the taste space

Raw Strawberry Pudding Pie

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 30, 2012

I am a strawberry baby.

Being born at the end of June, my birthday usually coincides with the local strawberry season. My Mom went into labour while picking strawberries. I tell no lies.

This year, local strawberries are already finished as they had an early start. (Local cherries, though, are already here!). Rob and I still managed to sneak in some strawberry action, though, before he took off for the week.

No stranger to raw desserts, I know they can be pretty heavy. Nuts, coconut, avocado, you name it. They make for delicious desserts, but they can be truly decadent.

I had been pining a recipe for a nearly nut-free Strawberry Pie, so when we had a huge clamshell of strawberries, I couldn’t resist not making this. It was now or never. Next week, the strawberries may not be as good!

I couldn’t go nut-free with a crust, so I picked an interesting almond-vanilla-maple crust. However, since it was date-free, I didn’t find it kept its integrity as well as my go-to crust from the Raw Cashew Dreamcake. The recipe below has my standard crust which I think would work better.

In any case, the filling is really simple. A puree of strawberries and bananas with lemon juice is the base for holding more strawberries. Then it is topped with even more strawberries! Strawberry heaven, for sure. :)

This pie needs to be chilled so that the base firms up. In any case, I think it will be a messy cake no matter what you do.. unless you add a thickener like agar agar. My pie firmed up nicely after a few hours in the fridge but our initial foray after an hour left us with a goopy (yet still delicious) mess. Another less messy option would be to make and serve it in ramekins, like we did with our Tropical Mango Pie (oh so good!).

Since the highlight of the pie are the fresh strawberries, the pie cannot be stored in the freezer (hello, Raw Key Lime Pie!). Instead, the leftovers were my breakfast for the rest of the week.

This is my submission to Breakfast Club, featuring leftovers, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.

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Grilled Balsamic Mushroom and Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on June 29, 2012

Uh, oh. I have become predictable.

Being invited for a BBQ = time for Garlic-Thyme Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms!

Any time of day, grilled portobello mushrooms fit with the theme. Rob and I went to a post-wedding brunch where the new father-in-law was cooking eggs and sausages on the barbecue. I knew this man must be a barbecue connoisseur, so I left my marinaded mushrooms with him. Do not lose the marinade, I told him, because it was going to be my salad dressing, too.

I was shocked when he returned with beautifully plump mushrooms with even more marinade. He turned my barbecue skills upside down. Instead of doing a continuous grilling on a random side of the mushroom, he started grilling gill side down. Next, he flipped them gill side up to finish them off. The juices from the mushrooms pooled in the middle of the mushrooms. Ingenious. No, really, I was so impressed. (Never mind scrambled eggs on the barbecue…)

In any case, portobello mushrooms alone do not make a meal, so instead of a garlic white bean puree, I opted to add quinoa and toasted walnuts for crunch. This way, you do not lose any of the fabulous garlic-thyme-balsamic marinade and you get a filling meal that is also great as leftovers. Because, yes, it is very sad. I do not like to share my mushrooms. They are just too good. ;)

What are your favourite vegan things to make on the barbecue? I think I need a bigger variety of barbecue tricks! Here are our current barbecue tricks:

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Corn
Rob’s Grilled Pineapple with Lime and Chile Flakes
Lemon Asparagus Quinoa Toss
Dragon Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Vegetables and a Miso Gravy
Wheat Berry Salad with Pomegranate-Roasted Vegetables

Here are some other recipes I have bookmarked:

BBQ Tempeh Kabobs from Making Love in the Kitchen
Peruvian Seitan Skewers from Viva Vegan
Coconut and Lime Grilled Kale from Kitchen Operas
Grilled Corn and Tomatoes with Vegan Tonnato Sauce from Food & Wine
Portobello Salad with Spicy Mustard Dressing from Veganomicon

This is my submission to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 28, 2012

I am really enjoying my simplistic meals these days.

First decide on a sauce or dressing. Pick your favourite veggies. Decide on a base – bean or grain.

