Tag Archives: guacamole

Mexico Munching: Day 3 and 4

28 May

Day 3

By the third day of my Mexican retreat I was well in the swing of things. Same morning routine as mentioned in Mexican Munching: Day 1 and 2:

Wake up. Light breakfast. Gym. Pool. Lunch.

I great way to start any day I would think.

Day 3’s poolside snacks included a fresh and citrusy ceviche as well as, you guessed it, more guacamole. Clearly I was starting to get experimental with my drinks and ordered a Pay-ay, which provides a melange of various alcohols and fruit juices served in a personified pineapple. So that my Pay-ay friend wasn’t lonely, my cousin ordered a Coco-loco, a similarly decorated drink that infuses its booze with coconut milk and coconut water. Fun and festive, the Pay-ay and Coco-loco are both tasty and entertaining, and even provide a delicious post-drink snack with all the fruity facial features.

Grouper citrus ceviche

Guacamole, salsa, and chips

Coco-loco and Pay-ay

These delights were digested by the Grand Luxxe pool, which is steps away from the beautiful Cancun area Caribbean ocean. The beachfront of this resort is as gorgeous as the rest of the compound, with countless cabanas, huts and chairs to relax on as you take in the surrounding serenity.

Dinner offered a classier alternative to my lounge-chair lunch, as some of the more mature members of our party decided to dine at Tramonto, an upscale Italian restaurant. Appetizers included a spectacular beef carpaccio, accompanied by a wild mushroom salad served in a radicchio cup, as well as a delicate caprese salad, beautifully presented greens salad, and a creamy tomato soup garnished with three adorable crispy mini raviolis.

Greens salad

Caprese salad

Beef carpaccio, with a wild mushroom salad

Tomato soup with crispy ravioli

For my main dish, I enjoyed an impeccably prepared seared tuna with a side of spaghetti that was as equally perfectly presented. Dessert was an interesting, yet exquisite provolone cheesecake with a black cherry coulis that proved to be an ideal ending to this rich and flavourful meal.

Seared tuna with a side of spaghetti

Provolone cheesecake with a black cherry coulis

Day 4

You’d think at this point I would have sprouted gills with all the fish I was eating, but it’s hard to resist when it’s this fresh and prepared in such amazingly varied ways. One of the best fish dishes I sampled during this vacation was a grilled fish taco, with fish so flavourful itself, it really didn’t need much accompaniment. But of course it came with ample amounts of guacamole and beans, that of which I didn’t turn away. Along with my tacos, I enjoyed a tropical melange somewhat reminiscent of the sea itself, with its light blue colour, the result of a mix of rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, coconut milk and a splash of lime.

Grilled fish tacos

My sea-creature consumption only continued during dinner, at the Asian-style restaurant Gong.  For a starter I had very thinly sliced seared tuna in a mix of manzano chilli pepper sauce, soy sauce, yuzu, truffle oil, green apple, mint and seasame seed with wasabi, and sampled bites from my mom’s black cod, served with asparagus and a hijiki salad.

Sliced seared tuna with manzano chilli pepper sauce, soy sauce, yuzu, truffle oil, green apple, mint and seasame seed

Black cod, served with asparagus and a hijiki salad

I also ordered Kobe beef skewers served with pickled vegetables, and a delicious drink called Island Vibes that mixed together clove and cinnamon infused rum with lime juice, simple syrup and tamarindo, to create a cocktail reminiscent of southern sweet iced-tea.

Kobe beef skewers served with pickled vegetables

Island Vibes cocktail

The sushi at Gong was some of the best I’ve ever tried, especially the beautifully presented ahi tuna cone with thinly sliced avocado.

It’s a good thing my dinner of appetizers was so light, because dessert offered quite I different experience. Never one to turn down something dipped in batter, I decided to go for the deep-fried ice-cream and also had bites of my cousins’ deep fried banana dish, accompanied by the no doubt healthier option of grilled bananas,  as well as a scoop of light, yet rich chocolate mousse.

Deep-fried ice-cream with fresh berries and mint

Deep-fried and grilled bananas with chocolate mousse and vanilla ice-cream

Another couple days of great food and drink – a wonderful warm-up for the feasting that was about to occur on day 5 of my trip.

For more, check out Mexico Munching: Day 1 and 2, and Mexico Munching: Final Highlights

Mexico Munching: Day 1 and 2

23 May

Simply put, Mexico makes me happy: the heat, the water, the bright colours everywhere, the friendly people, and of course the food. Mexican food is quite possibly one of my favourite types, and when I come to this country, I definitely don’t hold back. Over the past week it’s safe to say that I consumed my weight in guacamole, tortillas, and various tropical drinks infused with coconut milk and pineapple juice, never once getting sick of my delicious daily routine. Of course, my trip wasn’t all about food (although that is always a big part of it), so here’s a look at the resort I stayed at, as well as the amazing edible delights I enjoyed at The Grand Mayan situated between Cancun and Riviera Maya.

