Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Mia's Recipe: Healthy Applesauce Chocolate Muffins

Well, I should be putting up my Day 4 of my Hokkaido trip travelogue, but I have to say, travelogues is a b*tch. Anyway, it's going to be up real soon, so do stay tune! 

Meanwhile, let's look at some healthy sweet treats!
Craving for some chocolatey sweetness but not the ridiculous amount of fats or calories? 
Let me share with you my trick - APPLESAUCE! 
Yes, you can replace butter with just applesauce (doesn't work for every kind of baked goods though) and get equally yummy baked goods at just a fraction of the calories! 

So let's get over the ingredients so we can get started. 
For roughly 12 muffins, you'll need:

65g all purpose flour
60g wholewheat flour
42g unsweetened cocoa powder
200ml plain greek yoghurt
1 large egg
130ml unsweetened applesauce
60ml raw honey
80g baking stevia blend (or castor sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract

optional:
(as much or as little) chocolate chips - I've used about 90g and thought I should have used MORE

You should add more if you're following my level of sweetness for the muffin batter. Otherwise, increase sweetness of the batter (100g sugar and 80ml honey) and add less of the chocolate chips or skip it totally. 

This is pretty much a one bowl recipe, or two, if you do not wish to sift your dry ingredients. Because cocoa powder is always quite lumpy, you would really have to sift out the lumps OR give it a good whisk in a bowl before adding it into the rest of the ingredients for your batter to mix well. So yeah, 1 bowl with sifting, or no sifting with two bowls, take your pick. 

Anyhow, add all of your wet ingredients into a bowl and mix until well combined, before sifting/adding in the dry ingredients and fold until you do not see huge lumps of flours (but not yet fully mixed) before adding in the chocolate chips and folding until JUST combined. You DO NOT want to over-mix your batter.
Then, distribute the batter equally into 12 muffin cups/tins and make sure they're UNLINED but coated with non-stick cooking spray or some oil. This is how you get your muffins to "climb" up as they bake and give you the cutesy muffin top. Otherwise you'll just end up with cupcakes, and that's no fun.

Another important factor to make sure you get the muffin top, is the baking temperature. First, bake your muffins at about 220 degree Celsius for about 5 minutes (and you start seeing your muffin top forming) before lowering the oven temperature back to 190 degree celsius and baking for another 15 minutes or so or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 


You would probably want to bake your muffins using such tins instead of baking them in standalone silicon cups (like in the background) as not only those baked in silicon cups do not "climb" as high, the muffin top also OVERFLOWED as they formed, giving me some really ugly muffins. 


Having the side extensions of the tin will help to hold up your muffin top and give you really nice and even overhanging top like so. :)

With 90g of the chocolate chips, 1 muffin will set you back by just 110 kcals and if you add more stevia and honey and omit the chocolate chips altogether, it would be just 82 kcals! Where else to find such a diet-friendly treat? 
And do note that this is a diet-friendly treat, there is absolutely NO butter in this recipe and while applesauce (and greek yoghurt) can help to give you soft and moist muffins, they cannot give you the buttery, rich fragrance of a standard bakery muffin. 
So, try to manage your expectations alright? 
It's so low in calories! What else can you wish for, right?

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 25 August 2017

#fitnessfriday - Wellaholic Prohydrolase Whey Protein [Sponsored]

Quoting Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, the doctor who lifts, "Protein is King".

Proteins are the main building blocks of our body, and makes up an important component of almost every cell in the body. Other than being an important building block of our bones, muscles tissues, cartilage, skin, and blood, protein is also found in our hair and nails. Almost everything important, yes? And having said that, we can even conclude that life will not be possible without protein. Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is a macronutrient, which our body needs in relatively large amounts to function normally. However, unlike its two macro-counterparts, our body does not store protein.

Most official nutrition organisations recommend a fairly modest protein intake of about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, and this would be the bare minimum we all should be taking each day in order to not die remain functionally healthy (if there's such a term). However, if you're fairly active, looking to lose weight (or rather, fats), or hitting middle age, the amount of protein you should be getting daily would jolly well be much higher than just that miserly 0.8g/kg body weight. 

