the taste space

Raw Peppermint Patties & Cookbook Giveaway!

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

Raw Peppermint Patties

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

My kitchen barometer is the coconut oil.

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

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

Raw Peppermint Patties

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

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

Raw Peppermint Patties

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

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

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

SimplyRaw kitchen review

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

Other recipes shared from The Simply Raw Kitchen:

Real Tomato Soup

Lentil Soup with Kale

Award-Winning Marinated Kale Salad

Spicy Thai Salad

Lemon Poppyseed Energy Bites

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Other recipes from Simply Raw are shared here and here.

Raw Peppermint Patties

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Raw Parsnip Sushi Rolls, Two Ways

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on November 19, 2013

You saw the writing on the wall. With my love of wraps, it was only a matter of time before I made sushi rolls.

It took me a few tries, but I finally found not one, but two recipes that I really like.

Am I the only one who scopes out a bunch of recipes for a particular dish and then can’t decide what to make? Should I go with option A or option B? Sometimes, I decide to hedge my bets and make multiple options. That’s how I ended up with 2 versions of my chocolate black bean cookies and oodles of combinations for my savoury flax-hemp crackers. Half a recipe for you and half a recipe for you… which means the bonus of 2 recipes for me!

This explains why my recipe says it serves 1. I boiled down each sushi roll to fit one parsnip with its seasonings.  The fillings could easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled, but please, please, please don’t assemble these babies too far in advance. The nori sheet will become limp and soggy…and no fun.

To be fair, my first venture at a nori wrap was from Color Me Vegan with an orange-cashew cream sauce. I have become spoiled because that cashew sauce was nothing compared to my previous Zesty Cashew Orange Spread. The rolls seemed a tad lacking, especially since there wasn’t anything that reminded me of a standard sushi roll.

Having really enjoyed the parsnip in Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice, I knew that this was the way to approach raw sushi. Then I had to decide- nut butter-version from Gena or miso-version from Lauren? I have had some really heavy sushi rolls at raw restos because they make the rice from nuts, so I was excited to try the lighter miso version. I was torn, though, because I was still drawn to Gena’s recipe since the butter seemed to accentuate the parsnip rice. So, I made both and glad I did because they were both different yet equally delightful.

The miso version was light and flavorful and worked well with the multitude of veggies. It reminded me of my citrus-spiked sushi rice bowl with the miso twist. I am not sure the oil was completely necessary so I may remove it next time. The tahini version was heavier but incredibly flavourful from the tahini and the touch of toasted sesame oil. They were both filling as a light lunch.

If you haven’t yet made raw sushi, don’t be shy. You certainly don’t need a special sushi rolling mat. Just a great filling. It is what is inside that counts, and I’ve got you covered. Twice. Two hugs, as Rob would put it.

This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for quick foods.

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Maple-Dijon Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans and Cranberries & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Salads by Janet M on November 14, 2013

Maple-Dijon Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

While I prefer Brussels sprouts roasted, I also like them slipped into scramblesskillets, stir fries, pastassoups and salads. The last on my bucket list (I think) was to try them raw, shredded into a slaw.

Raw versus cooked. Talk about something new. Now the endearing term “little cabbage” comes to light. Shredded Brussels sprouts let their true Brassica family roots shine through, with a definite cabbage undertone. Here it is paired with a sweet maple Dijon mustard dressing with sweet dried cranberries and local Southern pecans for some crunch.

Not sure whether raw Brussels sprouts are for you? I am certain this would be delightful with roasted ones, as well. Sometimes, it is nice not to wait for your vegetables to roast or to try something different. Something a bit lighter in spite of its wintery feel.

Maple-Dijon Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

This salad is courtesy of Raw & Simple, which I verily enjoyed (un)cooking through this summer, amid Houston’s hot heat. Judita has written a cookbook with easy, tasty recipes without the fuss of complicated raw show-stoppers. Some delicacies are included, too, though. She incorporates a few non-raw ingredients like maple syrup, as evidenced by this recipe. I recommend her simple Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara with zucchini noodles, Calexico Salad, Five-Pepper Vegetable Chili, and still want to try her Southwest Corn Chowder, Healthy Mary (a spin off a Bloody Mary), Thai Veggie Noodles, Raw Meat and Cheese Pierogies and her Wild Blueberry Meyer Lemon Cheesecake. 