Day 1:

Arriving in Mexico is always a little chaotic. Hoards of pale North Americans buzzing about, many stepping foot in this hot country for the first time, almost unable to contain their excitement of pending poolside fun. While I have already been to Mexico, I’ve never been to the Cancun side. The airport itself didn’t offer much cause for confusion, and of course, like the Puerto Vallarta airport I have visited many times before, there was that blasted button, which always seems to give me the honour of the red light. But it’s simply a small delay on one’s way to a week of rest and relaxation – it’s a good thing they don’t do a similar exercise on your way back home as you leave somewhat sunburnt and extremely sad.

The ride to the resort wasn’t long, and offered an interesting look into the surrounding landscape. Flat and lush, the Cancun-Riviera Maya stretch is much more tropical than I remember the Nuevo Vallarta ride to be.  The arrival at such monstrous resorts like The Grand Mayan, always stops my heart a bit. So large and exquisite, the stone gates are not only physically impressive, but also summon you into a week long fantasy where your biggest decisions are what bathing suit to wear and what pool to swim at for the day.

A view of one of many pools at The Mayan Palace, Riviera Maya

One of the indoor common areas at The Grand Mayan

A peaceful isolated cabana area at one of the Grand Mayan pools

I took a shuttle to the Grand Luxxe section of the resort which offers rooms equipped with full living amenities such as a large kitchen, two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, two living rooms, a dining room and a large balcony with its own mini swimming pool.

One of the rooms in the Grand Luxxe suite

One of the bathrooms of the Grand Luxxe suite

One of the balcony’s off of the main living room of the Grand Luxxe suite, with a patio-pool

I met up with the rest of my family, who had already arrived, and then headed down with them to a nearby burger bar called The Burger Custom Made (for a link to this restaurant, and all the others mentioned in the next posts, please click HERE). There are 13 of us in total, including a 4 year old and a 9 month old baby, so the nights where we want to eat all together require particular planning and sensitively when considering the dining environment. The Burger Custom Made was a great place to eat for patrons of all ages, and more importantly, a great place to enjoy the company of the extended family I rarely get to see.

The menu was large and kid-friendly, but also had a wide selection of gourmet burgers that please a more mature palate. I had a lamb burger served on peasant bread with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, feta cheese, and an olive tapenade. My burger was accompanied by a delicious cup of truffle-oil fries, and to drink, I went for one of my favourite cocktails, a Mojito. Other dishes enjoyed by my family members at The Burger Custom Made included a salmon burger served with an Asian-style slaw, as well as a 5-cheese macaroni.

A Mojito at The Burger Custom Made restaurant

Mediterranean lamb burger with roasted vegetables, feta, and an olive tapenade, served on peasant bread

Salmon burger with an Asian-style slaw

5-cheese macaroni

 Day 2:

The next day I began my “rigid routine”:

Wake up. Eat a light breakfast of yogurt and fruit. Head to the gym (a necessary feat when considering the volume of consumption). Head to the pool. Order varying combinations of fish tacos, guacamole, tortillas, and colourful alcoholic beverages to lull me into a warm state of afternoon bliss.

As mentioned in Smart Snacking and then again in Heating Things up at Home, I could happily eat my way through a pool filled with guacamole (although thankfully ours was actually filled with normal swimming water), so naturally my first order was guac and chips.

To quench my thirst, I tried a classic strawberry margarita, and mix of tropical fruit juices with a slash of soda water.

Left: strawberry margarita, Right: orange, pineapple, papaya juice with soda water

Afternoon dining was decidedly casual with its poolside setting, lounge-chair seating, no-shirt-no-shoes dress code, all set to the soundtrack of laughing children cheerfully splashing around in the water.

After a relaxing evening of jacuzzi-ing and deck-drinking, I met the whole crew at an outdoor Mexican restaurant called Balche.

There, I enjoyed a dish called “Veracruz” which offered a light white fish in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers, onions and green peppers, served with cilantro rice and sauteed vegetables. Other dishes of note included traditionally prepared beef tacos, another fish dish of grilled grouper served on a banana leaf, and an interesting sliced salad with carrots and jicama and citrus fruits.

Chips with four salsas of varying heat

Chips and guacamole

Veracruz Fish

Traditional beef taco

Grilled grouper with sauteed vegetables and grilled fruit

To drink I had a tangy margarita on the rocks containing orange, pineapple, lemon and lime juice.

After dinner a few of us wandered down to the water, where we danced the night away to the rhythms of a fantastic live band with an ocean breeze keeping us cool from all the beach-side boogieing.

A relaxing day, a delicious dinner, and a fun night. I decided that if I were to maintain this “routine” I would have a rather successful week.

For more, check out Mexico Munching: Day 3 and 4, and Mexico Munching: Final Highlights

Smart Snacking

20 Mar

Like most people I love to snack, but I often take it to a whole new level when I go days without sitting down for a real lunch or dinner and simply supplement my diet with mini-meals here and there. While they say many small meals a day can be good for you, it’s only “good for you” is your snacks are healthy and balanced. I often find myself drawn to chips, chocolate and anything that has to do with cheese, but there are in fact some ways you can confuse your taste buds by satisfying your cravings with some simple smart snacking tricks.

