Laveanne Lavender Fields: A Touch of Provence

This summer for me is a time of exploration in my own country’s backyard and to my delight, I didn’t have to venture far to discover something extraordinary. Lavender fields! Laveanne Lavender Fields is about an hour away from Toronto.

My friend Karolina joined me on this adventure one warm sunny July day.

We decided to take the scenic route to get to Laveanne, as opposed to the highway and we were in for a treat. We not only passed by little charming towns, but also saw so many greenery and rolling hills. The further away we were from Toronto, the more surreal it felt that we were travelling somewhere abroad.

When we stepped onto the property of Laveanne, we felt like we were transported into the lavender fields in Provence, France. The view of more than 10, 000 lavender plants was breathtaking and the fragrance of them were definitely in the air.

At Laveanne, July is blossom month. I was glad that I took some time out during July to visit this lovely haven with Karolina.

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We started our early morning at the charming boutique and were in heaven browsing through so many lavender products, mostly made on site. Then we strolled through the plant nursery. Finally we stopped in front of the big maple tree outside and were greeted by our yoga teacher, Elizabeth. She guided us on a 60 minute gentle yoga class outdoors and then a 30 minute meditation walk through the lavender labyrinth. Elizabeth gave her students an option to walk through the labyrinth barefoot or with shoes. I chose barefoot, so I can feel more connected to nature, and at the same time draw energy from earth, which is a practise known as “earthing”. I loved how earthing was combined with the walking meditation here!

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At the end of yoga class, we visited the pop-up restaurant on the terrace, overlooking the lavender fields, and enjoyed a variety of lavender infused food. Everything was so delicious!

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We originally anticipated spending a few hours here and ended up spending the whole day! We took time to stroll through the fields, take photos, and bask in the sun on one of the benches. Time seemed to just slip away quietly in this beautiful and tranquil environment.

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In the words of Karolina, “I felt like I was at a spiritual retreat.” Truer words were never spoken. Laveanne is a sweet haven where one can find peace and beauty away from the hustle bustle of city life, and feel rejuvenated body, mind and spirit at the end of the visit.

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Best Vegan Restaurants in Taipei

Another reason I loved living in Taipei is its diverse and endless options for vegans. From cheap local vegetarian/vegan buffet eateries to expensive westernized Vegan restaurants, the vegan’s eating choices are limitless.

I’ve recently had a request from a reader who will be travelling to Taipei next month for a list of vegetarian and/or vegan restaurants. Her request motivated me to write a blog post on my top 5 favourite vegan restaurants in Taipei, which I’m excited to share with you!!

Whether you live in Taipei, or plan to visit it someday, I hope you find this information useful. 🙂

 

1. 全國健康素食餐飲連鎖

This is my favourite local vegetarian/vegan eatery. When I was studying Mandarin at NTU (National Taiwan University), it was always my go-to lunch place. On my way to school, I would quickly go in and select the many types of vegetarian or vegan dishes and put them into a takeout box, and I usually pair that with a bowl of purple rice or vegan sushi. I love all the dishes here because they are super healthy, fresh and delicious. Unlike other local buffet eateries, I find this place uses the least amount of oil in their cooking. The cost of one meal is determined by weight. The staff will put the selected food on a scale and tell the customer how much it costs. Depending on how much food I put into my takeout box, my meals are usually between $100 NTD ($4 CAD) to $150 ($6 CAD). You just pay $10 NTD (42 cents CAD) for a bowl of rice.

When one is not rushed for time, one can also sit in and enjoy the meal, and the self-serve free soups of the day. There is always one salty soup and one sweet soup, which is considered a dessert. After finishing the meal, one takes its plate and tray with the cutlery outside to clean; there are clear sections for recycle, compost and garbage.

全國健康素食餐飲連鎖 is a vegetarian buffet chain and it’s all across Taipei. My favourite location is at No. 314, Section 2, Fuxing S Rd, Da’an District. The closest MRT station to this location is Technology Building Station (Line 1, Brown colour).

