I may have been late to the Valentine’s Day dessert sharing by a week and truthfully, Pancake Tuesday was never on my radar.
Since there is a create-eat-blog lag, obviously, I need to be thinking about upcoming holidays months in advance. Red for Valentine’s Day? No. Green. Green is the new red, right? With what, St Patrick’s Day in March, right?
Joking aside, because I really don’t need an excuse to make a fun raw crepe inspired by one of my favourite childhood desserts: grasshopper crepes. My mom may chime whether this recipe is close to what she used to make: a marshmallow-cream filling spiked with creme de menthe is surrounded by a paper-thin chocolate crepe. YES! Of course, I haven’t had it in ages, but the classic flavours of chocolate and mint never fail.
I used an old favourite recipe for the chocolate banana crepes but switched up the filling by whipping together avocado, frozen banana and mint. I prefer the flavour from the mint extract instead of the mint leaves, but the mint leaves kind-of-sort-of made the filling green. I should have added a touch of spirulina to really make it sparkle!
Remember Valentine’s Day? I reneged on my promise to make dessert. Rob had no problem coming up with an alternative. In fact, he was happy when I said I didn’t have the time to make my dessert of choice. He had already planned the whole meal!
The week post-V-Day is always special for us because we celebrate Rob’s birthday and our anniversary, so I eventually made my planned dessert, too. Our stash of avocados were perfectly ripe and could I really ignore an excuse to try out a new coconut flour-based dessert?
I cobbled together a delicious dessert from a few places. The base is inspired by Emma’s Raw Brownies but I topped it with a chocolate avocado frosting, based on my chocolate avocado mousse. To get a firm frosting, I used juicy Medjool dates as the sweetener (with a dash of agave only because I ran out of dates) along with a touch of lemon juice to balance the flavours. Next time, I might try a spiced version with cinnamon and cardamom again (like in my mousse).
Because I smushed this into a springform pan, this is more like a brownie cake. The brownie was delicious and it was amazingly fudgy and moist for a raw/no-cook dessert. Unlike my walnut-based raw brownie, this was lighter in texture due to the coconut flour (but more fudgy than my raw chocolate zucchini muffin). Plus the frosting just sealed the deal: delicious decadence. I highly recommend this. Although make no mistake, this is a decadent and filling treat.
PS. Here’s a shout-out to my Mom who got me a small off-set spatula. Which I totally used to frost the brownies. :)
With Olympic fever set anew, I felt a tad guilty sitting on my latest find. Perhaps you have already heard about it? Matt’s book, No Meat Athlete: part nutrition advice for athletes, part vegan transition guide, and part cookbook. Matt freely admits he is your typical average guy. No Olympian-in-training, but through his quest to qualify and run the Boston Marathon, he picked up the vegan bug and pushed himself to the next level.
I am certainly no runner. Cycling is my sport of choice. However, his story echoes my own. While learning to best prepare my (formerly?) non-athletic self to cycle a double imperial century ride (361 km/224 mi), I discovered the benefits of vegan foods. I fell hard for the advantages of regular exercise (no pun intended on my knees). At the time, I cobbled together bits and pieces of my culinary and cycling journey through books mainly by Brendan Brazier with a shout-out for women’s cycling guides.
At the time, veganism was not mainstream (and is still not popular – only 2% call themselves vegan in the US) which makes this book perfect. This guide is perfect for the beginner: the beginner to vegan eats, the beginner to fuelling yourself as an athlete and the beginner to running (or any endurance sport). Pick any of the three and you will glean something from Matt’s quest to inform himself to conquer his athletic goals. This is not to say that if you have any experience in any of these areas you will not gain more information, you might, or it may remind you to try new things, inspire you to run a marathon, or simply eat good food.
His advice for athletes are pertinent for most cardio-intensive sports (like cycling), although he has specific advice for a beginner who wants to learn how to run. The best part is that Matt shares his favourite recipes to fuel you, too.
