How do you feel about ridiculously easy recipes? Love them? Hate them?
I wanted to call this a 2-ingredient ridiculously easy chocolate protein bark but I.just.could.not.do.it.
While it could be as easy as mixing 2 (or 3) ingredients together, it is not altogether a 2-ingredient recipe. One of the ingredients is made up of a bunch more. I would hate to mislead you.
My photos will not deceive you, either. Almost psychedelic, the protein bark morphs from a light beige to a darker brown on the other side. Courtesy of the not-quite truthful ingredient: chocolate protein powder.
The simplicity of this treat is simply chocolate protein powder and maca stirred into melted coconut oil which is left to freeze. Protein powders, especially the flavoured varieties, tend to include a bunch of ingredients that may contribute to the different settling rates that occur as it freezes. Or perhaps it is the maca, which is a lighter colour.
I will save my rant about protein powders for another day, but suffice it to say, my preference lies within simple, natural protein powder without any flavours or sweeteners. In times when the expensive Vega chocolate protein miraculously goes on sale, that is when I may try out something new… and then bust out these treats. Just make sure you pick a chocolate protein powder in which you enjoy its taste.
This recipe is courtesy of Amber from Practically Raw Desserts. I have mentioned her cookbook before, gushing over her light raw carrot cupcakes and inherent flexibility to her recipes. I really enjoy her cookbook because through her variations, you learn how to cook (or bake, or unbake as in this case). She has lower fat options, grain-free, nut-free, lower sugar and baked options, depending on the recipe. Some of my favourite recipes from her cookbook include this chocolate protein bark as well as protein power pudding, individual cherry crumbles, raw pecan shortbread cookies, goji berry granola bars, jingle balls and cherry-carob bars. My only gripe about the book are the photos. When compared to some other books, like Isa Does It (with gorgeous photography that I forgot to highlight in my review), they are lacklustre. While there are a lot of colour photos, the colours are off and framing could be improved (yes, says the one with the oddest photos for this post, HA!). At least the recipes are great and that is what counts.
I really want to share this cookbook with you, especially as the holiday treat season gears up (share the vegan baketivism this season!). Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Amber recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Amber yet, have a look through the table of contents of Practically Raw Desserts on amazon (or my list below) or pick something from her blog and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 21, 2013. Good luck!
Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Enlightened Raw Carrot Cupcakes (LOVED these!)
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Coconut Heaven Cupcakes
Marzipan Buckeye Bars
Maple Streusel Coffee Cake Squares
Pecan Chai Spice Bars (only ok; I found the flavours a bit muted and the frosting too soft)
Pecan Shortbread (very good)
Salted Tahini Caramels
5-Minute Blondies (nice and simple)
Dulce de Leche Spooncream
Velvety Chocolate Mousse
Russian Tea Cakes
Tuxedo Cheesecake Brownies
Tropical Fruit Tartlets
PS. Have you entered my worldwide giveaway for Plant-Powered 15 yet?
Note: I was given a copy of the cookbook from Amber as I was a recipe tester. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
You don’t realize how much you need things until you don’t have them.
A bed? Yeah, sleeping bags don’t cut it.
Chairs? Sitting on the floor is actually not that much fun.
Lest I mislead you with some pre-written posts, things have been a tad chaotic since my arrival in Texas. We drive down separately from our stuff. The shipping pod that had nearly all of our belongings was 4 days late. We were only partially prepared for living without our stuff. Rob was smart enough to pack our sleeping bags in the car. However, after one night of sleeping on the hard floor, we knew that was not sustainable. We ended up visiting REI earlier than we thought, to buy two thermarest sleeping pads. Much better. Gosh, how did I ever enjoy sleeping parties as a kid?? The good thing about the pads was that I could bring them to the kitchen, too, so I had a more comfy spot to sit on the floor.
Eventually Rob emptied the pod (while I was at work) and slowly we’ve been unpacking our home. We prioritized: 1) bed; 2) computer and then 3) kitchen. Since we only packed the essentials, we kind of needed everything. Bathroom amenities were also important: our shower curtain was in there! And my bicycle to be assembled for commuting to work. (Even before we had the pod, our first priority was internet! Pick up a modem and hook up the wifi)
Those few days in limbo had me less focused on the kitchen. Overnight oats for breakfast and lots and lots of hummus, crackers and carrots. Trader Joe’s has such delicious hummus, no? Their chickpea Mediterranean Hummus is fabulous! I started to build up my pantry with trips to grocers (totally digging Fiesta Mart) but kept meals simple without much of a kitchen.
To celebrate my first American holiday, July 4, I made this patriotic-looking salad: strawberries and blueberries with cacao nibs, hemp and maca. A fun fruit salad with unusual but not unfamiliar flavours. Kind of like a Canadian in America, no? A bit different but kind of the same. I will save my American-Canadian observations for another post… so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, enjoy your summer with some tasty berries. :)
As I said, I should listen to myself more often. I am full of great wisdom.
Another piece of Janet tried-and-true advice: follow the recipe! I know I adapt many recipes to what I have on hand, but some recipes are best left untouched. Case in point: traditional hummus. I already have a recipe I love (LOVE!) and see no need to experiment. Winging it ends up with a subpar hummus.
