My lovely friends are true enablers.
I wanted to make cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes.
Even with my (somewhat) minimalist pantry and kitchen, I was mostly to my goal.
I had silicone muffin wrappers, but no muffin tin. I wasn’t sure whether I could simply bake the muffins without the tin, but my friend graciously lent me her muffin tray so I did not have to experiment. (Note: Please tell me if you have tried)
Next, I found the perfect recipe: a chocolate cupcake that only used chickpea flour as its base. No wheat flour, no funny grain flours, not even oat flour. Just chickpea flour. In fact, now I was rather intrigued. Chickpea flour cupcakes??
I was missing one ingredient, though: baking powder. I have baking soda (it also helps for cleaning), but no baking powder in my minimalist pantry. Oftentimes, especially if baking with chocolate, baking soda can be substitute with baking powder. So I tried that option first. Baking experiment fail #1: I forgot to look at the conversion and it isn’t a 1:1 substitution. My cupcakes rose beautifully but tasted kind of salty and somewhat metallic.
I vowed to try again with less baking soda but my friend spared me the trouble and slipped me a bag of white powder at work. Clearly labelled baking powder. The label may have been unnecessary because if she were smuggling cocaine, I would have inherited a fortune. ;)
In any case, I shared the cupcakes at work. I was up-front that I was sharing vegan, gluten-free and grain-free cupcakes. I told people that it was made with besan/chickpea flour because quite a few of my co-workers cook with it, too, and they were shocked it could be used in a sweet baking treat.
However, what I did not share (initially) was what I was hiding in my frosting. I ran with the bean-theme and used tofu as my base! It is similar but more firm than my chocolate mousse pie filling. I thought it was too sweet when I first tasted it but it mellowed out and firmed up considerably overnight in the fridge. Both the frosting and cupcakes were well received, so I consider it a success!
This recipe is courtesy of Vegan Beans From Around the World which shares 100 recipes of naturally vegan recipes from around the world. Kelsey simplified the recipes to keep the ingredients easy-to-find and did a marvelous job of curating a variety of vegan bean-centric dishes. Dutch Split Pea Soup to Nigerian Black Eyed Pea Stew to Argentine White Bean Salad, there are plenty of dishes I still want to try. Oh, and the Navy Bean Pie (aka Muslim bean pie) which is also in the dessert section. I have been spoiled by gorgeous cookbooks as of late, so I am missing the pretty photos. Although hopefully these photos will encourage you to try out this fun cupcakes.
Recipes from Vegan Beans From Around the World spotted elsewhere:
Thankfully, the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite recipe made with beans. I will randomly select a winner on June 13, 2014. Good luck!
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from the publisher. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
PS. Have no muffin tins? Try making this into a cake, as seen here.
PPS. Need other ideas for using chickpea flour? Look no further than Emma’s round-up post.
PPPS. I am sharing this to Credit Crunch Munch and We Should Cocoa for $2 cakes. I didn’t price out the cupcakes but without butter and eggs, vegan cakes are typically cheaper. Chickpea flour can be found at more economical prices at Indian grocers.
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.
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?
No chocolate here, but we still have cocoa and carob powder. Sadly, I have run out of psyllium to whip up my 3-minute Chocolate Mint Mesquite Protein Cakes and I don’t have enough carob powder to make Gabby’s Sugar-Free Carob Almond Butter Cups. No cocoa nibs to make Hannah’s Mini Mint Chocolate Protein Cookies.
It might be comforting to feel like there are no sweets in the house. However, I know that isn’t true.
I just need to be more creative. There are sweets that just need to be discovered.
I decided to turn to Katie of the Almost Guiltless No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie fame.
She had a few recipes that really intrigued me, but I eventually settled on her Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge. A super simple recipe, you warm up coconut butter, peanut butter, banana, cocoa powder and salt, stir together and then chill. I used a frozen banana which melted nicely with the rest of the ingredients. I popped the batter into a cute ice cube tray so I had bite-sized treats stashed away (a bit harder to gift, I know). You could eat this fresh, but I preferred it after it had a chance to freeze. Allow it to warm up to room temperature for 3 minutes or so, before slowly savouring each bite. Rich and fudgy, these bites delivered. I loved that it made a small batch and each piece was satisfying.
