It is with a heavy heart that I have abandoned ship for the Rideau Lakes training, but that hasn’t stopped me from making cycling snacks for Rob. Energy nibbles are definitely one of the perks of long-distance cycling. Never wanting to run out of glycogen stores during long rides (aka bonk), snacking on homemade sports drinks and energy bars are a fun way to fuel a long cycle.
In addition to high carbs for quick absorption, whole foods are good options due to their beneficial nutrients. Vitamins and antioxidants can help rebuild your body as they repair from your exercise. And because I am a sucker from trying new things, especially when heralded as a leading source of antioxidants, this is how I stumbled upon acai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-ee, btw).
However, the powdered acai berries left a bit to be desired. They didn’t add much to my morning oats. Flavour-wise at least. I needed a new strategy. Because if I am going to shell out the big bucks for acai, I may as well taste it and enjoy it.
Packed with a a medley of dried fruit (dates, raisins and apricots), almonds, vanilla and cinnamon, this is a delicious treat. Not as mono-dimension as some no-frill date-heavy energy bars, I really liked the fruitiness that the acai imparted. Could you skip it? For sure, but then I’d add something like unsweetened dried cranberries or goji berries to replace the berri-ness I enjoyed.
These nibbles have been christened ‘the pepperoni’, because Rob thought I had made pepperoni during its initial phase, rolled up as a long cylinder in the fridge. Surprises abound in the fridge, but I can assure you that these do not taste like pepperoni. However, a savoury energy snack sounds like a great idea. Dried tomatoes in a pizza-like ball, anyone?
I also wanted to highlight a new book for any readers interested in cycling. I know I’ve recommended Every Women’s Guide to Cycling before (although I can’t find my own post, here is a good review). I read it a few years ago when I first became interested in long-distance cycling. I felt like she was whispering and guiding me through the ins-and-outs of cycling. It seems so simple to get on a bike and pedal, but it is so much more than that. Have you ever wondered whether to wear underwear with your padded cycling shorts? And what the heck is chamois butter? Just a few of the tips I garnered from the book. I really should re-read it when I resume long distance cycling again, because it is not geared solely to novice riders. And to be honest, if studying for my exam has taught me anything, it has reinforced that if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I haven’t really looked at cycling tips and tricks for a while.
However, I recently read through Bicycling Magazine’s 1,100 Best All-Time Tips. I haven’t read the previous editions, but this version highlights quick easy-to-read tips about many different areas in cycling: traffic safety, riding positions, skill builders, training techniques, distance riding, mountain biking, racing, health and fitness, nutrition, equipment and bike care and repair. Most of the tips resonate with me as I figured them out myself over the years: there is less wind in the morning so start riding earlier (there is also less traffic), why to avoid riding through a puddle (there is probably a huge hole there, too), and the best communication during group rides (we are a very vocal bunch of cyclists).
It includes tips that reinforce aspects I need to continue to remind myself: don’t train hard more than twice a week, take at least one rest day a week and it reminds you of the signs of over-training. They even suggest that cyclists who work full-time (or go to school), should limit their training to 10-12 hours a week: protecting your time for what matters most while still giving you the most amount of benefit (something I remind myself daily). For more serious cyclists, they have tips like shedding water bottles during long climbs if you can refill shortly afterwards (because one should never sacrifice hydration).
The tips are very practical, with suggestions on how to plan your training year, how to structure a training camp, and how to be your own coach. I appreciate the short and to-the-point nature of the tips, but at times, I wish there were more references for the scientific advice –but that’s the doctor coming out in me. Not all techniques are so obvious and straight-forward. Building strength, endurance and muscle, can be accentuated from different angles, but make sure you figure out what works for you. So, if you are searching for the best energy bar, the ratio of carbs:protein is one thing, but taste matters, too. Too sweet? Easy to chew? Or not chew? Start experimenting now, instead of whipping up a new recipe the day of your event.
Here are some of my other favourite cycling-friendly energy snacks:
For those who prefer videos, Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Forward is a great resource, too. I enjoyed watching some of his videos from his latest module about enhancing sport performance.
Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)
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.
I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too.
I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.
I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made
some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.
After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.
In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.
PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?
PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?
Being known as a healthy eater has its drawbacks.
