Monday, February 23, 2015

Experiencing Nature, Food, Drinks and Dance
From Buenos Aires To Brazil

Hiking down the Gold Trail in the Brazilian rain Forest
with Michael and Harry from Paraty Explorer Tours.

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We Live Not on Food Alone
My blog is mostly about nutrition and the healthy recipes I create to help us all live a long and healthy life. I kicked off the year with my post on the Top 20 Foods For Health and Longevity. But there are other things beside food that will also help enrich and extend your life. These are the things that not only feed your body but additionally feed your soul - like adventures, dancing, music, getting close to nature, friendships, good wine, and wonderful life experiences, to name a few. 

On a quest to feed our soul, last year we took an adventure to Australia and New Zealand. And we just kicked off 2015 with a wonderful trip to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. 

It Takes More than Two to Tango
Doug and I flew to Buenos Aires to learn the Argentine tango. After taking several private lessons from Cristian Correa and Miriam Copello we quickly realized that we should have started these lessons about 30 years ago. It takes a lifetime of dancing to master this dance. But we totally enjoyed the experience and really loved Cristian and Miriam but don't look for us any time soon on Dancing with the Stars.

My tango lesson with Cristian Correa

To really appreciate how the tango is done, we went to a typical Argentine Milonga club called Salón Canning, in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Notice, no one is smiling - this is a very serious dance.

Salón Canning Milonga, in the Palermo district

Argentina's Food and Wine - Meat and Malbec
Argentinians LOVE their beef although I've read that their consumption of beef is declining. At it's peak Argentinians consumed over 200 pounds for every man, woman and child. Although it's fallen to almost half that amount (still twice the US consumption), by the looks of most restaurant menus, you would think that it is all anyone there eats. I asked my tour guide if there was nice seafood available (given that they are on the ocean) and he just said, "Sure, but no one eats it. We eat steak!) The consumption of beef is very cultural and although there is some growing interest in vegetarian diets, beef will not significantly disappear from their diet. It would be like Italians giving up pasta. 

Perhaps they eat beef because it goes so well with their wonderful Malbec wine. And yes, we sampled a bit of that. One day for lunch, the waiter wanted us to try this particular glass of Malbec. After mentally converting pesos to dollars (but paying in dollars - they LOVE them and restaurants will give you a big discount for them), we figured it was $11 a glass - kind of pricey. Well, what the heck, you only live once so we ordered some. We were shocked to discover that for $11 you got the entire bottle. And it was fabulous! I can't imagine anywhere in the US where you would get a wonderful bottle of wine of this quality in a restaurant for only $11. Besides wine, nothing else was much of a bargain.

Nicasia Vineyards Red Blend
90% Malbec, 6% Cab, 4% Petit Verdot
12 months in French Oak

So a warning to traveling vegans, the wine in Argentina is wonderful but you may have a difficult time finding meatless and dairy-free options. Argentina was ranked one of the worst countries for meat-free travelers by Lonely Planet several years back but new restaurants are opening all the time. Check HappyCow eating guide for the latest vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Buenos Aires.  

Uruguay - What a Surprise!
After enjoying ourselves in Buenos Aires, we boarded our Azamara Cruise ship and headed for Uruguay. I have to be totally honest - I knew nothing about Uruguay before last month. I don't think I could have even pointed it out on a map. So you could just imagine how surprised I was to arrive in Punta del Este with it's fancy yachts, gorgeous beaches and quirky art. 

Mano de Punta del Este - a sculpture on the beach
by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal.

We were just as pleased when we visited Montevideo, Uruguay's capital.

You won't find a Starbucks around here. The national drink is yerba maté, a very stimulating and rejuvenating tea made and served in a hollow gourd. You drink it through a metal straw to strain out the leaves. We bought this cute gourd and straw to take home. Doug and I are no strangers to this drink since we live within walking distance to Guayaki, a US company that makes yerba maté.

Being wine grape growers and wine makers, we headed out to Varela Zarranz, one of the oldest wineries in Uruguay. We were very interested in tasting their wine that is made from Tannat grapes, which you don't usually  find in the U.S. 

