Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creative Gardening

A few weeks ago, I was walking through a residential area in West Seattle and I saw this vegetable garden.

It was in front of the house, on the sidewalk where you typically see grass, shrubs or trees. I don't know if that little patch belongs to a homeowner or it's public property, but I thought it was an interesting idea. I also wondered if anyone comes and steals vegetables from them.

I am fortunate to have a backyard to create a small vegetable garden where I can grow some herbs and my favorite vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, french green beans, etc. You probably noticed that I use a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking. You can always substitute them with dried ones, but I personally prefer fresh ones. Unfortunately, it's ridiculously expensive to buy fresh herbs at a store! That's why I started growing some at home. Even you live in an apartment or condo, I strongly recommend growing some herbs in pots. All you need are pots, decent soil, water and sun. Herbs grow like weeds, they are so hardy. I intentionally plant some herbs like mint, lemon balm and oregano in pots so that they won't take over my garden. Just make sure that you place your herb pots in the sunniest place in/around your house.

I will probably buy an AeroGarden if I move to a place where I don't have enough space to plant or a place with a bigger kitchen and a lot of counter-top space. It's a little pricey, but I'm sure I ended up saving more money than if I kept buying over-priced herbs from a store.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Zucchini Bread - Vegan

Last week we got some beets from our friend and I made a "Beet Rissoto (vegan)", which was outside of my cooking repertoire. This week we got some zucchini from the same friend and I decided to bake a "Zucchini Bread (vegan)".

I'm not much of a baker, I don't bake that often. But the zucchini must be eaten and they are not exactly my husband's favorite. Getting fresh vegetables unexpectedly pushes me out of my comfort zone for cooking and that's why I like getting free vegetables from our friends' gardens, besides the fact that they are locally grown and fresh.


What goes in your body (vegan) :
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 & 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small)
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 banana mushed
  • 1/4 cup maple sysrup
  • 1 tbsp canola or safflower oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp brandy
  • 1/2 cup pecan, chopped and roasted
You are going to:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon together.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients, except pecans, in a separate bowl until well combined.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mix them together until evenly moistened. 
  5. Stir in pecans and spoon batter into the loaf pan.
  6. Bake on center rack of oven for 50-55 minutes.
Secrets from the chef:
  • If you are not a pure vegan, you can substitute maple syrup with honey. 
  • I like eating mine warm with 'butter' on it. 
  • I tweaked an existing recipe from the book. The original recipe can be found my recommended reading,  "Breaking the Food Seduction".
 Bon appétit!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fantastic Falafel - Vegan

I'm not sure if I can call this a recipe since it's straight out of box...but how often do we make everything from scratch, right?

I usually use a Falafel mix from Fantastic Foods. It's all-natural and vegan. All you have to do is to mix with water, shape and cook them. One box will make enough Falafel for 4 people.

I bought mine at PCC. You can also purchase directly from the company's website.

What goes in your body (vegan):
You are going to:
  1. Prepare Falafel mix according to the instructions on the box. (It will take about 30 minutes.)

  2. Arrange salad greens, tomatoes and Falafel in divided pita bread. 
  3. Top with Karam's Garlic Sauce
Secrets from the chef:
  • You can create a low-carb version by serving as Falafel salad with pita bread on the side. 

Bon appétit! 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Karam's Garlic Sauce - Vegan

If you love garlic and creamy texture like me, Karam's Garlic Sauce will make you very happy. It has no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, no dairy and is gluten free. I'm a garlic junkie (if there's such a thing), so I don't mind having a little more garlic in it though.

I use it for cooking, dipping, marinating, etc. You'll probably see it being used in some of my recipes. This sauce is from Karam's Lebanese Restaurant in Seattle. I love their Baba Ghannouj and Hummus too, by the way. I bought my sauce at PCC. Here is a list of places you can find one.I hope you'll like it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mahi Mahi Wrap - Pescetarian

This is a quick dish using the Mahi Mahi Burger from Trader Joe's that I wrote about yesterday.

