Yesterday evening, I got home and impressed myself. Why? I made dinner. A proper dinner. Salmon, asparagus, mini salad, and some toasted Kamut bread.
(I am incredibly proud of this feat because Sean is in Alberta right now and I have been eating very simply since he’s been gone. Cooking is more his thing – I do it when I have to, and am decent, but I’d rather bake. I haven’t been getting take out, but my meals have definitely been very basic – but healthy. Part of the reason for this is that I never remember to take stuff out of the freezer the night before or before I leave in the morning. Preparation is everything. But on Sunday night, the stars aligned and I took a salmon filet out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw.)
And while I sautéed the asparagus and waited for my salmon to bake in the oven, I made tonight’s dinner as well: yam soup – currently my new favourite thing. It healthy, it’s filling, and easy to make. When we were in the UK, we ate a lot of soup. It’s really the only appropriate food to eat in the dreary winter. A nice bowl of soup or stew with a thick wedge of home made bread and everyone is a happy camper. It’s a make you feel at home kind of meal.
So, tonight, when I got home from yoga, all I had to do was make biscuits and stick a bowl of soup in the microwave. And then I propped my poor but well stretched legs on the coffee table and started up the PVR. It’s the little things that make me happy.
Today is our last full day in Edinburgh before we go back to London before flying home to Vancouver. I’m very sad to be leaving, but I must say, I’m not going to miss the damn wind and torrential rain… (And I’m from Vancouver. )Windblown
Yesterday, we were meant to go to Glasgow to visit my friend Kyle and watch a hockey game, but that was put on hold and then cancelled as there were gale force winds (102 miles/hour!) across the south of Scotland and Northern England. The trains were suspended and bus service was sporadic. So we stayed in windy Edinburgh and watched the fence nearly fall over and pieces of the neighbours’ greenhouses fly in and out of the yard. And then we went for dinner with Lesley and Stephen at this lovely oyster bar/seafood restaurant called Loch Fyne. (It’s a chain of restaurants, but you wouldn’t know it.) I had steamed mussels as my main course; with the broth, they were DIVINE. All in all, a good day.
The weather has been crap for most of our trip, but it’s winter in Scotland. What can you do? A few days before we got here they had had another red alert for gales force winds (that, as it turns out, were less than yesterday’s bluster) of what was dubbed “Hurricane Bawbag” in the media. I recently discovered what bawbag means and now understand why our friend Trish was so shocked that the papers printed that on the front page… But yeah, it’s been windy and I have given up on lip gloss while I am here because even if my hair is under my hood or my toque, I still get strands stuck to the gloss.
Aviemore is a lovely little ski village up north in the mid-Highlands. Lesley and Stephen have place there which they kindly lent to Sean and I last summer during our honeymoon. As previously stated, the weather has been crap, so that means that there was no snow at all until our last 24 hours up north. And when we drove up to the ski hill, there were so many people ready to ski the 3 inches (if that) that were there. I do hope that it snowed some more. I’m told that even though Aviemore is a ski village, it doesn’t necessarily rely on that. So that’s good.
Anyhow, off we went the day after Boxing Day, and it was just me and the boys. Lesley had to work, but despite being outnumbered, I still managed to get a few laps in House of Bruar. HOB started out as a small shop and food store selling all things Scottish. Over the years, it has become the outlet mall for all things Scottish. It’s pretty fantastic. If I were a rich girl (la-da-di-da-di-da-da-da-da-da-da), I would have bought every single thing that caught my fancy in the cashmere and fine wool section – so soft! But I was good and only bought a few gifts, and my mother’s requested wool beret. I didn’t even buy myself anything in the sale barn(!). I’ve been on the quest for wool socks and they didn’t have any that I liked. (I ended up buying socks at the Edinburgh Woolen Mill in nearby Pitlochry – they aren’t wool but they are super warm. At that point, I just needed socks.)
After visiting the food market (where I found spelt bread – so random) to collect for the evening’s tea (that is what they call dinner/supper; to confuse things, the word for lunch is dinner…) ingredients and competing for a table so we could eat spicy parsnip soup in the restaurant, we continued on to the Aviemore house where we discovered that Stephen had forgotten the keys… Luckily, there is an extra set and we didn’t have to drive back.
Steak pie was on the menu for dinner (with mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, and a salad by moi), which followed a starter or tureen. I’m not sure how to describe a tureen. Perhaps it could be called a mixed sausage or pate. It had venison and a few other things in it, and it was good. Very Scottish. House of Bruar cherry pie was for dessert and it was delicious.
