I have embraced being a (temporary) Texan.
Summer in November? Yes.
Biking year round? Definitely.
I have obviously already forgotten about the hot, humid summer..
One problem, though: my dates are all messed up. Time is literally flying by. I saw an event for the end of November and thought it was weeks away. It was warm and sunny at the time… my internal clock had not registered that yes, it is indeed almost winter. At home, they’ve received more snow and cold weather than I can recall seeing in November.
I would be hard to pity me, though.. That warm spell disappeared and it is cold again. It will be a low at freezing point tonight. And I forgot (or did not pack?) my winter cycling gloves in Canada. Either that, or they are lost. :( I hope it is the former.
The warm weather partially explains my penchant for raw eats despite the season. The other, is that raw is easy to make and this was a recipe I knew would be fabulous. When Rob and I visited Ellen and Andy on our road trip to Houston, we shared a veritable feast for breakfast and these were my favourite treat. I have made raw (chocolate) macaroons before, but these were simply delightful. Apple, cinnamon and caramel-like dates are pulsed together with almonds and coconut for an autumn/winter-inspired treat. A touch of maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt made the flavours veritably pop.
These are so simple to make, but absolutely delicious.
Are you building your holiday treat roster yet? What are you excited to make?
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
Which food makes you giggle? An automatic response because you just don’t want to eat it.
While I have cooked and baked with prunes before, I subconsciously think of my bowels when I see prunes. I know it isn’t just me, because the folks in California have been rebranded prunes as “dried plums“. So many less connotations, while using different words.
Dried dates, apricots and cranberries get a lot of love, but prunes are rarely heralded. It wasn’t until I picked them up on a whim that I remembered how nice they taste. They aren’t as cloyingly sweet as dates or raisins, and have a much more complex flavour: deep and robust.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I love to explore new breakfasts, although I rarely share them these days. I spotted this recipe for stewed prunes with citrus and cinnamon and figured it would be a great topping for my morning oatmeal.
I was drawn to this recipe for stewed prunes because there is no added sugar and the sweetness comes entirely from the prunes and orange. In fact, the sweetness is tempered by including the orange peel in the pot as everything simmers. A dash of cinnamon permeates the succulent compote and melds seamlessly. I halved the original recipe since I didn’t have a pound of prunes. I used half a Navel orange, cut into thin slivers, which delivered a wonderful flavour. Don’t be off-put by including the entire orange, peel and all. It works. Really well.
(I’ve done something similar before, years ago when I made Nigella’s Clementine Cake in which you boil 5 whole clementines (peel and all) for two hours until meltingly soft, add half a dozen eggs, sugar, ground almonds with a dash of baking powder before you throw it into the oven. The cake is oh so moist, not super sweet, but wonderful. Gluten-free baking at its finest, although obviously not vegan.)
Just as Molly suggests, the silky prunes develop a complex flavour throughout its hour-long simmer. Overnight, in the fridge, the flavours meld further. It was a delicious topping for my morning oatmeal and could easily top some yogurt or ice cream, if you are into that, for a delicious dessert. Warm and cold, I loved it both ways.
Other prune recipes that have caught my eye:
Tagine of Yam, Carrot and Prune from Moroccan Food and Cooking
Butter Bean, Prune and Tomato Tagine from Sanitarium
Georgian Red Beans in Sour Prune Sauce in Olive Trees and Honey
Spinach and Prunes with Beans in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Prunes Stuffed with Walnuts in Orange Juice in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Quinoa Tagine with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes (Quinoa and Chickpea Marbella) at Diet Dessert n Dogs
Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew in A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen (recipe here)
Masala Chai Poached Prunes at In Praise of Sardines
Orange-Scented Hazelnut Prune Truffles at Anja’s Food for Thought
What are your favourite ways to enjoy
prunes dried plums?
What is better than a potluck with delicious vegan food? A potluck with delicious vegan food, complete with recipes!
Recently, some new friends invited me over for a Ripe-themed supper. Stephanie, the mastermind behind Ripe Cuisine, serves vegan eats at a few farmer’s markets in Houston but also has a recipe blog. I have gushed about her homemade coconut-almond ice cream before and since I knew her recipe for brownies was good, I was excited to see how her other recipes fared.
Broccoli “cream” soup with polenta croutons, baked zucchini chips, tahini mustard carrots, and cauliflower piccata were on the menu. Veggie extraveganza! Everything was delicious. I really enjoyed the carrots and polenta croutons.
