Sometimes I’d rather have more veggies than dessert, but when I asked if I could skip serving dessert, my Mom was adamant: This is EASTER, bring on the dessert!
I obliged. I ruffled through my bookmarks for an easy, healthy dessert… with ingredients from my pantry. I bet you didn’t think it was possible, but this is an incredibly delicious dessert. Almost guiltless, as my Mom called it. No refined flours or sugars, with minimal agave at that. Decadent and delicious. Why is this almost guiltless? Well, it is still 256 calories (skip the crust and it is 156 calories, when serving 10!).
The secret? Tofu! But not just any tofu: the silken tofu you find in aseptic containers (not refrigerated). I used the firm silken tofu from Mori-Nu which had been languishing in my pantry for a while.
I have been meaning to make a tofu cheesecake but haven’t located a recipe worth trying yet (have any suggestions?) but I was positively smitten by this wickedly easy recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie. So was my entire family. We ate half the pie for dessert for lunch and then the leftovers were nearly polished off by the end of the day, after dinner. I kept the tofu a secret until I was pinned and explained that the delicious creaminess came from the tofu. The richness from the good quality chocolate. Trust me, you couldn’t taste any tofu.
I am loving these quick-and-easy no-bake desserts. Here, you make a quick almond-date crust (I used the same one from my Raw Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake) – or skip it altogether if you want to serve it in cute little tumblers. Melt your chocolate and throw everything until a food processor. Spread overtop and chill. Easy, peasy!
Decadent and delicious, yet still low calorie for the huge amount of flavour.
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, to this month’s Cook-Eat-Delicious- Desserts for dates, to We Should Cocoa for almonds, to this week’s Mother Day Healthy Recipes, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Still interested in winning recipe #5?
5. Sarah’s Raw Brownies!
Of course, Rob needed dessert for his party.
Rob specifically requested a new raw dessert. Apparently Raw Mango Paradise Bars weren’t enough!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s recipe for Raw Brownies and figured a rich chocolate dessert would appeal to the masses. While a cashew-based dreamcake would have been nice, too, I wanted to try something different.. and gasp, something even easier to make.
1 food processor.
As a make-ahead dessert, this couldn’t have been easier. And the results were great. Fudgy raw brownies. Not too sweet due to the raw cacao powder with great texture from the partially chopped almonds. You can’t really compare them to traditional (baked) brownies, but they are delicious in their own right.
I smushed the batter into a 9×9″ tupperware container and while it doesn’t look like a lot of food, these are very rich and filling. When serving, do yourself (and your guests) a favour by making small pieces.
Did you know you can revitalize stale chips and crackers with a dehydrator? We were skeptical, but when Rob and I unearthed some stale chips we had forgotten about, we put the dehydrator to the test. After an hour at 145F, we had fresh chips once again! I guess it just goes to show you that it is the moisture that sucks the life out of stale goods.
I don’t think my mom really approved of Rob buying me a dehydrator for Christmas. Figured it would be a passing phase and end up being a dust collector.
Never fear, it is still being used for many different things, even though I haven’t shared them on the blog. I’ve become pretty adept at making apple chips, although dehydrated pineapple is quite good, too (very chewy!). My naked and maple-sweetened cranberries didn’t work out so well, unfortunately. Kale chips have also been great. Rob and I enjoying the polar opposite kinds. He loved the chocolate kale chips, whereas I preferred the Sarah’s maple sesame version. I’ve made raw chocolate macaroons and raw chocolate mint brownies with delicious results. Zucchini wraps, too.
Next up: Crackers.
Looking for a healthy dessert alternative, I decided to make cinnamon flax crackers after spotting them at Vegan Culinary Crusade. I increased the cinnamon for a bigger burst of flavour but otherwise followed her recipe. I mixed together the soaked flax seeds, water and dates in the food processor to create a thick gooey dough. Spread as thinly as possible for a crispy cracker.
