Hi–and Hiatus

July 27, 2008

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.” 

For those of you who drop by DDD regularly, you may have noticed that the frequency of my posts has slowed down considerably of late.  Well, once again, it’s that time of the semester when I’m deep into a marking blitz and consequently feel as if I’m neglecting this blog.  That, paired with an impromptu visit from the CFO this past weekend, and I’m more behind than I’d like to be (to say nothing of having more “behind” than I’d like to have). 

And while I find it frustrating to be sitting on a plethora of photos patiently waiting for blog entries to accompany them, rather than post in haste, I will instead reluctantly bid you adieu for a short while (to return post-haste) as I scramble to complete the work and write up several entries I’m dying to share with you all.  I’ll still be reading all your blogs, however (wouldn’t want to eliminate all my blog-related pleasures during this period!).

I can’t sign off without first sending out a huge “THANK YOU,” though, to both Katy and Destiny for nominating me for the “Brilliante Weblog” award! I am very honored and grateful to be chosen by these two personable and creative bloggers. Thanks so much, you two! 

I know I’m supposed to pass this along to 7 others, and will properly give it some thought during my time away. In the meantime, here are some visual nibbles until I return in a week or two.

For now, have a great end of July, all!

["You're such a spoil-sport, Mum.  Does this mean we don't get to taste-test any more??"]

( From the recent visit with my sister)–Sweet potato, quinoa and black bean bites:

Almond-rice balls:

Gluten-free berries ‘n cream flan:

Birthday cake for a customer’s winsome daughter (sugar free cake and frosting): 

Of course, The Girls will miss you all, too, while we’re all away!

["Mum, we're just so bored when we can't be in the spotlight for a while. . . "]

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've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here's today's "Flash in the Pan."]

[Non-salsa version]

Oooh. . . I’m feeling the crunch.  I wish I could say that’s the “crunch” of a lovely rice crisp-filled chocolate bar or the crunch of ice in a gin and tonic as I lounge by a pool, or even the crunch of my feet as they traverse a lovely woodsy trail with The Girls, but no; the crunch I am experiencing is the crunch of marking as the semester nears its end.  And now that we’ve reached this critical juncture in the term, I’m afraid I won’t be able to post as often as I’d like, at least for a couple of weeks.

I did discover that I’ve got quite a few photos from previous cooking adventures, however, patiently waiting for posts, so I’ll try to clear out some old files over the next while as I simultaneously clear out that pile of marking.

First up is a recipe I remembered while reading Katy’s post yesterday, about her first-ever tofu scramble. I realized I’ve got no fewer than 4 potential posts about various tofu dishes, as the quintessential bean is a regular in our household and I’m always trying out different recipes in a quest for variety and novelty. I’ll start you off with this super-easy Flash in the Pan recipe before moving on to other favorite scrambles in the next week or two.

Like so many of you, I am a big fan of Veganomicon.  One recipe in particular calls to me over and over, sort of like Casablanca or It’s A Wonderful Life:  no matter how many times I sample Isa and Terry’s Caesar salad, I’m always excited to see it again. In fact, I do believe I’ve never tasted a Caesar dressing quite as good as that one, vegan or otherwise. (“We’re pretty fond of it, too, Mum.  We just love that high-protein, high-fat combination of tofu and ground almonds!”)

Just a wee problem:  every time the HH and I whip up a batch of that dressing for our romaine lettuce, we end up with enough silky, garlicy coating for 10-12 servings.  But we are only two.  And yes, I eat Caesar for four days in a row–but still end up with half the dressing in a jar in the fridge.  So, what to do with the leftovers?

Last weekend, I had a little epiphany:  why not COOK IT??  Yes, my friends, I heated up a Caesar salad dressing.  And not only that; I also mixed it with salsa and crumbled tofu.  Yep, life sure is wacky in the DDD household!  (“You said it, Mum! But does this mean we get to lick dressing off your fingers now?”)

And you know what?  It was fantastic!  The combination of slightly spicy (I used a medium-hot salsa), creamy and pungent was to-die-for.  The raw garlic in the dressing is cooked a bit, thereby mitigating the usual bite when that particular bulb is eaten raw.  The dressing-salsa mixture was the perfect consistency–thick enough to smother and cling to the chunks of tofu, yet soft enough to remain a bit saucy. (And we’re all for saucy here at DDD).

The second time I tried it, we were actually all out of salsa, so I just used a chopped onion sautéed in a tad of olive oil, a (large) chopped tomato and a few sprinkles of tabasco, for a very similar effect.  I think I’m addicted to this stuff now (or, at least, for the next couple of weeks, before I move on to something else. . . not only wacky, but fickle, too. I guess that’s just what life is like during crunch time.).

Mex-Ital Tofu Scramble

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

[Salsa version]

If you’re in a hurry and happen to have leftover Caesar dressing in the fridge, this is a great scramble for breakfast or lunch.  People are particular about the tofu they use for scrambles–I like really firm, solid chunks, but if you prefer the water-packed kind, go for it.  This is lovely on a piece of spelt pita.

