Thank goodness I got my share of summer while I was still in Houston. Spending a month in Africa was sunny, but still a bit nippy, and definitely not that green. Our first week back in Canada was hot and humid, but that was an anomaly. Toronto didn’t get much of a summer this year, either.
However, while I am no farmer, I think one thing that has benefitted from the rainy days has been the blueberries. The wild blueberries were unbelievably big this year and the cultivated ones, even more massive. Rob tried to warn me when I loaded up with some cultivated blueberries: They don’t taste that great, he whispered to me. Turns out they were big and blueberry-delicious. And I didn’t have to share them with Rob. Score! :)
Without restraint, I added them to my morning oats and carefully crafted this salad courtesy of Terry’sFrom Salad Samurai. A multi-component, main dish salad with a spinach base, filled with cucumber and blueberries, beefed up with Ginger Beer tofu and topped with sticky, sweet & savoury almonds with Chinese 5-spice. I tried to stay true to the recipe, but only changes were to decrease the tamari because it was an ever-present ingredient in nearly all the components. I also did not want to turn on my oven for the tofu, so I pan-fried it in its marinade. It wasn’t as crispy as it would have been baked, but still good. The star of the salad, other than the big blueberries, were the Chinese 5-spiced glazed almonds which were perfectly balanced with the tamari, agave and the Chinese 5-spice imparted an interesting edge that I did not expect to taste so good.
This was not my first salad from the cookbook and it will certainly not be my last. Because the salads are huge ensembles of dressings, flavoured mains and interesting toppings, it can be hard to settle down and make an entire salad. Terry has some tips to master your art of making heavenly salads throughout the week. I have been picking and choosing each component separately, although, I really want to make everything: Thai Seitan Larb in Lettuce Cups, Lentil Pate Banh Mi Salad Rolls, East-West Roasted Corn Salad, Green Papaya Salad with Lemongrass Tofu, Miso Edamame Succotash Salad, Seitan Bacon Wedge Salad with Horseradish Dressing, Kimchi Black Rice with Asian Pear, Collards and Sweet Potato Crunch Bowl… ok, ok, I will stop. I basically want to make everything. The recipes are grouped by season and feature salads with loads of flavour from lots of fresh vegetables (no kidding) but also fresh herbs and spices. Terry also has a fun chapter for sweet salads, including a coconut carrot cake salad and overnight oats with Mexican chocolate creme that are calling out for salads for breakfast and dessert, too. Trust me, I am looking forward to cooking through this throughout the whole year.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me share the recipe AND give a cookbook to one reader living anywhere in the world (since I will be shipping it). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite salad. I will randomly select a winner on September 5, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from Salad Samurai shared elsewhere:
I was hoping to update you with happy news that our stuff had arrived. Sadly, no. A mix up at the customs warehouse means we are still without all stuff. Except our car. We have that because my parents’ drove it down, hoping to help us unpack, only to find out our pod was not coming, as expected.
Anyways, I am ahead of myself. I am still reliving last weekend’s debacle.
Curious as to how so many people were able to help when we were stranded with the car in the middle of nowhere?
Turns out my brother and sister-in-law were also driving back to Toronto around the same time. They were in Ottawa for my SIL’s baby shower and we both left around the same time and thank goodness, they were still reasonably close when our distress call went out.
My mom hosted a fabulous shower and I had very little involvement. Other than suggesting some menu changes as there were limited vegan options. Considering I finagled 3 dishes, it was in directions only. I suggested some tried-and-true favourites for the appetizers: Pineapple and Cucumber Guacamole (my SIL stole the leftovers, so that was a success!), Cucumber Hummus Dip (very well received), and my Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Salad as my main. I added a bit of cinnamon this time and liked that, too. I actually made a double batch so I could take the leftovers, but alas, they never made it. I hope my Mom liked it instead.
My mom totally outdid herself with the desserts (so.many.pretty.cakes!) so I knew any dessert I made would just be for myself. This was my experiment. And it was a very good experiment. My Mom treated herself to a new Vitamix so I took full use of it!