A few typos aside, I really enjoy this cookbook and want to share it with you.Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (YES!). To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me which recipe you’d like to try the most (or if you have a recipe from Judita that you recommend). Have a look through the table of contents of Raw & Simple 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 30, 2013. Good luck!

Other recipes from Raw & Simple shared online:

Mushroom Miso Soup
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Sunny Peach Salad with Chipotle-Maple Dressing
Nacho Cheese Dip
Thai Veggie Noodles
Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles
Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
Apple Pie Smoothie
Hazelnut Fig Shake
Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookies
Superfood Seed Bar
Orange-Almond Truffles
Chocolate Haystacks
Wild Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Squares

PS. Other giveaways I am sharing right now: Plant-Powered 15 and Practically Raw Desserts.

Note: I purchased my own copy of Judita’s cookbook.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, this week’s Health Vegan Fridays and this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on November 9, 2013

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

How do you feel about ridiculously easy recipes? Love them? Hate them?

I wanted to call this a 2-ingredient ridiculously easy chocolate protein bark but I.just.could.not.do.it.

While it could be as easy as mixing 2 (or 3) ingredients together, it is not altogether a 2-ingredient recipe. One of the ingredients is made up of a bunch more. I would hate to mislead you.

My photos will not deceive you, either. Almost psychedelic, the protein bark morphs from a light beige to a darker brown on the other side. Courtesy of the not-quite truthful ingredient: chocolate protein powder.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

The simplicity of this treat is simply chocolate protein powder and maca stirred into melted coconut oil which is left to freeze. Protein powders, especially the flavoured varieties, tend to include a bunch of ingredients that may contribute to the different settling rates that occur as it freezes. Or perhaps it is the maca, which is a lighter colour.

I will save my rant about protein powders for another day, but suffice it to say, my preference lies within simple, natural protein powder without any flavours or sweeteners. In times when the expensive Vega chocolate protein miraculously goes on sale, that is when I may try out something new… and then bust out these treats. Just make sure you pick a chocolate protein powder in which you enjoy its taste.

This recipe is courtesy of Amber from Practically Raw Desserts. I have mentioned her cookbook before,  gushing over her light raw carrot cupcakes and inherent flexibility to her recipes. I really enjoy her cookbook  because through her variations, you learn how to cook (or bake, or unbake as in this case). She has lower fat options, grain-free, nut-free, lower sugar and baked options, depending on the recipe. Some of my favourite recipes from her cookbook include this chocolate protein bark as well as protein power pudding, individual cherry crumbles, raw pecan shortbread cookies, goji berry granola bars, jingle balls and cherry-carob bars. My only gripe about the book are the photos. When compared to some other books, like Isa Does It (with gorgeous photography that I forgot to highlight in my review), they are lacklustre. While there are a lot of colour photos, the colours are off and framing could be improved (yes, says the one with the oddest photos for this post, HA!). At least the recipes are great and that is what counts.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Protein Bark

I really want to share this cookbook with you, especially as the holiday treat season gears up (share the vegan baketivism this season!). Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Amber recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Amber yet, have a look through the table of contents of Practically Raw Desserts on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 21, 2013. Good luck!

Other recipes from Practically Raw Desserts shared online (and other reviews listed here):

Superfood Snackers
Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes (LOVED these!)
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Coconut Heaven Cupcakes
Marzipan Buckeye Bars
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares
Pecan Chai Spice Bars  (only ok; I found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread (very good)
Salted Tahini Caramels
5-Minute Blondies (nice and simple)
Dulce de Leche Spooncream
Velvety Chocolate Mousse
Russian Tea Cakes
Tuxedo Cheesecake Brownies
Linzer Torte
Tropical Fruit Tartlets

This is my submission to this month’s Pantry Party for quick foods and this month’s Dead Easy Desserts.

PS. Have you entered my worldwide giveaway for Plant-Powered 15 yet?

Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from Amber as I was a recipe tester.  I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Cucumber Avocado Sandwiches With Dill and Mint

Posted in Appetizers by Janet M on November 5, 2013

Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches With Dill and Mint

Time flies. I have already passed the 4 month mark. One-third of my time in Houston.  I already know what I will remember the most. Mosquitoes and potlucks. The mosquitos are relentless and well, I am discovering the joys of vegan potlucks.