Oprah did a 21-day vegan challenge a few years ago. I remember her gushing over her improved pooping. If there is one thing I am not lacking from my foods, it is fiber. Mostly due to my love of beans. One serving of Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini gives you 16g of fiber, or 65% of your suggested daily fiber intake. Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala): 18g of fiber or 72% of your suggested daily intake. This definitely helps to keep things moving.
Trust me, I don’t need help any help in the pooping department, but recently bought psyllium husks after Gabby gushed over a banana-less chocolate smoothie. I found the smoothie a bit gritty from the psyllium (I doubled the psyllium, though, and used psyllium husks instead of psyllium powder) but even worse, my belly became bloated nearly instantaneously. And boy, was I gaseous. With stinky farts. Super stinky. Poor Rob.
Psyllium helps relieve constipation and diarrhea, regulating bowel movements with its high soluble fiber content. It is the main ingredient in All-Bran Buds and Metamucil. During medical school, a surgeon touted its value and I began adding All-Bran Buds to my morning yogurt. However, as the husk itself, a little goes a long way. I used 1 tablespoon the first time, which is a pretty big amount. Nearly entirely fiber. Only 17 calories, with 5g of carbs including 4.5g of fiber. Way more potent than beans.(Metamucil only recommends 1 tsp at a time).
I thought I was doomed to another long-time pantry lurker, but then discovered an interesting chocolate cake. Hemp protein powder + psyllium + cocoa + mesquite + mint sounded like a winning combo.. actually, it sounded down-right odd. No grains? How would this turn into a cake? Especially after only microwaving it for a minute? My curiosity got the better of me and I was completely smitten. It may look like poop but it was a magic cake. Perfect as a dessert or a filling breakfast. It is a chewy cake but a chocolate cake nonetheless. I’ve made it with cocoa and carob. I have substituted maca for the mesquite, although I had to add more water. I’ve gone mesquite-less with more hemp and carob. I’ve mistakenly forgotten the mint. Since I am on the sweetener-free challenge I didn’t add any sweeteners but I encourage something sweeter for those who haven’t deprived your sweet tastebuds for a month (um, like Rob!).
But be careful, psyllium is incredibly filling. Drink a huge glass of water/tea with it. Work yourself up to a full cake and don’t eat them every day. Eventually the bloating will subside and the smelly farts become less.
However, because it is so filling, this is a terribly satisfying snack. Top it with some melted coconut oil or coconut butter. Want something even more decadent? Omit the mint and top it with my chocolate peanut butter frosting or cashew date frosting! Or make this avocado buttercream frosting and tell me how it was. ;)
Looking for more psyllium recipes? Check out Dr. John Howard‘s (a pediatric gastroenterologist in London) collection of kid-friendly recipes using psyllium. If you have or know of children with constipation, I also encourage you to read through his kid’s book: All Aboard The Poop Train. All aboard, toot toot!
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.
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. :)
Rob and I did a 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida while in Colombia. You need a guide and we picked Magic Tours since they responded to our emails and assured me I would have vegan options on the trek. We started off with 4 other hikers, our guide, a cook and a porter (with 2 mules) for our 5-day 44-km hike.
We hiked through the Colombian jungle, with a well-delineated path, up and down many hills and through a river quite a few times! Gorgeous scenery with a great ruined city at the end. An unparalleled experience, to say the least.
I won’t lie. It was hard. We hiked in hot and humid weather, over 30C with at least 80% humidity. Shade from trees was a welcome treat after hiking in open sun. I also found the terrain difficult with many river crossings and steep hills. I wish I had had better ankle support on my hiking boots! By the fourth day, we reached The Lost City. There were 1200 steps to climb to reach the actual Ciudad Perdida with a further 800 steps within the ruined city, itself. Going up those stairs was not so bad; going down was worse! If you don’t like heights, this also won’t work well for you. :P
Before I left, I made a few energy snacks. This was one of them which was a great source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once).
I was drawn to this recipe immediately after Cara posted it. It reminded me of a souped up Raw Brownie with a heavenly base of walnuts, dates and cocoa. However, to make this a protein power star, there are hemp seeds and protein powder as well. I ended up increasing the mint extract and substituting agave for the brown rice syrup. Absolutely delicious straight from the mixer. I dehydrated them at 110F for 7-8 hours hoping to make them more portable. The sharp flavours diminished slightly but my snacks were now able to come with me to the jungle! Sadly, I didn’t wrap them individually so they kind of smooshed together towards the end of my trip. Still good, though.
