the taste space

The Best Chocolate Truffles

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on December 14, 2013

The Best Chocolate Truffle

I swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing yet another dessert. But once I made these (uber wonderfully, possibly, yes, confirmed, the best chocolate I have ever made) treats, I knew I had to share them. Chocolate in January usually doesn’t fly…. and I simply could not wait until Valentine’s Day to share this with you.

But, before I tell you about the chocolates, let me tell you where the recipe hails. While in Montreal last year, I explored a variety of vegan restos. I was initially wooed by Aux Vivres, a vegan resto with cooked foods, and quickly recreated their macro veggie and tempeh bowl and their raw vegan smoked salmon. I also stumbled upon Crudessence, a longstanding raw restaurant and really enjoyed my meal. I was *thisclose* to buying their cookbook. It had the recipes for many of the same dishes I had just eaten and loved at their restaurant: Kombu mojito, raw tiramisu and raw cinnamon buns. Many of their other highly praised dishes are included, such as their Om burger, pad thai, Caesar salad, Tibet fat-free dressing, maki rolls, eggplant bacon, raw parmesan (crumesan), chocolate banana pie, chocolate mouse, lime pie, banana split with chunks of raw brownies, blueberry un-“Cheese”cake and Hippocrates juice.

So why didn’t I buy the cookbook? It was in French only. I can read French but since it is not my first language, it would not be as easy to decipher all the cooking terms. So I put it back.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

Fast forward a year and their cookbook has been reprinted in English. Lucky for us, because this is a drop-dead gorgeous cookbook with delicious recipes.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

The first recipe I tried were these truffles. In the cookbook, they are called “dark nougat”. I am not entirely sure what nougat is supposed to taste like. I thought it might be kind of chewy and sweet (I am only familiar with the nougat that studs Toblerone bars), but this was nothing of the sort…. it was creamy, smooth and divine. Honestly, I had made the middle of creamy truffles. Akin to the middle of Lindt truffles.  YES!! And it was dead simple: whizz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and then allow to set in the freezer.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

I tried to be a bit fancier by freezing them in silicone ice cube trays, but since they were still so creamy after setting, they stuck a bit to the molds. The light dusting of flaked coconut or matcha helped to make them less gooey for your fingers. I was rooting for the pretty matcha-dusted truffles, but they were still a bit bitter for my liking. The coconut-flaked ones were great and if I had enough coordination, the chocolate-and-hazelnut-coated truffles sound incredible. I think these are a bit too fragile to gift, unless you coat them in a hard chocolate shell.

There is one special ingredient for this recipe, I apologize. Lecithin. I plan on writing more about this ingredient in a later post, but I can definitely assure you that it makes the most creamy chocolate to date.

The Best Chocolate Truffle

PS. Other recipes shared from RawEssence:

Taboulleh Flower Salad

Madras Salad

Pesto Tagliatelle

BLT Sandwich with Eggplant Bacon and Caper Aioli

Meatless Meatballs

Island Lime Pie

Brazil Nut Goji Milk

PPS. The winners of the Simply Raw Kitchen giveaway was Jessica and 365 Vegan Smoothies was Phoebe. (more…)

Cardamom Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi) & Indian Cooking Unfolded Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Desserts by Janet M on December 12, 2013

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

Panela and I were first introduced in Colombia. An unrefined sugar, typically sold in block form, it is commonly used in South American desserts. I brought some back to Canada and was interrogated by the US immigration officer as we transferred in Miami. I told him I had bought panela (pa-nell -la), a type of sugar. He explained to me that I wrong. It was pronounced pa-ney-ya. The women in the market that sold it to me spoke Spanish, and I heard her loud and clear: it was panela. With an L. In any case, when he told me I could bring my sugar across the border, I scooted right on out.

I rarely see panela in Canada, but have seen it countless times in Houston. Oftentimes, it is labelled as piloncillo, the Mexican name as panela is also a type of Mexican cheese. A small cone can be found for 70 cents or so, at most supermarkets but it can also be found in large blocks and possibly ground.

