Rob disappears and I do a cold, windy and rainy bike 100 km ride. Cameo appearance by the dreaded flat tire again. Sound familiar?
It is hard to believe, but within the span of a few days of my last solo cycling adventure, I signed up for the Tour de Houston for the 60-mile/100-km ride. More impressive (or shocking), I also dedicated some overflow vacation days to visit my parents and cycle Rideau Lakes with my Dad in June. This will be my third time on the 360 km 2-day course, I am hoping it will keep my motivated to continue to cycle throughout the summer to have fun at Cycle Oregon.
In any case, cycling season has begun. This weekend simply solidified why I love cycling so much. IT IS FUN! Even with nearly 4 hours of on-and-off again rain and fierce winds, I had a blast. Granted, I was sad Rob was missing such a fun experience but it was liberating to tackle the course at my own pace (yes, I know, Rob is usually the one waiting for me, not the other way around). I don’t know how many people showed up in spite of the weather (see the video recap here), but over 5000 people registered for the event. It is infectious to be surrounded by other cyclists. I rarely see another cyclist on my commutes to work but now, I had to jostle and wind my way around so many others.
I picked this event because it is actually run by the City of Houston to promote cycling in the city. It was well marked (save one turn) and well staffed. The course changes every year to highlight different areas of Houston. This year, the course was fantastic. Nearly all intersections were staffed to give cyclists the right-of-way (most of the time, obviously they had to let cars go through as well). I also knew it would give me the courage to try out a 100 km course with lots of support. Turns out, I needed it. I found myself with a flat tire a bit after the half-way point. When I cycle with Rob, he always brings a tube, pump, and tools to fix tires but this time, I didn’t. Thankfully, I turned around and one of the sag trucks found me and my sorry wheel. They brought me back to my last rest stop where I was able to get my flat tire. In addition, they then drove me back to where I had my flat tire so I could continue my journey.
I was a bit bummed because I had lost a lot of time and I was even turned away at one of the rest stops. I had a flat tire, I am not that slow! I kept thinking to myself. However, with the continuous rain, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise: the cyclists had thinned out so it was less congested but the best part was that I was mostly passing everyone. Not just a morale boost, this was incredible practical: less mud in my face! No one has mud guards, so if you are within 10 feet of the person cycling in front of you, you would be greeted with mud galore. How do I know? Right before I had my flat tire, there was a muddy patch and it landed all over my face, my glasses, my clothes and my bike.
The course was well stocked with bananas, oranges and peanuts (and pretzels which I didn’t eat) but by the time I arrived at the finish line, most of the vendors had packed up for the day. I cycled home. And only then I remembered how long rides really deplete my motivation to cook. I had the most motivation to do laundry and have a bath, though. Talk about being dirty. But before that, I treated myself to a fun recovery smoothie courtesy of Brendan Brazier’s new cookbook Thrive Energy Cookbook.
Based off the recipes from one of my favourite restaurants, Thrive Juice Bar, this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing: the recipes taste great. If they are true to the restaurant, you will want to make that pad thai stat. However, the curse: that pad thai? It tastes great, in part, because each component is perfected. The recipe may be on one page but it will redirect to 4 addition recipes – three sauces/vinaigrettes and a vegetable mix. All for a single serving.
The photos are gorgeous. The recipes are tantalizing with many classic vegan combinations. I am salivating over the drinks: kale mojito (I have had that at the restaurant and it is great!), chocolate-truffle-caramel mocha, chocolate-peppermint matcha magic drink. The restaurant’s Big Green Energy Charger is in there, too, which I love with a hit of maca, but I don’t know how I will find my own freshly squeezed wheatgrass juice for my version to be authentic. The recipes focus on mostly whole foods, although Daiya cheese makes its appearance, numerous Vega products along with Wildwood Zesty Garlic Aioli which seems to be the base for all four aioli recipes. Some incredibly hard-to-find ingredients are included (lucuma, astralagus, ginseng, wheatgrass juice, reishi mushroom, maca) but not too many.. and most could easily be omitted. I look forward to trying out more recipes and thrilled I can share a cookbook with one of you, too.
