It took me awhile, but I finally succumbed.
Caffeine: sometimes, I need a little extra oomph in the morning.
I made it through university, medical school and a 5-year residency before I contemplated caffeine. A few months into my fellowship, with its longer hours, I started with a bit of green tea.
I am not drinking coffee or black tea (I actually don’t like the taste), but Rob and I both knew something was up after we scoped out green tea for me to drink while in Mexico. Three days with a morning green tea latte.
Just the trickle of caffeine was able to fuel me throughout the day, though. Rob and I powered through multiple markets (food and general markets), biked around midtown, visited cathedrals, admired public murals, walked around Frida Kahlo’s home, cheered for Mexican wrestlers (ok, maybe we just watched) and our most anticipated event: walking up ancient pyramid ruins outside Mexico City.
We left Houston, and its cold weather, and thankfully, by the time we returned, it was back to its glorious warm self. I am back to cycling in shorts. I know, this may not be the most seasonal recipe for those in a winter climate, but I have been enjoying a multitude of smoothies since I received Kathy’s cookbook, 365 Vegan Smoothies.
Each weekend, after our standard cycle adventure, I would return home for a frosty drink. I’d leaf through and pick a new smoothie each week. I quickly learned that I had to plan my smoothie in advance. Sometimes, I had a hard time deciding which smoothie to make! So many options, so little time. However, once I made this Matcha Ginger Smoothie (the ever-creative Kathy named it Matcha Ginger An-Tea-Oxidant Shake), (Rob and) I knew it was the winner. The one I would photograph and share with you.
Creamy and sweet frozen bananas complement the bitter green tea matcha, but the best part was the ginger twist. Kathy suggested using a dash of ginger powder, but sharp flavour from fresh ginger is unbeatable in this smoothie. A high speed blender would have no problems whipping this into a delicious drink.
I was not sure whether a smoothie cookbook would be worthwhile, but I have had fun trying out different drinks. With 365 different recipes, you are bound to be inspired by a few new combinations: walnut-carrot cake, jazzy ginger grape, lemon-beet clarifying cooler, maple spice buckwheat shake, mango-cado kale kiss, a-peel-ing chai shake. Her crazy concoctions span smoothies with vegetables, fruit and nuts or non-dairy milk. Occasionally yogurt or fruit juice slips in, too. Thin and frosty, or thick and decadent. All vegan. I also appreciate that nutritional facts are included (all recipes serve 2 but the nutritional contents are for the entire recipe).
Beyond the recipes, Kathy is also a fabulous photographer. I find it hard to photograph drinks, but her cookbook is peppered with gorgeous photography. Bright, colourful and tantalizing, signatures of her blog, Happy Healthy Life. It is refreshing to see wholesome ingredients highlighted at their finest. Kathy also takes the time at the beginning to ground you in smoothie creation, with troubleshooting and myths debunked. She also highlights being creative and flexible in the kitchen. I don’t like ice in my smoothies (Kathy is a big fan) but just adjust as you see fit.
I really want to share this cookbook with you and thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite recipe by Kathy. If you haven’t made anything by Kathy yet, have a look through the table of contents of 365 Vegan Smoothies on google books (or my list above or below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 11, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Kathy’s recipes from 365 Vegan Smoothies shared elsewhere:
PPS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for The Simply Raw Kitchen.
This is my submission to this week’s Health Vegan Fridays and this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
The recent cold, wet and rainy weather put a temporary hiatus on our weekend cycling. Thus, with a bit of extra time on our hands last weekend, Rob and I crafted a delicious weekend brunch.
Rob was becoming a bit overwhelmed by our weekly banana surplus. I agree 4 bunches for a $1 is great, but probably not the best idea 2 weeks in a row. After packing our freezer with frozen bananas, we then caramelized the leftovers ones into this spin on a bananas foster baked oatmeal.
