April 30, 2012

Vegan Pina Colada Cake

It's another rainy, chilly Monday here in Ontario, so what better way to start off the week than with a tropical cake!

I know I left you with a teaser last week of the cake that I made for my birthday and I meant to share the recipe with you sooner, but I ended up being pretty busy with a couple of family events this weekend so I never found the time to post the recipe.  Hopefully you'll forgive me for the long wait when you see how good this cake was!

I mentioned in my last post that my twin sister Natalie and I each like to make our own cakes for our shared birthday.  This year, Nat set out to make a banana cake and served us this delicious banana layer cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting.  I had tropical flavours on my mind, so when I came across a recipe for a pina colada cake on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had found my birthday cake!

The recipe sounded perfect, but I still wanted to make some changes to suit my personal preferences, like adding a layer of toasted coconut on top and using Malibu coconut rum instead of regular rum.  To make the cake vegan, I replaced the butter with Earth Balance Coconut Spread, and I used a powdered egg replacer instead of actual eggs.

Veganizing the recipe was easy enough, but the difficult part came when I tried to find the cream of coconut.  I had read that cream of coconut is essential for the recipe and you can't just substitute coconut milk. But I searched at least three different stores and couldn't find it anywhere (maybe it's only available in the summer months?).

I was running out of time, so I knew I would have to improvise.  Then I came up with the idea to use pina colada cocktail mix instead of the cream of coconut.  I figured it would give the cake an even stronger pina colada flavour, and it has a pretty thick consistency that would be similar enough to the cream of coconut.  I actually found a brand that was low-calorie with no added sugar, and it even had creamed coconut in the ingredients. So I bought it and hoped for the best!

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that the cake wouldn't turn out.  Not only was I worried that the pina colada mix might cause some kind of strange chemical reaction, but it was also my first time using a powdered egg replacer, so I wasn't too sure how that would work in the recipe either.  Plus I realized when I went to bake the cake that I didn't have a 9 inch regular cake pan, so I had to use a glass pan instead.

Well, I must have had some birthday luck on my side, because the cake ended up even better than I could have hoped!  It had lots of coconut flavour, with just enough sweetness from the cake and the glaze.  I thought the mix of pineapple and coconut did make it taste like a pina colada, but personally I would have liked just a touch more of the rum flavour to come through (which may have been because I used a flavoured rum, which doesn't have a strong alcohol taste).

I also loved the texture of the cake itself - it was so moist and had a nice thick crumb.  This definitely wasn't a fluffy or airy cake, but I thought the denser texture actually worked really well.  I also liked that it wasn't too rich and didn't sit heavy in my stomach afterwards like some cakes can.

I would say that when it comes to birthday cakes, this one was more on the lighter side, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a healthy cake - it definitely still qualifies as a sweet dessert (although I did come very close to eating the last slice for breakfast the next day)!

Everyone I served the cake to loved it as well, and they were quite willing to take leftovers home with them, so I knew it was a success!  I think this would also be a great cake to make for Mother's Day coming up in a couple of weeks, or for anyone who loves coconut!

Vegan Pina Colada Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
*Note: the instructions below are for a regular cake pan. If you use a glass baking pan like I did, reduce the oven temperature to 325° and bake for about 5 minutes longer.

2 tsp powdered egg replacer + 1/4 cup water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz Earth Balance Coconut Spread, softened (or another vegan butter substitute)
1/4 cup organic cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp Malibu coconut rum, divided (or regular rum)
1 tsp vanilla extract (can subsitute coconut extract for a stronger coconut flavor)
1 cup pina colada cocktail mix (check the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan)
heaping 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple

1 cup icing sugar
2-3 tbsp pineapple juice
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp lime zest

~ 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
~ 1/4 cup unsweetened large flake coconut

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a 9-inch cake pan by spraying with cooking spray or lining the bottom with parchment paper.

First, make your egg replacer by mixing the powder with the water. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through to salt) in a large bowl.

Place the Earth Balance and cane sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Beat in 1 tbsp of the rum and the vanilla extract.  Next, beat or whisk in the pina colada mix – the mixture will look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it’s supposed to look that way!

