What I Learned From my Travels in 2015

Each year-end I take some time to reflect back at what all I accomplished, where all I traveled to, and most importantly, what I learned from those travels. I sincerely believe that travel is the best educator. Through experiences, you not only learn about other countries and cultures, but also about yourself. You acquire skills for communicating with strangers, adapting to changes, thinking on your feet, being the moment, and accepting what is happening.

Here are some of my travel highlights from 2015:

In January, I flew to Cancun and skipped the all-inclusive resorts that most vacationers flock to in Mexico. Instead, I drove around with my friends from the Mexico Tourism Board exploring the state of Yucatan. We ate the local cuisine, stayed at boutique hotels, swam in cenotes, and visited historic sites in the small charming towns of Valladolid, Merida and Izamal. What I learned was that this part of Mexico offers safety, luxury and small town charm, though its away from the sea. In fact, many Mexicans and Americans look forward to retiring in the Yucatan.izamal mexico

The same month, I also took a weekend break at Serenbe Farms, located only 30 mins south of Atlanta, GA airport. This residential community has been remodeled after the hamlets in UK and sustains its own food, power, education, art, etc. It was very interesting to spend a few hours hearing the story by its creator, Steve Nygren, and to learn that visionaries like him still exist today.

In February, I traveled to the Dutch-Carribean island of Bonaire, just before the carnival. This tiny island is packed with natural beauty, good food and friendly people. I noticed a great diversity of people here, most of whom discovered Bonaire during vacation and decided to settle. Within a few blocks of downtown Kralendijk, you can find restaurants that are run by immigrant Italians, French, Dutch, English, Africans, Indians, Indonesians, Jamaicans, and many more. Even though I was traveling alone for a week, I was always surrounded by interesting people, who were eager to include in their international circuit. Read my blogs from Bonaire. 

Bonaire carnival

In May, I visited Japan for the first time. I loved getting a bird-eyes view of Tokyo from my room at the Mandarin Oriental and enjoyed the wonderful fresh food around the city. But I also took an adventurous journey with Walk Japan Tours trekking for 10-days through the Kyushu mountains in the Kunisaki Peninsula. What I realized during this trip was I was completely unprepared to be climbing mountains for 10-12 miles a day! Some of the days were very scary as I was far behind my 3 fellow trekking, often sliding down slopes and not being able to call for help. However, I indulged in the authentic culture, staying at ryokans where no one spoke English, eating the freshest sushi ever, drinking saki every night, and bathing in communal baths (something beyond my comfort zone). I also saw a whole new side of Japan, that went beyond skyscrapers, shopping malls and bullet trains. Read my article on Japan in Khabar magazine. 

Kunisaki Japan

June took me to the farthest Caribbean island standing between US and Europe. Barbados has a rich culture influenced by the English and West Indies islands. You can see people playing the sport of cricket, eating fish fry, and singing reggae. There appears to be wide income disparity in this small country. Million dollar estates with private yachts can be found juxtaposition to shabby neighborhoods. Read Top 10 things to do in Barbados.

Bridgetown Barbados

In July, I took a group of journalists for our inaugural Go Eat Give trip to Mexico City. This was an eye opening experience since media largely portrays the city as being infested with crime, traffic and pollution. Most Americans who visit Mexico City go for business or family, not tourism. I learned that Mexico City was extremely rich in architecture, art, music and food, which has been influenced by wealthy Mexicans who travelled  to Europe during the 19th century. As a result, you can see neighborhoods with European architecture, Parisian cafes and gelato shops. It was clean and the traffic was far worse than what I have experienced in India. There were guards around, but I didn’t feel that I was going to get kidnapped or mugged. Also, I can never eat Tex-Mex anymore! Read Why Mexico City could be the next Paris.