There are two ways to make this. When Rob and I team up together, we can easily divvy up the tasks: him caramelizing the bananas, while I mix together the rest of the oatmeal, which are then combined before baking. However, I have also made this solo, where I found it easier to simply caramelize my bananas, deglaze them with the milk and then directly mix the rest of the ingredients in the skillet, which is then subsequently baked. Less dirty dishes is always a perk.
While we have added the rum, we couldn’t really taste it, so it is definitely optional. Or, conversely add more if you want to taste it. Or perhaps drizzle it at the end.
In any case, you have a delicious breakfast. I prefer it warm, fresh from the oven. The sweet, caramelized bananas melt tenderly amongst the creamy baked oats. I have used both walnuts and pecans, with good results. If you have any leftovers, this is good chilled, too. Of course, that only works if you have leftovers.
Baked oatmeal made previously:
Baked Apple Banana Oatmeal
Baked Pumpkin Cranberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding
Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding
Apricot Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis
Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal
Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Have you heard of cronuts? Maybe the dosant? They are both spins on the same baked hybrid: a donut-like croissant. The original cronut wooed New York City. However, they take days to make and minutes to sell out. The lines are long and the prices are high. Since then, a few knock-off dosants have peppered North America.
In Houston, they can be found at Pena’s Donut Heaven in Pearland. When Rob discovered this, we had our next cycling destination picked. Turns out, while the cronut was not that fabulous, we’ve discovered our favourite cycling route in Houston, thus far. We’ve pedalled back 3 times already, enjoying the long, flat and straight road leading out of downtown Houston. Of course, Pena’s dosant is not vegan and I oftentimes get giggles from strangers as they see me snacking on an apple while Rob munches on his donut.
When we get home, though, I have been mixing up my own fabulous tropical smoothies. We’re working through different frozen fruit pulps. After our trip to Colombia, it was hard to find tropical frozen fruit (mamey, guanabanana, lulo, etc) in Toronto, but we snagged a bunch when we spotted it at Fiesta Mart. Mamey is still my favourite, but this simple guava smoothie was very good, too. Usually we just drink it and forget it, but this one I remade and photographed because I thought it was perfect to share. Frozen guava is combined with frozen banana, almond milk and ground flax seeds. The flax bulk up the smoothie making it more creamy. You may see the small flecks of brown but you can’t taste them.
Coming home to a cold drink is definitely the way to go in Houston. Do you have a favourite treat for hot weather?
This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.
That has been my mantra lately.
Quick and easy.
Especially when it comes to desserts.
This is one of those OMG, are you for real? desserts.
I didn’t believe it either, until I tried it. However, the success of your dessert lies within your banana. Not overripe bananas. Just ripe bananas, with just a few spots.
I mean, is there anything bananas CAN NOT DO? One frozen whipped banana makes a delicious ice cream. For this creme brulee, you could go all fancy, and add coconut milk, creamer, avocado, tofu perhaps, but this is for those without a big pantry.
Blend banana, thin with a bit of nondairy milk, and flavour with vanilla. Top with a sprinkling of coconut sugar. Broil for 3 minutes or until the top is melted.
If your banana is overripe, it will taste like pureed banana. But if you catch it right as it turns ripe, you’re in for a treat.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
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.
As I said, I should listen to myself more often. I am full of great wisdom.
Another piece of Janet tried-and-true advice: follow the recipe! I know I adapt many recipes to what I have on hand, but some recipes are best left untouched. Case in point: traditional hummus. I already have a recipe I love (LOVE!) and see no need to experiment. Winging it ends up with a subpar hummus.
For some reason, I also find juices and smoothies to be a bit finicky. Sure, I can wing random smoothies and juices, but sometimes the proportions are off, some flavours aren’t properly balanced and gosh, I know it can taste better.
Hence why I am sharing this recipe. It turned out great. When I winged this with raspberries, flax and protein powder, it was ok but not fabulous. Raspberries are more tart than strawberries and while I used flax seeds as my milk substitute, almonds and hemp seeds create a more lusciously, creamy drink. I still tinkered with the original recipe but not by much. Next time, I will add some protein powder, which can easily be hidden inside a smoothie.
