the taste space

Brazilian Black Bean and Seitan Stew & Afro Vegan Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 1, 2014

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

You know Rob is a keeper when he doesn’t kill you when it is time to pack. And a) you have essentially doubled your cookbook collection while in Houston (although I limited myself to 10 books for my move) and Rob is now packing your heavy books; b) while you should be packing, instead you are cooking the last of the bits in the refrigerator, so I am still net loss worth for packing. And then there’s c) please don’t pack my cookbooks I still want to review!  Eventually I had to give in…. and help pack. And thankful that most books I receive to review come in electronic form.

Especially after making my own e-cookbook, I have grown to appreciate digital books. They have their pros and cons. They are easier to search, but not as fun to read. I miss the ability to curl the pages and find new random recipes. Although they are definitely easier to move. They also allow me to write posts in the airport.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

Afro Vegan is Terry Bryant’s new cookbook. A lover of good food, he has managed to fuse soul comfort food with gourmet twists. His muses vary from Caribbean soul cuisine, Southern US down home cooking and African menus. Pecan cornbread with dukkah? Sweet plantain and Fresh Corn Cakes? Peanut Pumpkin Fritters? Jamaican Patties Stuffed with Maque Choux? Spinach Peanut Sauce? Trust me, it all sounded good to me, I was sad I haven’t had enough time to explore it.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Afrovegan

While a bit more complex than my weeknight meals, there are more simple and more elaborate dishes. Delicious and innovative all-round. I loved, loved, loved my version of his Southern black eyed peas, I shared it before the book was even released to the masses. Now I am sharing another great soup, which I simplified by skipping the dumplings. This black bean stew, inspired by the Brazilian feijoada, is more tomato-heavy than my previous versions, but still nice and hearty and simple enough for an easy meal.

Afro-Vegan book cover

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere (except maybe the moon). To be entered, please leave a comment here, any comment. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Recipes from Afro-Vegan shared elsewhere:

Hominy and Spinach in Tomato-Garlic Broth

All-Green Spring Slaw

Glazed Carrot Salad

Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens

Summer vegetable and tofu kebabs with pomegranate-peach barbecue sauce

Savory Grits with Slow-Cooked Collard Greens

Stewed Tomatoes with Black Eyed Peas with Cornbread Croutons

Texas caviar on grilled rustic bread

Creole-Spiced Plantain Chips

Za’atar Roasted Red Potatoes

Smashed Potatoes, Peas and Corn with Chile-Garlic Oil

Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Spring Herbs

Creamed Cashews

Skillet Cornbread with Pecan Dukkah

Ambrosia Ice Pops

Cocoa-spice cake with crystallized ginger and coconut-chocolate ganache

 

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Classic Cheesy Kale Chips & Choosing Raw Cookbook Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on July 1, 2014

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

It is my pleasure to share with you Gena Hamshaw’s new cookbook, Choosing Raw. Named after her widely popular food blog, her simple, bright and healthy recipes shine through onto paper. Full disclosure, I have loved Gena’s recipes ever since I discovered her blog (and her infamous banana soft serve recipe). My previous gushings can be seen here and here and I was thrilled when Gena asked me to be a tester for her cookbook. The best part of help her test the recipes? She actually cared about my feedback beyond recipe bloopers, making this a truly phenomenal cookbook.

Just as her blog attests, the recipes are fresh and flavourful. All vegan, some raw, some cooked, some mixed, some with options for either raw or cooked. You might think you recognize some of the recipes from her blog, but they have all been reworked and rewritten based on reader feedback. With 125 recipes, spanning essential foundation recipes (including cashew cheese, chocomole, banana soft serve, lemon turmeric vinaigrette, ginger miso dressing and hemp parmesan) and breakfasts, meals and desserts separated based on the degree of raw components and familiarity to traditional meals. She includes a primer on making meal-sized salads, including a Dinosaur Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad and a Raw Cobb Salad with Eggplant Bacon.

Choosing Raw Cookbook Review

Gena’s level 1 or introductory recipes are truly tried-and-true. Breakfasts options include the (delicious!) Raw Vegan Bircher Muesli, and (even more delicious!!) Chickpea Tofu Tahini Scramble. Gena has different suggestions for lunch and dinner (for me, lunch is always dinner in leftover form) and I can highly recommend both her Curried Chickpea and Carrot Salad and Easy Red Lentil Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry.

Slowly, Gena encourages you to branch out from the familiar with a hybrid of new and old. Her Avocado Black Bean Scramble was fresh and bright, the Raw Falafels have a carrot base which was the first falafel recipe I liked, and I love that her Raw Pad Thai actually includes tamarind (although I recommend adding more tamarind… because, that’s just the way we like it!). The Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds was a fun twist for an autumn side, although I added chickpeas for a heartier meal.

Within her level 3 recipes (aka Brave New World), Gena introduces you to chocolate açaí bowls, jicama fiesta rice salad, raw corn chowder, and coconut curry kelp noodles. From this chapter, I highly recommend the Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Salsa (I substituted peaches which was still glorious) and her Raw or Cooked Ratatouille.

Desserts are typically the star of raw cuisine, and her recipes do not disappoint. Her Simple Raw Vanilla Macaroons are flawless and her Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is spot-on. I cannot wait to try other dishes like her Cherry Vanilla Tahini Ice Cream (no ice cream machine required!) and her No-Bake Tartlets with Raw Vegan Chocolate Ganache Filling has been on my hitlist for a long time.

Choosing Raw Cookbook Review

For me, the most important part of a cookbook are the recipes (and the index so I can find the recipes), but the recipes are only a portion of Gena’s book. Her first chapters explain “The Why”, “The What” and “The How” of a eating a vegan diet that includes raw. Normally I skip over these sections, but Gena makes these sections practical, useful and insightful with her background in nutrition. Finally, a raw cookbook that tells you the theory of keeping your food “enzymes” intact will all get decimated in your stomach’s harsh acidic environment anyhow. Likewise, her focus is on nutrients from a plant-based diet.

Gena explains how to properly balance your meals, explaining the importance of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. She debunks myths including “Eating spinach raw is bad for you because it blocks the absorption of nutrients”, “Soy disrupts hormones, causes breast cancer and should be avoided”, “You should always eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach”, and “It’s essential to separate proteins and starches, because they require different digestive environments and will cause bloating if you eat them together”. To top it off, there are 21 days of worth of meal plans along with tips on how to transition to a vegan diet.

