Deep Cove – Savoring the sun and perhaps a swim with the seals?

I think I’m in denial that Summer has ended. Coming from Australia, you hardly notice the gradual merging of the seasons between Spring to Summer, Summer to Autumn/Fall as there are regular sunny days tempered by cool breezes and most of the time small amounts of rain either side.  I am clinging to the occasional sunny afternoon here in Vancouver and trying not to think about the reality that fall has arrived…almost overnight. The colour of the leaves are changing, and dropping one by one to the ground, I am snuggling under the duvet more and I also found myself walking out of a store with a new sweater last week. Experiencing the seasons in full swing is a beautiful thing of course, and I will try my hardest to embrace it all but if I had to choose, warmer weather will always my preference.

So with the unpredictable weather on the weekend, it was a risk to head to Deep Cove in North Vancouver for a kayak. However, my husband must have had good vibes or something because the minute we parked the car, the sun came out and it appeared to be lighter and warmer than when we had left home.

Deep Cove is a small bay town in the easternmost part of North Vancouver, BC, Canada. It is located at the foot of Mt Seymour and fronts onto the Indian Arm, a branch of the Burrard Inlet. It is also approximately 13 kilometres from downtown Vancouver.

It is a popular area for water sports; kayaks, canoes, paddle boarding, boating, fishing as well as other outdoor activities including hiking and biking.

At Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak a double kayak will cost you about $38 for two hours. You are provided with life jackets, pump, rope and given a good introduction to the area and where to paddle.

It’s a peaceful and pretty perspective that low on the glassy water, and while gliding around we saw our friends racing each other…

we saw many summer cabins that were of a particular size (including jacuzzis, hammocks and flags with lookout spots) around the Cove (locals refer to Deep Cove as the Cove) which weren’t catching a lot of sun at that particular time…and some that weren’t so steady looking.

It was a little cold in the water, but was tempting to swim with the seal swimming right by us

many boats and yachts,

A lighthouse on a point,

and two well fed seagulls.

A relaxed afternoon and a great way to soak up the few sunny days that are about.

Two places I recommend to eat/drink in the Deep Cove area are:

Honey Doughnuts located at 4373 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver, for a sweet snack and coffee or lunch.

Deep Cove Osaka Sushi located at 4355 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver, for excellent sushi and sashimi.

For strolling, I had to mention this cute gift store called Room 6 located at 4389 Gallant Ave, North Vancouver too!

Special Coq au vin

Today is my anniversary and we love to celebrate over a special dinner at a restaurant. My husband suggested French and I suggested (or strongly persuaded), Japanese.

Therefore, a new Japanese restaurant that opened recently in the hip area of Yaletown became the winning choice. I did however want to make my husband a french dish which he loves; Coq au vin…so both of us would be truly happy on our anniversary weekend.

Coq au vin, (in French translates to “rooster with wine”) is as rustic as it gets. There are many variations of the recipe since it was documented in the early 20th century. Obviously, the most important ingredients are the ‘Capon’ (rooster meat) or chicken and the wine. You can use red or white wine, I chose red!

It is always essential to use top quality produce and for this dish I bought a local BC organic farm chicken and a beautiful red wine from the Okanagan valley, BC.

What’s special about this Coq au vin you may ask? Well, it’s made with love of course…and the aromatics of the dish are so seductive and ambrosial.

So here it is, the recipe I prefer to cook. It also freezes especially well too.

Coq au vin with buttery mash (Serves 4)

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons plain flour

10 chicken drumsticks (free-range organic)

4 Tablespoons olive oil

6 naturally smoked middle rindless bacon rashers (as much fat removed off side and ends as possible), cut into 4cm pieces.

10 eschalots (pearl onions), peeled

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/4 cups of red wine (I used an Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignon)

1 3/4 cups chicken stock

8 sprigs fresh thyme and more for garnish

3 dried bay leaves

500g button mushrooms

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup brandy

Buttery mash

2kg brushed potatoes, peeled and quartered to the same size

50gm butter

4 Tablespoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil

Salt to season

1/4 – 1/2 cup of milk if you like a more creamy texture

Method

1) Place the flour in a plastic bag. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and shake until lightly coated.

2) Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a deep heavy pot over a medium heat. In batches cook the chicken, turning for five minutes or until a golden brown colour. Transfer to a plate.

3) Add the eschalots, bacon and garlic to the pot and cook, tossing, for five minutes or so until the eschalots are a golden colour. Add the wine, stock, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Add the chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered for 35 minutes or until tender.

4) Transfer chicken to a plate. Add mushrooms and tomato paste to the remaining stock mixture. Increase the heat to a medium-high and simmer uncovered, for 15 minutes or until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper and add brandy. Return chicken to the pan and stir to combine on a low heat for five to ten minutes.

5) Meanwhile, to make the mash, add potato to cold water in a saucepan and bring to boil cooking for approximately 25 minutes or until tender. Drain. Add the butter to the pan and return the potatoes to the pan and use a potato masher until smooth. Add the oil and milk while mashing and season with salt and pepper.

6) Arrange coq au vin on plate with mash and some extra thyme to serve. Voila!

Special Coq au vin – http://www.greenskis.wordpress.com

and Enjoy!

Three outings with or without kids in Vancouver…

Although the water parks are closed and the air is gradually becoming a little more fresh and breezy, the sun is smiling still and beckons for us to make the most of it. There are still many places to go with children to keep them entertained outdoors…

Where we have been lately?

1. Steveston – A quaint fishing village about 20 minutes south of Vancouver. It was once the largest fishing port and cannery centre on the West Coast. It is still home to the largest salmon run in North America and to the largest fleet of commercial fishing vessels on the BC coast. (www.tourismvancouver.com).

Quaint fishing village of Steveston, Vancouver, BC

For kid’s it’s great to watch the boats…

Fishing boats docked in Steveston, Vancouver, BC

or fly kites…

Kite Flying at Steveston, Vancouver, BC

and eat fish and chips (we ate at Pajo’s, there was a queue but it was worth it)…

Pajo’s Fish & Chips line up – Steveston, Vancouver, BC

Walk it off along the water, and finish with an ice-cream from Timothy’s Frozen Yoghurt.

Timothy’s ice-cream in Steveston, Vancouver, BC

2. The PNE – Pacific National Exhibition which runs for 17-days in late August, early September and is a Summer fair, seasonal amusement park, and arena in Vancouver.

It is located in Hastings Park; entrance / Gate 1 at Hastings and Renfrew Street and is a terrific way to wear out your children.

PNE Fair, Vancouver, BC – Entrance, Gate 1

We enjoyed seeing the Peking Acrobats performance…

Peking Acrobats – PNE, Vancouver, 2012

Especially the dog show!

PNE dog show, 2012

There were animals and a farmyard to see how our food is grown and picked…

Picking carrots in the farmyard – PNE, Vancouver, 2012

and of course rides, rides and more rides! (there are quite a few for younger kids to wear them out).

Rides at the PNE, Vancouver, 2012

3. Burnaby Central Railway – What child does not like trains? There cannot be many I am sure about that as all I could see on arrival was children squealing and laughing as they boarded the mini trains here. This railway is located at Confederation Park, 120 North Willingdon Avenue, Burnaby, BC.

This place is cash only, be prepared! The fare is $2.50 per single ride ticket and kids will most likely want to ride a few times at least…we must have had a ride on all the different coloured trains which means approximately 5 rides!

Ride on the trains! At Burnaby Central Railway, Vancouver, BC

There are quite a few tracks…

Riding the rails – Burnaby Railway Station, Vancouver, BC

some tracks were surrounded by blackberry bushes, plump, juicy ones ready to pick but just out of reach!

Our train driver – Burnaby Railway Station

So it was just as well we had a picnic (you can bring your own) waiting to enjoy in the grounds of croissants, salad, fruits and cheese. After all that, it was time to go home.

Sugo – simple tomato pasta sauce

A few things I will never forget after spending a reasonable amount of time in Italy, ‘with Italians’ in a past life are the foundations of a good pasta ‘sauce'(or sugo in Italian). What I learnt was mostly from watching, given my degree of language skill was only basic.

