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As someone who considers herself an unabashed fan (and follower) of popular culture, I love trend-watching (and also soap opera-watching, and celebrity-watching, and style-watching. . . plus reading trashy magazines at the supermarket checkout line. . . I could go on, but really, haven’t I embarassed myself enough for one day?)

Over the years, I’ve noticed that trends in food, much like trends in fashion or architecture or music, tend to be cyclical. Something new makes a splash on the scene, there’s a frenzied public reaction, and everyone rushes to snap up the boots or to hang the accent mirrors or to buy the CDs from the stores.  Eventually, the trend fades like a tan in winter and is forgotten. . . just long enough for everyone to discard any traces of trend-related goods they may own (though I could never bring myself to part with those hand-embroidered Lee overalls from my highschool days, even though they’d barely cover my kneecaps today).

About 20 years after it first appeared, said craze resurfaces as if it’s now been discovered for the first time (to wit, iceberg lettuce.  I mean, was it even good the first time?  And then there are bell bottoms–which have seen more than one resurrection, in fact.  And Supertramp.  Oh, and Rachel’s hair on Friends. Is it just me, or isn’t that simply a revamped 1970s shag haircut?). Only problem is, this new iteration, bearing enough resemblance to the original so you know it’s basically the same concept, also exhibits just enough variation from the prototype so you’re forced to purchase it anew if you wish to hop back on the bandwagon (so those original bell bottoms you lovingly preserved in tissue paper? Sorry, now they’re just slightly too wide at the base, and slightly too low at the hip to be “fashionable” today).  

So it goes with gastronomy, as well. I am (barely) old enough to remember the first wave of hippie food that gained popularity.  The trend, I believe, started in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s.  It was the era of Jane Fonda touting wheat germ in hamburgers (and lots of aerobic exercise), and the inception of the Moosewood restaurant and (then) curly-haired Mollie Katzen as its main proprietor and artist-in-residence.  And the Seventies was when Frances Moore Lappe first publshed Diet for a Small Planet, of course.  In those days, an overabundance of grey-hued, homemade tofu and crunchy granola gave “health food” and veganism a bad rap.  Today, thankfully, the new wave of “healthy” foods can be both good for you and good-tasting.  

Luckily for me, I’ve always loved the taste of healthy foods, whether in vogue or not. (Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t also love the taste of incredibly UNhealthy foods, which, if you’ve ever read this blog before, you already know).  Still, I hold fond memories of living in my first bachelor apartment (basically, a glorified closet with a bathroom on one end) as a grad student.  A step up from most bachelor pads, it boasted a “kitchen” (the wall that had the sink and counter affixed to it) as well as a “bedroom” (the wall that had the window cut into it), separated by a waist-high partition that jutted halfway across the room.  Remember Mary’s original pad in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and how she had a semblance of space from the kitchen counter off to the side, with that lovely, bright central area flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling window, the area that featured a hide-a-bed sofa?  Well, my place was nothing like that.

One of the first things I did living on my own was attempt to expand my culinary repertoire by branching into “health” foods.  My main motivation at the time was purely pecuniary, but I now realize that my choices introduced me to vegan foods as well. In those days, single and sans wheels, I was happy to tote along a “granny cart” (basically a steel basket on wheels), haul it onto the city bus, and travel an hour each way for my weekly pilgrimmage to the one bulk store in the city. 

Once there, I faced dozens of plastic bins, brimming with dried beans in varied shades of grey, white, brown, and green; nubby grains ranging in size from pinpoint to pencil eraser (with strange names like quinoa, teff, or amaranth); exotic flours from carob or fava beans, which I’d only just encountered; and assorted candies, soup mixes, dog biscuits, nuts and seeds–well, I could easily browse for a couple more hours before picking and choosing my purchases (not to imply that I ate dog biscuits in those days, or anything–just that they were there, laying the mental foundation for my current forays to the local bulk store, in which The Girls and their appetites always figure prominently).

This salad is from one of the first cookbooks I bought, called Horn of the Moon.  As you can probably tell from the title, it was a “health foodie” book. Most of the recipes reflect its early origins:  falafel, lentil burgers, tofu stuffed mushrooms.  Maybe it was nostalgia for those first heady days living entirely on my own; maybe it was a need for something simple, hearty, and evocative of fall; maybe it was my way to reintroduce an earlier trend; in any case, I had a craving for this salad last week and promptly pulled out my worn copy and prepped a batch.  

