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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

 

Love never ceases to amaze me. 

 

In the halcyon days of our relationship, when my HH and I were still in early stages of romantic life, I was sideswiped with a doozy of a diagnosis that caused me to change my diet drastically for what turned out to be quite a long time.  

 

Still fiercely besotted back then, my HH was perfectly willing to accommodate my strange and singular dietary restrictions: no sugar, no wheat, no eggs, no dairy, no anything fermented (which included my half of those bottles of wine we’d grown accustomed to consuming with dinner), no caffeine, and on and on—for about three more paragraphs.  

 

As a couple who habitually dined out 2 or 3 times a week plus brunch on Sundays (one advantage of meeting when we were too old for kids is the increased discretionary spending), this new diet forced us to alter our regular routine, um, considerably.  All this, and my HH was still happy to comply, and even join me as I consumed cooked amaranth and tahini, tamari-marinated tofu, kamut pasta sprinkled with nutritional yeast, kale and arame salad, and every other manner of organic, whole, vegan foodstuff.  

 

Yes, for a time, life was good in the DDD household.  

 

After a couple of years of this regime, however, the cracks began to appear.  I detected quiet rumblings of protest, as when I’d serve up my favorite tofu-veggie stir fry in almond-curry sauce:  “What?” my HH would say.  “This, again?” He’d eat it, but he wasn’t happy.   

 

Soon, he imposed a veto on seaweed (unless, of course, it was wrapped around a hunk of raw eel or salmon at his favorite sushi bar). “It’s actually kinda slimy and gross when it’s marinated like that,” he’d remark of my kale and seaweed salad. Next, he tired of tofu. “That tofu stir-fry was okay at first,” he admitted, “But I think I’m maxed out on tofu for a while.” Before I knew it, he was once again craving caffeine.  Up came the coffee maker from the basement, where it had been relegated for over a year, amid the piles of as-yet unpacked boxes from our previous house-move.  

 

Almost imperceptibly, more changes took place.  Stealthy, small cartons of half-and-half cream began to make their way back into our fridge. At first, they lay low at the back, behind the cartons of soymilk; later on, they declared their presence boldly, at the very forefront of the shelves. Eventually, there came the final affront: last year, the HH rekindled his mania for meat. No more pasta with veggies and walnuts for dinner, no sir; from now on, he wanted steak.  

 

Well, what’s a vegan-loving gal to do when her HH suddenly reverts to his Neanderthal, bachelor appetites (for foods, that is)?  These days, most of the time our dinner table is graced with a dual repast: a vegan main course for me, which cheerfully serves double duty as a side for him, nestled next to his hunk of animal protein. I love the guy, and he cooks his own meat, so I can live with it. 

(“Steak ?  Did someone say ‘steak’? But Mum, we think you should be the one to cook it.  Dad never gives us as many leftovers as you do. . . oh.  Sorry to interrupt.”)

 

This past weekend, however, I decided to whip up a tofu omelette for myself for brunch. I also thought it would be the perfect contribution to Nandita’s  Weekend Breakfast Blogging event, this month hosted by  Rajitha at Hunger Pangs 

 

I’d been reading about these omelettes ever since coming across Cozy Inside, Joni Marie Newman’s blog for her cookbook of the same name (which I promptly ordered after reading the recipe). I also found a great recipe for a tofu omelette on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s page,  which was subsequently extolled by  Don’t Get Mad, Get Vegan  . And Vegan Ronin served up her own version back in 2006.  

 

omelettesmall.jpg I had tried both the Cozy Inside and Fat Free Vegan Kitchen omelettes and enjoyed them immensely. This morning, however, I was aiming for something a little richer and a little more gussied up, something I could serve to friends as the centerpiece of a brunch buffet.  So, using these three for inspiration, I played with the various elements of the recipes and devised my own concoction.    