For more info: https://www.facebook.com/chv1996.com.tw/

 

2.Ooh Cha Cha (自然食)

This is a cute little plant-based whole-foods café with a few tables where you can come to get your “North American” vegan fix. It’s very popular so it’s often crowded. I highly recommend the green smoothies and the bowls. My favourite bowl is the gluten-free “Friendly Macro(biotic) Bowl” which has pesticide-free brown rice, organic quinoa and local baby greens served with all the goodies for the guts: sesame tempeh, wakame, ginger kimchi, alfalfa sprouts, purple cabbage with cashew cream.

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During the winter season, they also make a vegan version of red beans and rice (quinoa is used instead) which is simply flavourful and hearty. Almost every time I finished my yoga class, I would go directly to Ooh Cha Cha just to eat this for lunch, along with a green smoothie as part of a combo deal.

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If you have a sweet tooth like me, their raw cakes are to die for!

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For location, hours and more info: http://www.oohchacha.com

 

3.Mianto (米愛多)

This is a cool and modern restaurant tucked away in a residential area near Da’an Park. It specializes in international vegan cuisine. Everything ordered here is delightful and all homemade! I especially enjoy the curries and desserts here.

For location, hours and more info:  http://www.mianto.tw

 

4.Vege Creek (蔬河)

For a quick, affordable and healthy vegan meal, I highly recommend this place. I think it’s a very fun place to eat because you get to choose the ingredients to put into your bowl of noodles. You can also choose the type of noodles from ramen to thin noodles. Once all the ingredients have been selected and paid for, the chef cooks them and will call you when your bowl of noodles are ready, and you can eat it at the communal dining table.

I usually go to the original store which is near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. It is always busy in the evenings as it is a small space. From experience, most diners don’t linger after a meal. They come solely for the purpose of eating, and then they leave, so the waiting time is decent.

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For location, hours and more info: https://www.facebook.com/VEGECREEK/

 

5.The Green Room

I have never tasted such delicious Thai food in my life (and I’ve been to Thailand!) and the best part is that all the food is vegan! This restaurant is a must try culinary experience if you’re in Taipei! The Green Room uses local products for its food, so I love how it supports local farmers and being environmentally friendly. The atmosphere is very warm and inviting.

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My absolute favourites are the Thai Crispy Spring Rolls, all the different types of curries served with Turmeric Thai Rice and Ginger Soy Tea.

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For location, hours and more info: http://thegreenroomtaipei.com

Travels, Healthy Foods & Tomatoes

One of the many reasons I love travelling is that I get to meet and learn from people from all walks of life! The world is so big and beautiful with so many different kinds of people living in it. 🙂

During my stay in South Korea this summer, I had the fortune to stay with my dear friend Lucy and her wonderful family after my teaching assignment ended. I was excited to experience the Korean family lifestyle!

I discovered that Lucy’s family usually eats a very big breakfast to start the day which includes all sorts of vegetables and fruits, from fermented vegetables to fresh vegetables and fruits, and a combination of hot and cold dishes. They do not eat meat for breakfast. From my previous readings when I was exploring the possibility of becoming vegetarian or vegan (I’m still on the journey), I already know that consuming too much animal protein creates toxins and acidity in the body and eventually ages the skin and body (The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder, page 14). Furthermore, animal protein is the most complex of all foods, and it takes almost twice as long as other foods to pass through the digestive system, which allows a greater chance of toxins to be created. Eating whole, unrefined plant foods with some fermented foods (has probiotics and enzymes that are good for healthy digestion and elimination) and complex carbohydrates is a much better choice in improving overall health and energy. Therefore, I loved the healthy vegetarian concept behind these big delicious breakfasts!

A healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast that includes salad, pumpkin porridge, cold Korean Soybean Noodle Soup (Kong Gooksu), rice,  kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plum, garlic and grapes.

A typical healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast from my friend’s family that includes salad, pumpkin porridge (hobak jook), cold Korean soybean noodle soup (kong gooksu), rice, kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plums, fermented garlic and grapes.

