What on earth do I cook for Christmas?

It’s just a few days till Christmas. You really can’t miss it. It’s evident everywhere. When you leave your house, all your neighbours would have a wreath on their door. There are fairy lights on buildings, trees decorated with baubles and decorations and wherever you go to, people would almost always greet you with an “Auguri!” or a “Buon Natale!”.

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While the sight is¬†beautiful to see, but on the other hand, traffic is horrible these days. The streets are full of cars – be it the highway, or the regular roads. What would take me half an hour to commute, would take at least an additional 15 minutes more. I don’t understand why, especially for the path with no shops or commercial centres in it’s radius.

Cart and I don’t usually spend Christmas in Rome. Around this time, we’d normally spend time with my family and friends back in Singapore. I’ve never grown up celebrating Christmas, but no matter, I enjoy spending time with my extended family¬†… mostly to eat good food.

What to say if someone wishes you Merry Christmas and you are not Christian

Although this time round, I’m a little confused at what to make for Christmas.¬†Usually for Christmas in Italy, it is a tradition here to serve a lot of seafood¬†like smoked salmon and tuna. And since this will be my first time spending Christmas on a plant based diet, it’s perplexing me. What on earth do I cook? Soy fish?

I want to help my in laws so that they are not encumbered in cooking diverse meals.¬†But on the other hand, I don’t really know much festive vegan dishes.

rinaz.net christmas

Argh. Such a¬†headache. In the end I think I’ll just cook stuff that /I/ like to eat. Problem solved.

Happy Christmas everyone! Have a lovely weekend with your loved ones and eat lots of food!

11 months on a vegan diet

It’s been about 11 months since I’ve¬†consciously eliminated animal products in my diet – no eggs, no milk, no meat and whatnots. So far so good. It’s been an easy transition since Cart’s vegetarian so we don’t clash too much¬†when it comes to mealtimes at home.

rinaz.net Toon! Vegan Diet

These past months, I don’t really feel as if I’ve missed out on anything. There are such a variety of things to eat here – you can see the different types of product being sold as the seasons change. There are days though, when I do think about¬†fried fish with rice and soy sauce, a comfort food that I used to eat back when I was living in Singapore.

rinaz.net Vegan Diet

(One of the nice thing about living in Rome is that fresh produce is easily accessible)

Nevertheless,¬†it’s starting to be second nature to me, I feel like I’ve been eating normally, like what you can see from my instagram stories. Sometimes, I think I even eat even too much. I used to be clueless at what to prepare, so to make things easier, I make a weekly food timetable which gives me an idea of what to cook. I don’t always follow it, but planning meals has made it less of a headache so far.

rinaz.net Vegan Diet

(Arrabbiata is something that we make often because it’s good to eat, and fast to cook)

I’ve given away or consumed (last January) all the non vegan items that I have, save for the fish keropok¬†which was the last thing that Mak Oteh gave me.¬†I feel a little conflicted as I don’t want to discard it so I’ll keep it for now, I guess for sentimental reasons.

Anyway, there are concerned¬†people who have been telling me that my diet isn’t safe¬†and that I’m not getting enough proteins and other nutrients. While I know that protein isn’t an issue because foods like beans and legumes are rich in them. Nevertheless, I did a blood test to make sure that I’m not lacking in any important nutrition. And here is my reading :

rinaz.net Vegan Diet

Everything¬†looks intact. My iron level looks normal. My vitamin B12 level looks normal. My folic acid level looks normal.¬†Even my protein level, is still in the normal range. In the end,¬†my¬†food consumption hasn’t been of a hindrance at all.

I¬†go about my daily life regularly, and as you know, I take cross fit and aquagym and physically I don’t feel like I’m weaker¬†compared to last year. There really hasn’t been any hangups, and so with that, I like to continue.¬†Come January, it’ll be a full year for me!

rinaz.net Goruck Urban Ops Padua

(Me and Marco after our Goruck event in Padova)

I wonder how it’ll be like when I’m back in Singapore though. We might be flying in somewhere in June or July or August. It¬†shouldn’t be an issue when eating outside, although¬†in my experience, there are a number of¬†ethnic food operators who don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism (much less veganism). ¬†And I haven’t really told my family yet.

This will be interesting.

Let’s eat at Ops!

Ops! is a restaurant that serves a variety of delectable vegan food. The way it functions is that you choose what you want to eat, and have it weighed and that’ll be how much you pay.

Cart and I have been here for at least 3 times already and this time round, we were here with our friends, Mdm Huang, Eu Chai, Sindy and Dario.

In this videoblog, I learnt that it’s kind of hard trying to take footage¬†when all you you want to do is eat and chat so much with your friends.