An old recipe for a regular, egg-based omelette that had always intrigued me since I first read about it years ago is a sweet version, with an apple-cinnamon filling.  So that the flavors in the base wouldn’t clash with the sweetness of the filling, I decided to make the omelette itself as plain as possible, omitting any strong seasonings such as garlic, paprika, or chopped veggies.    

 

While cooking it up (and as you’ll see, the process is surprisingly easy), it still felt as if the dish needed something more than just apples to finish it off properly. I remembered a curried cream sauce I’d created to pour over broccoli raab, as a slightly sweet contrast to the bitterness of the greens.  I thought that would be the perfect accesory for this omelette, and stirred some up while the apples cooked.  The final product was a delicious and filling brunch. 

 

Once everything was completed and plated, I tentatively asked the HH if he’d be willing to taste it.  

 

Surprise number one:  “Sure,” he said. He took a big forkful. 

 

Surprise number two:  “This is delicious!” he proclaimed, and then: “Can I have half?”  Well, I’ve never been so happy to share. 

 

With great enthusiasm, he proceeded to eat it all, and practically lick the knife clean. Perhaps the tofu embargo has come to an end. 

 

Yep, love never ceases to amaze me. 

 

Tofu Omelette with Sauteed Apples and Sweet Curry Cream Sauce

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

omelettefinal1.jpg

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Turnip and Pear Soup

January 29, 2008

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

How can someone, especially someone who purports to be interested in healthy eating and vegetables, reach the ripe old age of 40-something and still never have tasted a turnip?  Shocking, I know; but yes, indeed, that someone is moi.  

I blame it all on Modern American Drama. One of the first courses I took as a university student, it was taught by my mentor, John Ditsky , for whom I harbored a 20 year-long crush (but that’s neither here nor there).

Truly, since my undergrad days, whenever I’d think of turnips, all that came to mind was that scene in which Estragon asks Vladimir for a carrot but gets handed a turnip instead–and the turnip, having resided in his filthy coat pocket for who knows how long, is not exactly an appetizing substitute.  So, for many years, just the thought of turnips would throw me into a bout of existential angst. I believed turnips to be the unwanted progeny of carrots.  Or perhaps parsnips. Or, on the other hand, just anything.  But then, I thought, what is anything, anyway?  And aren’t we all just nothing waiting for something? It was just a turnip, after all, no more than that.  Nothing to be done, nothing to be done. . .oh, when will He arrive?  When?? Must. . . take. . . off. . . this. . . .boot! [She exits.  End of Act I.]

Soooooo. . . . back to the turnips.  When our organic produce box arrived this past week and I spied a kilo bag of turnips, I was thrown into a panic.  What to do, what to do? Would there be a way out of this mess? (“Yes, you had us rather worried for a bit, Mum.  And why do you keep talking like that? Who is this Godot person, anyway?”). 

Well, I decided it was time to Confront the Turnip.  Like it or not, I was going to cook with these babies! In order to survive the ordeal, I decided to start small, something easy and relatively foolproof.  Soup!

One of our favorites here in the DDD household is a fabulous Parsnip and Pear soup from Flip Shelton’s Aussie cookbook, Green (and since turnips are the illegitimate offshoots of parsnips, it gave me an idea . . . ).  I had been both surprised and delighted by the fabulous melange of smooth, sweet, spicy, and savory in that soup. Shelton’s recipe was extremely simple, yet the final result exalted the lowly roots and fruit to a level beyond the sum of their parts. I thought, what about a similar recipe for turnips with pears? 

As usual, we had a bunch of overripe pears in the house, so there was no problem finding the fundamental ingredients. And it also occurred to me that this would be a very suitable entry to Sweetnicks‘ weekly ARF/5-A-Day  roundup, so it will also be my contribution to that event this week.

After a bit of digging around for some kind of turnip and pear soup recipe, I found something that sounded appealing in my old Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, called, oddly enough, Turnip and Pear Soup.  The challenge began!

The soup was ridiculously easy to prepare, and took only about 30 minutes from start to finish (including peeling and chopping).  It was warming and really quite tasty.  While I know that turnips are not to everyone’s taste, if you’re feeling adventurous (or existential–I mean, who knows when we’ll next have the chance to taste a turnip?), then go ahead and give this one a try. 