One morning I was introduced to this healthy, hearty delicious soup cooked by Lucy’s dad, Mr. P. Mr. P is an active, happy, health conscious and nature-loving gentleman who frequently hikes up on the highest mountain near his home. He loves cooking and eating this soup for breakfast. It just requires two ingredients: tomatoes and olive oil. Mr. P told me that both tomatoes and olive oil are very healthy and when combined, they are very good for the body because they lower risks of many diseases and cancers. I would never have thought of having soup for breakfast, but the inner healthy foodie in me was eager to give it a try. We also sprinkled some pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into the soup. The minute I tasted it, I was sold on having soup for breakfast and gained a new appreciation for tomatoes! I asked Mr. P immediately for the recipe and he simply told me to put these two ingredients into a pot and then you have a meal.

I cooked the Tomato Olive Oil Soup successfully this morning and I can’t wait to share with you this simple recipe made literally in under 15 minutes! I think Mr. P would be so proud of me!!

I hope you give this soup recipe a try and let me know what you think! 🙂

Happy Cooking!!

XO,

Violet

Tomato Soup_Korea

 

Serves: 1 person

Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 washed and chopped tomato

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,

Toppings: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds/hemp hearts, raisins

Optional toppings: any type of nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds

 

Instructions:

1. Put one tablespoon of olive oil into pot on medium heat.

2. Place chopped tomatoes into pot to be cooked with olive oil.

2. Mash and stir tomatoes for a bit. Leave some tomatoes in partly whole form.

3. Allow soup to simmer a few minutes.

4. Once the soup boils, pour it into a serving bowl and add one tablespoon of olive oil.

5. Sprinkle a handful of your favourite toppings and mix everything. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

Tomatoes- has carotenoid lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red colour and may be useful in decreasing the risk of some cancers and heart disease; cooking tomatoes increases the lycopene content

Olive Oil- rich in monounsaturated fats which is important for optimal health; it can help with healthier blood cholesterol level and control blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and a fatty liver and lower the amount of fat around the abdomen; good quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of around 210 degrees so it can be used for stir-fries, roasting foods in oven and pan-frying

*Information for both ingredients are taken from Superfoods by The Australian Women’s Weekly, pages 103 and 112

http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/australian-womens-weekly-weekly/aww-superfoods-9781742454733.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Quick, Easy & Healthy Homemade Dinner :)

A quick and simple healthy homemade meal: seasoned salmon, Chinese greens and buckwheat soba noodles.

A quick and simple healthy homemade meal: seasoned salmon, Chinese greens and buckwheat (soba) noodles.

If you have been following me for a while here, you may notice that I have more baking recipes than recipes on meals. The reason is that I LOVE baking and find it super fun and easier than cooking. I think cooking is very challenging and time-consuming. The few times I tried cooking a meal, the food and taste usually do not turn out the way they are supposed to, and it takes me at least 3 hours to prep and cook. Plus, I’m really lucky that when I go home at the end of the day, I already have a warm meal waiting for me. 🙂 Perhaps that is why I don’t venture into cooking that much.

Today I discovered that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated and I’m proud to tell you that I experimented and created an easy and healthy meal in less than an hour.  I could not believe that I made such a quick delicious meal! There were various factors that propelled me to cook my own dinner tonight: heavy workload that required my full concentration and focus, my mother was out of town so no one was home to cook for me :P, lack of time to go out to eat (I cancelled dinner plans to eat out because of workload)  and a desire to eat healthy.

Below, you will find a short and sweet description of how I made this meal in about 45 minutes.

 

Serves: 1 person

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients: 1 salmon fillet, freshly squeezed lemon juice, drizzle of honey, ground black pepper, a few grape tomatoes, buckwheat (soba) noodles, a handful of Chinese greens, cooking oil

 

Instructions:

1. Rinse the fillet in cold water and dab it dry with paper towel.

2. Place fillet in the middle of parchment paper on baking tray.

2. Squeeze lemon juice, a drizzle of honey, and sprinkle  black pepper and put some grape tomatoes on top (cut in half if you like) of fillet.