My meals have now become suspicious. Suspicious for healthy ingredients. What have I hidden in the meal this time?
Trust me, I cater to my audience. If baking for myself, I’d easily experiment with squash carob brownies, cauliflower chocolate cake, chocolate chip chickpea blondies or chocolate mint black bean cookies. I have even gambled with (oh so good) chocolate tofu mousse pie with my family for Easter.
But for the harshest critics, I go all out.
Thus when Rob’s family came over for a birthday celebration and I offered to supply dessert, I had to determine my plan of attack.
Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie? I knew it was a winner, but I had no tofu.
Rob suggested my Carrot Cake Cupcakes since he really liked them, but I thought they might be a bit “out there”. Carrots for a birthday dessert? (Only mine..)
Experiment with a new recipe? I considered Terry’s Italian Cashewcotta Cheesecake or Ethiopian Chocolate Flourless Torte, but still had the issue of missing ingredients.
Then I worked backwards. What do I have in my pantry? Coconut oil, nuts and cocoa powder. Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Sounded delicious already. I peered around the corner of the cabinet and pulled out hazelnut butter. Eureka! A raw chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.
I like raw desserts because I can sample the batter and can easily gauge how it will turn out. Licking the batter from the blender, I knew this was going to be good. The next afternoon, I brought out the cheesecake to thaw. I cut a piece before everyone arrived. You know, for blogging photography purposes. But I sliced off a tiny sliver so I could do some tasting research, too.
I know I said my last raw cheesecake was utterly sinful, but how can a key lime pie compete with a chocolate cheesecake? A chocolate hazelnut cheesecake? It can’t. This my friends, was pure cocoa bliss.
Better than Nutella filling in a cheesecake form, on a cocoa-hazelnut-date crust. Decadent but not too rich and not too sweet. Perfect.
Trust me, I was very confident with this dessert.
Before I served it, I was pummeled with questions, though. “What IS this?” I was asked. Ingredients or the name of the dish? Ingredients, tell me. Nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave, dates… Avocados? I hate avocados.. No avocados…
Thank goodness it was a resounding success. Definitely my best dessert yet.
If coconut doesn’t bring you out of a winter rut, how about mango? Mango cupcakes with a mango coconut oil buttercream frosting, anyone?
February is a busy month for me and Rob.
Valentine’s Day, followed by Rob’s birthday and also our anniversary. We tend to go all out for Rob’s birthday, but this year, we kept it simple by meeting with friends at Rob’s favourite resto in our neighbourhood. No jackfruit “pulled pork” wraps or pineapple and cucumber guacamole this year. While The Beet has possibly my favourite desserts in the city (the best raw cheesecakes), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Rob a birthday treat.
The trick? Keeping it a surprise.
At least I knew Rob wouldn’t be privy to my dessert brainstorm on Pinterest. (ChefTap totally wins in that regard). One benefit of his birthday being after Valentine’s Day is that I could peruse all the lovely Valentine’s Day-inspired treats. Raw chocolate cheesecake with zucchini? If I was going to take over a resto, I figured it would be easier to eat something with our hands and plus, I had no zucchini. Raw coconut cardamom cheesecakes? They could melt before we made it to dessert at the resto. Raw chocolate tartelettes with chocolate ganache? No tartelette containers here.. Mango Cupcakes with a Coconut Chocolate Ganache? No chocolate nor full-fat coconut milk here. Chloe’s winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes? I really think I was onto something with the mango and this calls for full-fat coconut milk, too…. Mango Cupcakes with a Mango Buttercream Frosting? We have a winner… with just a few (minor) substitutions.
I made the cupcakes the night before, as Rob was out late for a work gathering. I had an hour before he came home so I whipped together the cupcakes. No baking expert at all, I called my mom to ask how long I had to let the cupcakes cool before I could frost them. At least half an hour, she told me. How long have they been out of the oven? Uh, I still have 15 minutes left in the oven and he’s due back in 45 minutes. She laughed. No frosting tonight. I hid the cupcakes.. and ran the dishwasher with all the dirty dishes.
