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Johnston Canyon Hike and The Inkpots Banff National Park | Umami GirlWelcome to the first post in what promises to be a truly picturesque series on hiking the national parks of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Today we’ll be showing off Johnston Canyon and The Ink Pots in Banff National Park. Our family discovered right here that we’ve reached a stage where we all love hiking, and I can’t think of anything better. The littlest Cope, now 8, needed some encouragement from time to time in the form of, “Think of how all this altitude training will improve your gymnastics!” But otherwise we fielded few complaints. Small price to pay for a new world of magical experiences.

Johnston Canyon Hike and The Inkpots Banff National Park | Umami GirlAt Johnston Canyon you can choose your own adventure. There’s a more crowded 1.7-mile hike to the Upper Falls (3.5 miles round-trip), which takes you on paved paths and the catwalk type thingy in the photo above. There’s an elevation gain of about 120 feet (which doesn’t begin at sea level, let me tell you), and the scenery is MAGNIFICENT, but otherwise this part of the journey feels a little less  hikey and a little more touristy.

The second phase of the trip, from the Upper Falls to the Ink Pots, climbs higher through the woods on dirt paths and is much less crowded. The trail opens up at the end to beautiful meadows and the Ink Pots, seven cold mineral springs that bubble to the surface. Although they’re all in close proximity, each is a different color due to the mineral composition of the spring. I’m surprised how few people decided to continue on for the additional 1.9 miles to the Ink Pots. Maybe they’ve packed their schedules, or maybe they don’t know what they’re missing. But dudes. Do it. The total round-trip distance for this hike is 7.2 miles. We got a seriously late start on the day and still had plenty of time, even with kids.

Here’s a link to the official website for the area in case you’re in information-seeking mode. If you’d like to browse photos and endure some of my color commentary (both literal and figurative), keep scrolling. (more…)

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Savory Broccoli Frittata with Mushrooms | Umami GirlWe are huge fans of frittatas on busy weeknights. This broccoli frittata saved us on Monday night after a worky-worky day. The thing is, just because a frittata is routine doesn’t mean it needs to be boring. Dinner should never be boring! I’m not sure I’ve ever made the same frittata twice, and that helps to keep things interesting. But I thought I’d spend a minute talking about the other key to “maximizing your family’s engagement with dinner,” as a social media consultant might say if she were just on the brink of hangry.  

Let’s keep it short and savory. The password is…umami. Big surprise, right? Incorporate a few handfuls of umami-rich ingredients, and you’ll never look back. In this so-called broccoli frittata, which is actually so much more, I’ve umami-bombed with (1) shiitakes (2) capers and (3) pecorino. That’s all it takes. Aww yeah.

In other news, we’re toggling between soaking up the last rays of summer sun and getting ready to head back to school. Our town’s annual firemen’s fair starts tonight, and I fully plan to ride the rainbow just shy of nausea. I’m counting down the days until I turn 40, and I look forward to kicking things off right. More to come.

Enjoy your Friday. See you soon.

Carolyn xx

{CLICK for the Broccoli Frittata recipe.}

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Chard Crostata (Galette) Corn Taleggio Olives | Umami Girl-2

As I’ve been saying a lot around here lately, I don’t turn on the oven, or even the stove, in the heat of summer without a solid reason. It’s been HOT, people. Why mess with that? Well. One reason to mess with that is a crostata, also called a galette or even a rustic tart. Rustic means that the ratio of effort to payoff is just right for summer. A crostata is the culinary equivalent of, let’s say, perfect jeans and a white button-down. Timeless and effortlessly chic. Makes you look like you care just enough. Which you do.

Crostata dough is, at its essence, a delicious shovel for the seasonal ingredients overrunning your fridge and countertop. Sweet or savory. Think stone fruit. Think tomatoes. Think chard. It’s hard to go wrong as long as you season aggressively and avoid an excess of moisture.

Chard Crostata (Galette) Corn Taleggio Olives | Umami GirlWhat you see here is the result of some slight overexuberance at the weekly farmers’ market. Maybe I showed up hungry. Maybe a NJ August just excites me. Maybe I have a hopeless crush on vegetables. Definitely I do. It’s love/hate, though, when the greens threaten a hostile takeover of the kitchen. A crostata is a way to regain control of your life. Just like that effortlessly chic version of yourself would do.

Chard Crostata (Galette) Corn Taleggio Olives | Umami Girl-2The combination of chard laced with the slightest bit of balsamic, cheese and olives, and corn in a buttery half whole-wheat crust hits all the right notes. Super-savory, a little bit earthy, a little bit sweet. Just indulgent enough, and packed with goodness too.

That’s exactly how summer should be.

Here’s a little video I made to show the initial dough-making process. Hope you like it. Talk to you soon.

Carolyn xx

{CLICK FOR THE CHARD CROSTATA RECIPE.}

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The Coup Calgary Vegetarian Restaurant | Umami Girl

Hello hello! Here’s a quick round-up of our favorite Calgary spots to kick off coverage of our travels to Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. We went to Calgary primarily to visit friends but were delighted by our adventures there. Given that our hosts are epic chefs, we didn’t eat out a ton. Yet somehow over the course of a few days we managed to sample nearly all of their favorite restaurants. Maybe because they’re epic hosts, too. Or maybe because Calgary is a cattle-ranching town at heart, and most of us don’t really eat beef. Win-win. (One win for us, one for the cows, let’s say.)

Here’s a peek at where we ate and where we played. Browse through the photos and details or head straight to the basics in the recommendations section.

The Coup Vegetarian Restaurant

The Coup Vegetarian Restaurant Calgary Menu | Umami Girl

Man, I loved this place. Great food, great decor, friendly service, full bar. (Beautiful light for iPhone photos, even.) I really think it should go without saying in 2016 that a vegetarian restaurant should understand both how to be a good restaurant and how to be a good vegetarian. And yet. It doesn’t always. The Coup gets it, and that made me happy, as did the giant, salty, briny caper berries in my Queen of Green bowl. Here’s what you’re looking at, with descriptions straight from the menu:

The Coup Calgary Vegetarian Restaurant | Umami Girl

queen of green    $17 CDN

zucchini spirals, pan seared portabello mushroom, bbq roasted camelina chickpeas, smoked paprika rolled caper berries on a bed of kale & romaine lettuce tossed in a camelina oil citrus sel de provence dressing, topped with asiago cheese

The Coup Vegetarian Restaurant Calgary | Umami Girl

bun-me, vietnamese inspired sub   $17 CDN

hazelnut & spice crusted eggplant, natural pastures cheese, shredded carrot & spiced kimchi loaded on  ciabatta with a chimichurri aioli & spicy ginger hot sauce  (check your teeth) (more…)

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Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites) | Umami GirlIt’s been a while now since the food blog world embraced Mexican street corn (elotes) and Mexican street corn salad (esquites). Usually when a trend this big hits the food blogs I take the following approach: Lalalalalala…shut up shut up shut up. But every once in a while I’m like: Lalalalalala…shut up shut up shut up…HUH…wait, that looks amazing actually. As they say in Mexico, NO DUH. (Or was that in 4th grade? Doesn’t matter.)

Couldn’t tell ya what I’ve been waiting for with this one. I first noticed esquites on Serious Eats circa 2012, and eventually it became as difficult to avoid as the mosquitos in my yard while I was photographing these esquites. Still, I did a damn fine job thinking I was smarter than or different from or what have you. Not a good call. When is it ever?

Here’s what you need to know. We’ll start with elotes. Street vendors in Mexico grill corn on the cob in its husk until it’s nice and charred. Then, the husk gets peeled back like a handle. Then, condiments. Because yay condiments! Salt, lime, butter, crema, mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder. Some or all. Again. Yay.

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites) | Umami Girl

Moving right along. Some people have a seat and a spoon. Or they have braces or dentures. Or they don’t have a grill, or they don’t have dental floss. Point being, sometimes you want your corn on the cob…off the cob. Enter esquites. It’s elotes, but off the cob. We call it a salad to make you feel good. Doesn’t matter.

Just eat it. Start now. Don’t be a dummy like me. See you soon.

Carolyn xx

P.S. Now that I’ve embraced street corn I can’t get enough. Check out these beautiful versions inspired by other cultures, too.

Korean-Inspired Mexican Street Corn from Shared Appetite
Indian Corn on the Cob from Lapetitchef

{Click for the Esquites/Mexican Street Corn Salad Recipe.}

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