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

Mrs. K’s Date Cake

July 20, 2008

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

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.” 

Recently, the HH and I spent a couple of evenings with my old friend Phil, first in Montreal and then again here in Toronto.  It was wonderful to see an old friend with whom I share so much history (we’ve known each other since we were both 15).  She’s supported me through high school angst, sweet sixteens, no date for the prom, moving away to attend university, my first real boyfriend, moving to Toronto to attend graduate school, my starter marriage, my traumatic divorce, my first house purchase, and finally, meeting the HH and “adopting” The Girls.  The list of events on her side to which I was witness is similar (minus the divorce and plus a couple of children).  And yet the strange thing is, when we get together, we rarely talk about the past.

It’s more than just deference to the two men in our lives (who weren’t around when we experienced the early Phil-and-Ricki escapades, and who only made each other’s acquaintance at the tail end of the 20th century). No, it’s just that life keeps changing, and we always seem to be facing new work dilemmas, self-identity crises, weight roadblocks, or relationship worries (the last not discussed with the guys present, of course).  So there’s no dearth of topics to keep us gabbing. 

This last visit, however, we did ease into some reminiscenses about our high school days.  I was kidding Phil about her teenaged quirks, and we replayed some of the times whiled away in her mother’s kitchen, sipping coffee and eating avocados.  And, of course, we couldn’t forget her mother’s cakes.

Mother Phil had two sweet specialties.  Well, I guess I’d characterize them as “two standards.” Actually, they were more like “two reliable standbys.” Okay; they were the only two desserts she knew how to make.  Still, they were both terrific and I never tired of tasting them.  The first was called “Pistachio Cake,” and it was, I later discovered (once she revealed the recipe after I’d moved away from home and had my own kitchen in which to bake) comprised of one box of yellow cake mix, a box of pistachio pudding mix, and some Hershey’s chocolate syrup.  The result was a bundt cake round and high and light as a drizzle in July, with a meandering brown swirl throughout.  As with most cake-mix cakes, the texture was impossibly airy and seemed so insubstantial as to require at least 3 servings before one felt even mildly appeased.  In our case, Phil and I could polish off half the cake ourselves before even having to pour a second cup of coffee. 

The other confection was a from-scratch affair that Mother Phil called, simply, “Date Cake.”  Brimming with chopped, softened dates and just a whisper of cocoa, the resulting deep brown batter transformed into a dessert that, on first impression, impersonated chocolate very nicely.  I’d always thought the cake was, indeed, a cocoa-based one until I was finally privy to the recipe and found that it contained only one tablespoon of the rich, dark powder.  The rest of the intense flavor came courtesy of moist, sweet dates.

As someone who’d never tasted a dried (or fresh, for that matter) date before this cake, I wasn’t prepared for the level of sweetness imparted by the dates.  Nowadays, I value dates for their natural sugar content (the highest in the fruit kingdom) and use date purée frequently, both for its added sweetness and moisture content.  But in those days, dates, like Mrs. Phil herself–a stunning, accented import from Belgium–were considered exotic.  I was jubilant the first time I attempted to recreate the cake on my own and it came out almost exactly as the original. 

As Phil and I reminisced, I began to wonder whether I could reproduce the cake still, given my inflexible dietary restrictions.  I dug up the recipe, which I’d scribbled hastily in pen across the faint turquoise lines of an old spiral notebook. The page is now torn along the spine and dotted with irregular, amoeba-like tea stains and little splotches of oil that render the paper transparent in spots. But the recipe appeared fairly straightforward and seemed to lend itself quite easily to adaptation.  And even with the sprinkling of chocolate chips over the top, it seemed like a fairly healthy indulgence. 

After a couple of attempts, I managed to reproduce something akin to the original.  This cake would make a perfect snack, moist but not too sweet, with the pièce de resistance in the topping: the crunch of golden toasted coconut contrasted with the crackly, caramelized Sucanat and soft, melty chocolate chips.  The HH pronounced this cake “Just like Duncan Hines!”–meant as a compliment, to be sure, but not an endorsement I’m sure I’d embrace.  As for me, the dessert transported me back to Phil’s high-school era kitchen and the original cake of my adolescence.  That memory alone is sweet enough for me.  

Mrs. K’s Date Cake–2008 Edition

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

This is the kind of cake you like to have on hand as an after-school snack, or when you’re feeling peckish mid-morning.  Baked in a square pan, it will keep, covered on the counter, for up to 4 days, longer if refrigerated (though bring to room temperature before indulging).

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

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

 

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.” 

There are certain food combinations that strike one as just so naturally compatible, you couldn’t imagine them any other way. Consider the seminal chocolate and peanut butter, for instance: could there be a happier marriage of sweet, salty, creamy, smooth, and enticing? Or what about vodka and orange juice, or pancakes and maple syrup, or french fries and gravy, or macaroni and cheese, or apple and cinnamon or–I could go on.  On the other hand, it’s always gratifying to discover alternate matches that may seem bizarre at first glance, yet actually work once you give them a try (funny, why did the HH suddenly come to mind?)

