Houston gets me every single time. You leave for a week or two and you forget how hot and humid it is. Or maybe it just became hotter.
I thought it was ice cream weather before but now it has become a dietary staple. Just like salsas, we will have to wean ourselves from the vegan ice creams at Trader Joe’s.
I have no ice cream maker, but this recipe promised to deliver.
Mint ice cream with chocolate chunks – what’s not to like? I added some spirulina to make it a vibrant green base.
Sadly, it didn’t work out. I actually wonder whether it could be done at all without an ice cream maker. I quickly realized the chocolate chunks would sink to the bottom if I didn’t stir. So, I stirred the ice cream as it become to freeze, almost every 30 minutes for a few hours. Until it was way too late to stay up. Of course, in the morning, it was solid as a brick and difficult to thaw. I had a hard time getting it into a scoopable form and ended up thawing it in the microwave! It was also a bit icy, I suspect because I didn’t remove the watery coconut water from the coconut milk.
I eventually refroze it into small quantities and ended up adding some soy milk to turn it into a smoothie. Next time, I may try Kari’s idea to put it back in the food processor to whip it back into a creamy state. Or fish out my ice cream maker from storage.
The recipe comes from The China Study All-Star Collection which is a collection of vegan recipes that focus on whole foods with limited refined oils, sugars and salt. Like my cookbook collaboration, the recipes hail from many authors. I was familiar with some of the authors (Dreena Burton, Ani Phyo, Christy Morgan, and Lindsay Nixon) but also new-to-me authors like Chef AJ and Del Sroufe among others.
A cookbook like this makes a great introductory cookbook. You are exposed to the styles of many chefs, hopefully finding a few that really resonate with you, or others that perhaps push you in new directions. Would you like to try Dreena’s Apple Lentil Dal? Or Christina’s Daikon Mushroom Fettuccine? Or Laura’s Cauliflower Steaks with Sweet Pepper Sauce? Or Heather’s Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Brownies? Yeah, me too. All four. In fact, you may notice a few repeats from the more prolific writers. Lindsay’s Quick Burgers have been shared earlier as well as Dreena’s Mellow Lentil “Sniffle Soup” and Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes (I shared that one in the fall and it was fabulous!). If nothing else, it may open you up to a whole new library from a new favourite author.
Of note, due to the multiple authors, the writing style of each author is apparent, along with the quality of their accompanying photographs.
Recipes from The China Study All-Star Collection shared elsewhere:
Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles (with another giveaway, too)
Dreamy Baked Bananas (with another giveaway, too)
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite ice cream flavours. I will randomly select a winner on June 30, 2014. Good luck!
Breakfast Chocolate Mocha Pudding Cake.
Because all things with rolled oats are actually meant for breakfast. Add coffee to it, some chocolate for good measures, then there is no question: this is all good breakfast things. A perfect way to start your day.
Because that coffee at night, may keep you awake. Or maybe it was the chocolate.
This was how I rationalized eating this for breakfast.
Eaten fresh, this is basically a self-saucing cake. A chunky dense cake doused in a mocha-chocolate sauce. It was really good, although a bit gummy from the oat flour.
I apologize for the unappealing photographs, but the leftovers were what I had to work with… The leftovers firmed up a lot after the overnight rest, sopping up the sauce, leaving this with a texture more comparable to leftover oatmeal. I hope you still get the idea that this is saucy, though.
Just so you know, I debated remaking this to get a better photo, but decided to share it anyways. My motto is to keep things stress-free and I wanted to share this sooner rather than later.
Chocolate pudding cake has always been associated with the Good Friday Cooking Disaster of 2009, wherein I made a meatless feast with a black bean and pumpkin soup, penne alla vodka and finished it off with a brownie pudding cake. Of course, all were new recipes that I was dying to try out. If I recall correctly, everyone was mostly satisfied with my first two dishes (I remember the penne alla vodka turning out well but I had to simmer off a lot of liquid) but all heck broke loose when I shared dessert. My family did not like it and they told me very bluntly. (Too sweet! I can cook better than you!) That last part is true.
However, I think everyone would love this pudding cake, for dessert or breakfast. Or both. Rob highly approved. For both.
In addition of its association with the upcoming Easter holiday, I also wanted to share this because I received some lovely ingredients to try courtesy of Carrington Farms, ground flax seeds and coconut oil, both of which I used here. Because this is a pudding cake filled with all good things. Check out stores near you celebrating Carrington Farm’s All Good April campaign by passing deals to you, too. In Houston, you can find that at HEB and Fiesta Mart. They also have additional coupons on their website.