The formula for an excellent sauce?

> Always shop for the locally sourced produce or grow your own (especially tomatoes)! One of the first memorable food markets I was introduced to in Rome many years ago was ‘Campo de’ Fiori’; literally meaning ‘Field of Flowers’ has historically been one of the longest running fresh vegetable and fish markets since 1869.

> A good Italian sauce is simplistic not complicated, always using few ingredients to enhance the flavours in each dish. Have you ever seen an Italian eating a pizza that resembles a cake? No, of course not…they enjoy a pizza with a few ingredients without dominating the base for example; tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil and its fabulous!

This authentic pasta sauce is as simple as it gets and it will be hard not to inhale it once ready! I have included a suggestion for children to make it more fun. The name ‘bird’s nest’ has been adopted from a friend who makes this for her children sometimes and I am doing the same for them tomorrow when they all come over for lunch. Please see bottom for guide on putting bird’s nests together. It freezes well too if you want to make the most of all the tomatoes out there right now.

Italians are quite finicky about pairing their sauce with the perfect pasta so to speak…but hey, I’m not Italian so I will break the rules occasionally to suit my family’s tastes.

Generally the rule of thumb is to match a heavy, chunky sauce with a short or chunky pasta like penne, rigatoni, fusilli or even gnocchi and with light, thin sauces, complement by using the longer clingy pastas like linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine etc.

Simple tomato pasta sauce with linguine

Ingredients

1.5kg or 3.5 pounds of very ripe tomatoes

1 teaspoon minced garlic (I love a little more, so I used 1.5 teaspoons)

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1 Tablespoon olive oil for cooking

1 Tablespoon olive oil extra virgin cold pressed for drizzling at end

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Fresh linguine pasta

Method

1. Score a cross with a knife on the bottom of each tomato. Prepare a pot of boiling water and also chilled/iced water. Place each tomato into the pot of boiling water for a minute, and remove placing them into the iced water immediately. Once they have cooled a little, peel the skin off the tomatoes which should be easy. If they are not, you may need to pop them into the boiling water for a minute longer.

2. Quarter or halve the tomatoes; depending on whether you have bought a round or Roma variety and remove seeds with hands over a sieve and bowl so you are not losing any juice. Push as much juice from the pulp and seeds through the sieve as possible and set aside. Chop half the quantity of tomatoes up finely. Place the other half in a food processor with the oregano.

3. Using a heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add garlic to pot. It will only need a minute or two; do not brown or burn. Add tomatoes, salt and boil for 5-10 minutes. Simmer for 45 minutes or a bit longer until it reaches the desired consistency you like.

4. Prepare fresh linguine which should only take three minutes to cook in boiling water. Drain and arrange in dishes. Spoon in the ‘sugo’ with a few torn basil leaves on top, drizzle the extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and enjoy!

Sugo

Tomato pasta sauce

Additions:- If you would like a more intense flavour, a little pecorino cheese grated on top is delicious. If you love the basil flavour, process some basil leaves, parsley and extra virgin cold pressed olive oil together and drizzle on top.

Note: For bird’s nests, twirl and arrange the linguine in a nest like shape. Spoon some hot sauce into the nest and place some baby bocconcini balls on top. That way they will melt a little on the sauce and still resemble white eggs in a nest!

Children's bird's nest pasta

Children’s bird’s nest pasta

Summer berry bakewell cake

I have never been in berry heaven as I am here in Vancouver. Of course, we have berries available in Australia, but they barely stand up to the sweet juicy flavour and large size that we are enjoying here. The price of berries back home are also double or even triple what they cost here too which is a real eye opener.

I would almost ration them out at home on our breakfast cereal or as a snack and fresh raspberries were certainly a big treat for special occasions as they were at the top of the list for most expensive.

Here in our fridge right now there are abundant bowls of blueberries, raspberries filling our shelves and I faced with the tough decision of whether to bake, create or freeze? When a couple of kilograms of berries cost $10, we just can’t eat them fast enough!

