Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pho Vietnam

Pho Vietnam is a small family owned and family operated restaurant, located on a busy Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith. 
I heard they have a big selection of vegetarian dishes. 
Outside it looks like a gas station, well, because it was a gas station before.
Inside...  here I need to elaborate some more. My first impression was: Wow! Is it a place to eat or a craft store? 
I almost stepped back, but then I saw people being waited at a tables behind a palm tree, I proceeded through an artificial tree "jungle" to an empty spot.
While waiting to be served, I occupied myself exploring the rest of the decor: from a farm animals to lobsters, a piece of everything is  in this little place.
My observation was interrupted by a middle-age gentlemen, who brought me some water and a menu. 
Another Wow! They sure have  a hundred dishes on the menu!

My eye caught a Vegetable Curry soup.
Yes, I'll have this.

Back in Seattle I use to go to a Vietnamese Deli just to get their delicious sandwiches with tofu and pickled vegetables. 
I was happy to see it on the menu at Pho Vietnam and ordered it to go, for later.

As a starter I asked for a vegetarian spring rolls.

When the food came, no decorations interested me anymore.
I indulged myself into delicious mini feast.
Everything was so good.


There was something else about the food: it didn't taste commercial. It had a rich flavor, an oriental taste, and something else that I couldn't figure out what it was.
I shared my thoughts with my yoga friends, who go to Pho Vietnam often for lunch and dinner.
Bryan, my yoga instructor, told me later that Lilly (she and her husband Eric own and run this little place) cooks everything by herself and seasons every dish she cooks with a very special ingredient - Love...
I certainly felt it...

Pho Vietnam from across the street

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Monday, November 28, 2011

No Stories, Just a Pie

This morning was cold... I just wanted to stay at home wrapped in a  warm blanket and read a new book.  
However, I had a full schedule. 
By midday all  I wanted was potatoes and mushroom pie.

Here is how to make it:

Boil five Russet potatoes until done.
Pill the skin and mash it while potatoes are still warm. 
Let it cool.

Prepare filling from:

5 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut in 1/2 inches cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup of grated cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar this time)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dry dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Simmer onions in a frying pan on a medium-high until golden brown. 
Add mushrooms and simmer for another 7 minutes, stirring a few times. 
Season with salt, pepper, and dry dill. 
Taste. Adjust a flavor. 
Taste again.
Remove from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes. 
Add 1/3 cup of cheese. Mix well.

Grease a 9 inch round pie pan with a little olive oil. 
Press mashed potatoes to form a pie crust. 
Place the pan in the oven for 10 min. 
Add filling and cover with the remaining cheese. 
Bake another 10-12 minutes until cheese forms a nice golden-brown crust. 
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5-7 minutes. 

Serve with fresh vegetables or pickles. 

This pie was so warm and cozy, just what I needed to wrap up this cold day.

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cabbage Baby

When I was a little girl, probably 3 or 4 years old, I use to ask my grandparents and my parents where did they find me. And the answer was: in the cabbage.
I remember even taking my grandfather to a garden and asking him to show me that cabbage!
I guess, those stories really effected my special relationships with all the cabbage family, I just love it!
Kale, Brussel Sprouts, collards, red cabbage, green, cauliflower, Kohlrabi, you name it.
If I don't have a lunch or dinner planned, it will be some dish made of cabbage.
Easy, quick, and super healthy...
Confession: I can eat cabbage rolls or borshch even for breakfast...
Last week my parents flew in from Europe, and with my dad being a diabetic I have to cook keeping it in mind.
So today I made a roasted Brussel sprouts.

I used:

2 lb Brussel sprouts, halved

For dressing:
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried dill (fresh can be used but dried has more aroma)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Juice from 1/2 orange
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp salt

I mixed all the dressing ingredients into a paste, then coated Brussel sprouts with it and  placed those baby cabbages in one layer in the non-stick baking pan.
Baked it for 30 min at 375 F.