And, well, if it turns out you don’t like it, I suppose you could always serve it to Pozzo and Lucky.  They’ll eat anything. 

Turnip and Pear Soup (adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)

turnipearsoup.jpg

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

I find it fascinating how certain ideas make the rounds in the world of food, blogging or otherwise. I’ve mentioned before about how it galls me that Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld has an over-hyped, over-acclaimed, skyrocketed-to-bestseller-status cookbook in print, all because she thought to add some vegetable purees to existing recipes (Oh. And because she’s Jerry. Seinfeld’s. Wife. Right.).  No matter that otherswriters, or, naturally, vegan chefs–have been doing this sort of thing for years (and even my little baking company has been selling carob muffins with hidden spinach in them since 2004–so there!). 

[Note to readers:  Please permit me this puerile rant.  It's January 28th, it's been snowing and way below 0 degrees C for weeks over here, and there is no end to winter in sight.  I am grumpy.  I hate ice and snow.  I have been consuming highly insalutary amounts of chocolate. But I assure you, this is just a rant. It will pass and I will be better tomorrow.] 

Well, when I was asked a while ago by VegFamily magazine to come up with a trio of chocolate desserts for Valentine’s Day, I decided to jump on this veggies-in-sweets bandwagon.  Maybe MJS has dumped some veggies into regular recipes, all full of eggs, refined flours and white sugar.  But has anyone seen vegan versions, and without wheat or refined sweeteners?  Gotcha!  And so I had my angle.  

 I had been working for some time on a brownie recipe gfbrownie2.jpg made with pureed white (navy) beans, and decided to include this in the VegFamily piece by stretching the original concept somewhat.  Then, the other morning, I took a peek at Celine’s fabulous blog and–voila!–there is a recipe for Black Bean Brownies, based on a still-earlier version from Activist Mommy.  See what I mean?  It’s that 100th monkey effect (or, in this case, 100th black bean effect. And that’s not just a lot of hot air, either.  Unless you eat too many, of course.). 

Next up, I wanted to do something really decadent, and also really romantic.  One of the most romantic desserts of all time is the Molten Chocolate Cake, so I was determined to re-create a healthier, vegetable-rich, vegan version. 

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First of all, regular molten chocolate cakes rely on lots of eggs, and the batter is only partially baked to ensure a soft, oozing, chocolatey centre.  I solved this problem by including two mixtures: one for the cake, and one for the centre, then combining before baking.  The result was a rich, gooey, warm and definitely decadent treat.  Oh, and just for fun, it has hidden zucchini and spinach in it! I’m happy to say that the result was enthusiastically “HH Approved.”  He’s even asked for them again, on the real Valentine’s Day.

The last item was a very fudgy, very peanut-buttery, chocolate-peanut butter cookie.  These were an immediate hit with Gemini I’s kids as well as my colleagues at the college.  And because they’re all used to my weirdo creations already, nobody batted an eye when I told them the cookies incorporated eggplant puree in the batter.

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I’ll be posting all three recipes on this blog after the article is published.  If you’d like to check out the recipes before then, head on over to VegFamily once their February edition is up on the site.

The Habit of Exercise

January 27, 2008

I hate winter.  For someone who was born and grew up in Montreal, that is a heretical statement.  But I’ve never been athletic, I get cold easily, I don’t have the greatest sense of balance (not exactly a plus when you’re navigating ice-laden sidewalks while holding the leash of a frisky, determined dog in each hand), and so winter makes me grumpy.  Grumpy, and lazy.

During the snowy months, I have to be vigilant not to let my exercise routine slide somewhat.  I mean, who wants to take the extra twenty minutes to pile on an additional pair of wooly socks, long underwear, scarf, insulated hat, dexterity-diminishing gloves, earmuffs and galoshes, drive through snow and sleet at 15 km./hour to unwrap for another twenty minutes on the other side before changing into workout gear, just to push some weights around for 40 minutes or so? Not I. 

