the taste space

Pumpkin Pecan Frosted Cinnamon Buns

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on December 7, 2013

Pumpkin Pecan Butter Frosting

I consider my blog to be a public food journal. And as I share my favourite recipes, I may unearth some trends.

Right now, I seem to be all about pecans.

(As evidenced by my maple pecan shortbread cookies, vegan cheesecake with a pecan shortbread crust, baked caramelized banana & pecan oatmeal and even a savoury brussels sprouts slaw with pecans and cranberries)

I say pee-cans, but recently, I can catch myself with a Southern drawl muttering pe-cahns, too.

Pecans are a taste of the Southern United States, and I am trying to relish in all good things here.

Pumpkin Pecan Butter Frosting

Take this pumpkin pecan butter frosting.

I originally made this as a way to tame our consumption of nut butters… and cookie butters. Did I mention how fast my parents devoured the cookie butter? Three days, three people, finito.

Rob declared this spread tasting like a hug. With the warming cinnamon with a pumpkin backdrop, I could see why. This was not as rich as our regular nut butters (obviously!), but it worked remarkably well as a frosting. Thanks to Gaby and Max, we used it to frost Sinfull Bakery’s monster vegan cinnamon bun for a fall-inspired treat.

Pumpkin Pecan Butter Frosting

Now it is your turn: How do you pronounce pecan?

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Baked Caramelized Banana & Pecan Oatmeal

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on December 1, 2013

Baked Caramelized Banana & Walnut Oatmeal

The recent cold, wet and rainy weather put a temporary hiatus on our weekend cycling. Thus, with a bit of extra time on our hands last weekend, Rob and I crafted a delicious weekend brunch.

Rob was becoming a bit overwhelmed by our weekly banana surplus. I agree 4 bunches for a $1 is great, but probably not the best idea 2 weeks in a row. After packing our freezer with frozen bananas, we then caramelized the leftovers ones into this spin on a bananas foster baked oatmeal.

Baked Caramelized Banana & Walnut Oatmeal

There are two ways to make this. When Rob and I team up together, we can easily divvy up the tasks: him caramelizing the bananas, while I mix together the rest of the oatmeal, which are then combined before baking. However, I have also made this solo, where I found it easier to simply caramelize my bananas, deglaze them with the milk and then directly mix the rest of the ingredients in the skillet, which is then subsequently baked. Less dirty dishes is always a perk.

While we have added the rum, we couldn’t really taste it, so it is definitely optional. Or, conversely add more if you want to taste it. Or perhaps drizzle it at the end.

Baked Caramelized Banana & Walnut Oatmeal

In any case, you have a delicious breakfast. I prefer it warm, fresh from the oven. The sweet, caramelized bananas melt tenderly amongst the creamy baked oats. I have used both walnuts and pecans, with good results. If you have any leftovers, this is good chilled, too. Of course, that only works if you have leftovers. ;)

Baked oatmeal made previously:

Baked Apple Banana Oatmeal
Baked Pumpkin Cranberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding
Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding
Apricot Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis
Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal
Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

PS. The winner for the Raw & Simple giveaway is Emma.

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Raw Peppermint Patties & Cookbook Giveaway!

Posted in Book Review, Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space 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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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on October 12, 2013

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

Rob is away which means I have been left to my own devices.  I stay up a lot later when Rob isn’t here to remind me to go to sleep. I am the one taking care of the garbage, mail and laundry. I haven’t vacuumed yet, but I think that’s ok. We stocked up on groceries before Rob left, so I had a fridge full of produce to work through.

I have been eating my greens, but most of the time, I have been thinking of the dessert that awaits afterwards. Since moving to Houston, Rob and Joe have been a bad influence. You have likely met Joe, too…. the Trader Joe. When we first moved here, we were enamoured with vegan ice cream. We knew that habit wasn’t sustainable, so we weaned ourselves to smoothies and banana ice cream. Next came the chips. TJ’s has SO.MANY chips to try. The gateway chips were the black bean and quinoa ones, and then we progressed to the veggie and flaxseed tortilla chips and soy and flaxseed chips. I have put a chip ban in place while Rob is gone, although I will admit I like the chips more than sweets.

And then Rob discovered their vegan cookies. They even say vegan cookies right on the package. I knew I had to put an end to this madness. Even homemade cookies would be a better option. Although, I purposely did not bring any baking contraptions to Houston. (I can’t even find my graduated 1-cup measuring cup, sigh).. and strictly enforcing a no flour pantry (chickpea flour and masarepa, excluded).

What’s a cookie-loving girl to do?

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

No flour, no problem.

