Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Still Cooking Thai - the Asian grocery store where I live.

I know, I know - I've neglected my blog(s). Quick update to my little adventure of learning to cook Thai (vegan Thai) and yes we are still eating pretty much strictly Thai. I won't add the latest recipes to this post, but I will be adding them to the blog shortly. It's been a month now - my - a month has passed since I began converting us to vegetarian. I've been cooking vegan Thai recipes for a month now. Thai cooking is not meat free, and I have been using the vegan Thai recipes at Vegweb. No sense adjusting to Thai food with meat only to remove the meat later, so this is what we now know to be Thai cooking - the vegan way. (No, it wasn't my plan to go vegan religiously; vegetarian yes, but not vegan, so this is more the convenience that Vegweb offers in providing recipes from people who are vegans!)

Update 1) I made Spring Rolls, which are NOT egg rolls, although I wound up also making egg rolls because initially I had purchased the wrong kind of wraps. So egg rolls are egg rolls and the wraps include a combination of flour and eggs and the recipes for the fillings vary, but essentially you wind up cooking the little dumplings in hot oil. I wondered as I was dipping them into the basket of cooking oil how this isn't much different than french fries or fried chicken parts.
And yes they were good, tasty and I enjoyed the egg rolls, but I digress.

Spring rolls are not cooked. The wraps are actually tapioca based and flat like a tortilla. To make the spring rolls, the basic recipe is a use of a mix of vegetables (carrots, onions, bean threads, cooked tofu, mint or cilantro) wrapped in a lettuce leaf or two, then the whole thing is wrapped in the tapioca based shell. The shell is set into water for a few minutes to soften, then removed and kept softened between two clean, wet dish towels. Whle still soft, the vegetable combination of ingredients are wrapped into the shell in a kind of burrito fashion.

It's quite 'artsy' when finished, the green lettuce shows through the transparent shell. The taste is fresh and the mint or cilantro add to that sense of 'freshness'. The Spring Rolls can then be dipped into a peanut sauce and it's a quite lovely eating experience. When I sent these along with Sweetie for his lunch, he came home and reported there was a lot of ooohh la la- ing from his work buddies and I think Sweetie was kind of impressed that his wife had sent along a 'specialty' for his lunch.

Update 2) The Asian grocery store where I shop. Obviously I have made many more vegan Thai dishes since I last blogged, and the Spring Rolls get special mention because they were a labor of love and 'art'. So I have been back to the Asian grocery store for the second time now to replace some ingredients and get some new ingredients. It is still a bit of a time consuming experience as I continue to learn the various ingredients. I spend a lot of time reading what lables I can that are in English, and asking about labels that are in Asian languages with no English anywhere. It is a pleasant experience.

The Asian grocery store called Ping's Market also has a 'restaraunt' area and a limited menu of items that the store owner cooks and serves. I had the Pad Thai noodles and Spring Rolls in my first shopping trip which inspired me to actually make Spring Rolls at home. In my second shopping trip, my granddaughter (15 yr old Emo kid - by her own description of herself) was with me. I shared the 'lunch' experience with her and she was Not impressed - more like 'ugh', but it's okay, because someday when she is 35 or 48 she will remember this lunch experience with her grandmother.

The store owners are quite elderly and a younger woman, one of their daughters, was there the first time I went and again this second time. I asked her if they had the dvd that was playing on the tv the last time I was there - it was a series of Thai dancers and singers. I wanted my granddaughter to see the dancing. She went to see about the dvd, and came back with one (I don't think it was the one I wanted to see, but that is okay) which she put in. I began asking some questions and that generated conversation with her. She shared with me that her parents were, in fact, refugees, having left Laos at the time of Vietnam war, to Thailand, where they remained in refugee camp for 5 yrs. Then they crossed over as one of the many 'boat people' to America on a sponsorship by the many churches that were sponsoring Asians at that time.

She relayed to me a tad bit of a story her mother tells her. Since she was already born, and her parents were escpaping with her when she was but a baby, her mother explained how desperate survival was for everyone. Mother explained that had baby made sounds or noise, the others accompanying them would have felt compelled to drown both mother and baby. I felt empathy for how terrifying that must have been for the mother. I am not a stranger to these kinds of stories, as in our little remote community several families that are refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have settled here. The region where we live has a sparse population of people and only a few communities among a county full of trees, wetlands, mudflats, rivers, sloughs which all feed into or out of the Willapa Bay, which meets up with the Pacific Ocean. A bit of a quiet life for war-torn refugees. I spent 16 years as a case manager with our State social services programs, so I have had my share of interviewing and helping refugee families over the years, including here where we now live.

