the taste space

Chickpea Salad with Mexican Mango Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on May 5, 2011


My most popular post, as assessed by page views, is for my Mexican Salad with a Creamy Avocado Dressing. It is a big leafy salad with black beans, tomatoes, tortilla chips smothered in a creamy avocado-based dressing. Since today is Cinco de Mayo, it has seen some extra hits recently. Cinco de Mayo: a celebration of Mexican culture (with lots of great Mexican dishes). Who needs an excuse to get together with friends over guacamole?

This weekend, I will be attending a Cinco de Mayo party. The twist: the party is in Kitchener. Weather-permitting, I plan to commute from Toronto by bike. I am not joking. It will be over 120km each way. Never fear, I plan to sleep over on Saturday before heading home.

Suffice it to say, I try to pack light while cycling. This means,  not only do I plan to wear my pyjamas at the party, but sadly, I won’t be bringing a dish for everyone to eat. If I were to share a dish, I would likely make this chickpea salad with a Mexican mango dressing (the rehearsal was a success!).  I adapted it from My New Roots, where chickpeas are tossed with crispy carrots, crunchy red bell pepper, hidden slivered spinach and fresh cilantro in a creamy, zippy dressing made from pureed mango and lime juice. Similar to my previous Mexican salad with a fruit-based dressing, this one tastes best fresh. The zing from the chili flakes is most pronounced the day it is made and it mellows as it sits as leftovers. I simmered my chickpeas with a few cinnamon sticks and really found that cinnamon complemented the salad well. Feel free to use any assortment of crunchy vegetables and your favourite green for the salad. Don’t skip the cilantro, though.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month, featuring spinach and to E.A.T. World for Mexico.

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Romaine Wrap with Hummus, Almonds and Prunes (aka an Impromptu Cycling Lunch)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 4, 2011


Memories are funny things. You tend to remember the good parts, and, slowly, the painful parts disappear.

It is important evolutionarily, actually, because otherwise women wouldn’t go through childbirth a second time!

I am also experiencing amnesia this year. I trained last summer to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall (325 km) over 2 days.  I had wet rides in the rain, tough climbs up hills, and super sore after coming home from Cornwall. But all of that is overshadowed by the triumph of completing such a goal (having done no long distance cycling ever) and how much fun it was to explore the larger GTA by bike with Rob at my side (usually in front, to be precise). It was a wonderful summer.

My goal this year is to cycle from Ottawa to Kingston and back (a hilly 355 km over 2 days) in early June with my father, Rob and some other friends.

Rob and I have tried to get out to cycle, but the rainy weather and work commitments have prevented us a few times.  While it was raining all week, Saturday conferred a perfect spring day which we capitalized to do our first (metric) century ride of the year (101 km). I picked one of my favourite routes, up to Aurora, which we adapted to include a trip to Ambrosia, a natural food store that Ricki introduced me to (yes, we adapt cycling routes too, not just recipes!). I have been to the Thornhill location a few times, and figured with their bountiful selection of produce and snacks, it would be a great stopping point for lunch on our cycling trip.

Armed with water bottles filled with homemade sports drink, energy date bars (cocoa fudge and gingerbread recipes to come!) and some hummus for lunch, Rob and I set out for Newmarket with gusto!

Let me tell you, though, I had forgotten how hard it is to do these long cycles. We are keeping these as endurance rides, so I like to ride at an easy pace to be able to last the full ride.  I used to be able to cycle 100 km without thinking twice, but now, so early in the season, my legs are sore after an hour.  I still have another 5 hours to go. I just get used to the pain and relish the hourly breaks.  I would get sore last year, too, I just had forgotten.


As planned, Rob and I stopped at Ambrosia for lunch, and I quickly realized this was not nearly comparable to the wonderful Thornhill location.  The only produce they had was organic Romaine lettuce. Gah! My plan to eat a Swiss chard wrap with sprouts and carrots with hummus was foiled! I ended up picking up the lettuce, and scavenged the bulk section for other tasty nibbles. I love picking up things on sale, so I was drawn to the raw almonds and prunes (both on sale). Almonds for crunch and prunes for carbs, I figured. I also picked up a dash of flax seeds for good measure.

And while I had no clue what I was really making, I was incredibly content with the mishmash of ingredients. I used the Romaine leaves as a base, topped it with a lemony-miso hummus, sprinkled some flax seeds overtop and added some almonds and prunes. Rolled it up and devoured. It worked wonderfully together, with both a mix of textures, but also complementary flavours. It was too good not to share with you, even if all I had were travel photos.


The nice surprise, though, afterward, was wandering through the adjacent Filipino food market. This is where I picked up a handful of tiny milk bananas, succulent and sweet, just right for eating. And yes, it also tasted great rolled up in Romaine. ;)


The Aurora loop is great though, because it is a (relatively) painless uphill for the first half, and by the time you are tired, it is mostly downhill with some rolling hills. After our scavenger lunch, we were rested and energized to ride home. I was able to arrive home with enough spare time to clean up and make dinner before my guests arrived. Yes, sometimes I am that nuts. I had forgotten how rough the ride would be, to be honest. A dinner party after a century ride. I think I’ll just remember how great it was to finally have my brother and sister-in-law over for dinner. ;)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays. (more…)

Zesty Cashew Orange Spread and Apple Swiss Chard Wrap

Posted in Desserts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 2, 2011


I am completely smitten by Swiss chard wraps.

They are a very healthy way to wrap around a sandwich filling, while having the benefit of not getting soggy like rice paper rolls, etc.

I am still working on the best technique on how to keep them together, though.

Attempt #1: A little lop-sided but still very tasty!

Attempt #2: I think I could use smaller apple slices, but this was a better success!

But like most things, it is what is inside that counts.

This is such an unusual pairing of ingredients but they work wonderfully together. Just as Gena suggested, I used the Zesty Cashew Orange Spread with an apple in a Swiss chard wrap. That dip, divine as it is solo, it is even better in this wrap. There is something about the crisp, sweet apple, paired with the sweet green, along with the tangy citrus spread that knocks my socks off. This is a lovely snack, and once I get some toothpicks, a lovely snack to take on my long cycling trips!

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Astrid from Paulchen’s Foodblog.

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