What goes in your body (pescetarian):
  • Whole wheat tortilla wraps (1-2 per person)
  • Trader Joe's Mahi Mahi Burger patties (1-2 per person)
  • Lettuce
  • French green beans, chopped
  • Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise)
  • Spice of your choice
  • Avocado (optional)
You are going to:
  1. Cook Mahi Mahi Burger patties according to the instructions on the box. 
  2. Stir fry vegetables in a pan. Use some oil if necessary. You want them nice and crisp, not overcooked.

  3. Using two forks, break cooked burger patties into small pieces and mix with stir fried vegetables.
  4. Mix Vegenaise with spice of your choice, such as wasabi, abodo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers, seafood spice mix, freshly chopped herb mix, etc.
  5. Heat tortillas 10-15 seconds in microwave. 
  6. Spread Vegenaise sauce on tortillas, lay a generous amount of lettuce and burger veggie mix.
Secrets from the chef:
  •  I used French green beans from my vegetable garden but you can use any of your favorite vegetables that hold their texture after being cooked on heat.
  • Topping with diced avocado adds rich creamy taste. 
Bon appétit! 

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Mahi Mahi Burgers - Trader Joe's

    The BBQ season can be challenging for non-meat-eaters. You often are greeted with "Oh, you don't eat meat?", which technically means "What's wrong with you?" Fortunately, I have a little more options than typical vegans and vegetarians because I eat fish. The Mahi Mahi Burgers from Trader Joe's are my absolute favorite!

    Between this and some variety of good veggie burgers, I can fully appreciate BBQ season. I typically make my burger with lettuce, onion and tomato. I substitute cheese with thin slices of avocado. I serve with a spicy sauce to give a little kick to it. It's a mixture of a little bit of wasabi or abodo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers with my favorite vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise). Delish!

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Salad Spinner

    I got this salad spinner as a wedding gift 9 years ago. Whoever gave us this gift knew what they were doing. Thank you! I have been using it a lot. Love it!

    It works so well for quickly washing and drying leafy greens and herbs. If you want to avoid having to dry them with paper towels or soggy salad, this is a winner.

    All I need to do is to chop up my greens, toss them into the strainer inside, rinse them, put the strainer back into the clear outer bowl, and push the top nob down to spin. Voila! You have nice crispy greens.

    There are many different kinds available. I would suggest buying a nicer looking one, though it may cost a little more. Because you can use the clear outer bowl as a serving dish for the salad you just made, if you need to take your salad to somewhere else, it also makes a perfect serving dish/transferring container with a lid. 


    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Delicious Planet

    'Delicious Planet' is a perfect choice when you don't want to cook, or go out to eat. It's an all-organic prepared-food delivery service. It's like having a personal chef. They offer variety of vegetarian, vegan, wheat free, gluten free,  egg free and soy free menu options. I purchased a GROUPON deal and got $60 worth of food for $30! The food was delivered in coolers with gel-ice packs, so you don't have to be present at the time of delivery.

    Our dogs investigating what we got!

     This is the food I got for about $30.
    • 3 Mondo Chipotle Black Bean Burger (vegan?)
    • 1 Chickpea Hummus (vegan)
    • 1 Roasted Red Beet, Rosemarry & Lentil Soup (vegan)
    • 2 Tapioca Pudding (vegan)
    • 4 Magnificent Morning Glory Muffins (vegan)
     Mondo Chipotle Black Bean Burger

     Chickpea Hummus

     Roasted Red Beet, Rosemarry & Lentil Soup

     Tapioca Pudding

     Magnificent Morning Glory Muffins

     Almost enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3 people. I served a side of potato dish with burgers, but actually they were quite filling by themselves. It was a little dry, but nice and spicy. I really liked their vegan Tapioca Pudding. It was delicious!  All the containers they use are either recyclable or compostable. Way to be sustainable!

    It's a perfect choice for busy, yet health-conscious people. It's also a great option for your 'staycation'. Would I order again? I would like to if I can afford it. I think their price is very reasonable considering the convenience and quality of ingredients that go into the food. Unfortunately, I'm not in a place in my life that I can pay extra for convenience... Well, if you decide to give it a try, please give them my name. I'll get a discount for my next order :)

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Rice Vegan "Cheese"

    Today's post will be very short. I have one word for this... NO.

