My Kind Of Cake

The other day, I baked a Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake to bring to a gathering at a friend’s house. It was my first time using coconut oil and Greek yogurt for baking. The cake turned out surprisingly well especially for a last minute effort. It was moist and soft, much like the texture of the blueberry muffins at Starbucks, my kids’ favourite.

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So I have been trying to add coconut oil and natural yogurt into my diet. You might have already read about the remarkable benefits of coconut oil, which was once classified as the oil that causes heart diseases because of its high saturated fat content. Recent studies have shown otherwise as lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid that is found in coconut oil have antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties which are helpful in treating a wide repertoire of diseases.

It is relatively easy to add coconut oil into my diet. I usually take a tablespoon in the morning or occasionally use it for cooking. For a person who doesn’t take any dairy product, consuming natural unsweetened yogurt was much tougher. I am still trying to figure out a way to take unsweetened yogurt without feeling all pukey. To date, I have already thrown away a few tubs and there are still a couple of them sitting in my fridge, untouched.

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So I woke up on Deepavali morning, 3 hours before meeting my friends, to find out that I ran out of butter. It was too early to make a run to the grocery store and I had about 2 hours to bake. I went on the internet and search for a blueberry cake recipe that doesn’t require butter.

I was thrilled because I not only found a recipe that doesn’t require butter but uses Greek yogurt and coconut oil! The recipe was like your usual mix-wet-and-dry-ingredient muffin recipe. It was really simple. I didn’t even have to use my super duper Kitchen Aid mixer.

It took me less than 2 hours to mix, bake and wash up. The cake was done just in time for me to bring out for the gathering.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten about snapping pictures until when we were at the pool and the cake was cut. I hastily took a few pictures (shown above) before they were gobbled up.

This small slice was about all that was left in the baking tin when we got home.

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This recipe is definitely a keeper and I know I will be baking it again and again simply because it has coconut oil and natural yogurt in it.

Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake
Yields 10
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
55 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I would substitute this with Gluten Free flour)
  2. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 1 cup sugar (I used less than 1 cup and it is always good to cut back more)
  5. 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  6. 3/4 cup natural Greek yogurt
  7. 1/2 cup coconut oil (I used organic cold pressed, unrefined virgin coconut oil)
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  10. 3 cups whole blueberries, lightly smashed (I would think 2 cups would be enough and the next time I would probably not crush the blueberries)
  11. 1/4 cup flour for coating the blueberries
Instructions
  1. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with oil then coat with flour and tap out excess.
  2. Whisk the 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, rub the the tablespoon of lemon zest into the 1 cup of sugar until moist and kind of clumpy, then add to flour mixture..stirring until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.
  6. Place all the blueberries in a large ziplock bag. Seal it and slightly smashed the blueberries.
  7. Open the bag and dump in the 1/4 cup flour and seal it closed. Shake until all of the smashed blueberries are coated with flour.
  8. Gently fold the flour coated, smashed blueberries into the batter
  9. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.
  10. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 50-55 minutes until golden brown on top. A test skewer should come out clean.
  11. Let the cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  12. Cut and serve.
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Happiness From a 4 Year Old

So I was tempted to pick up Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project each time I walked into the big bookstore chain that was a stone throw from where we lived in the States. It was one of the few surviving American bookstore chains, that have survived the fierce competition from online bookstores and digital books.

The happy looking book stood out on the bestseller rack. Call me superficial, but aesthetics matter. The look and feel of the book often decides whether I will pick up the book and purchase it. With its vibrant and cheerful colours, Gretchen’s book met the criteria and I bought the book just before coming back to Singapore. Obviously, apart from being attracted to the book cover, I was hoping to find some great insights on happiness. Unfortunately, since we were back, the book has been sitting on my Billy bookshelf collecting dust. It was only recently that I started reading it.

Gretchen’s Happiness Project was a pretty light read but I felt breathless reading through her endless projects. Though inspiring, it felt like an arduous task with numerous projects aiming at changing a whole slew of habits. It almost feels like she can’t be happy unless she changes her life completely. Okay, I am more stubborn than I like to admit; convincing myself to change any habits even if it would lead to greater happiness is an uphill challenge.