Maybe, I was found in some cabbage after all...  :)

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Personal Best

For me a Healthy Lifestyle is about healthy food, physical activities and some fun on a top of every day's routine.  
We all are busy with jobs and family obligations. It is very difficult to find time for  a walk or squeeze a trip to the gym in the schedule. 
How many times I hear: "Yes, I need to start walking" or "I have a gym membership, I need to start going..." And next day an invitation from a friend to have lunch/dinner or another "can't-live'without TV show" postpones us from taking some actions...

Day after day as we delay any physical activities to make our heart work to melt all the consumed calories into the energy we mount pound after pound on our bodies...

My friend Lisa is a very busy mom, spouse, daughter, and a director of hospitalist program at the local hospital. 
One week she works 12 hours shift for seven days straight, that leaves  her with time to sleep and a very little time for family and friends. 
Next week she is off but has all those administrative duties as the director, so she is not really off. Let me put it this way, she is off from treating patients. 
How much time do you think she has for herself? 

However, this April she decided to start running. She didn't just run, she had a schedule posted on her fridge, and she marked every day's routine after it was done. She also told me that she posted on her Face Book page her goals to help her to stay on track. Lisa made her health a priority, day after day.

In June Lisa run her first 5K. I was so proud and so happy for her! First achievement is the hardest one and therefore it is the  most rewarding!
Then Lisa signed up for  a 10K. Summer in Fort Smith was extremely hot and Lisa bought herself a treadmill to continue practicing. 
I was receiving short text messages with numbers only but I knew exactly what it meant: 5.2; 6.0; 8.4 - What? I thought 10K was 6.2 miles. 
When I asked her about 8.4 number, she said she changed her mind and signed up for a half marathon in San Antonio! Clarification: half marathon is 13.1 miles (21 km)! 
And yes, she did it! 

Lisa after running her first half marathon... San Antonio, November 2011

Practicing for marathon takes dedication and hard work (although Lisa thinks it's fun and I totally agree with her). 
And if busy Lisa can find two hours every day to run or exercise six days a week, I have no excuses at all. 
This morning I geared up and went to the gym to do my personal best for today!

Have you done something good for your body today?

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Friday, November 25, 2011

Picking berries in Sweden

Walking on a fallen leaves always  makes me want to go into the woods and pick some berries or mushrooms. 
My ancestors, probably, were gatherers as I sometimes have this urge to gather something myself.  Occasionally, I tag alone with some friends who know what they are doing (vital skill when gathering wild berries and mushrooms).
Some years ago I spent a long weekend with my friends in Sweden. Weather was promising so we decided to hike and gather some food for our dinner table.  It was that time in the fall when all leaves have fallen to the ground and each step was accompanied by a crunch... 
By the end of the hike we had enough mushrooms for dinner, some lingonberries and cranberries.
From mushroom we made a delicious soup. 
A ball with berries though  traveled in a fridge from one corner to another for a few days. 
One cold night we were sitting around a fireplace wishing we had some pie. 
We remembered our berries and here what we came up to:

"Picking Berries in Sweden" Pie

2 cups rolled rye flakes
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup Earth Balance (butter will work as well)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups  frozen blueberries
1 cup lingonberries jam (from IKEA)

Combine rye flakes, flour, salt and sugar.
In a measuring cup mix baking soda and lemon juice until foamy.

Melt Earth Balance (or butter), slowly add milk, and mixture of baking soda and lemon juice. Stir and add to the dry ingredients. Mix it well and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
At this point turn the oven and preheat it to 375 F (190 C).

When the oven is heated, press the dough in the 9 inch pie pan and bake 15 minutes until golden brown crust forms.

Mix lingonberries jam with frozen blueberries and spread it on the top of the crust.

Place back in the oven and bake for another 15-17 minutes.

Sprinkled with sunflower seeds

Pie needs to cool down for 2-3 hours (if you can wait).

