Green Point: Cusco’s vegan restaurant

When you think of Peruvian cuisine most of us think of seafood, cuy (aka guinea pig, a delicacy in the highlands) and meat. What you wouldn’t think is one of the most popular and incredible restaurants in Cusco, Peru (in my opinion) is Green Point, the cutest vegan restaurant I have ever been to.

Not only are the staff wonderful and the atmosphere adorable, the food is cheap, delicious and portions are large.

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So, what brought us back here four times during our stay in Cusco? Let me just tell you about what we ate and you’ll understand.

1) Bruschetta

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The fresh bread is topped with olives, capers, basil, tomato and vegan cheese. The flavours bring a unique twist to what we know in North America as bruschetta. If you’re a fan of this popular appetizer, make sure you give this a shot!

2) Enrollado de Papas/Wrapped Potatoes

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If anyone said potatoes can’t taste light and fresh, they’re wrong. Sitting on top of a passionfruit sauce the zucchini roll has light mashed potatoes, avocado, lemon and pepper inside of it, topped with rice noodles. On the side is a marinated seaweed, which to my surprise complemented each element perfectly.

3) Pan al Ajo/Garlic Bread

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This garlic bread will blow your mind. The bread is as fresh as it could be and not only is there garlic incorporated in the green sauce, garlic slices are charred to top the bread. Oh, and they give you extra green sauce as well, because lets face it, there’s never too much garlic.

4) Rissoto de Champiñons/Mushroom Risotto

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To say I’m a fan of mushroom risotto is an understatement. So obviously, I was intrigued. Topped with an amazing red sauce, the black and white mushroom risotto was cooked with coconut milk, giving it a surprising spin on what I was used to. It was the best surprise of anything I ate there.

Other items on the menu I tried out and would recommend if you find yourself here:

  • Sandwich con verduras grilladas/Grilled vegetable sandwich
  • Plátano, cacao, maca y leche de coco/Banana, cocoa and coconut milk smoothie

Make sure to visit Green Point’s website if you are making a trip to Cusco, Peru! It won’t disappoint.

A football match in Argentina

I have never been to a football (aka soccer) match before in my life, but knew South America was the place to see one if I ever would.

The passion on the streets, in bars and cafés, let alone inside a stadium, is contagious and intense. Each team has their own stadium and are scattered around Buenos Aires with some rival teams just a couple blocks from each other.

We went to see a match between two local Buenos Aires teams – C.A.I. vs
Defensa y Justicia.

Prior to entering the stadium you have to park about 10 blocks away since the streets are swamped with people having beers and eating chorizo, hamburgers and empanadas. If you’re ever in Argentina, make sure you grab a chorizo on a bun and add some chimichurri to it. You won’t regret it.

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We were at the C.A.I. stadium which seats 40,000 people in total. In this stadium, opposing team fans can come in, but are restricted to a certain area. In the BOCA stadium, the most popular team, there are no opposing fans allowed in the stadium.

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Before the game started there was a full marching band playing and it continued during the entire 90 minutes of game time. Throughout the stadium people were chanting in sync, lighting things on fire and waiving massive flags supporting their team.

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The game ended with a 1-1 tie. Immediately when the game ended the opposing team was escorted out by police officers and they were also lined up on the field in anything happened.

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If you’re going to be heading to South America make sure you experience a game. We didn’t come across any sort of violence, so don’t be worried! It will be an experience and feeling you’ll never forget.

How to survive a 20 hour bus ride

When traveling for an extended period of time, bus rides become a big part of your life and you begin to consider yourself a professional at being a passenger. Between three months in Europe and a month into South America I wanted to share some tips on how to survive these long bus trips.

1) Buy snacks.
It’s convenient and cheaper. If you buy a couple snacks at a supermarket then you’re not paying for the overpriced ones at the stops. This way you eat when you’re hungry since you can’t really ask to stop at a McDonalds or Pizza Pizza on the way.

2) Pay a bit extra for luxury.
Going the luxurious route is 100% worth it. For example, in Argentina there are three levels of comfort; Semicama, Cama-Ejecutivo and Cama Suite. The Cama Suite offers chairs comparable to Lazy Boy and they go all the way back. This will make your long winded trip from point A to B much more enjoyable and relaxing.

3) Take advantage of an overnight option.
This is key. You can kill time easiest while you’re asleep. If you’re on a journey exceeding 15 hours, why not make a night out of it? You save money on spending at a hostel or hotel and you’ll surprise yourself with how well you’ll sleep. 

