An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

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


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LYFE Kitchen (Las Vegas)

IMG_6930I first heard about LYFE Kitchen coming to Las Vegas in June and even though it opened this July, we didn’t get to visit it till a few days ago. T and I came here to celebrate my 1st full year living in the US. I’m very happy with my experience even if it wasn’t life changing. I’m glad the purported healthy eating is none too obvious here. T and I went to Cafe Gratitude in Venice Beach (California) a few months ago and we found the food (and ambience) rather contrived – maybe raw foodism just isn’t for us.

IMG_6929Technically this branch isn’t located IN Las Vegas but Henderson, which is a more family-friendly and upscale area just outside. But who cares? It’s about 30 minutes’ drive from where we live and about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip itself, so if you live in Las Vegas or are visiting, this technicality is negligible.

What I loved about LYFE Kitchen:

1. The bright/airy decor – it wasn’t too crowded even when it was almost full. There is also outside seating.

2. Segregated menus for easy ordering – they have a gluten-friendly, a vegan-friendly, an EVERYTHING and also a wine/beer one.

3. Reasonable pricing – came up to about USD40 for both of us – 2 entrees, 2 starters and 2 drinks.

4. Good portion size – if you’re looking for buffet-style, value-for-money, then this is not the place. What we ordered was just right. I didn’t feel sick after eating everything nor did I go away feeling half-empty. In fact, we even had space for dessert elsewhere about 30 minutes later.

5. They offered 3 types of water on tap at the self-service kiosk where you grab your own cutlery and napkins.

IMG_6931T and I ordered: Vegan Unfried Buffalo Wings, Sweet Potato Fries, Crispy Chick’n Sandwich, Italian Sausage & Mozzarella Ravioli, Cucumber Mint LYFE Water and Hibiscus Beet LYFE Water. ALL 100% good! We polished everything clean and loved it all!

When I asked T if he preferred Veggie Grill or here, he said Veggie Grill only because he liked their fast-food concept. I am still undecided because both are delicious and warrant their own merits. Also both are very similar – down to decor and the way you order (queue at the entrance, order at the cashier, pay and find a table, wait to be served). I agree with T with regards to the more fast food type options at the Veggie Grill but I also like that LYFE Kitchen serves organic and low-calorie choices as well as the fact that we can bring non-vegetarian friends here because they also serve meat!

LYFE Kitchen, highly recommended. Only gripe is their dessert menu and I hope they open more branches in Las Vegas! 4.5/5*

LYFE Kitchen (Las Vegas)
140 S Green Valley Parkway #142
Henderson, NV 89012
Ph: (702) 559-0131


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Meatless Monday: Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake

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I made this for Sunday brunch yesterday. The day before, T and I went for a 2-hr long hike at Mount Charleston after I did a 1-hr Hot Yoga class, so I thought I could reward myself and eat something indulgent. This is indulgent for me because of the cheese and pasta – I’m diabetic and I’ve been trying to cut down on the carbohydrates. I got up at 10am and made this in a jiffy!

This is so easy anyone can do it! I swear, even as a meat-eater, you won’t feel like a rabbit eating this! Also 1 cup of Silk Soy Milk has 8g of Protein and each of the LightLife Jumbo franks have 13g of Protein – something that I’m always asked as a vegetarian is “where do you get your protein from?” This is where and how!

As you can see from the picture below, I used Barilla’s Whole Grain Rotini because compared to white carbs (breads and pasta) it’s better in helping diabetics steady their blood sugar, and the switch has been welcomed in our home as it satisfies just the same. These are of course optional, but I just thought it’d be good to clarify why I chose to use these products. (Not endorsed…)

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Easy Cheesy Pasta Bake

Serves 2 – 4. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20-30 minutes.

1 tbsp Olive Oil

3 Jumbo Soy Franks (or 2-3 cups of sausages of your choice)

1 tbsp minced garlic

2-3 cups water (for boiling pasta)

2 cups of dry pasta

1 3/4 – 2 cups shredded Mozzarella

2 cups Soy milk (or any kind of milk of your choice)

1/2 cup chopped green onions (for garnish)

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Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degF
  2. Boil pasta for 6-8 minutes until partially cooked (the cooking process continues in the oven)
  3. Chop up franks and fry them up in olive oil and minced garlic. Then set aside.
  4. Add 1 cup of cheese to the bottom of a greased baking pan. (I used a 5″x9″ that was perfect for the amount I cooked so experiment with your own cooking vessels if necessary)
  5. Add 1/2 of the partially cooked pasta on top of the cheese.
  6. Layer the franks & garlic over the pasta (save a few pieces for topping the bake at the end)
  7. Spread the rest of the pasta evenly over everything.
  8. Pour milk evenly over everything in the baking pan.
  9. Top off with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and “decorate” with some franks.
  10. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. (This depends on your oven.)
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before garnishing with chopped green onions.

