Thursday, 13 December 2012

On the Road

So this is my first attempt at posting from my phone while on the go-go. As mentioned a few posts ago, the boyfriend has been enjoying himself in a tropical location for several weeks now on an epic bike trip. The amazing thing is, I'm waiting at the airport for my connecting flight as I'M ABOUT TO GO MEET HIM!!! I know! So since this is a blog about food (and, indirectly, about cycling) I thought I'd try posting this way. I had the longest layover I've ever experienced today (almost 13 hours!) and so I ventured out of the terminal and headed into downtown Seattle for some good eats. I ended up at a place I've been once before, Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe in the University District. Everything on the menu is vegan and organic and there are plenty of gluten-free options as well. I settled on the Hippie Bowl, with perfectly cooked quinoa, shredded carrots, sprouts, tofu, tahini dressing and black sesame seeds. I opted for the large portion so that I could take half with me for dinner. It was scrumptious! I also treated myself to their house juice, a blend of apple, orange and ginger and then I finished off with a coffee and a hazelnut chocolate chip cookie. I didn't get a chance to photograph the cookie because I was too busy eating it. *Cough cough* I will dream about that cookie. That cookie makes all the other cookies in my life jealous and normally I would be sympathetic to other cookies' inferiority complexes but not this time. Because I'm too busy having mouth daydreams. It will have to be recreated. Ok folks, that's all for now. I'm getting a little loopy and I think I'm done eating for the day. Back soon with some exotic photos. "I like piƱa coladas . . . "

Monday, 10 December 2012

Nuts for Acorns

Acorn squash, that is. This little number was literally something that I threw together in 30 minutes and the results were Delicious with a capital "D." I had been out for a walk in the cold rain, the kind of rain that isn't little drops that fall straight down but a freezing cold mist that surrounds your entire body, making your umbrella an entirely useless fashion accessary. Needless to say, by the time I got home I was a soggy icicle. What I really wanted was warm pumpkin pie but since I didn't have the makings for that (and eating an entire pie for dinner is never a good idea anyway) I opted for baked acorn squash stuffed with quinoa. I flavoured the quinoa with the same spices as pumpkin pie and the end result was the food equivalent of stepping out of the shower and having a dryer-warmed towel waiting for you. Ahhhhhhhhh . . . . . .



It's funny the reaction I get from people when I tell them that I can't have gluten or dairy. They inevitably sigh and tell me how sorry they are and how they could never eat that way because they either don't have the time or they love food too much. To which I respond, I ADORE food! I love growing it, harvesting it, buying it, preparing it, eating and sharing it, and now, writing about it. And good, healthy food doesn't have to take hours to prepare. This meal is proof. I simply looked in my pantry, pulled out a few things that I thought might go well together and was sitting down to eat a half hour later.

It's the little acorn squash that makes this meal magical. Acorn squash is deliciously sweet and creamy in its taste and texture and one half is the perfect portion size for one person. High in vitamins A and C and the complex B's, it also contains iron, calcium and some protein. And it's pretty.

We've already discussed the beauty that is quinoa (protein!), the other star ingredient at work here. But the bits and pieces that got tossed in the pot also have their nutritional merits. Pepita seeds and walnuts for good fats and omegas, cinnamon to stabilize blood sugar and ginger to aid digestion and diminish inflammation. All that and the entire thing tastes really good too!

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 acorn squash, cut in half and the seeds scraped out
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pepita seeds
1/4 cup currants
2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 inches ginger, finely minced
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
salt and pepper
nutmeg and maple syrup for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a tray with parchment paper.
2. Drizzle squash halves with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on tray hollow side down. Roast for 30 minutes or until caramelized and soft all the way through.
3. Meanwhile, heat a saucepan on medium high heat, add a splash of olive oil and saute onions until golden.
4. Add ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and stir until heated through and fragrant.
5. Add quinoa, walnuts, cranberries, pepita seeds, currants and water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. The idea is that the quinoa and the  squash will be done around the same time.
6. Remove squash from oven, scoop a quarter of the quinoa mixture into each of the four halves. Grate a little fresh nutmeg on top and drizzle with maple syrup.
7. Eat while watching a Christmas movie for the full effect.

Cheers!


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Don't Blog on an Empty Stomach

Hello! I know, it's been a while. After Mr Cycling Chef left for his trip I was suffering from serious ennui. I drank too much wine, ate nothing but omelettes and overbooked myself with social events. Don't get me wrong, I make a damn fine omelette, but I wasn't feeling inspired enough to write about it. Then I was under the weather for a week and was eating the same damn fine omelette but without the wine. I've missed cooking but more than that, I've missed sharing! Cooking for one is a skill. Oftentimes you either end up throwing away spoiled food or eating the same thing for the entire week. Don't get me wrong, I love a good leftover, but they say variety is the spice of life and mine has been a little bland. So I put the empty wine bottles in the recycling bin, cleaned my kitchen and decided to make something for the office decorating party. I wanted something that would travel well, would showcase how delicious vegan desserts can be and that wasn't too fussy to make. I ended up with these:





Homemade, gluten-free, vegan Twix Bars!