My small contribution to the menu that evening was this cheesecake. I say small due to its size, not its taste. For my birthday, Rob surprised me with a smaller 6″ springform pan. I left my larger one in Toronto and brought this one so I could make smaller versions of dessert.
I love raw/no-bake cheesecakes. I have made them with cashews as well as tofu, but this time, I used them together. And I baked it. Both for synergistic results.
This cheesecake is a combination of a few recipes and both are knock-outs. The filling is courtesy of Ricki Heller‘s new cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. Since these recipes are all gluten-free and sugar-free, they employ ingredients I don’t have in my (mostly) minimalist pantry. I tried to stay mostly true to her recipe, though, even scoping out lemon extract. I realized that having a concentrated lemon flavour without the sourness would be a good way to reduce the amount of sweetener needed, without resorting to Meyer lemons.
This was a delicious cheesecake. Possibly our favourite vegan cheesecake of all time. Very rich in a non-heavy sense, which can happen with raw cheesecakes, relying on cashews and coconut oil. However, sadly, after chilling in the fridge, it was no longer a lemon cheesecake; it morphed into a creamy, rich, vanilla cheesecake. Equally as good, just a different flavour. The lemon flavour disappeared considerably. I really like the tang from lemon juice, so next time I would add more lemon juice in addition to more lemon extract. It was a very nice cheesecake, though. I also liked how I had the height to really get a good size piece on my fork with the smaller pan. You’ll understand when you look at my (much more flat) lemon cheesecake squares. Rob agreed, and we both thought this was the best, most “real” vegan cheesecake we have eaten (albeit a fluffier European-style cheesecake, which is our preference).
And the crust? A perfect foil for the rich, more mellow filling. A salty-sweet cinnamon pecan crust with oat flour that I snagged from Angela’s pumpkin pie adventures. She tasted a few crusts and proclaimed this the winner. Definitely one of my favourite crusts, too. I liked that it was sweet and salty (no dates) and the cinnamon spike brought it over the edge. I was worried the crust was a bit crumbly but it held together well when serving from the fridge.
I try to keep this blog real, and yes, this cheesecake was utterly delicious. However, it also cracked. This could be due to a few things, but next time, I will add a basin of water in the oven. I did that with the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares, and it worked well. With some strategic slicing, you could hide the cracks. Or find a saucy topping. (Ricki suggested a blueberry compote which I think would have been divine!) But really, it doesn’t matter unless you are photographing it because it still tasted delicious. Do you have any other tricks for cracked cheesecakes? What is your favourite vegan cheesecake recipe?
Ricki has been travelling the interwebs with her blog tour and I have been enjoying seeing her recipes all over the place. With all the thoughtful Q&As, I feel like I am really getting to know Ricki, the chef/baker, but most importantly, the person behind her recipes. A trained chef with a former catering company, watching her on video is like a fun cooking class, with so many tips about ingredients and techniques. I also recommend these recipes from Ricki’s new cookbook:
Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:
PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.
I know I said I don’t like to play food guessing games with others. However, Rob is fair game. He gets it all.the.time. More along the lines of How does this taste? Sometimes, What do you think I should add to this? And then the infamous, What does this taste like? Guess what is in it!
You could probably guess just by looking at these photos, but I gave Rob smaller bits to sample. In fact, this was a two-step taste-test. Sauce alone and then after dehydrating it onto the bits.
First of all, this was a real simple recipe. Just whiz the ingredients together for the caramel sauce, stir it onto your “apple” bits and dehydrate for 12 hours.
Even before dehydrating the sauce, I thought it tasted great. Rob agreed. I asked him to guess the ingredients: cinnamon, almonds, and apple. Close: cinnamon, yes; almond butter, yes; but no apple, I informed him. That sweet taste was from dates.
I proceeded with the recipe, and then tried the now dehydrated sauce: oh my gosh, it tasted like sticky, wonderful caramel. Not too sweet, well balanced by the cinnamon. It had coated the “apple bits”. They were soft and sweet. Rob tried it and loved it. He still thought it reminded him of apple. Even though there was still no apple, Rob reminded me I had just created raw caramelized apple. He knew it before I did!
And that secret non-apple? Cauliflower! It really is a textural issue. Crisp yet soft (hard to explain). Sweet. With smaller pieces drenched in the sauce, you would never believe it was cauliflower. Bigger pieces had a more pronounced cauliflower flavour (and a telltale shape), but had a nice crunch.
