This is just a quick post to tell you about my latest infatuation.
(Unlike the Mediterranean Beans which I ate a month ago)
That ice cream craving was this week, though.
And while this is no ice cream, it is a deliciously creamy banana-less smoothie. And so cold, it gave me ice cream head aches.
Slow down, Janet…
Yes, this is the perfect drink to slow down with.. on a sunny summery day (thank you beautiful weather, Toronto).
Bananas are a common fixture in my smoothies, but Rob has stopped buying bananas, focusing on our freezer fruits. Vegetables are commonly added to sauce to make them smooth (cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato and roasted tomatoes come to mind), and I have even added carrots to smoothies before (for a strawberry-mango-carrot delight). But this time, I wanted to try cucumbers. They worked well in my Cucumber Beet Ginger juice, so I figured out if someone had done something similar.
Now it didn’t seem so scary to pair cucumbers with strawberries. I’ve tried it with the seeds and without, and personally I just can’t be bothered to remove the seeds. To be honest, you cannot really taste the cucumber per se but it gives a fresh feel to the smoothie. I’ve made it with and without the vanilla and both are good. And the lemon juice? Definitely better with it.
Weird, but it works.
Definitely a comforting, guiltless drink for the summer. Thank goodness cucumbers are on sale this week. If you pick some up and make this, please let me know what you think… or if you have any other ways to enjoy cucumbers drinks. I was wondering whether they would freeze well for smoothies but ate through all my cucumbers before I could figure it out.
Joy says hers feeds two. It serves one Janet. And I’ve drunk my way through 2 cucumbers, if that tells you anything.
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:
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.
Have you tried acai berries yet? Any favourite recipes? (more…)
Everyone must have mango on their minds right now.
I definitely have a lot of recipes for mango and people have been bumping into some of my old mango treats lately: Raw Tropical Mango Pie, Thai Tempeh Lettuce Wraps with Mango Ginger Sauce, and Mango Shrikhand. If you have scurried to purchase dried mango for the Raw Tropical Pie, place some aside for these delicious bars.
Even before I got my own dehydrator, I knew not all dried fruit were equal.
Now with my dehydrator, I also know it isn’t always easy to dehydrate fruit.
Apple chips are super easy. I just slice and dehydrate at 135F overnight, around 8 hours. I prefer thin slices to get a crisp chip. Thicker slices are nice when you want something to chew on. I’ve added cinnamon, cardamom and pumpkin pie spices but still prefer the plain variety.
I experimented with homemade unsweetened and maple syrup-sweetened dried cranberries, but my efforts didn’t work out so well. I tried to split the skins by blanching them, but that worked only sporadically and thus, I ended up slicing each cranberry individually. Even then, I must have over dehydrated them because they were very dry… oops!
Dehydrated pineapple has such a concentrated flavour, packed with sugar, that it almost seemed like I was eating a chew candy.
And there are some fruits that never make it to the dehydrator, like mangoes. Why dehydrate them when you can eat them fresh?
Just as we have become picky about which fresh mangoes we prefer (Honey, Alphonso and Ataulfo), not all dried mangoes are created equal.
The best dried mangoes we’ve come across are the Philippine brand dried mangoes. They occasionally go on sale at Loblaws, T&T and can also be found at Costco. They are sweet and juicy. The dried mangoes at Better Bulk (as much as I love the store) and Bulk Barn are a shame next to them, as are the packs from Sunny’s. Sadly, the Philippine brand ain’t cheap.
With all that being said, if you find yourself with any dried mangoes at all, make these bars.
They are the best granola bar I have tried and eerily taste so good I could sell them. I am so glad that Lisa decided to share her recipe for Holy Delicious Mango Bars! I had been pining the recipe even before I had my dehydrator, actually. I’ve made granola bars before, but those had refined sugars and butter. I’ve also made oodles of raw energy treats, but they were usually more date-heavy.