I have been busy in the kitchen trying out recipes that have been inspired from some classics. The first I have baked is a British favourite with not much too it but berries, almonds, eggs, flour and sugar. I have adapted the recipe slightly from a BBC Food recipe I found for a Raspberry bakewell cake.

Any berries would work, Taeberries, blackberries, mulberries etc. If you like more of a moist gooey type cake, then the time specified in the method will achieve this result. If you like your cake a little more fluffy and light, then you need to bake at a slightly higher temperature at the beginning for 15 minutes (approx 200 C / 400 F) and substitute 50gm almond meal for 50gm more self raising flour.

You can easily replace the butter with coconut oil and flour with an alternative like a gluten-free flour for specific dietary options.

Berry bakewell cake

Ingredients

100gm ground almonds/almond meal

140gm butter, softened

140gm caster sugar / berry sugar

180gm self-raising flour

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250gm raspberries and blueberries (can use fresh or frozen)

2 Tablespoons flaked almonds

AS AN ALTERNATIVE DECORATION TO SPRINKLING FLAKED ALMONDS ON TOP…

Amaretto icing

140gm icing sugar

1 Tablespoon Amaretto

2-3 Tablespoons water

Roasted coconut flakes

Method

1. Heat oven to 180C / 355F and grease and line a deep 20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

2. In a food processor, add the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract until well combined.

3. Spread half the mix over the cake tin and smooth over the top with a spatula or your fingers. Scatter the blueberries and raspberries over, then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and roughly spread till covered.

4. Either scatter with almonds and bake for 55 minutes until golden. Cool for 30 mins in the tin and then remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar.

OR

5. Bake first for 50mins to an hour and follow icing directions below…

Amaretto icing

1. Mix the two tablespoons of water and Amaretto with the icing sugar until combined. Keep adding water until the icing is thick but not too runny. Drizzle over the top of the cake and scatter roasted coconut flakes over the top.

It’s lovely served with vanilla ice-cream or coconut sorbet. Enjoy!

Ten terrific things with tomatoes…

I must admit that I have not been in the kitchen at all much since on holidays, understandable yes, but on returning home after a few weeks break I have fallen a little out of the habit and have been relying more on easy, quick, convenience foods. This does not mean ‘fast-foods’ as I despise chain food groups and try to avoid them at all costs. For me, instead of preparing from scratch, its pre-made organic pasta sauces, pre-cooked chickens and salads etc.

What I did notice on returning from our vacation, is our tomato plant exploded with the fabulous month of sun we have been enjoying! You cannot beat freshly grown or locally picked tomatoes as they are bursting with flavour and you do notice the difference between ones that have travelled further or from large-scale farms.  Our small cherry variety are super sweet and world’s away in flavour from even some of the organic ones I have been buying. The sweetest part? Watching my son’s excitement as he spots the newly ripened ones on the vine in our garden and jumps to pick them!

It is a medley of tomatoes out there at the moment; their blazing colour of reds, purples, oranges and yellows in all different sizes and shapes was alluring enough to get me back into the spirit of cooking! You can never feel guilty about eating too many tomatoes as they are full of antioxidants including Lycopene which have been linked to heart and bone health. The top three vitamins are C, A and K in that order, help keep blood sugar levels in check and perhaps provide some anti-cancer benefits (at the top of the list is prostate cancer for men’s heath). In addition, they will give you glowing skin, hair, eyes and good teeth!

A colleague of my husband’s wanted to know what to do with all these tomatoes, so I thought I’d start by inspiring some of my favourite recipes which I will slowly post unless anyone wants them urgently!

There are literally thousands of ways to use tomatoes, and I figure why mess with them when they taste so good?

So here’s to keeping it simple with my top 10 all-time tomato recipes…I will post any on request right away.

