Let's face it, breakfast is very important! It gives us a boost of energy in the morning and as much as we wish to have personal chefs, most of us are our own personal chef.

With limited time in the mornings, it's tempting to just skip breakfast altogether or pour yourself a bowl of cereal, but there are healthier options that also don't take up a lot of time, just a bit of planning and preparation.  One of my favorite things to eat in the morning, especially during warmer weather, is called bircher muesli because it's very refreshing and wholesome.

The colors of this remind me of the film Moonrise Kingdom

The colors of this remind me of the film Moonrise Kingdom

It's been a relatively recent discovery and of course, I had to look up the recipe and give it a try when I was in Australia.  After trying my hand at it a few times, I got the hang of it and now just mix it up and alter it based on my mood and the season.  Needless to say, I would see it pop up on the menus everywhere there but no longer had a need to order it since it was being whipped up at home in just a few minutes and dare I say, it was better! Again, probably because I altered it to my liking.

Upon my return back, I've told a few friends about it, who have all asked, "what's bircher muesli?!"  I thought to myself, it must be an Oceania thing.

After a bit of reading, I discovered it was around 1900 that Swiss doctor Maximillian Bircher-Benner had made this as part of a healing therapy treatment for his patients as it's good for digestion (and also gets you some fiber!).  Apart from Switzerland, it can also be found on the tables of neighboring European countries such as Germany, Austria, England, and Sweden.  Can anyone else chime in on any other countries that eat this? It'd also be interesting to find out how it found its way to Australia and New Zealand (I'm thinking England could be responsible for this).

Basically, to keep it simple, bircher muesli is soaked oaks (now, please go laugh at the title of this post, thanks!).  For a few of my fortunate friends, including fellow healthy foodie Ksenia at Breakfast Criminals, they've been able to try my bircher muesli and because of the positive feedback and minimal exposure, I decided to do a post dedicated to it.  The good thing about cooking (versus baking, which is very scientific and measurements need to be kept) is that it allows room for flexibility so GET CREATIVE and GET COOKING (or in this case, preparing!).

Breakfast Criminal's first bircher muesli

Breakfast Criminal's first bircher muesli


Yields ~ 4 servings

Here are some of the things you'll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt 
  • 1 cup apple juice (preferably unsweetened and organic)
  • 4 handfuls of mixed berries*
  • 1/2 grated granny smith apple
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1 spoon of honey or agave nectar

Optional and recommended add-ins:

  • 3 spoons of chia seeds
  • 3 handfuls of slivered or sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds
  • a few dashes of cinnamon

*may be substituted for other fruits such as peaches, nectarines, pears, figs, passionfruit,

Combine all ingredients together, I usually go down the list.  Be sure not to over mix it and go with your gut (hopefully your gut knows too)! Get creative in your experiments, add things, take things out and have some fun! Prep time is literally a few minutes and you'll need to soak for a few hours/overnight.  When serving, top it off with some fresh fruit and granola for that extra crunch factor.

Enjoy! Here's to good health and delicious brekkies!

It’s been almost 2 months since I've left Sydney and it’s amazing how quickly time has flown by and how much has happened, both in the months and collectively over the years.

A reflection on the past
Back in 2010, I decided to leave home.  The decision didn't come easy as the familiarity and steady paycheck from a previous job provided comfort, but there was an inkling that had been kicking me for awhile.  It’s called, the TRAVEL BUG.

So I took action: researching options of where I would go, how I was going to go about it, and I took a leap of faith.  Not everything was planned, in fact, not much was planned like the rest of my life (finish college/university, intern, travel, work for a few years, save, etc.) so the idea of having so much flexibility was novel and quite nice.  I ended up in Sydney, Australia and the next thing you know, 2.5 years passed and today, I sit here writing upon these reflections.

It wasn't always an easy, breezy journey – in fact, they were some of the most trialing times but it’s these experiences that add to your character and who you are in the present day.  With me are memories that I’ll never forget, the times that I've shared with friends and much more.

Before leaving Sydney, I thought to myself, “What will I miss about the city?  Is it the breathtaking view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House? Is it the beaches with the cliff-side walks?  Is it being able to take public transport: the trains, the buses, the trams and the ferries?”  While I do miss all these, I found myself busy with a “MUST EAT BEFORE LEAVING” list.  One of those places was a local bakery in the Surry Hills neighborhood called BOURKE STREET BAKERY and it was certainly going to be a place I missed.
Ever since trying it for the first time, I knew I was going to be trouble.  And so began my regular trips down Bourke Street….

A friend of mine had gifted the Bourke Street Bakery book to me (more like a bible) and I was in awe, mouth agape and everything.  The pictures were all so beautifully taken, the layout, the stories, the recipes, I couldn't help but give the book a big hug (yes, I give attention to inanimate objects).  Anyhow, before leaving Australia, an idea popped into my head: I was going to get the guys at BSB to sign my book.

I wrote a love letter of appreciation telling them how much I thoroughly enjoyed the fluffy and delightful carrot cake that forever changed my life and the amazing-ness of their pork and fennel sausage rolls (among the other savory pastries) and how it was a joy to experience it flaking off so easily.  Just talking about this makes my mouth just water (yes, I am a nerd).

My e-mail bounced back.

I tried again and it bounced back again so I let it go.  Then, I refused to let it go and tried again (this time, I changed the subject line) and VOILÁ!

Pressed under time, I began to think that I wasn't going to get it in time and would need to get it shipped out, but everyone there was so accommodating and made it work so that I got it before I left.  Can we say WHEW?! FTW (For The Win)!!!

So a HUGE THANKS to Bourke Street Bakery for making it possible that I went back home with a signed copy of the book and for all the delicious treats and memories that will remain intact.
This blog post is different from most.

