the taste space

Vegan Cheesy Chickpea Dip with Coconut Bacon

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites by Janet M on January 25, 2014

Vegan Cheddar Bacon Dip

I tried a little bit harder with this dip.

You had great suggestions for sprucing up my Mexican Black Bean Dip. It was all about the garnishes: salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and tortillas were all great ideas.

This time I topped the dip with coconut bacon. (I will tell you about the delicious dip in a moment, but first: COCONUT BACON). This was not my first encounter with coconut bacon. I have tried it in many different iterations: lovingly inside a BLT at Aux Vivres, as a snack I brought to Burning Man courtesy of Phoney Baloney, and even a slippery, thick raw coconut bacon made from fresh coconut inside The Naked Sprout‘s BLT.

While I have made raw eggplant bacon before, coconut bacon had been on my hitlist for awhile. I even captured a picture of their ingredient list when I was at Aux Vivres. Definitely one of the benefits of them selling items to go. However, instead of using their ingredient list, I ran with Julie’s recommendation to add smoked paprika to the recipes floating around the web. It worked for the raw eggplant bacon so I was quickly sold on her smoked paprika pitch. It did not disappoint and I liked it better than anything else I had tried. The fact that it made so much is great because we are going to enjoy this for awhile.

Coconut Bacon

But don’t let me distract you from this dip. A cheesy chickpea spread with smoky undertones, it was a fun salty snack I served at our tamalada. We had some delicious chips that needed a dip and this was a great choice. Everyone approved and Rob is adamant about bringing it back into our dip repertoire. I won’t stop him.. and to give him due credit, I only crafted the recipes, Rob executed them with finesse… and then I cobbled together some photographs. :)

With the Superbowl, Academy Awards and the Olympics on the horizon, this may be the dip-friendly part of the year. If you would like other delicious dips, consider these, too:

Green Velvet Guacamole (aka Guacamame or Edamame Guacamole)

Edamame Miso Dip

Raw Zucchini Hummus

Ginger Lime Wasabi Edamame Hummus

Rosemary Pistachio Hummus

Hillbilly Hummus (Black Eyed Pea and Peanut Butter Hummus)

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Coconut Bacon

This is my submission to this month’s Four Seasons Food Challenge, this month’s Cheese Please, this month’s Spice Trail for paprika, and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on December 21, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies

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?

Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies

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.

Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies
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. :)

Chocolate Zucchini Protein Brownies

PS. The winner for Soup’s On was Move Eat Create.


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Brazilian Black Bean Soup with Plantain Chips & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Sides, Soups by Janet M on December 10, 2013

Brazilian Black Bean Soup with Plantain Chips

Thanksgiving is over. December is here.

It is all about the holidays now, no?

Well, you know me, I kind of beat to the tune of my own drum. My forthcoming recipes may not necessarily be holiday-driven, but they will definitely be highly recommended. For yourself and others. And if that is not holiday-themed, I do not know what is.

This is a black bean soup I shared with my parents while they were in town. I had some lofty meals planned, but ended up working late and being on call, so things did not work as originally scheduled. I turned to this soup from The 30 Minute Vegan’s latest cookbook: Soup’s On!  This is my favourite book of his so far, possibly because I love soups.

Mark’s latest book proves that complex soups do not need to take hours over the stove. With tricks like foregoing a slow saute for onions and prepping your vegetables as you cook your soup, a proficient cook should be able to make most of these soups quickly. Separated into chapters for basic broths, vegetable-dominant soups, heartier soups with whole grains, legumes and pasta, creamy blended soups, raw soups and desserts soups (plus garnishes and sides), this a comprehensive vegan soup compendium.  His recipes highlight whole foods: vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and flavourful herbs. In addition to being entirely vegan, this cookbook caters to many special requests: no/low-oil, gluten-free (almost all), and mostly soy-free, too, and every recipe has variations to help you craft your best brew.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup with Plantain Chips

This black bean soup was no exception: lots of colourful vegetables superimposed on top of jet black black beans (Rancho Gordo’s Negro de Arbol beans). Bell pepper, carrots and corn with a dash of orange juice, cloves and liquid smoke for a Brazilian flare. The original soup was no-oil, but I opted for the oil-sautéed onion variation. I made the soup first and waited until dinnertime to make the plantain chips. The nuances of the maple-orange-cinnamon marinade for the baked plantain chips may have been lost on us, though. They also took twice as long to bake, but after Hannah’s recent gush of love for oven-baked plantain chips, I figured they may take longer.

