Monday, February 28, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds + Giveaway Winner!

For my third recipe from Appetite for Reduction, I chose Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds since there was leftover quinoa in the fridge. It was only after it was all put together that I realized how similar it is to how I already eat black bean quinoa salad, minus the cumin seeds. I didn't have cumin seeds so I substituted with regular cumin powder. It did add a little pizazz to the dish; I liked it! How much nicer it might have been with toasted cumin seeds. :-) I served it on tortilla because to me, everything tastes better in a wrap.

Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds on Tortilla
Now on to the guinea pig calendar giveaway winner! Thanks to all who entered; I loved reading about your pets. :-) And the winner is...

Shannon! I'll send you an email soon. Congratulations!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Green Onion-Miso Vinaigrette & Raw Kale Salad

Happy President's Day! I hereby thank all the Presidents for giving us an excuse for having this day off. It's another glorious day, warm enough to throw open a few windows to let the fresh air flow in. Breathe in and ahhhhhhh...

Today's Appetite for Reduction recipe was chosen to accommodate my sudden craving for raw kale. I chose "Sushi Roll Edamame Salad" thinking I could sub the kale for the romaine lettuce suggested. But I ended up subbing or not having a few key ingredients and now I no longer dare to say I made "Sushi Roll Edamame Salad" for fear of offending Isa. Let's just say I was inspired by it! :-)

I did however make the accompanying "Green Onion-Miso Vinaigrette" to the letter.

Sushi kale salad

Not sure if you can see it, but the vinaigrette is a lovely light green color from blending the green onion. The recipe recommended 1-2 cups of chopped green onions; I used one cup (2 stalks). The recipe called for red miso but I used white since that was all I had. Isa did say that was okay though (pg 12).

And the verdict? Whoa. I can say it's not a light tasting salad dressing. I should have known better because when I use miso for soup, I only use 1-2 tablespoons for a big pot of water. This recipe called for 1/4 cup of miso with only half a cup of water. Whoa. So a little of this dressing goes a long way. I usually like my salads smothered with dressing but I couldn't take much of this one. It's also my fault for pairing it with raw kale which is kind of bitter. I shall try it with lettuce next time.

What I do like very much about this meal is adding seaweed to salad. That's a wonderful way to eat more seaweed without making sushi. Yum!


As I was finishing this post, I read about the 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand a few hours ago. Living in an earthquake zone and having been through a severe earthquake, I can relate. Very scary stuff. My thoughts are with the people who are affected by this earthquake. May they remain unharmed and recover quickly from the damages.

In related news, there was a sad report yesterday of 107 Pilot Whales that died on a New Zealand beach. I wonder if there's some sort of connection to today's earthquake or is it pure coincidence? Hmm...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Ramblings

There was a time when I could happily live on just bread and water alone. I didn't know how to cook; bread was tasty, filling, and most importantly, easy. I could probably still live like that if I had only my own mouth to feed but there are other considerations now.

Food was not in the forefront of my mind until I moved out. Gone were the hands that magically put meals on the table, replaced by an empty kitchen that I had to quickly fill and learn to use. Before, I could open a fridge full of things and find nothing to eat. Now, I could whip up a meal with just one or two ingredients (how good it tastes is another matter). My mother is still amazed and I even more so.

These thoughts came to me as I savored a soft chewy bite of freshly baked bread from Whole Foods today. DH beamed as he came up to me holding the still warm loaf in his hand, saying, "You're going to love this!" He knows me so well. :-) As soon as I came home, I sliced a piece and ate it plain. No butter, no toppings. Just like that. It was so good.

I sometimes wish our meals could be simpler. I sometimes wish I didn't have to think about food all the time. Is it vegan? Are you sure? What do we have in our fridge? What do we have in the fridge at work? (We also cook lunch at work.) What could I make with that? What needs to be used up first? Will he/she like this particular dish? Is it enough? What items do I need to buy?

How simple life would be if we didn't have to eat. Imagine if the kitchen could be replaced with another bedroom or a room to foster rescues. No fridge and storage needed for pots and pans and dishes. And imagine the time we would save. No shopping, no chopping, no cooking, no cleaning. More time for our loved ones or simply to take a moment to rest, breathe.

But alas, this human body demands fuel. And so I cook. I cook to show my love. I cook to make people happy. I cook so that an animal's life is spared. I cook to show that decent food exists without meat. I cook to support humanity's (albeit slow) shift to a vegan lifestyle.

And sometimes, I cook just for myself. :-)

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy good food. And I love reading all the vegan food blogs. And at times I actually enjoy cooking. But now and then, a loaf is bread is all I need.


Gosh, just what did Whole Foods put in their bread?! :-D

Sun setting along the highway
It has been a rainy cold week around the Bay Area but today the sun broke through for a glorious day. This is a picture I took of the sun setting as we drove home earlier. I'm sorry I didn't better capture the beauty of the wispy cirrus clouds melting into the blue sky with the majestic stratocumulus clouds below. I can just tell you it was breathtaking.

In guinea pig news, I'm super pleased to have found the perfect laundry basket for the guinea pigs' dirty towels and cuddle cups. Previously it was just dumped in an open plastic storage container that was too small. Then DH spotted this at IKEA:
SKUBB Laundry bag with stand
It doesn't look like much but it fitted all of my criterias: it's lightweight, it's narrow, it's easy to clean, it has two separate compartments, and it has a cover. Yay!