Here, I went raw for Raw Thursdays. I picked a lusciously creamy lemon and basil dressing. How does it become so creamy? Hidden inside is a whipped avocado. Adding warm water also adds a lightness without added fats.

My veggie of choice: chopped broccoli.

My base: kelp noodles.

Rob tasted this after I had cleaned up the kitchen. I was surprised he picked up on the avocado right away since I found the lemon, basil and garlic more pronounced while the avocado was there to deliver the lusciousness.  I quizzed him- How was he so smart? He noticed the sauce was green and assumed it was from the avocados in the fridge. I protested and blamed the green on the pureed basil. In any case, he was right. He must be more in tune with his avocado sensors than me. ;)

Regardless, while I usually shun creamy dressings, this was both creamy and light at the same time. Perfect in every way.  Just be careful not to eat the entire dish in one sitting! Leftover (chilled) dressing was also great in…. wait for it…. a wrap!! (also filled with carrot, cabbage, cucumber and sprouts!)

I can’t wait to try out more avocado dressings. Do you have a favourite?

This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Girlichef, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, and Ruth and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with a Balsamic Tahini Dressing

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on June 27, 2012

Thanks for all the birthday wishes, guys.  All of the well wishes, emails, comments and phone made it a special day. And the pie, of course, it helped. ;)

Today, though, I will be eating salad.

Intellectually, I understand the value of a great sauce or dressing. Sometimes, it is a sauce that makes a dish.  With a salad,  fresh greens are great but the avenue it will taste will depend entirely on your dressing.  It is probably no surprise that one can take classes specifically for Sauces and Marinades at George Brown College Culinary School.

While I make oodles of salads, there is only one dressing that I’ve popped into my leafy green salad repertoire. The super simple 3-2-1 dressing, where I sometimes have to remind myself which ingredient goes with the 2 and 1. (Note: Balsamic=3. Mustard=2. Maple syrup=1.)

I am trying to make life less complicated in the kitchen this year, and I am doing that partly by focusing on different dressings and sauces. This way, I can throw them on a multitude of dishes – whether as a hearty bean or grain salad, something with leafy greens, or even used in a stir-fry, etc.

The first dressing I want to highlight is this uber delicious tahini balsamic dressing that I spotted at Choosing Raw. I am loving all things tahini lately and balsamic remains one of my favourite vinegars, so I was eager to try out her dressing.

I dipped my finger into the dressing to test it out. Trust me, I licked it clean.. and another finger, just to make sure it was still so good. It passed the taste test again. I had to make sure I kept some for my salad!

The tahini provides a nutty and creamy backdrop accented by the sweet balsamic vinegar. The garlic adds a bit more complexity. The water thins it out so this isn’t heavy like oil- or mayo-based dressings.  Use it anywhere you’d enjoy a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

Its initiation into my kitchen was with a light yet hearty quinoa and chickpea salad punctated by bursts of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and slivered kale. I usually massage my kale, but here, it countered the quinoa and beans nicely with its crunch. I added the dressing just before I ate so that it would still be quite light. I assumed the quinoa could probably absorb a heck of a lot more of the dressing, but this way it was wonderful. I also made a quinoa-less salad later in the week, subbing collards for the kale which was possibly even better.

I know I could drip the dressing onto anything but I was sufficiently content with my salads for the week. Definitely let me know how you enjoy it! I bet it would be wonderful on kale chips, too!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays.

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Raw Key Lime Pie

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on June 25, 2012

Happy birthday to me.

Today is my birthday.

I don’t like to make a fuss about it, though. I’d rather have a quiet night at home, dinner cooked for me, than throw a birthday bash. I find more love in that than heading to a resto.

I am hoping to break the grasp of restos on my life. I have a few that I enjoy and those are ones that I haven’t quite figured out how to duplicate at home. With a Vitamix and dehydrator, I should be all equipped. I just need some smokin’ recipes.