Here's a simple calculator to get a very rough gauge of how much protein you should be aiming for each day. As a fairly active woman (I walk almost 2000 steps and burns 130 kcals every single time I visit the washroom, and also hits the gym after work 4x a week), I target to hit about 134g of protein each day. And I've NEVER manage to accomplish it solely just based on whole foods. 
Let me work this out for you by quickly listing the amount of protein you get from basic, whole foods that I usually enjoy eating. 

1 large hardboiled egg (50g) - 6g
100g chicken/pork - 27g 
100g fish - 22g
100g tofu - 8g
100g baked beans - 6g
100g edamame - 11g
100g vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach etc) - about 3 to 4g
100g fruits (banana, guava, strawberry) - <1g to <3g
1 slice wholemeal bread - 3 - 4g
1 cup (195g) brown rice, cooked - 5g 
200ml Marigold's HL milk - 10g

And so with my usual carbs-heavy diet, even with mindful eating (of trying to choose higher protein alternatives), I could barely even hit 100g of protein intake based on whole foods. 


And I'm glad to say my #eatclean-but-still-need-to-eat-134g-of-protein life got so much easier when I found Wellaholic WX ProHydrolase Whey.

Our W+ ProHydrolase Whey contains 26 grams of whey isolate fortified with ProHydrolase which provides up to 3 times more protein absorption and up to 55 times more Amino Acids in the bloodstream compared on other leading protein enzymes. With ProHydrolase Whey Advanced, you can reduce your serving size without any real loss of protein compared to an equivalent serving of a conventional product without ProHydrolase.
-credits to wellaholic.com-


At 26g of protein per 33.5g serving, the WX Prohydrolase Whey is about 78% protein, which is a pretty impressive yield. Best of all, it is sweetened with stevia and contains less than 1g of sugar. 1 serving of 26g protein will only "cost" you 120 kcals that is actually pretty negligible unless you're on an extreme caloric deficit diet of perhaps less than 1000 kcals, which you shouldn't

As we already know, not all proteins (supplement) are created equal. And as of now, we can conclude that the internet has came to a consensus that whey is the best choice of fast-acting, anabolic protein shake you can go for as a pre or post workout supplement, unless of special dietary requirements. And yet, the equation does not end here. Not all whey are created equal. 
While I'm not choosing sides for the battle between WPC (concentrate) and WPI (isolate), and would prefer to think that each has their own benefits, WPI has always been the "better" option, mainly for its quicker absorption, higher protein content and negligible (or no) lactose content as compared to WPC. Thus, this is extremely important for individuals who are lactose intolerant, or those on a caloric-restrictive diet who wants to get the most protein out of their calorie intake. 


And of course, since it's whey protein isolate we're talking about here, WX Prohydrolase Whey has got your BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) and EAAs (essential amino acids) covered. 
As we all know, proteins are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids and while some of these amino acids can be produced by our body, there's also some that we can't and need to get them from our food sources. And these are our EAAs. 
As for BCAAs, they act as nitrogen carriers, assisting our muscles in synthesizing other amino acids. BCAAs also stimulate production of insulin, which allows blood sugar to be taken up by our muscle cells and used as energy source. Most importantly, BCAAs is also anti-catabolic (prevent muscle breakdown), helping our body to retain our lean muscle tissue. This pretty much means that BCAAs is very important for those cardio-bunnies on a caloric-deficit diet. 
You really wouldn't want to burn your muscles instead of fats. 


And as the product name goes, what sets this apart from the usual protein powders, is the addition of the digestive enzyme ProHydrolase. A recent clinical study has shown that taking whey and ProHydrolase together provided 20% more amino acids than taking whey protein itself.

Ideally, for whey protein to help promote muscle growth, it should be broken down to the tetra-peptide level within 90 minutes to be absorbed and used by the body. Larger protein fragments cannot be absorbed and thus becomes food for micro flora in the large intestine, creating digestive discomforts like bloating and cramping, which is easily confused with lactose intolerance. 
But do note that there is no lactose present in whey protein isolate, so if your "lactose intolerant" symptoms persist even after switching from whey protein concentrate to whey protein isolate, it might have been peptide sensitivity all along. 