 


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Fat-shionista #518

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I put this on in a hurry 2 days ago when we had the sudden hankering for some noms at the Cheesecake Factory. T’s mum sent us an email to tell us that she was going to spend the birthday gift card we gave her on a low-calorie meal there with Grammy and it put the idea in our heads. So in 20 minutes, I grabbed an outfit and cleaned-up my face!

What I wore on Sunday:

Top: Orange frilly top with blue stars from TOPSHOP

Outerwear: Blue denim jacket from HIGH SIERRA

Accessories: Mint Green and silver multi-strand necklace from ACCESSORIZE

Bottom: Grey knit mini skirt from COTTON ON

Footwear: Black wedge pumps from ZIPIA

T’s step-mum gave me the denim jacket when we visited for Thanksgiving last year. I’d like to think it is from the 80s and has some cred but I don’t know for sure.

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So anyway, the Cheesecake Factory does indeed have low-carb options – EVEN FOR VEGETARIANS! It is called the Skinnylicious menu and despite the fact that I hate amalgamated words like “bootylicious” or “retrolicious”, it is actually quite a good menu. While most items are “skinny”, it is only relative to their main menu. I’d definitely go back and order the same thing I did though. Between the 2 of us, we had a serving of Edamame, a Veggie Burger, Roasted Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread and the Tiramisu Cheesecake (not diet-friendly but my husband convinces me that it’s a lot lower in calories than a Tiramisu). As you can tell, OMNOMNOMonsters struggle everyday but we always give ourselves breaks for trying. Will we ever be thin? Nope. Not a chance but who cares.


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Meatless Monday: Whole Wheat Bread

I made bread and it was so yum! I have to share this recipe even though it’s not mine. My friend Patrick (who loves baking bread) shared it with me and I followed his modification to make this loaf. OMG so so good! Thanks also to my cousin Megan who sent me whole wheat flour (she’s awesome that way)… hahahha!

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I once shared a Cucumber & Cheese Toasty recipe (method?) because my ex-colleague Pearlyn was sad that I couldn’t share yummy ham sandwiches with her anymore. At the same time, the purpose of this series is to encourage people to go meatless and show how many different things vegetarians can eat other than salads. Shortly after this loaf cooled, I sliced into it and had the ends with a pat of butter – OH SO GOOD!!! Also, the house was so warm and homey with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through.

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T and I eventually ate it all up within 2 meals – I served it as a “bread platter” of cucumber/mayo and egg-in-a-hole sandwiches. So easy, so delicious! You get your carbs, protein and fibre all at once!

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The original recipe is Titli Nihaan’s Simple Wholemeal Bread – copied below without amendments from her original post.

Ingredients
  • 500 g (1 lb) strong wholemeal flour
  • 325 ml (10 fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Mix about 4 tbsp of the water with the yeast in a small bowl and leave for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast and the rest of the water. Mix to form a lumpy dough.
  3. Add the oil before all the flour has been incorporated and mix well to a smooth dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and put in a warm place to allow the dough to double in size.
  6. Knock back the dough on a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
  7. Place the dough in a lightly-greased 1lb loaf tin, cover with lightly-oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until it fills the tin.
  8. Place a tray of water in the oven and bake the bread at 190°C/375°F fan oven, 220°C/430°F normal oven, for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I however used 360g Whole Wheat Flour and 140g Bread Flour instead. Turned out pretty good and I might try 100% wholemeal flour the next time.

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IMG_3250IMG_3251This bread is rather dense and I thought it was great for making Egg-in-a-hole sandwiches because it holds up well. You basically just need to use a cookie cutter (or cup) to cut out a hole in a slice of bread, then plonk it onto a pan or skillet that’s already got melted butter in it. Press the slice of bread into the butter so it lies flat and then crack an egg into the hole. Don’t move the bread for the next 2 minutes and gently lift to see if the egg white at the bottom is browned (and firm). Quickly flip and seal the deal! Grill for another minute or so before removing from the pan. What I do with the cutout bread is just mop up the rest of the butter in the pan and brown it for a minute or so on each side until toasty! Easy peasy!


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Meatless Monday: Vegan Corn Soup

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This is a super easy one-pot dinner dish – such a hearty soup, made within minutes and cooked in a rice cooker (in lieu of a slow cooker). I swear, even the meat-eaters won’t feel too icky about this chunky vegan-friendly soup. Of course, the man featured above (aka my husband T) is a vegetarian BUT he is a non-salad-eating vegetarian so that should count for something right?