I have eaten at Gorilla Foods a few times when visiting Vancouver and this shake is definitely one of my favourites. I found most of their dishes to be a bit lackluster although I thoroughly enjoyed their Main St. Monkey Sandwich: a raw squash-curry bread filled with olive tapenade, creamy mashed avocado, zucchini hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts. I thought there was raisin chutney, too, but I could be mistaken. In any case, it was a delicious sandwich to try if you are in their neighbourhood.
I often try to recreate resto meals. Inspired by Gorilla Foods, I’ve made a (non-raw) kabocha squash curried flatbread, but filled it with eggplant bacon as a BLT. Their raisin chutney has been on my hit-list, though. Although their guacamole recipe is in Thrive Foods, it wasn’t until they released their cookbook, that nearly their entire menu was available to be made at home.
We’re all out of raisins, though, so I started by making this smoothie. And as I already said, I wasn’t disappointed. Sweet creamy strawberries with a hint of malty maca and vanilla.
How do you usually make your smoothies? Wing it or measure it?
Other smoothies/drinks here and elsewhere:
Peachy Keen Vanilla Smoothie
Chocolate Maca Raspberry Smoothie
Raw Chocolate Milkshake at My New Roots (very, very good!)
Mojito Smoothie at My New Roots (different but good)
Today is a sad day.
I retired my food processor.
It was older than me, Cuisinart Robot Coupe circa 1970s. A hand-me-down from my parents, to my brother and finally to me. You see, I had to wait for my brother to get married and receive a fancy brand new one. My kitchen changed completely once I finally grabbed hold of it, though. Homemade energy bars galore. Turned out I was the one laughing (until now), since this old processor was the best. It was a work-horse. Easy to clean. Loved more than the newer models. I learned a lot with it, such as:
1. Chop your bananas before you freeze them.
That was how I broke off both clips on the side of the bowl. Huge chunks of frozen bananas jumped around the bowl and snapped it off, literally.
Have no fear, that was nothing I couldn’t solve by holding it in place myself.
2. Do not overflow your food processor with fluids.
This was courtesy of Rob’s lesson. The overflowing liquid can make its way inside your food processor and get it to stop working.
Thank goodness my Dad knows how to open up a food processor and clean up the insides.
3. Cook your chickpeas.
This is another lesson from Rob. Processing soaked chickpeas (but not yet cooked chickpeas) broke his food processor (he only had it for a week) but this beast plowed through it.
4. Don’t give away extra bowls for your circa 1970s food processor.
Lesson courtesy of my Mom. Right before I had my first crack in my bowl, my Mom told me she had just given away/thrown out the extra food processor bowl she had been holding onto for the last 4 decades.
5. Crazy glue only works temporarily.
The final straw for my food processor was when the little tip broke off. My Dad crazy glued it back in place, at my insistence. He was worried the whole thing would be glued shut. I proved him wrong. It still stuck together and moved! The problem, though: it snapped off again (while making The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce).
While I can manually stick that teeny piece back in its place, instead I decided to retire my food processor. *sigh* It is for my own safety.
I still remember the first time I tried the amazing 1-ingredient banana ice cream. Gena titled her post: “Banana Soft Serve: This Post Will Change Your Life”. And it was miraculous. However, without a food processor, it cannot be done. Something about the air whipping/melting the banana into a creamy soft pudding. As much as I love my Vitamix, blenders can’t do it. Creamy smooth smoothies, yes, but simple ice cream? No.
Super simple, I rarely make it more complicated than a frozen banana. I have paired it with raw banana maca pancakes and stewed vanilla-scented peaches and blueberries. For a chocolatey treat, adding chocolate protein powder is a great recovery snack.
For its ultimate farewell, I teamed the banana soft-serve with another oldie-but goodie: overnight oats with chia seeds. I’ve shared versions with chocolate & cherries, avocado and gingerbread pumpkin, but this one was a classic vanilla-cinnamon combination.
