Monthly Archive: March 2012

Welcome to 5 stars

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At first glance, the L’Auberge hotel looks rustic.  But once you tour the place, you start to notice it’s all a facade. 

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With satellite TV (not that I wanted to watch the Kardashians on vacation) and high tech gym equipment (in the tower’s top floor) and multiple places to lounge around outside while connected to the hotel’s (free) wi-fi…I’d say it was the perfect balance of old and new for a relaxing vacation.

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Kyle and I went to the gym 4 of the 7 days we were there.  Not bad!

We ordered room service 7 of the 7 days we were there.  Not bad!

It was so wonderful to have nothing to do.

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I know I’ve been doing day by day posts about our December vacation up until this point, but it makes no sense to continue for Punta Del Este because our days were all basically the same…

Instead I’ll give you a tour of the best rated hotel in the town country continent.

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All the photos in this post are from different areas on the hotel’s grounds.  So as you can see, it’s far from quaint. 

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In this photo, Kyle is watching Seinfeld on TV while watching an interview of Jerry and Larry David on his computer. Obsessed.  While that’s funny on it’s own, I wanted to show off how connected you can be at L’Auberge.  How much you want to unplug is completely up to you. 

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Wikipedia actually mentions the L’Auberge under the “splurge” section of Punta Del Este.  This is saying a lot since the entire town is one resort after another.  They call Punta Del Este the Monaco of South America. 

The hotel is in the most distinguished residential area in Punta del Este, surrounded by places I want to buy once I win the lottery.  And it’s only a few minutes to walk to the beach.

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The staff is extremely friendly and hospitable.  They made every effort to make sure we were comfortable and content.  When they weren’t sure about the dairy in a dish, they would go ask someone who knew.  When our combined Spanglish wasn’t translating, they went to find someone else to help.  When we needed umbrellas, they provided them.  It was the best customer service I’ve ever seen. 

The hotel website says We strongly support the idea that an international hotel should develop the "Art of being a Good Host" – and you can tell that’s something they practice each and every day.

As for the food…

They have a few different dining areas, depending on the time of day, but by far, my favorite was the tea house.

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Every day from 5 to 8 pm the tea room serves traditional Belgian waffles

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I never had to look at a clock to know when it was 5 because I smelled the delicious aroma immediately. 

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The waffles are actually one of the main reasons the hotel is famous.  People travel from all over to dig into the sweet gofres.  It was what sealed the deal when I was researching hotels as we planned our trip!

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They also serve tealosophy teas, with variety aplenty.  I tried quite a few over the week long stay.

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The waffles come with sweet or savory toppings, but we always went with sweet.  The idea of a savory waffle with cheese sauce sounded really good to me, but I can’t tolerate dairy.  Kyle, however, thought it was sacrilegious to top waffles with a non-syrup-like sauce. 

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So we stuck to miel and dulce de leche.  Oh, and powdered sugar.  Hello diabetes!

And now for some room service eats…

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We had to get a bit creative at times. 

Kyle wasn’t eating much meat at this point and was getting tired of the dairy heavy pasta.  I was also throwing the chef some challenges with my meat & dairy free requests.  Basically we did a lot of menu tweaking, but the staff was super understanding and friendly and we never felt like we were putting them out.  They just wanted us to be happy, so we just tried to make the most of it.  I will say, the rapid translating and looking up words in Spanish was pretty exhausting. 

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This particular dish took 30 minutes to construct over the room service phone.  It’s basically stir-fry veggies with a sesame soy sauce.

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Steak with a side of veggies and grilled cheese skewered with rosemary.

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Pasta with marinara and fresh bread.

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Dairy free split pea soup with toasted sourdough and fresh Ciabatta bread.

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More pasta.

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More pasta.

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Salad and pasta.

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I loved this salad and wanted it the next night, too, but it wasn’t available.  I guess it’s nice to know they only use fresh ingredients.

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Lunches were much of the same, but eaten at the poolside restaurant. 

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That bread!  It made my taste buds swoon.

