Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Mia Bakes: No-Knead Wholemeal Ovolmatine Stuffed Buns

Hey lovely readers, I'm back with yet another wholemeal bread recipe, this time it's no-knead!
However, it's not going to be 100% wholemeal though, but only around 70% as I still have a couple tablespoons of all purpose flour leftover and wanted to finish them up ASAP.
Anyway, let's get over with the ingredients to get started!

To get 4 stuffed buns, you'll need:

Bread dough:
50g minus 1 tsp all purpose flour
100g superfine wholemeal flour
20g granulated sugar
(may reduce to 10g if you prefer your bread less sweet)
1 tsp vital wheal gluten
(may skip and replace back with flour, but bread may turn out more dense)
3/4 tsp instant dry yeast
1/8 tsp (or a pinch of) salt
10ml corn oil / vegetable oil
1 egg 
(mine was about 50g out of the shell)
50 - 70ml lukewarm water
(depending on hydration level of your flours and egg size)

Ovolmatine spread
chocolate chips
(I used 60% cacao)

recipe adapted from the super talented Chinese youtube-baker 茄子美食
She used bread flour and a lot more oil (both in the bread dough, during shaping before 2nd proofing, and after 2nd proofing before baking) so hers turned out a lot softer and fluffier on the inside and crisp-looking on the outside. 

First up, in a clean bowl add in 50g of all purpose flour and remove 1 tsp of it, replacing it with a tsp of vital wheat gluten. Then add in the rest of your dry ingredients, making sure that your yeast and salt are not in direct contact with each other.
Then, crack in your egg and and first add in 50ml of lukewarm (make sure it's not too hot if not it'll kill your yeast) water over the spot where you've pour in your yeast and mix well by stirring with a pair of chopsticks (highly recommend using chopsticks because the dough will be super, super sticky).
Continue adding water and stirring until you get a pastey, sticky yet smooth dough like so.

-credits to 茄子美食-

Then, add in the oil and give the dough another quick stir with the chopsticks until the oil gets fully absorbed by the wet dough. Then oil your hand slightly and pat down the wet dough roughly into a ball (MUST oil your hands because the dough sticks like a b*tch!) and cover with a clingwrap and leave it for 1st proofing overnight in the fridge until it roughly doubles (or at least 1.5x) in size. I left mine for about 11 hours in the fridge plus an additional 1.25 hours at room temperature after taking it out.

After the dough has risen back to room temperature, oil your work surface and hands generously, as the dough will still be extremely sticky, and dump your dough onto the oiled surface. Pat down on the dough to release the air pockets (no need to knead, as it's not exactly kneadable anyway) before shaping it into a log and cutting it into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball and set the rest aside under a piece of clingwrap while you work on the 1st dough ball.

The dough will be extremely soft and rather stretchy (and sticks to anything not oily enough) so there's no need to roll it out with a rolling pin. Instead you can just use your hands to pat it down and stretch it out into (roughly) a oval-ish rectangular shape. Then, add around 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of ovolmatine spread on the end of the dough nearer to you, or you can also spread it out in dollops all over the dough, before sprinkling a handful of chocolate chips all over the dough, careful to avoid the last inch of the dough piece that's further away from you as you need that seam area to close up the buns.

Then, starting from the end of the dough that's nearer to you, roll up the dough into a small log and press it tightly at the seams to close it up before folding it in half again and pressing the two (opened) end of the log together to seal the seams tightly. Then, shape it slightly into ball or squarish/rectangular bun, however you fancy, and set it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Repeat for the other 3 dough balls and you can play around with other fillings too!

I've also tried one with grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella and red cheddar, which unfortunately kind of split open during baking because the dough was stretched rather thin. 

Some of the chocolate/ovolmatine oozed out from the "weakest link" too. 

So if your choice of fillings are the dry type such as sultanans, pumpkin seeds, red beans and etc (I've also made a sultana with pumpkin seeds one that turned out super round and pretty), you can really stretch your dough out as thin as possible, because even if there are micro-tears in the dough your filling won't be oozing out. 

However, if you're filling your buns with chocolate chips, cheeses or any kind of spreads that get melted and viscous during baking, be sure to make sure that there's no hole on the surface of your dough, or you will just have to make do with a less perfect looking stuffed bun. 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Mia Bakes: Taiyaki

Due to my recent wedding stuff haul off ezbuy prime, I decided to also pick up something I've always wanted to buy but didn't for fear of incurring ridiculous volumetric shipping fees. 

A taiyaki pan!
Well, I also (always) wanted a waffle pan but I decided to test waters on the quality and ease of usage of such pans with a taiyaki one first.