All of Matt’s recipes are catered to optimal nutrition. Fast, healthy and tasty. Approachable dinner meals like Variations on Beans and Rice (I really liked his Mexican version) and desserts like black bean brownies. He also offers blueprints for creating your own culinary masterpieces: The Perfect Smoothie Formula, Your Own Energy Bar Recipe, or The Incredible Veggie Burger Formula. For the athletes, there are sport-specific recipes like chia fresca, homemade energy gels and homemade sports drink.
Nutrition aside, it must taste good, too, and these do not disappoint.
I was not joking about eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After the tacos were no longer fresh, no longer as soft as a baby’s bum, I resorted to Matt’s recipe: South of the Border Tortilla Soup. Not your typical tortilla soup topped with tortillas, rather the tortillas are blended INSIDE your soup. Before I found corn tortillas in Houston, I considered substituting masa harina/masa arepa, but now I had no excuse. Make thee some Mexican-inspired soup.
Black beans, corn, green chiles, tomatoes, cumin and corn tortillas. All in one soup. Topped with avocado and cilantro. It reminded me of a grown-up version of one of my favourite soups from university: stupid easy black bean and salsa soup. I tried to stay as true to Matt’s recipe for reviewing purposes but his suggestion to pan-fry the tortillas did not work so easily for me. Baking them might actually be easier which is what I shared in the following recipe. In any case, a big pot of delicious soup. For athletes and non-athletes alike.
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me what kind of exercise you enjoy or your favourite recipe you have tried (or want to try) from Matt’s website No Meat Athlete. I will randomly select a winner on February 22, 2014. Good luck!
Other recipes from No Meat Athlete shared online:
Time flies. I have already passed the 4 month mark. One-third of my time in Houston. I already know what I will remember the most. Mosquitoes and potlucks. The mosquitos are relentless and well, I am discovering the joys of vegan potlucks.
I have been to many a potluck, but usually that means I bring a dish I will be eating. It is usually the only vegan component and I try to make it a complete meal, like a hearty bean or whole grain salad. Even though that is my specialty, it kind of limits my repertoire.
All vegan potlucks are a whole other ballpark. I know I will find plenty of food (and they have been really tasty!) and therefore, I can branch out to try something new. Furthermore, some foods lend better to a buffet set-up than others, so I have been testing out new ideas.
Enter the cucumber sandwich. Not a tea sandwich, this one replaces the bread for cucumber, creating a crunchy bite-sized nimbler. Easy to add to your plate and no fussy sauce that can leach and contaminate the next dish over. (I have adopted the 2 plate strategy for potlucks- 1 plate for savoury and 1 plate for desserts!) Perfect for those who want a gluten-free and nut-free snack… and raw, to boot. For me right now, raw has become more synonymous with easy food prep.
This dish, while easy to prep, is a bit more fussy than my typical one-pot meals. Puree your cucumber and lemon juice into a mayonnaise-like consistency and pulse in the cool and crisp cucumbers and herbs. The lemon juice should prevent the avocado from oxidizing but try not to make them too far in advance. Hopefully they will be devoured and none will remain after they have been served.
What are your go-to potluck dishes?
Other dishes I shared at potlucks this year:
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, this month’s Cooking with Herbs, to this month’s Random Recipes, and to this month’s Veg Cookbook Club for Isa Does It.
Remember our warm avocado greeting? To be honest, comparatively, Texas does not grow very many avocados. In the US, avocadoes are mainly grown in California and Florida or imported from Mexico and Chile. True, we are much closer to all those places than when we lived in Canada.
One of Rob’s self-imposed goals this year was to perfect guacamole while we live in the land close to avocados. However, after making this, our plans have been put on hold. This is just too good. Better than guacamole and even simpler. A seemingly crazy concoction of avocado and kimchi with a bit of tang from citrus juice (we’ve used both lime and orange juice with good success). The spicy, tangy kimchi works well with the creamy avocado and sweet orange juice or tart lime juice.