Snack Trick #1: Add Healthy Filler to Your Dips

Veggies and dip. It sounds healthy enough right? But so many dips are high in calories and low in nutrients. Basically anything made with full fat sour cream or cream cheese is in the danger zone, so many people recommend using low or no fat alternatives, or simply subbing in humus for your otherwise unhealthy carrot coater. Another suggestion I stumbled on recently was a way to cut calories when making guacamole. I LOVE guacamole. I could literally eat it with anything, and while I don’t think avocados are really all that bad for you, if you’re eating tubs of it at a time you’re definitely getting up there in your calorie count. One trick for this decadent dip is to supplement about half of the avocado filler with white kidney beans. It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it’s equally as delicious. A healthy dose of lime and cilantro offers a similar taste sensation, and the kidney beans provide added protein with less fat.

Guilt-Free Guacamole with White Kidney Beans

Guilt-Free Guacamole Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped sweet onion
  • Salt
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 2 plum tomatoes

Method:

  • In a food processor with the knife blade attached, puree beans and 1 tbsp lime juice until smooth, and then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
  • In the same processor, place cilantro, onion, and 1/2 tsp of salt and pulse until it’s juicy and thick.
  • With a spoon, scoop the avocado from its peel into the bowl with the beans. Mash them together with a fork until the mixture is blended, with some chunks remaining.
  • Cut each tomato crosswise in half. Squeeze halves to remove seeds and juice.
  • Coarsely chop tomatoes and stir the tomato and onion mixture into the avocado mixture until its blended. At this point you can stir in any additional lime juice to taste.

Snack Trick #2: Pick Smart Chips

While veggies such as carrots, celery, and cucumbers are supposed to quench that crunchy craving, sometimes they just don’t cut it. So if you really want to burn through a bag of chips, I suggest choosing a variety that offers maximum nutrition with minimal caloric content. Two of my favourites are Terra Chips and Riceworks. Terra Chips are made up of an assortment of vegetables including taro, sweet potato, yucca, batata, parsnip, and ruby taro, which are baked and of course packed with more nutrients than you’d find in regular potato chips. Rice Thins on the other hand may not have such a wide array of nutritional variation but the fact that they’re made with whole grain brown rice offers added nutritional benefits including higher fibre than white rice, corn chips or once again, regular potato chips.  Both of these options are preservative free, celiac friendly, and contain less fat than standard potato chips, and in my opinion are just a lot more satisfying so you can be happier with less.

Terra and Riceworks Chips

Another crunchy snack recommended by many dieticians is low fat popcorn. Now I get it – sometimes the low fat version just doesn’t hit a home run with the taste factor. So if you want to add a little kick to your popcorn without dousing it in butter and salt, try a small spoonful of olive oil combined with a mix of summer savoury herbs and a modest sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  These easy-to-add ingredients pack a lot of flavour so you don’t need very much and thus save on fat and sodium content. It’s also just fancier which is always fun 🙂

Herb and Parmesan Low-Fat Popcorn

Snack Tip # 3: Chocolate CAN Stay

I hate anyone who says that you have to cut chocolate out of your diet to be healthy. As long as it doesn’t cause serious health risks due to some allergy, I say keep this glorious treat! The only thing I would suggest is sticking to better quality varieties, and eating only 1 to 3 pieces at a sitting, slowly sucking on the chocolate letting it melt so that you can experience the full flavour and enjoyment out of each little bite.

For good quality, satisfying varieties try these:

Bonnat Chocolatier‘s Java 65% dark milk chocolate made with Indonesian milk with hints of tobacco and caramel.

Patric’s Moka OMG for a smooth blend of rich dark chocolate and craft-roasted espresso 700 coffee beans from the award-winning artisan coffee roaster Kaldi’s.

Republica del Cacao’s Arriba Galapagos Islands Chocolate Bar with Coffee Nibs for a crunchy kick that’s as ethical as it is delicious.

Madecasse‘s Bean to Bar in Madagascar pink pepper and citrus for a different sort of chocolaty experience.

Askinosie‘s dark chocolate and malted milk “CollaBARation” with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.

Or another great way to enjoy chocolate as a dessert is to combine it with fruit. While some people shun many fruits as being too high in sugar, I personally feel that fruit is one of the best things to snack on. Firstly it’s delicious. AND furthermore most fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can’t be found in many other foods. In addition to this, many fruits have high water content, and maintaining hydration is actually a key aspect of cutting down snack cravings. Finally adding extra fibre to your diet is never a bad idea, so I say let them eat fruit!

I like dipping fruit in chocolate, and an easy sweet snack is to add a spin on chocolate covered strawberries by substituting the normal baking chocolate with Toblerone. The crunchy nougat adds a little something extra and you may even find yourself being more satisfied with just a few bites due to the richness of the chocolaty tip.

In the end though, there’s no one way to eat, diet, snack, indulge, whatever your relationship with food may be. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it is in fact a relationship whereby you should maintain an open and honest conversation with your body as you figure out what’s right for you, what makes you happy and what satisfies your cravings.

So what’s my number one advice for snacking? Don’t deprive yourself, just snack smart.