What’s in Season: Asparagus

It’s that tall skinny vegetable that’s known for making your pee smell a little funny. It’s one of my favorite vegetables, but I have to admit, before writing this I really didn’t know much about it.

So I hopped over to World’s Healthiest Foods to find out more. The most interesting thing I learned, was that in addition to having several beneficial vitamins and minerals, asparagus contains a substance called inulin.

Inulin is a carbohydrate that is able to survive your digestive track and make it all the way to your intestines. Once there, it helps to support the good bacteria in your gut. When there’s a healthy ratio between the good and the bad bacteria, you have a happy gut, but when the bad guys take over, that’s when you can start to experience all types of health issues. The bad guys live off all the junk we eat. And the good bacteria, well one thing that promotes their well being is inulin.

After suffering from UC for so long, anything the promotes a healthy gut is a winner in my book. Especially, something I love as much as asparagus.

Since I made the commitment to eating healthier, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is incorporate more veggies into my diet. I’ve found that a great way to do that is by starting my day with them, so asparagus for breakfast it is.

Asparagus Leek Frittata type

I found this recipe for an Asparagus and Leek Frittata at Epicurious. This is a perfect spring dish since both Asparagus and leeks are in season in the spring. This recipe is also vegetarian but my meat lovers can always add sausage to the frittata or serve with a side of bacon. Either way, you’ll feel good that you started your day with veggies and something that’s good for your gut. Frittatas are also an easy egg dish for those of us who aren’t skilled in the omelet flip.

First, wash and cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces, removing the tough bottom parts.  

Next, wash your leeks then cut all the beautiful green parts off, so all you’re left with is the light green and white section. If you’ve never cooked with leeks before, make sure you pull off at least one of the outer layers. Leeks are grown partially under dirt, so it’s very common to find dirt trapped between the outer layers and no one wants dirt in their frittata.

I adjusted the recipe slightly. I added garlic because I love garlic but decided to skip the mushrooms since I’ve never been a fan of them. I also threw in some sundried tomatoes because of the mild sweetness they add.

Let the butter heat up, then add the asparagus, leeks, garlic and tomatoes, and season to taste with a little salt and pepper.

As a side note: I sampled the sautéed mixture before I added the eggs and cheese and I liked it so much I ended up cooking it (minus the tomatoes) for dinner as a side dish later that week. It went perfectly with Chicken Parmesan.

Once the veggies have cooked for a few minutes, add the egg and cheese mixture to them. Before your eggs completely set, sprinkle some more Parmesean and Fontina cheese on top and stick the pan in your pre-heated oven.

Your fritatta only needs a few minutes in the oven. You’ll know it’s done when the cheese on top has melted and starts to turn golden and when the eggs puff slightly.

When it’s done, it’ll be time to enjoy a dish featuring what’s in season, asparagus.


Tea and Tranquility 250 feet Above the Strip

The strip can be sensory overload, flashing lights and neon, sounds of slot machines and crowds of people. Now imagine, literally, being above it all, like you’re floating up in the clouds. Soothing tea, peaceful music, quiet conversations, this is the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. With its floor to ceiling windows and views right up the center of the strip, you are truly above it all.

Taoist believe doing a little, is better than doing a lot. This statement explains your arrival to the Mandarin Oriental hotel. You enter from an isolated driveway, hidden from the strip, and walk past huge urns into a bare, nondescript lobby.  The real lobby is on the 23rd floor, next to the tea lounge.  When you arrive on the 23rd floor, there are no erupting volcanos or giant lions to greet you, only Vegas as seen from 23 flights up.  You can even see the area from the ground, as it looks like the builders cut a slice out of the exterior walls and replaced them with glass.


The tea lounge, like the entrance to the Mandarin Oriental, is nothing elaborate, just a few couches and velvet chairs in the section separating the check-in area from the Mandarin Oriental Bar. Like most places on the strip, the tea lounge is not about stretching your dollar. I’ve been to other tea times that offer more food for less money, but I don’t think there is a more peaceful place on the Strip.
We opted for the vegetarian selection of sandwiches with our tea, which you can call ahead and request. The vegetarian option featured little cones, filled with roasted vegetables and hummus, as well as cucumber and tomato sandwiches. My tea, Peach Artisan blooming, and for dessert, a selection of pastries from Chef Phillepe Angibeau. While my taste buds usually favor the savory over the sweet, the pastries were a highlight of tea time.