Dehydrating is a magical thing. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. Looking at the recipe, there is a lot of water. You need it to be able to blend it smoothly, but after dehydrating it away you, the dates are more sweet and caramelized. Eating this straight from the dehydrator, still warm, was a treat. I only wish I had made more, because this did not last long at all.
Trust me, I have nothing against apple. I love apples. I eat a minimum of half dozen a week. I also love dehydrating apples into chips but usually save that when apples are ridiculously cheap in the fall. I make a small internal sob every time I shell out more than $1/lb for apples, which is the usual in Texas. (Although I nearly flipped out when I saw Honeycrisp apples for only $1.29/lb a few weeks ago.. those are ungoldy expensive in Toronto).
Thus, the question still remains: how would this caramel sauce taste on real apples (in the dehydrator)? I don’t think they would be as crisp, but definitely more sweet. I would be afraid they would collapse more into mush, but if you try it out, please let me know! :)
PPS. I noticed my typo for ungoldy. It was meant to be ungodly, but I like my new word. It fits. :)
See below for the giveaway for Isa Does It!
If I had to pick a vegan rockstar, it would be Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Long ago, we was rocking it out on television, but now mostly vegan chef, author and blogger. She has penned 7 vegan cookbooks and her eighth book has been eagerly anticipated. As she explains in her newest cookbook, Isa Does It, her title makes more sense once you know her first name is pronounced Ee-sa. Thus, her title is a play on Easy Does It. ;)
As such, Isa Does It highlights mostly simple, quicker recipes (under 30 minutes!) that are foremost tasty. This is a cookbook for the beginner chef as well as those who want to reinvigorate their kitchens with new scents and textures, without breaking the bank or spending hours on top of the stove. Isa explains how she stocks her pantry, her kitchen cabinets and then details specific beginner techniques (with step-by-step photos), such as how to butcher tofu and tempeh.
With 11 recipe chapters that span the gamut from quick soups, salads, handheld, bowls, curries and stir fries, there is a lot of variety. Furthermore, not much is left untouched as Isa also includes fancier “Sunday night suppers” and breakfast/brunch ideas, too. Rest assured, complete meals are encouraged as desserts are included, too.
I admire Isa for a fabulously tantalizing blog, sharing her delicious creations. I guess it should be no surprise that some of my favourite recipes from her blog appear in the cookbook (see below). In addition, of the 150 recipes in the cookbook, the majority are brand-spanking new.
Beefy asparagus stir-fry with fresh herbs. Okra gumbo with chickpeas and kidney beans. Quinoa Caesar salad. Cucumber Ranch bowl with breaded tofu. Edamame hummus and tofu wraps. Belgian beer and seitan stew. Baked garlic-curry fries. Chickpea-Rice soup with cabbage. Coconut chana saag. Chandra Malai kofta. Goddess noodles with tempeh and broccoli. My Thai overnight scramble, breakfast scrambled chickpeas, oh please.
If you have tried Isa’s recipe before, you know the name of each dish never gives you the full picture. They are very descriptive of the ingredients, but something so simple may be more than the sum of its parts. I am eagerly waiting to pounce through this cookbook, page-by-page. Chocolate gingerbread cookies, anyone? I can already vouch for the ancho lentil tacos, tempeh orzilla, Jerk Sloppy Joes, lemon-garlic fava beans and mushrooms, chana masala (not my favourite but Rob liked it well enough), cucumber avocado tea sandwiches, chai spiced snickerdoodles, and now her delicious Moroccan harira with eggplant and chickpeas.
Harira is a Moroccan soup/stew that I have been meaning to recreate since I travelled to Morocco. Let’s just say it has been on my to-make list for many years. It wasn’t until I saw Isa’s recipe that I jumped at the chance to try it out. Harira is a very forgiving recipe. As I travelled through Morocco, nearly every restaurant had a different version of harira. Some with chickpeas, some with lentils, sometimes both beans, some with tomatoes, others with ginger, some with herbs, others not. I cannot say that I saw any with eggplant, but that is Isa’s slant.
First, I made a few tweaks to Isa’s recipe… mainly because I had no vegetable broth, so I used my impromptu nooch plus random spice blend. This time, I threw in dried parsley, lemon pepper and the 21-spice seasoning from Trader Joe’s. I also substituted spiralized zucchini for the noodles. Ingenious, if I may say so myself. Anyways, less about me, more about Isa. This soup was great. Bulky and satisfying with chickpeas and lentils in a flavourful tomato broth spiced with ginger, cinnamon, smoked paprika and saffron. Fresh mint and cilantro add a lightness, along with the finishing lemon juice. I use saffron so sparingly I am glad I finally found a great use for it! The textural foil of the noodles with the beans was perfect.
