‘Junk’ food: potato waffles

Sometimes one needs something junky to indulge in, and I was most impressed how unhealthy this tastes haha :D — must be the high fat content! This is a great snack that is free of gluten and sugar.

Making this potato snack or side dish couldn’t be easier. Simply make mashed potatoes by combining boiled waxy potatoes with butter, milk/broth/water, salt and pepper. Spoon into a waffle iron, which has been brushed with melted butter or oil.The final result was not crispy though….

Unlike some frozen potato products, by making this at home you can be assured that there are only natural ingredients.

‘Junk’ food: popcorn

When coated in artificial flavourings, tons of salt and/or sugar, popcorn can be very nasty (think of that fake butter smell from cinema popcorn — yuck!). However, natural popcorn is a great snack option which in its plain form is gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and low in fat, so one can happily indulge!

Here’s how I make it:
* find a large pot with lid
* measure out the desired amount of raw corn kernels — I use three-quarters of one small rice bowl to make a huge salad bowl amount of cooked popcorn
* poor into pot just enough oil to coat all the kernels of corn
* turn on medium-high heat and wait for oil to heat up
* once hot, put in the corn kernels, stir to coat all kernels with oil and try to make sure that as many kernels as possible are in touch with the bottom surface of the pot (to get them heated up as effectively as possible)
* cover and wait for popping to cease
* occasionally shake the pot — whilst holding the lid on tight — to encourage all the kernels to pop
* occasionally lift the lid a crack to allow the steam to escape (or use the steam vent if your pot lid has one), but be careful not to open so wide as to allow popping corn to spring out!
* remove popcorn from pot, I put in a large plastic basket to allow the popcorn to cool down
* store in airtight containers as soon as it has cooled down as popcorn goes soft very quickly

As I try to avoid sugar, I go with salted popcorn and simply sprinkle salt on the cooked popcorn.

Stopped from making notes while shopping

Yesterday for the first time in my life I was asked to leave a store by irate shop staff! The short version: Supernature at Park House has a company policy that forbids customers from taking photos as well as even *writing* any notes in the store.

The long version: Followers of my ConsumerWatch series on this blog will know I like to compare products and prices to make the most informed choices. In one of my rare visits to Supernature, I was excited to find some products I had recently enjoyed in the UK and amongst their wide range, certain brands I haven’t seen in other Singapore shops. I was doubly excited to note that despite the shop’s high prices for most goods compared to other stores in Singapore, some things were significantly cheaper! I was in the middle of noting down all the products I planned to buy on my next visit when the shop staff caught me on CCTV and swooped in to stop my suspicious activity. Of course, I could have promised to stop and continued shopping, but I was so shocked and humiliated that I voluntarily left the store. I also decided not to argue about ‘company policy’ with the staff ,who was most likely just a regular worker doing her job and not a manager (she was wearing an apron and spoke to me in Mandarin).

Stores have every right to lay down rules for their customers, and the right to stop people from shopping in their store. From their point of view, I could certainly have been an agent of industrial espionage from a rival company. As an expanding and highly-commercialised enterprise (wow! Supernature really looks like a good-sized supermarket now!) located near the ultra-posh St Regis Hotel, they’re probably not interested in the kind of customer who wants to do price-comparison.

However, I would argue that for health foods, it’s not just about prices, but the even more important aspect of doing research about particular brands, ingredients, origin of products, possible allergic reactions etc. Looks like Supernature is not a store that will help me make the best consumer choices, for my health as well as my wallet.

As a point of comparison, at Nature’s Glory, customers can pick up a 24-page (A4 size) full product list providing details of brand names, package size and price so that you can place delivery orders from home.

For what it’s worth, here are the few price comparisons I observed yesterday (prices could be a few cents off, sorry I wasn’t able to take notes!):

Bonsoy
Supernature – S$5.95
Eat Organic – S$4.70
NTUC Finest – S$4.70

Nairn’s oat cookies (great wheat-free snack!)
Supernature – S$8.95
Marketplace at Paragon – S$8.60
Eat Organic – S$8.00

Lundberg Organic Long-Grain Brown Rice
Supernature – S$5.45 [cheap!!]
NTUC, Cold Storage & most stores – S$7.30 ++

Anzacs cookies: cute version

IMG_2930_crop

I’ve been very happy with the Anzacs recipe I’ve been using, except for the fact that I find the cookies fall apart too easily.

This time I tried making them in tiny paper cups, and it worked really well. I also used baby oats instead of rolled oats for a finer texture.

You don’t lose any oat crumbs as you can simply pour them into your mouth! Plus they look pretty and cute (^.^)

On plastic water bottles

Recently I realised that my expensive Nalgene water bottles and ‘premium’ range Lock & Lock lunch box were all made of BPA-leeching polycarbonate. Many others have already blogged about unsafe food plastics and the BPA problem before (see Just Bento: What are Japanese plastic bento boxes made of? and The SIGG water bottle controversy and the water bottle conundrum) and there’s plenty of information on the web about how to choose safer plastics.

The good news is that newer Nalgene bottles are made from BPA-free Tritan. Look out for the ‘Nalgene Choice’ labelling that identifies the new-range bottles. The recycling category “7” includes both BPA-polycarbonates as well as Tritan, so don’t use that as a conclusive identification of the material used.

The two styles of Lock n Lock Sport bottles I have been using for some years are also categorised as a “7”, and as they are from the pre-BPA-consciousness days, there’s a high chance both are polycarbonate. Some other Lock & Lock bottles are safer “5” plastics.

However, Lock & Lock has come out with several new lines of bottles, made with Tritan and all marked with large ‘BPA-free’ labels. These are not yet found on the international website, but are in the Singapore stores. I picked up two types on 30% discount at NTUC Fairprice a few weeks ago.