Just like guacamole, it is a great dip and a flavourful topper paired with flavourful dishes like pupusas.
I wish I could take credit for this wonderful dip, but I stole it from Joe Yonan’s new cookbook Eat Your Vegetables. While it isn’t vegan, it is a vegetarian cookbook aimed to help the single cook. The recipes are geared for 1-2 people, with tips on how to use up odds and ends from cooking. Personally, I am a big fan of leftovers, but I can appreciate the value of fresh, flavourful cooking throughout the week. His recipes span super simple, such as this one, to more elaborate fare that I could not imagine cooking just for one. All look bold on flavours. I also enjoyed his laissez-faire recipes, teaching you to listen to your food on the stove, instead of the prescribed directions. He’ll direct you to saute your onions until brown instead of “for 10 minutes”.
Need other ideas for kimchi? Joe includes a recipe for homemade kimchi but also has you covered in case you get bored of guaca-chi: Sweet Potato, Kimchi and Greens Hash; Kimchi Deviled Eggs; Cold Spicy Ramen Noodles with Tofu and Kimchi and even Grilled Kimcheese. Of course, you could also try my Enoki, Broccoli and Tofu Bowl with Kimchi.
PS. A few people commented on my last kimchi post, but I wanted to highlight that yes, indeed, kimchi is usually not vegan nor vegetarian. There is usually shrimp or fish sauce in it. Making it at home is great (I should really do that again) but there are vegan versions out there.
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:
Thank you so much for the kind words from my last post. New friendships take a while to develop, at least for me. I am definitely keeping my chin up… and moving forward. Or perhaps trying just to enjoy what is. It really was a stressful whirlwind last year and it might be nice to embrace the emptiness. Thank you, Anna, for pointing me to this lovely video.
One thing is for certain: I couldn’t do this without Rob. I could not imagine doing this year apart.
Since Rob works from home, and I labour in the hospital, it is funny how the roles have reversed slightly. I swear, Rob has been more adventurist in the kitchen than me. Rob is cooking up a storm, while I am relishing in my quickie salads, hehe.
And the best part? If we time it just right, I can come home to freshly cooked food. Some foods are just not meant to be eaten as leftovers, which is why they are such a treat.
Case in point: arepas. The moist and fluffy arepas with a crispy shell only happen when you make them fresh. We long learned not to make leftovers since they are very lacklustre. They are one of Rob’s specialties, although previously reserved for the weekend when we have more time for food prep.
They seem to fit with most any dish, at least in our fusion household. We like to make it with tofu scramble, but this time Rob went all out with the bean-quinoa chorizo crumbles from The Great Vegan Bean Book. I found them a bit spicy, so I threw together a spin on vegan egg salad: tofu-avocado salad. The avocado, tahini and Dijon make for a creamy dressing while chunky avocado and tofu are surprisingly reminiscent of eggs. The dill adds a nice spin, too. I used dried but I think fresh would be best.
There are stereotypical differences of Canadians. You know, publicly-funded health care, colourful paper bills, and yeah, I throw extra u’s into my words. I knew about that.
And then, there are things that I had grown to enjoy that I miss. Like the lack of pennies. Honestly, that was a great idea for Canada. Or, our penchant for environmental choices.
Get this: I have garbage removal TWICE a week. However, there is NO recycling pick-up and definitely NO green bins/compost pick-up. (People drop off their recyclables at recycling depots at their leisure, if they do at all).
My new co-workers have become accustomed to my Canadian accent but never cease to discover new Canadian-isms… and apparently, the word garburator is a Canadian term. To Americans, they are known simply as garbage disposal units.
Google helped me figure out how to use it. However, it didn’t stop me from plugging my drain within a week of moving in. My co-workers confessed they rarely use them since they plug up drains too often. I think I will leave it alone, too. It seems quite wasteful and noisy to get rid of tiny scraps of foods.