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

For this review, I had a hard time deciding which recipe to highlight. I decided to share her Classic Cheezy Kale Chips. The mixture of cashews, red bell pepper, nutritional yeast and miso coat the kale leaves which are dehydrated until they are crispy and flavourful. I don’t usually bother with pretty photos while recipe testing, and I had good intentions of taking better photos. Until I ate all the chips. And then they were all gone. They were incredibly addictive.

Gena also has a higher protein kale chip that I am dying to try: Hummus Kale Chips (made with chickpeas)!

Classic Cheesy Kale Chips (Choosing Raw)

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite vegetable. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Choosing Raw shared elsewhere:

Green Herb Dressing

Zucchini Pasta with Quinoa Meatballs

Raw Carrot Falafels

Hemp Seed Tabouli with Yellow Tomatoes and Mint

Curried Chickpea and Carrot Salad

Zucchini Pasta with Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Salsa

Raw or Cooked Ratatouille

Heat-Free Lentil and Walnut Tacos

Sunflower Seed Pate

Quinoa Breakfast Pudding

Avocado Black Bean Breakfast Scramble

Raw Bircher Muesli

Raw Cashew Banana Yogurt

Blueberry Ginger Ice Cream

Burnt Sugar Coconut Ice Cream

Coconutty for Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fig Bars

Raw Key Lime Pie
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Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 28, 2014

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Perhaps it is fitting that my last post from Houston should be a review for Vegan Finger Foods. It was in Houston, that I found and dived head-first into the “vegan potluck” community. Bounded by a common interest (delicious food), people came from various backgrounds. Some were vegan, others vegetarian, some omnivores, but all were included and encouraged to eat and enjoy the plentiful vegan food.

For me as a cook, it was (mostly) fun to try new recipes or share old favourites. I tend to gravitate to one-pot meals, but now I experimented with appetizers and desserts, knowing there would be plenty of Janet-friendly dishes to sample. As a person, it was comforting to meet others with similar interests, even if only within the realm of veganism. Although especially within the realm of veganism when I first moved to Texas.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Vegan Finger Foods is a fun cookbook, overflowing with ideas for your next gathering. Not only are the recipes suitable for vegan parties and potlucks, they can be mixed and matched for regular main meals at home. There are vegetable-centric bites (think “Bacon” Wrapped Water Chestnuts, Harissa Carrot Zucchini Cups), Finger Foods (think Brewpub Cauliflower Dip and Chips), Dips and Stuffed bites (like Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites with Pantry Raid Ranch and Pulled Jackfruit Mini Tacos), Bread-Based Bites (including Salsa Scuffins) and not forgetting bite-sized desserts (lots of cookies, cupcakes and even Goji Berry Cacao Bites and Tahini Caramel Popcorn).

I appreciate that each dish is a star in itself, even the veggie-centric dishes. I also liked that many dishes are hearty enough to be a main meal (ie, Sweet-and-Sour Sloppy Joes (with tempeh), baked lenteja taquitos (with lentils), baked frittata minis (with tofu) and even a few homemade seitan dishes, including these Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages. No need for company to eat well.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

I tried a few dishes from the cookbook, but this one was my favourite and thankfully helped use up some odds-and-ends lingering in the kitchen. Reminiscent of my previous (vegan) cheese-stuffed sausage, these sausages are stuffed with kimchi. Kimchi is also incorporated into the batter making for a flavourful yet chewy sausage. I found it easier just to serve it with a side of even more kimchi, but I love suggestion to pan-fry it and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions. Pan-frying would accentuate the flavours even further.

Kimchi-Stuffed Sausages & Vegan Finger Foods Giveaway

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite dish to share at potlucks. I will randomly select a winner on July 30, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Vegan Finger Foods shared elsewhere:

Vegan Potato Puffs with Tapenade

Kale Cucumber Cups

Rasta Salsa

Corn Fritters with Tomato Thyme Gravy

Baked Jalapeños

Spinach Swirls (with another giveaway, too)

Pull Apart Pesto Bread

Quickie Marinara

Fig and Nut Canapés

Sushi Rice Rolls

Salsa Scuffins (with another giveaway, too)

Better Buckeyes

Other dishes I shared at the vegan potluck this year:

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

Pecan and Cranberry Vegan Cheese Log

Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Tahini Cups with a Sweet Coffee Infused Filling

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Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream & The China Study All-Star Collection Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts by Janet M on June 20, 2014

Chocolate Mint Chip Vegan Ice Cream

Houston gets me every single time. You leave for a week or two and you forget how hot and humid it is. Or maybe it just became hotter.

I thought it was ice cream weather before but now it has become a dietary staple. Just like salsas, we will have to wean ourselves from the vegan ice creams at Trader Joe’s.

I have no ice cream maker, but this recipe promised to deliver.

Mint ice cream with chocolate chunks – what’s not to like? I added some spirulina to make it a vibrant green base.

Sadly, it didn’t work out. I actually wonder whether it could be done at all without an ice cream maker.  I quickly realized the chocolate chunks would sink to the bottom if I didn’t stir. So, I stirred the ice cream as it become to freeze, almost every 30 minutes for a few hours. Until it was way too late to stay up. Of course, in the morning, it was solid as a brick and difficult to thaw. I had a hard time getting it into a scoopable form and ended up thawing it in the microwave! It was also a bit icy, I suspect because I didn’t remove the watery coconut water from the coconut milk.

I eventually refroze it into small quantities and ended up adding some soy milk to turn it into a smoothie. Next time, I may try Kari’s idea to put it back in the food processor to whip it back into a creamy state. Or fish out my ice cream maker from storage.

Chocolate Mint Chip Vegan Ice Cream

The recipe comes from The China Study All-Star Collection which is a collection of vegan recipes that focus on whole foods with limited refined oils, sugars and salt. Like my cookbook collaboration, the recipes hail from many authors. I was familiar with some of the authors (Dreena Burton, Ani Phyo, Christy Morgan, and Lindsay Nixon) but also new-to-me authors like Chef AJ and Del Sroufe among others.