With the plantain chips (unpictured), this would have been a stretch for a 30-minute meal, but it was quick. And the soup was delicious. Mark said it would serve 6-8, but the four of us devoured it in one sitting. (Sadly no leftovers for me). I was actually impressed that my Dad thought I had served this to him before. I assured him that this was a new recipe but two years ago, yes, I shared a (different) Brazilian soup with him. It was more stew-like with sweet potato and kale amidst the vegetable choice. I think I liked this one more. RG’s black beans were a hit: a bit smaller than your typical black bean while keeping their shape nicely.

I have been easily cooking my way through this delicious cookbook and can also recommend the Jamaican Jerk Plantain Soup, Holy Moley Soup, Himalayan Dal with Curried Chickpeas, Fire-Roasted Tomato and Rice Soup with Spinach, and Polish Vegan Sausage and Sauerkraut Stew. There are plenty more I will be trying out later.

I really want to share this cookbook with you and 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 recipe by The 30 Minute Vegan. If you haven’t made anything by Mark yet, have a look through the table of contents of The 30 Minute Vegan Soup’s On! on amazon (or my list above or below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 20, 2013. Good luck!

PS. Other recipes from Soup’s On:

Spicy Kale Soup with Pepitas

Caribbean Red Bean and Rice Soup

Mideast Chickpea Soup

African Peanut Soup

PPS. Other recipes I have shared by Mark Reinfeld:

Orange Beet Soup

Vegan Ponzu Sauce

Thai Coconut Vegetables (Yum Tavoy)

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Vegan Som Tam)

PPPS. There is still time to enter my giveaway for 365 Vegan Smoothies here.

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to My Legume Love Affair. (more…)

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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Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls (& The Elephant in the Living Room)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on September 24, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

Now that I think about it, I know more vegans in Houston than I did in Toronto.

In Toronto, I never tried to connect with the vegan community. However, in Houston, this is where I am searching for like-minded souls.

In addition to the raw vegan meet-up potluck, I have connected with others at the Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E. (VSOP)’s monthly potluck. While not all vegan (some vegetarians and veg-curious also come), a large crowd gathers each month to share tasty vegan eats and learn a bit more about other vegan issues. Lately, it has been about travelling as a vegan in Asia but they have been highlighting more issues surrounding animals. At the last meeting, an upcoming viewing of the documentary The Elephant in the Living Room was promoted. Turns out it was on Netflix, so Rob and I watched it later that week.

The Elephant in the Living Room is a quite powerful, yet humble documentary about exotic animals as pets. Did you know that there are more tigers in Texas than there are in the in wild worldwide? What do you do when you no longer want your python? The climax of the film surrounds the connection between an Ohio resident, Terry, with 2 lions and 4 cubs, housed in his backyard.  It was a good movie and I recommend it. Another great documentary related to animals is The Cove, which won an Academy Award in 2010. That is a in a league of its own, though. That was a thrilling documentary!

In any case, chronically my life through the foods that surround these events, I present to you these quick and easy peanut butter and jam energy balls. Flavourful peanuts are key for this recipe, which is why I highly recommend using roasted peanuts. I didn’t want to be wrist-slapped if I brought them to a raw vegan potluck, so I shared it with this vegan potluck instead.

With such a simple ingredient list, you might not think too much about them. However, there was a nice balance of chunky peanuts and jam-like sweet raisins. The extra peanut butter kept the balls together nicely. Add salt to taste, but I guarantee you it needs some to make the flavours pop.

When Rob taste-tested them, he thought they were better than my typical date balls I bring cycling. At first, I felt bad for my date balls, but then took it as a compliment that these were just really good. :)

There is only one problem with the potlucks. Sometimes it seems like a tease to try so many great dishes, but not get a corresponding recipe. Thankfully, I connected with someone who shared the recipe for her fudgy black bean brownies. I look forward to following her blog and connecting more, because her MoFo theme is eating out as a vegan in Houston. I am impressed she can support a month’s worth of posts!!  It may not be so bad as a vegan in Houston after all. :)

Have you seen The Elephant in the Living Room or The Cove? Any other documentaries you recommend?

