Archives for February 2017

Edible (Apartment) Gardening

It’s sad to say but I only have one little houseplant in my apartment. With a plant-based diet, I often throw out many organic scraps of food (such as seeds and cuttings) so I’ve decided to experiment with edible gardening. I want to see what plants I can regrow from seeds and cuttings of produce I use daily. Not every produce I buy is organic but I’d like to see how seeds/cuttings from conventionally-grown produce will fare. Although I’m hoping to get an edible garden, my main goal is to increase the amount of plants I currently have at home for free. And if those plants can bare me fruits or veggies, then even better but no pressure.

I am not a gardener nor do I know if have a green thumb. My only gardening experience consisted of maintaining a balcony herb box and a tomato plant that eventually died. Regardless of my bleak past with plants, this will be a fresh opportunity to learn more about them in a fun, productive way.

It’s still winter here so February is the time to start seedlings indoors to have them ready for transplantation by Spring. I’ve started collecting and sowing seeds from produce I want based on daily use. Once I figure out which plants to grow, I do some research on it by googling or youtubing “how to grow ____ from seeds of fresh fruit” and go from there. I also have a book called Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening that I bought from Value Village and use it as a reference to know how to care for each plant through various stages.

Growing Seeds from Daily Produce

I started with Roma tomatoes, which I use daily for cooking. After researching how to get tomatoes started from seeds, I followed these instructions with one modification. I squeezed the seeds from a freshly-cut tomato into a small glass bowl with water, left it uncovered and placed it somewhere warm to let it ferment. You can also cover it with film wrap and poke a few holes to facilitate fermentation.

Fresh tomato seeds in water
Tomato seeds enveloped in membrane

Fermentation allows the seed to come out of its jelly-like membrane. Mine took a while to ferment because I placed them on my windowsill first, which is usually cold at this time of the year so I placed them on my water heating tank. After I noticed free seeds (without the red jelly) at the bottom, I rinsed the seeds out with water and placed them on a paper towel to dry.

Tomato seeds freed, rinsed & dried after fermentation

Once dried, I sowed 3 seeds into each prepared starting pellet, closed the container and placed it in a plastic bag tied close to create a proper greenhouse effect. I placed them on top of my water tank heater to provide a constant warm soil temperature. After 5 days, 3 of the 4 pellets germinated and shot up leaves.

Sprouted tomato seedlings

I also tried bell-pepper and jalapeno pepper seeds that were collected from freshly cut peppers, used for cooking. Again, I googled how to grow peppers from seeds. I learned that viable jalapeno pepper seeds must be from a mature, wrinkly pepper, which mine was not but I decided to try it anyway. The seeds were left to air dry for 3-4 days before sowing. I sowed 3 seeds per pellet, closed the container and placed it in a plastic bag that I left on my water-heater tank that’s in a closet. After 10 days, 2 out of 3 pellets of green bell-pepper seeds started germinating but none of the jalapeno seeds germinated.

2 smaller seedlings in the center are bell pepper seedlings

Citrus is a favourite of mine and when I found 2 seeds in a ruby grapefruit that I was eating, I decided to try growing a grapefruit tree from a seed. I opted to try the ziplock and paper-towel method of germination, inspired by this young kid’s video on it. It always makes me happy & hopeful to see young adults and children who enjoy Nature. After two weeks, each seed started sprouting into 2 plants!

Grapefruit seeds germinated in ziploc for 15 days
germinated grapefruit seedlings planted in starting pellet
3 days later grapefruit seedlings are adapting

Growing Plants from Cuttings

I use fresh mint daily but buy it all the time. Once I started with the seeds, it dawned on me to research “how to grow mint from cuttings”. I found out that all I had to do was place a few sprigs in water that’s changed every few days and with due time, roots will grow so I can replant them in soil.

propagating mint roots

I also tried it with Fresh basil sprigs. After watching this video, I followed her instructions and placed the sprigs in water after snipping off a few leaves. It’s been more than two weeks now and little roots have emerged from 2 cuttings, and I’m waiting for them to grow another inch before planting them in soil.