Disclosure: I wrote this review as part of the #CarringtonAllGoodApril campaign with Carrington Farms, through FitFluential LLC. I received the products described at no cost in order to complete the review. However, opinions are honest and my own.
Rob disappears and I do a cold, windy and rainy bike 100 km ride. Cameo appearance by the dreaded flat tire again. Sound familiar?
It is hard to believe, but within the span of a few days of my last solo cycling adventure, I signed up for the Tour de Houston for the 60-mile/100-km ride. More impressive (or shocking), I also dedicated some overflow vacation days to visit my parents and cycle Rideau Lakes with my Dad in June. This will be my third time on the 360 km 2-day course, I am hoping it will keep me motivated to continue to cycle throughout the summer to have fun at Cycle Oregon.
In any case, cycling season has begun. This weekend simply solidified why I love cycling so much. IT IS FUN! Even with nearly 4 hours of on-and-off again rain and fierce winds, I had a blast. Granted, I was sad Rob was missing such a fun experience but it was liberating to tackle the course at my own pace (yes, I know, Rob is usually the one waiting for me, not the other way around). I don’t know how many people showed up in spite of the weather (see the video recap here), but over 5000 people registered for the event. It is infectious to be surrounded by other cyclists. I rarely see another cyclist on my commutes to work but now, I had to jostle and wind my way around so many others.
I picked this event because it is actually run by the City of Houston to promote cycling in the city. It was well marked (save one turn) and well staffed. The course changes every year to highlight different areas of Houston. This year, the course was fantastic. Nearly all intersections were staffed to give cyclists the right-of-way (most of the time, obviously they had to let cars go through as well). I also knew it would give me the courage to try out a 100 km course with lots of support. Turns out, I needed it. I found myself with a flat tire a bit after the half-way point. When I cycle with Rob, he always brings a tube, pump, and tools to fix tires but this time, I didn’t. Thankfully, I turned around and one of the sag trucks found me and my sorry wheel. They brought me back to my last rest stop where I was able to get my flat tire. In addition, they then drove me back to where I had my flat tire so I could continue my journey.
I was a bit bummed because I had lost a lot of time and I was even turned away at one of the rest stops. I had a flat tire, I am not that slow! I kept thinking to myself. However, with the continuous rain, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise: the cyclists had thinned out so it was less congested but the best part was that I was mostly passing everyone. Not just a morale boost, this was incredible practical: less mud in my face! No one has mud guards, so if you are within 10 feet of the person cycling in front of you, you would be greeted with mud galore. How do I know? Right before I had my flat tire, there was a muddy patch and it landed all over my face, my glasses, my clothes and my bike.
The course was well stocked with bananas, oranges and peanuts (and pretzels which I didn’t eat) but by the time I arrived at the finish line, most of the vendors had packed up for the day. I cycled home. And only then I remembered how long rides really deplete my motivation to cook. I had the most motivation to do laundry and have a bath, though. Talk about being dirty. But before that, I treated myself to a fun recovery smoothie courtesy of Brendan Brazier’s new cookbook Thrive Energy Cookbook.
Based off the recipes from one of my favourite restaurants, Thrive Juice Bar, this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing: the recipes taste great. If they are true to the restaurant, you will want to make that pad thai stat. However, the curse: that pad thai? It tastes great, in part, because each component is perfected. The recipe may be on one page but it will redirect to 4 addition recipes – three sauces/vinaigrettes and a vegetable mix. All for a single serving.
The photos are gorgeous. The recipes are tantalizing with many classic vegan combinations. I am salivating over the drinks: kale mojito (I have had that at the restaurant and it is great!), chocolate-truffle-caramel mocha, chocolate-peppermint matcha magic drink. The restaurant’s Big Green Energy Charger is in there, too, which I love with a hit of maca, but I don’t know how I will find my own freshly squeezed wheatgrass juice for my version to be authentic. The recipes focus on mostly whole foods, although Daiya cheese makes its appearance, numerous Vega products along with Wildwood Zesty Garlic Aioli which seems to be the base for all four aioli recipes. Some incredibly hard-to-find ingredients are included (lucuma, astralagus, ginseng, wheatgrass juice, reishi mushroom, maca) but not too many.. and most could easily be omitted. I look forward to trying out more recipes and thrilled I can share a cookbook with one of you, too.