A cookbook like this makes a great introductory cookbook. You are exposed to the styles of many chefs, hopefully finding a few that really resonate with you, or others that perhaps push you in new directions. Would you like to try Dreena’s Apple Lentil Dal? Or Christina’s Daikon Mushroom Fettuccine? Or Laura’s Cauliflower Steaks with Sweet Pepper Sauce? Or Heather’s Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Brownies? Yeah, me too. All four. In fact, you may notice a few repeats from the more prolific writers. Lindsay’s Quick Burgers have been shared earlier as well as Dreena’s Mellow Lentil “Sniffle Soup” and Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes (I shared that one in the fall and it was fabulous!). If nothing else, it may open you up to a whole new library from a new favourite author.

Of note, due to the multiple authors, the writing style of each author is apparent, along with the quality of their accompanying photographs.

Recipes from The China Study All-Star Collection shared elsewhere:

Lemon-Lime Green Smoothie

Creamy Breakfast Rice Pudding

Pumpkin Seed and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Zucchini and Summer Squash Muffins

Barbecue Portobello Sandwiches

African Collard Stirfry

Gingered Collard Greens

Everything Minestrone

Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles (with another giveaway, too)

Dreamy Baked Bananas (with another giveaway, too)

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite ice cream flavours. I will randomly select a winner on June 30, 2014. Good luck!

PS. I am sharing this with Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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Announcing my e-Cookbook: A Vegan Dinner Party & Giveaway

Posted in Book Review by Janet M on June 14, 2014

Vegan Dinner Party cookbookVegan Dinner Party cookbook

I know I share a lot of great cookbooks with you, but I am beyond excited to share with you a cookbook I have been working on myself over the last year. You guys know that I am a physician but you may not know what Rob does all day. He is a software programmer with special expertise in mobile platforms, like Android, iPhones, etc. For years, I have asked him to make me a “Taste Space App”. He has refused because the wordpress website is rather mobile-friendly. You can find everything you need through the search (if you already know what you’re looking for). It would take him too much time to create an app that would be more useful than what I already offer. So that was that.

But then I was approached to contribute to a new e-cookbook focusing on vegan dinner parties. I was honoured to be included amongst my co-authors: Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan and Anya Kassoff of Golubka Kitchen, both with their own gorgeous cookbooks. As an e-cookbook, the focus is on recipes you can access through multiple devices as it can be accessed online, on Kindle, iBooks, and Amazon.

Vegan Dinner Party cookbook

The cookbook includes 28 tried-and-true vegan recipes specifically for entertaining. Most are gluten-free and the benefit of 3 different authors give you a variety of recipes. I contributed some of my favourite recipes that are easy for entertaining, impressive and many of our guests have enjoyed eating. Some of the recipes have videos, too, showing you how to do some of the harder techniques.

Vegan Dinner Party cookbook

The cookbook is part of a series of e-cookbooks called Culinary Quandaries. The other cookbook published so far is a Gluten-Free Dinner Party, if you are interested in that, as well. As one of my readers, you can save 30% if you buy it through these links: A Vegan Dinner Party and A Gluten-Free Dinner Party (the discount should show up automatically). Furthermore, I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader (anywhere in the world).

For the giveaway, leave me a comment about your experiences with e-cookbooks. I will randomly select a comment on June 20, 2014. Good luck!

Vegan Dinner Party cookbook

Chocolate Chickpea Flour Cupcakes with Chocolate Tofu Frosting & Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts by Janet M on May 24, 2014

Chocolate Chickpea Flour Cupcakes

My lovely friends are true enablers.

I wanted to make cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes.

Even with my (somewhat) minimalist pantry and kitchen, I was mostly to my goal.

I had silicone muffin wrappers, but no muffin tin. I wasn’t sure whether I could simply bake the muffins without the tin, but my friend graciously lent me her muffin tray so I did not have to experiment. (Note: Please tell me if you have tried)

Next, I found the perfect recipe: a chocolate cupcake that only used chickpea flour as its base. No wheat flour, no funny grain flours, not even oat flour. Just chickpea flour. In fact, now I was rather intrigued. Chickpea flour cupcakes??

I was missing one ingredient, though: baking powder. I have baking soda (it also helps for cleaning), but no baking powder in my minimalist pantry. Oftentimes, especially if baking with chocolate, baking soda can be substitute with baking powder. So I tried that option first. Baking experiment fail #1: I forgot to look at the conversion and it isn’t a 1:1 substitution. My cupcakes rose beautifully but tasted kind of salty and somewhat metallic.

Chocolate Chickpea Flour Cupcakes

I vowed to try again with less baking soda but my friend spared me the trouble and slipped me a bag of white powder at work. Clearly labelled baking powder. The label may have been unnecessary because if she were smuggling cocaine, I would have inherited a fortune. ;)

In any case, I shared the cupcakes at work. I was up-front that I was sharing vegan, gluten-free and grain-free cupcakes. I told people that it was made with besan/chickpea flour because quite a few of my co-workers cook with it, too, and they were shocked it could be used in a sweet baking treat.

However, what I did not share (initially) was what I was hiding in my frosting. I ran with the bean-theme and used tofu as my base! It is similar but more firm than my chocolate mousse pie filling. I thought it was too sweet when I first tasted it but it mellowed out and firmed up considerably overnight in the fridge. Both the frosting and cupcakes were well received, so I consider it a success!

Chocolate Chickpea Flour Cupcakes

This recipe is courtesy of Vegan Beans From Around the World which shares 100 recipes of naturally vegan recipes from around the world. Kelsey simplified the recipes to keep the ingredients easy-to-find and did a marvelous job of curating a variety of vegan bean-centric dishes. Dutch Split Pea Soup to Nigerian Black Eyed Pea Stew to Argentine White Bean Salad, there are plenty of dishes I still want to try. Oh, and the Navy Bean Pie (aka Muslim bean pie) which is also in the dessert section. I have been spoiled by gorgeous cookbooks as of late, so I am missing the pretty photos. Although hopefully these photos will encourage you to try out this fun cupcakes.

