I am on a kasha-kick. At least until my stash runs out.
The millet evaporated last summer. Next went the wild rice. Now I am plowing through the kasha. Once I discovered the boil-in-a-bag stuff, I was smitten with it as a base for veggie-based bowls.
With a focus on simpler meals, I made the dressing first and then decided what to toss with it.
And yes, this was a glorious dressing.
It seems so weird. Raw onion? Dill? Miso?
But trust me, it worked so well. I also tried a creamier version with tofu-cashew mayonnaise and liked that, too.
I picked kasha, but any grain would work here. Brown rice? Quinoa? Choose your favourite veggie but broccoli complemented the tangy dill-miso dressing well.
Guys, I am thrilled to tell you about my latest favourite cookbook. It has a lot of my favourites things: all vegan, lots of beans, mostly plant-based with options for those that need their meals to be gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free or oil-free. I am a big proponent of beans (cheap, tasty and healthy protein) and was wondering who would be the smart cookie to make the first vegan bean cookbook.
Kathy Hester is the genius behind this and honestly, I am blown away by the cookbook. I want to make the majority of the recipes but I cannot decide where to start. They span the gamut from breakfast beans to beany desserts and everything in between. The dishes run the spectrum from Indian to Jamaican and Mexican to French and Moroccan, focusing on traditionally vegan meals along with creative uses for beans (fudgesicles!). Since the meals typically call for cooked beans, they are mostly easy, quick dishes, too. Here are the chapters and a few sample dishes (a complete recipe list can be found here):
- The Beautiful Bean: Basics, How-Tos and Recipes To Keep Your Food Budget in Check
-Baked Crispy Chickpea Seitan Patties, Bean Chorizo Crumbles, Sweet Red Bean Paste
- Morning Beans: Beany Breakfast and Brunch Dishes
-Almost-a-Meal Black Bean Tamale Muffins, Sausage-Spiced Savoury Pancakes, Roasted Root Veggie and Kidney Bean Hash, Red Bean-Filled Baked Donuts
- Noshy Beans: Appetizers, Dips, and Spreads
-Creamy Spinach Artichoke White Bean Dip, Pepita Black Bean Dip, Beany Eggplant Bruschetta Spread
- Nutritious Soups: Easy and Delicious One-Bowl Meals
-Hutterite Soup, Thai Coconut Tongue of Fire Soup, Salsa Fresca White Bean Gazpacho, Triple Lentil Soup with Wheat Berries
- Cool Beans: Legume-Centric Salads
-Salsa Quinoa Salad, Lentil Beet Salad, Chickpea Greek Salad with Tofu Feta
- Portable Beans: Sandwiches, Patties and More
-Mango Curry Chickpea Salad, Don’t be Crabby Cakes, Butternut Squash Frijoles, Baked Arugula and Bean Flautas
- Sultry Stews and Hearty Chilies: Quintessential Bean Dishes
-Chickpea Veggie Tagine, Indian Cauliflower Lentil Stew, Solstice Beans with Pumpkin and Greens, Margarita Chili Beans, Apple Baked Beans, Hard Cider-Sauced Beans, Tomato Rosemary White Beans
- Casseroles, Pastas, and More: One Dish Meals
-Flageolet Cassoulet, Lentil Quinoa Bolognese Sauce, Chickpea and Vegetable Lo Mein, Creamy Healthified Vodka Sauce, Oven Chickpea and Seasonal Veggie Biryani
- Bean-a-licious Sweet Treats: Desserts that Love Beans
-Black Eyed Pea-nut Butter Pie, Ginger Red Bean Popsicles, Black Bean Fudgesicles, Cherry Basil Crumble Bars, Chocolate Summer Squash Cake
Kathy explains the basics of the standard beans, along with variations for specialty heirloom beans. Until you buy pretty, specialty beans, you may not understand the lure to not cook with them. They are just so pretty and recipes never suggest using Tongues of Fire beans, or Hutterite soup beans, or Good Mother Stallard beans. Here, Kathy breaks down the anxiety. She describes which beans are in each family and therefore can be easily exchanged, while still not alienating those without access to specialty beans.
Good Mother Stallard beans are in a league of their own, though. They are in the “interesting shapes” category along with ayocote negro and Goat’s Eye beans. Kathy explains Good Mother Stallard beans are football-shaped and create a “perfect pot liquor”. She suggests using them as a fancy bean substitute in certain dishes that call for chickpeas and kidney beans, or using them plainly as in this dish to experience they real, naked taste.
