An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

Fatshion, Food & Frivolities – Life in Las Vegas & Singapore


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Meatless Monday: Banana Cream Pie

20140127-103129.jpgThis is not my recipe but it’s definitely meatless! And hey, vegetarians love sweets too! I’m sharing this recipe because it’s delicious and this is what I served up for my first Vegas Christmas at home just about a month ago! T and I first made this together during our “mini-moon”. It was delicious and it was surprisingly easy to make.

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The Banana Cream Pie recipe came from Lynn Cole’s Facebook post –> HERE and I’ve used a store-bought Graham Pie Crust for both times I made it.

Banana Cream Pie

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
3 cups whole milk
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 bananas

Directions:

  1. If using graham crust, brush with egg white and bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until golden.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the milk.
  3. In a glass bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt; gradually stir in the hot milk. stirring constantly, cook until thickened.
  4. In a small bowl, have the 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten, ready; stir a small amount of the hot mixture into beaten yolks; when thoroughly combined, stir yolks into hot mixture.
  5. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Remove from heat and blend in the butter and vanilla.
  7. Let sit 10 minutes.
  8. When ready to pour, slice bananas and scatter in pie shell; pour warm mixture over bananas.
  9. Let cool.
  10. Top with sweetened whipped cream and toasted coconut.
  11. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

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I skipped the bit with the toasted coconut (because I don’t like coconut) but it still tastes great! 


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Meatless Monday: Braised Tofu & Eggs

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Hello! I hope some of you have tried my recipes! Please tell me if you do and if you have ways of improving them.

This is a modified recipe that I used a long time ago to make braised pork belly in Soy Sauce (Tau Yew Bak). I no longer eat pork but still crave that slightly caramelly taste of this sauce. Today’s recipe is essentially Vegetarian Tau Yew Bak or Tau Yew Bak no Bak. Heehee… *Tau Yew is soy sauce. Bak refers to flesh or meat (in this instance, pork).

This braising method is easy and fuss free. I’m using dark soy sauce because it produces a darker sauce though milder in taste (less salty) compared to light soy. But otherwise it’s about the same as regular soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy, regular soy will do too. Add a total of 5 tablespoons of light soy instead. It’ll be equally salty but lighter in colour.

What I like about this modified recipe is that, it’s fast and easy to make, yet still satisfies my craving. I love braise sauces over plain steamed rice – my kind of comfort food.IMG_2531

Braised Tofu & Eggs (Vegetarian Tau Yew Bak)

Serves 2 -4. Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes.

3 cups water

4 hard boiled eggs

4 garlic cloves (smashed with the back of a knife to release flavour)

4 tbsp dark soy sauce

3 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp brown sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 block of tofu (cut into small rectangular pieces)

1 stick of cinnamon

2 star anise

3 cloves

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Method:

1. Heat up a pot with 3 cups of water and bring to boil then lower heat.

2. Add tofu, garlic, soy sauces, brown sugar, soy sauce, cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Then stir  gently to mix everything.

3. Bring to a boil then add peeled hard boiled eggs.

4. Lower the heat to medium and braise for 15 minutes.

5. Turn the heat to lowest for another 25 – 30 minutes.

6. Serve with steamed rice.

And there you have it – vegetarian tau yew bak aka braised tofu and eggs!


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Meatless Monday: Macaroni Soup

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Most families I know in Singapore have their own version of this dish. Like chicken soup or plain rice porridge, a shredded chicken macaroni in clear broth usually does the trick for a convalescing person. I have enjoyed many a bowl of this delicious and comforting pasta soup while growing up and while I no longer eat chicken, I still find it so good on its own. The best part is, you can make it in less than 30 minutes. I took about 20 minutes because that’s how long it took for my pasta to turn al dente.IMG_2483When I have children, this will be among the top 10 things I’d cook for them, especially since I can throw in any nutritious and seasonal vegetable for cheap. My favourites are still carrot (because it’s a bright orange and so sweet) and cabbage (cheap and long-lasting).

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Macaroni Soup

Serves 2 to 4. Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 cups macaroni (or any kind of pasta)

2 cups chopped vegetables (I used carrots & cabbage but frozen peas would do the trick too)

1 cube of vegetable stock

2 cloves of garlic (peeled and lightly smashed with a knife to release flavour)

5 cups of water

2 small shallots sliced thinly

4 tablespoons cooking oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

1. Pour water into pot and throw in a stock cube. Turn heat on high till water boils.

2. Once stock cube has fully dissolved, throw in vegetables, macaroni and smashed garlic cloves. Turn heat down to medium.

3. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok on high. Add thinly sliced shallots and turn heat down to medium low. (This is for the shallot oil used as a condiment but CLICK HERE for a proper recipe.)

4. Stir soup every so often and check to see if macaroni has turned al dente. Turn fire off.

5. When shallots start to brown at the edges, turn heat off as the shallots will continue turning into a crisp quickly.

6. Dish out macaroni and serve with 2 teaspoons of shallot oil as garnish.

OMG so yum! The dish is easy and versatile.

You can use any kind of pasta. Instead of macaroni, I used a mixture of mezzi rigatoni and tri-coloured penne because I had opened boxes. My favourite though, are elbow macaroni followed by farfalle. And you can also use any kind of veggies on hand – potato and carrots; cabbage and carrots; frozen mixed veggies; snow peas and corn etc. Also, add tofu cubes or any other ingredients on hand. So versatile!

The ratio I always use is 1 cup of uncooked pasta for 1 adult person (because it doubles in size) and 1 cup of chopped vegetables if it’s a side dish. So double or triple the recipe depending on how much you want to eat! This recipe is enough for T and I but would serve 4 if you eat like my mother and sisters – if you know what I mean.


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Meatless Monday: Easy Peasy Pilaf



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What in the world is Pilaf? Does it sound fancy to you? Don’t worry!

It’s simply rice cooked in a seasoned broth and there are many variations throughout the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa and many other places. This is my version – fast, cheap, easy and flavourful!

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Easy Peasy Pilaf 

Serves 3 to 4. Prep Time: 2 mins. Cooking Time: 20 mins.

2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups water and 1 cube veg stock)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup long grain rice (I used Basmati)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 cup of diced tomatoes (I used ready diced ones in a can)

1/2 teaspoon powdered nutmeg (optional)

1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (optional)

5 cloves (optional)

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Method:

1. Heat up a pan and melt the butter.

2. Brown the rice in the melted butter. Stir occasionally. Cook for 5 minutes.

3. Turn heat up high.

4. Add garlic,  paprika, chili powder, powdered nutmeg, powdered cinnamon, cloves and diced tomatoes.

5. Turn heat down to medium-high when it starts to bubble.

6. Stir occasionally. Cook for about 10 – 15 minutes until rice has softened and all fluids absorbed.

7. Serve!

This dish is great served cold as leftovers the next day too.

I served mine with Gardein’s Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips – one of T’s favourite flavours of soy meats (we stock up when we find a good price with additional coupon savings). You can eat this Pilaf alone, or with side dishes – everything from some pan-fried tofu, eggs over easy or just lightly buttered greens!


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Meatless Monday: Creamy Carrot & Potato Soup

IMG_1632Most families I know have their own version of the ABC Soup (essentially carrot and potato in a clear broth that is so easy it’s like ABC). I usually cook mine with hearty chunks of carrots, potato, tomato and onions – sometimes, corn on a cob too. This is a variant that I came up with that is a cross between a creamy pumpkin soup and the ABC soup. (I even served it with my very first loaf of homemade bread on the day I made this!)

Is this fusion? Who cares! It’s vegetarian, it’s my original recipe and it’s so yummy! I think so anyway.

Creamy Carrot & Potato Soup

Serves 2 – 4. Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic

4 small potatoes

1 medium-sized carrot

1/2 medium onion chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon meat curry powder

1/2 cube of vegetable stock

1 teaspoon rosemary (optional)

1/2 cup milk (I used evaporated milk)

3 cups water

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Method:

1. Cut carrot and 3 potatoes into smallish chunks. (The remaining potato chopped up and saved for later.)

2. Heat vegetable oil in a medium-sized pot to brown the garlic, followed by onions.

3. Add carrots and potatoes into the pot.

4. Pour water, meat curry powder, rosemary and vegetable stock cube  into the pot.

5. Turn to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes and carrots turn somewhat soft. Don’t forget to stir constantly.

6. Puree mixture in a food processor or stick an immersion blender into pot. Then return pureed soup back into pot (if you’re using a food processor).

7. Add salt, milk and the remaining potato chunks, then simmer for another 10 minutes (stir constantly). If the soup is too thin, add a little more milk or some heavy cream or, boil it down to preferable viscosity.

8. Serve hot with ground black pepper to taste!

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The floating bits of potato give the soup some bite. I do love a chunky soup like the New England Clam Chowder but since this soup is supposed to be CREAMY, it shall remain largely such.

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Komol Restaurant (Las Vegas)

IMG_1945T took me to the award-winning Komol Restaurant at the Commercial Center (Las Vegas) last weekend. By award-winning, I mean they are considered one of the best Thai restaurants in Vegas. Having grown up with a Thai nanny as well as been to Thailand countless times, it is as authentic as it comes, in Vegas. It’s not the best I’ve ever had but it was delicious and hit the spot! Best of all, they had a vegetarian menu that was as extensive as their regular one.