For someone new to veganism, the ingredient lists in her recipes may still seem a tad overwhelming (vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, cashews, wine and fresh herbs) but these are rather commonplace in a vegan’s kitchen. Except the saffron, because well, that’s not a regular ingredient. Once you have access to fresh herbs, it is hard to return to the dried ones, so I understand the recent push for quality ingredients.
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 about your favourite Isa recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Isa yet, have a look through the table of contents of Isa Does It on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on October 31, 2013. Good luck!
PPS. If you pre-ordered your cookbook already, don’t forget to get your free Isa Does It tote bag.
PPPS. Versions of Isa’s dishes made previously, not all from Isa Does It (more recommended dishes can be found listed here):
Ancho Lentil Salad Wraps
Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros
Roasted Beet Salad with Warm Maple Mustard Dressing and Tempeh Croutons
White Bean, Quinoa and Kale Stew with Fennel
Asparagus, Nectarine and Baby Lima Bean Lettuce Wrap
Naked Oats with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crumbled Tempeh
Tomato-Basil Zucchini Noodle Salad
Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles
PPPPS. Isa’s recipes in Isa Does It that she has already shared on her blog, Post Punk Kitchen, and elsewhere:
Everyday Pad Thai
Seitan & Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce
Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches with Dill & Mint
Roasted Potato & Fennel Soup
Chickpea-Rice Soup with Cabbage
New England Glam Chowder
Quarter Pounder Beet Burger
Olive Lentil Burgers
Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach
Sunflower Mac (and Cheese)
Roasted Butternut Alfredo
Ancho Lentil Tacos
Dragon Noodle Salad
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Chili Pumpkin Cranberry Risotto with Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Red Lentil Thai Chili
Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli
Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings
Meaty Beany Chili with Corn Muffins
Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas & Kidney Beans
Lemon Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms
Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime
Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Nirvana Enchilada Casserole
Garlicky Thyme Tempeh
Puffy Pillow Pancakes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
Marbled Banana Bread
Chai Spice Snickerdoodles
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. You know I would have loved this book and would have bought my own copy. :)
Rob and I have been trading stories. He has been back in Canada for the last two weeks. He is hitting up all our old haunts, new joints (I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the vegan boston creme donuts and other treats at Through Being Cool; he’s already tried the Toronto’s crookie (cookie-croissant hybrid) and scouting out Toronto’s cronut, too) and getting ready to spend time with his family for Thanksgiving. I am willing to bet most of my readers know Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving almost a month before the Americans, but if not, let there be no confusion. Canada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday. :)
This is a dish Rob made before he left. He is much better at tackling his recipe hit-list than I am. Possibly because it is shorter. While in Bend, Oregon, we discovered a restaurant with delicious food. For me, I adored their tempeh reuben salad (recreating it is still on my hitlist!) and Rob was adamant about recreating the sloppy joe sandwich.
While I have made Sloppy Joes with TVP, which I served overtop roasted sweet potatoes, I shared Isa’s recipe with Rob. With the extra spices, I knew he would really like it. Rob really liked their sandwich because it was served with a brioche bun. He looked around a bit but wasn’t able to find something in Houston. That did not deter him.
I no longer remember what protein this resto used for their sloppy joe, but Isa’s called for seitan which we didn’t have. Instead, Rob experimented with another Portland find: soy curls. Soy curls totally deserve their high praise. Similar to TVP in that they are a dry soy product, they not as highly processed. Soy curls are made by cooking, then drying soybeans, whereas TVP has been processed to become defatted. Their fun shapes are akin to pulled meat. I bought a bunch in bulk while in Portland and wish there was a local supplier because I know we will use them up quickly.
In any case, Isa’s recipe did not disappoint. She called it jerk-spiced sloppy joes, but the flavours were more muted. When I think of jerk, I think of bold flavours. Instead, this was tame. Nicely flavoured and palatable for the masses. The Caribbean flavours of allspice, cinnamon, and paprika were present and made for a lovely tomato sauce. Rob amped the sweet sauciness by adding red pepper paste. Lime juice balanced it nicely.
The second component to the dish was coconut creamed spinach and kale. Spiced with star anise, the Caribbean flair persisted. Instead of the brioche bun, Rob used a paratha to eat this. Mainly because that’s what we had in the freezer. This is a fusion household. Indian-Caribbean-American in one wrap. Use whatever vehicle you’d like. :)
While this recipe seems almost as elaborate as Rob’s epic Jackfruit & Kimchi and Sweet Potato Poutine with Tofu, this one didn’t take nearly as long to cook. Start to end was around an hour, which is a good thing since Rob has proclaimed this as a Rob’s Repeater Recipe.