Basil cutting growing roots

 

Other Honourable Mentions

I’m also working on propagating the roots of a pineapple plant from the green top cutting. I’m currently germinating some Hass avocado seeds, Meyers lemon seeds and Habanero chili seeds.

Habanero chili seeds

I’m also looking for some of my favourite tropical fruits such as tomato tree fruit, loquats and mangoes to save their seeds and try growing them. By the end of it, I hope to have a small green (tropical) haven in my apartment.

 

5 Benefits of Dancing + Music Playlist to Boogy

When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you danced freely, without a care for who was in the room or watching you? Do you remember how you felt in that moment? Let me guess, happy right?! Dancing has amazing holistic benefits and can improve your mood within seconds. It’s something I practice personally, at least once a week for a minimum of 15 minutes. I usually start by selecting or making a playlist, plug my speakers in then turn up the volume and bass, and let my body feel and speak. Sometimes, I do it sporadically in between cleaning, washing dishes, while cooking or doing laundry, wherever I can fit it in. It simply transforms my mood and makes me happy. I’ve done it on days where I felt sad and home-sick, blasting Mbalax and Afrobeats jams while dancing my heart back to happiness. It also feels like I’m getting my cardio done easily while having fun. Here is a list of 5 dancing benefits and why you should keep on boogying. Please find below a rhythmic groovy playlist I made for you to dance away to, natural positive vibes Guaranteeed!

1. Stress Reliever

Dancing is a natural way to relieve stress. Simply moving to the rhythm of music will decrease any tension or stress felt and give you a sense of relief. Check out this article on how Dance Movement Therapy can help reduce stress and manage your moods for more information.

2. Fun and Easy Workout

Because you’re moving when dancing, it gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing and can be done without much equipment. Anyone can do it and it doesn’t have to feel like a workout.

3. Good for the Brain

The mental coordination that dancing requires activates multiple brain regions, which strengthens neural connections and can improve memory. Research has even showed that dancing can also reduce the onset of dementia. For more information on that check this article.

4. It’s Liberating

Dancing is a creative form of self-expression. Dancing naturally is freeing and allows you to feel unadulterated. You’ll be smiling and feeling all good because you’re expressing yourself creatively and authentically.

5. Social Activity

Although dancing on your own is truly fun, dancing with a partner, friends or in a group is also positively energetic. Dancing has a way of uniting everyone present and evokes contagious happiness with friends or loved-ones.

Groovy Music Playlist

Now that you know some benefits of dancing, here is a groovy playlist to get you dancing away. Plug your speakers or headphones, increase the volume and Enjoy!!

 

 

Restaurant Review: El Camino

Proper Mexican food is sooo goood! I like Latin & Caribbean food in general but I’m mostly used to Mexican food, hence why I love it so much. I had the pleasure of finally trying out El Camino when my brother and his wife came to visit. So I decided to write a review on it from a vegetarian/pescatarian pov.

Take-Out Counter

El Camino – Ottawa

El Camino is located downtown Ottawa, on 380 Elgin Street. Elgin is well known for its lively restaurants, bars, and nightlife, which perhaps reflects on the hours of operation and the inability to reserve ahead of time. The restaurant is opened weekly from Tuesday to Sunday. Specifically, from 17:30 to midnight Tuesday & Wednesday but closes later from Thursday to Sunday, at 02:00AM. It has an open concept and a convenient take-out counter located outside. The take-out counter also offers lunch hours Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 to 14:30. This restaurant offers contemporary Mexican plates, tacos, and drinks in a hip atmosphere with a cool ambiance. Their take-out counter offers all the tacos available, Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf and churros.

The first time I ate there was on a Saturday evening around 19:00, with a group of five. We were aware that they did not take reservations and were told it would be an hour wait-time. They gave you the option of waiting inside or leaving your number to be messaged once your table was ready. We opted for the latter and proceeded to a bar nearby for light appetizers. By the time we checked, an hour and a half had passed and we still hadn’t heard from them so we decided to go back and check.

