Reduce Stress / Find Comfort

rest

Stress is a constant in most of our lives.  It’s sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, but it always takes a toll on our health. In fact, most Americans suffer from a condition known as “Chronic Stress.” I make this distinction because stress itself is neither positive or negative. There is even a term—“eustress”—which refers to positive stressors in our lives—factors that provide motivation, inspiration and drive. However, over time, even eustress can result in the development of Chronic Stress. Chronic Stress is the condition in which the body’s natural coping mechanism can no longer effectively respond to one’s total stress burden.

When our evolutionary development is considered, this makes a lot of sense. Our bodily stress response was developed to deal with acute stress, i.e. being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. As a result, the body’s response to stress is to divert energy away from cellular repair, digestion and hormone regulation (not much point regenerating those organs, assimilating that meal or prepping to have a baby if you’re dead), and instead puts energy toward muscle contraction and adrenal stimulation to run away—very quickly.

The adrenal glands are our bodies’ chemical energy reserves. They are there just in case that saber-toothed tiger jumps out from behind a bush when you havn’t had a meal in a while. The adrenals kick in, giving you a jolt of adrenaline that allows your body to perform physically, even without proper fuel from food. You may have heard to the term “adrenal fatigue.” When the adrenals are constantly being activated due to stress they burn out, not only inhibiting this response to acute stress but also throwing many other systems in our body out of whack.

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of Chronic Stress and the resulting adrenal fatigue:

  • Blood sugar imbalances (craving sugary or starchy foods and/or dramatic changes in energy throughout the day)
  • Low thyroid function (identified through medical testing)
  • Decreased fertility (could manifest as irregular menstrual cycles)
  • Depression
  • Poor cognitive performance (poor memory or fuzzy thinking)
  • Poor wound healing
  • Decreased bone density (identified through medical tests or frequent fractures)
  • Fatigue (especially the pattern of not feeling awake until late morning, feeling tired late-afternoon but then better in the evening and getting a late-evening spike in energy)
  • Lowered immune function (getting sick often, slow recovery from illness or irregular WBC count)
  • Dysbiosis (poor digestion or gas/bloating after meals)
  • Cold intolerance
  • Salt cravings
  • Low blood pressure (for some people)

Sound like you? Not surprising. The typically American lifestyle and diet is practically tailor-made to put people on this track. Here are some suggestions to manage and correct Chronic Stress: Continue reading

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Cooking with Unrefined Oils

I’ve completed my first round of homework for school! This consisted of keeping a diet and activity log for a week (sooooo painfully tedious) but also creating a handout related to any nutrition related topic we chose. We’ll make these handouts as a part of each module’s homeowrk assignment, with the idea of having a variety of handouts already prepared to hand out to clients at any given time. I chose to focus this first handout on unrefined oils. As I touched on in my recent post, I never realized how highly processed and poor for one’s health refined oils are. As I began to research unrefined oils, I was surprised by the true health benefits many of them provide—it’s not something you generally think of with oil. I was also pleasantly surprised by the variety of unrefined oils that are available. I’m excited to experiment with using avocado oil, red plam fruit oil and nut oils in my cooking. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have made O’s chcolate-chip cookies with a mixture of coconut and macadamia nut oil with steller results. Buh-bye refined sunflower oil! So long!

Below is the information included on my handout. If you’d like to print a copy to keep in your kitchen, click here to download the PDF. Continue reading

Full of Beans

As all of you who are in Boulder can testify, this has been a weird summer weather-wise. It’s been in the mid-nineties and muggy for weeks on end. Aside from making me lethargic and grumpy, the oppressive heat is also making me feel mighty uninspired in the kitchen. That’s not all bad though. As I’m not feeling as inclined to try new recipes or spend hours (or any time at all) slaving over the stove, let alone firing up the oven, I’ve been focusing my culinary energy on the basics – beans, grains, simply-prepared veggies, smoothies (yes, they are their own food group)…