As I went to bed, I determined the perfect time to make the frosting: the next morning while Rob went to the gym. For some reason, Rob picks his gym day the same day as my rest day. Thursdays. However, this Thursday he decided NOT to go to the gym. GAH!! So, I rushed off to work early so I could leave earlier, too. To frost my cupcakes before dinner.
So that’s my rambly preamble…. but I should not be keeping you in suspense because these cupcakes were winners. We shunned the desserts at the resto in lieu of cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes. Mango cupcakes with a mango buttercream frosting. Booyah! Vegan cupcakes, of course. Whole wheat, no problem (actually you wouldn’t know it, unlike my chocolate avocado cake).
Mango cupcakes sound revolutionary but it isn’t unusual to substitute apple or banana into baked goods. Here, I used mango puree. You could blend your own, or pick up a can of puree of Alphonso mangoes (the sweetest King of Mangoes) to make them moist and sweet. The cupcake base is also spiced with cardamom for an Indian twist. For the frosting, I will admit that I cracked and bought some icing sugar (everything else was from our pantry, including the mango puree). I contemplated making my own icing sugar from coconut sugar but decided against it at the last moment. My substitutions were mainly by using coconut oil. Because if there is one thing that I have a lot of (after beans and kelp noodles), it is coconut oil. Making coconut oil frosting is no new feat, but this was heightened by adding mango puree to it. The solid nature of coconut oil means that you don’t need to add as much icing sugar to achieve a stiff consistency. It was also super easy to pipe. Way easier than when my Mom and I made the royal icing for my bathbomb cupcakes.
A few notes about the recipe: my cupcakes were flat-topped. Nothing the frosting couldn’t
fixhide, but I am not sure if that was because I used coconut oil in the batter. Or the spelt? Or the bit of whole wheat pastry flour I finished off? Or the supplemental brown sugar I needed to top off the sugar? (Yes, it was a great pantry emptying cupcake). Who knows but I think it could be the coconut oil. Just thought I’d let you know. Not that anyone noticed. They were definitely a resounding success. I heard them say Best. Cupcakes. Ever. (Thanks, Matt). The magic ingredient wasn’t mango, it was love.
I am sore today.
Yesterday was such a wonderful day, it is hard to narrow down the ultimate culprit.
On any day of soreness, I would blame the gym. Yesterday was no exception. I started off the day with my regular weightlifting class but it was followed by an incredibly demanding work-out courtesy of Jillian Michaels: the infamous Body Shred work-out. It sounds tame. Only 30 minutes. Only 4 rounds after the warm-up. Only 3 minutes of strength, then 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs. Do not be fooled!! This is HARD! It is crazy and chaotic. But fun and energizing. Especially since the moves have such funny names (but still oh so hard – flying crab anyone?). Already in select cities in the US, this was the first preview class in Canada but will eventually find its way into a Goodlife near you (it will start March 1 in Toronto and nationwide by the end of 2014). I don’t think this video gives the work-out the fear it deserves.
Two work-outs down, it was time to become lazy and gluttonous.
Starting off with lunch at our new favourite fast food joint, Banh Mi Boys, which has a lot of vegan options. My favourite is the veggie kimchi sweet potato fries and the green-papaya salad with lemongrass tofu (both off-menu). Even better was meeting up with the sweet travelling Aussie Hannah.
Next up, a bit early for our show, we had a tea and connect 4 stop at Academy of Lions. It doubles as a crossfit gym but also hosts a cute cafe with tons of paleo sweets. If only they didn’t have honey, they would have been vegan-friendly. In any case, they had my favourite Tealish tea to warm me up: Winter Blend.
Our main reason for our jaunt on Lower Ossington was to see Avenue Q. A small intimate theater made this an up-close and personal experience, filled with all the wittiness I remember from when I first watched the show in NYC.
Next up, a new-to-us resto: Bi Bim Bap. A Korean sizzling brown rice specialty, we were drawn to it because they offer brown rice (for no extra charge), along with vegan options such as tofu or a blend of 9 different mushrooms. You can also personalized your stone bowl creations with your choice of hot sauce, or not-so-hot sauce (in my case, I had the not hot soy garlic sauce, but Rob had the “mild hot” sour GoChuJang which I thought was plenty spicy, thankyouverymuch). Since the hot sauces are served on the side, you can add to taste and even ask for another sauce if it turns out to be too spicy. On the side was some kimchi and pickled ?pear/apple?. Their homemade and simple kimchi is made with anchovies (no go for me) but Rob said it was plenty spicy so I wouldn’t have liked it anyways. (The kimchi at Banh Mi Boys is very tame which I prefer). All the bibimbaps are served with barley tea (which actually tastes good), miso soup and a ginger-cinnamon drink. Turns out it wasn’t only us trying numerous kinds of kimchi. Toronto has kimchi fever this weekend. I wonder who won the kimchi battle?
