I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too.
I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.
I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made
some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.
After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.
In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.
PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?
PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?
Being known as a healthy eater has its drawbacks.
My meals have now become suspicious. Suspicious for healthy ingredients. What have I hidden in the meal this time?
Trust me, I cater to my audience. If baking for myself, I’d easily experiment with squash carob brownies, cauliflower chocolate cake, chocolate chip chickpea blondies or chocolate mint black bean cookies. I have even gambled with (oh so good) chocolate tofu mousse pie with my family for Easter.
But for the harshest critics, I go all out.
Thus when Rob’s family came over for a birthday celebration and I offered to supply dessert, I had to determine my plan of attack.
Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie? I knew it was a winner, but I had no tofu.
Rob suggested my Carrot Cake Cupcakes since he really liked them, but I thought they might be a bit “out there”. Carrots for a birthday dessert? (Only mine..)
Experiment with a new recipe? I considered Terry’s Italian Cashewcotta Cheesecake or Ethiopian Chocolate Flourless Torte, but still had the issue of missing ingredients.
Then I worked backwards. What do I have in my pantry? Coconut oil, nuts and cocoa powder. Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Sounded delicious already. I peered around the corner of the cabinet and pulled out hazelnut butter. Eureka! A raw chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.
I like raw desserts because I can sample the batter and can easily gauge how it will turn out. Licking the batter from the blender, I knew this was going to be good. The next afternoon, I brought out the cheesecake to thaw. I cut a piece before everyone arrived. You know, for blogging photography purposes. But I sliced off a tiny sliver so I could do some tasting research, too.
I know I said my last raw cheesecake was utterly sinful, but how can a key lime pie compete with a chocolate cheesecake? A chocolate hazelnut cheesecake? It can’t. This my friends, was pure cocoa bliss.
Better than Nutella filling in a cheesecake form, on a cocoa-hazelnut-date crust. Decadent but not too rich and not too sweet. Perfect.
Trust me, I was very confident with this dessert.
Before I served it, I was pummeled with questions, though. “What IS this?” I was asked. Ingredients or the name of the dish? Ingredients, tell me. Nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave, dates… Avocados? I hate avocados.. No avocados…
Thank goodness it was a resounding success. Definitely my best dessert yet.
I am sore today.
Yesterday was such a wonderful day, it is hard to narrow down the ultimate culprit.
On any day of soreness, I would blame the gym. Yesterday was no exception. I started off the day with my regular weightlifting class but it was followed by an incredibly demanding work-out courtesy of Jillian Michaels: the infamous Body Shred work-out. It sounds tame. Only 30 minutes. Only 4 rounds after the warm-up. Only 3 minutes of strength, then 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs. Do not be fooled!! This is HARD! It is crazy and chaotic. But fun and energizing. Especially since the moves have such funny names (but still oh so hard – flying crab anyone?). Already in select cities in the US, this was the first preview class in Canada but will eventually find its way into a Goodlife near you (it will start March 1 in Toronto and nationwide by the end of 2014). I don’t think this video gives the work-out the fear it deserves.
Two work-outs down, it was time to become lazy and gluttonous.
Starting off with lunch at our new favourite fast food joint, Banh Mi Boys, which has a lot of vegan options. My favourite is the veggie kimchi sweet potato fries and the green-papaya salad with lemongrass tofu (both off-menu). Even better was meeting up with the sweet travelling Aussie Hannah.
Next up, a bit early for our show, we had a tea and connect 4 stop at Academy of Lions. It doubles as a crossfit gym but also hosts a cute cafe with tons of paleo sweets. If only they didn’t have honey, they would have been vegan-friendly. In any case, they had my favourite Tealish tea to warm me up: Winter Blend.
Our main reason for our jaunt on Lower Ossington was to see Avenue Q. A small intimate theater made this an up-close and personal experience, filled with all the wittiness I remember from when I first watched the show in NYC.
Next up, a new-to-us resto: Bi Bim Bap. A Korean sizzling brown rice specialty, we were drawn to it because they offer brown rice (for no extra charge), along with vegan options such as tofu or a blend of 9 different mushrooms. You can also personalized your stone bowl creations with your choice of hot sauce, or not-so-hot sauce (in my case, I had the not hot soy garlic sauce, but Rob had the “mild hot” sour GoChuJang which I thought was plenty spicy, thankyouverymuch). Since the hot sauces are served on the side, you can add to taste and even ask for another sauce if it turns out to be too spicy. On the side was some kimchi and pickled ?pear/apple?. Their homemade and simple kimchi is made with anchovies (no go for me) but Rob said it was plenty spicy so I wouldn’t have liked it anyways. (The kimchi at Banh Mi Boys is very tame which I prefer). All the bibimbaps are served with barley tea (which actually tastes good), miso soup and a ginger-cinnamon drink. Turns out it wasn’t only us trying numerous kinds of kimchi. Toronto has kimchi fever this weekend. I wonder who won the kimchi battle?