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Like in Argentina, meal times were way later in Uruguay, so we often waited until 5 pm to have waffles for lunch.

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I could have bathed in dulce de leche.  To be honest, there were a few times I nearly did.  I think Kyle was equally embarrassed and jealous.

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Waffles feel so indulgent when they are eaten for a non-breakfast meal.  Such a treat!

Speaking of breakfast…

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The morning spread was available til 11 am every day and had so many things I loved.

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Fresh fruit and fresh bread. 

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Pastries that I’d never seen before. 

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Cereal and granola.  Greek yogurt and fresh juice.  These are the things I will never tire of. 

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I managed to find lactose free milk at the town grocery store, which came in very handy. 

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With that and a bunch of bananas, I could have been jet set for the week.  But I lucked out with the supply of granola and cereal.  Each morning was a new combo of fruit and grains!

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They were wonderful enablers, letting me take full urns of coffee back to the room with me.

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And since no vacation is complete without daily desserts, here’s a small sampling of the week’s chocolate and alfajores.

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As you can see, there was no shortage of good eats at L’Auberge!

Basically our stay felt like a combo of bed and breakfast and Ritz Carlton treatment.  Cozy and friendly yet classy and posh.

Tempeh, corn & rice

Tempeh is…hearty, nutty, and packs your meal with oomph.

And it’s ridiculously simple to sub in your regular recipes in place of meat.

Like instead of ground beef in tacos.  Or Bolognese in lasagna.  Or chicken in a wrap.  Or tuna in a sandwich.  Or meat in a stew.  You get the idea…it’s a very versatile food. 

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Belly warming.  Heart healthy.  It’s tempeh time!

Tempeh, corn & rice

[vegan, gluten free]

Ingredients:

  • 1 block tempeh (I used LightLife)
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

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Boil ~1 1/2 cups water.  Cut tempeh block into bite sized chunks.  Add to water.  Reduce heat and wait for tempeh to softens a bit.

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Add spices and let the tempeh simmer on low.  Leave the top of the pot off so the water can evaporate.  Once the liquid has reduced quite a bit add the corn.

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Feel free to crumble some of the tempeh chunks.  I like the consistency to be a mix of crumbly and chunky. 

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Once the liquid has reduced to almost nothing it’s ready.  Serve over a bed of rice. 

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The extra juices will only enhance the rice.

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I had it with a side of baked butternut squash too. 

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This recipe is really clean, but when I drizzled a little olive oil on the butternut squash my taste buds were so very very happy.  Olive oil is good stuff.

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So is tempeh.

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If you’re interested in more tempeh recipes, try:

WF vegan tempeh salad

Dijon Tortilla Casserole

Tempeh Tacos

Kale & Tempeh BLT

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Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food

In reading this blog, there are at least three things you’ve probably come to know about me:

1. I love vegan food.

2. My GI system is whack.

3. I will never ever ever tire of reading/collecting/bookmarking cookbooks.

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This is my latest obsession.

The thing about gluten free cookbooks, is they often have meat recipes.  And yet, many vegan cookbooks have wheat recipes.  So it’s pretty awesome that Susan O’Brien has written some cookbooks for both populations.

I’ve drooled over every single page.

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I can pretty much guarantee you will too.

Sweet potato biscuits?  Raw cinnamon rolls?  Millet bread?  Pumpkin pizza crust?

Yes please!

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This is the Banana-Nut Bread (made in ramekins instead of a loaf pan).

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The only change I made was subbing applesauce for butternut squash puree.  I did this because I didn’t have applesauce but I did have leftover roasted squash.

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The bread was truly remarkable, and made the entire house smell delicious.

It was warm and comforting, just like the book’s title suggests.

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I’m actually really glad I made them in the ramekins as opposed to the bread pan because having individual portions forced me to pace myself in eating the bread.

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Trust me.  It’s a miracle I didn’t finish them all off.  Had I used a bread pan this post may be nothing more than a few images of crumbs.

That’s another thing you can add to the list at the beginning of the post.  I love bread.