I used Brandi’s recipe as my inspiration for this cinnamon spice vegan cheesecake. It was also my first time playing with a cake swirl! I really liked the the cake. I think lemon juice would be great here, but I swapped it for orange juice, since that was what my parents’ had on hand. I also swapped a fresh apple for the apple juice. Because this is oil-free (no coconut oil or coconut butter), it is softer than my previous raw cheesecakes. This just means that you need to time it perfectly before you can eat it. If you leave it out at room temperature too long, it will melt into a softer cake. I liked it with still a bit of bite from the freezer, thus this was definitely an ice cream cake!
My swirling wasn’t perfect but this just means I will have to try again with my next attempt. (See my tips below for my next round).
Spring cleaning isn’t just happening in our kitchen. Rob has decided it was time to clean up our hard-drives, over-drives and Monkey drives, too. Mostly spurred because, after trying to amalgamate his important files with my important files, it would not fit on our 1 terabyte of online back-up space.
Rob thought it was a bit nuts.
My files are mostly photos. Mostly food, but also from travel and of family/friends.
My shutter count on my six-year-old camera is 101,501. That’s only ~17k photos a year.
Apparently I take too many photos. And I keep them all. And then some.
I will let him tackle the computer while I tackle the kitchen, thank you.
We seem to have an excess of sesame seeds. Sadly, I bought a pack late in the year when I couldn’t find my original package…. I thought we were out. Instead, now we have twice as many sesame seeds. With our sesame seed surplus, I also made these fun crackers.
A simple cracker made with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and maple syrup. I remain a bit apprehensive of black sesame seeds since I don’t find them as flavourful as their whole counterparts, but they certainly make for a pretty cracker. The maple syrup bound it all together after baking. Maybe I don’t need brown rice syrup afterall? ;)
Have you checked? What is your shutter count?
PS. In my defence, I take much less photos than I used to….. and my camera has travelled to many fun places over the years)
PPS. To find your shutter count with a DSLR, you can find it embedded within the Exif information of a photo, and it can be easily unearthed through Picasa.
I love when it is going to be a delicious week.
I am too lazy/tired to cook during the week, so I make everything on the weekend. A new batch of oatmeal. I create 3-4 different dishes, with possibly some fresh rice mid-week. Rob helps with the rice. His rice always seems to taste better even if we use the same rice cooker.
Anyways. I digress.
I love delicious surprises in the kitchen.
I was wooed by Tess’ creamy cauliflower soup in her latest cookbook. However, I knew cauliflower and leeks, alone, would not be a filling meal. Beans. I need some beans. Where are the beans? I could have easily blended white beans into the soup, but I don’t like pureed soups.
Keeping things a bit more texturally complex, I ran with bacon-flavoured roasted chickpea croutons! Because I was going to use the oven to roast my chickpeas, I roasted my vegetables, too. It helped to free up a coveted soup pot and oven burner, too.
I guess I get surprised by some of my successes. Light and fluffy yet still filling, the soup was as easy as blending together roasted vegetables with some spices. The bacon chickpeas added a salty-savoury topping that contrasted the soup wonderfully.
And somewhat off-topic. Not soup-related, but related by all things delicious. You know what else we recently discovered that was glorious? Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream. GAH! Annie clued me in early on that their coconut-based ice creams were delicious and they helped tame the Texan heat in the summer. Now that we’re cycling in the heat, this has become our new way to cool off.
What have you been enjoying lately?
I am sharing this with Souper Sundays.