The view from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

The view up the Strip from the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

I think this is a must visit for anyone looking to escape all the commotion of the Strip and float up in the clouds above it all. I would suggest visiting the tea lounge at the Mandarin Oriental during the winter months when the sun sets earlier in the evening, giving you a chance to see the Strip “turn on” as as the sun sets.

Classic English Afternoon Tea $38/person
3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
23rd Floor
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Get Your Meatless Monday on at Ra Sushi

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m back in school now and between work and school, I have a lot less time to write. While I haven’t had as much time to write, I’ve still kept up my commitment to No Meat on Monday. The other night, I met a friend for dinner at Ra Sushi. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a lot easier to stay on a vegetarian diet when you’re cooking for yourself, but when you’re out and about, it becomes much more difficult. As I started to glance at the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many meatless options Ra Sushi had, and good ones at that. I wouldn’t be stuck with a boring salad and an order of french fries, the most common, yet lousy excuses for vegetarian menu items at most restaurants.

I decided Ra Sushi would be the first restaurant I would highlight as a Meatless Monday dining option. Ra Sushi is conveniently located on The Strip on the outdoor promenade of The Fashion Shall Mall, directly across the street from the Wynn. Not only does Ra Sushi have some great meatless menu items, they also have a great Happy Hour, Monday-Saturday 3-7p, with drink and food items starting at $2. Best of all, several of the vegetarian options at Ra Sushi are included on their Happy Hour Menu.

I decided I’d try the Shishito Peppers since they were on the happy hour menu. I’d never heard of Shishito Peppers before I tasted them at Ra Sushi, but now I’m definitely a fan. Shishito Peppers are a Japanese green pepper, smaller than a jalapeno. Unlike a jalapeno, they are more mild in flavor and very thin skinned. The Shishito peppers at Ra Sushi are sauteed in a mix of Asian spices, sesame seeds and what tastes like sesame oil. The sesame adds a nutty, roasted flavor to the Asian spices that the peppers are cooked with.  The plate is garnished with a red sauce that taste like a spicy tomato pure. Shishito peppers are a great starter the whole table can enjoy.

Since I was at a sushi restaurant, I had to order sushi, right? I opted for the vegetable tempura roll. It’s filled with tempura battered fried asparagus and sweet potato, then wrapped in Nori and rice. The roll is topped with tempura battered Japanese eggplant, which has a more delicate flavor than American eggplant. The roll is garnished with colorful tempura flakes, and drizzled with eel sauce. Both the sweet potato and eel sauce add a hint of sweetness while the tempura batter and flakes add a crispy texture to the roll. And if you didn’t already know, Nori (seaweed), is also a great source of protein as well as other vitamins and minerals.

I also tried the Dengaku Tofu. Tofu has been a major source of protein in vegetarian diets in the East for nearly 2000 years. Though many people complain it can be bland, the red miso ginger glazing process used to make Dengaku Tofu at Ra Sushi, adds a savory flavor and caramelized texture to the tofu. The Dengaku Tofu is topped with crispy pieces of Japanese eggplant and snow peas, and served with tempura sauce.

These three veggies options were just the tip of the iceberg at Ra Sushi. Here’s a brief run down of the meatless options on the menu at Ra Sushi. (HH) denotes an item that is included on the Happy Hour menu. The last 2 items on my list, the Nutty Grilled Chicken Salad and the Tuna² Salad, become great Meatless Monday choices if you hold the meat. In addition to having some tasty ingredients, like cilantro and mandarin orange slices, both salads include nuts, which are a great source of protein.

  • Cucumber Kimchee Salad
  • Dengaku Tofu (HH)
  • Edamame (HH)
  • Garlic Sugar Snap Peas (HH)
  • Miso Soup
  • Miso Hot Soup
  • Pineapple Cheese Wonton (HH)
  • Seaweed Salad (HH)
  • Shishito Peppers (HH)
  • Veggie Sushi Roll (HH)
  • Vegetable Tempura Bento Box
  • Vegetable Tempura Roll
  • Nutty Grilled Chicken Salad*
  • Tuna² Salad*
(HH) – denotes an item that is part of the Happy Hour menu
* hold the meat on these and they are great meatless options.