I will admit that Rob and I overpacked for our hike, but I would still travel with my snacks again. I still need to share the winner of the energy snacks, so stay tuned. I had some bona fide Larabars as well, which also seemed to ooze some oily stuff under the heat of the jungle. If you are planning for a similar trip, definitely consult your tour operator to see what they recommend you bring. While Magic Tours had an extensive list of stuff to bring (sunscreen, hat, water bottle, clothes, etc), this is what I also found useful:
Foot talc powder– We didn’t bring any but if you are prone to sweaty feet or slipping into rivers, this is for you!
Sanitizer– We didn’t bring any, but considering the lack of soap and toilet paper, this would have been great to have to not get traveler’s diarrhea.
Compact camera– You do not want to bring a big D-SLR with you on this hike. We actually don’t have too many photos because we were more focused on hiking then taking photos.
After bite & antihistamines– We had deet (although only 30%), and were still bitten by bugs. Lots of bugs. This helped.
Ibuprofen– You may be sore. You may get a headache.
Travel pillow– On the hike, you sleep in hammocks and the occasional bunk bed. No pillows. I am VERY picky about my pillow. I often travel with my day-to-day feather pillow because I have a hard time sleeping without it. This pillow, albeit not exactly what I am used to, was a godsend, even outside the trek in other B&Bs.
Hiking poles– I love my collapsible hiking poles.
Non-cotton clothing– Want your clothes to dry? Make sure they are not cotton.
Water purification tablets– You want to make sure you are drinking potable water. These tabs add no taste to the water.
What else do you like to bring with you on long hikes?
Strawberries are out and cherries are in. Seasonal eating at its best, right?
While I originally planned for a strawberry-filled birthday brunch, I worked towards the next seasonal fruit: cherries.
What do you think of first after I say cherry?
Please don’t say cherry red macronucleoli.
(Gosh, the July 1st studying mode has made its way into my blogging, ack!)
Now you’re talking.
The Naked Sprout‘s brunch menu inspired me again to try my hand at raw crepes. While I had the raspberry banana coconut pancakes, Rob had the chocolate coconut crepes with banana and a blueberry cashew whipped cream drizzled with an ancho chocolate sauce and a strawberry compote. What a tasty mouthful!
Not so fancy for my home-grown brunch, though. We are aiming for stress-free gatherings, not stress-inducing gatherings!
In the end, I decided to pair the local, fresh cherries with an almost raw chocolate banana crepe and an almond-coconut cream. All of which I could make in advance and allow guests to assemble themselves.
I was scared of thin raw wraps since my raw zucchini wraps were a bit finicky. I have made these a few times, so let me assure you that these are easy to make. The Vitamix makes for a smooth batter and adding the flax seeds last gives you some time to work the batter into a thin sheet. I wanted round crepes, but here, you make a big sheet of a wrap and then cut out your desired shape. It is much easier to make a consistency thin wrap if it is one big sheet. Rest assured that the extra pieces of crepe were not wasted and went straight into my belly. This wrap has a nice chocolate flavour with a hint of banana and very pliable.
I paired the wrap with a coconut-based cream. Now that Rob is gaining experience with opening coconuts, I ventured with a coconut recipe. I contemplated making a macadamia-based whipped cream but cheap coconuts from Chinatown won that battle. I paired it with almond extract for a strong almond flavour, almost begging to be paired with cherries.
Top with sliced almonds, this was a glorious brunch… or dessert.. and quite a great way to introduce my friends to raw cuisine, if I may say so myself.
Sometimes simple is all you need, because the simple flavours melded so well together.
This is being submitted to this month’s Breakfast Club featuring holiday treats, to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays, to this week’s potluck party for fruit dishes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month‘s Simple and in Season.
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.
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. :P
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.
A great breakfast always starts your day on the right track. But what to do when you are travelling? Hotel buffets are typically laden with picks like bagels, muffins, pancakes or standard cereal, which don’t interest me these days. Fruit can be hard to find, and if you have oatmeal, it is usually the quick-cooking oatmeal filled with sugars and flavourings. So what’s a travelling girl to do?
Luckily, I knew I had a refrigerator at my hotel, and I knew the hotel breakfast would include fruit (standard across the Drury chain). I loaded up on apples, bananas and oranges in the morning and then devoured them along with my portable overnight oats. The benefit of nondairy milk in tetrapacks is that I can travel with it very easily before it has been opened (no refrigeration needed).
