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Rau Muong (Sauteed Water Spinach)

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My husband and I LOOOOVE rau muong (water spinach).  Water spinach is also known as “swamp cabbage” because it grows in ponds or damp ground in tropical climates.  Water spinach is packed full of nutrients; it’s high in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.  Water spinach actually has double the calcium found in regular spinach!  And, as icing on the cake, water spinach happens to taste really good, too!  We typically saute our rau muong, but my mother-in-law also likes to spiralize it and add it to soups, specifically bun rieu (her version is far from vegetarian!!), which is a tomato based soup with rice noodles, tofu, pork, and crab.  (I’m hoping to try out a vegetarian version of this soup in the near future.)

Anyway, when I was on Pham Fatale’s website for her bi chay recipe I recently made, I found a recipe she posted for rau muong.  She uses ginger in her rau muong (water spinach), probably to make it Buddhist friendly since Vietnamese Buddhists who follow a strict vegetarian diet do not eat garlic, shallots, etc.  I have never used ginger with my rau muong before, so I gave her recipe a try and we loved it!  I’ll definitely be making it this way again.  If you like spicy food, be sure to make the Nuoc Mam Gung recipe at the end of this post to dip your water spinach in.  This sauce is amazing!

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Ingredients

1 lb rau muong (water spinach)

1 (2 inch chunk) ginger

1 (1 inch chunk) ginger

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/8 tsp turmeric powder

3/4 tsp salt

black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, peel the chunks of ginger, grate the 2 inch chunk, and then mince the 1 inch chunk (keep them separate).  Then, wash the water spinach thoroughly and drain as much water as possible (either use a salad spinner or gently squeeze out the water and pat dry with paper towels).  Cut water spinach into 5 inch segments (you’ll eat both the leaves and the stems, so no need to do anything before cutting it other than wash).  Blanch the water spinach in the boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and immediately place in a cold water bath.

So as not to dirty too many dishes, I heated the same pot I used to blanch the water spinach over medium high heat to saute the greens.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan, and then add the minced ginger.  Stir it around for a minute or two, then add the water spinach plus 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger.  Toss it around in the pan for 2-3 minutes.  Add the turmeric, salt, and black pepper and saute another minute to make sure all the flavors mix well.  Transfer to a platter, and if you like spicy foods, make the sauce to serve with your sauteed rau muong.

Tip:  If your local grocery store does not sell water spinach, you can almost always find it at an Asian market this time of year.  If you are in a Vietnamese market, it will say Rau Muong on the bag; if you are in a Thai market, it will say Phak Bung; if you are in a Filipino market, it will say Kangkong.  Some markets have English printed on their produce as well, in which case it may say Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach, or River Spinach.

Rau Muong

Nuoc Mam Gung

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp of sugar in 1 Tbsp of hot water.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl along with 2 Tbsp of nuoc mam chay (vegetarian fish sauce) or soy sauce if you don’t have nuoc mam chay.  Finely mince 1 Thai chili pepper and add to the bowl.  Add in 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger you have leftover from the rau muong and stir the mixture together.  This sauce is very spicy and full of flavor.  Dip your rau muong in it, or drizzle a little bit of the sauce over your rau muong.

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Dogs who are Scared of Shots

Our baby dog, Xanh (pronounced Sahn), recently turned a year old, so we took him earlier this week to get his annual vaccines and a 6 month exam.  This was our first time seeing this vet, because we moved here from out of state this past winter.  This was also Xanh’s first time getting shots since last summer when he was still a tiny puppy.  Fortunately/unfortunately for us, the vet is Xanh’s favorite place to go, because when we lived in Alabama, we took him to our friend who’s a veterinarian, so he knew her outside of the vet office as well (and knew her dogs, and I’m sure had their scent on her regularly).  I say fortunately/unfortunately, because I’m glad he isn’t afraid of seeing a vet, but he gets SO excited.  It’s actually quite embarrassing now that we have to see a vet we don’t know personally.  We take Xanh with us everywhere a dog can go, so he’s very well socialized, and we started training him at 8 weeks and he is a GREAT dog.  People compliment us everywhere we go with him…except the vet’s office.  As soon as we walk through the door, he is uncontrollable with excitement.  That was all fine and well 6 months ago (sort of), but now that he’s 80 lbs and still growing, it’s a bit of a problem.  This vet sees pit bulls a lot, so she knew he would be high energy and was okay with it, but it’s still embarrassing for us, because he acted like he had never been trained a day in his life.  Sigh…