4) Do your research.
Look for a bus company that works best for you since many have different options. For example, some buses offer wifi or a small screen each passenger to watch movies and listen to music. If it’s a really long ride, make sure food is included. Even though you’ll bring snacks, a good meal is always helpful!

5) Make a stop in an unexpected town.
This is my favourite tip. If you have the time during your travels and have a long bus journey, look into what’s on the way to your next big destination. If you find somewhere that looks interesting stop there for a night or two. You’ll meet some more great people and discover a place that you never expected to.

South America: the beginning

I have officially been in South America for two weeks and decided to try and post as often as I can (though they might be short and sweet). Tomorrow, we leave the beautiful country of Brazil to head into Argentina.

So, where did I go in Brazil?

1) Rio de Janeiro

Rio is an incredible city with views I have never seen before in my life. There is a hike called Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) that will blow anyone’s mind. After taking a bus to the Favelas, we hopped to motor-taxis (exactly what it sounds like – motocycle taxis) to make our way up to the base of the mountain. Instead, they dropped us all off at a random street corner, leaving us to find the base ourselves, in the Favelas. After going through some backyards to find it, we were on our way. The hike is a little strenuous but it’s worth every aching muscle. Here’s a glimpse of the view -

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More things to do in Rio include checking out Christ the Redeemer. We hiked up the mountain to get to it which was a really great accomplishment in my books as it’s quite steep and difficult! Here’s one view you find at the top -

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Also head up Sugar Loaf Mountain for more great views. Check it out at sunset, it’s stunning. As much as Copacabana beach is beautiful, Ipanema beach is also a must see spot.

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2) Ilha Grande

This island is breathtaking to say the least. With over 100 beaches there’s always something to discover. It was raining while we were there, so we didn’t get the chance to experience all that the island has to offer. We did do a hike up to Dois Reis which took a while, but it lead to the coolest beach landscape I have ever seen.

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The island itself is very calm with a hippie vibe. A perfect resting spot.

3) São Paulo

Many people say it’s a concrete jungle and because of that we almost skipped this city. However, São Paulo surprised me.

First off, graffiti in Brazil is stunning and Batman Alley (or Graffiti Alley) in São Paulo is mind-blowing. This alley is completely covered in beautiful, intricate art pieces that you could stare at all day. Right by Vila Madalena, it’s easy to find, but a little hard to get into. You have to walk down a main street to find a small gate leading to the entrance.

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Right now there is an art exhibition happening at an abandoned hospital in the central area of they city. It’s by far one of the most unique, largest and creative that I’ve seen. We spent about three hours and could have stayed longer.

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There is also a crazy open air market here filled with hundreds upon hundreds of people on any given day. It’s an experience to say the least. Everyone knows about it, so it’s very easy to find.

Today we went to what I was looking forward to most – the Food Market – Mercado Municipal. With stands holding hundreds of different spices and countless exotic fruits (can’t say I remember what they’re called) discovering new flavours are everywhere. The amount of calabrese salami available was shocking and the samples were neverending. It was perfect.

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*Salami tip of today – soak slices of calabrese salami in olive oil and they taste even better. I didn´t think it was possible to make it better either, but it is.

I’ve got to say Brazil has been good to us and I’m sad to leave – but our next stop to the Iguazu Falls will get us nice and ready for Argentina.

Until next time, Obrigado & boa noite!

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Homemade kale & blue cheese pizza

I have a serious love for pizza, recently a new one for blue cheese. So, this recipe is awesome to say the least since it incorporates both.

What you need:
- Pizza dough (you can make your own but I bought it ready made)
– Kale
– Prosciutto
– Mushrooms (I used shiitake)
– Garlic
– Olive oil
– Blue cheese
– Mozzarella
– Italian seasoning
– Red onion

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Steps:
1) Preheat your oven to 400C.

2) Put flour on top of the counter and roll out your dough. Grease either a pizza pan or baking sheet and put the dough on the pan evenly so the dough touches the corners.

3) Chop up the onions and garlic. Add to a heated saucepan and cook until soft. Add the kale and sliced mushrooms, let them cook slightly then put the mixture in a bowl for later.

4) Time to build! Sprinkle olive oil on the dough then start layering ingredients. I started with the kale, mushroom, red onion and garlic mixture. Then I added prosciutto followed by the mozzarella and chunks of blue cheese.

5) Top with a drizzle of olive oil and Italian seasoning if desired.

6) Cook the pizza for about 20 minutes in the oven. Or when the crust is brown and cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

Find your happiness

I haven’t posted in a very long time – but trust me when I say there’s a good reason for it.

