Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keep your Hands Open

photo source
Keep your hands open, 
and all the sands of the desert can pass through them.
Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tibet Inspired: Greens with Tofu

Tse Tofu (Greens with Tofu)
Original recipe from
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp paprika
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used tamari sauce)
4 12 oz blocks of firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup green peas (I used mixed vegetables)
1 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1. Wash the Swiss chard and tear it into pieces, removing the stems.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and stir-fry the green onions, paprika, ginger, and 2 cloves of garlic

3. Stir in the soy sauce, tofu, and peas (or mixed vegetables).

4. In a separate frying pan, heat a tablespoon of the oil until very hot and stir in the black pepper.

5 Add the Swiss chard, still slightly wet, and toss to coat with the oil and pepper.

6. Cover the pan and let it steam for 1-2 minutes or more, until desired consistency reached.

7. Spread the greens on a serving platter and pour the tofu mixture on top. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Great Asia Adventure of 2012

photo source: GAP adventures
As you read this (that is, if you are reading it at the very moment it is posted) I am most likely sitting on an air plane or possibly about to land in Hong Kong.  Either way, I am no where near my living room, no where near my computer and am about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of my life yet.

My great Asia adventure of 2012 begins in Beijing, China.  I scheduled my 7+ week long excursion with GAP adventures, including these tours: Tibet Adventure, Golden Triangle, and Roam Bangkok to Bali.  I know, I know, I could have just as easily organized, planned, scheduled, and booked all of  these tours myself but at this point in our lives, we really just wanted to make it easy on ourselves. We wanted to just sit back and enjoy the adventure.

I look forward to the tours and hope they will help us feel as comfortable as possible in a foreign setting where I know we will still experience a lot of discomfort at times ... getting lost in the 798 district of Beijing, acclimatizing to the changing elevations of Tibet and Nepal, dealing with the extreme heat in India, and feeling overwhelmed by the chaos and excitement as we travel through Thailand to Indonesia.

I am an adventurer at heart and a traveler who will never stop traveling until I visit every country on my bucket list.  Visiting Asia is just a very small notch on that list and I am very grateful that Mike is on board for every step (or adventure) of the way.

photo source: GAP adventures

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chocolate Orange Cake for Spring

I usually make cupcakes for family or holiday gatherings but when I saw this cake I just had to try it! I love chocolate and orange together and for me, it seemed perfect for Spring and Easter long weekend.  The original recipe can be found on Tutupa's lab blog page.

Chocolate Orange Cake

2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

For the filling
3 – 4 oranges
1 tbsp organic cane sugar

For the chocolate ganache

1 1/2 avocado
150 gram chocolate, melted.
1/4 cup cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  For the cake pan, grease it with oil or line with parchment paper - I used the parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the orange juice, sugar and oil together, mix together well.

3. In a larger bowl mix all dry ingredients together.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well.

5. Place batter in your prepared cake pan and cook for about 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry.

6. Allow the cake to sit and cool down completely. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

7. Peel and chop the oranges.  In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, add the oranges and sugar and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often.

8. Once the cake has cooled down, cut it in 2-3 layers (depending on how high your cake has risen) and cover each layer with the orange filling.

9. To finish the cake, cover the whole thing with chocolate ganache: puree the avocado, then add the melted chocolate and cocoa powder; stir until well combined.  Cover cake with ganache.  I then drizzled melted chocolate all over it, garnished with a couple of orange slices, and voila! Death by chocolate.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Eco-Spring Flowers

I found this lovely egg carton flower idea from via pinterest.  There was only one problem, I don't read or speak Chinese, which is really too bad because this site seems to have a lot of fun diy projects and craft ideas, I love it. Fortunately the site also has some great photos you can work from, so it was pretty easy to figure how to make these flowers.

I decided to create my own tutorial here and just adjusted the steps. I made the flowers differently however, and I think more simplified but mostly because I didn't have all the supplies they had in the photo.

1) Collect your egg cartons.  I tried using both flat egg cartons and store bought egg cartons and found that the flat ones worked much better, but you can use both.

 2) Cut out the egg cups.  Then cut the petals out of each cup.

3) Trim and round off the petals.  This stage was definitely the most time-consuming.  Be sure to have sharp scissors for this step to help make the job easier.

4)  Gather the other supplies you will need: old buttons, glue gun, white glue, paint and paint brushes, sparkles, ribbon (optional), and magnets (optional).  My mother has a large supply of old, mis-matched buttons I could chose from.  Try to find those old and un-wanted buttons to recycle before going out and buying new ones.

5) Paint your cut-out flowers.

6) Lay them out to dry.  Now you wait or, in my case, have Easter lunch with the family.

The final stage, the fun part, is gluing on the various buttons as your flower centers or gluing sparkles to the petals to add some texture.  I added my buttons using a hot glue-gun.

This yellow flower has sparkles on it which I added using white craft glue, then sprinkled it on and shook them off.  Only do this step once all the paint is dry.  Only add the button to the sparkly flowers once the sparkle glue is dry.  And there you go, pretty Spring flowers made from recycled egg cartons.

Egg carton flower fridge magnets

Spring flower napkin holders.  I glued a green ribbon to the flower to create a napkin holder.