I have no problem pulverizing my food into a delicious sauce, though. (I think my Vitamix is more noisy than the garburator, but it is all for a good cause). For this sauce, I combined avocado, cucumber and hemp seeds for a bright luscious sauce flavoured with lime and miso. Twirled it overtop kelp noodles and thinly sliced kale for a quick summer meal.
Do you have a garbage disposal unit? Do you use it?
*PS: Rob reminded me that while Ontario collects a lot of recyclables, they also ship it across the world to China. Not so environmentally friendly…
And we’re off!
Rob and I packed up all our things and are currently en route, road trip-style, to Houston. I have a few travel-themed recipes this week, as we drive across the country (down the country would be more accurate). 3000 km (over 1800mi). We have a lot of ground to cover.
I made a few travel snacks to bring with me (will be sharing throughout the next few weeks), and while I have tracked down a vegan restaurant in each city for dinner, I plan on eating simple meals throughout the day.
I brainstormed before I left. What can I easily find at grocery stores? What would pack well? For some reason, I kept returning to salads with avocado and lemon. Easy, peasy. Throw in some nuts/seeds, cooked beans or tofu as an easy protein. And then I decided sauerkraut would be a wonderful addition, too.
Not wanting to simplify my meals too soon, I knew I didn’t want to wait to try out an avocado and sauerkraut salad. With my current kitchen a few weeks ago, I had the liberty of making a more complex salad dressing, so I ran with it. A creamy miso dressing with a zip from ginger and the tang from apple cider vinegar. That creaminess? Not nuts: nutritional yeast. I imagine avocado would be nice pureed into the dressing as well, but I left it in chunks for the salad. Paired with the salty sauerkraut and crunchy sunflower seeds, this was delicious.
What are your favourite easy travel-friendly meals?
Guys, I am loving your list of your favourite raw recipes. It isn’t too late to win a copy of Annelie’s Raw Food Power. To enter, just leave a comment here telling me about your favourite raw meal. Definitely include a link to a recipe if it is online, like Gabby’s Raw “Baked” Fettuccine Alfredo, Genevieve’s Mango Gazpacho or Hannah’s Raw Blondies with Chocolate Ganache. I really liked Ellen’s suggest of a Korean collard wrap with Asian pear and sweet chili sauce. Sounds delicious! I ended up hunting down some Asian pear, napa cabbage and collards but at the last minute, as the winds warmed me with the southern breeze (this was right before it snowed yesterday), I changed my mind. Instead of a wrap, I went with a chopped salad. And instead of Korean and I went Mexican with a smoky avocado and cumin dressing.
When asked what I usually eat, I explain to people that I love to make soups and salads. Not your flaky salads and not your brothy soups, I prefer hearty one-pot meals in a bowl. My salads tend to be either grain-based or bean-based, whereas I don’t make the standard leafy side salad with a simple vinaigrette. I suppose I don’t find it very high-yield. If I want leafy greens, I’ll add them to my soup or salad!
Not all dressings are created equal, and this smoky avocado dressing is creamy but intense at the same time. It wouldn’t work with flimsy baby greens, which is why I opted for heartier sliced Napa cabbage and collard greens. To counter the heaviness of the dressing, I added a touch of sweetness to the salad with Asian pear and red bell pepper. To add even more goodness, I added some arugula sprouts and to add a good protein source I added chickpeas [sprouted chickpeas keeps this raw, but cooked chickpeas are what I prefer]. With the dressing thinned out over the salad, it was a nice merriment of flavours and textures, although a tad heavy on cumin (even for me).
OK, next up: working on that Korean wrap. :)
Is it true? Carrots for the new year?
I hadn’t really thought about it until Deb posted her latest carrot soup creation. *swoon*
But it must be true. It is the new year and I am on a carrot kick. Apparently my Mom has also been buying them like they are going out of style. HA!