I also led Go Eat Give’s culinary tour to Cuba in partnership with Cuisine Noir Magazine, who I have been writing for many years. Our all-women group experienced Cuban cooking, farming, food markets, rum tasting, mojito making, and much more. The highlight of this trip was having dinner at someone’s private home. The family was a friend of a friend and lived in a two-bedroom apartment that was falling apart. Yet they prepared an amazing meal for our entire group (perhaps the best food I ate in Cuba) with 10-12 dishes. We all sat outside in their tiny patio and ate with 3 generations of the family. I attempted to make some conversation with my broken Spanish, but mostly couldn’t stop admiring their generosity. Despite having so little (many food staples are rationed in Cuba), the people shared what they had. I also had some insightful conversations with Cubans about how they felt about easing relations with the US. Read about what has changed in Cuba. 

Go Eat Give Cuba

Until traveling on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, I had ruled out cruising (unless it’s an adventure cruise) as a passive form of travel that did not interest me. But the Mediterranean Cruise this August journey took me on a once in a lifetime experiences across France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and UK. This new mega ship had large modern staterooms with balconies, live performances by artists flown in, 30 eateries, skydiving on board, and 18 floors of nonstop activities. The ship itself was a major attraction wherever we docked, but the tours offered during ports of call were pretty unique too. I visited the Rock of Gibraltar, hiked for the best croissant in Marseilles, took ferries around Cinque Terre, and explored the small towns outside Lisbon. I learned that given the right ship and itinerary, cruising can be fun for young active travelers too. Read my posts from my cruise. 

anthem of the seas

In September, I stopped in Sydney for an amazing weekend, where I learned that there is much more to Australian food than steaks, barbie and pies. The restaurant scene in Sydney, though growing steadily, can compare to those in London and New York. People here like to eat well, enjoy life and stay fit. The Sydney seafood market comes second to Tokyo in terms of volume traded. I had the most amazing seafood paired with local wines and even took a cooking class at the largest cooking school in the southern Hemisphere.

dining in Sydney

I led my second Go Eat Give trip to Bali in September.  Every time I go there, I realize there still exists a place in the world where no one frowns, gets angry or is stressed. There is a lot of poverty on the island, yet people are happy and content with what little they have. They pray every day, live among large families and help each other. I truly love the serenity in natural beautiful, the simplicity of living, and hospitality of the people of Bali. This year, we also offered an add on tour to Java, Indonesia, a predominantly muslim island, with a rich history of Hindu and Buddhist temples built from 9th century AD. I visited many sites I had only heard about in history books, such as Borobudur. I learned that my tour guide was a Hindu woman who had converted to Islam, but was also a practitioner of Buddhism. It said a lot about keeping harmony within religions and choosing a way of life that appealed to you as an individual. Read about sustainable tourism in Bali. 

Borabudur temple in Java

In October, I attend a Food and Wine tour of Israel with the Israel Ministry of Tourism. We went to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Acco, and Galile tasting up to 30 dishes a day. What I found out was that there is no such thing as Israeli food, but the food in Israel is some of the best in the world. With very high quality of produce traveling only short distances, and many cooking styles influenced by surrounding countries, the chefs in Israel have much in their favor. I had heard so much about the Old City of Jerusalem  and its holy history, but walking down the streets and experiencing it was something else. Despite what goes on in the area, I felt the people were praying for peace and wanted to spread love more than anything else. Read 8 of the Best Culinary Experiences in the Melting Post of Israel.

Western Wall in Israel

I crossed the border on foot from Elat to go across to Jordan, a place that was high on my bucket list. I felt like an explorer as I was one of the very few tourists roaming the vast open desserts of Wadi Rum and the lost city of Petra. After speaking to many locals, I found out how badly this part of the world has been impacted from the image of the Middle East. Though Jordan is a peaceful country, disruptions in surrounding countries has led to a severe decline in Jordan’s economy, where hotels, restaurants and tour companies have had to shut down. It was surprising that I was in the middle of some of the most beautiful attractions in the world, yet it appeared to be a ghost town.