What was intriguing to me about the story as the daughter told it is that the daughter relates more to her life in America than her life as an infant and child in the refugee camps. As Daughter shares the story with me, it seems to come across in a tone that implies the story seems a bit unreal to the Daughter. I am reminded again that now that I am into those mid-elderly years of 55, how important passing along the heritage stories are to not only my childrens' generation but their childrens' generation. I don't know what my 15 yr old granddaughter will remember about the lunch, but I hope when she is herself an adult and past the 'teen' dramas, she will remember the Daughter's story.

How fortunate I am that Ping's Market exists in the small town communities that have so little in the way of choices to offer. It wouldn't exist here in this remote location except that some of the refugee Asian families chose to move here and remain here. I live in a fishing village, population of a mere few hundred. Nearby towns have population of a few thousand, but nothing of the size that warrants the 'shopping mall', 'strip mall', 'box stores' type businesses. Nor would I like to see these communities catch up with 'progress' enough to desire or want to attract such businesses.
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No Impact Man blog - urban New York family experiment - one year of no impact

Well good for him and his wife and their small child. He decided to put into action and action plan to reduce his family impact on the environment - in the urban setting of New York city. Instead of mouthing all the assortment of platitudes, he decided to make a committment, reduce their environmental footpring and is blogging about it.

While I self congratulate on the efforts we have made in our family towards reductionism, No Impact Man takes it further. I'll be following along with his blog and maybe commenting from time to time. It's not easy to make so dramatic a change so suddenly, so it sounds like his blogging will serve as a kind of 'how to tutorial'.

We moved away from urban setting/city to try to find more meaning in our daily lives by going backwards in time. And we did so before it was 'popular' to be environmentally conscious about the effects of global warming. We were doing fairly well with what was then termed 'intentional,meaningful, simple living'.

Then Sept 2001, then President Bush decided to invade and occupy Iraq. Two members of our family found themselves in Iraq. One was already military, the other enlisted after 9/11. We hadn't been a military family for decades, since we were in our 20s during Vietnam war and now here we were again a 'military family'. After a bit of internal ambiguity, I decided to become a military family speaking out borrowing from my own life experience as a young military wife during Vietnam war, and as what is affectionately termed a 'military brat' being raised as a child on military bases.

I threw myself into this new arena (for me) of activism, in earnest hope that with enough voices, enough counter energy, surely Americans would not want to support the creation of another Vietnam type situation. I gave it all up to trying to be among the contributors to end this war in Iraq the first year, the second year, the third year, the fourth year. Now as we move into the fifth year, I find I can not keep up that level of intensity and want to put some other of my life elements back into balance. Returning to some of the philosophies of our intentional lifestyle, I find they are now repackaged with new labels as a result of the buzz around 'global warming'.

Good, great, and I'm down with that since the more concerned citizens taking action steps towards another kind of counter revolution the better. A different kind of activism! I already have blogging outlets for my thoughtful reflections and opinions about how this Administration is managing the war in Iraq, so I don't need this blog as a pulpit or venue for expressing those concerns. Along the way of my journey these past four years into activism, I've also been exposed to and learned a great deal about environment, intentional corporatism, and the grotesqueness of full blown consumerism as thieves in the night taking from people's lives their very consciousness of meaningful living.

So Mr. No Impact Man, it's great to have run across your blog today and thank you and your family for what you are doing.
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Project; Envelope Books

I wind up with left over envelopes, and I save them..for - just in case. Still have them, and there has been no 'just in case'. I also occasionally see bundles of envelopes for sale at thrift stores.

Look what some clever people at Church of Craft came up with for ways to creatively use envelopes!









and here is a tutorial with basic instructions for making accordion envelope books at Paper Source.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Project; Hanging Pendant lights from Vintage Jello Molds



Now this is an idea that might be fun to try. Making lights from vintage jello molds. I have not yet converted anything into a lamp or light, so I'm not one to give advice. Instead I'll take it on the advice of others who have converted old treasures into lamps or hanging pendant lights. A series of hanging pendant lights seems to be a trend right now.

