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.
I am a strawberry baby.
Being born at the end of June, my birthday usually coincides with the local strawberry season. My Mom went into labour while picking strawberries. I tell no lies.
This year, local strawberries are already finished as they had an early start. (Local cherries, though, are already here!). Rob and I still managed to sneak in some strawberry action, though, before he took off for the week.
No stranger to raw desserts, I know they can be pretty heavy. Nuts, coconut, avocado, you name it. They make for delicious desserts, but they can be truly decadent.
I had been pining a recipe for a nearly nut-free Strawberry Pie, so when we had a huge clamshell of strawberries, I couldn’t resist not making this. It was now or never. Next week, the strawberries may not be as good!
I couldn’t go nut-free with a crust, so I picked an interesting almond-vanilla-maple crust. However, since it was date-free, I didn’t find it kept its integrity as well as my go-to crust from the Raw Cashew Dreamcake. The recipe below has my standard crust which I think would work better.
In any case, the filling is really simple. A puree of strawberries and bananas with lemon juice is the base for holding more strawberries. Then it is topped with even more strawberries! Strawberry heaven, for sure.
This pie needs to be chilled so that the base firms up. In any case, I think it will be a messy cake no matter what you do.. unless you add a thickener like agar agar. My pie firmed up nicely after a few hours in the fridge but our initial foray after an hour left us with a goopy (yet still delicious) mess. Another less messy option would be to make and serve it in ramekins, like we did with our Tropical Mango Pie (oh so good!).
Since the highlight of the pie are the fresh strawberries, the pie cannot be stored in the freezer (hello, Raw Key Lime Pie!). Instead, the leftovers were my breakfast for the rest of the week.
Sometimes I’d rather have more veggies than dessert, but when I asked if I could skip serving dessert, my Mom was adamant: This is EASTER, bring on the dessert!
I obliged. I ruffled through my bookmarks for an easy, healthy dessert… with ingredients from my pantry. I bet you didn’t think it was possible, but this is an incredibly delicious dessert. Almost guiltless, as my Mom called it. No refined flours or sugars, with minimal agave at that. Decadent and delicious. Why is this almost guiltless? Well, it is still 256 calories (skip the crust and it is 156 calories, when serving 10!).
The secret? Tofu! But not just any tofu: the silken tofu you find in aseptic containers (not refrigerated). I used the firm silken tofu from Mori-Nu which had been languishing in my pantry for a while.
I have been meaning to make a tofu cheesecake but haven’t located a recipe worth trying yet (have any suggestions?) but I was positively smitten by this wickedly easy recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie. So was my entire family. We ate half the pie for dessert for lunch and then the leftovers were nearly polished off by the end of the day, after dinner. I kept the tofu a secret until I was pinned and explained that the delicious creaminess came from the tofu. The richness from the good quality chocolate. Trust me, you couldn’t taste any tofu.
I am loving these quick-and-easy no-bake desserts. Here, you make a quick almond-date crust (I used the same one from my Raw Raspberry Cashew Dreamcake) – or skip it altogether if you want to serve it in cute little tumblers. Melt your chocolate and throw everything until a food processor. Spread overtop and chill. Easy, peasy!
Decadent and delicious, yet still low calorie for the huge amount of flavour.
This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Graziana, to this month’s Cook-Eat-Delicious- Desserts for dates, to We Should Cocoa for almonds, to this week’s Mother Day Healthy Recipes, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.
Where have all the hazelnuts gone?
While Rob and I went all out for our Indian Easter feast, my parents were sleeping over which meant we also had plan for breakfast. Thankfully, oatmeal works for my Mom, Rob and me. Not so much for my Dad.
My Dad eats bagels and Nutella for breakfast. I had neither. Rob picked up some Montreal-style bagels from St Lawrence Market and I decided to work on the Nutella. Without actually buying Nutella.
I have been meaning to try making my own homemade nut butter for a while, so I was eager to try Katie’s Better than Nutella recipe. I just needed some hazelnuts. Last year, I discovered the grocers in Little India sell hazelnuts super cheap. Turns out all 3 grocers had no hazelnuts. Then I went to my go-to bulk store, and they were out, too. Apparently their supplier had been out for the last 6 weeks.
Where have all the hazelnuts gone?