3. Fold the parchment paper to seal the fillet, seasoning and tomatoes, allowing salmon and the tomatoes to cook in its own juices. I learned this cooking trick,called “baking en papillote” (in paper), from here: http://www.wikihow.com/Bake-Salmon

4. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

5. Rinse noodles under cold water before cooking to remove excess starch.

6. Add noodles to boiling water and cook for a few minutes.

7. Add a little cold water two or three times while noodles are cooking to reduce the temperature which helps the noodles to cook evenly. I learned this tip from here: http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/3908/soba+noodles

8. Rinse and soak greens 3-5 times.

9. Add a drop of cooking oil (I used olive oil) into the pot of water before blanching the greens. The cooking oil coats the greens so they look fresh and green, not purple. I learned how to blanch Chinese greens from: http://rasamalaysia.com/restaurant-style-chinese-greens-with/

10. Drain excess water from noodles and greens before serving with salmon on plate or bowl. Bon appetit! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-Thank you to my mom for teaching me the trick to cooking a quick meal. It is simply to cook a few things at the same time. 🙂

 

-To learn more about the health benefits of buckwheat (soba) noodles (a type of noodle from Japan, and it is gluten-free), see these links:

http://www.healthhokkaido.com/files/Articles_Oshimi/soba.cfm

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/healthy-benefits-buckwheat-noodles-6583.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 4 Natural Home Remedies for Cold

Part of the reason that I haven’t been feeling well has to do with me getting the cold and losing my voice.  After a few months of being strong, despite many people around me getting the cold, I finally succumbed to it.  I didn’t want to go see my family doctor; I knew he would just prescribe me some antibiotics from past experiences.  Too much antibiotics is not good for the body, and I didn’t want any of them in my body.  I wanted to self-heal from this cold using natural ingredients, and see if they would work.  Amazingly, I did get better in a week! 🙂

Below, I will share with you 4 natural remedies that were helpful for me in combating and getting better from the cold.  Please keep in mind, this list is for informational purposes and based on my own experience; I am not a medical professional.  If you have any questions and/or concerns, please consult your doctor, before you try any of these.

1. TURMERIC HOT WATER

I learned from my cooking instructor that turmeric is anti-inflammatory and she has a glass of hot milk with turmeric every night.  She says her nightly turmeric drink has helped to boost her immune system and she feels healthy all the time.  As soon as I felt the beginnings of a sore throat (often the first sign of a cold), I decided to give the turmeric a try.  Instead of putting it into milk, I decided to add 1 teaspoon of it to hot water.  I had one cup daily of this for a week, and believe it is one of the reasons I feel better quickly. 🙂

2. RAW HONEY LEMON WATER

When my sore throat persisted, I began adding raw honey into my daily morning lemon water.  I learned that raw honey (not heated, pasteurized or processed) is an alkaline-forming food with natural vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Furthermore, its antibacterial properties is perfect in treating a sore throat, as the honey coats the throat and eases the irritation.  To my delight, I discovered that pairing up 1 tablespoon of raw honey with half a freshly squeezed lemon into a hot/warm cup of water is such a natural soother for the sore throat.

3. HONEY DATES & AMERICAN GINSENG TEA

My brother is currently studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and he was the one who recommended me to drink this concoction after he diagnosed my tongue and heard my cough.

Here is an excellent link to the benefits of the ingredients in this tea and how to make it:

http://soupqueen.blogspot.ca/2007/07/cough-cure-american-ginseng-and-honey.html

4. SLEEP

Last but not least, the most important natural remedy is allowing our body to rest and recover on its own.  Despite my healthy eating and regular exercise routine, I knew I was lacking in sleep during the past few weeks due to various reasons.  When I finally lost my voice in addition to the above two symptoms of the cold I mentioned, I knew my immune system was endangered.  Therefore, I decided to take two days off from work.  I was lucky those days were attached to the weekend so I had four days to fully rest both my body and voice at home, and by Monday, I was almost back to normal. 🙂

Baby-Sleep

Here are 2 links that I found helpful in explaining why sleep is so important to our health.  Sleeping well is definitely one of the keys in maintaining good health.  Check it out when you have time:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

Ten Easy Tips to Good Health!

Ten Easy Tips to Good Health!

Hello to all my dear readers & fellow blogger friends,

I have been away for a month or so due to low energy and sickness (I’ll explain and share with you what I learned during the time in some upcoming posts ^^) and am happy to be back here again! 🙂 I look forward to more blogging and connecting with you all once again!!

My best friend shared these awesome tips with me and I would like to share with you all here.