Wadi Rum Jordan

What did you learn from your travels this year?

7 trips that put families in close contact with local wildlife

Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Fulfill your family’s ultimate once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure by taking a dip with whale sharks – the biggest (and most friendly) fish in the world! From May to September, families staying at sister properties CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa can embark by boat to snorkel alongside these magnificent gentle giants where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Though they measure up to 40 feet long and weigh in at 15 tons, whale sharks feed exclusively on plankton and are totally harmless to humans. Added perk: guests at the Cancun Marriott Resorts can check out a GoPro HER04 for the day to capture unbelievable underwater family photo opps.

JWCM_Cancun_WhaleSharks

Explore the Costa Rican rainforest

For an unforgettable nature-filled vacation, families should head to Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, spread across 900 acres of natural rainforest reserve in Costa Rica’s northern region — an area responsible for 6% of the entire world’s biodiversity. With more than 500 species of local plant and wildlife on property, kiddos just might spot a coatimundis, toucans or howler monkeys. Families can have nearby animal encounters with activities like horseback riding, ziplining through the trees, rainforest tours and more. As an added bonus, the carbon neutral resort offers an eco-friendly environment that teaches kids about sustainability and how to protect the area’s natural resources.

Tabacon_wildlife

Swim with sea turtles in Barbados

SUP dude? For an unforgettable animal encounter, families will love Colony Club‘s stand-up paddle board (SUP) and turtle swim excursion. Starting out on the white, warm sands of Barbados’ renowned beach, families will paddle out to The Lone Star Restaurant, one of the local, turtle hangouts, and dive into the crystal blue waters to get up-close-and-personal with the island’s friendliest marine animals – the once-endangered population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles.

 

Hangout with reptiles in Curacao

Situated on a 27 acre plantation of rare natural preserve, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao offers an island-within-an-island feel with some of the most varied and exotic flora and fauna in the Caribbean. Through the resort’s eco-friendly, locally inspired Camp Arawak program, kids will love the chance to feed the resort’s resident iguanas. Plus, in between watersport adventures like snorkeling and paddleboarding, families can observe hawksbill turtles nesting along the resort’s private beach every July through September.

SBBGR_Beach

Paddleboard with Dolphins in Jupiter, Florida

Hotel guests staying at the oceanfront resort can head to the nearby Blueline Surf & Paddle Co., and work up a sweat navigating the mangroves of the Intracoastal Waterways on a 90-minute paddleboard eco tour, where you might see manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Complimentary beach cruisers are also available for resort guests to get the heart pumping as they explore the charming, seaside town’s iconic landmarks, including the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Loggerhead Marine Life Center.  

Encounter sea lions, blue footed boobies and penguins galore in The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world, and Ecoventura’s fleet of eco-friendly cruises brings families face to face with daily excursions through the archipelago’s diverse islands. From swimming alongside sea lions (and plenty of curious sea lion pups) to watching the Blue Footed Boobies shake their feet in a mating dance, snorkeling with penguins off the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabella. In a destination as pristine and protected as the Galapagos, wildlife wanders freely and fearlessly in the islands, meaning parents and kids are in for the trip of a lifetime.

Ecoventura_Galapagos

Kayak through a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico

A kayaking tour through the mangrove forrest of the Laguna Grande takes families to a secret hideaway — Fajardo’s bioluminescent bay. A short drive from San Juan, the magical waters are filled with millions of prehistoric organisms that when touched, leave a breathtaking glow in the moonlight. The excursion, organized by the family friendly San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, invites families to learn the history and science behind the twinkling trail in the bio bay while enjoying a ride under the stars.