Recipes from Vegan Beans From Around the World  spotted elsewhere:

Hommage Hummus
Roasted Edamame
Southwestern Style Salad
Cuban Black Beans
Green Bean Fries
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Queso-Less-Dillas
Black Bean Brownies

Chocolate Chickpea Flour Cupcakes

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite recipe made with beans. I will randomly select a winner on June 13, 2014. Good luck!

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. Have no muffin tins? Try making this into a cake, as seen here.

PPS. Need other ideas for using chickpea flour? Look no further than Emma’s round-up post.

PPPS. I am sharing this to Credit Crunch Munch and We Should Cocoa for $2 cakes. I didn’t price out the cupcakes but without butter and eggs, vegan cakes are typically cheaper. Chickpea flour can be found at more economical prices at Indian grocers.

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Eccentric Caesar Salad & Straight From the Earth Review+Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Salads by Janet M on May 22, 2014

Eccentric Caesar Salad

This post is a twofer.

First of all, I have a gift for all of you! A free Beyond Meat product – click here for your coupon.

I don’t tend to get too excited about mock meats (it is a bit processed for my liking), but was really curious after it was selected as the “real chicken” on the Today’s Show. Some things are easier to find in the United States, so with a coupon for a free product (see above), how could we refuse? Beyond Meat isn’t new, but it was new to me and definitely uncannily similar to chicken, complete with the grill marks. You buy it frozen and just need to defrost it prior to serving. Thus, it was super easy to make and great source of protein.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

Now for the book review, as advertised, with an eccentric Caesar salad. Eccentric because it is no standard Caesar. I mean, it is a vegan version of a decidedly un-vegan salad but the twist comes from the nutritional yeast and curry powder in the dressing and the mishmash of additional ingredients. The cashew-based dressing was simply delicious, aka awesome sauce. Paired with the fresh lettuce, buttery avocado, briny capers and hemp seeds, it was a superfood-packed salad. (And by superfoods, I mean super tasting foods!) Instead of the herby croutons, I wanted this to be a complete meal and thus added the chicken-less strips overtop. The strips look a bit too perfectly rectangular but they tasted great.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

The recipe comes from Straight from the Earth, by mother and daughter team Myra and Marea Goodman of Earthbound Farm fame. Neither one is vegan but have created a gorgeous cookbook filled with tantalizing recipes. There is something for everyone between the two cooks. I found myself naturally gravitating to Marea’s recipes, who learned her vegan culinary tricks while living and cooking for fellow vegans in a co-op while at college. Her mother’s tastes are more classical. As an example, Marea has a recipe for chipotle-lime Brazil nuts and Myra has a recipe for double-roasted maple-spiced hazelnuts. OK, OK, both sound delicious. Lots of delicious recipes, including a nut-free crispy baked kale chips with nutritional yeast and shiitake mushroom, water chestnut and tofu lettuce cups.

Eccentric Caesar Salad + Straight From the Earth review +giveaway

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the continental United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think of mock meats. The winner will be selected at random on June 8, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes from Straight from the Earth spotted elsewhere:

Raspberry Salad with Baby Greens and Raspberry-Golden Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wheat Berry, Baby Kale, Grape and Orange Salad

Heart of Palm, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Cabbage and Carrot Crunch Salad with Agave-Dijon Vinaigrette

Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Teriyaki Tofu Broccolette on Wild Rice

Barley, Quinoa, and Cannellini Bean Loaf (or Burgers)

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Blackberry Bran Muffins

Sesame, Orange, and Hazelnut Cookies

Banana Coconut Cake

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.

PPS. Stayed tuned because tomorrow I have another giveaway! (more…)

Mini Chocolate Banana Flax Cakes (Raw, No-Bake) & Raw, Quick & Delicious Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts by Janet M on May 8, 2014

Mini Chocolate Banana Flax Cakes (Raw, No-Bake)

I don’t think I have ever eaten so many bananas in one day. I lost count, but I think I ate eight during the Shiner GASP. Never mind the oranges, peanuts and bars, oh and lots of water. I had those, too, but ate a banana nearly every rest stop. Rob and I also had some almost-sorry bananas after the hot weekend. My friend stepped on the tip of one by mistake so I knew I had to eat it soon. Too impatient to wait for them to freeze for smoothies, I made these mini cakes instead. 5 ingredients and 15 minutes later, I had a fudgy, gooey, chocolately delight.

5 ingredients, 15 minutes seems gimmicky, but it is the premise of Doug McNish’s latest cookbook: Raw, Quick and DeliciousI have been sitting on this one for a while. During the winter, I had little desire to eat raw foods but now that summer has arrived, my time is short, I cannot eat through this cookbook fast enough. Smoothies, salads, and dressings, McNish has you covered for interesting combinations (spiced apricot smoothie, caprese stacked salad, curried carrot dressing). Furthermore, he includes breakfasts (cashew scramble wrap), main courses (raw sweet potato enchiladas!), snacks (cinnamon apple almond stacks!) and desserts (pecan pie brownies), none of which ask for a dehydrator or take too long to create. Some recipes call for sub-recipes throughout the book, though, but nothing seems too onerous. He focused on sharing recipes without fancy equipment or techniques, letting vegetables shine.

Mini Chocolate Banana Flax Cakes (Raw, No-Bake)

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this simple concoction. Needless to say, I was sceptical, but I ran with it. Doug knows his food.

Gooey chocolate bliss.  The bananas create a soft, gooey consistency that is held together with the flax seeds, but there are enough flax seeds to give this some structure, too. Since it takes only 10 minutes to set and no baking is required, it is a bit gooey, but who doesn’t like their chocolate cake super moist? I particularly liked it with the accent of the fresh banana slices to counter the darker chocolate flavour. (FYI, I tried it first with less agave, but tasted it and felt it deserved the full amount).

Need a way to eat copious amounts of flax seeds with glee? This would be it! You certainly don’t taste it.

There are a few selected photos in the cookbook and they are gorgeous, including this one for these cakes:

Mini Chocolate Banana Flax Cakes (Raw Quick and Delicious)

 

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your quickest and/or easiest raw dish. The winner will be selected at random on May 20, 2014. Good luck!