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Vegan Corn Soup
Serves 2 to 4. Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 – 30 minutes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots (finely sliced)
2 garlic cloves (lightly smashed with the back of a knife)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon chili flakes (or paprika)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes (I used a fire-roasted one but any will do)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (okay even if frozen)
1 lb carrots (about 3 cups chopped up)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dried basil for garnishing
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Method:
1. In a pot, put vegetable stock to boil. If you are using cube stock, use 1 cube and 3 cups of water.
2. In a pan, heat olive oil. Add shallots and garlic. Fry until lightly brown.
3. Add chopped carrots, browned shallots and garlic, canned tomatoes, chili flakes, salt, and ground ginger to the boiling vegetable stock.
4. Once carrots are tender, use an immersion blender (stick blender) or pour out into a food processor to blend.
5. Transfer into rice cooker to continue cooking. (I changed the setting to PORRIDGE on mine.)
6. Add corn and lemon juice into the soup (which is already in the rice cooker).
7. Cover to cook for 15 minutes or leave in rice cooker for as long as you need to keep it warm.
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Upon ladling, I add dried basil for garnishing and served it with these easy to make French Bread Rolls to Die For (which were crusty on the outside and so fluffy on the inside). Also, there’s no shame in telling you that it’s so easy to cook that I basically did the prep work, then while waiting for the carrots to get tender, loaded the washing machine, then made the rest of the soup, left it in the rice cooker then went to watch TV. When the laundry was done, I loaded the dryer and went about making the bread and while waiting for the bread to rise (and the laundry to dry), watched more TV. And while the bread was baking, I watched more TV while folding laundry. I felt like a Super Susie Homemaker that day when my husband came home to freshly laundered clothes and a healthy dinner made from scratch even though I basically couch-potatoed it for most of the day. HAHAHA! Now on to create more meatless meals that take no time at all to make…
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Meatless Monday: Pinterest Finds

Oh wow! It’s the last Monday of the year. Such an exciting 2013 it has been for me. Several years ago, I had a list called 35 by 35 – some outrageous or challenging things I wanted to do by the time I turned 35. I scrapped that list sometime last year and decided to yahoo it. I only managed to complete 1/3 of the list yet I’ve done more than I had set out to do. The essence of the list was to keep myself on my tippy toes, get healthier as well as break out of my comfort zone. Baby steps like exercising in a mixed gym, to running a public race (yes, I was embarrassed about sweating in public and being the last person), to eating healthier. Turning vegetarian was a surprise because I just wanted to consume less meat. Long story short, I’m still avoiding foods with faces and there are many things I enjoy eating. Other than the recipes inspired by family and friends, I’ve also gone on Pinterest for guidance on how to expand my meatless repertoire. So many delicious things to eat! Nibbly things, rich bakes, roasted noms… YUM!

Here are some of my favourites of these pins in the Very Vegetarian board:

  1. Honey Parmesan Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  2. Easy Egg Muffins
  3. How to Make a Rice Ball
  4. Mozzarella Stick Recipe
  5. Gnocchi Gratin with Gorgonzola Dolce
  6. Gabrielle’s Winter Tomato and Corn Soup

Happy holidays! Enjoy eating! And see you in 2014!


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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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Meatless Monday: Savoury Meat-Free Muffins

IMG_1283This was an experiment that went right and I was really surprised. Not only was it easy and cheap to make, it was delicious, low-fat AND easy to pack for a lunchbox (or a picnic). The key thing here is a muffin pan – it helps shapes these savoury bites. I guess you could use your hands, roll them into a ball, then plonk them onto a flat baking sheet and hope they stay in shape while baking.

You can substitute any of the herbs and spices below with anything you have in the kitchen (even a simple salt and pepper mix will do). The herbs and spices* basically give the plain all-purpose flour some flavour. Add dried chili flakes if you want a bit of kick.

T thought they tasted like turkey stuffing and were very filling. He had 2 for dinner, followed by some home baked chocolate cake and ice cream. Then before we went to bed, he said he wished he had more of the muffins. Lucky for him, I had prepared some for his lunch the next day.IMG_1281IMG_1282

Savoury Meat-Free Muffins

Serves 4 – 6. Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 20 – 30 minutes.

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (or contents of 1 tin)

1 1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts (I bought 1 small tin of these)

1 cup flour

1 cup low fat shredded cheese

1 large egg

1 tablespoon dried basil*

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder*

1/2 tablespoon paprika*

1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary*

2 cups dried breadcrumbs (I bashed some saltines in a bowl with a ice cream scoop for this)

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

Method:

1. Chop up mushrooms and water chestnuts as small as you can (do not blend in a food processor because you’ll lose some “bite”), then mix it up in a large bowl with the flour, egg, butter, shredded cheese, as well as all the herbs and spices.

2. Keep mixing the contents of the bowl until a ball forms.

3. Pour your breadcrumbs (or bash some saltines) in a separate bowl.

4. Split your wet mixture into 6 – 8 large balls to prepare for rolling in the breadcrumbs. (I used the ice cream scoop but you can do it in any way.)

5. Roll each ball thoroughly in the breadcrumbs then plonk every single one into an individually greased cup of the muffin pan.

6. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 425degF.

7. Remove from oven and let cool.

I served mine with some tomato-based pasta sauce that I had prepared with sauteed onions and some additional herbs. You can eat it with ketchup or any of your favourite sauces.IMG_1284For T’s lunch, I packed 4 muffins and some sauce in separate containers for easy reheating at work. Make these muffin larger or smaller as you wish. They are savoury and satisfying!


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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!