OPS! Cucina Mediterranea Vegetariana a Roma
Via Bergamo 56, Roma 00198

Let’s eat at Ostia Che Pizza!

Ostia Che Pizza is a¬†place I found thanks to¬†Happy Cow. The name is quite cute, because it’s a play on words. Che Pizza could either mean, “Wow, what a pizza!” or “What a bore!”

It’s not a Vegan restaurant, but so vegan friendly that I was amazed by the amount of choices that I had. I wanted to try everything! So it’s a good excuse to go there again.

The place seemed popular and got quite crowded when we reached there at 8.30pm and here is a video of my meal there.

Ostia Che Pizza
Via Danilo Stiepovich, 254,
00121 Lido di Ostia RM

Delicious food by the beach

What I thought was to be a lazy day, Cart decided out of the blue at noon to have lunch out for Ferragosto – this is a Catholic holiday and you’ll find almost everything closed and everyone on vacation.

rinaz.net beach time

Everything apart from eating establishments. As you know, I’m on a vegan diet since January so I was at a loss of where to go – normally people in Rome would go to the beach and have seafood. Luckily I had the happy cow app on my phone  and I could quickly check out a place to eat.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

The restaurant that we went to is called Pinzimonio which is in Fiumicino. Most people would know the area as an airport, but there are plenty of good restaurants here.

We reached there at about 2 pm, which is actually starting to be late for lunch, but we managed to get a table anyway.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

The dining area looks like a typical Italian trattoria and there were a number of families already there having their lunch.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

Pinzimonio isn’t a vegan restaurant, but they are vegan friendly and there are ample food in the menu to satisfy any vegan. Being a holiday though, we were given a fixed menu.

For starters we had Polpette di Melanzane. Hummus di fagioli, caponata e filo di scarola.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

I loved everything on the plate. Even if you’re a carnivore, you’ll find them delicious too – the eggplant fritters were soft and packed a tasty punch. The caponata, a favourite southern Italian dish made of summer vegetables was delightful – sweet, sour and hearty. And the filo pastry filled with endives … While I don’t normally like bitter vegetables, it was actually lovely.

And then we had trofie with pesto di pomondorini secchi e mandorle

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

I’m not sure how the chef made this, as pesto calls for basil and pecorino and parmigiano cheese. Instead, almonds were used. This was quite good nevertheless – the saltiness of the nuts and the fresh basil made it taste close to the real thing.

Then we had pasta integrale con zucchine, peperoni, olive e noce

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

Cart doesn’t like whole wheat pasta, saying that they taste ‘too healthy’. I don’t mind them so much, especially when they are accompanied by a good sauce. Eating them together with roasted bell peppers, zucchini, olives and walnut, it actually went well together.

I was already very stuffed at this point of time, but we were given a plate of parmigiana di melanzana.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

The original version was a big favourite of mine before changing my diet – made mostly of eggplants and parmigiana and pecorino cheese, I used to get them whenever I see it in a restaurant.

This particular version tasted very close to the real one, with the meaty-ish eggplants and the sourness of the tomatoes but with the saltiness and cheesiness of the walnuts instead of cheese.

And to end our lunch, we had a bowl of sorbetto made of yellow peaches and plums.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

This was so refreshing and sweet on such a warm day. I’m looking forward to getting my own blender so I could recreate tasty treats like this one!

All in all, I enjoyed everything I ate and I had a very happy tummy.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

The restaurant happened to be really near the beach and it turned out to be a beautiful day out so we decided to go for a little walk to burn off a bit of calories.

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

It wasn’t too hot out and I was regretting a little that I didn’t bring my swimming costume along with me. There were quite a number of people at the beach already – sitting on the sand, swimming, playing games…

rinaz.net Ferragosto Fiumicino Lunch Vegan Italy Rome

While Cart and I walked next to them and played … you guessed it, Pokemon Go and Ingress ūüėÄ

Ristorante Pinzimonio
Via Formoso, 95

How I spent my birthday

As you know, I levelled up to a new level last Monday! Initially, I wanted to invite some friends over to my place but being August, the weather was already much too hot and I’m much too lazy to clean and cook and receiving guests.

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Nevertheless, I was already in the mood for¬†buying a gift for¬†myself and have decided on getting a new wallet. While I still like my old one because it was a¬†present,¬†it was getting a little bit worn …

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I refuse to spend a lot of money so I went to Ex Novo, my favourite “pre-loved” shop which I discovered some years ago during an event. They usually sell second hand items, but every now and then they’d have never been used¬†stocks. Maybe I’ll blog about this place in the future.

