Today is very brrrr cold in Boston today..we are expecting to drop to zero degrees Fahrenheit tonight (is the Snowy Vegan giggling at our "warm weather"? She should!). That along with a silly little cold that I got last week and can't seem to shake, I'm feeling a little urge for a change of scenery, preferably something warmer. I don't know if that will happen soon but as it often does in the winter, this train of thought, led to a little travel dreaming! Two spots I'd really love to hit this spring/summer are:
Bleu Lavande (Blue Lavender) in the Eastern Townships of Québec in Canada is a lavender farm and production facility. H. and I passed through the Eastern Townships on our way to and from Toronto via Montreal via Ottawa two years ago and were delighted by what we saw. Unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule and had no time to stop at Bleu Lavande but vowed we'd save it for another year. I'd like this year to be that year. Driving around Québec is really a treat. Each region is so interesting and different from another. The Eastern Townships reminded me quite a bit of the small glimpse I got of Provence a few years back. It wasn't just the lavender, honest! Just a really beautiful farming area with nice, nice people. The Québécois, some who speak only French or very little English, have always been so patient with my high school/college French. I really appreciate it. Of course, being French Canadian on both sides of the family (Trombley/St. Jean with a little Irish/English/Native American mixed in there somewhere, somehow) and looking very much the part unintentionally, they literally thought I was one of theirs which undoubtedly helped. H. told me that the first time he met me he knew without asking that I was of French descent. That floored me because I've never really thought that my family looked anything more than, well, American! Funny, the things we discover when we travel. The people really do make the place, don't you think? Among our favorite places that we've traveled, Canada and Iceland are tops and coincidentally (or not!), the people we met there were so nice and welcoming.
Also most likely on our travel this year is a return to Germany, H's home country. I think H enjoys traveling with me because I get so excited about the smallest little things! Case in point: a visit to Wala's gardens. If you're not familiar with Wala, it is a large cosmetics and bodycare product company, all natural and herbal. They produce Wala products as well as the Dr. Hauschka line. I've loved them for years and always stock up when we visit (although lately I've switched most of my cosmetics/skincare over to two companies that sell certified vegan/animal products (not sure if all are vegan but quite a few): Lavera which is also German--order three free samples/postage costs $5-- and Mychelle, a company out of California). It's been a dream of mine for a while to visit the Wala gardens and today I received a newsletter from them telling us about a new web page that allows you to book a tour online. Yay!! I don't know exactly when the daydreaming started but for a few minutes this morning, my body was at work but my mind certainly wasn't!
When I travel, it is often the culinary specialities of that area and/or the botanical items that we encounter that really make the memories for me. Traveling in Italy and coming upon a field of artichokes, is one of my top memories. I don't think I'll ever stop thinking how cool that was to see them growing! Or bouncing around Iceland when we stopped for lunch at a vegan restaurant and got to chat with the owner. And then discovering that she had worked in the US for an Icelandic bakery cafe just two blocks from our apartment. Geez--you can't make this stuff up and I'm positive that you have your own stories like this too!
Okay, enough of my daydreaming..let's get to the food! First, a nice way to warm up my apartment in the winter when it's cold is to bake. I had tried Mihl's apple cranberry sheetcake but with plums before the New Year's. This time I made it straight to the recipe and it was delicious. There is something about the smell of cardamon baking! I learned something new when realizing that I am out of ground cardamon: you can grind the pods whole in your spice grinder (or in my case, a coffee grinder repurposed for this kind of thing). The shells will dissolve while baking. Cool!
Now on to the His & Hers Quinoa:
His: hot quinoa w/scallions, toasted almonds AND walnuts, dried cranberries
Hers: hot quinoa w/scallions, toasted almond slivers, and pomegranate seeds
Easy easy easy comfort food. I think we modified a recipe we found in a magazine two years ago and this is how it all started. The original called for pomegranate seeds. I thought, cool, I've never made anything with pomegranate, this should be fun. And it was. We both loved the dish but H. wanted to take it a bit further, "I bet it would taste great with cranberries," he said so I agree to try. I admit, it does taste great with the cranberries but I am so sold on the pomegranate seeds that we now do two version of this dish because H. liked the cranberry version better! Hence our His & Hers Quinoa!
- 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed a bit under the sink to remove the bitter sap on the outside of the grain
- 2 cups of water
- 1 vegan bouillon cube (I like Rapunzel brand)
- 1/2 cup almond slivers and/or chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries plumped up in hot water for 10-15 min. OR 1 cup pomegranate seeds (I don't mind a lot of pomegranate seeds but find more than 1/2 cup of cranberries to be overwhelming in this dish..feel free to adjust to your tastes!)
- 2 scallions cut up with scissors into small pieces
Toast your nuts in the oven, toaster or dry roast in a pan to slightly brown them. Set aside.
Put the water, quinoa and bouillon into a pot, bring to a boil. Cook at medium heat for 10-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
Toss the remaining ingredients into the pot. Mix with a fork to fluff up the quinoa. Serve hot!