Baked tamales

As a random goal of mine  (and probably to see how cheap/frugal I can be just for fun), I’ve been trying to prepare different “Western” dishes using solely ingredients that you can find at the local supermarket. Of course, I’m not counting any kind of fat/oil, simply because I’m sort of paranoid about the quality of oil (blended oil, though cheap, has made me sick in the past here, and I rather pay more for good quality stuff).  I attempted yesterday to make baked tamales with some good success here. Recipe below and some modifications I had to make:


Meat Mixture:

-1 pound  ground beef  (you can’t really do proper ground beef at your local grocery store, so go to a “foreign” one or just cut up some flank steak because the bigger establishments usually carry this)

-1/2 to 1 14oz can tomatoes (you should be able to find it at a Chinese Wal-Mart, but it can be difficult. I had one in my pantry, so I kind of cheated on this one)

-1 tablespoon chili powder

-1 teaspoon cumin (you can get seeds or ground cumin, I opted for ground cumin, but I think either is fine)

-1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (it’s easier to get a stick at the local market and just grind it in a blender or grater)

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 to 1 cup onions (as a optional you can add jalapeno peppers or other veggies, for the sake of this experiment I left the jalapenos out)

Corn Meal dough:

-2 cup corn meal/ corn flour (I used corn flour, or there is medium grind cornmeal which in English translates to “grind corn” or the equivalent to that)

-1 teaspoon salt

-4 cup water

-1 egg, well beaten

-2 tablespoon butter (bought this at a foreign market because I like it unsalted, but you can totally buy this at a Chinese market near the bakery section)


-Saute beef until brown.  Add tomatoes, onions and spices and cook for another 15 min.

-Make corn meal dough.  Bring water to boil and add corn meal/ corn flour over medium heat and cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes.  Add eggs and butter. Stir well.

-Grease a baking dish and line bottom with half the corn meal dough.  Add meat mixture and cover with remaining corn meal dough.  Bake 20 minutes at 325F, or until browned.

The issue I had was with the toaster oven I used.  I was a bit paranoid about the corn flour mixture, but the only difference I will say is that the texture is different.  So it really depends on that what you want to use (next time I’m going to use the corn meal I saw, and see what happens).  Secondly, unless you have a proper confection oven, you can’t follow the directions to bake it exactly.  We end up waiting about 40 minutes for this thing because I forgot about this.  I ended up cranking up the toaster oven halfway through and checked it every 5 minutes to see if it was ready or not.  We made a pumpkin pie last year and had to do the same thing.  It does taste wonderful, but unless you’re cooking plain meat/veggies, it’s best to watch your dishes like a hawk and experiment with temperatures/times until you get it right.  The corn dough was a bit undercooked, but I know next time to adjust the temperature.  It tasted pretty good nonetheless and I’d probably attempt to make it again.

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Allergy update

Ever since my allergy diagnosis, I’ve had to eat in a lot more. I’ll admit, it really SUCKED in the beginning.  Now, almost two years later, I’m taking the same test again (of course on the insistence of the husband) to see if any of my allergies have lessened.

If for any reason you suspect allergies may the culprit of whatever is bothering you, I highly recommend where I went, HK Biotek (I think they have offices in other parts of the world too).  They are a US based company which takes a blood sample and tests it against 96 different foods to see how severe your allergies are.  It can be anything from no reaction, need to rotate the foods, up to avoiding the food for 6-9 months. I know that after I got my test results and as soon as I started rotating my foods and avoided others, my ezcema symptoms went away, I had more energy, and I got a lot less colds.  I also ate a lot less processed foods, junk foods, and sugar as a result which also contributed to my overall health.

The test is a bit pricey (the delayed reactions test cost about HKD 2800, other tests, such as immediate allergic reactions and environmental allergens test cost about HKD 4000), but if you can afford it, do it for the sake of your health.  If you say a friend recommended you (you can always use me as a referral, just message me privately) I think you get a discount. I got 20% off because I had taken the test before.