I decided to dust off my pretty Good Mother Stallard beans and put them to the test. A simple pot of beans spiced with rosemary, bay leaves and carrots. Steve from Rancho Gordo suggests these may be his favourite bean and after a simple simmer, I can see why. Delicious mouth feel. The beans have a thicker skin which keeps the bean’s shape while the inside is creamy and sweet. There is a lot more going on with this bean than one would expect and thankfully these beans retain their colourful markings even after being cooked. Kathy suggested eating the beans as-is, with bread or a grain.
I bought my Good Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo, but Kathy has as extensive list of other retailers, too. I normally retype all the recipes I share, but Kathy’s publisher has given me permission to share this recipe. Looking at it below will give you an idea about the attention to detail in this book: flexible bean substitutes, optional slow cooker directions as well as complete nutritional information.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me giveaway a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a message here, telling me about your favourite bean dish. I will randomly select a winner on June 30. For more chances to win, check out the other bloggers that are featuring Kathy’s cookbook this month as part of her blog tour. You can follow along on Kathy’s website here. Good luck!
Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. (more…)
Just like riding a bicycle.
I put that to the test on the weekend.
I have not been up to my typical exercise regime this spring. I pared it down to 1 weight lifting class a week and 1 bike ride. Over the past 2 months, I have not cycled more than 400km.
Yet, in a week, I have signed up to cycle 200km between Perth and Kingston. (I long gave up cycling the full 354km between Ottawa and Kingston).
I used to think anyone could ride 100km. However, with my severe lack of training this year, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to cycle the “short” 200km route either.
So, I dusted off my road bike (the first time I rode it this year), and cycled almost 100km with Rob and Sue on Sunday. It was one of my favourite routes (the Aurora loop) which meanders north of Toronto through such small cities like Snow Ball and Maple. Cycling north of the of the city also meant tackling the uphill during the first part of the trip and enjoying the downhill going home. All in between getting soaked from a sudden downpour and battling the wind from many directions.
Did I do it? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Will I do it again next weekend? Yes.
Rob has been training for this throughout our short spring, so he didn’t find this route as challenging as me… which meant he had more energy when we arrived home. Originally, he wanted to treat me with some ice cream but: a) I felt more like a smoothie, and b) we should be eating through our freezer stash. As I lay on the ground, Rob whipped up a delicious smoothie. I kind of made suggestions from the floor: frozen banana, frozen mamey, vanilla, hemp protein powder and almond milk. It was a crazy concoction and we weren’t sure how it would taste…. Only after I drank a huge serving, did I have enough energy to photograph it… because we both agreed it was too good not to share.
It is hard to describe the flavour of mamey. It takes like mamey… Think about it, how would you describe the taste of apple? Anyways, it is a sweet creamy mango-like flavour with floral undertones. It has a custard-like taste and consistency. Describing flavours is hard. I like this description:
The fruit’s flavor is variously described as a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, and maraschino cherries with the texture of an avocado. Source
It paired beautifully with the creamy banana. The hemp protein powder made it a bit more of a green colour but also added creaminess.
How did we find mamey? We originally discovered it while travelling in Colombia, both as a fruit and in delicious smoothie form. We were thrilled when we spotted frozen mamey (sapote) at a Colombian bakery in Toronto and picked up a few packages earlier this year. They also had frozen guanabanana, guava, blackberry (mora) and possibly other non-exotic fruits like strawberries.
Have you ever tried mamey? I think it is best in smoothie-form.
Can oats taste like rice?
The folks who sell Cavena Nuda seem to think so.
Cavena Nuda is a Canadian innovation: a new hull-less form of oats. The oat grows with the hull, but it falls off much more easily than standard oats. Regular oats need to be heated and milled until they can be de-hulled. As such, they are more environmentally sound and nutritionally superior to regular oats. After Angela tried them, it took me a while to find them but I eventually located it at Ambrosia and later at Bulk Barn.
They don’t taste like oats, though. Cavena nuda is the complete oat kernel, so while they are in the shape of rice, they remind me more of farro or oblong wheat berries than rice per se.
