I find eating through a cuisine a great way to learn about a new culture, which is what I typically do when I travel overseas. New York City is a foodie-paradise with abundant choices for high-end splurges, plentiful cheap eats, as well as a handful of grocery stores. Our main purpose for heading to New York City was a 9-course menu at Per Se, so I knew I had to save my stomach for the ultimate gastronomical experience.
So what’s the trick to eating healthy, plentiful meals while still wanting to experience everything NYC has to offer? I am sure not if we’ve mastered it just yet, but here are my tips to how NOT to eat out while in NYC.
The first step is to find yourself a kitchen, because that makes a world of difference. In a city where apartments are tiny, hotel rooms are equally as small and ridiculously expensive. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan, across from Penn Station, with huge rooms and reasonable rates (we paid $139/night + tax). However, the main advantage is that each room has a kitchen, complete with a fridge/freezer, oven/stove, microwave, toaster and utensils/plates/cutlery. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you may need to become more creative, storing food in the minibar, bringing cutlery/plastic containers, etc.
I will admit that we visited more grocery and food stores while we were in NYC than anything else, but that’s what we like! Trader Joe’s is great for picking up breakfast items. I bought some quick-cook steel cut oats (what an oxymoron, but true to the advertising they cooked up in 7 minutes over the stovetop) and we added some dried blueberries and bananas for a delicious breakfast. We picked up some apples, edamame hummus and baby carrots for snacks. Arugula and artichoke antipasto spread were bought for sandwiches. Other travelling-friendly breakfast options sans-stovetop would be granola overtop yogurt and fruit or overnight oats.
After Trader Joe’s, the next stop was Eataly, the upscale Mario Batali Italian superstore. My main purpose was to buy mosto cotto, a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes (any clue where to buy this in Toronto?). While the prices are not cheap, Eataly is a good place to pick up high-quality items for sandwiches.
Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip. Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese. All the ingredients lasted us a few meals with some food left over to bring back to Canada (the artichoke surprisingly did not set off the alarms at the airport, hehe). For a vegetarian option, roasted red peppers could be substituted for the prosciutto and for vegans, the cheese could easily be omitted.
I will also give due credit to the most wondrous milk we bought at Eataly – Soloriso basmati rice milk. With a delicate smooth flavour, I never knew rice milk could taste so good. With a side of edamame hummus and carrots, this is how a foodie does not eat out in NYC.
Where we ate elsewhere in NYC:
Ess-A-Bagel – There are Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. When in NYC, you should try New York-style bagels. Ess-A-Bagel is well-known for its huge, fluffy bagels (12 different varieties including whole wheat everything), and also serves up vegan-friendly tofu-spread in lieu of cream cheese (the traditional cream cheeses are there too, including the delectable lox cream cheese). The bagels are packed with filling, and 1 bagel could easily serve 2.
Alan’s Falafel – Battle of the street cart food falafel in NYC creates the most lusciously moist falafel with minimal grease. Get it in a wrap, a salad or combo spread with lettuce, tomato, hummus and a sesame dipping sauce. Can’t say I’ve compared it to Sam’s, but Alan’s was mighty tasty.
Candle Cafe – A long-time favourite vegan resto with a focus on local, organic foods. The collard rolls are a must-try!
Other worthwhile food-related places to visit in NYC:
Kalustyan’s – For all your kitchen desires, spices, vinegars, beans.. let’s just say I was stopped by the bean section, and didn’t really make it to any other floor (I think there are 3 levels). (Thanks for the tip, Joanne!)
Essex Street Market – For down-to-earth fresh produce and condiments
Chelsea Market – A bit too upscale for me (can you say not affordable?) but a cute, artsy renovated warehouse housing upscale gourmet food vendors, with the Food Network located upstairs
I eat apricots a lot. Apricots are a funny fruit, though, because I don’t tend to eat them raw. In the summer, I have a habit of buying fresh apricots, but eating them fresh tends to be lackluster.
