Tuesday, June 30, 2009

India Sweet and Spices Fresno Vegetarian Review

I don't know what the deal is- am I just on an Indian food bent, or is it maybe that other than the two dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Fresno, Au Lac in the Tower District and New Stars on the North side (http://www.newstarsvegetarian.com/), there just aren't any vegetarian restaurants in Fresno?

Anyway, I recently went to India Sweet and Spices looking for some Indian Black Salt, or Kala Namak (more on that in a later blog), but ended up getting food to go. The place looks so much better than it did the last time I was there- the dining area is pretty nice now. It's a deli/restauarant/store located in a kind of neglected strip mall on Ashlan and West. After ordering, I wandered around for a while... there's so much to see and smell in ethnic stores. I ended up buying some incense, a box of mangoes and the Black salt as well as the food.
Here's what I ordered-

Aloo Gobi - $8
Rice - $5
Masala Dosa - $4
Aloo Prantha - I think they forgot to charge for this
Samosas - $9 (3x $3)
Essentially, the bill came to about $26.

The samosas were good, but I'm not sure about the $3 each price - seems a bit high. I ate one in the store with my favourite spicy mint sauce, but sadly that sauce was not included in my to-go.

I have no idea how the Masala Dosa was, as VvonV ate it all. The Aloo Gobi, with potatoes and cauliflower was good, though. Neither VvonV or myself were fond of the rice, even though there was a lot of it, and it had onions and spices in it. It just had the wrong texture and was oily. There were 2 pranthas, and they were good, though not as spicy as I'd like. As you can see in the first picture, there was a lot of food.
In the second picture you can see that there were three sauces- a slightly spicy, a sweet, a (maybe weak) coconut and a yogurt. I don't do yogurt unless it's vegan, but there was a lot of it, so the cats and Miss Mags got a treat. There was also a sambar soup included with the Dosa. It was a lot of food, and there's tons of leftovers.
Fit the rules- Knew what vegetarian was, knew what vegan was. Large portions. Completely vegetarian. Fairly inexpensive.
Didn't fit the rules- They need to change their to-go packaging away from styrofoam.
All in all, a recommend for takeaway.


Ok, so I forgot to take the mangoes I bought at India Sweet and Spices home, so I had to go back for them another day. Fibromyalgia brain-fog or something.

The good news is, I now have mangoes. And aren't they pretty? They look like Easter Eggs.

They cost $10 for 11 of them. You'll note in the picture that there are only 8. That's because Vvonv and I tore into them and ate 3 within 10 minutes of getting them home. I love the camphor taste of mangoes. We'll see how long they last when the boys are back tomorrow.

While driving to pick them up, several things caught my eye. It seems like every time I drive, within a couple of blocks I see one of those nasty plastic bags scurrying across the road. Jeez I hate those bags and litterers. Then I drove past a ponding basin and saw geese and coots and a heron and some beautiful white egrets. I wonder if anyone else ever sees them? Are they too busy in their cars? And how sad is it that the only place these birds have to go now is artificial ponding basins?

Then, I saw the cutest thing- some kind of skippy-hoppy-jumpy rodent ratty-mousy thing bouncing across the road. He hopped across the road and disappeared into the railroad tracks. He was a brave and bouncy ratty thing, and it's one of the cutest things I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quick Vegan Lunch

This was lunch today.
Browned potatoes with onions, red and green bell peppers, garlic and basil and avocado salad and apples.

You are probably wondering- why does she have tomato juice in a wine glass?

In short, because sometimes I feel the need to trick my kids. People often have REAL dislikes in food. I hate mushrooms. No two ways about it. I have tried every kind in every way, and I just don't like them. Sad, for a vegan. I cook with them, though, and pick around them when I eat because I know everyone else loves them. And they are fun to cook with.

Zephyr does NOT like tomato juice. Or avocados. At least he thinks he doesn't. For some reason both he and Gryphon will drink anything if it's in a real wine glass. Therefore, the wine glass. I also mixed the avocado with Wildwood's Garlic Aoli and lime juice, both of which he likes, so he ate the avocado. Kind of like how yesterday I made 'milkshakes' for the boys- both boys claim to not like soy ice cream, and Zephyr has decided he doesn't like bananas. But when I mixed soy ice cream with a banana, orange juice, soymilk and coconut powder, both boys ate it up. It's more important to me to have them eat a variety of healthy foods than to cater to their tastes.

Grasshopper? Locust?