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in two additions, stirring gently until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Fold in the pineapple.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing out the top with a spatula. Place in preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the outside is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Carefully invert the pan to release the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  While it is still warm, brush the remaining 1 tbsp of rum over the top and edges of the cake.

To make the glaze and topping:
Make the glaze by stirring together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Add the pineapple juice 1 tbsp at a time, until the glaze is thin enough to spread but still thick enough that it is not runny.

Toast the coconut in a large skillet over medium heat until it begins to turn golden and fragrant, shaking the pan frequently (be careful not to burn it!).

Once the cake is completely cooled, pour the glaze slowly over the cake, starting in the center. The glaze should start spreading out to the edges on its own, but you can use a spatula to help spread it if necessary.

Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the icing (be sure to do this before the icing has set). I sprinkled an even layer of the flaked coconut over the whole cake, then a layer of the large flaked coconut over the centre of the cake for different textures.

Store in the fridge and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8-10 slices. 

April 25, 2012

Birthday Recap

Since yesterday was my birthday, I thought it might be fun to share some of the highlights of my day on my blog!

I spent the weekend leading up to my birthday back home with my family, and I enjoyed lots of good food while I was there, starting with a nice breakfast on Saturday morning. We went to a cute and quirky little cafe called the Bag Lady Variety. My Mom and I decided to splurge and each ordered the "Mojo", which was two thick slices of cinnamon french toast, stuffed with a layer of bananas, crunchy peanut butter and honey. I was in heaven!

After breakfast, we went shopping at the new Organic Works Bakery & Cafe. All of their baked goods are vegan and gluten free, and they have lots of products for sale too. There were so many things I wanted to buy, but I limited myself to some sweet potato tortilla chips, a shortbread cookie and a cinnamon raisin scone. 

I ended up saving the scone in the freezer so that I could have it for breakfast on my actual birthday, spread with some Earth Balance Coconut Spread (my new favourite product!) and pumpkin pie butter. It was the perfect way to start my day!

Later that day, I got to open my wonderful birthday presents from my family.  They spoiled me as usual, and I loved everything I got - especially all of the food-related gifts!  

Some of my foodie gifts included a vegetarian cookbook and magazine, a mango slicer, and a chip maker so I can make my own chips out of any vegetable or even fruit!  I also got lots of edible stuff that I can't wait to try, including some icewine, a blueberry kombucha drink, a jar of raw honey, some almond-hazelnut butter, my favourite kind of granola, and some pumpkin-ginger soba noodles. 

My edible gifts also included four different coconut products - clearly my family knows my tastes very well! I got a bag of coconut flour, a Zico pomegranate-berry coconut water, a bottle of coconut vinegar, and a bag of coconut chips (as you can see, I couldn't wait to rip that bag open - they are soooo good!). I'm also excited to try the coconut vinegar, although I'm not sure yet what the best uses for it are - if anybody has tried it before, let me know!

Since my twin sister Natalie and I have always shared a birthday, we have to try to compromise when it comes time to choosing our birthday dinner! This year, we each chose a main dish that we wanted, and we shared the sides (a delicious strawberry salad and sweet potato fries). 

Nat chose a chicken cheesesteak sandwich as the non-vegetarian main course.  Not surprisingly, I wanted to have something with beets so I made a beet flatbread, which my older sister and I (the only vegetarians at the table) shared. 

I used a storebought flatbread to reduce the amount of cooking I'd need to do.  For the toppings, I spread on some bottled fig and balsamic sauce, then topped it with slices of roasted beets and goat cheese. Once it came out of the oven, I scattered some arugula that I had tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The beets were a bit undercooked, but overall I loved it! It was kind of like eating a beet salad but in the form of a light flatbread.

Our birthday cake is one thing that Nat and I don't even bother to try to compromise on...since we were both really excited to choose what kind of cake we wanted, we each decided to make our own and serve them both for dessert!

