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Gluten-free Almond Granola + Begin it now.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. The moment one definitely commits oneself, all sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

-    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Gluten-free Almond Granola

A few weeks ago, Anna from The Yellow Table announced that she was going to bake 200 jars of granola to help raise funds for her friend Bri’s cancer treatment. I jumped at the chance to do a good deed and donated to support Bri, and so did many others. (I didn’t claim the granola, and it didn’t matter anyway, because I just wanted to do something for Bri.)

Within a week, all 200 jars of granola had been sold, with all donations made to Bri. Above all, I was amazed at the level of commitment Anna had to making a project come to pass, and at the fact that she was bold enough to plan something that seemed so large and impossible.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

I’ve always admired dreamers – those whose dare to dream big and think up thoughts that others may deem impractical or ridiculous.

But more than that, I’ve always been inspired by doers – the ones who don’t take no for an answer; the ones who decide they will do all they can to write their own story; the ones who do and make things concrete.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

So when I saw Anna reaching out to her blog readers and asking us for help (money-wise), to help Bri, someone we did not even know, I felt impacted. 200 jars seemed like an incredible amount of granola, and how many people would donate? But Anna made it happen, and I think Geothe’s quote above helps put things in perspective.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

I consider myself a dreamer – I have big dreams of becoming a writer whose words will leave an impact on those who read them; and I have dreams of travelling the world (Europe in particular).

But what I need to be, more than anything, is a doer.

I’ve seen it take place first hand; and know that when you set your heart to something – despite the possible obstacles and difficulties there may be, or the fact that the odds are clearly not in your favor – the very act of committing to making it work will tip the balance closer to you.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

Sometimes it’s just talking to people who are supportive and telling them your dreams – announcing definitively to the world what your intentions are, making sure there is no way you can back down from what you’ve said.

Other times it’s the very act of searching online and finding resources that will bring you closer to your dream; like planning out your Europe road trip, or buying less dresses and putting that money away for the day you’ll buy your plane ticket. Most times, it may be just practicing what you know and doing it day after day, month after month, year after year, like I do with writing this blog twice a week, until I am ready to be a writer.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

And then, maybe the Universe really starts conspiring to help you achieve your dream; doors start opening up where previously they seemed locked; and then the magic happens.

But for all that to take place, you’ll first have to begin.

Start something, anything, but just begin.

I think first steps are always the hardest, most difficult and the scariest, but it’s the power of the first step that sets the journey in motion.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

I made a slightly adapted version of Anna’s granola last Friday, and as the aroma rose from the oven and filled the house, I thought about Anna and her project to help Bri.

As I pulled out the tray of granola from the oven and stirred the mixture of oats, nuts and seeds, then put it right back in to bake some more, I marveled at the fact that she decided to just do it.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

And today, when I read the quote above, this imperative order to “begin it now”, I feel amazingly empowered.

I hope you’ll reach for your dreams, just as I’ll reach for mine. I hope you’ll take the first tiny step to begin a journey (however long or tough) towards your goals, just as I’ll take mine.  I hope you’ll dare to imagine your wishes fulfilled, just as I’ll imagine mine.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

Remember this.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Begin it now.

Gluten-free Almond Granola

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”

- Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poem

utternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

In the past weekend, I took a 100-day pledge to try and find the beauty, pleasure or joy in something (whether small of big) every single day, and if possible, to capture that thing in a photograph, for the world to see.

Apparently, according to the “100 happy days” campaign, 71% of the people who signed up for the challenge failed to complete it, “quoting lack of time as the main reason”.

While it may sound like a strange and absurd excuse, the fast-paced society that we live in and have gotten used to does make it difficult to find time to be happy, or at least look for something (large or tiny) that gives you joy.

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

It’s true you know, it does take time and effort to find joy in a day’s work.

While 24 hours may seem long enough and sufficient to appreciate something that makes me smile slowly, grin widely or burst out laughing without abandon, it certainly requires effort on our part.

I say this because effort is needed first, to be willing to accept that even small things or events can make us happy; and second, to be open to looking for them and embracing them.

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

When I first chanced upon the quote that I started this post with, I had to let the words slowly sink it.

I love that the quote gives us permission to fall into joy, just like you would fall into love. To surrender to joy, to give in, like a love so big, it doesn’t make any sense trying to push it way.