Much of this month away has involved food and so it continued that way the next day. When you stay in Aviemore, you have to visit the Mountain Café (111 Grampian Road, Aviemore) at least once. They make all their menu items and baked goods from scratch and cater to the gluten free/vegan/etc crowds with most of their items. That morning, we each ate or very own mountains of blueberry-banana (Sean), blueberry (me), and cranberry-apple-white chocolate pancakes. So delicious and much needed for our hike on the Rhothymurcus Estate.
It was windy (surprise!) and rained a bit – thank goodness for my Hunter wellies and being bundled up in Lesley’s extra rain gear! – and on the last stretch of the hike (after no deer or sheep sightings –sigh), it began to pour. And off we went to have some hearty and healthy parsnip soup and homemade bread at the estate café. (Where the car keys were lost but not really.) We made a stop at the Cairngorm Brewery (http://www.cairngormbrewery.com/) (Dalfaber Industrial EstateAviemore) (a must visit and taste in Aviemore) to pick up some Black Gold and Blessed Thistle – among other flavours – beer. And then it was time to go back and rest before dinner at the much talked about Old Bridge Inn for some Cairngorm Santa’s Sledgehammer Ale and (for me) a half pint of Guiness before a really great dinner.
The Old Bridge Inn (http://www.oldbridgeinn.co.uk/) (23 Dalfaber Road, Aviemore) gets its own heading because it was that good of a place to eat. It is your traditional pub in décor (including two or three dogs – they let people bring dogs to the pub. I love it.) and beverage, but the food is not your typical pub food. It’s gourmet pub food (I feel bad even calling it pub food). I will let the photos (though not the best photography, it’s the best I can do in terms of descriptions, as the website is being revamped right now). Let’s just say it was delicious.
All was served with a lovely bottle of Chilean pinot noir that was chosen to compliment all of our meals and (to my utter surprise, delight, and amusement) which with ervery sip, both Sean and Stephen waxed poetic about how well it went with the hare and the cherry notes of the wine. Oh, my, gosh. My little wine snobs.
We hoofed it over to a place called The Doo Below for a whiskey and then it was a windy (again) walk back to the house. Rather unfortunately, Stephen woke up with the stomach flu the next day (NOT food poisoning or a hangover, just so we’re clear) which kiboshed visiting a distillery that day but it just meant that we all got a good rest (and watched Harry Potter 6). It snowed that day which I was thrilled about – finally, snow.
Before we headed home the next day, we went to the rather quaint in the snow Edradour Distillery (Pitlochry PH16 5JP) – another place visited on our honeymoon last summer – in Pitlochry to buy some whisky. It is the smallest distillery in Scotland and they actually make whisky that I can stomach – generally, I am not a whisky girl. And here I am in Scotland… 🙂
We got back from the Highland town of Aviemore yesterday evening and after doing a bit of work, I can think about the last week and a bit. Aviemore will have to be a different day’s writing but Edinburgh can be consise. Or at least, I will try….
Generosity has been a plenty since the moment we set foot on Scottish soil. Lesley and Stephen welcomed us and our bulky rucksacks into their guest room and told us to make ourselves at home. They are good people. And in return, we have been making a few dinners and I have been getting acquainted with the somewhat older gas range/oven for my baking.
My company has an office here so my first week in Edinburgh was spent working in a very quiet downtown office. The office manager here was kind enough to reserve me a desk and the next few days were spent working 8 hours ahead of Vancouver time and meeting some great new people. I got taken out for lunch by the marketing ladies and the director for the area at this posh (My new favourite word – but only to type. It sounds better when those with a UK accent say it.), though slowly serviced restaurant called Tempus (25 George Street, Edinburgh) . They have have these mix and match bento box style lunches and when or food finally came, it was very good.
It has been interesting working in an office where someone offers to make you a tea every morning, but hey. When in Rome… They all think I’m nuts here because I take my tea black as the night – no milk, no sugar. They call it “straight up”.
I got wonderfully – as opposed to woefully – lost on my lunch break the other day and I realized that it was the first time in a few weeks that I had been completely on my own. Edinburgh is gorgeous at Christmas time and I was lost in a beautiful city, by myself, and I was having the BEST TIME. (It’s been fantastic actually getting to spend for than two waking hours a day with my husband, but I’m sure he felt the same way I did when I was lost when he went climbing last week.)
Playing Tourist and Walking into OINK(?)