I knew Rob would love them, but had to figure out when to make them to keep them as a surprise for him. I won’t give away my secret… A humming dehydrator is hard to conceal. But oh so totally worth it.. and trust me, these are so much better than those silly packaged bars. Do they even come in mango flavours, eh? Or the flavour of love? hahaha! ;)
These are incredibly flavourful, packed to the brim with goodies like nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and raisins and dates for sweetness. Oh, and dried mango, too. Dehydrating brings everything together, with a firm feeling. If you don’t have a dehydrator, try your hand at freezing it instead.
These are part of my recent crack obsession but they were very satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.
As I said, I should listen to myself more often. I am full of great wisdom.
Another piece of Janet tried-and-true advice: follow the recipe! I know I adapt many recipes to what I have on hand, but some recipes are best left untouched. Case in point: traditional hummus. I already have a recipe I love (LOVE!) and see no need to experiment. Winging it ends up with a subpar hummus.
For some reason, I also find juices and smoothies to be a bit finicky. Sure, I can wing random smoothies and juices, but sometimes the proportions are off, some flavours aren’t properly balanced and gosh, I know it can taste better.
Hence why I am sharing this recipe. It turned out great. When I winged this with raspberries, flax and protein powder, it was ok but not fabulous. Raspberries are more tart than strawberries and while I used flax seeds as my milk substitute, almonds and hemp seeds create a more lusciously, creamy drink. I still tinkered with the original recipe but not by much. Next time, I will add some protein powder, which can easily be hidden inside a smoothie.
I have eaten at Gorilla Foods a few times when visiting Vancouver and this shake is definitely one of my favourites. I found most of their dishes to be a bit lackluster although I thoroughly enjoyed their Main St. Monkey Sandwich: a raw squash-curry bread filled with olive tapenade, creamy mashed avocado, zucchini hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts. I thought there was raisin chutney, too, but I could be mistaken. In any case, it was a delicious sandwich to try if you are in their neighbourhood.
I often try to recreate resto meals. Inspired by Gorilla Foods, I’ve made a (non-raw) kabocha squash curried flatbread, but filled it with eggplant bacon as a BLT. Their raisin chutney has been on my hit-list, though. Although their guacamole recipe is in Thrive Foods, it wasn’t until they released their cookbook, that nearly their entire menu was available to be made at home.
We’re all out of raisins, though, so I started by making this smoothie. And as I already said, I wasn’t disappointed. Sweet creamy strawberries with a hint of malty maca and vanilla.
How do you usually make your smoothies? Wing it or measure it?
Other smoothies/drinks here and elsewhere:
Peachy Keen Vanilla Smoothie
Chocolate Maca Raspberry Smoothie
Raw Chocolate Milkshake at My New Roots (very, very good!)
Mojito Smoothie at My New Roots (different but good)
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.
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.
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?
Today is a sad day.
I retired my food processor.
It was older than me, Cuisinart Robot Coupe circa 1970s. A hand-me-down from my parents, to my brother and finally to me. You see, I had to wait for my brother to get married and receive a fancy brand new one. My kitchen changed completely once I finally grabbed hold of it, though. Homemade energy bars galore. Turned out I was the one laughing (until now), since this old processor was the best. It was a work-horse. Easy to clean. Loved more than the newer models. I learned a lot with it, such as:
1. Chop your bananas before you freeze them.
That was how I broke off both clips on the side of the bowl. Huge chunks of frozen bananas jumped around the bowl and snapped it off, literally.
Have no fear, that was nothing I couldn’t solve by holding it in place myself.
2. Do not overflow your food processor with fluids.
This was courtesy of Rob’s lesson. The overflowing liquid can make its way inside your food processor and get it to stop working.
Thank goodness my Dad knows how to open up a food processor and clean up the insides.
3. Cook your chickpeas.
This is another lesson from Rob. Processing soaked chickpeas (but not yet cooked chickpeas) broke his food processor (he only had it for a week) but this beast plowed through it.