For some reason, I also find juices and smoothies to be a bit finicky. Sure, I can wing random smoothies and juices, but sometimes the proportions are off, some flavours aren’t properly balanced and gosh, I know it can taste better.
Hence why I am sharing this recipe. It turned out great. When I winged this with raspberries, flax and protein powder, it was ok but not fabulous. Raspberries are more tart than strawberries and while I used flax seeds as my milk substitute, almonds and hemp seeds create a more lusciously, creamy drink. I still tinkered with the original recipe but not by much. Next time, I will add some protein powder, which can easily be hidden inside a smoothie.
I have eaten at Gorilla Foods a few times when visiting Vancouver and this shake is definitely one of my favourites. I found most of their dishes to be a bit lackluster although I thoroughly enjoyed their Main St. Monkey Sandwich: a raw squash-curry bread filled with olive tapenade, creamy mashed avocado, zucchini hummus, tomatoes, cucumber and sprouts. I thought there was raisin chutney, too, but I could be mistaken. In any case, it was a delicious sandwich to try if you are in their neighbourhood.
I often try to recreate resto meals. Inspired by Gorilla Foods, I’ve made a (non-raw) kabocha squash curried flatbread, but filled it with eggplant bacon as a BLT. Their raisin chutney has been on my hit-list, though. Although their guacamole recipe is in Thrive Foods, it wasn’t until they released their cookbook, that nearly their entire menu was available to be made at home.
We’re all out of raisins, though, so I started by making this smoothie. And as I already said, I wasn’t disappointed. Sweet creamy strawberries with a hint of malty maca and vanilla.
How do you usually make your smoothies? Wing it or measure it?
Other smoothies/drinks here and elsewhere:
Peachy Keen Vanilla Smoothie
Chocolate Maca Raspberry Smoothie
Raw Chocolate Milkshake at My New Roots (very, very good!)
Mojito Smoothie at My New Roots (different but good)
I am sore today.
Yesterday was such a wonderful day, it is hard to narrow down the ultimate culprit.
On any day of soreness, I would blame the gym. Yesterday was no exception. I started off the day with my regular weightlifting class but it was followed by an incredibly demanding work-out courtesy of Jillian Michaels: the infamous Body Shred work-out. It sounds tame. Only 30 minutes. Only 4 rounds after the warm-up. Only 3 minutes of strength, then 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs. Do not be fooled!! This is HARD! It is crazy and chaotic. But fun and energizing. Especially since the moves have such funny names (but still oh so hard – flying crab anyone?). Already in select cities in the US, this was the first preview class in Canada but will eventually find its way into a Goodlife near you (it will start March 1 in Toronto and nationwide by the end of 2014). I don’t think this video gives the work-out the fear it deserves. ;)
Two work-outs down, it was time to become lazy and gluttonous.
Starting off with lunch at our new favourite fast food joint, Banh Mi Boys, which has a lot of vegan options. My favourite is the veggie kimchi sweet potato fries and the green-papaya salad with lemongrass tofu (both off-menu). Even better was meeting up with the sweet travelling Aussie Hannah.
Next up, a bit early for our show, we had a tea and connect 4 stop at Academy of Lions. It doubles as a crossfit gym but also hosts a cute cafe with tons of paleo sweets. If only they didn’t have honey, they would have been vegan-friendly. In any case, they had my favourite Tealish tea to warm me up: Winter Blend.
Our main reason for our jaunt on Lower Ossington was to see Avenue Q. A small intimate theater made this an up-close and personal experience, filled with all the wittiness I remember from when I first watched the show in NYC.
Next up, a new-to-us resto: Bi Bim Bap. A Korean sizzling brown rice specialty, we were drawn to it because they offer brown rice (for no extra charge), along with vegan options such as tofu or a blend of 9 different mushrooms. You can also personalized your stone bowl creations with your choice of hot sauce, or not-so-hot sauce (in my case, I had the not hot soy garlic sauce, but Rob had the “mild hot” sour GoChuJang which I thought was plenty spicy, thankyouverymuch). Since the hot sauces are served on the side, you can add to taste and even ask for another sauce if it turns out to be too spicy. On the side was some kimchi and pickled ?pear/apple?. Their homemade and simple kimchi is made with anchovies (no go for me) but Rob said it was plenty spicy so I wouldn’t have liked it anyways. (The kimchi at Banh Mi Boys is very tame which I prefer). All the bibimbaps are served with barley tea (which actually tastes good), miso soup and a ginger-cinnamon drink. Turns out it wasn’t only us trying numerous kinds of kimchi. Toronto has kimchi fever this weekend. I wonder who won the kimchi battle?
Followed by a nightcap with these sexy maca chocolates. I first added cacao butter to my list of ingredients to hunt down after seeing Sarah’s raw chocolate recipe. When I finally decided to make said chocolates, I decided pureeing the dates seemed a tad finicky. I gravitated to a super simple recipe I found in Superfood Kitchen, only slightly more involved than the recent posts from Angela and Gena. I actually made these before their posts but kept these chocolates hidden away as a surprise for Rob. I initially planned to share them on Valentine’s Day but Rob surprised me with homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles instead!
