April 29, 2017

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Featured image by Flickr user Ray_LAC CC BY 2.0

by Abraham Lee

DIABETES isn’t a disease you “catch”, and that means that nobody can “give” it to you. But it’s not far-fetched to say that your job could put you at risk. Lifestyle factors form many of the risk factors for developing diabetes, and since we spend about a third of our day working (and for some of us another third of our day thinking about work), your job, work environment and the people around you become key factors in the war against diabetes.

Singaporeans work among the longest hours in the world. In 2015, we worked “an average of 2,371.2 paid hours” – longer hours than those in reputedly ‘workaholic’ nations like South Korea and Japan. Work habits and culture have a great deal of influence over our lives simply because we spend so much of our time at work.

While great habits at work can promote positivity, bad ones can debilitate other areas of our lives, especially our health. Singapore ranks second among developed nations for diabetics as a proportion of the population, with 11.3 per cent of Singapore residents suffering from diabetes in 2010. That number is projected to rise dramatically to 20 per cent by 2050.

None of us wants the lifetime burden that diabetes promises. The incurable disease is also the gateway to heart disease, stroke, blindness and other complications. The most common strain, Type 2 diabetes, is largely due to lifestyle factors and is usually seen “in people aged 40 and above who are overweight and physically inactive”.

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So what are the riskiest things about our job, diabetes-wise?

Working late can disrupt your mealtimes, sleep patterns, and heighten stress levels. Irregular meal times from skipped meals or late lunches or working late “are linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome”, a group of factors that increase the risk of heart disease and problems like diabetes.

Stress from work also messes up your hormone levels, including cortisol which increases appetite and can lead to overeating when its levels remain elevated due to continued stress.

Entertaining clients over drinks, or going out drinking with colleagues, if done too frequently, can also become a hazardous habit as alcohol intake is linked to Type 2 diabetes.

Your work posture can cause tension in your muscles which in turn changes our hormone levels. Sedentary, desk-bound work also lowers our activity levels, which puts us at risk of weight gain, which can lead to diabetes.

Fatigue from work often discourages us from spending time in the evening exercising – it’s much more tempting to veg out in front of the computer or TV, and then go to sleep.

While workers should take responsibility for their own choices, companies are also key stakeholders in promoting healthy lifestyles for employees through healthier work culture. Promoting work life balance, encouraging workers to exercise more and reminding them to practise self-care will result in healthier and more productive employees.

It’s not all that difficult to do either. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has led the way with healthy eating campaigns and the National Steps Challenge which encourages walking 10,000 steps per day with in-kind rewards. In its second season, it introduced the Corporate Challenge pitting companies against each other with cash prizes at stake and setting up a platform for intra-company challenges.

Complementing HPB’s National Step Challenge is AIA Vitality, a comprehensive wellness programme, launched by AIA Singapore to help users make real change to their health. The programme offers weekly rewards to members when they meet their weekly physical activity targets, cashback, discounts on gym memberships, airfares and more to incentivise them in making healthy choices. This wellness programme is also made available to companies who wish to have it as part of a comprehensive health and wellness benefit for its employees.

It’s going to be a tough fight to live a healthy lifestyle at the workplace, but with the commitment from both the public and private sectors to create a healthier workforce, we can win the fight against diabetes. In the end everyone stands to gain – us, the G, employers and our children.

 

This story is part of a series with AIA Singapore.

AIA Singapore is invested in the health and wellness of Singaporeans and has launched AIA Vitality, a comprehensive wellness programme that rewards members for taking small, everyday steps to improve their health.

 

Featured image by Flickr user Ray_LAC. (CC BY 2.0)

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skillsfuture_300x250

by Daniel Yap

SINGAPORE is engaging in a long-term war, with high stakes. It’s the war for our health and overall well-being, and for disease prevention which has long-run payoffs – better quality of life, reduced costs, lower risks. The details of NurtureSG, a Ministry of Health plan to instill healthy habits in our children, will be announced later this year, but any plan needs to consider potential obstacles.

The first thing standing in the way of healthier children is unhealthy adults. We need no reminding that children are most influenced not by what they are told by their parents and teachers to do, but by what they see their parents and teachers doing. Thus, any aim to change the health-wise behaviour of the next generation must take into account the behaviour of this generation.

It may be straightforward enough to try to drill healthy habits into our children, but how then can we incentivise adults, whose habits have already been formed and practiced for decades, to change? We would not want to train our children up a certain way only to have them slip back into an unhealthy adult lifestyle because they were following their parents’ footsteps.

Adults need to replace old habits by forming new ones, and new habits are formed by repetitive behaviour. Without long-term goals, such sustained change would be difficult.

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For starters, we need to address the psychology that defeats long-term goals: affective bias, risk discounting, and hyperbolic discounting.

Affective bias, that is, bias that is rooted in our emotions, causes us to hear only what we want to hear. For example, the strong emotion associated with comfort eating can cause us to put too much stock in a “reduced fat” label on an unhealthy snack…and there goes the diet.

Uncertainty about the goals we set is what leads to risk discounting, where we downplay the risky effects of our behaviour. If you didn’t know how much you needed to eat to lose weight, would you have chicken nasi briyani for dinner, and a large bag of potato chips at the movie afterwards? Probably. But if you knew you had to eat under 1700 calories a day to lose weight, then it would be immediately clear to you that the 900 calorie nasi bryani and the 1000 calorie bag of chips would completely wreck your goals, especially if you already had a typical 500 calorie breakfast and “diet” 400 calorie lunch.

Hyperbolic discounting is the cognitive bias that favours short-term gains – why someone would choose to get $50 now than $1,000 a year later. It is why diet plans fail, why savings plans fall through, why we won’t cut our carbon footprint even though we know we put the future in peril.

How can children and adults get past these roadblocks to a healthier life? First, the emotional appeal of a long-term healthy lifestyle needs to stay strong. We need constant reminders that this is good for our family, good for our children and good for our silver years. Strong campaigns and culture-building are key to achieving this.

Then, we need instant gratification for our efforts. This is the short-term counter to short-term temptations, and this has so far been the hardest to achieve on a national scale.

This is why people post their workouts and gym bods on social media – to soak up the likes and encouragement as fuel for the next workout. This is why wearables are effective, because they are a constant reminder on your wrist of whether you’ve covered your 20,000 steps today, or gotten enough sleep, or pushed your heart rate frequently enough this week.

Instant gratification is why we need incentive programmes like the national steps challenge, in-house corporate fitness or weight-loss competitions, or programmes for individuals like AIA Vitality to reward workouts with vouchers, send encouragement, form support groups, set reminders, and do anything necessary to keep our eyes on the short-term goal for as long as it takes to reach the long-term one.

We are all, in one way or another, attracted by short-term gain. And if healthy living isn’t attractive in the short-term, then unhealthy living will win out. And what happens in the short term determines who wins the long-term war for our well-being. If we lose the war for our own well-being, we’ll be putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of the G’s push to make our children healthier.

 

This story is part of a series with AIA Singapore.

AIA Singapore is invested in the health and wellness of Singaporeans and has launched AIA Vitality, a comprehensive wellness programme that rewards members for taking small, everyday steps to improve their health.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

 

skillsfuture_300x250

by Andrea Wang and Vir Chiniwala

AFTER the abrupt closure of California Fitness, some of us will now have to find a new gym. Others just want to get in on this whole exercise thing, but are unsure of where to start.

Consider boutique gyms. More of these smaller gyms, many of which specialise in a specific type of workout or machine, are popping up.

Here’s why (and where) you can get in on this trend:

 

They offer more unconventional methods of exercising 

No, your options are not limited to running, the elliptical and weight training. Find the workout that’s perfect for you, and in the process, you might also find a like-minded community of people.