Peanut butter cookies to the rescue. Peanut butter and wait for it, mashed chickpeas, are the base for these cookies. I chopped up some chocolate to incorporate into the sweet batter. Now we had peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies! I am no stranger to beans in cookies, either. One of my favourite cookies are these chocolate mint cookies made with black beans and these chocolate chip chickpea blondies were a hit, too. I like bean-based cookies because they are softer and more cake-like, instead of hard and crackly cookies. They certainly have a different texture but you would never know there were chickpeas in them. These would also make a nice snack while cycling/exercising – a nice change of pace from date-based treats.

Have you baked with beans yet?

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chickpea Cookies

This is my submission to to this month’s Bookmarked RecipesVirtual Vegan Linky Potluck and to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 29, 2013

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

Simple.

That has been my mantra lately.

Quick and easy.

Especially when it comes to desserts.

This is one of those OMG, are you for real? desserts.

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

I didn’t believe it either, until I tried it. However, the success of your dessert lies within your banana. Not overripe bananas. Just ripe bananas, with just a few spots.

I mean, is there anything bananas CAN NOT DO? One frozen whipped banana makes a delicious ice cream. For this creme brulee, you could go all fancy, and add coconut milk, creamer, avocado, tofu perhaps, but this is for those without a big pantry.

Blend banana, thin with a bit of nondairy milk, and flavour with vanilla. Top with a sprinkling of coconut sugar. Broil for 3 minutes or until the top is melted.

That’s it!

If your banana is overripe, it will taste like pureed banana. But if you catch it right as it turns ripe, you’re in for a treat. :)

Enjoy!

Ridiculously Easy Banana Creme Brulee

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on July 23, 2013

Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles

With a name like “Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles”, you might think I was creative in the kitchen.

The joke’s on you because, I just worked with what I left in my pantry while I was still in Toronto.

Without any chocolate in the house, I had to turn to non-chocolate dessert options for our going-away party. I knew I was going to make baklava, since I had planned to make it a few months ago and had all the ingredients (mostly). Plus it would be a treat for my parents who came up to help us pack and move.

But I wanted to make something else, too. I perused Isa’s blog for inspiration: Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles. However, I had no white sugar and not all of the chai spices…. but I still had brown sugar. I was not entirely sure whether it would work, so I googled brown sugar snickerdoodles. I came across Joe Yonan’s Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles. Brown sugar would work, it seemed. And my lack of spices would not be a deterrent, either: I had cardamom. However, Joe’s recipe was not vegan so I tweaked Isa’s recipe with my pantry subs.

And of course, while baking seems so simple, I definitely prefer the ease of raw desserts. As I made this, I was scratching my head wondering what to do with the clumpy brown sugar that was not dissolving. Heating it was a possibility but I wasn’t sure that would still work since I had already added it to the liquids. I consulted the Mom guru midway during my baking escapades. If the sugar had not been added yet, she suggested microwaving the brown sugar. Since I had already added the liquids, she had another fantastic idea: pulverize it with a blender. Since I already dirtied my vitamix to make homemade cashew milk for the cookies, it was easy to blend away the clumps, too. Worked like a charm.

Some of the comments from Isa’s recipe implied the dough could be very sticky to work with. Mine was not sticky in the slightest. Easy to work with, flatten as balls and roll in a cardamom-spiked brown sugar coating. I used large crystal Demerara-style brown sugar for the coating and saved the clumpy brown sugar for the cookie.

And the verdict? You will have to rely on Rob’s judgment. My Mom does not hold too much faith in Rob’s opinions of my food (is he really biased?) but trust me, there are plenty of things he does not like and he will tell me so. Around the same time, Rob was gifted with local maracons. However, they were very fragile and slightly smooshed during transport. After he tried a snickerdoodle fresh from the oven, he told me it was better than the macarons! They were smooshed macarons, but still, they were macarons, nonetheless. These cookies were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside with a sweet caramel flavour thanks to the brown sugar with a hint of exotic cardamom.

And if Rob’s opinion is not enough, let’s just say the cookies were demolished within minutes at the party. Granted, I served them before the pizza had arrived… and no one had issues with cookies as an appetizer.

Creativity out of necessity. I like it. And so did Rob. :)

Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

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Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on June 20, 2013

Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

As you may have guessed, yes, I am still alive.

I survived my crazy Rideau Lakes cycle.

My focus this year was to pass my exam (which I did!) and then I quickly ramped up to cycle to Kingston. I cycled another 50 km during the week leading up to the weekend and took Thursday and Friday off as rest days. My final pre-event odometer reading was 560 km, 150km within the previous week.