 

Feed alpacas and llamas in Cusco

The colorful city of Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas is the perfect destination for adventurous families looking for a rich dose of culture. A short drive from the city center, Awana Kancha – a llama, alpaca and vicuña farm — brings families face to face with the region’s most loved furry animals in all shapes and colors. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the resident animals eagerly awaiting to be fed giant handfuls of grass. The interactive feedings are followed by textile weaving demonstrations by the local women keeping the tradition alive. After a day long day of adventure, families can relax in  the historic JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, a 16th century convent turned hotel whose lobby is frequented by alpacas and llamas.
AwanaKancha_Cusco
~ Contributed by Julia Cavalieri, account coordinator at Diamond PR. Follow Julia on Twitter @diamondpr

9 Places to Visit in Lebanon

Lebanon is a beautiful country in the Middle East, bursting with history, great food, and great culture.  It being a classic traveler’s destination, how can you decide where to go and what to see?  Since planning a trip can be quite the task, Go Eat Give has named the nine must see cities in Lebanon for your touring pleasure:

1. Beirut

This capital city of Lebanon is nicknamed “The Paris of the Middle East,” and is bustling with things to do. Along with great shopping and beautiful scenery, Beirut has a rich cultural history to explore. There are many museums and sacred religious sites there, such as the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George, the National Museum of Beirut, and the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

Beirut

2. Baalbek

Baalbek is located on the western end of Lebanon and is home to some of the most well preserved Roman ruins known to mankind.   The city dates back over 9,000 years and was previously known by the name of “Heliopolis,” or The City of the Sun, during the period of the Roman rule. Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus are all believed to have been worshipped at the Baalbek temples.

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3. Jeita Grotto

Located in the center of the Nahr al-Kalb valley in Jeita, Lebanon, the Jeita Grotto is an amazing sight. The interconnected limestone caves, which can only be accessed by boat, span around nine kilometers in length. To make the grotto even more intriguing—it was a finalist to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Lebanese journalists and photographers tour the Jeita Grotto by boat during a media day to campaign for the selection of the Jeitta Grotto as one of the seven natural wonders of the world

4. Sidon

This is a Lebanese town that is filled with old history and remarkable sight seeing.   Located on the western coast of the country, it was one of the most important Phonecian cities and is now known as an active fishing town. Sidon is home to the largest Lebanese flag and also the Old Souk, a famous marketplace.

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5. Tyre

Tyre is another city in Lebanon that contains very interesting ruins and historic sites. One main attraction here is the Roman Hippodrome—an ancient stadium for chariot and horse racing! The Tyre Coast Nature Reserve is also the largest sandy beach in the country.

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6. Beit ed-Dine

Beit ed-Dine is a town famous for its’ magnificent Beiteddine Palace (shown below). This one-of-a-kind palace was built in 1788 and hosts the annual Beiteddine Festival and Beiteddine Palace Museum. Interestingly enough, after Lebanon’s independence in 1943 the palace was officially renamed the “People’s Palace” since it had been created by the people’s hard work and will.

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7. Faraya

Lebanon is known for it’s interesting climate, and this town is the perfect example why. Above this village lies the Mzaar Resort, which is a ski resort. The resort is only about 20 miles away from Beirut, meaning you could experience warm weather and winter all in the same day!

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8. The Cedars of God

Cedar trees are sacred and known to have covered Mount Lebanon in the past, but The Cedars of God is one of the last forests left in the country. This was caused by persistent deforestation by Lebanon’s ancestors, such as for shipbuilding and construction. The snowy area has great hiking and beautiful views.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 11.28.24 PM9. Deir el-Qamar

The name of this Lebanese village can be translated from Arabic into the “Monastery of the Moon.” It’s home to many important religious sites such as Saydet El Talle and the Mount of the Cross. This village is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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5 ways to eat healthier this winter

It is extremely hard to maintain any kind of diet any time of the year, but especially during the winter. Your body needs the carbohydrates and if you deprive it (along with the sunshine), you will find yourself in not so optimal mood. Therefore, I recommend making slight modifications to your daily meals, making them healthier so that you can still accomplish your new year’s resolution of staying fit or losing those extra pounds gained over the holidays.

