Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"What I've got left in the cupboard" Burritos

I've had a can of re-fried beans, a can of corn and a can of sliced black olives sitting in my cupboard for a while, so I decided that it was time for some burritos to spice things up.

I sauteed some onion, added in some leftover rice from the fridge, and then the can of refried beans and half a can of corn and about a quarter of a can of olives. I fried it up and added a dash of hot sauce. It made the perfect vegetarian burrito filling! I even had cheese, fresh tomatoes, fresh limes and sour cream that needed to be used up so I had all the fixings. I complimented it with some homemade guacamole too.

I love this recipe for guacamole:

1 large ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
1 tsp of fresh lime juice
1 tbsp of sour cream
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of salt to taste
cilantro for garnish (optional of course)

Mince or chop one clove of garlic. Chop lime in half and squeeze to make at least 1 tsp of lime juice. Mash the avocado until creamy, then add sour cream and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Blend in garlic, Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste. Throw a bit of cilantro on top and you're set. You can always add more lime juice too! (The great thing about the lime juice is that it prevents the avocado from going brown too!)

Don't forget to make some margaritas to drink along with your Mexican meal; it's always a good way to round out any dinner!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The September Experiment

In need of a challenge, I've deemed September to be the month that I use up as many of my canned/packaged goods as possible. All of those cans of beans, the jar of artichoke hearts, and the slender jar of capers that have been sitting in the darkness of the cupboard must work their way into whatever concoctions I cook up over the next four weeks. The only things I'm allowed to buy at the grocery store are produce and dairy products to supplement my fare. So far, things have started off well.

On Thursday night I used up the cherry tomatoes, garlic and onion I had in my fridge. I sauteed them and added them to some spicy organic spaghetti sauce I had in the cupboard, then added some Italian seasoning and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Next I boiled up half a box of macaroni until al dente and then tossed it in the sauce until thoroughly mixed. Then I transferred it all to a lasagna dish and sprinkled grated mozzarella cheese over the top and baked it in the oven on broil. After less than 10mins in the oven dinner was served, and it left me enough leftovers for another five meals. Perfect.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vancouver in Bloom

Photo credit: Pixel Works

Tomorrow I'm torn between taking the Bike the Blossoms tour of Vancouver or listening to the final showdown of Canada Writes on "Go!" with Brent Bambury to cheer on my favourite contender, Laurie Schwartz.

However, I must admit that the Cherry Blossom tour is winning out because it involves both physical activity and food, and well, I'm a sucker for both. I'm going to leave it up to whichever way the wind blows...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Toast to Italy

I just cracked a bottle of 2007 Trentacinquesimo Parallelo Primaitivo del Salento from Italy in an effort to expand my repertoire of wine from my usual picks from the regions of B.C., Chile, Argentina or Australia. The heady scent of cherries and plums with a hint of spice make a nice smooth bloom on the palate. The relatively opaque hue reminds me of rubies in a glass and is a nice change from the thinner Chiantis that I've tried. For approximately $15 a bottle it's a good deal for a relatively full bodied wine. I'll have to add some more European wines to the list of wines to sample. Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Uneasy Beauty Worth the Uneasiness of Surrey

On Sunday three of my friends and I ventured into shell shocked Surrey to check out "An Uneasy Beauty", the collection of Edward Burtynsky's photographs of Western Canada now on display at the Surrey Art Gallery until March 22nd. Admission is by donation (recommended minimum is $2), but we each put in $5 and the exhibit is well worth it even though the gallery itself is quite small.

The large format photos reveal the vast scale and beauty of wilderness desecrated by industrial progress. Aerial shots of Fort Mac Murray, Alberta portray a land razed by humans, the pattern of pipes, roads, and mining equipment terrifyingly beautiful; a reminder of the cost of making money at the expense of the environment. It will be interesting to see the change in Alberta's lucrative oil industry after Obama meets with Harper and puts pressure on the Federal Government to cut back on the use of non-renewable resources and perhaps change the political landscape for the better.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Surrey Gets Cultured

Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer renown for his photographs of landscapes altered by industry, will be giving an illustrated presentation at the Surrey Art Gallery on Thursday Feb 12th at 7pm. Unfortunately, the event is sold out, which may be why the "buy tickets" link on the gallery website has been broken since over a week ago when I tried to buy my ticket online. However, if last minute tickets are not possible, you can at least see his exhibit, "Edward Burtynsky: An Uneasy Beauty – Photographs of Western Canada," which runs until March 22nd. According to the Georgia Straight, Burtynsky donated all 37 photos from the exhibition to the Surrey Art Gallery. I find it somehow fitting that Burtynsky was the artist to make such a significant and generous donation. His images reveal the juxtaposition of beauty within hideousness, which seems an appropriate metaphor for Surrey's usually poor public image as the blight of the lower mainland.