I have been to many a potluck, but usually that means I bring a dish I will be eating. It is usually the only vegan component and I try to make it a complete meal, like a hearty bean or whole grain salad. Even though that is my specialty, it kind of limits my repertoire.

All vegan potlucks are a whole other ballpark. I know I will find plenty of food (and they have been really tasty!) and therefore, I can branch out to try something new. Furthermore, some foods lend better to a buffet set-up than others, so I have been testing out new ideas.

Enter the cucumber sandwich. Not a tea sandwich, this one replaces the bread for cucumber, creating a crunchy bite-sized nimbler. Easy to add to your plate and no fussy sauce that can leach and contaminate the next dish over. (I have adopted the 2 plate strategy for potlucks- 1 plate for savoury and 1 plate for desserts!) Perfect for those who want a gluten-free and nut-free snack… and raw, to boot. For me right now, raw has become more synonymous with easy food prep.

This dish, while easy to prep, is a bit more fussy than my typical one-pot meals. Puree your cucumber and lemon juice into a mayonnaise-like consistency and pulse in the cool and crisp cucumbers and herbs. The lemon juice should prevent the avocado from oxidizing but try not to make them too far in advance. Hopefully they will be devoured and none will remain after they have been served.

What are your go-to potluck dishes?

Other dishes I shared at potlucks this year:

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

Raw Thai Pineapple Parsnip Rice

Curried Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Currants

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Raw Watermelon Candy

Rich Vegan Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, this month’s Cooking with Herbs, to this month’s Random Recipes, and to this month’s Veg Cookbook Club for Isa Does It.

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The Best Raw Corn Chips

Posted in Desserts, Favourites, Sides by Janet M on October 19, 2013

Raw Corn Chips

My propensity for snacks is directly proportional to the amount of studying I should be doing.

Cookies and chips? Code words for Janet should be studying.

It must seem like my life revolves around exams. Although, I consider these board exams as big.important.things. Why did I not go home for Thanksgiving? I was writing an exam. I found it quite ironic that they scheduled Canadians to write the American board exams on our holiday. So, instead of heading home to Canada, I was off to Florida.

Now that that is over with, with newfound time on my hands, I can finally share these chips with you. Because, they are my newest addiction. So simple to make and so tasty…..

Raw Corn Chips

Four(ish) ingredients. Only one really counts: corn. The rest are spices. That’s it. I have made raw corn chips (with chili and lime!) before, but I think the almonds but most likely the flax made them not as crispy as I wanted. I wanted uber crispy. Now we’ve got it.

The inspiration for these chips came from The Garden Kitchen, a raw resto in Houston. What I love about this place, is that it is in a hospital. Run by a cardiologist Dr Montgomery, he is offering healthy meals for his patients and beyond. We were blown away by their corn chips and asked how they were made. The server explained it was really simple: corn, cumin and Kirkland seasoning. Kirkland what? Turns out it is a no-salt seasoning blend and I hunted down a replacement from Trader Joe’s.

I have made these a few times and while messy, I prefer the leave the chips unscored and crack them haphazardously afterwards (as photographed) . Unless it is my scoring technique that needs improvement, as I found the scoring produced lumpy chips.

Also, it may seem like torture but wait it out for 48 hours.

Are you more into chips or cookies? Do you snack more when procrastinating, too? :)

Raw Corn Chips

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Raw Caramel Apple (without any apple!)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on October 17, 2013

Raw Caramel Apple (without any apple!)

I know I said I don’t like to play food guessing games with others. However, Rob is fair game. He gets it all.the.time. More along the lines of How does this taste? Sometimes, What do you think I should add to this? And then the infamous, What does this taste like? Guess what is in it!

You could probably guess just by looking at these photos, but I gave Rob smaller bits to sample. In fact, this was a two-step taste-test. Sauce alone and then after dehydrating it onto the bits.

First of all, this was a real simple recipe. Just whiz the ingredients together for the caramel sauce, stir it onto your “apple” bits and dehydrate for 12 hours.

Even before dehydrating the sauce, I thought it tasted great. Rob agreed. I asked him to guess the ingredients: cinnamon, almonds, and apple. Close: cinnamon, yes; almond butter, yes; but no apple, I informed him. That sweet taste was from dates.

Raw Caramel Apple (without any apple!)