Found at decor8 and read the post and comment for yourself, as others who have converted a lamp say it's a fairly simple process using converter kit available at hardware stores.
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Project; Making Paper Beads using magazines. Doorway or Window curtain

Paper Bead Art. I never heard of it, but others have. Why it caught my attention was because it uses magazines (and I have too many) plus the suggestion that the paper beads could be strung together to form a doorway curtain (or a window curtain). While the suggestion pictured is using the paper beads as art, I would be more likely to make the paper beads as a project to use the old magazines, so I would need plenty of paper beads to then string a doorway curtain.


For the tutorial how to - see at curbly

and the paper beads are shown in this framed art piece

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Project; Turn a tree branch into a coat rack

Coatrack from a branch...I can do this!



found at Apartment Therapy - San Francisco, which found the image somewhere else, it was promotional of the wallpaper decor. Turning the branch into a diy project; hang branch by curtain rod mounting brackets; use S hooks to hang hangers.
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Arthur's Busy-ness

I'm sitting here on a Saturdy morning feeling healthier, wiser and motivated for new vocational directions.

Lifestyle changes driven originally by take the RealAge.com test are having an intitial dramatic impact. The incredible dietary change resulting from Lietta's research and committment to change has been augmented by my own promise to exercise frequently.

At work - where I'm authorized a morning and afternoon break, I stopped sitting and reading and committed to walking. 7 1/2 minutes from the office and 7/12 minutes back morning and afternoon. Add to that a 15 minute walk during my lunch hour and the results have been very gratifying and motivating.

Not only are my clothes already fitting better, but my internal sense of health, energy and mobility are readily apparent moment to moment.

I have very little sense of weight loss but know that there has been an initial reduction because my pants fit more loosely and my discomfort in hot environments and heating up from exercise has lessened considerably. At first I had a fear that walking would force me to give myself minibaths, change shirts and sit in front of a fan for a long time before being able to return to work.

For the most part that hasn't happened, although I do have a problem at work in a poorly ventilated interview room that suffers mini-global warming (by mid morning on warm days, that room is like an oven) that the landlord has yet to resolve. However, for someone who could raise a sweat by climbing the stairs at home, the difference and improvement is radical.

Furthermore, I have to comment on what apparently is the effect of regular coffee consumption on the Type II diabetes I expected to commence a year or so ago. Studies indicate that coffee consumption reduces the probablity of Type II onset by as much as 30%.

.... and for someone like me who avoided coffee for religious reasons for the most of the first 45 years of my life.

Anyway, with the support of my beautiful companion who immediately moved into lifestyle change when the test indicated that my chronological age of 60 does not reflect my actual health age up in the 70's.

So far so good.


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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Recipes This Week; Still Eating Thai!

Catching up on the new recipes I made this week. See what happens when I miss one day of blogging the progression? It turns into two missed days, then three, then an entire week goes by and I find myself needing to write a 'super' sized blog entry. The order of the days we had the new eats isn't too relevant, but the grades and rating we gave the new recipes determines if we will have that one again ... or not.

So here goes. And again, most of the recipes come from VegWeb.com - where I have my recipe box, and ability to plan meals and print out my grocery shopping list.


Sweet and Spicy Thai Stir Fry

2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
2 small jalepeno peppers
snow peas
Spanish red onion or shallots
1 pkg Lo-mein noodles (thin yellow spaghetti like chinese noodles)
1 jar sweet red pepper Thai ssauce
1/2 cup sweet plum sauce
soy sauce

Directions:

Slice the green peppers into 1/2 wide long strips. Dice all other peppers down to about 1/2 square. Slice ends from snow peas, otherwise leave them whole. Dice red onion or shallots smaller than the coloured peppers.

Run the lo-mein noodles under cold water in a collander for about 5 minutes to loosen.

In one stir-fry pan or wok add all peppers and snow peas (feel free to add any of your other favourite veggies to this wok as well). Add a bit of oil, about a tablespoon of soya sauce, and about 1/2 to 3/4 of the jar of Thai Sauce. Stir fry at med heat until the sauce has thickened slightly and the vegetables are well cooked.