Nat chose a banana layer cake with peanut butter and cream cheese frosting - I only had room for a tiny slice, but it was delicious (and she'll be posting the recipe on her blog soon if you want to check it out...in the meantime, you can see a picture of it here in her own birthday recap)! 

My cake turned out really well too! It was just what I wanted - moist and light with some tropical flavor! I'll save the recipe for my next post because this one is already getting long, but I'll leave you with a teaser for now...

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen what kind it was, but you can tell from the picture that it had lots of coconut...I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone - if you've been following my blog for a while then you could probably guess that I would choose a coconut cake without needing to see a picture!

Overall, I had a great birthday, and I'm excited to try all my new food products - hopefully some of them will make re-appearances on my blog soon in new recipes!

April 22, 2012

Spring Panzanella

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you may know that one of my favourite things to make is panzanella - basically a salad of vegetables and crusty bread, tossed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  I think panzanella is best in the summertime, when you can get fresh tomatoes and basil from your own garden, but the great thing about this dish is that it can be adapted so easily to each season.

My first panzanella recipe that I posted was this Roasted Summer Panzanella, made with corn, tomatoes, and summer squash.  When the colder weather came around, I changed up the recipe by using root veggies and pumpernickel bread to make this Winter Panzanella that I loved.

Now that Spring is finally here, I couldn't wait to make another version of my favourite salad using some of the new produce that becomes available in springtime.

For the vegetables, I chose asparagus, radishes, and mini new red potatoes, along with the standard cherry tomatoes that I think are essential to a panzanella. For the bread, I wanted something with seeds, because they remind me of springtime and new growth, so I found a nice hearty loaf of sunflower seed rye bread that I toasted and broke into pieces.

I also like to change up the type of fresh herb that I put in my salad based on the season.  In the summer, I always use fresh basil, and in the winter, I used sage.  For my spring version, I decided to add some fresh dill, and I loved the way it brightened up the whole dish.

Finally, I topped off my salad with a big handful of alfalfa sprouts for some extra texture and substance (I added more sprouts after these pictures were taken and mixed them in so that they were spread throughout the salad).

I loved the way everything came together to create an such an interesting and flavourful meal! I thought each of the components went well with the others, and I liked to combine them in different ways with each bite!

And if you're not a fan of radishes, you should try roasting them - they lose some of that bite that can turn people off and instead take on a sweeter, more mellow flavour with a softer texture. I couldn't find any local radishes or asparagus yet when I made this, but I will definitely be making it again, and I bet it will taste even better once the local produce is available!

Spring Panzanella
Inspired by my previous recipes for Roasted Summer Panzanella and Roasted Winter Panzanella
*Note: the amounts below are approximate amounts for 1 large serving.  You can easily increase the amounts to serve more people. I roasted extra vegetables so that I could have leftovers to make another salad the next day - just add the bread and dressing separately when you want to eat it.

4 oz mini red potatoes, cut in half
4 oz radishes, cut in half if large
1/2 tsp dried oregano
~5 cherry or grape tomatoes
1 clove garlic, smashed
4-5 spears asparagus
1-2 thick slices of bread – I recommend a multigrain or sunflower seed loaf
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for roasting
2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tbsp fresh dill
Salt and pepper
Handful of sprouts (I used alfalfa sprouts)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Toss the potatoes and radishes with a drizzle of olive oil, the dried oregano, and some salt and pepper.  Transfer to a large baking dish and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Toss the tomatoes and garlic with a bit more olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to the pan with the potatoes and radishes.  Roast for an additional 15-20 minutes, until potatoes and radishes are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus by breaking off the woody ends and placing them on a small baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add to the oven for the last 10 minutes of roasting time.

Toast the bread by adding the slices to the oven for the last 5-10 minutes of roasting time (I placed my bread on the same baking sheet with the asparagus).

When everything is done roasting, remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl.  Toss with the remaining olive oil, vinegar, and dill.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with the sprouts.

Makes 1 serving.

April 18, 2012

Thai-Inspired Hummus

I know it seems like all I've talked about lately on my blog is my trip to Asia, but that trip inspired at least a few good recipes that I wanted to share with you, so I hope you'll bear with me as I post one more today!