We weren't patient that night and enjoyed the lingonberrie pie to the last crunch... 

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

P.S. Our pie was made from lingonberries only. I found combination of blueberries and lingonberries to be milder. Happy experimenting! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Healthy Appointment

This morning I was rushing everyone out of the house 10 minutes earlier to make it to my appointment.
I kept saying: "lets move, I don't want to be late!"
I served breakfast and went upstairs to change. When I came down, my son asked me why I am in my workout clothes if I have an appointment. I told him yes, I have an appointment with trainer at the gym, and therefore I can't be late.
My son made this teenager-whatever-face and said: "this is not an appointment..."

Every six week as a member of Marvin Altman health and fitness center I can have an hour with trainer to review my progress, change workout routine, ask questions, and just have fun. It happened that since the beginning my trainer has been Bob Harper, the Fort Smith's Bob Harper.
I remember my first session with Bob. He asked me what is my goal, and I scrambled for a few words to whisper: "To get healthy..." and added very quietly: "and to loose weight..." He gave me that pity look ("yes, I've heard this... would you really do it?-look) but didn't say anything, just walked me through some machines, put my numbers on a Program Sheet, told me to schedule appointment with him in a six weeks, and I was on my own...
As months passed by, I had a couple more appointments with Bob.  Each time I received a new Program Sheet with more interesting and some challenging exercises. And most importantly, I earn a new look: a "you-are-doing-a-good-job-keep-it-up!"-look.
But I am greatful for that first look: it kept me motivated and still does.
So my big Thank You goes to Bob for a healthy appointments...

Mandy and Bob, trainers

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Soup Day

This morning  when I opened the front door a wave of fresh, cold, and woody air entered my home. 
I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. 
And another... And one more...  
The air smelled of a fallen leaves blended with intoxicating aroma of cedar trees with a touch of the morning frost... It was a perfect start of the day.

By lunch time I was definitely in a fall mode and made myself a quick creamy potato-leek-squash soup.
I had 1 cup of Russet potatoes, cubed, 1/2 cup of butternut squash, cubed, 1/2 cup of sliced leek. 

I started with adding leek to a teaspoon of hot oil, gave it a quick stir and added squash. Another quick stir. Then potatoes and 2 cups of water (or vegetable stock) went in the same pot. I simmered it for 15 minutes (until potatoes and squash were done), then transferred all to a blender with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. 

Served with micro greens

 As I indulge myself with a spoon of warm soup I paused for a few seconds to enjoy the moment...

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ozark "burgers"

Each time I go to the Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville,  I treat myself to a delicious vegan burger. 
Today I decided to recreate it.  I had 2 cups of cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of corn flour, a teaspoon of tamari sauce, one medium size onion, chopped and fried in a little olive oil until golden brown, cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grinded black pepper. 
I mixed all of the ingredients together, formed patties and fried it on a medium-high 2 minutes on each side. Served with shaved kale and roasted red pepper, sprinkled with lemon zest. Easy and tasty...

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contagious Enthusiasm


Do you have people in your life whom you want to be around? People that have constant impulse of positive energy so powerful that after being around them for a while you want to clime mount Everest? I have.
My aqua fitness instructor Mamie is one of them.
Her classes are fun to go to as she fills somewhat boring routine with stories to the point that you don't even notice that you are exercising. Your hands and legs are moving, your body engages all the core muscles to jog through resistance of the water but you don't even feel it. 
Another thing about Mamie is her deep understanding of other peoples needs and limitations. You won't hear from her: "You are doing this wrong!" or "You need to move faster!" or any other uncomfortable remarks that can be heard from some instructors. 

I haven't seen Mamie in a few weeks, and yesterday was my first day at the gym after two weeks of fights with cold. I wasn't ready yet to go in the pool but I went in the pool area just to see Mamie. My energy "batteries" needed some charge from Mamie's contagious enthusiasm. 