ProHydrolase, when taken together with a whey protein supplement, encourages pre-digestion of the protein, hence allowing release of the full content of the EAAs for building muscles and improving muscle recovery. The pre-digestion also ensures formation of smaller peptides, thus reducing the issues of peptide sensitivity. 

And lastly, the factor that is both subjective and yet of utmost importance; the taste. 
No protein is a good protein when you can't even stomach it, right? 
Unlike many of the protein powders in the market, which tends to be really sweet with either tons of added sugar or sugar substitutes, WX Prohydrolase Whey didn't seem to have gone crazy with the stevia. Having cocoa powder listed as the 2nd ingredient right after WPI also looked extremely promising to me (in case you didn't know, ingredients are always listed in descending order of predominance by weight). 
And it didn't disappoint! I usually mix it with 1 serving of HL milk (200 ml) and it taste like legit chocolate milk/iced cocoa. The first few sips even tasted a little dark (like dark chocolate) before the sweetness of stevia kicks in. On days I wish to save up on that additional 100 kcals from milk, I'll mix the powder with iced water and it still taste pretty okay as well, albeit the distinctive chemical aftertaste of stevia might be more prominent in this case. 
This product is also super blendable, and you can easily mix it up in a cup with a spoon (no need for a shaker at all) and enjoy your protein drink totally lump-free. 


WX Prohydrolase Whey comes in Chocolate & Vanilla flavours and is retailing for $79 per pack of 744g (about 22 servings) on Wellaholic right HERE.

Wellaholic also carries other awesome fitness supplement in their premium fitness range, manufactured in the USA, in an FDA-certified facility with over 30 years of manufacturing experience. For more information, visit their website at www.wellaholic.com/

Till then,
Mia Foo

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Althea's 1st Brand Product Launch: Althea Petal Velvet Powder


Starting 1st August, Althea has launched their very first brand product, the Althea Petal Velvet Powder, which is a lightweight, translucent loose powder that gives a silky finish and made with pure and natural ingredients, with one of the main ingredients as Althea flower extracts. 


Infused with oil from Althea seeds, this powder helps to control our sebum production without drying out our skin for a radiant, fresh look. This non-comedogenic powder is also made with micro-fine particles that minimise the appearance of pores and fine lines to reveal a flawless looking complexion. 


Firstly, I have to say I'm totally sold at the packaging! Love how it's a dusty mauve-pink colour and comes in a very handy small tub, which you can easily pop into your smallest make up bag. The tiny powder puff that comes together with the tub is also soft and fluffy, picks up the fine powder from the sifter really well, and also feels great on the skin. 

I like how the powder makes you skin feels so soft and smooth, and doesn't cake up even if you pile it on. There's also a very pleasant floral scent to the powder, which makes applying it all the more enjoyable. 
The best part? This handy-dandy tub of loose powder is only retailing at SGD $6 on Althea's web-store right HERE!


So what are you waiting for? Go grab yourself one and be beautiful! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 11 August 2017

Mia's Recipe: Apple-Banana Cinnamon Muffin

Recently I decided to bake some banana muffins with applesauce and a quick search online brought me to THIS recipe for some Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffins, but it just turned out way too moist, like a badly cooked oatmeal porridge packed into muffin cups.
Nope, shan't eat that.

So I decided to work on the recipe and make some tweaks here and there (basically get rid of most of the oats and add in some legit banana) to get my own wholemeal apple-banana cinnamon muffins!



So let's get over the ingredients so we can get started!

For (roughly) 12 muffins, you'll need:

2 eggs
1 medium (very riped) banana, mashed (about 110g for mine)
190g unsweeten applesauce
(basically you combine your banana & applesauce and get a total of 300g)
75g unsalted butter (melted)
100ml milk
225g wholemeal flour
70g castor sugar
(or baking sugar replacement)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
instant oats (for toppings - optional)

Just like any type of muffins, preparation work for the batter is extremely easy.
First, mix your melted butter and sugar until well combined, before mixing in the eggs. Then, add in your banana-applesauce mixture, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. 