For this smoothie recipe, nuts, chocolate and protein powder are combined to make a satisfying smoothie. I typically don’t like smoothies with ice, but this was well balanced, probably because there was a larger amount of nuts than my typical smoothies. Brendan calls this a recovery smoothie although for information on his rationale for his sports recipe (either before, during or after exercise), you are redirected to his previous books.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe (with my modifications, of course) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below. The winner will be selected at random on March 29, 2014. Good luck!
Recipes from Thrive Energy Cookbook shared elsewhere:
This is being submitted to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.
I am no stranger to mole, but our recent trip to Mexico City, gave me an appreciation for Mexican food like no other. Fresh, soft and supple corn tortillas that blew my mind. An assortment of flavourful vegetables. Spicy salsa on the side, to add as much or as little heat as I could tolerate. Vegan eats were a bit hard to find, but after scoping out the right restaurants, we had unearthed some gems. My two favourite restaurants served an abundance of tacos. One of them served a delicious chocolate-infused mole sauce. Rob did a double-take after I ordered another taco and did not share. I had to savour another one!
Chocolate in savoury meals can be a bit tricky. A bit heavy handed, and it can sink in your tummy. A good balance of sweet, spicy and salty are necessary to balance the flavours well. This is an unusual spin on mole, in soup form, bulked up with vegetables and brown rice. The tomato-chocolate backdrop was a delicious spin without being heavy (and the initial puree prior to adding the stock would be a delicious sauce on its own). While this wasn’t in a taco, we served this with tortillas on the side.
Like mole, tamales are also a Mexican comfort food. Our next Mexican culinary adventures will be tamales. We were planning to have a tamalada (a tamale-making party) prior to Christmas, as tamales are usually eaten around holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s. However, it is harder to schedule a large gathering of fellows than you might think. It means the tamalada will happen in the new year. With my recent chocolate themed eats, I will likely be proposing chocolate tamales for dessert.
What is your favourite Mexican comfort food?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s We Should Cocoa, to this month’s No Croutons Required and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair.
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.
As I prepare to return to Canada for the holidays, Houston tugs dearly at my heart. With glorious December weather, it has taken less then 6 months for me to not miss snow. At all. Certainly, it does not feel very much like winter, but each time I cycle to work in shorts, I am positively beaming.
Life has been a terribly wonderful busy whirlwind lately, so I apologize for being behind on replying to comments and for my disappearance next week.
I have one fabulous treat to share before the end of the year, though. December is probably the only month I could get away with sharing so many treats.
This is dedicated to all those looking for the perfect homemade protein bar. In brownie form. Is there anything you can not improve by adding chocolate?
These brownies are so good for you, you wouldn’t even know it. Although I haven’t had time to make them for my Canadian excursion, I had a bit of forethought before flying to Mexico City. I was not certain of the vegan options, so I tried to cover myself with a protein-packed treat. I thought of making my chocolate mint protein bars again, but of course, I wanted to try something new.
Still based on cocoa and protein powder, this was a treat that wasn’t heavy on nuts and dates. Gooey and dense from zucchini, apple and a touch of oats and coconut flour with a heap of protein powder. Chocolate chips also added a great textural foil and bursts of sweetness. Rob decreed the chocolate chips essential to the recipe and confirmed you could not taste any hemp undertones.
While they may not be the best brownies, compared to all other brownies, they are definitely wonderful and possibly my favourite protein snack, to date. (For those interested in their stats: 219 calories, 7g fat, 26g carbs and 16g protein). I successfully halved the original recipe into my small 6″ springform pan, and it made enough for a short weekend trip.
Make sure to flatten the brownies as best you can, because there is no settling of the batter… and thus they may not look the most appealing.
Perhaps that is for the best. If you bring them to a holiday party, there will be more for you!! :)
Happy holidays everyone. :)
PS. The winner for Soup’s On was Move Eat Create.
I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing yet another dessert. But once I made these (uber wonderfully, possibly, yes, confirmed, the best chocolate I have ever made) treats, I knew I had to share them. Chocolate in January usually doesn’t fly…. and I simply could not wait until Valentine’s Day to share this with you.