Last year, my Mom made a killer raw raspberry cheesecake for my birthday. This year, there ain’t no party, but I thought it would be nice to continue the tradition of creating a decadent raw dessert for my birthday. I consider myself a quasi raw dessert expert, nearly always sampling a dessert when I visit a raw restaurant. I mean, I am an expert in taste. I have not nearly mastered all raw desserts. I just know what tastes good! A recent visit to the Naked Sprout in Burlington had me sampling Rob’s dessert: Raw Key Lime Pie. It was nice, light yet filling. Apparently they don’t even use lime to make it. The flavour is from lemons. (WHAT?!) Anyways, I figured I could try my hand at it back at home.

Armed with a recipe from Peacefood Cafe, a vegan resto in New York, I set myself to work. I had to scope out a few ingredients, but it was totally worth it. Cheap Brazil nuts and raw cashews from Kensington Market. 10 limes for $1 at my local grocer. 5 avocados for $2.50, too. Agave and coconut oil were already in my pantry. And yes, then to find a young Thai coconut. My new local grocer had that, too! $2 for a young coconut.

When we were in Colombia, the young coconuts were opened with a machete. Yeah, we weren’t going to do that. There are many different ways to open coconuts (great video here), but we’ve had the most success with removing the majority of the skin with a knife, scoring the top with a knife and then bashing it against the front steps to crack it open. OK, I’ll be honest- this is Rob’s successful technique. Not mine. I just help with its consumption. The juice is probably the best part, although Rob likes to eat the meat, too. In this case, I used the coconut meat for the dessert.

Since Rob had the task of opening the coconut, this was a very simple recipe to make. Assuming of course you have a gizmo to help with juicing 8 limes! Process the nuts and dates for the crust. Smoosh it into a springform pan. The rest of the ingredients were combined in my Vitamix to create a silky smooth filling. The green comes naturally from the avocados!

I hesitated as I dumped in 3/4 cup agave, but figured it would balance the 1 cup of fresh lime juice. I hesitated again when I added the coconut oil to the filling. The filling was so good without any oil at all, but I compromised. I added in 1/2 cup coconut oil instead of the full 3/4 cup. Trust me, you don’t need the full amount.  You could probably use less oil, actually, because with the avocados and coconut, this is one decadently rich dessert. Incredibly delicious and it rivals the best raw desserts I have eaten. It is that good. Serve as small pieces.

Now who wants to come over tonight to help me polish off the rest of this pie?
(I am alone since Rob is away ALL WEEK!!)

Plus, a dessert like this is meant to be shared… ;)

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Elena, to this week’s potluck party and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Raw Cinnamon Raisin Balls

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 23, 2012

I miss the long-distance cycling trips. Two summers ago, Rob and I would jaunt around Southwestern Ontario on our bikes. Anything within 180km was fair game. We cycled from Toronto to see his parents in Woodstock and the following year, I cycled to Kitchener/Waterloo for a party. While it was fun, there was pain, too. This was challenging training. I had never done this much cycling before.

Unfortunately, after tackling the Kingston cycle last summer, Rob and I have not really done much long-distance cycling. Life gets busy. Weekends get booked up. It wasn’t until I cycled to Niagara Falls recently, that I realized how much I miss it. The cycling, the camaraderie, exploring the countryside, and of course, the multitude of snacks I would create every week. Not the pain, of course.

These are the snacks that I toted with me to Niagara Falls. A quick whirl in the food processor combines walnuts, raisins, dates, cinnamon and nutmeg into a delicious snack. Chewy from the raisins but with a big whiff of cinnamon. A great pick-me-up before and during long exercises. I should remind myself that they are good any time, really. I may have made 2 batches of it because I ate the first one through numerous “sampling” (and before I photographed it).  Sweet and chewy cinnamon treats, oh yeah. As I gear into studying lock-down mode, they may turn into my late night studying snacks, though. Swapping cycling for studying seems so sad, eh?