Anyway, there was a wallet that caught my eye. It’s so gorgeous and colourful and a little bit eccentric like me. It’s a brand called Braccialini which is a brand you’d probably see if you’re in central Rome – the cute bags in the shapes of cars and houses.

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It’s a steal at 30 euro, don’t you think?

I just hope that I can keep it in good shape for several years at least. You know that I’m not a¬†dainty girl. But what I find interesting is when I went to pay, the clerk put in a couple of coins inside. I knew of the superstition that when giving a wallet as ¬†gift for Italians but I see it¬†done for friends, so having a shop do that for me was unexpected.

Ex Novo also¬†happened to have a lot of new stock on branded clothes that day and I tried one for the fun of it. Lavand is a brand that I’ve never heard before, but the fabric felt light and¬†soft ¬†and it fitted me so well when I tried it on. It’ll be a shame not to get it. It’s a timeless dress that I’d wear again and again. Besides, it was 20 euro something.

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(Do you like the rosebud I made for the bag? It’s easy to do!)

Anyway it was a lazy day, I didn’t have to work that day. Cart asked if there was any place in particular where we could have dinner at. I was happy to just eat veggie burgers but Cart was adamant for going to a nice place. ¬†In the end, we went to Prati for dinner at a Vegan Restaurant called “Ma Va” which sounds quite tongue in cheek to me, almost vulgar like.

I’m familiar with this area as¬†I passed by here often to go to my¬†former job. ¬†It’s not too far away from the stadium. Riding your scooter here during Spring is something quite romantic, but that could just be me.

The restaurant is interesting as it cooks traditional Roman dishes but vegan. I’ve never had the chance of eating a number of traditional Roman food¬†so, it was an interesting experience.

The place looks cosy and definitely looks like any other Roman Trattoria. It was almost empty when we arrived at 8.30 but slowly filled up as the evening progressed.

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The hosts were extremely polite and a few minutes after we’ve seated, gave us some gazpacho con anguria as a starter. It was refreshing. light and not overly sweet with the watermelon.

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It was really good.

As an antipasto, I chose the tempura di verdure miste con composta di cipolle e maionese di zafferano.

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I thought it was a little bit on the salty side, but besides that, it was cooked well. The vegetables were crunchy and delicious especially when paired with the sweetness of the onion sauce which I’m a huge fan of.

Cart had the antipasto mediterraneo.

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There is caponata, hummus and tabouleh which I liked the best among the three.

We both skipped the mains Рneither Cart and I felt like eating pasta so we went on to the secondo. I liked the idea of something cooked in coconut milk, so I had the spezzatino di soia al latte di cocco.

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Oh, this was good and mildly reminded me of rendang which I used to eat back in Singapore.

Cart had the seitan alla vaccinara.

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In the original dish, ox tail would have been used but it’s replaced with seitan here – it’s very soft, I suppose to emulate the hours of the ox tail stewing in tomato sauce. I really like the sourish, sweetish sauce by the way, which was delightful.

I enjoyed everything we ate that evening and to end the meal on a sweet note, I had the Torta cioccolata e pera while Cart had strudel con albicoca e crema di vaniglia as dessert.

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I would have preferred something softer like a sponge cake, but they were both quite decadent. Plus, a birthday with no cake doesn’t seem very birthday-ly.

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I had a lovely evening, with really good food, with the company of a sweet man. I feel attractive and I feel very blessed for the good things that has happened to me this year and I hope for many more to come.

Thank you all for the birthday wishes and thank you so much for supporting and accompanying me all these years in this humble little blog. Have a lovely day ahead! ūüėÄ

Ma Va’? Ristorante Vegano
Via Euclide Turba, 6/8

Vegan Strawberry Cake

Stawberries are my favourite spring fruits. I could eat them by the bowls if I had my way. Have you ever had some with some lemon juice and sugar? Sounds so simple, but it’s so delicious.

Recently, I saw an event for a strawberry faire in Carchitti, which about 40 minutes drive from Rome. I was so looking forward to it. I planned to buy several punnets¬†and make a cake from the recipe I read from my booklet. rinaz.net I even charged my batteries, my camera and formatted the SD card in case I wanted to do a video-log on a whim. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and when we reached there it was raining and the worst part was, there were no more strawberries left to be sold! Imagine my disappointment. But I still wanted to make my cake, and in the end, when the weekly market was going on, I went to buy a punnet. And gave the recipe a try. The cake turned out to be quite acceptable – it didn’t last for more than 12 hours.

Vegan Strawberry cake (Recipe edited to my taste)

Ingredients :

  • 500 g cut strawberries
  • 300 g flour
  • 150 g cane sugar
  • 50 g powdered sugar
  • 200 g vegetable milk
  • 1 sachet baking powder
  • 4 tbs corn oil

Put 1/2 of the strawberries into a processor till you get a purée .