I came in at her 30 minutes brake to chat. We exchanged news about our families, then I asked her about the wedding. Her son is getting married in two weeks. She said : "There is a lot to be done still. But I'll get it. I always get it done!" 
My face was shining with a smile. She is an amazing woman, I thought.
In a few minutes that we talked, she not only re-charged my "batteries", but her positive thoughts created positive energy in me that always leads to a positive changes.

To Mamie!

This morning I made this energising juice from kale, cucumber, apple, celery, parsley, and sprinkled it with lemon zest. Happy Kale Tuesday!

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Me" Time

Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners.” 

My friend is a busy mom of 8 years old daughter, a wife, a successful scientist, a great piano player, to name a few... Couple of months ago we spoke about how busy her life is and how everyday schedule leaves her with a little to none energy for things she wants to do. 
I gently offered her to prioritize important things on her schedule, and let the rest go. I also mentioned that the most important part of our busy lives is to find time for ourselves. 
I called it "me" time - time that is dedicated entirely for my emotional and physical health, however I see it.
For me movement is the key. 
And a good healthy food. 
I said to my friend that no one would put my shoes on my feet and walk for my health, it has to be Me who take actions, a small baby steps or gigantic jumps, but it has to be me.
Last Saturday she called me. We chat about our families, relationships, work, etc. Then she said she was grateful for our conversation few months back. She was able to re-arrange her schedule to make time for herself.  She spends her mornings at the gym, has more energy and feels great. To hear those words was a humbling experience, and a proud moment.

Today, after two weeks of being home bound with a cold, I had an hour of  "me" time at the  gym. I went for 15 minutes to warm up and check how cold effected my performance. 
I ended up running 5K. 
All it took just to put my tennis shoes on...

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fermenting Corner

Surprises of the fall ...

When it comes to preserving I am first in line. I have this strange believe that fruits and vegetables taste better when picked at the pick of its season, consumed as much as one can, and the rest of it is put by for use during winter and spring months. 
By Thanksgiving I usually  have 70-80 jars of home made preserves in my pantry.  In late October-November I make a batch of sauerkraut finishing up me "preserving" season. 
It wasn't the case this year. Our Farmers Market was short on a fresh produce during a very hot over 100F summer. I missed most of the berries, cucumbers, tomatoes. All I was able to "harvest" from the market were some eggplants, kale,  and green beans.  I still had some sauerkraut to make. 

When I went on Farmers Market this Saturday, I found some daikon radishes that a nice Asian lady was willing to sell me in bulk for a very reasonable price. I was thrilled with the offer and came home with 8 bunches of fresh radishes. 
I also bought some little eggplants. I guess, those were last drops of the season. 
Happy with my findings I came home, knowing that I just brought extra work considering nine heads of cabbage waiting to be shredded, salted and pressed for fermenting. Nevertheless, I was excited. 

I rolled up my sleeves anticipating a few hours of hard labor. 
Radishes  became a  kimchi, a type of Korean fermented food that we all learned to love while living in Seattle. I adopted a very easy to follow recipe from Maangchi

Then the whole family (part of the family that lives in Fort Smith. Our daughter, a sunshine and a Little Princess, even though she is 22, lives in Seattle) took part in making the sauerkraut. We had a little fun dancing with a cabbage leaves on our heads and carrots in our hands. 
I wish I took some pictures! 
Little Princess, I wish you were here too...

Then it was the time for crafting the sauerkraut. 

We had:

  • 22 lb/10kg of firm cabbage
  • 6 tablespoons/6.5oz of rock salt (pickling salt will work, any salt without iodine)
  • 8 medium size carrots

I cleaned cabbage from wilted leaves, washed it and cut it into pieces to fit in the food processor.
Cowboy-son was working with a hi-tech device, shredding carrots and slicing cabbage.