    This was my first vegan "cheese" experience. I saw this at a grocery store and it looked as good as regular sliced cheese. Although I was very skeptical as to how Rice can taste anything like cheese, I decided to give it a try. You know... I was right. It doesn't taste anything like cheese. It tastes like rice and beans. I was very sad... (T_T)

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Beet Risotto - Vegan

    A few days ago, my husband came home with some beets from his co-worker's garden.

    I like eating locally grown produce, and home-grown produce is the best. The only problem was that I had never cooked with beets and I don't recall ever having eaten them before either. What do I do? I looked up some recipes online, and decided to make a beet risotto loosely based on the food network's recipe.

    What goes in your body (4 vegan servings):
    • Beets (I used a bunch of small beets equal to about 2 medium sized beets)
    • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
    • 2-3 cups of vegetable stock
    • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
    • 3/4 cup of Arborio rice
    • 1/2 cup of Pistachio nuts
    You are going to:
    1. Wash beets well and wrap them in aluminum foil together with garlic. Roast them in an oven until beets are fully cooked. (Roasting time varies depending on the size of beets.)
    2. Let beets cool until cool enough to handle, then peel and cut them into chunks.
    3. Blend 2 cups of vegetable stock, beet chunks and roasted garlic together in a blender or food processor.

    4. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Add rice to the oil and toast it for a couple minutes.
    5. Slowly add the beet puree to the pan and cook until rice is tender stirring occasionally. (If the rice looks too dry, add some more vegetable stock or water for desired consistency.)
    6. Meanwhile, shell and chop Pistachio nuts. Dry roast them in oven or fry pan. (Or you can use 1/4 cup of shelled chopped and roasted nuts from a store.)
    7. Mix Pistachio nuts into cooked rice and serve. 
    Secrets from the chef:
    • Wear a pair of surgical gloves while peeling beets if you want to avoid having your fingers becoming temporarily pink. 
    • Avoid wearing light color clothes when cooking with beets as the deep color of beets can stain your clothes.  
    • It makes a very eye-catching side dish. I served with Rosemary baked cod and stir flied okra & baby lima beans.

    Bon appétit!

    Saturday, August 21, 2010


    I love butter. Maybe not as much as Julia Child does. But I do love butter. I have to spread butter onto each corner of my piece of toast. Oh no, you can't just halfheartedly spread it around the center. You know how it gives a nice crispy finish when you add a piece of butter at the very end of cooking a steak?

    Actually, I gave up butter a long time ago. I can't recall my specific reasons why.. Probably to reduce the saturated fat in my diet. Who needs it, right? I think it may be one of the easiest grocery items to switch to a less fatty version. The grocery store shelves are full of options like "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter".

    My favorite has been "Fleischmann's" for many reasons. It's available at a regular grocery store. It's lower in calories, fat and sodium than some of the other stuff on the shelf. It's very spreadable which makes it perfect for spreading over a piece of bread. I like the twin retro green container that it comes in. They didn't used to have logos on these containers and they looked great on dinner table. Unfortunately, they currently have logos on these containers, but they are not as obnoxious as some other brands.

    I always save the empty containers because its one-cup-size is perfect for freezing leftover ingredients from cooking. Whenever I make broth/stock, tomato sauce, etc, I make a big batch and freeze in those containers. Next time when your recipe calls for 1 cup of vegetable broth, you can just take one of those out from your freezer and don't even have to measure it!

    I will have to find something different once I'm done with the one I have at home now because it has soybean oil as a main ingredient, and also contains buttermilk and some other stuff I don't want to put  in my body anymore. I will keep you updated as I try to find a better option. Any suggestions?

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Spaghetti & 'Meat'balls - Vegan

    With this recipe, I successfully made my unsuspecting dinner guest believe that it was good old spaghetti and meatballs.

    Some of the vegan meat substitutes don't taste right, but this one from Trader Joe's wasn't too bad. I would let myself eat this occasionally when I have cravings for a meaty texture. (I wish they didn't contain soy!) By the way, they taste more similar to turkey meatballs than regular meatballs to me.

