Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peru pictures, "healing soup" and more...

Mike and I just returned from our 10th anniversary trip to Peru.

Since we don't have kids (yet?? Still deciding on that one) we like to travel while we can.
We talked about going to Italy, maybe Spain or France, but we really wanted to do something different that may be harder to do when we're older.

Hiking in Peru made sense!

While we love to eat fresh foods (and drink a little vino--BTW--Santa Julia Malbec is an excellent organic wine we LOVED in Peru).

We really wanted to be active during the day. I'm sure you've been on trips that literally become "pigfests!" The whole trip is about pigging out! Right after eating breakfast, you start planning lunch only to stuff yourself again at dinner!
We've taken too many of those trips!

A friend of ours hiked the Inca Trail in Peru for 4 days (he slept in tents, no shower etc.)and LOVED it! He said when you finally see Machu Picchu it's an incredibly emotional moment. We were tempted...

We TALKED about doing this, but in the end, I can admit, I pulled the plug on the idea. I played the "it's our special anniverary" card.
Don't get me wrong, this is my 5th year walking 60 miles in the 3Day Breast Cancer Walk...I've stayed in tents... I can rough it, but you can't blame a girl for asking for a little compromise... hike during the day and stay in cozy hotels at night! Can you blame me? ;)

We really didn't know what to expect in Peru! We knew we wanted to hike & explore Inca ruins in Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Machu Picchu but this is the first time I booked an international trip without the help of a travel agent.
Luckily, my sister-in-law, Terri, gave us her itinerary from a recent trip we were supposed to take with her so I was able to get a good idea of where to go & stay.
I found a great package online through Orient-Express Hotels. We stayed at Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, took the Hiram Bingham train through the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu and then spent two nights at The Sanctuary Lodge on Machu Picchu and one more night at Hotel Monasterio in Cusco.

Terri and our friends told us to stay in the Sacred Valley area of Peru for a couple of days beforehand (we stayed at Sol Y Luna) to get acclimated.
You can get altitude sickness if you fly into Cusco & expect to hike Machu Picchu right away (especially coming from sea level and then going up to 10,000 feet). You can take medication to help... we didn't.
We took liquid ChlorOxygen before & during the trip (it's a green plant based liquid that increases the oxygen in your blood. We added a few drops to water. I bought it at Whole Foods. The locals also recommend drinking mate de cocoa. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste.)

Whatever we did... it worked! We didn't have any problems at all... just occasional "heavy breathing" during our hikes.
This ended up being one of our favorite trips! The Andes mountains, the Inca villages, the Pisac market were all incredible!
Make sure if you go to Machu Picchu you also hike Waynapicchu. The mountain overlooks Machu Picchu. The only bummer is you have to get up at 5:00 in the morning to buy tickets because they only allow a certain amount of hikers each day. The good news is you'll be up early enough to watch the sunrise!

So are you wondering about the food, yet?
Nope, we didn't get sick!
The Quechua people (the language spoken by the Inca) eat a lot of potatos, grains, beans and quinoa--a high protein seed that is one of my favorite foods!
They're really connected to their foods and the environment.

The ancient Inca villages were all designed with the stars, moon, & sun in mind because the people literally worshiped the sun, moon, mountains & earth (which is one of the reasons the Spanish conquistadors destroyed most Inca buildings--except for Machi Picchu--they couldn't find it in the mountain jungle. The conquistadors wanted the Quechua people to worship Christ).

They eat a lot of whole, simple foods. We decided to pass on the cuy (guinea pig) but we did taste the "chicha" a fermented corn beer. I liked the strawberry flavor. I could NOT drink a pint or I would be out the rest of the day!

Two of my favorites foods include a "healing" quinoa soup and lentil bean salad.
I brought back both recipes because I like to make a huge pot of soup on a Sunday and eat healthy leftovers for a couple days. It's a great way to start the week off right and not worry about cooking until Weds. or Thurs!

The Quinoa soup is a great way to prevent colds or keep your immune system strong. Mike & I ate it before every dinner.
(Garlic is a powerful germicide. You can leave out the chicken and just add quinoa because the seed is a complete protein)
Here's what you need:
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 cup chopped carrots
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cip onions
-4 cups water
-1 whole head of garlic (cloves peeled & coarsely chopped)
-1 rotisserie chicken (already cooked to save time)
-6 cups chicken broth
-2 cups quinoa (rinse before you add it)
-1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions & garlic. Saute for 4 minutes.
Stir in water and chicken broth. Bring to boil.
Toss in chopped chicken and rinsed quinoa, parsely, salt and pepper. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.

We also liked this cold, lentil bean salad.

Here's what you need:
-2 cups green lentil beans
-2 cups onion
-5 tomatos (I used Roma, but others will work)
-1 cup fresh cilantro
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 limes
-1 avocado

Prepare your green lentil beans according to package. While they cool in the fridge, chop onion, tomatos, cilantro and dice avocado.
Lightly coat lentil beans with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in your vegetables. Be careful not to squish diced avocados. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad. You can also stuff this salad into a toasted pita.

We're happy to be back, but we already miss the daily hikes and incredible views!
Peru is a "must do" to add to your bucket list!