As a (mostly) vegan that eats (mostly) whole foods, I eat a lot of beans. For years I’ve felt less than stellar about canned beans- the BPA, the excess packaging, the extra expense. But actually getting my act together to soak and boil a big pot of dry beans was always a little intimidating. A couple of weeks ago I just bit the bullet and loaded up on dry beans at the store instead of canned. Despite the fact that my first batch (black-eyed peas) expanded more than expected while soaking and caused the jar they were inhabiting to ooze water all over the kitchen counter, I have deemed the experiment a successful one. I love the alchemical transformation through which these dry hard lumps from the bulk bin transform into swollen, soft little bits of deliciousness—their flavor is much more pronounced than the canned variety. And it sure is nice to just leave the pot on the stove to simmer without having to be in the same room. Once cooked and cooled, I’ve been loving having a mess of beans in the fridge to throw into salads, fill burritos or mix with rice. I’ve been doing much the same thing with various grains – quinoa, brown basmati rice, millet, barley. They are great to have on hand for substantial but light salads and quick lunches.

Amidst the cooking hiatus, I have crafted a couple of recipes that were remarkably delicious – maybe even warranting turning on the stove/oven (?)

Barley Summer Salad with Fennel & Chard (loosely based on the “Dill Basmati Rice with Chard ” recipe from Veganomicon)

2 cups cooked (& cooled) barley

1 cup cooked (& cooled) du Puy lentils (or other beans)

1/2 of a large fennel bulb, diced

1 small sweet onion, diced

1/2 of an English cucumber, seeded & diced

1 handful raisins

2 Tbs. minced fresh dill

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Good olive oil and red wine vinegar (in whatever proportions you prefer)– start with about 2 Tbs. vinegar and 1/4 cup oil.

Combine all the ingredients and mix with dressing. Let chill for at least one hour for optimal deliciousness. It’s even better the next day.

Sour Cherry Cornbread Cobbler (makes 4 -6 servings)

Filling:

2 cups lightly-sweetened pie cherries (sweetened however you prefer until palatable, but still tart)

2 small apples, peeled and grated

2 heaping Tbs. cornstarch

Squeeze of lemon juice

Biscuit topping:

2/3 cup cornmeal

1 1/3 cup Pamela’s gluten-free baking mix (or regular flour)

1 Tbs. baking powder

pinch of sea salt (add another if using flour)

1/2 sunflower oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1 spoonful coconut oil & 1 spoonful brown rice syrup, melted

  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Grease a pan (a large loaf pan should be perfect for this amount).
  2. Mix together the all of the filling ingredients and pour into the pan.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Drizzle in the oil and mix with a fork. Drizzle in the milk and stir until mixture just comes together.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of dough on top of the cherry filling, more-or-less covering it. Brush or drizzle the top with the coconut oil/ brown rice syrup mixture.
  5. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Mmmmmm!

Hollandaze

As the weather has been decidedly northern European this past week (cold and drizzly), I fought the urge to simply hide under the covers and whipped up two of the richer sauces I’d been putting off during the warm spell: Hollandaise and Brown Sauce. Upon my first perusal of TPC, hollandaise made me nervous. After all, isn’t it supposed to be notoriously finicky, even with out substituting any of the ingredients? But, onward I pressed, in the name of (vegan) science. My bravery paid off—I was rewarded with a slightly obscene amount of smooth, rich, beautifully-emulsified egg and butter-free hollandaise.

Per TPC’s instructions, I began with 1/3 cup of cider vinegar. I boiled it with a few peppercorns and a pinch of saffron, for color (my addition), until reduced to 1/4 cup. In the finished sauce, I found the vinegar to be a bit too pungent. In the future, I would reduce the vinegar further or use fresh lemon juice instead. I decided to substitute blended organic firm silken tofu for the eggs in this recipe, since their role is largely textural. I used roughly 3 rounded tablespoons in place of every egg, or about 2/3 cup for the whole recipe. Since eggs expand when heated, it’s necessary to use a greater volume of tofu than egg called for in the original recipe, as it remains at a constant volume. I blended together the tofu, vinegar and saffron (the peppercorns were strained out) with my trusty immersion blender until silky smooth. I then began to drizzle in the melted butter (1 1/4 cup), which was actually Earth Balance in my case. I debated using the more traditional whisking method to incorporate the butter, but I wasn’t sure how well the tofu would act as an emulsifier, so I deciding to err on the side of blending the living &$*! out of it instead. While not included in TPC’s recipe, I’ve seen many other recipes include a bit of dry mustard to act as extra emulsifying insurance as well —something to keep in mind.