Who knows? I'm no expert on the jumpy kind of bugs.
VvonV just found this little guy inside his baseball cap, IN our bedroom!
No idea how he got there. If you click on the picture for a closeup, he has really pretty markings.
We put him out in the front yard by the big pond and told him to eat some of our plants. Hopefully he has a chance to do that before a bird eats him.
I like bugs. Always have. I like spiders, too. I've always thought it funny that people like my Mom, who hate certain types of bugs always have more of them. Karma, I guess. She hates snails and Japanese Beetles. They decimate her garden and roses. So she sprays and poisons, blah blah. I, on the other hand, never spray, never poison. I have snails and Japanese Beetles, but they don't decimate my garden. Sometimes there's some nibbling going on, but I'm ok with that. I'm not perfect and I don't expect my garden to look perfect. It could be that all that spraying and poisoning is killing all her frogs/toads. She has a pond, but no frogs/toads. Frogs and toads eat up a lot of unwanted bugs like snails and beetles.
Who knows? I'm just glad to see a grasshopper or a locust, because there really just aren't as many out there as there were when I was a kid. I'd love to see a Praying Mantis, but that's probably asking too much.

Fresno Vegetarian North India Bar and Grill Review

North India Bar and Grill
80 W. Shaw
Clovis, CA 93612

Not sure if it's fair to review a restaurant I haven't gone to, but here goes.

My friend Mark came over last night and brought take-out food he got from the North India Bar and Grill. It isn't actually in Fresno, it's in Clovis.
He also brought me their menu. Since he paid for it, I have no idea how much the total was.
This is what he bought-

Pappad - $2
Samosa - $4
Daal Makhani - $8
Chana Masala - $8
Aloo Gobi - $9
Sabji - $8
Garlic Naan - $3
Spinach Pratha - $3

There was also rice, but I can't tell from the menu whether it was included in one of the dishes or ordered separately.

I'm no math genius, but it appears he spent about $45. This was to feed 3 adults and 2 children- which it did, with leftovers.

All of what he ordered was supposedly vegetarian. From my end, it was good, though I wasn't feeling well and only bite-tasted a few things. I did eat a samosa and a pratha. Not really spicy or 'standoutish', but good. They seem to know what vegetarian food is. But, if I went by my gut, I'd guess it was actually just vegetarian, and that there was ghee involved. Just a guess. I prefer vegan.

I can't really rate the by the rules, because I did not go there personally.

Looking at the lunch and dinner menu provided to me by Mark, the majority of dishes are not vegetarian or vegan, although they have a large selection of that. They actually have more dishes of fish, calamari, lamb, chicken, mutton, and seafood than they do vegetarian foods.
Many other Fresno Indian restaurants have a more vegetarian balance to their menu.

While I recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for vegetarian options, I won't personally go there. Because Mark has been vegetarian for over 15 years, I trust that what he ordered was vegetarian. But because there are so many other more vegetarian-friendly Indian restaurants in Fresno, I just wouldn't go there. I'd go to Mehek Punjab de on west Shaw. They're completely vegetarian, so you don't have to wonder if your food got cooked on a grill right after the 'lamb'. Ack.

So, ok vegetarian food, but not a really 100% recommend.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Camera - Nikon Coolpix S560

Well, I finally broke down and bought a new digital Camera. Not that I wanted to buy a new one, but my 5- year old Olympus -60 finally halfway bought the dust. Meaning that the lens only seems to want to extend/retract half the time. I did that DIY kind of thing where you whack it kind of hard to set it straight, and some little metal rod came out of the camera. Boo. I must admit I am hard on my toys. I'm clumsy and not always careful. And I have two boys who are even harder on toys- so it's amazing that camera worked as long as it did. Also, it was all stainless and pretty, and had a 'slider' lens cover that I really liked. Oh, and it took good pix. I preferred to stay with Olympus because I have the accessories, but I just couldn't justify the price considering how hard things are with my mortgage right now. So, after looking at Best Buy (Comp USA is gone now), I did the right thing and bought a camera from our locally owned camera shop, Boots. If you ever need parts for a camera from 50-80 years ago, they are definitely the place.

Anyway, VvonV and myself finally narrowed it down to the Nikon Coolpix S560. I'd been a little turned off by all those annoying ads by Ashton, but this camera is the bare bones- no trendy little useless blings.

I just need my camera to take decent pictures. I don't need bells and whistles. In fact, I rather despise bells and whistles. This one is a 5x zoom, which is ok. A 7x zoom would have been nice. And, it was petty, but they only had black. I tend to choose silver or stainless in almost anything I buy- it just looks cleaner. So far it seems servicable. And easy to use. I passed over several cameras that seemed like I'd have to get a degree to use them. I'll post pix later of my first attempts with it to capture food pix.

One drawback, for me, was that it came with a 'free' leather case. Everybody knows nothing is free, and that the case was built into the $169.00 price. I'd prefer not to subsidise some leather factory. Why not issue the camera with a 15-20 dollar credit towards the case of your choice? As it is, I ended up having to buy a separate faux leather case for about $15. Oh, and the camera doesn't come with a memory card, so you'll have to buy one. A 2-gig cost me about $15. Prices really have come down. If I recall correctly, my beloved Olympus cost almost $500.

