An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

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


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VegeNation (Las Vegas)

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T and I have been to the newly opened VegeNation twice. The first time we went, it was before their official opening. I have been following them on Instagram for quite a while and have heard about them from our neighbour Brandon who’s opening a Po-Boy shop just down the row from them. The entire area is up and coming with lots of hipster and start-up types as a result of the Downtown Revitalisation Project which I’ve talked about a few times.

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The first time we went, T and I ate so much I thought I would die. I like the decor, the ambience and location. It’s in town and hip but not crowded and noisy like The Strip. It also helps that both of us are vegetarians (not Vegan but this restaurant is Vegan-friendly). Prices are very reasonable and service pretty standard – nothing bad to say about them. I like the funky names on their menu items – Pho-King-Delicious (a mushroom/veggie noodles in broth), Mama Mia (spaghetti and “meat”balls), Muchas Gracias (sweet potato quesadilla) etc. Expect to pay about $3-5 for drinks and $9-12 for entrees.

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This is not the kind of vegetarian place that is all salads and health foods. I can barely tell that I had the good stuff – quinoa, chia seeds, shirataki noodles. But it’s all good and delicious! I guarantee the steak and potatoes guys would forgive this place if they gave it a chance. It’s pretty good! I also like that some of the drinks are refillable. You expect that of regular fountain sodas but I’m talking about the nice stuff like hibiscus punch and the coconut water lemonade that we ordered. The servers happily top your drinks up without asking too!

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The second time we went was just a few days ago. Our friend from Singapore was in Vegas for a holiday and he was getting wiped out with The Strip. Did all the touristy things – casino hopped, watched shows etc. So we decided to take him a little outside for lunch. We walked around the Downtown Container Park to show him a more hip and family-friendly area of Vegas before going to Vegenation for lunch. (After that, we took him 30 minutes away from town into Red Rock Canyon and he loved the contrast.)
IMG_1506_2 IMG_1507_2With the power of 3, this time we had more desserts. Previously T and I shared the blueberry cheesecake and I was already so stuffed that I could barely enjoy it. I nibbled a little on T’s brownie sundae and had a small taste of the chocolate tacos Adrian ordered.

All in all, I can’t wait to go back there again. I have a new detour to my Las Vegas guide now! I’m ready to take on more family and friends who come visit! We’re getting better with showing people around and taking them to interesting places outside the casinos!

VegeNation – recommended for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike! I hope they have one closer to where I live. 4/5*

VegeNation

616 E Carson Ave Ste 130

Las Vegas, NV 89191

PH (702) 366 8515


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Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Chinese Dumplings in Soup

IMG_6873This is my vegetarian tofu version of Shui Jiao, the larger cousin of the more common Wanton (aka wan tan or won ton). These Chinese dumplings are traditionally served in a light clear broth and that’s what I did here. Other than swopping out minced pork and prawns for tofu, nothing’s changed. T and I had it both boiled in hot soup as well as deep fried – we love them equally much!

Vegetarian Chinese Dumplings in Soup

Serves 2-4 (makes about 15) Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

1 block of extra firm tofu (pressed dry)

5 water chestnuts

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup cilantro

1 egg

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 cube of vegetable stock for broth

5 cups of water

15 – 20 Wanton wrappers (Pre-made in a packet)

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Method:

1. Chop up the water chestnuts and tofu into mince. Then add it to a medium mixing bowl.

2. Add garlic, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce, pepper and only 1 tablespoon of corn starch.

3. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl thoroughly to make the filling.

4. Mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 2 tablespoons of water to form the sealing agent for the dumpling skins.

5. Bring water and the vegetable stock to boil while you fill the Wanton wrappers (if you use a premix liquid stock, then there’s no need for water).

6. Take 1 generous teaspoon of the filling and put it in the centre of the dry Wanton wrappers.

6. To seal, dab a pinkie finger in the starch mixture and trace the border of the wrapper. Fold and press firmly.

7. Drop the completed dumplings into the boiling water. Put in a few at a time to prevent crowding. I use a medium sized pot so I put in about 3 to 5 each time.

8. When the dumplings start to float, they are about done. Let them cook for a little while longer before removing them. I usually dish them out into the serving bowls.

9. Once all the dumplings are cooked, you can pour the boiling broth over the dumplings in their serving bowl and garnish to serve. Some people use clear boiling water and keep the soup broth separate but I don’t think it is necessary.

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That’s it! Enjoy your hot Chinese Dumplings aka Shui Jiao.