So now let's get over the ingredients so we can get started!
To get 6 (pancakey/chewy) taiyaki, you'll need:

125g all purpose flour
you may use cake flour if you want to get a fluffier, more tender taiyaki
1 egg
160ml milk
(you may need more depending on hydration level of your flour)
20ml honey
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
Fillings of your choice
(I've tried with chocolate chips, ovomaltine spread, PB2 chocolate peanut butter, and mixed cheeses)
Vegetable oil/cooking spray for cooking

Preparation of the batter can't get any simpler. Get a big, clean bowl, add in all your dry ingredients and give it a good whisk to combine. Then, add in your egg, honey and milk and mix under just combined. Check that the consistency of your batter is similar to that of a slightly runny pancake batter, but not totally liquid (eg. not easily pourable).
If your batter is too thick, add more milk bit by bit until you reach the correct consistency.
Then, leave your batter to rest in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes before making the taiyaki.

To make the taiyaki, first heat up your taiyaki pan on the hob over a small fire until the pan is warm. Then, spray it down with cooking spray or brush the pan with some cooking oil. As my pan is of a non-stick material, I could get away with minimal oiling and my taiyaki didn't stick at all.
Spoon roughly a tablespoon of the batter into each depression and smooth it out to all corners of the mould with the back of your (heat-proof) spoon. Depending on how much or how little filling you are planning to fill your taiyaki with, you may then scoop out the "excess" runny batter at the fish tummy area to create a little more room for your filling to sit in.
Then, fill in the mould with as much or as little of your chosen filling, making sure it's as flat and spread-out as possible.
Spoon another 1 or 2 tablespoonful of the batter over the filling, and do take extra effort to make sure that the batter is covering all (if not, most) of your filling before snapping the pan close and immediately flipping it over.
It's very important to make sure that the batter is covering all of your filling, especially if you're using chocolate or other filling that tends to get melted and viscous when heated, as any tiny gaps in the taiyaki batter will cause the filling to ooze out and your taiyaki will tend to tear apart when you open the pan. I find that I typically need to flip the pan back onto the side when I first added the batter and open the pan in that direction, so that all the gaping chocolate bits will be facing up, and then topping up the chocolate gaps with more batter and cooking it for a few more seconds to patch up the otherwise battered-and-torn looking taiyaki. >.<"

As I'm worried that my taiyaki will burn, I first cook them on small fire for 2.5 minutes on the flipped side, then another 2 minutes on the other side before opening the pan to check for browning.
Then, I will turn up the fire to near medium and cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute to achieve the level of browning I desire.

Having tried 4 different flavours of fillings, I highly recommend that you do not use peanut butter, or at least definitely NOT powdered peanut butter (like PB2), as they tend to dry up into a gritty, mushy "bean paste" texture when the taiyaki is cooked. I envisioned a runny peanut butter filling like a Mr Bean pancake but got *points above* THAT.

But it's alright, because Ovomaltine filling is just pure yumminess! 

And mixed cheeses (grated parmesan, shredded cheddar and mozzarella) was quite yummy too! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Friday, 19 July 2019

VitaRealm Anti-A.G.E. Essence [Sponsored]

After converting to team #eatclean I basically avoid added sugar like it's the bane of my existence. And do you know why? Other than the commonly known added sugar-induced health issue like tooth decay, weight gain and body inflammation, SUGAR CAUSES AGING. 

Yes, you heard it right ladies (and gentlemen).
In fact, the recommended sugar consumption each daily is only 6 teaspoons but just a harmless looking cup of pearl (boba) milk tea will burst your daily intake limit at a whopping 20.5 teaspoons! All these excess added sugar, other than adding on inches to your waistline, will also react with the collagen in our skin in a process called glycation, causing our skin to lose elasticity and volume, hence leading to development of wrinkles, fine lines and dark pigments. 

VitaRealm Anti-A.G.E. Essence contains Youth Revivial Complex, which will reverse the glycation process and fight signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines. In addition, the product also contains Rose Extract, which is a strong anti-oxidant, helping to strengthen our skin cells and regenerate our skin tissues, which will thus help to fight aging signs.

I like how the product comes in individual twist-cap tinted bottles, that's pretty handy if you need to bring it out with you, if you choose to drink it in the morning before breakfast instead of at night before bedtime. Taste wise, the drink is absolutely yummy with a fruity sweetness with a slight citrus tang. It'll supposedly taste even better when chilled, but on certain days which I forgot to chill mine, they ended up tasting equally good at room temperature as well.

Before (left) and After (right)

After 2 weeks of consuming the drinks every night before bedtime, I noticed that my skin looks more plump and well-hydrated. 

The fine lines around my eyes also appears to be much less obvious, making me seems a lot more refreshed and radiant. Yayy! :)

The product also comes in two other colours, Pink and Blue and here's how to choose your #mybeautycolour using these simple tips below!