Even with 1/2 cup of dates, this wasn’t a sweet cracker. But it was sweet enough to release its prowess with me. I gobbled these crackers up so quickly with their warming hug of cinnamon. I used brown flax seeds but will try golden flax seeds next time since they have a milder taste. In any case, while I originally planned to eat these for dessert, I found they paired beautifully with a butternut squash soup.
If I thought the label vegan was stigmatizing, never mind what people think when you tell them you are eating raw food! I have had friends flat out refuse to go to a raw restaurant with me (where’s the meat? where’s the heat? they exclaimed).
Eating raw foods could be as simple a summer salad, or snacking on some fresh fruit, which are not too horrific in the slightest. For those eating only raw foods (not me, don’t worry), this would quickly become boring! This is when it becomes exciting, because the experimentation in raw foods has created some luscious treats, perfect during the hot summer when you don’t want to turn on your stove or oven.
Summer berries are at their prime right now and I know the virtues of eating berries, plain, unadorned, in all their glory.
Let me fill you in on a secret: there is food synergy at play. 1+1 does not equal 2. Combine your favourite summer berries and top with a nutty topping for a delicious crisp. No oven required.
If it were that simple, it wouldn’t as phenomenal.
This is the second secret: macerate your berries. Blend your berries. Use a portion of your berries to create a sweet juice, just as if you baked your crumble and it is oozing those lovely fruit juices. I cringed when I mashed my blackberries (my beautiful blackberries!), but it is what brings this dessert to the next level. It isn’t just berries and nuts.
I was inspired by the recipe in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth and Raw Food Made Easy to create my own Raw Mixed Berry Crisp. I used blackberries and raspberries, which were a wonderful combination, but choose your favourites (blackberry-peach? raspberry-mango? blueberry-pomegranate?). The cinnamon-almond-date topping would work with any fruit! If you don’t plan to eat everything at once, I suggest keeping the topping separate from the fruit. Sprinkle over top just prior to serving… because if you aren’t going to eat it for dessert, you may as well have it for breakfast!
This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Wellness, this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anh from A Food Lover’s Journey.
June has been a busy month.
It started with a trip to Vancouver (where I was so happy to meet up with Ashley!).
Next, there was the bike ride of the century. Or 3.6 (metric) centuries.
Then, the following weekend, there was the move. From separate apartments to a single house. Combining of lives. Living out of boxes and boxes.
The weekend after the move also happened to be my birthday. Apparently, turning 30 is a big deal. Not just any birthday.
Thus, our new home, bricks and mortar only, housed my birthday bash. A small gathering of both immediate families.
My mom was the host, though. She transplanted most of the food, serving dishes and even flowers from her backyard in Ottawa, as we are still unpacking boxes. I can work in my kitchen, but it is not up to its full capacity just yet (where is my second set of measuring spoons?? Or the bicycle chain lube?- not that I need that in the kitchen, btw).
My mom came up with a delicious menu, catering to my “vegan on steroids” diet, as she puts it. I know she is cooking out of her own comfort zone, but she was easily able to combine my bean and grain dishes with meat and dairy-dishes for everyone else.
While Rob and I contributed baklava as a late Father’s day gift for the shindig, since it was for my Dad, I opted not to try a vegan recipe. I went with his favourite Turkish baklava recipe, complete with a pistachio-only filling.
I couldn’t back out of a birthday cake, though. I knew what I wanted: a vegan cheesecake. I have gushed over ones I have eaten at restaurants in town, but had yet to try making it at home. I picked out a recipe and my mom, thankfully, obliged. Her closest Loblaws actually carried all of the ingredients once she started to look (although they were more expensive than what I pay from natural food stores in Toronto, so I will have to hook her up next time). She made it the night before, froze it overnight, and brought it to Toronto in a cooler. Her only change to the recipe was using a 9″ springform pan, but that didn’t change how great it tasted!