Other sport snacks I have made:

Homemade Almond Chocolate Lärabars
Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles
Cocoa Mint Nibbles
Maca Chip Energy Balls
Carob Blueberry Energy Bars
Peanutty Energy Bars
Paley’s Energy Bars
Blueberry Oat Bars
Fruit, Nut and Seed Power Bars
Cacao-Cacao Chip Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Dark Chocolate Mint Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Gingersnap Nuggets from Radiance 4 Life

This is my submission to this week’s Cookbooks Sundays and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Millet Granola

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 22, 2012

This week, Rob was uber busy at work so I decided to spice up his mornings with some new granola. Like me, Rob typically eats oatmeal for breakfast and it has been ages since he’s made granola. He used to be a granola fiend, but it was put on his back-burner after we moved in together.  Way back when, in his granola-making days, he bought millet for granola.  Instead, the millet made its way into savoury dinners.

I don’t remember which recipe gave us the idea to add millet to granola, but whoever did it first should be applauded. Crunch explosion! In a great way! It gave a crunchy-crispy texture to the toasted oats and nuts. For this version, I went with Rob’s favourite granola flavours: cinnamon, cranberries, coconut and almonds, but feel free to pick your own favourite nuts and dried fruit. Just don’t skip the millet, because that is what makes this granola special.

Even if you didn’t think you liked cooked millet (I will admit that it isn’t my favourite grain), this is probably my favourite way to eat it. Don’t let the birds enjoy all the millet. ;)

Other granolas we’ve made:

Low-Fat Winter Fruit Granola (my Mom’s favourite)
Crunchy Coconut Macadamia Granola with Honey
Olive Oil Granola with Apricots and Pistachios


This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club for cooked/baked, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on June 21, 2012

Although I loved my foodie adventures in Colombia, eating away from home had me craving some serious salads upon my return. And a bath, a nice, long bubble bath. Withdrawing slowly from the plentiful tropical fruits and reintroducing my favourite vegetables. With a quick trip to the grocery store under my belt, I was able to fix my salad cravings.

While I don’t believe in detoxes, this is a spin off of Whole Food’s Detox Salad. Like my Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice Salad, broccoli and cauliflower form the vegetable base that is pulsed into small pieces. Grated carrots add more vegetables and a lovely orange! Currants confer sweetness, sunflower seeds supply crunch and protein and while the original salad uses a lemon-parsley dressing, I went with a cilantro-lime route instead. The other twist in the dressing comes from dulse granules. Whole Foods uses kelp granules, but I had dulse, another kind of seaweed, so I used that instead. This salad needs to be marinated for best flavours, and keeps really well as leftovers.

This is my submission to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Chinese Cabbage and Five-Spice Seitan with Fermented Black Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 21, 2012

My choice of bedtime reading usually includes a cookbook. Rob actually reads novels. Books with chapters, a beginning, a middle and an end.

When we packed for Colombia, we debated how many books to bring. I typically read 1 book while on vacation: my travel guide. Rob was adamant that he would likely read a bunch of books. In the end, we brought 5 books, including the travel guide.

After 2 weeks, I had read the travel guide and 1 book. Rob had plowed through all the books.

While I don’t read many novels, I really enjoyed my book: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It is a collection of short, thought-provoking essays about American culture through the eyes of Chinese food. Lee starts off by exploring people’s thoughts on fortune cookies after a national lottery gets pummeled with too many winners- they had all picked the same numbers from a fortune cookie. In a dizzying around-the-world tour-de-force, Lee visits the home of the real General Tso, puzzles together the origins of chop suey and the first fortune cookie and crowns the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant. This isn’t a flippant ready-for-the-masses book, though. It is smartly written in an accessible manner. Have you ever thought about the dangers of being a delivery person? Or the lives affected through human trafficking? Or why the Chinese food in the US cannot be found in China?

To be honest, I did not really like Chinese food take-out but as a child, we had the occasional visit to the local Chinese restaurant. I can see how Chinese food helped to embrace the worldly culinary culture we now have. With its emphasis on saccharine-sweet and cornstarch-goopy sauces, I haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant in ages, though. I have made a handful of Chinese meals at home, usually healthier vegetable stir-fries, where I can reduce the sauce myself without cornstarch and keep any sweeteners to a minimum.