4. Don’t give away extra bowls for your circa 1970s food processor.
Lesson courtesy of my Mom. Right before I had my first crack in my bowl, my Mom told me she had just given away/thrown out the extra food processor bowl she had been holding onto for the last 4 decades. ;)
5. Crazy glue only works temporarily.
The final straw for my food processor was when the little tip broke off. My Dad crazy glued it back in place, at my insistence. He was worried the whole thing would be glued shut. I proved him wrong. It still stuck together and moved! The problem, though: it snapped off again (while making The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce).
While I can manually stick that teeny piece back in its place, instead I decided to retire my food processor. *sigh* It is for my own safety.
I still remember the first time I tried the amazing 1-ingredient banana ice cream. Gena titled her post: “Banana Soft Serve: This Post Will Change Your Life”. And it was miraculous. However, without a food processor, it cannot be done. Something about the air whipping/melting the banana into a creamy soft pudding. As much as I love my Vitamix, blenders can’t do it. Creamy smooth smoothies, yes, but simple ice cream? No.
Super simple, I rarely make it more complicated than a frozen banana. I have paired it with raw banana maca pancakes and stewed vanilla-scented peaches and blueberries. For a chocolatey treat, adding chocolate protein powder is a great recovery snack.
For its ultimate farewell, I teamed the banana soft-serve with another oldie-but goodie: overnight oats with chia seeds. I’ve shared versions with chocolate & cherries, avocado and gingerbread pumpkin, but this one was a classic vanilla-cinnamon combination.
Combined together, it is a glorious breakfast. And if it wasn’t so much of a fuss to clean the food processor, I’d gladly eat this every day.
I feel kind of bad since it is the bowl that needs replacing and not the motor unit. Sadly, Cuisinart does not sell replacement bowls any longer. I think my Mom tracked down a seller in San Francisco. The commute might kill the value.
What do you think? Time to give it the farewell party? How old is your food processor?
If coconut doesn’t bring you out of a winter rut, how about mango? Mango cupcakes with a mango coconut oil buttercream frosting, anyone?
February is a busy month for me and Rob.
Valentine’s Day, followed by Rob’s birthday and also our anniversary. We tend to go all out for Rob’s birthday, but this year, we kept it simple by meeting with friends at Rob’s favourite resto in our neighbourhood. No jackfruit “pulled pork” wraps or pineapple and cucumber guacamole this year. While The Beet has possibly my favourite desserts in the city (the best raw cheesecakes), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make Rob a birthday treat.
The trick? Keeping it a surprise.
At least I knew Rob wouldn’t be privy to my dessert brainstorm on Pinterest. (ChefTap totally wins in that regard). One benefit of his birthday being after Valentine’s Day is that I could peruse all the lovely Valentine’s Day-inspired treats. Raw chocolate cheesecake with zucchini? If I was going to take over a resto, I figured it would be easier to eat something with our hands and plus, I had no zucchini. Raw coconut cardamom cheesecakes? They could melt before we made it to dessert at the resto. Raw chocolate tartelettes with chocolate ganache? No tartelette containers here.. Mango Cupcakes with a Coconut Chocolate Ganache? No chocolate nor full-fat coconut milk here. Chloe’s winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes? I really think I was onto something with the mango and this calls for full-fat coconut milk, too…. Mango Cupcakes with a Mango Buttercream Frosting? We have a winner… with just a few (minor) substitutions. :)
I made the cupcakes the night before, as Rob was out late for a work gathering. I had an hour before he came home so I whipped together the cupcakes. No baking expert at all, I called my mom to ask how long I had to let the cupcakes cool before I could frost them. At least half an hour, she told me. How long have they been out of the oven? Uh, I still have 15 minutes left in the oven and he’s due back in 45 minutes. She laughed. No frosting tonight. I hid the cupcakes.. and ran the dishwasher with all the dirty dishes.