Have you ever tried soy curls? What did you think?
In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.
We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.
I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there. Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.
Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.
Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries
Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors
One of my favourite parts of my roadtrip to Houston was meeting friends. Friends that I have only corresponded with through blog comments and emails.
I have met a few other bloggers in person and it can be both nerve-wracking and rewarding. It is a bit like online dating. You feel like you know them without doing it in person. There can be a disconnect. How well do you really know them? Perhaps only the part they have shared publicly. On top of that, I narrate their voices in my head, perhaps erroneously. I was a bit shocked when I met Hannah for the first time. I shouldn’t have been… but yes, she has an Aussie accent! (which you can totally listen to here). Or when I met Laura, and she said y’all within a minute. You know you aren’t in Canada anymore when they start saying y’all.
Anyways, this brings me to Ellen and Andy. I was thrilled to meet up with her for breakfast as we skirted out to New Orleans. I really felt like we connected and had Rob not reminded us of our 7 hour drive ahead of us, we could have chatted all day. Ellen and Andy knew me well enough to warn me about things I had not learned yet: Americans and their guns (apparently there is a city that require everyone to own a gun!), how expensive American health insurance can be (while I always knew American health care was the most expensive in the world, I never had actual numbers to feel. We needed to find bridge health insurance which is $500/month for healthy people!), and tips on how to beat the heat.
I am a lover of tisanes and Ellen had a delicious iced tea to sip. It has been a while since I’ve had iced tea. I grew up loving the uber sweetened Nestea and I know that in the US, iced tea can be simply iced tea. Unsweetened, in all its glory, which was a shock when I liked the sweetened stuff. This time, though, instead of a steeped black tea concoction, Ellen made an iced strawberry lemonade. I have actually stopped buying fruity teas (except apple cinnamon – I still like that) because I don’t like them. I don’t know what it is. I have gravitated to earthy, spicy chai-based teas. Or lemon (+/- ginger) ones. Or mint brews. But not strawberry. Anyways, I digress. Ellen explained she brewed it for iced tea. That’s the way they drink in the South. When in the South, do as the Southerners.. ;)
I tried it, and I was smitten. Ellen sent me home with my own package so I could make my own tea once I arrived. That tea did not last more than a week in my house. It was so good. Let’s just say, Houston is hot. A girl needs to drink.
While I have added it to the bucket list to try and recreate in my own kitchen (the tea seems to be mainly dried apples and strawberries with rosehip peels and marigold petals, that I will probably omit), I ended up trying this delicious brew first which uses my kitchen staples.
Warming spices cinnamon and cardamom are paired with a bit of zip from the ginger. If you leave it to steep a long time, cinnamon will be the dominant flavour but that is good, too.
Rob will tell you I have a hard time drinking water. He thinks it runs in my family. No problems with hydration when I make this, though.
PS. Also on the bucket list: making the apple cinnamon macaroons Andy made for breakfast (only one of many delicious treats for our breakfast feast). Delicious! :)
The carrot craze continues…
I am a proponent of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and raw cuisine intrigues me. Dining at a raw resto can leave me beguiled: how did they do that? This goes beyond salads. Silky smooth lasagnas, luscious chocolate hazelnut cakes and brownies. This does not taste remotely like raw foods. Then I immediately want to try to make it myself. New techniques to bring you different flavours…
If you need any introduction to raw foods, raw desserts are definitely the way to go. No stranger to decadent raw desserts (Raw Key Lime Pie, Better Than Nutella Cheesecake, Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake), sometimes they go thump with the richness from nuts and coconut. It hasn’t stopped me from wanting to explore more desserts, though. Even better when they are lighter.
Last summer, I was a recipe tester for Amber’s cookbook Practically Raw Desserts and while the recipes are very flexible (I love her multiple variations!), one ingredient she was adamant about not substituting was coconut flour. It is unlike any other flour or shredded coconut.
I was dying to try was her Enlightened Carrot Cake. Nut-free, the base is made from carrots, apples and dates. Oh, and coconut flour. However, by the time I tracked down coconut flour and had the gusto to make this recipe, the book had already been shipped to the publisher (oops!). Thank goodness, this was one of the first recipes she shared online because it finally prompted me to try it.