Before I left home, I created a dry mixture for my overnight oats, including rolled oats and chia seeds. I decided to flavour it with cocoa, dried cherries and a touch of cinnamon. Each night, I added 1/4 cup of the mixture to 1/2 cup of almond milk and let it chill overnight in the fridge. Sometimes I would add more milk the following morning, depending on whether I wanted it more runny. Combined with fresh fruit, I was a happy camper. Healthy breakfasts can be easy while travelling! :) This is also an easier way to create them at home, so that you don’t have to measure out the ingredients every time.
I found the dried tart cherries to work incredibly well with the cocoa flavour, but dried cranberries could work, too – they would just be a bit sweeter.
I had a love/hate relationship with my bicycle last week. I still loved my bike, but I think she had enough of me after I biked 250km last weekend to/from Woodstock. It wasn’t the distance that bothered her, it was the rain. The light rain, we could deal with, but the torrential downpour, is what she was complaining about.
When I arrived to greet her Monday morning, a bit earlier than usual to take her down to get cleaned before heading to work, her back tire was flat. I can do this, I thought to myself. So I removed the tire, replaced the tube and put the tire back on. It took me a good 30-45 minutes, but I was still pleased with myself. My first time changing a tire solo!
Then I pumped up the tire. I almost had it at 120 psi. I know it can be difficult to pump it up that high, so I almost left it at 90. Nah, I’ll give it a good push or two, I can do it! So I pumped, and pumped… and then FOOSH!! My inner tube exploded and popped off my tire! Without any extra inner tubes, I had to hightail it to work by subway instead.
Emails flew between my family and friends. I obviously squished my tube between the rim and tire, they told me. I figured that could be the culprit because I didn’t really check to make sure it wasn’t squished. Next time, I’ll know.
But my woes, don’t end there. I felt pretty silly having only 1 spare inner tube, so I wandered over to Bikechain, the student-run group at the University of Toronto that teaches you how to fix your own bike – and also sells cheap inner tubes. There was only one staff at the time, and I was sans bike, so I quickly picked up 5 inner tubes and brought them home.
So I lugged out my old bike (I have no clue how I lasted 7 months with a daily commute on that heavy clunker!), and rode to the closest bicycle shop. To clear them out of inner tubes. I only bought 2. And they were over $1 more expensive than those from Bikechain, and the exact same inner tube.
Armed with the proper inner tube, I decided to replace my inner tube yet again. It didn’t take me nearly as long; I must be improving, I thought. Next, I checked to make sure I had no squished tire. I didn’t. Great! And then I pumped up the tire. And pumped, and pumped, and got it up to 120 psi! Woohoo! I removed the pump and took a sigh of relief. Not an instant later, the tube explodes AGAIN! Now I am positively in tears, and know I need someone to help me figure this out.
Thankfully, Rob was coming over. I told him it was do or die because I only had one tube left. He supervised me and showed me a different way to assemble the inner tube and tire. I was putting the inner tube on first, then the tire. He assembled the inner tube inside the tire first, and then mounted the whole thing on the rim. Sounded good to me. So we pumped, and pumped, and pumped. 120 PSI! No blow-out! We pumped my front tire to 120 psi. I was good to go! I just need to get more tubes since my back-up tubes are down to zero, but no rush..
The next morning I ride to work. Perfect! It was just technique that was the problem. I return to my bike after work, drive it no more than 6 feet, when I feel like my breaks are rubbing my tire. I look down and I have a flat! No way! Not again! And I have no spare tube.. gah!
I take the subway home, grab 2 new tubes from another bike store. Another $2 more per tube. I ask whether some inner tubes are more prone to leaking. I only biked 5 km before I got a new flat, I explained. He suggested that perhaps I had something stuck inside my tire that I couldn’t see. I should clean the inside really well. Excellent suggestion, I thought, and planned to do that next.
Before I went to bed, I cleaned the inside of my tire, feeling nothing, but thinking it was something small I couldn’t see. I made sure my inner tube didn’t touch the floor and mistakenly pick up rocks, etc. I replaced the inner tube, with the new Rob-style technique. I pumped it up. And no explosions! Woohoo!
Two days go by… I bike to/from work. I rack up 20km. No problem. Those invisible rocks sure were problematic. Or maybe it was the even more expensive inner tube that did the trick. Who knows. I was doing a little cheer every time my bike still had a tire full of air.