Recipes from Raw, Quick and Delicious spotted elsewhere:

Date Muesli
Quick Thai Cream Sauce
Grapefruit Mint and Arugula Salad
Avocado Cucumber Hand Rolls
Summer Corn Cakes
Curried Cashews and Mixed Vegetables
Steak and Potatoes

Squash Burrito
Mushroom Tart
Coconut Macaroons
Strawberry Coconut Shortcake Tart

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. I am sharing this with Random RecipesDead Easy Desserts and to the last Raw Foods Thursday.

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Manchurian Chickpea Bowl & More Quick-Fix Vegan Review + Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 3, 2014

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

I have another great cookbook to share with you.

Quick, healthy, vegan meals. What’s not to like?

Like The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I have been madly cooking out of Robin Robertson’s latest cookbook: More Quick-Fix Vegan.

She promises simple, delicious meals in under 30 minutes. Provided you have cooked brown rice (which takes 45 minutes to cook), she’s right!  Delicious vegan cuisine need not be elaborate nor time consuming.

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

Take this exotic-sounding vegetable bowl: Manchurian chickpea bowl.

Manchurian cuisine is a subtype of Chinese cooking that heralds from the North-East region of China. While I am not sure how authentic it is, Gobi Manchurian may be a well-known dish. A spicy tomato sauce infused with ginger and garlic typically smother deep-fried cauliflower. In this inspired dish, cauliflower (roasted, not fried, in my case) is joined by potatoes, peas and chickpeas. I was worried the chickpeas would seem out-of-place, but they were actually very good. It seems more Indo-Chinese (or Hakka-inspired) rather than Manchurian. In any case, I can whole heartedly recommend it. Delicious. Even without choice leftovers (hello leftover roasted cauliflower), this could be pulled together within a half-hour.

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

I have been slowly cooking my way through the cookbook and again, had the same difficult: which recipe to share. My full reviews can be seen here, but I also highly recommend the uncanningly simple “Roasted brussels sprouts and chickpeas” which reminds me of my Easy Cheezy Chickpeas and Kale. The cookbook includes many one-dish meals including soups/stews. bowls, stir-fries, pasta, sandwiches, pantry-friendly, oven-cooked meals and even quickie desserts. I appreciate that most meals are based on whole foods and not vegan substitutes (mostly. dessert section exempted). Robin does supply recipes for some of the convenience foods including a cashew-based vegan cream cheese and tofu-based vegan mayonnaise. Having these staples pre-made expedite getting dinner to the table.  Of note, Robin calls for ketchup a few times (like in this recipe), although I substituted my own convenience food: mild Turkish red pepper paste. Booyah!

Manchurian Chickpea Bowl

Recipes from More Quick Fix Vegan shared elsewhere:

Chipotle-Sweet Potato Bisque
Chickpeas Nicoise
Kale and Black-Eyed Peas With Smoky Grits
Three-Bean Pantry Chili
Sweet Potato Barbecue Bowls
Veracruz Tacos

Banh Mi Inspired Noodles
Banh Mi Bowls
Avocado Mousse with Raspberries
Date-Pecan Bars
Mango Fried Rice Pudding
Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream
Blueberry Chocolate Trail Mix Bark

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living anywhere in the world (YAYAYA!). To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your quickest and/or easiest vegan meal. The winner will be selected at random on May 16, 2014. Good luck!

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

PS. I am sharing this with My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sowmya.

PPS. Do you like my purple slippers in the last photo?  They were so colourful I had to keep them in. Can you tell I just blindly lift my camera to take shots from overhead? Sometimes I am way off-target. ;)

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Ange’s Glo Bars & Oh She Glows Cookbook Review + Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on April 24, 2014

Ange's Glo Bars

Yet another travel-friendly, energy-boosting snack. But these are no ordinary granola bar. They are Angela’s Infamous Classic Glo Bars, packed with all good things.

Have you ever noticed how many different kinds of granola bars Angela has posted? Soft-and-chewy baked sugar-free granola bars, healthy banana cranberry oat bars, last-minute protein energy barsbanana bread protein bars, and more. She is the Queen of Granola Treats. Previously, I had difficulties with her almond butter rice crisp treats which was probably due to too many substitutions. Thus, I (mostly) followed her recipe exactly, scoping out brown rice syrup. And let me tell you, this ingredient is key. Its viscosity alone lends to enhanced stickiness which helps keep the bars together. Initially, I tried to replace it with maple syrup, which probably didn’t help the cause. In any case, I absolutely loved these bars. Not too sweet with a hint of peanut butter, still packed with an assortment of seeds. I used puffed kamut (instead of crisped rice) and I liked this more because it lended to a more chewy bar.

Ange's Glo Bars

The cycling has been more intense (HILLS! OMG HILLS!), which explains why I have been sharing more treats. I have enough fore-thought and energy to make my snacks at the end of the week. Rob makes us tamarind lentils to go. In theory, this should give us more time so we can leave earlier Saturday morning. In theory, alas. We ended up sleeping in last weekend and having another later start in the hills. Our Saturdays have started to look like an entire treat day: fun snacks, tamarind lentils for lunch, tropical agua fresca from Mi Tienda #2 (this week it was papaya and pina colada on tap), followed out by a meal made by someone else… because we don’t have much energy to cook for ourselves once we get back.

By Sunday, I get my cooking mojo back and have been enjoying cooking out of Angela’s latest cookbook: The Oh She Glows Cookbook. I am behind the surge of posts highlighting its praises, but that is just because I have been smitten by trying all.the.recipes. All in the name of good review research for the blog.

With such a popular and prolific blog, long-time readers of her blog may wonder how many are new recipes.  Angela mentions that there are 75 new recipes with a dozen new-and-improved reader favourites. Angela has grown as a recipe developer, as I have had some failures with her earlier recipes. Thankfully some of my favourite recipes from her blog made it to the cookbook: Creamy Lemon Basil Avocado Sauce, Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas, and her Lemon-Tahini Dressing. She is also a much better photographer than me, so this cookbook is eye-candy as well as delicious. A photograph of possibly every single recipe. How awesome is that? Her recipes are all vegan, all whole foods based, 85% gluten-free and mostly soy-free.