Just as I had hoped, this was a delicious cake. Silky, creamy and smooth with a strong burst of raspberry in the cake. This doesn’t taste like cheesecake, but it has a similar consistency. It is not as heavy. Light and fruity. Smooth and creamy. A dreamcake. It needs its own name because it is a shame to even compare it to cheesecake. If you didn’t tell people it was vegan, all they would know is that they were eating a delicious cake. It took longer than half an hour to thaw, but we ate it chilled anyhow. Personally, I preferred it straight from the fridge, when it was more creamy. Thankfully the baklava was a hit, which meant there was more leftover birthday cake for me!!
The great thing about this cake? Once you have the ingredients, soak your cashews, you just whip everything in your food processor. No oven required. Freezer space necessary, though.
Every year, over 2000 cyclists bike between Ottawa and Kingston with the Ottawa Bicycle Club for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This is not a charity event; everyone does it for fun. There are many different routes, but the most popular is the “Classic” 177-km route that you do in both directions on smaller country roads between the 2 cities. My Dad has done this for over 9 years and when he announced this year would be his last, I wanted to join him. Somehow (and thankfully!), other friends also thought this would be a great idea to do. We trained earlier this summer, as soon as the snow melted, in between rain, fierce winds, battling challenges with riding with heavier panniers, back on my hybrid and even renting an uncomfortable cruiser while in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, my Dad broke his wrist 2 weeks before Rideau Lakes, so he wasn’t able to cycle with us. However, he was quite omnipresent by waiting for us at random places along the route. Sometimes with the camera ready to catch us in action (a cast makes photo-taking hard, too, though!). This is me and Rob in action:
Thankfully, despite ominous forecasts, we had beautiful weather: mostly overcast, with some lovely tailwinds in both directions. My brother had spooked me by telling me this was a very challenging course, with lots of killer hills. Tackling the tough hills around Toronto allowed me to feel more comfortable attacking the steep hill near Westport. The other rolling hills were fun!
I was thankful for such a great group of friends for the ride, but almost thought I was doomed after cycling 140km on Day 2, at the last rest station in Ashton. I had stomach cramps and a bloated belly. I was not feeling well. My legs were sore (understandably) but still pushing well. But my belly was not happy. I ended up sucking it up, taking ibuprofen, and biking to the finish with the group. I am still not sure what is bothering my belly (digestion problems persist) so I don’t think it has anything to do with biking per se. Perhaps it was something I ate earlier? Who knows. Now is the time to recover.
Over the course of my training, I tried a lot of different energy balls. I will post them in due time, but this is what I brought with me to Kingston. Adapted from Radiance 4 Life (recipe also posted here), I decreased the amount of cacao nibs since I had a hard time integrating them all in the batter. The malty flavour of maca combines well with vanilla which are the dominant flavours in these slightly sweet balls, packed with cashews, almonds and oats. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch with nice change of texture. These are a delicious treat, and since they are packed with great ingredients, a delicious snack even if not cycling monumental distances.
I have been cycling a lot recently in preparation for cycling from Ottawa to Kingston and back in June. Rob and I have slowly increased our daily distances, and on Sunady we cycled 168km. Terrain around Toronto can be mostly flat, so we have been trying to incorporate hills into our routes. There will be some killer hills en route to Kingston.
Last year, The Toronto Star listed some scenic hills for cyclists and we have been exploring them one-by-one ever since. Two weeks ago, we conquered the brutal hill in Twyn Rivers and this week we tackled the steep and curvy hill at Appleby Line in Burlington. I have to zigzag up the hills because I can’t ride them straight – I just don’t have the gears to go that low nor are my legs that strong! We only have one more hill left on the list (Redway) but it has been fun to see different areas in Toronto.
I have been making tons of different energy bars for my cycling trips and will start by sharing these healthy snacks from the Thrive Diet (original recipe posted here, and video of Brendan making them is here). I like the Thrive Diet because it highlights eating nutrient-dense foods. Brendan just came out with a new cookbook, Whole Foods to Thrive, which I am really excited to explore because the recipes seem much more creative and include a lot of recipes from established raw restaurants including Live Food Bar in Toronto, Gorilla Food in Vancouver and one of my new finds, Thrive Juice Bar in Waterloo (sadly, they didn’t share the recipe for their awesome pad thai).