Peanut Butter and Jam Energy Balls

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes. (more…)

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…)

Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas

Posted in Appetizers, Sides by Janet M on July 13, 2013

Bring on the snacks!

Preparing for our road trip meant making a bunch of travel-friendly snacks. Preferably something with a bit of sustenance, too, in case we ran behind schedule.

One of my favourite snacks these days is dry roasted soybeans. Crunchy and satisfying. High protein, to boot.

I don’t know how it is made, because frozen edamame doesn’t look anything like what I buy pre-roasted. Instead of experimenting with homemade roasted edamame, I roasted chickpeas.

While I adore most things with chickpeas, roasted chickpeas have been hit or miss with me. It may have something to do with roasting the spices directly on the chickpeas, since I have also had troubles with baked spiced sweet potatoe fries. Leave the spices in the oven a bit too long and they may burn. Lately, I’ve taken to adding the spices just as they come out of the oven, like with these chickpeas and cauliflower spiced with dukkah.

But how about something easier to tote.. less messy.. something in classic snack flavours…. and here I bring to you roasted salt and vinegar chickpeas!

Infuse your chickpeas with vinegar by boiling them slightly, toss with a bit of salt, then roast them. Easy, peasy, for a delicious high-protein snack. I preferred these shortly after roasting as they maintained their crispiness. They lost a bit of their glorious luster as leftover snacks but were still very good.

Here are some other flavours you may want to try:

Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas (with Strawberries on a salad)

Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas from Diet, Dessert & Dogs

Roasted Taco Chickpeas from Eat Me, Delicious

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas with Moroccan Spices from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas from Bitchin’ Camero

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Aparna, and to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Raw Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Sides by Janet M on July 11, 2013

Raw Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

Of my blog readers, only a handful are from my family. Rob and my Mom are my biggest readers.

So, when I say something here, I am held accountable.

Raw Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

When we planned our move to Houston, I said we were going to try a minimalist lifestyle. I was going to leave my dehydrator behind. But then, I kept making more and more things in my dehydrator. I had forgotten how lovely it was to make things in the dehydrator.

I also forgot that I wasn’t going to let life pass me by, either. We are planning to camp in the desert (via Burning Man), continue the long distance cycling (via the MS 150, Houston to Austin) and hopefully squeeze in weekend trips (sadly, my vacation days have dwindled down to nothing). It is times like these that portable snacks work their magic.

Raw Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

So, as we packed, I kept reconsidering whether or not to bring my dehydrator. To be fair, it is a space hog, but it is light. It is mostly filled with air!

Rob was not pleased, though. You said on your blog, you weren’t going to bring it.. I have changed my mind! I kept saying things like, “If I had to choose between x and the dehydrator, I choose the dehydrator.” Example: “If I had to choose between pictures for the wall and my dehydrator, I’d pick the dehydrator… and I bet we could fit the pictures inside the dehydrator, too! HA!”

Eventually, Rob had heard enough. After I made these kale chips, he definitely reconsidered his position. Thankfully, I did a mass kale harvest prior to our move. These were one of our favourite kale chip flavours. I thought they tasted like Sour Cream and Onion, with a touch of cheese, if you include the nutritional yeast. One of our friends agreed they were delicious but tasted more of the scallion undertone. Either way, it made a believer out of me for the power of kale chips. Hourrah!

The question will be whether I can keep up with the kale chip demand, though. We can plow through them so quickly!

Kale chips, here and elsewhere:

Kale Granola (Almond Coconut Kale Chips)

Maple Sesame Kale Chips from My New Roots (one of my favourites)

Chocolate Kale Chips from Cupcakes and Kale (Rob likes these more than me; I actually don’t like them)

Sweet and Zesty Kale Chips from Season 2 Season Eating

Sweet Onion Kale Chips from Flora Foodie

Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips from Branny Boils Over

Dill Pickle Kale Chips at Sondi Bruner

Spicy Curry Kale Chips from Choosing Raw

Banana Walnut Kale Chips from Choosing Raw

Raw Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

This is my submission to this month‘s Herbs on Saturday and to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays. (more…)

Japanese Umeboshi Rice Balls (Onigiri) with Vegan Ponzu Sauce

Posted in Sides by Janet M on June 15, 2013


I thought life would be less busy after my exam.