The photo above is entitled "Iberia Quarries #3", which Burtynsky took in Portugal in 2006 and was featured on the cover of the July/August 2007 issue of The Walrus.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Warrior

This weekend I’ve visited two vastly different extremes of the lower mainland. On Saturday my friend Lindsay convinced me that that I should accompany her and her friend on a snowshoeing trek up Cypress Mountain. When she texted me late on Saturday morning I initially balked, justifying my reluctance with, “I’ve left my backpack at work and I don’t have the appropriate gear.” But then I thought, “I’ve never been to Cypress since moving here and since I don’t own a vehicle, how can I pass this up?” It would be absurd to turn down the offer of some physical activity in the mountains. How can you regret slogging up to the top of the world to take in a view like this--especially when you get to drink a little bit of celebratory wine?

And today Steve and I took advantage of Translink's little known FareCard savings--that a pass holder can take up to two other adult passengers for free on Sundays--and went to Boundary Bay Park in Tsawwassen. Although the sun was unhampered by the cloudless sky, the wind off the water gave the day an icy edge. However, the ocean side walk offered up stunning views of the mountains and downtown Vancouver and we spent the afternoon walking along the beach all that way to the U.S border. It's been a great weekend of exploration and seeing this vast metropolis from many different viewpoints; here's to urban exploration!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeing Spring Through the Fog

With this perpetual shroud of fog that's engulfed Vancouver this past week, I've felt as though I'm living on the set of some zombie movie. I keep expecting to see zombies lurch out of the fog gnashing their teeth in anticipation of their next kill. I'm actually surprised that the Vancouver members of Crawl of the Living Dead haven't taken advantage of nature's ominously cloaked landscape and organized a zombie crawl down Robson Street or through Vancouver's sprawling downtown.

With January wrapping up to be one of the snowiest in years, I find myself reminiscing about leisurely Sundays spent wandering around Lighthouse Park, or lounging in the sun on the back patio of Crave on Main Street. I'm yearning for the days where I can ride my bike again without fear of slipping on ice or being hit by drivers who don't know how to contend with the snow. At least March brings the promise of cherry blossoms. I'm also waiting for the crocuses to thrust their way up through the dirt, extending their delicate petals towards the light. Although in some ways I've relished the fogginess of the last ten days, I think I'll be happier when the fog recedes and I'll be able to see the landscape once more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bodegas Real is a Real Steal

Before Christmas I wandered into Liberty Wine Merchants on Granville Island. Feeling experimental, I asked the clerk to recommend a nice full bodied red wine. He steered me towards the end of the aisle and hoisted up a black box of 2005 Bodegas Real Tempranillo-Shiraz declaring it the best value. The 3 liter box—the equivalent of four bottles of wine—cost only $37.99, which works out to approximately $9.50 a bottle. Seeing my dubious apprehension (wasn’t boxed wine the biggest faux-pas since jello-mold salads?) he quickly reassured me, “Most wineries in Europe already use boxes instead of bottles because shipping costs are based on weight and of course, glass bottles are heavy, so most vineyards are switching to boxes to cut down on shipping costs. Besides, the bladders are now less oxygen permeable, which doesn’t allow the wine to spoil. They’re even allowed to put a vintage year on it now! Don’t be surprised if you start seeing boxed wines more often.” What could I lose at this price? If it tasted awful I could always use it for cooking, right? I bought the box and set out for an evening of taste testing.