These are definitely a healthy energy bar, filled with nuts, seeds, blueberries, lemon juice and carob powder. The texture is softer than what I usually expect from my cycling snacks, but Brendan is a big proponent of your mouth and stomach doing the least amount of work while fueling up during exercise. I found them too soft to transport a bunch of them with me while biking, but they are better at room temperature after a work-out or as a mid-day snack when the munchies come!
As I said, Alphonso mango season is here. Rob and I have been devouring the Alphonsos, savouring each one, and we both thought this was a wonderful dessert to share. Any sweet mango will do, even frozen chunks. If you love mangoes as much as we do, you will swoon over this. So do not hesitate, go get yourself some mangoes!
I have been exploring more raw cuisine and have been smitten by the raspberry raw cheesecake at The Beet and the chocolate banana raw cheesecake at Rawlicious. The server at Rawlicious told me it was to-die-for, and she was right. However, since I know it is filled with cashews, it isn’t the most healthy dessert.
This is why I jumped at the chance to make this dessert, because it is healthy, flavourful and filled with some of my favourite ingredients. The star of the pie is a mango pudding with pureed sweet mangoes. The flavour really pops because it is combined with dried mango slices. The mango pudding is poured over a coconut-almond-date crust, and topped with your favourite fruit. We chose blackberries, but strawberries, kiwis, bananas, anything!, could be used. Together, everything works well. Tropical bliss.
I adapted the recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth, by only making half the recipe and preparing individual servings in ramekins. I thought this worked much better actually, because the crust is a bit crumbly. Since it was in a ramekin, you didn’t need to worry about scooping out each piece of pie. Oddly enough, although this served 3, Rob and I didn’t fight over the last piece. I let him win this battle without a whimper on my side. Because as much as I love mangoes, I know that Rob loves them even more.
I now have one Alphonso mango left. What should I do with it?? I was considering combining it with raspberries, but we’ll see what I create.
Everyone has a favourite granola recipe. Personally, I have tried many recipes, and love to try new ones for variety. Adapted from The Stop‘s cookbook Good Food For All, I was drawn to Joshna Maharaj‘s healthy granola recipe because it was filled with my favourite fixins – almonds, coconut, cranberries and date with less oil. It also used a lot of wheat germ and All Bran buds.
A few years ago, I used to eat All Bran buds all the time with yogurt. It was a quick satisfying snack or dessert. I once chatted with a surgeon who was a strong proponent of All Bran buds and psyllium (the main fiber source on All Bran buds). He was a colorectal surgeon and saw people with constipation and colorectal cancer. He was adamant that we could add All-Bran buds to ANYTHING – even pizza! While I am willing to try many thing, I am not THAT adventurous. However, adding All Bran buds to granola just makes sense for a healthy, filling breakfast.
A note about this granola: it is not incredibly sweet. It does not clump well. But it is tasty and best combined with some fresh fruit and yogurt as a lovely breakfast parfait.
My last post was written a while ago… one of my many recipes from the draft folder. And while these fruit, nut and seed bars were made later in the summer as well, I am writing this post after biking the double imperial century ride from Ottawa to Cornwall and back. The big kahuna. The grand finale.
And I did it!!
It was such an amazing feeling to accomplish such a feat, especially since I only started long distance cycling this year. If I can do it, anyone can!
What was more amazing during this ride, though, is that I learned how great it is to cycle in a group. Usually I bike with 1-2 other people, but we just have fun while cycling, stopping when we want, etc.
This was different.
My Dad and I joined the Touring 1 group for the Imperial Century Route (160km). The posted average speed was going to be 23-26 km/h. I usually get around 23km/h which is really not that fast but I can’t seem to do any better. I can do 26km/h average when mainly downhill…. but not when I factor in going back uphill! Hills are my weakness.