Since I had bought a few somewhat exotic ingredients to make my green curry, I didn't want the leftovers to go to waste afterwards.  When I tried to think of other uses for them, the first idea that came to my mind was a savory muffin. But sadly, that idea didn't quite turn out as good as I'd hoped...the muffins looked and tasted pretty good when they came out of the oven, but they started to give off a pretty nasty smell the next day - I guess daikon isn't meant to be baked!

So I moved on to the next idea that I came up with, which was to incorporate all of those same flavours from the green curry into a hummus to snack on!

I found a recipe for Spicy Thai Hummus on the blog Olives for Dinner that I liked the sounds of, and then I made some changes so that I could use more of the ingredients that I already had on hand, like the kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and green chilies.

After my muffin disaster, I was really hoping that this recipe would turn out better, and I was so excited when I tasted it!  This is probably the most savory hummus I've ever made - it really tastes like a meal in the form of a dip!  I thought it tasted like a cross between Thai peanut sauce and green curry, with just the right amount of spice.

It was also really thick, so it would make a good sandwich spread - I enjoyed it in veggie wraps, and also as a dip with pita chips and veggies.

So if you're looking to spice up your usual hummus with some new flavours, give this Thai-inspired recipe a try!

Thai-Inspired Hummus
Adapted from Olives for Dinner

2 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 6-inch stalk lemongrass, minced (remove the outer leaves first)
2 kaffir lime leaves, minced (or you can substitute the zest of one lime)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Thai basil (can substitute cilantro)
2 green chilies, seeded and minced
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp natural palm sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
Juice of one lime

Place the chickpeas, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, basil, and chilies in a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix the ingredients.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until the hummus is smooth and all the ingredients are fully incorporated. 

Serve with veggies, crackers, or pita bread. Store in the refrigerator. 

April 15, 2012

Thai Green Curry with Tofu and Eggplant

After my daikon radish cakes, the next Asian dish that I wanted to try making at home was a Thai green curry.  Before my trip to Thailand, I would usually stick with red curry at restaurants but now I know that the other types of Thai curries, including the green and yellow varieties, are just as complex and delicious, if not more!

When I first set out to recreate a green curry at home, I planned on buying a jar of premade curry paste.  I had always assumed that making your own curry paste would be too difficult or that I would never be able to find the right ingredients. But after looking at a few recipes for homemade green curry paste, I realized that it wouldn't be too hard to make, and the result would probably taste much more authentic!

So I made a visit to the nearest Asian food market and picked up all of the ingredients that I would need, including some that I'd never bought before like fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.  Finding all the right ingredients was probably the hardest part of the whole process because none of the herbs were labelled and I had no idea what anything was, but eventually I got everything that I needed and couldn't wait to get home and start cooking with them!

I made the curry paste the day before I made the actual curry.  I didn't want to try tasting it on its own, but I could tell that it would have a lot of flavour just by its smell.  (Actually, I did try a tiny taste, but I don't recommend doing that - it does not taste good and my tongue was practically on fire!)

For the curry itself, I followed a recipe from my Canadian Living cookbook, which called for tofu, eggplant, grean beans and okra.  I changed the vegetables a bit my replacing the green beans with Chinese long beans and adding some bok choy instead of okra.  Then the broth is made by simmering the green curry paste with coconut milk and vegetable broth, with some lime juice and Thai basil added at the end.

When I finally got to try the curry, I was not disappointed! I thought the broth definitely tasted authentic, and had such a complex flavour - spicy, herbal, and slightly sweet from the coconut milk.  I really liked the pieces of soft tofu, but I wasn't crazy about the long beans - next time I would just use regular green beans like the recipe called for, or leave them out.

Now that I've learned how to make green curry, I can't wait to try some other kinds - I would love to find a good recipe for Panang curry since that was one of my favourite meals that I ate in Thailand, so if anyone has a recipe, let me know!

Thai Green Curry with Tofu and Eggplant
*I followed the recipe from Canadian Living: The Vegetarian Collection pretty closely, so rather than rewriting it out here, I will link to the recipe online and list the changes that I made.