Combined together, it is a glorious breakfast. And if it wasn’t so much of a fuss to clean the food processor, I’d gladly eat this every day.
I feel kind of bad since it is the bowl that needs replacing and not the motor unit. Sadly, Cuisinart does not sell replacement bowls any longer. I think my Mom tracked down a seller in San Francisco. The commute might kill the value.
What do you think? Time to give it the farewell party? How old is your food processor?
No chocolate here, but we still have cocoa and carob powder. Sadly, I have run out of psyllium to whip up my 3-minute Chocolate Mint Mesquite Protein Cakes and I don’t have enough carob powder to make Gabby’s Sugar-Free Carob Almond Butter Cups. No cocoa nibs to make Hannah’s Mini Mint Chocolate Protein Cookies.
It might be comforting to feel like there are no sweets in the house. However, I know that isn’t true.
I just need to be more creative. There are sweets that just need to be discovered.
I decided to turn to Katie of the Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie fame.
She had a few recipes that really intrigued me, but I eventually settled on her Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge. A super simple recipe, you warm up coconut butter, peanut butter, banana, cocoa powder and salt, stir together and then chill. I used a frozen banana which melted nicely with the rest of the ingredients. I popped the batter into a cute ice cube tray so I had bite-sized treats stashed away (a bit harder to gift, I know). You could eat this fresh, but I preferred it after it had a chance to freeze. Allow it to warm up to room temperature for 3 minutes or so, before slowly savouring each bite. Rich and fudgy, these bites delivered. I loved that it made a small batch and each piece was satisfying.
Doesn’t everything look pretty in a Mason jar?
We don’t have many clear containers in our house, actually. Rob has oodles of beer glasses, but they all have logos on them! Hmmpht… Anyways, as I was saying, things all look better in Mason jars…
I don’t make granola that often, but recently became intrigued by granolas made with pureed fruits instead of gobs of sugar. Rob has willingly become my granola guinea pig. It is all for the better good of granola, right?
This was definitely not your typical granola. Not very sweet and not over-the-top chocolatey, either. The sweetness from the dried cherries and coconut hit your palate one by one as you savour the granola. Its prowess was born once it was paired with creamy yogurt and sweet bananas. I heard horror stories about soy yogurt, but it isn’t so bad!
I used millet again for a nice crunch along with toasted almonds. In this parfait, I tried to separate the granola from the yogurt but it does become a bit messy. It doesn’t travel as nicely as the Salad in a Jar, unfortunately. Oh well, make it fresh and then savour it on a relaxing weekend.
I am making babies.
(It is true that Rob and I recently celebrated our “common law” status after a year of living together, but I am not talking about our eventual (not now) cute kids)
I am talking about squash babies!
It looks like my hand pollination of the kabocha squash was successful, with at least 2, maybe 3 baby squashes rapidly ballooning in size. This kabocha squash business is actually very high maintenance. Not only do I water them twice a day, I now inspect the blossoms to scout out the females. I am not leaving anything to chance and work my magic before the bees come a-buzzin. Seems to be working so far!
Just late last week, Melissa Clark at the New York Times had a post (and video) about eating squash blossoms. The best part? They weren’t deep-fried! Her recipe was for a simple cheese and tapenade filling that used the blossoms as a wrap. While Rob and I nibbled on a few male blossoms this weekend, we’ll have to see how I incorporate them into a bona fide meal. Somehow, I feel like it is more about the filling then the wrap, since it just tasted like a sweet veggie wrap!
I seem to be late with all my strawberry loving this year, but the strawberries keep coming! Looks like the second round might be knocking.
This, however, was my birthday cake from my brunch. I was inspired by Lisa’s raw strawberry tart, not only because it was topped by loads of strawberries, but also because the cream of the tart wasn’t based entirely on cashews. Instead, a frozen banana is whipped inside to create a creamy, looser filling, of which strawberries are nestled overtop. Although it seemed like just a simple garnish, the fresh mint and grated coconut added the extra dimension to make this a special cake. Because this tart is made with frozen banana, it is best eaten fresh. I swear the base was a more creamy yellow a few hours before I took the photos but I had problems with oxidation again! Arg!
