the taste space

Spiced Acai Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space 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 @ the taste space 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.

(more…)

Raw Lemon Barley Energy Cookies

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 2, 2012

While Magic Tours provided all food and lodgings for the hike towards The Lost City, promising vegan eats for me, I came prepared. Just in case. Fresh fruits were a-plenty, that’s for sure. Prior to my trip, though, I had my dehydrator out in full force: I was making myself treats to keep me fuelled through this grueling hike.

I made an assortment of treats and not all made the cut.

Chickpea Granola Bars: A peanut butter-based granola bar stuffed with roasted chickpeas. Sounded great but these bars were too dry for me. They are supposed to be chilled for best eating (maybe that would have helped?), and dehydrating them did not make them more palatable. They stayed at home.

Caribbean Coconut Oat Bars: Looking for something tropical, I made these with fresh mango instead of banana. They combined oats, almonds, macadamia nuts and coconut with lime. These had promise but my bars were too thin to enjoy the fudgey/chewy texture I was hoping to duplicate. These stayed at home.

Gingerbread Cliff Bars: Hoping for a savoury energy bar without all the crap from real Cliff bars, this was a strong contender. However, these were unlike any Cliff bar I have ever tasted. The pumpkin pie spice treat tasted great but they were cakey more then dense and too fragile to bring on a hike. They stayed at home.

Chocolate Mint Protein Bars: A great good source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once). With a bit of dehydration, these were a nice portable option. Without the dehydration, they would not have survived. They came with me to the jungle, too.

However, the winner of all the snacks were these raw lemon barley energy cookies from Tess! Combining only a few ingredients, these are delicious snacks that withstood everything the jungle threw at it. Almonds. Dates. Sprouted barley. Lemon. Salt. The original recipe also had raisins, but I opted to omit it in favour of a tart lemony cookie instead. The lack of raisins (or decreased dried fruit) really helped these cookies keep their shape through all the backpack reshuffles and heat of the jungle. Furthermore, I do not like overly sweet things when exercising.  I also made Tess’ Gooey Cinnamon Raisin version of these cookies which were incredibly delicious with a heavy hand of cinnamon, but the extra raisins made them a bit more gooey and sweet in the heat.

Some of my other favourite energy snacks from my cycling adventures:

Raw Cinnamon Raisin Balls

Maca Chip Raw Energy Balls

Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles

Cocoa-Almond Mint Nibbles

What is your favourite energy bar?

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

(more…)

Chocolate Mint Brownie Hemp Protein Bars (and Hiking in the Colombian Jungle)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 1, 2012

Rob and I did a 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida while in Colombia.  You need a guide and we picked Magic Tours since they responded to our emails and assured me I would have vegan options on the trek. We started off with 4 other hikers, our guide, a cook and a porter (with 2 mules) for our 5-day 44-km hike.

We hiked through the Colombian jungle, with a well-delineated path, up and down many hills and through a river quite a few times! Gorgeous scenery with a great ruined city at the end. An unparalleled experience, to say the least.

I won’t lie. It was hard. We hiked in hot and humid weather, over 30C with at least 80% humidity. Shade from trees was a welcome treat after hiking in open sun. I also found the terrain difficult with many river crossings and steep hills. I wish I had had better ankle support on my hiking boots! By the fourth day, we reached The Lost City. There were 1200 steps to climb to reach the actual Ciudad Perdida with a further 800 steps within the ruined city, itself. Going up those stairs was not so bad; going down was worse! If you don’t like heights, this also won’t work well for you. :P

Before I left, I made a few energy snacks. This was one of them which was a great source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once).

I was drawn to this recipe immediately after Cara posted it. It reminded me of a souped up Raw Brownie with a heavenly base of walnuts, dates and cocoa. However, to make this a protein power star, there are hemp seeds and protein powder as well. I ended up increasing the mint extract and substituting agave for the brown rice syrup. Absolutely delicious straight from the mixer. I dehydrated them at 110F for 7-8 hours hoping to make them more portable. The sharp flavours diminished slightly but my snacks were now able to come with me to the jungle! Sadly, I didn’t wrap them individually so they kind of smooshed together towards the end of my trip. Still good, though.

