Monday, March 24, 2014

Larb Salad - Veganized

A local Lao restaurant Panoy Bistro in Grass Valley offers many delicious vegan options on their menu. My favorite is their vegan Larb salad, a mixture of sweet and spicy.



Larb is a meat-centric dish, normally containing minced meat and fish-based sauce. It is the national dish of Laos. I was craving the dish and found a few recipes that I veganized, closely duplicating the restaurant version (for a fraction of the price).

This is one of the easier ways to adapt your diet to be more plant-based - pick some of your favorite recipes and have fun creating plant-based/vegan versions.

So here is my veganized version of Larb salad!

Ingredients:
Sauce Ingredients
1/2-2/3 cup fresh lime juice (2-4 limes)
1/4-1/3 cup fake-fish sauce(You can make your own vegan fish sauce. Here's a recipe. If that is too expensive or time-consuming, I would suggest mixing 5 parts water to 1 part soy/tamari sauce + 4-6 crushed garlic cloves and reducing over medium-heat until extra salty...it took mine about 15-20 minutes.)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (available in most supermarkets)

Other Ingredients
5 oz extra-firm tofu, small cubes (about the size of your thumbnail)
2/3-3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 tbsp thinly sliced serrano chili
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup mung beans (optional, but not)

Directions
1. Whisk together the first four ingredients.
2. Bring vegetable broth to simmer in large sauce pan over medium-heat. Add cubed tofu. Simmer until liquid reduced by half, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes.
3. Add green onions, sliced shallot, and chili to sauce pan. After a couple minutes, add sauce from step 1. Stir until liquid is almost all reduced, another 5-10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat.
Option 1: Cool off until room temperature or in refrigerator, then mix in cilantro, mint, and mung beans.
Option 2: Immediately add in cilantro, mint, and mung beans. Serve warm.
If you made it too spicy, add additional lime juice to cut the heat.

This made two servings and cost me about $1.70 per serving for a total of $3.40 for the meal. Your costs may vary dependent on availability of ingredients. I always have extra ingredients, so I will make this salad several days in a row with the fresh ingredients.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

3 Signs Your Dog Loves Wearing Scarves

Have you ever wondered if your dog is obsessed with fashion scarves? Probably not. But if you have, here are three signs indicating your dog's love affair with scarves. These could be signs for celebration or an intervention. You decide.

15-yr-old Mina demonstrates.

1. Wears the same scarf but in different styles
It's never enough to wear a scarf in one manner, a truly scarf-obsessed canine enjoys a variety of styles with her scarf. For example, Mina uses a fancy knot looped around her neck in one shot, then brings that sucker up over her head in the next. One, a dapper scarf for a jaunt around town. Two, concussion treatment?

2. Modifies facial expression dependent on style of scarf
A dog who loves scarves knows to project the emotional intent behind the scarf. Mina understands this blue bandana in a puffed up bow warrants a big 'ol Pit Bull smile. This is not a serious scarf, this is a drive-with-the-top-down scarf.

3. Expects a B&W sophisticated version of every photo
The self-respecting scarf-loving canine has certain expectations when it comes to the final product, including a mandatory B&W version. Mina is either channeling her inner Audrey Hepburn or someone's grandmother.

Whether Mina loves scarves is debatable. She loves me. She loves cookies. So the combination of the two certainly creates an atmosphere in which wearing a scarf is the least of Mina's concerns. I think Mina appreciates being the center of attention too. Scarves give her that platform. Mina wishes all dogs could wear scarves, but her sister Celeste disagrees...she'll be featured soon with 3 Signs Your Dog Hates Wearing Scarves. Stay tuned.



Friday, January 24, 2014

The Year of the Scarf, Mina



Grim-faced Mina. Maternal Mina? Don't mess with me Grandma Mina.

Mina is tolerant.

True story!

When I lived in what I fondly refer to as the Halfway House, one of my neighbors had a 3-yr-old toddler. Sometimes I would let Mina wander around the front fenced in yard of the apartment complex. She liked sunbathing by the fence while I read books.

Me reading books and Mina sunbathing are common themes in our 12 year relationship.

Mina loves children. I cannot understand this fascination, given how shy Mina started when first rescued. Her trust and tolerance of children have never been in question (mainly ever since a 3-yr-old cowboy chased her around my parent's house - uninvited - one Halloween and Mina didn't eat him).

When Mina sees children, her demeanor changes. I find it weird to ask parents if I can take pictures of their kids with my dog, so I have no photographic evidence of Mina's love of children. This bums me out. Trust me, it's real.

Anyway, back to the neighbor kid. He was not taught how to properly interact with dog. The first time Mina met him, he swung a real life hammer at her. The kind of hammer only adults should use. It missed and I flung myself protectively over Mina, heaving her in my lap and explaining quickly how much Mina hates being hit by hammers.