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10 Things In Our Vegetarian Pantry

I’m often asked about the restrictions in my vegetarian diet but as I’ve proven in my varied meatless recipes, I eat a lot of different things even if I am by a far measure considered anywhere near being a good cook!

This post is inspired by my recent obsession with trying to bring our savings up to at least 50% per grocery run (extreme couponing is difficult when you tend to be brand loyal). I have a small pantry and we’re only a 2-person household, so stockpiling hundreds of boxes of the same thing is rather ridiculous for me as I don’t want to worry about expiry dates, keeping things dust-free and clutter around the house.

Here are a list of 10 things I stock up on and keep an eye out for coupons or sales. I try not to stock up more than 3 to 6 months of ANYTHING (including loo roll and toiletries) because I don’t want to so many things lying around collecting dust. Also I have better things to do than clean them, rotate them, keep an inventory. HAH!

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1. SILK Soy and Almond Milk

I would be happy to drink regular milk – anything that’s $2.99 per gallon or less. But T prefers the taste of Soy Milk, especially this brand. At our regular grocery store, this usually goes for about $3.60 – $3.90 for a half gallon carton so I don’t buy it that often. Recently though, I chanced upon another grocery store selling it at $2.99 AND I also had coupons for them. And since they last longer than regular milk, I bought up enough to last us for the next 2 months! However, because this other grocery store is further than the regular one we go to, I’m not sure if I’ll make the trip there just to buy soy milk unless I’m in the area or there are extreme savings to be had. (The Chocolate Almond Milk is mine btw. I’ll drink them when they’re cheap, if not it’s back to regular dairy for me.)

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2. TRUVIA

Truvia is a sugar substitute and supposedly much better than other alternative sweeteners because it’s stevia-based. I use them to sweeten hot drinks from time to time but mostly bake with them. They’re definitely a lot pricier than regular sugar so I bought a bunch of them when I found coupons and when they went on sale. As a diabetic, I do what I can even if I can’t keep my sweet tooth at bay. So far, we haven’t been able to tell the difference. I’ve baked for T, my neighbours as well as my in-laws! So yeah, it works!

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3. RAGU Pasta Sauce

I’m not brand loyal to pasta sauce but T is and this is his favourite. That is to say, if we do ever run out of pasta sauce and there’s something cheaper, I won’t buy RAGU but when possible, I will stock up so we won’t be in that uncomfortable situation where I want to stoically stick to my budget and T has to eat something he doesn’t like. I do make extra effort to buy as many bottles as I can (without being a hoarder) when they are about $1 each – clipping coupons, looking out for promotions etc. These keep well and I make pasta at least once every 7 to 10 days. There are many different flavours that are vegetarian-friendly, so that helps!

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4. BARILLA Whole Grain Pasta

I began the switch to whole grain pasta only several months ago and I wasn’t brand loyal at all. T has had bad experiences with other whole grain, brown rice and quinoa-based pasta so he wasn’t too keen on the switch till we tried Barilla. Unlike the other brands we’ve tried, this cooks well and doesn’t taste any different from regular pasta. I managed to stock up about 3 months’ worth of their whole grain pasta through couponing and crazy checking of sales. This is what’s left of it. The cheapest I’ve ever gotten them for is about 67c per box, which I think is rather decent especially when coupons don’t double here in Las Vegas and I don’t deliberately hunt for coupons other than the ones I get in my mail.

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5. MORNINGSTAR FARMS Veggie Meat Products

I try to keep at least a few varieties of soy meat in the freezer so we can have different sources of protein. They keep longer than tofu and they do help keep those junk food/meat cravings at bay. We always have the Grillers Recipe Crumbles (they’re like minced pork/beef) because T loves them in his pasta sauce (I make a vegetarian bolognese thing with it) AND my favourite are the Bacon strips even though there are so many things in their range that I really like. These things can get really pricey so I only ever buy them when it’s at a price point I want, therefore sales and coupons come into play again. If not, we can go months without touching them and only eat tofu and eggs for protein.

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6. BOCA Burgers

I’m married to an American man/child. How can we go without burgers (or pizza)? I find BOCA burgers on sale more often than I do other brands of veggie protein and burgers are so easy to deal with so I always have 2 to 3 boxes around. Just the other day, I came back from yoga and before I went to shower, I greased up a pan, popped a few patties into the oven while I refreshed myself. Then when I was done, I went back to the kitchen to grab some multigrain burger rolls, melt a slice of 2% American cheese on the freshly grilled patties, add some fresh veggies between the buns and that’s it. Lunch was ready in 30 minutes! Depending on what veggies are on sale that week, sometimes we have it with a slice of tomato, sometimes cucumber, sometimes lettuce and if we get lucky, we get to have an entire side salad AND steamed corn on the cob!