And so, I often end up missing my otherwise quite enjoyable workouts during this cold season (“So long, Septuagenarian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts!  Sorry to miss ya, Burly Guy Who Stares at Women’s Breasts Between Sets!  Catch you next time, Personal Trainer with the Gigantoid Biceps!).  Feeling compelled to make it there this morning, however, (after all, how could I let down the legions of fans interested in my Progress Tracker?), I forced myself to go.  And then, had a very lovely time. And was truly glad I went. 

 Keeping motivated can be problematic at any time of the year, but winter presents its own unique challenges.  For me, a change in routine tends to help (as starting a new set of machines, for example, or a different activity entirely), but it’s still difficult to keep up that kind of momentum. 

I recently came across an interesting article from Lifehack.org that provided some help in this area.  The article is actually about tricks for making new habits stick, but I think many of these apply to the habit of exercise as well.  One that struck a chord with me in particular was using a “but” statement.  As in, “I’m no good at sewing, but if I work at it, I might get better.”  There are seventeen other tips as well, including items such as “commit to 30 days” or “form a trigger” (something else you do right before the desired habit, to create a pattern). 

For me, changes might include setting out my workout gear the night before I plan to go to the club (the trigger) or asking a friend to commit along with me so that we can be accountable to each other. 

I may be having trouble keeping up with my workouts during the winter, BUT I’m working at it.  And I guess that means it can only get easier.  (And I think moving to Florida might help, too.)

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(“Mum, we love the winter.  It must be that Scottish heritage in us.  So why not make walking US your trigger??”)

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As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

 

 [This week's Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes.  Here's the last part in the series.]

swpotpancakegd4.jpg 

Okay, everyone, pour yourselves a glass of wine.  Now, raise it with me and yell, “Pancakes!  Pancakes!”

 No, I haven’t reached that breaking point where I’m finally guzzling alcohol at breakfast.  The reference above is one that comes courtesy of The CFO, and one I always think of when I eat those delectable breakfast cakes. 

 Here’s the story:  when The CFO graduated from college, she and her best friend decided to take a summer off and backpack it across Europe (My!  What an original idea!).  And, like so many other 18 year-old women on their own across Europe for the first time, they had a blast, meeting other young people from various countries and doing things that make them cringe today.

At one point, they found themselves in a tiny Greek village, at the local bar, imbibing far too many drinks while surrounded by a group of eight or so young, virile, 20-something local males. After a couple of hours and several pitchers of beer, one young lad decided to toast the two nubile lovelies. “Geiá mas!” he cried, hoisting his beer stein aloft.  Told that the words meant “Our health” in Greek, the women remarked how health seemed to play a role in most toasts. 

“And how do your people say it a toast in your country?” the swarthy young fellow inquired.  

At this, The CFO and her friend exchanged a quick glance.  These country bumpkins had no concept whatsoever of Canadian mores, Canadian culture, or Canadian colloquialisms.  Without skipping a beat, The CFO responded, “Pancakes!”

And so, dear readers, that is how a packed table of raucous, muscular and very self-satisfied young Greeks whiled away the evening with two cute Canadian gals, repeatedly raising their glasses and shouting out, “Pancakes!” at the top of their lungs, till the wee hours of the morning.

Now, I may have mentioned before that breakfast is my favorite meal (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Enough with the breakfast already!”).  But have I mentioned that pancakes happen to be my favorite breakfast food? And with sweet potatoes as my favorite vegetable–well, it was bound to happen.  Sweet potato pancakes. 

 When I went searching for a sweet potato pancake recipe, Google was happy to oblige, and served up quite a collection.  Most of these, however, turned out to be a sweet potato-based version of regular potato pancakes, or latkesswpotpancakesingle.jpg Now, I have nothing against latkes, but that just wasn’t what I had in mind.  Then I remembered a post I’d seen on Tummy Treasure, in which Erika played with a recipe from the ubiquitous How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. (Seems Mr. Bittman’s book is so ubiquitous, in fact, that a copy has now made its way into my own collection!)

