Category Archives: Organic

The cold-pressed juice wagon

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It is a fad that was already slowly and quietly bubbling under the surface of general consumerism in Malaysia. If ‘bootylicious’ made it as one of the most used word that awarded it self-deserved place in the Oxford dictionary, ‘cold-pressed juice’ I believe should be somewhere in the list of most-used, most-marketed word and product of the year 2014. Probably not a place to be reinvented in the Oxford dictionary though, because the 2 words exist in its own right with its on standalone meaning but hey, when you place it together – what a wave it has resulted in! Obviously it didn’t just came about overnight as some would attest to the larger cold-pressed juicing companies that existed in the market as early as 2009 and 2010. Back in the days when a Hurom is not just a car-ride and a AEON supermarket visit away.

While I am all for efforts and advocacy made towards a healthier nation through easier and more widespread access of healthy food, the uprising of this trend is also somewhat disturbing. The fact that anyone with a decent income can own an equally decent cold-pressed juicer is great, what is not so great however is the fact that these days it seems anyone with a decent cold-pressed juicer also thinks they can become champions of the power of juicing by selling their own versions of cold-pressed juices bottled in glass jars.

Yes, I totally understand the idea of capitalising on market opportunities. It is all economics right? The general public now have more access to information on the internet. They can’t be as easily duped by a full page spread in the newspaper telling them that a carton of Tropicana Orange Juice (with REAL orange pulp added!) is any where as superior as a smaller sized fresh, cold-pressed juices that comes in a BPA-free plastic bottle or even better a shiny glass bottle. People want fresh. People want wholesome, raw, active juices. Because cold-pressed juices promises vitality, health, rejuvenation and a bang for your buck. Yes it costs WAY more than that carton of orange juice, but if it’s suppose to cure ailments, make you feel better, wipe out your wrinkles and make you look 10 years younger, spending double and sometimes triple the price of a conventional juice becomes an easy afterthought.

If there is supplies to match market demand, and this is a demand that is pointing towards a change for the better than it is well and good isn’t it? Not so.

Here’s a scenario. One day you woke up and decided to pay a visit to your doctors. Annual health examination. A few days later the results came back and your doctor delivers you the grim news that you had better get your blood sugar level under control because your reading awards you a comfortable place within the ‘pre-diabetic’ category. Or perhaps, more likely these days, the doctor circles a random number on the result paper and tells you that you should watch your cholesterol because by god, those hash browns and McValue meals aren’t really adding much valuable nutrition to your body but rather accelerating your path to the nearest cardiac surgeon office.

So while you are driving home, all these numbers and facts circling in your head and a real concern that something has got to change, your food intake or your physical fitness or your entire approach to life, and you get hungry. But no, there can be no more McValue meals for you, and someone told you recently a juice-detox is a great way to kick start this new resolution for a healthier lifestyle. So you stop at the closest available cafe that you know sells great cold-pressed juices. Along the counter sits many many beautiful, delectable sounding cakes. Cakes, that without a doubt contains an eye-popping amount of butter (even worse, margarine!) and a truckload of white sugar. What happens next? There is a possibility that your better judgement kicks in, you pay for your juice and off you go. But there is also that equal amount of possibility that the ‘naughty’ side of you will try to justify by thinking “If cake is bad and juice is good and I take both at the same time, the good will neutralize the bad right??”

The human mind will always find novel ways to justify anything that it wants. And before you know it, oh the poor consumer who thinks he’s doing good by drinking all that juice everyday and sometimes rewarding himself with that cake is referred to the endocrinologist office instead because his blood sugar level is soaring and his body has decided that it is much too taxing to be processing ALL that sugar coming from both the cold-pressed juice and the cake.

What disturbs me is not the fact that this health trend is picking up traction but in the way that cold-pressed juices are being marketed by the people who are advocating its benefits. Would you go to a doctor who is sick? Probably not. But many of our doctors are overweight, smokes a pack a day and battling their own health issues. The reason you still visit them is because you don’t know what goes on in their personal lives. But what if it is all out there for you to see? What if “buy our cold-pressed juices” photos is posted on instagram next to a bowl of Magee mee? Or photos of people enjoying a plate of KFC with the tagline “buy our family bucket and get 6 bottles of cold-pressed juices free!” would you still be willing to pay the same premium? Probably not. Which is good for the consumer and their wallets, but it does nothing to educate them about the healing power of food.

So here’s the deal, drinking a bottle of premium cold pressed juice to wash down that butter cake/magee mee/[insert food that contains high cholesterol, preservatives, sugar and other unnatural products disguised as food] won’t make you any healthier than the next person who decides to wash it down with a Vitagen or a conventional carton juice or even a can of Diet Coke. It does however, make that next person slightly more richer than you though. That I am pretty sure of.

So before you buy, discriminate. Question. Most importantly on the ingredient, the freshness, and the cleanliness. Was the vegetables and fruits washed properly before being juiced? If it uses orange and lemon rind, was it organic (because lord knows how much wax covers the standard, non organic version and can you imagine ingesting them in that RM15 ringgit bottle of juice?) and of course there is also the question of “Is the lifestyle of the person whose business you are supporting the same that you would buy into?” Not as important as the initial questions, but remember, what you buy also supports the lifestyle of its makers.