Instead, I find dried apricots more flavourful and have incorporated them into many salads, granola and energy bars. I have even added them to savoury dishes. When I do find myself with fresh apricots, baking is the best way to fully bring out its sweetness (remember those Moroccan Apricot Parcels? yum!)
As you know, I have a habit of trying out interesting, healthy breakfast ideas. I spotted an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis at Chocolate & Zucchini, and knew that I wanted to try it. The fruit, nuts and other add-ins are completely up to you, but incorporating freshly baked apricots is a royal treat.
But what the heck is an oatmeal breakfast clafoutis? To me, a clafoutis has always meant a custard-like cake speckled with fruit. Here, it means a creamy baked oatmeal filled with fruit.
I have made baked oatmeal before (with rhubarb and apple/banana) but this one was definitely the creamiest of them all. But the great thing is that they kept their shape well, so for anyone who likes to munch on the go, this is perfect for you. According to Clotilde they freeze easily, so you could stack your freezer with individual portions, reheat them and grab them to run.
This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring Breakfasts To Go!
Hi! It’s Rob again for one last item in my short series of posts here on the taste space.
After crafting the delicious avocado chutney last week, I was left with a couple of leftover avocados. I was perplexed. What should I do with them? I didn’t want to make guacamole. I wasn’t prepared to produce a salad with them. In Australia I learned how amazing avocado is in sandwiches or hamburgers, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go either.
I KNOW! I would devise a new variation of everyone’s beloved overnight oats! I was very excited. Overnight oats are great, but wouldn’t they be better if they were filled with tropical fruits?
I’ll be honest with you. I hold tropical fruits in very high regard. As such, I pine to travel to the tropical regions where these fruits are cheap, fresh, and plentiful. I’ve been to a few of these places, but my yearning to go to more is unceasing…
I still think fondly of the Cook Islands where I enjoyed the best papaya I ever had, topped with grated coconut and lime juice.
I still remember the glee I felt when I arrived in Fiji at the height of mango season. They were so ripe that they fell from the trees and landed at my feet, begging to be devoured.
I still recall the wonder I felt while roaming the streets of Bangkok and marvelling at the carts of the street vendors showcasing pineapples, artfully cut and ready to take away with little packets of salt and chili.
Everyone has a favourite granola recipe. Personally, I have tried many recipes, and love to try new ones for variety. Adapted from The Stop‘s cookbook Good Food For All, I was drawn to Joshna Maharaj‘s healthy granola recipe because it was filled with my favourite fixins – almonds, coconut, cranberries and date with less oil. It also used a lot of wheat germ and All Bran buds.
A few years ago, I used to eat All Bran buds all the time with yogurt. It was a quick satisfying snack or dessert. I once chatted with a surgeon who was a strong proponent of All Bran buds and psyllium (the main fiber source on All Bran buds). He was a colorectal surgeon and saw people with constipation and colorectal cancer. He was adamant that we could add All-Bran buds to ANYTHING – even pizza! While I am willing to try many thing, I am not THAT adventurous. However, adding All Bran buds to granola just makes sense for a healthy, filling breakfast.
A note about this granola: it is not incredibly sweet. It does not clump well. But it is tasty and best combined with some fresh fruit and yogurt as a lovely breakfast parfait.
Pancakes are what I consider a splurge or luxury breakfast. Most of my breakfasts are quick to reheat in the morning, or don’t require that much attention on the stovetop allowing me to multitask in the kitchen.
Pancakes are easy to make, but who wants to slave over the frypan so early in the morning? Add another insult to the injury because most recipes make a ton of pancakes, and pancakes tend to be infinitely better when fresh.