That didn’t stop me from trying to cook it into a risotto-style dish, though. Lacking rice and cheese, I am hard pressed to call this a risotto but it is a nice meal. Since it has a few components, this is a dish that will dirty up a few pots but it is delicious and worth the effort. To simplify the recipe, you could skip the tempeh as it was good even without it, although it adds a flavourful protein component.
Here, you cook up the cavena nuda (or farro, or rice, or even orzo as Isa suggests), which is added to some cooked onions, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Spinach is wilted at the end. The topping is a crumbled tempeh spiced with fennel and coriander. It is a nice addition but certainly not necessary if you are short on time, or short on tempeh.
Other dishes with farro I’ve spotted:
Scarlet Rosemary Chickpea Farrotto from Keepin It Kind
Farrotto with Tomato and Artichokes from Eating Well
Farrotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Beets from TasteFood
Spiced sprouting broccoli with roast parsnip farrotto and citrus-rosemary butter from For the Love of Food
Purple sprouting broccoli with leek and shallot farrotto from Denis Cotter at BBC
Risotto-Style Farro with Caramelized Onions, Squash, and Kale from Cate’s World Kitchen
Baked Coconut Kale Salad with Farro from Super Natural Every Day
Farro and Millet Risotto from 101 Cookbooks
The carrot craze continues…
I am a proponent of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and raw cuisine intrigues me. Dining at a raw resto can leave me beguiled: how did they do that? This goes beyond salads. Silky smooth lasagnas, luscious chocolate hazelnut cakes and brownies. This does not taste remotely like raw foods. Then I immediately want to try to make it myself. New techniques to bring you different flavours…
If you need any introduction to raw foods, raw desserts are definitely the way to go. No stranger to decadent raw desserts (Raw Key Lime Pie, Better Than Nutella Cheesecake, Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake), sometimes they go thump with the richness from nuts and coconut. It hasn’t stopped me from wanting to explore more desserts, though. Even better when they are lighter.
Last summer, I was a recipe tester for Amber’s cookbook Practically Raw Desserts and while the recipes are very flexible (I love her multiple variations!), one ingredient she was adamant about not substituting was coconut flour. It is unlike any other flour or shredded coconut.
I was dying to try was her Enlightened Carrot Cake. Nut-free, the base is made from carrots, apples and dates. Oh, and coconut flour. However, by the time I tracked down coconut flour and had the gusto to make this recipe, the book had already been shipped to the publisher (oops!). Thank goodness, this was one of the first recipes she shared online because it finally prompted me to try it.
Amber made this as a cute double-decker cake with a small springform pan. Since I don’t have one, I looked for an easier option. Cupcakes worked well with my last raw carrot cake (very good, too), and even though I had no muffin wrappers, I decided to try it out. After a bit of warm water pouring over the back of the muffin tray, the frozen cupcakes popped right out. It worked!
And yes, they were delicious. Because they are made with coconut flour, they are light. Coconut flour is defatted coconut meat, so it is a lower-fat coconut-based option for desserts. Most importantly, it is an ingredient creating a fluffier texture. As such, these cupcakes are so different than any other raw dessert I have made. The sweetness is not over-pronounced and it was a delicious dessert with a hint of coconut and cinnamon. Satisfying and surprisingly filling for a low-fat dessert.
Amber has two recipes as suggested frostings. I chose neither, although her fermented cashew frosting is still on my hit-list. My last cashew-date frosting was a bit dense and definitely not white, so I wanted to substitute the dates. Instead, I made an apple-cashew frosting. It was simple: apple + soaked cashews + ume plum vinegar (another acid and salt could work) + water. I liked how the fresh apple added bulk and sweetness. The consistency was just perfect after a chill in the refrigerator. Smooth and creamy.
Of course, now I am excited to make more recipes with coconut flour. Have you tried it yet?
Many of the recipes in Practically Raw Desserts use coconut flour, so I am excited to try more of Amber’s creations. I promise to do a better review of the cookbook when I finally get my copy. Here are other recipes that use coconut flour:
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares in Practically Raw Desserts
Pecan Chai Spice Bars in Practically Raw Desserts (I made these as a tester but found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread in Practically Raw Desserts
Cake Batter Protein Balls from Chef Amber Shea (I have made these already. They are very good for something so simple)
Raw Apricot Jam Bars with Flakey Crust by Bonzai Aphrodite
Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies from Purely Twins
Peppermint Protein Bars from Purely Twins
Coconut Lemon Meltaways from The Hearty Herbivore
Raw Avocado Brownie from Bite-Sized Thoughts
Chocolate Avocado Cookies from Sprint 2 The Table
The dehydrator and juicer are now out in full force.