Green Curry Paste
Recipe can be found here
- the only change I made was to replace the lime zest with 5 kaffir lime leaves, minced first before adding to the food processor

Recipe can be found here
- Used 8 oz of regular eggplant because I had already bought some, but next time I would try the Japanese eggplant
- Replaced the green beans with 1 cup of Chinese long beans (although next time I would use regular green beans)
- Left out the okra
- Added 2 stalks of Shanghai bok choy, thinly sliced and added to the pot during the last 2 minutes of cooking time
- Added two kaffir lime leaves, sliced in half lengthwise, added to the pot at the same time as the tofu
- Used 1/4 cup of chopped fresh Thai basil instead of the coriander

Makes 4 servings.

April 11, 2012

Daikon Radish Cakes

After eating so many new and delicious dishes on my trip to Singapore and Thailand, I knew that I would have to try to recreate some of them once I got home!

I loved all of the curries that I ate, but one of the first dishes on my list to try was the radish cakes that I tried in the airport on my way home from Singapore (pictured below).  They were pan-fried and served hot, and had a soft texture similar to potato with a subtle but noticeable radish flavour that I really liked.

All I knew about them was that they were made with white radish (daikon), so I got to work searching for more information about how to make them at home.  I came up with a wide variety of recipes, many of which contained dried shrimp or other non-vegetarian ingredients.  So I went with the simplest approach I could find and the least number of ingredients to come up with a version that I thought would be the most similar to what I had eaten.

It took me a couple of tries until they turned out the way I wanted, mainly because I don't own an actual steamer so it was a bit difficult to cook them properly with my makeshift steamer!  But in the end, I came up with this version that I was really happy with!  The texture wasn't quite as soft and tender as the authentic version, but I thought the taste was just right - the radish wasn't too overpowering, and I liked the subtle flavour from the white pepper and the cilantro.

I liked eating them on their own, but my mom thought they were a bit plain, so you could try serving them with a dipping sauce, or some plain yogurt (I liked them this way too).  I also served mine as a meal along with an Asian pineapple slaw.

You do need to set aside a good chunk of time to prepare these, but the steps are pretty simple and most of the time is hands-off.  I think these would be a great appetizer to serve as part of an Asian meal, plus they are vegan and gluten-free, so everyone can try them!

Daikon Radish Cakes
Adapted from various sources, including this recipe 

1.5 cups grated daikon
3/4 cup water
1 cup rice flour
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
a dash or two of white pepper (can substitute ground black pepper if you can't find white pepper)
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Place grated daikon and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the radish and cooking water and stir to form a dough.

Transfer dough to a greased 8x8 pan and press down with a spatula to smooth the top (the dough should be about ½ inch high and will only fill about two-thirds of the pan).

Place the baking pan in a steamer and steam for 35-45 minutes.  Remove the dough from the pan and slice into squares. 

Heat about 1-2 tsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer squares to the skillet and sauté for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they are lightly browned.

Serve immediately.

Makes 8 squares.

April 08, 2012

Rosemary Grape Focaccia

Happy Easter to everyone who is celebrating it today!  We will be having our family Easter dinner tonight, and I'll be contributing a vegetarian entree for my sisters and I to eat instead of ham.  I chose a new recipe from Vegan Planet for a couscous cake topped with a spring vegetable saute - I hope it turns out as good as it sounds!

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to come up with an Easter themed recipe for my blog this year, but I still have a tasty recipe for you today...and I also have a few recipes inspired by my Singapore/Thailand trip coming up next!

When I first tried roasted grapes in this quinoa salad, I started thinking of more ways that I could use them.  Then Heather of Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes gave me a great suggestion when she said she makes a focaccia with roasted grapes and rosemary. I couldn't get this idea out of my head, so I knew I had to try it myself as soon as I could!