I will admit that Rob and I overpacked for our hike, but I would still travel with my snacks again. I still need to share the winner of the energy snacks, so stay tuned. I had some bona fide Larabars as well, which also seemed to ooze some oily stuff under the heat of the jungle.  If you are planning for a similar trip, definitely consult your tour operator to see what they recommend you bring. While Magic Tours had an extensive list of stuff to bring (sunscreen, hat, water bottle, clothes, etc), this is what I also found useful:

Hiking socks (I had pairs from IceBreakers and SmartWool)- No blisters here, baby!

Foot talc powder- We didn’t bring any but if you are prone to sweaty feet or slipping into rivers, this is for you!

Sanitizer- We didn’t bring any, but considering the lack of soap and toilet paper, this would have been great to have to not get traveler’s diarrhea.

Compact camera- You do not want to bring a big D-SLR with you on this hike. We actually don’t have too many photos because we were more focused on hiking then taking photos.

After bite & antihistamines- We had deet (although only 30%), and were still bitten by bugs. Lots of bugs. This helped.

Ibuprofen- You may be sore. You may get a headache.

Travel pillow- On the hike, you sleep in hammocks and the occasional bunk bed. No pillows. I am VERY picky about my pillow. I often travel with my day-to-day feather pillow because I have a hard time sleeping without it. This pillow, albeit not exactly what I am used to, was a godsend, even outside the trek in other B&Bs.

Hiking poles- I love my collapsible hiking poles.

Non-cotton clothing- Want your clothes to dry? Make sure they are not cotton.

Water purification tablets- You want to make sure you are drinking potable water. These tabs add no taste to the water.

What else do you like to bring with you on long hikes?

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina, and to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

(more…)

Raw Cinnamon Raisin Balls

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 23, 2012

I miss the long-distance cycling trips. Two summers ago, Rob and I would jaunt around Southwestern Ontario on our bikes. Anything within 180km was fair game. We cycled from Toronto to see his parents in Woodstock and the following year, I cycled to Kitchener/Waterloo for a party. While it was fun, there was pain, too. This was challenging training. I had never done this much cycling before.

Unfortunately, after tackling the Kingston cycle last summer, Rob and I have not really done much long-distance cycling. Life gets busy. Weekends get booked up. It wasn’t until I cycled to Niagara Falls recently, that I realized how much I miss it. The cycling, the camaraderie, exploring the countryside, and of course, the multitude of snacks I would create every week. Not the pain, of course.

These are the snacks that I toted with me to Niagara Falls. A quick whirl in the food processor combines walnuts, raisins, dates, cinnamon and nutmeg into a delicious snack. Chewy from the raisins but with a big whiff of cinnamon. A great pick-me-up before and during long exercises. I should remind myself that they are good any time, really. I may have made 2 batches of it because I ate the first one through numerous “sampling” (and before I photographed it).  Sweet and chewy cinnamon treats, oh yeah. As I gear into studying lock-down mode, they may turn into my late night studying snacks, though. Swapping cycling for studying seems so sad, eh?

Other sport snacks I have made:

Homemade Almond Chocolate Lärabars
Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles
Cocoa Mint Nibbles
Maca Chip Energy Balls
Carob Blueberry Energy Bars
Peanutty Energy Bars
Paley’s Energy Bars
Blueberry Oat Bars
Fruit, Nut and Seed Power Bars
Cacao-Cacao Chip Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Dark Chocolate Mint Cookies (recipe elsewhere)
Gingersnap Nuggets from Radiance 4 Life

This is my submission to this week’s Cookbooks Sundays and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

(more…)

Maca Chip Raw Energy Balls

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on June 15, 2011


This weekend I did it. I cycled 361km between Ottawa, Kingston and back over 2 days. And I survived! :)