Carrots for juice and then the pulp was made into these lovely raw falafels.
I know, I said I don’t like raw Mediterranean eats. While I like Middle Eastern foods, I don’t like falafels.
However, I loved these raw carrot falafels.
Probably because they don’t taste like real falafels. And they don’t use raw chickpeas, either.
In any case, they taste great.
Carrots (or carrot pulp) is combined with sesame seeds along with lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and green onions for a flavour punch. Dehydrate them for 4 hours and you’ve got some soft and moist falafels without the heaviness from typical deep-dried falafel balls.
I combined the falafels with my favourite Middle Eastern-tahini dressing to date. Hummus-style with additional lemon juice, tamari and tahini. I originally used it in my Chickpea and Tofu Tahini Scramble but found the flavours mellowed after cooking on the stovetop. However, I stuck my finger in first to see how it tasted. I knew it would be a great dressing/dip and it did not disappoint.
I originally served the falafels and dressing as a salad overtop greens, but they also went really well in a green wrap with a bed of raw cauliflower couscous.
I am a sucker for beans.
While I have a pantry filled with heirloom specialty beans from Rancho Gordo and Kalustyan’s, I still keep finding new-to-me beans. During a cycling trip last year, a few friends and I cycled up to Woodbridge, and wound up at an Italian grocer for lunch. I perused the aisles for my lunch. Even though it was Italian, I had a brown rice veggie avocado sushi roll and an apple but I also discovered a new bean: Tondini beans (also known as burrini beans or pea beans). A small white bean in a glass jar. Perfect for a traveller: no need for a can opener and the cap could be screwed back on if on the go. I brought it back home and a few months later, I decided to bust them out for a salad.
However, when I opened the jar, they were sitting in a funny gooey jelly. A lot of the beans had split open, likely releasing their starch and gelling the liquid. I didn’t think the road that THAT bumpy on our ride. I typically cook my own beans so I don’t normally run into this problem… so how to use mushy beans?
Scramble! A breakfast scramble… although more of a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner sort of meal. Perfect anytime, if you ask me. Definitely one of my favourite meals lately. The Tondini beans were nice and small, similar to flageolet beans, but more fragile, lending well to a scramble. The beans are simmered with onions and garlic, along with tomatoes and spinach as familiar breakfast omelette toppings. Similar to my chickpea and tofu-tahini scramble, but lighter and more cheezy from the nutritional yeast. Black salt added the eggy flavour.
Beans for breakfast, I could get used to this.
Have you ever had a problem with mushy beans?
Even though we won’t be moving until late June, now that Rob and I have found a place to live in Houston (YAYAYAYA!), the move seems a bit more real.
All of a sudden, I want to scope out my new neighbourhood. I want to know my route to work, cycle the nearby bicycle paths and explore the grocery stores. I want to know my new routine.
Thankfully, our new place will be close to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I am most excited about Trader Joe’s since I doubt Whole Foods is any cheaper in the US than it is here in Canada. Although I will still keep an eye out for ethnic grocers. They are my favourite for fresh and inexpensive produce and staples (these are my favourite stores in Toronto). If you are familiar with Houston, please let me know of your favourite shops. I am also considering trying out Rawfully Organic for fruits/veggies. Does anyone have experience with them? *As well, if anyone could share what they routinely buy online instead of at TJ’s, please let me know what and where*
Right now, the plan is to try to live a “minimalist” lifestyle while in Houston. Bring only the bare necessities. I think it will be fun to move the majority of our stuff into storage and live on less. Of course, we don’t plan on depriving ourselves. We are not materialistic but somehow seemed to have accumulated a lot of stuff. I suppose we don’t like to waste anything, purge little and haven’t started the “this is for real” part of laying down a home.
We plan on bringing our own current necessities, though. Like 4 bicycles. And my Vitamix, food processor, rice cooker and coffee machine (the last one is for Rob). A handful of cookbooks. I decided that the dehydrator may take a year-long sabbatical. The dehydrator is pretty bulky and I don’t use it that often. And I could live without it for a year. Which, of course, means I am using it like crazy before we leave.