With my meals revolving around plant-based whole foods, my mom has referred to my choice as being a vegan on steroids. While I have relaxed slightly, I still try my hardest to cater to others who may have dietary restrictions, for whatever reason. I have a friend with a sulphite allergy, family members with celiac disease and a coconut-hating mom. I was honoured when Ricki approached me to guest post on her blog. I have been reading it for years and enjoyed many of her creations (hemp brownies, the best vegan cheesecake, warm chickpea and artichoke salad and cocoa mint nibbles). All the while knowing she follows an anti-candida diet but never really knowing what it entailed. Imagine my surprise when Ricki told me how simple it really was: vegan, gluten-free meals without mushrooms, peanuts, pistachios, yeast and only low glycemic sweeteners. Without fail, I only then notice how all my recent recipes I wanted to share weren’t suitable: a mushroom-walnut pate, veggie spring rolls with a peanut sauce, vegetable noodle salad with peanuts, the banana in my acai bowl or the maple syrup in my salad dressing. Then I started to second guess myself, is miso ok? What about almonds? Ricki’s upcoming cookbook will help delineate this, along with new mouth-watering recipes and I cannot wait to read it. Until then, I decided to share what I know best: a hearty salad. ACD-friendly. I crafted a fun twist with spring’s new bounty of asparagus. I paired it with edamame for some additional protein and toasted almonds for crunch and drizzled it with a miso-lime vinaigrette. Jump over to her blog to check out the recipe here.
Do you pay attention to the predicted food trends? Vaishali’s post about tapping into google trends sent my head spinning.
I pay more attention to the trends in my own kitchen. 2011 was year of the bean, but we all know that never stopped. 2012 was probably the year of curry, and that hasn’t let up, either. 2013 definitely focused on quick and easy meals and potluck-friendly foods. If I had to pick an ingredient of choice from last year, it was probably kimchi. It lends to quick and easy meals by offering a lot of flavour!
I can not claim that any of these are mainstream trends. Nor do I really care. One trend I am enjoying, though, is the “Cauliflower is the New Kale” bandwagon. Cauliflower is very versatile and I feel like I am being inundated with all.things.cauliflower (so many pins!).
Continuing with my simple recipes (2013 trend), Indian-spiced (2012 curry trend) with this year’s cauliflower love, I present to you a fun cauliflower side dish. It actually reminds me of the dish I learned to love cauliflower (and convinced my parents as well!): Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah. However, this recipe is a bit different in that you pre-cook your cauliflower (steam it, boil it, your choice), and sear it with freshly toasted cumin and coriander with almonds. Only then do you roast it. Because you have partially cooked it already, you don’t have to worry about burning your spices. The final cauliflower is a mix of textures from the crumbly almonds and coarsely ground spices. Finish it with a squirt of lemon juice and you have a well-balanced vegetable side. Just be careful not to eat the whole recipe at once.
What do you think about food trends? Happy to see cauliflower in the spotlight?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
PS. The winner for No Meat Athlete is Dilek.
Hope everyone had a nice holiday. Back at work for me, already.
Rob and I returned to Canada, in all of its ice storm, power-deficient
stateprovince. Over half a million people lost power in the days leading up to Christmas and just before we scooted back to Houston, my brother lost his power, for the second time, on Boxing Day.
With a few short days in the GTA, we explored Toronto as tourists: fast and furious. We met up with many friends and family, reminding ourselves why we love Toronto so much. Despite the cold, the warmth comes from our social network. We cooked, we ate at both new and old (favourite) restaurants and relished in multiple Christmas feasts.
As I said, I didn’t have enough forethought to bring any treats with me from Houston. Nothing lost, as I was oftentimes filled to the brim with good food, and had no desire to cook. However, while in Woodstock, I spotted a few pantry staples that could easily be whipped into a shockingly simple dessert. I could not resist. I am shocked I am sharing another dessert with you all, but in case you are looking for a fun party dessert, this could be your treat.
I threw together almonds, coconut and dates for a simple raw pie crust. The salt and vanilla accentuate the sweet maple syrup and dates. You could replace the coconut with additional nuts, but I enjoyed the textural foil next to the rich smooth filling. The filling was super simple: a bag of melted chocolate chips mixed with canned coconut milk and lots of peanut butter. At first I thought the peanut butter was a bit odd, but when you consider that the majority of raw cheesecakes are made with an abundance of cashews whipped into a butter, the leguminous peanut butter made sense. Combined with chocolate, you have a winning treat. It is rich and filling without being cloyingly sweet. And I even used semi-sweet chocolate.
Are you back at work, too? This is my shortest Christmas holiday yet.
This is my submission to this month’s We Should Cocoa.
I have embraced being a (temporary) Texan.
Summer in November? Yes.