Followed by a nightcap with these sexy maca chocolates. I first added cacao butter to my list of ingredients to hunt down after seeing Sarah’s raw chocolate recipe. When I finally decided to make said chocolates, I decided pureeing the dates seemed a tad finicky. I gravitated to a super simple recipe I found in Superfood Kitchen, only slightly more involved than the recent posts from Angela and Gena. I actually made these before their posts but kept these chocolates hidden away as a surprise for Rob. I initially planned to share them on Valentine’s Day but Rob surprised me with homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles instead!
A week later, I broke out these sexy maca chocolates. Why sexy? Maca is believed to (slightly) improve libido. It also has been shown to slightly improve athletic performance which is how I first became introduced to its malty taste. I will be whipping out those maca chip raw energy balls again this summer, as I train for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. Here, this recipe is simply melted cocoa butter spiced with cocoa powder and maca powder, sweetened with agave. Easy peasy for simple, sexy chocolate truffles.
While I may be sore today, it was still a fabulous day-long 3-year anniversary date with Rob.
No chocolate here, but we still have cocoa and carob powder. Sadly, I have run out of psyllium to whip up my 3-minute Chocolate Mint Mesquite Protein Cakes and I don’t have enough carob powder to make Gabby’s Sugar-Free Carob Almond Butter Cups. No cocoa nibs to make Hannah’s Mini Mint Chocolate Protein Cookies.
It might be comforting to feel like there are no sweets in the house. However, I know that isn’t true.
I just need to be more creative. There are sweets that just need to be discovered.
I decided to turn to Katie of the Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie fame.
She had a few recipes that really intrigued me, but I eventually settled on her Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge. A super simple recipe, you warm up coconut butter, peanut butter, banana, cocoa powder and salt, stir together and then chill. I used a frozen banana which melted nicely with the rest of the ingredients. I popped the batter into a cute ice cube tray so I had bite-sized treats stashed away (a bit harder to gift, I know). You could eat this fresh, but I preferred it after it had a chance to freeze. Allow it to warm up to room temperature for 3 minutes or so, before slowly savouring each bite. Rich and fudgy, these bites delivered. I loved that it made a small batch and each piece was satisfying.
I was planning on sharing a different recipe with you today.
I had the theme of my post all figured out in my head.
I went to go find my photos… and looked, and looked and looked… I looked again.
They were nowhere to be found.
Completely scandalous in the land of food blogging, where recipes rarely get repeated and I only do one photoshoot. I really have no idea how I lost them.
However, while I was searching for my photos, I unearthed this gem of a recipe. Rather, I rediscovered photos that I had neglected. I obviously need a better photo tracking system.
Clearly made before my sweetener-free challenge, this packs a serious punch. Satisfies a snack attack. Or maybe not, since it is so addictive.
Or kale chips with the works.
Crispy dehydrated kale is coated in a caramel lemon-cinnamon dressing and tossed with coconut, dried cherries, almonds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for some glorious snacking.
That other recipe? Well, it was also for a crispy snack, sweetener-free, of course. I will just have to make it again and not loose the photos.
Funny how with this blogging blooper, I inadvertently turned more blogger, with a recipe for kale chips. HA!
Have you ever lost your photos before? I once had to recover engagement photos of my brother and at-the-time fiancee. Gosh, that was stressful. But now, I have no clue where the photos could even be recovered… and NO, I did not dream that I took the photos. I had witnesses while making the recipe, too. I know I did!
Oprah did a 21-day vegan challenge a few years ago. I remember her gushing over her improved pooping. If there is one thing I am not lacking from my foods, it is fiber. Mostly due to my love of beans. One serving of Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini gives you 16g of fiber, or 65% of your suggested daily fiber intake. Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala): 18g of fiber or 72% of your suggested daily intake. This definitely helps to keep things moving.