In this case, my ingredients and methodology all got along famously and finished with just a pinch of salt (since EB is already salted) and about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, my lovely sauce was ready to serve. I was shocked by how authentic the sauce looked, tasted and felt. The saffron provided a gentle yellow hue (less vibrant than an egg-based version, but still satisfyingly associative) and the flavor was virtually indistinguishable from a traditional hollandaise. I’d even go so far as to say I preferred the flavor of this sauce as it didn’t have that vaguely unpleasant overtly eggy aftertaste that is often present in a traditional hollandaise. Paired with toasted english muffins, tofu rounds sauteed in olive oil, wilted spinach and roasted tomatoes, my hollandaise completed a scrumptious dinner of Tofu Benedictine, so named for the Benedictine order,  one of the earliest proponents of vegetarianism in Europe. Last night, I spooned some of the leftover sauce onto a pile of steamed asparagus – eaten none-too-neatly with our fingers, it was absolutely delicious —easily the highlight of the meal.

A few days previously, inspired to use my chanterelle brown stock to make brown sauce, aka gravy, I decided to make a springtimey shepherd’s pie. The sauce began with a typical roux, cooked until golden brown, at which time you add the stock and cook until smooth and rich-tasting. I used 2 TBS oil to 3 TBS flour, but found the sauce a bit thin. For a thicker result, I would recommend a bit more roux, just keep the proportions of oil to flour the same. In my case, I stirred a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potatoes into the finished sauce to thicken it, which worked fine for this application but certainly resulted in a slightly more “rustic” result. I also added in about a cup of caramelized crimini mushrooms for good measure = good move. I boiled some russet potatoes until soft, mashed them (with a pastry blender, which worked remarkable well, if you don’t mind scorched knuckles), and stirred in a healthy dose of homemade raw oat-milk, Earth Balance and salt. The oatmilk was a revelation here; it’s rich neutral character paired perfectly with the potatoes. These were without a doubt the best mashed potatoes—ever. I also prepared a pan full of diced cauliflower, green beans, green peas and garbanzo beans seasoned with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. I poured the gravy over the veggies and topped with a (thick) layer of potatoes, dotted with a bit of extra EB. It baked for about one hour at 350 until golden on top and cooked through. It proved a wonderfully cosy dinner for a rainy evening, and the leftovers were just as good – at least so O tells me (they weren’t around for long).

Stay tuned for coming attractions: homemade vegan mayonnaise and tomato sauce, among other wonders…

Let the veganization begin!

Since adjusting to being back in the Hometown it has become more and more clear to me that I want to pursue a culinary career. No matter how long or tiring a day I’ve had, I’m always eager to get home to my kitchen to try out a new recipe or whip up a familiar batch of cookies. And while I’ll be the first to admit that many of my interests can be intense, but fleeting, this joy from all things alimentary has been a constant in my life pretty much as long as I can remember. I’ve been concerned that to turn this passion into work might somehow cause it to disintegrate and no longer be enjoyable, but the more I reject the possibility on those grounds, the more I simply don’t see an alternative. To push aside this love and skill of mine would simply be nonsensical.

Of course, coming to this conclusion has only been just the beginning of turning this new direction into a reality. I want start from a fancially stable place, meaning this is not in the immediate future, and, most importantly, I want to find a culinary school that supports my values, as most well-know schools (CIA, Cordon Bleu, etc) tend to have a very strong French/ Classic/ decidedly un-veggie focus. Much research has turned up a couple of options: The Natural Gourmet Academy in NYC and Bauman College, with branches in Berkley and Boulder. Both offer a curriculum based around health-supportive vegetarian and vegan cuisine, with additional units on humane meats. The very fact that these schools are out there is immensely exciting to me. My personal decision to follow a predominantly vegan diet, beginning a couple of years ago, has transformed my relationship with food. The possibility to create and share this sort of food, that is not only delicious but also key in lessening the environmental degradation, human suffering, and lack of personal responsibility that is so rampant in our world, is even more exciting. But, of course, the power of food extends beyond responsibility or health. It’s also about community, comfort, culture and tradition.