First, identify your beauty colour from your skin concerns.

Blue: Dull skin tone, dry skin, uneven skin tone, dark pigments
Pink: Sensitive skin, troubled skin, acne-prone skin, acne scars, enlarged
Purple: Thin and dry skin, sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines

Then, simply choose your VitaRealm Beauty Drink based on your beauty colour!

Blue: Whitening Collagen
Helps to brighten skin, even out skin tone, lighten dark pigments
Pink: Skin Perfecting Essence
Balances sebum production, heal acne and scars
Purple: Anti-A.G.E Essence
Hydrates and firms skin, reduces sugar induced skin damages (wrinkles,
fine lines)

Each set of VitaRealm Anti-A.G.E. Essence comes in a box of 8 individual bottles, and is available at VitaRealm's online store ( at only $39.90 (u.p. $49.90, promotion ends on 31 July) with free islandwide delivery.
Also available at all Watson's stores at the discounted price of $39.90 for a limited time only!

Till then,
Mia Foo

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

NZL Travelogue: Waitomo Glowworm Cave, Hobbiton Tour & Rotorua Night Market

And day 6 of our NZL road trip was yet another crazy packed (of driving) day as we're booked for a 2-hour Ruakuri Cave tour at 11am at Waitomo Glowworm Cave and need to reach by 1030am. Oh, did I mention that it's a 3 hours' drive away?

The initial plan was to stop by Pullman Park PDS (20 minutes drive from Maverick's Yard) to topup freshwater / dump greywater before heading to Nikki's Kitchen along the way, which is nearly an hour's drive away from Mount Wellington, to pick up some breakfast and coffee. There was some mixed reviews on their coffee, but the reviews on their pies has been unanimously good.
However, as we're running low on petrol, we decided to head to Mobil Service Station Wiri instead, which was about 10 minutes' drive away, and has a PDS at the back corner of the station. There's also a freshwater tap behind the rubbish bin at pump number 5, but do note that the taps here do not fit the hose provided by Jucy (not sure for other CVs), and you will need to hold the hose in place and be prepared to get a little wet.
And so, to further save up on time (googlemap's estimation of driving time is horribly optimistic at all times), we also picked up some cabinet food and bottled milk coffee at the petrol station for breakfast.
Mammoth Supply Co coffeemilk isn't too bad too!

And by giving a generous 1.5x buffering time to googlemap's estimated driving time, we reached the Waitomo Glowworm Cave ticketing area promptly at 1030am. Now, although the place is commonly called Waitomo Glowworm Cave, there's actually two other caves which you can visit other than THE Waitomo Glowworm Cave (no photography allowed), and that's Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave (photography allowed in both caves). And after comparing the main attraction points of all 3 caves, I decided on Ruakuri Cave, which is a 2 hours' walking trail tour and ticket price totaled up to $150.96 NZD for both of us.
For more information on the various tour experiences, updated ticket prices and combo packages, visit their website HERE.

This is my not very happy face after the cave tour, taken right outside the cave, and I shall tell you why.

And so now, here's the best way to dampen my mood and spoil my entire day of excitement (because it was Hobbiton right after the Glowworms, and I can't wait!).

Because I was rushing for a toilet break, I passed the printed e-tickets (reservation slips) to the BF and asked him to go to the ticketing counter first to check in. But who knows, because the reservation slip was done in an e-ticket format, the BF assumed that we need not check in, and didn't tell me that he didn't check in with them. When I came out of the washroom, he simply told me that the reservation slip is already our ticket (because it really looks just like a ticket with barcode and everything) and we should head in. Over at the waiting area, we also showed the staff our "tickets", not once but TWICE. Once to double check that we're waiting at the correct area, which he checked (our slips) and said YES (but in fact, IT WAS NOT!). And the second time to get our "tickets" scanned and enter the cave for the tour.

And it was only upon entering the cave premise, when our guide for the day reminding us of the "no photography allowed" rule, did I start to feel that something was wrong.
Did they change the photography rule without updating their website? 
And then, it was about halfway into the cave when the tour guide mentioned that we will end the 45 minutes tour (like what? I paid for a 2 hours' tour!) with a boat ride did I finally realise (and confirmed) that we have joined the wrong tour that's priced at a fraction of what we've paid for.

And well, it might not be THAT bad if I have just left it like that. Because I was so darn sure that they were the one who messed up (still had no idea that we didn't do proper check in in the first place), I went back to the ticketing counter and informed the staff that they've ushered us to the wrong cave tour, expecting them to give me a refund for the Ruakuri Cave tour.