Tenuously I poured myself a glass from the spigot and swirled it around and inhaled the scent of field berries, which reminded me of summer. The opaque, blackberry coloured wine budded smooth on the tongue, blossoming into an intense berry flavour. Although quite fruity, the well balanced dryness complemented the distinct hint of oak. It remained silky, never changing to acidic or biting. Typically I favour Australian, Chilean and Canadian wines because the European wines I’d sampled in the past hadn’t made my taste buds sing, but this Spanish wine won me over; it’s my favourite red wine of the new year for the flavour and value. Tip: The Robson Liberty Wine Merchant location charges $39.99 for a box while the Granville Island location only charges $37.99. Sometimes it pays to live on the south side of the bridge.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Day Out at the Eastside Cultural Crawl

Back on Sunday Nov 23rd, I made it to my first Eastside Cultural Crawl, which happened to be the 12th year of the event. The day dawned crisp and sunny and I set out with two friends to enjoy perusing as many of the 300 artists as we could in a single day. It proved challenging, and we certainly missed many, but we still saw an impressive number of studios despite our limited time.

We started on Railway St. and viewed many of the live/work spaces where many local artists reside. We also paid a visit to 339 Railway where I met Janna Hurtzig, visionary and founder of Astrosatchel handbags; I own two of her creations which I've loved and abused for several years now. I was also struck by Nadine Stefan's paintings and her innovative use branches, which she strategically placed behind the canvass, pressing it forward and adding dimension. In the Razstone Studio I met Kevin Ross, who makes stunningly beautiful and impressively tall--up to 12 feet--pots by using a combined technique of hand coiling and wheel throwing. Having experimented with pottery in the past, I listened in awe as he explained how he makes his pots how he even makes his own clay from scratch!

From there we meandered south, viewing wonders like the organic yet modern infused furniture design of Peter Pierobon at 716 East Hastings. At the Parker Building I found myself overwhelmed by four floors bursting with creativity. I found Elizabeth Barne's abstract paintings intriguing and inspirational. I also fell in love with the vibrant yet bohemian pottery of Silvia Dotto. I loved them so much I made arrangements with her the week after to purchase some of her lovely pots at her studio. It's too bad she's decided to discontinue her line of serving bowls with their dark hematite exterior contrasting against the vividly coloured interior, but I understand an artist's need to grow and expand. My imagination and creativity was stimulated by the innovation and creativity I saw in a single day. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Abeego on the go

Today I learned about a remarkable natural snack & food wrap called Abeego that you can use to transport sandwiches, nuts, or anything your foodie heart desires. These stylish wraps keep food fresh and are made from hemp/cotton fabric infused with beeswax and natural plant oils and are easy to clean: simply rinse it in cold water and let it air dry. They make a fantastic (and funky) alternative to using plastic bags, and are made right here in B.C.! An innovative Vancouver Island woman manufactures the wraps and sells them at the Moss Street Market in Victoria as well as online at Etsy.

It's unfortunate that it's so difficult to find much information on Abeego online, but I did stumble across a plucky Vancouver Island blogger--TrampledbyGeese--who visited the woman's stall at the Moss St Market; TrampledbyGeese posted an entry with photos, instructing the reader on how to get the best use out of their Abeego. My only skepticism is how the cloth will fare in hot weather--will the wax melt and get on the food or do the plant oils help keep it bound to the fabric? Even so, beeswax is non-toxic--it's found in many lotions and lip balms--and I'd rather eat beeswax than ingest Bisphenol A, an organic compound that may leech into food or liquid from plastics and cause health problems. Despite the Canadian government's reassurance that it doesn't pose a health risk to the general public, I don't believe enough long term research has been conducted.

Since beeswax served as humankind's first plastic, I think I'll have to purchase an Abeego wrap and test it out for myself. If it works, it will not only reduce my risk of ingesting potentially harmful chemicals, but will also save a lot of plastic and paper from cluttering up our already overflowing landfills.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Outdoor Gear: Marmot's Skyline Jacket

Back in late August I was on a quest to find the ultimate multipurpose waterproof/breathable shell that could be layered to use for cycling, hiking, and even just wandering around this rainy city. After much deliberating, research, and shopping, I finally settled on Marmot's Skyline Jacket in Green Tea.

Marmot's PreCip fabric promises to keep you bone dry in a total downpour, and it doesn't disappoint. I like the extra two inches of length in the torso; it provides added protection when bent forward during cycling. I also like that the hood rolls into the collar when precipitation isn’t a concern, yet the thin fabric allows me to wear it pulled up underneath my helmet to keep my ears warm and head dry when it's raining. The Velcro cinches at the wrists prevent icy blasts of wind from blowing up the sleeves when cycling; no drafts here! I've worn it on many cycling excursions around the city and it's kept me dry and effectively cut the wind.

