Squamish, BC is less than an hour from Vancouver but, in many ways, it’s a world away. At first glance you’ll see a typical Canadian small town with strip malls, fast food joints and a bustling Tim Horton’s. But then you look up and see the stunning mountain range right beside the town and Squamish no longer seems anything close to typical. This hiker, rock climber, and snowshoer’s paradise is one of my favourite mini getaways. The mountain range is called “The Chief” and now has a gondola that takes you part way up the mountain to tree lined hiking trails with breathtaking vistas.
If you love the outdoors and are planning a trip to BC, definitely put this winter wonderland destination on your list.
With all of the political unrest south of the border dominating the news this week, I can’t think of a more soothing place to write about than Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island.
I was lucky enough to spend three nights there a few weeks ago and the whole experience was a blissful, back to nature retreat.
Let me start with the view. Our room faced the ocean and we saw breathtaking vistas like this every day from our balcony.
The hotel is quaint and luxurious at the same time, making a visit there feel like entering a warm haven from yesteryear. If I had to describe the visit in a metaphor, staying at Sooke Harbour House is like wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket with a good book beside you and a cup of delicious hot chocolate cupped in your hands. And, speaking of good books, the hallways of Harbour House are lined with shelves and shelves of books. There are also super comfy love seats nestled in the hallway, waiting for someone to sink into them and dive into one of those good books.
Leave your room for an afternoon and you’ll see that the grounds around the Inn are filled with an edible garden. Herbs, lettuces, root vegetables, fruit trees and lots of beautiful edible flowers make the garden a delight to walk through. And later at dinner, the unbelievable freshness of your meal is a foodie’s dream. This is due to so many food items being picked from their very own garden but also because they source almost all of the menu items from the Island. Sooke Harbour House is an example of the 100 Mile Diet at its best.
Then there’s room service. Here we have garden pomme frites, a chanterelle soup and garden salad topped with pretty edible flowers.
Everything tasted amazingly delicious, as did every other meal eaten in the two restaurants, The Copper Room and The Restaurant. If you’d like to make this rich and creamy soup at home, so you can cuddle up in a fuzzy blanket and forget about all of the worries of the world for a while, let me help you out…
Sooke Harbour House’s Chanterelle Walnut Soup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups wild chanterelle mushrooms, brushed and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, shelled
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
20 fennel seeds
10 coriander seeds
10 cumin seeds
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream (or whole milk for a lighter version)
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
Place butter in large, stainless steel pot over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add mushrooms, walnuts, onion, carrot, celery, fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds, and saute until onions are translucent and carrots begin to soften (about 10 to 13 minutes). Add garlic and ginger, and saute for 5 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Add white wine and increase heat to high. Reduce wine until approximately 1/4 cup remains. Add stock, cream, and bay leaves, and bring to boil. Then, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat; remove and discard bay leaves. While soup cools, prepare garnish. Place whipping cream in medium-sized bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Once soup has cooled for 30 minutes, puree in blender at high speed in small batches for 2 minutes each, or until very smooth. Return puree’d soup to pot. Bring to boil and serve. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with a dollop of whipped nasturtium cream. Serves Six.
Meandering through an old growth forest, running along a pristine beach that seems to go on forever, watching the sunset from the top of a mountain.
These are some of the things you can get up to when visiting beautiful Vancouver Island and here are a few snapshots of my recent visit there.
What makes you feel on top of the world? For me it’s overlooking stunning views like this..
St. Mark’s is a 5.5k trek up the mountain and takes about 4 hours round trip. It’s trail goes through a misty, magical forest and, as a grande finale, ends up overlooking the stunning seascape of Howe Sound.
It’s a hike that will also have you working up an appetite. So, I’ve created a yummy, vegan, apres hike dinner that features one of my all-time favorite dishes, Pan Fried Tofu Cakes. These cakes are smoky, onion-y pieces of foodie heaven and are served with a yummy spicy mayo. They are seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
Here’s the recipe:
Pan Fried Tofu Cakes
- 400 grams soft tofu, drained for 3 hours
- 2 eggs
- 2 T Worchester sauce
- 6 drops of sesame oil
- 3 shakes of chili spice
- 2 T julienned green onions
- 1 package Asian seasoning mix
- 1 cup panko flakes.
Place tofu in colander and break apart let stand for 3 hours to completely remove water. If this isn’t done cakes will not form.
Next beat eggs, Worchester and chili oil.
In a separate bowl combine the seasoning mix, green onions and add wet ingredients with 1 cup of panko and mix by hand. The mix is ready when a ball can be formed and hold its shape like a meatball. If mix is too wet add more panko until achieved. Scoop enough to form a 3 inch diameter cake. Don’t go too big or they will be mushy. Pre-heat cast iron pan and add olive oil. Place patties in pan for a few minutes to make them crisp on each side. Finish in a 350 oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Finish the meal with a big bowl of blackberries or cherries and a lovely Okanagan wine and you have all of the ingredients you need for a healthy, delicious (and sugar free) feast.
Last Sunday I felt the need to unplug from the city so my pup and I headed to a sweet stretch of beaches a little west of my home and spent the day soaking up West Coast nature.
We ran through the slippery, slimy (but therapeutic) mud of low tide.
The answer to that? A yummy Chunky Monkey smoothie..
1 scoop chocolate protein powder of your choice
1 T cacao (organic raw is most delicious)
1.5 cups almond milk
1 scoop ice cubes for a milkshake consistency