11 January 2014

Caribbean return!



Well I finally made it back to Costa Rica after 2.5 long years, and it's just as amazing as the last time.  The Puerto Viejo area continues to be full of natural health resources, the air is warm, he plants are lush and green, and the fresh produce is delicious.

I'll be here for awhile but am lucky enough to have friends from home here for the first 10 days! After 24 hours of delays, Molly and I finally met up with Joshua and Dylan.  Our first breakfast here had to be at La Botanica Organica... I've been eager to return since I left in 2011.  I LOVE everything about that place, and the fact they have kombucha made my heart SO happy! (Kombucha with beets and lime, too! Wow!)


Last night we had a fantastic dinner together at Selvin's, in Punta Uva where we are staying.  Another great discovery from last trip, the food is traditional Caribbean and Creole inspired... Fresh grilled vegetables (and fish), pantacones (plantains), coconut beans and rice.  Yum!



I'm going to try to update regularly with the deliciousness of the Caribbean, but bare with me because it's a lot less exciting from my iPad!  I'll be sad to see Joshua leave, because we've been killing it in the kitchen.  Check out our awesome beans & rice breakfast from this morning! Waking up at 5am for an hour long bike ride along the beach in the crisp ocean air is the best motivator there is!

More soon! ❤️



12 October 2013

Not your average beans and rice!


A few weeks back, we grabbed dinner at the newest Mexican restaurant in town.  I won't list it, because it isn't their fault they are quite simple in flavor... But it reminded us that as a Vegetarian there is one staple item (or often in the form of two separate ones): Beans and Rice.

It's unfortunate how boring beans and rice are, at 9/10 restaurants you go to. It has the potential to be so much more exciting - and I try to dress it up every time I make a batch.  Hot sauce goes a long way, but why stop there?

Stuffed Poblano Peppers are another (surprisingly easy) Mexican favorite, so this time around I combined the two. In a hurry (or on a budget), there's a few easy ways to create your own: just use canned black beans, diced (fire roasted) tomatoes, tomato sauce, and even tomato paste. I always use brown rice, minced garlic, a good amount of sautéed onion, cumin, chile powder, and (in everything I can add it into) crushed red pepper.  This time I added finely shredded kale and minced red peppers. 

Moral of the story? Sometimes it's simple to make a more exciting version at home, that's packed full of flavor (and nutrients).  

P.s. I don't think there's better leftovers than beans and rice - each day the flavor is richer.  Enjoy!

Learn with me!

Are you interested in food blogging?  Check out this online workshop - the Food Blogger Online Summit! There are two full days of classes, and I can't wait to see what new information I gather.  Let's trade our secrets and learn together!


11 October 2013

What are you waiting for?


Hi loves!

Every change of season, there's this automatic restart... And this fall it's happening more than ever.  It's not like I haven't been cooking, but I sure haven't allowed myself the time to devote the time, energy, and love I once did. Time to change that!

All the recent big life changes have brought one new hobby - juicing!  It's been fun, and a great healthy addition, but it doesn't fill the dinner party (and solid food) void in my heart.  It's all about balance though - so I'm definitely steering this blog into healthy and delicious Vegetarian food, in and out of the home.  All the delicious dining out experiences I've had in months (and years) previous are about to find their home on Inspired Vegetarian as well.  See also: some really amazing food porn from my recent trip to Croatia.


What it always takes is seeing someone kick ass at what they do.  A visit from my lovely (and fabulously foodie) friend Katie was the final motivation - just take a look at her awesome Eclectik Domestic blog.  It will make you want to start doing yours better, too!

This isn't the first claim of a revival, but I really am going to attempt to get things in full swing again. I'm working on being a perfectionist - and I'm a novice cook, writer, photographer.  hat's the goal of this blog, to talk about food (and cooking) that you can navigate as a beginner as well... not to freak everyone out with my fancy foodie knowledge (despite wishing I had it).   I'd love to hear from you with your cooking (and dining) deliciousness as well.  Let's get some guest posts!

Lots of love,
N.

06 October 2013

Fresh picked!


There are some things that are mandatory each season... And the must-see fall event in Michigan has to include apples. The Kerrytown Farmer's Market has a plethora of local vendors, and there's a special excitement with rows and rows of varieties on the crisp morning market days. 

Despite local shopping options, there is nothing like you-pick orchards. Especially when the "attractions" include wine tasting, hay rides, berry fields, pumpkin patches, and a general store. Even on a rainy afternoon, Spicer's Orchards was the perfect Sunday Adventure. 


I'll post a review on the hot sauce and pure-fruit preserves I picked up at their shop once I give them a try... And I can already vouch for their Sweet Williams Hard Cider.  (Leaning towards gluten-free makes cider an excellent - and tasty - compromise!)  The apples were delicious, and they really do taste even better when they are fresh picked on a chilly day!