 

Upside motion

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Image taken from lululemon athletica Singapore‘s Facebook page

If you’re looking to shake things up, Upside Motion is a good place to go. With a focus on three main programmes – Pilates, Xtend Barre, and Aerial – Upside Motion offers a unique range of workouts.

That coveted dancer’s body can become a reality with Xtend Barre, a fast paced exercise that taps into ballet and Pilates to sculpt a leaned and toned body. Aerial, on the other hand, is a low impact workout that uses a silk hammock to loosen your joints and strengthen your core.

Location: 36 Armenian Street, #02-03, 179934 / 321 Orchard Road, #04-05, 238866

 

SURFSET Singapore

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Image taken from SURFSET Singapore‘s Facebook page

Ever dreamt of living on the beach and surfing the waves every day? SURFSET gets you halfway there with a workout that is done on top of a surfboard. Designed to mimic what it’s really like on the waves, the surfboard is on an unstable base, which helps build core strength and balance.

SURFSET gets you moving with a fat-burning, muscle-toning cardio work out that will have you ready to hit the beach in no time.

Location: 454B Joo Chiat Road, 427667

 

Work out in a gym that doesn’t look like a gym

There’s no need to confine yourself to an overly bright room – or even a room at all. Switch it up with a change of environment, and you won’t even feel like you’re working out.

UFit

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Image taken from UFIT‘s Facebook page

You have a dilemma – you like the idea of getting out to exercise but you don’t like running, are terrible at conventional sports and want something a little more intense than just talking a walk.

Develop your fitness and strength with UFit by doing crossfit – outdoors. If crossfit isn’t your thing, it’s not the only outdoor activity that UFit offers. Yogafit, Hiitfit, and Boxfit are some of the many activities that you can get involved with while being in some of Singapore’s most scenic locations.

Location: Multiple locations

 

7Cycle

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Image take from 7Cycle‘s Facebook page

If the one thing you really hate about going to the gym is how boring it is, try out 7Cycle. It’s indoor cycling that will get your heart pumping. With their self-proclaimed “pulsating soundtrack and party-like atmosphere”, it’ll feel less like exercise and more like being at a dance club.

Whether you want to enhance your cycling, you’re looking for an intense conditioning class, or if you’re just doing it for fun, 7Cycle has a range of classes to fit your needs.

Location: 19 Anamalai Avenue, #01-01, 279987

 

You won’t be just another face in a sea of faces

For those who are worried about getting lost in a group, these gyms look after every member with a specialised personal touch.

The PIT

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Image taken from The PIT Singapore‘s Facebook page

For those who are serious gymming enthusiasts, look no further than The Pit. It has personal training classes ranging from metabolic conditioning to cardio boxing classes – this gym really isn’t for the faint of heart.

The Pit trainers or “Pitmasters” have a no-nonsense attitude and will put you through a gruelling schedule that might make National Service look like a piece of cake. Its methods are exclusively tailored for each individual, with exercises involving kettlebells and clubbells. Plus, if you remain devoted, you might even get a chance to flip tyres or push sleds as part of Pit’s strength workout.

Location: 123 Devonshire Road, 239883

 

Breathe Pilates

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Image taken from Breathe‘s Facebook page

Breathe Pilates (BP) might seem like a run-of-the-mill aerobics gym but it is refreshingly different. It provides rehabilitative physical training for a range of issues, from headaches to larger problems like muscle pulls. BP also offers special classes for mothers and expectant mothers in order to ensure their health and fitness levels remain high.

Moreover, its unique class “Zen.Ga” is the first of its kind that combines science, yoga, and relaxation – sounding more like a fascinating science experiment than a sort of workout.

Location: Four branches islandwide

 

Instead of shifting your schedule to accommodate them – they’ll accommodate you

For those who require a gym that can work around a hectic work schedule and can be completed quickly, look no further – these gyms will allow you to lead a healthy lifestyle without wrecking your daily calendar.

 

Ritual

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Image taken from Ritual‘s Facebook page

Ritual calls itself “the world’s most efficient gym” – it focuses on high intensity training (HIT) utilising kettlebells and bodyweight, so that you can get in and out of the gym in a guaranteed 30 minutes. To further ensure that you don’t put your timetable in a jam, Ritual holds a workout session every 20 minutes from 6.30am to 9pm daily.

Furthermore, it provides gym clothes and amenities such as towels along with protein shakes in case you feel the hunger pangs after the intense workout – how’s that for convenience? To quote the gym – “All you need to do is show up.”

Location: 11 North Canal Road, #03-01, 048824

 

Club Insignia (GYMM BOXX)

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Image taken from Club Insignia‘s Facebook page

Club Insignia was recently acquired by GYMM BOXX – a rapidly growing chain in the gym market, but Insignia’s style of working out will remain intact. What sets this gym apart from others is that no session is identical – in each workout, the exercises and routine are unique, making it ideal for those who get bored of doing the same repetitive exercises.

The gym is also accessible for the elderly, with its trainers holding specialist classes reserved for senior citizens. These “aqua fit” classes use cardiovascular exercises to ensure that even the aged are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Location: The Oasis #03-02, 87 Science Park Drive, 118260

 

Featured image from UFit’s Facebook page.

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Quinoa, a popular alternative to rice

by Varsha Sivaram

THE buzz over a Health Promotion Board (HPB) study that linked white rice to diabetes might have died down, but the health conscious are still substituting rice with other alternatives. We’ve talked about the different types of rice besides white, but what about skipping out on the grain altogether?

Popular reasons for forsaking rice include low-carbohydrate diets, a desire for more fiber, and simply to make meals more diverse. Superfoods like quinoa – a grain crop with edible, starchy seeds that are rich in protein – and sorghum have garnered a solid reputation as substitutes. However, there’s another side to them besides nutrition: Like a lot of organic goods, they’re expensive.

We’ve rounded up a few alternatives that won’t break the bank, from grains to even vegetables.

 

1. Cauliflower

Cauliflower rice

Spiced Cauli ‘Couscous’ by Flickr user jules. CC BY 2.0.

An emerging favourite among foodies, the rice-like texture and look of the vegetable, as well as its lack of a strong flavour, makes it a popular substitute for rice. As for nutrition, the florets clock in at 25 calories per 100 grams, as opposed to about 140 calories in cooked white rice. Cauliflower is also rich in vitamins C and K, and a good source of dietary fibre.

Simply pulse it for a few seconds in a food processor – so that it does not end up puréed instead – or grate it finely to achieve the look of rice. Then, cook it as you might regular cauliflower: With some olive oil or butter on the stove, or on a tray in the oven.

Options include Australian Cauliflower, priced at $14.83/kg from Redmart, and regular cauliflower, priced at $3.21/kg from Fairprice.

Recipes

1. Healthy Cauliflower Rice – Food Network

Ingredients:

  1. 1 large head cauliflower, separated into 1-inch florets
  2. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 medium onion, finely diced
  4. Kosher salt
  5. 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  6. Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

  1. Trim the cauliflower florets, cutting away as much stem as possible. In 3 batches, break up the florets into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles couscous.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. At the first wisp of smoke from the oil, add the onions, and stir to coat. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown at the edges and have softened, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Add 1 teaspoon salt, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat.
  5. Spoon the cauliflower into a large serving bowl, garnish with the parsley, sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt. Serve warm.