Every year, over 2000 cyclists bike between Ottawa and Kingston with the Ottawa Bicycle Club for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This is not a charity event; everyone does it for fun. There are many different routes, but the most popular is the “Classic” 177-km route that you do in both directions on smaller country roads between the 2 cities. My Dad has done this for over 9 years and when he announced this year would be his last, I wanted to join him. Somehow (and thankfully!), other friends also thought this would be a great idea to do. We trained earlier this summer, as soon as the snow melted, in between rain, fierce winds, battling challenges with riding with heavier panniers, back on my hybrid and even renting an uncomfortable cruiser while in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, my Dad broke his wrist 2 weeks before Rideau Lakes, so he wasn’t able to cycle with us. However, he was quite omnipresent by waiting for us at random places along the route. Sometimes with the camera ready to catch us in action (a cast makes photo-taking hard, too, though!). This is me and Rob in action:

Thankfully, despite ominous forecasts, we had beautiful weather: mostly overcast, with some lovely tailwinds in both directions. My brother had spooked me by telling me this was a very challenging course, with lots of killer hills. Tackling the tough hills around Toronto allowed me to feel more comfortable attacking the steep hill near Westport. The other rolling hills were fun!

I was thankful for such a great group of friends for the ride, but almost thought I was doomed after cycling 140km on Day 2, at the last rest station in Ashton. I had stomach cramps and a bloated belly. I was not feeling well. My legs were sore (understandably) but still pushing well. But my belly was not happy. I ended up sucking it up, taking ibuprofen, and biking to the finish with the group. I am still not sure what is bothering my belly (digestion problems persist) so I don’t think it has anything to do with biking per se. Perhaps it was something I ate earlier? Who knows. Now is the time to recover. :)

Over the course of my training, I tried a lot of different energy balls. I will post them in due time, but this is what I brought with me to Kingston. Adapted from Radiance 4 Life (recipe also posted here), I decreased the amount of cacao nibs since I had a hard time integrating them all in the batter. The malty flavour of maca combines well with vanilla which are the dominant flavours in these slightly sweet balls, packed with cashews, almonds and oats. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch with nice change of texture. These are a delicious treat, and since they are packed with great ingredients, a delicious snack even if not cycling monumental distances. :)


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen.

(more…)

Carob Blueberry Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on May 31, 2011


I have been cycling a lot recently in preparation for cycling from Ottawa to Kingston and back in June. Rob and I have slowly increased our daily distances, and on Sunady we cycled 168km. Terrain around Toronto can be mostly flat, so we have been trying to incorporate hills into our routes. There will be some killer hills en route to Kingston.

Last year, The Toronto Star listed some scenic hills for cyclists and we have been exploring them one-by-one ever since. Two weeks ago, we conquered the brutal hill in Twyn Rivers and this week we tackled the steep and curvy hill at Appleby Line in Burlington. I have to zigzag up the hills because I can’t ride them straight – I just don’t have the gears to go that low nor are my legs that strong! We only have one more hill left on the list (Redway) but it has been fun to see different areas in Toronto.

I have been making tons of different energy bars for my cycling trips and will start by sharing these healthy snacks from the Thrive Diet (original recipe posted here, and video of Brendan making them is here).  I like the Thrive Diet because it highlights eating nutrient-dense foods. Brendan just came out with a new cookbook, Whole Foods to Thrive, which I am really excited to explore because the recipes seem much more creative and include a lot of recipes from established raw restaurants including Live Food Bar in Toronto, Gorilla Food in Vancouver and one of my new finds, Thrive Juice Bar in Waterloo (sadly, they didn’t share the recipe for their awesome pad thai).

These are definitely a healthy energy bar, filled with nuts, seeds, blueberries, lemon juice and carob powder. The texture is softer than what I usually expect from my cycling snacks, but Brendan is a big proponent of your mouth and stomach doing the least amount of work while fueling up during exercise. I found them too soft to transport a bunch of them with me while biking, but they are better at room temperature after a work-out or as a mid-day snack when the munchies come!

This is my submission to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring carob.

(more…)

Paley’s Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on October 30, 2010

I spent the summer training for a double imperial century bike ride and have since rejuvenated my cycling energy within the past couple of weeks. You see, I finally bought a road bike. This summer, I was using a flat-bar hybrid which is a great bike, but not ideal for cycling such long distances. With my upright seating position, I often felt like I was a parachute in the wind!