In a second stir fry pan or wok add bean sprouts and lo-mein (can be substituted with a nice tri-color rotini pasta). Add a bit of oil, soya sauce, and just enough plum sauce to glaze the noodles and sprouts. Stir fry for about 5 - 7 minutes on med heat, until noodles are hot and sprouts have wilted.

Voila, serve veggies woks contents over the noodle contents. The veggies will spice up your mouth, the noodles will chill it out, and I guarantee you'll enjoy it (my roommates at university did when I first created this one)!



(We Loved This One! It is just as the contributor said - veggies spice up your mouth while the noodles coated in the plum sauce chill out your mouth. I was very surprised, since I'm not a big fan of green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers - but it was delicious! I didn't have Lo-Mein noodles, and instead used Angel Hair Spaghetti noodles. I also did not have snow peas, so did not use. We liked the results so well, that I would repeat again using the modified recipe as I made it. We will use the recipe as taste treat to ourselves and as special dish for company.)





Thai Cucumber Salad

2-3 whole cucumbers
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3-5 cloves garlic (to taste), minced
1 large shallot, minced
salt, to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Wash cucumbers well and peel (I like to leave some of the skin on for color, but it's of course optional). Slice in rounds as thinly as possible.

Place in bowl and cover with vinegar, sugar, and salt, stir to dissolve. Add garlic and shallot, mix well.

May be served immediately although I find the flavor improves if it's allowed to rest in the refrigerator for up to two hours. Add pepper flakes to taste when serving, if using.


(We enjoyed the salad like cucumbers with the spicy sweet taste - gets the taste buds going. Will make this one often, good use for cukes in the summer when cucumbers are garden plentiful)




Egg Rolls -
using recipe on the wrapper package. While I intended to make Spring rolls (not cooked - certainly not deep fried), I wound up having to go in a different direction. I had purchased the wrong type of wrappers which required cooking first. I will be sure to purchase the correct kind of wrappers next time as I wanted Spring Rolls, not Chinese type Egg Rolls. Anyway, I wound up following the recipe on the wrapper package, deep frying them or wok frying them - but nonetheless, this is not a 'healthy' kind of recipe.




Chop Suey

3 stalks celery, diced
half a small cabbage, diced
2 large onions, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
3 tablespoon oil
1 cup vegetable stock
half a teaspoon yeast extract
half a teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon corn flour
4 tablespoon water
salt & 125g bean sprouts

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large pan, add all the vegetables except the bean sprouts and stir fry for 3-5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, add the yeast extract and the soy sauce. Mix the cornflour and water, add to the vegetables, season and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and cook for a further 2 minutes. Serve with boiled rice.

(Well - the ol' Chop Suey which is not Thai and I think more a Chinese dish hybrided for Western palletes. This was filling and that makes it a good, thrifty type recipe for using those odds and ends veggies, and rice. I don't have corn flour, but I do have soy flour, so I used that instead. And I'm not sure what yeast extract is, but I do have nutritional yeast so I used that and perhaps it is the same thing. I think there are likely a number of Chop Suey recipes, so this one is probably not more or less outstanding than another Chop Suey recipe. It is after all Chop Suey.)




Chow Mein which is a recipe I already posted here (using chicken). I made this for us this week, using tofu instead of chicken and it was probably just as good. I would make it again because I love those crispy chow mein noodles!




Simple Thai Pizza

pizza crust (I use the easy, yummy, and Quick Pizza Crust recipe from this site or Rustic
Crust)
2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered)
2 tablespoons peanut or sesame oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter, unsalted & all-natural
1/4 cup tamari
1 lime, juice only
1/2-1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste (make sure to check label for fish sauce or shrimp
paste)
8 oz. of your choice of protein - Morningstar Farms Chicken Meal Starters, or Thai-Style
marinated baked tofu
1 bunch scallions, chopped (white and light green parts only)
1/2 cup carrot, shredded or julienned
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450*F.

Mix the ginger in with the oil. Brush mixture (I use a silicone basting brush) across the pizza crust.

Bake for 5 minutes in the preheated oven.

Mix together the peanut butter, tamari, lime juice and curry paste. Spread this on the crust and top with remaining ingredients. (TIP: If you are using MSF Meal Starters, put them on the pizza BEFORE the sauce and they will absorb lots of extra flavor.)