As I went to bed, I determined the perfect time to make the frosting: the next morning while Rob went to the gym. For some reason, Rob picks his gym day the same day as my rest day. Thursdays. However, this Thursday he decided NOT to go to the gym. GAH!! So, I rushed off to work early so I could leave earlier, too. To frost my cupcakes before dinner. ;)
So that’s my rambly preamble…. but I should not be keeping you in suspense because these cupcakes were winners. We shunned the desserts at the resto in lieu of cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes. Mango cupcakes with a mango buttercream frosting. Booyah! Vegan cupcakes, of course. Whole wheat, no problem (actually you wouldn’t know it, unlike my chocolate avocado cake).
Mango cupcakes sound revolutionary but it isn’t unusual to substitute apple or banana into baked goods. Here, I used mango puree. You could blend your own, or pick up a can of puree of Alphonso mangoes (the sweetest King of Mangoes) to make them moist and sweet. The cupcake base is also spiced with cardamom for an Indian twist. For the frosting, I will admit that I cracked and bought some icing sugar (everything else was from our pantry, including the mango puree). I contemplated making my own icing sugar from coconut sugar but decided against it at the last moment. My substitutions were mainly by using coconut oil. Because if there is one thing that I have a lot of (after beans and kelp noodles), it is coconut oil. Making coconut oil frosting is no new feat, but this was heightened by adding mango puree to it. The solid nature of coconut oil means that you don’t need to add as much icing sugar to achieve a stiff consistency. It was also super easy to pipe. Way easier than when my Mom and I made the royal icing for my bathbomb cupcakes.
A few notes about the recipe: my cupcakes were flat-topped. Nothing the frosting couldn’t
fixhide, but I am not sure if that was because I used coconut oil in the batter. Or the spelt? Or the bit of whole wheat pastry flour I finished off? Or the supplemental brown sugar I needed to top off the sugar? (Yes, it was a great pantry emptying cupcake). Who knows but I think it could be the coconut oil. Just thought I’d let you know. Not that anyone noticed. They were definitely a resounding success. I heard them say Best. Cupcakes. Ever. (Thanks, Matt). The magic ingredient wasn’t mango, it was love. :)
I have been blogging for over 3 years (and cooking for myself for the past decade), so you’d think I’d have figured everything out in the kitchen by now, right?
You’d think I’d have figured out what I like to eat or not…
OK, I know what I like but I love trying new things. It is harder to pinpoint what I don’t like. (Other than celery).
With my never ending stash of pumpkin puree, I whipped up a quick and simple pumpkin pie pudding. It didn’t woo me.
While I grew up with turkey at Thanksgiving, we rarely had stuffing (no one likes it), sometimes had cranberry sauce (not sure who likes it) and we never had pumpkin pie (who knows why). I don’t know if I have ever had it except as a raw cheesecake from Naked Sprout (which doesn’t really count as traditional pumpkin pie).
I figured a sweet pumpkin pie pudding with pumpkin, maple and pumpkin pie spice would be great. It was missing something, though. I didn’t know what. I added some blackstrap molasses to make this more gingerbread-like. I definitely preferred the sharp bite from the molasses. But as I licked my way through my dessert, I wasn’t particularly smitten with its pudding nature. I don’t really like pureed soups either. I like soups with body and bulk. So I stirred it into my morning oats with the natural Sun Warrior blend and I had a happy protein-rich breakfast for the week. Creamy with some body from the steel-cut oats. Re-purposed dessert for breakfast, yum. :)
I also thought it would be fun to share my trusty travelling spork. A spoon, a fork and a knife, all in one. This one is orange, to boot. :)
Not only am a I bad vegan who missed World Vegan Day, I am also a bad blogger.
October slipped by without me realizing I had an anniversary. October marked my fourth year as a blogger.
I can’t believe it has been 3 years since I posted a Wild Rice and Wheat Berry Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Almonds in a Citrus Dressing.
One can see why it was easy for me to switch to a whole foods vegan diet with an inaugural salad such as that. Just swap the honey for your preferred sweetener, or omit it entirely, and it would be a recipe I could see myself munching on today.