They say athletes get tired of the same snacks day after day. Flavour fatigue. Despite peddling over 4000-km on my bike this year, I guess I don’t exercise enough to get bored of the high energy snacks. Oats and dates have played prominent roles in many of the snacks, but I wanted to try something different.

Adapted from Runner’s World, these energy bars are similar to other bars based with dried fruit, but instead of dates, it uses figs as the main component. Dried cranberries and raisins add extra flavour with roasted hazelnuts adding healthy fat. There is only a minimal amount of honey so these are not overtly sweet. Technically, they travelled well and kept their shape during the summer heat.

This is my submission to this month’s Virtual Party featuring snacks.

(more…)

Fruit, Nut & Seed Power Bars

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on September 15, 2010

My last post was written a while ago… one of my many recipes from the draft folder. And while these fruit, nut and seed bars were made later in the summer as well, I am writing this post after biking the double imperial century ride from Ottawa to Cornwall and back.  The big kahuna. The grand finale.

And I did it!!

It was such an amazing feeling to accomplish such a feat, especially since I only started long distance cycling this year. If I can do it, anyone can! :)

What was more amazing during this ride, though, is that I learned how great it is to cycle in a group. Usually I bike with 1-2 other people, but we just have fun while cycling, stopping when we want, etc.

This was different.

My Dad and I joined the Touring 1 group for the Imperial Century Route (160km). The posted average speed was going to be 23-26 km/h.  I usually get around 23km/h which is really not that fast but I can’t seem to do any better. I can do 26km/h average when mainly downhill…. but not when I factor in going back uphill! Hills are my weakness.

So there were 6 of us in the group.  Totally not a beginner group (um, what kind of beginner would be cycling 320km??). A and T were both older gentlemen who enjoy cycling and were along for the ride. Strong cyclists but always reminding us to have fun! H was going for a ‘hat trick’ award. This year, she had already cross-country skiied 160km over 2 days, ran a marathon, and once she did the double imperial century, she was all set! Her friend L came along for the ride – but she had only done the shorter routes before. My dad has done the Cornwall and Kingston rides for 10 years, so he’s very strong.. and then there’s me!

It is mainly flat, but I found it quite windy. Being in a group of 6 (3 pairs), we rotated routinely, and were able to draft off of each other. The hills at the end had me struggling a bit, especially when I fell out of formation but the group would wait at the top and my Dad would try to deflect some of the wind off me. Once you lose the group, it is even more hard to join up again!  We left at 0800 and arrived in Cornwall at 1600. Not bad at all. I was very pleased! 165km. 4 breaks, including a longer one for a flat tire. Average speed 26.1 km/h.

We lost and added a person for our return ride. T wanted to do the 120km and J joined us from the faster group. There were 60 people doing this ride and we were the only group doing the 160km back. We had 1 other person, biking solo, pass us, so most people picked the 120km back.

Anyways, we got the hills over with at the beginning and the route was mostly the same but it did change in some places as well.

In the end, our stats were: Left at 0730. Arrived at 1430 (imagine that!!) with 4 breaks. 162 km. Average 26.6 km/h!  By 124 km, our average was 27.0 km/h! But it rained the last 30km, so we slowed a bit.

The group was really fantastic. Very encouraging and never dropped me despite being the weakest in the group. In fact, they were great about whisking me along. I felt a bit like Lance Armstrong as people tried to figure out where to position me in the group to capitalize on my strengths. There was a LOT more wind this time and sometimes it helped us! Our max speed was 39km/h which we got on a flat.

In conclusion, it was a great end of season trip. While I won’t be putting away my bike just yet (I hope to keep commuting until December, at least until the snow arrives), I am also not entirely sure where to go from here. I am considering investing in a nice road bike, but we’ll see.

Now about these bars! I spotted them at Enlightened Cooking. They were a nice change of pace from the date-heavy bars, with a citrusy burst from the orange juice and the apricots. The seeds and almonds provided a nice crunch as well. They were a bit more moist then some of my other bars this year as well.

