Friday, February 27, 2015

Abraham Lake

In the search of bubbles

A photographer friend pointed out to me that not too far away, in the Kootenay Plains, a photographic winter juwel would lie and if I already had been there: Abraham Lake. I had not heard of the lake, but after a bit of research and seeing some amazing photos I was hooked and wanted to check it out. What makes Abraham Lake so special in winter?
Bubbles, frozen bubbles...

An amazing and very photogenic phenomenon. Why does Abraham lake feature so many of them and what are they?
Well, these bubbles are not air bubbles, they are frozen methane bubbles. Methane bubbles form on the bottom of the lake as dead organic matter, such as leaves and animals that have fallen into the lake, decays with the help of bacteria. That happens to any lake though, in very small amounts. Abraham Lake as well as Lake Minnewanka and Vermillion Lake are artificial lakes, created by damming.
Hence there is much more vegetation and other organic matter from the former ecosystems to decompose.
The methane bubbles then come up from the bottom of the lake and if the temperatures are cold enough, freeze on their way up, forming these interesting column shaped bubble formations.

Strong winds coming through the valley and a dry climate provide an often clear swept surface that makes it easy to spot the bubbles.

Since January/February is the best time to see the bubbles, usually..., we booked a room in the cozy Aurum Lodge for the long Valentines weekend. The Aurum Lodge is a small eco-lodge located right at the lake and the hosts are very photographer friendly with flexible meal times (i.e. breakfast long after sunrise and dinner after sunset).
Armed with Darwin Wiggetts eBook : Kootenay Plains & Abraham Lake Winter Edition I felt prepared for the bubble hunt.

Only that winter this year had already left...;-) Alan, the lodge host, explained, that bubble formations were visible only for a very short period at the end of December. Then the weather warmed up as it did here and the water melted in most parts.
Bummer, but contrary to the weather forecast, we had clear skies and quite nice sunrises

In the night from Friday to Saturday it had snowed a bit and everything was covered with a thin layer of fresh snow, add the warm morning light and you have a happy photographer!

Despite the fact, that I didn't get the chance to photograph the real bubbles, we had a relaxing weekend, exploring the surroundings and enjoying the outdoors.
And now we have a good reason to go back!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February Conservation Tip

Be my Valentine...

This coming Saturday is Valentine's day. Granted, it degraded more and more to another "consume" event, but on the other side it's nice to celebrate love and fondness, or?
Given the fact that it falls on a weekend this year is enough to celebrate anyway!
Thinking chocolate and roses this infogram from terrapass stopped me in my tracks....:

Click on the image for a more readable view

Ok, so no roses, no meat but fair trade organic chocolate....that got me thinking....
How about a vegetarian Valentine's feast instead, that shows your love, reduces the Valentine's day carbon footprint significantly, doesn't support factory farming and...lowers your cholesterol...;-)

I test ran it by my rather carnivore love and it got wholeheartedly approved!


Tomato soup with Avocado Basil balls
pairs well with my favorite Prosecco "Villa Teresa"


Pasta with Tofu Bolognese
goes with any deep bodied red wine


Chocolate Brûlée
best enjoyed with a glass of "Old Koot", a fine red dessert wine from Skimmerhorn, a local winery


1 1/2 to 2 lb tomatoes
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
1 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
juice of an orange
salt, pepper and olive oil

for the balls:
1 ripe avocado
3 1/2 oz cream cheese
1 bunch basil
1 table spoon lemon juice
salt, pepper

Chop the onions and the garlic and cut the tomatoes in cubes. Heat the olive oil and brown the onions with the garlic, add the tomatoes and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the vegetable broth and the orange juice and let simmer for another 15 min.
Puree in a heat resistant blender or strain through a food mill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I used the tomatoes from our garden, I still have plenty frozen, but canned whole organic tomatoes work also for this recipe. Depending on how juicy they are you may have to simmer them for a few minutes more.

While the soup is simmering prepare the balls: Mash the avocado with a fork and add lemon juice. Add basil and cream cheese and puree to a smooth cream, season to taste with salt and pepper. Use two small spoons to form balls of the cream and add to the soup.

The soup can easily be prepared ahead of time and then just reheated. The avocado balls should be made right before serving. The recipe is more than you will need for an appetizer, but it reheats and freezes easily.

Tip: Use the double amount of cream cheese and you have a yummy dip for chips and/or vegetables.

Pasta Bolognese for two:
9 oz firm tofu
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup dry red wine
approx. 10 oz pasta
6 oz tomato puree
1 bunch basil
1 teaspoon sugar
oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil

Parmesan or 1/2 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

This recipe is adapted from Attila Hildmann, a German vegan chef, and the original recipe can be found here: Attila's Spagetthi

Crumble the tofu with a fork. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry tofu for about 5 min, stirring quite frequently. Meanwhile chop the onion and the garlic, add them and saute for another 2 min. Add the tomato paste and stir for about 2 min, now add the red wine and let it cook in for 4-5 min. Follow this order, first tomato paste, then the wine as the tofu will absorb and turn the color of whatever is added first and you might end up with a purple sauce....
Now add the tomato puree and oregano to taste and let simmer for another 3 min or so. Meanwhile cook your pasta al dente and wash, dry and finely chop the basil. Right before serving fold the basil into the sauce.
If you want to go fully vegan on the entree, roast the pine nuts in a dry skillet for a few minutes and then give them together with the nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt into the food processor and blend to a crunchy powder. Serve this instead of the Parmesan. Although I love my Parmesan, I have to say that tasted really yummy!

Chocolate Brûlée:
2 3/4 cups or 650 ml whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
10 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
approx. 3 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling

This recipe fills about 8 ramekins, much more than you might need, but somehow they always vanish rather quickly in our house.
Be aware that this dessert needs to be prepared the day before!

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit and prepare a bain-marie (fancy word for a roasting pan half filled with warm water)

In a heavy sauce pan heat the milk with the vanilla bean split in half to almost boiling. Turn off the stove and let infuse for 15 min. Then remove the vanilla bean, scrape out the mark and add it back to the milk, Add the chocolate, chopped to small pieces, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and once well mixed stir it into the warm chocolate cream. Blend together and fill into the ramekins.
Carefully sit the ramekins into the prepared bain-marie and bake in the preheated oven for 30 min.
Once baked, remove the ramekins from the bain-marie and let cool down. Cover and refrigerate over night or for up to 48 hrs. 

Shortly before serving sprinkle with sugar and give them a quick caramelizing treatment with the brûlée torch. If you don't have one, like me, put them under the hot broiler just until the sugar starts to caramelize.

For all recipes I used organic and as far as it was feasible local ingredients.

Enjoy and have a great Valentine's Day!


, Thank you for letting me use your carbon footprint illustration!

Attila Hildmann

Chocolate Temptations by Linda Collister

Prosecco Villa Teresa

Skimmerhorn Winery