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Oh!  I almost forgot to tell you about the sauce I poured on top of them!

  • home-made peanut butter
  • fancy cocoa powder
  • almond milk

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So.  Good.

Chef Tanya’s nachos

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Way too much food for four people. 

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For no reason, a group of us went to Native Foods for dinner the other night.

I’ve been to the Palm Springs, Costa Mesa, and Westwood locations, but not the Culver City one.

I forced myself to try something new, which was hard since I love the scorpion burger and kale macro bowl a lot.

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Kyle and I ordered the Nuevo Native Nachos to split…which was a blessing and a curse.

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O.M.F.G.HIJKLMNOP…

Fantastic.  If you go to Native Foods, I command you to order these.  I don’t know how I will ever force myself to try another Chef Tanya creation now that I know what these nachos taste like.

I made the mistake (or awesome decision?) to dominate the chips and cheese and guac while Kyle was distracted with his main course.

Which meant he was too full for the nachos, but I was too full for my Yo Amigo Taco Salad.

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I took the entire thing home.

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Kyle got the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger.

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Ethel got the Scorpion Burger.

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Alene got the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl.

And we all had leftovers.  Happy dinner outing.

A mid-shift rendezvous

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I worked both days this weekend.  I should have called in sick – at least one of the days – but I’m trying to save my sick days.  It’s harder to staff weekend shifts so it always looks a little shady when you call in sick on Sat or Sun.  It makes you appear unreliable and unprofessional.  Like you’d rather be frolicking on the beach with your friends than doing your fair share of weekend time.  Despite the fact that this weekend’s weather wasn’t remotely nice…and my throat felt like it was stuffed with razor blades…and I had a headache that throbbed when I did so much as walk quickly…I still didn’t call in.  I didn’t have a stroke either.  But I am now spending my day off trying to nurse my throat back to normal.  I woke up twice last night in agony.  I can hardly swallow and there’s a tickle that sends me into a fit of lung hacking every 10 minutes.  My intercostals ache from the muscular convulsions my coughing causes.  Yuck. 

Oh and the worst part of all is that I had the same patients for both weekend shifts and on Sunday afternoon the MD called to tell me one of my patients’ tests [MTB QuantiFERON-TB Gold (QTG)] came back positive for TB so I should start him on airborne precautions right away.  START the precautions!!!  Ummm, what about the other 395 times I interacted with him and had no mask on?  How about when I adjusted his high flow nasal canula while he was unable to breathe and coughing his mycobacteria out on me?  Fantastic!  I don’t know how much good gloves and hand hygiene can do in that scenario.  Not good.  Not good. 

I work again on Wednesday so I hope I can pull myself together by then.

I was really hoping to see Katniss and Peeta today, but maybe I should wait til the TB clears coughing subsides before I see the movie.  I don’t wanna be THAT girl in the theatre. 

The perk about working on the weekend is that Kyle is off.  He’s usually totally busy with schoolwork and business stuff, but on Sunday we arranged a mid-day rendezvous.  In the morning I told him which lunch hour I’d be getting covered by the break relief RN (1300) so he could time it all out.  He picked me up at the emergency room turnaround and (since it was pouring rain) we drove to WF for a treat.  As you know, I always make my own lunches.  Each and every day.  Without fail.  Eating out on a work day is a foreign concept…and such a novelty…I may as well have won the lottery!

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Since I was sick, I went with throat soothing options: hot soup and vegan pizza.

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The soup was butternut squash based and pretty good.  Nothing I’d write home about.  It took my full break time just for it to cool down enough to eat though.  The pizza was a thin crust with daiya cheese.  It was heavenly.  I finished all three slices.  The person serving me thought I was a pig as I told her how big to slice it.  She kept trying to give me smaller pieces and I was like “no ma’am, I need to get my pizza face on right now”.

After warming my throat and belly Kyle drove me back to work.  Seeing him in the middle of the day was so nice and gave me such a boost…and it helped break up the shift too. 

Plus when I got home, dinner was already done since I hadn’t eaten my work lunch at work!  Win win.