Hiking with your kids

21 07 2013

Do you live in Pittsburgh and want to know about a great place to go for a hike with small children? Reservoir Drive Walk might be just right for you!
Read about it in my guest blog post at the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog, my favourite blog to learn about things to do with my little ones!

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Greg and Ignacio having the best time in the woods.

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Avocado cake: two recipes that you will love!

22 10 2012

I know, everybody goes “Avocado cake!!?” And I don’t blame you, we relate avocados with Mexican food, as if it was the only way of using them. Growing up we ate them with mayonnaise or salsa golf (whatever the name for it is in US) and later, when I moved out, because I don’t really like mayonnaise I would just eat them plain or with salt and olive oil, make salads of different types, or mush them for guacamole. But I remember my dad always telling me that his dad used to eat them with sugar… and why not? If you think of it, avocado flavor can be defined as “buttery” but it is not definitely salty nor sweet. So I have been wanting to try it for a while, and since the awesome Bryan Street Market a few blocks from home has avocado sales regularly this time of the year, I thought I’d take advantage and buy a few avocados to try to make a cake.

What was my surprise to see that there are many options to make an avocado cake! So I just made one avocado pound like cake, and one chocolate avocado cake.

Chocolate Avocado cake with tropical avocado frosting.

The chocolate cake I got straight from Joy the Baker, it’s a vegan recipe, and that was a plus, because I’ve always wanted to know how vegans get the cake to work without eggs or anything animal. I followed the recipe as is, except that I reduced the sugar to half (only using one cup) because I figured that the frosting was going to make up for a lot of the sweetness. For the frosting I made my own recipe as follows:

Avocado frosting:

1 mashed avocado

2 cups confectionery sugar

3 teaspoons coconut milk

1 teaspoon orange blossom extract

The cake came out fluffy and moist, very palatable and the avocado flavor is very subtle, it is a light cake that does not feel heavy at all. The frosting has a very interesting flavor that I find complements the cake very well. My husband, who is very much not vegan or vegetarian, really liked this cake, as well as my toddler who does not like avocado. It’s a hit for sure!

The second recipe is also from Joy the Baker, though I modified it to my less rich taste. You can see the original recipe here. At home we like things less sweet than average and I use less butter than most, plus we really like whole grains and use white flour just for fluff. My recipe for one cake (not two) is as follows:

Avocado pound cake:

1.5 c whole wheat flour

Avocado pound cake. Very interesting texture indeed!

1/4 c white flour

1/4 c corn meal

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp butter

0.75 c sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 c milk

1 ripe mashed avocado

Preheat the oven at 350F.

Mix the dry ingredients, except the sugar.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the mashed avocado and mix until uniform. Add one egg at a time, mixing well. Incorporate the dry ingredients. The mixture will be lumpy.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry.

My thoughts on this cake: It is good and sweet as it is, I really like the unctuous feel of the avocado and how it contrasts with the rough texture of the whole wheat flour and the crunch of the corn meal. You do feel the avocado flavor but it is very different from eating it fresh, and my baby (who does not like avocado, remember?) kept asking for more. The cake disappeared faster than what I expected! In retrospect I would probably eliminate all the butter, the avocado itself is oily enough, and I think I would enjoy it better with some vegetable oil instead, for a lighter cake.

OK, here you have the recipes you asked me for with so much interest! I hope you can make them at home and have fun with them! Surprise your friends and family and enjoy them! And you know, if you do try them, let me know, I always like to know what results other people get!





Exploring our surroundings: Glacier Ridge Trail

30 06 2012

It had been a while since the last time we went to Moraine State Park, PA, and we wanted to do a test trial to see how well would Ignacio deal with a trip because we have road trip plans for this summer. In the past we had tackled some of the trails and we always wanted to do Glacier Ridge. Of course, it was understood that with a baby, in the temperatures that we’ve been having, we would not do the whole 14 miles, and we settled for a 2 hours hike.

Glacier Ridge is a challenging 14 miles trail, with numerous environments, which is part of the North Country Trail, it also connects with the Jennings Environmental Education Center. Last Saturday was blissfully less hot than the rest of the week had been (and was going to be!) so we lucked out. It is fairly transited, both on land and the lake/river, at least the part we completed. It is also dog friendly.

We enjoyed the really good markings of the trail (blue blazes) and the part we traveled was not too challenging. Unknowingly we started on the Education Center, so it was extremely easy (think flat and manicured) but also there was no protection from the sun since there were no trees. However, it was a very pleasant walk and I loved how the environments were organized in a way that would make it very easy to see what characterizes each ecosystem (lacustrine, pond, woods, etc).

After we were done with it we kept going and entered the real trail (we plan to start from here next time), which was welcomed since we finally got some shade from the tree tops. My favourite spot was the hidden river, which is a shallow and rather slow river with ridges to the sides. I am hoping once Ignacio is older we can go kayaking there, because it is seriously beautiful! We continued some more and when the trail started to get really interesting and more challenging it was time to head back :/ but we really have plans to return!

 





Supporting your local farmers with a playful twist

6 09 2011

As I mentioned before through this blog, supporting your local agriculture is fundamental for the development of the economy in your community. You can do this by buying in farmers markets and stores that you know that sell local produce, but there is another way of doing it that we choose and I actually find it a lot of fun, and that is to subscribe to a CSA. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a consortium of local farmers that prepare boxes that either are delivered to you or you pick up each week (or twice a month, it depends on the deal).