I tend to become fond of things. I don't like consumerism, and planned obsolescence drives me crazy. It would have cost more to fix my old Olympus than to buy a new camera. That's just full of crazy. Oh, well. The old Olympus still semi-works, so it'll be ok for the kids to use, and if worse comes to worse, we can take it apart and see how digital cameras are made.

We'll see how my future pictures on this blog, my other blog, my webpage and my eHow articles look. That's really the only test.

Tofutti Bagel Sandwich

Yeah, I know there are some people who really hate Tofutti. But compared to the alternative, I think it's ok. Not my favourite, but VvonV and the boys like it- and the important thing is that anywhere I've taken it- nonvegans have liked it. It has it's place.

VvonV comes home for lunch every day. He's lucky that way- so many people can't. This is really easy to make. Vegan bagels from Trader Joe's, Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, tomatoes, avocados, romaine lettuce and a chiffonade of fresh basil topped with a little chopped garlic.
Not rocket science, but still good. Yes, that is kind of a 'jam jar' in this picture. Every once in a while our local Long's has a sale on some jarred fruit (with no added sugar) that's about 99 cents. I buy them then, because the fruit is good, and we use the jars as juice glasses. I'll choose glass over plastic any day.

Anyway- let me know what you think of this picture from my new camera.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fish One

It has become apparent that Fish One is not pregnant as I'd hoped. In fact, research has shown to me that Koi don't ever get 'pregnant'. They aren't live bearers. But she could have been a bit puffy-looking if she'd had some developing eggs inside her.

I'm pretty sure now that she doesn't. I think she has what's called 'dropsy' or 'bloat' or 'pine-cone' syndrome. She pretty much looks like a pine-cone now. Oh, it's also called the Milawi Bloat, even though the poor thing's never been to Milawi. Luckily her siblings look ok.

As far as I can tell, there's not much I can do. I've cleaned the pond and filter, added some alfalfa granules and doused the pond with tea tree oil. I might need to add some salt to the pond.

I hope she pulls through- she's lasted longer than any of the info I've read said she should have.

Crossing my fingers.

Oh, by the way- the frogs/toads are in full force. I can't ever keep them straight because I always heard toads will drown in water, and frogs will die without water. But my toad/frogs seem to like both. They are just the cutest-ugliest things.


Climate change

Just a note here-

Once again, things aren't right. It's June, but the Junebugs that used to appear in May are nowhere to be found. Not a one.

And the lacewings that used to literally litter my windowsills in Junes past are nowhere to be seen.

Yesterday there were at least 11 honeybees that we rescued from the pool. I've never had honeybees in my pool. Are they all committing suicide?

Butterflies? None. Ladybugs? None.

Something is going on, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fresno Vegetarian Mangosteen Review

VvonV and I went to Mehek Punjab de last week. I think it was the third time we'd been there. Alas, I still have not bought a new digital camera, so no pix. Maybe next time.

Mehek Punjab de
Time Square
3173 W. Shaw Ave.
Fresno, CA 93711

This completely vegetarian Indian restaurant is located near Shaw and Marks, in a strip mall, right next to a Mexican restaurant I went to years ago and did not like. Plaza Vindetta or something like that.

It is a very clean-looking place, with typical Indian decor, and with part of the kitchen in plain view. There are large, dark wooden tables that worked for just the 2 of us, but would also work well for large parties.

They have an extensive vegetarian menu, and also seem to understand the difference between vegetarian and vegan. It was hard choosing, but this is what we ordered-

1 Gol Gappe
2 Punjabi Samosa
2 Aloo Tikki
1 mixed Pakora
1 Special Mehek Punjab de Thali
1 Basmati Plain Rice
1 Masala Dosa
1 Punjabi Onion Prantha
1 Punjabi Masala Tea
1 Mango Shake

We weren't really sure what to do with the Gol Gappe, as they were puffed little balloons that came with a broth and some potatoes, but the waitress reassured us we were attempting to eat them correctly. I don't think we'll order them again. The 'Special' came with three curries, a small rice, yogurt raita, tapioca pearls and two papadam. Sambar soup might have come with that, or it might have come with something else we ordered. Or something like that- we had so much food it was hard to keep track. Overall, the food is very good, if not as spicy as I'd like. I ordered a spicy onion Prantha, and it wasn't really spicy at all, even though it was good.

All of the food was good- it was presented on minimalistic metal servers. The service was quick and pleasant, and water glasses were kept full. All in all, we got a ton of vegetarian food, enough to take home and have for a couple of meals over the next two days.

The tab for all that food, after tax but before tip was $31.04.

For anyone just wanting to try them out, I'd suggest ordering the Special at $7.25 if alone, and maybe ordering just an appetizer if for two- it really is a lot of food.