In that vein, I’ve dreamt up a fascinating project to dip my toes in the world of culinary education. I have decided to veganize the Culinary Institute of America’s standard textbook, The Professional Chef. There are many fantastic vegan cookbooks out there these days, but I’ve found a frustrating dearth of tomes that focus on the fundamentals of cuisine – the how and why of recipes. Particularly when attempting to adjust or recreate animal-based recipes using vegan ingredients, I find it absolutely fundamental to understand the role each ingredient plays in the dish—are the eggs acting as stabilizers? emulsifiers? adding bulk? moisture? lift? By starting with a book which does focus on these fundamentals, I hope to create my versions of each recipe from the ground up.

I intend to make my way through the techniques and recipes, adapting them to vegan ingredients, as much as possible. There are several chapters focusing on meat, poultry and fish. I will not attempt to duplicate all of these recipes with faux-meats, instead I plan on experimenting with the flavors, textures and techniques, exploring ways to incorporate the appeal of many of these recipes into vegetable ingredients. The same goes for the egg and dairy-centric recipes. That having been said, I anticipate that my approach will evolve with my progress. My goal is to translate much of the tradition, history and science that runs deep throughout the sort of classic Euro-American fine cuisine found in this book, and so many others like it, into a completely new way of thinking about food, health and the environment.

Wish me luck!

~~Please feel free to follow along, share this blog, leave me comments or shoot me an email~~

Honey Teacakes

photo by the lovely and talented Amanda P.

A few days ago I had agreed to bake something for a party but was feeling a little under the weather. Not wanting to make (and inevitable nibble on) something full of sugar for the sake of my immune system, I dug up this recipe I’d been wanting to try for Honey Teacakes.

These delicate little cakes deftly straddle the cupcake/ muffin divide. Served plain, they would make a sophisticated accompaniment to a cup of tea, but slathered with vanilla-bean cream cheese frosting they transform into a luxuriant and unusual cupcake, but still contain no sugar, just delicious anti-bacterial honey. I used clover honey, as it was what I had on hand, but next time I’d use a stronger flavored honey, like wildflower.

Honey Teacakes (makes 10 cupcakes)

3/4 cup strong chamomile tea
1/3 cup earth balance sticks (or butter) at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/2 Tbs. vanilla extract (use something high quality- the flavor really comes through)
1 1/2 tsp. vegan egg-replacer mixed with 1 Tbs. non-dairy milk
1 1/2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 Tbs. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cloves

1) Pre-heat the oven to 325°F. Line two muffin tins with 10 cupcakes liners.

2) Boil water and pour over three chamomile teabags to make 3/4 cup. Let steep.

3) Mix water and egg-replacer and set aside.

4) With an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add honey and vanilla and beat throughly. Add egg-replacer mixture and beat until just combined.

5) Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cloves in a bowl. Mix well.

6) With the mixer running, alternate adding 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/2 of the tea (starting and ending with the dry). Mix until just uniform.

7) Distribute batter into the cupcake liners, filling cups no more than 2/3 to 3/4 full.

8 ) Bake about 10 minutes, until golden on top and toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla-Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. Tofutti brand “Better than Cream Cheese” (or cream cheese)
2 Tbs. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or butter)
honey to taste (at least 1/4 cup)
vanilla extract to taste (at least 1/2 Tbs. plus seeds scraped from one or more vanilla pods)

1) Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.

2) Drizzle in the honey, tasting until you’ve reached the desires sweetness.

3) Add enough vanilla extract and vanilla seeds to achieve a rich vanilla taste and cute speckles.

4) Chill until ready to frost the cupcakes.

Don’t wait till your sick to try these little gems. Enjoy as breakfast/ afternoon snack/ tea time/ dessert today!