Cowboy-husband was pealing carrots, mixing all of the ingredients together and pressing it into an enameled stock pot. 

One hour later we had it all done and set in the "fermenting corner" - part of the kitchen counter that we designated for fermenting... 

A jar with  kimchi is also used as a press for sauerkraut...

After 5-7 days whatever is left in the pot will go into a glass jar and then be refrigerated.  
We enjoy sauerkraut right off the pot, tasting it each day.  As a matter of fact I am nibbling two days old sauerkraut  as I write this post.  Healthy and delicious...

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 Cooking Experiment

This morning while driving back from school I was thinking: What  if I don't turn left but go straight on Albert Pike Avenue? Where it would take me?  
And it took me to where I needed to go, to the Asian Market.

I love window shopping in all kinds of international markets to explore what people cook with.  I am not intimidated to try a few new ingredients. Experimenting with it is an adventure and a pleasure (even if it doesn't come out the way I expected).
At the Market I filled my basket with fresh herbs, ginger, shallots, Beach mushrooms, a can of straw mushrooms, some persimmons, cucumbers, and rice noodles with anticipation of oriental flavoured soup for lunch. 

When I came home I had about 30 minutes to cook lunch with no time to go on-line to look for a recipe. 
I sauteed chopped onions, minced garlic, grated ginger in hot oil, added mushrooms, green beans, yams. Then I covered it with four cups of water, boiled it for about 10 min on a medium heat. Then I added juice of one lemon, shaved kaffir lime leave, chopped scallions and cilantro. Sprinkled it with a hot pepper.

The soup was good... My morning detour was worth it.

Until next time,
Cowboy country vegetarian

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Yesterday  I had some cravings for fennel. And I run out of a  barley and rye flakes that we use for a  hot cereal every morning, so I decide it is time for a small road trip to Ozark Natural Foods, which is located 60 miles north of Fort Smith,  in Fayetteville.

Highway 540 took me through the hills of Boston Mountains and probably  for the first time I drove ... under the speed limit, waaay under the speed limit. At some point  my speedometer showed 59 m/h (speed limit on that road is 70)!
It was hard to take my eyes from a red-yellow-ruby-amber-green hills, washed with the last night's rain and kissed with the rising sun. It was gorgeous! 

I didn't buy any fennel,  $5.99 a head was a little too much to pay, so I skipped it. 
Although I still want to make the salad some  day:
1 fennel bulb, 1 orange. Yes, just two ingredients. I like it this way. I cut fennel bulb in half, then thinly slice it. Add sectioned orange (skin, membrane,and white pith removed), mix it well and leave it in a refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. 
Salad is light, crunchy, healthy, and very easy to make. 
Wasn't very affordable this time though... 

So I adjusted my shopping list to this: 

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Weather

Wind was blowing hard today.
It rained almost all day.
We were under tornado watch. 

I don't feel comfortable when I see weather alerts on my Droid. Local friends tell me not to worry during the watch, but I should look for a safe place when there is a tornado warnings.
I don't know about them but watches make me nervous  just as much. I am scared off those thunderstorms with incredible lightnings and thunders... Forget earthquakes.
When a storm systems comes in, I just cover myself with a blanket on the sofa in the living room until it's over.  Big progress since last year (after we just moved here from Seattle), when each thunderstorm I spent in ... closet zipped in a sleeping bag. 
I guess, every one has their own fears...

Today gray sky and moderate possibility of severe weather from the Storm Prediction Center kept me inside all day. 
In the morning I had a home version of Starbucks mocca  and sip by sip I finished reading Robin Mather's book The Feast Nearby.  It was easy to read and somewhat inspiring. Some useful recipes too.

Then, for lunch I had just plain salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, dill, and drizzled with olive oil.

For dinner we all wanted something warm and cozy, so I made a leftover bean stew. I didn't expect it would be so delicious! And very easy to make.