I proceeded with the recipe, and then tried the now dehydrated sauce: oh my gosh, it tasted like sticky, wonderful caramel. Not too sweet, well balanced by the cinnamon. It had coated the “apple bits”. They were soft and sweet. Rob tried it and loved it. He still thought it reminded him of apple. Even though there was still no apple, Rob reminded me I had just created raw caramelized apple. He knew it before I did!

And that secret non-apple? Cauliflower! It really is a textural issue. Crisp yet soft (hard to explain). Sweet. With smaller pieces drenched in the sauce, you would never believe it was cauliflower. Bigger pieces had a more pronounced cauliflower flavour (and a telltale shape), but had a nice crunch.

Dehydrating is a magical thing. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. Looking at the recipe, there is a lot of water. You need it to be able to blend it smoothly, but after dehydrating it away you, the dates are more sweet and caramelized. Eating this straight from the dehydrator, still warm, was a treat. I only wish I had made more, because this did not last long at all.

Trust me, I have nothing against apple. I love apples. I eat a minimum of half dozen a week. I also love dehydrating apples into chips but usually save that when apples are ridiculously cheap in the fall.  I make a small internal sob every time I shell out more than $1/lb for apples, which is the usual in Texas. (Although I nearly flipped out when I saw Honeycrisp apples for only $1.29/lb a few weeks ago.. those are ungoldy expensive in Toronto).

Thus, the question still remains: how would this caramel sauce taste on real apples (in the dehydrator)? I don’t think they would be as crisp, but definitely more sweet. I would be afraid they would collapse more into mush, but if you try it out, please let me know! :)

PS. The winner of The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen giveaway is Gloria. Congratulations!

PPS. I noticed my typo for ungoldy. It was meant to be ungodly, but I like my new word. It fits. :)

Raw Caramel Apple (without any apple!)

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

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Kale Salad with a Raw Thousand Island Dressing

Posted in Salads by Janet M on September 14, 2013

While we planned our trip to Burning Man half a year in advance, it wasn’t until we bought our plane tickets that we decided to tack on a side trip to Portland and then roadtrip it down to the desert. Rob was worried that I wouldn’t like the extreme nature of the camping we’d have to do in the desert, so we planned for success. How could we not enjoy Portland?

Turns out that each part of the trip was better than the next. After Portland, we drove East through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping at the Hydro Dam and Multnomah Falls. The path to the top of the falls may only be 1.25 miles long, but you are basically going up and up. Kind of like Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. There was a 700ft elevation. It was a fun but tiring jaunt! If I lived in Portland, I could see this as a fun fitness bench marker (similar to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which I have yet to do). How fast can you climb the falls?

The following day, we skirted along the gorge, through the Hood River Fruit Loop and stopped to pick up local sweet peaches and huckleberries (it was my first time trying them – they are similar to a tart wild blueberry).

Our next stop was the Smith Rock State Park. Since it took us a good 3 hours to get here, it was too late to begin the Misery Ridge trail. Because of the heat and lack of shade, you should begin this early in the day. In any case, we didn’t bring our hiking boots with us, so we had already planned to do smaller hikes and watch some of the mountain climbers.

Our next destination was the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Billed as the best lava park between Iceland and Hawaii, we had fun walking around the volcanic crater and the lava field below. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were volcanoes on the continental US. We didn’t have enough time to explore the lava tubes, but we will definitely be back.

The next day, we scheduled a whole day for Crater Lake National Park. You can drive around the lake and stop off for lots of smaller hikes. We hiked up to a great lookout, again on another side, to see some hoodoos, and some waterfalls. It was nice to get a variety of vistas from each hike.

The trip through Oregon was fabulous. I highly recommend it.

But I know you are here for the food. You see, we stocked up a bit with food from Portland. I wasn’t sure what lurked in the smaller towns. Turns out we lucked out in Bend, Oregon. We found a local brew pub (Rob’s mission was to try out local brews) that served vegan eats. I changed the tempeh reuben sandwich into a salad and I was blown away. It was really good. I haven’t had enough time to recreate the entire salad (now on my bucket list) but I started with making a raw thousand island dressing.

Originating from the Thousand Islands region (hola Ontario!), thousand island dressing is probably one of the most ubiquitous North American creamy sauces, as a mayonnaise dressing spiced with tomato/ketchup but may also have bits of pickle, olives, etc.