    What goes in your body (4-5 vegan servings):
    • 1 bag of meatless meatballs from Trader Joe's, defrosted
    • 1 bag of whole wheat pasta
    • 1 can/jar of Marinara Sauce
    • 4 cloves of garlic minced
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
    • 1 cup of chopped kale
    • 1 cup of chopped fresh tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh mix herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, chive, etc

    You are going to:
    1. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan, add garlic
    2. Once you start smelling the nice garlic aroma, add kale. Stir fry them 4-5 minutes or until it's tender.
    3. Add Marinara sauce, chopped fresh tomatoes and herbs to the pan. Mix and simmer it 5 minutes.
    4. Add Meatless Meatballs to the pan and simmer it 5-10 minutes.
    5. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to the package instructions.
    6. Drain cooked pasta and mix with remaining olive oil to keep it from being sticky.
    7. Serve the Meatless Meatballs and sauce over the pasta garnished with fresh basil leaves.

    Secrets from the chef:
    • I served with a small plate of salad and green olives as you see on above picture.
    • You can add a variety of vegetables besides kale. Cooking time will vary depending on what you decide to add. Be sure to cook till they are soft and tender so that they'll mix well with the sauce.
    • A fresh flavor comes from a generous quantity of fresh herbs, and freshly chopped tomatoes (not canned ones) are the key ingredients this recipe. Be careful not to overcook after you add them. You don't have to worry about not cooking the meatballs long enough because there's no meat in it! 
    • The leftovers on the next day tasted almost better than the day of cooking. Next time, I may try marinating the Meatless Meatballs in marinara sauce the night before.
    Bon appétit! 

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    380 Million eggs recalled

    I read an article yesterday afternoon saying that an Iowa egg producer is recalling 228 million eggs after being linked to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning. The number recalled eggs has grown to 380 million as of last night. Please check the news article for more detail.

    According to the Associated Press;
    "The Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention said eggs from Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, were linked to several illnesses in Colorado, California and Minnesota. The CDC said about 200 cases of the strain of salmonella linked to the eggs were reported weekly during June and July, four times the normal number of such occurrences.

    State health officials say tainted eggs have sickened at least 266 Californians and seven in Minnesota.

    The eggs were distributed around the country and packaged under the names Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemp.

    The Food and Drug Administration is investigating.

    In a statement, company officials said the FDA is "on-site to review records and inspect our barns." The officials said they began the recall Aug. 13.

    The most common symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight hours to 72 hours of eating a contaminated product. It can be life-threatening, especially to those with weakened immune systems."

    That's scary. Those of us who know how unsanitary and inhumane factory egg farms are would say, no wonder! The egg laying hens are usually kept in small wire cages with their pals. 80% of them have injuries to their feet from the wires. Time for antibiotics! It's so crowded that they don't have a room to spread their wings. It's a very stressful situation to the chickens, which causes them to fight with each other. The solution? The farmers de-beak the chickens, which is very painful to them. More antibiotics, maybe? Where do the lay their eggs? In the same cage where they drop their droppings. The cages are sloped so the eggs roll out for the collection. (The whole thing is so disgusting that I don't want to provide any images here on my blog.)

    There are a few better options if you don't want to go vegan. The best would be to buy eggs from a local organic farm where you can visit and pick up your own eggs. The second best is to buy organic eggs from the local farmer's market. The third best is to buy certified organic eggs from the grocery stores. An 'organic' egg farm has to comply with very high standards of animal welfare besides being organic. Unfortunately, the cost of organic eggs are 3-5 times of regular eggs.

    What about "free-range" eggs? When I hear the word "free-range", the image that comes to my mind is something like this. (The image is taken from Country Flavours' in UK.) I really hope that "free-range" eggs come from those happy roaming chickens.

    Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no standards for what should be labeled as "free-range". In reality, the egg you paid extra money can come from something like this (The image is taken from Wikipedia.) Although, it still looks much, much better than commercial egg farms.

    Also, free-range does not mean that the hens were fed any differently than on normal, commercial farms. They can be fed animal-derived byproducts or GMO crops and given unnecessary antibiotics.