We have played tourist a bit, going to the Christmas market and drinking mulled wine, walking the Royal Mile – where I dragged Sean into almost every wool and cashmere shop – and visiting Roslyn Chapel. But we’ve also been enjoying “living” here: grocery shopping, catching the bus… Normal things. Though the shop where we had these lovely pulled pork sandwiches was anything but normal.
First, you start with the name: OINK (34 Victoria Street, Edinburgh). And then you look at the carcass in the window. And then you walk into the tiny shop and order what turns out the be a piece of “I could never be a vegetarian” heaven. The pork is so tender (just falls apart) and with some haggis and baked apples in a bun. Oh, my , gosh – I’m almost drooling just writing about it. I will let the below menu explain how you order.
Christmas was the best (and most chaotic) day of our trip so far. We spent Christmas with Lesley’s extended family in the morning and then with her rather large in numbers immediate family for dinner/tea.
We woke up to our Christmas stockings – put up by Lesley when we came – full (courtesy of Santa who must have had a short but precarious tiptoe from the door and over our stuff to where the stockings were hung) of wonderful things like lotions and mini whiskey bottles. On top of that, Sean got a much wished and searched for hip flask and I got a beautiful and very soft cashmere scarf. We wore our Canucks jerseys (our gifts to eachother) and it was a really good morning.
Lesley and Stephen were thrilled with their Canada mittens, which I was so relieved about because I had agonized a bit over what we should give them. (Mind you, Stephen is an ex-pat, so we could have given him a maple leaf chocolate and he would have been ecstatic.)
We then piled into the car and began the journey of champagne (my new favourite way to start Christmas!), eating, opening presents, learning and trying to remember people’s names and playing the insane Chocolate Game and Beetle Drive. Let’s just say every soul in the room was rather competitive. It was great fun and we are still overwhlemed at the warm welcome we received that day. We received gifts from people, who had never met us, but who heard we were these nice Canadians friends coming for Christmas. Thank you McKinlay and Robertson families for making us feel at home!
Today is Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), which is a big deal in these parts. We are going to an 80’s themed party at Frances and Jim’s house, which I am really looking forward to and we have champagne ready to go. I’m not entirely certain what to expect – I know we will have fun – but am pleased that we will be inside as opposed to out in the wet and windy city waiting for Primal Scream to come in stage. Time to attempt to stretch out my poor legs and have some lunch before party prep.
I hope everyone has a safe, happy, and fun-filled NYE/Hogmanay. Happy New Year! See you in 2012. 🙂
Fall is here and with it comes the chillier weather and the inevitable rain. When I have to pull out a light wool coat or start wearing boots, I know summer is officially gone. But autumn is my favourite seasons because of the clothing required. Knee-high boots. Jeans. Turtlenecks. Tights or leggings. Knee-length skirts. I’m all about being comfortable and cozy, so aside from the rain, I’m in heaven when fall comes. Monday was the first cold, rainy day of the season and there was no other option but to wear my favourite Mexx sweater, leggings, and one of my favourite pairs of knee-highs. One of my co-workers remarked that I looked very fall-like. Like I said, there was no other option.
When it was hot out, I didn’t really have any desire to bake – an oven makes any kitchen unbearbale in the summer. Unless I baked at 11pm. But now that the heat from the oven will be more tolerable, even welcome, I’m armed and ready with favourite recipes and those I want to try. And so the Alternative Baking Chronicles continue. 🙂
While my focus is primarily on baking healthy baked goods, this cookie would maybe get a 2.5 on the healthy scale. The recipe calls for shortening (read: lard) and butter, guess what? That’s what makes them taste good. They, like my beloved Mexx sweater, are a comfy, cozy part of life. They make you feel good to eat one. (Even when the roof of someone’s mouth almost burns because they won’t wait 5 minutes for cookies to cool down – you know who you are and I adore you all anyway despite and because of your cookie snatching skills.) The key thing is that there is a healthy sugar alternative: honey (as opposed to granulated sugar).
Honey has become a staple in my baking since I wanted to make oatmeal cookies a couple years ago and I didn’t have any brown sugar. Off to Google I went and found the below – absolute favourite – recipe. Tried and true – when I make these cookies, they disappear pretty quickly. And they always turn out fab. (Except when I gave the recipe to one our friends because he wanted to make them. The next time I saw him, he reported that they did not turn out well and what do I do that makes them so wonderful. My cheeky response was that I make my cookies with love, to which he responded “maybe that was my problem…” – I guess he wasn’t in a good mood when he made them or was distracted and missed something. I hope he tries again. Everyone deserves good oatmeal cookies!)
