Introducing KidBox!

I know, I haven’t been very talkative lately. Let me put you at ease – I’m still talkative *pauses for your collective sigh of relief*, I’ve just been extremely busy. I have a few exciting projects in the works and I can’t wait to tell you about them in the upcoming weeks. While I often have reasonably okay ideas, my Achilles heel lies in my brain. No, I’m not a futuristic foot-brain alien. I basically always talk myself out of an idea before it can even become anything. The first and only time I jumped into something without painstakingly considering every possibility was starting this blog, and it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.

Taking the leap once again, I’d like to introduce you to my new side business – KidBox Guyana. I know a lot of you don’t live in Guyana, but for those of you who do, KidBox is a monthly Gift & Activity Box subscription for kids, ages 6-11. Every month the boxes are themed so you’ll receive 4-5 small items or 2-3 large items that fall under the theme for that month. You’ll also receive activity cards with additional ideas & games to play.

I’m now taking orders for our July KidBox, which will be delivered to your door on July 25. The theme this month is Backyard Camping which will come in handy now that your kids are on Summer / August holidays!

If you’d like more information, you can find us (and like us!) at http://www.facebook.com/kidboxguyana, or http://www.kidboxguyana.squarespace.com. You can also email me anytime at kidboxguyana@gmail.com .

You might ask “can’t I just buy this stuff for my child anyways?” Sure you can, but we curate a unique box that gives you the entire experience – our activity cards are full of fun ideas and concepts, and everything is yours to keep so you can utilize the games, toys and activity cards anytime.

I’ve also been getting some really great support and comments and based on responses, I have a feeling that KidBox may even grow up soon! Stay tuned! :)

Salade Niçoise and my not so Nice meal

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You can find Nice in the south of France. It’s very close to Cannes, Monaco & Marseille and is located on the Cote d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera. Cote d’Azur translates to mean “blue coast”, and you can totally see why. Every imaginable shade of blue can be found there, even obscure shades that you only see on paint chips like ‘cerulean’ and ‘cobalt’. The main street – Promenade des Anglais – overlooks the sea, and right around the corner, huge ships wait in the harbor to take you to magical sounding places like Corsica and Sardinia. Alcohol consumption notwithstanding, when you’re lounging at one of the restaurants immediately across the Promenade, the rocky beach below isn’t visible, so you feel as though all you need to do is step off the promenade into the impossibly blue sea.

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Simply being there makes you feel like a movie star on break from filming your latest movie – a Da Vinci Code / Angels & Demons type thriller where you’re a brilliant symbologist (graduated from Hogwarts, naturally) and Hugh Jackman, Jimmy Fallon & Michael Fassbender battle for your heart. Also you have an awesome X-Men style power and just as you’re getting used to your life, your Grandmother tells you that you’re the Princess of Genovia and one day you will rule the country. I know. Pretty awesome movie. Hollywood, have your people call my people.

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I’ve always heard about Niçoise Salads, but for me it was one of those dishes that you give a “hey, I acknowledge that you exist” nod in the cookbook, but never quite get around to marking it to try. I did make a mental commitment to try it in Nice, France, the place where the salad was invented (get it! Nice-oise!). Due to our commitment to drink beer and eat gelato though, salad was simply forgotten.

Overall though, I didn’t have a great local food experience in Nice. One day, I ordered the fancy sounding Seafood Fruit de Mer at a restaurant. When the plate came, the people at the next table stopped eating and looked at my plate. I misrepresent. It was a platter. That could easily have served 3 or 4 people. If you’ve seen me at my hungriest, you’re probably wondering “um…Indi. You see platters of food as a challenge, one that you usually win. What could possibly be the downside?” Well, It was the smell that wafted from this plate. Should it smell like fish rotting in a puddle after three days of sun? Or what I imagine shrimp vomit to taste like?

Maybe salad would have been better. I mean, Niçoise salads are made up of tuna, lettuce, green beans, boiled eggs, black olives, and a mustard vinaigrette. Pretty straightforward, right? It speaks for itself. I know how each thing tastes and I doubt that putting them all together will make it taste magically different.

While comparing Niçoise Salad recipes online, I’ve noticed that there are so many ingredient variations. The first thing is that you should have specific Niçoise olives, but that was compromise #1. I’ve seen salads with anchovies, radishes, beets, raw tuna, without potatoes, and different types of lettuce. I tried to stick to the classic ingredients, but my one big change was that I substituted the green beans with asparagus because that’s what I have in my fridge, okay?