 

2. Fried Cauliflower – Kitchn

Ingredients:

  1. 1 medium head cauliflower
  2. 1/2 pound (8 slices) thick-sliced bacon, optional
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  5. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  7. 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  8. 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  9. 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  10. 1/4 cup cashews, almonds, or other nut
  11. 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or if gluten-free, 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari)

Directions:

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets, discarding the tough inner core. Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it breaks down into rice-sized pieces. You should have 5 to 6 cups of cauliflower “rice.”
  2. Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Once cooled, roughly chop into pieces. Drain off all but a teaspoon of bacon grease (or use 1 teaspoon vegetable oil), reserving the grease.
  3. Place the pan back over medium-high heat. Whisk the eggs and pour them into the skillet. Quickly scramble the eggs or make an omelet. Transfer the eggs to a cutting board and roughly chop into pieces.
  4. Wipe the skillet clean and warm 1 tablespoon of bacon grease or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the carrots and sauté until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Stir the corn, peas, and cauliflower “rice” into the pan, mixing the ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Lower the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook until the cauliflower is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover and stir in the bacon, eggs, green onions, cashews, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Taste and add more soy sauce to taste. Serve immediately.

 

2. Couscous

Couscous

Couscous by Flickr user Ralf Peter Reimann. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Known most commonly as a Moroccan staple, these balls of semolina are actually common across North Africa, and have made their way to our plates as well. Rich in protein, dietary fibre, and vitamins, it’s a whole grain substitute with no lack of nutrition.

Cooking couscous is straightforward: Bring water to a boil, toss the couscous in, let them cook until your desired texture and fluff it up before serving.

Options include San Remo Couscous, priced at $7/kg from Redmart, and Casino Couscous from Cold Storage, priced at $4.70/kg.

Recipes

1. Roasted veg & couscous salad – BBC Good Food

Ingredients:

  1. 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, halved and deseeded
  2. ½ butternut squash
  3. 2 courgette, thickly sliced
  4. 4 garlic cloves, leave skin on
  5. 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  7. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  8. 1 tbsp harissa paste
  9. 50g whole blanched almonds
  10. 250g couscous
  11. 300ml hot vegetable stock
  12. zest and juice 1 lemon
  13. 20g pack mint, roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cut peppers and squash into bite-size pieces (leave skin on the squash). Tip all the veg into a baking tray, add garlic, 2 tbsp oil and seasoning, then mix and roast for 20 mins. Add onion, cumin, harissa and almonds. Roast for another 20 mins, then cool.
  2. Put couscous into a large bowl, pour over the stock, cover, then set aside for 10 mins. Fluff up with a fork.
  3. In a bowl, mix zest, juice and remaining oil. Squeeze garlic pulp from skins into the bowl, mash well and fold in the mint. Pour over the veg, then toss with the couscous.

 

2. Salmon and couscous – Jamie Oliver

Ingredients:

  1. 75 g couscous
  2. 120 g salmon fillet , skin on, scaled and pinboned
  3. extra virgin olive oil
  4. sea salt
  5. freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 small courgette , sliced into batons
  7. 1 small handful asparagus tips
  8. 1 red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
  9. 2 ripe tomatoes , roughly chopped
  10. ½ lemon , juice of
  11. 1 small handful fresh coriander , roughly chopped
  12. 1 tablespoon fat-free natural yoghurt

Directions:

  1. Put your couscous in a bowl, then pour over just enough boiling water to cover it. Set aside for 3 minutes to allow the couscous to soak up the water.
  2. Slice the salmon widthways into finger-size strips, drizzle with olive oil, and season with pepper and a small pinch of salt. Heat a small non-stick frying pan and add the salmon strips on their side.
  3. Scatter over the courgette, asparagus tips and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, turning the salmon over halfway.
  4. Mix the tomatoes, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the coriander into the couscous and season to taste.
  5. Remove the salmon strips to a plate and add the couscous to the veggies left in the pan. Mix together and then put the salmon strips back into the pan on top of the couscous, place a lid on and put back on a high heat for a minute.
  6. To serve, slide everything on to your plate and spoon over some yoghurt.

 

3. Lentils

Lentils

Puy lentils by Flickr user Jessica Spengler. CC BY 2.0.

If you’re looking to avoid carbohydrates, this alternative is not your best option. But if an enhancement of the nutrients in rice is what you’re after, lentils are a strong contender as substitutes. Lentils have higher protein levels per cup, as well as less fat, than rice.  The legumes also come in several varieties of their own: Brown, green, and red are some broader categories to get you started. If you’re on the lookout in an ordinary supermarket, brown lentils are the easiest of the three to find. While they have a slightly earthy flavour, the green varieties are more peppery, while the reds have more of a sweet and nutty taste.

The ratio is simple: Three cups of salted water – or any stock, if you want more flavour – to one cup of dry lentils. Bring them to a boil over the stove, and then let them simmer. You will know that they’re cooked when they are tender in texture, but take note that they can double or triple in size upon cooking. Lentils also take longer than rice to cook; red lentils in particular.

Options include Progresso Black Beans, priced at $4.94/kg from Redmart, and Raitip Red Kidney Beans, priced at $3.90/kg from Fairprice.

Recipes

1. One Pot Lentils and Rice – Food.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup dry green lentils
  2. 6 1⁄2 cups water
  3. 4 -5 garlic cloves
  4. 1 -2 bay leaf
  5. 1⁄2 tablespoon cumin seed
  6. 1 pinch cinnamon
  7. 2 cups basmati rice
  8. 1⁄2-1 tablespoon kosher salt
  9. 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Cover the lentils with the water.
  2. Peel and crush the garlic cloves lightly with the back of a knife. Leave the cloves whole, so that they flavor the dish but can be removed if desired. (I leave them out of the kids’ portions, and give them to my DH and myself).
  3. Add garlic to the pot, along with the bay leaves, cumin seeds and cinnamon. (DO NOT add salt at this point, as lentils will not cook properly).
  4. Bring to a boil. Cook at a boil until the lentils are just tender. This should take about 25 minutes, but may take longer dependig on the age of your lentils.
  5. Add the rice, salt and olive oil, and bring back to a boil.
  6. Stir, cover pot, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.
  7. Check to make sure the rice is done, adjust seasonings, and serve. If there is still too much liquid in the pan, just let it sit uncovered for a few minutes.

 

2. Lebanese Lentils, Rice and Caramelized Onions (Mujadara) – Food Network

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup brown or green lentils (not lentils du Puy), sorted for debris and rinsed
  2. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  5. 3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  6. Kosher salt
  7. 3/4 cup basmati rice
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  10. 1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
  11. 2 tablespoons pine nuts, optional
  12. Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  13. Greek yogurt, for serving, optional

Directions:

  1. Throw the lentils into a medium saucepan. Fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils by about an inch. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, as the lentils cook, grab a large skillet. Pop it over medium-high heat and add the oil. Allow the oil to warm for a minute, then drop in the cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns and cook, shaking the pan once in a while until the cumin seeds darken a touch, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the onions, sprinkle with a dash of salt and cook until they turn dark caramel brown, stirring often. This will take about 15 minutes. Splash the onions with a little water if they stick to the bottom of the pan. You’ll know they’re done both by their deep chestnut color and by the slight crispiness developing on some of the onions.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove about half of the onions to a paper towel-lined plate; these are for garnish later. Sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne and then add the cinnamon stick; saute about 1 minute.
  5. Add the rice and cook, stirring often (but gently so you don’t break the rice!) until some rice grains start to brown. Quickly, add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt; bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low so that the pan is at a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender. (If there’s still too much water in the bottom, put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes.)
  6. Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.
    Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts, if using, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, shaking often, about 5 minutes.
  7. Taste the rice for seasoning. Serve with the reserved caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, if using, and a little squeeze of lemon juice.

 

4. Barley

Barley

Cardamon and barley by Flickr user Migle. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Barley pearls aren’t just restricted to drinks. With their relatively low calorie count, high fibre content and low carbohydrate levels, the grains have the look, feel, and nutritional value to qualify as solid contenders for a rice substitute. Be wary, however, of their slightly higher sodium content.