P1010410500ml

P1010404600ml

My main gripe is that the largest bottle is only 600ml, and that only in the range where the screw-lid is not attached to the bottle itself, which means the chance of dropping the lid and having to wash it before screwing it back on, not very practical when one is outdoors.

I  do love the positive screw grooves on the green bottle, but there’s something else that annoys me, which is that the screw grooves result in a lot of water dripping when I drink! I’ve had the same problem with insulated mugs too. The problem seems to be much less when the screw top mouth is small, such as with this narrow-mouthed Nalgene style which I also have (unfortunately an old bottle, in polycarbonate).

So maybe I should stick to flip-top bottles? However, in my experience, the flip-tops can easily be accidentally popped open and I’ve had many spills inside my bags before :(. So I try to put them on the outside mesh pocket of my rucksack or placed upright at the side of handbag.

The other thing about flip-tops is that if the mouth is too small, such as this Lock & Lock sports bottle, it’s hard to drink without creating a vacuum seal with your mouth.

LocknLock sports bottle

My water bottle wish list:
* 750ml
* BPA-free
* lid that is attached to bottle
* non-drip mouth
* mouth that’s not too small
* tall, slim shape that fits into standard water bottle pockets on sports bags
* and if it’s cute, that’s just a bonus ^^

Food intolerance-friendly airline meals

Hello again after a long break! I have been away and will be travelling again soon so have some possibly helpful travel tips for anyone flying by Singapore Airlines.

The last time I went overseas by Cathay Pacific, I prepared an elaborate set of bento boxes to last me halfway round the globe, as I described here. This time, it was just a short 5-hour flight and I decided to order one of Singapore Airlines’ special ‘Medical Meals’.

Here is the amazing list of ‘Medical Meal’ choices:

  • Bland Meal: No “irritants” (e.g. black pepper, chilli powder, caffeine, cocoa, alcohol)
  • Diabetic Meal: No sugar; limited salt
  • Fruit Platter Meal: Fresh fruits only
  • Gluten Free Meal: No wheat, rye, barley, oats in any form
  • Low Sodium, No Salt Added Meal: Avoid naturally-salted, sodium-added processed foods (e.g. Baking powder, soda, MSG); no salt added during preparation
  • Low Calorie Meal: Limited fats, sauces, gravy and fried items; limited sugar-rich items
  • Low Fat/Cholesterol Meal: No animal fats but poly-unsaturated fatty acids allowed; limited fats, sauces, and gravy fried items; no butter, cream, whole milk cheese; only lean meat allowed
  • Low Fibre/Residue Meal: Limited fibrous items (e.g. fruit, legumes, vegetables, wholegrain products)
  • Non-Carbohydrate Meal: No starch and carbohydrates in any form
  • Non-Lactose Meal: No lactose and dairy products (e.g. milk, milk solids, casein, cheese, cream, butter, margarine)
  • Soft Fluid Meal: Mainly sieved, soupy items
  • Semi Fluid Meal: Mainly pureed, minced, easily digestible items (e.g. pureed vegetables, potatoes, fruits, minced, homogenized meat, porridge, congee)
  • Ulcer Diet Meal: Contains easily digestive plain poached/broiled foods (e.g. white meat, fish); no acidic food and fruits
  • Nut Free Meal: Please contact our Reservation Office for the necessary arrangement

After a short discussion on the phone with the airline staff, I chose the ‘Low Sodium, No Salt Added Meal’. On my return flight, the meal label was in Chinese, which said “無調味料”, which actually means  no added seasoning. I found out there is a option of Asian or Western versions, and I chose Western. It was a chicken breast with side vegetables and rice on the outgoing flight, and a very tender beef steak with side vegetables and potatoes on the return flight. There were also no sweet desserts. I loved the way they were all totally plain with no sauces or spices/herbs etc. yet the ingredients were flavourful enough on their own. Fabulous! Amines in the meats and salicylates in the vegetables aside, this is a pretty safe choice for me. No need to starve on long-distance travel anymore! (As long as I fly on Singapore Airlines, that is.)

P.S. Don’t forget Singapore Airlines offers also offers Religious Meals, Infant & Child Meals, a Seafood Meal and a range of Vegetarian Meals:

  • Raw Vegetarian Meal: Only raw fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetarian Oriental Meal: No meat or seafood of any sort; no dairy products; cooked Chinese-style
  • Vegetarian Indian Meal (non-strict): No meat of any sort; can contain dairy products; cooked Indian-style
  • Vegetarian Jain Meal (strict; suitable for Jain): No meat of any sort; no onion, garlic, ginger and all root vegetables; cooked Indian-style
  • Western Vegetarian (non-strict; ovo-lacto): No meat of any sort; can contain dairy products; cooked Western-style
  • Vegetarian Vegan Meal (strict): No meat of any sort; no dairy products; cooked Western-style

Anti-bacterial EZ-Lock boxes for bento

EZLock Ag+

EZLock Ag+

Japanese bento boxes have come with anti-bacterial silver ions for some time, like these ones. This helps to prevent your food from going bad, especially in hot weather.

Now Lock n Lock’s EZ-Lock range also some with Ag+ ions. After you remove the cardboard packaging, the Ag+ boxes can be distinguished by their lids of a slightly lighter shade of blue compared to standard EZ-Lock. View the latest 2009-2010 Lock n Lock catalogue here (only works with Internet Explorer).

Here are some suitable sizes for bento.

EZlock Ag+: 520ml & 620ml

EZlock Ag+: 520ml & 620ml

EZlock Ag+: 890ml & 965ml

EZlock Ag+: 890ml & 965ml

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