Fancy-Pants Pizza di Patate

Take off your Italian fancy pants (Armani?), and pizza di patate is potato pizza. Yes, pizza with potato as a topping. Potato pizza is one of those things that just doesn’t seem like it should work but somehow does. Like potato-chip sandwiches. It’s actually very common in Italy, and if the Italians say it’s good pizza I think we humble American’t-cooks must defer judgment.

Now for you folks out there (like my mother) who are tsk-ing and saying that’s too much starch! and where’s the protein! I’ll have you know that potatoes are actually one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, containing particularly high doses of Vitamin C, B Vitamins and potassium. They offer a not-insignificant 3 grams of protein per tuber and have been shown to reduce high blood pressure and elevate mood. This is no big secret. Julia Child even praised the oft-vilified tater as being exceptionally low in calories and nutrient dense in one of her classic cooking shows (before dousing them in butter, cream and cheese… but still!).

My boyfriend discovered its wonders on our recent trip to the boot-shaped-homeland and proceeded to sample just about every variety he could get his hands on, often multiple times a day. Yes, this stuff is that good. Per his expert opinion, I decided to go with a diced potato topping (as opposed to slices) for more texture and potato-y flavor.

To experience its starchy joys yourself, put on those fancy pants*, brush off your Italian, and get in the kitchen!

1) Make or buy pizza dough (or get your future in-laws to make it for you).

2) Oil and sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

2) On a big cutting board or clean counter (without flour!), roll out the dough into a thin rectangle or circle to fit into your pizza-baking receptacle. Pinch the edges to form a slightly thicker crust. Careful transfer to your dough to the sheet/ pan and press to fit. Set aside.

3) Peel and dice about 4 large or 8 small potatoes. I used Yukon Golds, but feel free to experiment with the variety.

4) Cover the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add a teaspoon (or more, or less) or garlic. When just hot enough, add the diced potatoes. Stir a few times, to make sure they will not burn on the bottom. Cover (still stirring occasionally) and cook until tender but not mushy.

5) Drizzle some olive oil over the pizza dough. Spread the cooked potatoes over the dough. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Top with cheese (vegan cheese, of course) and a couple of pinches of rosemary.

6) Bake for about 10 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.

7) Manga, manga!

*Note: author will not be held responsible for you spilling olive oil all over your Armani trousers

Spit Spot, a Spotted Scone

Sunday mornings just cry out for scones. Some long lost DNA coding from my British ancestry rears up and demands a spot of tea, a proper scone, and a leisurely perusal of the day’s intellectually stimulating newspaper articles… or the comics. And last Sunday was no exception. There is something about their tender, just sweet enough, flavorful, cuppa tea accompanying awesomeness that just can’t be beat. A lone lovely lemon lingered in my fridge and prompted this highly successful (=delicious) departure from my usual orange currant variety. And so, without further ado, I give you….

Blueberry Lemon Scones

1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (basically just a powder made of a few different kinds of starch)
2 Tbs. water
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups white spelt flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest from one large lemon
3/4 cup diced frozen blueberries
1/2 cup non-dairy butter (sticks)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk

Heat your oven to 425°F. Make sure it’s all the way pre-heated before you put the scones in! Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with oil.

Beat together the egg-replacer and water until thickened and foamy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add the grated lemon zest and stir again.

With a pastry blender, cut in the non-dairy butter, leaving pea-sized pieces. Add the frozen blueberry chunks and stir gently to coat. Add the applesauce and stir gently to moisten.

Fold in the milk and egg-replacer, until the dough just begins to stick together. Don’t overmix! …unless you want to make doorstops instead of scones, in which case beat thoroughly at this stage.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and mold it into a rough circle with you hands. Gently flatten the disk until it is able 1 1/2″ tall. Brush with a little milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Very gently cut into 6 or 8 triangles and lay them on your cookie sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden on the top and crusty on the bottom and delicious in the middle.

Enjoy on the settee while muttering a British accent.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (that just so happen to be vegan)

Is there anything more satisfying to eat than a perfectly crispy/ chewy/ dense/ completely addictive chocolate chip cookie? No. There is not.

Now, what if I told you that by eating the aforementioned cookies you could reduce global warming, animal cruelty and your chances of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and all sorts of other nasty things! (Compared to eating non-vegan cookies, not a big bowl of steamed broccoli…duh). Would you whip up at batch right now? Yes. Yes, you would. And here’s how:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup oil (I like sunflower oil, but any [organic] neutral-flavored oil will work)
1/4 unsweetened non-dairy milk (I use almond or coconut)
1 Tbs. corn starch
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
 
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat pastry flour works well, or all purpose)
 
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup raisins (optional)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
 
[This recipe is based on the one by Isa Chandra , posted here on the PPK Blog]
 

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lay parchment paper over two cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, combine sugars, oil, milk, cornstarch and vanilla. Mix vigorously with a sturdy fork or whisk until sugar is dissolved and the mixture resembles smooth caramel.

Mix in the baking soda and salt, stirring to combine. Mix in the flour. Add the chocolate chips and other goodies last, mixing until evenly incorporated. The dough should be sticky and moist but hold together. Like this:

Evenly space rounded spoonfulls on the prepared cookie sheets.     Shamelessly lick the spoon- it’s salmonella free! Bake the cookies until they just turn golden brown and begin to crisp around the edges (about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies and accuracy of your oven temperature).

Cool (slightly) and dig in!

Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for a week (or more)… mine never last that long, thanks to my boyfriend who claims to dislike sweets… except for these cookies 🙂

Enjoy!

Yugo-Veg

(Written in October 2010)

For the sake of my culinary sanity, it’s good to be out of Romania.  I had read that Serbia and Kosovo were also majorly carnivorous countries but, in my experience, it was much easier to find satisfying vegetarian and vegan meals here than in Romania. Tomato, cucumber and pepper salads are back with a vengeance and a selection of vegetarian soups are common at most restaurants. Veggie pizza and pasta is ubiquitous but it’s also easy (and generally tastier) to piece together meals from typical local appetizers and sides: grilled vegetables, stewed beans, bell pepper dips, roasted mushrooms, potatoes, etc. For snacks, street vendors and kiosks selling roast corn, hot chestnuts and salty nuts are also commonplace. Below are a few places that stood out:

Belgrade, Serbia:

Trattoria Kosova (Kralja Petra 36)

This friendly casual bistro just off the main pedestrian shopping street looks like it could be on a trendy New York street corner.  House-baked breads perfume the air of the cosy country-kitchen inspired dining area while busy business people pop in and out for sandwiches and pastries to go. Their huge portion of tomato soup served with crunchy herb croutons was the highlight of our meal, but a good selection of salads, pizzas and pastas would have kept us coming back if we’d had more time. Be sure to save room for some homemade pumpkin burek for dessert- it was fantastic!

Allo’ Allo’ (Svetozara Markovica 19)

A cute kitchy spot for pizza and creative salads. The grilled vegetable appetizer plate also proved to be very generous (and delicious).  All dishes were prepared with a remarkable attention to detail and presentation that belied their very reasonable prices.

Prizren, Kosovo:

Ambient Restaurant (on the Shadrvan side of the river, in the farthest upstream spot)

Only the food was more awesome than the fact that our waiter greeted us on the street after we’d eaten here only once. Their very generous Mixed Salad was the best in the Balkans, featuring lettuce, two kinds of marinated cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, boiled potatoes, olives and (optional) cheese.  Delicious tomato soup, bruscetta, and reliably good pizzas, pastas and omelets make this a good bet for repeat visits. The setting, with ample outdoor seating, is quiet and atmospheric. Prices are great considering the location and large serving. A full meal for two shouldn’t set you back more than 10 or 12 euro.

Beseni Cafe (just behind Sinan Dasha Mosque)

This relaxed cafe with big white picnic tables covering their porch offers no real menu but offers expertly made coffee drinks and, unexpectedly, tasty waffles served with Eurocreme (like Nutella, only different). A great breakfast or afternoon handout spot.