Bake for 10 additional minutes.

Makes a great appetizer for parties. Serves: 6-10 slices

Preparation time: 15 minutes prep + 10 minutes baking



(We appreciated this recipe as a replacement for our 'Friday Night' treat meal. We usually will have a store-bought DiGiorno's Pizza or I will make us Hoagies or Sweetie will bring home subway sandwhiches from Subways. Sometimes we would have a take out Chinese meal, but that was rare. So I made this Thai Pizza and it was Great! I used a refridgerator packaged prepared pizza crust. Followed the directions and ingredients list, using tofu (that I baked first) and it was a most interesting tasting pizza. I will make it again, but the sauce was a bit runny, not sure how to avoid that in future. Fun pizza for guests.)




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Friday, March 2, 2007

Project; Arrange your books by color on your bookshelves

Found some great links today. And local to my area, okay, well at least my state. Found at Apartment Therapy reference links to Re-Use Salvage stores in Seattle and Bellingham, WA. I know there are salvage operations, and that is not new. But the focus to re-use, not toss out, and refashion or repurpose is a bit of 'repackaging' or re-marketing an old idea.

Earthwise, Inc., Building Salvage (Seattle)

The ReStore (Seattle and Bellingham)


How clever is this for decorating without spending big $$? For those who are lovers of books, this is fun idea. Shared at Apartment Therapy - Los Angeles.
Books arranged by color. chotda at flickr



and another, also at Apartment Therapy - Los Angeles, by sugarfreak at flickr

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Grandmothers still teaching; 'The Three Sisters' gardening

I absolutely did Not know this - but I do now. I have often heard of The Three Sisters, without full recognition of the relationship. I will be planting my corn, beans and squash in a quite different pattern this year. In fact, I think I will plant it in that sunny space behind the house and actually name it My Three Sisters Garden. I came across this in my morning reads - attributed to a post at one of my listserv groups by Sweet Spring Farm.



*The Three Sisters*

The "three sisters" of New Mexican agriculture, corn, beans, and squash,
were hundreds of years ahead of their time. This system serves as the basis
for inter-cropping systems currently being used around the world as tools to
increase agricultural productivity in areas facing food shortages. Why is
this such a successful system?

Simply stated, each of the three sisters serves an important role. To
understand the system, one should first consider the three plants
seperately. Growing corn in rows is a good idea but wastes valuable planting
space. Beans require some sort of support system and must be staked up to
grow. Finally, both squash and corn require additional nitrogen in the soil
to produce adequately in New Mexico's typically sandy soils, which are also
prone to losing valuable moisture due to evaporation.

As corn reaches for the sun, beans may grow up the strong stalks and the
necessity of building a support system or frame is reduced. One must plant
corn some distance apart, leaving the ground bare; however, planting squash
between the rows of corn reduces soil moisture loss as the squash foliage
acts as a natural mulch, reducing soil temperatures and helping to "hold"
moisture in the soil where it may be used by the plants and not lost to the
atmosphere. Finally, beans have the unique capability of being able to "fix"
atmospheric nitrogen, pulling it from the air and improving soil nitrogen
status; essentially, "fertilizing" the other two sisters.

Contributed by Dr. Dann Brown, Professor of Botany, Eastern New Mexico
University

http://ddl.nmsu.edu/kids/webquests/3sisresources.html
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Thursday, March 1, 2007

The 'Victory Garden' still has meaning for today's generation



I have long believed the WWll concept of everyone having a 'Victory Garden' of their own has more meaning for us now in these times in a quite different way. In the time of WWll, individuals grew Victory Gardens as a response to war-time rationing and as a united gesture of patriotic support.

As 'living off the grid', becoming consumer-less, corporate farming, global warming, terminator seeds (food seeds), sustainable living and stewardship for Mother Earth's resources become relevant issues, I have yearned for us, as a collective country of concerned citizens get back to the idea of Victory Garden brought into the 21st century. Looking back at earlier decades - fashionably called 'retro', and repurposed or refashioned to the 21st century, why not look back to the Victory Garden concept of WWll and give it a 21st century facelift?

Please take a look at WorldChanging: Tales of a Self-Sufficient City.


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