Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grain Bowls

I was reading the January/February issue of Chatelaine on the flight home from Mexico, and saw the weekly meal plan featuring five days of grain bowls.  Last week we made all five of the bowls from the magazine.

First up was a turkey and farro burrito bowl:

This was the cover recipe, and we thought it was terrible.  Actually, we didn't use the egg on top, because when reading the list of ingredients and the recipe, it just didn't seem to fit at all.

We don't shy away from putting eggs on dishes where eggs wouldn't normally go, such as hamburgers, poutine, noodles, etc., but on top of a burrito bowl!?  It seemed bizarre.  The worst part about this bowl was the raw radish slices.  We are both big radish fans, but again, they did not belong in a burrito bowl, and the textures were all off in this dish.  The other thing that we found frustrating was that sour cream, although listed as optional in the recipe, was not listed at all in the shopping list provided.  We used the shopping list as it was intended - to shop from, and were disappointed when reading the recipe later on, as we had to go back to the store for sour cream (it's not optional in this house).

Next up was a Mediterranean quinoa bowl:

We thought this one was pretty good, but again were disappointed, as the hummus and/or tzatziki, which this time were not optional ingredients, were not listed in the shopping list.  Very frustrating.

The poke bowl was really good:

We thought that most of the ingredients fit in this dish, although we'd likely switch it up a bit if we made it again (maybe eliminate the carrot and cabbage, and add cucumber, sesame seeds and wasabi).

The fourth bowl was a falafel Buddha bowl:

The best part of this one was the roasted acorn squash; it was delicious!  The rest of the bowl was okay, but we thought that there should have been a lot more sauce.  We ended up making another batch of sauce, as there wasn't even enough for our two bowls, and the recipe was for four people!

The last bowl we made was a hoisin chicken rice bowl:

This was one of the best of the recipes we tried.  There was Mandarin orange in it, which paired really well with the chicken.

All of the recipes we tried were super easy, and took no more than 40 minutes to make, including both prep and cooking time.  It was convenient that there was a grocery list to follow, organized really well by produce, grains, etc., but it was disappointing that two of the ingredients were missed on the list.  I'd say overall the recipes were decent, but none of them were keepers.

Have you ever followed a weekly meal plan from a magazine, website, or book?  Are there any you follow regularly?

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Since getting home from Mexico, we've been loading up on veggies.  We got groceries last Saturday evening once home, and then had a big salad for dinner that evening.

Last Sunday Christopher was excited to get into the kitchen and make breakfast.  Whenever we're away, we always miss cooking.

I was happy that our poinsettia was still alive (it's been over a month now) - yay!  Poinsettias are definitely the best bang-for-your-buck when it comes to flowers.  They are so lovely, and are easy to keep alive for a long time.

Have you seen cauliflower "rice"?  We found some at the grocery store, and made a delicious fried-rice-like dish with it for lunch last Sunday.

Christopher isn't really a fan of cauliflower, but he liked this dish a lot.  It took on the flavour of the other ingredients we used.  It made a good substitute for rice, for anyone looking to reduce carbs (we aren't, but are always trying to increase our vegetable intake).

We also got a pot of chicken bones and veggies simmering on the stove, to make stock for chicken soup.  The chicken soup was our lunches for the start of last week, and I made a veggie quiche to have for breakfasts.

Dinner last Sunday was veggies with salmon.

All week we had different grain-based bowls.  I'll be doing a separate post about those.

Dinner tonight - more salad!

Ugh, this dull winter lighting is making me sad.  I hate to take photos in the house on winter evenings.  It's dark when we're eating breakfast, and dark when we are eating dinner.  Also, it's still freezing cold around here.  I am longing for the days when I can photograph outside, or at least have bright, natural light well into the evening.  I am longing for backyard time, and BBQing ... unfortunately there is still plenty of winter ahead.

How was your weekend?
Have you ever had cauliflower "rice"?
Are you longing for Spring already?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mexico Vacation: Excellence Riviera Cancun

On December 30th we were up well before the sun. It was the coldest day of the year, and we were wanting to make it to the airport for about 3:30 a.m. to catch our flight to Cancun.