Perfect for dipping in hummus, I love eating monster carrots like a horse. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
So, I have another carrot dressing for you. (Another hummus recipe is in the queue, no worries). This no-oil carrot dressing is even more creamy from the toasted sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. A little ginger adds some zing but it is tempered by the lemon juice. It looks similar to the carrot miso ginger dressing, but it is definitely richer. A deeper sesame flavour. Similar, yet different. Both delicious. I used Justin’s suggestion of serving the dressing atop a quinoa salad with tomato and avocado and was thrilled with the meal. Especially since my quinoa was warm. And warm salads are fun during winter.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my salads.
There are salads and then there are salads. And by the latter kind of salads, I mean meal-sized salads. Size alone does not make them appropriate for meals.
Leafy green salads used to have me perplexed. Growing up, a simple salad was usually always served before a meal, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a light vinaigrette. My penchant for one-pot meal-in-a-bowl dishes had me rethinking my views on traditional salad.
So let’s just say I made lots of dressings last year and this is definitely one of my favourites: carrot miso. Using vegetables themselves in the dressing adds a body typically derived from oil. Since you puree the carrot, it is a thicker dressing than I am used to… more akin to a sauce.
Sadly, this salad didn’t really travel as well in my salad jar. Most likely because it didn’t have the vinegar heaviness found in most of my dressings. The vinegar essentially pickles the bottom layer of vegetables when packed in advance. In this case, I wound up adding the dressing right before serving.
A few years ago I made a different avocado salad with a carrot-ginger dressing. It was an appetizer, a starter to a potluck with friends. This time, I made this as my meal. I added lots of veggies like cucumber, tomatoes and grated carrots along with chickpeas for protein and avocado and pumpkin seeds for fat (and crunch!). The sweet tangy dressing brought it all together. In fact, I think this dressing was even better than the heavier carrot-ginger version I made earlier. I guess my taste buds are a changin’….
Not only am a I bad vegan who missed World Vegan Day, I am also a bad blogger.
October slipped by without me realizing I had an anniversary. October marked my fourth year as a blogger.
I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I posted a Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
One can see why it was easy for me to switch to a whole foods vegan diet with an inaugural salad such as that. Just swap the honey for your preferred sweetener, or omit it entirely, and it would be a recipe I could see myself munching on today.
I am going to joke a bit about Hurricane Sandy, but truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was affected. Toronto wasn’t hit nearly as bad. There was at least one fatality but trees suffered the most of the storm’s brunt. Although some people lost power, we fared very well. A few days of a light rain with some higher winds. Other than leaving my bike at home, I wasn’t affected.
Except I somehow made not one, but two desserts that week. This was the second dessert.
I blame the hurricane.
My excuse for making the chocolate chip blondies was to thank my co-workers. I gobbled down more than a few pieces in the “taste-testing” phase. While they were delicious, I felt shy bringing them to work. Even though Rob agreed they tasted great, they were non-traditional (never mind eating chocolate chip blondies, but they were filled with chickpeas!). They also were only 1-cm thick or so, and not as visually appealing as I had hoped. Since the whole plan was to thank my co-workers, I decided to make something else.
A vegan chocolate cake.
I actually wanted to make cupcakes, but I had no muffin wrappers.
I actually wanted to make a mint avocado cream frosting but did not want to brave the storm to get more avocados.
Even before my vegan days, I had a favourite quick and easy chocolate cake. It just so happened to be vegan. Pantry-friendly with staples such as sugar, oil, cocoa, and vinegar, my grandmother dubbed it “Wartime Cake” since the ingredients were reminiscent of cakes she made during the war when there were rations on milk, eggs and butter. While it would have been a fool-proof and easy cake to make, I wanted to try something new, something healthier.
Thankfully I had one avocado to make Joy’s Chocolate Avocado Cake. Oil is easily replaced with avocado. You would never know the difference. I only had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used that instead of white flour. If you could guess anything was up, you might have been able to tell there was whole wheat flour in the cake. Although nothing seemed to be suspected by others.