Trust me, I don’t need help any help in the pooping department, but recently bought psyllium husks after Gabby gushed over a banana-less chocolate smoothie. I found the smoothie a bit gritty from the psyllium (I doubled the psyllium, though, and used psyllium husks instead of psyllium powder) but even worse, my belly became bloated nearly instantaneously. And boy, was I gaseous. With stinky farts. Super stinky. Poor Rob.
Psyllium helps relieve constipation and diarrhea, regulating bowel movements with its high soluble fiber content. It is the main ingredient in All-Bran Buds and Metamucil. During medical school, a surgeon touted its value and I began adding All-Bran Buds to my morning yogurt. However, as the husk itself, a little goes a long way. I used 1 tablespoon the first time, which is a pretty big amount. Nearly entirely fiber. Only 17 calories, with 5g of carbs including 4.5g of fiber. Way more potent than beans.(Metamucil only recommends 1 tsp at a time).
I thought I was doomed to another long-time pantry lurker, but then discovered an interesting chocolate cake. Hemp protein powder + psyllium + cocoa + mesquite + mint sounded like a winning combo.. actually, it sounded down-right odd. No grains? How would this turn into a cake? Especially after only microwaving it for a minute? My curiosity got the better of me and I was completely smitten. It may look like poop but it was a magic cake. Perfect as a dessert or a filling breakfast. It is a chewy cake but a chocolate cake nonetheless. I’ve made it with cocoa and carob. I have substituted maca for the mesquite, although I had to add more water. I’ve gone mesquite-less with more hemp and carob. I’ve mistakenly forgotten the mint. Since I am on the sweetener-free challenge I didn’t add any sweeteners but I encourage something sweeter for those who haven’t deprived your sweet tastebuds for a month (um, like Rob!).
But be careful, psyllium is incredibly filling. Drink a huge glass of water/tea with it. Work yourself up to a full cake and don’t eat them every day. Eventually the bloating will subside and the smelly farts become less.
However, because it is so filling, this is a terribly satisfying snack. Top it with some melted coconut oil or coconut butter. Want something even more decadent? Omit the mint and top it with my chocolate peanut butter frosting or cashew date frosting! Or make this avocado buttercream frosting and tell me how it was.
Looking for more psyllium recipes? Check out Dr. John Howard‘s (a pediatric gastroenterologist in London) collection of kid-friendly recipes using psyllium. If you have or know of children with constipation, I also encourage you to read through his kid’s book: All Aboard The Poop Train. All aboard, toot toot!
I have been blogging for over 3 years (and cooking for myself for the past decade), so you’d think I’d have figured everything out in the kitchen by now, right?
You’d think I’d have figured out what I like to eat or not…
OK, I know what I like but I love trying new things. It is harder to pinpoint what I don’t like. (Other than celery).
With my never ending stash of pumpkin puree, I whipped up a quick and simple pumpkin pie pudding. It didn’t woo me.
While I grew up with turkey at Thanksgiving, we rarely had stuffing (no one likes it), sometimes had cranberry sauce (not sure who likes it) and we never had pumpkin pie (who knows why). I don’t know if I have ever had it except as a raw cheesecake from Naked Sprout (which doesn’t really count as traditional pumpkin pie).
I figured a sweet pumpkin pie pudding with pumpkin, maple and pumpkin pie spice would be great. It was missing something, though. I didn’t know what. I added some blackstrap molasses to make this more gingerbread-like. I definitely preferred the sharp bite from the molasses. But as I licked my way through my dessert, I wasn’t particularly smitten with its pudding nature. I don’t really like pureed soups either. I like soups with body and bulk. So I stirred it into my morning oats with the natural Sun Warrior blend and I had a happy protein-rich breakfast for the week. Creamy with some body from the steel-cut oats. Re-purposed dessert for breakfast, yum.
I also thought it would be fun to share my trusty travelling spork. A spoon, a fork and a knife, all in one. This one is orange, to boot.
Not only am a I bad vegan who missed World Vegan Day, I am also a bad blogger.
October slipped by without me realizing I had an anniversary. October marked my fourth year as a blogger.