So there were 6 of us in the group. Totally not a beginner group (um, what kind of beginner would be cycling 320km??). A and T were both older gentlemen who enjoy cycling and were along for the ride. Strong cyclists but always reminding us to have fun! H was going for a ‘hat trick’ award. This year, she had already cross-country skiied 160km over 2 days, ran a marathon, and once she did the double imperial century, she was all set! Her friend L came along for the ride – but she had only done the shorter routes before. My dad has done the Cornwall and Kingston rides for 10 years, so he’s very strong.. and then there’s me!
It is mainly flat, but I found it quite windy. Being in a group of 6 (3 pairs), we rotated routinely, and were able to draft off of each other. The hills at the end had me struggling a bit, especially when I fell out of formation but the group would wait at the top and my Dad would try to deflect some of the wind off me. Once you lose the group, it is even more hard to join up again! We left at 0800 and arrived in Cornwall at 1600. Not bad at all. I was very pleased! 165km. 4 breaks, including a longer one for a flat tire. Average speed 26.1 km/h.
We lost and added a person for our return ride. T wanted to do the 120km and J joined us from the faster group. There were 60 people doing this ride and we were the only group doing the 160km back. We had 1 other person, biking solo, pass us, so most people picked the 120km back.
Anyways, we got the hills over with at the beginning and the route was mostly the same but it did change in some places as well.
In the end, our stats were: Left at 0730. Arrived at 1430 (imagine that!!) with 4 breaks. 162 km. Average 26.6 km/h! By 124 km, our average was 27.0 km/h! But it rained the last 30km, so we slowed a bit.
The group was really fantastic. Very encouraging and never dropped me despite being the weakest in the group. In fact, they were great about whisking me along. I felt a bit like Lance Armstrong as people tried to figure out where to position me in the group to capitalize on my strengths. There was a LOT more wind this time and sometimes it helped us! Our max speed was 39km/h which we got on a flat.
In conclusion, it was a great end of season trip. While I won’t be putting away my bike just yet (I hope to keep commuting until December, at least until the snow arrives), I am also not entirely sure where to go from here. I am considering investing in a nice road bike, but we’ll see.
Now about these bars! I spotted them at Enlightened Cooking. They were a nice change of pace from the date-heavy bars, with a citrusy burst from the orange juice and the apricots. The seeds and almonds provided a nice crunch as well. They were a bit more moist then some of my other bars this year as well.
I had a love/hate relationship with my bicycle last week. I still loved my bike, but I think she had enough of me after I biked 250km last weekend to/from Woodstock. It wasn’t the distance that bothered her, it was the rain. The light rain, we could deal with, but the torrential downpour, is what she was complaining about.
When I arrived to greet her Monday morning, a bit earlier than usual to take her down to get cleaned before heading to work, her back tire was flat. I can do this, I thought to myself. So I removed the tire, replaced the tube and put the tire back on. It took me a good 30-45 minutes, but I was still pleased with myself. My first time changing a tire solo!
Then I pumped up the tire. I almost had it at 120 psi. I know it can be difficult to pump it up that high, so I almost left it at 90. Nah, I’ll give it a good push or two, I can do it! So I pumped, and pumped… and then FOOSH!! My inner tube exploded and popped off my tire! Without any extra inner tubes, I had to hightail it to work by subway instead.
Emails flew between my family and friends. I obviously squished my tube between the rim and tire, they told me. I figured that could be the culprit because I didn’t really check to make sure it wasn’t squished. Next time, I’ll know.
But my woes, don’t end there. I felt pretty silly having only 1 spare inner tube, so I wandered over to Bikechain, the student-run group at the University of Toronto that teaches you how to fix your own bike – and also sells cheap inner tubes. There was only one staff at the time, and I was sans bike, so I quickly picked up 5 inner tubes and brought them home.
So I lugged out my old bike (I have no clue how I lasted 7 months with a daily commute on that heavy clunker!), and rode to the closest bicycle shop. To clear them out of inner tubes. I only bought 2. And they were over $1 more expensive than those from Bikechain, and the exact same inner tube.