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Anyway, all that to say, we had an awful time with him at the vet.  He was so excited that he wouldn’t stop spinning in circles when the vet tech tried to take his temperature and check his eyes for glaucoma, because he wanted to see her face and lick her, etc.  We had to bribe him with treats.  A LOT of treats.  Thank God they were low fat (and I might add that he wasn’t too hungry for dinner that night).  Then, my biggest nightmare happened.  Well, maybe not my biggest nightmare; I mean, it could have been far worse, but I never thought of the fact that last time Xanh had shots he still had saggy puppy skin and baby fat.  He used to never even notice needles going into him.  Well now he does, and he hates them!  He has a bruised arm that he doesn’t want us touching, because when they drew his blood to check for heartworm he jerked his arm away and the needle came out fast and at a bad angle.  Then, the nightmare–he started growling at the vet when she was giving him shots.  He had to have 4–one in each leg.  One vet tech straddled him to hold him still for the shots, and another vet tech tried to distract him with affection and treats, but he was NOT happy.  He didn’t try to bite anyone or anything like that, which is why I say it could have been far worse, but I’ve never seen him respond this way to anything!  I know it was all out of fear, because as soon as each shot was over he turned around and started licking the vet and getting up in her face so she would pet him, but I still hated to see that kind of reaction from him.  I would say thank God it’s over and we made it through ok, but apparently lyme disease is a common problem for dogs in the Midwest but not in the South, so he was never vaccinated for it as a puppy.  That means we go in for 2 more booster shots in 3 weeks.  Lord, help us…

Do you have a dog, and if so, does he/she not like shots?  What do you do to keep your dog calm and relaxed for them?


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Vietnamese Shredded “Pork” (Vegetarian)

There is a popular Vietnamese dish called thit cha bong.  It’s basically crispy shredded pork.  Well, last night I made its vegetarian counterpart: bi chay.

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I based my recipe off of Pham Fatale’s, and it turned out really delicious!  However, I already have plans for making it differently next time, because Pham Fatale’s recipe (and my slightly altered version of her recipe) took WAY too much time!  Plus, I think she uses too much oil in her recipe.  She fries a lot of the contents, so next time, I’m going to save my time and my health by cooking some parts slightly differently.  I’ll post my version of Pham Fatale’s recipe, and then I’ll give you my tips below, which is what I plan on changing in this recipe for next time.

Ingredients

1 (12 oz) package of firm tofu

1 jicama

2 oz dried bean thread noodles

fried onions

6 yukon potatoes

1/2 cup white jasmine rice

1 1/2 tsp garlic salt (or mushroom seasoning salt)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Dry Roasted Rice Powder:  Add rice to a small skillet over high heat on the stove and stir around until all the rice is golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Allow to cool, and then grind the grains into a fine mill, using a food processor.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles:  Soak noodles in cold water for 30 minutes (can leave soaking for up to one hour, so just soak while you prepare other parts of this recipe).  Drain, and chop into one inch threds.  Set aside.

Tofu:  Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels.  Slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Heat oil in a pan (1-2 Tbsp), and cook all the tofu slices until they are golden on each side.  Transfer to a plate, and once cooled, cut tofu into long thin strips.  Set aside.

Potatoes:  Peel and shred all the potatoes, and place in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with water along with 2 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Mix it up and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Drain the liquid, pat dry, and then, using the same skillet you fried the tofu in, add a little bit of oil, and place a few handfuls of potato shreds in the skillet and allow to brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then flip to the other side and allow that side to brown.  Set aside on a plate.  Repeat this until all the potato shreds are cooked.

Jicama:  Peel the jicama and slice horizontally into 1/2 inch thick pieces, and then cut into strips (like fries).  Fill a sauce pan with a couple inches of oil and fry all the jicama until golden brown.  Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the oil.

Assembly:  In a large bowl, add the jicama, potatoes, tofu, dried bean thread noodles, and fried onions.  Season with garlic salt, salt, and pepper.  Toss well, and then sprinkle with the dry roasted rice powder.  Serve on a platter.

Bi chay can be eaten with rice and vegetables, on top of rice noodles with vegetables and sauce, or in a sandwich.

Tips

1.  If you aren’t sure where to get some of these ingredients, check out your local Asian market.  They should carry everything on the ingredients list.

Jicama

Jicama

Photo from detailorienteddiva.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles. Photo from detailorienteddiva.

2.  To save time and oil, I recommend baking the jicama strips rather than frying them.  Before you start prepping anything else, just preheat your oven to 400, line a baking sheet with foil, put the jicama strips on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil (or toss jicama strips in about a Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl before placing them on the baking sheet), and bake for 30-40 minutes.  You’re basically making unseasoned jicama fries.

3.  If you want to save even more time, you can buy fried tofu instead of frying it yourself.  Asian markets always sell fried tofu either in the case next to the fresh tofu or in a large bag in the freezer section.  Just buy that and cut it into strips.

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I’m back! Plus, try Vietnamese Chè Chuối.

If you follow my blog, you’re probably wondering where I’ve been these past few weeks.  I must confess:  I was considering putting Eat.Pray.Heal to the side and forgetting about it.  I have a fairly successful blog about my husband and my experience with infertility–a topic I know VERY well after these past 2 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments.  My husband and I originally became vegan because we were hoping it would help cure me of my fertility issues, but then in researching the vegan diet, we learned that there is so much more to being vegan than just eating healthy.  We are still pretty new at the whole vegan thing, but we are learning and loving it more and more, which is why I started this second blog.  I wanted to share what I learn about animal cruelty, about how my Catholic faith affects my decision to be vegan, about nutrition and exercise, about homemade and/or natural products, as well as recipes I try and love.  But for some reason, the more I wrote, the more self conscious I became.  What do I know about being vegan?  We’ve only been vegan for half of a year.  Now infertility–THAT I know!  I’ve been barren for 2 years.  I’ve seen several doctors, took a gazillion different medicines, had tons of different tests run, been through intrauterine insemination a few times, tried natural remedies and alternative medicine, etc.  I can write about that with confidence, but veganism?  What do I have to share with people?  However, I’m reminded that when I first started blogging about infertility, I technically hadn’t even been diagnosed yet.  My first blog post was published the night before I was to go in for a hysterosalpinogram (HSG).  I won’t go into the details of what an HSG is or what I have been through since then, but you can feel free to check out my first blog post or look around that blog, which is called This Luminous Road I Travel.