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my wacky room mate had a friend who ate her pizza with peanut butter where the tomato sauce should have been.  She swore it tasted great (I declined to sample a slice). During my childhood in Montreal, my friend Gemini II used to eat liver sandwiches with cream cheese (again, I believe I passed on that one).  The well-known duo of french fries and mayo always struck me as odd until I was served sweet potato fries with mayo at one of my favorite vegan restaurants  (which, of course, prompted me to head straight home and prepare spicy sweet potato fries with avocado mayonnaise, and now I’m hooked).  I’m sure you’ve got your own personal favorite fixings that, any disparaging comments aside, you adore nonetheless (and please feel free to ‘fess up in the comments section!).

Well, as some of you may recall, the HH and I have just a smidge of surplus mint around here this summer.  Yes, indeed, I’d venture to say that my garden is in mint condition!  I’ve been concocting as many beverages, appetizers, dips, entrées or desserts containing the stuff as my little hands can muster, and even thought I was doing pretty well until the other day when I stepped round the corner of our house and saw that those darned wanton herbs had been propagating over night–it appeared as if I’d used nary a leaf!

And so, by dint of mint, I was forced to come up with yet another recipe showcasing the stuff.  Which actually worked out perfectly, since Holler and Lisa’s No Croutons Required event this month requests a salad focusing on a favorite herb.  Well, if by “favorite,” they meant “so much that I could rip bagfuls from the yard and still have enough left to freshen the breath of the entire town of Gilroy, CA on July 25, 26 & 27th in the month of July”; or “so much that I will have to start using it as packing filler when I mail trunks of fine china or glassware across the Atlantic” or “so much that even the thought of mint makes me feel a bit queasy, which, as it turns out,  is actually okay, since mint helps to aid in proper digestion” or “so much that I will have to cook at least one dish with mint in it every single day for the forthcoming 11 months, until it sprouts up again next summer, just to use it up”–well, if that’s what they meant by “favorite herb,” then yes, mint is indeed my favorite, and definitely deserves to be featured in my submission to the event.  

I do enjoy a good fresh peach, but when I saw three of the fuzzy spheres nestled in our organic produce box a couple of weeks ago, I almost despaired.  A properly ripened peach is a wonderful thing, but there seems to be a terribly small window of maturity wherein peaches are at their apex of flavor and texture–firm, juicy and sweet-tart–before they quickly decline into dry, powdery mush. If not eaten precisely on the right day (sometimes the right hour), the peach becomes unappetizing at best, perhaps suitable for a sauce or baked good; at worst, it’s both tasteless and unpleasant, and destined for the compost bin.

Given the capricious nature of the downy stone fruits, I decided a salad would be the perfect context in which to combine it with other ingredients that could overshadow their potentially less-than-stellar consistency.  Mint was a given, of course, and for some reason, I felt that cucumbers would also suit the flavor palette.  The final addition was sweet corn kernels–partly because they just called, “pick me!” and partly because I thought the color would work well with all the other summer hues, which always elicit a desire in me for fresh fruits and veggies.

In the end, we both adored this random combination of ingredients and have now consumed it four times in the last 2 weeks.  The peaches are tart and luscious (and even the sub-par slices soak up the dressing and seem more juicy); the cucumber is cold, watery and mild; the corn is crisp and sweet; and the mint is pungent and peppery, all culminating in a perfect pastiche of color, flavor and texture.

It’s true, peaches, corn and mint may not have been born for each other; but their arranged marriage in this dish makes for one very harmonious union.  

Minted Peach and Corn Salad

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

This salad comes together quickly, resulting in a fresh, crisp, juicy, altogether irresistible side dish for almost any warm weather meal.  It’s best eaten right away, but will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

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

Ten Photo Meme

July 17, 2008

I must say, I never expected my little apple butter sauce to cause such a stir (no pun intended–oh, all right, pun intended).  It always amazes me which blog entries elicit a strong reaction while others, like Andy Garcia, might be on par with their (more popular) contemporaries, but for some reason still don’t garner the recognition I think they deserve.  I’m glad so many of you liked the idea of apple butter in a BBQ sauce on tempeh.  (And now the pressure’s on to create some other ostensibly innovative or creative recipe for my next blog entry. . . . collard cake? Turnip pasta? Eggplant cookies ?–oh, forgot, I actually did create that one).

Well, I’ve got nothing on the cutting board at the moment, so I’m afraid it will have to wait just a bit.

You see, I’ve been spending a lot of time at my computer recently, working on that pile of papers and online course work.  Mostly, I’ve been feeling frustrated because (a) the pile seems to be expanding of its own accord (sort of like my waistline); and (b) I’ve been spending less time focused on blogging as a result.  I’ve also been feeling a bit creeped out, as it happens, since our landlord is having the exterior of the house painted, and every time I glance toward the window to catch a thought or a glimpse of the sky outside, I’m confronted with a close-up of a man’s paint-splattered face, as if our window were a giant flat-screen TV right beside my desk. 