Followed by a nightcap with these sexy maca chocolates. I first added cacao butter to my list of ingredients to hunt down after seeing Sarah’s raw chocolate recipe. When I finally decided to make said chocolates, I decided pureeing the dates seemed a tad finicky. I gravitated to a super simple recipe I found in Superfood Kitchen, only slightly more involved than the recent posts from Angela and Gena. I actually made these before their posts but kept these chocolates hidden away as a surprise for Rob. I initially planned to share them on Valentine’s Day but Rob surprised me with homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles instead!
A week later, I broke out these sexy maca chocolates. Why sexy? Maca is believed to (slightly) improve libido. It also has been shown to slightly improve athletic performance which is how I first became introduced to its malty taste. I will be whipping out those maca chip raw energy balls again this summer, as I train for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. Here, this recipe is simply melted cocoa butter spiced with cocoa powder and maca powder, sweetened with agave. Easy peasy for simple, sexy chocolate truffles.
While I may be sore today, it was still a fabulous day-long 3-year anniversary date with Rob.
This is the story of a picnic that didn’t happen, twice.
We had full intentions of getting together with friends, having a picnic together on the island. However, after a weather forecast of 100% rain, the plans were abandoned. Rob and I stayed at home and relished in a relaxing afternoon together.
Together, we still continued with our picnic menu: Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Iranian Limes. I figured a grain salad would travel well but may not be too picnic-friendly (who was going to bring plates?) so I thought it would be neat to stuff it into a wrap. Rice paper rolls for company and kale wraps for me! I figured a tahini dipping sauce would bring this over the edge, so we plunged forward with our ornate plans.
Ottolenghi called this a quinoa salad, but really it is a quinoa-basmati-wild rice salad. The mix of grains tickles the tongue with the contrasting textures. They are paired with roasted sweet potatoes in a savoury dressing with sauteed sage and oregano and fresh mint. Oh, and dried Iranian lime. A hard to find ingredient that I picked up while in NYC at Kalustyan’s (although it is available locally). You can stop right here and have yourself a delicious salad. Perfectly balanced, it was a nice salad. Definitely Thanksgiving friendly, I might add.
However, I took the next step: tofu feta. Tofu marinaded in lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and miso, coupled with a creamy cashew sauce. I will admit that this does not taste at all like feta. It did, however, have a nice burst of lemony tartness and miso greatness. The cashew sauce added to the silkiness that was wonderful once we wrapped them up. I am definitely no stranger to wrapping up salads, having everything hit your palate at the same time.
So after the wrap, we took it one step further. A sweet tahini dipping sauce with garlic.
We had hit it: Gastronomic bliss.
By this time, though, it had started raining and we couldn’t do our own picnic, either. So we went upstairs and picnicked on the windowsill, watching it rain in all its glory. We do a little cheer every time it rains since it means we don’t have to water the garden.
We also found out that these were very messy rolls… and best to eat with a plate underneath.
While in Montreal, it was a whirlwind of a trip between the wake and funeral. However, I successfully managed to visit Aux Vivres for a quick dinner with Rob, my Dad and grandmother. Rob and I went there during our last visit, and I wanted to return for a veggie-packed meal that would appeal to some of the most serious veggie critics (my Dad!).
I love the bowls at Aux Vivres because they are mostly loaded with veggies. They should be called veggie bowls, not rice bowls, because the rice is hidden at the bottom. You really have to dig around to find it. But when you do, it is some of the best rice I have tasted. Coupled with the vegetables, and any of their decadent sauces, you have a tasty meal on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong, Aux Vivres is definitely one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal, but glancing at the menu, you are left thinking, I bet I could make this at home. Actually, when I tasted their miso tahini sauce from their Macro Bowl, I thought: I have this sauce at home, I just made it!
So when I got home, I was able to compile all the ingredients to make a great copy cat version of their Macro Bowl filled with wakame, sauerkraut, sprouts, steamed baby bok choy and brown rice. I skipped the steamed spinach.
I have been following this year’s Healthy Lunchbox Series (recap here) and was positively smitten when I saw Dawn’s post about bento boxes. Perusing her site, she had some incredibly cute lunches, including a barn made out of granola bars complete with watermelon animals and spinach grass. I almost died from its cuteness.