A week later, I broke out these sexy maca chocolates. Why sexy? Maca is believed to (slightly) improve libido. It also has been shown to slightly improve athletic performance which is how I first became introduced to its malty taste. I will be whipping out those maca chip raw energy balls again this summer, as I train for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. Here, this recipe is simply melted cocoa butter spiced with cocoa powder and maca powder, sweetened with agave. Easy peasy for simple, sexy chocolate truffles. :)
While I may be sore today, it was still a fabulous day-long 3-year anniversary date with Rob. ;)
If there is one thing that is predictable with my meals, it is my breakfast. Steel cut oatmeal with fruit and protein powder. Lately, I’ve been eating it with Vega, since I scored it at half price. Making a big batch each week is a time saver and doesn’t make me think too much each morning as I rush out the door.
With a bit of extra time this long weekend, I decided to host a birthday/housewarming brunch today. A time to whip out all the vegan brunch options. I know, one meal that can be challenging for vegans has got to be brunch, typically filled with cheese, eggs and baked goods. Not here.
A recent visit to The Naked Sprout‘s Sunday brunch had me in a tizzy over their raw raspberry banana coconut pancakes with coconut ice cream. I thought it would be great to try my hand at it and I figured going raw for brunch would be an easy way to serve a crowd. The pancakes could be made in advance and then assembled once we were ready to eat. No need to slave over a stovetop, especially during this hot summer weather.
Of course, I had to do some research to make sure the recipe worked out before my guests arrived. Last week, while we still had strawberries, I did the first test run. This was the glorious result. Soft and chewy (not light and fluffy like SAD pancakes) pancakes with a hint of maca. Stacked, on top of berries and topped with banana soft-serve ice cream. I was definitely inspired by my meal at The Naked Sprout. This version was lighter and glorious in the melting ice cream. Make no mistake, their vanilla coconut ice cream was possibly the best I have ever had.
One problem: A few days later, my pancakes didn’t look the same. I stored a bunch in the refrigerator in anticipation of not dehydrating this weekend and they turned brown. The banana had probably oxidized or something. Still delicious, they just weren’t as um, photogenic. Well, at least to me, since I know they are supposed to be a light brown colour.
In any case, strawberries are out and cherries are in, so I’ve come up with an alternate breakfast plan. Stayed tuned!
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. :)
I have been cycling a lot recently in preparation for cycling from Ottawa to Kingston and back in June. Rob and I have slowly increased our daily distances, and on Sunady we cycled 168km. Terrain around Toronto can be mostly flat, so we have been trying to incorporate hills into our routes. There will be some killer hills en route to Kingston.
Last year, The Toronto Star listed some scenic hills for cyclists and we have been exploring them one-by-one ever since. Two weeks ago, we conquered the brutal hill in Twyn Rivers and this week we tackled the steep and curvy hill at Appleby Line in Burlington. I have to zigzag up the hills because I can’t ride them straight – I just don’t have the gears to go that low nor are my legs that strong! We only have one more hill left on the list (Redway) but it has been fun to see different areas in Toronto.
I have been making tons of different energy bars for my cycling trips and will start by sharing these healthy snacks from the Thrive Diet (original recipe posted here, and video of Brendan making them is here). I like the Thrive Diet because it highlights eating nutrient-dense foods. Brendan just came out with a new cookbook, Whole Foods to Thrive, which I am really excited to explore because the recipes seem much more creative and include a lot of recipes from established raw restaurants including Live Food Bar in Toronto, Gorilla Food in Vancouver and one of my new finds, Thrive Juice Bar in Waterloo (sadly, they didn’t share the recipe for their awesome pad thai).
These are definitely a healthy energy bar, filled with nuts, seeds, blueberries, lemon juice and carob powder. The texture is softer than what I usually expect from my cycling snacks, but Brendan is a big proponent of your mouth and stomach doing the least amount of work while fueling up during exercise. I found them too soft to transport a bunch of them with me while biking, but they are better at room temperature after a work-out or as a mid-day snack when the munchies come!
I never quite understood why I would want to drink my breakfast. However, chilled smoothies filled with fruit and seasonings have been perfect before and after my bicycle rides.
I am currently testing recipes for Tess Challis‘ upcoming superfoods cookbook and have been loving her smoothies! Her “Maca My Day” smoothie is what got me hooked, and it is wonderful with frozen bananas and the malty goodness from maca. She has a few delicious smoothies planned for the cookbook, and I took some liberty to create my own variation.
Perfect for breakfast, a delicious treat for dessert, enjoy this smoothie guilt-free as it is packed with frozen banana, raspberries, chia seeds, toasted carob and vanilla.
Chocolate and raspberry pair well together. Except I didn’t use chocolate. I used toasted carob powder, which has a flavour similar to chocolate without the caffeine. Carob is a bit sweeter than cocoa, and definitely sweeter than raw cacao, so I didn’t feel like this smoothie needed any additional sweetener, but add to taste. Maca is also wonderful in it, but completely optional.