It is Day 9 of Cleanse Lite (CL) and in theory, I should be on Day 2 of three days of nothing but vegetables and maybe some white fish. But you know what? It’s Sunday (and isn’t that the day of rest? I say this with absolutely no disrespect, but if God took a break…) And the French toast I had brunch with Sean and some friends was spectacular. (The fact that Sean was at brunch on a Sunday is the result of a very rare couple of weeks off. (I think they miss him at the theatre, but he’ll be back soon, I promise!)
We walked to the Quay – long but nice walk – had iced tea the Great Wall tea Co., bought some wine at my new favourite wine shop, did some grocery shopping at the market… Nice normal things that I do all the time on my own. So nice to share that with my guy today.
As I had previously mentioned, I’m being nice to myself on CL. On Tuesday, we went out for dinner at one of my favourite places, Joey Burrard, and I had my Ahi Tuna Club. Cleanse calls for white fish but I had my tuna, and I had it without the bun and with no bacon. I also had a glass of red wine and poked at the chocolate sauce on Sean’s dessert. (Extreme will power was demonstrated considering that chocolate lava cake is a personal weakness.) We went to Earls on Friday and I had goat cheese on my salad (which as I have discovered doesn’t really count as dairy) and a glass of wine. But then I had a small hot fudge Sunday and that was definitely a cheat. (Gasp!) I suppose CL has turned into Yasmine Eating Even More Healthy Than Normal But With Treats Allowed at Dinner, but it’s been a good exercise in discipline for my breakfasts and lunches.
This has made me think of a food writer named Mark Bittman, who I first learned about a while back while watching a show called “Spain: On the Road Again” . When I read his bio, the thing that stuck out the most was that he considered himself vegan until 6:00 pm. I am going to go buy one of his books called Food Matters tomorrow. There is also a cookbook – because I really need another one. Really, I do. We are going to need another bookshelf soon… 😉 To be totally honest with you, I have no interest, whatsoever, in being a full-on vegan. I admire people that are, but I really like grilled chicken and I love me a good omelette or beef burger every now and then. (There’s also the fact that I don’t think I could give up my my leather jacket or any of my lovely leather purses and shoes.) But that doesn’t mean I can’t make the effort to find out where my food comes from try to only eat organic and fairly traded/treated products. At the end of the day, I just want to be a conscious eater and have a healthy body without depriving myself.
It’s been pretty funny to be in the kitchen at work and having people come peek while I am chopping vegetables for my salad and asking me questions about quinoa. People are so in awe of healthy eating – I’ve never been UN-healthy, but since January, I have noticed a difference in how I digest and feel when I eat a certain way. It takes a lot of prep, which is probably what makes some shy away. I went to a movie matinee with my friend Liss yesterday afternoon (we saw “The Help” – awesome movie based on an even more awesome book – see it/read it. It was painful to close whenever I had to get off the train. Best book I have read in a while.) and there was me with a healthy protein muffin, a container of snap peas, chopped celery and cucumber, and a baggie of these great multi-grain chips from a company called Food Should Taste Good.
Not going to lie, in that moment, I much rather would have had some of Liss’ popcorn, but I was good and I ate what my friend Alison would call my hippie food. I should mention that Liss is also a very healthy eater who believes in treating herself. We will be recipe exchanging soon because she has some fab recipes. In the world of the Alternative Baking Chronicles, I found and tweaked a recipe for the about the above mentioned protein muffins during the NHL playoffs that make a great breakfast muffin or afternoon snack. The original recipe was not totally cleanse friendly, so it became the below in several variations.
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries; or 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup walnuts, and 1/4 dried cherries (my favourite!); or really whatever you like)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin or fill tin with paper muffin liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in bran and flax.
Whisk almond milk, olive oil, honey and vanilla in another bowl. Mix in quinoa. Add to dry ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until just mixed. Fold in blueberries (or desired substitute).
Divide batter into muffin tin (it will fill them right up). Bake for 25-28 mins. Tops of muffins should be slightly cracked and will bounce back when lightly pressed.
On a totally unrelated subject, we have finally started using some of our wedding presents and one of my favourites has been the Trudeau Olive Oil and Vinegar Dispensers that I got at my bridal shower. I’m done typing for the day (lazy, I know), so the picture will just have to be self-explanatory about how it works, but one of the best kitchen things ever. Julie – I’m still in awe that you remembered that random conversation and gave me that gift. Thank you! 🙂
The project managers at work go through a thing called “lessons learned” after a project closes. Well, as of midnight tonight, this cleanse project closes (yay!!!) and I want to share our lessons learned and some tips for surviving this or any two-week cleanse.