But for those special occasions, break out this pancake recipe. Or when you feel like eating an all-day pancake special, because that is what I ended up doing.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted them from Good to the Grain, these pancakes are worthy of its high praise (308+ comments later!). Not your typical white, tasteless pancake, these are filled with oat flour (rolled oats that I ran through my food processor until fine) and oatmeal. White flour still makes an appearance though which is probably why they taste so great. They are moist, substantial pancakes and actually a bit sweet. The recipe calls for both sugar and honey and I would decrease the sugar next time, but otherwise these are perfect. A great way to increase your repertoire of whole grain-based recipes and will please even the pickiest eater.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
Let me let you in on a secret. I actually haven’t done any holiday baking yet. I made the Key Lime Meltaways last year for Christmas. It took me nearly a year to post all my cookies from my holiday baking escapades, and one vegan cookie that wasn’t worthy of being posted (no one liked it!).
While I am still plotting my attack of Middle Eastern-inspired cookies for this year (feel free to recommend your favourites!), my current decadence has been over breakfast. But this decadence is guilt-free.
Adapted from Oh She Glows, this is a version of overnight oats that I have been eating for breakfast some time now. The premise of overnight oats is that you mix rolled oats with milk overnight to create a creamy pudding of sorts. I also add in chia seeds, which are tasteless but feel like small tapioca pearls after they have absorbed the milk. Chia seeds are great because they are relatively low calorie while providing a good source of omega-3s, fiber, protein and other vitamins. After a few hours, the chia seeds plump up nicely and add body to these overnight oats.
In this version, the pudding is fortified with pumpkin puree, savoury spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and the gingerbread taste comes from blackstrap molasses. Not to be confused with typical molasses (which is what typically goes into gingerbread cookies), blackstrap molasses are more bitter, as it is derived after the third extraction of sucrose. Therefore it is less sugary and more nutritious. It is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Rolled oats, chia seeds, pumpkin, blackstrap molasses… all excellent foods and great together for a healthy breakfast treat.
I have more than a few posts in my drafts folder, as I figure out what to write, take the photos off my camera, go on vacation to Morocco.. You know, the typical delays.
I made this delicious breakfast oatmeal pudding last month, when pumpkin and fresh cranberries were both abundant. Now that Christmas cookie, mint and chocolate season is knocking at the door, I figured I should whip this baby out before it was too late!
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, this is a variation on the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding I posted in September (based on Ricki’s original recipe). Back then, it was my pre-cycling breakfast of choice. This time, though, my pudding was a bit thicker, a bit lumpier, so I wonder whether I had to pulse my almonds longer. However, I enjoyed this variation, too, as it had a different mix of flavours. The pumpkin puree replaced the applesauce, the fresh cranberries substituted for the blueberries and the mix of savoury spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves) worked perfectly. Not too sweet, and definitely not bland, this was a perfect start to the day. Likewise, it could work as a nice dessert as well.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
I love bananas, but sometimes they go brown a bit faster than I’d like. That’s ok, though, because bananas are great for baking. My first instinct, is to make the gorgeous apple banana cake (the bananas entirely replace the butter and oil) or the delicious banana oatmeal chocolate cookies (no butter, no eggs, no flour and no added sugar). I have also used ripe bananas to make a super fluffy and creamy stovetop oatmeal, and I thought it would be great to turn my baking escapades towards breakfast: let’s make baked oatmeal even healthier.
Baked oatmeal is a way to get that creamy goodness of oatmeal for multiple servings. Whether you want to serve a small army or in my case, feed me all week.
You can be equally creative with baked oatmeal, adding in your own favourite fixins and flavours.
For this version (adapted from a few places), I used the bananas more as a base for the oatmeal, so that it did not need any additional fat. It made it nice and creamy with a hint of sweetness. I added in chunks of apple, and because I used Pink Lady apples, they kept their shape well. Very well. They kind of separated the creamy oatmeal. This meant my oatmeal was a bit disjointed, but I liked it! Apple butter was used for a touch of sweetness and cinnamon and nutmeg provided a savoury background. Beautiful comforting fall flavours, great as a virtual hug in the morning. Bake this once and you have breakfast for the week.
Because I am trying the vegan route this month, I wanted to highlight chia seeds as an egg replacer. Here, I mixed 1 tbsp of chia seeds with 3 tbsp of warm water, and set it aside to soak for 10 minutes. You get a goopy mess, but it works well. I didn’t need to crush my seeds, either.