 The basic ingredients are very simple, and Erika suggests playing with the recipe to suit your own tastes.  Using Bittman’s generic proportions, I substituted sweet potatoes for the pumpkin that Erika used, and added a bit of extra flour for a fluffier interior.

 The result was a light, airy, absolutely irresistible cake.  The sweet potato added body and substance to create a filling breakfast, which was perfect with a little 100% fruit jam or maple syrup on top.

If you’re in the right mood, you might even have them with a glass of white wine or champagne Mimosa.   Oh, and hey–”Pancakes!”

swpotpancakegd3.jpg

FOR THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 4 in the series. ]

Finding recipes that use familiar ingredients in new ways is almost as much fun for me as finding completely new ingredients.  For instance, I loved it when I started to bake with all kinds of veggies in cakes, cookies, or other desserts (I’ll be writing more about that on Monday).  The first time I tasted sweet cashew cream (a vegan substitute for dairy cream), I was immediately enraptured (I mean, a cream redolent of cashews and maple syrup? Talk about a no-brainer!).  And don’t even get me started on olive soup.

So when I discovered that sweet potatoes made an excellent base for a salad (true, I was a little late coming to that realization; I’ve always been somewhat of a late bloomer), I was thrilled to be able to use one of my favorite vegetables at room temperature as well as in cooked foods and soups. 

I’m already a great fan of a Sweet Potato-Ginger Salad recipe that I found in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.  Then, by chance the other day as I avoided marking browsed some blogs, I came upon an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato-Cranberry Hash from new blogger Karen at Test Drive Kitchen.  With the post title, “My Favorite Side Dish of All Time,”  how could I resist?

The recipe looked easy to make, and, as Karen mentions, contained gorgeous, brilliant autumnal colors courtesy of sweet potatoes, cranberries, and glossy green onions (and–bonus!–I got to use up the cranberries I had from yesterday’s scones). 

I set about baking the potatoes only to realize I had no green onions in the house, so I used a regular onion and sauteed it along with the cubed apple.  To compensate for the lack of green, I added some chopped parsley at the last minute.  The result was an equally brilliant palette of colors.

The hash/salad turned out yummy, though my personal preference would be for more spice.  And I do think it would have been better with the original green onions, which would have added a flavor kick that was lacking in sauteed one. 

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Hash (adapted from Test Drive Kitchen)

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

swpothash.jpg

This is an easy-to-prepare, visually stunning dish that tastes great.  It’s a wonderful side dish for any holiday meal, or, in our house, a main course on its own.

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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

 

[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 3 in the series. ]

It’s a snowy, windy, perenially grey landscape here in DDD land.  The snow is so fine and dense as it swirls and sweeps by my window that it appears almost like some giant Scotsman is smoking his pipe and blowing smoke round the corner.  Well, come on in, O Accented One–I’ve got scones to serve! (And they are part of your heritage, after all.)

 Since breakfast is my very favorite all-time meal (yes, I’m sure I must have mentioned that before), I’m always on the lookout for a good scone recipe.  This can sometimes be a bit challenging, as I don’t use butter or eggs, evidement, but I also don’t use vegan margarines.  If you’re looking for an acceptable whole food that can substitute for butter, your only real bet is organic coconut oil.  Now, that’s fine with me, as it’s solid at room temperature and tastes quite yummy.  I use the one in the big black jar as it doesn’t impart any real coconut flavor (not that there’s anything wrong with that–just not always what I fancy when I want the other flavors in the dish to shine).

So for me, scones are generally a mix of spelt flour, soured soymilk or other non-dairy milk, and coconut butter.  I generally throw in a dried fruit or fresh berries, scoop, and voila!–pseudo scones.  Most of the time, I just drool over the recipes I find on other blogs and move on.  This week, I thought sweet potato scones would be perfect, as I love sweet potatoes and often have lots of puree in the house (it’s also something I often feed to The Girls as well).