Armed with the proper inner tube, I decided to replace my inner tube yet again. It didn’t take me nearly as long; I must be improving, I thought. Next, I checked to make sure I had no squished tire. I didn’t. Great! And then I pumped up the tire. And pumped, and pumped, and got it up to 120 psi! Woohoo! I removed the pump and took a sigh of relief. Not an instant later, the tube explodes AGAIN! Now I am positively in tears, and know I need someone to help me figure this out.
Thankfully, Rob was coming over. I told him it was do or die because I only had one tube left. He supervised me and showed me a different way to assemble the inner tube and tire. I was putting the inner tube on first, then the tire. He assembled the inner tube inside the tire first, and then mounted the whole thing on the rim. Sounded good to me. So we pumped, and pumped, and pumped. 120 PSI! No blow-out! We pumped my front tire to 120 psi. I was good to go! I just need to get more tubes since my back-up tubes are down to zero, but no rush..
The next morning I ride to work. Perfect! It was just technique that was the problem. I return to my bike after work, drive it no more than 6 feet, when I feel like my breaks are rubbing my tire. I look down and I have a flat! No way! Not again! And I have no spare tube.. gah!
I take the subway home, grab 2 new tubes from another bike store. Another $2 more per tube. I ask whether some inner tubes are more prone to leaking. I only biked 5 km before I got a new flat, I explained. He suggested that perhaps I had something stuck inside my tire that I couldn’t see. I should clean the inside really well. Excellent suggestion, I thought, and planned to do that next.
Before I went to bed, I cleaned the inside of my tire, feeling nothing, but thinking it was something small I couldn’t see. I made sure my inner tube didn’t touch the floor and mistakenly pick up rocks, etc. I replaced the inner tube, with the new Rob-style technique. I pumped it up. And no explosions! Woohoo!
Two days go by… I bike to/from work. I rack up 20km. No problem. Those invisible rocks sure were problematic. Or maybe it was the even more expensive inner tube that did the trick. Who knows. I was doing a little cheer every time my bike still had a tire full of air.
Friday morning, my bike greets me with yet another flat tire. I am almost not surprised. What am I doing wrong? I notice that there’s an actual direction for my tire. Maybe I had it backwards and that was the problem? I don’t know.. this is all voodoo. I replace my tire again. I figured out where my leak was. Reasonably close to my valve. Maybe it was the metal hooks I was using to help reassemble my inner tube. Apparently that’s a no-no known to cause small leaks if you squish the inner tube. OK, I will look for my plastic ones. I clean it, I replace it, I pump it up. It doesn’t explode. I ride to work.
Now I am paranoid. I have no explanations for these flat tires.
So far so good, though. I make it to work intact.
I meet Rob after work to cycle to a friend’s house. I tell him about my flat tire woes and about my paranoia. How far will I get this time? The first time was 5km. Then 20km. Now what?
He looks down at my tire nonchalantly. What’s this?, he says, pointing to a small matte area on my tire. It was less than 1 mm. I have no clue but it looked like a small rock attached to the tire. I try to flick it off but it is wedged in nicely. I use my key to dislodge it and out we pull a big piece of glass! My culprit! My front tire had a smaller piece wedged in as well.
After successfully cycling 100km the following day, I knew I was in the clear.
While there are many great tutorials on how to change your tire online, here my tips that I have each learned the hard way:
1) Ride your bike with a spare tube (with the proper valve), pump and plastic hooks to change a spare tire. Try to repump your tire to see if it is a slow leak.
2) Remove the tire first with the hooks
3) Remove the inner tube, including any valvular attachment to the rim. If you can figure out where the hole is, great! You might be able to patch it too. Soapy water helps but I also tried to squish out any air all along the inner tube.
4) Try to figure out WHY you got the flat tire. Check the outside, inside of the tire and rim. Sometimes you won’t see anything if it is from having low tire pressure that gets squished over a bump, etc. Even if you can’t see anything, clean everything.
5) Pump up the inner tube slightly, then reassemble it inside the tire. Reattach this to your rim without any hooks, if possible, and make sure your tire is in the right direction. Make sure the tube is not being squished by the rim. Be careful around the valve because that area can easily be damaged, so I usually tried to push the final bit of tire in the rim away from the valve.