Once we arrived, we were informed that a table was being cleared for us. We waited for a couple more minutes and were seated in a booth at the back, reserved for larger parties. As soon as we sat, an energetic waitress came by with menus, asked what would we like to drink and informed us of the daily specials. I ordered a refreshing coca cola glass-bottled pop straight from Mexico, sweetened with pure sugarcane juice. I can’t remember the last time I had pop because the ones in Canada are overly sweet but that coke brought back sooo many memories. It tasted EXACTLY like the coke I’d drink as a little kid, back home in Senegal and Kenya. Their menu is straight forward and has other options that are not tacos, and desserts.

Restaurant Food Menu

We were with family who are regulars at El Camino and advised us on what to order. As a vegan/vegetarian, your options are limited but any non-vegetarian would be very happy with the meat options. I ordered a Crispy Fish Taco and Japanese Eggplant Taco and also shared an order of Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf. I don’t eat raw fish but if you do, well there were some cool-sounding dishes like the Tuna Tartare Crispy Taco with Queso & Iceberg Lettuce or the Wild Salmon Tartare Tostada with Avocado, Funky Chili and Pickled Ginger.

Let me start with the Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf. It was super delicious and had layers of flavour! It consisted of a refreshing aromatic betel leaf that’s rolled and filled with juicy well-seasoned shrimp bits, dipped in a light batter and fried perfectly to give a crispy exterior. One order comes with 4 pieces that are served warm and are quite filling. I started with these so by the time my tacos came through I knew I’d be filled.

Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf

The Crispy Fish Taco consisted of a soft flour taco shell, shredded purple cabbage, a chunky piece of crispy fried fish drizzled with a non-spicy creamy sauce reminiscent of chipotle mayo and topped with sliced avocado, cilantro & jalapenos. The Japanese Eggplant Taco had the same base but instead of crispy fish, it was a lightly battered wedge of Japanese Eggplant. It came in a soft taco shell with shredded cabbage, a chunky eggplant wedge fried to crispy perfection, and then drizzled with chipotle mayo and topped with sliced avocado, cilantro & jalapeno. They also had fresh spicy salsa sauces that could be added to your food, and of course I added some to both tacos.

Japanese Eggplant Taco (top) & Crispy Fish Taco (bottom)

My tacos were good and I really liked the Japanese Eggplant version. It had a very crispy exterior with a contrasting mushy interior. At first bite I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but I couldn’t stop eating it until it was done. The Crispy Fish Taco was good too and you could really taste the freshness of the fish. Personally, I thought the fish lacked seasoning but that was remedied with the addition of spicy salsa sauces. I do like my food well seasoned so if you don’t then you’ll enjoy it regardless, without adding salsa sauces.

To finish off, my family ordered Churros with Salted Caramel that they said were yummy. One order consisted of 3 long-ish churros covered in cinnamon-sugar, with the salted caramel in a cup on the side. I was so full that I opted not to have any and also forgot to take a picture of it (talk about rookie mistake but lesson learned :))

The second time I ate there was on a Sunday evening to try the take-out counter. Please note that they only accept cash for payment. There was a small crowd present when we arrived and once their orders were taken, they shut the counter window and proceeded to cook. After 10 minutes, a young man opened the window with an order that was ready, he then asked us to order. He apologized for the wait because he assumed we were with the crowd of people who ordered before us. He also informed us it would take about 10 minutes before it would be ready. They offered a lovely complementary Mexican hot-chocolate while waiting. We enjoyed as much of it as possible because it was delicious and warmed us up given the winter temperatures. The food took about 15 minutes and was as good as I remembered it. I ordered the Crispy Prawn Betel Leaf and the Japanese Eggplant Taco, while my bf ordered two Crispy Fish Tacos. One thing I noticed was a slight price difference for tacos. For example, the Japanese Eggplant Taco cost $4.5 in the restaurant but was priced at $5.5 at the take-out counter.

Final Take:

It’s a cool restaurant to stop by and have a fun, chill evening with good food, drinks and good company. You can stop by after work, or before/after an event given their hours of operation. If time is a deciding factor, then perhaps try their take-out counter and understand it will take at least 15 minutes, depending on the line and crowd inside the restaurant. As a vegetarian/pescatarian, I was filled and satisfied without needing to eat more after leaving, which has happened MANY times. The food was good, the service was fast inside the restaurant, and the complementary Mexican hot-chocolate was the cherry-on-top at the take-out counter. I would definitely go back and my overall score is 4/5.