Biking year round? Definitely.
I have obviously already forgotten about the hot, humid summer..
One problem, though: my dates are all messed up. Time is literally flying by. I saw an event for the end of November and thought it was weeks away. It was warm and sunny at the time… my internal clock had not registered that yes, it is indeed almost winter. At home, they’ve received more snow and cold weather than I can recall seeing in November.
I would be hard to pity me, though.. That warm spell disappeared and it is cold again. It will be a low at freezing point tonight. And I forgot (or did not pack?) my winter cycling gloves in Canada. Either that, or they are lost. :( I hope it is the former.
The warm weather partially explains my penchant for raw eats despite the season. The other, is that raw is easy to make and this was a recipe I knew would be fabulous. When Rob and I visited Ellen and Andy on our road trip to Houston, we shared a veritable feast for breakfast and these were my favourite treat. I have made raw (chocolate) macaroons before, but these were simply delightful. Apple, cinnamon and caramel-like dates are pulsed together with almonds and coconut for an autumn/winter-inspired treat. A touch of maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt made the flavours veritably pop.
These are so simple to make, but absolutely delicious.
Are you building your holiday treat roster yet? What are you excited to make?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
I know I said I don’t like to play food guessing games with others. However, Rob is fair game. He gets it all.the.time. More along the lines of How does this taste? Sometimes, What do you think I should add to this? And then the infamous, What does this taste like? Guess what is in it!
You could probably guess just by looking at these photos, but I gave Rob smaller bits to sample. In fact, this was a two-step taste-test. Sauce alone and then after dehydrating it onto the bits.
First of all, this was a real simple recipe. Just whiz the ingredients together for the caramel sauce, stir it onto your “apple” bits and dehydrate for 12 hours.
Even before dehydrating the sauce, I thought it tasted great. Rob agreed. I asked him to guess the ingredients: cinnamon, almonds, and apple. Close: cinnamon, yes; almond butter, yes; but no apple, I informed him. That sweet taste was from dates.
I proceeded with the recipe, and then tried the now dehydrated sauce: oh my gosh, it tasted like sticky, wonderful caramel. Not too sweet, well balanced by the cinnamon. It had coated the “apple bits”. They were soft and sweet. Rob tried it and loved it. He still thought it reminded him of apple. Even though there was still no apple, Rob reminded me I had just created raw caramelized apple. He knew it before I did!
And that secret non-apple? Cauliflower! It really is a textural issue. Crisp yet soft (hard to explain). Sweet. With smaller pieces drenched in the sauce, you would never believe it was cauliflower. Bigger pieces had a more pronounced cauliflower flavour (and a telltale shape), but had a nice crunch.
Dehydrating is a magical thing. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. Looking at the recipe, there is a lot of water. You need it to be able to blend it smoothly, but after dehydrating it away you, the dates are more sweet and caramelized. Eating this straight from the dehydrator, still warm, was a treat. I only wish I had made more, because this did not last long at all.
Trust me, I have nothing against apple. I love apples. I eat a minimum of half dozen a week. I also love dehydrating apples into chips but usually save that when apples are ridiculously cheap in the fall. I make a small internal sob every time I shell out more than $1/lb for apples, which is the usual in Texas. (Although I nearly flipped out when I saw Honeycrisp apples for only $1.29/lb a few weeks ago.. those are ungoldy expensive in Toronto).
Thus, the question still remains: how would this caramel sauce taste on real apples (in the dehydrator)? I don’t think they would be as crisp, but definitely more sweet. I would be afraid they would collapse more into mush, but if you try it out, please let me know! :)
PPS. I noticed my typo for ungoldy. It was meant to be ungodly, but I like my new word. It fits. :)
I was hoping Rawfully Organic was going to provide me with local produce. I know they try when it is possible. Rob and I had been pining a few local treats before we even arrived. The first one: avocado. Avocados are quite expensive in Canada, but upon our first week here we were greeted with a warm welcome. Avocados: 4 for $1.