In the spirit of holidays, candies and confectionaries, I broke it out for my latest treat: Indian Burfi. It sounds more dramatic, but really it is similar to my maple pecan shortbread cookies because it is simply nuts and sweetener with an Indian twist from cardamom and saffron. I used panela as my sweetener of choice, but you could substitute brown sugar (likely coconut sugar, and possibly maple syrup or agave, too) which imparted a delicious molasses undertone.

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

I called these Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars or Kaaju Pista Burfi, as this was what Raghavan Iyer called them in Indian Cooking Unfolded. I have told you about this lovely cookbook earlier, but it bears repeating because I really like it. Iyer has taken Indian cooking to its elemental components and teaches you how to cook Indian from the ground up. The recipes span meat, vegetarian and vegan options, with limited ingredients. He has capped himself at 10 ingredients, and many recipes are far more simple. While he may sacrifice in authenticity, he does not sacrifice in taste, coaxing the most from limited ingredients.

I bring up authenticity, but I lay no claim to being an expert in traditional Indian cuisine (although we make killer dal). Iyer openly admits burfi is typically much more sweet than this recipe and is actually an adaptation of a raw recipe from Jugalbandi who seemed to have sinced moved to Nitrivore, but it too, is an abandoned blog. Soma’s recent post makes me think these treats are closer to katli instead of burfi, which she describes as a sugar-nut treat. Truthfully, my fusion spin with panela, makes them even less authentic but no less delicious. As Iyer promised, these are not uber sweet. There is a subtle hint of cardamom among the molasses-infused treat. Rob thoguht it needed more saffron but I thought it was perfect. I can not really taste the saffron, so feel free to omit it.

While I typically shy away from Indian desserts, I am thrilled that I tried these. They were delicious. While Diwali has come and gone, this would be equally suited for something different on a holiday cookie spread. I blame it on the cardamom. Or the molasses. Or the nuts. They all taste like hugs. :)

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

I really want to share this cookbook with you and I am thrilled because the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to FOUR lucky readers living in the continental United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Iyer recipe (he has also penned our favourite Indian cookbook, 660 Curries). If you haven’t made anything by Iyer yet, have a look through Indian Cooking Unfolded on amazon or google books (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 24, 2013. Good luck!

PS. Recipes from Indian Cooking Unfolded spotted elsewhere:

Smoky Yellow Split Peas (Tamatar Chana Dal)

Sweet Corn with Toasted Coconut (Thénga Makkaí)

Blistered Smoky Peppers

Braised Beet Salad with Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

Ultimate Chicken Curry (Tamatar Murghi) 

Poppadums with Chile-Spiked Onion and Avocado Pomegranate Dip

Vegetarian Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Chutney

Festive Lamb Chops with Cardamom

Cardamom Fennel Scallops

Spinach Phyllo Samosas

Curried Ginger Date Bok Choy with Soy Knots

This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs.

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Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on December 5, 2013

Raw Pecan Shortbread Cookies

I need your help.

Before I came to America, I was really excited to exercise my couponing prowess. I had seen some television shows where people get tons of stuff at the grocery store for next to nothing, because they use sales, price matching and coupons. There was coupon matching, double coupon day, etc.

I have been here for almost 6 months and have yet to encounter such coupon chaos. Where is it??

It must be because I don’t routinely go to standard box stores. Instead, I scope out cheap, fresh produce at the food market and Trader Joe’s and order random ingredients online. There are a few different websites I like, depending on what I want to buy. Sadly, these food-friendly websites did not really succumb to the “Cyber Monday” craze. In my mind, it is all in the best interest of keeping a mostly minimalist pantry.

But, one site was different. Although, it wasn’t even a Cyber Monday Deal. The sale is still on now.

You could do it, too! We could be in this mess together!

Raw Pecan Shortbread Cookies

My friend let me know about a super deal on coconut flour. $29 for 25 lbs, after a coupon. Free shipping. Since coconut flour can sell for over $8/lb, this was a positive steal. But also A LOT of coconut flour.

Rob was not pleased. I am not entirely sure where to store it.