I love these simple tips, because it’s easy to follow on a daily basis!!

Cheers to good health to all of us this year! 😀

XO,
Violet

Eating Healthy While Flying

This year may very well be your year of adventures and travelling to explore the world!  I’m excited to introduce to you Cole Millen, an avid traveler, foodie and blogger (http://colemill.blogspot.ca/) who writes about and gives helpful tips on health and travels.  Cole has written a very detailed and informative article on how to start our year off with the right tips on staying and eating healthy while flying.  I added two tips for gluten-free travelers.  I hope you enjoy reading this post and happy travels to you all this year! 🙂

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Frequent flying and healthy eating are two behaviors that don’t exactly go hand in hand. Frequent travelers want to move quickly, eat quickly, and not waste time finding food or else they may miss their flight. Healthy eating on the other hand emphasizes carefully selecting meals that are high in nutrients and made from wholesome ingredients. If you want to stick to your healthy lifestyle while still traveling, here are a few tips that will help you stay on track.

 

Pack Your Bag

The most foolproof way to ensure you don’t fall victim to the cinnamon roll line is to pack your own healthy treats. Non-perishable foods work best for carrying; so consider filling you bag with nuts, granola bars, raisins, or bite size vegetables. With a well-stocked bag, you won’t need to waste time waiting in a line to grab an unhealthy meal you’ll regret later.

Violet’s Gluten-Free Tip: Consider bringing packet(s) or a box of instant hot cereal (oatmeal); you simply need a cup of hot water to quickly make a healthy bowl/cup of it.  My favourite instant oatmeal is from Quin’ Hot: Bran Gust and Coconut Gust, unsweetened.  Eco-Planet makes instant hot cereal in packets so that can come in handy when travelling.

Quin’Hot’s website: http://yourfitnessdish.com/QuinHOT.html

Eco-Planet’s website: http://ecoheavenllc.com/Eco-Planet/Gluten_Free_Instant_Oatmeal.html


Make Good Choices

Most airports are not known for their healthy food choices. Fast, processed, and unhealthy foods often pepper the walk to your gate. With a little exploring however, you can find healthy treats to indulge in. Keep an eye out for small convenience stores with small produce and nut sections. Often a store will have a small selection including apples and bananas, along with some healthy granola bars. The fiber in these foods will keep you fuller longer and ensure you don’t feel bloated while on your flight. If you need a bigger meal, look for sandwich shops that offer a wide variety of toppings and meats. A turkey sandwich with some greens is a staple of many airport stores, and is a solid healthy meal. Throw in a handful of almonds and you have a satisfying meal that will tide you over until you research your destination.

 

Do Your Homework

If you have a long layover on your way to a destination, take some time to do a little research and find out what type of restaurants the airport as well as the area offers. It is important to research the area around as well because you never know when you’ll get stuck over night in a city you know nothing about. A couple months back I got stuck in the JFK airport in NYC overnight and had no idea what to do. Luckily, I was able to find a great site with reviews and do some quick research on hotels and restaurants in the area that saved my day. For airport research, most websites have a list of eateries and stores, so you can plan where you will grab your lunch from once you land. When you find a suitable restaurant, check their own website for nutrition facts and find the healthiest items on the menu. When you arrive, head straight for your chosen eatery and order what you planned to. Do your best not to be drawn in by the ever permeating smell of airport fast food. Eating a calorie-laden meal will only make you feel regret when you are 30,000 feet in the air.

 

Stay Balanced

Just as you would at home, make sure any meals you eat while traveling are well balanced. Eating six handfuls of raisins may seem healthy, but too much of anything can cause the body to feel uncomfortable. Make sure your meal has a good combination of nutrients and your energy levels will be in check. A good balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates will keep you feeling healthy and active. Even though airports seem to specialize in them, do your best to avoid foods high in salt, sugar, or bad fats.

With the above tips, some planning, and a little common sense, you can ensure you stick to your healthy eating plan while traveling. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t eat something in your home, then don’t eat it at an airport. Safe travels!

Violet’s Gluten-Free Tip: This is an excellent and comprehensive website for healthy gluten-free travelers-

http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/resources/tp/topglutenfreetravelfoodsandtips.htm