It tells us not to hesitate, but to be confident and courageous as we embrace joy.

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

I’m captivated by the idea of taking it all in, one huge breath of joy so big and abundant and intense.

Joy in the smallest of things (like a dried auburn maple leaf lying on the sidewalk, or the fragrance of homemade granola being baked on a chilly night at home) and joy in the largest of things (like the new birth of a baby, a re-location to a completely new continent, or the beauty of a sunset by the beach).

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

We’re now two weeks into autumn, and as the trees turn from yellows to oranges and reds, and as the warmer evenings give way to chillier ones, I want to FALL INTO JOY.

I want to look at the long avenues lined with auburn-brown trees and sigh in happiness; I desire to breathe in the crisp night air and fill my lungs with joy; I wish to look upon the crescent moon appearing just before the sun fully sets, it hanging high up in the cotton candy pink-blue sky, and smile, just because.

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

I also want to savor autumn and its flavors; and I’m today starting with butternut squash.

Beautiful, joyous butternut squash julienned into thin, even strips, then sautéed in a little olive oil and fragrant garlic. On top of the nest of butternut squash spaghetti, I place freshly baked meatballs – evenly rolled balls of a minced beef mixture cooked until slightly crispy on the outside. And then, above everything, I generously sprinkle chopped fresh parsley, whose aroma fills the air. Breathe in deeply, can you smell it too?

This plate of food gives me so much joy – its bright colors and intense flavors are enough to make me happy.

And so, I give in to joy. I fall into joy.

I am happy.

Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Meatballs

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

People say that we have selective memory, and that the things we remember play a large role in who we become in the future.

Simply speaking, we as humans tend to more accurately remember the events that hold greater importance and significance to our interests and beliefs, and vice versa, our subconsciousness tends to block out the memories that are in contrast to what we believe, or that may have caused us hurt that we try so hard to forget.

So as time passes, we reinforce the good memories, or those that we think play an important part of our lives, while leaving behind, like burdens or unwanted baggage, those whose roles we deem peripheral and insignificant.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

I suppose then that the first memory we ever had of our existence (and that still lingers) has a large impact on how we develop and think later on, don’t you agree?

Do you still remember what your first memory was?

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

For me, it was the image of my mum carrying me as a two-year-old toddler, as we chased butterflies in a park.

We were in Tampines, the neighborhood where we would live until I was five, and the place where my parents had bought their first flat, being homeowners for the first time in their lives.

I can still imagine myself, with my tuft of fine hair on my head, stretching out tiny chubby fingers in random pursuit of butterflies, and my mum laughing at my futile attempts. I imagine a huge wide smile on her face, showing off all her teeth, and a twinkle in her eyes matching the gold earrings she always wears.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

I have a sneaking suspicion that it was my mum who actually told me about that day; but somehow, the memory just stuck. Above all the other memories that I have growing up, this is the one that I go back to time and again.

I’d never thought about the significance of this memory until today, but as I sit here typing furiously into the keyboard, a thousand words spilling from my head onto the computer screen, I realize that this memory sticks out in particular because of my mum’s constant presence and support in everything that I do.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

I’ve told you briefly about my mum before.

She’s the one who taught me to make her famous pineapple tarts when she visited me in Buenos Aires last year, remember?

My mum’s a woman who is quiet by nature, and she loves to relax with a good book and a cup of coffee in our backyard patio back in Singapore. And though we’re not exactly the kind to pick up the phone and make long emotional calls to each other, I remember my mum being present in all the large and important events in my life, despite being a full-time accountant with an important firm. She still is very present in my life, even if I live thousands of miles away.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

I recall my mum ringing us from her office when we were still in primary school, asking us how our day was, and what we had eaten for lunch. She’d sometimes also bake a delicious butter cake in the weekends, or maybe some super-chewy brownies, and we kids would fight over the last piece. Later, when my siblings and I grew a little older and started having a ton of activities to attend, my mum would fetch us to and from the different places, trying to spend as much time as she could with us during our puberty.