I had always thought that focaccia required some kind of special dough, but when I looked for recipes to follow, I found out that you can just use any regular pizza dough.  So I turned to my trusty Vegan Planet once again to get a recipe for traditional pizza dough, although I changed the flours so that my dough was made with half whole spelt and half light spelt. This resulted in a slightly darker focaccia than you would usually see, but at least it was a bit more nutritious!

Once you have the dough prepared, the focaccia itself is pretty easy to make.  I just tossed some sliced shallots with garlic, olive oil and dried rosemary (since I didn't have fresh), and spread that over top of the dough. Next, I took my grapes and pressed them down into the dough.  Then it goes into the oven to bake, and when it's done you can sprinkle some coarse salt on top like a traditional focaccia.

This was a simple combination of ingredients that worked really well together! Even though there was no sauce and the toppings were minimal, they still provided a lot of flavour and I loved the combination of the sweet juicy grapes with the savory shallot-rosemary mixture.

I think this would make a great appetizer if you cut the focaccia into smaller pieces, but it also made a great lunch for me on its own!

Rosemary Grape Focaccia
Inspired by Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes and adapted from Vegan Planet and various other sources

1 recipe of your favourite vegan pizza dough (I used the Traditional Pizza Dough from Vegan Planet made with half whole and half light spelt flour)
2 small shallots
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried rosemary (can substitute fresh rosemary)
1 cup red grapes

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll out the dough to a 9x13 inch rectangle (about ½ inch thick).

Peel the shallots and cut in half lengthwise, then slice thinly. Place sliced shallots in a bowl along with the minced garlic and olive oil. Stir to combine, then add the rosemary and stir again.

Spread the shallot mixture over the dough, pressing down gently. Distribute the grapes evenly on top of the shallot mixture and press each one down into the dough.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until dough is golden and shallots are browned.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with coarse salt if desired.

Makes about 6 servings/pieces. (Note: I made half the recipe for a smaller 3-piece focaccia, as shown in the pictures) 

April 04, 2012

Tropical Lassi

Now that I'm settled back in Canada after experiencing the sunny days and scorching temperatures over in Asia, I'm even more anxious for summer to finally arrive!  But in the meantime, I can at least enjoy some of the tastes of summer by sipping on tropical inspired drinks, like this lassi!

I make a lot of smoothies at home, but I don't usually post the recipes for them, for a couple of reasons: 1) there are already so many smoothie recipes out there, and 2) I don't usually measure my ingredients, I just throw them in the blender and adjust the amounts until it tastes the way I want it.

This smoothie that I made a while ago was so good though that I had to share it with you!  I'm actually calling it a lassi instead of a smoothie because the main ingredient is yogurt.  To get the tropical flavor that I was looking for, I used So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt and blended it with fresh pineapple and banana. The fruit provided enough sweetness that I didn't need to add any extra sugar or sweetener. And like traditional Indian lassis, I added a pinch of cardamom for a subtle touch of spice.

This lassi turned out super thick and creamy, and I absolutely loved the flavours - I found the taste of the pineapple came through the strongest, but it combined really well with the banana and coconut.  And for an extra special touch, I recommend topping your lassi with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and some chopped fresh pineapple!

Tropical Lassi

1/2 a frozen banana, chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt (I used So Delicious Vanilla)
Pinch of ground cardamom (optional)
1 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted (I toasted it in a dry skillet)

Place the banana, pineapple and yogurt in a blender and process until smooth. Add the cardamom and blend again.

Top with extra pineapple chunks and toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

This was submitted to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

April 02, 2012

What I Ate in Thailand

I hope you guys aren't sick of hearing about my trip yet because, as promised, I have more pictures of the food I ate to share with you!

After Singapore, my sister and I travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a few days of relaxation and exploring. I loved the area and I really loved all the food! There were always so many options that I wanted to try, and not enough meals in the days to try them all!

In the short time that we were there, I was able to try a pretty good mix of drinks, desserts, restaurant meals and street food. I actually found the vegetarian options to be better in Chiang Mai compared to Singapore, so I never had to worry about finding something to eat!

Since it was always so hot during the days, we loved to cool off with refreshing drinks and ice cream. On our first day, we found a great indoor cafe (with air conditioning!), where I enjoyed an amazing creamy coconut ice cream and a delicious Thai iced coffee frappe. 