I thought I might try a much simpler bento box with this multi-component meal. After its assembly, I told Rob I was ready to go for our dinner picnic. However, I looked down and realized I was short possibly the most important component of the meal. The tempeh! I needed some emergency tempeh, and fast. Aux Vivres’ tempeh is actually fairly plain with limited marinade but I thought mine could use a bit of flavour. While Rob usually scoffs at Tess’ declarations of making meals in under 30 minutes, I quickly located a quickie tempeh recipe that still included the all-important steaming. A simple glaze of tamari, agave, toasted sesame oil and raw garlic was exactly what I needed. Perfecto. Under 30 minutes, mostly hands off, to boot, leaving me able to clean up the kitchen and snap a few photos as the tempeh caramelized away.
The verdict? The bento box was not really appropriate because the best part of the bowl is mixing it all up. I needed a bigger container for proper mixing. The salty sauerkraut, the briny wakame juxtaposed against the salty dressing and fresh greens. With them individually separated in the box, it was hard to mix them up. At least with my Salad in a Jar, I mix it up before I eat it. I may need to look into a layered version of this, too!
Have you ever tried to make a cute bento box? Just at these cuties!
This is being submitted to this month’s Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food for lunches, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Siri.
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right?
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.
Did you do a double-take when you saw my Thai Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans? It had some exotic ingredients: Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shallots, tamarind, etc.
I know, I thought this was going to be the year of shopping at the Big Box Grocers, too, but it turns out I found a local ethnic grocer, Welcome, that meets the majority of my needs, including all my Thai ingredients, and falls within my budget.
It ain’t no Sunny’s though. Sunny’s has bountiful fresh produce at low prices. Even some of the discounted produce is great quality. Welcome, however, is like a transplanted Chinatown grocer. Some great prices but the quality is not always the best. I never know what I will find on their shelves. Sometimes it can be 4 bunches of leeks for $1, or 2 HUGE bunches of Swiss for $1, or 10 limes for $1 (this one seems to be a perpetual sale), sometimes advertised, other times not, especially if the produce is priced to sell pronto (if you know what I mean). Then I’ll come back a few weeks later to discover they have no Swiss chard, or kale or collards at all. The produce is random. Kind of.
Like most Asian grocers, they seem to have a regular collection of well priced mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and Portobello), broccoli, citrus, cilantro, coconuts, peeled garlic and some Asian ingredients. Grape tomatoes can be hit or miss. Their cauliflower has never looked good. But, they have Kaffir lime leaves and galangal! They have green mangoes! And when I spotted some green papaya, I leaped at the chance to try something new.
Itching to go try something authentic with the green papaya, I made the Green Papaya Salad from Taste of the East. I quickly realized that if I had to shred the papaya and carrot by hand, this could take a while, so I whipped out my food processor to help. I added long beans to the recipe and bruised them with the blade, which seemed to be in more traditional recipes. The rest of the dressing was tangy from the Kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fresh garlic and chile flakes. The nuts offered a nice textural contrast in the tangle of noodly vegetables. Adjust the dressing to suit your own tastes. Trust me that the salad will have a great mixture of hot, sour, salty and sweet. Refreshing during these hot summer days.
And yes, as a fore-warning, I think I will be cooking with mushrooms a lot more. I should capitalize on Welcome’s good produce, right?
Although it is still many, many moons away, if I am moving to Texas, I think I need to learn more about Mexican cuisine. While I have posted quite a few Mexican recipes, they are a tad nontraditional:
Tacos made with “BBQ jackfruit meat“
Raw burritos which are collard wraps filled with jicama, sprouts and a nacho-cashew sauce
Or how about a raw taco filled with walnut meat, cashew sour cream and a cherry tomato salsa
What can I say, that’s what happens when I veer away from deep fried and cheese-heavy meals. At least I know how to pronounce mole (moh-lay).
Glancing at the recipe, I could tell this was a going to be a dish with spicy tomato sauce smothering black beans, topped with hazelnut-infused caramelized roasted squash. But what makes this a rancheros? What is rancheros?
Turns out rancheros literally means Ranch-style. Huevos rancheros, a classic Mexican dish with a tortilla topped with an egg and tomato sauce means Ranch-style eggs.
So this, my friends, is Ranch-style squash!
A very simple recipe to prepare, basically you create a spicy silky-smooth cumin and coriander enhanced tomato sauce that coats black beans. The spiciness is juxtaposed beautifully against the sweet squash. Isa’s recipes rarely disappoint although I still tinkered with it.
I roasted my kabocha with hazelnut oil instead of walnut oil. Olive oil would work, too, no worries. I substituted 2 green chiles for the jalapeno and increased the garlic to 6 cloves. It had a nice zing for my palate, but for those who love heat, definitely add more chile.
Any plans for Cinqo de Mayo this weekend?
Sometimes I’d rather have more veggies than dessert, but when I asked if I could skip serving dessert, my Mom was adamant: This is EASTER, bring on the dessert!