For this smoothie recipe, nuts, chocolate and protein powder are combined to make a satisfying smoothie. I typically don’t like smoothies with ice, but this was well balanced, probably because there was a larger amount of nuts than my typical smoothies. Brendan calls this a recovery smoothie although for information on his rationale for his sports recipe (either before, during or after exercise), you are redirected to his previous books.
Thankfully, the publisher allowed me to share the recipe (with my modifications, of course) AND giveaway the cookbook to a reader living in the United States. To be entered in the random draw for the cookbook, please leave a comment below. The winner will be selected at random on March 29, 2014. Good luck!
Recipes from Thrive Energy Cookbook shared elsewhere:
This is being submitted to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness.
As I prepare to return to Canada for the holidays, Houston tugs dearly at my heart. With glorious December weather, it has taken less then 6 months for me to not miss snow. At all. Certainly, it does not feel very much like winter, but each time I cycle to work in shorts, I am positively beaming.
Life has been a terribly wonderful busy whirlwind lately, so I apologize for being behind on replying to comments and for my disappearance next week.
I have one fabulous treat to share before the end of the year, though. December is probably the only month I could get away with sharing so many treats.
This is dedicated to all those looking for the perfect homemade protein bar. In brownie form. Is there anything you can not improve by adding chocolate?
These brownies are so good for you, you wouldn’t even know it. Although I haven’t had time to make them for my Canadian excursion, I had a bit of forethought before flying to Mexico City. I was not certain of the vegan options, so I tried to cover myself with a protein-packed treat. I thought of making my chocolate mint protein bars again, but of course, I wanted to try something new.
Still based on cocoa and protein powder, this was a treat that wasn’t heavy on nuts and dates. Gooey and dense from zucchini, apple and a touch of oats and coconut flour with a heap of protein powder. Chocolate chips also added a great textural foil and bursts of sweetness. Rob decreed the chocolate chips essential to the recipe and confirmed you could not taste any hemp undertones.
While they may not be the best brownies, compared to all other brownies, they are definitely wonderful and possibly my favourite protein snack, to date. (For those interested in their stats: 219 calories, 7g fat, 26g carbs and 16g protein). I successfully halved the original recipe into my small 6″ springform pan, and it made enough for a short weekend trip.
Make sure to flatten the brownies as best you can, because there is no settling of the batter… and thus they may not look the most appealing.
Perhaps that is for the best. If you bring them to a holiday party, there will be more for you!! :)
Happy holidays everyone. :)
PS. The winner for Soup’s On was Move Eat Create.
How do you feel about ridiculously easy recipes? Love them? Hate them?
I wanted to call this a 2-ingredient ridiculously easy chocolate protein bark but I.just.could.not.do.it.
While it could be as easy as mixing 2 (or 3) ingredients together, it is not altogether a 2-ingredient recipe. One of the ingredients is made up of a bunch more. I would hate to mislead you.
My photos will not deceive you, either. Almost psychedelic, the protein bark morphs from a light beige to a darker brown on the other side. Courtesy of the not-quite truthful ingredient: chocolate protein powder.
The simplicity of this treat is simply chocolate protein powder and maca stirred into melted coconut oil which is left to freeze. Protein powders, especially the flavoured varieties, tend to include a bunch of ingredients that may contribute to the different settling rates that occur as it freezes. Or perhaps it is the maca, which is a lighter colour.
I will save my rant about protein powders for another day, but suffice it to say, my preference lies within simple, natural protein powder without any flavours or sweeteners. In times when the expensive Vega chocolate protein miraculously goes on sale, that is when I may try out something new… and then bust out these treats. Just make sure you pick a chocolate protein powder in which you enjoy its taste.