In another bowl, add in all your dry ingredients and give it a quick whisk to remove any lumps before pouring in the wet ingredients. 
Using a balloon whisk, fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Be very careful not to overmix the batter to avoid getting tough muffins and I find "folding" with a whisk is so much easier (and takes less strokes) as compared to using a spatula. 
I barely took 10 folds to finish up my batter. :)

With that, just evenly distribute your batter into 12 standard sized muffin cups. The muffins are going to rise, but as they're wholemeal, they're not going to rise THAT much so it's safe to fill your muffin cups to almost full. 
Give them a good tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles and sprinkle some instant oats over the top before sending them to bake at 190 degree Celsius for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


And yes, in the end I got lazy of spooning the batter into the muffin cups so I decided to bake the remaining batter in a mini pound cake tin instead (which took me an additional 10 minutes to bake). 

These muffins are lightly sweet with a mix of apple and banana flavour and a hint of cinnamon, quite moist and fluffy (but not THAT fluffy because it's wholemeal, don't set your bars too high on fluffiness) and best of all, each muffin will only set you back by about 150 kcals. 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Monday, 7 August 2017

Hokkaido Travelogue: Day 3 - Lake Toya & Sapporo

Day 3 started early (well, actually not that early, heh!) as we start off with a 2 hours' drive down to Sairo Observatory at Lake Toya! And of course, more Mt Rainer coffee to perk us up along the way!

It's listed on various travel sites that entrance to the observatory is 1000 yen per car, but... we didn't find any place for us to make payment, even for car parking. So it became FREE for us. 

And then the BF insisted on taking the helicopter ride, which was about SGD $60 per pax for a 3 minutes ride over Lake Toya.


Love the point where the pilot (??) made a big turn in order to land the helicopter. So exciting!
There's a cafeteria on 2nd floor of Sairo Observatory, but we didn't even bother to check it out to see what kind of food they offer, for we already have Lake Hill Farm on our itinerary! 

Sairo Observatory is open daily from 9am to 5pm. 

 Lake Hill Farm is just a 4 minutes drive away, and on googlemap it even seems of a walkable distance, however will be entirely on the main road (for cars!) so.... I suggest you do not walk. 

The choice of food here at the cafe is pretty limited and not the cheapest you can get, but the entire setting of the place was really worth it, I assure you.
There's also an ice cream parlour beside the cafe which serves some pretty good soft serve ice creams. 



We got a cheesecake, a pizza and the milk pie to share. I highly, HIGHLY recommend the milk pie because it's SO GOOD! I'm hardly a fan of custardy filling, but I was totally okay with this because it's considerably lighter and the pie crust so flaky and buttery. 

And now, this is why the limited (not the most budget food) is actually worth their price tag.
Right behind the cafe is a vast patch of non-ending grassland, and you can find animals such as donkeys, rabbits and a goat (named Yuki!).


"Rabbit's Carrot - 100 Yen"

Right at a corner of the rabbit's enclosure, is a small box that is tagged: Rabbit's Carrots - 100 Yen. 
Just drop your 100 yen into the box and grab yourself a pack of the sliced carrots to feed these little critters! 

And we actually fed a few to Yuki the goat as well. I hope it's alright for goats to eat carrots? 

 If being near animals is not your thing, then perhaps you can get yourself some toy sports equipment placed at the front of the grass patch. There's some soccer balls, badminton rackets and shuttlecocks, softball with that I-dunno-what-you-call-them racket kind of thing for you to play throw/catch with.
The entire place was just so peaceful and chillax that we did overshoot our time of stay for a while (playing catch ball and annoying Yuki the goat).

Lake Hill Farm is located at 127 Hanawa, Abuta-gun, Toyako-cho 049-5724, Hokkaido and is open daily from 9am to 6pm. 

After bidding Lake Hill Farm goodbye, we headed for Toyako Visitor Centre, which is about 10 to 15 minutes drive away. There's a volcano science museum here, with an admission fee of 600 yen per pax, but we're not here for that. It's the volcano crater walking trail (kompirayama walking trail) we're here for, and it's FREE!

Get your walking trail map (it's a pretty cute "hand-drawn" kind as well!) from inside the visitor centre before starting your walk from behind the centre, pass the museum and into the....

Nature?