But, before I tell you about the chocolates, let me tell you where the recipe hails. While in Montreal last year, I explored a variety of vegan restos. I was initially wooed by Aux Vivres, a vegan resto with cooked foods, and quickly recreated their macro veggie and tempeh bowl and their raw vegan smoked salmon. I also stumbled upon Crudessence, a longstanding raw restaurant and really enjoyed my meal. I was *thisclose* to buying their cookbook. It had the recipes for many of the same dishes I had just eaten and loved at their restaurant: Kombu mojito, raw tiramisu and raw cinnamon buns. Many of their other highly praised dishes are included, such as their Om burger, pad thai, Caesar salad, Tibet fat-free dressing, maki rolls, eggplant bacon, raw parmesan (crumesan), chocolate banana pie, chocolate mouse, lime pie, banana split with chunks of raw brownies, blueberry un-”Cheese”cake and Hippocrates juice.
So why didn’t I buy the cookbook? It was in French only. I can read French but since it is not my first language, it would not be as easy to decipher all the cooking terms. So I put it back.
Fast forward a year and their cookbook has been reprinted in English. Lucky for us, because this is a drop-dead gorgeous cookbook with delicious recipes.
The first recipe I tried were these truffles. In the cookbook, they are called “dark nougat”. I am not entirely sure what nougat is supposed to taste like. I thought it might be kind of chewy and sweet (I am only familiar with the nougat that studs Toblerone bars), but this was nothing of the sort…. it was creamy, smooth and divine. Honestly, I had made the middle of creamy truffles. Akin to the middle of Lindt truffles. YES!! And it was dead simple: whizz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and then allow to set in the freezer.
I tried to be a bit fancier by freezing them in silicone ice cube trays, but since they were still so creamy after setting, they stuck a bit to the molds. The light dusting of flaked coconut or matcha helped to make them less gooey for your fingers. I was rooting for the pretty matcha-dusted truffles, but they were still a bit bitter for my liking. The coconut-flaked ones were great and if I had enough coordination, the chocolate-and-hazelnut-coated truffles sound incredible. I think these are a bit too fragile to gift, unless you coat them in a hard chocolate shell.
There is one special ingredient for this recipe, I apologize. Lecithin. I plan on writing more about this ingredient in a later post, but I can definitely assure you that it makes the most creamy chocolate to date.
PS. Other recipes shared from RawEssence:
I noticed this when the weather dipped to cooler temperatures. With the recent swing back to Houston’s humid summer temperatures, I noticed it again.
My kitchen barometer is the coconut oil.
During the summer it was a liquid and during the cooler days, it becomes solid.
Other things that melt in Houston: massage bars, solid hair conditioner and chocolate. Those warnings about using expedited shipping so that your items don’t spoil? Well, let it be known: chocolate will melt en route to my home. Thank goodness it still tasted great. That massage bar, unfortunately, could not be salvaged.
Wipe away your tears with these fantastic raw peppermint patties. They were delicious and you would never have known they were raw. A buttery mint filling courtesy of ground cashews and coconut flour with a touch of coconut oil is enveloped by a thick chocolate coating.
They may look like lumps of coal, but they certainly did not taste like it. ;)
I don’t know whether it was the temperature or the humidity, but I had a bit of trouble making these homemade peppermint patties. I have made chocolate truffles before - classic lemon bittersweet chocolate truffles, chocolate peanut butter truffles and even raw maca chocolates - but this was the first time my chocolate turned out more like play dough instead of a thinner liquid! This meant I had a much thicker coating for my peppermint patties which I wrapped around with my hands. Double the chocolate, which was great, since they tasted fantastic.
Also a note about coconut flour (again): it is defatted ground coconut so it lends a different texture. It also absorbs a lot of liquid, which is why it is so different than regular dried coconut. I am also convinced that different brands absorb more, so adjust the recipe as you go. I ended up adding more coconut flour since it was too liquidy with the original recipe. If you don’t have coconut flour, try these recipes that use dried coconut instead.
This recipe is courtesy of The Simply Raw Kitchen. The cookbook is from a raw restaurant in Ottawa, Simply Raw Express, and features both cooked and raw recipes (despite what the title may suggest otherwise). All vegan and whole-foods based. All gluten-free. With a bit of Austrian in her background, some of her Eastern European-inspired dishes really called to me: Austrian Blaukraut, Krautfleckerl, Lovage (Chickpea) Dumplings, Mushroom Goulash as well as Lemon Dill Cheeze and Aged Peppercorn Cheeze. However, it was her collection of (mostly raw) desserts that I could not shake from my mind: Better Pecan Pie with Shortbread Crust, Austrian Linzer Squares, Cloud Lime Pie, Orange Chocolate Blossom Tart, Holiday Nut Nog.