I have mentioned these beet chips discretely before. I have made them a few time, but lost my original set of photos. It was a perfect impetus to make them again… and again. They are possibly my favourite snack from the dehydrator and they are so easy to make. Peel beets, slice, marinate and dehydrate. Sweet and crispy chips emerge. Pretty, too. And yes, these were regular beets. No fancy candy-cane striped Chioggia beets, here.
Actually, I take that back. One time I made this with small beets, and it took forever to peel them. Now I only make these with large beets. The chips are bigger, too. You wouldn’t believe how much they shrink. Depending on how thick you slice your beets, two pounds of beets may only yield 2 cups of chips. Which I could likely eat in an afternoon, if I am not careful.
Enough of the doom-and-gloom? Bring on more tasty salads!
It has been a while since I proclaimed to make the best salad ever. As I continue to make more and more salads, I have higher salad expectations.
My old favourites are still wonderful:
The Best Salad Ever (First Version): Turkish Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad
The New Best Salad Ever (dethroning the above): Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa
The Best Lentil Salad Ever: 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Currants
And now, I present to you: The Best Chickpea Salad Ever.
I eat chickpeas a lot, but I don’t usually eat them as the main salad component. I would have a hard time thinking of a good cold chickpea-based salad off the top of my head. I don’t like chickpeas with vinaigrettes, preferring them pan-roasted or smothered in thick sauces. However, as soon as we tasted this salad, both Rob and I were smitten.
This is a perfect chickpea salad, combining the tang I enjoy from vinaigrettes with a light creaminess from tahini along with a sweet spice from curry powder, contrasted with sweet currants and carrots. It is quite similar to my favourite lentil salad, except I am using a pre-made curry powder. Granted, the success of your salad will depend entirely on the curry powder you use. I am very partial to Penzey’s sweet blend which is fragrant and flavourful without being too spicy or earthy. It is highlighted perfectly with the touch of maple syrup.
I had this recipe bookmarked for the longest time and once I made it, I was sad I hadn’t made it earlier. Do not delay in trying it out. It will make a great potluck salad this summer.
What is your favourite salad?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Eat Make Grow Blog Hop for picnic eats. (more…)
Power of beautiful food?
I adore Gena’s blog Choosing Raw, where she shares gorgeous food that is still down-to-earth, delicious and easy. I have made many of her recipes (there are too many to count, ok plus these, too), and I have bookmarked many more to try.
So around the time of my food funk and arugula excess, I was propelled to the kitchen with the promise of beautiful food. Gena shared a drop-dead gorgeous salad with mizuna and tempeh with a mustard-miso dressing. I had enough gusto to make the dressing and bake some tempeh. Less inclination to go to the store to buy cabbage, snow peas and cilantro. So, I tossed it with the arugula and some cherry tomatoes and cucumber.
It did not matter because the star of this salad was the dressing. Oh my gosh, it was so good. A hefty dose of miso, a strong background of mustard with a sweet sourness from Meyer lemons and maple syrup, this dressing had a lot of bold flavours that became downright addictive. The tempeh was very basic and could be used for most meal salads since it was not strongly flavoured.
By the time I finally got around to acquiring some cabbage, I think I hate half the cabbage with this dressing alone. I just kept returning for more delicious salad.
Here’s to beautiful salad!
Have you tried Gena’s recipes? What are your favourites?
Comfort means different things to different people. A warm hug, a friendly email, a cheery phone call.. or wallowing with an ice cream sundae and warm apple pie. I try not to do the emotional eating thing but sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. But can chocolate really overcome the worst blues? No.
I know some of you think I am nuts… some holier-than-thou soul who can shun the desserts and treats. Well, let me assure you that I am not immune. Trust me, there are enough vegan desserts that can keep me entertained and gluttonous. But sometimes, you just need something more.
A great way not to get suckered into buying treats is not to shop at standard grocers. This also means it can be more difficult for me to indulge if I want.
After writing the first part of my exam, I planned to do grocery shopping. It all made sense: I had neglected all foodly things earlier that week and it was time to restock. My exam also happened to be close to my favourite ethnic grocer. Score! I had no list, no recipes, no agenda – time was spent on studying pathology, not recipes. However, after that exam, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted to wallow in some chocolate.