Well, a couple of days ago I was tagged for a meme by the lovely and talented Holler of Tinned Tomatoes.  As it turns out, I’ve already prepared and consumed my salad (twice!) for Holler and Lisa’s upcoming No Croutons Required Event; unfortunately, I haven’t yet had time to write the blog entry about it.  Instead, I decided to focus on some earlier blog photos to send Holler’s (and your) way.

The meme asks for your “top ten” blog photos.  As I mentioned in my comment to Holler, I had to laugh at that request.  As someone who knows nothing about photography and owns the cheapest camera possible (okay, a disposable might be cheaper), I never really focused that much on how I photograph the food; it’s only recently that I’ve begun to think, “hmmm, a better camera sure would make blogging easier.”  For now, a new camera will stay on the birthday wish-list.

I wondered how to select ten, when it was so hard to choose even one that I really liked. “Do I choose the top ten in terms of page hits? Or the top ten in terms of aesthetic appeal?  Or should I emulate Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe, and choose the ten photos that meant the most to me?” I decided to go with Johanna, who always seems level headed and whose logic I like.  

And so, here goes:

10) Spiced Cauliflower Soup

I usually take photos of food close up, partly because I have an extremely small surface area of the kitchen table that attracts full sunlight, and partly because the rest of my kitchen usually looks like the post-cyclone scene in The Wizard of Oz  and I’d be mortified if it got into a photo (unless, of course, I decided to show it to you myself , as in this blog entry). The cauliflower soup photo was the first time I’d consciously attempted to “style” a shot, and the feedback about the photo was so positive, I will always have a soft spot for this one.

9) A Year, Anew

flutesnewyear.jpg

Poor quality photo from a neophyte blogger, but this pic of four of my champagne flutes on December 31, 2007 has sentimental value.  Ever since I moved into my first apartment as an adult, I’ve collected individual, unique champagne flutes, and many were received as gifts (in fact, one of the first gifts the HH ever gave me was a handcrafted pewter-stemmed flute). Each glass has its particular story or background, even if the story is, “I found this for 25 cents at a garage sale!”.  I’ve sampled champagne from each and every one of the 21 in my collection, and they are all my favorites. 

8) Butterscotch Mousse Pie

This photo is dear to my heart, both because the recipe is from the first cookbook I reviewed on this site, and also because the book itself was the prize for a contest I won. I loved the actual pie as well (hmm–should really make that one again), and I know that Nava liked the photo, so it means a lot to me.

7)  Mint Smoothie

In real life, the drink in this photo was a plain, dull, swamp-like olive green. . .not the most appetizing color for a food photo. But somehow, wrapping that napkin around the stem of the wine glass elevated the smoothie to something elegant and even romantic.  And since the taste of the drink was truly sensational, I was glad I could make it seem more appealing.

6) Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

I love this recipe.  This was a dish I re-vamped from an old recipe, one I found in a cookbook I’ve had forever.  The HH and I feasted on this tagine many times over the winter, and I was happy to see that readers liked it, too. When I look at this photo, I can almost see the rich, sweet-and-savory sauce and the multiple layers and flavors in the casserole.  Comfort in a bowl! 

5) Old Reliables: Salads You Can Count On

Strangely, though I’m not really a salad person, I love this photo.  And the salad isn’t even dressed in it!  But I think the simplicity of the veggies and the bright colors allow the purity and beauty of the fresh food to shine through.  When I know I should eat salad and don’t feel like it, I just look at this photo.

4) Chaser Photo: If Vodka is an Elsie, then Beer is a Chaser

chaserhotgirl.jpg

This is my favorite photo of Chaser on the blog.  This photo of her as a pup was taken on a very hot day on our old deck, after the little tornado had leapt across the lawn, nipped at the water hose, chased balls, eaten some grass, growled at Elsie, shredded a rope toy, and tried to chew the plastic chair leg before her.  She finally stopped to take a break and pant a bit–and I snapped the photo. I think the impish nature is encapsulated in her lolling tongue, the mischievous glint in her eye, and the end of her collar askew.  Is she cute, or what?? 

3) Elsie Photo: This iz not a blg entree

elsietyping.jpg 

This is my favorite photo of Elsie on the blog.  The HH and I still erupt into paroxysms of hysteria when we see this.  I was taking a break from blogging at the time, but Elsie simply couldn’t resist updating all of you.  Notice that she types with a mini dog biscuit at the ready, beside her left paw.  Really, she is such a remarkable dog!

2) French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries

This was one of my favorite recipes I’ve made so far.  Besides the intense purples and pinks being so visually appealing, the soufflé itself was easy to make and came out delicious–light, fluffy, moist, sweet (but not too sweet), fruity, and all around irresistible.  I caught this photo after the HH and I had each enjoyed a huge serving and would have liked more.  