I obliged. I ruffled through my bookmarks for an easy, healthy dessert… with ingredients from my pantry. I bet you didn’t think it was possible, but this is an incredibly delicious dessert. Almost guiltless, as my Mom called it. No refined flours or sugars, with minimal agave at that. Decadent and delicious. Why is this almost guiltless? Well, it is still 256 calories (skip the crust and it is 156 calories, when serving 10!).
The secret? Tofu! But not just any tofu: the silken tofu you find in aseptic containers (not refrigerated). I used the firm silken tofu from Mori-Nu which had been languishing in my pantry for a while.
I have been meaning to make a tofu cheesecake but haven’t located a recipe worth trying yet (have any suggestions?) but I was positively smitten by this wickedly easy recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie. So was my entire family. We ate half the pie for dessert for lunch and then the leftovers were nearly polished off by the end of the day, after dinner. I kept the tofu a secret until I was pinned and explained that the delicious creaminess came from the tofu. The richness from the good quality chocolate. Trust me, you couldn’t taste any tofu.
I am loving these quick-and-easy no-bake desserts. Here, you make a quick almond-date crust (I used the same one from my Raw Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake) – or skip it altogether if you want to serve it in cute little tumblers. Melt your chocolate and throw everything until a food processor. Spread overtop and chill. Easy, peasy!
Decadent and delicious, yet still low calorie for the huge amount of flavour.
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, to this month’s Cook-Eat-Delicious- Desserts for dates, to We Should Cocoa for almonds, to this week’s Mother Day Healthy Recipes, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Just when I thought my week in the kitchen couldn’t get much worse, I broke it. Broke the unbreakable.
Thank goodness they have a 7-year warranty. We’ll see how the repair process goes.
Pray tell, what the heck was I doing that broke my blender?
A Valentine’s Day dessert for Rob.
Innocent mangoes in paradise.
I was whipping up Mango Paradise Bars from Radiance 4 Life. I originally planned on making Tess’ Raspberry Star Bars, in the shape of hearts, pink for the cheesy day, but I didn’t have enough strawberries. Switching to mango bars was probably more in keeping with Rob’s tastes, so it all worked out ok.
After an overnight soak for the cashews, I decided to mix everything else together in my food processor. Since I wasn’t sure I could fit everything into my food processor, I transferred it to my Vitamix. Everything was going well….. the cashews and juice were a creamy pulp. I added everything else – agave, melted coconut butter and the frozen mango. My blender was pretty full, so I turned down the speed, and used the plastic stick to help mix in the mango. It was mostly blended, but then it suddenly stopped working. I checked the plug. I checked the socket. The on/off was not working. Gah. Back into the food processor (two batches) for the final whipping.
I layered it into a large tupperware container and set it to freeze while I went to work. While they still needed to be frozen, I already knew the recipe had turned as I did a very thorough cleaning job (aka licking both blenders clean!).
After work, it had hardened into a delightful creamy bar. Basically a rich but still light-tasting cashew cheesecake, sans nut crust. For best results, let it thaw just slightly before devouring.
And you know what, it was better than the vegan Mango Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis from Prime.
Maybe my lackluster cooking streak has taken a turn for the better? If anything can turn your cooking into a positive experience, it is a Tess recipe!
(And thank you so much for all the encouragement, guys! It really means a lot to me!)
Rob and I were recently in New York City and bought a few raw treats while visiting Whole Foods. Namely some chai spice and mint chip raw macaroons from Emmy’s Organics. They weren’t as decadent as the macaroons from Rawlicious; they were a bit more crumbly, too, but I definitely enjoyed the flavours. One package managed to sneak its way back to Toronto.
Rob was out one night, and I decided to open the last packet: 3 mint chip macaroons. I ate one, then quickly followed it up with #2. I definitely had to leave the last one for Rob, right?
I emailed Rob to let him know I was struggling with leaving him the last one…. and then told him I was leaving.
To go to the bulk food store (aka our other pantry) to buy coconut and cocoa to make my own macaroons.
(Now that I have a dehydrator, I have no excuses!)
I used Happy Foody’s recipe as my main guide- I halved the recipe, used agave instead of maple syrup and melted my coconut oil. I stuck one macaroon in the freezer for more immediate gratification, but placed the remainder in my dehydrator.
Over twenty four hours later, I had my macaroons. This was no instant gratification. But darn, they were great. The freezer version was too firm and sweet for my liking, but the dehydrated treats were perfection. Not as cloyingly sweet with a chewy middle but a crispy exterior.
In retrospect, making 16 more macaroons was probably not the best antidote to not eating the last macaroon.
Although, I definitely spread the macaroon lovin’. My brother and sister-in-law had us over for dinner, and I surprised them with a handful of macaroons for dessert (they are, thankfully, not afraid of raw foods). They were as equally surprised as my mom that I was making sweets. Anyhow, Rob and I are happily munching through the rest..