Anyway, all that to say, if you actually enjoyed reading Eat.Pray.Heal and maybe even learned a thing or two, then I am sorry I let my anxiety get the best of me.  I do that sometimes…  But I’m back and looking forward to sharing more with you!  I hope you’ll keep reading.  Here’s a quick preview of this upcoming week:  In honor of my husband’s aunt who just had a baby (and asked us to be the baby’s godparents!!), I’m planning to write about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in infant formula (you may have been hearing some talk about this lately because the nonprofit group, As You Sow, asked Abbott Laboratory shareholders to remove GMOs from their Similac products, which is a very popular brand of baby formula), and I’ll be trying 2 new recipes this week–a traditional Vietnamese dish made vegan and a pasta dish.  If they both turn out as delicious as I’m hoping they will, then I’ll post the recipes with pictures. 

Speaking of recipes, I made a really yummy Vietnamese dessert over the weekend.  I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll share the recipe.  It’s very simple.  Vietnamese people eat a lot of something called chè.  Chè refers to any sweet beverage or pudding, which is the most common type of dessert eaten by Vietnamese people.  There are many kinds of chè, and I have too many favorites to list!  The nice thing about chè is it’s always vegan friendly, because most people don’t have access to dairy products in Vietnam, so people typically use coconut milk instead.  Also, Vietnamese desserts are not as sweet as Western desserts tend to be.  This recipe is for Chè Chuối.  (Chuối means banana.)  Here is the recipe:

 

Ingredients

2 cups water

1/2 cup small tapioca pearls

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a can)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

5 ripe bananas, pealed and cut into 4 parts per banana

2 Tbsp roasted, chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)

 

Directions

Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the tapioca pearls and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls turn clear.  Be sure to stir often so the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Then, add the bananas and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into small dessert bowls (we use rice bowls, if you happen to have those) and if you like peanuts, you can sprinkle some on top of each bowl of dessert.  Serve warm or cold. 

Tip:  You won’t use the whole can of coconut milk, but unless you serve all of the chè at once, you’ll want to save the coconut milk in the fridge, because if you serve yourself a bowl of leftover chè later on, you’ll want to add 1-2 tsp of coconut milk to help soften it back up (even if you reheat it, which is how I like to have it).

 

 

 


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Chia Seeds, a Superfood

I read a great article on Natural News this morning titled “Chia Seeds are a Superfood Treasure”.  Many of you probably already eat chia seeds and know they are good for you.  They are so easy, because you just have to buy the bag and add them to smoothies, granola, etc., no grinding necessary.  We love chia seeds and put them in our vegan protein shake every morning.

First of all, per gram, chia seeds have 8x more omega 3 than salmon, which many people will tell you is the best source of omega 3 fatty acids.  So forget those fish oil supplements!  Vegans do not have to worry about where to get their omega 3’s from, because we have great sources in both flax seed and chia seeds.  In fact, according to Elisha McFarland over at Natural News, “The ALA (alpha linolenic fatty acid) that is in chia seeds is the only known essential omega-3 fatty acid that the body can’t produce on its own.” 

Omega 3 fatty acids aren’t the only benefit of chia seeds.  Chia seeds are also packed full of “vitamins A, B, E and D and minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, phosphorous, potassium, silicon, sodium, sulphur, thiamine and zinc.”  In addition, chia seeds are full of protein (6x more than kidney beans per gram) and fiber (11 grams per ounce of chia seeds).  Take a look at the chart McFarland laid out in the article (this is all based on one gram of chia seeds):

• 8x more omega-3 than salmon

• 6x more calcium than milk

• 3x more iron than spinach

• 15x more magnesium than broccoli

• 2x more fiber than bran flakes

• 6x more protein than kidney beans

• 4x more phosphorous than whole milk

I think you can agree, if you’re not consuming chia seeds on a daily basis yet, I highly recommend you start making my vegan protein shake every morning or after you workout, or you should add 2 Tbsp of chia seeds to a daily smoothie, granola/cereal, or salad.  I also recommend you try these tropical cranberry chia seed bars for breakfast sometime.  They are divine and super healthy–no sugar, no gluten, and lots of fruit and chia seeds!  I know many vegans even use chia seeds as an egg substitute (1 Tbsp chia seeds mixed with 3 Tbsp water), but honestly I prefer flax eggs (1 Tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 Tbsp water). 
 
Do you eat chia seeds every day?  How do you like to add them to your diet?