1) Avocado Mayonnaise

I think this recent photo is my favorite so far (if you exclude the dogs’ photos), mostly because of its simplicity. I love the contrast of the green on the red, the fact that there are basically only 2 colors in the photo, and that the grounds of pepper are actually sharply visible (my cheap camera performs, for once!). I also loved the taste and texture of the mayo, and it’s become a staple recipe in our house. In fact, it makes me want to go and have some right now.

After selecting the photos and reading through this entry, it suddenly struck me:  THERE ARE NO PHOTOS OF CHOCOLATE HERE!  Astonishing, truly.  It’s not that I no longer love chocolate or that it’s slipped from Number One Food Spot in my esteem.  No; it’s just that I haven’t been able to adequately capture its magical essence in any of my amateur photos.  Gives me something to shoot for in the next 200 or so blog entries. . .

I’m not going to tag anyone specific, but I will say that it was a fun challenge to come up with the selections, so if you’re interested, please share!

Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

July 14, 2008

 

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.” 

After the HH and I had been dating for about four months and he’d already passed the “willing to tolerate my multiple quirks and neuroses” test, I decided it would be acceptable for him to finally meet my family and old friends in Montreal.  I cajoled coerced begged invited him to join me one weekend as I headed east.  We arranged to stay at the CFO’s place, to visit with the rest of the family, to attend a dinner party at my friend Babe’s, and to spend the remainder of our time sight-seeing; the plans were all set.

And then, during the drive across the highway, the HH contracted some bizarre, sci-fi worthy flu virus and ended up spending the entire visit in bed–febrile, congested, inflamed and sullying tissue after tissue with unsavory bodily fluids.  My relatives encountered a slightly dazed, highly medicated, Rudolph-nosed guy who didn’t make the greatest impression (he’s made up for it since). 

Ever since that sniffling début, it’s become somewhat of a running gag in our house:  whenever the HH and I travel to Montreal, one of us is inevitably sick (most recently, it was my turn; I suffered a wicked sinus headache for the first day, but recuperated by the second).  The only time we both felt fine, turned out the CFO was the one with a terrible cold, which she unwittingly passed on as a parting gift to me. Two days after returning to Toronto, I was felled once again. 

It may be a cliché to say that men are babies when it comes to having colds, that they whine and complain and moan, even as a woman suffering the same symptoms would simply drag herself from bed and get on with it. Well, not my HH.  As in most things, he and I are total opposites when it comes to illness:  if the HH gets sick, he retreats to bed, lies inert for about 48 hours, then emerges, like Ripley out of a stasis chamber, exactly as he was before.  (The first time this occurred, I was truly alarmed: I was certain the guy had croaked on me, as he literally slept for two days without even getting up to eat or drink).  I, on the other hand, am more likely stricken with a chronic, pervasive, low-grade, not-quite-debilitating-but-definitely-quite-annoying set of symptoms that lasts anywhere from four days to two months. I can function, but I’m miserable while I’m doing it.

One weekend a few weeks ago, Chaser had her first encounter with the HH’s unique form of healing.  After he crawled into bed, I closed the door, as usual, so Dad could sleep it off. The Girls were entirely thrown off their regular routine. They moped about outside the bedroom, looking rather–well, hang-dog.

Finally, around 5:00 PM, the door swung open and there he was–and vertical!  The Girls were ecstatic (“Does this mean we get to go to the trail now??”). Even as hope faded when the HH plunked himself in front of the TV, a dull patina of illness still coating his visage and a network of sheet-wrinkles, like tributaries on a map, spread across his face, those Girls still stuck by their Dad. 

I headed to the kitchen to whip up something hearty for the HH’s first meal back in civilization. Before I could even grab a spatula, however, there were The Girls at my feet, staring patiently.  Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that 5:00 PM is dog dinnertime. (“Right, Mum.  Food trumps sick owner. Sorry Dad, but you’re on your own.”)

As to the humans’ dinner, I decided on tempeh, a food I love but don’t eat often enough. Pairing a vague notion of BBQ season with a half-consumed jar of apple butter, I had my starting point. I realize there’s a plethora of BBQ recipes out there around this time of year, from the archetypal Wingz at Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk to these recent lovelies at Happy Herbivore and another fairly recent version at Vegan Dad.  But I was determined to use that apple butter, so I just grabbed a few other items from the fridge and began to mix.  

The results were, after all, very pleasing.  The tempeh’s meaty texture works well with the slightly spicy, slightly sweet flavors of the sauce. If you like BBQ sauce with a kick, you’ll enjoy this dish.  Unfortunately for the HH, he missed out on that particular gustatory pleasure, as his nose was still too congested for him to really appreciate the taste.  Still, the high protein content of the tempeh worked well to help rebuild his stamina, and he was back to work the following day. 

But I think we’ll hold off on any more trips to Montreal–for a little while, at least.

Because of tempeh provides such a healthy source of protein, I’m submitting this to Sangeeth at Art of Cooking Indian Food for her Eat Healthy–Protein Rich event.