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7. GARDEIN

I love Gardein (garden +  protein – so clever right?) but they never last very long in our house – this is the last of my stash until it costs about $3 a pack again. I’ve used them for grilled satay (marinated in the teriyaki sauce), they’re easy to throw into a stir-fry (beefless tips and broccoli)  and I’ve done creamy “roast chicken” pastas as well as a “battered chicken” pot pie. So easy, so delicious! I wish I could afford them for every meal!

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8. Frozen Vegetables

We’re vegetarians, of course we eat vegetables at every meal. Unfortunately we live in Nevada, so even when we go to the farmers’ market, the fresh produce isn’t very fresh by the time we get them. Also, there are seldom coupons for fresh fruit and veggies, so I buy frozen ones most of the time. I’m not brand loyal but I do have a certain price point that I’ll work with. I’ve read that fresh vegetables aren’t necessarily always better because produce is flash frozen at the point when they are at their freshest and most nutritious. No shame in buying frozen vegetables – especially if you’ve been basically living off your savings for the last 10 months without a job in sight. I don’t spend more than $5 on fresh produce for both of us each week because while I think it’s necessary to get your vitamins from the source, I try to make-do with whatever is in season thus cheap.

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9. YOPLAIT Light Yoghurt

This actually started with my sister. Before that, I would buy whatever yoghurt was cheapest and always stick to plain vanilla (it’s also my go-to flavour for ice cream). When my family came to visit last December, my sisters went crazy when the Yoplait at our regular supermarket went on sale for 50c each. They stocked up on the WHIPS range and once I tried it, I liked it. I’ve been buying 10-20 each time it goes on sale because T loves the Banana Cream Pie and Boston Cream Pie flavours (which he says are really close to the real thing).

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10. KELLOGG’S Special K

Actually it’s between this and Cheerios – which are healthier. We used to always buy Captain Crunch because T loves the peanut butter flavour but ever since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, I’ve been looking for alternatives. I stock up on General Mill’s heart-healthy Cheerios when they’re at a good price point but I buy Kellogg’s products whenever I can because I take part in their rewards programme (MorningStar Farms products also earns you Kellogg’s points for redeeming products, vouchers, coupons and partaking in sweepstakes). So if Cheerios and Special K are the same price – always Special K.

My meatless pantry is quite decent, right?


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Meatless Monday: Ginger & Sesame Oil Stirfry

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Prior to this, I’ve done 2 stirfry recipes (methods?) in my other Meatless Monday posts. Both of which required the use of minced garlic. The thing is, not everybody likes the taste of garlic and some people (like staunch Buddhists) don’t consume garlic at all. Here’s another simple Chinese-style stirfry method that I use. It’s basically 3 ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes from start to end – HOW EASY IS THAT?!

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Ginger & Sesame Oil Stirfry

Serves 2. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

3 tablespoons Sesame Oil

1/2 cup of sliced ginger

2-3 cups of any kind of chopped veggies of your choice (I just used a frozen pre-packaged mix)

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Method:

1. Peel ginger root, cut into thin slices, then julienne them into matchsticks.

2. Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan or wok.

3. Add the ginger matchsticks into the oil and fry till they turn golden brown.

4. Add the veggies (I don’t even bother defrosting mine) and fry till vegetables are soft.

5. Serve hot!

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That is all! And that was what we had for lunch the other day!


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Meatless Monday: Chinese-style Steamed Egg Custard

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This recipe is not vegan-friendly but so good for other non-meat eaters in general because it’s so easy, so nutritious (eggs basically contain everything required for some cells to turn into a chick) and easy to digest! There are also so many variants of it!

Growing up I used to love this with some marinated minced pork and salted veggies at the bottom. You can add anything or nothing (just eggs and water) to this dish BUT the key thing is to get it silken smooth like a block of tofu! The secret lies in getting rid of air bubbles before steaming and steaming it at a low heat so it doesn’t bubble up. Because when it does, the end result will be a honeycomb-like texture.

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Chinese-Style Steamed Egg Custard

Serves 2. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 15-20minutes.