That weekend, though, I cycled over 200 km. Not too shabby. This was my second time on the course, so I know that the hardest part is between Perth and Kingston. This is where most of the hills lie, including the dreaded Westport hill. The nice thing about repeating the course is that I did not feel compelled to conquer the entire course. Been there, done that. Enjoying the ride with a great group of friends was more important.

Our Cobra biker gang consisted of my Dad, Rob and Sue. While Sue and I had already decided we wanted the shorter route from Perth, the boys wanted the full route. However, due to an early rain shower, we all ended up starting from Perth on Saturday. A later start meant the roads would be dry, but more importantly so would our shoes and clothes. I was positively soaked during my training ride, and I simply hate cold, wet shoes.

Turns out we had my ideal cycling weather: overcast and not too hot. We were having a great time and I was positively giddy once we smoked down Westport’s hill. Sue pummelled it at 69 km/h. I had my brakes on and my max was 59 km/h. As we lounged at the gas station at the bottom, other cyclists reminded me that the hardest part would be the next day, tackling that hill in the opposite direction.

The only wrinkle in our day was my slow-leaking flat at around the 80 km mark. My Dad pumped it up and we crossed our fingers, hoping I could make it to Kingston without changing the tube. Lucky me, we made it and found an on-site technician to change my tube for me.

As we stood in line at the maintenance tent, I chatted with the guy in front of me. He did the whole cycle from Ottawa. And yes, do the math, he lapped me. He arrived before me, covering an extra 77km in the 2 hours it took us to start in Perth. His average speed put ours to shame: 35 km/h. Ours was more like 23 km/h, and we probably took way more breaks, HA!

We arrived early enough that we beat the late afternoon sudden rainfall, and with enough time to relax and clean up before having an early dinner. While none of the heated mains were vegan, I picked up cooked carrots, corns and a marinara sauce and then loaded up at the salad bar where I made my own salad with greens, carrots, cabbage, kidney beans and chickpeas with a balsamic dressing. Strawberries for dessert.

The next morning, we met bright and early over my peanut butter oatmeal with fruit. Both my Dad and I snagged a bunch of bananas for the road.

This time, the weather was a beautiful sunny day. The wind was barely moving and any breeze was from us, or when the pentalon would pass us. HA! And the dreaded Westport hill? I was quickly reminded how difficult it was – I remembered it being not that hard. The steep incline comes early but it is short-lived. The hill continues at less steep incline afterwards, for around another 1 km. A quick break at the top had us re-energized to tackle the next set of rolling hills.

We made it to Perth by lunch time when Rob and my Dad waved us goodbye as they cycled the rest of the way home. Sure enough, they covered the last 77 km in 2.5 hours. Their 28 km/h average was impressive at the end of such a weekend. Sue and I were perfectly content to call it a day at Perth. Thankfully, I wasn’t as tired as I feared (judging by my fatigue after my training ride) and even had the gusto collect our luggage and then bake cookies for Rob before he came home. My Mom made her lovely quinoa pilaf again along with roasted asparagus and peppers.

However, now Rob calls me a monkey. I think I ate 5 bananas on Sunday, in addition to my homemade chocolate peanut butter balls. And while I would love to share the delicious chocolate peanut butter balls I brought with me, the photos are still in Ottawa. So, I am sharing these treats that I brought with me on my training run.

After really enjoying the Nut-free Raw Carrot Cake made with coconut flour, I wanted to try something similar but with zucchini and chocolate, instead. So I experimented. Instead of grated carrots, I used grated zucchini. Instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg, I used cocoa powder. Instead of the apple-cashew frosting, I used cacao nibs for easier transport. And I really liked them. Asterisk, though. I would add more cocoa powder next time. I used up the end of my supply so I worked with what I had. Furthermore, while I ate these as cycling treats, they do not travel well at all. They worked for me with a short ride, since I popped them out frozen. Within 2 hours, they are at their perfect consistency: chilled and firm.  Once they became warm, they were mushy and messy. Still delicious but not ideal. Definitely not portable to/from Ottawa and Kingston. Thus, I made new snacks that were uber portable. And once I get the photos from my parents, I will share that delightful recipe with you, too.

Raw Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Nut-Free)

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Mamey Hemp Shake

Posted in Drinks, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on June 3, 2013

Mamey Hemp Shake

Just like riding a bicycle.

I put that to the test on the weekend.

I have not been up to my typical exercise regime this spring. I pared it down to 1 weight lifting class a week and 1 bike ride. Over the past 2 months, I have not cycled more than 400km.

Yet, in a week, I have signed up to cycle 200km between Perth and Kingston. (I long gave up cycling the full 354km between Ottawa and Kingston).