When I started university and spent more time with friends outside than at home, my mum didn’t complain, she just tried to understand the need for us to be apart. I remember that when I first starting dating, I sheepishly told my mum about it, and she just asked if I was happy. When I later broke up, because the relationship had not gone the way I expected, my mum and I sat on my bed in my room on the third floor of our house, and she listened and held my hand as I cried and told her why I had to leave the relationship.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

A few years later, when I decided to move to Argentina for love, I could see the sadness in her eyes when she realized that I was determined to re-locate Buenos Aires.

It was a city so far away from Singapore that you’d need at least 30 hours on a plane to get there. Yet, she supported me and came to visit me, to see if I was doing alright, and to spend time with her daughter living across the globe.

Now that I’ve got a food blog and have embarked on a wheat-free journey, my mum has pledged to do the same, and despite the physical distance between us, her constant support and vote of confidence in me (whether or not it’s because I’m her daughter) has always made me feel that we are closer.

Grain-free Double Chocolate Brownies

I’ve told you before that my mum used to bake us brownies when we were younger, and for that, brownies will always have a special place in my heart.

Since my mum and I are both trying to go wheat-free, here’s a tribute to our beloved brownies – this time, grain-free!

You might think that eliminating wheat from a brownie recipe may result in absolute disaster, but I’m so glad to be able to tell you that it’s not true at all! This brownie recipe, which I adapted from London Bakes, was chewy, crumbly, rich and chocolatey. With both cocoa powder and chopped chocolate mixed into the batter, they’re a chocolate-lover’s delight. Sprinkled with chopped walnuts on top, these brownies were little mouthfuls of heaven, and most all of, an incredibly delicious reminder of my childhood!

This recipe is dedicated to you mummy!

Thank you for your support in every single thing I do, for your daily morning prayers over my safety and future; for your ceaseless efforts to show me that your love is constant and never fading; for your example as a woman of God, and for everything that you have taught me and shaped me to be.

I love you, very very very very much!

http://londonbakes.com/2014/02/flourless-salted-caramel-brownies-gluten-free.html

Grain-free Coconut Almond Bread

Grain-free Coconut Almond Bread

There’s a running joke among my friends that I’m the unofficial ambassador for Singapore in Buenos Aires. You see, because there are so few Singaporeans here in Buenos Aires, which is almost 30 hours by flight from Singapore, I almost always get contacted by friends or friends of friends who happen to drop by the Argentine capital city. Every one or two months, someone sends me a message on Facebook to let me know that they will be spending a

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Grain-free Flax Garlic Crackers + Live your story.

Grain-free Flax Garlic Crackers

Everyone has a story to tell… what’s yours? Today, I’m going to tell you mine. I’ve always been dreamy and idealistic by nature – when I was little, I’d read a fairy tale and believe that the princess could be me. Because I’m also naturally optimistic, I’d spend long afternoons indulging in day-dreams of some long-off future; without any specific goal in mind, but rest assured that these day dreams involved my prince charming coming to rescue me on his

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Chocolate Coconut Quinoa Cookies + I am blessed

Chocolate Coconut Quinoa Cookies7

In the past four years that I’ve lived in Argentina, I’ve attended at least four weddings, but to say the least, none of them were as epic and as memorable as the one we went to last weekend. This was THE EVENT of the year, as I’ve told you before, and in the past one month during which we prepared for Barbi’s and Agus’ wedding (think hen parties and dinner with the best men, and many other meet-ups just to

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Grain-free Blueberry Almond Muffins

Grain-free Blueberry Almond Muffins

It surprises me how much of our lives is spent marking days off a calendar. In fact, so much time is passed counting down to the next vacation or public holiday; and the hours and minutes in-between sometimes fade to oblivion. I mean, just think about it. Unmemorable days at the office, sitting in front of a computer at that grey desk with the same cup of coffee; hours wasted in front of the TV watching ridiculous programs that don’t

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Grain-free Caramelized Onion & Chicken Pizza

Grain-free Caramelized Onion & Chicken Pizza

I’m amazed at how much has changed in this past three months; and most significantly, the largest change is registered in my diet and how I cook in the kitchen. When I first kicked off this year, I declared (albeit apprehensively) to the blogging world that I was going to try going grain-free (particularly wheat-free), more for health benefits than to fit into my already-snug-and-getting-snugger jeans. Then I bought the book Wheat Belly and read it three times. After reading

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