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There are also notable variations on the mustard vinaigrette. The vinaigrette recipe I used was from Saveur Magazine. As I was prepping the ingredients, I realized that I wasn’t making note of the amount or specifically following measurements per recipe. I think that it comes down to what ingredients you want more of, and what you want less of (I’m looking at you, olives).

As such, I’m listing ingredients for my salad here, but have proper measurements from Saveur’s recipe below. I doubled their recipe because look at the picture of the food. Ain’t no 1/3 cup of vinaigrette gonna be enough.

Salad Nicoise


Salad Ingredients
Hard boiled Eggs
Black Olives
Iceberg Lettuce
Tuna (in oil)
Boiled Potatoes (skin on)
Asparagus, lightly steamed
Tomatoes

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Mustard Vinaigrette
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Salt
2/3 cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
2 Shallots, minced
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

To make Vinaigrette: 
In a bowl, whisk all ingredients until combined.

To make Salad: 
Assemble salad ingredients in a plate. Pour dressing over salad or keep it on the side. I respect your choice.
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Recipe notes:

– I tend to cook my tuna for a few minutes to get rid of that raw fishy smell, but feel free to use it straight from the can.

– I think that this would be a cool platter to put out at your next party or BBQ. It’s really not that complicated to prepare, and can be done beforehand. Just keep in the fridge until ready to serve because the eggs and tuna will spoil if left out for too long. I myself am bringing this to the virtual Fiesta Friday Party over at Fiestafriday.net. Stop by, say hi to Angie, Loretta and Caroline and see what everyone brought!

– Dijon mustard is great in a vinaigrette, but I used one that I picked up in France because mustard in french is ‘moutarde’ (which sounds like a child trying to pronounce the english word) so I couldn’t not buy it. #validreason

There you have it. Have a wonderful weekend!

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Baked Brie, Relationships, and my Moveable Feast

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I’ve always been struck by Hemingway’s description of Paris. He said that “…wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. It’s a romantic notion, and it really is indescribable to be in a city that has made an indelible mark in every part of history, be it literature, poetry, food, fashion, politics, art or culture. Personally, Rome was my moveable feast. The more I think about it though, now that I’ve come up with this travel & food series, I may have taken this ‘moveable feast’ thing way too literally.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t come up with a name for this travel series as yet. Plateport (like Passport) kind of sounds like a parking lot for cars. The Traveling Plate makes me sound like I walk with dinnerware in my luggage, and don’t judge me for considering Foodcation. Anyway, to be continued.

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My absolute favourite thing about Paris is how important relationships seem to be. We all know Paris as the City of Love, but it seems to extend to much more than romance. One afternoon, Rabin & I did a sunset cruise along the Seine and I was shocked at the hundreds of people, young and old, hanging out along the river. Groups of people, blankets & bottles of wine sat in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, covering the miles along the river that we sailed. There were boats docked at different points, filled with people and food, and at one point we passed a group of people watching and cheering on as a couple danced a foxtrot / swing type of dance. People waved at our boat and we waved back. You actually heard strains of Edith Piaf in the air. It was seriously the way you picture being in Paris will be.

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One of the things I really wanted to try was cheese. Serendipitously, as you may remember, I bought a large wheel of Brie before I went on vacation, thinking that maybe I wasted my money because I was bound to live on cheese when I got to Paris. I was planning to try fondue and all sorts of baked cheese but you should guess the pattern by now – I didn’t. Cue the serendipity! Now where is John Cusak?

I went looking and found an amazing recipe on Bon Appetit – Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Thyme. I adapted it slightly from the original recipe because of ingredient availability and amounts. You can find the original recipe here if you’d like.

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Baked Brie with Mushrooms & Thyme

  • Time: 40 minutes (mostly down time)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

3 oz dried Porcini Mushrooms

1 1/3 cup dry Red Wine

2 tbsp Butter

8 oz Mushrooms (I used canned)

1 tbsp chopped Shallot

1 tsp dried Thyme

½ tsp Black Pepper

¼ tsp Salt

¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

14 – 15 oz Brie

Bread / Crackers for serving

Instructions

Rinse dried mushrooms. Place in a saucepan with wine, and bring the wine to a boil. Cover, turn off and remove from heat and let mushrooms soak in wine for about 25 minutes. After this time has elapsed, remove mushrooms and finely chop. Strain the remaining liquid in a strainer lined with a damp paper towel. Keep the strained red wine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, melt butter and add the other set of mushrooms until cooked through or warmed, depending on whether you use the fresh mushrooms or not. Add salt, peppers, shallots, thyme, dried mushrooms and strained red wine. Let cook until all liquid has evaporated.