Instead, I was immersed back into work and fun at a break-neck pace.

It wasn’t entirely conscious, but I definitely kept myself well distracted as I waited for my results.

I had to ramp up for that big bike ride. (And I so want to give that bike ride a post it deserves)

We saw friends we hadn’t seen since I went into exam hibernation. Rob and I had dates that included musicals and concerts.

On the errands that are still fun, Rob and I mapped out our road trip; booking our accommodations and figuring out which cities have Trader Joe’s (HA!).

The list of things to do for our move never ceases. Book movers and pods, obtain visas, social security numbers. Get a US dollar bank account, flip cash into American funds, change addresses, suspend gym memberships. Make sure we both have benefits. Become officially common-law. Get everything ready to import our car.

Oh, and pack.

Nothing that is too difficult on its own, simply time consuming.

Death by a thousand paper cuts, as Rob puts it.

I haven’t been cooking too much, either. Pulling out freezer meals and eating out a bit more. Cooking up simple grains and tossing with a random assortment of veggies. Discovering fun sauces in the fridge.

This was a fun snack/side I made with some leftover rice. Basically it is a ball of sushi rice, seasoned with rice vinegar and filled with a touch of umeboshi paste, a Japanese spread from pickled plums. I squished the rice into a hard ball with the help of plastic wrap and kept it wrapped until I ate them for lunch. For your viewing pleasure, I played around with strips of nori to make fun faces, although the rest of my balls used wider strips of nori more practically, to keep my hands clean. Use a simple soy dipping sauce, or go all out with a homemade ponzu sauce which has citrus notes to the salty base.

Happy faces, all around, I must say.

I can now add 5 more letters to the end of my name: FRCPC.
(Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians of Canada)

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Spicy Mango Wrappers (or Raw Spicy Mango Chips!)

Posted in Sides by Janet M on May 5, 2013

Spicy Mango Wraps

Wrappers. Not to be confused with Spicy Mango Wraps.

Because the mango is part of the wrap. In the wrapper.

Rob left for Kitchener yesterday and left me alone to study. I was so close to joining them. The reduced distance was a draw, but the kicker: I am sick. I have been down with an ear infection and upper respiratory tract infection all week. No fun… and not a good way to recover. Studying has never been more focused.

Of course, what is more fun than studying? Cycling, I know. I didn’t do that. I went to my regular Pump, though. No Shred. (PS, I love it when instructors in the audience fill in for no-show subs). First gym visit, actually, for over a week. When I returned home, I looked at the case of mangoes (not the Alphonsos, those were eaten; the case of Ataulfos Rob bought afterwards), glanced at my dehydrator and then outside and had dreams of an ice cream summer. It was then that I decided to forge ahead with valiant plans to make mango cones.

Spicy Mango Wraps

Mango cones are hard to make, though. Folding them to be all cone-like? Um, yeah, didn’t happen. No patience for that right now. So I dehydrated large sheets of a mango-coconut-flax wrap spiced with chili pepper and basil (optional, not necessary). Cut them into circles. Ate all the scraps as chips.

Now all I need is some ice cream… Rob has been encouraging of my ice cream needs to help my sore throat. My Mom advocated for honey-lemon tea. I tried lemon tea (sans honey) and it didn’t work. But ice cream, YES!