Here are 5 easy steps you can take to enjoy a hearty meal while staying focused on a healthy diet.

Roasted vegetables with mayo-pesto dressing

Switch to whole grain – Whole wheat and whole grain bread, pasta, Bulgar, couscous, quinoa, wild rice – are all good choices that give you the comfort of carbohydrates without the extra starch and sugar found in white flour. Whenever you have an option, get the whole grain version of the starch.

Soup it – Soups and stews are great ways of filling up without eating a lot of calories. Soups made with vegetables and broths are comforting on a cold wintry night. Avoid adding cream and use skim milk or sour cream to make a cream based soup. Believe it or not pretty much any dish you love can be made into a soup – think chicken curry and rice soup, shrimp red curry soup. Let your imagination flow!

Keep it together – I find that most casserole recipes are loaded with cheese, bread crumbs, creams, etc. that don’t have much nutritional value. If you decide to make casserole dinners for your family, try vegetarian options such as layered veggies with low fat cottage cheese, veg lasagna with little cheese, and rice and spinach casserole.

Roast or grill – It’s hard to be motivated to start the outdoor grill when it’s 30F outside. A good alternative is to roast in the oven. My favorite make-ahead recipe is sliced mixed veggies (eggplant, zucchini, squash, onion, carrots, turnips), seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil and grilled in the oven till crispy. You can use it on top of salads, in sandwiches, wraps or as a side.

Get veg – Generally speaking, a vegetarian diet will give you more nutrients, keep you fuller longer and have fewer calories than a carnivorous meal plan. Now, don’t go on loading on cheese and pasta to say you are eating vegetarian! I mean whole grains, lentils, fresh fruits, cooked vegetables and little dairy. They say that your body takes up to a week to absorb meat, whereas vegetarian food passes through within 24 hours. So, it may also be a good way to cleanse yourself in the new year.

 

Healthy Brunch – Not Just For Sundays

Do you have days when you crave for breakfast for dinner or brunch on a weekday? I recently had one of those, where I did not want to eat the usual lunch fixings for lunch. Since I work from home, I have the luxury to cook my own meals on most days. So, on a Wednesday afternoon, I decided to do brunch! I feel like there is a certain leisurely, let-yourself-go attitude that comes with weekend brunch. We tend to indulge in high fat, sugary treats more on the weekend, than on a weekday. To keep with the tradition of eating healthy during the week, I created myself a healthy & quick brunch menu.

The menu comprised of whole wheat blueberry muffins, red pepper & goat cheese frittata, potato latkes & fresh strawberries. It took me an hour to prepare all these items, which were light yet filling. But the excitement of eating freshly baked muffins and enjoying a brunch in the middle of the week was priceless!

If you want to follow my league, here is how…

It’s best to start with the muffins, as you have time to prepare the rest of the dishes while your muffins are baking. Preheat the oven to 400F. I used a recipe I found online & modified it slightly. I added a larger quantity of fresh blueberries (1 ½ cups), some extra honey & a few toasted almonds. I filled up large muffin cups so had a yield of 9 muffins in total. Given they were made with wheat flour, no white sugar & fresh fruit; I consider them to be guilt-free! Even if you don’t make them for brunch, they are perfect for on-the-go snacks, afternoon treats or breakfast for next morning.

My version of potato latkes are inspired by something I ordered at a French bistro, La Madeline. I don’t know how they prepared them but mine are so easy, anyone could do it. In a food processor, fitted with the grating paddle, add 3 large potatoes (peeled), ½ onion & ¼ cup fresh parsley. Once completely grated, transfer to a large bowl lined with paper towels. Drain the excess water by pressing on the potato mixture with your hands, and then transfer to a clean bowl. Add 1 egg (lightly beaten), ¼ cup grated parmesan, salt & pepper. Mix well.