Tannat vineyard with split trellis

They certainly get a lot of use from their equipment. This enormous oak barrel is over 100 years old. At 10,500 liters (around 2,800 gallons), it is 50 times bigger than barrels typically used in winemaking. They use regular-size, new oak barrels for their premium tannat wine and utilize these big ones for their production, low-cost wines.

We got to taste a number of their wines and I will say, the ones made from 100 percent tannat are "muy fuerte". They are a lot easier to drink when in a blend with merlot.

Wine tasting in Montevideo

Paraty, Brazil
One of the highlights of our trip was the hike down the Gold Trail in the Brazilian town of Paraty. We took a private tour with Paraty Explorer with our wonderful guides Michael and Harry. The rainforest was absolutely breathtaking. 

At the bottom of the trail, there was a waterfall and a cachaça factory. Cachaça is a rum-like liquor distilled from sugar cane. Some of it is aged in oak and enjoyed like a find whiskey and some is not aged very much and used to make a popular Brazilian drink called Caipirinha - we'll get to that later. This is clearly not a health food but it was very interesting to see them make this local and traditional liquor.

Distillation unit for cachaça
Different grades of cachaça

Finally, a Simple Meal and Cold Beer
We ate some fancy meals on the cruise ship and at some very nice restaurants in the various cities but my favorite meal was in this very casual restaurant in Paraty where I could finally have a simple meal of salad, rice, beans, kale and the best beer I've ever had. Perhaps it was because I had just hiked for hours in a hot, humid rainforest and this beer was served ice cold. But aside from that, Brazil sure knows how to make good beer!

My favorite restaurant. You could get lots of veggies, beans and rice (BBQ'd meat too, of course) and they just weighed your plate to bill you.

Rio de Janeiro
Rio was the end of the line for our cruise but just the beginning of a new adventure for us. 

Dancing at Rio Scenarium
Although we made this trip to Buenos Aires to learn to tango, we fell in love with the samba in Rio. After taking lessons on the cruise ship, we decided to head out to Rio Scenarium , a three-story nightclub with two live samba bands. I've never seen anything like it.

Cooking in Rio 
Doug and I booked a 4-hour cooking class with the Brazilian chef, Simone Almeida. Simone interjected lots of interesting stories about Brazil that were just as fun as the cooking class. Our favorite being that women in Brazil will wear the same bikini that they wore when they were 18 no matter how their bodies may have changed. We experienced this first hand the following day while on the Copacabana beach. I need not say more.
In our cooking class we learned to flambé vegetables, make Caipirinhas, cook Moqueca (a seafood stew with fresh sole, lime, onions, red peppers, and coconut milk), and Farofa de Banana (bananas coated in a cassava flour).

Me with chef Simone
Moqueca, rice and farofa de banana. on the right
Caipirinhas made with lime, fresh passion fruit,
sugar and a shot of cachaça.

Farmers' Market
On Sunday, just around the corner from our hotel on the Copacabana beach, was a beautiful farmers market. The fruit was to die for. For lunch we ate 3 enormous papayas - we were in heaven!

Farmers' market
Beautiful, ripe papayas


Carnival 2015
We planned our trip to enjoy pre-carnival and to be gone before the craziness began. Locals and tourists begin celebrating weeks before Carnival and it was easy to get caught up in the energy and excitement!

Can't Leave Rio Without...
On our last day, we headed to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. It was totally fogged in but right before the tour guide was gathering us to leave, the clouds parted and there it was - in all it's glory. It was magnificent!

Adiós Argentina and Uruguay. Adeus Brazil. Thanks for the wonderful memories that will continue to feed our soul forever. We will be back!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Looking For A Healthy Vegan Meal At The LA Airport? Try Real Food Daily In Terminal 4

Real Food Daily is a lifesaver for vegan's flying through LA.

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Eating and Flying
If you have food allergies or strong food preferences, getting a decent meal while traveling can be really difficult. I always end up bringing along Kind bars, nuts and fruit just so I don't starve to death.