1. Simple but superb tomato, oregano, basil pasta sauce.

2. Tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil salad

3. Tomato and garlic bruschetta

4. Tomato, egg and pancetta/bacon pizza

5. Mixed tomato and mint salad

6. Tomato Tarte Tatin

7. Tomato and goat’s cheese tartlets

8. Tomato rice pockets

9. Tomato relish

10. Mussels with tomato, chorizo, white wine broth and frites or crusty baguette

Take me to the Top – Lions Peak, Vancouver

So this is Rob here and my delightful wife has kindly handed over the reigns of her Blog to me for one day. This was no mean feat, might I say! Being a Zielinski too I feel that I can write under Greenskis with authenticity. So here goes.. hope you enjoy!

It’s an odd way to start an epic hike but mine started in the hot tub at the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre. Yep, that’s right, whilst I was whiling away a cool and crisp March morning in the lovely warm waters the plan to climb the Lions Peak was hatched. There, next to me was our great friend, Nicole, who provided the necessary local knowledge. I asked her what those two distant peaks were that were intermittently obscured by clouds. They were the most prominent features on the skyline and they beckoned. Her casual reply was “Oh they are the Lions Peaks and they are a bit of Vancouver legend.” The next question was reflexive – “So can you climb them? And is it hard?” Not being a rock climber but an adventurous soul I was hoping her answer was “Yes” to both. Indeed it was. They are definitely hike-able, require no mountain gear and afford one of the best views of Vancouver and the surrounding area. That’s all I needed to hear.

The Lions Peak way in the distance from downtown

In the distance the Lions Peaks are visible from anywhere in Vancouver

Fast forward about 6 months and with a reasonable amount of background reading and a hiking crew all ready to go we set out at dawn to climb the Lions! But first a bit more background on these little beauties. It is well-known that most Vancouverites desire to climb the Lions but few actually ever get around to it. Being in Vancouver for the short term provided the requisite motivation and so I enrolled two other Aussies to join me. The Lions are a pair of pointed peaks (West Lion – 1,646 m (5,400 ft);East Lion – 1,606 m (5,269 ft)) along the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver. They can be seen from much of the Greater Vancouver area, as far as East Burnaby, south to parts of Surrey, and from the west on the  Howe Sound Islands. Along with the Lions Gate Bridge named in their honour, these twin summits have become one of the most recognizable Vancouver landmarks.

The earliest recorded climb of the West Lion in 1889 happened almost by accident. A group of hunters following a herd of goats found themselves at the top with no place to go but down. Sadly there is no cable car to effortlessly transport you down like on Grouse Mountain and I soon learnt that it is the descent that really hurts you. Most of the hiking advice websites recommend to plan for a 3-4 hr ascent, 1 hour to enjoy the scenery and 3-4 hour descent. That adds up to 8-9 hours, a double shot of coffee and a very long and arduous day.

On the day we chose to climb the Lions we accidentally coincided with the Lions Bay Community annual ascent. That translated to another 50 people, mostly on the 60+ years side, attempting the climb. All in all there were about 300 people who climbed that day. That brings me to my first piece of unsolicited advice, get there EARLY! Not just to snare one of the rare parks at the start of the climb (the run off car park is about 1km away … down hill) but to enjoy the climb in some serenity. So we three, set off full of vim and vigour and enjoyed a reasonably placid start to the hike. The first section was on an old fire trail and only a gradual climb. This quickly led into a lovely well-marked park that wound its away over gullies into valleys and traversed some lovely quintessential West Coast pine forrestscape.

Typical but beautiful West Coast Pine Forest. The trail is well-marked.

Some old pines make way for new growth
Some old pines blown down in storms make way for new growth

We were enveloped by massively majestic old pines, and occasional fallen giants as storms, winds and father time continually remodel the forest. After an hour and much banter amongst the group, things began to escalate – in both oxygen demands and steepness. Occasionally one would be tempted by a stunning view of Howe Sound but mostly it was solid progress through dense pine forest. In parts it was definitely steeper than the Grouse Grind so I was starting to blow out many candles.

Halfway up and we were excited. Stunning Howe Sound in the background.

Halfway up and we were excited. Stunning Howe Sound in the background.