Strawberries are out and cherries are in. Seasonal eating at its best, right?
While I originally planned for a strawberry-filled birthday brunch, I worked towards the next seasonal fruit: cherries.
What do you think of first after I say cherry?
Please don’t say cherry red macronucleoli.
(Gosh, the July 1st studying mode has made its way into my blogging, ack!)
Now you’re talking.
The Naked Sprout‘s brunch menu inspired me again to try my hand at raw crepes. While I had the raspberry banana coconut pancakes, Rob had the chocolate coconut crepes with banana and a blueberry cashew whipped cream drizzled with an ancho chocolate sauce and a strawberry compote. What a tasty mouthful!
Not so fancy for my home-grown brunch, though. We are aiming for stress-free gatherings, not stress-inducing gatherings!
In the end, I decided to pair the local, fresh cherries with an almost raw chocolate banana crepe and an almond-coconut cream. All of which I could make in advance and allow guests to assemble themselves.
I was scared of thin raw wraps since my raw zucchini wraps were a bit finicky. I have made these a few times, so let me assure you that these are easy to make. The Vitamix makes for a smooth batter and adding the flax seeds last gives you some time to work the batter into a thin sheet. I wanted round crepes, but here, you make a big sheet of a wrap and then cut out your desired shape. It is much easier to make a consistency thin wrap if it is one big sheet. Rest assured that the extra pieces of crepe were not wasted and went straight into my belly. This wrap has a nice chocolate flavour with a hint of banana and very pliable.
I paired the wrap with a coconut-based cream. Now that Rob is gaining experience with opening coconuts, I ventured with a coconut recipe. I contemplated making a macadamia-based whipped cream but cheap coconuts from Chinatown won that battle. I paired it with almond extract for a strong almond flavour, almost begging to be paired with cherries.
Top with sliced almonds, this was a glorious brunch… or dessert.. and quite a great way to introduce my friends to raw cuisine, if I may say so myself.
Sometimes simple is all you need, because the simple flavours melded so well together.
This is being submitted to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring holiday treats, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.
If there is one thing that is predictable with my meals, it is my breakfast. Steel cut oatmeal with fruit and protein powder. Lately, I’ve been eating it with Vega, since I scored it at half price. Making a big batch each week is a time saver and doesn’t make me think too much each morning as I rush out the door.
With a bit of extra time this long weekend, I decided to host a birthday/housewarming brunch today. A time to whip out all the vegan brunch options. I know, one meal that can be challenging for vegans has got to be brunch, typically filled with cheese, eggs and baked goods. Not here.
A recent visit to The Naked Sprout‘s Sunday brunch had me in a tizzy over their raw raspberry banana coconut pancakes with coconut ice cream. I thought it would be great to try my hand at it and I figured going raw for brunch would be an easy way to serve a crowd. The pancakes could be made in advance and then assembled once we were ready to eat. No need to slave over a stovetop, especially during this hot summer weather.
Of course, I had to do some research to make sure the recipe worked out before my guests arrived. Last week, while we still had strawberries, I did the first test run. This was the glorious result. Soft and chewy (not light and fluffy like SAD pancakes) pancakes with a hint of maca. Stacked, on top of berries and topped with banana soft-serve ice cream. I was definitely inspired by my meal at The Naked Sprout. This version was lighter and glorious in the melting ice cream. Make no mistake, their vanilla coconut ice cream was possibly the best I have ever had.
One problem: A few days later, my pancakes didn’t look the same. I stored a bunch in the refrigerator in anticipation of not dehydrating this weekend and they turned brown. The banana had probably oxidized or something. Still delicious, they just weren’t as um, photogenic. Well, at least to me, since I know they are supposed to be a light brown colour.
In any case, strawberries are out and cherries are in, so I’ve come up with an alternate breakfast plan. Stayed tuned!