Grate a teaspoon worth of lemon zest and squeeze to get 3 teaspoon worth of lemon juice. Combine these to the strawberry purée and mix together with the powdered sugar. Leave it in the fridge to rest.

In a mixing bowl, mix the baking powder, the flour, the sugar, the vegetable milk, the rest of the strawberries and the corn oil.

Transfer the mix in an oiled cake pan and cook in the oven for 180 degree celcious for 40 minutes.

Serve with the strawberry sauce.

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Eating vegan for two months

It has been slightly over two month now that I’ve been on the plant based diet, consciously avoiding¬†meat, dairy and eggs.

rinaz.net Two month vegan

I dare not label myself as a vegan though, as I still own clothes¬†with wool or duck feathers or leather in them but¬†I’m going to continue using them till they last as¬†throwing them away immediately will be such a waste. Nevertheless¬†I’ll try to be more conscious of the new things that I’ll plan to get.

But so far so good – I’ve lost about 4 kg now. I probably could lose even more, but I like to eat junk food sometimes¬†… Potato chips are vegan and living in Italy, it’s so easy for me to just grab a piece of pizza rossa or marinara¬†ūüėõ

rinaz.net Two month vegan

Apart from my weight, there are also other effects :

  • I seem to need less sleep now.

When I used to need about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel refreshed, nowadays I could go to bed at 11pm and wake up at around 4 to 5 am. Is that normal? I don’t get it.

  • Going to the toilet is really easy now

But that’s just TMI

  • Uh. Wind.

It takes time for the digestive system to get used to the high amount of fibre and produces gas as it¬†breaks it down. While¬†first couple of weeks was¬†quite lively, it has gone down now, although I don’t believe that it’ll be gassy free – as long as we eat food like legumes and cruciferous vegetables.

  • I dream of eating meat

Literally. Sometimes when I sleep,¬†there will be dreams when I’m with friends and we’re enjoying a plate of plate of¬†fried chicken or ice cream. At first I’d be confused, like something isn’t right but at the back of my mind, I knew that this wasn’t real so I’d just enjoy it anyway.

  • The past two months hasn’t been that difficult

I’m not sure for the whole of Italy but¬†fresh produce is easily accessible here. There are¬†temporary markets in my neighbourhood at least 3 times a week and no matter where you live here,¬†there will always be a vegetable seller within walking distance. So¬†we are pretty much settled at having fresh vegetables at hand.

rinaz.net Fresh produce at Nuovo Mercato Testaccio

Even in regular supermarkets, there is an increasing amount of vegan or vegetarian options. Heck, there is a special section in Ipercoop and Panorama and as much as possible, I try to get more vegan items from supermarkets as they tend to be cheaper compared to specialist shops.

rinaz.net Two month vegan

  • Eating out has been ok.

There are lots of vegan restaurants compared to a few years ago and even in regular places, I’ve noticed that there are some which labels their dishes which are good for vegans or you could simply ask for dairy or eggs to be omitted for the dishes and 90% of the time, they’ll comply.

rinaz.net Two month vegan

Understandably when going over to other people’s houses, sometimes they’d be confused at what to serve, but one nice thing to do is to bring a nice vegan dish for all of us to¬†try and¬†enjoy. Like roasted veggie pasta or vegetable paella. Yummy!

  • I find myself cooking more

Cart claims that he doesn’t know how to cook vegan dishes, so I find myself having to cook for the both of us. Sometimes I do have lazy days, but I don’t mind that much, as there are loads of ideas on the internet and I’ve found quite a bit of recipes that I really enjoyed. One would be this bean wrap that I had for dinner last night.¬†It was seriously so good. I’d be more than happy to make it again.

rinaz.net Two month vegan

Anyway, there have been some who have¬†been¬†asking me why I’ve started on my plant based diet and I find it a little complex on how to explain it. True, weight loss is one of them but at the same time¬†I don’t think that it’s right to dedicate all the limited resources that we have¬†when it can be used and¬†redirected to other more needy channels.

rinaz.net Two month vegan

And this in tune with my philosophy of minimalism and living simply.
I’m just one person – I¬†probably can’t solve world hunger by myself. Nevertheless I¬†will never impose¬†anyone to think the way I do. Cart still consumes cheese and milk. Even I still think that it’ll be better for him not to, for health reasons. (He did tell me that he lost weight while in Singapore because he didn’t eat any cheese)

Lets see how this path brings me. I just wonder how it’ll be when I go back to Singapore. You know, with my family and all. Uhmm…