These are to die for! Except you don't really want to die for them 'cuz then you wouldn't get to stuff your face. I originally made them as a thank-you for a friend of Mr Cycling Chef who had helped him move his stuff before his grand adventure. They were so good that only half of them made it to the guy, as Mr CC had to test the rest for, ahem, poison? Anytime my burly, prairie-raised, meat and potato guy enjoys one of my vegan, gluten free dishes it makes me goofy happy. I'm a total sucker. Anyhoo, back to these bars. If you're looking for something sweet, easy to make and slightly unusual, these are them. Developed by one of my favourite bloggers, Angela of Oh She Glows, these are a great treat to add to your holiday arsenal. You can find the recipe here. Like I said, I made a batch for the office holiday party and they were a huge hit. Just make sure you keep them cold, or else they start to get a little too gooey and soft. And try not to eat the whole pan at once, or you might end up looking like this:


Cheers!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What a Pear

Today I said goodbye to my partner in crime, my cycling companion, personal mechanic and ultimate taste-tester. He's off on an epic ride through Central America and I'm really proud of him for undertaking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not to mention being totally excited for him and really, really jealous. He inspires me to better myself, to seek out adventure and to continue to challenge myself. If he's reading this, he's totally disgusted by my flattery right now. But trust me, he's a pretty rad dude. 


Here's Baz being ever so helpful. Evidently, he has a thing for tools.

As expected, this weekend was busy with last-minute packing and organizing. I wanted to make him something special for breakfast, but also wanted it to be quick and easy so that it didn't take up the whole morning. What I ended up with was a chocolate pear scone. "Blog worthy?" I asked him. He didn't really answer, as he was too busy inhaling them. The way to a man's heart, etc. These were my first attempt at making a gluten-free scone. I've been making muffins and quick-breads for years, but for some reason, the scone just wasn't something that I tried to recreate. Well, let me tell you, it's probably a good thing that I wasn't aware of the amazing tastiness that are these scones (or sconces, as my tired fingers keep typing. Crunchy!) or I'd be the size of a truck by now (and that would be an American-sized truck, not a cute Japanese one). Without further ado, I bring you these:



Pear and Chocolate Scones
Inspired by these.
Makes 6

3 pears, cored and chopped quite small
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 1/4 tsp gluten-free baking powder (or 1 1/2 tsp regular baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold (solid) coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsp yogurt (I used goat)
1 1/2 tbsp milk (I used almond)
1/3 cup good quality chocolate chips or chopped up chunks
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment and place chopped pears in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes and then remove from oven to cool. 

2. Mix flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the pears, coconut oil, yogurt, milk and 1 egg and mix until well incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and mix. 

3. Line baking tray with parchment paper. Dust the baking tray with rice flour and rub your hands with rice flour as well. Pat dough into a round and cut into 6 triangles. Trust me, you need to cut and arrange the scones on the tray, as gluten-free dough doesn't have the same elasticity as glutenous dough. If you try to form the scones on the counter and transfer them, they will fall apart. And that's sad. 

4. Whisk the other egg and brush onto the tops of the scones. Sprinkle with some sugar. Arrange scones on tray and bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

5. Eat warm from the oven, with some tea and a loved one. 

Please excuse the quality of these pictures; the light in my basement suite wasn't cooperating but I NEEDED to share these with you all. So please, make them and share them with someone who you would be sad to be parted from. Or, if you're already missing someone, make these for yourself and eat your feelings. These are worth it. 

Cheers!




Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Keen on Quinoa

Have you ever had the need to literally dive into a bowl of food, eat without breathing and not stop until the wobbly feeling in your legs has disappeared? No? Because that's what happened to me this weekend. I had a long commute in the cold rain and a totally exhausting ballet class on Saturday. I was cold, wet and so hungry I wasn't sure I was going to make it home. But I did. And I'm so glad about that, because born out of necessity came this meal I'm about to share. If I had passed out instead, I would be sharing a technique for getting grass stains out of your jeans and mud out of your hair. Let's save that for another post, shall we?