I cooked and baked my way through 10 recipes (so far) and then had the difficult decision of what to share. In truth, I already shared the Breakfast Chocolate Mocha Pudding Cake, but those photographs would not due justice to such a nice cookbook. My other favourites were the On the Mend Spiced Red Lentil-Kale Soup and the Crowd-Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole. Some meals were a bit lacklustre (Indian lentil-cauliflower soup) but just adjust the seasonings to your taste. You can see all of my recipe reviews here. There are still more recipes I want to try and will continue to enjoy cooking from this cookbook.

Ange's Glo Bars

Other recipes from the Oh She Glows Cookbook shared elsewhere:

Breakfast Chocolate Mocha Pudding Cake (as christened by me, aka Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake)
Ultimate Nutty Granola Clusters
Apple Pie Oatmeal
Glowing Mojo-ito Green Monster
Life-Affirming Warm Nacho Dip
Eat Your Greens Detox Soup
Cream of Tomato Soup with Roasted Italian Chickpea Croutons
Empowered Noodle Bowl with Thai Peanut Sauce
Walnut, Avocado & Pear Salad with Marinated Portobello Caps & Red Onion with Effortless Anytime Balsamic Vinaigrette
Chakra Caesar Salad with Nutty Herb Croutons
Super Power Chia Bread
Oil-Free Baked Falafel Bites
Crowd Pleasing Tex-Mex Casserole
Grilled Portobello Burger with Sun-Dried Tomato Kale-Hemp Pesto
Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh
Quick & Easy Chana Masala
15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Chilled Chocolate Espresso Torte

Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Angela recipe or what you most want to make. I will randomly select a winner on May 4, 2014. Good luck!

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Green Hemp Açaí Bowl & The Juice Generation Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Breakfasts by Janet M on April 20, 2014

Green Acai Bowl

They let it slip.

My claim to fame.

At my hospital, they get new trainees every year. Obviously, it can be hard to keep track of us all. One of my co-workers may be known for her love of dance, the other that became a new mama, or another that took off suddenly to get married.

I suppose I have a few quirks. Beyond being Canadian, I could be remembered as the bicycle commuter, or perhaps the vegan… But no. Even more memorable are my unique breakfasts. Or breakfast #2 as I call it, since I eat it at work, more than a few hours after I have woken up, eaten after breakfast #1, cycled to work and gone to the gym.

Breakfast #2 is my green goop and I have eating the same thing for the past year: cooked oatmeal, hemp protein powder with some flax and chia seeds. Everything is ready to go in the morning. Once I get to work, I add some hot water, stir it up and love it.

For the uninitiated, the green swamp goop is certainly not appealing. The hemp protein powder is the colouring agent. My breakfast is an acquired taste but all things green need not taste bad. And as I learned here (and my green kale pancakes), even a small amount of green ingredients can blend to a brilliant hue.

Even though I am lamenting leaving my juicer in storage, I have been drinking my way through the smoothies and açaí bowls in The Juice Generation.

Green Acai Bowl

While I cannot lay claim to be a Canadian açaí expert, at least I know how to pronounce it. It has become a new foodie fad. Although, I will not praise any non-scientifically proven claims of this “superfood” other than its anti-oxidant laden berry-licious taste.

Originating from Brazil and popularized in Hawaii, California and eventually New York City, The Juice Generation has been one restaurant to popularize the breakfast açaí bowl. Topped with a hemp seed granola, an açaí bowl has a lot more substance than the rest of their juicy menu. They have 5 flavours on their menu and 5 recipes in their cookbook. Four overlap, but there is a bonus hemp açaí bowl in their cookbook not on their menu.

I found a combination of the green açaí bowl and the hemp açaí bowl to be the perfect combination. When I made my first açaí bowl, I was surprised at how green it turned out. Certainly not a vibrant red from the frozen açaí and not even a murky burgundy, it was positively green. The handful of spinach worked its magic and even masked my subsequent addition of hemp protein powder. The protein powder is now part of my regular addition to the açaí bowl which helped thicken the shake, an important factor since I was eating it like a soup.

The second revelation from my experiments with açaí was that it is naturally not that sweet. Some frozen packets add sugar to compensate, so buyer beware. In this case, I opted to use frozen bananas to buffer the spinach, hemp and açaí. Topped it with Rob’s granola of the week and sprinkled with some additional hemp seeds, I think this is awfully pretty. Green goop and all.

Green Acai Bowl

In addition to the recipes for their açaí bowls, there are also over 100 different combinations for fresh juice and smoothies in their latest cookbook.  Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what you think of green breakfasts (smoothies, puddings, bowls, etc) Do you eat them, too? I will randomly select a winner on May 2, 2014. Good luck!

PS. There is still time to enter the giveaways for The Blender Girl and The Vegan Cookbook, too.

I am sharing this with this month’s Extra Veg.

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Chocolate Puffed Quinoa Treats (aka Quinoa Choc-Crackle Slice) & Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts by Janet M on April 10, 2014

Chocolate Puffed Quinoa Treats

Another  bike ride and another treat!

Although this weekend was more about travelling to Austin for the Texas VegFest to meet the ever wonderful Tess Challis, instead of cycling. We had lofty plans for both, although the rainy weather foiled our plans.

We decided to play chicken with the weather. We wanted to cycle at least 100 km, if not more. Instead of going out for a long loop, we drove out to a more rural location and used it as our home base. I would have been very happy doing multiple laps along a straight and flat road but Rob thought that would be too boring. Instead, Rob drafted 30-35 km loops in a few directions. We pedalled through two loops before giving in to the wind and rain.

Us versus the weather? We lost. Our bikes? Super dirty. Our car won. It became clean.

The nice thing, though, was that I was able to take out these treats. I was really curious to try them out. Not only to see whether it would be better than my last puffed quinoa treat, but I was curious about using coconut sugar as a binder.

Chocolate Puffed Quinoa Treats

The good part? They tasted great. A chocolately goop to keep everything together. Not too sweet with a hint of almond. Since the quinoa was puffed and not crisp, they were easy to munch on. However, my intuition was correct about the coconut sugar: it did not hold up well as a binder. The only way I could keep these treats together was by chilling it in the freezer. Even then, perfectly cut squares were hard to craft. I resorted to breaking off nibbles when I wanted a treat. As such, these were not portable snacks but worked out well with our continuous looping back to the car. I wonder whether coconut nectar would work better as a binder, although I have never tried it.