It's not about going to food festivals, traveling around and discovering a country's cuisine, nor is it about shopping around the markets and showing beautiful pictures of the local produce and market vendors.  No, this is a personal story about my relationship with food.

I've been fascinated with food for many years and while I consider myself a "foodie," the term itself makes twitch a bit.  Mainly because the term has been so widespread and used for anyone who likes to eat.  As with most general terms, you can break it down even further and categorize it.  It forced me to think more in-depth of where I belonged, of which sub-sector I fit in best.

Sure, I love to eat and I remember the days of beating out a boy in high school in a pizza-eating contest well over 10 years ago, or how it's just impossible for me to say "no" to an offer for food, but times have change and I have evolved.  My relationship with food is not about quantity, it's about quality.

In this day and age, it's easy to get tempted by all the products that line the shelves.  There's no denying that it makes eating (sometimes) easier, convenient and that some of the foods actually do taste good.  But what scares me is wondering what all those preservatives are doing to our health, in the short-term and more so, in the long-term.  Remember that Breyer's ice-cream commercial back in the day?

Our diet, the way in which we eat (not to be mistaken for weight-loss), is an integral part of our health.  For the most part, I had always opted for the more healthy options.  If I am to put a label on what type of foodie I am, it would be a health-conscious foodie.  Fresh and local ingredients are my preferences and I'll do my best to keep it that way.  But even when you're eating healthy, it doesn't always agree with your health.

My lifestyle has, more or less, done a 180 here in Australia (for those who don't know what a 180 is, it means a complete change) but my eating habits have not shifted as much.  As my time here winds down and I prepare to move back to the States, I took a critical look and realized that my health had suffered, even when I was eating healthy.  My energy levels have been low and while all the stresses and changes that life throws at you can be a part of it, what you intake will also affect it.

By working with a naturopath, a form of alternative medicine, we looked at how much food can affect one's health.  The naturopath highly recommended that I take what's called a "food sensitivity test."  While a food allergy is more extreme and has a much quicker reaction time and more extreme reaction, a food sensitivity on the other hand is slower and a less noticeable reaction.

I fought in my head.  I didn't want to take it because if I had become sensitive to something, I wouldn't know how to deal because I love food so much and omitting something I currently eat would be tough.  Whether being vegan has become trendy or just more apparent, I could never do it.

I fought some more in my head and finally, after much resistance, decided to take the test.  If it's my health in hand, it's better to know earlier than later.  In addition, a food elimination method would take too long and would require attention I don't have at the moment.  I would just have to repeat to myself and remember that it was just to be used as a guide and that it's a sensitivity and not an allergy.

After a bit of anticipation and some days later, results have come in:

I told you there weren't going to be any pretty pictures..
Definitely not what I wanted to see.  Dairy products (including my beloved cheese!), nuts (really?!?), beef (luckily, I don't eat much of it anyhow), wheat (oh my bread!), and chocolate ranked high on the list.  It's heartbreaking really, but what gets me by is that it's temporary.  After about 2 months, I'll be able to slowly reintroduce these foods and see how I react.  

Eating healthy is not only key but also eating the way that your body needs to is also important.  We're all built differently, inside and out, and one size doesn't fit all.  Though we may see a lot of commonalities cross over, we really are unique and our diets need to be reflective of that.  On the bright side of things, it'll give me the opportunity to research and play with different ingredients that I may not have yet tried to create more spectacular meals in my life and find more good eats around this world.
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The Taste of Sydney food festival ran last week from Thursday, March 14 – Sunday, March 17, 2013.  I definitely attended to check out what they had and not only for one session, but for three sessions! Call me a bit crazy but there’s a reason behind it.  You see, I’d bought tickets about a month ago and then ended up getting some free tickets so hey, why not? It would be beneficial because then, I could “suss” it out the first time.

What I love about going to food festivals is the opportunity to DISCOVER.  Discover new restaurants, new chefs, new food, new ingredients, new spreads, new dips, new oils, new beer, new wine, new alcohol, etc.  Okay, sometimes they may not be new but they’re new to me so the novelty is there. 

With a plethora of different goods around, it’s easy to get intimidated when going to the store and buying a full pack of X.  Perhaps one may have no idea of what it taste like or even how to prepare or what it pairs with best.  Luckily, vendors at these food festivals are very happy to let you sample and taste the final product.  They’ve done the work of combining and testing out what they know to find the best match together and have it presented for you to try.

The cider tent! Ever thought of trying a "cider float?" I tried it with some frozen yogurt, definitely made for those who can handle the strong tart flavours.  This was a "secret menu" item concocted by a vendor at another tent :) 
Jackie M. cooking up some Malaysian Roti Canai
The Sustainable Living area :)
Some cheese? Don't mind if I do! Let me count the ways I love thee....
It’s no secret that I’m a big (HUGE) fan of gelato and one of THE places here in Sydney, Gelato Messina, has converted me into an addict.  One day, I’ll probably write up a love letter – whether it’s to the gelateria shop and/or to their flavours and/or the art and science behind it, it’ll happen.  Messina holds classes for those who are interested in finding out what goes behind the scenes and to show their raving popularity, all the classes for the rest of the year have been booked out for awhile now!

In any case, the best highlight for me during the Taste of Sydney was being able to watch head gelato chef Donato Toce from Gelato Messina prepare 2 of their popular gelato flavours: salted caramel and white chocolate, and tiramisu.  I learned fun facts like how they go through 1,000kg of sugar per week (mmm…sugar) or that the weekly specials are determined and tested 6 weeks in advanced! Overall, I was a happy camper with a full belly (as usual....).

With Donato Toce of Gelato Messina and with my gelato spoon ready in hand!