In my search for the perfectly adaptable recipe, I came across many winners.  Hannah over at Bittersweet baked up some yummy looking Orange-Cranberry Scones, courtesy of an original recipe on Bakingsheet; and while I love cranberries in scones, I was on the lookout for something that could incorporate sweet potatoes without too much protest.  So it was on to a savory sweet potato scone recipe from Tartelette. Adapted from an original recipe on Recipezaar, this one featured onions, so that was out for me (though maybe for another day. . .).  But the recipe that really caught my eye was the one for Pumpkin Scones by Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe.  After salivating over her photos of these butter-soaked scones (or are they biscuits? see what Johanna says), I decided that, with a few modifications, I’d have my dream scone! With some extra cranberries in my freezer and sweet potato puree in the fridge, I was ready to go.

These turned out great.  They have a light interior with just a hint of sweetness, and the tart, juicy cranberries are just the right counterpoint to the sweetness of the scone.  And with a touch of apple butter and some faux coffee, they made a heavenly breakfast.

(“Mum, we could use some breakfast, too, you know.  And we adore sweet potatoes! So if there’s any of that puree left over. . . . “)

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Scones (adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe)

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swpotsconeapbut.jpg

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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[This week's Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here's part 2 in the series. ]

A few weeks ago, I hosted a potluck for friends and promised to provide all of the recipes from the evening on this blog.  And while I’ve done pretty well on most of the others, I hadn’t supplied this one for sweet potato “fries,” partly because it’s so simple I feel it doesn’t require its own recipe (just instructions).  However, this past weekend when The CFO came to visit, we had brunch at a local haunt and ordered the sweet potato fries with miso gravy.  Well, I was determined to reproduce that gravy! So I’m posting my own version, with not one, not two, but THREE variations on the fries.

I first tasted sweet potato fries (real ones–literally fried, in fat, and lots of it) many years ago, before I hit my 4th decade and, therefore, before I knew the true meaning of the word, “heartburn.”  Nowadays, deep-fried anything is anathema to me, because hey, as someone born in the Year of the Dog, I can easily be classically conditioned.  All it took was one or two repetitions of the stimuli “deep fried” and “one portion ingested by me” paired with the response “mega heartburn,” and it was sayonara to fried foods in my diet. 

These oven-baked “fries” are much lighter (which means you can eat more!) and, if baked correctly, still provide the exterior crunchiness and interior smoothness that is characteristic of the traditional sweet potato fries.  Most of the time, I just toss these with a combination of olive oil, garlic salt, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and curry powder, for a sweet/spicy mix that’s divine (and is Version One).  When paired with the miso gravy, however, something a little more demure is called for, as the gravy is quite assertive on its own.

Given all the amazing health benefits of sweet potatoes (more of which I discussed yesterday), I’ve decided to include this recipe as part of Sweetnicks‘ ARF/5-A-Day Roundup this week.  (In fact, I was sure they’d be on her list of top-20 antioxidant-rich foods, but was surprised to find they’re not!  Won’t stop me from eating them, though. . . ).

Sweet Potato “Fries” with Miso Gravy

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These are quick, easy, and great as a side dish or appetizer.  Either version works well with the gravy; if you’re more of a ketchup lover, try the spicy ones, mentioned above.  In any case, make more than you think you’ll need–they shrink a little while baking, and you’re going to want seconds.

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[Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved!  If you're reading this page, you've landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here--and don't forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

"Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren't we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog."]  

* * *

[I thought it would be fun to start a little series over here at DDD: the series will profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this first entry, I'll be focusing on Sweet Potatoes. The series will be presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

 

 

 

Let’s just say that my mother was not an overly adventurous cook. She habitually repeated the same six or seven dishes over and over, with the occasional new recipe from Family Circle, my aunt, or someone in her Mah Jong group thrown in on occasion.  So we were treated to salmon patties and potato boats (called “twice-baked potatoes” these days), hamburgers with mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, or tuna salad over cucumber, tomato, and iceberg lettuce on a rotating basis. 