Oftentimes, my breakfast and dessert could be the same dish. I never really thought I had sweet breakfasts, but I definitely prefer more wholesome desserts. Muffins, scones, and granola all work double duty.
When I saw this Apple Pie Oatmeal in Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook (also posted here), I knew I wanted to ring in my fall breakfasts with a cinnamon and apple-flavoured oatmeal. I just wasn’t prepared for how similar it would taste like apple pie. The flavours were all there, cinnamon and nutmeg, juicy sauteed apple pieces, with the warmth from the cooked oatmeal.
Light and sweet, this was delicious and the key was using apple juice to cook the oatmeal. I made a few modifications to the recipe, such as decreasing the amount of oats and liquid to increase the apple ratio and have less leftovers. I also found the original recipe a bit sweet when eaten fresh (it mellows as leftovers, though), so I decreased the sugar. I also decreased the oil because I didn’t find it was necessary with the juicy apple. While I wouldn’t eat oatmeal for dessert, this oatmeal has the same flavours as apple pie. Thus, dessert for wholesome breakfast. Add some apples and spice to your morning routine. You won’t regret it.
This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring apples.
I am fighting it.
I know it is now mid-September. The kids have gone back to school. My century ride last weekend was called “Summer’s End Century Tour” and yes, I have started to wear a jacket while cycling to work. I will have to abandon my cycling shorts, too, because it is pretty frigid with the wind in the mornings and evenings. I even close my balcony door at night, which has been on perma-open since May.
I think fall is here.
But that doesn’t mean I am jumping for the butternut squashes just yet (in due time!*). I am still lingering in summer’s bounty of fresh local fruit and vegetables, including fruit for these tasty crumbles: local peaches, blueberries and raspberries.**
*Bestwin has butternut squash on sale for 17 cents/lb this week. I may be stocking up afterall!
**Frozen fruit would work well if baking this out of season.
I know everyone already has a favourite crumble, crisp or cobbler recipe – usually the one that Mom made. But when I spotted this on Joy the Baker, I was intrigued by the combination of fruit and spice. Peaches and blueberries work well together, but how would it work with raspberries? (And why would I even consider baking with fresh, juicy, light raspberries?? I must be mad!) But Joy paired them with cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup, which was a match in heaven. The raspberries were a nice sweet/tart addition to the fruit trio and I enjoyed how they all worked well with the nutmeg and maple.
At first, I enjoyed this warm from the oven as dessert, but throughout the week, the leftovers made their way into breakfast. The crumble topping was reminiscent of granola and with the baked fruit, it was great with yogurt. A perfectly healthy dessert and breakfast. Got to love the transition!
Rolled oats are no stranger to the breakfast table and oatmeal is a regular standby in my morning routine. After the Nutrition Action Health Letter (aka the Consumer Reports of healthy foods), deemed Bob’s Red Mill Country Style Muesli their favourite, it became my new breakfast.
Oatmeal is cheap, healthy and relatively quick. It is great since it is a whole grain, fiber-rich, and lowers cholesterol. When you cook traditional oats, you also have no added sugar or salt (can’t say the same for the instant, flavoured varieties). But let’s be honest: when you cook rolled oats with water and a dash of salt, they aren’t that tasty. You can make oatmeal more flavourful by adding in your own sweeteners, fruit (dried or fresh), nuts, seeds, peanut butter, etc. The possibilities are endless.
This recipe for whipped banana oatmeal is a great way to make a creamy bowl of oats without any cream at all. The magic comes from a ripe banana that melts seamlessly into the oats, imparting both sweetness and creaminess. It is a bit more involved than your standard bowl of oats, as you need to whip everything together, but it is worth it. I liked the addition of dried cranberries, but feel free to add in your favourite fixins. I spotted and then adapted the recipe from Macheesmo, who adapted it from Kath Eats’ Tribute to Oatmeal.