My favourite grocer is filled with all sorts of fun, cheap produce: grapefruits, many different kinds of mangoes, baby bok choy, Asian mushrooms, cheap fresh herbs. I wanted to splurge. I wanted something decadent. Chocolate, anything remotely vegan and dessert-like. Um, yeah, no. Nothing here at all. The nuts didn’t appeal to me… and my splurge? Two pounds of baby arugula for $4. Two pounds doesn’t seem like a lot but it was two big clamshells worth of arugula. Was it a splurge? Yes, because I did not think I could eat that much arugula and I thought to myself: I should not be buying this. But it was no decadent splurge.
So, on my way home, I stopped by my favourite resto in Toronto, Belmonte Raw. In spite of improving their hours, because they are on the other side of town, I have not been in a long time. So this was my treat. I had no appetite, but I was salivating just wondering what their specials would be for the day. I needed some comfort. I ended up ordering a comforting smoothie and a raw burrito. I have raved about their raw burrito before, but this one left me flat. This version was only half of a burrito with a side salad. The smoothie was also lacklustre. I wanted more!! I decided that my taste buds could not be comforted at this point. They were beyond repair. My appetite could not be perked up and trying her sinful chocolate thimbles would likely not help the cause.
So I moseyed home. With my 2 pounds of arugula. But no interest in cooking or eating (let alone photographing and blogging). A good night’s sleep and an empty fridge partially motivated me to try something more than oatmeal in the following days. Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to eat.
I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat through the arugula, it would have to be cooked. Thus lemony arugula nests were born. This actually turned out much better than I anticipated. Considering nothing seemed to taste good to me, and I really liked this, that says a lot! It was also fun because it was a very simple recipe.
I used JL’s recipe as a guide. She simmered Italian-spiced tomatoes with olives and beans. I simmered tomatoes and white beans and added in a bunch of herbs that seemed Italian: marjoram, fennel seed and lemon pepper. It worked! The tomatoes were light and fresh with flavour, and I only simmered it for 10 minutes as I tended to the arugula. For the arugula, I misread the directions and lightly steamed it with some broth and garlic, and then doused it in lemon juice. Contrasting the two components was good. Lots of greens. Lots of beans. And I really don’t think the photos do it justice because I think it was even prettier in person… and surprisingly enough, leftovers were good, too.
What is your comfort food? Surprised mine includes beans? Shocked chocolate couldn’t suffice? I think having a delicious bowl of good food definitely helps…
It is with a heavy heart that I have abandoned ship for the Rideau Lakes training, but that hasn’t stopped me from making cycling snacks for Rob. Energy nibbles are definitely one of the perks of long-distance cycling. Never wanting to run out of glycogen stores during long rides (aka bonk), snacking on homemade sports drinks and energy bars are a fun way to fuel a long cycle.
In addition to high carbs for quick absorption, whole foods are good options due to their beneficial nutrients. Vitamins and antioxidants can help rebuild your body as they repair from your exercise. And because I am a sucker from trying new things, especially when heralded as a leading source of antioxidants, this is how I stumbled upon acai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee, btw).
However, the powdered acai berries left a bit to be desired. They didn’t add much to my morning oats. Flavour-wise at least. I needed a new strategy. Because if I am going to shell out the big bucks for acai, I may as well taste it and enjoy it.
Packed with a a medley of dried fruit (dates, raisins and apricots), almonds, vanilla and cinnamon, this is a delicious treat. Not as mono-dimension as some no-frill date-heavy energy bars, I really liked the fruitiness that the acai imparted. Could you skip it? For sure, but then I’d add something like unsweetened dried cranberries or goji berries to replace the berri-ness I enjoyed.
These nibbles have been christened ‘the pepperoni’, because Rob thought I had made pepperoni during its initial phase, rolled up as a long cylinder in the fridge. Surprises abound in the fridge, but I can assure you that these do not taste like pepperoni. However, a savoury energy snack sounds like a great idea. Dried tomatoes in a pizza-like ball, anyone?
I also wanted to highlight a new book for any readers interested in cycling. I know I’ve recommended Every Women’s Guide to Cycling before (although I can’t find my own post, here is a good review). I read it a few years ago when I first became interested in long-distance cycling. I felt like she was whispering and guiding me through the ins-and-outs of cycling. It seems so simple to get on a bike and pedal, but it is so much more than that. Have you ever wondered whether to wear underwear with your padded cycling shorts? And what the heck is chamois butter? Just a few of the tips I garnered from the book. I really should re-read it when I resume long distance cycling again, because it is not geared solely to novice riders. And to be honest, if studying for my exam has taught me anything, it has reinforced that if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I haven’t really looked at cycling tips and tricks for a while.