This recipe is courtesy of Amber from Practically Raw Desserts. I have mentioned her cookbook before, gushing over her light raw carrot cupcakes and inherent flexibility to her recipes. I really enjoy her cookbook because through her variations, you learn how to cook (or bake, or unbake as in this case). She has lower fat options, grain-free, nut-free, lower sugar and baked options, depending on the recipe. Some of my favourite recipes from her cookbook include this chocolate protein bark as well as protein power pudding, individual cherry crumbles, raw pecan shortbread cookies, goji berry granola bars, jingle balls and cherry-carob bars. My only gripe about the book are the photos. When compared to some other books, like Isa Does It (with gorgeous photography that I forgot to highlight in my review), they are lacklustre. While there are a lot of colour photos, the colours are off and framing could be improved (yes, says the one with the oddest photos for this post, HA!). At least the recipes are great and that is what counts.
I really want to share this cookbook with you, especially as the holiday treat season gears up (share the vegan baketivism this season!). Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Amber recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Amber yet, have a look through the table of contents of Practically Raw Desserts on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 21, 2013. Good luck!
Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes (LOVED these!)
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Coconut Heaven Cupcakes
Marzipan Buckeye Bars
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares
Pecan Chai Spice Bars (only ok; I found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread (very good)
Salted Tahini Caramels
5-Minute Blondies (nice and simple)
Dulce de Leche Spooncream
Velvety Chocolate Mousse
Russian Tea Cakes
Tuxedo Cheesecake Brownies
Tropical Fruit Tartlets
PS. Have you entered my worldwide giveaway for Plant-Powered 15 yet?
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from Amber as I was a recipe tester. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Just like riding a bicycle.
I put that to the test on the weekend.
I have not been up to my typical exercise regime this spring. I pared it down to 1 weight lifting class a week and 1 bike ride. Over the past 2 months, I have not cycled more than 400km.
Yet, in a week, I have signed up to cycle 200km between Perth and Kingston. (I long gave up cycling the full 354km between Ottawa and Kingston).
I used to think anyone could ride 100km. However, with my severe lack of training this year, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to cycle the “short” 200km route either.
So, I dusted off my road bike (the first time I rode it this year), and cycled almost 100km with Rob and Sue on Sunday. It was one of my favourite routes (the Aurora loop) which meanders north of Toronto through such small cities like Snow Ball and Maple. Cycling north of the of the city also meant tackling the uphill during the first part of the trip and enjoying the downhill going home. All in between getting soaked from a sudden downpour and battling the wind from many directions.
Did I do it? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Will I do it again next weekend? Yes.
Rob has been training for this throughout our short spring, so he didn’t find this route as challenging as me… which meant he had more energy when we arrived home. Originally, he wanted to treat me with some ice cream but: a) I felt more like a smoothie, and b) we should be eating through our freezer stash. As I lay on the ground, Rob whipped up a delicious smoothie. I kind of made suggestions from the floor: frozen banana, frozen mamey, vanilla, hemp protein powder and almond milk. It was a crazy concoction and we weren’t sure how it would taste…. Only after I drank a huge serving, did I have enough energy to photograph it… because we both agreed it was too good not to share.
It is hard to describe the flavour of mamey. It takes like mamey… Think about it, how would you describe the taste of apple? Anyways, it is a sweet creamy mango-like flavour with floral undertones. It has a custard-like taste and consistency. Describing flavours is hard. I like this description:
The fruit’s flavor is variously described as a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, and maraschino cherries with the texture of an avocado. Source
It paired beautifully with the creamy banana. The hemp protein powder made it a bit more of a green colour but also added creaminess.
How did we find mamey? We originally discovered it while travelling in Colombia, both as a fruit and in delicious smoothie form. We were thrilled when we spotted frozen mamey (sapote) at a Colombian bakery in Toronto and picked up a few packages earlier this year. They also had frozen guanabanana, guava, blackberry (mora) and possibly other non-exotic fruits like strawberries.