This is my submission to this month’s Breakfast Club, featuring British breakfasts (the Brits call this porridge). This recipe, coupled with Peach Blueberry Raspberry Crumbles, is my entry to Blog Bites 7, Iron Chef-style, where we use one ingredient two ways! My ingredient: oats!
I don’t like late brunches because I have to eat something right away in the morning. Something about hypoglycemia if I wait too long.
But there are a few times when breakfast doesn’t sit well with me.
And that’s when I am nervous.
Nervous about writing an exam that morning, or tripping on my bridesmaid dress while I help my (now) sister-in-law walk around the altar 3 times, or you know, the butterflies before cycling to/from Woodstock (a possible 300km round-trip, but we ended up taking the go-train for a portion of the trip once the total downpour started so our total was 250km). Those butterflies don’t let much sit well in my stomach even if I know this is the most important time to be eating.
But I think I have found my favourite pre-jitters breakfast: Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding.
Adapted from Diet, Dessert n Dogs, this is a healthy breakfast creamy pudding (sans creme) with oats and nuts, speckled with juicy, succulent blueberries. And it glides down so easily. A small portion is surprisingly filling and the fresh blueberries really make this a knock-out morning treat. Who says lunch and dinner should have all the fun? Bake this once and have a delicious breakfast all week. Personally, I preferred it cold, but it is also good warmed up.
Here are other variations that have sparked my interest:
But not because the bars weren’t photogenic.
They just didn’t have the substance to back up their looks.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the first few bars I tried. The bars weren’t really sweet at all and the filling had that cornstarch feel to it. I didn’t think it was fit for dessert. Adapted from Fat Free Vegan, these blueberry oat bars boasted no refined flour, no white sugar, no added fat, no soy, and no gluten. Another healthy recipe that fools you, I thought. The decreased sweetness was partly my fault, though, as I substituted brown sugar for agave nectar in a 1:1 ratio without modifying the liquid content, which is a no-no. Who knew agave nectar was 1/3 more sweet than brown sugar? I digress…
Then I wrapped one up and brought it with me on my long bicycle rides. And this is where the bar shined. It travelled well, in spite of the gooey centre, and its lack of sweetness was perfect. I am figuring out what I like to eat pre-, post- and during exercise, and I am definitely shunning sweet, dry and heavy dishes. These bars were perfect specifically because they were not that sweet, they were very moist and they were filled with carbs (only 1g of fat per serving).
I had already eaten 2/3rds of the bars before I decided to snap some photos. Thank goodness I still had some left!
With a few long-distance cycling trips already under my belt this summer, I oftentimes feel like I am eating to bike. I routinely make my own sports drink and have made different portable snacks for my rides: peanutty energy bars, cocoa mint nibbles and almond chocolate larabars. Next up in my arsenal of snacks: homemade granola bars.
I have been making my own granola for some time, but had yet to venture into making granola bars. The thick and chewy granola bars posted by Smitten Kitchen (who, in turn, found and adapted it from King Arthur Flour) called out to me since she posted them in February. I bought oat flour immediately (back when I didn’t have a food processor) but it took me almost 6 months to finally buckle down and make them. What happened? Well, life (in a good way), and I was shunning desserts for a while. Thank goodness I bike now so I can enjoy these guilt-free.
These were subtly addictive. Chewy yet firm, oaty and wholesome, sweet from cranberries and with a strong peanut flavour. You munch on a chewy bar and think to yourself, ‘Is this what granola bars taste like?’ It is miles away from what you get in a store. Deb leaves the recipe completely flexible, with substitutions for the nuts, fruit and nut butter, and I have included my own interpretation below. I was surprised at the strong presence of the peanut butter flavour, so I may decrease it next time or switch it to almond butter which I think would work better with the cranberries. Otherwise, I went with my granola staples of dried cranberries, coconut and almonds. I found coconut chips at Bestwin which are like large coconut flakes. I liked the burst of coconut flavour but found they didn’t integrate with the bars as well; they left the bars more apt to crumble mid-bite. Next time, I’ll stick with my flaked coconut for the granola bars and use the coconut flakes for my crumbly granola.
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