India.

WORLDFOODS produce 51 ready to use sauces in seven ranges that our discerning panel of master chefs, nutritionists, market researchers, food tasters and everyday ordinary users believe brings out the best flavors of the world without using artificial ingredients, preservatives or food flavor enhancers.

I received Yellow Curry and Masaman Curry ready to pour souces, Red Curry and Green Curry Pastes, Sweet Chili sauce, Tamarind Sauce and Ginger and Garlic sauce. I can’t wait to try them all!

Once a week, I will be posting recipes using these sauces and pastes and feature recipe links from other bloggers participating in this campaign. I hope we won’t get you too hungry!

World Foods products are available in the UAE at Carrefour, Spinneys and Geant supermarkets.