Instead of topping it with a green avocado frosting, I busted out a simple peanut butter chocolate frosting. I have not always been a fan of frosting (especially the ooky sweet ones), but since I didn’t use too much and it had peanut butter in it, this sealed this as a delicious cake.
My co-workers and Rob’s co-workers agreed. While Rob was sneaky, I disclosed to my gang this was a vegan cake and people were buzzing all day with compliments, at the same time marveling there were no eggs, butter or milk. They were impressed at how moist it was, which I ascribed to the avocado, my secret ingredient. :)
Baketivism. Sharing the love of veganism through baking.
I could get used to this.
I thought it was getting colder, but then it was a balmy 20C yesterday. Soup time? No, it is sandwich time!
I don’t eat sandwiches very often.
I still drool over delicious sandwiches, though.
Including this one from Two Peas and their Pod.
Like a souped up guacamole, this combined both of my versions. Chunky like my pineapple and cucumber guacamole but ramped up with chickpeas like my edamame guacamole. Filled with fresh cilantro, a zip from green onions and citrus tang from lime, this worked really well.
You could use this as a dip with big crackers. Or slather it onto your next sandwich or wrap. Whatever you decide, you know it will be a tasty spread.
And about that bread? It is an interesting sourdough rye bread. You can actually store it unopened at room temperature for 6 months. Something about it being double-baked or something. I first tried it in Calgary, but recently spotted a few versions at a nearby health food store, Foods for Life. And you know what? Their tempeh is just as cheap ($3.59) as Tutti Fruiti!
There are a few reasons I don’t eat bread. One is because I don’t really like it. This bread was interesting, but not my favourite. It was merely a vector for the delicious filling. The best part was definitely in the middle!!
The summer is winding down and this will be the last of my Raw Thursdays. Not because I won’t be cooking, or uncooking raw foods. Because I feel I like be concentrating a bit more on work and three posts a week seems better for now.
One reason why I started adding an extra raw recipe each week was because I wanted to highlight how easy and tasty they can be. Indeed, I have posted raw recipes even when it hasn’t been a Thursday post. Summer just brings out the best raw cuisine.
However, I know not everyone likes raw. I feel bad for my buddies in Vancouver. Whenever I visit, I drag them to yet another raw restaurant. My experiences seem to be better than theirs, despite being at the same restaurant. The first time, my friend was sick afterwards…. Me? I went back a second time and enjoyed my meal again! The next time I visited, we tried another raw restaurant. I liked my meal. My friends, not as much, even though they picked cooked options. My friend confided to me that she finds raw cooking pretty bland.
Honestly, I find raw cuisine to be the complete opposite. This is why I keep hoping to convince them otherwise. I love how inventive and flavourful raw cuisine can be. However, I know that is not always the case. I try not to order veggie burgers, pates, hummus or falafels because I am usually disappointed. Sometimes the flavours can be muddled. Instead, I gravitate to hearty salads, Mexican dishes like tacos, or Italian meals like vegetable lasagna. However, in restos, these can be quite heavy and filling meals from the use of nuts. At home, I can make it my way!
No stranger to zucchini used as pasta, I finally decided to make a raw lasagna when I found one nearly entirely made from veggies. No nuts. A bit of seeds. After preparing a couple of sauces, this was a simple dinner to put together. Instead of making a huge tray of lasagna (remember the Mexican zucchini lasagna?), I opted to make individual servings instead.
Layers of thinly sliced zucchini are alternated with a cauliflower-based creamy cheese sauce and a flavourful tomato marinara sauce. A basil pesto works well to tie this into an Italian masterpiece.
A common complaint is when raw lasagnas are served chilled, so feel free to throw it into a dehydrator for 30 minutes to warm it up. Delicious!
This is my submission to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth, to Raw Food Thursdays, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to My Kitchen, My World for Italy.