Last week, when I called to arrange an appointment for the second test, I was told that I had to eat a variety of foods, and if there were any foods that I avoided for a long time, I should eat them in order for the test to be as accurate as possible. Hearing this, I starting naming all the foods I hadn’t eaten in a while and got very kind of excited about it, because some of the foods I didn’t have for over a year included the following:

-muffins/cakes  and pastry of any kind

-breads of any kind

-Caesar salad (which used to be my favourite)



-any type of pasta at restaurants

For the sake of the test, I ate to my heart’s delight. I thought I would have been relishing at this chance.  Tonight, after eating a lovely meal, I had a piece of chocolate cake. As I took my last bites, I came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if I can have any of these foods without any allergic reactions anymore. Simply put, these foods are still damaging to my body in the long run.  I’ll probably still feel tired. I won’t put my body at risk like that anymore. I’ve discovered a lot of simple, home cooked meals. They’re also cheaper, which is always a bonus. I love trying new things in the kitchen (yes, do bitch everybody and their dogs when it doesn’t work out, I am working on that).  I love reading and talking about food.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, I’m not going to go back to my old ways if my test results shows me I can eat whatever I want. I’m getting a lot of compliments about how great I look, and I want to keep it that way.

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complimenting myself

I’ve been feeling down about where I needed to head with my goals I forgot to look at how far I have come in the past year and a bit.  I’ve been down on myself about most things (mostly diet and exercise) so complimenting myself will help motivate me further

Here’s my list:

-Successfully cut out most highly refined/added sugar from my diet.

-Added new foods in my diet (dried beans, quinoa, eggplant, radish, I’m sure there is more)

-Reduced intake of beef

-Shopped more at local wet market (also called farmer’s market)

-Cooked more meals at home

-Stopped eating pastries/bread

-Ate more fruit in diet

-Drank more water daily

-Decreased dependence on nutritional supplements (only on dairy-free probiotics and calcium occasionally)

-Reduced caffene intake

-Ate less highly processed foods (instant noodles, premade sauces, potato chips)

-Ate less salt

-Used less oil in cooking

-Exercised 3-4 times a week even though work schedule is hectic

-Watched less TV

-Gotten very efficient with planning lessons and units at work

-Learned better ways to build rapport with students

-Through mimicking others and obessively reading menus, have improved my Mandarin skills to the point where I can have basic conversations with people (well, at least I can get by)

-Maintained a wonderful relationship with my now husband

-Improved my film developing skills, and taking images of people with heavy TLR

-Made better financial decisions

-Made diet choices and reduced/virtually eliminated ezcema symptoms

Looking at at this list, it sure is a lot! I should be very proud of myself.  I still have a long way to go until I am where I would like to be with my eating goals (trying to make sure 2/3 of our meals are vegetarian/vegan, weed red chillies out from most of my diet, weed out highly refined foods for good, eat seasonally as much as possible) but this is a good start. For a girl who used to indulge on anything and everything, and not caring about consequences of what I ate, it is very good. Granted, it was hard, but I am glad I made the choice (necessary or not) to get here.  I am also happy that I am more confident in what I do at work. I also feel more confident in my photography and feeling happy that I do have the leisure time and disposible income to afford film supplies for what I love.

I do have a pretty good life. And I am awesome :)

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I love food. I also never watched what I ate either. So when I developed a number of food allergies, I thought my life was over.

In retrospect, it is a good thing I was forced not to eat certain foods. The more I read food labels, the more I realized how much crap I literally was shoving down my gullet.

I’ve been reading a lot about the politics of food, and it’s a good thing that’s been more in the mainstream through books like Fast Food Nation and movies like Food Inc. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I promise myself that I’ll only do it when I haven’t had or am having or will have a meal. Fast Food Nation is pretty good, though I’m not too sure about this underlying anti Republican stance it’s taking with the book. Will probably blog more about it later.

In light of this, I’ve made a conscious choice to try to change my diet for the better. I’ve been doing fairly well with cooking more and eating whole foods, and am always reading new recipes like mad. Unfortunately I can’t exactly visit the farms that make my food or anything of that sort, but I do try to buy from locals instead of a big supermarket (maybe I can work up enough courage to see where they grow their stuff).  So I’m going to write a food diary. Things I’ve done so far to change my diet is eat brown rice, whole wheat flour, raw unsalted nuts/seeds, and eat less ready made sauces and dressings. Also,  like a lot of people these days, I’m going to take photos of food I make or have at a restaurant. I’ve been meaning to try to work better shots with my point and shoot digital camera so this is the chance.

So to start here’s a photo of one of my favourite drinks in Bali (not the best for you, unless what’s making it sweet is palm sugar), bottled iced tea, yum yum!

yum yum drinks

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