Here is how. I sauteed one medium onion, chopped,  in a teaspoon of olive oil. Then I had a little of spaghetti sauce left in the jar. I added it to the pot when onions were golden brown.

I also had some white northern beans, few rings of roasted eggplants, couple of roasted bell peppers: all went into the simmering sauce.

Two minutes later I added kale piked from my garden (yes, it's Kale Tuesday, we had to have some kale!). I stirred it a few times, sprinkled with salt and pepper and dinner was ready.

Wind is calming down...
I have a new book on my Kindle. 
It's time for me to calm down too... 

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian

Monday, November 7, 2011

Our Daily Bread - The Recipe

Savory bread with dill

This is a very basic bread dough recipe that has many uses, including bread, pizza, and many other baked goods...

It all starts with a few ingredients:

  • Flour - 500 gr/ or 4 cups
  • Water - 300 ml/ 11oz
  • Yeast - 1 pack /8 grams or so
  • Salt - 1,5 teaspoon
  • Oil - 1 tablespoon
  • Sugar - 1/2 teaspoon (yeast love sugar!)

While there are many books and web pages on bread making, this one is just like grandma use to make. Although I have my KitchenAid to help me with mixing, it is pretty much done the old fashion way.

It is hard to give exact measurements for bread as depending on type of wheat that was used to make flower, humidity in the area, the ratio flower/water may wary slightly. For example, I had to adjust the ratio when I moved from humid Seattle to relatively dry Fort Smith. So as my grandma use to say: you need to feel the dough when it is ready.  It just takes some practice. Let's roll up the sleeves and start making a bread.

1. In a measuring cup I dissolve 1 package of dry east, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a cup of warm water. I add water first and stick my finger in it: if it is too hot for my finger, it will be too hot for yeast and it may die (yeast are alive, so to keep it happy, water should be around 120F). Yes, I washed my hands before cheking the water. I leave it for about 5 min until foam starts to build up.

2. While yeast are activating, I measure other ingredients:
500 grams / 17.64oz/ or 4 cups of flour. I use this as a basic bread flour:

3.Then I sift the flour, and add in to a mixing bawl (Kitchenaid), but any other big bawl is good.

4. By this time yeast should have been activated and formed a foam on the top.

Happy yeast...

I add 1,5 teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of oil and stir.

5. Then I slowly add liquid ingredients to the flour in the mixing bawl. I set Kitchenaid on a first speed and run  it for about 2 minutes, until the dough doesn't stick to the wall. Then I take it to a clean kitchen counter and knead it for another 5-7 minutes until it's smooth and satiny  When I shape the dough into the round,  return it to a mixing bawl, cover with towel and plastic wrap on the top, and let it ferment.

Tip: warmer temperature speeds up the fermentation process but slower colder temperature stretches the gluten better so the bread is testier. No wonder grandma's bread was so delicious: she let it proof overnight.

6. Once the dough doubles in it's size, I deflate it by gently pressing into the dough and let it rise again. This process can be repeated 2-3 times with white flour. If making whole grain or rye bread one proofing is usually enough.

7. I use cast iron skillet for baking my bread. I form a round, place it on an oiled cast iron skillet, slash a few cuts on the top and let it proof from this:

to that:

Whole grain wheat and rye bread (same recipe, different flour)

8. Baking. I preheat my oven to 500F and place on the bottom of it a cast iron pan with boiling water so the bread doesn't dry out.  Then I transfer bread in the oven for baking.

9.  Here I use the timer. After 10 minutes in the oven, I rotate the skillet and turn down temperature to 425F and bake it another 17 minutes. Then I take bread out of the skillet, turn it upside down (it is very hot, use oven mittens!) and check:  if it has hollow sound when I knock on it, it is done. Otherwise, I return it to the oven for another 5-7 minutes.

10. Right off the oven bread needs some rest: I brush it with water and cover to cool down.

The result is mouthwatering!

Until next time,
Cowboy Country Vegetarian