3 Large Eggs (retain the larger half of a broken shell)

2 tablespoons Soy Sauce

2 tablespoons Sesame Oil

1/2 cup Spring onions (for garnish)

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Method:

1. Break 3 eggs into a bowl.

2. Using 1 of the broken egg shells as a measuring cup, put in 1.5 x worth of water into the eggs. If there are 3 eggs, you fill the 1/2 broken egg shell 9 times.

3. Prepare the steaming vessel and bring the water to a boil. (I used a wok with a rack and filled up the water to a level where it wouldn’t touch my bowl during steaming.)

4. Add sesame oil and soy sauce into the beaten egg. Stir thoroughly.

5. Using a sieve, pour the egg mixture into the bowl you’ll be using for steaming. The sieve makes the mixture smoother and prevents the little bubbles from forming, thus ruining the silken smooth texture of the final product.

6. Lower the heat. (I use a low heat – setting 2 or 3). Put the bowl with the egg mixture into the steaming vessel.

7. Cover and steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

8. Upon serving, garnish with chopped spring onions!

T and I had this for lunch with the GARDEIN Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips, a Sesame oil and Ginger Stirfry (which I will share the recipe of soon), and steamed brown Jasmine rice.

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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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Meatless Monday: Quick Quick Quiche

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Again, I tried to be “witty” with the title but it really is a super easy quiche that can be made quickly, especially if you do it without the crust. I’ve researched several recipes and this is my final product. It is yum and easy!!! Another one of those things I’d make if I were a busy mum. This is good refrigerated for up to 24 hours, so you can prep this in advance, then pop it into the oven to warm about 45 minutes before serving (or microwave if you’re lazy).

The quiche recipe first, followed by the super easy crust (because some people want to go low carb or make it even quicker without a crust). I swear, it tastes just as great without the crust but T insisted on a crust and I had to learn to make one quickly. It works and I’ll continue working with it (and improving it along the way).

IMG_0836IMG_0887Quick Quick Quiche (Spinach & mushroom)

Serves 4 to 6. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 1 hour.

3 cups frozen spinach

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup sliced mushroom (I used fresh button mushrooms but you can get the tinned ones too)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

5 eggs beaten

1 cup milk

1/2 tablespoon paprika

Method:

1. Heat up 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to cook the spinach, mushroom and onions. Put aside to cool.

2. If you’re using a crust, scoop cream cheese onto the bottom of the pie crust, then top with the cooked spinach, mushrooms and onions. (If not, mix in pinched dollops of the cream cheese after you pour in the egg custard in step 4).

3. Beat eggs, mix in shredded cheese, milk, salt, black pepper and paprika in a bowl.

4. Pour custard mixture into the crust or pie pan. Then cover the pan with aluminium foil.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 400f for 30 minutes then remove the aluminium foil and bake again for another 10 – 15 minutes. This is to prevent the top from becoming too brown. Also, I put a tray at the bottom of the pan, just in case it spilled over. It actually made it a lot easier for me to carry the glass pan in and out of the oven.

6. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Simplest Cheesy Pie Crust

Prep time: 35 minutes (including 30 minutes refrigerating) Cook time: 10 minutes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons butter, cut int small pieces

1/4 cup shredded cheddar

2 tablespoons cold water (I used tap)

Method:

1. Mix flour and chopped butter by rubbing them until crumbly. I used my hands to mush mush mush!

2. Pour in grated cheddar and sprinkle water over mixture. Stir slowly with fork until a ball forms.

3. Refrigerate dough in plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes (I made mine in the morning and left it till late afternoon)

4. Preheat oven to 375f.

5. Roll out dough and spread over pie pan (I have just 1 rectangle Pyrex pan that I use for EVERYTHING because I’m not fancy). Using my fingers, I pressed the dough into the pan’s bottom and sides after I lightly grease it with cooking oil using a silicon brush. I reckon it’s rustic!

6. Poke holes at the bottom of the pastry with a fork before popping into oven.

7. Bake crust for 10 minutes before filling with quiche custard (I spread cream cheese before pouring the mixture).

TAH DAH!

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I served this for dinner with a batch of Marie Callendar’s cheese biscuits when T’s Dad and Step Mom came to stay with us for the wedding weekend. It was warm, home cooked and happy food. There was more than enough for the 4 of us!

As you can tell, my cooking is not exactly sophisticated or trained but it certainly isn’t instant or frozen foods all the time. It’s the same as my fashion philosophy. I make the best of what I have and have fun with it. I’m not a fashion lookbook and neither am I the “perfect” size to be talking about fashion. I’m not your grandmother and I’m never going to be a trained chef. But who cares? If I can do it, so can you!