I re-evaluated my options:
a) Head elsewhere to buy hazelnuts (ie, The Big Carrot or the Bulk Barn)
b) Use hazelnut butter instead of hazelnuts
c) Substitute another nut (apparently Nutella used to be a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
d) Make a chocolate-bean spread instead that didn’t require hazelnuts
Rob told me not to buy anything. We are trying to empty our pantries, not refill them. Option A and possibly option B were out. I really wanted to make a Nutella substitute, since this was for my Dad and he may not be as smitten with a chocolate bean spread as me. But you gotta do what you gotta do. I peered into our pantry and boo-yah, we had hazelnut butter! Option B it was!
I modified Ricki’s recipe slightly, but mainly with the sweetener only. After her warning that stevia-only sweetened chocolate could have a weird taste, I decided to substitute it with a portion of coconut sugar. Feel free to use your own sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, sugar, etc). Super simple to make, I threw everything into my Vitamix. As it heated up, the coconut oil melted making it a smooth, silky consistency (which is what I photographed). Leftovers were popped into the fridge where it firmed up considerably. It was still spreadable and melted as it was spread onto warm, toasted bagels. Spreading it onto cold bagels could be more difficult, though.
The verdict? According to me and Rob: Better than Nutella. Silky smooth, with a lovely cocoa flavour with a touch of sweetness. I found this a bit too sweet for my liking but Rob thought it was perfect, or possibly under sweetened. My Dad said it was ok. Perhaps it wasn’t sweet enough, but he wouldn’t elaborate. (For the record, while Rob and my Mom thought the banana naan were wonderful, my Dad thought they should have been more fluffy, despite acknowledging they were already more fluffy than the store-bought naan).We were planning on gifting the remainder of the Notella to my Dad when he left, but it was nearly demolished over the course of the weekend. There was just a little left.. and had my Dad stayed for breakfast #2, it would have been all gone. Not sure where else to put this homemade Nutella? How about my Nutella and kiwi crepes or Nutella-filled aebleskiver?
Rob and I were recently in New York City and bought a few raw treats while visiting Whole Foods. Namely some chai spice and mint chip raw macaroons from Emmy’s Organics. They weren’t as decadent as the macaroons from Rawlicious; they were a bit more crumbly, too, but I definitely enjoyed the flavours. One package managed to sneak its way back to Toronto.
Rob was out one night, and I decided to open the last packet: 3 mint chip macaroons. I ate one, then quickly followed it up with #2. I definitely had to leave the last one for Rob, right?
I emailed Rob to let him know I was struggling with leaving him the last one…. and then told him I was leaving.
To go to the bulk food store (aka our other pantry) to buy coconut and cocoa to make my own macaroons.
(Now that I have a dehydrator, I have no excuses!)
I used Happy Foody’s recipe as my main guide- I halved the recipe, used agave instead of maple syrup and melted my coconut oil. I stuck one macaroon in the freezer for more immediate gratification, but placed the remainder in my dehydrator.
Over twenty four hours later, I had my macaroons. This was no instant gratification. But darn, they were great. The freezer version was too firm and sweet for my liking, but the dehydrated treats were perfection. Not as cloyingly sweet with a chewy middle but a crispy exterior.
In retrospect, making 16 more macaroons was probably not the best antidote to not eating the last macaroon.
Although, I definitely spread the macaroon lovin’. My brother and sister-in-law had us over for dinner, and I surprised them with a handful of macaroons for dessert (they are, thankfully, not afraid of raw foods). They were as equally surprised as my mom that I was making sweets. Anyhow, Rob and I are happily munching through the rest..
When you start baking desserts with non-traditional ingredients, you may start to doubt yourself. If you thought black bean cookies were weird, how about hemp seeds and stevia?! Coconut sugar? What the heck? How will they taste?
Ricki is the baker extraordinaire who creates all sorts of vegan treats with wholesome ingredients. However, I am usually daunted by her long ingredient lists… that usually have uncommon ingredients. I was immediately smitten by her two-bite hemp brownies, and after a trip to Ambrosia, I finally had hemp seeds, coconut sugar and stevia. These ingredients allow you to create a low-glycemic fudgy brownie with healthy fats from the almonds and hemp seeds. Yes, I said fudgy!
This was my first time using stevia, a plant-based zero calorie sweetener. It has a distinct aftertaste. That’s the only clue that these brownies are on the healthier side. A walk on the wild side.
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
Some people have the gift to make anything taste great. I can follow a recipe. I can season to taste. But sometimes, I just don’t know what some recipes need to make it taste better.
This is a story of a botched recipe, turned sublime. Last Thanksgiving, Ina Garten’s roasted butternut squash salad was made a few times. The first time, with apple juice, it was nice, and was therefore given the thumbs up for serving at the Thanksgiving dinner.