Amber made this as a cute double-decker cake with a small springform pan. Since I don’t have one, I looked for an easier option. Cupcakes worked well with my last raw carrot cake (very good, too), and even though I had no muffin wrappers, I decided to try it out. After a bit of warm water pouring over the back of the muffin tray, the frozen cupcakes popped right out. It worked!
And yes, they were delicious. Because they are made with coconut flour, they are light. Coconut flour is defatted coconut meat, so it is a lower-fat coconut-based option for desserts. Most importantly, it is an ingredient creating a fluffier texture. As such, these cupcakes are so different than any other raw dessert I have made. The sweetness is not over-pronounced and it was a delicious dessert with a hint of coconut and cinnamon. Satisfying and surprisingly filling for a low-fat dessert.
Amber has two recipes as suggested frostings. I chose neither, although her fermented cashew frosting is still on my hit-list. My last cashew-date frosting was a bit dense and definitely not white, so I wanted to substitute the dates. Instead, I made an apple-cashew frosting. It was simple: apple + soaked cashews + ume plum vinegar (another acid and salt could work) + water. I liked how the fresh apple added bulk and sweetness. The consistency was just perfect after a chill in the refrigerator. Smooth and creamy.
Of course, now I am excited to make more recipes with coconut flour. Have you tried it yet?
Many of the recipes in Practically Raw Desserts use coconut flour, so I am excited to try more of Amber’s creations. I promise to do a better review of the cookbook when I finally get my copy. Here are other recipes that use coconut flour:
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares in Practically Raw Desserts
Pecan Chai Spice Bars in Practically Raw Desserts (I made these as a tester but found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread in Practically Raw Desserts
Cake Batter Protein Balls from Chef Amber Shea (I have made these already. They are very good for something so simple)
Raw Apricot Jam Bars with Flakey Crust by Bonzai Aphrodite
Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies from Purely Twins
Peppermint Protein Bars from Purely Twins
Coconut Lemon Meltaways from The Hearty Herbivore
Raw Avocado Brownie from Bite-Sized Thoughts
Chocolate Avocado Cookies from Sprint 2 The Table
It is with a heavy heart that I have abandoned ship for the Rideau Lakes training, but that hasn’t stopped me from making cycling snacks for Rob. Energy nibbles are definitely one of the perks of long-distance cycling. Never wanting to run out of glycogen stores during long rides (aka bonk), snacking on homemade sports drinks and energy bars are a fun way to fuel a long cycle.
In addition to high carbs for quick absorption, whole foods are good options due to their beneficial nutrients. Vitamins and antioxidants can help rebuild your body as they repair from your exercise. And because I am a sucker from trying new things, especially when heralded as a leading source of antioxidants, this is how I stumbled upon acai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee, btw).
However, the powdered acai berries left a bit to be desired. They didn’t add much to my morning oats. Flavour-wise at least. I needed a new strategy. Because if I am going to shell out the big bucks for acai, I may as well taste it and enjoy it.
Packed with a a medley of dried fruit (dates, raisins and apricots), almonds, vanilla and cinnamon, this is a delicious treat. Not as mono-dimension as some no-frill date-heavy energy bars, I really liked the fruitiness that the acai imparted. Could you skip it? For sure, but then I’d add something like unsweetened dried cranberries or goji berries to replace the berri-ness I enjoyed.
These nibbles have been christened ‘the pepperoni’, because Rob thought I had made pepperoni during its initial phase, rolled up as a long cylinder in the fridge. Surprises abound in the fridge, but I can assure you that these do not taste like pepperoni. However, a savoury energy snack sounds like a great idea. Dried tomatoes in a pizza-like ball, anyone? :)
I also wanted to highlight a new book for any readers interested in cycling. I know I’ve recommended Every Women’s Guide to Cycling before (although I can’t find my own post, here is a good review). I read it a few years ago when I first became interested in long-distance cycling. I felt like she was whispering and guiding me through the ins-and-outs of cycling. It seems so simple to get on a bike and pedal, but it is so much more than that. Have you ever wondered whether to wear underwear with your padded cycling shorts? And what the heck is chamois butter? Just a few of the tips I garnered from the book. I really should re-read it when I resume long distance cycling again, because it is not geared solely to novice riders. And to be honest, if studying for my exam has taught me anything, it has reinforced that if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I haven’t really looked at cycling tips and tricks for a while.