This is my submission to this month’s Sugar High Friday featuring bite-sized desserts.

(more…)

Chocolate Brownie Power Nibbles

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 30, 2010

I had a love/hate relationship with my bicycle last week. I still loved my bike, but I think she had enough of me after I biked 250km last weekend to/from Woodstock. It wasn’t the distance that bothered her, it was the rain. The light rain, we could deal with, but the torrential downpour, is what she was complaining about.

When I arrived to greet her Monday morning, a bit earlier than usual to take her down to get cleaned before heading to work, her back tire was flat. I can do this, I thought to myself. So I removed the tire, replaced the tube and put the tire back on. It took me a good 30-45 minutes, but I was still pleased with myself. My first time changing a tire solo!

Then I pumped up the tire. I almost had it at 120 psi. I know it can be difficult to pump it up that high, so I almost left it at 90. Nah, I’ll give it a good push or two, I can do it! So I pumped, and pumped… and then FOOSH!! My inner tube exploded and popped off my tire! Without any extra inner tubes, I had to hightail it to work by subway instead.

Emails flew between my family and friends. I obviously squished my tube between the rim and tire, they told me. I figured that could be the culprit because I didn’t really check to make sure it wasn’t squished. Next time, I’ll know.

But my woes, don’t end there. I felt pretty silly having only 1 spare inner tube, so I wandered over to Bikechain, the student-run group at the University of Toronto that teaches you how to fix your own bike – and also sells cheap inner tubes. There was only one staff at the time, and I was sans bike, so I quickly picked up 5 inner tubes and brought them home.

Only to discover, yes, I bought the right size but my valve was wrong! I had just bought 5 inner tubes with the Schrader valve, but I needed the Presta valve!

So I lugged out my old bike (I have no clue how I lasted 7 months with a daily commute on that heavy clunker!), and rode to the closest bicycle shop. To clear them out of inner tubes. I only bought 2. And they were over $1 more expensive than those from Bikechain, and the exact same inner tube.

Armed with the proper inner tube, I decided to replace my inner tube yet again. It didn’t take me nearly as long; I must be improving, I thought. Next, I checked to make sure I had no squished tire. I didn’t. Great! And then I pumped up the tire. And pumped, and pumped, and got it up to 120 psi! Woohoo! I removed the pump and took a sigh of relief. Not an instant later, the tube explodes AGAIN!  Now I am positively in tears, and know I need someone to help me figure this out.

Thankfully, Rob was coming over. I told him it was do or die because I only had one tube left. He supervised me and showed me a different way to assemble the inner tube and tire. I was putting the inner tube on first, then the tire. He assembled the inner tube inside the tire first, and then mounted the whole thing on the rim. Sounded good to me. So we pumped, and pumped, and pumped. 120 PSI! No blow-out! We pumped my front tire to 120 psi. I was good to go! I just need to get more tubes since my back-up tubes are down to zero, but no rush..

The next morning I ride to work. Perfect! It was just technique that was the problem. I return to my bike after work, drive it no more than 6 feet, when I feel like my breaks are rubbing my tire. I look down and I have a flat! No way! Not again! And I have no spare tube.. gah!

I take the subway home, grab 2 new tubes from another bike store. Another $2 more per tube. I ask  whether some inner tubes are more prone to leaking. I only biked 5 km before I got a new flat, I explained. He suggested that perhaps I had something stuck inside my tire that I couldn’t see. I should clean the inside really well. Excellent suggestion, I thought, and planned to do that next.

Before I went to bed, I cleaned the inside of my tire, feeling nothing, but thinking it was something small I couldn’t see. I made sure my inner tube didn’t touch the floor and mistakenly pick up rocks, etc. I replaced the inner tube, with the new Rob-style technique. I pumped it up. And no explosions! Woohoo!

Two days go by… I bike to/from work. I rack up 20km. No problem. Those invisible rocks sure were problematic. Or maybe it was the even more expensive inner tube that did the trick. Who knows. I was doing a little cheer every time my bike still had a tire full of air.