Fresh fish?  Forget it.  Artichokes?  Don’t make me gag.  Fresh herbs?  Bah!  Who needs ‘em?!  (Once, when I was visiting during March break, in a moment of temporary insanity I wondered aloud if we might purchase some dried oregano for the pantry.  It was as if I’d taken a cup of steaming clam chowder and poured it over her bare feet.  Actually, no.  Clam chowder was too exotic for our house.) 

So. When I finally discovered the beauty and gustatory appeal of sweet potatoes at a visit to a restaurant here in Toronto, it was truly a revelation.  Allen’s (known primarily for its extensive selection of specialty scotches, come to think of it–how odd!  What on earth was I doing there??) to this day still serves up a killer dish of sweet potato fries with mayonnaise.  In my mother’s house, on the other hand, those off-color interlopers had never once been allowed to sully our doorstep (don’t forget, this was the woman whose entire repertoire of herbs and spices consisted of onion powder, paprika, and dill).

It wasn’t until years later that I finally began to cook the sweet spuds myself, and my next encounter with sweet potatoes, unfortunately, wasn’t all that auspicious.  I had just been put on a very restricted diet by my naturopath and was feeling pretty resentful of all this crunchy-granola, health-foodie, good-for-you-five-to-ten-a-day foods.  Sweet potatoes?  Well, if I couldn’t have them after they’d been immersed in a vat of 400-degree, week-old restaurant fat for 20 minutes or so, then I didn’t want them at all!  Besides, weren’t they only appealing to commune-living, hemp-smoking hippies (or–gasp!–Southerners)?  I’d never actually tasted one without the benefit of hydrogenated enhancements (though I did suspect I’d enjoy Sweet Potato Pie, what with all the sugar, eggs, and cream they added to it). 

Turns out sweet potatoes were my savior.  During a period when I could eat NO sweeteners or fruits of any kind, sweet potatoes quickly becamesweetpotwarmwalmond.jpg my favorite sweet treat.   I ate them for breakfast (baked, with a dollop of almond butter–delicious–much better than they look in this photo!–seriously), lunch (raw, sliced, as a base for raw almond pate), or dinner (heavenly, spiced sweet potato “fries,” which were really baked).   Later on, once I was allowed to broaden my diet, I began to experiment with sweet potatoes in baking, and created recipes for sweet potato muffins, mini loaves, pudding, pie, and several other sweet treats.

Besides being high in fibre, vitamin A (as beta carotene) and other minerals, sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E and iron, and even contain a contribution of protein.  According to Paul Pitchford in his phenomenal tome, Healing with Whole Foods, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses sweet potatoes for their cooling nature and to promote chi energy in the body; they are also useful to enhance functioning of the spleen and pancreas.  And because they’re a source of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen), sweet potatoes can help mitigate those pesky symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.  In addition, they are also alkalizing in the body, which is great if you tend to drink a lot of coffee, eat a lot of sugar, or prefer to discourage the growth of cancer cells in your body. 

Best of all, sweet potatoes are low on the gylcemic index (the measurement of how food influences your blood sugar levels), registering at 54 (surprisingly, lower than white potatoes, with a score of 88-93), so they are a great food for type II diabetics or plumpers like me.  And when baked, their natural sugars caramelize, producing the most ambrosial sweetness.

Though most North Americans consider the more orange-fleshed, moister vegetables to be yams, they are, in fact, just another type of sweet potato alongside the lighter-fleshed, dryer ones.  (According to PCC Natural Markets, “true yams, which are which are grown in the tropics, are almost ivory in color, and are more starchy than sweet”).

Sweet potatoes have become a true staple in our home, and are definitely at the top of my list of favorite vegetables.  With that in mind, I thought this would also be a good entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, the terrific event originated by Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Anna at Anna’s Cool Finds.