You can even cook the pearls the same way that you would rice, but with just a little bit more water. Three parts of water to one part of barley will do the trick.

Options include Ayam Brand White Pearl Barley, priced at around $5.56/kg at Fairprice, and Pagoda Finest Pearl Barley, priced at $2.75/kg from Redmart.

Recipes

1. Mushroom Barley – Food Network

Ingredients and directions:

  1. Cook 2 sliced onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Saute 3/4 pound sliced cremini mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter.
  3. Cook 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking barley in chicken broth as the label directs, then toss with the mushrooms, onions, some dill and salt.

 

2. White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew – allrecipes

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  4. 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  5. 2 cloves garlic
  6. minced 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  7. 3/4 cup small fresh mushrooms
  8. 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  9. 2 tablespoons white wine
  10. 1 (15.5 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  11. 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
  12. 2 cups fresh spinach
  13. 1 pinch red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Bring the barley and water to a boil in a pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the onion and garlic until tender.
  3. Season with rosemary. Mix the mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, and wine into the pot, and cook 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cooked barley, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Season with red pepper flakes.
  5. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.

 

Featured image Quinoa by Flickr user Judit Klein. (CC BY-ND 2.0). 

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skillsfuture_300x250

L-R: Prof Aurobindo Ghosh, Rebecca Lim, host Michelle Chong, Mr Mark Cheng and Ms Felicia Khoo
L-R: Prof Aurobindo Ghosh, Rebecca Lim, host Michelle Chong, Mr Mark Cheng and Ms Felicia Khoo

by Daniel Yap

THE last time National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Income tried to start a conversation about retirement, everyone got distracted by, er, a retirement announcement. So when Rebecca Lim and NTUC Income are back together again to talk about retirement planning, it’s sure to raise eyebrows.

Then enter Assistant Professor of Finance Aurobindo Ghosh, from Singapore Management University (SMU); Mr Mark Cheng, Editor of MoneySmart; and Ms Felicia Khoo, a young executive from the aviation industry. And it is clear that the conversation is going to stay on topic this time around. Host Michelle Chong was there to ensure that.

The definition of retirement was the starting point: doing something you enjoy without having to worry about daily expenses. Dr Ghosh called it having the “financial freedom to do what you like rather than be forced to do what you do. When you’re forced to do what you like, you don’t like it as much.”

The conversation covered most of the expected points when the topic of retirement planning comes up – understanding the time value of money, starting early, learning about investing and insurance, discipline, and planning. As Mr Cheng said: Knowledge is power when it comes to retirement planning. Watch the video and remember – Google is your friend.

L-R: Prof Aurobindo Ghosh, Rebecca Lim, host Michelle Chong, Mr Mark Cheng and Ms Felicia Khoo.
L-R: Dr Aurobindo Ghosh, Rebecca Lim, host Michelle Chong, Mr Mark Cheng and Ms Felicia Khoo.

What stood out, though, were several piercing questions about retirement that host Michelle Chong asked of the experts in the panel: How can a stay-at-home mother, who has no income, plan for retirement? How about the poor?

The answers from Dr Ghosh and Mr Cheng were not precise enough. Dr Ghosh suggested that stay-at-home mothers focus on controlling expenses as part of retirement planning, because having a household budget meant that they did have money to manage, and putting some away was the way to go. This mode of thinking, however, only applied to a very specific (though not necessarily uncommon) family set-up which is not true for all such mothers. It also skirted the obvious question of absent CPF contributions.

Stay-at-home mothers’ retirement adequacy remains a major hole in our society, simply because the economy doesn’t consider them to be economically active. They do work – more than many other workers – but are largely outside the realm of retirement planning. The panel didn’t manage to answer this issue. Do we assume they simply go back to work after a while and have a late start to their plans?

As for the poor, Mr Cheng gave good suggestions about choosing the right insurance to protect against risk, but did not get to answer the pressing issue of adequacy, or how the biggest challenge when it comes to the poor – financial literacy – could be addressed. Again the CPF issue was missing from the answer – is the system we have sufficient for low income earners?

Rebecca Lim and Ms Khoo both shared that they put away 20 to 30 per cent of their incomes for savings and retirement. Mr Cheng and Dr Ghosh agreed that it should be enough, given a disciplined lifestyle. CPF contributions effectively account for this amount, yet it is often said that Singaporeans should save beyond their CPF contributions.

But the backbone of the entire session was a theme of lifestyle – one’s current lifestyle, whether one had the discipline to control such a lifestyle and what sort of lifestyle one was planning to have in retirement.

Everyone spoke about travel. New experiences. The younger panelists highlighted lattes and cafes and restaurants and going out with friends. They spoke about a laid-back retirement in a more affordable country. Then the oft-heard gripe, in question form: Is Singapore too expensive to retire in? How can we save if we can’t even earn enough to survive? It sounded a little detached, yet at the same time all too real.

And when we think of those who need to think about retirement planning the most – the lower-income group, persons with disabilities, stay-at-home mothers – it becomes painfully clear that this conversation on retirement planning is one that needs to go on for much longer than the one hour we had. It has to include voices far beyond those represented – the G, the poor, the marginalised – and maybe a new way of thinking about this hot topic that never seems to find good enough answers.

And when Rebecca Lim shared about how she enjoyed her work so much that she doesn’t really plan to stop working, perhaps a good question is why any one of us would want to retire in the first place.

 

Featured Image by NTUC Income.

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This is part of a series to get you future ready in collaboration with NTUC Income.

Photo from Pie Face Singapore's Facebook page.

by Gillian Lim

TODAY marks International Pi Day – the day we celebrate the mathematical constant, pi. Also known as the weird squiggly character, π – the one you spent days trying to figure out how to write, and also known as approximately 3.14159.

Why today of all days, you might ask. Well, March 14 is 3/14, if you look at it another way.

International Pi Day can be celebrated in a number of ways. You can go on a maths fest and hold quizzes, binge watch some Big Bang Theory, discuss the significance of the mathematical constant over lunch, or, well, you could just have lots of pie.

Here are five cool pies to check out:

 

1. Banana almond brittle cognac pie, Windowsill Pies

Photo from Windowsill Pies' Facebook page.
Photo from Windowsill Pies‘ Facebook page.

This pie consists of four things: banana caramel, sweet parfait, almond brittle and cognac cream.

What makes this pie so unique is the play of flavours and texture: the sweetness from the banana and the caramel, the creaminess of the parfait cream, the crunchiness of the almond brittle, and of course, the tangy alcohol and slight kick you get from the cognac cream.

According to reviews, the pie isn’t as creamy as it sounds. Food blogger Daniel Ang said in his review of the place that the pies at the outlet were “three-dimensional”, adding that “every bite you take gives you a play of taste and (especially) texture, part creamy fluffy, part almond-nougat-like crunchy”. Windowsill Pies said to not let the cream fool you. It added: “It’s the fluffiest and lightest pie we have!”

If you’re not much of a nutty person, you can check out its other pies. Its selection ranges from the coconut vodka lime pie to the strawberry lemon pie.

Location: 95 Soo Chow Walk, Singapore 575382, along Upper Thomson Road

Price: $7 per slice, $63 per whole cake

 

2. Thai green curry chicken pie, Pie Face Singapore

Photo from Pie Face Singapore's Facebook page.
Photo from Pie Face Singapore‘s Facebook page.

Apart from its unique Thai green curry chicken flavour, the first thing that’ll strike you about the pies here is the emoji faces on them. Yes, that’s why the bakery is called Pie Face.

“We make pies with funny faces on it,” its website said. So if you head to one of it two outlets (at NEX or 313 Somerset), be prepared to see pies with squiggly, curved mouths, or big yawning mouths, or even smiley faces.