But with the demise of most free airline meals, more and more restaurants are popping up in airports. And some of them are quite good! I remember telling you how surprised I was to find Chelsea's Kitchen in the Phoenix airport last October - their Kale and Quinoa salad was so good it inspired a blog post.

We flew through LA (terminal 4) on our way to Buenos Aires last month and on our way back from Rio last week. Both times I stopped at Real Food Daily. I was so happy to find a healthy, organic, non-GMO plant-based restaurant, that I could hardly wait to tell you about it. 

Real Food Daily
On the way there, we had breakfast. Doug got a lovely gluten free, vegan, No-Huevos Rancheros. It was scrambled tofu with ranchero sauce, black beans, avocado and hash browns. 

Both for breakfast on the way there and for lunch on my way back I opted for the Real Food Meal. You get to select a veggie or two, a plant protein (such as tempeh, tofu, seitan, etc.) and a bean & grain (such as brown rice, quinoa, soba noodles or beans).

My breakfast was a simple bowl of soba noodles with steamed kale, seitan and a dressing. I think it was a ginger tahini dressing which I used very little of since it was a bit salty. But I found the "club seitan" to be absolutely addictive.

On my return flight, I stopped in for lunch. Still craving their "club seitan", I ordered a meal with steamed kale, the veggies of the day (a generous helping of cauliflower, snap peas, and carrots), quinoa, and more seitan. This time I had their lime cilantro dressing.

I was avoiding desserts, but I did stop and admire all the vegan pastries, muffins and cookies in their display case. They looked amazing!

You Get what you Pay For
This restaurant is expensive as is all airport food. But besides having a captive audience and being able to get away with charging more, it really does cost more to buy real organic, unprocessed food. In any case, I'm happy to support a restaurant that provides this type of menu. 

So if you are flying through LA in Terminal 4 and you're looking for a good vegan meal, check this place out!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Instant Pot Sweet And Sour Red Cabbage
Come See My Valentine's Day Tree!

Red cabbage in 3 minutes in an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

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I'm Back
In case you missed me, I've been traveling in South America. I'll be telling you all about my travels to Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Brazil in the next few weeks once I've sorted out all my pictures. The local food, wine and dancing made this a very memorable trip.

Happy Valentine's Day
OK, I admit that cabbage isn't the most romantic food I can think of for Valentine's day but it's red and it's good for the heart (it helps lower cholesterol) so I'm going with it! 

I really enjoyed my new Christmas tree this year. It's artificial (I'm allergic to the real ones) and it came with lots of pre hung LED lights . I just didn't want to take it down. So I renamed it a "celebration tree", decorated it with "heart ornaments" so that we could enjoy it for Valentines Day. Not sure how long my celebration tree will stay around. Could there be bunnies soon?

Christmas tree turned Valentines tree
Closeup of heart ornaments

Today's recipe is very similar to one of my favorite recipes, Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage and Apples, which is in my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen. This simplified version omits the apples, making this a very low calorie dish (57 calories per serving) and prepares it in an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Once the pot gets up to pressure it only takes 3 minutes to prepare. More importantly, it cooks it to perfection every time without the hassle of stirring and cooking down the liquids.

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Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 8 servings]

Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker or similar appliance.

1 large head red cabbage
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons water

Cut the red cabbage in quarters vertically. Slice off the center core from each quarter and thinly slice.

Place the cabbage and all other ingredients into the Instant Pot. Don't worry that it fills more of the pot than is recommended. The cabbage will shrink when cooked.

Make sure the top vent is closed. Hit the manual button and set for 3 minutes.

After the pot comes up to high pressure and cooks for 3 minutes, hit the off button and do a quick release of the pressure. 

Carefully remove the lid, tilting it so that the steam escapes in the back. Stir the cabbage, adjust the salt and pepper if needed and serve. 

Per Serving: 57 calories, 0.2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 64 mg omega-3 and 49 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 185 mg sodium.