My 4 year old had the day off from school while his elder brother had to attend full day school. We decided to go on a coffee date at the new Starbucks near our place, just me and him. As the new cafeteria was still pretty undiscovered, it was empty on a weekday morning. It has a huge outdoor area; perfect for kids to run around while the parents enjoy a break. I decided to read my book and let my preschooler entertain himself on his 2 wheeler bike.

I could hear his squeal of excitement. He would occasionally call out to me, trying to get my attention to watch him do some new tricks. He is a speed demon with an excellent sense of balance. He could peddle effortlessly while standing and could put his butt behind the seat, like how a mountain biker would descend a steep and rocky slope. At 4 years old, his skill on the bike had already surpassed mine.

He was zipping around on his bike at tremendous speed, snaking around the pillars, obviously enjoying himself. While I was there, poring over a book on happiness, my little fellow seems to have totally grasped it.

So I sat him down and asked him and this is what he has to say about happiness.

Happiness is riding his bike, going fast;
Happiness is eating his favourite pasta;
Happiness is playing Lego and train tracks;
Happiness is jumping off the diving board;
Happiness is swimming;
Happiness is roller blading;
Happiness is finishing his work in school;
Happiness is playing fight with kor kor;
Happiness is saying fart and captain underpants;
Happiness is being silly.

As simple as that. Why do I even need a book to teach me how to be happy. A 4 year old already knows how to be happy.

It doesn’t matter that Daddy and Mummy scold him. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t like doing school work. It doesn’t matter that kor kor fights with him. He gets over it and he is happy.

Happiness is choosing to be happy when we don’t have that toy (car), when we haven’t made that first million, when we can’t have all we want or even if we are simply struggling to get by.

Happiness is all around us. Voila!
It is a choice. It is choosing not to delay happiness to some obscure conditions like “if only … I would be happy”. It is choosing to be happy with what we have, instead of focusing on what we do not have, what we should have done or what we could have been.

Robert Fulghum said that ‘All you need to know, you learned in kindergarten’, well then, perhaps all I need to know about happiness, I can learn it from my 4 year old.

 

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Army Half Marathon

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I took part in the 21km Army Half Marathon a couple of weekends ago.

I was fighting an infection a few days leading to the run and woke up at 4 am on race day contemplating whether to call in sick.
But I went ahead thinking that I could stop anytime.
I realised it was a fine line between listening to your body and knowing your limit.
I confess I’m not good at both.

Anyway I thought I had my medic with me, aka my beloved husband; the race was supposed to be one of our dates. These days our couple time almost always involves some form of outdoor sports.

The event started at 5.15 am but I was too nervous to have a good night sleep.
The turnout was massive, about 40,000 people participated in the run and I found myself surrounded by testosterone raging young men who were half my age.
It was intimidating and I was glad to spot a head of grey hair among the crowd 10 minutes into the run.

The man was probably in his 60s, with a hunch back, not the best posture for running, and was shuffling his feet as if to conserve energy to last through the race.
He was obviously not the ultra fit kind but his look of determination was a touching and humbling sight. I was secretly cheering him on as I passed him.

I started to feel the strain in both my hamstrings at the 3/4 mark and I swear my legs would have given up if not for the copious amount of heat rub that I splattered on.
The last 1 km was painful, didn’t help that I got shoved and pushed over by faster elite African runners who were sprinting to complete their 10km.
I was just glad I didn’t fall over with my very tired legs.

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After what seemed like forever, I finally crossed the finishing line.
And I think the proudest person wasn’t even me.
It was my husband.

He had kept at my pace throughout the run even though he was a much faster runner.
He was there to cheer me on, to help snap pictures along the way and to grab me drinks.

Someone asked me what was the hardest part for the run, I was quick to tell her that it was the last 1 km. On second thought, the toughest part had to be the registration.

My husband had gone ahead to sign me up for the run even before I could find the courage to say yes.
Could I have completed the run without him ?

I like to think yes but the fact is, if not for him, I wouldn’t be running, simply because I wasn’t suicidal enough.
I realised that to make a commitment like this can be scary especially when it involves hard work, discipline and some sort of rigorous training.
Multiply that by 10 if you are a mom and have passed your 40th milestone.

In any case, I am really glad I did it because I can now confidently tell my kids that,
sometimes all you need to be is like the little blue engine
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …

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