I am going to joke a bit about Hurricane Sandy, but truly, my heart goes out to everyone who was affected. Toronto wasn’t hit nearly as bad. There was at least one fatality but trees suffered the most of the storm’s brunt. Although some people lost power, we fared very well. A few days of a light rain with some higher winds. Other than leaving my bike at home, I wasn’t affected.
Except I somehow made not one, but two desserts that week. This was the second dessert.
I blame the hurricane.
My excuse for making the chocolate chip blondies was to thank my co-workers. I gobbled down more than a few pieces in the “taste-testing” phase. While they were delicious, I felt shy bringing them to work. Even though Rob agreed they tasted great, they were non-traditional (never mind eating chocolate chip blondies, but they were filled with chickpeas!). They also were only 1-cm thick or so, and not as visually appealing as I had hoped. Since the whole plan was to thank my co-workers, I decided to make something else.
A vegan chocolate cake.
I actually wanted to make cupcakes, but I had no muffin wrappers.
I actually wanted to make a mint avocado cream frosting but did not want to brave the storm to get more avocados.
Even before my vegan days, I had a favourite quick and easy chocolate cake. It just so happened to be vegan. Pantry-friendly with staples such as sugar, oil, cocoa, and vinegar, my grandmother dubbed it “Wartime Cake” since the ingredients were reminiscent of cakes she made during the war when there were rations on milk, eggs and butter. While it would have been a fool-proof and easy cake to make, I wanted to try something new, something healthier.
Thankfully I had one avocado to make Joy’s Chocolate Avocado Cake. Oil is easily replaced with avocado. You would never know the difference. I only had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used that instead of white flour. If you could guess anything was up, you might have been able to tell there was whole wheat flour in the cake. Although nothing seemed to be suspected by others.
Instead of topping it with a green avocado frosting, I busted out a simple peanut butter chocolate frosting. I have not always been a fan of frosting (especially the ooky sweet ones), but since I didn’t use too much and it had peanut butter in it, this sealed this as a delicious cake.
My co-workers and Rob’s co-workers agreed. While Rob was sneaky, I disclosed to my gang this was a vegan cake and people were buzzing all day with compliments, at the same time marveling there were no eggs, butter or milk. They were impressed at how moist it was, which I ascribed to the avocado, my secret ingredient. :)
Baketivism. Sharing the love of veganism through baking.
I could get used to this.
I am a bad vegan.
I’ll change that right now. What better way to share vegan cheer than by spreading some vegan desserts?
I went a bit dessert happy last week and made not one, but two desserts. Both with secret ingredients.
First, we have these blondies. Fudgy and moist like brownies but without any cocoa. Speckled with chocolate chips and sweetened with dates, you have a delicious dessert. Nut-free, to boot, these treats are made with chickpeas!
I first tried baking with beans when I made chocolate black bean cookies last year. Deliciously moist, creating a cake-like consistency. Without a hint of beans, the beany cookies were definitely a hit over Christmas. This time, the chickpeas contribute to a moist filling along with the dates. Chocolate chips speckled throughout made it a nice treat.
A momentary lapse caused me to inadvertently double the wet ingredients, so I ended up doubling the recipe and making 2 pies. After chowing down one pie in 2 days, I knew I had to share the second pie. I had to say goodbye.
Rob ended up bringing it work and had some fun at the same time. His email to the masses:
I put some leftover cake and brownies in the kitchen on 5. There’s not much there. Get it while you can!!!
After it was devoured in 10 minutes, Rob sent out a second email:
I can see that all y’all devoured the goodies in mere minutes. Little did you know that they were both VEGAN cake and brownies. *evil laugh*
Rob shared with me his co-workers responses:
lol well played sir!
still tastes good =D
LOL! Touche, my friend!
Little you knew I sprinkled bacon bits over both… muhahahaha. Actually being evil!