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Tempeh

These are slightly sweet, slightly gooey with a spicy kick.  I assume they’d be even better if actually cooked on a grill, but this baked version was equally tasty.

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

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.” 

You know, there are days when I just marvel at how much my life has been enriched by joining the world of blogging. I’m amazed at how many positive experiences this little outlet for self-expression, culinary creativity and the occasional star-struck reference to my favorite soap opera has brought my way.

At the forefront, of course, is YOU–the readers and commenters.  What an inspiring group of compassionate, intelligent, witty and loyal people you are!  Thank you for coming back here on a regular basis; thank you for your thoughtful comments (I am, literally, thrilled every time I see one appear at the end of a blog entry–and they keep me coming back here, too); and thank you for your feedback and knowledgeable advice (I’m so excited to start cooking from my recently-acquired cookbooks, courtesy of your suggestions–yay Crescent Dragonwagon!).  Truly, a blog is a sorry, desolate place without its readers.

Along the way, I’ve also discovered many other blogs and bloggers, and what a revelation that has been. I was dumbfounded the other day when I realized there are now approximately 150 blogs on my Google Reader, and I seem to discover new and intriguing blogs every day (and I promise, they will all eventually make it to my blog roll).  Where were all these talented writers hiding before the advent of blogs?  Whether primarily for the recipes or mostly for the prose, I delight in reading every one and perk up each time Google informs me of a new post by a favorite blogger. Lately, I’ve been a bit remiss with my own comments on other blogs, but please know that I do read regularly and am enjoying all your posts!

Speaking of great bloggers, yesterday I had the unique pleasure of actually meeting another Toronto-area blogger, Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen .  As you’d expect from her posts, Giz is witty, sharp, and very, very funny. We chatted like two teenaged chums who meet up again at the 10-year high school reunion, gabbing and giggling and catching up on what we’ve been doing over the past decade.  In fact, our conversation flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that we were on our way out the door of the coffee shop before we realized we hadn’t even touched on the topic we’d ostensibly met to discuss–Giz’s “slimdown challenge” to me from a while back! Thanks, Giz, for a great start to my morning!

As many other bloggers have noted, blogging also forces enourages one to try out new recipes.  In her recent 100th post, VeggieGirl mentioned how each blog entry represents a new recipe (can it be that the HH and I have eaten 186 new dishes–not counting all those that don’t make it to the blog–since last October??).  And part of this impetus to cook novel food arrives in the form of blog events, another aspect of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy. 

These days, it seems there’s a new blog event posted almost daily; I sorely wish I could participate in all of them.  Unfortunately, my schedule at the moment prohibits too much experimentation in the kitchen.  It’s currently end of semester at the college and my marking, like all the ripe, luscious seasonal fruit, is at its peak.  I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just might trump the CN tower as the world’s tallest freestanding structure.  And while preparing foods for blog events is admittedly more colorful than marking essays (which involves only black and red, after all), it wouldn’t do to set aside the former for the latter (well, not too often, anyway).

Still, when I read about the Healthy Cooking: Eat Well, Live Well event hosted by Mansi at Fun and Food, I knew I had to submit something.  After all, isn’t the very raison d’être of this blog, more or less, “to create healthy, delicious foods”?  (That, and to provide The Girls a forum in which to air their observations and opinions, of course). 

(“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that.  You know we HATE having our opinions squelched.”)

I thought about what to prepare, but my mind came up blank.  Then, while attempting to clear the non-marking clutter (eg., half-filled tea mug, empty water bottle, digital camera, sticky notes with recipe ideas, cookbooks previously used for blog entries, magazines previously used for blog inspiration, my checkbook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula [the novel, not the vampire], stray Chaser hairs, my journal, an anniversary card from the HH, and my calculator) off my desk the other night, I came across June’s issue of Cooking Light.  Where have I been living, under a rock or something? I mean, I’m aware there’s such as thing as zucchini bread, the moist and delectable quick loaf that’s a staple in many a baking household. I am also aware that your classic carrot cake is often studded with bits of juicy pineapple.  But zucchini and pineapple?  Together? It just never occurred to me.  Yet there it was, staring at me from the pages of Cooking Light.

The funny thing is, the magazine’s recipe was a “lightened-up” version of an older, original recipe, that contained 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, and 2 cups sugar.  The Cooking Light version cut back to 2 eggs (plus an additional 1/2 cup chemicals made to taste like eggs), 2/3 cup oil and 2 cups (2 CUPS!!) white sugar.  Granted, the recipe yields 2 loaves, but still–an entire cup per loaf?  Seemed a bit excessive to me.

And so, I decided to lighten the already-lightened version.  (Is that sort of like asking Michael Jackson to bleach his skin?)  Seemed to me I could accomplish a fine job of it by reducing the oil even more, and most definitely by reducing the sugar and replacing it with natural sweeteners instead.  My recent avocado kick provided yet another brilliant twist.  My ratiocination went something like this: zucchini is green.  Avocado is green.  Why not add some more green to the green, and use avocado purée instead of egg in this recipe?  Along with the Omega-3’s in the flax seeds, the avocado provides a good dose of monounsaturated fats to the batter, allowing me to reduce the oil even further. And so, my own idiosyncratic variation of zucchini-pineapple loaf was born.