For this month’s Random Recipes, we had to randomly pick a cookbook and cook the middle recipe. My chosen cookbook was Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health and at 348 pages, the middle page was 174. No recipe on that page. I rounded down to find the first recipe: Cabbage with Fermented Black Beans (page 171). No stranger to stir-fries with fermented black beans, I thought this looked like a great recipe to try. However, a meal it wasn’t, so I tweaked the recipe to include julienned five-spiced seitan, as a nod to my favourite Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage.

I am really digging veggie-centric stir-fries lately, and this was no disappointment. Quick to put together, dinner was served in under 20 minutes. The fermented black beans add the depth of flavour ones expects from authentic Chinese food which is highlighted with rice vinegar and sake. The ginger and garlic add a nice hit of flavour and feel free to add Chinese chili paste if you want it hotter. The Chinese five-spiced seitan was a perfect complement to the wilted cabbage, conferring sustenance to the dish with a major protein component.

So, tell me. Did you grow up eating Chinese food? Do you still eat it? What is your favourite Chinese recipe?

This is my submission to this month’s Random Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this week’s Cookbooks Sundays.

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Garlic-Roasted Chickpeas in a Creamy Lemon-Dill Dressing

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 20, 2012

I like to think of myself as a self-taught cook. Although, technically, I took the introductory course in George Brown College’s Culinary Arts Program a few years ago. Exploring new vegan meals through cookbooks and blogs has been the real way that I have learned so much about cooking and my kitchen. I continue to share my recipes, hoping to share the little tips and wisdom that I have picked up on the way.

While I am fairly adept in the kitchen, the garden still remains a mystery to me. Sun, shade, companion plants, pests and bugs, oh my! Then there’s the proper way to grow them, how to feed them water and other nutrients… and finally how to properly harvest. It feels like there are so many things to learn about even after picking out the so-called “easy” plants I want in my garden.

Last year we had our first garden and not everything was successful. This year, in a new home, a new garden, we decided to keep things simpler: potted herbs, beans, zucchini and kale in the garden with more kale and collards interspersed amongst the garden. Then there’s the impulse buy of kabocha squash. Four tiny plants have morphed into GIGANTIC plants, seemingly overnight (hey, we were in Colombia). After a month, my plants are at least 5 feet long, with numerous flowers. Upon further reading, I am kind of regretting the purchase. Most people recommend covering the plants to keep away the pests. They suggest opening the covers for only 2 hours so that the blossoms can be pollinated, it must be pretty bad. Furthermore, did you know that squashes need to be dried while on the vine? Kabocha squashes, in particular, need to be stored initially at a high temperature and then again at a cool temperature for long-term storage? Sounds like these crazy vines are staying here all summer, oh my!

Another mystery to me is that I cannot seem to grow dill. Dill weed. It is supposed to be so prolific many consider it a weed. Both this year and last, my seeds did not sprout. This year, I also bought some seedlings. After returning from Colombia, they disappeared. I am guessing they died. I know they don’t like to be transplanted, but I was hopeful. Oh dear.

My other herbs are doing well, so I will have to rely on the grocer (and friends!) for my dill fix.

Have an abundance of dill? Or just a lover of dill? Definitely try these garlic-roasted chickpeas with a creamy lemon-dill dressing. It had been a while since I’ve had pan-roasted chickpeas, which were a favourite of mine 2 years ago, so I decided to break them out with this creamy lemon-dill dressing from Angela. She used it with tofu but the garlicky chickpeas worked well, too. This was glorious fresh from the pan, but due to the creamy nature of the dressing, it was absorbed by the chickpeas as leftovers and became a bit dry. If you think you might be going the leftover route, consider only adding the dressing just prior to serving.

Anyone have tips for growing dill weed? Should I try again?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Snowpeas, Snap Peas and Fava Beans in a Tomato-Cardamom Sauce

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on June 18, 2012

I have yet to meet a bean I do not like.