(I’ve realized that I haven’t posted the actual cleanse to this blog. Click here for cleanse details; as provided by Claire’s naturopath.)
Tip/Lesson #1 – Be prepared: The timing of this cleanse was a bit last-minute so I prepped as much as I could. But you don’t really know until you get into it how your body will react, how you will feel and/or how to substitute almost everything you eat. Find recipes, make a meal plan, and do a big shop one or two days before starting the cleanse. Here is a sample list of items to keep on hand:
Canned chickpeas – 4 cans
Organic (sugar-free!) vegetable broth – 6 packs
Dried lentils – 6 packages
Extra virgin olive oil – 1 bulk bottle
Brown rice flour
Yams (for yam fries and mashed yams)
Onions – large size
Honey – 1 L bottle
Trail mix – no peanuts!
Sunrype fruit bars – all natural and have 2-3 servings of fruit in each bar; some have veggie servings in them as well. An excellent snack.
Multi-vitamin supplement (make sure that it is all natural with no traces of dairy, gluten or any of the other no-no’s; Genuine Health Multi + Daily Glow is mine and I swear by it)
$$$ Saver: The bulk food sections at Save-On and Whole Foods are great. Buy food storage jars/containers from HomeSense or IKEA to keep flour and other dry ingredients fresh. Also, London Drugs sells cranberry juice, canned goods and organic sugar-free vegetable broth. Whole Foods, Choices, etc are the best places for the wheat alternative flours and dairy replacements. Tetra packs of soy milk and juice are cheaper than the cartons.
Fresh berries (for baking and munching)
Lemons or lemon juice
Red and green peppers
Fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, rosemary
Flax seed meal (egg replacement)
Deli turkey or chicken
Whole chicken or turkey to roast
Real juice (cranberry, guava, etc.) – no sugar or additives!
Kamut or spelt bread
$$$ Saver: Visit your local for fresh produce. They tend to have better quality and better priced organic and non-organic produce.
Frozen berries and fruit (for smoothies) – this is a cost saver all in itself as fresh berries can add up in cost. Make sure the packages contain just the fruit and no preservatives or sugar.
White fish filets (halibut, basa)
$$$ Saver: Costco!
Time and Stress Saver: PREP, PREP, PREP. Plan and make your day one (and two!) meals the night before your first day of cleanse. That way you have snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner all set for what is, mentally, a super stressful day.
Tip/Lesson #2 – Google is your friend: Google has always been my friend and it certainly went to bat for me this last fortnight. I found some great recipes (most posted in previous entries along with a couple past/present go-to recipes).
Tip/Lesson #3 – Listen to your body: As previously mentioned, our bodies were baffled by this adventure. The key to dealing with it is sticking to the program but knowing your limits. We are active people and have high metabolisms, so we had to tailor the last week of the all of this to include protein all the way through. And while we stuck to adding one grain back in per day, we added fruit in general back in after the vegetable saga. I added my multi-vitamin and omega 3 back in because I felt really horrible without.
Tip/Lesson #4 – Hydrate and chew gum: Seriously. Do it. Water (at least 2L per day) is your friend and gum will save you from wanting to haul out the chocolate stash or hit McDonald’s for french fries (my weakness).
Craving Preventer: Hide the junk and not alouds and forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Hide them, give them away, eat them all the night before cleanse starts, whatever – rid the junk from your cupboards and fridge/freezer.
Tip/Lesson #5 – Enjoy but don’t overdo: The night before cleanse starts, have a great meal with wine/beer and a fabulous dessert. But when it’s all over, don’t gorge on all of what you missed for two weeks. You will make yourself sick. I have my whole tomorrow planned in terms of breakfast and lunch and we are hitting Cactus Club for dinner; but as much as I am looking forward to my bagel and carbs, baby steps are important otherwise, my body is going to revolt.
Tip/Lesson #6 – Don’t abandon the healthy: Incorporate the healthy aspects from this cleanse to your regular routine. We were relatively healthy before we started the cleanse, but we discovered and re-discovered some great alternatives that we are going to keep in the food repertoire.
I am really looking forward to my bagel tomorrow morning and I am so done with spinach for a while. Happy Sunday, all!