I used to think anyone could ride 100km.  However, with my severe lack of training this year, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to cycle the “short” 200km route either.

So, I dusted off my road bike (the first time I rode it this year), and cycled almost 100km with Rob and Sue on Sunday. It was one of my favourite routes (the Aurora loop) which meanders north of Toronto through such small cities like Snow Ball and Maple. Cycling north of the of the city also meant tackling the uphill during the first part of the trip and enjoying the downhill going home. All in between getting soaked from a sudden downpour and battling the wind from many directions.

Did I do it? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Will I do it again next weekend? Yes.

Rob has been training for this throughout our short spring, so he didn’t find this route as challenging as me… which meant he had more energy when we arrived home. Originally, he wanted to treat me with some ice cream but: a) I felt more like a smoothie, and b) we should be eating through our freezer stash. As I lay on the ground, Rob whipped up a delicious smoothie. I kind of made suggestions from the floor: frozen banana, frozen mamey, vanilla, hemp protein powder and almond milk. It was a crazy concoction and we weren’t sure how it would taste…. Only after I drank a huge serving, did I have enough energy to photograph it… because we both agreed it was too good not to share.

It is hard to describe the flavour of mamey. It takes like mamey… Think about it, how would you describe the taste of apple? Anyways, it is a sweet creamy mango-like flavour with floral undertones. It has a custard-like taste and consistency. Describing flavours is hard. I like this description:

The fruit’s flavor is variously described as a combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, and maraschino cherries with the texture of an avocado. Source

It paired beautifully with the creamy banana. The hemp protein powder made it a bit more of a green colour but also added creaminess.

How did we find mamey? We originally discovered it while travelling in Colombia, both as a fruit and in delicious smoothie form. We were thrilled when we spotted frozen mamey (sapote) at a Colombian bakery in Toronto and picked up a few packages earlier this year. They also had frozen guanabanana, guava, blackberry (mora) and possibly other non-exotic fruits like strawberries.

Have you ever tried mamey? I think it is best in smoothie-form. :)

Mamey Hemp Shake

This is my submission to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch and Raw Food Thursdays. (more…)

Nut-Free Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on May 28, 2013

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

The carrot craze continues…

I am a proponent of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and raw cuisine intrigues me. Dining at a raw resto can leave me beguiled: how did they do that? This goes beyond salads. Silky smooth lasagnas, luscious chocolate hazelnut cakes and brownies. This does not taste remotely like raw foods. Then I immediately want to try to make it myself. New techniques to bring you different flavours…

If you need any introduction to raw foods, raw desserts are definitely the way to go. No stranger to decadent raw desserts (Raw Key Lime Pie, Better Than Nutella Cheesecake, Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake), sometimes they go thump with the richness from nuts and coconut. It hasn’t stopped me from wanting to explore more desserts, though. Even better when they are lighter.

Last summer, I was a recipe tester for Amber’s cookbook Practically Raw Desserts and while the recipes are very flexible (I love her multiple variations!), one ingredient she was adamant about not substituting was coconut flour. It is unlike any other flour or shredded coconut.

I was dying to try was her Enlightened Carrot Cake. Nut-free, the base is made from carrots, apples and dates. Oh, and coconut flour. However, by the time I tracked down coconut flour and had the gusto to make this recipe, the book had already been shipped to the publisher (oops!). Thank goodness, this was one of the first recipes she shared online because it finally prompted me to try it.

Amber made this as a cute double-decker cake with a small springform pan. Since I don’t have one, I looked for an easier option. Cupcakes worked well with my last raw carrot cake (very good, too), and even though I had no muffin wrappers, I decided to try it out. After a bit of warm water pouring over the back of the muffin tray, the frozen cupcakes popped right out. It worked!

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

And yes, they were delicious. Because they are made with coconut flour, they are light. Coconut flour is defatted coconut meat, so it is a lower-fat coconut-based option for desserts. Most importantly, it is an ingredient creating a fluffier texture.  As such, these cupcakes are so different than any other raw dessert I have made. The sweetness is not over-pronounced and it was a delicious dessert with a hint of coconut and cinnamon. Satisfying and surprisingly filling for a low-fat dessert.

Amber has two recipes as suggested frostings. I chose neither, although her fermented cashew frosting is still on my hit-list. My last cashew-date frosting was a bit dense and definitely not white, so I wanted to substitute the dates.  Instead, I made an apple-cashew frosting. It was simple: apple + soaked cashews + ume plum vinegar (another acid and salt could work) + water. I liked how the fresh apple added bulk and sweetness. The consistency was just perfect after a chill in the refrigerator. Smooth and creamy.