I know I say it all the time, but I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me which recipe you’d like to try the most (or if you have a recipe from Natasha that you recommend). Have a look through the index of The Simply Raw Kitchen on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her website and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 7, 2013. Good luck!
Other recipes shared from The Simply Raw Kitchen:
I have discovered the secret to living in Houston’s summer. You need to fall into one of these two groups of people:
1. The people who wake up early before the sun rises
2. The people who stay up late after the sun sets
Rob and I have been exploring Houston by bicycle on the weekends. At 7am, we’ll cycle the deserted streets, only to find the paths at the parks literally packed with joggers and walkers. We must be thinking along the same lines: if you are going to be outdoors, best to do it before the sweltering heat arrives.
We quickly learned that Houston is wonderful after sunset. Many public events start late in the day, again to beat the heat.
The problem is trying to fit into category 1 and 2, on the same day. Suffice it to say, after a long bike ride in the morning, I was almost asleep mid-way through a Shakespeare in the Park production later that evening. The comfortable, balmy weather was a bit too conducive to napping. We didn’t even last past the intermission, HA! It was a splendid day, though.
Speaking of cycling in the Houston heat, it is very, very important to keep hydrated and fuelled. Even short runs are more demanding. This is a portable snack recipe I promised a while back. I whipped them up with the odds and ends in my mom’s kitchen before we left for our cycle to Kingston. I must have had some forethought because I remember bringing the coconut flour with me. My master plan for a chocolate date and peanut butter combo was thwarted because the dough was just too runny. But the magic of coconut flour did the trick. It is a very thirsty flour, so it sopped up the batter into portable chewy balls. The peanut butter made them rich and decadent, balanced by the sweetness of the dates and cocoa flavour.
A treat like this is perfect for fuelling during long rides. While our weekend rides are more around 50km now; in this heat, we feel like it gets a conversion factor of 1.5x for intensity. We are still a long way from the MS 150, but we’re hoping to improve our distance as the weather improves…. you know, in October, when it is supposed to cool down.
Are you a morning person, a night person, both or neither?
If you can’t tell, I am a planner. You don’t magically become successful. You plan for success.
During one of my trips last year, I discovered a lovely portable breakfast idea: Ruth’s Chia Goodness. Basically it is an instant breakfast featuring chia seeds, nuts and seeds with flavours. Just add water, wait 10 minutes, and voila! Healthy breakfast is served!
Ruth has a few flavours, but I wanted to recreate the Chocolate version for this roadtrip.
The ingredient list: Chia (salvia hispanica L.), buckwheat, hulled hemp seeds, organic cacao, raw organic cacao nibs, dates, almonds, evaporated cane juice, Celtic sea salt.
Familiar with my other breakfast puddings with oats and almond milk (chocolate cherry overnight oats and gingerbread pumpkin overnight oats), I knew I had to get rid of the fresh ingredients and milk. Oats need a long overnight soak, so to make this an instant breakfast, hemp seeds and almonds seemed like a great idea. Buckwheat couldn’t possibly be used raw, though, in its uncooked form. I turned to dehydrated buckwheat, instead. With its crunch, they added the perfect textural foil to the gummy chia seeds. The cocoa nibs and Amazing Grass added the malty chocolate goodness that left me with my morning chocolate fix. Ruth has added sugar in hers, but I felt like this was perfect without it. Sometimes I add fruits to it as well. Apples, mangoes, kiwi.. I don’t know any fruit that don’t pair well with chocolate. ;)
Do you have any great travel-friendly breakfast recipes?
This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday.
As you may have guessed, yes, I am still alive.
I survived my crazy Rideau Lakes cycle.
My focus this year was to pass my exam (which I did!) and then I quickly ramped up to cycle to Kingston. I cycled another 50 km during the week leading up to the weekend and took Thursday and Friday off as rest days. My final pre-event odometer reading was 560 km, 150km within the previous week.
That weekend, though, I cycled over 200 km. Not too shabby. This was my second time on the course, so I know that the hardest part is between Perth and Kingston. This is where most of the hills lie, including the dreaded Westport hill. The nice thing about repeating the course is that I did not feel compelled to conquer the entire course. Been there, done that. Enjoying the ride with a great group of friends was more important.
Our Cobra biker gang consisted of my Dad, Rob and Sue. While Sue and I had already decided we wanted the shorter route from Perth, the boys wanted the full route. However, due to an early rain shower, we all ended up starting from Perth on Saturday. A later start meant the roads would be dry, but more importantly so would our shoes and clothes. I was positively soaked during my training ride, and I simply hate cold, wet shoes.