Friday morning, my bike greets me with yet another flat tire. I am almost not surprised. What am I doing wrong? I notice that there’s an actual direction for my tire. Maybe I had it backwards and that was the problem? I don’t know.. this is all voodoo.  I replace my tire again. I figured out where my leak was. Reasonably close to my valve. Maybe it was the metal hooks I was using to help reassemble my inner tube. Apparently that’s a no-no known to cause small leaks if you squish the inner tube. OK, I will look for my plastic ones. I clean it, I replace it, I pump it up. It doesn’t explode. I ride to work.

Now I am paranoid. I have no explanations for these flat tires.

So far so good, though. I make it to work intact.

I meet Rob after work to cycle to a friend’s house. I tell him about my flat tire woes and about my paranoia. How far will I get this time? The first time was 5km. Then 20km. Now what?

He looks down at my tire nonchalantly. What’s this?, he says, pointing to a small matte area on my tire. It was less than 1 mm. I have no clue but it looked like a small rock attached to the tire. I try to flick it off but it is wedged in nicely. I use my key to dislodge it and out we pull a big piece of glass! My culprit! My front tire had a smaller piece wedged in as well.

After successfully cycling 100km the following day, I knew I was in the clear.

While there are many great tutorials on how to change your tire online, here my tips that I have each learned the hard way:

1) Ride your bike with a spare tube (with the proper valve), pump and plastic hooks to change a spare tire. Try to repump your tire to see if it is a slow leak.

2) Remove the tire first with the hooks

3) Remove the inner tube, including any valvular attachment to the rim. If you can figure out where the hole is, great! You might be able to patch it too. Soapy water helps but I also tried to squish out any air all along the inner tube.

4) Try to figure out WHY you got the flat tire. Check the outside, inside of the tire and rim. Sometimes you won’t see anything if it is from having low tire pressure that gets squished over a bump, etc. Even if you can’t see anything, clean everything.

5) Pump up the inner tube slightly, then reassemble it inside the tire. Reattach this to your rim without any hooks, if possible, and make sure your tire is in the right direction. Make sure the tube is not being squished by the rim. Be careful around the valve because that area can easily be damaged, so I usually tried to push the final bit of tire in the rim away from the valve.

6) Slowly re-inflate the tire, making sure nothing got caught. Pump up until you get to your max pressure. Make sure you have your pump on with a straight valve. Once that breaks, you need a new tube, too (a lesson from my first lat tire change).

7) Reattach your tire to your bike, making sure it is properly positioned without any friction from the breaks. Re-hook your breaks.

It seems so simple, but it can be so complicated. :)

And now, about the recipe: Chocolate Brownie Power Bars. This has been my favourite energy bar for biking so far. I prefer moist, not so sweet bars that travel well. I really liked the cocoa mint nibbles, but they tasted like dates after they had been warmed in the sun. They were much better straight from the fridge for their fudge-y texture.

Adapted from Enlightened Cooking, these are similar to the cocoa nibbles but had more substance to them. They tasted more like a brownie and stayed that way after travelling with me all day. They also had a creamy taste which I think came from the milk powder. I originally threw it in because I had leftovers without a purpose (I originally bought some from the bulk store to make Momofuku’s Crack Pie). Now I think I have a super purpose for it, though, and will have to get myself some more.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by me and to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

(more…)

Peanutty Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on July 30, 2010


So how many food bloggers find recipes in cookbooks and then google to see if someone has already typed up the recipe? Me me me! That’s one thing I love about old or popular cookbooks because you can usually already find the recipes online without typing them all out. Imagine my surprise when I was googling for “Peanutty Energy Bars” from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook and I found them posted on Epicurious! With some great reviews, to boot!

Epicurious explains that these bars won a prize at the 2001 Plains Peanut Festival Recipe Contest and I must admit that part of the draw to these energy bars were the peanuts. I had a flop of a peanut butter granola last week, so I was looking for some peanut power redemption.

These were good, almost akin to a filling, complex rice krispie square with the puffed rice, oats, peanut butter and the added fixins like peanuts and dates. It is incredibly adaptable, switching the nuts, dried fruit and nut butters. They packed well with my on my cycling trip but I found the bars to be a bit big, so next time I will cut them into smaller pieces.