My husband and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and we find that there is not really such a big price difference with the supermarket, especially when you factor in that most of the produce that we get is either organic or naturally grown. There might be some disadvantages to this, as in you pay up front for the season, or you might pay in installments but you are locked in, and you lose your share if you are not in town that week, except if you arrange before hand with a friend. Your share also is affected by the weather conditions, since it’s local, and you do not get to pick the produce. For example, this summer has been killer for us in PA, and our shares show it! Last year we got all kinds of things that we have barely seen this year. Additionally you don’t choose and you get what you get… which for me is part of the fun of the CSA.

Forbiden Rice Puding recipe given by our CSA.

Our CSA is Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, it includes over 10 different farms (and one of them is a consortium itself) and Ms. Karlin Lamberto does a great job at keeping in touch and informing us of what we are going to get in our share each week. I get really excited about fruit and veggies, so this for me builds anticipation, and I love it! as one of the improvements this year, they have set up a blog in which you can see what you are getting each week and they share recipes that include some of the produce you would be getting. I have discovered many a new recipe that I’ve loved, and I have faced the challenge of eating things that I did not like, because of course you do not want to waste what you’ve paid for! This has built me greatly as a cook… I’ve had to find ways of making fennel or broccoli likeable for us! And I’ve discovered that I actually do like eggplants đŸ™‚

We also have discovered things that we had never eaten before (kohlrabi?) either because we did not know how to cook or because it was too expensive in the supermarket. You also get to eat the prime of the season and incorporate a wide variety of nutrients, which is always good for you. Additionally we get cheeses and herbs about every other week. Coming the end of the season we also get apple cider (one of the few things with nutrients I could take when I was in my first trimester) and apple vinegar!

Penn’s Corner also holds farms stands through the year. You can find a lot of produce that they will have and order before hand for pick up at the market. They have suggested extending the shares into the winter, which I would love to see happening, but so far they run from early spring to November.

Living in the Pittsburgh area? Consider giving them a try next year!





Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty

26 08 2011

Open since the 1940’s all year round, the Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty operates on Saturday mornings from 5 AM to noon, on 344 N Sheridan, across the Home Depot parking lot. It is an indoor market, so they can be there during winter too. I love that they are open in the morning, while most markets open in the afternoon, but don’t go in at 5 AM if you want to find all the vendors, nor after 10 if you want to find enough produce; the best time to go is around 7 to 9 AM.

Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty

I don’t think I can recommend this market enough. There is a wide variety of fresh produce and a meat stand, of course, plus a stand with Amish crafts and home made goodies. Products form India, bread, and a coffee stand (Yes, so early in the morning it would make sense!) established two years ago but recently expanded. And that is only one of the things that the owners (the farmers, since it is a coop) implemented for people to be comfortable. There is also a bike rack and a parking lot for you to leave your vehicle of choice. And the coop is always looking for sustainable  products to sell that benefit the producers, as olive oil from California or coffee beans from Jamaica. Of course, being opened all year round, some of the produce will not be local, but if you ask you will be told in all honesty what is local and what was brought from where.

If you want any of the great specialty meats that they carry you should be wise in placing an order before hand. The lambs, rabbit and other specialties are limited and they might be gone if you just show up to get some. Instead, place an order by Thursday and pick up on Saturday. At the meat stand I learned the difference between Canadian bacon and “our” bacon, because all the vendors are so nice! They all took a moment to chat with me and were very friendly. It was a bit crowded, so the stroller might not have been the best idea, next time I will bring Ignacio in the carrier instead.

My favourite? Infused honeys! Never heard of them, and I have to admit that I was reluctant of rosemary-garlic honey, but it was so good! Also, different kinds of hummus (hummuses, hummi?) to try! So here is a thought, if heading for a party this Saturday, why not pass by the market and bring hummus and infused honey to the host?





Bloomfield Farmers Market.

15 08 2011

Since I was in the early stages of my pregnancy I was not able to exercise because of medical reasons. That was a bummer, since I was so ready to run a 5K being pregnant (yes, Pittsburgh zoo, I had my eyes on you!). That would have been so cool! Nearly 12 months later I still feel quite out of shape but finally I’m hitting the road and walking as much as I can, and to keep myself from routinely walking the same streets over and again, I decided to hit some of the numerous Pittsburgh’s farmers markets.

In the heart of Bloomfield, Thursday afternoons.

Two weeks ago I needed to go to the post office and since the office is in Bloomfield I took the opportunity to visit the Thursday’s market and introduce Ignacio to the greatness of buying local.

The Bloomfield Farmer’s Market meets on Thursday from 3:30 to 7:30 PM at Cedarsville and Friendship Ave. Across the street from the Groceria Italiana, a block from the heart of Bloomfield. The offer is quite diverse, there are pieroguies and kettle corn being made in front of you (and smelling so good!), a stand with herbs, several stands with produce, some organic, some not, there are flowers being sold, bread and pastries.

The produce looked great, some of the zucchini was about as long as my forearm! and the same for the eggplants, they looked great to make some yummy eggplant Parmesan! Because I am weak for cool stuff I bought some red okra, I had never seen red okra before! So I got some for my husband, who’s Cajun and has not had some real okra in a few years (it scored me some gumbo, yay!). Do you want peppers? They have them, all kinds. Fruit? Delicious! The peaches were just perfect.

But the bread! Oh, so good looking and delicious! The bread was something to consider, and at the same price that you would buy a sad and much smaller loaf at the

Look at the red okra, behind the green okra! And all those colorful tomatoes! By far my favourite display in the market.

supermarket. I did not get to try the sweet baked goods… I

am trying to go back in shape here! đŸ˜‰

I might start to schedule my post office runs on Thursdays to take advantage of the market. And if you see me around Pittsburgh, with the baby on me, you know, I might be reviewing the next farmer’s market.