Of course, now I am excited to make more recipes with coconut flour. Have you tried it yet?

Many of the recipes in Practically Raw Desserts use coconut flour, so I am excited to try more of Amber’s creations. I promise to do a better review of the cookbook when I finally get my copy. Here are other recipes that use coconut flour:

Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares in Practically Raw Desserts
Pecan Chai Spice Bars in Practically Raw Desserts (I made these as a tester but found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread in Practically Raw Desserts
Cake Batter Protein Balls from Chef Amber Shea (I have made these already. They are very good for something so simple)
Raw Apricot Jam Bars with Flakey Crust by Bonzai Aphrodite
Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies from Purely Twins
Peppermint Protein Bars from Purely Twins
Coconut Lemon Meltaways from The Hearty Herbivore
Raw Avocado Brownie from Bite-Sized Thoughts
Chocolate Avocado Cookies from Sprint 2 The Table

Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes with Apple-Cashew Frosting

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Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space on May 18, 2013

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

Good things come to those who wait.

That ice cream craving? Well, Rob had pity on me and picked up a pint (2 actually) for us to share. After building it up in my head, it was a bit lackluster. Not that I am complaining. Vegan ice cream just isn’t Haagen Dazs. Which is probably a good thing.

It seems like everyone was bitten by the ice cream bug now that the sun is out. I am seeing recipes everywhere. However, without full-fat coconut milk and an ice cream machine, I thought I was out of luck. Until now. (I feel like I am Dr Greger from NutritionFacts.org, hehe)

This time, I wasn’t planning on making ice cream. I was making a version of my Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie: an almost guiltless chocolate mint mousse, sans crust. Which I did, and it is very, very good. But then I put one tumbler in the freezer. Just in case.

I think our freezer has some funky freezing cycle thing because even the ice cream from the store was rock solid after a night in our house. It was torture trying to scoop it out.  Rob had the brilliant idea to let it thaw. I know, novel idea. But he suggested thawing it in the fridge. So, I came back in an hour and the ice cream was deliciously smooth and creamy.

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

I decided to try that with my frozen mousse. It was a bona fide rock solid when I initially took it from the freezer. Then I popped it in the fridge. Waited 1-2 hours for it to thaw and then I scooped in.

Glorious! Creamy chocolate mint. Melting in your mouth. Oh yes. I just have to plan for my ice cream cravings.

Before you look at the recipe, I’ll have you know it was a pantry purge success. I know some people have had difficulties with the mousse setting with the original recipe but I have never had any problems. I have made it with soft, firm and extra-firm tofu (although always the silken aseptic tofu). I figured it was pretty flexible so I experimented.

No chocolate chips here, I finally used up my unsweetened chocolate. The 100% chocolate that Rob bought for chocolate fondu once upon a time… and let me tell you, it is very bitter. I also had some cacao butter which I supplemented with cocoa powder, which I figured was equivalent to chocolate. I ended up adding the sweetener to taste as I went along as well as the peppermint extract (Katie suggested 1/8 tsp, which barely registered on my tongue’s radar). This is minty but not that sweet. The cacao butter gave this a really nice mouth feel, both as a mousse and as an ice cream.

Thank goodness, I think my ice cream quest has been settled. At least for now. :)

What are you craving these days?

Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mint Ice Cream (Vegan)

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Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

Posted in Drinks by janet @ the taste space on May 8, 2013

Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

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.

Joy had.

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.

Strawberry Cucumber Smoothie

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required for smoothies, this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday and Raw Food Thursday. (more…)

Spiced Acai Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space 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…)

Raw Mango Energy Bars

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on April 20, 2013

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.

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

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Strawberry Maca Smoothie (Gorilla Food’s Strawberry Bliss Up Shake)

Posted in Drinks by janet @ the taste space on April 14, 2013

Strawberry Maca Smoothie (Gorilla Food's Strawberry Bliss Up Shake)

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.

Strawberry Maca Smoothie (Gorilla Food's Strawberry Bliss Up Shake)

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:

Strawberry-Mango-Carrot Smoothie
Peachy Keen Vanilla Smoothie
Chocolate Maca Raspberry Smoothie
Cucumber-Beet-Ginger Juice
Raw Chocolate Milkshake at My New Roots (very, very good!)
Mojito Smoothie at My New Roots (different but good)

Strawberry Maca Smoothie (Gorilla Food's Strawberry Bliss Up Shake)

This is my submission to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays. (more…)

Nut-Free Puffed Quinoa Treats

Posted in Desserts by janet @ the taste space 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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