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.

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!

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.

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

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.

Thai Cooking: Mango with Sticky Rice

** This is a part of a series of posts about my blog trip to Thailand featuring one of the dishes we prepared at Amita’s Thai Cooking School. **

Last dish of this series is a dessert, of course.

Khao Niew Ma Muang – no need to memorize of master how to say the name properly. If you look at a slices of yellow fruit with sticky rice along it, it’s this very delicious Thai dessert you can find all over town (in Thailand of course).

Mangos in Thailand are an absolute must try. Pair it with sticky rice and you’ve got a sure fire winner as far as your taste buds are concerned.

Recipe: Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango with Sticky Rice)


  • 5-6 ripe mangoes peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups sticky rice, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Topping:
  • 6-7 Tbsp. coconut cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of corn starch for thickness


  1. Boil 6-7 Tbsp coconut cream, cornstarch and a pinch of salt over low heat. When sticky, set aside.
  2. Wrap the sticky rice in a clean muslin and place in double boiler stream for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the coconut cream and stir over low heat. Add salt and stir well.
  4. Just when it starts to boil, remove from heat.
  5. * Over boiling will make it oily.
  6. Put the cooked sticky rice in a bowl and gradually blend in the coconut cream.
  7. Stir well, cover and let it stand for 15 minutes.
  8. Top with prepared coconut cream.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 60 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

**The blue color of the sticky rice came from blue flowers soaked in water and used to cook the sticky rice. No artificial coloring here.

I love mangoes and love sticky rice as well so you can imagine my excitement with this desert that combines the two. Surely this wasn’t too difficult to make at home? Believe me, it is not! One of the pleasures of home cooking is recreating and enjoying that favorite food you had outside.

To those who are living in Dubai – you can find Thai ingredients including kaffir lime leaves, curry paste, etc at the Asian store called Sunflower Supermarket in Karama.

Reference: map of the Thai Supermarket along with other Asian food supermarkets.

* Photo taken using Canon EOS 550D

Thai Cooking: Satay (Pork, Chicken or Beef)

** This is a part of a series of posts about my  blog trip to Thailand featuring one of the dishes we prepared at Amita’s Thai Cooking School. **

Satay is a dish of marinated, skewered and grilled meat, served with a sauce. Satay may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, or fish.

Rather than describing one particular dish, the term satay (also known as satesatae) actually refers to a method of cooking, in which thin strips of marinated meat are threaded onto skewers and grilled. The skewers (bamboo or metal) spread the meat effectively for cooking and make it easy-to-handle, for both grilling and eating.

Recipe: Satay


  • 150 grams of meat fillet or loin, thinly sliced into 8-9 strips
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp roasted coriander seeds
  • pinch of salt *
  • 1/2 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped*
  • pinch of turmeric powder*
  • 1 tsp palm sugar*
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder*
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 8-9 skewer sticks
  • For brushing: 2 Tbsp coconut milk (1 Tbsp coconut cream + 1 Tbsp water)


  1. Use a granite mortar and pestle to grind the coriander and cumin seeds.
  2. Pound together all ingredients marked with “*”.
  3. Pour mixed ingredients in a bowl with coconut cream.
  4. Add the meat strips and vegetable oil and marinate overnight or for at least 3 hours.
  5. Thread meat strips in satay sticks.
  6. Grill satay on charcoal stove over low heat turning them regularly and brushing them with the remaining marinate sauce and coconut milk.
  7. When satay is cooked, serve with spicy peanut sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Recipe: Spicy Peanut Sauce for Satay



  1. Grind or crush the peanuts to a fairly fine paste and set aside.
  2. Pour coconut cream into pan and over medium heat, add massaman curry paste and stir from time to time until the sauce has become smooth.
  3. Combine them with the remaining ingredients. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

To those who are living in Dubai – you can find Thai ingredients including kaffir lime leaves, curry paste, etc at the Asian store called Sunflower Supermarket in Karama.

Reference: map of the Thai Supermarket along with other Asian food supermarkets.

* Photo taken using Canon EOS 550D

Thai Cooking: Thai Green Curry

** This is a part of a series of posts about my  blog trip to Thailand featuring one of the dishes we prepared at Amita’s Thai Cooking School. **

Khang Keaw Wan Gai or green curry chicken in coconut milk to those who do not know Thai language (including myself) is a traditional dish in Thailand, one of the most popular too not just in Thailand but around the world.

Here’s the curry recipe in a hurry – you can practically make it within 30 minutes from preparing the ingredients to landing in your dining table!

Recipe: Gaeng Kiaw Wan (Thai Green Curry)


  • 1 cup skinless chicken breast, sliced to bite sizes
  • 2 Tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup pea eggplants (or regular eggplants, sliced)
  • 2 green or red chillies, seeds removed, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half (kaffir leaves powder can also be used)
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup holy basil leaves for garnish


  1. In wok, heat oil over low heat.
  2. Add green curry paste an stir constantly for 1 minute.
  3. Add the coconut milk little by little and stir gently.
  4. Add the chicken and stir until cooked.
  5. Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and stir constantly until the bubbles come up.
  6. Season with fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir occasionally and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Add pea eggplants and chilies.
  8. Garnish with holy basil leaves before serving.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

You can omit some of the ingredients, except for, in my opinion, NOT the kaffir lime leaves as it makes this dish stand out, come alive in your palates! The kaffir lime’s tangy taste brings out the best in all the ingredients and gives this dish that extra oomph.

To those who are living in Dubai – you can find Thai ingredients including kaffir lime leaves, curry paste, etc at the Asian store called Sunflower Supermarket in Karama.

Reference: map of the Thai Supermarket along with other Asian food supermarkets.

* Photo taken using Canon EOS 550D

Thai Cooking: Green Papaya Salad

** This is a part of a series of posts about my  blog trip to Thailand featuring one of the dishes we prepared at Amita’s Thai Cooking School. **

Known locally as “Som Tum” is popular in most areas in Thailand, among the locals and visitors alike. When you taste it you’ll know why. It’s very easy to make and fits perfectly when the weather is hot, as a salad or vegetable side dish.

Recipe: Som Tum (Thai Green Papaya Salad)


  • 1 cup grated green papaya
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. dried shrimps (optional – omitted due to my allergies)
  • 1/4 cup long beans, cut 1 1/4 inches
  • 1 pc chili
  • Dressing:
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind paste


  1. Combine all dressing ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Pound garlic, red chili and dried shrimps in mortar.
  3. Add grated papaya, cherry tomatoes and long beans and pound very slightly.
  4. Pour dressing in and toss well.
  5. Remove from mortar and transfer to serving plate. Top with toasted, coarsely ground peanuts.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

I fell in love with this dish during my stay in Thailand that the first thing I searched for in the grocery store when I came back to Dubai was papaya! Thankfully, there are plenty of unripe papayas here!

To those who are living in Dubai – you can find Thai ingredients including kaffir lime leaves, curry paste, etc at the Asian store called Sunflower Supermarket in Karama.

Reference: map of the Thai Supermarket along with other Asian food supermarkets.

* Photo taken using Canon EOS 550D