Urban Wellness Retreat in Vancouver

Ever faced with the dilemma of choosing between an in-and-out destination wellness retreat where location is secluded or a busy hectic exploratory sightseeing city trip? Here’s simple solution to have it all – create your own wellness retreat in a metropolitan city that is fitness minded.

Vancouver is an extremely walkable city full of wellness options! Follow my itinerary from my recent trip and enjoy a day filled with yummy food, exercise, and sightseeing. Staying in a central location of the city makes it easy to be active, find healthy restaurants and see local sites on foot. I highly recommend the Kitsilano area for all those reasons. This neighborhood is known for its yoga studios, natural food stores, and outdoor apparel shops. After all, it is the location of the corporate HQ for Lululemon and the first Whole Food store in Vancouver.

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Start you day with breakfast at The Naam (https://www.thenaam.com), located in the heart of Kitsilano on 4th Avenue. You can get anything from scrambled tofu to hardy egg omelettes. It has served organic and locally sourced vegetarian and vegan food for over 50 years. After all these years, I found them to remain true to that original vision, using fresh and pure ingredients while maintaining a warm, earthy and welcoming atmosphere.

After a wholesome meal, head east down 4th Avenue and browse all the trendy boutiques. Along the way, you will come across some of the best bakeries and cafes in town. Try to resist the temptations until you get to your lunch spot. I recommend grabbing a quick bite at Turf, a healthy food counter serving creative vegan fare and making bowls, salads, sandwiches and smoothies extraordinary. “Three Point Oh Burger” below was one of the best vegan burgers I have had. It features a house made patty with black bean, eggplant, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnut, oat, tahini and spices. This little cafe is part of a gym so try a workout (https://www.ourturf.com/pages/classes) before you dine out!

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Walk back up westbound on 4th Avenue to see the boutiques on the other side of the street. When you reach Vine street, turn right and head down to Kitsilano beach where you will see a gorgeous view of the ocean and the north shore mountains. To the left of the beach you will find the largest saltwater swimming pool in North America. The pool is open May to mid-September with extensive hours. For a few dollars, you can enjoy a swim in a 137 meter heated infinity pool with the view of the ocean. Talk about a wellness retreat setting for cheap!

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The walking path from Kitsilano beach will lead you to the Vancouver Maritime Museum and Vanier Park. Walk across the Burrard Street bridge towards downtown Vancouver, known as City of Glass. You will see why as soon as you cross the bridge. Make a left turn on Pacific Street and walk along Beach Avenue towards English Bay. Before continuing your walk into Stanley Park, stop at The Catus Club Cafe on the shores of English Bay to fuel up for the 6 mile loop around the park. You can’t beat the scenery of this location and the variety of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options on their menu (https://www.cactusclubcafe.com/menus/english-bay/food/lifestyle-choices/).

If this urban wellness day has provided enough exercise, good eats, and fun, just grab a taxi back to your pad. If you still have energy to burn, it’s only a 4 mile walk back to Kitsilano.

 

 


Healthy Hawaiian Food

 

It’s part of the cultural experience to taste local food and drinks when traveling. Of course, you don’t want your diet to rule what you eat when you’ve traveled thousands of miles to indulge in all things Hawaiian, Mai Tai included! That said, you also don’t want to completely blow your healthy lifestyle that you’ve worked so hard all year getting bikini-ready for your trip. Below are the top 3 must-try traditional Hawaii foods that will keep you fit.

Poke was originated in Hawaii but it has become so popular everywhere these days that even a poke bowl restaurant franchise has been created.  Poke means “to cut up into pieces” in Hawaii. From what I see in Maui supermarkets, Poke is abundantly available and affordable. There is an array of seafood mixed with soy-based dressing or creamy dressing. For healthier options, avoid fish high in mercury and seafood mixed in creamy dressing. Ahi tuna is classically used for poke and is very high in mercury so go easy on all tuna and and try salmon, octopus, scallops, and clams instead.

Kalua pig is pork that has been slow cooked in an imu, an underground oven. This slow cooking method produces super tender meat with a smoky flavor. Kalua pig is the main event at Hawaiian luaus but you can find Kalua pork in any Hawaiian style restaurant as a combo plate served with white rice and macaroni salad. Most restaurants will let you substitute the rice and mac salad with some cooked veggies and a green salad. Just by asking, you could be saving yourself hundreds of refined carb calories!