 Belle is doing well. She's back to her spirited, please-give-me-food-I-can-empty-the-fridge self. The positive outcome of her illness is that she's no longer grossly overweight. I will endeavor not to submit to her pretty wheeks of demand for food 24/7. :-)

Bert is hanging out with his pal, finding a soft safe haven from those grabbing human hands. After three years with us, he still runs for his life whenever we approach. But once he's on our lap, he immediately settles into a comfy deep sleep, showing his full trust and love. :-)

I've had several slices of bread by now so I think dinner has been taken care of, LOL! I'll be back with more appetizing food in the next post. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Curry Laksa

I've had Isa Chandra's new cookbook Appetite for Reduction for quite some time now and finally got the chance to cook from it. First up: Curry Laksa!

Curry Laksa is a popular spicy coconut curry noodle dish in Singapore and Malaysia. Laksa refers to the herb often used in Southasian cooking. It looks like a slender version of mint and is sometimes called Vietnamese mint or coriander. It can be found in Asian groceries but since not everyone has access to that, Isa replaced it with regular coriander instead.

Curry Laksa
Some things I would do differently next time I make it:
- Add less lime juice. I recommend taste testing as you add when you make it.
- Add more coconut milk. Even though that would make it less of a low fat recipe, I like my broth creamier.
- Make sure not to overcook the the bok choy! That was totally my fault because I didn't prep everything beforehand. Thank goodness I followed Isa's tip of cooking the leaf and stem separately, otherwise I'd have some mushy leaves in my soup.

If you can find the laksa herb in your local market, definitely give it a try in this recipe. And if you ever travel to Singapore, I have it on good authority that the Loving Huts there have really good vegan laksa. :-)

Friday, February 18, 2011

VeganWheeker's First Giveaway!

Today I've crossed the 1000+ follower mark on Twitter and as promised, I'm having a giveaway to celebrate!

CupcakeKitteh jokingly provided the idea for the prize and then I, by happy chance, came across this and thought it was perfect.
It's a 2011 monthly wall calendar from Orange County Cavy Haven featuring a photo of their rescued guinea pigs each month. OCCH does wonderful work rescuing guinea pigs, rehabilitating them, and then adopting them out. Those that cannot be adopted out due to age or medical concerns are lovingly taken care of for the rest of their life. I greatly admire them and wished I live closer so I could participate in their events. Proceeds from this calendar will benefit their rescue. (Yay, we all win!) To learn more about OCCH, follow them on Twitter @OCCavyHaven or Facebook where they post lots of cute guinea pig pictures. :-)

The giveaway is open to everyone, including my international friends. :-) To enter, simply leave a comment below. Some ideas include stories about your pet, what rescue you support, or your favorite vegan meal. No Twitter account is necessary to enter but be sure to leave an email address so I could contact you. A winner will be chosen Friday, Feb 25th 10pm PST.

Happy Wheekend, everyone!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guinea pig drama and Valentine's Day

Belle snuggling in my pocket
I hope you all have had a great start to the new year. Our start was all about Belle, who had increasingly lost weight since December. She's usually weighs in the upper 900 grams (overweight in guinea pig terms) but in January dropped below 900, before starting to exhibit lethargy and lack of appetite. And anyone who knows Belle knows this girl can EAT! So when she shunned her favorite lettuce and cucumber, we knew it was past time to send her to the vet.
The vet suspected the malocclusion of her teeth problem returned, which in turn led to breathing problems and bronchitis. She was extremely weak, so the vet prescribed a week of antibiotics to fight the bronchitis before her next appointment where she had to undergo anesthesia to trim her teeth. We also asked the vet to take out an abnormal growth on the side of her thigh to have it tested.

Today, I am happy to report Belle is back in good health and happy (hungry) spirits! The growth on her thigh was removed, which turned out to be Trichofolliculomas, a common benign growth in guinea pigs. Her teeth were the main cause of her lack of appetite; one of the molars had form a pointy-like toothpick sticking into her tongue and one of her front incisors was cracked sending sharp shards into her gum. OUCH! The vet carefully removed the shards and trimmed the pointy  tooth. All better! Or so we thought.

Her shaven thigh and stitches
We were in for a surprise when we returned to the vet today to remove the stitches on her thigh and found out that somehow in the two weeks since her surgery, Belle has managed to severely chip off the front incisor that was cracked before. Yikes! The vet said it was no cause for alarm, took her to the back to trim it (no anestheshia required, whew!) and now Belle's back home munching happily away again. Best Valentine's Day gift she could give to her momma!

Of course we didn’t forget about Bert throughout all this. He got plenty of cuddles in bed too!

"I can sleep in any position."

Though it's still winter, we had some weird summery weather in the Bay Area this past month (climate change is real!) and it inspired us to start some seedlings indoors for our vegetable garden.

snow peas "Oregon Giant"
Cucumber. I almost gave up on these since they took so long to sprout!
And one morning, I caught a feral cat digging up the lettuce in our raised bed to do the dirty deed!
He was a such a cutie though, I couldn’t scold him. But he alerted me to the fact that our yard had turned into the pooping party ground of the local feral community. I dug up a whole grocery bag full of poop which they hid under all the mulch. I love the cats, but I do not love cleaning after them...or having them destroy the garden. :-\

Lastly, if you’ve made this far in the post, here was our simple dinner celebration for Valentine’s Day. To me, nothing’s quite as romantic and fun as cooking together, so DH and I whipped up Melisser Elliot’s Pasta with Asparagus in Lemon Cream Sauce from her book, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life. We subbed the asparagus with broccoli and the whole meal was quick to whip up!
Paired with candlelight and non-alcoholic cocktail, it was a simple and romantic dinner for two. For dessert, I had made the Chocolate-Orange Cake from FatFree Vegan Kitchen the night before. I love that it’s oil-free and yet still so soft and moist. Delicious!

I hope everyone had a fantastic day with loved ones. Wishing you all happiness and good health!