HAH, in my dreams.
Because the very first thing that the staff asked, was if we've checked in with them at the counter with the slips. And before I could nod my head yes, the BF replied, "No...."
*insert dramatic music*
And so instead of this being their slip-up, it ended up being our own mistake. And they didn't care that their colleague inside at the Glowworm Cave has technically checked our slips TWICE, it's still not their fault and so, NO REFUND FOR US. And not only that, because we've joined the Glowworm Cave tour as well, WE ALSO HAD TO PAY FOR THAT.
So yeah, "2 caves for the price of 1" type of promotion is too common for us. We've got swag, we go for "1 cave for the price of 2" kind of thing, you know?

Sorry for the rant, but even a 9 months' buffering time for this incident hasn't doused a single bit of the annoyance in me for their utter lack of flexibility and unwillingness to put themselves in their patrons' shoes. I felt absolutely no sense of empathy and no form of help from the staff at all. All she cared was to make sure that we paid for the Glowworm Cave tour (which we ended up joining partly due to their slip-up), that's it.

And so, after a miserable 45 minutes Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour that ended up being ridiculously overpriced for us, we set off with a heavy-heart (wasted my money! T.T) for our Hobbiton Tour booked at 430pm.

But before that, since we now have an extra hour's worth of time on hand, we dropped by Rora Street at Te Kuiti for lunch, which was a 20 minutes' drive away. The few eateries that's hot(ter) on the internet radar for this area will probably be Wool Press Cafe, Youngs Seafood & Takeaway and Tu Kuiti Bakery. But after walking down the entire street of cafes & eateries, the BF decided on a random, spacious and simple eatery instead.

And after a hearty, reasonably priced lunch, we hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser and set off on our nearly 2 hours' drive to Matamata, where we're booked for a 430pm 2-hour Hobbiton Movie Set Tour that sets off from The Shire's Rest, which is priced at $84 NZD per pax.

There's a variety of different tours (that sets off from different locations) and combo packages (with meals) for you to choose from, and price adjustment from April 2020 onwards so do check out their updated tour package offers HERE and make your online reservations.

If you're a fan of the LOTR + The Hobbit movie series, you definitely got to make your way down now. I mean, I'm not even THAT big of a fan but I truly enjoyed myself on the tour. Our tour guide for the day has a very strong cheerful vibe and made the tour exceptionally enjoyable despite the fact that the tour group can get a little big (there were 20 over of us?) and with pretty young children among us. Sorry, I'm really not a fan of kids

The guide will also tell us some interesting BTS stories that happened during filming of the movies, and we ended the tour with a complimentary beer/cider/hot drinks (coffee or tea) at The Green Dragon Inn

By the time we're done with the tour and driven back to The Shire's Rest, it was already past 630pm and we quickly hopped back onto our Jucy Chaser, hoping to be able to catch the sunset at Lake Rotorua, which is an hour's drive away.

But we couldn't make it.

So scrape that sunset, we're off to the Rotorua Night Market at Tutanekai Street, which takes place every Thursday night from 5pm to 9pm, for some awesome street food dinner!

The official opening hours as stated was 9pm, but probably due to the pesky rain, many stalls were already closed/closing at 8 plus when we reached the place. I can't be sure if the stalls are always the same every week, but if they happen to be, you really ought to try the BBQ meat skewers!

And after packing back loads of yummies for dinner, we headed back to our Jucy Chaser in the drizzle and decided to scrape the initial plan of staying at Rotorua Family Holiday Park and went for the free campsite at Lakeside Rotorua car park (you can find the location on CamperMate app easily) instead. However, there's only THREE designated parking slots for overnight CV parking (with the CV logo drawn on the ground at the parking lots) and if you're parked on any other parking lots, you're deemed as illegal camping. So you either have to be extremely early (review states before 4pm) to snatch a spot "legally", or you can head down much later at 8 plus, nearly 9pm and wait for the DOC guy/guard to come and "chase" you away. The guard will basically round up all the "illegal parkings" and bring you further to the end of the road, right beside Lake Rotorua, where you'll be allowed to park overnight, but with no form of facilities at all.

We're parked right up to the edge of the lake and it would have been an amazing night if not for the CRAZY NUMBER OF SANDFLIES, OMG.

I'm not sure if it's because it was raining for the entire day, or that area is just home to millions of trillions of sandflies at that time of the year (October), but after opening up the doors of our CV for ventilation to cook up something simple (MyKuali Hokkien Prawn Mee) for our dinner (I took barely 30 minutes, I'm sure), the ENTIRE interior of our CV was filled with sandflies flying around the light sources, sticking on the walls, crawling up my arms, on my tee, in my hair, in my nose, in my mouth....
Yeah, #tmi but you get it. IT WAS PURE NIGHTMARE.

So while you can get really scenic view in the morning, I highly advise you DO NOT open the doors/windows of your CV at night when camping here overnight. Do prepare mosquito nets to stick over any ventilation openings (regardless how tiny, even 1mm) you may need for survival.