He respected this, dropping the hammer. On his foot. Okay, so their first meeting didn't go great but future interactions went better. He learned to hold his hand out first and scratch her chest before petting her back or head. He learned not to tug on her tail or drape himself over her back.

Mina loved it. She loved this kid and his attention and even his tail-tugging, back-draping, hammer-swinging ways. However, I was thankful when they moved because they still let him play with that hammer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Year of the Scarf, Mina



I see the Year of the Scarf as a way to remember my dogs while they are alive. In remembering, I honor my interpretation of their stories. I hope they don't mind.

This is Mina's confident pose with an orange and purple hued scarf. She would wear this to a job interview and nail it. The interview, not the scarf.

Mina has not always been brave.

True story time!

During my university stint at Davis, I lived in a big house (five rooms, big by my standards). There was a glass table with chairs on the front porch. I enjoyed sitting with roommates and drinking a cup of coffee.

It seemed important for Mina to be with me at available times. I brought her out with me, her to lay down and me read a book. I was stupid. Mina's world involved safe zones - my room, the living room, the kitchen. Not the upstairs bedrooms, the dining room, and assuredly not the front porch.

I looped her leash around the table, settled into a chair and began reading.

Mina was horrified. I cannot fully express how troubled she was by this movement away from safety into terrifying new worlds. So of course she reacted poorly. Upon feeling the restraint of the leash as it tugged against the glass table, she balked. Leaping away towards the front door, I could only gasp in shock as my book and table disappeared...the book flopping uselessly to the ground, the table a little more dramatic.

Glass shattered everywhere. This did not endear the table to Mina. She planted herself at the front door, staring intently at the doorknob, waiting for me to get a clue. No one was hurt but it was a reminder that Mina missed out on so much the two or three years spent in a garage (or some other dark, confined space).

Mina aged perfectly and confidently. Mina at 15 is different than Mina at 4. I love senior Mina more than is probably physically possible. I loved junior Mina but it came with a lot of fears and struggles and concerns. We stuck through it, though. Super glad about that.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Year of the Scarf, Celeste



Can you summon words for those ears?

I have seen those ears for nearly seven years. They looked the same in puppy form.

Celeste suffered from severe ear infections the majority of her life, leaving her sensitive about ear-touches. Sometimes I accidentally elicit a squeak from her if I handle her ears the wrong way.

Even during her darkest moments, her ears scabbed and painful, Celeste would let me tend to them.

Her ears are what the velveteen rabbit would feel like. Dog ears are like that but Celeste's especially so.

True story time. Two years ago, Celeste fancied herself a war mage. Sighting her quarry - a jackrabbit - Celeste tried her Barbed-Wire-Be-Gone spell and misfired, crashing wildly into the jagged metal. Unperturbed, Celeste only ceased her pursuit because of my panicked screams. Then she insisted on walking the two miles back to the car, despite my attempts at carrying her.

The wounds were clean and so bled profusely, inspiring a deep fear of blood loss and imminent death. In me, not her. She needed ten stitches to her chest and four stitches to her paw. She was cool with the pain meds.

She still chases rabbits but is more responsible around barbed wire.

I am grateful her ears were left untouched. They are perfectly wild.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Year of the Scarf, Mina



Everything with dignity. This is Mina's motto. Primarily because I inflict many indignities upon her. For example, The Year of the Scarf.

Some may think she looks grandmotherly in this photo. Untrue. Mina is ready for a convertible ride down to a beach where she may fling her front paws dangerously in salt water.

Senior Mina carries an air of dignity and cuteness with her at all times. A fine line to walk, for sure.

Junior Mina never did. She was a rolling, frothing, bowling mass of muscle and thoughtless intent. My dad likes to share a story of walking Mina at the local park years ago. She weighed 48 pounds. He had a black belt in karate. And she dragged him down a hill. I think there was another uncontrollable dog with a mirthful guardian. Nothing bad happened.

Another true story. Junior Mina had a hard head. Senior Mina has the same hard head but uses it appropriately. Junior Mina believed all creatures had heads like cement. She greeted me daily with a leap to my face, her rock-solid cranium crashing into my less rock-solid face. One bloody nose and black eye later, I devised a strategy.

Before leaving for college classes, I would steal with me one of Mina's favorite toys (she had more than one). This was not so traumatic for Mina, thankfully. Upon my return, I would offer the sacrificial squeaky toy in lieu of my face. Mina loved this game. Her favorite toy AND person showing up at the same time? Nice!

To this day, Mina greets my return home with a squeaky toy in mouth and a happy grin on her face.


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Year of the Scarf, Celeste


I don't know about this, guys and gals.

Mina is included in this photograph as a small right ear in the bottom left corner.