The nice thing about my Rawfully Organic share was that I wasn’t saddled with uncommon ingredients. With so many greens, I knew salads were in order, though. Luck would have it that I was tempted by Gena’s berry and avocado salad at the same time. Coincidentally, I had all the ingredients and then some. I tried it her way, with hemp seeds, then with almonds and when I finally got around to photographing it, I used pumpkin seeds. I used sweet strawberries, paired with creamy avocado and a sweet citrus dressing. Since the oranges we got in our share were “juicing oranges” (Valencia, aka sweet Texan oranges!!), I figured a dressing was a good way to capitalize on their sweet juiciness. Since, yes, I left my juicer at home. No homemade juice on the horizon yet. It may seem fiddly to also add lemon juice, but it balanced the dressing nicely.
Any nut or seed would work for crunch – as I said, I have made this with almonds, hemp and the pumpkin seeds (a mix of almond and hemp was my favourite). Any berry would work well here. Pick your favourite.
With all these salads that I have been making, I am kind of sad I left my big plates and big bowls in Canada. I want more greens but don’t have a serving plate big enough!
Other fruity salads you may enjoy:
The dust has settled… the boxes have been unpacked and we’re settling into a new routine.
As life becomes less chaotic, I am feeling a bit more lonely.
Friends and family seem so far away. It doesn’t help that Rob is sometimes working out-of-town.
At least I interact with my co-workers. I don’t know how Rob copes with mostly working from home. Not too much real people interaction except from the coffee shop down the road. Limited integration with other Texans.
So, be it resolved… our next goal has to become more social.
Baby steps. This weekend, we have cycling plans and curry+games plans [BANANAGRAMS!]. It feels good to get back into my social groove.
And these chili lime crackers? They bring me back to good times in Toronto.
Just before we left, I visited Superfoods Eateries, a quaint resto with take-away raw foods. Between Rob and I (and a few free samples), we tried a variety of dishes. Luc, one of the owners, was incredibly enthusiastic about explaining the menu. My two favourite dishes were the cheesecake and corn nachos. They also had a lovely sandwich at one point but I don’t see it listed on their website menu. Their selection varies from day-to-day, especially after each item sells out. (I really, really wanted to try their chocolate cake but it was not available until after I left). The coconut-based cheesecake was not as heavy as other raw cheesecakes and unique because it had a slightly fermented/cheezy zing to it! It was definitely special.
But those corn nachos, oh my. Delicious. They are corn and flax based but thin and crispy with an exotic twist from the orange juice and cilantro. Rightfully addictive and perfect with a dollop of guacamole. Now that I am miles away, I figured I would try my own hand at the nachos. I will admit that mine are not as good as the original, but they are still good in their own regard. I tried to add as much veg-powered nacho-like flavours to the chips. The chili and lime flavours were the highlight. The nuts and seeds make for a filling cracker, although a bit thick. As such these are more akin to crackers and weren’t as crispy as chips.. but still complex and delicious.
Anyways, here’s to a fun-filled weekend! :)
How do you combat loneliness?
Zucchini “Meatballs” and Tomato-Curry Sauce with Almond Parmesan (aka Vegan Indian Spaghetti and ‘Meatballs’)
I used to wonder if my Indian dishes were up to snuff. It has been so long since I had been to an Indian restaurant, that I have nothing for a comparison. I usually rely on Rob’s opinion, who eats out more than I do. While on my many travels last year, I stumbled upon a highly rated Indian resto that had quite a few vegan options. I helped myself to the vegetarian platter and while I ate it, the only thing I could of was that I could make better Indian food at home. Not that the food was bad; only my curries are much better, if I may say so myself. Rob has taught me well. Furthermore, I can control the level of spiciness and the amount of added oil (no deep-fried belly aches), making dishes that are truly perfect for me.
Another advantage of cooking Indian at home is that you can go totally crazy, too. Crazy in the foodie-sense, of course. Have you ever seen an Indian dish with noodles? Italian meets Indian. Sounds like a perfect description of Joanne, who shared the lovely recipe.