And you’d be surprised at the range of flavours that the place has: besides the Thai green curry chicken, it has a chunky savoury steak pie, creamy vegetable pie, and if you’re craving something sweet, you can go for its apple crumble pie or the mini butterscotch pie.

Location: The first outlet is at 313@Somerset, #B3-10, Singapore 238895 and the second outlet is at NEX, #B2-49A, 23 Serangoon Central, Singapore 556083.

Price: The Thai green curry chicken pie costs $4.90, while its other pies range from $3 to $5.20

 

3. Charcoal crust curry chicken pie, Pies & Coffee

Photo from Pies & Coffee's Facebook page.
Photo from Pies & Coffee‘s Facebook page.

Imagine: A blackened pie crust with luscious chunky curry chicken on the inside.

This is one of Pies & Coffee’s signature pies – because of its charred exterior, no doubt. But what’s on the inside? Chicken thigh stewed in an onion and curry-based sauce, with mashed potato and mixed salad on the side.

If you’re worried about how burnt it looks, here’s what The Halal Food Blog said when it dropped by the cafe earlier this year: “We’re guessing that some of you might be put off by the whole ‘charcoal thing’, but it’s really quite okay. It gives the pie crust a little bit of a more distinctive taste but you’ll still enjoy the buttery goodness of a pie crust that you’d expect, so don’t be afraid to give it a go!”

They also said that the filling was “the traditional kind of curry flavour that isn’t too spicy and you’ll get to enjoy the curry flavour with every bite”.

But if charcoal pie isn’t your kind of thing, you can check out the rest of its savoury pies – some of which include beef rendang pie, chicken cheddar pie and mushroom ragout pie. Pies & Coffee is Halal-certified.

Location: It has four outlets – the first outlet is at Rochester Mall, 35 Rochester Drive, #01-02, Singapore 138639. The second outlet is at Robertson Walk, 11 Unity Street, #01-25, and the third outlet at The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road, #01-10, Singapore 288794. The last outlet is at Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC), 460 Alexandra Road, #01-18, Singapore 119963.

Price: $11.20 per pie

 

4. Cherry clafouti pie, Dean & DeLuca

Photo from
Photo from Dean & DeLuca’s website..

Clafouti is a French pie, made by baking fruit arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick batter. This fruit is traditionally black cherries, but in Dean & DeLuca’s case, it uses French Griotte cherries – dark, wine-red cherries – and pours a rich custard over the entire pie.

The result? A soft, flan-like texture and a rich, creamy flavour with a hint of vanilla. So when you cut into the pie, it’s a soft, cheesecake-like pie, with little bits of cherries in-between.

So if you’re up for something less traditional – and more French, you can give this a go. An alternative pie – sort of – to try is the hazelnut pear frangipane tart.

Location: Far East Square, 47 Pekin Street, #01-01 and HillV2, 4 Hillview Rise, #01-01

Price: $40 per pie

 

5. Candy bar pie, Drury Lane

Photo from Drury Lane's Burrple page.
Photo from Drury Lane‘s Burpple page.

One of the unique flavours at Drury Lane, you can check this sweet candy pie out. It has a crunchy Oreo cookie base, layered with gooey salted caramel, squidgy peanut butter nougat and decadent chocolate ganache. This is topped off with a crispy pretzel. So if you’ve had your fill of savoury poached eggs and grilled steak sandwiches at Drury Lane, you can check this sweet treat out.

Also, as part of a collaboration with dessert place In the brickyard, Drury Lane has four new unique cake flavours you can check out: strawberry lychee martini, earl grey with lavender chocolate and matcha crunch, ondeh ondeh, and lime vanilla.

Location: 94 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088515

Price: $5 per slice, $35 per cake

 

 

Feature image taken from Windowsill Pies’ Facebook page

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By Unsplash user : Caleb Thalhttps://unsplash.com/photos/LY9GKi4xllY

by Ling Kang

GENERATIONS of fans cheered – and breathed sighs of relief, we reckon – when Shashlik reopened in early March. To many Singaporeans, the iconic Russian-Hainanese restaurant brings them to a different place and a different time – back to the days when they were dating or what they imagined romance would have been like for their parents and grandparents.

We explore other restaurants and cafes that “take us back”:

 

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

https://www.flickr.com/photos/surveying/10271426534/in/photolist-5CsWD-5CsWC-gDDKfW-5CsWB-gDEP56-5CsWE-gDDMiU-gDEiug-gDEgcF-e3kbWh
Photo by Flickr user Jnzl. public domain.


If you can ignore the hordes of “millennials”, including this author, texting on Whatsapp or snapping photos with their smartphones, Chin Mee Chin looks like it materialised right out of a post-war era drama. My mother used to bring me here when I was younger. She always remarked that not many places in Singapore still bake the pastries she used to eat when she was younger. In a country where large-scale landmarks are never safe, there’s something deeply comforting in the knowledge that the small things – lacquered wooden chairs, marble top tables, and even porcelain cups and saucers – can somehow withstand the supposed inevitability of progress. Almost as resilient as the joint’s monumental furniture are the aged servers who remarkably take down your orders and tabulate your bill with nothing but their great memory and math prowess (okay, they do use pen and paper at times).

It is the food, however, that makes getting a seat a challenge. After all, nostalgia alone can’t fill tummies. All of Chin Mee Chin’s baked goods are made on site. Their egg tarts have robust pastry crusts that embrace wobbly egg pudding. Their kaya toasts are unique, with round buns and homemade signature Kaya paste and a generous slice of butter that melts into a puddle of gold before your very eyes. Quick! Snap the photo before it fully dissolves!

In 2013, there were unsubstantiated whispers that Chin Mee Chin Confectionery was closing, but three years later, business is as strong as ever. Due to the large crowds, come before 9.30am and have your orders ready for the servers before you beckon them over. The joint is closed on Mondays.

You can visit it at 204 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428903.

 

The Ship Restaurant & Bar

Established since 1977, The Ship Restaurant & Bar opened an outlet at NEX shopping mall in Serangoon a few years ago, to complement their original outlet at Shaw Centre. Known for its affordable and, at the time, unique offerings, it serves Western food with a Hainanese twist. Perhaps to reach out to a wider clientele, the NEXT branch also offers a “student value meal” and a “tea time special”.  When I visited recently, I made sure to try out its famous Chicken Maryland – and it did not disappoint at all. Deriving its name from the coastal state of Maryland in the United States, the Chicken Maryland was crispy and succulent at all the right places. Also, it was paired with delicious fried corn and banana fritters which balanced well against the salty taste of the fried chicken.
You can visit it at 23 Serangoon Central, #01-61/62 NEX Shopping Mall, 556083

 

Pete’s Place

http://www.singapore.grand.hyattrestaurants.com/petesplace/
Taken from their website


The entrance to Pete’s Place is so nondescript that it’s almost a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place. Located in the basement of Grand Hyatt Singapore, you wouldn’t be faulted for walking right by its entrance, a lone stairwell that brings you there from bustling Scotts Road. Do make it a point to locate it though because you’ll be brought to a treasure trove of Italian delicacies. Pete’s Place, established in 1973, looks and feels like a secret wine cellar and the photos of celebrities – most of whom were famous in the ’80s or ’90s – that line its four walls are a testament to its illustrious history.

My personal favourites are the thin-crust pizzas that come straight from their wood-fired ovens. The Pizza Margherita features fresh tomatoes and basil, and stringy melted mozzarella cheese on top of the crispy pastry. From the same rustic oven are the freshly baked bread with crusts that crackle with each bite and that goes in perfect tandem with the soup of the day. Also, the last time I visited Pete’s Place for their lunch buffet, I appreciated the unique taste of the blackcurrant panna cotta. While I’ve had strawberry and blueberry Pannacotta, this blackcurrant variation was an unexpected treat. Even though the lunchtime buffet will set you back $35, it does have a wide spread of salads, soups, mains, pizzas and dessert.