As we crept out of the tree line we were greeted with an awe inspiring vista. The vastness of the valley was humbling and off to the left one caught a good look at the West Lion. Boy, it looked a fair hike away and it remained a couple of hours of hard yakka. We saw some fire pits up of hiking groups who prefer to share the awesomeness with no one. The next section was across scree, granite boulder fields, and occasional ponds of snow. Even though we were well into August and the weather was a picture perfect 23 degrees and blue sky as far as the eye gazed, the amount of snow this area receives meant that it stays alpine all year round. The snow wasn’t troubling at all more of a passing novelty for us three Australians. It also afforded us with ammunition for an impromptu snow ball fight.

Some scrambling over granite boulders and lingering snow islands.

Some scrambling over granite boulders and lingering snow islands.

Well you had to, didn’t you? Through this section over your right shoulder lay the vastness and beauty of Howe Sound.

Wondrous Howe Sound, nothing more to say

Wondrous Howe Sound, nothing more to say

This body of water starts at Squamish and transports the gazillion litres of snow melt from the mountains each year. We wondered what constitutes a Sound and later I discovered it is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight (even the Great Aussie Bight?), and wider than a fjord; or it may be defined as a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land. Right back to the hike. At this point, high above the real tree line and in the boulder fields another path joins and this one started way back at Cypress Mountain. So there is a second way of getting to the Lions but apparently this way is EVEN longer and not as picturesque.

My favourite mountainscape - stunning palate of blues

My favourite mountainscape – stunning palate of blues

We had 30 mins to go and I was getting pretty pumped. The last section is a bit of more strenuous weaving and climbing up larger boulders. Definitely no climbing required but just a little more technical than the rest of the hike. At this point you are at the saddle of the Lions and the West Lion is over to your left and the East Lion to the right. The East Lion is out of bounds to climbing but many tackle the West Lion. As you can see in the picture below there is a pretty precarious section to navigate. No mistakes are possible as the ‘trail’ is narrow and the mountain falls away so steeply that a fall would be curtains.

West Lion (far top right) stands proudly out in the distance.

West Lion (far top right) stands proudly out in the distance.

At this point of the summit some 1500m above sea level I felt no desire to climb higher. We shared this moment with a few ‘tame’ black crows that were actually terrifyingly large. I suspect they fed on wasted scraps from the horde of climbers’ lunches. All I could think of was their massive beaks just pecking away at my eyeballs if I was unlucky to slip and perish up there. OK that is a crow pecking eye phobia I have had for a while and occasionally it leaps into my thoughts.

Black Crows grow big in the Mountains

Black Crows grow big in the Mountains

So what did we see and was it worth the effort. You betcha!! We were lucky enough to see Mt Baker way down in Washington, USA still capped in snow. There were mountains in every direction but one. Howe Sound was in that direction and it continued to absorb your gaze effortlessly. Capilano Dam was visible which supplies the vast majority of drinking water to Vancouver. And way off in the distance the city skyline of bustling Vancouver twinkled.

Perching on the Precipice. Howe Sound in the distant.

Perching on the Precipice. Howe Sound in the distant.

We decided to sit down and enjoy a hearty lunch. I was fortunate to have my wife’s famous Quinoa Salad and it went down the hatch in record time, even for me! Man it was tasty. One weird observation up here was that there was reasonable mobile phone coverage which weirdly took a little away from the experience. But I guess if you fell and hurt yourself the ability to call was comforting. The youngsters probably twittered or facebooked their achievement.

The descent was next and I really wasn’t looking forward to it. There’s no longer any anticipation and the constant pressure on the knees and quadriceps was likely going to be crippling. A few tourist helicopters whizzed by and I wistfully imagined hitchhiking a ride back down. Fast forward 3 difficult hours and we were down. My legs were jello and doing the Wobble, totally under their own control having severed any connection to my neuromuscular junctions. We washed away the pain with a lovely lemonade a few girls were selling to raise some money for something or other. Heck it was cold and it was good. Next stop was BierCraft, the local Belgium beer and schnitzel house to meet my wife and son for a crisp, cleansing, and cold beer. Talk about the exclamation mark on a day that was most definitely mind-blowing.