The Kompirayama Walking Trail starts at the Toyako Visitor Center in Toyako Onsen and leads to the Nishiyama parking lot. Along the way, you can see various ruins, including a destroyed public bath house, apartment block and bridge. The trail also passes two of the largest craters from the 2000 eruption, as well as large erosion control dams. It takes about 40 minutes to complete the walk.

From the Nishiyama parking lot, the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail leads to some more of the newly created craters around Mount Nishiyama. Several destroyed buildings, disrupted roads and broken phone poles have been left untouched for visitors to witness the destructive power of the volcano. It is about a ten minute walk from the parking lot to the craters and a further ten minute walk to the trail's southern end, where the ruins of a kindergarten and a second parking lot are located.
-credits to http://www.japan-guide.com-

No worries about being lost along the trail at all, for there's markers set up along the way to guide you along, that tally to the map. 

Love, love, LURVEEEE this part of our itinerary at Toyako because there's absolutely NO OTHER TOURISTS along the trail with us. Not sure if it's because end May early June is the super off-peak season or more because this volcano crater walking trail is more "off-the-grid" or just not at all popular with tourists. In fact, the entire area felt totally DESERTED, public buses empty, roads empty, and barely just a few cars parked in the car park.

About 15 to 20 minutes into the trail should get you to a spot with a pretty good view over Lake Toya.

And then going further on will get you to two water-filled volcano craters. This is the bigger one that looks like a pretty big pond, while the other one (which you will come across first on the trail and slightly blocked by tall grass) will be significantly smaller and resembles more like a small water body. 

Even though Japan Guide stated the walking trail to take us only about 40 minutes, we actually took about 1.5 hours in total to get back to our car (Toyako visitor centre). Perhaps we've spent too much time camwhoring along the way? Or the hiking testers (if there's just a job position) are just 10x fitter than your average city-people like yours truly, I can't be sure. 
Anyway, there's actually a bus service which you can take from the Nishiyama parking lot (end of the Kompirayama Walking Trail) back to the Toyako Visitor Centre, which should probably take you only 5 minutes, but because the bus comes every HOUR, it's actually more sensible to just walk back (another 20 to 25 minutes walk) should you miss the bus timing. 

And yeah, this is some seriously artistic shot of me, right? 

And can't be sure why the u-bend in the pole, but I guess it's to make space for whatever equipment the firefighters have to install onto the hydrant.

And so, by the time we're back at the car, it's almost 430pm and with our rental car return time at 7pm in Sapporo (which is a good 2 hours drive away), it was a mad rush down to our hotel APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae for check in and then over to Budget Car Sapporo branch to return the car. 

Due to the mad, mad rush, I actually didn't (forgot to!) take ANY picture of APA Hotel, but for the listed price on various booking websites, which was about $60 SGD per night, I would highly recommend this. Though without a car park within the hotel, there is actually a public car park nearby, albeit the parking fees aren't exactly cheap. There's a family mart located right at a corner of the hotel lobby as well, and the rooms are clean, cosy and well equipped with all the necessities, even pyjamas (yukata). 
There's actually TONS of APA Hotel around Sapporo area and you got to choose the one with location that's best suited to your itinerary. This APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae is located right beside Exit 3 of Hosuisusukino Station. It's also within walking distance to the Tanukikoji shopping arcade (a 5 to 10 minutes walk) and even to Odori/Sapporo Station (20 to 25 minutes walk) and all the attractions around the area. 

Dinner place for the night was planned to be around Akarenga Terrace, supposedly a nice place for a night's stroll and some good food. However, other than the fact that the building is made out of red bricks, which you won't be able to fully appreciate at night, there's really nothing much fancy about this building and there's nothing fantastic in sight to make this area a good place for a night's stroll. Food choices here are more of the "upper-class" expensive kind and nothing authentically Japanese, so we ditched the idea and randomly roamed around the area instead.


And we found a pretty budget don place around the area. My katsu-don was roughly about $10 SGD (or less) but definitely taste like SG Japanese restaurant's quality. :)

My Day 2 in Hakodate & Onuma Quasi National Park is up HERE
And  Day 4 in Sapporo is already up HERE, do check it out! 

Till then,
Mia Foo
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