Here's our yummy dinner for the night, MyKuali Instant Hokkien Prawn Mee, BBQ skewers, Nutella crepe and blueberry tart!

And here's the amazing view we had the next morning in exchange of our sandflies battle that night.

More amazing shots of our next morning at Lake Rotorua coming up in my next post! So do stick around!

Till then,
Mia Foo

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Mia Bakes: Nestum Scones

Nestum cookies were pretty much da bomb earlier this year, weren't they? They've pretty much taken over the spot of cornflakes cookies during CNY this year. And of course, I did purchase a bag of Nestum cereal back then, planning to bake some CNY treats, but just never got down to it.
Looking at the bag of Nestum collecting dust in my mum's dry food cabinet, I felt kind of sorry for it (LOL!) and yet, do not really want to bake the Nestum cookies (yet) as I'm not feeling keen on waiting for my butter to soften.... So, what can I bake with chilled, rock hard butter?


So let's get over with the ingredients to get started!
To get 10 - 12 scones (squares), you'll need:

160g plain flour
30g nestum cereal
80g salted butter (cubed, frozen hard)
20g plain greek yogurt
50g sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
some milk 
100g sultanas & 50g pumpkin seeds
(optional, may add whatever you fancy)

First up, in a large bowl, add in your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and give it a quick whisk to combine. Then, throw in your cubed, frozen butter and cut them into the dry ingredients either with a pastry cutter or with a knife-and-fork until the mixture is mostly crumbly like wet sand and with bigger pea-sized bits of cold butter throughout the mixture.
Then, add in the nestum, sultanas and pumpkin seeds and give the mixture a quick toss to distribute them throughout the mixture before cracking in the egg and adding in the yogurt.
With a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until everything just comes together into a dough ball. If the mixture is too dry and doesn't hold together, add in some milk, bit by bit, until your mixture is of the correct consistency to come together. I added just a tbsp of milk to be able to press my mixture into a dough.
Then, transfer your dough onto a piece of clingwrap and you may want to roughly pat it down into a flat square before putting it into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

After the dough has been chilled, take it out from the fridge and roll it out to about 1 to 1.5 inches thick and cut them up into your desired sizes. I will recommend cutting them into squares instead of circles, so that you need not re-roll the scraps.

Then, lay them out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the top with some egg wash (egg beaten with some milk or water) if you wish to have your scones with beautiful browned top. Send the scones to bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until the surface is browned.

I've obviously loaded my scones with the sultanas and pumpkin seeds (the seeds are there, just well camouflaged). 

The addition of greek yogurt not only cut some calories from the butter (if you do not wish to use yogurt, replace it back with butter) but also added more tenderness and moistness to the scones. I've previously tried making scones with a higher yogurt:butter ratio and found the end product too moist for my liking, so I reduced it back for this trial and it's just perfect!
The addition of Nestum also added ALOT of creamy, milky sweet fragrance to the scones that made it sooooooo addictive!

Till then,
Mia Foo

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Intermittent Fasting: My take on it after 3 months on IF

If you still aren't familiar with intermittent fasting (IF), you must have been living under a rock!

IF is simply a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, hence the name intermittent fasting.
Although some overzealous IF-ers will strongly advise that you stay away from carbohydrates (keto-fasting) or at least, (greatly) limit the amount of carbohydrates that you eat per day, IF actually does not specify which food you should (and shouldn't) eat, but only WHEN you should eat them.
Hence, if you view it from that aspect, IF is not a diet, but more accurately described as a lifestyle, or just an eating habit.

There's quite a few methods of IF currently practiced by many, namely:

 - The 16:8 method: Also called the Leangains diet, you simply eat in an 8-hour feeding window and fast for 16 hours.

- The 20:4 method: Also called the Warrior diet, whereby you restrict your daily eating window to 4 hours and fast for the next 20 hours.

- The 23:1 method: Also called OMAD (One Meal A Day), whereby you literally just eat 1 meal everyday, typically over the course of 1 hour.

- The 5:2 Diet: It's a weekly based method, whereby you consume extremely low calories (500 - 600 calories) on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat as you would usually for the other 5 days.

- Eat-Stop-Eat method: This involves a 24-hours fast, once or twice a week.

The main reason of practicing IF, is for health aspects such as autophagy (cellular repair) and improving insulin sensitivity. It also increases the levels of human growth hormone in our body, and brings about changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection again diseases.

But all those health sciences aside, I'm just going to focus on one of the biggest (and most popular) "side-effect" of IF, and that is weight loss. With IF, you're forced to shorten the amount of eating time everyday and hence, most of us will unknowingly reduce our calorie intake, resulting in an overall weight loss. But of course, this only happens if you do not "compensate" by mindlessly overeating during your eating windows.