I digressed… We did a tour of the nearby grocers recently. Vegan ice cream cannot be found at my ethnic grocer (I knew that), Walmart, Freshco, nor Metro. The Sweet Potato and Fiesta Farms are our sure-fire bets but I know the Mega Loblaws downtown has it too… not sure about regular non-Mega Loblaws. It probably would be considered a frill at No Frills. Who knew vegan ice cream would be so hard to find? Because shouldn’t everyone be eating vegan ice cream with a sore throat and tummy? Dairy is a no-no with a troubled tummy. I should probably learn how to make it, instead (something a bit more beyond my banana soft-serve). ;)

Spicy Mango Wraps

This is my submission and to this month’s Simple and in Season and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Spiced Acai Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M 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…)

Nut-Free Puffed Quinoa Treats

Posted in Desserts by Janet M on April 9, 2013

Nut-Free Puffed Quinoa Treats

I mentioned this in passing… I wasn’t going to share this… not because it tasted bad (it tasted great) but who wants to admit defeat? So here I am showing you that we all have our kitchen failures. You know those articles: “37 People Who Are Worse at Cooking Than You?“, “Pinterest Food Fails“, “20 Hilarious Pinterest Fails“. They even have websites dedicated to pinterest fails! Well, that includes me, too. ;)

I am not even a Pinterest Fail one-hit wonder. I generally don’t photograph my fails. Like these black bean brownie pancakes (minimal subs, I swear), mint chocolate chip protein cookies (no subs, I blame it partially on not liking Sunwarrior’s vanilla and maybe my coconut flour) or these buckeyes (I made a few subs for this one, so I will try again, methinks). But this one was still tasty, so I photographed my flop.

I wasn’t even trying to go fancy. A craving for peanut butter rice krispie treats had me perusing blogs for the perfect way to use some puffed quinoa. I eventually picked Angela’s Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats. I settled on half a recipe because I didn’t want to make too much, but still made some a lot of changes. I used a bit less puffed quinoa because I figured there would be a higher surface area, and also decreased the sweetener (swapping in agave for her brown rice syrup), switched coconut oil for the Earth balance, ditched flax for chia, and swapped pumpkin seed butter for the almond butter (I like that pumpkin seed butter has less calories, more iron, similar or more protein than other nut butters but has a taste reminiscent of peanut butter). This seemed like a simple, malleable dessert, so I ran with it.

Nut-Free Puffed Quinoa Treats

After a minute on the stovetop on medium heat, my wet ingredients suddenly seized, changing from a melty pourable liquid into a harder taffy-like spread. Oops, I think my heat was too high? I trudged onwards, stirring in the chia even though it looked pretty sturdy and then tried to mix in the puffed quinoa. I had to mix it with my hands: I could see this going nowhere fast with a spoon. Instead of pulling out parchment paper or more oil, I figured I could freeform the bars on my silpat. I still don’t think it was that bad of an idea, although lots of untrapped quinoa puffs rolled over my counter. :( I even flipped the silpat in half to smooch it together from both sides. In retrospect rolling them into balls might have been better.

In the end, my bars, or crumbles, don’t look anything like picture-perfect Angela’s. But they were still delicious, with hints of vanilla and cinnamon within a peanut taffy studded with puffed quinoa treat. Not crispy, more chewy. In retrospect, that was how I liked rice krispie treats back in the day: less rice, more mallow, please. If only they were a bit more portable-friendly for my upcoming cycling jaunts.

Nut-Free Puffed Quinoa Treats

PS, Can anyone spot a fatal flaw in my approach? Did the heat seize the pumpkin seed butter mixture?

PPS, Comparing this to my previous Peanutty Energy Bars, this version has a better carbs:protein ratio (3:1) and 1/4 recipe has 157 calories, 15g carbs, 6g protein and 9g fat (and 31% of my iron!). I was going to add protein powder like in Ange’s energy bar, but abandoned the idea after it seized. :( I also might toy with the idea of adding pumpkin puree, date puree or chocolate next time, too. Or maybe I should stick to my easy raw treats?

This is my submission to this month’s Eat Make Grow for failures in the kitchen and to Healthy Me, Healthy Us.

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Kale Granola (or Raw Coconut Almond Kale Chips)

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts by Janet M on December 13, 2012

I was planning on sharing a different recipe with you today.

I had the theme of my post all figured out in my head.

I went to go find my photos… and looked, and looked and looked… I looked again.

They were nowhere to be found.

Completely scandalous in the land of food blogging, where recipes rarely get repeated and I only do one photoshoot. I really have no idea how I lost them. :(

However, while I was searching for my photos, I unearthed this gem of a recipe. Rather, I rediscovered photos that I had neglected. I obviously need a better photo tracking system.