However, I recently read through Bicycling Magazine’s 1,100 Best All-Time Tips. I haven’t read the previous editions, but this version highlights quick easy-to-read tips about many different areas in cycling: traffic safety, riding positions, skill builders, training techniques, distance riding, mountain biking, racing, health and fitness, nutrition, equipment and bike care and repair. Most of the tips resonate with me as I figured them out myself over the years: there is less wind in the morning so start riding earlier (there is also less traffic), why to avoid riding through a puddle (there is probably a huge hole there, too), and the best communication during group rides (we are a very vocal bunch of cyclists).
It includes tips that reinforce aspects I need to continue to remind myself: don’t train hard more than twice a week, take at least one rest day a week and it reminds you of the signs of over-training. They even suggest that cyclists who work full-time (or go to school), should limit their training to 10-12 hours a week: protecting your time for what matters most while still giving you the most amount of benefit (something I remind myself daily). For more serious cyclists, they have tips like shedding water bottles during long climbs if you can refill shortly afterwards (because one should never sacrifice hydration).
The tips are very practical, with suggestions on how to plan your training year, how to structure a training camp, and how to be your own coach. I appreciate the short and to-the-point nature of the tips, but at times, I wish there were more references for the scientific advice –but that’s the doctor coming out in me. Not all techniques are so obvious and straight-forward. Building strength, endurance and muscle, can be accentuated from different angles, but make sure you figure out what works for you. So, if you are searching for the best energy bar, the ratio of carbs:protein is one thing, but taste matters, too. Too sweet? Easy to chew? Or not chew? Start experimenting now, instead of whipping up a new recipe the day of your event.
Here are some of my other favourite cycling-friendly energy snacks:
For those who prefer videos, Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Forward is a great resource, too. I enjoyed watching some of his videos from his latest module about enhancing sport performance.
Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)
Do you think there is an old school vegan cuisine?
Stereotypical tofu, broccoli and brown rice? Nutritional yeast?
What’s the new school vegan?
Kale, quinoa and Brussels sprouts? Miso?
I say what’s not the new school vegan? Variety is key! Everything is fair game!
I may choose chickpeas day in and day out for a few months (you have been warned, hehe), then I am loving lentils the following month and the next bit is all about black beans. By the time I eat chickpeas again, I have forgotten how wonderful they were and the cycle repeats itself ad nauseum.
Out of all the vegetables, we buy broccoli fairly routinely. Rob loves it. Steamed, it is a simple side for any meal Rob wants to healthify. Rob also loves adding broccoli stems to besan chilla and tofu scrambles and creamy broccoli dal continues to be one of our favourite meals.
However, as rated by my most popular tags on the blog, broccoli does not even make my sidebar!
Thus, it is time to diversify our broccoli uses.
This is a rice pilaf from 1000 Indian Recipes which is basically old-school vegan gone Indian! Brown rice and broccoli fragrant from Indian spices with sweet caramelized onions. Savoury spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves infuse the rice as it cooks and a tarka (spiced oil) is used at the end to get the mustard and cumin seeds to pop. Sadly, I didn’t find this dish as flavourful as I anticipated and was a bit disappointed. Next time, I would increase the spices and perhaps decrease the amount of rice. And likely add some beans for a complete meal.
What’s your take on broccoli? Common vegetable often in the shadows?
Other broccoli favourites on my blog:
Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad)
Lemon-Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas and Broccoli
Quinoa Falafels with a Cheezy Broccoli Bowl
Buddha Veggie Bowl with a Ginger-Miso-Lime Dressing
Confetti Veggie Salad with Mustard Curry Dressing
Forty Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli
Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce
Spicy Peanut Udon Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli
Creamy Green on Green Pasta (aka Raw Kelp Noodles and Broccoli with a Creamy Lemon-Basil Whipped Avocado Sauce)
Broccoli and Red Pepper Stir Fry with Peanuts
Most people probably roll their eyes when they hear you have dietary restrictions. I know my food choices can be a pain in the butt for some people but imagine combining it with other allergies and restrictions? I have a friend with a severe allergy to sulphites, another friend who won’t eat nightshades and beans and I recently met someone with some crazy diet for interstitial cystitis and I could only remember her telling me she eats no spices. I love trying to find meals we can enjoy together, though. I think the worse was when I was trying to find common meals I could share with my grandfather who needed a low potassium, low salt, and low cholesterol diet. The low potassium part made it the most challenging since he couldn’t eat any whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds which are my protein sources. Meal planning is like a fun puzzle for me although others probably find it a headache. :)
Recently I was asked to suggest meals fit for entertaining. Not usually a problem, because I keep a list for myself in case I forget. However, there was a caveat: no garlic, no onions, no leeks, no shallots, no green onions (no alliums). I know there are multiple reasons to avoid them (including those who are doing the FODMAPS thing), but they continue to be a staple in my diet. More than just aromatics, they have a lot of health benefits, too.