To test it out hiking, I wore it on an overnight trip to Garibaldi Lake in mid-September. It provided me with a lightweight, packable shell and kept me warm and dry. The soft DriClime® Lined Collar and Chin Guard acted as a buffer against chafing when completely zipped up. My only gripe is that it doesn't have pit zips; during strenuous exercise it's nice to have that extra ventilation. Other than that, I'm happy with my purchase. The jacket has a flattering cut and provides me with the versatility that I require. For the regular retail price of $179.99, I'd say it's slightly overpriced; I'd say wait for a sale (like I did). I'd rate it 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Favourite White Wine of 2008

Last August I spent a weekend with my girl posse in the Okanagan valley visiting some of the wineries and developing an appreciation for what some of BC's vineyards have to offer. On the tour we took with Okanagan Wine Tours, we stopped at St. Hubertus, Cedar Creek and Summerhill vineyards to sample a selection of their wines. I was always a red wine girl but after this excursion I finally tasted what I'd missed out on. In the Cedar Creek winery shop, our wine guide raved about their Ehrenfelser describing its flavour as complex and multifaceted and said it has a cult following in the Okanagan valley, regularly selling out. Although we hadn't sampled it in the tasting I took his advice and bought two bottles.

That evening we opened a few different wines to try over dinner and were instantly convinced that the 2007 Ehrenfesler was the best white we'd tried all day. The intense fruit flavours changed like a citrus kaleidoscope on the palate--from lime to grapefruit; a refreshing reprieve from the B.C. interior's summer heat. I've become a fan of this white since taking the first taste back in August. It's difficult to find but I've discovered that you can get it at Okanagan Estate Wine Cellar at 3669 West 4th (right near Alma & 4th). It retails for $18.10 a bottle, which is worth every penny. Cheers!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Sugar Plum Amongst the Prunes

I feel compelled to pay tribute to local retailer Plum Clothing at 12th & Granville for their outstanding customer service. In my experience, I've found the lack of service in many Vancouver stores downright frustrating. It took so long for my friend to exchange a garment at The Bay downtown that I thought that we'd have to camp overnight before we could get someone at the counter to help us. Yet when I returned to Plum to get reimbursed for being overcharged on a cardigan that was supposed to have been on sale, I was pleasantly surprised by their willingness to make things right. Although the manager who oversaw exchange told me the cardigan technically wasn't on sale--someone mistakenly placed it on the sale rack of fall/winter items even though it was a spring line garment--she said she'd give it to me for the sale price because it was the store's mistake. The cashier who assisted me was extremely accommodating despite my request for a different size after she'd processed the refund; she had to process yet another return just to keep track of the size for inventory. I apologized for the inconvenience I'd caused but she smiled and said, "Oh no, it's totally fine. I just look at it as practice!" I wanted to hug her and tell her she'd just made my day.

So, thank you Plum for making an extraordinary effort to keep your customers happy; I'm sold. Here's to buying local!

P.S. For all my Alberta peeps, there's a location in Calgary too!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Debut of Montecristo Magazine

I happened to get a hold of the first issue of Montrecristo Magazine, a decidedly Vancouver publication that launched in mid-December. Montecristo is the vision of Pasquale Cusano, founder of Montecristo Jewellers and the quarterly national publication NUVO. He says the magazine "will be firmly rooted in this community. It is about passion, about quality, about the artisanal [sic] way, and about those in this region who pursue those things," and it certainly espouses the desires of the upper class community, boasting full-page advertisements for such names like Chanel, Rolex, Jaguar, Land-Rover and Mercedes-Benz. The articles appeal to anyone with a sense of aesthetics within a broad range of interests from travel to punk rock and philanthropy to the future of automotive alternatives. The magazine serves up high-calorie slices of insight on west coast life and I appreciate some of the tasty morsels that are offered up (such as the article about the handmade clothing of Hajnalka Manula). These bite sized features may not provoke as much thought as the articles of The Walrus or The Tyee, but a little indulgence never hurt anyone; it's about keeping it in perspective.