Evidently, I needed something fast and nourishing and for me, that usually means quinoa. The seed that thinks it's a grain, quinoa cooks up quickly and is full of good carbs and protein, both of which are a must after a crazy-intense workout. First eaten by the Incas four-thousand years ago (talk about shelf life!), quinoa is now back in fashion. And I am nothing if not fashionable. You know, in my rain-drenched leotard and all. This dish was really easy and really delicious and if spooning in bed was a meal, it just might be this one.


Maple Quinoa Porridge with Pears and Hazelnuts
Serves 4 (or 2 ravenous ballerinas)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1.5 cups water
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
Nutmeg
Milk of your choice (I used almond)
Maple syrup
1 pear
Handful of hazelnuts (or filberts, if you're feeling posh)

1. Put quinoa, water, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a saucepan, bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the covered saucepan on the element for an additional 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, slice the pear.

3. Over medium heat, toast the hazelnuts until aromatic and just starting to brown. If you don't like the skins, rub them off at this point. Regardless, chop hazelnuts. Chop em' good.

4. Place quinoa in a bowl. Top with a splash of milk, a drizzle of maple syrup, some pear slices and the hazelnuts. Garnish with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

5. Inhale.



Cheers!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Remember these little furry terracotta things? They would magically spout tiny green leaves and voila! You'd be the proud owner of this:

Roar . . . I'm a bunny. 

Nowadays, chia has become more well known for it's nutritional value. These tiny little seeds are an amazing storehouse of all sorts of goodness. They are about the same size as a sesame seed and are a source of omega-3s, fibre, antioxidants, minerals and protein. That's a lot to pack in! So what does this have to do with this post?

As someone who is pretty active, I enjoy my snacks. However, needing to avoid both gluten and dairy (and wanting to try and not eat things full of refined sugar) means that my options are few when it comes to buying granola or protein bars. So instead I went a little crazy in the bulk section and threw a whole bunch of good things into a bowl, stirred it up and made my own! And, you guessed it, there were chia seeds in there.



Almond Butter Fruit Bars

Makes 16 bars

4 ripe bananas
1 cup almond butter
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dates
1 cup gluten-free oats
1 cup quinoa flakes
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup shredded coconut
4 tbsp flax seeds
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 8x8 pans with parchment paper.
2. Mash bananas and place in small saucepan. Add almond butter and stir over medium heat until blended and smooth. Remove from heat.
3. Place apricots, dates, cranberries and almonds into food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
4. Place nut and fruit mixture in a bowl and add oats, quinoa, seeds, coconut and spices. Mix in banana and almond mixture and stir until totally blended.
5. Divide batter between the two pans and press into place, smoothing it as much as possible.
6. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Cut into 8 bars per pan (16 in total) and enjoy! These will last about 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

These are my favourite snack right now. They're just the right combination of complex carbs, protein and fats, and they get me through a gruelling dance class or a long ride. A little bit sweet, a little bit salty and the same spices as pumpkin pie. What's not to love? Nothing, that's what. So go make some and ch-ch-ch-chew like a green bunny. Nom, nom, nom.

Cheers!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Curry in a Hurry

With the turn in weather, I find myself craving woollen socks, hot cocoa and warm, stick-to-your-bones sorts of foods. Coupled with the fact that Mr Cycling Chef is leaving shortly to bike around Central America for 6 weeks, I thought what better than a curry reminiscent of the flavours of the Americas? This, I think, is one of the best things about food. With a little imagination, a few choice ingredients and an adventurous palate, you can travel to far off and exotic places simply with your taste-buds. So I invite you to pack your bags and head down to Latin America with me.


This region is a true melting-pot of international flavours. You will find African, Native American, European and Asian influences intermingling with indigenous grains, produce and meats. Many of the foods that we know and love today are direct byproducts of this cultural interaction. Tomatoes brought us pizza sauce, potatoes became french fries, chillies now lend heat to Pad Thai and cacao turned into chocolate.

I have made this curry before with both butternut squash and pumpkin (both were delicious!) but this time around I tried a squash unknown to me. I won't lie, I chose it because I thought it was pretty. I'm shallow like that.


Hello! I am a red kuri squash and I am adorable. 

Red kuri squash is chock full of vitamins A and C, plus betacarotene, calcium and iron. And did I mention fibre? No? Because this little cutie has that going for it as well. 

This curry (or should I say, kuri?) has a delicate and sweet flavour and is not particularly spicy. Rather, it is seasoned with softer flavours, most notably cinnamon and saffron. 