The bread is fragrant with cinnamon, sweet with pineapple and soft, melting bits of chopped dates throughout.  The zucchini contributes a certain depth of flavor and even more moisture–in fact, this bread treads the very limits of moistness; any more moist, and it might not qualify as a solid.  The flavors meld and intensify once the bread is cooled and rested, so it’s even more tasty the morning after it’s made.  And like blogging, it will enrich your day with a healthy dose of sweetness and discovery.

Zucchini and Pineapple Mini Loaves

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

A healthy, hearty version of a heavier standard, this bread mixes up easily and is a great recipe for using up leftover zucchini, pineapple, or overripe avocado.  

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

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.” 

To me, summer means potato salad season. And coleslaw season, and watermelon season, and ice cream season, and gin and tonic season. . . but primarily, potato salad season.  So, quick: when you think of potato salad, what type do you think of?

Well, there are the “smooth and creamy potato salad” people.  There are the “tangy, vinegary potato salad” people.  There are the “small cubed potatoes potato salad” people and the “big, honkin’ chunks of potato potato salad” people.  There are the “grilled potatoes potato salad” people. And there are even the “radishes and potatoes potato salad ” people (an iteration I’d never encountered before this summer).

And moi?  I like ‘em all.  The HH is a huge fan of potatoes in any form, prepared using any cooking method and dressed with any and all toppings or seasonings (unfortunately, his sole requirement is that they be plated alongside a piece of animal protein). 

(“And Mum, don’t forget the ‘canine potato salad people’. . . oh, actually, we’ll just take that piece of animal protein instead.”)

Since I adore leafy green vegetables and have also been trying to incorporate more of them into my diet lately, I’m eternally scouting out recipes that make use of greens in novel and interesting ways.  A few nights ago I remembered this old favorite that we haven’t eaten in a couple of years at least. The recipe is from a book I found over a decade ago, in the remainder bin at a local bookstore. Called, simply, The Greens Book, it’s a slender volume offering a multitude of esoteric recipes with a handful of more accessible ones (of which this salad is one).  Mostly, I’ve used the book as a reference source when I want to identify some mysterious or previously unencountered green that’s crossed my path (sometimes literally), as it also provides sharp and stunning photographs of each type of leaf. 

I’ve proclaimed my affection for raw dandelion greens in an earlier post; this salad uses barely-wilted stems and leaves and pairs them with cooked, still-warm potato chunks and a lemony, garlicky, olive-oil dressing.  It’s quick, easy, and perfect as an accompaniment to a Bar B Q buffet or as a main course if served alongside another salad.  Because the flavors are so pronounced, this dish can easily liven up a humble or mildly flavored main course.

Although they’re not technically herbs, dandelions do grow in my very own backyard, so I’m submitting this recipe to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, started at Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Simona at Briciole.

Warm Dandelion and Potato Salad

from The Greens Book by Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dille

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

Cooked on the stovetop in no time at all, this salad won’t overheat the house on a hot summer’s evening.  Though it’s great served warm, this is also wonderful at room temperature.

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

The Girls love the glorious sunshine and heat, but spending too much time frolicking outside can take its toll. . . .

["Oh, Mum, I just adore summer--especially getting sprayed by the garden hose!"]

["Really, Chaser,  how puerile. Personally, I prefer to keep my distance from the hose and hang here by Dad's foot."]

["Ooooh. . . maybe I have overdone it, just a bit. . .just need to rest here a minute under the patio furniture. . . "]

["It IS beginning to feel rather hot out here about now, I  must admit."]

["Ah, thanks for letting me in, Mum. It's much better here in the house, on these cool ceramic tiles. . . "]

["Zip it, Chaser, I'm trying to sleep. "]

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.” 

 

* [or Concasse, if you prefer the more conventional term. . . but I just loved the word "tracklement" ever since I read it on Lucy's blog, and besides, "Tomato Tracklement" is just so much more alliterative.]

Last weekend was our Canada Day holiday, and this year I learned an important lesson.  No, it wasn’t “Canada is 141 years old” (even though it was).  Uh-uh, it wasn’t “Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live” (I already knew that one).  Nope, not even “Although Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live, a summer full of rain really sucks–almost as much as a typical Canadian winter.” And finally, nay, it also wasn’t “The Girls are still scared of fireworks” (really, talk about stating the obvious). 

No, dear readers, the all-important lesson I learned this past weekend was simply this:

Never (and I mean never) attempt to drive across the province at the beginning of a long July 1st weekend.

Elementary, you say?  Well, for some reason, the HH and I, despite 10 years of trekking from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, have never traveled that particular stretch of the 401 on the long Canada Day weekend.  This year, with my dad turning 87, we decided it was a necessity.  