    Going organic or  to just stop eating eggs seems like a good option to me. What about you?

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Full Circle Farm

    Every time I go to a farmer's market, I have to stop by the Full Circle Farm's booth.


    They participate in more than 20 farmer's markets throughout the Puget Sound area. You can also buy their produce at PCC and Whole Foods Market. I haven't really compared the prices between different stores, but as far as I can tell, the prices at the farmer's markets have been great.

    Last week, I bought a huge head of lettuce (I mean huge), a big head of endive and a bundle of kale for $6.50. Each bundle/head of greens are $2.50, but they'll give you $1.00 off when you buy 3 of them. I think it's a great deal. And the quality of their produce is really good.

    As I visited their website in the process of writing this post, I found out that they also do home delivery.  I used to use a service from Spud for local organic produce delivery. I stopped using their service since they raised the minimum order for free delivery up to $53 several years ago. It was just too much for two of us. I think I'll give Full Circle Farm's home delivery service a try. I will definitely let you know how I like it in a future post.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    French Green Beans

    I have a small but super sunny backyard. It's so sunny that it's hard to keep the grass green. I had grown some herbs and vegetables in the past, but I decided to dig up a section and create a vegetable garden this year. My husband worked hard on this project even though he wasn't particularly fired up about the idea of eating more vegetables.

    I planted tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, French green beans, a variety of lettuce, kale, green onions, endives, peppers, thyme, oregano, chive, basil, Thai basil, cilantro, and okra. Unfortunately, it's been a cold summer here in Seattle area except for the last few days. It hasn't been a good season for my roses and vegetables. (My hydrangeas are doing wonderful though.) It's been fun watching what I planted grow everyday. I finally harvested some French green beans yesterday! Aren't they beautiful?

    I like French green beans better than regular green beans. They are more tender and flavorful. I don't usually see them in a regular grocery store. Sometimes I buy a bag of frozen ones from Trader Joe's. Eating locally raised food is a growing trend because they are harvested when they are ripe and contain more nutritional values. You can't get more local than this! I don't have the time nor place to grow everything I need. I still need to make my weekly trip to a farmer's market and grocery store. But there's something magical about eating what you grow whether you are a vegan or not. I grew up in a big and industrial city where you don't see anyone growing anything. It's so fascinating to see how one seed can grow into so many fruits and vegetables.

    Here's a picture of my green beans when they were babies. They are so adorable! Maybe I'm little crazy for taking a picture of them. I don't have any problem eating them though.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    My favorite Tempeh - Trader Joe's

    This is a follow-up post from my last week's post about Tempeh. I just wanted to share my favorite Tempeh. It's Trader Joe's "Organic 3 grain Tempeh".


    Why do I like this particular one? Well, first of all, it's only $1.69 for an 8oz package. It's organic. It's fully cooked, but not seasoned, which means you can add to your recipe without pre-cooking it. When you make a dish like "Tempeh Tostadas", you can skip the steaming process. That saves about 20 minutes of my time in the kitchen! It contains barley and millet for more variety of nutritional sources.

    I hope you enjoy it!

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Oven Grilled Broccoli - Vegan/Pescetarian

    When I was a little kid, I thought broccoli was a little tree and that it was scary to eat an entire little tree. Needless to say, I was never a big fan of broccoli until I learned how to cook it this way...


    What goes in your body (vegan):
    • Broccoli (1 head per person)
    • Garlic (1-3 cloves per person, depending on how much you love garlic)
    • Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tbsp per person)
    • Salt to season
    You are going to:
    1. Cut up broccoli vertically to a size you can bite off with your mouth but is not too small. Try cutting them into similar sizes to be evenly cooked. I cut off part of the stem if it's too long because the bottom part has a hard-to-chew texture. 
    2. Place broccoli in a cookie sheet or baking pan big enough so that the broccoli pieces don't have to sit on top of each other. 
    3. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle chopped garlic / salt and give a good toss with your hands. 
    4. Bake in an oven for 10-20 minutes. Check and toss them around every 5 minutes or so. (Baking time depends on oven temperature and your preference. I like mine slightly browned but still crunchy.)