However, I recently read through Bicycling Magazine’s 1,100 Best All-Time Tips. I haven’t read the previous editions, but this version highlights quick easy-to-read tips about many different areas in cycling: traffic safety, riding positions, skill builders, training techniques, distance riding, mountain biking, racing, health and fitness, nutrition, equipment and bike care and repair. Most of the tips resonate with me as I figured them out myself over the years: there is less wind in the morning so start riding earlier (there is also less traffic), why to avoid riding through a puddle (there is probably a huge hole there, too), and the best communication during group rides (we are a very vocal bunch of cyclists).
It includes tips that reinforce aspects I need to continue to remind myself: don’t train hard more than twice a week, take at least one rest day a week and it reminds you of the signs of over-training. They even suggest that cyclists who work full-time (or go to school), should limit their training to 10-12 hours a week: protecting your time for what matters most while still giving you the most amount of benefit (something I remind myself daily). For more serious cyclists, they have tips like shedding water bottles during long climbs if you can refill shortly afterwards (because one should never sacrifice hydration).
The tips are very practical, with suggestions on how to plan your training year, how to structure a training camp, and how to be your own coach. I appreciate the short and to-the-point nature of the tips, but at times, I wish there were more references for the scientific advice –but that’s the doctor coming out in me. Not all techniques are so obvious and straight-forward. Building strength, endurance and muscle, can be accentuated from different angles, but make sure you figure out what works for you. So, if you are searching for the best energy bar, the ratio of carbs:protein is one thing, but taste matters, too. Too sweet? Easy to chew? Or not chew? Start experimenting now, instead of whipping up a new recipe the day of your event.
Here are some of my other favourite cycling-friendly energy snacks:
For those who prefer videos, Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Forward is a great resource, too. I enjoyed watching some of his videos from his latest module about enhancing sport performance.
Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)
Are you familiar with The Dish column in the Toronto Star?
They routinely give the nutritional stats of local eats based on laboratory analysis. Not surprisingly, most meals get a failing grade.
Salad King’s Chicken Pad Thai: 1114 calories and 3479mg of sodium
Burrito Boyz’s Steak Burrito: 1000 calories and 1452mg of sodium
Veggie options are not usually any better:
Gandhi’s Spinach and Paneer Roti: 1482 calories and 3360mg of sodium
a1 Sweet’s Indian veggie thali: 1690 calories and 2134mg of sodium
And what about vegan eats? Not any better.
Urban Herbivore’s sweet potato date muffin (just one! one muffin!) is 986 calories and 689 mg of sodium.
And supposedly “healthy” restos? Depends on what you order:
Fresh’s Buddha Bowl (brown rice bowl with peanut sauce, tofu cucumber, tomato, cilantro, bean sprouts and peanuts) is 1168 calories and 1076mg of sodium
And Fresh’s Green Goddess Bowl (steamed bok choy, kale, swiss chard and broccoli with grilled tempeh, pickled ginger, toasted sunflower seeds, tahini sauce, toasted nori and ginger tamari sauce) is only 687 calories with 647mg of sodium.
Moral of the story? If you are eating out, be mindful of your portion sizes and the amount of non-veggies…. and preferably, only eat half your meal.
This always encourages me to try my hand at making the food at home, more in tune to my regular portion sizes. The culprits for the giant calorie counts are mostly due to the sheer amount of food, including heaping portions of rice and rich sauces. Fresh’s Green Goddess Bowl is lighter because it is filled with less caloric dense green veggies.
And yes, because I still couldn’t get Hot Bean’s peanut miso sauce out of my head, I made another version.
Last time, it was just chickpeas and broccoli but this time I went more extravagant by adding spaghetti squash, shallots and sesame seeds to the chickpeas and broccoli. I also wanted to test my theory of a thicker sauce by using some toasted sesame oil with the peanut butter and miso dressing.
Compared to my last attempt, this dressing was thicker, coating the veggies nicely. This version also had a more pronounced sesame flavour from the toasted sesame oil. In fact, a little of the sauce goes a long way. Big bold flavours means you don’t need to use as much. If you like it to cover everything, thin it or make a double batch. Both dressings were good, though. Side-by-side, I preferred the first dressing (I like dressings a bit more tart) whereas Rob preferred this one, but it was close.