In a large fry pan, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil on high heat, evenly coating the pan. Take a handful of the potato mixture and flatten it in the palm of your hand, as if creating a patty. Drain out any excess water. Gently place the potato patty in the fry pan. Reduce heat to medium-low & cook for about 10 minutes until golden brown, turning once. Repeat the process with the rest of the potato mixture.

While the muffins & potatoes are being cooked, heat a small oven-safe wok on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoon olive oil. Lightly stir fry ½ finely diced red bell pepper. Beat 6 eggs in a bowl with some salt & pepper. Pour over the red peppers. Sprinkle 2 tablespoon chopped black olives & 4 tablespoon crumbled goat cheese on the egg. Let cook on low heat till the eggs begin to settle (about 5 minutes). Transfer the wok to the oven (which was set at 400F) & cook for another 5-7 minutes till the frittata starts to brown. Remove from wok by flipping the frittata onto a plate. Allow to cool for couple of minutes before serving.

I used fresh cut strawberries but you can serve any fruit you have lying around. In a small bowl, add 2 cups chopped strawberries with one teaspoon sugar and juice of ½ a lemon. Mix well & serve cold. You can also add blueberries to it for a delightful treat.

Lamb and Blueberry Chutney Pastries

This recipe is inspired by Northern Africa where you will often find savory meat pastries. I learned to make Bastilla while volunteering in Morocco last year and fell in love with it. Bastilla is a pastry made with phyllo and layers of spiced ground chicken, omelets, almond paste and powdered sugar. It requires some skill to keep it all together but is not as hard as it looks.

With my bounty of blueberries, I created my own sweet and spicy meat pastry. These make wonderful entrees for that special date night or you can do a smaller appetizer sized version for a party.

Makes:  4 pastries

Total Time: 5 hours (Prep: 1 hour, Inactive: 45 minutes)

For the lamb:

Place chutney in the center of the lamb mixture on phyllo sheets

1 lb lamb, ground

2 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

1 green chili

1 medium onion

3 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

 

 

For the blueberry chutney:

Ground lamb & blueberry chutney stuffed in phyllo pastry

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup water

 

For the pastry:

1 lb phyllo dough, thawed

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, grind the onion, garlic, ginger and green chili. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the ground lamb and the spices. Mix well and set aside.

To make the blueberry chutney, place a medium saucepan on high heat. Add the oil and let heat. Then fry the cumin seeds for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients. Once the liquid comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool completely before moving on to the next step. The chutney can be prepared ahead of time & stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Spread parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Prepare an egg wash by lightly beating the egg with water. Using 2-3 layers of phyllo sheets at a time, brush the egg wash lightly on each layer. Alternate horizontal & vertical sheets so you have 4 solid layers of 2-3 phyllo sheets each.

Place 2/3 cup of the lamb meat mixture in the center of the prepared dough in a circular shape.  With your fingers, create a small dent in the middle of the meat. Carefully place 2 tablespoons of the chutney into this indent. Close the pastry by wrapping the meat with the sheets, in the shape of a pentagon. Make sure to fold even number of sheets on top and under the meat patty, always brushing with the egg mixture. Repeat the process so you have 4 pastries.

Once you have a nicely wrapped pastry, brush the top with more egg. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until crispy.

Fun things to do during the summer holidays

It’s summer time already. The temperature is rising, the economy is still tight and the kids are out of school. It’s time to go to the pool, watch movies and have sleep-overs. But after a few days, you will get tired of all that. If you are scratching your heads on how to keep yourself and your kids entertained this summer without breaking your budget, I have a few ideas for you that involve food, travel and volunteerism.

Go

Plan a road trip to a nearby destination. Pack everyone into your car and head to a lake or beach. Rent a summer home for the week where you can cook your own food and play games. Even if you don’t have anything planned, here are some ideas for last minute trips.

Travel exchange programs are also a great way to stay for free in another city, or even country. Families can exchange homes, stay on farms, or be guests at no charge.