Our flight went really well, and we were at our resort by the early afternoon.  Our room wasn't ready for about half an hour, so we went to Aroma, the excellent coffee shop, and grabbed a couple bevvies.

We enjoyed espressos while wandering around our favourite all-inclusive property.  It was just as beautiful as we remembered. 

Our room was ready in no time.  We had requested to be in the same room as we had last time, and although they couldn't get us the exact same room, they got us a couple doors down.  I had emailed this request in about six months ago, and they had it on file, and did their best to accommodate.  The service at this resort is outstanding.

We were in a swim-up room, which is simply the best.  The yard, our personal day bed, and hammock, cannot be beat.

Since we were return guests, they had a couple little gifts on the bed for us when we arrived, which was a nice touch.  Christopher wore his Excellence hat every day, haha!

We ate breakfast at the buffet a lot of the time, but once we went to the Lobster House for breakfast, and twice we ordered room service.

The smoked salmon with capers, cream cheese, and onion was one of our favourite things to eat at the buffet. 

A couple of our lunches were eaten at the Lobster House, as Christopher is obsessed with their fish tacos.


I had the fish tacos on one of our visits, but another time I tried the pibil chicken.  It was amazing!

We also ate lunch at the the Steakhouse, and one of the Italian restaurants, got wood fired pizza by the beach, and ordered room service.

The dinner options are endless.  Sometimes we ate an appetizer at one restaurant, and then moved to another a couple hours later for the main course.  Since we love Indian food, and it was so good, we ate at Basmati the most.

One of the servers really liked us and told us to come back on our last evening at the resort, and he'd have a special table for us.

On New Years Eve every restaurant had a set menu with multiple courses.  We eliminated a couple of the courses, and just went with three, which was way more than enough.  The beef was great and tasted just like at home.

Later in the evening we rang in 2018 on the light up dance floor.  There were light up accessories for people to take (sunglasses, rings, glo sticks etc.), as well as beverage (bubbles) and food stations, and little favours to take back to your room.

It was a super fun evening!

For dinner another night we went to the French restaurant, which is definitely one of the best. The duck confit was so good last year, that I had to get it again.  The lighting wasn't great for photos though.

We also ate at the Asian restaurant, where I had delicious pad Thai.

And a tapas restaurant, where Christopher raved about the anchovies, paella, etc.  I didn't have too much, as I was full (this was a late night double-dinner - haha!  Have to take advantage of that all-inclusiveness). 


We had lobster one evening too, with coconut shrimp to start:

We didn't even get to two of the restaurants (Mexican and one of the Italian places) on this trip, and didn't eat at the Sports Bar or beach diner, Las Olas.  There are just too many options, and everything is so, so good.

We did play some pool at the Sports Bar:

And did a lot of reading and relaxing.


I think this was the most relaxing vacation we've ever had, and it was definitely what we needed.

Much of our time was spent around our swim-up pool.  There were always numerous, if not all the chairs, free to choose from, and servers were always prompt to come around to these chairs, or to our day bed or hammock.  They often brought surprise snacks to offer people too, which was nice.

We didn't spend a lot of time at the beach, as we're more just looking for the heat, and aren't much for going in the water anyway.  The beach was beautiful though, and we loved walking in the soft, white sand.

The resort was at 100% capacity when we were there, and yet it was impossible to tell.  We often felt like we had the place to ourselves.  There were never any lines or waits for anything, which is probably due to how well the resort is laid out, how much there is to do, and how many people they employ.  You don't have to walk very far to get to anything either, which is really nice.  It is definitely not one of those resorts that has golf carts or other types of carts to get around; they aren't needed.

This was the swim-up bar in the middle of the afternoon one day ...

Ha!  Everyone must have been at the beach, or lounging in their ultra-comfortable rooms ordering room service.  If you like privacy, you can clearly get a lot of it at this resort.  If you want to mingle, you can do that too, especially around the martini bar in the evening. 

Everything is #topshelf

I suppose it's needless to say, but we'll be back.

If you are thinking about visiting this resort, you'll want to read this post, and this post, that I did last year that explain all the amenities, perks of the resort, dining options, etc.

What did you do on New Years Eve?  
Do you have any trips coming up?