    Secrets from the chef:
    • This makes a great side dish for many meat or fish recipes. Especially when you are cooking your main dish in the oven, you can just stick them in your oven at the same temperature.
    • I served mine with baked salmon seasoned with 'Jamaica Me Crazy' seasoning, lime juice and grated lime peel. Also with some left over homemade Basic Salsa.  
    Bon appétit!

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    An aroma of popcorn...

    Last night, we decided to watch "The Blind Side" on DVD. It was an excellent movie by the way... Since we have a Japanese exchange student staying with us this summer, we thought it was fun to fix some microwave popcorn and have some twizzlers. An American experience, right?

    I had a few packages of popcorn left from my pre-vegan-era in my pantry. It says "unbelievable butter" on the box. Okay, I'll just microwave one package for my husband and student. I've forgotten how nice popcorn smells.... (*_*)  I had to try one. Hmmum.... Now I need to try some more and maybe a little more. It was a losing battle.. Sigh.

    This morning, I thought I should read the label on the box and I did. The ingredients are; Whole grain popcorn, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, natural & artificial flavors, color added. No butter? Really? It also says that it contains soy and milk ingredients. So, these must be a part of the unspecified "natural & artificial flavors. And the buttery feeling must be from hydrogenated soybean oil.

    Now, I had to google "partially hydrogenated soybean oil". It's basically a cheap substitute for butter that the food company uses to give a richer flavor. It's a processed oil that has gone through Hydrogenation, which is the process of heating oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. Hydrogenated oils are high in trans fat, which affects our metabolic processes. Also, saturated fat and trans fat both raise “bad cholesterol,” while trans fat has a 'bonus'  effect of also lowering “good cholesterol.” Better yet, it's made of soybean oil. It depresses the thyroid, which lowers your energy levels.

    Yikes! I have learned so much from my mistake last night. I guess it wasn't a complete losing battle then.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Wakame Soup - Pescetarian

    This is a yummy soup that I serve in a small bowl as a side dish whenever I cook Japanese or Chinese food. Mmmm..., I can almost smell it by looking at this picture!

    I probably have to start with explaining what the heck "wakame" is. It is a type of sea vegetable or edible seaweed. If you have ever ordered a cup of Miso Soup at a Japanese restaurant, you most likely have had it. Yes, that shiny deep green sea vegetable is what's called wakame. According to Wikipedia, "Wakame is a rich source of Eicosapentaenoic acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid. At over 400 mg/100 kcal or almost 1 mg/kJ, it has one of the higher nutrient : calorie ratios, and is among the very highest for a vegetarian source. A typical 1-2 tablespoon serving of Wakame is roughly 3.75-7.5 kcals and provides 15-30 mgs of Omega-3's. Wakame also has high levels of calcium, iodine, thiamine and niacin." Anyways, it's very good for you. I usually buy mine at an oriental grocery store. It's fairly inexpensive because it's such a common food in Japan. You can probably find it in health food stores due to the popularity of macrobiotic diet. It's usually sun-dried and crispy; it almost looks like tea leaves. You need to soak them in water first till soft if you are not using it in a soup. Once soaked, it expands to about 10-15 times larger.

    What goes in your body (2 pescetarian servings):
    • 3 cups of water (or more for bigger soup bowl)
    • 2-3 tbsp of wakame
    • 1 tsp of instant dashi (kelp stock) powder
    • 1-2 tsp of soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp of sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp of sesame seeds
    • 2 tbsp of chopped scallion
    You are going to:
    1. Pour water in a small pot and soak wakame until it's soft. 
    2. Place the pot over medium heat, stir dashi into the water. 
    3. Add a little bit of soy sauce and taste. Repeat till it's just a right flavor for you. 
    4. Pour in individual bowls. Drizzle sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.
    Secrets from chef:
    • "Dashi" is a basic stock/broth for Japanese cooking. It's usually made by boiling either kombu (kelp) or dried tuna flakes. Just like chicken stock/broth, you can go with homemade, store-made or instant options. I usually use instant dashi powder for convenience. You can find it at an oriental grocery store. 
    • You can also add some thinly sliced vegetables such as onion, carrot, radish for added flavor and nutrition. 
    • Wakame can be eaten uncooked, be careful not to overcook. It will lose its beautiful deep green color and turn slimy. 
    Bon appétit! 