The creaminess of my raw version of dressing is from cashews. The deep tomato flavour comes from sun-dried tomatoes. Garlic and onion add further ripples, while the vinegar brightens the dressing. The acidic dill pickle brings this up a notch. The only trick is that the cashews need to be soaked a few hours for easier blending.

For my salad, I just used up the random vegetables in my fridge. I first wilted the kale with lemon juice and then tossed in cucumber, red pepper, olives and hemp seeds. I am not sure they were the perfect combination (and not the prettiest salad, either) but the dressing was perfect. Now I know where to start with my own tempeh reuben salad. :)

In any case, this vacation has spurred my love of Oregon. I am even more excited to try to schedule in Cycle Oregon next year!

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge.

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Raw Watermelon Candy

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on September 12, 2013

Raw Watermelon Candy

Here is another ridiculously easy treat!

While I have gushed over simple dehydrated fruits and veggies before, here I am raving about dried…… wait for it…. watermelon!

I usually don’t like to play guessing games with my food. However, I had fun sharing it at work, letting people tell me what they thought. First yay or nay. I had 90% yay. Then I let them guess what they were eating. Not a single person guessed watermelon. I had a lot of votes for pepper (due to the seeds, methinks) and other fruit due to the sweetness.  Lisa described them as bubble gum which comes from the sticky sweet consistency. But once I let out the watermelon secret, you can catch a glimpse of flavour in the background. Isn’t it funny how fickle our tastebuds can be?

Raw Watermelon Candy

It is certainly the special texture of the dried watermelon that I adored. Chewy and sweet. I made version plain and also salted with and without chile flakes. With a combination of hot-salty-sweet, the salted chile flake version was my favourite. Rob concurred. Rob mused it would be eerily similar to jerky if we added liquid smoke. Not that I know what jerky tastes like, though. ;)

I just realized that not only are simple recipes easier to make, but they are also a lot easier to type up afterwards. Enjoy! :)

Raw Watermelon Candy

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

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Guava Flax Smoothie (& Houston’s cronut)

Posted in Drinks by Janet M on September 8, 2013

Guava Flax SmoothieHave you heard of cronuts? Maybe the dosant? They are both spins on the same baked hybrid: a donut-like croissant. The original cronut wooed New York City. However, they take days to make and minutes to sell out. The lines are long and the prices are high. Since then, a few knock-off dosants have peppered North America.

In Houston, they can be found at Pena’s Donut Heaven in Pearland. When Rob discovered this, we had our next cycling destination picked. Turns out, while the cronut was not that fabulous, we’ve discovered our favourite cycling route in Houston, thus far. We’ve pedalled back 3 times already, enjoying the long, flat and straight road leading out of downtown Houston. Of course, Pena’s dosant is not vegan and I oftentimes get giggles from strangers as they see me snacking on an apple while Rob munches on his donut.

When we get home, though, I have been mixing up my own fabulous tropical smoothies. We’re working through different frozen fruit pulps. After our trip to Colombia, it was hard to find tropical frozen fruit (mamey, guanabanana, lulo, etc) in Toronto, but we snagged a bunch when we spotted it at Fiesta Mart. Mamey is still my favourite, but this simple guava smoothie was very good, too. Usually we just drink it and forget it, but this one I remade and photographed because I thought it was perfect to share. Frozen guava is combined with frozen banana, almond milk and ground flax seeds. The flax bulk up the smoothie making it more creamy. You may see the small flecks of brown but you can’t taste them.

Coming home to a cold drink is definitely the way to go in Houston.  Do you have a favourite treat for hot weather?

Guava Flax SmoothieThis is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on September 5, 2013

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Our vacation was pretty awesome. And pretty overdue. While road tripping from Toronto to Houston was fun, it definitely was not a vacation. Since tickets to Burning Man can be very hard to get, we planned this trip last winter. Rob has been a few times and only had positive things to say about it (other than the insidious playa dust).  In my mind, I thought: Hey, Texas is pretty close to Nevada. We should go to Burning Man! True enough, Houston is closer to Nevada than Toronto is to Nevada, but Houston is still 2000 km from Reno. Not that close.

I plan to summarize Burning Man in next week’s posts, as I recoup and regroup this week. Suffice it to say, I thought it was hot while camping in Nevada’s desert. We boarded the plane from Reno and landed in Houston. A week away and I had already forgotten how HOT, HOT, HOT (and humid) it is in Houston. Since Rob turned off the air conditioner while we were gone, we were greeted with an empty fridge and a hot kitchen. Other than thawing some (delicious) freezer meals, I had little interest in cooking anything. Zucchini noodles to the rescue!