I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I posted a Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
One can see why it was easy for me to switch to a whole foods vegan diet with an inaugural salad such as that. Just swap the honey for your preferred sweetener, or omit it entirely, and it would be a recipe I could see myself munching on today.
I am going to joke a bit about Hurricane Sandy, but truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was affected. Toronto wasn’t hit nearly as bad. There was at least one fatality but trees suffered the most of the storm’s brunt. Although some people lost power, we fared very well. A few days of a light rain with some higher winds. Other than leaving my bike at home, I wasn’t affected.
Except I somehow made not one, but two desserts that week. This was the second dessert.
I blame the hurricane.
My excuse for making the chocolate chip blondies was to thank my co-workers. I gobbled down more than a few pieces in the “taste-testing” phase. While they were delicious, I felt shy bringing them to work. Even though Rob agreed they tasted great, they were non-traditional (never mind eating chocolate chip blondies, but they were filled with chickpeas!). They also were only 1-cm thick or so, and not as visually appealing as I had hoped. Since the whole plan was to thank my co-workers, I decided to make something else.
A vegan chocolate cake.
I actually wanted to make cupcakes, but I had no muffin wrappers.
I actually wanted to make a mint avocado cream frosting but did not want to brave the storm to get more avocados.
Even before my vegan days, I had a favourite quick and easy chocolate cake. It just so happened to be vegan. Pantry-friendly with staples such as sugar, oil, cocoa, and vinegar, my grandmother dubbed it “Wartime Cake” since the ingredients were reminiscent of cakes she made during the war when there were rations on milk, eggs and butter. While it would have been a fool-proof and easy cake to make, I wanted to try something new, something healthier.
Thankfully I had one avocado to make Joy’s Chocolate Avocado Cake. Oil is easily replaced with avocado. You would never know the difference. I only had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used that instead of white flour. If you could guess anything was up, you might have been able to tell there was whole wheat flour in the cake. Although nothing seemed to be suspected by others.
Instead of topping it with a green avocado frosting, I busted out a simple peanut butter chocolate frosting. I have not always been a fan of frosting (especially the ooky sweet ones), but since I didn’t use too much and it had peanut butter in it, this sealed this as a delicious cake.
My co-workers and Rob’s co-workers agreed. While Rob was sneaky, I disclosed to my gang this was a vegan cake and people were buzzing all day with compliments, at the same time marveling there were no eggs, butter or milk. They were impressed at how moist it was, which I ascribed to the avocado, my secret ingredient.
Baketivism. Sharing the love of veganism through baking.
I could get used to this.
I am a bad vegan.
I’ll change that right now. What better way to share vegan cheer than by spreading some vegan desserts?
I went a bit dessert happy last week and made not one, but two desserts. Both with secret ingredients.
First, we have these blondies. Fudgy and moist like brownies but without any cocoa. Speckled with chocolate chips and sweetened with dates, you have a delicious dessert. Nut-free, to boot, these treats are made with chickpeas!
I first tried baking with beans when I made chocolate black bean cookies last year. Deliciously moist, creating a cake-like consistency. Without a hint of beans, the beany cookies were definitely a hit over Christmas. This time, the chickpeas contribute to a moist filling along with the dates. Chocolate chips speckled throughout made it a nice treat.
A momentary lapse caused me to inadvertently double the wet ingredients, so I ended up doubling the recipe and making 2 pies. After chowing down one pie in 2 days, I knew I had to share the second pie. I had to say goodbye.
Rob ended up bringing it work and had some fun at the same time. His email to the masses:
I put some leftover cake and brownies in the kitchen on 5. There’s not much there. Get it while you can!!!
After it was devoured in 10 minutes, Rob sent out a second email:
I can see that all y’all devoured the goodies in mere minutes. Little did you know that they were both VEGAN cake and brownies. *evil laugh*
Rob shared with me his co-workers responses:
lol well played sir!
still tastes good =D
LOL! Touche, my friend!
Little you knew I sprinkled bacon bits over both… muhahahaha. Actually being evil!
For some reason, he didn’t disclose there were chickpeas in the blondies and whole wheat flour in the cake. I think that would scare off more people than telling them it was vegan, right? Healthy does not have to mean taste-less.