Except for coffee beans…. but they don’t count. I don’t usually drink my beans. (they are also not technically a legume)

For a while, though, I thought I didn’t like fava beans (also known as broad beans).

For some, they herald the excitement of spring produce, amidst the stress of shelling and shucking the fresh beans.  When I found frozen fava beans, I thought I had hit jackpot: someone had done the shelling and shucking for me.

Last year, I made pomegranate-braised cabbage and fava beans but couldn’t get myself around the fava beans. I just didn’t like them.

The beans have been in my freezer since then. Untouched.

However, when I saw Ottolenghi had a recipe for Mixed Beans with Many Spices and Lovage which included fava beans, I decided it was worth checking them out again. Just in case I would like them this time. I also have to keep emptying my freezer. It also called for lovage, a new-to-me herb which my grandmother gifted me from her garden. It looked like a flavourful vegetable curry with an assortment of spring beans. His recipe combined my favourite unshelled beans (snow peas and snap peas) with fava beans smothered in a tomato-cardamom-lovage sauce.

The dish was great. It was my first time using lovage which has that Maggi taste, supposedly similar to celery. The flavours in the tomato sauce were a great spin off of a tomato curry and the beans were nicely cooked. Well, the snap peas and snow peas were nice. The fava beans, well, I still didn’t appreciate.

But then, it dawned on me. There was a creamy bean inside the fava shell.  My frozen beans hadn’t been shelled yet! I then dived back into my dish, scooping out all the fava beans and slipped off their shells.

I tasted. Lovely beans. Now I understood how people could enjoy fava beans… they are just a tad labour-intensive!

Oh, what I do for the most pleasing bean…. ;)

This is my submission to this month‘s Simple and in SeasonCookbooks Sundays and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Chocolate Banana Protein Ice Cream (2-ingredients!)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on June 17, 2012

The real title of this post should be “How I Spent Father’s Day”.

All my cycling escapades have been inspired by my Dad. Spurred on my a few family deaths, my Dad decided to get in shape in the early 1990s. During this time, he started cycling. He began cycling to work, which was 17km each way.  He eventually hooked up with the local bicycle club and has done the Ottawa-Kingston Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (178km each way) every year for over a decade. Ever since I started biking 3 years ago, my goal was to cycle with my Dad to Kingston. It seemed like the most inhumane goal but I was on a mission.  However, a week before we were supposed to ride to Kingston last year, my Dad broke his wrist falling off his bicycle. It has taken him a year to fully recover and we were hoping he would join us with a new route, to Niagara Falls.

It was supposed to be 160km each way, but due to all the spring commotion with moving, vacationing in Colombia, wedding #1 of 5 this summer, coupled with a bout of sickness last week, Rob and I did next to zero training. I took my road bike out twice and the longest ride was 30km. Pitiful, I know. Granted, my long cycling commutes had my bicycle odometer over 1200km total this year, though, but that was on my commuter bike. Suffice it to say, we did not feel prepared to cycle 320km this weekend. We opted for the 180km option, instead.

I’ve done the trek to Niagara Falls twice. Both times were 2 years ago and it was incredible to cycle the same route and be infused with so many memories. I remembered where it started to rain, where we stopped for much needed breaks, and the glorious ecstatic rush of seeing the Falls replete with rainbow in the background. While I remember the climb up the escarpment being hard (harder than the Westport Hill from the Kingston cycle), I didn’t remember how hard the first part of the hill was and thought I was a goner. There was a police man driving down the hill at the same time I was starting the sharp incline who yelled out: “Don’t kill yourself!”. I think because I breathing awfully heavily…. who knows. As we danced up and down the rolling hills on Roland Road (near Shorthills Provincial Park), I remembered how difficult the uphills were before. As we raced past the 406 and the QEW, I recalled how energized I was to be so close to Niagara Falls, blasting away with the wind at my back. I also remembered how painful it was the second round, when I almost thought I couldn’t ride the last 30km.