While this is cooking, lay out two sheets (on top of each other) of foil. If you intend to serve by individual portions, lay out two sheets per portion. Using a sharp knife, cut the white rind off of the top and side of brie, place in foil and pull edges up around the brie. Generously heap mushrooms on top of brie.

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Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is all melty. Serve immediately with crackers or bread.

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Recipe notes:

  • Brie is velvety, creamy, and RICH. So rich that you can’t eat too much at once. I think this is best served in bites, or at a communal table, because after a few bites, you’ll want to pass out, or drink a beer as quickly as you can to cut the richness. Either that, or I’m a Neanderthal.
  • I much preferred on bread to crackers. It was a delicious, grilled cheese type of meal. Rabin preferred crackers, which shakes my faith in his taste.
  • To make a cool appetizer at a fancy dinner, put the cheese into ramekins. It only takes about 15 minutes at most to melt (less if cut into smaller pieces), so you can prep everything before and shove in oven when guests arrive.

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And there you go. The recipe seems complicated, but it really isn’t. I was able to do a lot of other things in between the wait times (which may or may not have been absolutely nothing). Have a wonderful rest of the weekend and I’ll see you back here next week as I continue to cook my way through Europe.

Tales from the Road

Stop the presses! I’m finally back home after an exhausting but fantastic vacation. I traveled to places I’ve only ever dreamed of (and some I didn’t!), caught up with existing friends and met some new ones, ate nonstop and transformed into a slight culture snob (which I’m sure will be temporary!). I don’t have words in my vocabulary to describe how amazing the trip was, and the pictures don’t do it justice. But I will share some shots with you as the weeks go by.

My one regret is that I didn’t get to try a lot of the dishes that I had listed to try. Yes. I had a list. Divided by country. Call me a nerd, I don’t care :p

Don’t get me wrong, some dishes were pretty delicious, but some were disappointing. I think a big part of it was that many places that we went to seemed to cater to a touristy crowd and had a lot of globally known food – cheeseburgers, fries, spaghetti, margherita pizza, etc. Time was also a factor, and eating that amount in such a short time bordered on impossible.

It could also be that I’m weird and somehow seem to choose weird dishes to try.

Oh Food. I do love you.

Oh Food. I do love you.

So. In an attempt to mentally extend that great trip feeling and not overwhelm you with details in one post, I’m going to run a short series featuring places that I went to and my attempt at some dishes that I wanted to try on my trip but didn’t get a chance to. I’m taking all of you with me on my trip this time :) I also want to come up with a catchy name for the series so I welcome suggestions!

I do have to say though, I have some really fantastic friends & family. They planned stuff for me, took time off and made the effort to hang out, and brought me into their circles as well. They braved their fear of heights and suffered with sinus issues for days to take me to mountains 3842m high. They made coffee for me every morning, did insane amounts of research to fit in as much sightseeing as possible. They argued with a street vendor to make sure that I got the right food. They ordered pizza to be delivered to a pub because the kitchen was closed. They gave up their rooms, went with me to the supermarket for 5 days in a row, went with me in the same store 3 times in pursuit of a nerdy, collegiate-type bag, and then carried said bag back home. I also had friends who messaged me to give me tips on where to go and what to see and do.

Rabin was also unshockingly great – he carried all my bags, he almost walked 500 miles (and almost walked 500 more), encouraged me to get that 4th scoop of gelato in one day, stood guard while I took a 10 minute power nap in a doorway, and managed to keep up with my admittedly packed itinerary.

Thanks guys. You’re all amazing.

See you later in the week. I can’t wait to start cooking again!

Bulgur, Kale & Walnut Stuffed Peppers

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It’s been an historic few weeks. Elections were held in our Country, there was a delay in results, and a subsequent change in government after 23 years of the previous party’s rule. I witnessed passion from friends and family when it came their political views, and it feels good to be part of a society that isn’t defined by abstainers.