So the next time you’re enjoying a little shopping at Fashion Show Mall, whether it’s Monday or not, head over to Ra Sushi for a tasty meatless meal.

Ra Sushi
3200 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Fashion Show Mall Outdoor Promenade
Las Vegas, NV 89109

No Meat, On Monday

Last week, I decided that I was going to join the Meatless Monday movement. I have to admit, I thought it was a funny concept the first time I heard of it; No Meat on Monday?!? It just seemed like a fad, like planking or silly bands. I already have an interesting relationship with meat; I don’t think I need anything to make it more complicated.

See, I was actually raised a vegetarian. I think I was 8, the first time I tasted red meat. My Mom and I moved in with my Grandma. She wasn’t a vegetarian but we were. My Mom would cook 2 meals, one for Grandma with meat and something without for us. When my Mom wasn’t looking, Grandma would sneak me pieces of meat. I think my Grandma equated vegetarianism with being a hippie and thought that meat would keep me grounded, ensure I would go out into the world and get a real job when I grew up. I was like an animal getting the taste of blood for the first time; I was hooked. Now let me clarify things a bit. By hooked I mean that I love a great burger, enjoy a few strips of bacon at the breakfast buffet, and lamb chops are my favorite, but this is where the “interesting relationship” part comes in, I also love stuff like tofu and falafel. When I go someplace and order falafel I don’t do it because I’m making some stand against meat, I do it because I enjoy falafel.

So back to this whole Meatless Monday thing. I read this article on Civil Eats: Eating Less, Better Meat: Yes, We Can. The first paragraph intrigued me. Not because the writer gave me a whole bunch of facts and statistics, but because she has her own “interesting relationship” with meat; she’s a vegetarian, while her husband and kids aren’t. I decided this was someone I could trust, who wouldn’t judge me because I ate meat. She had a couple of links in her article, one of which was to the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide. There’s a tab that said, Take the Quiz. I love any opportunity to show how smart I am, so I decided to take the quiz.

I’ll admit that I failed it. When I got the chance to look at the answers, I was shocked. I had definitely underestimated the impact our modern meat industry has on our environment. One of the questions, #10: Over the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, how much taxpayer money was used to support crops to produce animal feed (e.g., soy and corn)? A) $600 million, B) $16 billion C) $45 billion. I went with B. I was wrong. The answer was C, $45 billion. That’s A LOT of money. Question #13 stumped me too.  What percent of meat raised in the U.S. (for domestic consumption) is produced in confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs)? I was alarmed that the answer was over 90%.  I had no idea it was that much. And then there was questions #8: When a family of four gives up one burger and one steak each week for a year, it’s like taking their car off the road for? The answer is 4 months (I actually got this one correct). I was starting to realize the impact that Meatless Monday could have.

So I decided I would go for it. Last week I partook in my first Meatless Monday. Well, I actually had to do a re-do, I didn’t read the article until after lunch on Monday so it was Meatless Tuesday. I’m very fortunate that not only do I work someplace that provides lunch everyday, but they also take into consideration vegetarian eating habits, so lunch was no problem. For dinner I was a little nervous since I needed to go grocery shopping and would probably have to pick something up. I wasn’t getting off work until late, so I knew my options would be slim. Then Chipotle popped into my head. I ordered a vegetarian burrito. The veggies were grilled al dente, so they were crisp and had a great grilled flavor. And whether my burrito has meat or not, I can’t get enough of Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice. Beans, a key ingredient in burritos, are also a great source of protein.

My first Meatless Monday has inspired me. Not only will I continue, but after talking with my Mom, she decided she would give it a try too. So look forward to more posts on Meatless Monday. I plan to post some recipes as well as Meatless Monday friendly eating options both on and off the strip. One thing, I always hear from my vegetarian and vegan friends, is how hard it is for them to eat on the road.

To find out more about Meatless Monday’s visit the website. There are tons of resources including recipes, articles, even t-shirts. Also, check out EatWild. It’s a great site with links to farms throughout the US and Canada that offer grass fed and pasture raised animals.