Last but not least, you must try the Lomi-lomi salmon. It’s a light and refreshing side dish made with salted, shredded salmon, tomatoes, and sweet Maui onions.

 

 


Airport food in Norway

IMG_0194.JPGCouple days ago, I traveled with my daughter to Budapest on Norwegian Air with 2 stopovers. A 4-hour layover at Stockholm and a quick 1-hour layover at Oslo. The price was right so I didn’t mind the long journey. The food and service onboard was pretty good for a budget airline. I dragged the idea of having to eat airport food but found myself wowed by the offerings at Oslo. There was lots of fresh seafood in all forms, including fish and chips, shrimp salad and sandwiches, and lox sandwich. I had a difficult time making my choice since they all looked so delicious. There was no fast food outlets which of course led me to speculate that obesity rate must be lower in Norway. My visual assessment of the locals confirmed my speculation. I can’t wait to have a longer layover in Oslo next time I fly!


2017 : A Year of Healthy Discoveries

Live healthy is more complicated than ever! We worry about the toxins in our food, our water and our air. We pay top dollars for organic food, cold pressed juices and chemical-free mattresses, hoping money can buy us better health. Are we truly getting what we pay for? I work for a health resort where its tagline is “Live Healthy” but I still have to ask the chef if there’s hormone in the chicken served in our restaurant. Just because a company is in the business of selling health-promoting products and services, it doesn’t mean they are truly healthy for you. One of the most common new year’s resolution is changing some habit that has to do with improving health. Sadly, studies showed that only 8% of people achieve their goal. As you embark on your journey of healthy resolutions, take small steps and commit to each step before moving on. Don’t buy into all the hype and fad! For me, healthy eating starts with healthy ingredients free of pesticides. Start with buying organic produce and eating lots of it daily. For a list of the dirty dozen and the clean 15 fruits and vegetables, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Guide to Pesticides in Produce at www.ewg.org/foodnews/index.php.


High Quality Breakfast for Kids

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Moms know that kids need to eat a good breakfast before heading off to school but that’s easier said then done! When you rule out the sugary cereals and convenient processed toaster treats, everything else may seem like a lot of work. I really try to get some protein in my son’s daily breakfast. With his allergies to eggs and peanuts it doesn’t leave much easy-to-prep protein source except for cheese. I think I burnt out grilled cheese long ago until this morning. Three things I did differently to shake my son’s taste fatigue. Change the type of bread, the type of cheese and the presentation of the meal! It’s not easy to see options that are seemingly obvious and simple when you’re stuck in a rut. When I asked my son how he would describe his breakfast this morning, he said “restaurant quality”. Try something new with the same old – results can be amazing!


French Pastries good for you?

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A little Sunday morning indulgence is good for the soul! I discovered the best almond croissant at La Parisienne on Grand Avenue in Oakland. The taste of a great almond croissant has been lingering on my mind since my trip to France this summer (see “Nice Breakfast in Nice” blog post). By comparison, the almond croissant at Ls Parisienne is even more decadent. If you feel guilty  about eating French pastries for breakfast, don’t! According to the latest WHO data published in 2015, the life expectancy in France for men is 79.4 and for women is female 85.4. It’s clear that this part of the French diet is not shortening their life span. I am not suggesting you make a habit of eating delicious almond croissants for breakfast, but it can be good for your happiness meter if you enjoy it! Just balance out your day with lots of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and of course some exercise.


Heritage grains served in Top Vancouver Restaurant

I feel so lucky to be able to squeeze in a dinner at The Mackenzie Room on my recent trip to Vancouver. It is not easy to choose one restaurant in a city full of fabulous eating establishments and constant new comers to the food scene (www.scoutmagazine.ca). The Mackenzie Room is located across the street from the Oppenheimer Park in the downtown Eastside. Not exactly the safest part of town but that’s probably what adds to the adventure of this dinning experience. I love fine dinning sans pretentiousness! This very intriguing restaurant sources fresh local ingredients and staffs it with people who cook and serve with a passion. How can you go wrong? You just can’t! No wonder it was voted the top new restaurant – Golden Plate Award 2016. The menu is on a very large chalkboard and changes regularly. The delicious quail with cornbread and Pork topped with mole and sorghum are no longer on their menu when I went back to their website (www.themackenzieroom.com) this week. According to the co-owner who served us, the inspiration for the menu comes from Sean Brock, the author of the Heritage Cookbook. The dishes we ate definitely showed off uncommon Ancient grains in a delicious combination and an artful presentation.