It is hard to believe that just two years ago, in preparation for cycling to/from Ottawa and Kingston, I was already training by cycling to/from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo. Our friend was hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo party so I packed my pannier and cycled over. That’s 120km one-way. This year, due to snow and rain, the long cycles haven’t progressed as well. Thus, the trip has been modified to be 70km one way from the train station.
While the party is happening again this year, and I have signed up for Rideau Lakes, I am trying to balance my time between cycling and studying. Studying is winning. Cycling can wait. Passing my exams cannot. Two years ago, I cycled with my buddy, Sue, while Rob stayed at home to study. This year, Rob is cycling with Sue, and I am staying home to study.
Cinco de Mayo was still on my mind, though, as I made these Mexican-inspired almost raw chili salad wraps. I could easily whip these up in Kitchener, had I decided to cycle over myself.
One of the things I love about raw cuisine is that the flavours (usually) pop. Just think of garlic – raw garlic is potent, cooked garlic is muted and slow-roasted garlic is even more mellow.
With a higher emphasis on proteins lately, one thing raw meals lack are good sources of protein. Sure, you could sprout grains and beans, but I don’t really like them as much as their cooked counterparts. That’s probably why I don’t see many recipes for sprouted legumes. “High protein” raw meals usually mean lots of nuts and seeds, which also come with more fat than protein.
In any case, I thought to myself: lets combine the best of both worlds.Beans and flavourful sauces for a high-protein fix. I actually got the idea after Gena posted Brendan’s recipe for a cold chili. Basically all the foundations from a regular chili are combined to make a satisfying dip. It is quite versatile: heat it up to make a regular chili, serve it with chips as a dip, place overtop your favourite green as a salad or place inside Romaine lettuces as a chili salad wrap.
In my study gusto, I appreciate super quick meals. Open a can of cooked beans (I used a canned bean medley), empty out a can of tomato paste, chop up some tomato and green onions and season with chili powder, cumin and lime. Of course, the raw garlic pops out for you, too. It tastes best after a marinade, which means leftovers are just as good, if not better.
Have you ever had raw hummus?
As in, hummus made from raw, sprouted chickpeas?
I did. Once.
But not on purpose.
Early in our courtship, Rob decided to surprise me with some hummus. While we diligently follow our favourite recipe now, there was a time when Rob liked to “wing it”. At that time, Rob was a novice with beans, too.
He went all out and bought dried chickpeas. He soaked them overnight. He methodically added the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and finally the chickpeas to his food processor. It churned away and then stopped working. The hummus had broken his food processor! The first thing that popped into Rob’s head was – let’s go to Janet’s apartment and use her food processor to finish it off. I was away, so he silently entered my apartment and finished off pureeing the hummus.
He surprised me the next day with the hummus when he met me in Texas. I tasted it. It was off. Did you follow a recipe? Yes! But then I tinkered with it since it didn’t taste as good as before. Oh well, we better find a better recipe next time. This tastes funny. I don’t know what it is, though.
A few days later, we figured it out. Maybe it was a week later.. or a month later, I can’t remember. This story is such a classic, I mostly remember the punch line….
Rob used raw chickpeas in the recipe. He soaked them but did not cook them. He didn’t know he had to cook them (canned chickpeas are already cooked?? the recipe didn’t tell me to cook them!). Thankfully, now he knows better.
These days, hummus has become fairly ubiquitous for any bean spread. Technically, hummus is Arabic for chickpea and mostly associated with a chickpea puree with tahini.
I admit it: I am guilty of making non-traditional hummus. I have made hummuses (hummi? hummus?) with edamame and white beans instead of chickpeas, with peanut butter and cashews instead of tahini, and even a dessert option with peanut butter and chocolate! I have also souped up traditional hummus with pomegranate molasses and red pepper paste. Carrots and hummus have become my go-to snack lately.
However, those versions always used cooked beans. Now was my turn to try raw hummus. Without any sprouted beans, though.
With zucchini as its base instead of chickpeas, and cashews instead of tahini, there is not much resemblance to classical hummus. However, it is one deliciously creamy spread spiced with garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and miso. Use it to dip your favourite vegetables or crackers or however else you love to use hummus. Lately I have been loving it with huge carrots as my after dinner snack. There is something so satisfying about eating a whole uncut carrot smothered in a garlicky