If you were to judge this place by its location and interior decor, you’d sorely miss a good dining spot. The Commercial Center is weird. It’s a huge plaza with largely empty store fronts and has rather run-down… erm everything. It’s also located in a not-so-nice, maybe dodgy-looking Chinatown. Inside, the decor is functional. It has your cursory nods and references to Thai culture – some plastic lotus things, pictures of different parts of what might be Thailand and little gold Buddhist shrines in different corners of the restaurants (I think these are really for religious reasons though).

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On the day we were here, we were famished! We ordered a lot and this meal filled us up for hours – a small bowl of “fish” Tom Yum soup (hot – but not), “duck”curry (medium – no spice at all), orange sauce “chicken”, corn fritters (aka Tod Mun) and for dessert, fried ice cream. Everything was delicious but I wish it was spicier. Also, for a Saturday afternoon at 3.30pm (past regular lunch hours), the restaurant was 1/3 filled – with about 5 or 6 tables.

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We paid just under USD50 for everything (including taxes). I think we had our fill and were satisfied till breakfast the next day! Service was polite and efficient – our water was constantly topped up. The wait time between dishes was minimal so we could eat the entire meal together while everything was piping hot.

If you miss the taste of Southeast Asian food while in Vegas, I would definitely recommend this place – for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. I can’t wait to go back again to try the other dishes when my next craving hits! Mmmmmm…

Komol Restaurant
(Located inside Commercial Center)
953 E. Sahara Ave. E-10 & 12
Las Vegas, NV 89104
Phone: (702) 731-6542
Fax: (702) 731-9268
Hours
Mon – Sat 11am to 10pm
Sunday – Noon to 10pm
Food Available To Go
www.KomolRestaurant.com


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Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Mash

20131031-151802.jpgMashed potatoes are great. T and I love potato almost everything – he more than I do. This recipe came about because I was trying to cook something that would keep for a while, is easy to make and lower in carbohydrates (we eat a lot of potato, rice and pasta as vegetarians and T doesn’t like vegetables in general).

This recipe is just a little healthier using cauliflower than potatoes because it is a tad lower in carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean you should eat heaps of it because it still has stuff like butter, milk and cheese in it. I like that you can make a huge batch, then serve it as a side dish over several days and it doesn’t lose flavour or go bad. Also, I got to use my new favourite kitchen appliance – the Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender.

20131031-152019.jpgCauliflower Mash

Serves 4 to 6. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes.

1 medium head of Cauliflower

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded cheddar (you can use any cheese you like)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon butter

1 tablespoon dried basil

Method:

1. Chop up the cauliflower into florets and drop it into a pot of boiling water. Boil till the florets are soft enough to be pierced by a fork.

2. Pour out all the water and mix all the ingredients (except basil) in the same pot.

3. Use an immersion blender or a food processor to blend everything together.

4. Sprinkle dried basil as a garnish upon serving.

TAH DAH!! If you want to, you can make this recipe lower in fat by using skim milk or low fat cheese.


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Meatless Monday: Easy Baked Eggs

20131031-151333.jpgI was looking at ways to up T’s protein intake and I do try to vary it from soy-based products (soy meats or tofu). There’s definitely something to be said about eggs being high in cholesterol and that people are advised not to eat more than 2 egg yolks a week. However, bearing in mind that vegetarians do not eat a lot of foods that are high in cholesterol – generally meats and seafood, we are sorta in the clear – especially since T and I watch out for trans fats and avoid things like vegetable shortening or margarine.

In this recipe, you’ll see that I made 6 baked eggs in muffin cups (the cupcake baking tray), of which there are only 5 egg yolks because I had egg whites leftover from making a delicious Banana Cream Pie the day before. I ended up serving T two eggs with yolks and 1 baked egg that’s all whites for lunch. I saved the remainder in the refrigerator for another time! Convenience is great!20131031-151512.jpg

Easy Baked Eggs

Serves 1 to 6. Prep Time: 3 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes

6 eggs

Pinch of curry powder

1 tablespoon of diced tomatoes

Pinch of Black Pepper

Pinch of Paprika

Pinch of Garlic Powder

1/2 tablespoon of cooking oil (or cooking spray to grease the pan)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350degF.

2. Grease each cup. (I used a silicon brush and some Canola oil.)

3. Break eggs into muffin pan cups  (use as many or as little as you want).

4. In each little cup, vary your toppings for flavour.

4. Pop the pan into the oven for 15 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and pop each egg out once they’ve cooled.