 

 


Paella My Way

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My recent trip to Spain has broadened my knowledge of Paella. Not only did I not know Paella is a specialty of Valencia, but there are many versions of Paella. The Valencian Paella contains chicken and rabbit. The Seafood Paella features their fresh giant prawns with head and tail. The Black Paella (Arros Negre) contains squid ink. The postcard  I picked up in Denia, a town on Costa Blanca shows more versions of Paella than I ever imagined. My takeaway on Paella is that the coastal region of Spain offers exotic rice dishes and they are easier to make than you think. I made my own version recently on a weeknight and enjoyed it tremendously.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups short grained rice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 5-6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • Saffron threads
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon wedges to garnish

Method

    • Salt the chicken.
    • Heat the oil in a paella dish or large shallow frying pan.
    • Brown chicken pieces on all sides in pan for 5 mins.
    • Add the garlic, paprika and tomato.
    • Add water and bring to a boil for 10 mins.
    • Add the saffron, rice, salt and stir in evenly over the surface of the pan. Boil on a high heat for 5 mins. 
    • Arrange chicken pieces as desired.
    • Simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Add more water if necessary to prevent rice from drying out.

I found a Paella seasoning packets in a market in Valencia which made cooking this dish even easier. It contains saffron and paprika. I used one packet (2 grams) for this dish where paprika is normally added in the above recipe. You might be able to find this seasoning in a Spanish specialty store.

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Feed all your senses near Nice

The most exciting thing about traveling is the discovery of new experiences that stimulate all your senses. Well, this hike around Cap d’Antibes in Côte d’Azur did just that! It is one of the highlights of our trip to the French Riviera. My daughter and I took the bus from Nice to Antibes and then caught a local bus to our starting point at Phare. We hiked to the town’s tiny chapel on the top of the hill at the highest point of Cap d’Antibes with mesmerising view of the Mediterranean Coastline, with St. Tropez to the south and Italy to the north.  We descended down on a little long stone path to the beach at the edge of town. After more than an hour walk in the blazing sun, we arrived at Plage de la Garoupe looking for the signpost for the path that circles the Cap. But this point, we were already exhausted, sweaty, thirsty and hungry. When we saw the cluster of seafront restaurants, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to refuel and rehydrate. We were delighted with a delicious local fresh seafood meal by the sea in the typical French leisure style.

With our bodies recharged, we were ready to start our pilgrimage to the southern end of the Cap. We picked up the the costal footpath, Sentier Littoral, at the end of the sandy beach. Along this rocky hike, my daughter and I had the best mother-daughter chat about life as we admired the breathtaking views. She turns 19 in a few months and will be returning to college after the summer so moments like these are food for my soul.

With the recent terror attack in Nice on Bastille Day, it may instill fear in even the most adventurous traveler. We were thankful that we arrived home safely 2 days before the tragedy. On our journey home, I saw a quote on a billboard that continues to resonate with me “Those who live see much. Those who travel see more.” I must add that those who travel feed their senses most. Don’t ever go hungry but just choose your diet carefully!


Vietnamese food in France

imageIf you’ve ever wonder why an Asian country would be known for a delicacy that looks a lot like a baguette sandwich (Bánh mì) just review Vietnam’s history. The French colonized Vietnam for more than 6 decades so there are many French gastronomic influences in the Vietnamese cuisine. They brought delicious ingredients and flavors indigenous to France. While I’m here in France, I tried my favorite Vietnamese dish, Bún gà chä gïò ( grilled chicken, fried egg roll, lettuce, carrot, peanut with vermicelli) and discovered that the favors are ever more French influenced with more intensity and creaminess rather than clean and refreshing taste typical of version in California.