the taste space

Stewed Prunes with Orange and Cinnamon

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by Janet M on November 16, 2013

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?

This is my submission to this month’s Tea Time Treats with dried fruit and this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

PS. The winners of Plant Powered 15 are Johanna and Kari.

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Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on November 9, 2013

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

How do you feel about ridiculously easy recipes? Love them? Hate them?

I wanted to call this a 2-ingredient ridiculously easy chocolate protein bark but I.just.could.not.do.it.

While it could be as easy as mixing 2 (or 3) ingredients together, it is not altogether a 2-ingredient recipe. One of the ingredients is made up of a bunch more. I would hate to mislead you.

My photos will not deceive you, either. Almost psychedelic, the protein bark morphs from a light beige to a darker brown on the other side. Courtesy of the not-quite truthful ingredient: chocolate protein powder.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

The simplicity of this treat is simply chocolate protein powder and maca stirred into melted coconut oil which is left to freeze. Protein powders, especially the flavoured varieties, tend to include a bunch of ingredients that may contribute to the different settling rates that occur as it freezes. Or perhaps it is the maca, which is a lighter colour.

I will save my rant about protein powders for another day, but suffice it to say, my preference lies within simple, natural protein powder without any flavours or sweeteners. In times when the expensive Vega chocolate protein miraculously goes on sale, that is when I may try out something new… and then bust out these treats. Just make sure you pick a chocolate protein powder in which you enjoy its taste.

This recipe is courtesy of Amber from Practically Raw Desserts. I have mentioned her cookbook before,  gushing over her light raw carrot cupcakes and inherent flexibility to her recipes. I really enjoy her cookbook  because through her variations, you learn how to cook (or bake, or unbake as in this case). She has lower fat options, grain-free, nut-free, lower sugar and baked options, depending on the recipe. Some of my favourite recipes from her cookbook include this chocolate protein bark as well as protein power pudding, individual cherry crumbles, raw pecan shortbread cookies, goji berry granola bars, jingle balls and cherry-carob bars. My only gripe about the book are the photos. When compared to some other books, like Isa Does It (with gorgeous photography that I forgot to highlight in my review), they are lacklustre. While there are a lot of colour photos, the colours are off and framing could be improved (yes, says the one with the oddest photos for this post, HA!). At least the recipes are great and that is what counts.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

I really want to share this cookbook with you, especially as the holiday treat season gears up (share the vegan baketivism this season!). Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Amber recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Amber yet, have a look through the table of contents of Practically Raw Desserts on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 21, 2013. Good luck!

Other recipes from Practically Raw Desserts shared online (and other reviews listed here):

Superfood Snackers
Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes (LOVED these!)
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Coconut Heaven Cupcakes
Marzipan Buckeye Bars
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares
Pecan Chai Spice Bars  (only ok; I found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread (very good)
Salted Tahini Caramels
5-Minute Blondies (nice and simple)
Dulce de Leche Spooncream
Velvety Chocolate Mousse
Russian Tea Cakes
Tuxedo Cheesecake Brownies
Linzer Torte
Tropical Fruit Tartlets

This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for quick foods and this month’s Dead Easy Desserts.

PS. Have you entered my worldwide giveaway for Plant-Powered 15 yet?

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from Amber as I was a recipe tester.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Rich Vegan Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on October 31, 2013

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

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.

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

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:

Two-Bite Hemp Brownies

Cocoa Mint Nibbles

Ricki’s recipes from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free shared elsewhere:

Easiest Almond Cookies

Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate-Flecked Pumpkin Seed Cookies

Sunshine Breakfast Loaf

Low-Fat Cinnamon Walnut Loaf

Fluffy Fruited Pancakes

Orange Oat Muffins

Grain-Free Autumn Oat Crumble

Butterscotch Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Goji Berries

Chocolate “Buttercream” Frosting

Ultra-Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownies

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns

PS. Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for Isa Does It.

Rich Lemon Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread Crust

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this week’s Health Vegan Fridays.

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on October 12, 2013

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

Rob is away which means I have been left to my own devices.  I stay up a lot later when Rob isn’t here to remind me to go to sleep. I am the one taking care of the garbage, mail and laundry. I haven’t vacuumed yet, but I think that’s ok. We stocked up on groceries before Rob left, so I had a fridge full of produce to work through.