You can really get creative with this project and once these flowers are made you can do a lot with them.  Add wire as stems to make a bouquet as decoration, or keep it simple and just spead them around on a party table, or get practical use out of them and make fridge magnets.
Happy Crafting!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Eco-craft Ideas

Looking for some fun family crafts to do with the kids this Easter? I myself have my heart set on making a terrarium this weekend (more on that later), but I thought it would be nice to share with you some great eco-friendly Easter-themed craft ideas I found online.

From the FamilyFun website, here's a great way to re-use those old milk or juice cartons by making an Easter bunny basket.  Save money too with this project.  I think the few supplies used plus the time you share making this one with your children will out way the cost of just buying a brand new basket.

Making an environmentally friendly bird feeder is more of a Springtime project but Easter long weekend would be a great time to try this project. The best part, it only takes three different supplies to make: empty toilet paper roles, peanut butter and bird seed.  Check out The Moffat Girls website for the steps.

For a more elaborate project with the kids that re-uses food cans, check out My Very Educated Mother on how to make a tin-can rabbit and chick.  I would suggest however, a good alternative to crepe paper streamers is to simply use up any coloured scrap or craft paper the kids may have lying around.  Acrylic paint could also work for this.

And if you get tired gluing, cutting and crafting why not try some naturally egg dying.  Check out Two Men and a Little Farm for some wonderful food dye recipe ideas.

Other note worthy crafts to check:

Book Page Eggs reuse old newspaper. 
Quick Little Bunny, reusing old socks
French Découpage Eggs:  reuse old book papers or sheet music
Mini Egg Tee: great way to reuse fabric scraps and an old shirt
Fabric Maché Eggs:Fun way to reuse scrap fabric
Wool Easter Basket: reuse an old sweater to make this basket
Easter Egg Garlend: Fun and colourful Easter project

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Importance of Organic

Often people ask me, why is eating organic so important anyway? Why bother? And many people are still skeptical when it comes to buying organic.  Now, I don't have all the answers but I know what tastes good and feels good.  When I eat organic, it not only tastes a thousand times better but I feel better, especially knowing that my food wasn't sprayed with pesticides or chemicals.

So, if you're looking for a good reason to switch to eating organic, then watch this cute video about Elise and her potato project.  It just might help you see the big difference between organic and non-organic produce.

What do you think of this video? Do you agree that eating organic is better for you or do you think it makes a difference?

Would love to hear your thoughts or comments!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Broccoli Pesto with Quinoa

This is a delicious dish I found on Food, Fitness, Fresh Air, and I'm really glad I found it!  It's delicious, savoury, and a perfect pesto-quinoa mix.  The original recipe suggests mixing the quinoa, pesto and broccoli together but I choose to layer it like a salad, so that I can add other toppings such as, sun-dried tomatoes or fresh sunflower sprouts.

Broccoli Pesto with Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
6 cups broccoli florets
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

1. Bring quinoa to a boil in about two 2 cups of water. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15-18 minutes, until puffy and tender.

2. Steam broccoli for about 3 minutes, then remove 4 cups and set aside for pesto.

3. Cook remaining broccoli for another 2-3 minutes or until tender. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

4. While the broccoli cooks, blend the garlic, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and lemon in a food processor. Add the 4 cups of cooked broccoli.

5.  While processing everything together, begin streaming in olive oil. Continue to puree until pesto is smooth.

6. Toss pesto with quinoa and stir in broccoli, or layer the meal by adding pesto on top of quinoa and then broccoli.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

If you're starting a garden this year it's always a good idea to sow your seeds early by starting them indoors, about 10 weeks before you move them outside.  The general rule is to plant them about 10-12 weeks or so before the last frost hits.  I started these seedlings in early March.  I started mine a bit earlier because I am traveling soon and I really wanted to text out some of the seeds I got.

I also wanted to try out this idea I found online, can't remember where, possibly Pinterest.  It's a neat way to sow your starters.

1. Start with old toilet or paper towel rolls.  I cut toilet paper rolls in half, so each one is about 2 inches high.

2. Covering one side of the hole with your hand, fill the roll with soil.

3. I lined up all of my rolls in a metallic baking dish and filled the sides with a bit more soil (pictured above).

4. With my finger I poked a hole or two into each roll, for the seeds and added a few seeds into each hole.

5. Cover each roll with a bit more soil and add water.

6.  Before the sprouts come up you can cover the rolls with plastic to create a "greenhouse" effect and to help keep moisture in.

It only took about 10-14 days for these sprouts to pop up.  Once the sprouts appear, you can remove the plastic cover.  They will need to be placed in a sunny spot to get all the nutrients they need to grow.

In the batch, basil, kale and dill sprouts.

I also brought my herb perennials indoors from being outside for all of Winter. My mint is already coming up so quickly and wildly, I love it.  It's good to grow mint in containers because they can get out of hand and be very invasive.

 Chives, growing beautifully.

 And Rosemary! I think it's time to cut this one down a bit, rosemary can run wild if you let it.

Can't wait to do more sowing, growing and harvesting this year, but it will have to wait until June.

What are you planning to grow this year? Any great gardening tips you want to share?
Please leave a comment.

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