After concluding our work in Quito, we traveled by bus for a brief tourist visit to the Cotopaxi area. Much of the two hour drive was on a rough cobblestone road, through beautiful farm country.
We stayed at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a truly unique hostel/paradise overlooking several volcanoes. Gorgeous flowers and adorable llamas abound. When we arrived, we learned that a baby llama had been born there just that day!
After settling in and having a delicious chickpea and rice lunch, most of our group headed out for a guided waterfall hike. We divided into two groups: the “fun/hard” hike (mostly hiking through a small river to the waterfalls) and the “easy” hike (mostly hiking on land to the waterfalls). I of course opted for the “easy” hike, which honestly wasn’t that easy for me. We still had to hike through part of the river, and there was some steep and slippery hiking on land. With the altitude, all of this was rather challenging for me, but the experience was awesome.
All meals are included when you stay at the Secret Garden, and nearly everything is vegetarian and grown in their substantial gardens. I failed to take any photos of my delicious meals and snacks, but the Secret Garden folks did an amazing job accommodating my vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.
I spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador in May. It was a work trip, so we only had a little time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw. At an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, it may be a surprise to some that much of the city is in a valley, nearly surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. The photos below are from my hotel and near my work site.
We had a chance to explore Old Town Quito one night. The beautiful historic center of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some buildings dating back to the 16th century!
We also had a brief stop at a tourist market. As we left Quito for our next adventure, we got a great overview of the sprawling city.
I had some concerns about finding vegan, gluten-free food I could eat in Ecuador, but I ended up really enjoying most of my food options. Below are photos from my lunches at work, and I also really enjoyed a Korean restaurant near the hotel for dinner one night.
There were also many unique fruits and juices available. Apparently, because of the many microclimates in Ecuador, you can find a huge variety of produce from different locations. We found the tamarillo, or tree tomato, served in different ways in a number of our meals.
For her fifth birthday, my daughter requested a strawberry cake with purple frosting and a candy surprise inside. The candy surprise inside the cake was something she had seen on one of her favorite shows, Creative Galaxy. The surprise cake was actually not much harder to make than a regular cake, but way more fun to cut open and serve!
After assembling the layers of the cake, I just cut a hole in the middle of the cake, dumped colorful candy in to fill most of the hole, and covered the top of the hole with a small piece of the cake. With frosting covering the top of the cake, the surprise was well concealed until the cake was cut open for serving!
This is probably the most decadent ice cream I’ve ever made.
I adapted the recipe from this one as follows:
Mix the ingredients below together, then transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker.
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
After the mixture has thickened in the ice cream maker, add 3/4 cup vegan mini marshmallows (I cut most of them in half) and 1/4 cup sliced almonds. Turn the ice cream maker back on until the marshmallows and almonds are mixed in well. Garnish with more marshmallows and almonds as desired.
There was a little bit of ice cream left over, so I used it to make popsicles, which were also amazing!
I made these adorable sheep cupcakes for Easter, based on these directions.
I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (German chocolate cake from the Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook), and store-bought frosting to save a little time.
I love any recipe that is both super yummy and super quick and easy to make. Plus this chocolate mint pie has an extra bonus going for it: one of the main ingredients is tofu, so I can justify eating a slice at any time of the day.
I followed this recipe, and because I don’t enjoy making pie crust, I used a store-bought gluten-free crust.
I made these delicious maple donuts on a snowy day in January, using the Babycakes Covers the Classics plain cake donut recipe with a little tweak. I added one teaspoon of maple extract into the 1/4 cup vanilla, giving the donuts a slight maple flavor. For a stronger maple flavor, two teaspoons of maple extract would probably do the job.
I realize that pumpkin is a fall food for many people, but I really enjoy it during every season. This baked pumpkin oatmeal recipe turned out great.
The only modifications I made were a substitution of walnuts for pecans, and I baked it in a 9″x9″ pan. This would be a great dish to make for a breakfast or brunch party!
For our annual Thanksgiving potluck dinner with friends, I brought these mini meatless meatloaves. They were really tasty and filling, and went well with the stuffing and roasted vegetables and other typical Thanksgiving foods.
I used this recipe, but doubled it to make 15 muffin-sized “meatloaves.” I followed the recipe, and for the open-ended parts of the recipe I used one can of black beans and one can of canellini beans, a mixture of zucchini and carrots, and Glutino gluten-free breadcrumbs. I used a food processor rather than chopping everything super-finely and mashing it all together. One major difference from the recipe was that I had to bake these for more than 30 minutes, but I’m not sure if that was due to altitude or imprecise measurements on my part.
These mini meatless meatloaves are great for bringing to a potluck, as they will work for many dietary restrictions, and are easy to serve since they are already in individual portions. I highly recommend labeling them though, because it’s not obvious what kind of food they are when you look at them. I think some people may assume they are a dessert food since they look muffin-like, and it could be an unpleasant surprise to bite into one of these when you’re expecting a sweet muffin flavor. If you’re expecting something savory, though, these are awesome!
I went to Phoenix, Arizona for a few days in October for a conference. First of all, the short flight from Denver to Phoenix was beautiful. As we flew over the mountains in Colorado, I could see Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Shortly after arriving at my hotel, I went for a walk to Nami, a vegan ice cream and pastry shop. The menu was full of enticing options, but I settled on a decadent “fluffernutterin tSoynami.” This amazing vegan and gluten-free treat was made of swirled chocolate and vanilla soy/coconut soft serve ice cream with peanut butter, banana, rice mallow fluff, and toasted marshmallow syrup stirred in.
Throughout most of my conference, I ate at or got take-out from Kaleidoscope Juice. Despite the juice-centric name, this restaurant has all sorts of great food. The protein bowl with tofu, brown rice, and ginger miso dressing was fantastic, and so was the gluten free protein waffle with fruit and coconut whipped cream.
I also enjoyed several kinds of Kaleidoscope’s gluten-free muffins (almond, blueberry, and pumpkin) and one of their smoothies. It was a relief to find a restaurant in downtown Phoenix that worked so well with my dietary restrictions.