Friday morning, my bike greets me with yet another flat tire. I am almost not surprised. What am I doing wrong? I notice that there’s an actual direction for my tire. Maybe I had it backwards and that was the problem? I don’t know.. this is all voodoo. I replace my tire again. I figured out where my leak was. Reasonably close to my valve. Maybe it was the metal hooks I was using to help reassemble my inner tube. Apparently that’s a no-no known to cause small leaks if you squish the inner tube. OK, I will look for my plastic ones. I clean it, I replace it, I pump it up. It doesn’t explode. I ride to work.
Now I am paranoid. I have no explanations for these flat tires.
So far so good, though. I make it to work intact.
I meet Rob after work to cycle to a friend’s house. I tell him about my flat tire woes and about my paranoia. How far will I get this time? The first time was 5km. Then 20km. Now what?
He looks down at my tire nonchalantly. What’s this?, he says, pointing to a small matte area on my tire. It was less than 1 mm. I have no clue but it looked like a small rock attached to the tire. I try to flick it off but it is wedged in nicely. I use my key to dislodge it and out we pull a big piece of glass! My culprit! My front tire had a smaller piece wedged in as well.
After successfully cycling 100km the following day, I knew I was in the clear.
While there are many great tutorials on how to change your tire online, here my tips that I have each learned the hard way:
1) Ride your bike with a spare tube (with the proper valve), pump and plastic hooks to change a spare tire. Try to repump your tire to see if it is a slow leak.
2) Remove the tire first with the hooks
3) Remove the inner tube, including any valvular attachment to the rim. If you can figure out where the hole is, great! You might be able to patch it too. Soapy water helps but I also tried to squish out any air all along the inner tube.
4) Try to figure out WHY you got the flat tire. Check the outside, inside of the tire and rim. Sometimes you won’t see anything if it is from having low tire pressure that gets squished over a bump, etc. Even if you can’t see anything, clean everything.
5) Pump up the inner tube slightly, then reassemble it inside the tire. Reattach this to your rim without any hooks, if possible, and make sure your tire is in the right direction. Make sure the tube is not being squished by the rim. Be careful around the valve because that area can easily be damaged, so I usually tried to push the final bit of tire in the rim away from the valve.
6) Slowly re-inflate the tire, making sure nothing got caught. Pump up until you get to your max pressure. Make sure you have your pump on with a straight valve. Once that breaks, you need a new tube, too (a lesson from my first lat tire change).
7) Reattach your tire to your bike, making sure it is properly positioned without any friction from the breaks. Re-hook your breaks.
It seems so simple, but it can be so complicated. :)
And now, about the recipe: Chocolate Brownie Power Bars. This has been my favourite energy bar for biking so far. I prefer moist, not so sweet bars that travel well. I really liked the cocoa mint nibbles, but they tasted like dates after they had been warmed in the sun. They were much better straight from the fridge for their fudge-y texture.
Adapted from Enlightened Cooking, these are similar to the cocoa nibbles but had more substance to them. They tasted more like a brownie and stayed that way after travelling with me all day. They also had a creamy taste which I think came from the milk powder. I originally threw it in because I had leftovers without a purpose (I originally bought some from the bulk store to make Momofuku’s Crack Pie). Now I think I have a super purpose for it, though, and will have to get myself some more.
In my quest to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall, I have been investigating portable snacks to bring with my on my rides. I made Almond Chocolate Larabars earlier in the season and liked the combination of dates, almonds and chocolate. The bars were a bit crumbly but otherwise a hit.
Then I spotted Cocoa Nibbles, posted by Ashley at Eat Me, Delicious, who found them through Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. They looked right up my alley with simple, healthy ingredients, akin to other Larabar recipes. Dried dates, almonds, cocoa powder, vanilla and mint are combined to create a fudgy-, datey- cocoa mint nibble. None of the flavours are overpowering and the dates provide a great dose of carbohydrates during a training session. They had good shape, even outside the fridge for many hours. Straight from the fridge, they have a darker fudge texture. The date flavour is more pronounced when eaten at room temperature. I also liked that I made around 16 “nibbles” from the entire batch (50 calories, 9g carb, 1.6g fat, 111 mg potassium per nibble). I wrapped each one up as a portable snack and they were there perfect size to eat during a long cycle. I can’t wait to try the flavour variations suggested by Ricki for my upcoming bicycle rides.
This is my submission to Blog Bites #6 hosted by One Hot Stove.