You can visit it at 10 Scotts Rd, Grand Hyatt Singapore Hotel, Singapore 228211

 

Featured image vintage restaurant by unsplash user Caleb Thal.

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Cats Yoga

by Gillian Lim and Lionel Ong

YOGA has managed to gain currency and find its place within the hasty schedule of the modern working adult. From the appearance of Lululemon Athletica occupying prime shopping space in ION Orchard to the introduction of yoga classes in fitness centres, the yoga trend shows no signs of dying down.

Yoga is not just about being effortlessly supple nor is it about executing difficult, awe-inspiring poses. Neither is it boring, though it is a tradition with roots dating back approximately 5,000 years. There are also fun and engaging ways to practise yoga. We take a look at some unique yoga classes that you can try in Singapore:

 

Play that funky music… to a silent disco 

Imagine walking outside Mandarin Gallery and seeing a crowd of people practising yoga with headsets on. Little would you know that in their headsets are the voice of Justin Bieber crooning to the ambiguity of his love interest in “What Do You Mean?”, or Fifth Harmony collectively asserting themselves in the feminist anthem “Worth It”.

This may all seem a little peculiar and you are likely to be befuddled, but that is because these people are part of an experience that you have to be a part of to understand.

The silent disco is a form of yoga that is music-themed, which makes learning “more upbeat, more fun, and more trendy”, as yoga instructor Ms Liv Lo puts it. She has been teaching yoga for a year and conducts five classes a week at Yoga Movement. Her music-themed yoga lessons are part of the Featherlight event organised by GuavaPass, a community of fitness studios in Asia, and Ms Lo, who is also a FLY entertainment artiste, model and TV presenter, describes it as something “quite out of the ordinary”.

In a silent disco, “you are wearing a headset and you are in your own head. It is just you and the DJ,” she said. Interestingly, she also added that even her instructions are given through the headsets. Even though there is music playing in the background with kaleidoscopic-coloured lights being projected around the room (like in any disco), she characterises it as a very “personal experience”.

This is the second time that Ms Lo will be teaching yoga with a silent disco concept. When taught four lessons earlier this year, all of them were filled to capacity (30 participants each). This time around, she is looking to expand class capacity to 60 students.

According to her, this experience is going to be particularly unique because it is the first time the lessons will be held outdoors amid the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road. Ms Lo said that with the help of the headsets, “you can block out the ambient noise and what you get is a juxtaposition of a calm yoga lesson in a place people would normally be shopping”.

However, fret not. While the music is more upbeat, that does not necessarily mean that the session will be more intense. Ms Lo explained that the music could affect the energy level of the participants, but she will nonetheless tailor her class to suit the level of the students.

So what’s the main takeaway from a silent disco yoga class? “To give the experience of a yoga lesson that is fun and uplifting,” she said.

For the upcoming event happening on March 5 and 6, admission is free to the public. Ms Lo will be teaching Pop Yoga classes at 12.30pm and 4pm. You can either reserve your slot on the GuavaPass website, or drop an email to Mandarin Gallery to reserve a spot. You can even head down on a whim on the day itself, though spaces are allotted on a first come first serve basis.

For more details, you can check out the event’s Facebook page here.

 

Getting ‘cathletic’ with cat yoga – fur real

Ever fancied doing a downward-facing dog pose with a feline cat lounging right between your outstretched hands? No pun intended, of course, because well, now you can.

White Cat Yoga‘s cat yoga classes are held at cat cafe Café Neko no Niwa, located at Boat Quay. Its cat yoga classes, which first started in January this year and are now being held once a month, are all two-hour sessions – the first hour is spent doing yoga poses with 13 cats sauntering around you, while the second hour is spent mingling with both humans and cats alike.

We spoke with its main yoga instructor, Ms Hazel Kok, 36, who is also the owner of White Cat Yoga.

“When I set up White Cat Yoga in August last year, I decided to start up something that was linked to the name of my company,” she said. “I actually approached the cafe to do something together, and after our first class in January, the feedback was pretty good.”

The first class in January this year was fully booked; due to area constraints, one class is only able to hold about 12 to 13 people. The second class in February was also fully booked.

Actually, so are the classes for both March and April – that’s how in-demand the classes have become. About 30 people or so have applied for the class happening on March 20, said Ms Kok. “So I have to put them in April classes,” she said, which falls on April 10 and April 24.

The poses that are practised in cat yoga classes are the same as normal yoga classes – so what makes the cat yoga classes so unique, apart from the extra feline members?

“In normal yoga studios, I feel that people might be more competitive,” said Ms Kok. “For example, you might want to look good in this pose, or you might ask yourself, ‘Oh am I doing it right or wrong?’ But here it’s okay, because it’s more for fun. It’s okay if you’re doing it wrongly. Cats are around you, so you might need to adjust your pose or do it differently. It’s more like a chill-out session.”

Most of the participants at these cat yoga classes tend to be in the 20 to 30 age group, with about half of them couples.

Cat yoga sessions happen only on Sundays. Each session lasts two hours, is held from 10am to 12pm, and costs $40. On other days, White Cat Yoga holds corporate or private yoga sessions and also one-to-one yoga therapy sessions. You can contact White Cat Yoga at 8128 7846.

 

NAMATASTE the beer

Beat the Monday blues by doing some yoga, and why not have a beer too?

That’s the marketing philosophy behind the Beer + Yoga collaboration between Brewerkz’s Indoor Stadium outlet and yoga instructor Sophie Kassim, who teaches yoga at Yoga Movement, and pilates at Singapore Lap And Pole (SLAP) dance studio. The unique twist to these yoga classes is the introduction of beer. The classes are also held in an al fresco area beside the microbrewery restaurant.

For the price of $18, you get an hour of yoga and a stamp which entitles you to a stem of any draft beer at Brewerkz – a stem is around 375ml. A stem of beer at Brewerkz costs between $6 and $14, depending on the type of beer.

“What kicked it all off was seeing men and women team up for a beer run in Seattle,” said Mr Micahel Montisano, a graphic designer at Brewerkz who came up with the idea in the first place. He also added that more than a handful of yoga sessions in the US are being held inside breweries. “So, we just thought to start the sessions as a good way to introduce draft beer to a different segment of people who may not have had it before.”

Mr Montisano said the other unique factor is the location of the classes.

“You’re outside with the sunset, so that’s pretty cool,” he said. Besides that, they’re actually not too different from the usual studio yoga classes – just a little laid back, that’s all. “People who attend studio yoga classes tend to scurry off once the class is over. Here, people don’t scurry off. They sit around and have their beer, order burgers, and we all sit around and talk, and become pretty good friends.”

Ms Sophie said that some people come for the beer without the yoga, while some come for the yoga without the beer. Of course, there are those that come for both. All in all, she said, “It is a good way to get people together.”

The first beer and yoga class started in February this year and is held every Monday, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, at Brewerkz’s Indoor Stadium outlet. Next week is its seventh and last class. “We have space in the al fresco area for about 30 people,” said Mr Montisano. “But so far we have a steady following of about eight people that come every week.”

However, this has improved over time as Ms Sophie said that, on average, there are about one or two new participants every week. “Some people even travel down from Bedok, and this is more convenient because of the Stadium station,” she added. About half of its weekly participants are male – which Ms Sophie said was slightly different as compared to her usual studio yoga sessions, where only approximately one out of a class of 40 will be stag. She attributed either the beer or the al fresco setting as possible reasons for this.