I have been eating my greens, but most of the time, I have been thinking of the dessert that awaits afterwards. Since moving to Houston, Rob and Joe have been a bad influence. You have likely met Joe, too…. the Trader Joe. When we first moved here, we were enamoured with vegan ice cream. We knew that habit wasn’t sustainable, so we weaned ourselves to smoothies and banana ice cream. Next came the chips. TJ’s has SO.MANY chips to try. The gateway chips were the black bean and quinoa ones, and then we progressed to the veggie and flaxseed tortilla chips and soy and flaxseed chips. I have put a chip ban in place while Rob is gone, although I will admit I like the chips more than sweets.

And then Rob discovered their vegan cookies. They even say vegan cookies right on the package. I knew I had to put an end to this madness. Even homemade cookies would be a better option. Although, I purposely did not bring any baking contraptions to Houston. (I can’t even find my graduated 1-cup measuring cup, sigh).. and strictly enforcing a no flour pantry (chickpea flour and masarepa, excluded).

What’s a cookie-loving girl to do?

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

No flour, no problem.

Peanut butter cookies to the rescue. Peanut butter and wait for it, mashed chickpeas, are the base for these cookies. I chopped up some chocolate to incorporate into the sweet batter. Now we had peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies! I am no stranger to beans in cookies, either. One of my favourite cookies are these chocolate mint cookies made with black beans and these chocolate chip chickpea blondies were a hit, too. I like bean-based cookies because they are softer and more cake-like, instead of hard and crackly cookies. They certainly have a different texture but you would never know there were chickpeas in them. These would also make a nice snack while cycling/exercising – a nice change of pace from date-based treats.

Have you baked with beans yet?

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

This is my submission to to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls (& The Elephant in the Living Room)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on September 24, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Now that I think about it, I know more vegans in Houston than I did in Toronto.

In Toronto, I never tried to connect with the vegan community. However, in Houston, this is where I am searching for like-minded souls.

In addition to the raw vegan meet-up potluck, I have connected with others at the Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E. (VSOP)’s monthly potluck. While not all vegan (some vegetarians and veg-curious also come), a large crowd gathers each month to share tasty vegan eats and learn a bit more about other vegan issues. Lately, it has been about travelling as a vegan in Asia but they have been highlighting more issues surrounding animals. At the last meeting, an upcoming viewing of the documentary The Elephant in the Living Room was promoted. Turns out it was on Netflix, so Rob and I watched it later that week.

The Elephant in the Living Room is a quite powerful, yet humble documentary about exotic animals as pets. Did you know that there are more tigers in Texas than there are in the in wild worldwide? What do you do when you no longer want your python? The climax of the film surrounds the connection between an Ohio resident, Terry, with 2 lions and 4 cubs, housed in his backyard.  It was a good movie and I recommend it. Another great documentary related to animals is The Cove, which won an Academy Award in 2010. That is a in a league of its own, though. That was a thrilling documentary!

In any case, chronically my life through the foods that surround these events, I present to you these quick and easy peanut butter and jam energy balls. Flavourful peanuts are key for this recipe, which is why I highly recommend using roasted peanuts. I didn’t want to be wrist-slapped if I brought them to a raw vegan potluck, so I shared it with this vegan potluck instead.

With such a simple ingredient list, you might not think too much about them. However, there was a nice balance of chunky peanuts and jam-like sweet raisins. The extra peanut butter kept the balls together nicely. Add salt to taste, but I guarantee you it needs some to make the flavours pop.

When Rob taste-tested them, he thought they were better than my typical date balls I bring cycling. At first, I felt bad for my date balls, but then took it as a compliment that these were just really good. :)

There is only one problem with the potlucks. Sometimes it seems like a tease to try so many great dishes, but not get a corresponding recipe. Thankfully, I connected with someone who shared the recipe for her fudgy black bean brownies. I look forward to following her blog and connecting more, because her MoFo theme is eating out as a vegan in Houston. I am impressed she can support a month’s worth of posts!!  It may not be so bad as a vegan in Houston after all. :)

Have you seen The Elephant in the Living Room or The Cove? Any other documentaries you recommend?

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. (more…)

Raw Watermelon Candy

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on September 12, 2013

Raw Watermelon Candy

Here is another ridiculously easy treat!

While I have gushed over simple dehydrated fruits and veggies before, here I am raving about dried…… wait for it…. watermelon!

I usually don’t like to play guessing games with my food. However, I had fun sharing it at work, letting people tell me what they thought. First yay or nay. I had 90% yay. Then I let them guess what they were eating. Not a single person guessed watermelon. I had a lot of votes for pepper (due to the seeds, methinks) and other fruit due to the sweetness.  Lisa described them as bubble gum which comes from the sticky sweet consistency. But once I let out the watermelon secret, you can catch a glimpse of flavour in the background. Isn’t it funny how fickle our tastebuds can be?