Today, I’m leaving you with one of my favourite dishes – stuffed peppers. They’re easy, delicious, and look much fancier than they actually are.

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Bulgur, Kale & Walnut Stuffed Peppers

  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup Bulgur
4 cups Kale
2 large red Bell Peppers
2 cloves Garlic, minced
½ tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp dried Basil
¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 small/ medium Tomato, sliced
1 tbsp Olive Oil, divided

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Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350. Cut peppers in half, and scoop out seeds & white ribs. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place peppers cut side down on sheet. Place walnuts in the corner of sheet as well. Drizzle peppers with olive oil & bake for about 10 minutes to soften.

In the meantime, cook bulgur according to package instructions and place in a separate bowl. In the same frying pan, pour ½ tbsp oil and cook garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and let cook for 1 minute. Add bulgur back to pan with remaining oil, herbs, salt & peppers. Stir until thoroughly combined. Turn off heat, add walnuts & kale and let heat soften kale. If there is any olive oil left on your baking sheet, feel free to pour it off into the bulgur.

Bake stuffed peppers on sheet for another 20 minutes. If you think it looks a bit too dry, feel free to be liberal with the olive oil.

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Note: This recipe will leave you with extra mixture. You can use it to stuff additional peppers, or eat by itself. It makes a great salad or side for your meat.

Note #2: Save yourself some time and make the bulgur the day before.

A bit of news on my end: I’m off for vacation soon, so you’ll see less structured posts from me for a little while. Like the food nerd that I am, I’ve made an obsessive little list of all the different foods I want to try, so I’m excited to practice photography, see the sights, and most of all, EAT! I had the greatest plans of having backup posts, but I got busy and truthfully, lazy.

I’ll be posting from time to time on my vacation though. It will be the first time I’ll be posting from my WordPress App so if it you have any technical issues with viewing my post, please let me know. I’m also looking forward to meeting some of my favourite Bloggers in person!

I’m also looking forward to recreating some of the dishes I try, and I still can’t get it in my mind that crepes are cheap “street food” in France. I feel so fancy just thinking about it! To be fair though, I feel that any food that I suck at making is super fancy, so using that reasoning, Roti / Naan is extra super fancy too!

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Au Revoir!

Enthusiasm Girl & Avocado Cilantro Dressing

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I think I’ve discussed this in a previous post, but if I had to choose a superpower, I would want to fly. It’s either that, reading minds, or time traveling. If we were assigned more realistic super powers, I’d probably be “Enthusiasm Girl” – able to work up insane levels of excitement and enthusiasm in seconds! Sometimes I literally tell friends “get excited!” when I receive a neutral (read: normal) reaction to an invitation.

So what got me excited last month? April had its share of food & blog related triumphs for me – yes, those exist. I managed to complete my April Food Photography Challenge, and I feel like I’ve definitely improved a bit in the photography arena. I’m by no means a pro, but I think that I’ve been refining my ability to look at something from a different perspective. I also played around with using negative space, as well as got a little more familiar with editing apps. Yeah, that’s me, sounding all professional and photograph-y! You can check out the pictures on my Instagram and tell me what you think – I’m still open to constructive criticism.

I made Baklava, and I’m quite proud of my first attempt. It wasn’t difficult, just time consuming. It was also more delicious than I expected – I’ve never been a huge fan of honey by itself.

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Another reason for Enthusiasm Girl to appear? I saw this huge wheel of Brie at the supermarket the other day and every other problem in my life momentarily ceased to exist. I’ve never baked Brie before but I plan to, and I plan to try every recipe that you guys can throw my way. So send me your favourite Brie recipes please! And don’t judge me when i report in a future post that I ate the majority of a huge wheel of cheese by myself.

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So how does excitement relate to my salad dressing? You may know that I deeply love avocado and have openly professed my love on many occasions. I love fresh cilantro so much that I have a song for it (basically it’s a chant that goes “free cilantro, free cilantro” because once we got a bunch of free cilantro from our market guy to make up for selling us a bad batch of strawberries).

So add Avocado + Cilantro and suddenly you’ve got me, jumping around and ready to eat salad.

Avocado Cilantro Dressing

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients
1 medium Avocado
1 1/2 cup loosely packed Cilantro
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 tbsp Lime Juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 – 1/3 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

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Instructions
Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

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I’m also excited to be linking up with some great parties today – Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, Angie at Fiesta Friday, and Michelle at Foodie Friday.