Turns out we had my ideal cycling weather: overcast and not too hot. We were having a great time and I was positively giddy once we smoked down Westport’s hill. Sue pummelled it at 69 km/h. I had my brakes on and my max was 59 km/h. As we lounged at the gas station at the bottom, other cyclists reminded me that the hardest part would be the next day, tackling that hill in the opposite direction.
The only wrinkle in our day was my slow-leaking flat at around the 80 km mark. My Dad pumped it up and we crossed our fingers, hoping I could make it to Kingston without changing the tube. Lucky me, we made it and found an on-site technician to change my tube for me.
As we stood in line at the maintenance tent, I chatted with the guy in front of me. He did the whole cycle from Ottawa. And yes, do the math, he lapped me. He arrived before me, covering an extra 77km in the 2 hours it took us to start in Perth. His average speed put ours to shame: 35 km/h. Ours was more like 23 km/h, and we probably took way more breaks, HA!
We arrived early enough that we beat the late afternoon sudden rainfall, and with enough time to relax and clean up before having an early dinner. While none of the heated mains were vegan, I picked up cooked carrots, corns and a marinara sauce and then loaded up at the salad bar where I made my own salad with greens, carrots, cabbage, kidney beans and chickpeas with a balsamic dressing. Strawberries for dessert.
The next morning, we met bright and early over my peanut butter oatmeal with fruit. Both my Dad and I snagged a bunch of bananas for the road.
This time, the weather was a beautiful sunny day. The wind was barely moving and any breeze was from us, or when the pentalon would pass us. HA! And the dreaded Westport hill? I was quickly reminded how difficult it was – I remembered it being not that hard. The steep incline comes early but it is short-lived. The hill continues at less steep incline afterwards, for around another 1 km. A quick break at the top had us re-energized to tackle the next set of rolling hills.
We made it to Perth by lunch time when Rob and my Dad waved us goodbye as they cycled the rest of the way home. Sure enough, they covered the last 77 km in 2.5 hours. Their 28 km/h average was impressive at the end of such a weekend. Sue and I were perfectly content to call it a day at Perth. Thankfully, I wasn’t as tired as I feared (judging by my fatigue after my training ride) and even had the gusto collect our luggage and then bake cookies for Rob before he came home. My Mom made her lovely quinoa pilaf again along with roasted asparagus and peppers.
However, now Rob calls me a monkey. I think I ate 5 bananas on Sunday, in addition to my homemade chocolate peanut butter balls. And while I would love to share the delicious chocolate peanut butter balls I brought with me, the photos are still in Ottawa. So, I am sharing these treats that I brought with me on my training run.
After really enjoying the Nut-free Raw Carrot Cake made with coconut flour, I wanted to try something similar but with zucchini and chocolate, instead. So I experimented. Instead of grated carrots, I used grated zucchini. Instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg, I used cocoa powder. Instead of the apple-cashew frosting, I used cacao nibs for easier transport. And I really liked them. Asterisk, though. I would add more cocoa powder next time. I used up the end of my supply so I worked with what I had. Furthermore, while I ate these as cycling treats, they do not travel well at all. They worked for me with a short ride, since I popped them out frozen. Within 2 hours, they are at their perfect consistency: chilled and firm. Once they became warm, they were mushy and messy. Still delicious but not ideal. Definitely not portable to/from Ottawa and Kingston. Thus, I made new snacks that were uber portable. And once I get the photos from my parents, I will share that delightful recipe with you, too.
Good things come to those who wait.
That ice cream craving? Well, Rob had pity on me and picked up a pint (2 actually) for us to share. After building it up in my head, it was a bit lackluster. Not that I am complaining. Vegan ice cream just isn’t Haagen Dazs. Which is probably a good thing.
It seems like everyone was bitten by the ice cream bug now that the sun is out. I am seeing recipes everywhere. However, without full-fat coconut milk and an ice cream machine, I thought I was out of luck. Until now. (I feel like I am Dr Greger from NutritionFacts.org, hehe)
This time, I wasn’t planning on making ice cream. I was making a version of my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie: an almost guiltless chocolate mint mousse, sans crust. Which I did, and it is very, very good. But then I put one tumbler in the freezer. Just in case.
I think our freezer has some funky freezing cycle thing because even the ice cream from the store was rock solid after a night in our house. It was torture trying to scoop it out. Rob had the brilliant idea to let it thaw. I know, novel idea. But he suggested thawing it in the fridge. So, I came back in an hour and the ice cream was deliciously smooth and creamy.