Even though I felt unprepared for the ride, it all turned out ok. With my Dad and Rob at my side, we made the best of the ride. In fact, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Day 1 was great. Great weather, good biking and good times.  87km, all in. Day 2 started off so nicely with nearly an hour of smooth pavement down the escarpment with mostly downhill coasting to Niagara-on-the-Lake. While we still enjoyed freshly picked strawberries and cherries (ice cream and fudge for the gents), there were some rough patches cycling home.  Meandering our way to St Catharines, the wind started. It didn’t let up and sadly, it was rarely in our favour. A few gusts of wind nearly knocked my bike onto the gravel shoulder. Due to an accident, we needed to do a detour down the escarpment to Stoney Creek, so we ended up cycling 105km on Day 2.

All 3 of us went for a celebratory late brunch at The Naked Sprout (must.recreate.raw.pancakes.and.chocolate.coconut.crepes.oh.my.gosh.and.coconut.bacon.too!), and then we bid adieu to my Dad.

Still looking for a protein-packed recovery snack a few hours later, I whipped up one of my favourite snacks to date: Chocolate Banana Protein Ice Cream. I’ve tried other healthy ice creams before, including Katie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Heather’s Protein Ice Cream (sans guar gum), but neither were that satisfying. Little did I know that my tried-and-true never fail 1-ingredient banana soft-serve ice cream was already at my disposal. All I had to do was add some chocolate protein powder for a very satisfying chocolatey ice cream snack. Guilt-free. The banana whips up into a sweet creamy frozen treat and the chocolate protein powder changes it to a chocolate version. The protein in the powder makes this a hugely satisfying dessert. Enjoy!

The question remains what kind of cycling commitments we will do next year, amidst the commotion of exams and moving to the US. Only time will tell…

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Thai Kelp Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by janet @ the taste space on June 15, 2012

I used to want a mango tree in my backyard. Scrap that.

Now I want a mamey tree.

I ate a lot while I was in Colombia. A lot of fruit, I mean frutas. Fruit au naturel and lots of fruit as juice. Not bottled juice. Jugos naturales: fruit + water in blender and strained. Pure bliss.

I had a few foodie missions while in Colombia. I definitely succeeded in exploring the different fruits. I even tried familiar fruits in case they tasted different, fresh from the South.

I think I lost track of everything I tried.

From the more obscure, I tried: curuba, feijoa, lulo, guanabana (soursop), anon (sugar apple), pitaya (dragon fruit), zapote, mamey and mamoncillo. Passion fruit: maracuja, as well as the purple gulupa and the smaller sweet granadilla. Oh, and açai, too, in a smoothie. Apparently we missed cherimoya (custard apple) and pomarrosa. We obviously need to go back (although I think I spotted both of them at my nearby grocer for $5/lb).

Then there are ones I already knew… and was won over by the sweetness of fresh fruit. Papaya has never been so lovely. Tons of bananas. Smaller bananas, too, bananitas (or banana bocadillo). Mangoes (mainly Tommy Atkins but they had smaller ones, too). Pineapple (did you know there are red pineapples? They had pits! Yes, pineapples have pits!!). Avocados. Starfruit. Young green coconut opened for us with a machete. Strawberries, blackberries (mora), watermelons, oranges and even apples.

I remember ordering a drink at a restaurant with a new-to-me fruit: sandia. The waiter described it as a fruit with a green skin, a pink inside with black seeds. I was excited to try something new! Only to find out it was in fact… watermelon. But still, it was a tasty watermelon and the watermelon jugos naturales really hit the spot.

My favourite? Well, it is a toss up between guanabana, anon, mamey and zapote. And lulo… and granadilla. OK, I can’t pick only one. Each one different than any fruit I’d had before. I’d love to plant a tree of each one in my backyard. Sadly, I don’t live in Colombia. Who thinks I can find a mamey tree in Texas for next year? I’d rent the place in a heart beat! ;)

In any case, as much as I’d like to think it was back to normal upon my return, I really had to wean myself off the fruits. While I mostly ate them plain and in juice form in Colombia, here I’ve opted for a more filling main course salad courtesy of Ottolenghi.

Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance. The original recipe calls for canned coconut milk, but I opted for the coconut milk beverage (great idea from my spicy coconut-braised collards) instead which still produced a lighter dressing after the reduction.

Here, the dressing is used to bathe a kelp noodle salad with chopped mango, cucumber, lima beans (I used smaller Jackson Wonder lima beans) along with mint, cilantro and cashews. Add the dressing just prior to serving. The flavourful dressing worked well with the contrasting sweet mango, creamy beans and crunchy cucumber. Enjoy!

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring leafless salads, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Potluck Party, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Simona, to this week’s Summer Salad Sundays and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Savoury Hemp Crackers (Raw Pizza Crackers, Raw Caraway Crackers, Raw Za’atar Crackers)

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on June 14, 2012

With the bright summery weather, I am thinking of doing a Raw Thursday series for the summer. A bonus recipe each week… Let me know what you think!

There is crack and then there are crack crackers.

Healthy, vegan crack.

I was honestly hooked on Mary’s Crackers for a while.
(In the US, the crackers are called Mary’s Gone Crackers for good reason!)

Then I said, enough is enough! Let me make my own crack crackers!

I started by making a sweet flax cracker with cinnamon and dates but wanted to tackle something savoury, too. This multiseed cracker, courtesy of Sarah, boasts not only ground flax but also hemp and chia seeds. This cracker base was great because it was so much easier to spread than the flax-only cracker.  It was more airy and flaky, too, compared to the Mary’s Cracker prototype. The flavourings are, of course, up to you.

I was itching to recreate Mary’s caraway flavour, which was simple. I also made a version with za’atar that was perfect with my go-to hummus.

My favourite cracker of the bunch, so far, is this pizza cracker. I spiced them with garlic, onion, rosemary, nutritional yeast as well as red pepper paste (a roasted red pepper or tomato paste could be substituted). The slight tang from lemon juice evened out the flavours just slightly.

If I thought Mary’s Crackers were addictive, now I know making my own crackers can be equally as addictive.

What flavour will I create next?

I like Angela’s suggestion to add kelp and Herbamare. Do you have any suggestions?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina, and to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.

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Greek Lemon and Quinoa Soup (Vegan Avgolemono)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by janet @ the taste space on June 13, 2012

In much the same way as there is an art to using up the last of your fresh produce before you head away for vacation, I think there is an art to keeping a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something fresh. I want the greens.

While I hate asking for rides, at the airport, it is nice to be picked up by a familiar face. I still remember returning from Japan to friendly faces and in addition to a quick ride home, they also had a few things to get me through to my first grocery run. At that time in my pre-vegan days, it was eggs, bagels, fruit and some leftover soup. With an empty fridge, it was a glorious gesture.

While Rob and I are good at taking transit to the airport, this meant we didn’t have any room to stop for groceries with all our luggage on the subway. In any case, while we came home to an empty fridge, it wasn’t so empty after all.

Granted, we were only gone for two weeks, so we still had a few grapefruits and apples for my usual breakfast routine. Onions and carrots in the crisper keep well, too. Cabbage, too. Thankfully garlic lasts, as do other citrus like lemons and limes. When in season, winter squashes can be stored outside the fridge. Frozen staples also work well: spinach, vegetables and herbs. I also keep my cooked beans in the freezer.

I always tell myself I will stop coming back from vacations on Sundays, only to be back at work on Monday, but we never learn. Returning from vacation means I also need to find quick-cooking meals that I can make after work, amongst unpacking, laundry and all that jazz from the vacation wrap-up.

Scrap the brown rice. It can take a long time to cook. Instead, I bastardized Gena’s Greek Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) by substituting quinoa. It takes half the time to cook, making a quick and tasty soup. Bright and fresh from the lemon , creamy from the tahini with depth of flavour from the miso, dill and nutritional yeast. Considering traditional avgolemono is made with eggs, the quinoa bastardization seems quite tame.. and quite the fanciful adaptation from the original. Regardless, this is a filling and delicious soup. Enjoy!

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, and to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.

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