My friend was helping with the prep work for round 2, but mistakenly made the dressing with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider. A big oops! However, she tried to salvage the salad by adding in some brown sugar and vanilla. While the salad was still a bit acidic, the vanilla was a magical ingredient. Instead of being as sweet as the first time, it was more savoury.
Therefore, when I recreated the dish this year, when butternut squash started to make its way into the grocery stores, I wanted the best of both worlds: vanilla within an apple cider vinaigrette. I used baby spinach and toasted almonds, instead of the arugula and walnuts Ina suggested. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese and reduced the olive oil, salt and pepper. Trust me, I didn’t miss anything. There were so many levels of flavour here, I was thoroughly content. The butternut squash is roasted to bring out its sweetness and is soft, bit still keeps it shape. The fruity dressing is tamed with the vanilla and works well with the baby spinach. Toasted almonds nail this as a slam-dunk salad.
Here are some other savoury vanilla dishes I’ve made:
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Food Palette series featuring the rainbow, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends, and to both Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring cranberries.
How much is half a bushel?
Technically, it is 4 pecks or 8 gallons.
After this weekend, to me, it means 26.6 lbs of apples.
Or 66 apples!
And a bargain at $15.75 (60c/lb!)
(our bushel was slightly rounded, hehe)
Last weekend, Rob and I travelled to Birtch Farms for some DIY apple picking. We were expecting to come home with Cortland and Empire, but were tickled pink when we found out that Mutsu (aka Crispin), Jonagold and Ida Red were also ripe for picking!
Rob had never had Mutsu before, and thankfully we were encouraged to sample the apples first to figure out which we preferred. Mutsu was the clear winner for a snacking apple, followed by the Ida Red. While the Jonagold is a cross between a Jonathan and Golden Delicious, I thought it tasted too much like a Gala for me to enjoy it. Sadly, we missed the Honeycrisp picking season, and I don’t think they grow Ambrosia out here, which are my 2 favourite snacking apples. Mutsu will be my go-to apple for the next month or so, though!
Rob also picked up some fresh apple cider for the road and when we returned I made this delicious soup.
A butternut squash soup with pear, apple cider and vanilla from Orangette.
Who says vanilla is only for sweet desserts?
Add it to your savoury dishes, as well.
Sometimes you can go too sweet with squash but here, everything was balanced nicely. The pear and cider are sweet, but the vanilla calms it down. It was smooth and creamy from the squash and milk. A delightful light, creamy soup.
Perfect for your next Thanksgiving meal. Or any day you want a delicious heart-warming soup.
I had a sense of deja vu this weekend. But not in the typical I’ve already done this sense. Rather, a ‘why haven’t I learned my lesson yet’ kind of deja vu.
We visited friends in Horseshoe Valley for a weekend filled with friends, food, games, adventure park fun (o-go ball is highly recommended) as well as a trip to the beach. While I am not too fond of beaching, I was excited when my friend, Greg, suggested we bike to Wasaga Beach instead, which was 45km away, he said. Rob checked: it was 27km away.
While Rob and I haven’t done many long-distance cycling trips since our big adventure to Kingston, 27km would still be a quick stroll for us. An hour, maybe an hour and a half, I told myself. We packed light for the trip, with just a couple bottles of water. Our snack would be waiting for us at the end, at the beach, when we would arrive for an early lunch and meet up with the girls. We could easily cycle back, too. Greg, our fierce leader, wasn’t keen on cycling back. OK, no problem.
As soon as we pulled out, I was reminded that this may not necessarily be as flat as I had predicted. We were starting at the bottom of the valley. We only could go up! Greg suggested taking smaller side roads to circumvent the huge hills on Horseshoe Valley Road, which we thought was a fabulous idea.
We twisted up the side roads and meandered through lovely rolling hills. After 13km, I needed a break and nonchalantly stated we were half-way to the beach.
Not so. Rob, plotting our progress through GPS on his phone, said we were now further from the beach than when we started!
I’ll spare you the details, but yes, we had lots of rolling hills with challenging uphills. The wind was fierce. We added detours to forgo traffic-heavy roads. I broke out my emergency larabar. Thankfully, the last 15km was mainly flat, maybe slightly downhill to the beach. The flat 27km bike ride ended up being a very hilly, very windy 57km.