Red Kuri Curry with Basmati Rice
Inspired by Celia Brooks Brown

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 bell pepper, finely diced
generous punch of cayenne
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
generous pinch of saffron threads
500g red kuri squash, chopped into 1/2" cubes
3 tomatoes, finely diced
1 large garlic clove
1 14oz can of coconut milk
salt and pepper
2 cups brown Basmati rice

  • Place rice in a pot with 4 cups of salted water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium and add the oil. Add the onion and pepper and saute until translucent.
  • Add the spices and stir until fragrant.
  • Add the squash, tomatoes and garlic and cook until the tomatoes soften.
  • Add the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the squash is tender.
  • Serve alongside rice.
This is best eaten curled up on the sofa, wearing woollen socks and listening to the rain outside. 

Cheers!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bespoke Dining

Hello! And welcome to The Cycling Chef, where eating and cycling are celebrated as two of life's simple pleasures (although not necessarily at the same time. Eating while cycling can lead to indigestion and accidents, neither of which I recommmend. Just saying). For me though, the two are inextricably linked. I like to pack some snacks, hop on my noble steed and go for a ride in my beautiful hometown of Victoria, BC, all while keeping an eye out for the ideal picnic spot. Or meander my way through tree-lined streets to the local farmer's market, a cidery or a fantastic restaurant.


This is my cat, Basil. I figured I should introduce him, as he will most likely end up in some posts. I have two bikes (one is in the shop right now) and the one pictured here is Pippa. She's a small-framed little lady with a great rack and enjoys long sojourns and dinner by candlelight. 

It feels like everyone and their dog has a blog these days and I kinda hemmed and hawed a bit on making the decision to start one. What do I have to say that is so important? To be honest, I'm not sure I do! But I do know that I love food and I love to share food (and have food shared with me!). My relationship with food has been a tumultuous one. Born with severe food allergies, I was only able to eat yams and pineapple until the age of two. With the help of a specialist, I managed to reintroduce food over time, resulting in my ability to eat everything and anything. Life was sa-weet! Until I was 21, when I started to have some dietary issues. After many tests and elimination diets, it was determined that I suffer from Celiac Disease and cannot handle cow dairy very well. I had mixed feelings about this information. First, I was so happy to finally know what was wrong and how I could stop being in pain all the time and get back to being healthy. Second, I was a little bit crushed to know that I wouldn't be able to eat some of my favourite foods (Jarlsberg cheese on a fresh baguette from the Italian Bakery was about my favourite thing to eat. And ice cream. And any other kind of cheese. Chocolate croissants, almond croissants, Reese's Pieces, whipped cream and the focaccia at Pag's). But after a while, the cravings went away and I started to recreate my old favourites and create new ones. I had never been interested in cooking until that point in my life; I had always enjoyed baking because it was an exact science and I'm a little bit anal about taking directions. Sometimes things are a giant failure and other times, a resounding success. Throughout this journey, I have found myself following food blogs like Sprouted KitchenMy New RootsOh She Glows and 101 Cookbooks. I appreciate the wealth of delicious recipes and information that blogs like these provide, not to mention the beautiful photographs. How lucky I feel, to be welcomed to the table of a virtual stranger. If I can provide a little help, a little inspiration and a little knowledge to someone else with food limitations, I'll consider myself honoured. 

So what kind of recipes will you find here? Well, I can pretty much guarantee that they will all be gluten-free and cow dairy-free. A great deal of them will be vegan, most will be vegetarian and all will be made with kindness. I don't have a mandate or agenda here, I don't believe in labels and I'm not judgemental. I make decisions about what I eat, but those are my decisions and I don't hold anyone else to them. I generally don't like meat and have been an on-again-off-again (mostly on-again) vegetarian since I was a kid. There will be eggs, honey, goat and sheep cheese present, as well as the occasional bit of fish. Whole foods are the way I roll and I hope to prove that healthy can also be tasty!

So after this long-winded introduction, I leave you not with a recipe, but with some pictures of a bike trip that my boyfriend I took in September. There was much eating and drinking, riding and resting. I promise that the next post will feature a delicious recipe. Cheers! 



We loaded the bikes with the camping gear and headed off to Salt Spring Island for 4 days. It was glorious! Salt Spring Vineyards sits on the top of a hill (we found out there ain't nothin' but hills on Salt Spring) and they allow you full access to the vineyard. We enjoyed some of their wine and a brie-style goat cheese from here. The best thing about going up the hill to get there? The ride down afterwards! 


Don't let those big brown eyes fool you. The deer had excellent taste and proceeded to eat half a loaf of gluten-free banana bread and an entire bag of homemade quinoa porridge mix. I'm still holding a grudge. 




Goats at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. This place is so cool! The dairy is designed in such a way as to be an interactive self-tour. You walk around the outside of the building and get to learn about the different processes involved in cheese making. The whole place is designed with large windows for you to look in and there's a huge sampling table. Heaven! There was even goat gelato. As my friend Andy said, the great thing about riding hard is getting to eat with impunity. So we did!