One of the best things that has happened during the Covid Pandemic shutdowns is the regeneration and healing of “touristic” places. Venice’s canals are now clean and clear, coral reefs are returning underwater, wild animals are creeping back into urban areas, wild flamingo populations have expanded, and majestic whales are less stressed and more communicative with reduced shipping noise and traffic. These restorations make me so happy!! On the flip side, traveling has come to a screeching halt. All the major trips I planned in 2020 got cancelled and my heart sank with each disappointment. Without travel, I can fall into a rut and feel depressed. I had to balance my own needs with the heavy restrictions so I planned a few jaunts to Mexico!
Americans are obsessed with hygiene!! “Embracing cleanliness became a patriotic duty for Americans during the Civil War ….and by the 1920’s personal fastidiousness became an American obsession.” (source). The global pandemic is escalating our cultural OCD and Americans are cleaning and disinfecting more fervently than ever (try finding 409 these days)!! But, as the pandemic goes on, what are we doing about our emotional hygiene? Alcoholism, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, and suicide rates are rising as a result of feeling isolated, angry, lonely, and helpless with many things out of our control. So how can we help ourselves emotionally?
On a warm summer evening in Durango, Colorado, I sat beneath the pines on the deck at my beautiful friend Carrie’s home sipping handmade mojitos, hanging out with her family and excited to try the vegan dishes she was preparing for dinner. Little did I know how GREAT of a cook she was until I tasted her Killer Vegan Black Beans which accompanied grilled Portobello’s and red peppers, muy rico guacamole, and feisty chipotle salsa. Hands down the best meal I had in a LONG time. I polished off the tortillas then subbed in tortilla chips to scoop up the beans and veggies on my plate. The beans are completely addicting (and she’s not even vegan).
I was born with an adventurous spirit and each year I honor it by flying somewhere fun and exotic for my birthday. However, with the Covid lockdowns around the world, flying was not possible!!! I pondered this and thought, “Well, I CAN’T fly in an airplane for my birthday – but I CAN jump from one”….So, I went SKYDIVING. I love experiencing things (even though I am typically terrified) and it’s not everyday you get to jump out of an airplane at 13,000 feet. Plus….it’s one gift I won’t have to return (LOL).
For the entire week of my husband’s birthday, he went “vegan”. I cooked a lot of delicious meals for him but went BIG for the grand finale! I opted to surprise him with these amazing vegan gluten-free chocolate cupcakes. They were the perfect birthday treat. Not only did they taste heavenly, but they were beautiful to boot. Now, I usually bake “healthier treats” so even though these are gluten free they are FULL SUGAR… and I was pushed OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE!! I quickly rationalized that it’s ok to splurge on birthdays which allowed me to fully enjoy each rich, chocolaty bite!!!
Mammoth in California’s Sierra Mountains is best known as ski resort for California winters but it also has an abundance of summer activities like hiking, fishing, camping, mountain biking and horse back riding. Until last summer, we hadn’t been to Mammoth in over ten years, but this year we’ve visited three times already. The beauty of the mountains is awe-inspiring but we keep discovering great restaurants, excellent beer and delicious coffee (with plant milk options). Despite having car trouble (every time we go – ugghh), we’ve developed a fondness for Mammoth.
I’m eating two of these small batch flourless (GF) vegan chocolate chip peanut butter cookies as I write this and appreciating how rich and chewy they are. It’s impossible to eat just one (trust me….I’ve tried). My husband says the are decadent like a “brownie-cookie”. Sounds good no?
Unlike some vegan, GF cookies, which are crumbly or taste like cardboard, these delicious treats TASTE sinful but secretly use healthier ingredients like GF oats, unsweetened dried coconut, and peanut only – peanut butter while omitting oil, flour, eggs, and dairy altogether. They also avoid highly processed ingredients like soy lecithin, palm oil, etc.
Due to the Covid pandemic, we had to cancel 2 major trips to Europe this summer. With limited international travel options, we opted for a road trip to Durango, Colorado.
Durango is a small mountain town nestled in the San Juan Mountains in the Southwest corner of Colorado. It attracts outdoor enthusiasts like bikers, hikers and skiers as well as retirees. It’s home to the iconic Durango/Silverton coal train and Fort Lewis college. You can hike in the mountains, walk along the Animas river or sip beer at craft breweries. Several parks and hikes were closed due to the Corona virus but there are still fun things to do.
My friend Ann is a terrific cook. She uses exciting, high quality ingredients and has a knack for putting flavors together. Years ago, she served Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) with Orecchiette, an Italian dish that blew me away. It’s been my favorite pasta dish ever since. Typically, I avoid pasta because most dishes are weighed down with heavy sauces. But this classic dish from Puglia, home of the vegetable lovers, is refreshingly light and healthy. It has a ton of nutritious Broccoli Rabe and adorable ear shaped pasta. If you are looking for a bright, healthy taste of Italy for your vegan and non-vegan friends, this is it!!
My husband is now the chef of this recipe and rather than use strict measurements, he eyes the proportions. This is where your chef di cucina can emerge.
As the Covid Quarantine drags on (it’s now over 2 months), I feel like Bill Murry in Groundhog Day! My motivation to try new things is suffering so my kitchen routine doesn’t vary much. I go on autopilot and repeat the same ol’ dishes with slight variations. However, this everyday powerhouse steamed greens bowl with tahini dressing is just as fresh and tasty as ever! It’s ultra healthy (te quiero kale and broccoli) and served with an addictive tangy, umami dressing that makes it hard to resist (even if you don’t like broccoli). I crave this bowl so often that I sometimes have it for breakfast (shhhhh)…!