I am a strawberry baby.
Being born at the end of June, my birthday usually coincides with the local strawberry season. My Mom went into labour while picking strawberries. I tell no lies.
This year, local strawberries are already finished as they had an early start. (Local cherries, though, are already here!). Rob and I still managed to sneak in some strawberry action, though, before he took off for the week.
No stranger to raw desserts, I know they can be pretty heavy. Nuts, coconut, avocado, you name it. They make for delicious desserts, but they can be truly decadent.
I had been pining a recipe for a nearly nut-free Strawberry Pie, so when we had a huge clamshell of strawberries, I couldn’t resist not making this. It was now or never. Next week, the strawberries may not be as good!
I couldn’t go nut-free with a crust, so I picked an interesting almond-vanilla-maple crust. However, since it was date-free, I didn’t find it kept its integrity as well as my go-to crust from the Raw Cashew Dreamcake. The recipe below has my standard crust which I think would work better.
In any case, the filling is really simple. A puree of strawberries and bananas with lemon juice is the base for holding more strawberries. Then it is topped with even more strawberries! Strawberry heaven, for sure.
This pie needs to be chilled so that the base firms up. In any case, I think it will be a messy cake no matter what you do.. unless you add a thickener like agar agar. My pie firmed up nicely after a few hours in the fridge but our initial foray after an hour left us with a goopy (yet still delicious) mess. Another less messy option would be to make and serve it in ramekins, like we did with our Tropical Mango Pie (oh so good!).
Since the highlight of the pie are the fresh strawberries, the pie cannot be stored in the freezer (hello, Raw Key Lime Pie!). Instead, the leftovers were my breakfast for the rest of the week.
The real title of this post should be “How I Spent Father’s Day”.
All my cycling escapades have been inspired by my Dad. Spurred on my a few family deaths, my Dad decided to get in shape in the early 1990s. During this time, he started cycling. He began cycling to work, which was 17km each way. He eventually hooked up with the local bicycle club and has done the Ottawa-Kingston Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (178km each way) every year for over a decade. Ever since I started biking 3 years ago, my goal was to cycle with my Dad to Kingston. It seemed like the most inhumane goal but I was on a mission. However, a week before we were supposed to ride to Kingston last year, my Dad broke his wrist falling off his bicycle. It has taken him a year to fully recover and we were hoping he would join us with a new route, to Niagara Falls.
It was supposed to be 160km each way, but due to all the spring commotion with moving, vacationing in Colombia, wedding #1 of 5 this summer, coupled with a bout of sickness last week, Rob and I did next to zero training. I took my road bike out twice and the longest ride was 30km. Pitiful, I know. Granted, my long cycling commutes had my bicycle odometer over 1200km total this year, though, but that was on my commuter bike. Suffice it to say, we did not feel prepared to cycle 320km this weekend. We opted for the 180km option, instead.
I’ve done the trek to Niagara Falls twice. Both times were 2 years ago and it was incredible to cycle the same route and be infused with so many memories. I remembered where it started to rain, where we stopped for much needed breaks, and the glorious ecstatic rush of seeing the Falls replete with rainbow in the background. While I remember the climb up the escarpment being hard (harder than the Westport Hill from the Kingston cycle), I didn’t remember how hard the first part of the hill was and thought I was a goner. There was a police man driving down the hill at the same time I was starting the sharp incline who yelled out: “Don’t kill yourself!”. I think because I breathing awfully heavily…. who knows. As we danced up and down the rolling hills on Roland Road (near Shorthills Provincial Park), I remembered how difficult the uphills were before. As we raced past the 406 and the QEW, I recalled how energized I was to be so close to Niagara Falls, blasting away with the wind at my back. I also remembered how painful it was the second round, when I almost thought I couldn’t ride the last 30km.