Splurge some, scrimp some – the updated dirty dozen list

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Now that I have been having a little more time since ending a rather crazy project, I have been getting more chance to make smart and educated choices when it comes to what I decide to put into my mouth. My kitchen will have these cycles, of frequent use and constant turning on and off the gas stove and when things get hectic at work, the only thing that ends up being used is the water filter and the kitchen tap. So while I have these little luxuries (which I have this sinking feeling will be shortlived indeed), I’ve decided to pay a much needed visit to the supermarket and stock up my refrigerator with the healthiest things I can find (and afford).

With a rough meal plan for the week worked out and armed with my list of things to buy, I walked down the all to familiar aisles of Jaya Grocer. Of all the supermarkets around Subang & KL, I still prefer my neighbourhood’s Jaya Grocer. Even the posh and overpriced Jason’s at BSC can’t seem to beat the lineup or organic items offered in the former. Months of not doing my groceries gave me a rude shock when I got hold of a bunch of organic celery for a soup I was planning on making. RM 35 (USD 12) for a bunch of celery?? Okayyy..let’s put that back down. And then some weird craving hit me while I was there and I decided to look for some blueberries. Organic blueberries – RM 25 for a small box. Whoa.. maybe not. With such horrendous, out of this world prices for the standard, middle class person such as me, how does one achieve healthy eating and minimise all those nasty pesticide and chemical intake?

Which brings me to the topic of weekly groceries shopping and what are the items that should be bought organic and what are the items that we can save a few pennies on buying from the non-organic aisle?

Recently Food Matters together with the Environmental Working Grop updated their list of dirty dozen which is a list referring to 12 most ‘dirtiest’ veggies & fruits that should be bought organic where possible and 12 clean items that you can get away with being non organic most of the time. This year however, they added a few more and this has been a good list for me to keep in mind as I trawl up and down the aisle collecting my goods in the trolley.

Splurge on organic items for those things that you crave from the Dirty Dozen list

Click on the link and you will find more information and even a pretty nifty phone app for you to download. Granted that this list is more American-centric, I would imagine it to be pretty similar across other countries especially those that import their food from large agricultural producers.

With this in mind, I now know I should skip on the celery and replace it with something locally grown. Blueberries (generally the berry family are to be treated like strawberries in the dirty dozen list) are out of the question too. So more papayas, dragonfruits and mangosteens it shall be! A general rule of thumb that I use would be – if you have to peel it in order to eat it, that would generally be ‘cleaner’ rather than items that you consume directly as they were bought.

Most definitely, one must keep in mind local is always better. But with certain fruits like the avocado that contains large sources of good fat, and all that other goodness in its green flesh, sometimes it is difficult to replace it with a local alternative that is equal in nutrition content. And by all means, if you are swimming in money every month, heck if it was me, I would buy those celery and blueberries once in a while because I know I can afford to.

For us normal beings though, sometimes it is a good idea to splurge on some organic items (local over imported where possible), and scrimp on others where non organic would be considerably safe for consumption.

A well stocked fridge is a happy fridge :)

A well stocked fridge is a happy fridge 🙂

“Food, glorious food!”

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It is said, to make a new habit stick, do it for 21 days non stop. Whilst I was embarking on my training course as a yoga instructor, we were fed twice daily at Vikasa School. Once during brunch and another at dinner time. The food that was served consisted mainly of brown rice, vegetables – and LOTS of them, with one or two dishes with some fish or prawn during dinner. Accompanying this was fruits and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice.

Needless to say, these meal times has changed my perception towards food preparation and vegetarianism. Sure, there were days when my taste buds wanted a little bit more taste than what we were served, and how it danced with joy when a couple of us went out for some Indian food one night. Overall though, it made me realize that meat is not always required and that I can actually get creative with how I decide to consume my greens.

So, inspired as I was, I spent the first full day back in KL buying groceries and stocking up my kitchen with the healthiest food I know I wouldn’t mind cooking/eating. At the organic store, I found a bag of wild purple rice which curiously looked a little like what we were served in Vikasa (home sick away from home maybe?). The grains turns the water a most amazing shade of purple when you rinse and cook it. I mean, hey, this feels almost like being back in Chemistry class all over again!

At the supermarket, I found myself trolling around the organic fresh produce section. Inspired by some of our mealtimes, when we sometimes had porridge, and sometimes hot vegetable soup, I decided I would make a porridge with vegetable soup as a base with oyster mushroom, some fresh cod, kailan, and purple cabbage. Yum!

Tonight, it’s steamed rice with stir-fry kailan tossed in sesame oil and mushroom omelet. Cooking with purple rice I realised, results in any adjacent kitchen utensils being covered in purple spots wherever the rice cooker decides to spit its steam. Willy Wonka would be proud of my effort tonight. Once everything was scooped onto my plate, I stood back to admire my art and was reminded yet again, of my meal times in the last one month. It almost looks like the meals I had while I was there.

Stir fried kailan, mushroom omelet served with wild purple rice

Excuse the tacky plate. I should really start to invest in one of those classy, all white dinner set. In my recent food adventure, I have discovered the availability of smoked garlic (whole garlic cloves smoked and sold by the kg) and how it absolutely smells D I V I N E and makes everything that it’s cooked in tastes equally as divine. I am already filled with so many crazy ideas of all its different uses in food preparation and the gourmet cook in me is tickled by this idea.

Virginia Woolf once wrote “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. And dined well tonight indeed I have.