We were greeted by a mild sand storm at Wasaga as the strong winds pushed sand around ruthlessly. Greg still jumped into the lake, cycling clothes and all. We arrived for a late lunch. The girls had already eaten without us and warned us there was probably sand in the sandwiches. My quinoa salad had fared a bit better.
Steph made delicious vegan cupcakes for dessert – matcha green tea with marzipan flours. It had been a while since I had a cupcake yet I devoured it for dessert. Sometimes crazy cycling can do that to you!
It was on the way back home that Rob and I picked up the corn on impulse. Where else would we get such freshly picked corn?
Using three different forms of corn – fresh corn kernels, corn meal and corn flour (masa harina) – these are a seriously corn-stuffed pancake. With corn as the flour base, it was reminiscent of a sweet polenta. Flavoured with both vanilla and lemon, it was an exotic twist. Slather it with Earth Balance for pure simple bliss, or top with your favourite compote or salsa.
Rob laughs at me because one of my guilty pleasures is ordering fresh juices and smoothies from restaurants. Nothing beats a fresh blend of ripe vegetables, or a creamy smoothie packed with fruits. Feeling guilty about eating something so healthy seems so odd, but when they cost over $5 a pop, that’s when I feel bad. I mean, I could make something similar at home… on the smoothie aspect, that is. Unfortunately my old food processor can’t make fresh juice.
But now that I have a high-speed Vitamix blender (wahoo!), even my smoothies taste better! An immersion blender keeps things a bit on the chunky side, a food processor is better and now I know how the professionals get that secret creamy consistency without the cream (although they could also be adding cream, too, without me knowing). It’s the blender.
I know the Vitamix is not just for smoothie and drinks, but that’s all I’ve made so far (in the 2 days I’ve had it unpacked!). Even the lowly smoothie has been brought to the next level with the Vitamix. I mean, it better. I can buy a lot of drinks at restos for $500.
My latest smoothie craze has been devouring local Ontario peaches. Throw in a fresh, ripe, pitted peach, half a frozen banana, vanilla, chia seeds and some soy milk. Blend to reach creamy peachy bliss. Sip and enjoy!
You wouldn’t think a falling bicycle could be so dangerous.
If I was riding it, sure. But not a bicycle falling down next to me!
This time, I wasn’t even riding my bicycle and I was injured.
I was standing next to my bicycle, as it was falling, and the front chainring (or chainwheel or spikey teeth where my gears change) decided to take a piece out of me. A few pieces. A few deep chunks of me. I saw my subcutaneous fat before I started to bleed, and knew it was bad news. In the next instant, blood was pooling down to my sock. I declined an offer for a napkin to wipe the blood off and softly said, “I just need to get to work.” The nice stranger probably thought I was nuts. Of course, with an injury like that, it only makes sense to wish you were at work if you worked at a hospital! I hopped on my bike and rode off. I eventually found my way to the emergency department where I was cleaned up and stitched back together (thank you year 2 medical student).
***disclaimer, possibly gory photo of my leg… Personally, I don’t think it looks too bad, but it is definitely not as appetizing as my mousse!**********
My supervisor remarked that after enduring the injury, freezing and stitching, I deserved a treat. He suggested ice cream. Interesting idea, I thought. Instead of ice cream, I plotted and schemed. I had some avocados at home that I had forgotten to add to some tacos, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. A quick, decadent treat.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse.
Definitely not your typical mousse, it is a light chocolate pudding with a hint of spice. Not airy as you would expect in a mousse. If you would like more of a pudding, don’t add any water but it was good both ways. I adapted Gena’s chocomole, to include a bit of lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon and cardamom and swapped agave nectar for the dates. Next time, I may omit the water completely, and try adding some almond or hazelnut butter for added richness and a more pudding-like consistency. For something more airy, I may try this cashew-based recipe instead.
Thank goodness I have another avocado!
But I won’t wait for a pity-party for my next chocolate fix.
No worries about me, though, because my leg is doing fine, as am I. In fact, the worst thing that has happened is that I am now wearing skirts and dresses (pants irritate my stitches). Becoming quite feminine with my masculine injury, eh?
This is my submission to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
Peanut butter and banana are a classic combination. Warm caramelized banana with peanut butter is even better. Add in some rolled oats, chia seeds, vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, and you have a crazy concoction. A crazy, wonderful breakfast concoction. Or dinner, because you love it so much.