Since embarking on my IF journey, I've joined a few FB groups to learn more about this new eating lifestyle from others and I have to say that there's a group of Dr Fung's followers who seems to have a misunderstanding of his theories put across in his book titled: The Obesity Code and goes around giving misinformed advice to IF newbies, telling them calories do not matter, simply because Dr Fung has said that the traditional diet method of CI/CO (calories in - calories out) is a failure.

Well, I have to admit that I have not read the book, nor do I have any intention to, especially after seeing how those seemingly brainwashed readers behaving in a cultish, aggressive manner towards anybody who mention "counting calories" or "tracking what you eat".
I mean... I don't know, was it the book or was it food-deprivation (being hangry all the time) or what?

Anyway, I'm still going to say that CI/CO is a FACT. If you eat in a deficit, you lose. If you eat in a surplus, you gain. This CI/CO equation sets the basis for any form of diet plans you're seeing out there.
As to why the theory of how this CI/CO model is doomed to fail, it's simply because the conventional way of how this model is practiced is not sustainable. Dieters usually gets obsessed with simply counting calories, ignore the fact that a calorie is (in fact) NOT a calorie, and seems to think that our body works on a 24-hour clock and resets our calorie intake/expenditure every time the clock strikes 12 midnight. Following the CI/CO model, dieters also tend to put their bodies on a FIXED amount of caloric deficit every single day (eg. never exceeding 1200 calories a day), which leads to the onset of metabolic adaptation, whereby your body lowers its basic metabolic rate to fit the lower amount of calories you've been eating. As a result, to continue losing weight, you'll just need to further reduce your calorie intake, until you simply cannot keep up with the ridiculously low amount of calories and eventually falling off the wagon.

Now, while I'm still not all familiar with the science of IF (about the hormones and insulin sensitivity), I got myself started on IF simply because I believe that IF is the way to get around the issue of metabolic adaptation, as research studies has shown that dieters doing IF on a calorie restricted diet tends to lose more body fat than muscle mass as compared to those on just a calorie restricted diet. In other words, IF helps us to burn body fat while preserving our muscle mass.

And so, before I get into how I personally did the 3 months of IF, I would first like to share my results!

7 April 2019
Weight: 143 lbs
Fat %: 28.3 (yikes!)
Muscle %: 30.9

23 June 2019
Weight: 135.6 lbs
Fat %: 21.9
Muscle %: 34.2

And in spite of losing nearly 7 lbs, my estimated metabolism has only dropped 18 calories, which... really is negligible.

And so, how did I plan my IF schedule?

While 16:8 is the most common (and easily followed) method, I have to admit that an 8-hours eating window is still too short for me to fit both my work and gym schedule into it. Hence on weekdays, I'm actually doing 15:9, breaking fast during my lunch break at 130 pm and closing my eating window usually with my protein shake 1 hour after my dinner at 1030 pm.
On weekends, as I do not work (I do work half day on Saturday though) and do not go to the gym, I can easily stretch out my fasting hours to do up to 18:6 (not gungho enough to do 20:4).
And of course, I'm on an eat-clean diet for 6 days a week, and every Sunday is my cheatday!

And here's typically what I eat for my lunch on my eat-clean days.

My most commonly eaten carbs is red cargo/brown rice.

And sometimes I treat myself to some quinoa or multigrains (barley, millet, brown rice, and other wholegrains). 

My typical choices for dishes to go along with my self-packed complex carbs will be 1 vegetable, 1 animal protein, and 1 plant based protein from the economic mixed vegetable stall. On my more active days (when I go for two hours workout at the gym), I may throw in one more hard-boiled egg to my lunch for some extra protein. I'll also eat a pre-packed box of fruits (strawberries, blueberries, grapes) along with my lunch meal everyday. :) 

And on some rare occasion when I have dinner plans after work and can't pack lunch, I might even grab some McDonald's too. But it's only their grilled chicken salad with cup corn, guys. Nothing else. And if you've tried the salad, you should know that it's actually pretty tasty but it's such a miserable portion size, hence I prepared my own wholegrain toasts (that also happened to be gluten free but I usually do not avoid wheat) and fresh fruits. 

And while most people skip their breakfast altogether to shorten their eating window into 8 hours, I merely shifted my breakfast to mid-day (and gave up my mid-day protein bar). 
Most of the time, my "mid-day snack" will be a cup of sugarless coffee and two slices of wholemeal bread with 1/2 tbsp of low-fat powdered peanut butter (I'm using PB2) and 1/2 tbsp of sugar-free jam (I'm using Smuckers) or normal peanut butter/almond butter for more taste, as PB2 really lacks the peanut butter taste.