Even though I felt unprepared for the ride, it all turned out ok. With my Dad and Rob at my side, we made the best of the ride. In fact, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Day 1 was great. Great weather, good biking and good times. 87km, all in. Day 2 started off so nicely with nearly an hour of smooth pavement down the escarpment with mostly downhill coasting to Niagara-on-the-Lake. While we still enjoyed freshly picked strawberries and cherries (ice cream and fudge for the gents), there were some rough patches cycling home. Meandering our way to St Catharines, the wind started. It didn’t let up and sadly, it was rarely in our favour. A few gusts of wind nearly knocked my bike onto the gravel shoulder. Due to an accident, we needed to do a detour down the escarpment to Stoney Creek, so we ended up cycling 105km on Day 2.
All 3 of us went for a celebratory late brunch at The Naked Sprout (must.recreate.raw.pancakes.and.chocolate.coconut.crepes.oh.my.gosh.and.coconut.bacon.too!), and then we bid adieu to my Dad.
Still looking for a protein-packed recovery snack a few hours later, I whipped up one of my favourite snacks to date: Chocolate Banana Protein Ice Cream. I’ve tried other healthy ice creams before, including Katie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Heather’s Protein Ice Cream (sans guar gum), but neither were that satisfying. Little did I know that my tried-and-true never fail 1-ingredient banana soft-serve ice cream was already at my disposal. All I had to do was add some chocolate protein powder for a very satisfying chocolatey ice cream snack. Guilt-free. The banana whips up into a sweet creamy frozen treat and the chocolate protein powder changes it to a chocolate version. The protein in the powder makes this a hugely satisfying dessert. Enjoy!
The question remains what kind of cycling commitments we will do next year, amidst the commotion of exams and moving to the US. Only time will tell…
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Happy Good Friday!
This year, Rob and I are hosting my family for Good Friday. We typically don’t celebrate Good Friday, but since my brother is hosting us on Saturday, I thought it would be nice to have everyone over for a meatless dinner today.
Instead of opting for typical Easter fare (to be honest, I don’t really know what that would be), Rob and I are going Indian-style!
I suppose there are a myriad of reasons: we all like Indian food (including my parents, wowzas!), it fits nicely for healthy, meatless meals without feeling deprived, and one thing about curries is that they taste better as leftovers, so preparing them in advance is preferable and easier for me!
While we could revisit some of our favourite dishes, we’ve decided to try new meals (of course!). We’ll have enough variety in case something doesn’t turn out. For the more iffy recipes, we test-drove them first, though. Case-in-point: vegan banana naan.
While I don’t like bread, Rob adores it. Picking up a fresh loaf of bread from the nearby bakery is always a treat for Rob and he typically finds an excuse to do it whenever we have guests. I figured it would be nice to try our own fresh bread, instead. When going Indian, naan is the obvious choice.
Little do my guests know that I am using this opportunity to help empty my cupboards. I don’t really want to throw out my bread flour, so if everyone loves the homemade naan, that’s perfect! I still had some yeast, that I needed to proof to make sure it was still alive. If you like bread, there is nothing more satisfying than hot-off-the-stove chewy flatbread. Way cheaper than store-bought naan, even if we pick it up from Little India.
Traditional naan recipes call for yogurt, though. Flipping through vegan recipes, I noticed some used vegan yogurt (ugh!), some simply omitted it and others included ingredients like banana and avocado. We always have bananas on hand, so we picked this recipe to begin our experimentation.
I thought Rob was going to kill me when he had sticky dough all over his hands, but we added more flour and he kept on kneading. Our dough didn’t rise much (older yeast?) but we pressed on. We forgot to add the nigella seeds to the first batch, and they wouldn’t stick, but we added them to the next batch.
The verdict? Rob LOVED them! Warm, chewy yet fluffy – this was a great naan. No tandoor needed. The banana provides sweetness and moisture. While they were easy to make, they were a bit labour-intensive for us to serve to a large crowd. Until we experiment with a baked naan recipe, we’ve decided they won’t grace our Good Friday meal. They will, however, likely make an appearance when we serve some of the leftovers to my parents tomorrow.