I decided to try that with my frozen mousse. It was a bona fide rock solid when I initially took it from the freezer. Then I popped it in the fridge. Waited 1-2 hours for it to thaw and then I scooped in.
Glorious! Creamy chocolate mint. Melting in your mouth. Oh yes. I just have to plan for my ice cream cravings.
Before you look at the recipe, I’ll have you know it was a pantry purge success. I know some people have had difficulties with the mousse setting with the original recipe but I have never had any problems. I have made it with soft, firm and extra-firm tofu (although always the silken aseptic tofu). I figured it was pretty flexible so I experimented.
No chocolate chips here, I finally used up my unsweetened chocolate. The 100% chocolate that Rob bought for chocolate fondu once upon a time… and let me tell you, it is very bitter. I also had some cacao butter which I supplemented with cocoa powder, which I figured was equivalent to chocolate. I ended up adding the sweetener to taste as I went along as well as the peppermint extract (Katie suggested 1/8 tsp, which barely registered on my tongue’s radar). This is minty but not that sweet. The cacao butter gave this a really nice mouth feel, both as a mousse and as an ice cream.
Thank goodness, I think my ice cream quest has been settled. At least for now. :)
What are you craving these days?
Being known as a healthy eater has its drawbacks.
My meals have now become suspicious. Suspicious for healthy ingredients. What have I hidden in the meal this time?
Trust me, I cater to my audience. If baking for myself, I’d easily experiment with squash carob brownies, cauliflower chocolate cake, chocolate chip chickpea blondies or chocolate mint black bean cookies. I have even gambled with (oh so good) chocolate tofu mousse pie with my family for Easter.
But for the harshest critics, I go all out.
Thus when Rob’s family came over for a birthday celebration and I offered to supply dessert, I had to determine my plan of attack.
Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie? I knew it was a winner, but I had no tofu.
Rob suggested my Carrot Cake Cupcakes since he really liked them, but I thought they might be a bit “out there”. Carrots for a birthday dessert? (Only mine..)
Experiment with a new recipe? I considered Terry’s Italian Cashewcotta Cheesecake or Ethiopian Chocolate Flourless Torte, but still had the issue of missing ingredients.
Then I worked backwards. What do I have in my pantry? Coconut oil, nuts and cocoa powder. Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Sounded delicious already. I peered around the corner of the cabinet and pulled out hazelnut butter. Eureka! A raw chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.
I like raw desserts because I can sample the batter and can easily gauge how it will turn out. Licking the batter from the blender, I knew this was going to be good. The next afternoon, I brought out the cheesecake to thaw. I cut a piece before everyone arrived. You know, for blogging photography purposes. But I sliced off a tiny sliver so I could do some tasting research, too.
I know I said my last raw cheesecake was utterly sinful, but how can a key lime pie compete with a chocolate cheesecake? A chocolate hazelnut cheesecake? It can’t. This my friends, was pure cocoa bliss.
Better than Nutella filling in a cheesecake form, on a cocoa-hazelnut-date crust. Decadent but not too rich and not too sweet. Perfect.
Trust me, I was very confident with this dessert.
Before I served it, I was pummeled with questions, though. “What IS this?” I was asked. Ingredients or the name of the dish? Ingredients, tell me. Nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave, dates… Avocados? I hate avocados.. No avocados…
Thank goodness it was a resounding success. Definitely my best dessert yet.
I am sore today.
Yesterday was such a wonderful day, it is hard to narrow down the ultimate culprit.
On any day of soreness, I would blame the gym. Yesterday was no exception. I started off the day with my regular weightlifting class but it was followed by an incredibly demanding work-out courtesy of Jillian Michaels: the infamous Body Shred work-out. It sounds tame. Only 30 minutes. Only 4 rounds after the warm-up. Only 3 minutes of strength, then 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs. Do not be fooled!! This is HARD! It is crazy and chaotic. But fun and energizing. Especially since the moves have such funny names (but still oh so hard – flying crab anyone?). Already in select cities in the US, this was the first preview class in Canada but will eventually find its way into a Goodlife near you (it will start March 1 in Toronto and nationwide by the end of 2014). I don’t think this video gives the work-out the fear it deserves. ;)
Two work-outs down, it was time to become lazy and gluttonous.