Clearly made before my sweetener-free challenge, this packs a serious punch. Satisfies a snack attack. Or maybe not, since it is so addictive.

Kale granola.

Or kale chips with the works.

Crispy dehydrated kale is coated in a caramel lemon-cinnamon dressing and tossed with coconut, dried cherries, almonds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for some glorious snacking.

That other recipe? Well, it was also for a crispy snack, sweetener-free, of course. I will just have to make it again and not loose the photos.

Funny how with this blogging blooper, I inadvertently turned more blogger, with a recipe for kale chips. HA!

Have you ever lost your photos before? I once had to recover engagement photos of my brother and at-the-time fiancee. Gosh, that was stressful. But now, I have no clue where the photos could even be recovered… and NO, I did not dream that I took the photos. I had witnesses while making the recipe, too. I know I did! :)

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, and to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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Chocolate Mint Mesquite Protein Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

Posted in Breakfasts, Desserts, Favourites by Janet M on December 11, 2012

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

Oprah did a 21-day vegan challenge a few years ago. I remember her gushing over her improved pooping.  If there is one thing I am not lacking from my foods, it is fiber. Mostly due to my love of beans. One serving of Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini gives you 16g of fiber, or 65% of your suggested daily fiber intake. Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala): 18g of fiber or 72% of your suggested daily intake. This definitely helps to keep things moving.

Trust me, I don’t need help any help in the pooping department, but recently bought psyllium husks after Gabby gushed over a banana-less chocolate smoothie. I found the smoothie a bit gritty from the psyllium (I doubled the psyllium, though, and used psyllium husks instead of psyllium powder) but even worse, my belly became bloated nearly instantaneously. And boy, was I gaseous. With stinky farts. Super stinky. Poor Rob.

Psyllium helps relieve constipation and diarrhea, regulating bowel movements with its high soluble fiber content. It is the main ingredient in All-Bran Buds and Metamucil. During medical school, a surgeon touted its value and I began adding All-Bran Buds to my morning yogurt. However, as the husk itself, a little goes a long way. I used 1 tablespoon the first time, which is a pretty big amount. Nearly entirely fiber. Only 17 calories, with 5g of carbs including 4.5g of fiber. Way more potent than beans.(Metamucil only recommends 1 tsp at a time).

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

I thought I was doomed to another long-time pantry lurker, but then discovered an interesting chocolate cake. Hemp protein powder + psyllium + cocoa + mesquite + mint sounded like a winning combo.. actually, it sounded down-right odd. No grains? How would this turn into a cake? Especially after only microwaving it for a minute? My curiosity got the better of me and I was completely smitten. It may look like poop but it was a magic cake. Perfect as a dessert or a filling breakfast. It is a chewy cake but a chocolate cake nonetheless. I’ve made it with cocoa and carob. I have substituted maca for the mesquite, although I had to add more water. I’ve gone mesquite-less with more hemp and carob. I’ve mistakenly forgotten the mint. Since I am on the sweetener-free challenge I didn’t add any sweeteners but I encourage something sweeter for those who haven’t deprived your sweet tastebuds for a month (um, like Rob!).

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

But be careful, psyllium is incredibly filling. Drink a huge glass of water/tea with it. Work yourself up to a full cake and don’t eat them every day. Eventually the bloating will subside and the smelly farts become less.

However, because it is so filling, this is a terribly satisfying snack. Top it with some melted coconut oil or coconut butter. Want something even more decadent? Omit the mint and top it with my chocolate peanut butter frosting or cashew date frosting! Or make this avocado buttercream frosting and tell me how it was. ;)

Looking for more psyllium recipes? Check out Dr. John Howard‘s (a pediatric gastroenterologist in London) collection of kid-friendly recipes using psyllium. If you have or know of children with constipation, I also encourage you to read through his kid’s book: All Aboard The Poop Train. All aboard, toot toot!

Now I plan to experiment with using pumpkin in a similar microwave cake. Wish me luck! Have you ever used psyllium or made a protein cake?

Chocolate Mint Mesquite Individual Cakes (and All Aboard the Poop Train)

This is my submission this month’s Tea Time Treats for chocolate. (more…)

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

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by Janet M 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.

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