Raw Watermelon Candy

It is certainly the special texture of the dried watermelon that I adored. Chewy and sweet. I made version plain and also salted with and without chile flakes. With a combination of hot-salty-sweet, the salted chile flake version was my favourite. Rob concurred. Rob mused it would be eerily similar to jerky if we added liquid smoke. Not that I know what jerky tastes like, though. ;)

I just realized that not only are simple recipes easier to make, but they are also a lot easier to type up afterwards. Enjoy! :)

Raw Watermelon Candy

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on August 29, 2013

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

Simple.

That has been my mantra lately.

Quick and easy.

Especially when it comes to desserts.

This is one of those OMG, are you for real? desserts.

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

I didn’t believe it either, until I tried it. However, the success of your dessert lies within your banana. Not overripe bananas. Just ripe bananas, with just a few spots.

I mean, is there anything bananas CAN NOT DO? One frozen whipped banana makes a delicious ice cream. For this creme brulee, you could go all fancy, and add coconut milk, creamer, avocado, tofu perhaps, but this is for those without a big pantry.

Blend banana, thin with a bit of nondairy milk, and flavour with vanilla. Top with a sprinkling of coconut sugar. Broil for 3 minutes or until the top is melted.

That’s it!

If your banana is overripe, it will taste like pureed banana. But if you catch it right as it turns ripe, you’re in for a treat. :)

Enjoy!

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (No Bake)

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on August 10, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

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?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

This is my submission to this month’s We Should Cocoa for truffles. (more…)

Strawberry & Blueberry Salad with Cacao Nibs, Hemp and Maca

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on July 6, 2013

You don’t realize how much you need things until you don’t have them.

A bed? Yeah, sleeping bags don’t cut it.

Chairs? Sitting on the floor is actually not that much fun.

Lest I mislead you with some pre-written posts, things have been a tad chaotic since my arrival in Texas. We drive down separately from our stuff. The shipping pod that had nearly all of our belongings was 4 days late. We were only partially prepared for living without our stuff. Rob was smart enough to pack our sleeping bags in the car. However, after one night of sleeping on the hard floor, we knew that was not sustainable. We ended up visiting REI earlier than we thought, to buy two thermarest sleeping pads. Much better. Gosh, how did I ever enjoy sleeping parties as a kid??  The good thing about the pads was that I could bring them to the kitchen, too, so I had a more comfy spot to sit on the floor.

Eventually Rob emptied the pod (while I was at work) and slowly we’ve been unpacking our home. We prioritized: 1) bed; 2) computer and then 3) kitchen. Since we only packed the essentials, we kind of needed everything. Bathroom amenities were also important: our shower curtain was in there! And my bicycle to be assembled for commuting to work. (Even before we had the pod, our first priority was internet! Pick up a modem and hook up the wifi)

Those few days in limbo had me less focused on the kitchen. Overnight oats for breakfast and lots and lots of hummus, crackers and carrots. Trader Joe’s has such delicious hummus, no? Their chickpea Mediterranean Hummus is fabulous! I started to build up my pantry with trips to grocers (totally digging Fiesta Mart) but kept meals simple without much of a kitchen.

To celebrate my first American holiday, July 4, I made this patriotic-looking salad: strawberries and blueberries with cacao nibs, hemp and maca. A fun fruit salad with unusual but not unfamiliar flavours. Kind of like a Canadian in America, no? A bit different but kind of the same. I will save my American-Canadian observations for another post… so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, enjoy your summer with some tasty berries. :)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this month’s Tea Time Treats for fruits.

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Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on June 20, 2013

Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

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.

Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

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Nut-Free Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on May 28, 2013

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

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!

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

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

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

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Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on May 18, 2013

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

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.

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

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?

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

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Spicy Mango Wrappers (or Raw Spicy Mango Chips!)

Posted in Sides by Janet M on May 5, 2013

Spicy Mango Wraps

Wrappers. Not to be confused with Spicy Mango Wraps.

Because the mango is part of the wrap. In the wrapper.

Rob left for Kitchener yesterday and left me alone to study. I was so close to joining them. The reduced distance was a draw, but the kicker: I am sick. I have been down with an ear infection and upper respiratory tract infection all week. No fun… and not a good way to recover. Studying has never been more focused.

Of course, what is more fun than studying? Cycling, I know. I didn’t do that. I went to my regular Pump, though. No Shred. (PS, I love it when instructors in the audience fill in for no-show subs). First gym visit, actually, for over a week. When I returned home, I looked at the case of mangoes (not the Alphonsos, those were eaten; the case of Ataulfos Rob bought afterwards), glanced at my dehydrator and then outside and had dreams of an ice cream summer. It was then that I decided to forge ahead with valiant plans to make mango cones.