Fit the rules-
Had vegetarian or vegan food
Fresh ingredients
Clean place
Attentive staff
The servings were large

Did not fit the rules-
None. Staff knew what vegetarians or vegans eat, and knew the ingredients in the foods they were


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fresno Vegetarian Mr. Sushi Review

VvonV and I were looking for some place quick to eat yesterday before his band practice with Sparklejet (look them up on Google), and we decided we wanted something light, and an internet search suggested Mr. Sushi. It has been written up well in some local blogs.

724 E Olive AveFresno, CA 93728(559) 485-3978

The place looked very clean, but there wasn't a very cohesive decor/theme going on. I can overlook that if clean is abundant. It was about 6:15 on a Tuesday evening. Other that us, there was only one other patron.

There was an extensive menu, most of it not gearing towards vegetarians or vegans.
The waitress was pleasant, if not enthusiastic. She had a face piercing that was hard for me to not focus on. She did, however break 2 of my eating out rules-

Staff should know what is in their food
Staff should know what a vegetarian/vegan is

Her first suggestion on hearing we were vegetarian was a combo plate of vegetables, rice, miso soup, salad and gyozas. Problem being that the miso and gyozas were not vegetarian. They offered to give extra vegetables to make up for the miso and gyozas. She did ask the cook what was in what, after she said she had no clue- so we have to give her credit.

We ended up ordering this- An appetizer of tempura and one side of vegetables with rice, one sushi roll, and one dinner with vegetables, one small saki and hot tea. It ended up being that both of our vegetable dishes were exactly the same even though they had different names. And although VvonV's order should have had extra vegetables, it really didn't. And the variety of vegetables was slim. We were told the eggrolls were vegan, but we got the impression it was iffy, so we did not order them.

Although Mr. Sushi offers what looks like a million different sushi rolls, we were told there was only one for vegetarians- the avocado roll. Which is exactly what it was- rice, nori and avocado. Strange , since many of the other non-vegetarian rolls had vegetable ingredients that we were not offered. The dipping sauce given tasted like watered down soy sauce with a bit of sugar. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't memorable, and it did not take away from the fact thatg the nori was too chewy. I like pepper, but there was no pepper to be had. I had to ask for wasabi and some pickled ginger, which made it more palatable. The food was nice. Not good or great, but nice.

The tempura was ok- light and not too greasy. It would have been nice to have a flavourful sauce to dip them in, but it was the same watered down sugar soy sauce.

The saki was good. Hot saki is always good. The tea arrived in a large teapot, and was very good as well.

I would like to give the breakdown of what things cost, but I can't. Overall I can say that it cost about $35 before tip- I don't know because the cashier refused to give me the receipt that had the breakdown- I only got the end charge receipt.

Fit the rules-
Had vegetarian or vegan food
Fresh ingredients
Clean place
Moderately attentive staff
Fairly inexpensive
The servings were large

Did not fit the rules-
Staff did not know what vegetarians or vegans eat, and did not know the ingredients in the foods they were serving
Admission that at least one of their foods (the miso soup and the gyoza were pre-prepared and frozen elsewhere) were not made on site
Refusal to substitute or create new dishes even if paid extra for. There were many other items on the non-vegetarian menu that could have been added to our dishes, but were not. Those ingredients were onions, broccoli, yams and carrots and asparagus at the least.

I would rate this restaurant a 3 out of 5. There is not an extensive vegetarian/vegan offering, but the one vegetarian offering they have (the menu pretends there are more) was good. It tasted clean and fresh.

I will probaby not eat there again, but I will recommend the one dish that is vegetarian/vegan to others.



This is Muffaletta (aka Muffles).

She has to be one of the most unpretty cats that exist. She's a calico/tortoiseshell. She might not be pretty, but she has the sweetest personality in the world.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Plastic Bottle Picnic

I went to a reward party for Z at a park.

Things I noticed-

Wow- children seem to not even notice when they leave their garbage around.
Parents send their children to school with tons of garbage as 'lunches'.
Almost every lunch included a drink that was in a plastic bottle.
Looking at the labels, most of the 'foods' had at least three different types of sugar as an ingredient.


Koi Fish

Eek, I started off today with a bruised eye socket and a split lip, all courtesy of one of the sizameezers- I think it was Earwig. Tripping over cats is not one of my favourite things.

That said, it is hard to tell if 'number one' fish is getting any better. I could be imagining that she doesn't look as swollen.

At first, I thought she might be pregnant. Do fish get 'pregnant'? Then an internet search implied that she might actually be suffering from 'pine cone syndrome'. For which there is supposedly no cure for.

Still, the negative optimist that I am, I doused the pond with Tea Tree Oil. It could be my imagination that fish ONE is getting better. Only time will tell.