If you have decided to stay put this summer, you are in for a staycation. Which means you can be a tourist in your city and plan to do activities that you would otherwise do while travelling. Lodging and travel costs excluded of course.

Eat

Take a break from the regular summer camps and enrolls in a cooking camp. Learn to be a Food Network star or improve your awareness of food and nutrition. Kids and teens would also learn to work in teams and cooperate with one another.

Cooking with family at home can also be a lot of fun. Get the kids together for a fun day of making pasta, gelato, sushi or chocolate from scratch. It can be a rewarding learning experience that will bring the family together.

Give

There is no shortage of volunteering opportunities in every city. Enroll in a project or associate yourself with a cause. Make it a daily/ weekly schedule to visit an old home, children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Some of these can be quite entertaining as well, such as leading arts and crafts, sporting activities for other kids. Many charities are looking for interns during the summer who can help them with day-to-day administrative things, organizing events, etc.

By the end of summer, you would have used your time effectively to impact the lives of people and feel good about yourself.

If you have any ideas of your own to share, please leave a comment below.

10 ways to eat your boiled eggs

Have a lot of leftover Easter eggs and don’t know what to do with them? Well, there is good news for you! You can use your hard boiled eggs in lots of international recipes that your family won’t get bored with. Some of these are even good for entertaining. So take a stroll around the world and see how you can expand your egg-horizon within the boundaries of your own kitchen.

 

1.      Deviled eggs – A tradition at every backyard party, but you need not stick to the basic flavors. Mix taco seasoning and a sliver of avocado. Dot some salsa on the top and serve it on a nacho. There you have a Mexican bite deviled egg.
2.     Egg Biryani – Biryani is a rice dish cooked with a meat (chicken, goat), fried onions and saffron. Boiled eggs can be sliced and used for decoration or eliminate the meat entirely and make it an egg biryani.
3.     Egg salad sandwiches – Chop the eggs in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toast bread slices, layer with a spoon of butter, lettuce, tomato and the egg salad and enjoy on a summer afternoon.
4.     Egg curry – A simple Indian style curry can be prepared with green peas and potatoes. Fry whole boiled eggs till the skin crackles and add to the curry. Serve with naan.
5.     Egg pâté – A Russian egg pate is so easy to make that you would want to take it to every summer gathering. Grind the eggs with dill, scallions, butter, mayonnaise and salt to make a paste. Pour into a mound and chill in refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, decorate with sliced cucumbers, olives and crackers.
6.     Egg pakora – Pakora is an Indian style fritter. The batter is made with gram flour, water and spices (cumin seeds, red chili powder, garam masala and salt). Cut the eggs in half and dip each piece in the batter. Deep fry in a wok with vegetable or canola oil until golden brown. Serve as a snack with mint chutney.
7.      Eggplant parmesan – Make traditional eggplant parmesan with slices of fried eggplant, layered with slices on mozzarella, marinara sauce and sprinkled diced boiled eggs. Top the final layer with sauce and bake in a 35oF oven for 30 minutes.
8.     Use in salads – Adding protein to any salad makes it a more wholesome meal. Add sliced or halves boiled eggs to potato salad, spinach salad or a smoked salmon salad.
9.     Meat balls and patties – Sounds strange but mashed up boiled eggs do magic to your meat. It makes it soft, retains the moisture and adds more flavor. For meatballs, combine ground beef, onions, parsley, eggs, bread crumbs, fresh garlic cloves, paprika and salt. Grind all the ingredients in a food processor till chunky but not mushy. Shape into balls and pan fry with olive oil till completely cooked.
10. Nicoise salad – The French version of the American Cobb salad, the Nicoise salad makes a complete and healthy meal. Use light vinaigrette and honey mustard dressings for the veggies before plating them. Place canned tuna meat, cooked whole green beans, and boiled potatoes on a plate lined with lettuce leaves. Decorate with olives, cut tomatoes, slices red onions and quartered boiled eggs.