But some might think of having beer with yoga as counter-intuitive.

“Traditional yogis may not agree with the combination,” Ms Sophie said, mostly because of the apparent contradiction between the “purity” of yoga and alcohol. And that’s alright, she says. “Some people might choose to get a juice. But this helps to get people together,” she said, adding that it gets people to exercise as well.

Mr Montisano, who attends the beer and yoga classes himself, hopes to keep the beer and yoga classes coming, but it depends on whether the demand will pick up and if it’s feasible to keep the classes going.

To sign up for the class, you can call up Brewerkz at 6345 4330, or simply turn up with your yoga mat at its Indoor Stadium branch for its last Beer + Yoga session, this coming Monday (March 7) at 6.30pm.

 

Feature image taken from White Cat Yoga’s Facebook page.

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by Gillian Lim

ALONG with the rise in the amount of organic produce stocked at supermarkets, including those in the heartlands, is the emergence of cafes and restaurants that promise to use organic or all-natural ingredients in their food.

We spoke to a few organic cafe-goers, who agreed that there have been more of such cafes in the past few years. Having been going to vegan and organic restaurants for about five years now, student Megan Sim said that as far as she knows, she has noticed five more of such cafes opening up in the last four years. “Thankfully,” she added, because now she would have more organic cafes to visit. A fan of organic and vegan cafes but not a vegan herself, Ms Sim said she genuinely likes the food served at such cafes. “Plus, it’s healthy food too.”

 

Supply crunch

We also spoke to several organic cafe owners, who said that their businesses have grown significantly since they opened – they attributed the increase mostly to word-of-mouth. General manager of EcoHarmony Cafe Phuah Teck Shin said that business has increased from about 10 to 20 per cent since the cafe opened in 2007, while Mr Bernard Toh from The Organic Baker in Bukit Timah said business for its bakery has increased about 30 per cent since it opened in 2008.

And the demand for organic ingredients isn’t just exclusive at the consumer’s end, but also on the end of the supplier. “We have difficulty grabbing every ingredient we need,” said The Living Cafe’s service manager Ms Jena Enriquez. She added that they have to place their orders for produce two weeks in advance. If not, they would have to find other suppliers to get their produce. She also added that the cafe has to compete with over 30 organic juice bars for juice ingredients, which makes it difficult for them as well.

But this surge in demand for organic food products isn’t consistent across the local food industry.

Ms Delcie Lam, founder of Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes, said that although demand for organic food has increased over the years, the increase isn’t significant. “Only 0.5 per cent of our customers look for organic ingredients specifically, so the use of organic ingredients does not increase our business or revenue,” she said. She added, though, that business has tripled because they’ve expanded their range of products to include vegan, gluten free and diabetic-friendly cakes.

Plus, there hasn’t been much competition among players in the baking industry too – Ms Lam said that it wasn’t easy for bakeries to convert their ingredients to become organic and all-natural. “The ingredients can be three or four times more costly,” she said, adding that even Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes, which has been running since 2009, can only promise to use 70 per cent of organic ingredients, and not 100 per cent.

We came up with a list of six local restaurants and cafes that serve organic food that you should check out:

 

1. Real Food

Poached egg sourdough sandwich. Photo taken from Real Food's Facebook page.
Poached egg sourdough sandwich. Photo taken from Real Food’s Facebook page.

Serving as both a cafe and grocer, Real Food‘s menu ranges from salads, sandwiches and all-day breakfasts, to pasta, pizza and rice. It doesn’t use meat and processed ingredients, and instead uses a variety of raw, vegan and organic ingredients to cook up its dishes. Some of its dishes include poached egg and sourdough sandwich ($8.80), mushroom and celery tomato penne ($11.80) and organic pumpkin soup ($8.80). A quick check with the cafe’s service staff revealed that although it uses organic ingredients in all its food dishes, it’s also supplemented by a variety of natural ingredients as well. “More than 95 per cent of our food dishes is organic, I would say,” said its manager Mr Marcus Tan.

Real Food has a total of five outlets, three of which are located in Singapore, and the other two in Malaysia. All outlets also sell natural and organic products, ranging from fresh regional and local produce, dried food, healthy snacks, condiments, skin care and children care.

Price: Most of its food items are below $10, and cost an average of about $8 depending on what you order. For example, the veggie omelette costs $8.80, and their organic mushroom aglio olio costs $7.80. More costly dishes would be their chickpea and sweet potato cakes, which costs $13.80, and the baked brown rice, which also costs $13.80.

Location: Real Food’s three local stores can be found here: #B1-52/53 at The Central located on 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #B1-105/106/129 at Square 2 located on 10 Sinaran Drive, and at the Tai Wah Building on 110 Killiney Road.

 

2. Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes

Blue forest square cake, eggless and dairy-free. Photo from Delcie Lam.
Blue forest square cake, eggless and dairy-free. Photo from Delcie Lam.

There are three main kinds of cakes made at Delcie’s: There are those baked without eggs, dairy and other animal products like milk and whey protein, which makes it vegan-friendly. Another kind replaces sugar with organic agave, a kind of sweetener, making it friendly for diabetics. The last replaces wheat flour with a mixture of potatoes, rice flour and buckwheat, making it gluten-free.

But even though the menu splits its cakes into three wide categories, all its cakes are baked using all-natural products. This means a mix of premium and organic products, and depending on the type of cake made, these can range from organic apple puree and calcium-enriched organic brown rice milk, to low sodium sea salt and non-hydrogenated cholesterol-free canola and grapeseed oil.

Price: Depending on the size of the cake ordered, Delcie’s cakes can cost from $40 to $660. For example, a round 5.5-inch rainbow strawberry vegan cake costs $70. Other cakes range from coffee cakes to fudge bar cakes, and blueberry ice cream cakes to carrot spice tea cakes. Apart from cakes, Delcie’s also sells macarons, cupcakes and cookies.

Location: You can either order the cakes online, or drop by the store at Block 34 Whampoa West, #01-83. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11am to 7.30pm. You can also contact them at 97892309 or 62822951.

 

3. The Organic Baker

Open-faced croissant with truffle egg mayonnaise and wild mushroom ragout. Photo taken from The Missing Pan's Facebook page.
Open-faced croissant with truffle egg mayonnaise and wild mushroom ragout. Photo taken from The Missing Pan’s Facebook page.

“About 90 per cent of the breads baked at The Organic Baker is organic”, said its general manager, Mr Bernard Toh. As Singapore’s first organic sourdough artisan bakery, the bread produced contains no preservatives, additives, flavourings or other improvers. Rather, the bread is naturally leavened, often taking up to two days for the dough to fully ferment.

Other than supplying its organic bread to shops like Four Seasons Organic Market, Swiss Butchery and SuperNature, the bakery also has its own cafe called The Missing Pan, located in Bukit Timah. In the spirit of environmentally-friendly food, the cafe uses only organic bread in its sandwiches and burgers, although the rest of its produce is not organic.

Price: Its burgers range from $15 to $25 – for example, its open-faced croissant with truffle egg mayonnaise and wild mushroom ragout costs $15. The salads are $15 each, and range from avocado and quinoa salads to Spanish octopus salads. The most pricey thing on its menu is the pulled beef burger, which costs $27.

Location: The cafe, The Missing Pan, is located right next to the bakery, at #01/02-91 619D Bukit Timah Road. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 10pm. They close slightly earlier on Sunday, at 7pm. You can reach them at 64664377.

 

4. The Living Cafe

Sunny side and shrooms pizza. Photo from The Living Cafe Facebook page.
Sunny side and shrooms pizza. Photo from The Living Cafe Facebook page.