Check out Spicer's for yourself! They are open 7 days a week, and it's an easy drive from Ann Arbor. 

11 September 2013

Power Up.


If there is one food that I missed out on for the first decade of being a Vegetarian, it's quinoa.  How did it take so long for this protein-packed ancient grain to gain popularity?  Every time I make it (and it's not nearly enough) I instantly regret not having some on hand each and every day.  (Lesson #1: cook quinoa weekly, eat frequently.)

Quinoa Power Bowls are pretty much my favorite go-to meal.  If you haven't dabbled with this concept, try it.  You'll love it.

My favorite combo:
- shredded kale and baby spinach, topped with:
- quinoa
- black beans
- shredded beets and carrots
- sliced green onions
- diced tomatoes
- avocado
- cilantro

I usually add red wine or apple cider vinegar, and occasionally olive oil... and (this is a given) lots and lots of hot sauce. This makes a great meal to take to work - I'll usually make a few in advance to grab-and-go! 

Let me know your favorite additions!  It doesn't get easier than this to eat fresh... the trick is in remembering such simple solutions when you get bored with your culinary routine!  



06 September 2013

I Love Hrvatska.


It's been over 5 long years since I've been to my favorite place in the world, Croatia.  I get a lot of questions on how I end up there time and time again, and it's all about returning to my roots.  My mom is first generation and I've been hooked since my very first visit.  The scenery is beautiful, the people (especially my family and friends) are warm and welcoming, the food is fresh and delicious.  I've threatened to stay forever if I was able, and I meant it. 

Part of the downside to being so negligent is posting is that I end up with gigantic blog posts like this.  I'll try my best to iron it out smoothly, but I'm plenty aware there is a lot that will be lost.  You might just have to go visit Hrvatska and see all the amazing treats yourself!  


My cousins live in Varaždin, one of the most beautiful baroque towns in all of Eastern Europe.  There is an intense cafe culture - every corner is filled with lovely outdoor seating areas to grab a kava.  The city is surrounded by gorgeous vineyards (more on that later) and there's an epic fresh market 7 days a week just feet from my families home in the city center. 


The last time I visited we cooked a lot together - I introduced them to a variety of ethnic foods they hadn't tried previously.  This time I was spoiled, especially by my cousin Jurica's superstar wife Maja.  She whipped up delicious baked goods and meals with such ease I'm still in shock.  Even their daughters, Dora and Sara, were part of the action!




Within hours of getting to town, there's always palačinke - basically the best thin crepe-like pancakes I've ever had.  I've mentioned them before (my aunt Tanja used to make these for me almost daily when I would visit years previous)... it's one of two must-have Croatian comfort foods.  (Not pictured: burek, a cheesy pastry that might be the best guilty pleasure ever.  We even had one with shredded pumpkin in it - amazing.)


This version was baked with farm cheese - made daily at Maja's parents farm in Sekatin (a village outside of town).  They have a beautiful farm house, vineyard, and their own dairy cow.  They also have a stone peka (outdoor stone oven) that they made amazing roasted vegetables - grown on their farm.


In the days ahead, there were endless culinary treats - fresh cheeses and breads from the market, borovnice (blueberries that even beat Michigan's), rakija (homemade fruit brandy), home made pastries, even biscuits with whole plums baked into the center.  And that's before we went to the coast!

 


Earlier visits to the Adriatic coast consisted of budget eats (literally apples, peanuts, and bread) by day and dining out in the evenings (pizza, salads, pastas)... So I was thrilled to have such luxury treatment at Hax's parents' house on Pašman Island.   Iva and Puko were lovely hosts - picking figs daily from the trees in their yard, serving us amazing Vegetarian treats, pouring gemišt with wine from their vineyard.  From paprika stuffed with farm cheese and edible flowers, to palačinke with blackberry jam from their own harvest, to fig jam made the day before,  we were spoiled with everything.  The temperate climate on the coast is really amazing, and the crisp warm sea air makes dining outdoors perfection.




Seriously.  We miss out on so much of the fig deliciousness in the States - not only are these fruits full of antioxidants they are delicious right off the tree or dried! I couldn't get enough of them.



 
Picking figs from the driveway - that's the Adriatic in the background, just minutes away.

The epically gorgeous Adriatic Sea.

The time on the coast - and in Croatia - is never enough.  I want to spend months and months going to markets each morning, enjoy meals with family and friends in the warm island and crisp hillside air, and have a delicious coffee at a quaint cafe every afternoon (for less than $1USD).  Until next time!

Borovnice Rakija and fresh cheese biscuits.

Rakija in the making.

Market fresh cheeses.

Vegetariana pizza.