TAH DAH!

Easy peasy! Just remember that you shouldn’t have too many yolks a week if you’re watching your cholesterol intake but you should still have them because the nutritional value of eggs largely lie in the yolks!


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Blueberry Hill, Las Vegas

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T took me to Blueberry Hill on E. Flamingo Road during our “mini-moon”. His company kindly gave him 3 extra days off after our wedding and because I’m going to be residing here for good, we thought it’d be the best time for me to “catch up” and learn as much of the city as possible. In those 3 days, we did many things, including visiting a sex museum (but that’s going to be saved for another post yet) and ate some yummy food not cooked by me. YAY!

There are several Blueberry Hill Family Restaurants in Las Vegas but on 29 October, we had brunch at the 24-hr one along E. Flamingo Road. This is a family-run chain of restaurants and have been in Las Vegas since 1987. To be honest, the restaurant while big, clean and friendly, also looked like they haven’t been updated for a looooong time. Maybe 1987?

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Our server, Havi, was a Hispanic lady who was on the ball and thorough. She made recommendations on top of what we ordered and informed us of special combos. Unfortunately, the extras were all meat-based. They sounded so yummy and I would’ve been one of those “Super Size Me” types to have said yes to everything. Fortunately though, there were many sweet and savory options for both T and I. He had blueberry pancakes with a side of hashbrowns (which he drizzled syrup over). I had a humongous 4-egg cheese and mushroom omelette with chunky home fries. We both ended up having to doggie bag our food and the leftovers were good for a meal for EACH OF US!

20131118-183814.jpgAs I’ve mentioned many times over… I love exploring American diners! Each and every one with its own character – yet, something familiar can be find in all their menus. T said the Blueberry Hill menu is close to the kind he’s familiar with in New Jersey. I just want to eat everything!

We spent a total of $29.56 including taxes and I thought that was rather reasonable because we essentially brought home another 2 meals with us in boxes.

Would I recommend it? YES! And I would love to go back again soon!

BLUEBERRY HILL FAMILY RESTAURANT

1505 E. Flamingo Road

Las Vegas, NV 89119

(702) 696-9666

24 hours


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Rainforest Cafe, Las Vegas

The day after our wedding, we took the opportunity to have lunch with T’s sister, his brother-in-law and niece before they headed back home to California. Since they were staying at the Luxor, we went to The Strip for lunch. T picked one of the few places on The Strip he’s actually eaten at and liked. The Rainforest Cafe, which his sister brought him to the first time he went.

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Outside the cafe, they had a crazy rainforest-themed gift shop (as with the entire restaurant). We ended up buying a plushie for T’s niece (my new niece) Sophia. I was a little confused as to what it actually was though – either a lemur or a slow loris. Whatever it is, it had huge eyes and a pink tail (just the day before, Sophia told me her favourite colour was pink… then purple and blue). What is it? It’s that thing T is holding in the photo. Can anyone identify it for me?

IMG_0953This place I feel is largely a restaurant for children, okay, family-friendly. It is a little pricier than what you’d pay for the exact same quality for food. The ambience, decor and animatronics, as well as the fact that it is in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip does justify it. I mean, one does not walk into MGM Grand everyday for a casual lunch, right?

The kids menu was pretty decent and there was more than 1 vegetarian option for us to pick from (not just salads). They also told us that they could get the chef to swop out some ingredients and customise certain sauces for vegetarians. On top of that, Sophia was also given some crayons and a colouring sheet to entertain herself with.

IMG_0954The crazy animal feet bar stools and the gift shop aside, there were at least 2 salt-water fish tanks, a regular thunderstorm booming, and animatronics (inside the gift shop and the restaurant). Gorillas, elephants, butterflies etc, all moved in different parts of the restaurant. This makes it a great place for families to bring their children BUT don’t bring the tiny ones or they might be freaked out when the random animatronics are set off.

On the day we went, our server was kept real busy, but still very attentive. I noticed a major spill at a nearby table that was efficiently cleaned up – guys in safari suits and their walkies just swooped in and mopped up the liquid, cleared up the ice cubes.

IMG_0955We spent a total of about $110 for the 5 of us, including the 20% gratuity (at the bottom of the bill, they calculate the suggested 15, 18 & 20% tip for you so you can just choose what you want to add to the payment without having to work out the sum yourself). It’s a little more than we usually spend when we eat out though I think it’s not a place we’d go to very often. Seeing as it was a special day and we don’t really know when we’ll see them again, for the experience, it was a steal!

RAINFOREST CAFE

MGM Casino & Hotel

3799 Las Vegas Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89109

(702) 891-8580