There were also lots of street stalls selling "Ancient ice cream", which came as a block on a popsicle stick. I chose the pandan flavor, which was quite different from any other flavor of ice cream I've tried, but I liked it!

Another really good way to refresh during the hot weather was by drinking coconut water. We saw a lot of stands selling fresh coconuts that they would just crack open and stick a straw in for you to drink the water inside. If you're not a fan of the taste of coconut water, then you might find it disgusting (as I did the very first time I tried it in India a couple years ago), but I now I love it, and I feel much better about drinking the real thing than the bottled kind!

On our last day, I wanted one more chance to try an authentic Thai iced coffee, so I ordered one with my lunch at the hotel, which was also so good!

And of course, we had to enjoy a couple of tropical cocktails by the pool, since we were on vacation! I tried a mai tai and a banana daiquiri, which were equally delicious!

As I mentioned, there's a good variety of street food available in Chiang Mai, especially at the night markets.  Here are a couple of shots of some of the snacks being prepared:

I definitely did not try the fried crickets, but I did get an amazing little snack that was a mixture of coconut and peanuts wrapped in a banana leaf and served on a skewer.  I wish I had have bought more of those!

Nat and I also shared a serving of small Thai pancakes, which are made from coconut milk and sprinkled with sugar.  They had a gooey texture in the middle that was a bit weird at first, but overall I really liked them!

Another snack we tried from our hotel that was really simple but also really good was these mini rice cakes that are dipped in honey and then black and white sesame seeds - crispy and sweet and a nice accompaniment to tea!

Whenever we went to restaurants, it was hard for me to choose something because I was never too sure what the dish would end up being based on the description.  Here's one that didn't really meet my expectations - it was described as flat noodles with tofu and vegetables on a bed of lettuce, but the actual dish turned out to be a bit bland.

Another dish that I was a bit disappointed in was my tofu satays.  I really wanted to try an authentic peanut sauce, but the sauce wasn't great and I wasn't crazy about the fried tofu either.  At least the setting of the restaurant was really cool - I got to sit in a comfy basket chair with lots of pillows!

One that did turn out really well was a panang curry that I ordered at a vegetarian restaurant. It came with tofu and vegetables with some Thai basil and peanuts, and a very spicy broth! And I liked how the rice came served in the shape of a heart.

Another restaurant dish that I loved was this papaya salad.  I had wanted to try a mango salad in Thailand, but the papaya version seemed to be more common, and I was glad that I tried it! 

Our hotel also served a pretty good lunch buffet that we got twice when we didn't want to go out.  One of the options was a made-to-order pad thai that was so fresh and flavorful.

I also tried a make-your-own miso soup, but I must have added too many chilis because it kind of destroyed my taste buds after I ate it!

From the dessert bar, I tried a mix of coloured glass noodles, sweet pumpkin, sago and fresh coconut in a cold coconut milk soup. I wasn't crazy about the jellies or the pumpkin, but I loved the coconut part!

Another great meal where I got to try some local sweets was on the day that we visited an elephant farm and they provided a picnic lunch served on banana leaves. 

The vegetarian options included a lot of sticky rice and sweets, but I didn't mind!  I tried three kinds of sticky rice - one plain, one with a sweet custard, and a black rice with pieces of coconut. 

I didn't have much room left in my stomach to try all of the desserts, but I did try a few - my favourites were the fried banana (not pictured), and the coconut patty (the flat round one pictured below).

Finally, I couldn't end this post without sharing the biggest highlight of my trip to Chiang Mai - the chance to become an "elephant owner for a day"!  It was such an amazing experience being able to interact with a mother and her baby elephant and riding the mother bareback through the farm trails and hills. Here's my favourite picture of me riding my elephant with the baby tagging along. 

Now that I've shared my travelling experiences, next time I'll be back with another recipe!

In the meantime, you can also check out my sister's recaps of the food she ate in Singapore ( parts one and two) and Thailand (parts one and two).


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