Smoky Cajun Fried Wild Shrimp (Video Recipe)

Disclaimer: This Smoky Cajun Fried Wild Shrimp recipe is pescatarian and involves frying as well, perhaps not the healthiest thing but hey, it’s also made with wild shrimp. Therefore it’s somewhat good for you 😉

I enjoy eating wild seafood and fish, not the farmed stuff. It’s not something I eat religiously, twice a day–seven days a week. I eat it on average 3 to 4 times a week. The rest of the week I eat vegetarian meals  and occasionally vegan meals, which is why I interchangeably refer to myself as a vegetarian and pescatarian. Growing up in Dakar (Senegal) the first ten years of my life, engrained me with an appreciation for fresh wild fish and seafood. Dakar is the capital city and is located on the East coast of the Atlantic ocean, which offered an abundance of fresh delicious wild fish and seafood.

Although I no longer live in Senegal, the habit of eating wild fish and seafood has remained with me. I am always on the look out for places and products I can buy to get my fix. I’ve also learned to be flexible and open to what my current environment has to offer. Living in Canada, in a city where the nearest ocean is about 300 miles away, I have come to accept “previously-frozen” fish as long as it passes my freshness test. Check out this quick video if you’re interested in knowing how to tell the freshness of the fish you’re buying.

I stopped eating shrimp for a while because I would often feel nauseous after eating it. Although I ate it throughout my life, the nauseous feeling only developed once living in Canada. After careful observation, I realized that farmed shrimp was the culprit. I ate some wild Argentinian shrimp and was able to eat it as much as I wanted with no issues. However whenever I ate “fresh” shrimp I would feel sick and nauseous. Once I did my research I realized that a lot of “fresh” shrimp sold in grocery store chains and some independent fisheries were sourced from farms. Since then I’ve stuck to the wild kind and haven’t had an issue since.

Recipe

This quick recipe evokes creole flavours with smoky undertones from the smoked paprika and a slight spicy flavour complementing the sweet juicy wild shrimp. You can enjoy it however you like, with a quick spring salad for a light meal or in a Po’Boy sandwich with sweet potato fries to seal the deal. Heck, I’ve even had it with pasta in a tomato basil sauce, like a Shrimp-Parmesan dish inspired by Chicken-Parmesan and it was delicioso!! Please find the video-recipe below and the full detailed recipe below the video. If you try it kindly let me know by commenting, rating or tagging a photo #purenaturalist on Instagram. Enjoy and thank you for stopping by.

Serves 2

Smoky Cajun Fried Wild Shrimp

15 minPrep Time

7 minCook Time

22 minTotal Time

Recipe Image
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Ingredients

  • 10 Large Wild Shrimp, peeled & cleaned
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • Flour Mix:
  • 3/4 cup Organic Spelt Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 3/4 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Old Bay Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

Instructions

  1. Combine all the Flour Mix ingredients in a bowl or ziploc bag, mix well and set aside.
  2. Beat the egg in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the prepped shrimp in the beaten egg, stir well to combine.
  4. Add egg-coated shrimp in flour mix bowl, coat each shrimp well and then let it sit in the flour for 3-5 mins.
  5. While you wait, place the oil in a pan on medium heat (or turn on your deep fryer ahead of time) so the oil is warm enough once the shrimp is ready to be cooked.
  6. After 3-5 mins, toss the shrimp in the flour mixture again to absorb more flavour and coating, before you proceed to fry them.
  7. If you're using a frying pan, make sure you only turn the shrimp once the first side is golden and crispy (about 3-4 minutes approx). It takes about 6-7 minutes to fry mine to perfection, then place them on paper towels to absorb the oil before serving.
  8. Serve with a salad or as the main feature in a delicious Po'Boy Sandwich.
Cuisine: Southern | Recipe Type: Seafood
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