So this is Enthusiasm Girl, signing off. Stay safe, stay hyper, stay enthused. I’m off to figure out what colour cape I want.

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(Three!) Breakfast(s) at Indi’s

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I’ve been procrastinating. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you later. *bows*. Yes, these are the sort of gems you get from me after two weeks of silence. It’s been a good/busy type of two weeks, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing what May holds for me.

One thing that I don’t want to hold on to in May? This insane amount of belly fat I’ve somehow accumulated. I’m very very lazy when it comes to exercise. Sometimes I think that my preferred exercise of choice is yoga because I don’t have to bust a sweat and almost vomit to say that I’ve had a good workout. I imagine myself in the gym so vividly that sometimes I feel that I actually went. My imagination gets an amazing workout daily. If only that counted!

I tend to find every reason not to exercise. I find ways to make up for it and to motivate myself – I buy clothes in the size I want, I use smaller plates, I drink a lot of water. I keep frozen fruits for emergency smoothies, and I have all the apps on my phone that track steps taken (not that I use it often). I’ve downloaded the same 5K app at least three times and when my phone memory is full, that app is the first to go. Let’s just ignore my 9 photo editing apps, ok?

Since I will never become a gym rat (I’ve accepted that truth), I started thinking about ways to improve my diet. I don’t think I’m a terrible eater, but I do splurge occasionally and there definitely are some changes I can make, especially at Breakfast. I eat a lot of bread and crackers and cheese. Delicious, but not the type of food that will help that stomach shrink.

Today I’m sharing three Breakfast recipes that have no cheese, eggs, crackers, bread or meat. I know right, is a breakfast without those things even possible?

'Sit on your back step and enjoy the sunshine' Yogurt Bowl

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients

– 1 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani)
– 1/3 cup Grapes
– 1 Strawberry
– 2 tsp ground Flaxseed
– 2 tsp Agave syrup
– 1 tbsp. Pumpkin seeds
– 1 tbsp. sliced Almonds

Instructions

Arrange all ingredients in a bowl. Sit outside, eat and enjoy the sunlight on your face.

Cherry Walnut 'Traffic Dessert' Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients

– 4 frozen Strawberries
– 1/2 cup frozen Cherries
– 1/2 tsp ground Flaxseed
– 1/4 cup Walnuts
– 3/4 – 1 cup Almond milk (or milk of choice)

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a blender or glass. Blend (you can use an immersion blender) until smooth.

I took a little longer to blend this because everything was still pretty frozen, and I ended up with a smoothie the consistency of slush. But that ended up being a good thing – I drank it in the car on the way to work and it was like having a frozen dessert for breakfast. I highly recommend it.

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Overnight 'Not a sad desk breakfast' Espresso Oats

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

– 1 cup dried Oats
– 1 cup Almond Milk
– 2 tsp dried Vanilla
– 2 tsp Espresso Powder
– 2 tsp Agave
– 1 tbsp. coarsely chopped Walnuts

Instructions

Add oats, milk, vanilla and espresso to a jar. Stir and place in fridge overnight. In the morning, add your walnuts & agave.

Tip: This can fit neatly in your bag, but just make sure the lid is tightly sealed. Plus, mason jars for the win!

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I call these customizable because they ARE. You can take out and add in as you please…once you have your standard base, you’re good to go. One important element of customization? Give yourself options. What I try to do is keep an inventory of all sorts of healthy stuff (both in my fridge and my mind) and allow my creativity to do its thing. Just try to prep the night before because if you’re like me, all my brain power in the morning is directed at making coffee, putting the right lunch in the right bag, and neurotically making sure I haven’t magically left the stove on even though I didn’t use it.

Why am I putting so much effort into breakfast? Last week I looked at the Page-a-day calendar on my desk, read the daily quote and said “damn straight!” out loud. You can just go ahead and add ‘talks to herself’ to the list of things my coworkers call me (the list that I know of currently consists of “walks loudly in heels” and “hyper / moves her hands around a lot”). But I had to agree with my homegirl Virginia Woolf:

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So dine well, prep yourself for next week, and have a great weekend! Send good vibes to me and kindly tell this belly fat to #$^% off. Maybe it’ll listen, and I’ll be able to skip my workout this afternoon :)