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    I know it tastes good

    There are many different reasons why some of us give up eating meat completely. Religious reasons, beliefs against animal cruelty, efforts to live eco-friendly, trying to lose weight, etc. I did it for health reasons. (If you are interested in my story, you can find it under "About Antidisestablishment Vegetarianism" section of my blog). Long story short, I did it because my doctor told me to. But I knew someone-told-me-so would only get me going, not keep me going for the long run. I'm the kind of person who has to know 'why' in anything I do. So, why not share what I've learned here in my blog?

    The truth is... meat tastes good. The question is.... at what cost? The truth is... meat is a good source of nutrition. The question is.... are the benefits greater than the potential problems? Here's some food for thought... (It's chewy like an overcooked steak.)
    • Meat is high in saturated fat, which elevates your blood cholesterol. Cholesterol clogs your arteries and clogged arteries lead to high blood pressure, a stroke or heart attack. 
    •  Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals and recognized as a human carcinogen. It is estimated that 93% of our exposure to dioxin comes through eating animal products.
    • When you eat meat, your blood becomes acidic. In order to balance all the acidity, your bones come to the rescue by releasing some of their minerals, which leads to weaker bones. 
    • 70% of the antibiotics sold in the United States go to livestock. 
    • The hormones used to promote growth in livestock get passed on to us. The excess hormones have been linked to breast and prostate cancer. 
    • The inside of a slaughterhouse is not as clean as you would hope, which results bacteria contamination  in meat and poultry. 
    I didn't include too much detail. We all have an access to Google for more information. After learning about some of the facts, you may consider cutting back meat consumption or choosing organically/naturally raised options (unfortunately those are much more expensive). I think that less is more even if you don't give up completely. Although, you probably won't feel drastically different in your health and energy like I did. I went completely cold turkey (sounds kinda funny!) Gradual transition may work better for some of us. There's no right and wrong in what we eat, it's just some foods are better than others.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Handmade Herbal Skincare

    Last weekend, some of my friends and I took "Herbs in topical skincare" class at Herban Wellness in Kirkland. It was my very first GROUPON deal I purchased. Normally the class costs $30, but with GROUPON it was only $10. The user experience with GROUPON was great! If you haven't signed up yet, I highly recommend you to sign up. You'll receive daily local deal notifications from them via e-mail.

    The class was taught by the store owner, Katya. She has a Bachelor's degree in Herbal Science from Bastyr University. She's very knowledgeable (of course) and fun to be around. It was about two hours long filled with a lot of great information about herbs, especially on their topical use and benefit. She showed us how to make salve/balm and lotion with all natural ingredients. (FYI: It's not vegan due to the use of beeswax.) It's all about mixing the right ingredients at the right temperature. It's a pretty simple process. The best part is that you get to choose what herbs go into your skincare products based on your physical and emotional needs.

    We all took home a sample of salve/balm and lotion. My salve/lotion has peppermint, it's very refreshing. My lotion has ylang ylang, cardamon, and something I can't remember (oops). It smells so nice! Since there's no preservatives in these, the shelf life is not too long unless you keep them in the refrigerator. That made me think twice about the lotions I use at home. They never go bad. Who knows how long they've been sitting on the shelf in a drug store.

    The store has a very cozy and relaxing atmosphere. You can buy dried herbs in bulk, herbal teas, pre-made herbal skincare products, essential oils, herbal supplements, resource books, etc. They offer different types of classes as well.  I also purchased a bottle of Lavender essential oil and Plantain oil to be a part of my first-aid kit. They both have anti-inflammatory qualities. Who knew that lavender oil is good for treating small burns. It will be very handy since I burn myself frequently while cooking. Yes, the kitchen is a very dangerous place indeed.

    Location: 103 Lake Street S. Kirkland, WA 98033
    Hours: 10:30-6:30 (Tue-Sat), 12:00-4:00 (Sun)