 Mini Sweet Potato and Chocolate Chip Muffins

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

I’ve previously posted another of my favorite sweet potato-based recipes, the Thanksgiving-themed Sweet Potato and Carrot Casserole.  Today’s contribution is a mini-muffin using the sweet spud, as well as a sprinkling of chocolate chips. These are a great snack when baked as minis; you can also double the recipe and make a dozen regular-sized muffins.

swpotminimuf1.jpg

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Sister Love, Self Love

January 18, 2008

This morning, as I slipped out of the shower and dashed toward my towel, I was arrested by the flashing image of some alien being–large, bulbous torso with spindly appendages,  squishy and amorphous, with a dimpled, pasty-grey hide–as my gaze flitted briefly across the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet.  Extraterrestrial close encounters in my bathroom? Ultra-magnified image of a cotton ball and stray eyelashes? Cate Blanchett in her newest role, as Truman Capote? 

Uh, no, to all of the above, sad to say. With a start, I realized that mysterious reflection was me.

My HH finally put up the medicine cabinet a few days ago, so I wasn’t yet used to having a mirror in just that location, and forgot to avert my eyes as my naked self passed by.  Now, with two mirrors basically facing each other in the bathroom, just as they tend to do in women’s dressing rooms, I am treated to the full 3-D, 360 degrees, visual equivalent of surround-sound, image of myself every time I exit from the shower.  Bummer.  BIG bummer, if you get my drift.

Why is it I’ve come to avoid looking at myself in the mirror, you may wonder?  As a child, I never really thought about my looks very much.  These days, I can barely stand to gaze at my own reflection, and most especially not naked.  For many women, this is the last frontier of self-esteem:  being able to take in our own naked reflections without censure, or nausea.

I know that my body is not where I’d like it to be, and what’s worse, I know it has been in a much better place in the past.  As much as I consciously tout–and believe in–self-acceptance and self-love, it never occurred to me that I’m sabotaging myself by avoiding my mirror image just because I don’t like what I see.  What I end up doing each time I refuse to look is nurture that kernel of low self-esteem.

As it happens, The CFO is coming to visit this weekend (a deferred trip, after the last one was cancelled due to a snow storm).  Like my mother, my older sister, and me, The CFO has struggled with her weight most of her adult life.  And when I think of her and how I feel about her, it would seem ludicrous to me to reject her based on weight gain, of course.  So, if I’m infinitely capable of lavishing unconditional love on my friends and family regarless of physical appearance, it begs the question: why can’t I do so with myself as well?  

I believe in self-acceptance, and I’ve written about this before.  And I’m repeatedly inspired by other bloggers who’ve managed to incorporate self-love into their diet routines.   But I tend to separate acceptance from approval in my assessment, sort of like the mother of a toddler who tells her naughty child, “I still love YOU, but I am very angry at what you did.”  And let me tell you, what my fat cells are doing these days really sucks.

But I’m working on it.  There’s a great scene in the otherwise nondescript movie, Safe, one of Julianne Moore’s early films (1995).  Suffering from multiple allergies to basically everything (what was once called “20th Century Disease“), Moore’s character withdraws from the “real” world to an alternative-medicine retreat where she can be sheltered from the onslaught of all civilization’s many toxins and environmental villains.  Part of her cure involves practising self-love; her therapists believe that the root of her problems stems from her inability to really love herself, unconditionally. 

The movie ends with a tone that is both somewhat mocking (of all things alternative) and also portentous: Moore stands facing herself in the mirror and repeatedly chokes on the words, “I love you,” as she stares into the reflection of her own eyes.  But watching the scene, you just know that her salvation lies in that little phrase, in truly believing it.

I think this coming weekend is the perfect place to embark on a new approach to achieving such a salvation: I’m going to throw a superabundance of affection toward the CFO over the next two days, and attempt to do the same with myself, especially next time I pass by the mirror.  There may not be any skinny dipping in my foreseeable future, but perhaps I’ll eventually step out of the shower without shielding my eyes. 

 Have a great weekend, all.

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