Spicy Mango Wraps

Mango cones are hard to make, though. Folding them to be all cone-like? Um, yeah, didn’t happen. No patience for that right now. So I dehydrated large sheets of a mango-coconut-flax wrap spiced with chili pepper and basil (optional, not necessary). Cut them into circles. Ate all the scraps as chips.

Now all I need is some ice cream… Rob has been encouraging of my ice cream needs to help my sore throat. My Mom advocated for honey-lemon tea. I tried lemon tea (sans honey) and it didn’t work. But ice cream, YES!

I digressed… We did a tour of the nearby grocers recently. Vegan ice cream cannot be found at my ethnic grocer (I knew that), Walmart, Freshco, nor Metro. The Sweet Potato and Fiesta Farms are our sure-fire bets but I know the Mega Loblaws downtown has it too… not sure about regular non-Mega Loblaws. It probably would be considered a frill at No Frills. Who knew vegan ice cream would be so hard to find? Because shouldn’t everyone be eating vegan ice cream with a sore throat and tummy? Dairy is a no-no with a troubled tummy. I should probably learn how to make it, instead (something a bit more beyond my banana soft-serve). ;)

Spicy Mango Wraps

This is my submission and to this month’s Simple and in Season and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Spiced Acai Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on May 4, 2013

Spiced Acai Energy Bars

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:

Chocolate Mint Protein Hemp Bars

Raw Lemon Barley Energy Chews

Raw Cinnamon Raisin Balls

Maca Chip Raw Energy Balls

Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles

Cocoa-Almond Mint Nibbles

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.

Spiced Acai Energy Bars

Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)

Raw Mango Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on April 20, 2013

Everyone must have mango on their minds right now.

I definitely have a lot of recipes for mango and people have been bumping into some of my old mango treats lately: Raw Tropical Mango Pie, Thai Tempeh Lettuce Wraps with Mango Ginger Sauce, and Mango Shrikhand. If you have scurried to purchase dried mango for the Raw Tropical Pie, place some aside for these delicious bars.

Even before I got my own dehydrator, I knew not all dried fruit were equal.

Now with my dehydrator, I also know it isn’t always easy to dehydrate fruit.

Apple chips are super easy. I just slice and dehydrate at 135F overnight, around 8 hours. I prefer thin slices to get a crisp chip. Thicker slices are nice when you want something to chew on. I’ve added cinnamon, cardamom and pumpkin pie spices but still prefer the plain variety.

I experimented with homemade unsweetened and maple syrup-sweetened dried cranberries, but my efforts didn’t work out so well. I tried to split the skins by blanching them, but that worked only sporadically and thus, I ended up slicing each cranberry individually. Even then, I must have over dehydrated them because they were very dry… oops!

Dehydrated pineapple has such a concentrated flavour, packed with sugar, that it almost seemed like I was eating a chew candy.

And there are some fruits that never make it to the dehydrator, like mangoes. Why dehydrate them when you can eat them fresh?

Just as we have become picky about which fresh mangoes we prefer (Honey, Alphonso and Ataulfo), not all dried mangoes are created equal.

The best dried mangoes we’ve come across are the Philippine brand dried mangoes.  They occasionally go on sale at Loblaws, T&T and can also be found at Costco. They are sweet and juicy. The dried mangoes at Better Bulk (as much as I love the store) and Bulk Barn are a shame next to them, as are the packs from Sunny’s. Sadly, the Philippine brand ain’t cheap.

With all that being said, if you find yourself with any dried mangoes at all, make these bars.


They are the best granola bar I have tried and eerily taste so good I could sell them. I am so glad that Lisa decided to share her recipe for Holy Delicious Mango Bars! I had been pining the recipe even before I had my dehydrator, actually.  I’ve made granola bars before, but those had refined sugars and butter. I’ve also made oodles of raw energy treats, but they were usually more date-heavy.

I knew Rob would love them, but had to figure out when to make them to keep them as a surprise for him. I won’t give away my secret… A humming dehydrator is hard to conceal. But oh so totally worth it.. and trust me, these are so much better than those silly packaged bars. Do they even come in mango flavours, eh? Or the flavour of love? hahaha! ;)

These are incredibly flavourful, packed to the brim with goodies like nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and raisins and dates for sweetness.  Oh, and dried mango, too. Dehydrating brings everything together, with a firm feeling. If you don’t have a dehydrator, try your hand at freezing it instead.

These are part of my recent crack obsession but they were very satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, and month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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