For some reason, he didn’t disclose there were chickpeas in the blondies and whole wheat flour in the cake. I think that would scare off more people than telling them it was vegan, right? Healthy does not have to mean taste-less.
If a group of twenty-something men devoured them, I bet you would enjoy them, too! Did you celebrate World Vegan Day?
Do you feel like more and more people are interested in eating whole foods?
Last weekend, between Thanksgiving meals, friends and family were curious about quinoa and kamut. One of my cousins is on a low-sodium diet and my other cousin is experimenting with a casein-free and gluten-free diet for their children and asked me if I had any kid-friendly recipes.
I had to think a bit harder. I can talk at lengths about my favorite grain (ok, pseudo-grain) but my recipes are probably not that kid-friendly. I like onions and ginger and spices and greens. Most kids like blander food. And sugary food… I think, right? I am certainly no kid feeding expert.
Then I brainstormed more main-stream main dishes like:
I already offered to bring hummus for the barbecue, and decided to bring two versions. My rosemary-pistachio hummus for the adults and a kid-friendly hummus: chocolate peanut butter style!
Pureed chickpeas are at the heart of this hummus, but you can’t really taste them. Compared to traditional hummus peanut butter is used instead of tahini; almond milk instead of stock and oil; garlic and lemon are removed to make room for maple syrup and cocoa powder. OK, maybe only the chickpeas keep this similar to hummus, but it was a tasty dip nonetheless. Peanut butter was the dominant flavor with more of a hint of cocoa.
I didn’t ask how the kids liked it. I imagine if they thought it was a chocolate spread they could be disappointed because it was more than that with the peanut butter. Or maybe less chocolatey, in their eyes. But the adults seemed to like it, no problem! With a few recipes requests and the leftovers snatched up, I would consider it a success.
For those with kids, do you modify your meals to be more kid-friendly and what do you change? I imagine it depends entirely on the child and their specific likes and dislikes, which may change from month-to-month. :)
No, it wasn’t blue. It was the second full moon in August, thus making it a blue moon. Note: Only for those West of Russia. For those East of Russia, you will see it in September! Note: Did you catch today’s National Geographic Photo of the Day? So pretty!
I am not entirely sure if that was why my life was flipped around over the past few days. Late last week, I was whisked back to Montreal for my grandfather’s funeral. After our return to Toronto, I had a short day with Rob before he was whisked off to New York for the week.
While I spent some fun time in the kitchen on Sunday (oh boy, do I have some fabulous recipes to share!), Rob and I shared a dinner picnic before he left.
We take our picnics seriously. Rob plugged his tablet into speakers for some tunes. Camera in hand. We had blankets although we secured a picnic table this time. Dinner in tupperware containers and portable desserts, to boot. With some swinging action afterwards.
The stars (or the moon?) aligned for our dessert.
Having recently replenished our peanut butter stash, buying the uber cute (and practical!) smaller 125-mL Mason jars last week and armed with half a package of silken tofu, I finally tackled Angela’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups in a jar, my way. Meaning, without a bottom nut crust, using agave as my sweetener and mistakenly doubling the chocolate shell! So, instead I created a Portable No-Bake Peanut Butter Mousse with a Chocolate Magic Shell.
This reminded my of my highly-praised Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie, but instead of a chocolate tofu mousse, it is peanut flavoured. Instead of a bottom crust, I opted for a top chocolate shell. A recreated peanut butter cup. In abstract form. It all looks the same in your belly anyhow, right? ;)
Making the dessert in a small mason jar was ingenious- you can make smaller portions and the lids make them super portable (and stackable in the fridge).
In my photos, you will notice the thickness of my chocolate layer. I had extra chocolate sauce left over, so I just added more to each portion. While more chocolate would never seen like a problem, it was thick and harder to crack. Not that we minded, much, but I decreased the chocolate amount in the directions. In case you enjoy cracking the tops of desserts as much as I do.
Doesn’t everything look pretty in a Mason jar?