The Living Cafe’s menu is decked out in colourful icons – for each dish, you can see whether it is raw food, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian or nut-free, and what exactly each dish contains. This helps channel one of its main aims, which is to make healthy food “tasty, affordable, and accessible to everyone”, according to its website description.

On a whole, the cafe steers clear of red meat, dairy, white sugar, preservatives, additives and artificial food colourings, and it also uses organic ingredients where possible. The Living Cafe’s general manager, Mr Chris Renaley, said that about 80 per cent of the food served at the cafe is organic. For example, its apricot pistachio quinoa salad ($18) uses organic quinoa, and the brown rice nori roll ($12) uses hormone-free chicken.

Price: A majority of its food items cost more than $10, with only three starters and sides falling below the $10 mark. The peppery salmon sandwich costs $16, and the grilled tofu guacamole wrap costs $14. The priciest dish on its menu is the salmon spinach 10-inch pizza, which costs $25.

Location: You can find The Living Cafe at 779 Bukit Timah Road, just before 6th Avenue. While it is open every day, the opening hours vary: From Mondays to Fridays, it is open at 11am to 7pm, with an exception on Friday, when it closes slightly later, at 10pm. On weekends, it opens at 9am, but close at 10pm on Saturdays and 8pm on Sundays. You can contact them at 64684482.

 

5. EcoHarmony Cafe

Olive rice set at EcoHarmony Cafe. Photo by Mr Phuah Teck Shin.
Olive rice set at EcoHarmony Cafe. Photo from Mr Phuah Teck Shin.

A cafe and a grocer, EcoHarmony Cafe falls under the Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation. “About 90 per cent of the food served at the cafe are organic,” said its general manager Mr Phuah Teck Shin.

The food in the cafe range from olive rice sets to thunder rice tea sets, and deviate from your usual cafe fare like eggs benedict or smoked salmon sandwich. The turmeric brown rice set uses organic brown rice, and the thunder tea rice is made using organic ingredients plucked from Kampung Senang’s own organic vegetable farm at Tampines. If you’re up for a twist, you can also try its take on mee rebus – the gravy is made using pumpkin and herbs, and served with its in-house herbal soup, which is brewed with Chinese herbs and organic leafy vegetables and stems.

The cafe also serves as a grocer and sells organic products like organic bathroom soap and organic detox soup packets, which are packaged by them.

The price of its food dishes is not available on its website.

Location: You can find EcoHarmony Cafe at #01-205 Block 106 Aljunied Crescent. The nearest MRT is Aljunied MRT.

 

6. Sunny Choice Cafe

Sunny Choice's Thunder Tea food dish. Photo from Mr Clement Ong.
Sunny Choice’s Thunder Tea brown rice food dish. Photo from Mr Clement Ong.

Started by five sisters in 2007, the main outlet at The Rail Mall along Upper Bukit Timah Road consists of a cafe and a store – both of which stock organic and all-natural products. One of its partners, Mr Clement Ong, said that 70 per cent of its food dishes and products are organic, while the rest comprise of healthy ingredients.

For example, its most popular dish, the Thunder Tea brown rice ($8.50) – a traditional Hakka dish – comprises of cabbage, carrot, wing bean or long bean, and beancurd topped over organic brown and red rice. Preserved radish, vegetarian anchovies and nuts are also added into the mix.

Some of the other dishes on its menu include mushroom tofu set ($8.50), bak kut teh ($8.50), vegetable sushi ($7) and olive rice ($8.50).

Price: Most of the items on its menu cost around $8. The spaghetti is $7.50, while the Ipoh hor fun is $8. The most expensive dish on its menu is the cooked vegetables side dish – it costs $10.

Location: You can find Sunny Choice Cafe at The Rail Mall, located at 434 Upper Bukit Timah Road. It is closed on Tuesdays, and open on the rest of the days from 10am to 9pm. You can also contact them at 68922383.

 

Feature image Chorizo Fiesta by Bernard Toh from The Organic Baker, used with permission

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Woman looking out the window

by Bertha Henson

Now that I’m on the other side of 50, I think I have gained enough experience to dish out some unsolicited advice to younger females. Mind you, it’s experience that’s really been earned, or wrought by disasters, failures and bad experiments. Since this is for gals only, the guys should stop reading HERE.

a. It’s the neck, ladies

We always seem to focus on our face. Cleanse, tone, moisturise before starting renovation works and the cycle goes on. But it’s the neck we tend to neglect and that’s the part which really makes you look your age. Next time, let your fingers do the moisturising way past the jawline.

b. Speed up on the exercise

Don’t think that being a wife and mother is enough reason for you to be a sedentary lump. Being older means it gets harder to shed belly fat that’s been accumulating over the years. That means, you have to exercise more, and more, and more, over the years. At least till your knees fall apart and you need knee replacement surgery.

c. Designs on designer

We all like to own a piece or 100 pieces of branded items but do you remember that glitzy, very ex dress you bought for that very special occasion and wore only that once? You couldn’t wear it again because you’ll probably be with the same people at that next very special occasion. Pay top dollar for classic pieces, silly. Like a jacket or a suit. You can use them all the time but do get some nice blouses and shirts – cheap ones will do.

d. Don’t GIRO

Don’t think that you are being part of a smart nation by GIRO-ing your credit card bills. Sure it’s convenient and I mean, convenient to forget that you’re overspending. So make a practice of writing out cheques. Your heart beats faster when you have to write the zeros yourself. Which reminds me, why is UOB no longer giving me a postage paid envelope to send in my cheque these last couple of months?

e. Throw away that ATM card

The devil is in the machine which spits out money. Make sure you always have an “untouchable’’ bank account. No Internet banking. No phone banking. No ATM card. Of course, you have to consistently divert some money, in some automatic way, from another account for which you DO have an ATM card. Thing is, it’s a pleasant surprise when you discover you have money when you actually NEED money. At which point, you really wouldn’t mind joining the bank queue.

f. That first home

Don’t go thinking that your first home – whether your own or with your significant other – has to be the perfect home. People who spend tonnes of money on interior designers and flashy furnishings tend to forget that setting up a home means a whole lot of myriad expenses that your parents used to pay for, like toothpaste, toothbrush and toilet paper. So don’t sink so much money even before you learn to budget for the small sundry expenses that add up. There’s always the second home. By then, you’ll be financially secure enough to, ah, upgrade.

g. The female parts

Does your company have health screening benefits? Does it include mammogram and PAP smears? Once you hit 35, you better get them done annually. Kick up a fuss if your company decides you have to be my age to be screened for such cancers (you might be dead by then) or go pay out of pocket for an ultrasound scan. It’s supposed to be more accurate.

h. Remember your parents

It’s a fact of life that care-giving for the elderly falls on the daughter. Especially if she’s single. So you’ve got to make sure your own parents are settled comfortably for their old age/retirement and load up on insurance policies for them. What to do? A daughter is a daughter for life / A son is a son until he gets a wife.

i. Work wisely

For crying out loud, don’t look like a bimbo at work. You’ve got to be more man than a man sometimes to get things done. Sure you’ll be called a bitch instead of a perfectionist but, hey, words don’t kill. It’s okay to have bimbotic moments just to throw your colleagues, especially the males, off. In fact, it’s fun.

j. Get a good hair cut

I take to heart the advice once given by Prof Chan Heng Chee who is always immaculately turned out. She said a good haircut is key. That’s true. It’s not called crowning glory for nothing. And if the grey starts showing, stop yanking them out. It’s time for hair colouring. Partial. Not full. That’s for when you reach my age.

PS. I would love to give unsolicited advice on mothering but I’m not a mother. My mother, who is a very well-preserved 70, however, says that all women should make sure they are financially stable – so that they can do, at least, the above.

 

Featured image The young asian girl by Flickr user My name’s axel, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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