And of course, from time to time I get some "sinful" treats for my mid-day snack as well. This is my favourite "red bean pau", handmade by my lovely neighbour. She calls it Wo Wo Tou (the steamed bun is actually made with rice flour and corn meal instead of wheat flour) and the filling is just mashed up boiled red beans wrapped in a layer of pumpkin mochi. Sounds simple but it's sooooo good! 

And so after my gym sessions, I will get back home for dinner (and try to eat my meal within 1 hour after gym), which is very similar to what I have for lunch (but usually with fish as my animal protein), but all home-cooked (hence less oily, less saucy and less heavily seasoned) and without the starchy carbs. Instead I will have a bowl of soup (such as lotus root pork ribs, radish pork ribs, sweet corn potato pork ribs, korean spicy soft tofu soup etc) for added satiety factor. 

And of course, as I've mentioned earlier, I'll close my eating window with a protein shake at 1030 pm every night. Sometimes, I'll switch out the protein shake for some greek yogurt with frozen berries. On days when I realised that my caloric deficit is too high (I usually target 500 - 600 deficit), I'll give myself a treat of either a serving of Enlightened Ice Cream (low calories, less sugar, more protein), a serving of Khong Guan Marie Biscuits, or a serving of baked almond nuts. 

Predictable, boring diet plan? NO WAY!
Have you forgotten about my Sunday cheatday? Every Sunday, will be the day whereby I forget about the existence of myfitnesspal app on my phone, and eat literally whatever I fancy without caring about my macros or calories. 

The fact that I'm doing 18:6 method on my weekends helps a lot with preventing me from overeating during my cheatday as well. 
I mean, how much can you eat in just 6 hours, right? 

Till then,
Mia Foo

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

NZL Travelogue: Cape Reinga, Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes and Waipoua Kauri Forest

And so, day 5 of our New Zealand road trip started off really early, before daybreak, at 5 plus in the morning as we're out to catch the sunrise at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, which opens at 6am. The drive from Tapotupotu campsite up to the lighthouse was pretty short, around 10 to 15 minutes, but extremely winding and dark, for the sun wasn't up yet and there's no man-made sources of lights at all, so do take extra care while driving if you're doing the same as us.

The car park is pretty spacious (and empty, duh it was only 6 plus in the morning) when we got there, with just another vehicle that pulled up shortly before us and another CV/motorhome parked right in the middle, which I assumed that they've stayed overnight at the carpark. The toilets here were spacious and clean, but seemingly locked up (with shutters) at specific timing and do not have electrical lights installed. If I'm not wrong, this area is not listed as a free campground, so you may end up getting evicted if the DOC guy drops by (will they?) and since the public toilets comes without light source and gets locked up after a certain time, do not attempt any (possible) illegal stays if you do not have a self-contained CV.

The actual lighthouse was a 15 minutes BRISK walk away from the entrance, so do buffer in some more time for leisure walking if you're planning to catch the sunrise or sunset. If you're viewing the sunrise, you can consider walking up the hill that's beside (or rather, before) the lighthouse, as the sun rises from the other side of the lighthouse, up from behind the cliffy area of the sea. Hence, I believe the sunset here will be much more stunning as the sun will set at the other side, which will be along the sea horizon directly behind the lighthouse.

And here's a mandatory shot with the lighthouse. HAH!

We came out of the premise/park shortly after the sun has risen, around 7 plus am, as there really isn't much left to do and the crowd is slowly pouring in, rendering photo-taking without any photo-bombers impossible. Seeing that we still have a short while to spare since our next destination is only a 20 minutes drive away and won't be "open" until 930 am, we... went back to sleep for another hour or so before getting up again to make a simple breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches, ham & scrambled eggs and making use of the public toilet to wash up (yayy, saving our own limited water resource!) the dishes.
And after tidying up the CV (switching from night setup to day setup), we set off in the vague direction of our next destination with a unresponsive GPS (there were no signals here around Cape Reinga!) and hoping we'll just get there....

And we did. Whew!

And this is the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes. Sandsurfing, here we come!

Various travel blogs has mentioned that there's a number of sandboard rental kiosks (opening at 930am to 1030am), and the rental fees gets cheaper and cheaper as you go further in. However, when we're there at around 10am, there's only ONE sandboard rental booth in sight, right at the "entrance" to the sand dunes and prices were $10 for a small board (more for kiddos) and $15 for a large board. The guy manning the kiosk will ask for some sort of ID from us, probably to prevent customers from running away with his boards. But since we parked our CV a distance away and we obviously kept all our valuables well locked up in the CV, we offered to hand him the keys to our CV, which he gladly accepted. (Found someone to take care of our keys, yay!)

To get to the sand dunes, you'll need to wad across a small stream of ankle deep water, so do prepare proper footwear (flip flops!) when visiting.