If you like this recipe or other recipes on our web site, please consider making a donation to Go Eat Give

How to do a family meal makeover

More and more families are choosing to cook at home due to health and cost factors. It is no surprise that home cooked food is comparatively healthier because you know exactly what you put in it (hopefully not preserved and canned items.) Also, it’s much cheaper than ordering in, especially for 2+ people households. The challenge families’ face is how to keep the same homemade recipes interesting and appealing to the entire family, young and old.

Here are some simple recommendations to make a typical family meal makeover –Duck and sour cherries pizza

1. Make it healthier by using substitutes like olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, wheat flour instead of white, low fat cheeses, etc. Always use fresh herbs, garlic and spices to make the dish more flavorful. Avoid recipes that are deep fried. You know what’s not food for you!

2. Create the interest by blending flavors across cuisines. Grab a starch from one country and add a sauce from another. Try a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers. Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza. Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta for a delicious & healthy meal. Read more on fusion cooking.

3. Presentation is key. We tend to judge a book by its cover and perceive the flavor of the food by its looks. Try to plate the food like you would see in an expensive restaurant. It doesn’t take much, just a garnish of cheese or parsley for most dishes would do. You can also control the portions your family is eating by pre plating them.

The way you go about doing this each night is by being conscious and creative. Try to diversity with what you know rather than trying new complicated recipes. For example, you need not serve the same old spaghetti with marinara. Add some fresh tomatoes, green onions, olives, feta and make your own instant sauce. Have the kids pitch in while cooking and make something using some of the ingredients they prefer to eat. These are simple makeovers to do and the whole family can enjoy the process.

Cooking with Herbs

Spring is around the corner and the garden will be in full bloom again. I grow my own herbs in my backyard. There is rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, chive, parsley, cilantro and sage always at my disposal! It is a wonderful experience to cook with fresh herbs that have been plucked within a few minutes. The other great quality of herbs is that they are so diverse. Every country has it own herb of choice that is incorporated in the local cuisine. Like people, places, and cultures, herbs are also international.

Last year I was invited to speak at a garden party. I demonstrated how one can cook with fresh herbs and which herbs paired well with which recipes. We played a “guess the herb” game where you had to identify the name of the herb by seeing and smelling it. The person with the most right answers won a gift bag of gourmet goodies.

Basically, there are three ways in which you can use your herbs:

1. Cooking – If your recipe calls for a herb, chances are it needs to be added towards the end of cooking. You don’t want the herb to wilt and cook for too long or else it’s flavor would be lost. If you are using dry herb instead, the quantity used will be a lot less than if you were to use fresh sprigs.

2. Presentation – I like to take a few sprigs or leaves of fresh herbs for presentation. A parsley leaf adds color to a risotto or pasta marinara. A few sprigs of rosemary can be plated under a roast chicken. Fresh chives can be chopped and sprinkles over mashed or baked potatoes. Think mojitos!

3. Ambience – When I have too much fresh herbs and don’t know what to do with them, I put them in a vase with a little water. It gives the room a nice herby fragrance and makes a cheap arrangement.

Can you think of any other ways to use fresh herbs?

Here is a recipe for Salmon Satay. It is one of my favorite grilling recipes. The marinade is made entirely of herbs. Even if you don’t have these exact ones, you can mix and match whatever is available.

  • 2 teaspoons ginger , peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile , seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed mint
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless center-cut wild salmon fillet
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or blender; blend until smooth.

Lay salmon fillet on a cutting surface with a short end facing you. Cut fillet in half from top to bottom. Make 6 equal cuts across fillet, creating 12 pieces. Insert an 8-inch bamboo (or other wooden) skewer through the short ends of each piece. Arrange salmon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides evenly with pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Spray a nonstick griddle or large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high flame. Lightly coat salmon with cooking spray. Cook until browned on each side and just cooked through, carefully turning with spatula, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.