If a group of twenty-something men devoured them, I bet you would enjoy them, too! Did you celebrate World Vegan Day?
Do you feel like more and more people are interested in eating whole foods?
Last weekend, between Thanksgiving meals, friends and family were curious about quinoa and kamut. One of my cousins is on a low-sodium diet and my other cousin is experimenting with a casein-free and gluten-free diet for their children and asked me if I had any kid-friendly recipes.
I had to think a bit harder. I can talk at lengths about my favorite grain (ok, pseudo-grain) but my recipes are probably not that kid-friendly. I like onions and ginger and spices and greens. Most kids like blander food. And sugary food… I think, right? I am certainly no kid feeding expert.
Then I brainstormed more main-stream main dishes like:
I already offered to bring hummus for the barbecue, and decided to bring two versions. My rosemary-pistachio hummus for the adults and a kid-friendly hummus: chocolate peanut butter style!
Pureed chickpeas are at the heart of this hummus, but you can’t really taste them. Compared to traditional hummus peanut butter is used instead of tahini; almond milk instead of stock and oil; garlic and lemon are removed to make room for maple syrup and cocoa powder. OK, maybe only the chickpeas keep this similar to hummus, but it was a tasty dip nonetheless. Peanut butter was the dominant flavor with more of a hint of cocoa.
I didn’t ask how the kids liked it. I imagine if they thought it was a chocolate spread they could be disappointed because it was more than that with the peanut butter. Or maybe less chocolatey, in their eyes. But the adults seemed to like it, no problem! With a few recipes requests and the leftovers snatched up, I would consider it a success.
For those with kids, do you modify your meals to be more kid-friendly and what do you change? I imagine it depends entirely on the child and their specific likes and dislikes, which may change from month-to-month.
(sorry, this time you can actually post comments! Apparently I can’t figure out wordpress for Android)
For someone who doesn’t drink, I have a lot of alcohol. I used to have more booze attributed to my purchases than Rob, but that was before Rob visited Veux-Tu une Biere? in Montreal and stocked up like mad with artisanal beers.
I may not drink alcohol, but I will gladly cook with it. Over the years, I have gathered:
Vodka, from my Penne Alla Vodka days.
Raki, from my trip to Turkey. My Dad already drank half of it but I think I wanted it to make a poached-fish dish. Totally tabled for now.
Chambord, because I wanted to make a knock-off of a mixed berry Chambord-whipped cream French toast from a local resto, Coquine. Off my radar for now.
Amaretto, because who doesn’t like almonds?
Madeira, because I was lusting over Madeira-soaked mushroom ragouts.
I think I also have a small amount of Creme de Menthe because I wanted to make a Grasshopper dessert.
Rob has scotch, rum, Aguardiente (from our Colombian trip), ROOT liqueur (tastes like root beer and Rob highly recommends it!) and SNAP gingersnap liqueur (with blackstrap molasses, ginger and cloves! but Rob hasn’t opened it yet). Nevermind his stock-piled of beer.
While trying to decide what to do with a crate of figs, I decided to finally break out the Madeira. Fresh figs do not last long. Roasting them (or technically poaching them in this case), allowed me to extend their sweetness for another 2 weeks.
Madeira: Candy liqueur, as Rob put it, after he tasted it from the bottle. Using it to oven-poach figs resulted in a sweet yet savoury concoction spiked with lemon and sage. I tried a bunch of variations, but my favourite was with the lemon and sage, although you could leave them out, too. Thyme also worked well. I also tried a few cinnamon-orange variations but preferred the one with Madeira. The orange zest became a bit bitter through the roasting so consider omitting that if you want to try that variation.
Because my photos aren’t always that photogenic, I thought it would be neat to play around with some of the features on Picasa. I rarely do much photo post-processing other than “I Feel Lucky” but found this neat “Orton-ish” option in Picasa (see pic below). Not entirely sure who or what this Orton effect was all about, I learned it was named for Michael Orton who would combine 2 images: one in focus and the other out-of-focus to create an impressionistic effect. Brought me back to my black and white darkroom days!
How do you like the photo? I like the colour palate with the soft contours and warmer colours. More of an artsy shot now, instead of a food porn photo. But hey, it keeps me entertained!
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right?
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.