It is such a unique ingredient that I love, so I will definitely be experimenting with it. My friend has suggested adding it to oatmeal, smoothies, crackers and even whipping it into a coconut butter-type spread.

My first dent into my coconut flour stash was small, but still worthwhile. These cookies were delicious and festive, to boot. While they have a texture of a crumbly shortbread, that is where the similarities end, because these are wholesome with so few ingredients: pecans, maple syrup, coconut flour and salt. You can bake them or dehydrate them. I opted for the latter and they were a sweet and delicious cookie.

Do you have any tricks for couponing? Did you join in the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals? Any cool recipes for coconut flour?

Raw Pecan Shortbread Cookies

This is my submission to this month’s Dead Easy Desserts.

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Raw Apple Cinnamon Macaroons

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on November 26, 2013

Raw Apple Cinnamon Macaroons

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.

Raw Apple Cinnamon Macaroons

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?

Raw Apple Cinnamon Macaroons

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

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Raw Peppermint Patties & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on November 21, 2013

Raw Peppermint Patties

I noticed this when the weather dipped to cooler temperatures. With the recent swing back to Houston’s humid summer temperatures, I noticed it again.

My kitchen barometer is the coconut oil.

During the summer it was a liquid and during the cooler days, it becomes solid.

Other things that melt in Houston: massage bars, solid hair conditioner and chocolate. Those warnings about using expedited shipping so that your items don’t spoil? Well, let it be known: chocolate will melt en route to my home. Thank goodness it still tasted great. That massage bar, unfortunately, could not be salvaged.

Raw Peppermint Patties

Wipe away your tears with these fantastic raw peppermint patties. They were delicious and you would never have known they were raw. A buttery mint filling courtesy of ground cashews and coconut flour with a touch of coconut oil is enveloped by a thick chocolate coating.

They may look like lumps of coal, but they certainly did not taste like it. ;)

Raw Peppermint Patties

I don’t know whether it was the temperature or the humidity, but I had a bit of trouble making these homemade peppermint patties.  I have made chocolate truffles before – classic lemon bittersweet chocolate truffleschocolate peanut butter truffles and even raw maca chocolates – but this was the first time my chocolate turned out more like play dough instead of a thinner liquid! This meant I had a much thicker coating for my peppermint patties which I wrapped around with my hands. Double the chocolate, which was great, since they tasted fantastic.

Also a note about coconut flour (again): it is defatted ground coconut so it lends a different texture. It also absorbs a lot of liquid, which is why it is so different than regular dried coconut. I am also convinced that different brands absorb more, so adjust the recipe as you go. I ended up adding more coconut flour since it was too liquidy with the original recipe. If you don’t have coconut flour, try these recipes that use dried coconut instead.

This recipe is courtesy of The Simply Raw Kitchen. The cookbook is from a raw restaurant in Ottawa, Simply Raw Express, and features both cooked and raw recipes (despite what the title may suggest otherwise). All vegan and whole-foods based. All gluten-free. With a bit of Austrian in her background, some of her Eastern European-inspired dishes really called to me: Austrian Blaukraut, Krautfleckerl, Lovage (Chickpea) Dumplings, Mushroom Goulash as well as Lemon Dill Cheeze and Aged Peppercorn Cheeze. However, it was her collection of (mostly raw) desserts that I could not shake from my mind: Better Pecan Pie with Shortbread Crust, Austrian Linzer Squares, Cloud Lime Pie, Orange Chocolate Blossom Tart, Holiday Nut Nog.

SimplyRaw kitchen review

I know I say it all the time, but I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me which recipe you’d like to try the most (or if you have a recipe from Natasha that you recommend). Have a look through the index of The Simply Raw Kitchen on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her website and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 7, 2013. Good luck!

Other recipes shared from The Simply Raw Kitchen:

Real Tomato Soup

Lentil Soup with Kale

Award-Winning Marinated Kale Salad

Spicy Thai Salad

Lemon Poppyseed Energy Bites

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Other recipes from Simply Raw are shared here and here.

Raw Peppermint Patties

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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 and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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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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