Big mistake.

BIG.

The 500-kilometre (about 315 mile) drive usually takes us between 4.5 and 6 hours, depending on (A) time of departure; (B) weather conditions; (C) who’s driving; (D) number of rest stops; and (E) traffic.  This past weekend, our multiple-choice answer was overwhelmingly, “E,” or really, more like, “EEEEEeeeeee!!!”  To be precise, eight hours’ worth of “E.”

As we slid out of the city and onto the highway, I sensed a barely perceptible increase in the volume of vehicles on the road.  Then, within about five minutes, it became painfully clear: everyone and their canines were heading off to the cottage for the long weekend.  And us?  No cottage; no canines (The Girls were happily ensconced at the doggie daycare for the weekend); and no discernible movement on the roads.  I’d completely forgotten our route included a short span of terrain known as “cottage country” (also known, as the Barenaked Ladies recently reminded us in song, as “Peterborough and the Kawarthas“).  And there we were, the HH and I, motionless amid all the eager, impatient, fidgety and perspiring boaters, gardeners, waterskiers and Barbeque-ers, our wheels moving barely a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so.

Even if we could afford one, I doubt we would actually buy a cottage (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the HH is a role model for “don’t do it yourself-ers”).  Still, I do treasure memories of spending summers at various country houses when I was a kid.  My parents couldn’t afford a cottage, either, but in those days, rentals were abundant and reasonably priced, and didn’t require reservations a year in advance (one summer, in fact, I clearly remember my parents discussing the possibility of escaping the city on the very evening school let out; by the following afternoon, I’d tossed my report card in the closet, pulled my collection of comic books out instead, and we were on the road toward our temporary summer home).

In those days, my parents rented a house through July and August.  They’d pack up the family (my two sisters, our cocker spaniel, Sweeney, and I) in the back of my dad’s station wagon-cum-butcher shop delivery van, and off we went to our rudimenatry cabin in the woods, sans modern amenities or TV. Along with the other husbands, my father helped us settle in the first weekend, then headed back to the city (and his store) during the week, while the rest of us hung around with the moms and kids until the men returned each Friday evening. For five days a week, the wives managed to keep things running smoothly, demonstrating both independence and resourcefulness; yet every Friday, they mysteriously reverted to squeaky voices, soft entreaties and deference, much as early feminists must have done when their soldier-husbands returned from the front.  

In the intervals free from paternal presence, we children would run barefoot along the roadside, plucking thick, flat blades of crabgrass to grip securely between tightly pressed thumbs, then huffing and blowing our makeshift whistles, our postures in supplication to nature.  We’d seek out the other kids whose parents rented homes around the same lake, for day-long games of hide-and-seek, for building sand forts at the lakeside, or for throwing sticks to Sweeney and the other dogs (who, bored with our weak attempts at “fetch,” would lope off and sleep under porches, squirrel-hunt in the woods, or, toward evening, launch a stealth attack on the hotdogs piled on plates beside the Bar-B-Q’s).

By the end of the season, we’d worn ourselves out with outdoor games, our limbs buff and bronzed in variegated strips of earthtone after two months of shifting sleeve lengths.  All the books I’d brought were read and forgotten; I’d colored and drawn and written in my journal about my adventures; my younger sister and I had picked countless plastic sandbuckets full of wild blueberries from the hill at the end of town; and we were, finally, ready to go home.

One of my fondest memories is the drive back south, passing field after field of farmers’ corn as it just approached ripeness.  The long, elegant leaves swished and swayed in the breeze like our own welcoming committee, a troupe of Hawaiian dancers greeting tourists as they disembark from the plane.  By the time school resumed, we were eating fresh cobs of corn with our dinners, juice trailing down our chins and our cheeks flecked with wayward bits of yellow like reverse freckles on our tanned faces.

I reminisced about that incomparable corn as I contemplated Pancakes on Parade, the event hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.  I had already decided (though I love sweet pancakes and make them whenever there’s an excuse) that I wanted to do something savory for this event.  Corn cakes are a long-time favorite, and they seemed the perfect choice.  And while there’s nothing quite like a plump, fresh cob of grilled or steamed corn, juicy and sweet and eaten with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for long-absent lovers, sometimes it’s just impossible to acquire the fresh kind.   That’s when frozen, or even canned (heresy!) come in handy.

The crêpes are based on a recipe I created a few years ago for a brunch event.  This time, however, I decided to pair them with a sweet and tart tomato concasse, and the combination improved the overall effect considerably.  The tracklement cooks up really quickly, in just the right amount of time to serve alongside the crêpes.  Savor these right away, or wrap up for later consumption–they’d make a great snack if you ever find yourself stuck on the highway for eight hours or so.

Corn Crêpes with Quick Tomato Tracklement

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

A savory pancake with occasional bursts of sweetness in juicy corn kernels, these are great with the accompanying tomato concasse for brunch or light dinner. Or use with other savory spreads such as hummus or avocado mayonnaise.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers