Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Petite Retreat: Buckwheat Porridge & Caramelized Apples

We need the tonic of wildness...We can never have enough of nature. ~ Henry David Thoreau
I needed it badly.  A getaway from the city; from my busy life.  It seems like ever since June hit I was running full steam ahead, with the new job and side projects and writing and well, life.  Taking a break from this space helped, but not quite enough.  I needed to remove myself from the everyday life and just retreat.  Luckily I knew of just the place to disappear to.  A while back a friend mentioned that she visited a beautiful forest lodge, called Flora Bora, that rented out yurts.  What is a yurt, you ask?  Read all about them here, for a far better explanation than I could ever give.  This place was to be my tonic.  

Located just two hours from home, Flora Bora is nestled in Boreal forest.  As soon as I opened my car door and inhaled that fresh, clean air, I was beaming.  If only I could have bottled some of that air and brought it back with me, for a quick whiff now and again.  Karen, the friendly and effervescent owner met me and hauled all of my luggage (I don't pack lightly, even for a yurt) via a golf cart to my rented yurt, called Betty (the other is called Yeti.  Cute!).  Of course I had seen the photos online, but nothing prepared me for how beautiful the yurt was - huge, four poster bed with down duvet; antique tables and chairs; a comfy couch for curling up on; stainless steel appliances; well thought out accents and little touches here and there.  A lovely bathroom complete with shower (hooray for running water!)  And, there was electric heat (hooray for not building fires!).  This was glamping at its finest - I was in heaven.  And then there was the spectacular scenery.  The fall colours were at their finest, so every twist and turn in the path just outside my door led to more and more beauty.  The amber light shone down on me, and every so often I would stop and just inhale and be grateful.  It sounds totally cheeseball, but it's the truth.  Not since my last journey up to the Yukon, ten years ago, had I felt so alive in a forest.  This was long overdue.

There is something about heading back to the wilds of nature that refreshes the spirit.  How much I adored not having to check into the computer, or clean the house or answer emails or even make a lot of food.  What I brought along was simple, comforting.  Frozen soups, like this borscht came in handy.  Along with fresh fruit, cheese and good bread.  And chocolate, always chocolate.  The first morning there I wanted to prepare a good, hearty porridge; fuel for my day of hiking and canoeing.  Instead of the usual oats, I brought along buckwheat groats.  Buckwheat is gluten free, high in protein and amino acids, and ranks low on the glycemic index.  Excellent for fighting inflammation, buckwheat could be called a superfood, and I'm always looking for more ways to eat those.  So, porridge it is!  Easily whipped up in about 20 minutes, with cinnamon and cardamom to bring on those warm and fuzzy fall feelings, this porridge is healthy and delicious.  I love the nutty goodness buckwheat brings to the table, plus with the addition of dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds, and the oh-so-tasty caramelized apples, it was breakfast fit for a forest warrior.
For more of my story and photos from my trip, keep on reading, after the recipe.  I promise it won't be boring!

Buckwheat Porridge with Caramelized Apples

1 cup buckwheat groats
2 cups water
1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice:  cranberries, cherries, prunes, figs, etc
2 cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom seeds, or ground cardamom 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

2 tbsp butter
2 apples, your choice, cored and thinly sliced
2 tsp honey

Serve with almond milk (or your milk of choice), toasted nuts and seeds, and a drizzle of maple syrup.  

Rinse the buckwheat with water.  Add it to a medium saucepan along with the 2 cups of cold water, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, vanilla and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and stir occasionally. After 10 minutes stir in dried fruit.   After 10 more minutes most of the water should be evaporated and groats tender.  Remove from heat.  Serve with caramelized apples, toasted nuts and seeds of your choice, and almond milk.  A drizzle of maple syrup is appropriate, too.  Makes enough for 4.  Recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories.  

Meanwhile, heat butter in frying pan.  Add sliced apples and cook until tender but still holding shape, turning over once in awhile.  When almost finished cooking drizzle in honey, cook a minute longer  Serve on top of buckwheat porridge.  

And now for the photos!  I should note that this is not a sponsored post.  I'm telling you about Flora Bora because it is truly a wonderful little gem nestled in my province, and I'm counting the days until I can go back again.  Special thanks to Karen for the amazing hospitality. 

This is the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes in the morning.  
At night, you can see the stars, too.  

How's this for sleeping accommodations?  No sleeping bag on hard ground here.  Only a cozy duvet and huge bed, all to myself.  I slept like a baby.  

How I loved hearing the wind rustle through the trees as I fell asleep.  

After my breakfast of buckwheat, I headed out for a hike.  
Gorgeous little scenes like this kept me company.  

Look up, way up.  

My ride.  

Flora Bora is nestled beside a small lake, called Tuddles.  
I went here a lot, just to sit and listen to the birds.  

Another guest and I took the canoe out for a spin.  
My favourite part of the whole journey.  

After all of this physical activity it was time for tea.  Not shown:  a thick slice of double chocolate banana bread I brought along from home.  

The right path.  

Inhale, exhale.  Repeat.  I'm so grateful for my experiences at Flora Bora.  I only wish I could have stayed longer than the two nights.  But I did leave rejuvenated and oh so happy - I guess a yurt does that!  I'll hold these images in my heart and return to them whenever I need another petite retreat. 


  1. I am so jealous of your little forest retreat... I could use a little of that peace and serenity right about now! I guess I'll have to settle for a pot of that buckwheat porridge instead. :)

  2. So lovely! That's my kind of camping :)

  3. Renee, your photos are spectacular! Flora Bora is truly a hidden gem; thank you for sharing the story and the porridge recipe. And, good for you for indulging yourself, you deserve it :)

  4. Isabelle - I wish I had some of that serenity again! Such awesome times :)
    Jennifer - It truly was beautiful. Suited these comfort camper's needs perfectly!
    Donna - Thank you! This was the best indulgence - will try and go back in the spring, which I think would be magical too. Hope you are having a good fall!

  5. It's breathtakingly lovely. I've never tried camping but glamping looks right up my alley. I hope you're feeling better and are up and around again!

  6. Oh my word, I'm going to have dreams about that bicycle. What an amazing getaway...

  7. I love reading about how people connect to nature. I live a much woodsier life than most, but hearing about how others such as yourself make small and meaningful connections, is really wonderful. I want a yurt!


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