6) Slowly re-inflate the tire, making sure nothing got caught. Pump up until you get to your max pressure. Make sure you have your pump on with a straight valve. Once that breaks, you need a new tube, too (a lesson from my first lat tire change).
7) Reattach your tire to your bike, making sure it is properly positioned without any friction from the breaks. Re-hook your breaks.
It seems so simple, but it can be so complicated.
And now, about the recipe: Chocolate Brownie Power Bars. This has been my favourite energy bar for biking so far. I prefer moist, not so sweet bars that travel well. I really liked the cocoa mint nibbles, but they tasted like dates after they had been warmed in the sun. They were much better straight from the fridge for their fudge-y texture.
Adapted from Enlightened Cooking, these are similar to the cocoa nibbles but had more substance to them. They tasted more like a brownie and stayed that way after travelling with me all day. They also had a creamy taste which I think came from the milk powder. I originally threw it in because I had leftovers without a purpose (I originally bought some from the bulk store to make Momofuku’s Crack Pie). Now I think I have a super purpose for it, though, and will have to get myself some more.
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat.
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears.
In my quest to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall, I have been investigating portable snacks to bring with my on my rides. I made Almond Chocolate Larabars earlier in the season and liked the combination of dates, almonds and chocolate. The bars were a bit crumbly but otherwise a hit.
Then I spotted Cocoa Nibbles, posted by Ashley at Eat Me, Delicious, who found them through Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. They looked right up my alley with simple, healthy ingredients, akin to other Larabar recipes. Dried dates, almonds, cocoa powder, vanilla and mint are combined to create a fudgy-, datey- cocoa mint nibble. None of the flavours are overpowering and the dates provide a great dose of carbohydrates during a training session. They had good shape, even outside the fridge for many hours. Straight from the fridge, they have a darker fudge texture. The date flavour is more pronounced when eaten at room temperature. I also liked that I made around 16 “nibbles” from the entire batch (50 calories, 9g carb, 1.6g fat, 111 mg potassium per nibble). I wrapped each one up as a portable snack and they were there perfect size to eat during a long cycle. I can’t wait to try the flavour variations suggested by Ricki for my upcoming bicycle rides.
This is my submission to Blog Bites #6 hosted by One Hot Stove.
Other than cooking/baking/eating, another one of my new passions is cycling. A year ago I was using my 19-year old mountain bike (it looks like this one on Craigslist) for commuting to work. A year later, after saving my money from a lack of bus passes, I purchased a snazzy road/hybrid and I have been flying ever since. A nice, light bike makes a complete difference and I went from enduring cycling to really enjoying it.
My newest cycling goal is a double imperial century ride between Ottawa and Cornwall in September with my family. I have been slowly working my way towards the grueling 100 mile (162km) bike ride for each day. This weekend, I cycled between Burlington and Niagara Falls with a group of friends through the Toronto Bicycle Network. Our my first day, I cycled 128km and almost cried when I arrived at the falls, glorious in all its splendour, complete with a rainbow, but mostly proud of my achievement.
One of the snacks I munched on through the day were homemade almond chocolate Lärabars. The ingredient list for Lärabars are surprisingly sparse (eg., dates, almonds and bananas) and quite a few recipes are online for many of the different Lärabars flavours (and here, too). In the end, I decided to go all out with Chocolate & Zucchini‘s gourmet chocolate Lärabars with almonds, date paste, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, and cacao nibs. They were delicious but a bit crumbly, especially once on the road all day. I think I needed to soften my date paste, which I will do next time. For a while I was confused with the flavours in the bar. It tasted kind of minty but I know I didn’t put any mint in it. I think it was the magic of cardamom. I approve, and will definitely try out other combinations of nuts, fried fruits and spices throughout my summer rides.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bike back from Niagara falls to Burlington, after I fell off my bike the subsequent morning. Thankfully I am doing well, took the train back to Toronto, bought a new helmet and will be riding off to work in a few minutes.