Here, we have spiced zucchini and chickpea meatballs (aka kofta) that are baked, not fried. They are served overtop a tomato-curry sauce. The next question was what to serve this with. You could go with rice to return to the Indian base, but Joanne served it with polenta. I wanted to continue with the Indian spaghetti theme. Therefore, I used zucchini noodles and made a raw almond parmesan topping. Cooked meets raw. Zucchini on zucchini. Craziness, pure craziness, I tell you… but all in a good way. :)
If you think I am just tooting my own horn, I urge you to try our favourite Indian dishes and decide yourself:
Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat)
Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime
Indian Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak)
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu)
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango (Mango Curry with Toor Dal)
Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)
Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta)
Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti
Indian Chickpea and Collard Roulade with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce
Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala
Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras
This is how you know I am a noob with regards to Indian cuisine.
Ever since besan chilla entered our lives, we have been enamoured by chickpea flour. I’ve used it in dairy-free vegan quiches, pakoras, malai koftas, and smeared inside a delicious collard roulade. Rob even used it to make cookie dough truffles to woo me.
The entire time, we’ve called it beh-sahn. Like it was French.
However, it turns out we’ve been wrong. It sounds just like “basin”. Bay-sin.
So here I am with another besan recipe. This time, I stuffed it into long red Sheppard peppers. I’ve done stuffed peppers before, filled with bulgur, tomatoes, mushrooms and raisins, and always used the largest bell peppers I could find. The thicker the flesh, the better for keeping its shape after being roasted in the oven.
But this time, I
tortured myself. just kidding! The long and slender red peppers were recently available and I grabbed as many as I could carry (a common sighting when red peppers go on sale). This time, I decided to fill them with a fragrant besan paste spiced with almonds, cumin, coriander and amchur.
The hardest part was removing the seeds without cracking open the entire pepper, but most of the peppers have few seeds anyhow. Once you slide in the filling, you are laughing. Quicker than stuffed peppers, this was easy with the fast-cooking of the besan along with a simple pan-fry (with adjunct steaming) of the peppers.
PS. The original recipe suggested using banana peppers, but I like this version with the sweetness of the red pepper. Feel free to add more heat with more chile flakes, as this was not that hot.
PPS. Am I alone? How do you pronounced besan?
Wrappers. Not to be confused with Spicy Mango Wraps.
Because the mango is part of the wrap. In the wrapper.
Rob left for Kitchener yesterday and left me alone to study. I was so close to joining them. The reduced distance was a draw, but the kicker: I am sick. I have been down with an ear infection and upper respiratory tract infection all week. No fun… and not a good way to recover. Studying has never been more focused.
Of course, what is more fun than studying? Cycling, I know. I didn’t do that. I went to my regular Pump, though. No Shred. (PS, I love it when instructors in the audience fill in for no-show subs). First gym visit, actually, for over a week. When I returned home, I looked at the case of mangoes (not the Alphonsos, those were eaten; the case of Ataulfos Rob bought afterwards), glanced at my dehydrator and then outside and had dreams of an ice cream summer. It was then that I decided to forge ahead with valiant plans to make mango cones.
Mango cones are hard to make, though. Folding them to be all cone-like? Um, yeah, didn’t happen. No patience for that right now. So I dehydrated large sheets of a mango-coconut-flax wrap spiced with chili pepper and basil (optional, not necessary). Cut them into circles. Ate all the scraps as chips.
Now all I need is some ice cream… Rob has been encouraging of my ice cream needs to help my sore throat. My Mom advocated for honey-lemon tea. I tried lemon tea (sans honey) and it didn’t work. But ice cream, YES!
I digressed… We did a tour of the nearby grocers recently. Vegan ice cream cannot be found at my ethnic grocer (I knew that), Walmart, Freshco, nor Metro. The Sweet Potato and Fiesta Farms are our sure-fire bets but I know the Mega Loblaws downtown has it too… not sure about regular non-Mega Loblaws. It probably would be considered a frill at No Frills. Who knew vegan ice cream would be so hard to find? Because shouldn’t everyone be eating vegan ice cream with a sore throat and tummy? Dairy is a no-no with a troubled tummy. I should probably learn how to make it, instead (something a bit more beyond my banana soft-serve). ;)
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…)