I love how endless the entire place feels (and looks). Like, other than a few other tourists in the far distance, there's just you, sand and sky. And while I did seem very happy and totally "ready for the gram", I have to admit that moving around on the sand dunes, especially climbing up slopes (however TINY they are, as long as it's not horizontally flat), is a total b*tch! As the sand were very soft and just slides off at the smallest disturbance, climbing up a slope is effectively just like walking on a ridiculously elevated treadmill.
I step and I step and I step and I step and I stopped and looked, and I've gotten nowhere. NOWHERE!

But since we've already rented a sandboard, let's take some posey pictures with it like I'm a total professional sand-surfer.

But the BF did make good use of the sandboard for just one time of a serious sand surfing though, and he nearly died climbing all the way up.

After we're both half dead from literally just walking around on the sand dunes, we took a quick shower in our CV (there's no public toilets nor showers nearby, so thank goodness for our self-contained Jucy Chaser!) and headed off to our pit stop destination for lunch, Kaitaia town, which is a 2 hours' non-stop drive away.

I was deciding between The Gecko Cafe or The Wild Belle, both of which has pretty good reviews online, and decided on Gecko in the end for the reviews of their coffee was all pretty good.

Unfortunately, luck wasn't really on our side, for their kitchen was closed for the day and we were left with just a small selection of cabinet food for our lunch. 

And so we got a potato-mushroom (??) salad and a quiche to share. And their coffee didn't disappoint though! 

And the quiche was pretty decent too!

And so, after a quick lunch, it was another 3 hours drive (143 km) down to Waipoua Kauri Forest. 

 But we did have a pit stop in the middle (totally had no idea where were we) for the BF take a short rest.

And after a grueling 3 hours' drive, we managed to arrive at around 5pm. The entrance to the walking trail/park is right at the roadside, so you won't be able to miss it (even though the GPS actually pointed us further in when we set the location to "Waipoua Kauri Forest").

This forest is the home of Tane Mahuta, the country's largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tane Mahuta is rightly called 'The Lord of the Forest'. Another significant tree in Waipoua Forest is Te Matua Ngahere – 'Father of the Forest' – which is estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 years old. There are 4 walking trails you can take, namely the Tane Mahuta Walk, Te Matua Ngahere Walk, Four Sisters Walk and Yakas Walk.
As we're really pressed for time that day, we just took the 5 minutes Tane Mahuta walk to see the Tane Mahuta tree.

If you're taking the Te Matua Ngahere walk, it will be a 20 minutes walking trail to see the 'Father of the Forest', which has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree. Close by are the Four Sisters, a graceful collection of four tall trees in close proximity. From the same access road you can follow a half-hour walking track (Yakas Walk) to the Yakas Tree, the eighth largest kauri in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, as of June 2019, all of the walks are currently closed for either maintenance or due to discovery of pathogen causing kauri dieback.
Do check out their website for their current status if you're planning to make a visit!

And after bidding our goodbyes to the short encounter with the majestic kauri tree, it was another grueling 4+ (nearly 5?) hours' drive for the BF to get us back to Auckland City for the night.

We were also running low on petrol (yikes!) and if you've been to NZ, you'll know that most petrol station DO NOT open till late. Thank goodness I've CamperMate app downloaded on my phone and with better signals here and there along the way (VERY unstable signals), we managed to find one that closes at 6pm instead of the usual 5pm and made it just in time as they were closing (we reached at around 5:55pm).

And this petrol station definitely has the best scenic view, ever. 

And it's also at this petrol station when I found Barista Bros Coffee Milk. YUMS!

And of course, a road trip in NZ means randomly stopping by the roadside to take however many pictures you want.

By the time we reach Auckland City, it was already nearing 10pm. Was still hoping to be able to meet up with Ron and his wife again for a quick dinner, but everywhere is closed by then. :(

Anyway, our "campground" for the night is Maverick's Yard, a private yard that you can book on CamperMate App. It's just like airbnb, but for only CVs. Charging merely $20 NZD per vehicle per night, the house is a little rundown but still acceptable for the budget pricing. Bathroom is really big but floors were quite wet (probably due to others who has showered before us) and there's no accessories for you to hang your clothes/towels, and the windows won't shut properly. The toilet is dry and clean, but without any toilet paper inside so you got to bring your own. There's extra charges for usage of kitchen, which is in a very bad shape so we're better off cooking in our own CV.
We're also not able to refill freshwater nor dump waste water here, and there's no hookups to CV power, but we're able to use their household power to charge our devices, though not exactly very convenient because you have to leave them charging in the house.

And here's a shot of our humble CV dinner for the night. Scrambled eggs with green peppers and tomatoes, mushroom soup, toasts and hotdogs! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

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