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles have been my go-to lunch this summer. Gabby warned me that Houston’s heat would lead me to more raw foods and she was right. My meals have become simpler. Zucchini noodles are simple enough and of course, are just a vector for the sauce. The end of summer is a prime time for juicy tomatoes, at least in Ontario. I have yet to find tasty tomatoes here in Houston, so I have resorted to cherry tomatoes, which, in general, have more flavour. A portion of the fresh tomatoes are pulsed with a red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes along with a bunch of fresh herbs (basil and oregano) and garlic. A dash of chile flakes give a bit of kick and a date balances it out with a bit of sweetness. I topped it with some hemp seeds, too. I actually used a lot more than what I photographed since I knew it wouldn’t be as photogenic. ;) I usually add the sauce and hemp seeds just before I eat the salad but I took photos of my partially packed lunch. Of course, this sauce will work equally well with your favourite spaghetti-type noodle.

What is your easy, no-cook go-to meal?

Raw Chunky Tomato Marinara Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This is my submission to this month’s Pasta Please for long noodles, hosted by Johanna, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays, and to this month’s Cooking with Herbs. (more…)

Guaca-Chi (Guacamole with Kimchi)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on August 20, 2013

Guaca-Chi (Guacamole with Kimchi)

Remember our warm avocado greeting? To be honest, comparatively, Texas does not grow very many avocados. In the US, avocadoes are mainly grown in California and Florida or imported from Mexico and Chile. True, we are much closer to all those places than when we lived in Canada.

One of Rob’s self-imposed goals this year was to perfect guacamole while we live in the land close to avocados. However, after making this, our plans have been put on hold. This is just too good. Better than guacamole and even simpler. A seemingly crazy concoction of avocado and kimchi with a bit of tang from citrus juice (we’ve used both lime and orange juice with good success). The spicy, tangy kimchi works well with the creamy avocado and sweet orange juice or tart lime juice.

Just like guacamole, it is a great dip and a flavourful topper paired with flavourful dishes like pupusas.

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful dip, but I stole it from Joe Yonan’s new cookbook Eat Your Vegetables. While it isn’t vegan, it is a vegetarian cookbook aimed to help the single cook. The recipes are geared for 1-2 people, with tips on how to use up odds and ends from cooking. Personally, I am a big fan of leftovers, but I can appreciate the value of fresh, flavourful cooking throughout the week. His recipes span super simple, such as this one, to more elaborate fare that I could not imagine cooking just for one. All look bold on flavours. I also enjoyed his laissez-faire recipes, teaching you to listen to your food on the stove, instead of the prescribed directions. He’ll direct you to saute your onions until brown instead of “for 10 minutes”.

Need other ideas for kimchi? Joe includes a recipe for homemade kimchi but also has you covered in case you get bored of guaca-chi: Sweet Potato, Kimchi and Greens Hash; Kimchi Deviled Eggs; Cold Spicy Ramen Noodles with Tofu and Kimchi and even Grilled Kimcheese. Of course, you could also try my Enoki, Broccoli and Tofu Bowl with Kimchi.

PS. A few people commented on my last kimchi post, but I wanted to highlight that yes, indeed, kimchi is usually not vegan nor vegetarian. There is usually shrimp or fish sauce in it. Making it at home is great (I should really do that again) but there are vegan versions out there.

Guaca-Chi (Guacamole with Kimchi)

This is my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona and this week’s Raw Food Thursday.

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Raw Chili Dip

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on August 15, 2013

Raw Chili Dip

Nothing like a delicious raw vegan potluck to reignite an interest in raw cuisine.

Lately my meals have been fairly simple, including my foray into raw foods. I have made more elaborate raw dishes in the past (like this nut-free raw lasagna), but currently enjoying the freedom of a simple kitchen.

This is a dish I had been meaning to try ever since Ellen recommended it to me: Matthew Kenney’s Raw Chili. I changed the ingredients slightly (no celery please! does that even go in chili?) and omitted the nuts entirely.  Cooked chilis are nice but raw chilis are great because the vegetables are fresh along with strong flavours from the spices. Some vegetables are chopped, others riced, creating a melange of textures. Because I omitted the nuts, this was a delicious veg-heavy dip instead of a meal per se. Unless you eat the whole thing in one go, which is what I ended up doing.