My life has changed pace a little since an incredible opportunity came my way – to travel South America for three months. The continent is one that I’ve been dying to discover for years, but there was one hiccup, I had a pretty great life going in Toronto and three months is quite a long time. In the end I decided that I would deeply regret never joining my best friend on the great adventure. So, I dropped everything and the past month has been devoted to planning the trip, which is now two weeks away.

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Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Some people think dropping everything and going at the age of 25 is risky and irresponsible, but I want to challenge those people. Yes, I left a job. Yes, I will miss my boyfriend and family. Lastly yes, I will miss Toronto and the comfort of home. All of these are legitimate concerns and leaving my job was a sad day and a hard decision in itself, but in the end what I am going to get out of this journey will surpass anything living in the comforts of home will get me for those three months.

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Machu Picchu, Peru

I wanted to write about this because I have a strong belief in travel. Or, on a broader note, the power of doing what you believe is best for you. It’s hard to push through when people tell you that your decision may be a wrong one, but if your gut and heart tells you to do it you probably should. Mind you, these people will likely have legitimate concerns, and you should take them in consideration as I did, but you know what’s best for you. I had the same issues and feelings when I moved to Banff and when I went to Europe for three months alone – both were two of the best things I have ever done in my life.

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Santiago, Chile

Everyone will always have thoughts on the decisions you make and what you want to do. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, not putting yourself at risk and following what you know will make you a happier person, then you should do what your heart tells you.

If anyone has ever been to South America and would like to send over some ideas of what my travel partner and I should do, or what you recommend please do! We will be in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

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Ilha Grande, Brazil

How to satisfy your inner health nut

I’ve got to say – being in Toronto has made eating healthy difficult.

It’s not as if I eat terribly. I try and cook dinner and bring a lunch to work when I can, but it can be hard. It’s just that everything they make in restaurants looks so much better!

Here are five realistic steps for all those food lovers out there who aren’t willing to sacrifice grilled cheese, tacos and Pizzaiolo but want to eat a little better.

1) If you ate lunch already, don’t eat a second one.
I can’t count the number of times this has happened to me. To prove to myself I’m healthy, I’ll bring a lunch, then go for a walk down Queen Street. The problem is there’s countless food options that beat my lunch by a landslide. Yet, even though I’ve eaten – I buy a mini poutine anyways. Don’t do it. You really don’t need lunch number two. Trust me. I regret it every time.

2) Make lunch with your dinner.
When you’re making dinner, just make some extra for lunch. My issue is always making way more than needed, but instead of saving some for lunch, I eat it. This always makes me feel too full and sick. Just save it for lunch –  you’re saving money and being healthy at the same time. Double winning!

3) Eat the food you bought.
We’ve all been through it – opening the fridge after a week and realizing we didn’t eat half the produce we bought and SURPRISE, it’s gone bad. If you go home and cut up all your vegetables right away, it’s more likely you’ll eat them faster.

4) Use Pinterest.
Seriously. It’s amazing for recipes. Most of what I make is based off of what I find on Pinterest. Even if you don’t feel like eating it that night – Pin it and save it for later.

5) Avoid the danger zones.
These are stores like the Dollar Store and Bulk Barn – stay away. Trust me on this, I live next to a Dollar Store – it’s a dangerous place. Have you been down those candy aisles? Try and reserve these trips for nights of indulging and just buy massive bags of candy like I do.

Flashback: Europe

One year ago today I was hanging out in London, England on day three of my big solo two and a half month Eurotrip. Going alone was scary. Especially because I hadn’t done a big backpacking trip before, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that you shouldn’t let a bit of fear drag you down, because the best can come out of it.

In light of thinking about my travels I thought I would share five of my favourite memories and spots while I was flailing around Europe.

1) Food Market – Barcelona, Spain
This was not only one of my favourite markets, it was one of the best meals I had. The market is insane – people running around, yelling Spanish words I couldn’t understand but an incredible place to be. That plate of mushrooms you see down there, I’ll be craving them for the rest of my life.

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2) The Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France
I didn’t go up the Eiffel Tower. I’m sure it would have been great, but I also thought I could get views of Paris in other ways. Compared to the Eiffel Tower, it’s pretty cheap to go up the Arc de Triomphe (10 Euros if I remember correctly). I didn’t want to go down after I was at the top – it was simply stunning.

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3) Croatia – All of it
If you’re in Europe, try as hard as you can to make it to Croatia. Their tourism has skyrocketed in the past years and there’s a good reason for it. It’s cheap, beautiful and the locals are surprisingly nice. The national parks (specifically the Plitvice Lakes), views and beaches are what stand out. If you love fresh figs like I do, they hang off the trees there. It’s a fig-lovers paradise.

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4) Jumping off boats – Corfu, Greece
This was just too much fun not to put in the list. We went on a boat tour around the island stopping for lunch and in random spots to jump off the boat. Oh, and there were drinks available for 1 Euro. Yes, just 1 Euro. If you’re in Greece and on one of the islands, I would highly recommend looking into a day trip on a boat.

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5) This view – Switzerland
I’m going to be honest, I can’t remember exactly where this is since I was on a bus heading to my next destination. What I can tell you though, is I had one of those ‘aha’ moments when I saw this. Switzerland in general has incredible views like this. This one however, is why I love to travel and inspire people to take that leap of faith.

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Saturday night stay-in

This past Saturday I strategically went home to my parent’s house when I knew my brother was working, my mom was out for a birthday and my dad was at the cottage. Why would I do such a thing, you ask?

So I could have a night, completely alone.

I’m not sure about you, but sometimes living in the city can be exhausting. I think we all need a day to sit back, relax and enjoy a glass (or bottle) of wine.

After spending a Saturday night alone, I noticed some awesome things about it.

1) You do what you want to do – I went to Flavourtown
We all have those things we say we’re going to do and we just don’t. When you’re home alone and relaxed, you do it. It really doesn’t even have to be productive. For me, it was binge watching Food Network over a double pepperoni pizza.

2) It’s relaxing, not boring
Some people think they’ll get bored if they just stay in. They’re wrong. These days our lives are rushed, so when we stay in we feel like we aren’t accomplishing anything. In reality, the act of doing nothing (aka relaxing) can help clear your head and de-stress. At least that’s what I found.

3) There’s a lot of thinking involved
I think a lot as it is and last Saturday was an overload of thoughts. Since I was alone, I had time to actually look at my thoughts in perspective allowing things to become a little bit clearer. As clear as it can get for a 25-year-old at least.

4) Motivation happens
With all this thinking happening, motivation is inevitable. Thinking about what you want when you’re alone creates an energy to step up and make it happen. I sat down and actually made a couple of goals for myself that I’ve managed to keep up with (for 6 days at least).

5) It’s not scary to say “I’m staying in tonight”
This staying in on a Saturday night in your mid-twenties stigma is silly. Everyone wants a night alone, don’t be scared to do it. Just remember, those people giving you funny looks are about to spend lots of money at the bar tonight and will probably wish they stayed in when the hangover kicks in.

Chicken Caprese with Arugula salad

I have been waiting to make this Chicken Caprese dinner for months. Thanks to Pinterest and The Novice Chef I was able to make it with only one hiccup – a blistery burn.

Warning – if you decide to make the delicious garlic bread, don’t put your oven on broil and think you can grab that pan with just a towel. Oven mitts are your friends.

Here is what you’re going to need:

  • Chicken breast
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves (minced)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Basil leaves
  • Buffalo mozzarella slices
  • Balsamic vinegar

Now, I’m not putting measurements in since really, you can put however much you want to eat. Plus, don’t think I want to expose how much garlic I used in this meal.

  1. Start off by heating a bit of the olive oil in a pan. After it’s heated put the chicken breast in until the bottom is browned, then flip it and cover to let it cook through.
  2. While you’re waiting, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, mince the garlic and chop the basil. In another pan heat some more oil and add the garlic, followed by the cherry tomatoes.
  3. Once the cherry tomatoes begin to blister take it off the heat and stir in the basil.
  4. At this point, your chicken may nearly be done cooking. Grab some arugula and lightly mix in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Add a slice (or two like I did) of the buffalo mozzarella on top of the chicken and the cherry tomato mixture to the pan.
  6. Cover, and let sit until cheese is melted.
  7. Serve immediately with some balsamic vinegar.

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If you’re feeling crazy and want to add some serious goodness to your dinner, here’s how I make garlic bread.

  1. Turn the oven on broil.
  2. Grab a fresh bun and  cut it in half.
  3. Melt a some butter in the microwave.
  4. Add minced garlic (I usually add two cloves or so) to the butter.
  5. Pour the mixture on top of the bread and throw it in the oven.
  6. It doesn’t need long, make sure you’re checking it almost constantly.
  7. Serve immediately.

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At the grocery store a stop at the wine shop was also a priority. I went with one I hadn’t tried before, the Trius Cabernet Franc (featuring my dog Boomer) a perfect pairing and also a new favourite.

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because Toronto has it all | except mountains.

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