Starting off with lunch at our new favourite fast food joint, Banh Mi Boys, which has a lot of vegan options. My favourite is the veggie kimchi sweet potato fries and the green-papaya salad with lemongrass tofu (both off-menu). Even better was meeting up with the sweet travelling Aussie Hannah.
Next up, a bit early for our show, we had a tea and connect 4 stop at Academy of Lions. It doubles as a crossfit gym but also hosts a cute cafe with tons of paleo sweets. If only they didn’t have honey, they would have been vegan-friendly. In any case, they had my favourite Tealish tea to warm me up: Winter Blend.
Our main reason for our jaunt on Lower Ossington was to see Avenue Q. A small intimate theater made this an up-close and personal experience, filled with all the wittiness I remember from when I first watched the show in NYC.
Next up, a new-to-us resto: Bi Bim Bap. A Korean sizzling brown rice specialty, we were drawn to it because they offer brown rice (for no extra charge), along with vegan options such as tofu or a blend of 9 different mushrooms. You can also personalized your stone bowl creations with your choice of hot sauce, or not-so-hot sauce (in my case, I had the not hot soy garlic sauce, but Rob had the “mild hot” sour GoChuJang which I thought was plenty spicy, thankyouverymuch). Since the hot sauces are served on the side, you can add to taste and even ask for another sauce if it turns out to be too spicy. On the side was some kimchi and pickled ?pear/apple?. Their homemade and simple kimchi is made with anchovies (no go for me) but Rob said it was plenty spicy so I wouldn’t have liked it anyways. (The kimchi at Banh Mi Boys is very tame which I prefer). All the bibimbaps are served with barley tea (which actually tastes good), miso soup and a ginger-cinnamon drink. Turns out it wasn’t only us trying numerous kinds of kimchi. Toronto has kimchi fever this weekend. I wonder who won the kimchi battle?
Followed by a nightcap with these sexy maca chocolates. I first added cacao butter to my list of ingredients to hunt down after seeing Sarah’s raw chocolate recipe. When I finally decided to make said chocolates, I decided pureeing the dates seemed a tad finicky. I gravitated to a super simple recipe I found in Superfood Kitchen, only slightly more involved than the recent posts from Angela and Gena. I actually made these before their posts but kept these chocolates hidden away as a surprise for Rob. I initially planned to share them on Valentine’s Day but Rob surprised me with homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles instead!
A week later, I broke out these sexy maca chocolates. Why sexy? Maca is believed to (slightly) improve libido. It also has been shown to slightly improve athletic performance which is how I first became introduced to its malty taste. I will be whipping out those maca chip raw energy balls again this summer, as I train for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. Here, this recipe is simply melted cocoa butter spiced with cocoa powder and maca powder, sweetened with agave. Easy peasy for simple, sexy chocolate truffles. :)
While I may be sore today, it was still a fabulous day-long 3-year anniversary date with Rob. ;)
Do you feel like more and more people are interested in eating whole foods?
Last weekend, between Thanksgiving meals, friends and family were curious about quinoa and kamut. One of my cousins is on a low-sodium diet and my other cousin is experimenting with a casein-free and gluten-free diet for their children and asked me if I had any kid-friendly recipes.
I had to think a bit harder. I can talk at lengths about my favorite grain (ok, pseudo-grain) but my recipes are probably not that kid-friendly. I like onions and ginger and spices and greens. Most kids like blander food. And sugary food… I think, right? I am certainly no kid feeding expert.
Then I brainstormed more main-stream main dishes like:
I already offered to bring hummus for the barbecue, and decided to bring two versions. My rosemary-pistachio hummus for the adults and a kid-friendly hummus: chocolate peanut butter style!
Pureed chickpeas are at the heart of this hummus, but you can’t really taste them. Compared to traditional hummus peanut butter is used instead of tahini; almond milk instead of stock and oil; garlic and lemon are removed to make room for maple syrup and cocoa powder. OK, maybe only the chickpeas keep this similar to hummus, but it was a tasty dip nonetheless. Peanut butter was the dominant flavor with more of a hint of cocoa.
I didn’t ask how the kids liked it. I imagine if they thought it was a chocolate spread they could be disappointed because it was more than that with the peanut butter. Or maybe less chocolatey, in their eyes. But the adults seemed to like it, no problem! With a few recipes requests and the leftovers snatched up, I would consider it a success.
For those with kids, do you modify your meals to be more kid-friendly and what do you change? I imagine it depends entirely on the child and their specific likes and dislikes, which may change from month-to-month. :)