Celeste turns seven in May. I adopted her as a puppy from the streets of Mexico. Literally, the streets of Mexico presented me with an adoption contract and I signed on the dotted lines. If only.

Dogs accept punishment (scarves, e.g.) for cookies. Celeste prefers an off limit approach to her ears but for a cookie? Wrap a scarf around her head stat! She did not paw or shake or generally act horrified. Instead, she stared with great intensity at the cookie which is located two inches above the camera. I wanted you to believe she loves cameras.

She does not. Cookies make cameras appealing. This is one reason why dogs are great. Wearing scarves is another. Rampaging across a meadow in glee is an additional one.

The Year of the Scarf.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Year of the Scarf


2014 is Year of the Scarf, Mina and Celeste style.

Mina is now 15 years and 2 months old. She is living with cancer and has been doing so for more than a year. Two months ago, she had her first ever seizure. So of course 2014 should be the Year of the Scarf - frivolity and adorableness wrapped in a 35-lb Pocket Pit Package.

Celeste will be featured as well. She is far from thrilled about scarves. Trust me, you'll see.

I treasure the string of moments spanning into days spreading into months with Mina. Magical, I'd say.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Chicken Show: Touching Snow

I want to preface this video with something - these hens have experienced firsts that you and I take for granted. (And by "take for granted", I mean basic necessities we may expect, like being able to walk outside our homes if we want...I don't mean we take for granted perching on hay bales or anything). They were rescued from an egg farm four months ago.

Since then, these are some of the firsts they've experience:

  • Touching the earth - these hens lived in wire metal cages so small they could not spread their wings.
  • Breathing fresh(er) air - on the egg farm, the fecal matter dropped from the cages was NEVER removed. It stood 3.5 feet high, nearly brushing the cages. The stench was unbearable. I know, I was there.
  • Perching - chickens have an instinctive desire to hop up on something above the ground at night. For 2 years, they lived in a cage and had no access to perches.
  • Nesting - I wish there was a comparable instinctive behavior in humans, so you could relate more. For a hen, nesting is VITAL to her well-being. A cage provides no nest.
  • Feeling the sun - while they lived in an open-sided shed, they never had direct access to sunlight or sunbathing.
  • Dustbathing - another innate behavior chickens engage in to reduce parasite loads.
  • Choices! - can you imagine living in an airplane, seatbelted into your seat...for two years? Probably not, but you can probably understand that your choices would be very limited. Now these hens can decide which stall to sleep in, where to lay an egg, who to hang out with,  etc.
And now, for the first time ever, these hens experienced snow! It's quite a joy to watch.

These hens are from Animal Place. (And to be clear, I work for Animal Place as their education director and am totally biased in favor of these awesome birds).

When I was in college, I was vegetarian. I ditched dairy in honor of a mother cow and her stolen baby - her bellow of sorrow left its mark. If witnessing the separation of mother from child was the norm for the dairy industry, what about the egg industry? I researched and bore witness and decided eggs were not necessary for my survival...but omitting them from my diet was a just decision and an act of compassion for the hens and rooster chicks (the 150-200 million ground up alive upon hatching). These hens lived two years in misery, driven nearly insane from deprivation and torture. That they now leap in joy, explore in curiosity, stumble forth and touch snow? What a freaking amazing gift, world.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Mina Show - The Seizure

It's been one full week since Mina had her first-ever seizure.

The seizure was a terrifying experience, more for me than for Mina. Curled up next to me, Mina suddenly arched back. She was star-gazing, her head arched back staring vacantly off into space. I thought she was choking, it mimicked that one other terrifying moment years past when I had to pull a chunk of food from her nearly unconscious, twitching form. I found nothing in her mouth.

The panic set in, my belief she was dying so entrenched that I just started screaming her name and shaking her. I was at my parents, visiting over Thanksgiving, and my dad had to physically pull me away. Mina flopped to her side, her front legs paddling wildly. And all I could do was cry her name.

It was a long ten seconds. She was unconscious during the seizure and when she awoke, it was to three of her favorite people comforting her. Confused, she could only remain on the couch. It took about three hours for her to completely recover.

I imagine if you are used to the horror of a seizure, you develop coping mechanisms. I also imagine that for many people the first time witnessing a seizure, well, it must have been my same experience - watching someone you love lose control of their bodies, spasms wracking their body.

Mina is fine now. I am left wondering what to do. She has not had another seizure. Her sleep patterns have altered since the seizure. When she falls asleep, she goes under deeper and takes longer to come out of it. I don't know if there is any correlation but it is the only odd behavior change I've seen.

I took her to the vet for bloodwork and chest x-rays (heart disease can cause seizures too). Her heart and chest look great. Her liver and kidney levels are fine. Her thyroid is low but she is already hypothyroid, on medication, and it is an unlikely cause of a seizure.

So I'm left with the unknown. I don't care for that feeling too much.