Never daunted by a special diet request, I mustered up a few suggestions (Raw Zucchini Alfredo, Raw Tacos skipping the onion in the salsa, Thai Tempeh Wraps with a Mango Ginger Sauce, Sushi Salad Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my
Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests (YA!).
The request planted a seed in my head, though. What kinds of meals are naturally free from alliums? I know some people just don’t like chopping garlic and onion, and some Indian recipes call for asafoetida as a substitute. Thus, I looked through my Indian bible, 660 Curries, and while I didn’t pick a recipe with asafoetida, I picked one without onions and garlic.
Cooking without the typical aromatics meant we needed flavour from elsewhere: loads of savoury spices. Cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, all the good spices Indian curries are made from. The special spice, this time, was amchur/amchoor (mango powder).
I’ve used amchoor before in chaat masala used with Malai kofta and a warm chickpea and mango salad. It is made from dried green mangoes, conferring a sour tangy flavour, not unlike vinegar or lemon juice. Since I substituted tomato passata for fresh tomatoes, this is a very pantry-friendly recipe when you run out of even the most basic perishables (onions, garlic and lemons) and don’t feel like going grocery shopping when it is snowing in April (!). The cilantro does perk it up, but not necessary.
Anyways, in essence, you are making chickpeas cooked in a nicely flavoured tomato sauce. No fuss, you simply simmer then away for a while as you tend to something else. Like most curries, they make fabulous leftovers and I ended up enjoying them overtop fresh green spinach as a quasi salad.
Do you feel overwhelmed or welcome the challenge of dietary restrictions? :)
I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too. ;)
I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.
I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made
some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.
After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. :( I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.
In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.
PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?
PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. :( I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?
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?
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about my refrigerator woes, and an immense amount of gratitude goes to my friends and family for offering to help store our food over the weekend. You’d think there would be an emergency fridge delivery service, eh? Or maybe our landlord just opted for the “deliver it on Monday” option. Suffice it to say we had three days without fridge stuff.
How did we manage? Oatmeal. Twice a day. I am only partly joking. If I going to make a single serving of any food, it better be quick. Hence, the oats. I jazzed them up as a dessert pudding with chocolate protein powder, which is also how I ate them for breakfast, too. Still tasty.
Rob and I also unearthened some of our favourite foods from the freezer. It is amazing what I had forgotten that been stashed away. I had the forethought to freeze meals in single servings (or 2), so it was perfect. Freezer meals don’t have to be shabby. We had memories of summer produce by munching through Greek Stewed Swiss Chard With Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, Peruvian Mayocoba Bean Bowl with a Roasted Pepper Sauce, Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew and even older but (still) goodie Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti. Score!
I also experimented with frozen oats and frozen stir fries. Meals that I had made before the fridge died but then stashed outside, in the winter chill, to freeze. It works! Turns out I am not the first person to have figured out you can freeze steel-cut oatmeal (Trader Joe’s even sells it). You can rest assured I will be sharing those recipes eventually (the stir-fry, not how to freeze oats). :)
In the meantime, I am sharing a cinnamon-spiced beet and sweet potato salad with spelt berries and kale. Ashley raved about Kath’s salad, so I had been meaning to try it out for a while. Plus, Valentine’s Day is all about the red foods, eh? Bring on the beets! :)
I’ve gone the savoury cinnamon route before (Strawberry and Roasted Chickpea Salad with a Cinnamon Vinaigrette, Moroccan Barley and Pea Shoot Salad, Cherry Collard Dolmas) and this was pretty good, too. I won’t gush its praises but it was fit for a weeknight meal (maybe not for anti-kale guests). It may seem like an involved salad but you just need to prepare each component separately – the cinnamon-roasted beets and sweets, the spelt berries, the sauteed kale and finally, the dressing.
I have had problems with burned spices when added to roasted vegetables, but this worked out. The sweetener from the dressing helps to accentuate the earthiness of the cinnamon. I imagine adding maple syrup to the veggies while roasting would be delicious as well.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Red food? Chocolate? Or nothing at all, since every day is an awesome celebration of love? I vote for the latter, but I know Rob is planning a special home-cooked meal for me later this week. He has leaked that it will involve frozen bananas. (Exciting! Nothing more sexy than your man in an apron, no?) :)