An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

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


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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: Vegetarian Mushroom Dumplings

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These are Chinese-style dumplings. In my books, they are both wantans (or wontons) and jiaozi. I had a craving for Chinese dumplings in soup and because I now live in Las Vegas, it’s not like I can just go across the street to buy them for S$3 with a belly-warming clear broth. You might have heard this from me before but I’ll say it again, hot soup on a cold day is like a much-needed hug from within… so so comforting!

So anyway, I did the best I could with what I had and T thinks they’re not different from the ones he’s eaten at P. F. Chang’s. Most cooks would probably find that insulting seeing that it’s bastardised Chinese food – but not me. I’m not a cook, you see. I’m a vegetarian trying to make meatless home-cooked meals that are budget-friendly and require almost no effort at all. And if it satisfies my cravings and feeds my husband, I’m happy to share the recipe. 

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Vegetarian Mushroom Dumplings

Serves 2 to 4. Yields about 25 dumplings. Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes.

1 1/2 cups mushrooms (I used a tin of straw mushrooms)

1/2 cup water chestnuts 

1 large onion 

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce (Mushroom sauce)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon corn starch

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder 

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 egg (used as a wash to seal edges)

Wonton wrappers 

Method:

1. Dice and sautee onions in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil till they are soft and reduced. (Sauteeing them releases their natural sweetness)

2. Mince mushrooms and water chestnuts. 

3. Mix and stir all the ingredients – sauteed onions, minced mushooms, minced water chestnuts, pepper, ginger powder, salt, cornstarch, sesame oil and vegetarian oyster sauce.

4. Prepare wonton wrappers by putting them between moistened kitchen towels to prevent them from drying out.

5. Put a teaspoon of the filling into a wonton wrapper and seal the edges with egg. I dipped my pinkie finger in the egg white and painted the diagonal edges so that it folds up into a triangle parcel. You can stop here or pull the opposite ends of the bottom together and seal again with egg white. Pinch all edges tightly! 

6. Prepare a pot of boiling water while you’re making the dumplings.

7. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water. Once they float, you know they’re done!

I served them very simply with mee sua cooked in a broth of vegetable stock (2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 vegetable stock cube) with egg drop and some julienned lettuce (raw). 

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Meatless Monday: Veggie Burger

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Here’s something I made from scratch – burger patties and the burger buns! If I can do it, so can you. The burger buns recipe is actually French Bread Rolls to Die For found on allrecipes.com. I will continue experimenting with the bread but the patties are good on their own, so if you have no bread, just eat them alone anyway.

The recipe below is for 6 burger patties and is an original.

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Veggie Burger

Serves 6. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes.

2 cups water

1/2 cup dried lentils

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced canned tomatoes (I used Fire Roasted but you can use any kind)

2 cups beans (I used chickpeas but you can use pinto or anything else)

1 cup corn kernels

1 cup shredded cheddar (I used Cheddar Jack)

1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Panko because it’s so crunchy)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground tumeric (Optional)

2 large eggs (beaten)

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Method:

1. Boil lentils in water for about 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain and mash.

2. In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients (tomatoes, beans, lentils, corn, cheese, spices, egg, breadcrumbs except olive oil) and mix till thoroughly combined. Best to use hands and feel free to squish everything. Quite fun! LALAALA…

3. Divide the mixture into 6 patties.

4. Fry the patties in olive oil over medium-high heat. Try not to crowd the pan. Cook 3 – 5 minutes on each side until brown.

5. Serve on its own or in a burger bun!

YUM! I popped the 2 leftover patties into a toaster oven for lunch the next day and it was soooo good with extra spicy sambal!

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Mount Everest India’s Cuisine (Las Vegas)

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First off, when we saw the name we thought it should be Nepalese food instead of Indian but I guess both cuisines are very similar so it could work too. Who cares what the name is? This place is a keeper!! YUM! Non-pretentious, yummy and affordable!

The first Indian place T and I went to in Las Vegas is an Indian buffet place called India Masala. I had a crazy craving for spicy food and we happened to drive past. For just under US$40 for both of us, we ate till we were so full and I was excited to know that there was good Indian food here. And ever since, we’ve been on a hunt! Mount Everest is our 2nd and so far, the best (there’s a 3rd which I will talk about in another post soon).

Credit goes to our friend May Leng who said she’s always wanted to visit this place but never did. She suspected it might be good because there were usually Indians outside – an indication of authenticity, if you know what I mean.

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For US$48 (including taxes), we had Paneer Tikka, Malai Kofta, Channa Masala, Garlic Naan, Onion Kulcha, Samosas and a Mango Lassi (just me). The basmati rice came free (I say this because it apparently isn’t always the case.) It was so good that we were talking about it even days after this meal. The portions were pretty decent. T and I ended up doggy-bagging some of it! And guess what? It’s even more delicious the next day!

Authentic Indian cuisine, affordable prices, decent portions and good service – great casual dining experience.

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Highly recommended. Will definitely go back again soon!! 4.5/5*

Mount Everest India’s Cuisine

3641 W Sahara Avenue

Las Vegas, NV 89102

Ph: 702-892-0950


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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: 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.