The treats are from a fun new vegan cookbook called (wait for it) The Vegan Cookbook. It is a gorgeous cookbook with creative yet approachable recipes: breakfast tagine, kale & soba noodles with ginger-chilli sauce, curried chickpea patties with satay dipping sauce, chai-spiced banana muffins and chocolate banana wontons. Authored by Adele McConnell of Vegie Head, I must admit I had never heard of it before, but we have been enjoying many of her recipes, including the super fast chickpea curry and South African sweet potato stew (very similar to my previously shared recipe).  The rasam soup was a bit too tart for me, but at least it wasn’t mind-blowing spicy. In any case, with a wide range of international whole food recipes, I have many more dishes I look forward to making.

The Vegan Cookbook cover by Adele McConnell

Here’s to hoping the nice weather persists for this weekend. Not only for our cycling adventures but for all those partaking in the MS150 this weekend, too. :)

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living anywhere in the world (YAYAYA!). To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me about your favourite vegan meal. The winner will be selected at random on April 21, 2014. Good luck!

PS. Recipes from The Vegan Cookbook elsewhere:

Moroccan Quinoa Soup (with a giveaway, too)

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread

Mushroom and Pea Coconut Korma

Raw Chocolate Torte With Salted Pecan Sauce

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Chai Spiced Rice Pudding & The Blender Girl Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on April 8, 2014

Chai Spiced Rice Pudding

Adult rice krispies and now adult rice pudding.

The difference is that I liked rice krispies as a kid but hated rice pudding. My brother loved it, but me, not so much.

However, spice it up with chai-infused flavours, sweeten it with apple, dried currants and a touch of maple syrup, bathe it in coconut milk and sprinkle it with pistachios along with leftover short-grain brown rice, and I am a happy camper.

This is no quick-fix rice pudding but it sure is delicious. My friend who tried it said it was the best rice pudding she had ever eaten.

Chai Spiced Rice Pudding

This is my take on Tess Masters‘ version found in her gorgeous new cookbook The Blender Girl. Do not let the title mislead you too much. Yes, this is a cookbook where nearly every recipe uses a blender, but this does not mean only smoothies. The recipes are all gluten-free and vegan with only natural sweeteners. The recipes revolve around whole foods. Raw and cooked recipes are included. Tess has recipes for juices, smoothies, dips/spreads, soups, dressings, sauces and even desserts. She has entrees that use homemade sauces, including her penang curry and creamy mushroom stroganoff. Desserts include sugar-free no-pumpkin pie and chocolate-chile banana splits. Breakfast favourites including pancakes and crepes, with delicious toppings like ginger-apple-pear butter and instant raw raspberry jam. She even finds a way to use a blender for rice pudding.

She knows her stuff. It may dirty another container but I liked how a portion of the rice was pureed to thicken the rice pudding. It was rather ingenious.

The Blender Girl Cookbook cover

 

She is a girl smitten by her high-speed blender. I can tell. I have one, too, and I find it hard to remember what my kitchen was like without it. Do you need an expensive high speed blender for this cookbook? Certainly not. However, you definitely need something with a blending capacity, may that be a regular blender, an immersion blender or a food processor. If you don’t have a blender, you could still gain inspiration from her creations. Your textures may be different but it would be fun to see what else you could make.

Chai Spiced Rice Pudding
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe and giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you love to make with your blender (or blending instrument). The winner will be selected at random on April 20, 2014. Good luck!

Other recipes shared from The Blender Girl:

Creamy and Crunchy Spuds (with Raw Mayonnaise)
Watermelon Gazpacho is The Bomb
Fresh Spring Rolls with Orange-Almond Sauce
Creamy of Cauliflower Soup
Incredible Edible Edamame Dip
Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff
Penang Curry
Pad Thai
Anti-Oxidant Avenger
Pineapple Salsa Smoothie
Chock-Full Chocolate Surprise Smoothie
Raw Chocolate-Orange Torte

PS. This is my submission for Alphabakes and Random Recipes.

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Vegan Deviled “Eggs” & Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Appetizers, Book Review by Janet M on March 27, 2014

Vegan Deviled "Eggs"

Onwards with the 30 vegetable challenge. Instead of using an abundance of vegetables in a single dish, I am focusing on possibly the most popular vegetable. A vegetable that I rarely eat at that: the humble white potato.

White potato has its critics.  A high glycemic starchy vegetable that is typically consumed deep-fried or slathered in oil. I actually don’t like the taste of white potatoes, either, preferring its colourful cousin, the sweet potato. In any case, not all white potatoes are created equal and it was most apparent while we travelled in Colombia and enjoyed their local favourite: papas criollas. A small, creamy potato, perfect to eat after a simple boil, although it was also common spotted after a toss in an oiled skillet. Other small potatoes can be reasonable substitutes. I spotted these at our favourite (Mexican-flavoured) farmer’s market and brought them home to make a vegan twist on devilled eggs.

Vegan Deviled "Eggs"

No eggs, no problem. The creamy potatoes are a fun twist for the cooked egg white base and a creamy mustard-hummus filling with a touch of black salt is very reminiscent of the real deal. Sprinkled with a touch of smoke paprika and you have an easy, pretty appetizer. If you have some mad piping skills, you could make this even more fancy.

Vegan Deviled "Eggs"

This recipe is from the latest in the Happy Herbivore cookbook series, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean. For some reason, I have never really warmed up to Lindsay’s earlier cookbooks but this one was different. First of all the photos are gorgeous. Secondly, the recipes appeal to me more.

Her recipes, even if from previous cookbooks, have been lightened up and spruced up with bolder flavours. She has a bigger emphasis on vegetables and less reliance on ketchup and mayonnaise. More complete meals, instead of sides. All her recipes are oil-free and low-fat which I don’t necessarily advocate but did not mind trying out temporarily. Her recipes prove you do not need oil to make food flavourful but I like a bit more fat for satiety. Even if for no other reason, yes, you need some fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

The third part of the book includes an introduction to basic strength exercises. She includes good photographs and descriptions of each move with modifications for beginners and those who want a challenge. I like that she included another aspect of healthy lifestyles, beyond nutritious food.