Have you ever tried mamey? I think it is best in smoothie-form. :)
The real title of this post should be “How I Spent Father’s Day”.
All my cycling escapades have been inspired by my Dad. Spurred on my a few family deaths, my Dad decided to get in shape in the early 1990s. During this time, he started cycling. He began cycling to work, which was 17km each way. He eventually hooked up with the local bicycle club and has done the Ottawa-Kingston Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (178km each way) every year for over a decade. Ever since I started biking 3 years ago, my goal was to cycle with my Dad to Kingston. It seemed like the most inhumane goal but I was on a mission. However, a week before we were supposed to ride to Kingston last year, my Dad broke his wrist falling off his bicycle. It has taken him a year to fully recover and we were hoping he would join us with a new route, to Niagara Falls.
It was supposed to be 160km each way, but due to all the spring commotion with moving, vacationing in Colombia, wedding #1 of 5 this summer, coupled with a bout of sickness last week, Rob and I did next to zero training. I took my road bike out twice and the longest ride was 30km. Pitiful, I know. Granted, my long cycling commutes had my bicycle odometer over 1200km total this year, though, but that was on my commuter bike. Suffice it to say, we did not feel prepared to cycle 320km this weekend. We opted for the 180km option, instead.
I’ve done the trek to Niagara Falls twice. Both times were 2 years ago and it was incredible to cycle the same route and be infused with so many memories. I remembered where it started to rain, where we stopped for much needed breaks, and the glorious ecstatic rush of seeing the Falls replete with rainbow in the background. While I remember the climb up the escarpment being hard (harder than the Westport Hill from the Kingston cycle), I didn’t remember how hard the first part of the hill was and thought I was a goner. There was a police man driving down the hill at the same time I was starting the sharp incline who yelled out: “Don’t kill yourself!”. I think because I breathing awfully heavily…. who knows. As we danced up and down the rolling hills on Roland Road (near Shorthills Provincial Park), I remembered how difficult the uphills were before. As we raced past the 406 and the QEW, I recalled how energized I was to be so close to Niagara Falls, blasting away with the wind at my back. I also remembered how painful it was the second round, when I almost thought I couldn’t ride the last 30km.
Even though I felt unprepared for the ride, it all turned out ok. With my Dad and Rob at my side, we made the best of the ride. In fact, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Day 1 was great. Great weather, good biking and good times. 87km, all in. Day 2 started off so nicely with nearly an hour of smooth pavement down the escarpment with mostly downhill coasting to Niagara-on-the-Lake. While we still enjoyed freshly picked strawberries and cherries (ice cream and fudge for the gents), there were some rough patches cycling home. Meandering our way to St Catharines, the wind started. It didn’t let up and sadly, it was rarely in our favour. A few gusts of wind nearly knocked my bike onto the gravel shoulder. Due to an accident, we needed to do a detour down the escarpment to Stoney Creek, so we ended up cycling 105km on Day 2.
All 3 of us went for a celebratory late brunch at The Naked Sprout (must.recreate.raw.pancakes.and.chocolate.coconut.crepes.oh.my.gosh.and.coconut.bacon.too!), and then we bid adieu to my Dad.
Still looking for a protein-packed recovery snack a few hours later, I whipped up one of my favourite snacks to date: Chocolate Banana Protein Ice Cream. I’ve tried other healthy ice creams before, including Katie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Heather’s Protein Ice Cream (sans guar gum), but neither were that satisfying. Little did I know that my tried-and-true never fail 1-ingredient banana soft-serve ice cream was already at my disposal. All I had to do was add some chocolate protein powder for a very satisfying chocolatey ice cream snack. Guilt-free. The banana whips up into a sweet creamy frozen treat and the chocolate protein powder changes it to a chocolate version. The protein in the powder makes this a hugely satisfying dessert. Enjoy!
The question remains what kind of cycling commitments we will do next year, amidst the commotion of exams and moving to the US. Only time will tell…
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness.