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.”]  

 

*or, How to Get Your Meat-Loving Guy to Love a Vegan Meal

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How often does this happen to you?  (I promise, this is not an infomercial):  You come across a new recipe that sounds wonderful, and, fired up with anticipation, you can’t wait to try it.   You rush home, prepare the dish, and it’s received to unanimous acclaim.  This recipe instantly becomes your “go-to” dish, and you repeat the performance over and over many times during the following weeks.  You keep returning to this item, in fact, and it instantly pops into your head whenever you think about what to cook. The page for that recipe in your cookbook acquires the rippled, stained appearance of a trusty pair of Keds you’ve worn for a whole summer, through mud and grass and lakes, covered as it is in little splatters of sauce and oil and water.  

And then–just like that–you happen upon a new recipe, one that piques your interest just as much as the other one, and you abandon your old standard as easily as the office gossip moves on to the next best friend.  It’s not that you don’t enjoy it any longer; it’s just that it has run its course, and now you feel like trying something new.  And so there’s another novel recipe that you try out to universal accolades. . . and the cycle continues.

Well, a few evenings ago, I met my friend the Eternal Optimist for a chatty dinner at a lovely restaurant in town that serves pan-Asian food.  What’s great about this place is that, along with their hip, funky, lacquered decor and fabulous grub, their multi-page menu devotes one full spread just to “Vegetarian Meals.”  And they’re always happy to do up a tofu-based version of their Chicken-Lettuce Wrap for me, which means I get to enjoy their awesome hoisin sauce and eat an entire dinner for under $10.00. 

That night, however, I opted for a spicy rice noodle dish with eggplant and basil, lip-smacking good. And while I was patiently grappling with the shimmering, slippery noodles between my chopsticks, I was reminded of a recipe I used to make over and over, a couple of years ago, and then suddenly abandoned:  Bangkok Noodles.

The recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook I found in a remainder bin a few years ago, called the Fruit Cookbook, by Nicole Routhier.  It’s one of those tomes that contains a plethora of interesting recipes, but few that seemed practical to me (as I would have had to buy an entire package of one ingredient for 1/4 teaspoon in the recipe).  In the end, I think I tried out maybe a half dozen recipes from that book, and while they were all very good, I set it aside and promptly forgot about it.  

This week, however, my memory and the available ingredients came together in a perfect confluence of desire and means. Just that morning, I had peeled and cut a fresh pineapple, leaving the juicy golden chunks in a container in the fridge for later consumption.  And, as it happened, this dish calls for pineapple chunks. Time to resurrect the Bangkok Noodles!

Because my HH and I have vastly different eating styles, this recipe is perfect to bridge the chasm:  I make up the noodles as I like them, serve up two plates, and the HH tops his own with some pre-cooked shrimp.  The perfect compromise, and we both get to enjoy a meal we like. 

The HH didn’t really remember this dish before I served it, as it’s been at least 2 years since I last cooked it.  I’ve always loved the combination of curry spice with smooth, velvety coconut milk, and, as is my wont, I added extra veggies to the recipe (which, actually, calls for none). I also love the play of colors in this meal, as well as the alternating crunchy, juicy, lustrous and sturdy textures. 

My HH was a little skeptical when he saw the vegetable-heavy ingredients bathed in the deep golden sauce, but was comforted by his own stash of cooked crustacean placed in a heap on top of the noodles.  After we dished it up, we sat down at the table, slurping up our noodles across from each other in contented silence.

And then, in the middle of the meal, it happened.  The HH said something he’s never said before, not in the almost-eleven years I’ve known him. 

HE SAID:

“You know, this doesn’t really even need the shrimp. It would be just as good without it.” 

And suddenly–The skies were flooded with light! 

And the sea parted and The Girls ran into the opening, chasing after the graven image of the calf (they didn’t realize it wasn’t real!).

The lands became fecund and there was new life, and legions of young veggies sprang up and they overtook the shrimp!

And so, Paradise was born, right in my little kitchen.  And it was good. 

It was very, very good.

Okay, I’ll concede, maybe the HH’s comment wasn’t quite that miraculous, in the grand scheme of things.  But it was the very first time he’s suggested that a vegetarian main course did not require the addition of animal flesh.  Perhaps there’s hope yet.  Only problem is, I probably won’t be cooking this for another 2 years or so.

However, for those of you looking to please a carnivore with a vegetarian entree, I’d definitely recommend you give this a try. And since this noodle dish appears capable of inspiring a conversion of sorts, I figured it might just be good enough for Ruth’s huge birthday bash over at  Once Upon a Feast. I’m submitting this recipe for the Presto Pasta night’s one-year anniversary event. 

Bangkok Noodles with Cashews and Pineapple

adapted from the Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier

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

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Bangkok Noodles with Cashews and Pineapple

Despite the long list of ingredients, this dish comes together fairly quickly.  It’s also infinitely adaptable to your own tastes in vegetables–I just add what I have on hand and look forward to a slightly different experience each time I make it.

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

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.”]  

 

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I really hate making mistakes.  Not only because they sometimes wreak havoc (“What?  The model of Stonehenge on stage was supposed to be 18 FEET high, not 18 inches???” or, “What?  But I thought the BLUE was the ‘panic button,’ Mr. President!!!”), but also because they make me feel really knuckle-brained sometimes (“Um, HH, can you come pick me up?  I’m kind of stranded out here in the woods with The Girls. I’ve locked my keys in the car. . . and it’s running.*”).

Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have my share of doozies lurking around in my past (though at least mine aren’t as egregious as the  Y2K fiasco, or 8-track tapes, or Julia Roberts in Mary Ryan, Steel Magnolias The Pelican Brief Stepmom anything except Pretty Woman).  True, there were those three months I dated philandering Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); but for the most part, my mistakes tend to the be the innocuous kind, such as dialing my friend Babe’s number when I meant to call the CFO instead (I may be great at remembering phone numbers, but I don’t always note to whom they are attached); or buying decaf instead of regular; or wearing stripes with paisley (which, as we all know, couldn’t possibly go together). 

And then there’s the entire gamut of food mistakes.

Salt instead of sugar?  Done it.  Chocolate seized while melting? Been there. Pie crust with soggy bottom?  Don’t ask. Noodles so al dente they could double as a gardening implement?  You betcha.  Usually, these mishaps don’t bother me too much.  Especially when it comes to baking, I realize that the process is so mercurial that what works perfectly one day may turn out completely different the next, so I compensate by adding extra sweetener, reducing the amount of flour, substituting a different kind of nut, or doing whatever is required to appease the petulant confection.   

When it comes to cooking, I’m less inclined to experiment.  Yet that’s exactly what I did this past weekend, purely as a result of my own gastronomical gaffes. 

You know how some women will work an entire outfit around a single accesory? For instance, they might spy a cute little fuschia-and-orange flowered scarf and then go out and purchase matching pumps, belt, handbag and turtleneck, just so they can wear that scarf to a dinner party on Saturday night.  In the end, that little rectangular scrap of rayon costs $872.48.  Well, I must confess, I am that woman when it comes to ingredients.  Which brings me to. . . . The Mistake of the Miso.

Mistake Number One:  On Sunday, I decided to construct a brunch menu based on some extra miso gravy in the fridge. Originally, I’d planned to serve the gravy with sweet potato fries for dinner on Saturday, only to discover that I’d grated the last potato as part of The Girls’ dinner the previous night.  (“And we really did appreciate that, Mum.  But don’t worry about the extra gravy–we’d be happy to help you out with that.”)

Having gravy but nothing to slather it on, my imagination went to work. Mashed potatoes and gravy at brunch?  Excellent. But what to accompany it?  I pulled out a recipe I’d been eyeing for Tempeh-White Bean sausage patties from Vegan with a Vengeance .  I planned to finish off the plate with simple pancakes sans the typical fanfare (my usual recipe contains fruit and other extras, not necessary here).  Everything, it appeared, was in order.  

Mistake Number Two: Since the sausages were somewhat time-intensive, I started with those. Isa does caution that these are softer than typical processed sausages, but mine fell completely apart on the plate, looking something like shards of clay from an old planter that had fallen off the windowsill.  Would the HH eat broken patties? They did smell heavenly, however, so I set any worries aside and kept them warm while I moved on to the pancakes.

Mistake Number Three: Ah, yes, bad things always come in threes, don’t they? Perhaps it was something in the air.  Perhaps it’s finally time to fill that new eyeglass prescription.  Whatever the reason, the pancakes were a disaster as well.  As thin as the line between sexy and hooker; as flat as the line before you call a Code Blue; and altogether too chewy, though not quite enough to cross the line from springy over to rubbery. I knew these would not pass HH muster, as my Honey favors airy, light, cake-like pancakes.  (“Mum, seriously, we can help you out with that! Just toss a couple our way. . . “).

These griddle cakes were, it occurred to me, much more akin to crepes than true pancakes (though, according to Epicurious, a crepe is “the French word for ‘pancake,'” which would suggest the only difference between the two is the language in which you mumble,  “Please pass the syrup”).  For many of us, however, crepes evoke a thinner, more flexible cake, suitable for enveloping a sweet or savory filling.  It’s sort of like the distinction between a scone and a biscuit, I think; but to get the scoop on that one, you’ll have to read Johanna’s blog.)

 So.  I found myself with crepes.  And decided to just go along with that. 

Rectifying all the Mistakes in a Single Delectable Brunch: In the end, I decided to re-assign the basic elements of the meal, crepefilling.jpg crumbling the sausages as if they were ground meat, and mixing in a few chopped veggies. I stuffed this mixture into the crepes, then smothered the whole shebang with miso gravy.  The dish was accompanied by a tried-and-true dandelion salad.

The resultant meal was a bit more elaborate than I’d anticipated, perhaps, but truly memorable. The HH appeared to relish every mouthful, peppering the meal with an occasional interjection of “Very nice,” or “Very tasty,” somewhat like Anthony Hopkins in 84 Charing Cross Road.  When he’d polished off the first crepe, he requested another, and thoroughly enjoyed that one, too. 

I once read that “there are no mistakes in cooking, only new recipes.”  I can only agree. And this new recipe is definitely a keeper–make no mistake about it.  

Because it worked out so well, I’m submitting this dish as my entry to Weekend Breakfast Blogging, the event started by Nandita and this month hosted by Suganya at Tasty Palettes.

Savory Filled Crepes

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This dish makes a satisfying, filling brunch or light dinner.  Vary the filling ingredients according to your own tastes–we didn’t have any mushrooms when I made this, but I think they’d be excellent in the filling, too.

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

 

It’s so great to hear from people who enjoy seeing (and hearing!) The Girls in the blog.  But I have to tell you, folks, what with all this attention, and then with the Oscar buzz happening yesterday (yay Daniel Day-Lewis!), they suddenly think they’re celebrities or something.  They’ve even begun to re-enact famous movies. 

For instance, here’s Chaser doing her own rendition of Queen Elizabeth (and believe me, she rules around here, too):

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Here she is again, this time as Lucy in Dracula(the Gary Oldman-Wynona Rider version, not the Bela Lugosi version):

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Not to be outdone, Elsie went ahead and rehearsed for Bull Durham (though I think she’d make a better catcher than a batter):

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And my favorite, their collaboration on Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers:

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I’m really not sure how to handle them with all this puffed-up ego in the air. . . for now, I’ll just humor them and hope it goes away soon.

(“Mum, truly, this is has to be the worst embarrassment ever. . . but, while we’re here anyway, perhaps one of these nice people would like our autograph?”)

 

Dreams of Chocolate

February 23, 2008

Nope, not one.  Not a single one.  Not even the tiniest smidgen of one. 

That’s right: for the first time ever in my adult life, I have not seen ONE of the movies nominated for Best Picture tomorrow night. (And YOU thought I was going to say “not one piece of chocolate!  Ha ha on you!! Well, I haven’t had a single smidge of that, either.)

And that is all I will be saying about the Oscars.

I’ve decided that I must have been a cacao overlord in a previous lifetime, and now as part of my atonement, I’m seeing chocolate, chocolate everywhere–just when I’m trying most to avoid the stuff (for those of you who just joined us in medias res, I’m attempting a detox to clear my body of the influence of the Devil Chocolate–and so, the Week of Chocolate Asceticism). 

As I mentioned before I began my week, I did whip up a few delectables before I started so that the blog wouldn’t be entirely bereft of the sweet stuff for the entire time.  Then, last night, I even dreamt of some new chocolate-based dessert I could make! 

And, of course, other bloggers are flinging chocolate this way and that, directly into my field of vision all this week: Eat Me, Delicious has just posted about a mouth-watering Chocolate Cookie Bark; The Good Eatah made a very rich, very creamy chocolate pudding;  Vegan Noodle of Walking the Vegan Line made some wicked-looking truffles; Hannah made her own–homemade!–white chocolate bar; that rascal, Michael Clayton, made nothing; Cate from Sweetnicks made Chocolate Pots de Creme (how did she find the time??) and Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice has even devoted an entire month to the stuff (please, somebody save me!)

And so, I decided I couldn’t escape it.  Although I am still determined not to let one mote, not one spec, not one shaving, not one MOLECULE of chocolate enter my mouth until I’ve given my system a decent break, I thought a little virtual indulgence wouldn’t do any harm.   

So here I’ll share some photos of chocolate-based recipes I’ve played with over the past few weeks, as well as some goodies I had to bake for customers.  

When I expressed some dismay that I wouldn’t be able to taste-test any of my catered goods, my friend’s very helpful teenaged daughter piped up:  “Well, you could just take a bite, chew it, and then spit it out.” Remember that episode of Sex and the City, where Miranda has dinner with an ex-boyfriend?  And they haven’t seen each other in years, and when they do, he’s lost a ton of weight?  And then they go out to eat at a swanky NYC restaurant, and he orders steak?  And then she catches him spitting a gnarly, saliva-soaked wad of chewed steak into his napkin?  Yep, that’s the one. And so you see why I couldn’t take the daughter’s advice. 

As it turns out, I’ve made most of these items several hundred times, so I didn’t have to break my WOCA and sample anything. 

The first item was a Double Chocolate Mint Explosion Cookie, part of the treats table at a birthday party.  These are fudgy on the inside, just slightly crispy on the outside–a definite winner with kids and adults alike. 

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Then I revisited a recent experiment with vegan chocolate-covered caramels (to which I must devote an entire post, anon):

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After that, the chocolate rush subsided a bit, leaving just the chips in a Chocolate-Chip Blondie, baked for a school event (yes, indeedy, that is a kitchen towel behind the plate):

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 Next up, a Chocolate Satin Tart.  These were a holiday item last year, which I baked for a vegan meal-delivery service here in Toronto to give to their customers (I hear they’re thinking of expanding to Calgary, where the Canadian Music Awards–called the Junos–are taking place this year).  A shortbread-like crust is filled with chocolate ganache, then dusted with cocoa:

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And I ended the virtual pig-out with a memory of a recent experiment, with sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate buttercream frosting:

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After this heady daydream, I felt prepared to snack on my lovely carob pudding, or raw fig and cherry bars (recipe to follow eventually).  And while it’s true that this No-Chocolate Land is a tough place to be (and it’s no country for old men, either, believe me),  I do feel more energetic, a bit more in balance, and happy about my healthy eating ths week.

WOCA Update:  Big, massive, seismic cravings today. And just when I thought they’d all passed!  Serves me right for being so smug about it last post.  But I shall persevere. . . I shall battle the demon with all my wits and all my inner resources. . . and I shall overcome. . . the scourge. . . that is Chocolate! Watch out; it’s possible there will be blood. (Oooh. Do you think I could maybe get away with just one little, tiny, eensy-weensy piece?  Naw, didn’t think so.)

And to those of you who watch them, enjoy the Oscars tomorrow (and sorry about that Juno reference.  It was either that or mention the mythological daughter of Saturn.)

[All of these recipes will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]

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.”]  

 

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There are times when I glance around my chaotic home office, and I despair a little.  Then my eyes glaze over and I fall into a reverie about the good ol’ days, when I used to be organized: desktop in order, with clearly demarcated “to do” and “done” piles.  Mail returned with great alacrity, and an empty “inbox” each evening.  Shoes and boots lined up like bottles at a county fair, erect and waiting for the ball that will topple them. Laundry folded, laid neatly in drawers (never left to languish untouched on the top of the dresser for days).

Ah, yes, it’s a lovely dream. In more recent times, what with papers to mark, driveways to shovel, cooking classes to teach, orders to bake, dogs to walk, blogs to write–well, I admit that I’ve become a little slack on the home front.  But seriously, do you really need more than four square inches of desk space to pay your bills online? Do you really need bookshelves to hold all your books, when the packing boxes they were moved in will do a perfectly acceptable job? Do floors really need to be washed all that often (speaking of, if your floors aren’t up to snuff, just get a puppy.  Presto! It’s like one of those zoomba roboty things that catches every spill–leaving floors spic and span–with no effort on your part!). 

Well, weird things are starting to happen now that I’ve cut chocolate out of my life.  Suddenly, my disorderly surroundings began to feel intolerable (I mean, it’s been this way pretty much since the day we moved in here), and I went on a tidying rampage: clear the mess on the desk! Fold that laundry! Line up those shoes! Tote that barge, lift that bale. . !  And then, I felt like cooking.  Cooking onions.

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I had always considered onions to be a mere accessory to something else: an adjunt to the roasted garlic in a spelt pizza, a great starter ingredient for soups, or a bedrock for that slab of tempeh in a Tempeh Ruben. And yet, ever since the CFO came to visit a few weeks ago, onions have been tumbling around in the back of my mind. During her visit, she convinced me to buy a copy of Cooking Light magazine, something I’d never done before despite being an avowed magazine junkie (uh oh, I detect a pattern here. . . can the Week of Magazine Asceticism be far behind?). 

Guilty of judging a magazine by its cover, I’d always assumed the recipes within would be rife with “diet” or “lite” ingredients (usually chemically-enhanced or highly processed) as a way of creating these so-called lighter versions of strandard fare (geez, didn’t I notice it was called Cooking Light and not Cooking Lite?).  Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

As soon as I flipped open the current issue, a stunning photo of cipollinis beckoned. Now, I’d never even heard of cipollini onions before that moment but, like a new word you finally look up in the dictionary that subsequently pops up everywhere thereafter, these onions had entered my consciousness and I began to notice their presence in familiar places–old cookbooks, food tv shows, other blogs. Within a week, I’d seen them mentioned three or four times.  

As much as I love onions, I’d never based an entire dish on them before.  (I’d only heard of such a travesty once, during my final PhD year. At the time, my friend Ginny’s husband was being called upon to chip in  at home for the first time in their 10-year marriage, as Ginny was overwhelmed with work and studies and often late for dinner.  One evening, after a long night’s studying at the library, Ginny returned home to find that her hubby had attempted to cook dinner on his own.  As she gravitated toward the heavenly scent of sauteed onions, her husband beamed with pride as he directed her to a huge frypan on the stove, lifted the cover, and revealed–a pan of fried onions!  That’s right: he could think of nothing to combine with them, nothing else to add, but he did know how to fry. Last I heard, they were getting a divorce.)

 
 

 

 This recipe combines buttery-soft onions with plump raisins and toasted pine nuts in an allluring, glossy glaze.  Once the dish was complete, it did look very much like the photo in the magazine.  It also tasted great, with the sweet-tart appeal of a good chutney. It was then I realized, much like Ginny’s husband, “what am I going to do with all these onions?”  As a side dish to some hunk of meat, they might seem sufficient on their own, but that wasn’t happening in my house. Don’t get me wrong–it was very, very good; just not good enough to stand on its own. cipollineraw.jpg So I decided to ladle the mixture over herb-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and–voila–a lovely, light dinner was born.  

And, ironically, you really do need to be organized to make this dish.  Just to peel the onions, you must blanch, cool, squeeze, and pull off the skins.  This alone took me 30 minutes, before I even began to prepare the rest of the dish. 

Yes, cipollinis are lovely.  But heck, with my schedule, next time I’ll just use chunks of the good ol’ regular kind.

Because the potatoes provide the true substance of this dish, I’m submitting this as my entry for “The Potato–A Blog Event”  by Eating Leeds.

Roasted Potatoes with Sweet and Sour Cipolllini Onions

(from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2008 )

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This recipe offers a gussied-up version of the archetypal combination, roast potatoes and onions. We ate this as a main course, but if you prefer, you can serve these separately, as side dishes.

For the potatoes:

2 lb. (about 1 kg.) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into quarters

2-4 Tbsp. (30-60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

generous sprinklings of oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme

salt to taste

For the onions:

1/4 cup (60 ml.) raisins

1/2 cup (125 ml.) hot water

2 pounds (about 1 kg.) cipollini onions

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) butter (I used olive oil)

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) water

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) sugar (I used agave nectar)

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.)  freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) pine nuts

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).  Grease a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil.  Place in a single layer in the pan and sprinkle with the herbs.  Roast in preheated oven until done and a little crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the onions:

Place raisins in a bowl and cover with the 1/2 cup hot water. Let stand 30 minutes or until plump.  Drain.

Trim top and root end of onions. Cook onions in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain, cool and peel. (The skins were supposed to slip off easily, but they were not not exactly cooperative).

Melt butter (or olive oil) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan, stirring well to coat. Stir in 3 Tbsp. water [I found I had to add more later on to keep the mixture from scorching], red wine vinegar, sugar (agave), salt, and black pepper. Cover, reduce heat and cook 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. [I found I needed more time than this before they began to really caramelize.]

Add raisins and pine nuts to pan. Inrease heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes or until lightly browned and liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. 

Divide potatoes into 4 servings, and ladle the cipollini mixture on top of each. 

Pudding is a Virtue

February 21, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE BY CLICKING HERE.

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Both our dogs contain a generous sprinkling of Border Collie, a breed known for its patience. As a working breed, BCs were meant to guard sheep all day; and since sheep are not exactly what you’d call wild and crazy guys, the BCs must be willing to sit still for a very long time. Moreover, they exhibit what’s known as the “Border Collie Stare”–that steely gaze that bores right through you  and makes even the most obstreperous mutton acquiesce to their wishes.

I’ve been the object of that stare, more times than I can tell you. You see, the house we live in is an “open concept” design, so the living room opens on to the kitchen, which opens on to the rest of the house.  After many hours of sweat (mine) and a lot of practise (theirs), I’ve trained The Girls to “stay out of the kitchen” on command.  Basically, this means they are not allowed to put paws to tile (but wood or carpet–the floor coverings of the living room–are acceptable) while I’m cooking.

Chaser learned fairly quickly by emulating Elsie that, if Mum’s cooking, it’s time to “take up the position.”  Situated at the border between living room and kitchen, they are willing to lie for hours–literally–until I finally finish my culinary experiments and reward them with a morsel of whatever I’m cooking, or a treat, depending on what’s in my pot or pan (no chocolate or onions, obviously, for them).  Now, that’s what I call patience.

And what has all this talk of breeds and patience to do with food? Well, when I started my Week of Chocolate Asceticism, I knew it would take no time before I craved something sweet and soothing.  And since I’ve also vowed to avoid added sweeteners–or pretty much anything baked or sweet–my options are severely limited.  But then I remembered:  Raw Pudding!  Cashews and carob and dates–oh, my!!  And for this recipe, despite its matchless simplicity (only 3 ingredients), patience is definitely required.  The Girls, however, never mind waiting for this one. (“Oooh, Mum, is this that date and carob thing you make?? We love that thing!! Can we have some?? When will it be ready?  Now?  WHEN???”)

Even though my One True Love will always be chocolate, I am a big fan of carob as well.  And I have nothing but admiration for fellow bloggers like Deb at Altered Plates and Veggie Girl, who regularly choose to bake with carob instead of chocolate. In fact, carob even made a chance appearance this week over at another blog, Have Cake, Will Travel.  So I felt it only fitting that I grace the blog with Raw Carob Cashew Pudding.  (“Oh, it IS that carob-date thing you make!  Is it ready yet, Mum?  Can we have some?  When??”). 

I was first introduced to carob years ago when I was a Teaching Assistant, at a university English Department party.  Another one of the TAs, a quintessential Child of the ’60s,  brought along two hippy-dippy dishes, quinoa salad and brownies made with carob.  She was one of those graceful, ethereal women who seems to glide effortlessly just above the ground as she moves, skirts undulating softly behind her (quite a feat, actually, since she was wearing a miniskirt, as I recall). 

Ms. Flower Child also spoke with the lilting, velvety voice of FM radio, the kind of voice that causes you to crane your neck and focus intently on her lips so you won’t have to repeat, “Pardon?” after every sentence she utters. So when I asked about the recipe for the brownies, and what was in them, I never quite caught the entire answer.  All I knew was that they tasted good, and I liked this newfangled ingredient, and I’d be using it again.

I ate quite a bit of carob over a two-year span several years ago, when I followed an ultra-strict, sweetener and fruit-restricted diet. I discovered that carob is naturally sweet (it’s also low in fat and surprisingly high in calcium).  At a local organic grocery store, I happened upon whole, dried carob pods. Resembling brown pea pods, they conceal diamond-hard (inedible) carob seeds inside.  But if you gently warm the whole pods in the oven for about 5 minutes, they soften, become pliant and chewy, almost like fruit leather.  Delicious!

 So, back to the pudding (see, I told you you’d need patience for this recipe).  This is actually a variation on a simple cashew cream, cashewcreamspoon.jpg a vegan cream substitute that’s perfect over pies, cookies, fruit, or other sweets.  I’ve taken the concept just a step further, using raw cashews (which produce a creamier product) as well as dates for sweetness, carob, and optional vanilla.  Three main ingredients–four if you add the vanilla–and the result is so rich and creamy, you’d swear it took hours to make.  (Oh, wait.  It sort of does take hours to make–but only the soaking part).

Oh, and The Girls like it, too. (“Okay, so does that mean we can have some now?  Can we? How about now? MUM??”)

Raw Carob-Cashew Pudding or Mousse

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

The hardest part of this recipe is having enough patience to blend the mixture thoroughly, until it’s sufficiently smooth and creamy. When I’m feel that gnawing impulse for something sweet, I’m tempted to dig in early, but I’m always sorry if I do. So don’t skimp on the blender time with this recipe–you’ll be rewarded with a truly rich and celestial pudding. 

girlsgetsomeyum.jpg

[The Girls, finally rewarded for their patience.]

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

Meme-ories

February 20, 2008

In the past week I’ve been tagged for a meme by a few people and thought I’d be eco-minded and just combine all the answers here. 

The 123 Book Meme from Annie at Health Treks is actually the easiest–just open a book to page 123 and copy what it says.  The other meme, from Michelle at Cooking the Books and Karen at Test Drive Kitchen, is definitely more difficult for me: “Tell us 5 facts about yourself. ” Well, I feel as if I’m already spilling far too much right here on this very blog, so coming up with something beyond all this is challenging, to say the least. 

As I was reminiscing about various past events, it occurred to me that one way to approach the topic is through memory as a topic on its own.  So for this meme, I’ll talk about my memories and how memory plays a role in my life in general.

123 Book Meme: Since I’ve been focused on my chocolate detox this week, I’ve got tons of my nutrition-related books lying around.  I picked up Elson Haas’ The Detox Diet, flipped to page 123 and saw:

“To prepare juices, we want to start with the freshest and most chemical-free fruits and vegetables possible. They should be cleaned or soaked and stored properly. If not organic, they should be peeled, especially if they are waxed. With root vegetables such as carrots or beets, the above-ground ends should be trimmed. Some people drop their vegetables into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so to clean them before juicing. If there is a question of toxicity, sprays, or parasites, a chlorine bleach bath can be used.”

Well, I cheated just a little and added the sixth sentence (not to be confused with the Sixth Sense, mind you, or you’d be juicing with dead people).  Since Haas’ paragraph only HAD six sentences and I thought the last one was interesting, I figured you’d want to read it.  How perfect that he’s talking about juicing, when I just wrote about this a couple of days ago (and it WAS a true coincidence, I swear!). 

“Five Things” Meme (I’ve chosen five facts related to memory, or an actual memory in each case):

1) When I was in graduate school, I memorized the entire text of Beowulfin Old English (am I a nerd, or what??).  This was for my final translation exam, where we’d be given any random passage from the poem and would have to translate it into English.  I didn’t want to take any chances, so memorized the entire thing, all 3183 lines of it.  Today, all I remember is the opening bit, “Hwat! Wey Gar-deyna, in yea-ar-dayum . . . “  Comes in real handy at cocktail parties (if only I ever went to any).

 2) I’ve memorized the names of every single one of my students over the years, usually within the first week of classes. I feel it’s only polite to use someone’s name when you addressing her/him, don’t you? Given the number of semesters I’ve taught, the alarmingly large classes these days (sometimes up to 45 students per class) and the increasing courseload (up to 5 courses per semester), I figure I’ve now memorized the names of more than 7,000 students.  Can I start my own phone book? Unfortunately, they depart as quickly as they came. . . I tend to forget most names shortly after the semester ends, clearing out room for the next batch.  (Once, years ago during one of our marathon pub-chats, my mentor told me that, after having taught for 20-odd years, he was lucky if he could remember the name of even ONE previous student a year later.  But the important names stuck, he assured me, the ones who make an impression never leave.  So I do remember those few special students who, for whatever reason, stood apart from the rest and have left an indelible mark in my memory. Hi, guys!)

3)  I remember phone numbers.  I admit, that statement isn’t as sexy or unique as saying, “I see dead people,” but I am pretty much able to dial a number once, then remember it in perpetuity.  My first apartment? 944-3929.  The Geminis’ old house? 744-0332. My dad’s old store? 276-1601.  And just what does this bizarre talent get me?  Well, I can probably order my Chinese takeout faster than you can–I don’t have to go to the phone book to look it up. 

4) I once memorized the entire screenplay of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  When I was a sweet young thing (okay, a young thing), I saw the movie in a revue cinema in Montreal and immediately fell in love with the quirky humor, amazing scenery, witty dialogue and upbeat music (and, truth be told, Robert Redford and Paul Newman weren’t too shabby, either). I decided then and there–aged fourteen–that it was my favorite movie of all time. After which I proceeded to return to see the movie 27 more times.  No, not a typo:  twenty-seven. After which I was able to recite the dialogue, word for word (though I was never able to sing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”–not only because I don’t like the song, but more so because I can’t carry a tune. In fact, one time when we were kids, The Nurse and I were watching The Monkees on TV and I began to sing along to my favorite song.  She whipped around and suggested sweetly, “Couldn’t you just lip-synch?”).

5) One of my happiest childhood memories involves a rather mundane activity, going to the grocery store with my mother. My mother didn’t drive, and the closest grocery store was a 10-15 minute walk away. My younger sister and I would normally trudge along behind my mother on the way there, plead for Cap’n Crunch or Oreos in the store, then trudge along behind her, toting a grocery bag or two (if they weren’t too heavy) on the way home.  How did ice cream survive this trek in summer, I now wonder? How did we lug all those bags without breaking any of the fragile (then-glass) pop bottles? Yet somehow, we did. 

What we never anticipated was rain.  One day, as we made our way along the familiar route to the store, the skies darkened suddenly.  Before we knew it, it was pouring. I expected my mother to turn back, but she surprised me that day; she turned to us and whispered as if sharing the greatest of confidences, “Let’s run!”  We dashed to the closest tree, where we found shelter under the umbrella of leaves. With the rain pelting down, we’d run from tree to tree, seeking momentary refuge under the protective branches before heading back out into the downpour. 

We did this maybe ten or twelve times, inching our way toward the store and getting more and more drenched as we went, but having the times of our lives, giggling and laughing as we dove for cover, gripping the closest trunk and panting until we were ready for the next sprint. I don’t even remember if we made it to the store that day, or how we got home.  All I remember is the playful trill of my mother’s laugh as it rose above the pelting tatoo of drops on the leaves, before floating nimbly away on the breeze.

I won’t tag anyone specific for these memes–many of the names I’d choose have already been tagged, anyway.  But if you’d like to participate, please do!  Just leave a comment here and let us know you’re playing along, so we can check out your own responses.

 

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