Vegan Deviled "Eggs"

First and foremost, I enjoy sharing delicious food and this cookbook delivers. These deviled eggs are only one recipe but I also recommend the garden vegetable chili, cheater pad thai noodle bowl, breakfast tacos and scrambled tofu.

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe (with one of the gorgeous food photos by Jackie Sobon from Vegan Yack Attack, too) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me what you think about no-oil meals. The winner will be selected at random on April 7, 2014. Good luck!

Happy Herbivore Vegan Devilled Eggs

Recipes from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean elsewhere:

Thai Crunch Salad
Caribbean Bowl
Meatloaf Bites
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pumpkin Pancakes
Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Breakfast Tacos
Lentil Joes (with a video)
Spinach Love Wrap
Soba Peanut Noodles
Deviled “Eggs”
Microwave Peach Cobbler

PS. This is my submission to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food.

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Thrive’s Cookies and Cream Recovery Smoothie & Cookbook Giveaway

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Drinks by Janet M on March 20, 2014

Thrive's Cookies and Cream Recovery Smoothie & Cookbook Giveaway

Rob disappears and I do a cold, windy and rainy bike 100 km ride. Cameo appearance by the dreaded flat tire again. Sound familiar?

It is hard to believe, but within the span of a few days of my last solo cycling adventure, I signed up for the Tour de Houston for the 60-mile/100-km ride. More impressive (or shocking), I also dedicated some overflow vacation days to visit my parents and cycle Rideau Lakes with my Dad in June. This will be my third time on the 360 km 2-day course, I am hoping it will keep me motivated to continue to cycle throughout the summer to have fun at Cycle Oregon.

In any case, cycling season has begun. This weekend simply solidified why I love cycling so much. IT IS FUN! Even with nearly 4 hours of on-and-off again rain and fierce winds, I had a blast. Granted, I was sad Rob was missing such a fun experience but it was liberating to tackle the course at my own pace (yes, I know, Rob is usually the one waiting for me, not the other way around). I don’t know how many people showed up in spite of the weather (see the video recap here), but over 5000 people registered for the event. It is infectious to be surrounded by other cyclists. I rarely see another cyclist on my commutes to work but now, I had to jostle and wind my way around so many others.

I picked this event because it is actually run by the City of Houston to promote cycling in the city. It was well marked (save one turn) and well staffed. The course changes every year to highlight different areas of Houston. This year, the course was fantastic. Nearly all intersections were staffed to give cyclists the right-of-way (most of the time, obviously they had to let cars go through as well). I also knew it would give me the courage to try out a 100 km course with lots of support. Turns out, I needed it. I found myself with a flat tire a bit after the half-way point. When I cycle with Rob, he always brings a tube, pump, and tools to fix tires but this time, I didn’t. Thankfully, I turned around and one of the sag trucks found me and my sorry wheel. They brought me back to my last rest stop where I was able to get my flat tire. In addition, they then drove me back to where I had my flat tire so I could continue my journey.

I was a bit bummed because I had lost a lot of time and I was even turned away at one of the rest stops. I had a flat tire, I am not that slow! I kept thinking to myself. However, with the continuous rain, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise: the cyclists had thinned out so it was less congested but the best part was that I was mostly passing everyone. Not just a morale boost, this was incredible practical: less mud in my face! No one has mud guards, so if you are within 10 feet of the person cycling in front of you, you would be greeted with mud galore. How do I know? Right before I had my flat tire, there was a muddy patch and it landed all over my face, my glasses, my clothes and my bike.

The course was well stocked with bananas, oranges and peanuts (and pretzels which I didn’t eat) but by the time I arrived at the finish line, most of the vendors had packed up for the day. I cycled home. And only then I remembered how long rides really deplete my motivation to cook. I had the most motivation to do laundry and have a bath, though. Talk about being dirty. But before that, I treated myself to a fun recovery smoothie courtesy of Brendan Brazier’s new cookbook Thrive Energy Cookbook.

Based off the recipes from one of my favourite restaurants, Thrive Juice Bar, this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing: the recipes taste great. If they are true to the restaurant, you will want to make that pad thai stat. However, the curse: that pad thai? It tastes great, in part, because each component is perfected. The recipe may be on one page but it will redirect to 4 addition recipes – three sauces/vinaigrettes and a vegetable mix. All for a single serving.

The photos are gorgeous. The recipes are tantalizing with many classic vegan combinations.  I am salivating over the drinks: kale mojito (I have had that at the restaurant and it is great!), chocolate-truffle-caramel mocha, chocolate-peppermint matcha magic drink. The restaurant’s Big Green Energy Charger is in there, too, which I love with a hit of maca, but I don’t know how I will find my own freshly squeezed wheatgrass juice for my version to be authentic. The recipes focus on mostly whole foods, although Daiya cheese makes its appearance, numerous Vega products along with Wildwood Zesty Garlic Aioli which seems to be the base for all four aioli recipes. Some incredibly hard-to-find ingredients are included (lucuma, astralagus, ginseng, wheatgrass juice, reishi mushroom, maca) but not too many.. and most could easily be omitted. I look forward to trying out more recipes and thrilled I can share a cookbook with one of you, too.

For this smoothie recipe, nuts, chocolate and protein powder are combined to make a satisfying smoothie. I typically don’t like smoothies with ice, but this was well balanced, probably because there was a larger amount of nuts than my typical smoothies. Brendan calls this a recovery smoothie although for information on his rationale for his sports recipe (either before, during or after exercise), you are redirected to his previous books.

Thrive's Cookies and Cream Recovery Smoothie & Cookbook Giveaway

Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe (with my modifications, of course) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below. The winner will be selected at random on March 29, 2014. Good luck!

Recipes from Thrive Energy Cookbook shared elsewhere:

Cashew Berry French Toast

Chia Seed Blueberry Pudding

Roasted Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Soup

Coconut, Lemongrass and Lime Soup

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Red Lentil & Chickpea Burger Patties

Avocado, Black Bean & Chipotle Burger with Chipotle Lime Aïoli

Chocolate Chip French Vanilla Smoothie

Chocolate-Almond Decadence Smoothie

Acai Berry Pre-Workout Energizer

Super Chocolate Powder Mix

Almond Butter

Blood Orange and Ginger Citrus Tart

This is being submitted to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.

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