We don’t have many clear containers in our house, actually. Rob has oodles of beer glasses, but they all have logos on them! Hmmpht… Anyways, as I was saying, things all look better in Mason jars… ;)
I don’t make granola that often, but recently became intrigued by granolas made with pureed fruits instead of gobs of sugar. Rob has willingly become my granola guinea pig. It is all for the better good of granola, right?
This was definitely not your typical granola. Not very sweet and not over-the-top chocolatey, either. The sweetness from the dried cherries and coconut hit your palate one by one as you savour the granola. Its prowess was born once it was paired with creamy yogurt and sweet bananas. I heard horror stories about soy yogurt, but it isn’t so bad!
I used millet again for a nice crunch along with toasted almonds. In this parfait, I tried to separate the granola from the yogurt but it does become a bit messy. It doesn’t travel as nicely as the Salad in a Jar, unfortunately. Oh well, make it fresh and then savour it on a relaxing weekend.
I am making babies.
(It is true that Rob and I recently celebrated our “common law” status after a year of living together, but I am not talking about our eventual (not now) cute kids)
I am talking about squash babies!
It looks like my hand pollination of the kabocha squash was successful, with at least 2, maybe 3 baby squashes rapidly ballooning in size. This kabocha squash business is actually very high maintenance. Not only do I water them twice a day, I now inspect the blossoms to scout out the females. I am not leaving anything to chance and work my magic before the bees come a-buzzin. Seems to be working so far!
Just late last week, Melissa Clark at the New York Times had a post (and video) about eating squash blossoms. The best part? They weren’t deep-fried! Her recipe was for a simple cheese and tapenade filling that used the blossoms as a wrap. While Rob and I nibbled on a few male blossoms this weekend, we’ll have to see how I incorporate them into a bona fide meal. Somehow, I feel like it is more about the filling then the wrap, since it just tasted like a sweet veggie wrap!
I seem to be late with all my strawberry loving this year, but the strawberries keep coming! Looks like the second round might be knocking.
This, however, was my birthday cake from my brunch. I was inspired by Lisa’s raw strawberry tart, not only because it was topped by loads of strawberries, but also because the cream of the tart wasn’t based entirely on cashews. Instead, a frozen banana is whipped inside to create a creamy, looser filling, of which strawberries are nestled overtop. Although it seemed like just a simple garnish, the fresh mint and grated coconut added the extra dimension to make this a special cake. Because this tart is made with frozen banana, it is best eaten fresh. I swear the base was a more creamy yellow a few hours before I took the photos but I had problems with oxidation again! Arg! ;)
I planned for a stress-free brunch by making nearly everything in advance. I kind of ending up pulling out some of our normal breakfast foods (granola, yogurt, etc) along with the special crepes and pancakes. I had pimped my kale salad as the best kale salad ever, so I had that as a savoury option, too.
On the menu:
Avocado Mint Cream
Yogurt, for those wanting something more traditional
Rob’s Omelettes with Spinach and Mushrooms (which no one wanted with all the other food!)
Raw Strawberry Tart, as the birthday “cake”
Strawberry Smoothies (a surprise from one of my friends who came bearing a ton of frozen strawberries!)
and this Blueberry Vanilla Chia Jam.
With all the different filling options, it was a brunch extraveganza. Just look at Rob’s plate, complete with his new Android jelly bean toy (no jelly beans were in the crepes!):
Earlier that week, I made Angela‘s Blueberry Chia Jam, so I pulled it out as another option as an afterthought. Everyone enjoyed their mixed-and-matched creations, and agreed that the jam was awesome. Pure blueberry bliss. Without all the typical over-sugared pectin-laden jam, this spread is simply fresh blueberries reduced with a touch of maple syrup and vanilla, thickened with chia seeds. I was worried the chia seeds might be too slimy or crunchy, but it was neither. They blended in so well and helped make this a thicker spread. Such a simple recipe, but it highlights how fresh produce can be augmented in creative ways.