The bars were great to make in the summer as they are no bake, just a nuke in the microwave, but a bit tricky to mix together because you have to work fast before the warmed liquids cool. Quite a bit didn’t mix together for me (=leftover breakfast granola) but the stuff that stayed together was yummy. Other than working fast, it also helps to use a huge microwave safe bowl for your liquids.  Adding the dry ingredients to the wet facilitates easier mixing.

Other energy bars on my hit-list to try:

Homemade Cliff Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Chocolate Brownie Power Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Easy Whole Grain, Fruit & Nut Energy Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Fruit, Seed and Nut Power Bars by Enlightened Cooking
Paley’s Energy Bars by Runner’s World
Banana Bread Larabars by Oh She Glows
PB&J Larabars by Teens Eat
Apricot-Oatmeal Bars by Eating Well


This is my submission to this month’s Microwave Easy Cooking featuring Favourites, 365 Days of Microwave Cooking and to Cookbook Sundays.

(more…)

Cocoa Mint Nibbles

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on July 29, 2010


In my quest to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall, I have been investigating portable snacks to bring with my on my rides. I made Almond Chocolate Larabars earlier in the season and liked the combination of dates, almonds and chocolate. The bars were a bit crumbly but otherwise a hit.

Then I spotted Cocoa Nibbles, posted by Ashley at Eat Me, Delicious, who found them through Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. They looked right up my alley with simple, healthy ingredients, akin to other Larabar recipes. Dried dates, almonds, cocoa powder, vanilla and mint are combined to create a fudgy-, datey- cocoa mint nibble. None of the flavours are overpowering and the dates provide a great dose of carbohydrates during a training session.  They had good shape, even outside the fridge for many hours. Straight from the fridge, they have a darker fudge texture. The date flavour is more pronounced when eaten at room temperature. I also liked that I made around 16 “nibbles” from the entire batch (50 calories, 9g carb, 1.6g fat, 111 mg potassium per nibble). I wrapped each one up as a portable snack and they were there perfect size to eat during a long cycle.  I can’t wait to try the flavour variations suggested by Ricki for my upcoming bicycle rides.


This is my submission to Blog Bites #6 hosted by One Hot Stove.

(more…)

Homemade Almond Chocolate Lärabars

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 21, 2010


Other than cooking/baking/eating, another one of my new passions is cycling. A year ago I was using my 19-year old mountain bike (it looks like this one on Craigslist) for commuting to work. A year later, after saving my money from a lack of bus passes, I purchased a snazzy road/hybrid and I have been flying ever since. A nice, light bike makes a complete difference and I went from enduring cycling to really enjoying it.

My newest cycling goal is a double imperial century ride between Ottawa and Cornwall in September with my family.  I have been slowly working my way towards the grueling 100 mile (162km) bike ride for each day. This weekend, I cycled between Burlington and Niagara Falls with a group of friends through the Toronto Bicycle Network. Our my  first day, I cycled 128km and almost cried when I arrived at the falls, glorious in all its splendour, complete with a rainbow, but mostly proud of my achievement.

One of the snacks I munched on through the day were homemade almond chocolate Lärabars. The ingredient list for Lärabars are surprisingly sparse (eg., dates, almonds and bananas) and quite a few recipes are online for many of the different Lärabars flavours (and here, too). In the end, I decided to go all out with Chocolate & Zucchini‘s gourmet chocolate Lärabars with almonds, date paste, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, and cacao nibs. They were delicious but a bit crumbly, especially once on the road all day. I think I needed to soften my date paste, which I will do next time. For a while I was confused with the flavours in the bar. It tasted kind of minty but I know I didn’t put any mint in it. I think it was the magic of cardamom. I approve, and will definitely try out other combinations of nuts, fried fruits and spices throughout my summer rides.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bike back from Niagara falls to Burlington, after I fell off my bike the subsequent morning. Thankfully I am doing well, took the train back to Toronto, bought a new helmet and will be riding off to work in a few minutes. :)


This is my submission to this month’s Sugar High Fridays, featuring bar desserts.

(more…)