Ashley calls this a banana scramble, but I see it as a huge, fluffy pancake. Her description as a melty gooey chewy bananer oat goodness fits much better, actually. The banana becomes soft and caramelized as it is permeated with the peanut butter. The rolled oats and chia seeds add bulkiness and texture. It reminds me of a stovetop version of the Dark Chocolate Banana Coconut Almond Cookies, which are soft from the bananas, but here, you eat it right from the stove, ooey-gooey in its warmness.
I have made this a few times, and the recipe is very flexible. You can use chia seeds, ground flax or even wheat germ to help keep it together. Instead of banana, you could use apple sauce, mashed pumpkin or sweet potato. The amount of nondairy milk is up to you and your preference. It should be a bit thick, but not dry. I like to err on the side of wet. Chia seeds definitely make this an easier thing to flip, though, and 2 smaller pancakes would help to flip as well. Wheat germ was nice because it was more fluffy and I added more milk. Especially with wheat germ, it can be a bit finicky to keep it all together, so the name scramble is quite fitting.
This is the wheat germ version. After frying, It may look like this:
So just stick it together and top with bananas (see top photo) and no one would be the wiser.. Personally, in this case, as unphotogenic as it is, I prefer the super fluffy pancake that doesn’t easily keep together then a flippable pancake that is a bit sturdier. I like to eat fluffy goodness.
Every year, over 2000 cyclists bike between Ottawa and Kingston with the Ottawa Bicycle Club for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. This is not a charity event; everyone does it for fun. There are many different routes, but the most popular is the “Classic” 177-km route that you do in both directions on smaller country roads between the 2 cities. My Dad has done this for over 9 years and when he announced this year would be his last, I wanted to join him. Somehow (and thankfully!), other friends also thought this would be a great idea to do. We trained earlier this summer, as soon as the snow melted, in between rain, fierce winds, battling challenges with riding with heavier panniers, back on my hybrid and even renting an uncomfortable cruiser while in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, my Dad broke his wrist 2 weeks before Rideau Lakes, so he wasn’t able to cycle with us. However, he was quite omnipresent by waiting for us at random places along the route. Sometimes with the camera ready to catch us in action (a cast makes photo-taking hard, too, though!). This is me and Rob in action:
Thankfully, despite ominous forecasts, we had beautiful weather: mostly overcast, with some lovely tailwinds in both directions. My brother had spooked me by telling me this was a very challenging course, with lots of killer hills. Tackling the tough hills around Toronto allowed me to feel more comfortable attacking the steep hill near Westport. The other rolling hills were fun!
I was thankful for such a great group of friends for the ride, but almost thought I was doomed after cycling 140km on Day 2, at the last rest station in Ashton. I had stomach cramps and a bloated belly. I was not feeling well. My legs were sore (understandably) but still pushing well. But my belly was not happy. I ended up sucking it up, taking ibuprofen, and biking to the finish with the group. I am still not sure what is bothering my belly (digestion problems persist) so I don’t think it has anything to do with biking per se. Perhaps it was something I ate earlier? Who knows. Now is the time to recover.
Over the course of my training, I tried a lot of different energy balls. I will post them in due time, but this is what I brought with me to Kingston. Adapted from Radiance 4 Life (recipe also posted here), I decreased the amount of cacao nibs since I had a hard time integrating them all in the batter. The malty flavour of maca combines well with vanilla which are the dominant flavours in these slightly sweet balls, packed with cashews, almonds and oats. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch with nice change of texture. These are a delicious treat, and since they are packed with great ingredients, a delicious snack even if not cycling monumental distances.
Amaranth and quinoa are two seeds that were once considered sacred by the Aztecs and Incas. They were used in ceremonial rituals before their cultivation were forbidden by Spanish colonizers. Certainly these are powerful foods: armed with more calcium than milk and high in protein, fiber and other minerals, and feared by the Spanish.
Then there are chia seeds, which I routinely add to my oatmeal and overnight oats, that are packed with healthy omega-3s and fiber.
I have been trying to incorporate more of these “high-yield” superfoods into my meals. What better time to start your day with a breakfast filled with these seeds. While eating quinoa for breakfast is not new to me, I was interested in combining all of these ancient Latin American seeds into a tasty breakfast.
Initially spotted in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth (also posted here), I modified Tess’ recipe to include chia seeds and therefore also changed the fluid volume. With both currants and raisins, you don’t need to use much agave nectar (or maple syrup), so certainly add to taste. The Indian flavours of cinnamon and cardamom worked well with the sweetness from the agave and raisins. The porridge had more substance, slightly more body from the pebbly grains which was a nice change from my smooth oatmeal.