Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gourmet Salad

I made this salad last night and it was DELICIOUS. According to Diego it deserves the capital letters!
Sauteed onion and Apple Salad
1 medium onion cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
1 medium sized apple cored and sliced into half moons
1 head of kale or lettuce of your choice
Walnuts (to your liking)
Maple syrup
Blue cheese
3 tbsp Avocado oil (you could use olive or hazelnut oils)
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar (I used the PC brand Fig Balsamic)
1 pinch of salt

If you are using lettuce or another soft green, start with the next step. If you are using kale, wash it and slice it thinly. Then in a small jar or bowl combine the oil, vinegar and salt. Pour the dressing over the kale and mix thoroughly. This needs to sit for at least 30 mins for the kale to get soft. The kale will turn darker green and shiny when it softens.

In the meantime, sautee the onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When softened add the apples and sautee until the apples are golden on both sides and the onions are beginning to brown. Be sure to use an apple that won't fall apart (definitely no Macintosh!). I used a gala apple.
In another pan toast the walnuts on high heat until warm and golden brown. Once golden add about a tablespoon of maple syrup and turn down the heat to medium. Once all the liquid from the maple syrup has evaporated continue to toast the walnuts to get a nice sweet coating (about 5-8 more mins).

Once the onions and apples are ready, add the nuts to the pan and sautee for another minute or 2. Then add the warm ingredients on top of the kale. Crumble some blue cheese on top of the warm ingredients and cover the bowl with a plate or anything that will keep the heat in until the cheese is melted.
Once the cheese is melted, toss and serve. If you are using lettuce rather than kale add the dressing just before tossing. The tangy taste of the blue cheese is complimented by the sweetness of the apples and maple crusted walnuts!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Changes around our House.

As a gift to himself, Diego bought a rowing machine. For about 6 months he kept having to take it apart and stand it up in a "corner" of the living room. This was a hassle and less motivating to use so it was time to make some changes in the living room to accommodate this new machine.
This was no small feat! We live in a 700 sq.ft apartment and our living room is on the small side. This machine is about 2 ft shorter than the length of our living room and requires a 9 ft by 4 ft footprint to be used! Lucky for us it can be be tucked away. For 8 years we had a large fish tank in 2 corners of the living room. 
We got rid of this one about 2 years ago when I moved it to my office. It was a 75 gallon (that I have since upgraded to a 90 gallon) full of cichlids. It was actually pretty cool since we had our TV hidden in the cabinet below the tank. At the time we had 4 large tanks in our house and it was time to start decreasing the number of the more labour intensive tanks in our home.
This tank was also a 75 gallon tank and house many inhabitants over the years. This is an old photo (2006) but you get the idea. As you can see it was blocking about half of the window and since it is east facing it doesn't get a lot of light because of the giant trees on our street, it was blocking a lot of natural light. Once the last fish died, the tank sat for almost 2 years with only plants in it to keep the maintenance at a minimum during my last year of PhD. Finally the light fixture stopped working which to me was a sign.
So I moved the tank to my work since I have a large teaching lab with lots of counter space and huge windows. The plants are much happier and I just bought some freshwater shrimp and fish for it. The students love it!

All of these changes made room for us to rearrange our furniture to accommodate the rowing machine. The corner with the TV had Tank #1 and Tank #2 was where the bookcase is now. The main part of the rowing machine is under the Mexican blanket. Not only has this change given us more natural light (see the plants...!) but it also makes the room feel more spacious. Now the machine is much easier to access and gives us ample space to use which has motivated both of us to do more often. We just swing the back end (under the TV) out to the middle of the room when we want to use it. You might think it looks like an eyesore, but it actually fits in okay with our decor and it can also be taken apart and moved if we need more space use to the hide-a-bed or just a larger crowd. So although, we have gotten rid of some of the more comforting aspects of our home, when a hobby starts to become more work than pleasure it is time to make some changes. Like I said I still have the tanks at work but I actually get to enjoy them more there than I did at home because they are easier to maintain so it was a good move. Not to mention, the students get to enjoy them too!

Any changes around your house lately?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter on the road in Nova Scotia.

Okay so I recant what I said in my last post. March did come in like a lion (huge snow storm on March 1) and go out like a lamb... Easter weekend was sunny and upwards of 10 degrees Celsius! Diego and I decided to take the weekend and hit the road and explore some place in Nova Scotia that we have never been before. So we settled on Cape Sable Island. This is a small island off the southermost tip of Nova Scotia. Its really almost a sand bar for all its magnificent beaches.
So why would we go to an island of many beaches in March you ask? It has everything to do with this little goose...
Image by Mike Baird

These are Brant Geese or Branta bernicula. They pass through the Maritimes on their way North at this time of year, so they only stay for a short time in March. I know, I am not a birder or ornithologist, so why am I so interested?...other than being a biology nerd that is... these geese have a very special diet; they eat the marine plant eelgrass (Zostera marina)! Which if you have been following my blog, know that I was studying this particular plant for my doctoral thesis and it continues to be the subject of my research. Click here for more information on eelgrass itself and here for information on its distribution. So you might be thinking that I must have seen a lot of these geese throughout all of my many years of research BUT in actual fact, I had never seen one. There was a disease outbreak in the 1930s that wiped 90% of the eelgrass beds on both sides of the North Atlantic that in most places took more than 30 years to recover! The consequence, a collapse in the population of Brant geese and those that remained changed their migratory route inland instead of up the coast to take advantage of food in farmers fields...which means they no longer come near Halifax. So this was my chance to see these amazing birds that act like cows, increasing the productivity of eelgrass beds by cropping the tops of the plants but leaving the roots and rhizomes intact!

So off we went with our binoculars, maps, hiking trail guides and food for the weekend to stay at a little cottage on the ocean. Did I say binoculars...? Arriving at Cape Sable Island Cottages after more than 2 hours in the car I realized that we left our binoculars at home. So I said; "How hard can it really be, there are supposed to be hundreds.". In the end we spent 2 days looking for this elusive goose and managed only to see them at a distance or flying overhead. I am obviously not a birder! Oh! but the beaches and marshes we saw looking for them, were totally worth it!
 Did I say it was 10 degrees Celsius? It was when you were out of the icy wind! As you can see in the photos, the beaches seem endless and the reason is because the tide was low and the tides here are influenced by the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world! Although the tidal range is not a large as the head of the Bay of Fundy (13-15 m), it is double (2-4 m) than near Halifax (1-2 m). So when combined with a pretty flat (or low slope) beach there is a lot of the beach that is exposed. We also spent some time enjoying the cottage, hiking and visiting the surrounding communities. 
Easter Sunday Sunrise.
 Morning coffee and afternoon wine in the warmth of the sun and sheltered from the icy wind by the cottage.
Rail trail through the historic Town of Shelburne. They are mallards...not Brant geese.

Overall, we had a wonderful Easter!! In addition to not seeing the geese close up, there were a number hiking trails and beaches that we didn't get to so we have lots of reasons to go back next year...but this time with binoculars!
Yes, we have matching boots...and I have a smiley face!

I hope you had a great Easter weekend!

***I am not being paid to advertise the cottages, they were just lovely, clean and had a great view and want you to know about them if you are ever down that way.