Yes, that was the sad part. I spent all this time and energy making a delicious dip. And then I ate it all in one go. It just seemed too time consuming….. moral of the story: make a big batch. Double or triple this if you want it for a few meals. Or if you are not particular about keeping things completely raw, add some cooked beans (or sprouted beans, if you like them).

Want another quickie no cook chili? I liked this one as well.

Raw Chili Dip

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

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Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

Posted in Favourites, Salads by Janet M on August 13, 2013

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

After so many people recommended Meetup a few weeks ago, I have really been making an effort to get out and meet new people and experience new things. I like the Houston meetups so far because they don’t fill up so fast. I often tried to sign up for Toronto meetups but they would fill up before I knew whether I could commit to the event. Houston also has quite a variety of groups. Since there are so many groups, it has become interesting to see which of my “interests” has people with which I click the most.

My blog is mostly about healthy vegan food, so I picked a raw vegan potluck as my first foray into social gathering.

The meeting was tucked at the top of Central Market, with a pretty view of the colourful aisles of groceries. However, the most beautiful produce was upstairs, in our room. The spread of delicious food was incredible. Foodie heaven! Lots and lots of salads. Some were more simple and others more elaborate. A lot of classic raw dishes, too: raw zucchini spaghetti with marinara, raw walnut tacos, guacamole and lots of delicious raw crackers.  Zucchini pesto roll-ups were unique (and very good). I honestly thought there would be more desserts, but the two that were there were incredible: raw peach cobbler and superfood nut butter cups (I recognized Sarah’s recipe).

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

I had master plans to bring Genevieve’s raw tropical jicama nachos but when I went to assemble the dish after work, my pineapple was not ripe enough and my peaches were screaming: eat me NOW!  So, at the last minute, I ended up making this salad. It passed the taste-test with flying colours, and off I ran.

As we each introduced the meal we brought, I felt a bit sheepish because I ended up picking a dressing with maple syrup, which is technically not raw. This is not a problem for me, and I think most people still tried it because there wasn’t much left by the end of the night. In any case, I thought it was delicious. I usually eat my kale salads with a citrus dressing, but the maple-miso dressing worked really well with the sweet peaches, earthy kale and crunchy hazelnuts. It would be perfect for picnics, too.

Have you ever been to Meetups in your city?

Peach & Hazelnut Kale Salad with Maple Miso Vinaigrette

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (No Bake)

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on August 10, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

I have discovered the secret to living in Houston’s summer. You need to fall into one of these two groups of people:

1. The people who wake up early before the sun rises

2. The people who stay up late after the sun sets

Rob and I have been exploring Houston by bicycle on the weekends. At 7am, we’ll cycle the deserted streets, only to find the paths at the parks literally packed with joggers and walkers. We must be thinking along the same lines: if you are going to be outdoors, best to do it before the sweltering heat arrives.

We quickly learned that Houston is wonderful after sunset. Many public events start late in the day, again to beat the heat.

The problem is trying to fit into category 1 and 2, on the same day. Suffice it to say, after a long bike ride in the morning, I was almost asleep mid-way through a Shakespeare in the Park production later that evening. The comfortable, balmy weather was a bit too conducive to napping. We didn’t even last past the intermission, HA! It was a splendid day, though.

Speaking of cycling in the Houston heat, it is very, very important to keep hydrated and fuelled. Even short runs are more demanding. This is a portable snack recipe I promised a while back. I whipped them up with the odds and ends in my mom’s kitchen before we left for our cycle to Kingston. I must have had some forethought because I remember bringing the coconut flour with me. My master plan for a chocolate date and peanut butter combo was thwarted because the dough was just too runny. But the magic of coconut flour did the trick. It is a very thirsty flour, so it sopped up the batter into portable chewy balls. The peanut butter made them rich and decadent, balanced by the sweetness of the dates and cocoa flavour.

A treat like this is perfect for fuelling during long rides. While our weekend rides are more around 50km now; in this heat, we feel like it gets a conversion factor of 1.5x for intensity.  We are still a long way from the MS 150, but we’re hoping to improve our distance as the weather improves…. you know, in October, when it is supposed to cool down.

Are you a morning person, a night person, both or neither?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

This is my submission to this month’s We Should Cocoa for truffles. (more…)