And while the HH found this too “plain” (seems his 2008-era palate, now accustomed to cilantro, garam masala, mysterious fiery jalapenos and the like, has rejected such rudimentary gustatory pleasures), I still loved this dish. With its chewy buds of beige-hued barley and oats, and sweet, toasty crunch of hazelnuts or crunchy bits of carrot and celery, this salad offered up a welcome mouthful of memory, warm and tingly, and a perfect way to reminisce about the past.

Barley-Hazelnut Salad

from Horn of the Moon cookbook

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

An unpretentious, hearty salad that’s straightforward and unambiguous in its nutritional offering.  It’s easy to eat a large serving of this as a meal on its own–which is a good thing, since this recipe yields a huge amount (it may be halved if you have fewer than four people in your house).

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

Some people say that having a dog is like taking care of a three year old–forever.  Sometimes, when The Girls engage in their morning play rituals, I think those people are right. 

Here’s a little glimpse into canine sibling relationships. . . .it all starts when Chaser wants to play (which is pretty much all the time, come to think of it):

["Hey, Elsie, c'mon, let's play!"

"Don't bug me, kid."]

["Awww, c'mon, Elsie, don'tcha wanna play?  Huh?  Can we? Can we play?  Huh?  How 'bout now?  Let's play! Do you wanna?  Now? C'mon--"]

["I. . . SAID. . . GRRRRRROWWWWLLLLLLL!! I WILL EAT YOU NOW!!!"]

["Oh, ha ha! You don't scare me. . . look, my mouth is just as big as yours.  So now, let's PLAY!!"]

["Oops, wait a sec--looks like Dad might have food. . . nope.  False alarm."]

[Wrestle. . . wrestle. . . snap. . . nip. . . growl. . . tumble. . .paw. . . wrestle. . ]

["Aw, thanks, Elsie!  I love you. . . you're my favorite sister."]

["Suddenly I'm feeling very tired again. . I think it might be time for a nap. . . "]

["You said it. . . I'm pooped."]

Holiday Bundt Apple Cake

September 23, 2008

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

One of the shared quirks of most Canadians is our propensity to focus on the weather (well, that, and our internationally-recognized, world-renowned politeness. Oh, but please do excuse me for interrupting that train of thought with a parenthesis–how very rude! I do apologize). 

We tend to talk about the weather, attempt to predict the weather, fume about the weather, complain vociferously about the weather, aim to forestall the weather, dread the weather, boast about surviving the weather, try desperately to ignore the weather, occasionally (like two days a year) rejoice at the weather, discuss and ponder and ruminate about the weather. . . basically, we are obsessed by the weather. Why? 

Well, I suppose, it has something to do with our ancestors and early settlers whose lives really were ruled by the vagaries of snow, sleet and wind, or the whims of Mother Nature–one false move in January in Peterborough, and you ended up dead.  These days, of course, we’ve got heating and insulation during the winter months, but it seems we’ve inherited the predilection to stress about the weather all year round.

This past weekend, for instance, the air was gloriously warm but maddeningly humid.  Now, why couldn’t we simply combine the temperatures with the sunshine of a crisp February morning, and call it a summer’s day?  I’m really a warm-weather gal, despite my lack of any athletic or outdoorsy skills or prowess.  I am happy to sit outside in the back yard, read a book or magazine, or simply watch The Girls wrestle on the grass when the weather is felicitous. 

When people first find out that I was born and raised in Montreal, they inevitably comment, “Oh, well, then, you MUST be a skier, right, with all that snow you get over there?”  Sadly, no.  I do not ski.  I do not skate. I do not snowmobile on a lake. I do not like the snow on ground, I do not like it where it’s found. I do not like the cold or snow–I do not like it, I wish it would GO.  (Ah, yes, once again, I must apologize for going off on a rant.  And to Dr. Seuss, too, of course.)

Now that fall has almost arrived, the climate is beginning to evoke thoughts of cosy sweaters, fuzzy blankets, knees tucked up before the fireplace. When we take The Girls for their walks along the trails, the barren trees on either side of the paths span above our heads, branches reaching across to touch each other as if holding hands. Carpets of brown, red, and orange leaves crinkle below our feet as we stroll along. There is, I must admit, something rather appealing about it all. In addition, autumn is the harbinger of Holiday Season–for some, as early as the end of the month.

The other day, my friend Eternal Optimist asked about recipes for Rosh Hashanah.  The Jewish New Year falls on September 28th this year, and she was looking for new recipes for baked goods, as her son recently became vegan and most of her current recipes contain eggs and dairy.  I thought about the traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes focusing on apples and honey, and remembered a cake my mom used to bake when we were kids. The recipe was from a Mazola Corn Oil recipe card, and (along with a hefty portion of corn oil) featured both apples and honey in a huge bundt cake embracing thinly sliced Macintoshes between layers of fragrant, moist honey cake, so that it kind of resembled a cross-section of the Canadian Shield when cut, the strata of golden, caramelized fruit nestled between tender, tawny cake.  Well, of course, once I thought of it, I simply had to re-create that cake.

I couldn’t find my mum’s recipe, so I made one up based on a vanilla cake I created a few years ago, adding brown rice syrup as a stand-in for honey, paired with cinnamon and Sucanat-dusted apples.  Here, then, is my version of the childhood favorite.  This cake is perfect for any holiday celebration, as it could easily serve a crowd. It’s not overly fancy, so if you’d like to dress it up a bit, glaze it with your favorite glaze or dust with confectioner’s sugar, if you choose.  The fruit filling is generous and bountiful, just like the harvest in autumn, and might even make you forget the cloudy, stormy, chilly air outside while you indulge. 

Since this cake was based on one my mom used to make, I’m submitting it to the “Making History” event hosted by Allan at Recovered Recipes.  The event asks you to find (and photograph) an old recipe card and post the outcome of the recipe.  My version of the old recipe is one that my mom used to make, which I found in a handwritten baking book:

[Yep, that's an old recipe, all right. . . ]

And here’s the updated version!

Holiday Apple Bundt Cake

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

I’ve been known to enjoy a slice of this for breakfast–add a handful of nuts and really, isn’t that a balanced meal?

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

Pear and Parsnip Soup

September 19, 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.” 

It seems like another lifetime now, but the year after my starter marriage

ended, I lived in a townhouse with my dear friend Gemini I.  Shortly after the furniture was placed and the boxes unpacked, we began to negotiate the rules of housework, grocery shopping, and TV usage when we got to chatting about food.  I remember asking, “Do you like cous cous?” (In those days, I ate it all the time, though it’s pretty much verboten now since I don’t eat wheat).  I was taken aback by her answer, which, at the time, I found a little odd.

“Well, I suppose I do,” she responded.  “There are times when I’ll cook it every day for two weeks, but then I might not touch it or even think of it for 8 or 9 months.”  I couldn’t imagine ignoring a food I actually enjoyed for that long (and chocolate? Well, that one would be calculated in hours–nay, minutes–rather than days or weeks). 

These days, though, I understand exactly what she meant.  When one maintains a food blog, the quest for the novel and atypical dish never ends.  This pursuit sometimes leaves old favorites languishing in the dust–or at the back of the cupboard (or both, in the case of our cupboard).  On the other hand, I might whip up something new from a recipe I found on another blog, and enjoy it so much that the HH and I will feast on said dish several times during the next week.  And the following week.  In fact, we might just consume that comestible every second or third day for two to three weeks (which does provide several useful photo-ops, after all)–and then dump it unceremoniously, just as Chaser dumps her squeaky ball (ad nauseum, I might add) at my feet.  Once I’ve gotten my fill, I move on, seeking the next culinary encounter.

Well, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I often find myself with a surplus of overripe pears in the house, as I did a couple of evenings ago. Since the HH refuses to share in the burden of eating fruit (hey!  That could be the title of Michael Pollan’s next tome:  The Burden of Eating Fruit: An Exposition on Overripe Organic Produce), I’m always on the lookout for tasty recipes with pears, before they become too soft and squishy, too oozy, too yellow-flecked-with-brown.  Our freezer is already bursting with chopped, frozen pears, so I needed to cook up these babies–and fast.

It was then I remembered an erstwhile favorite, one that we consumed for a spell and then promptly forgot. It’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Green by Flip Shelton. From what I understand, Shelton is kind of like an Aussie Rachael Ray, and isn’t taken very seriously as a chef (what’s that bogan doing cooking biscuits on the barbie? What a dag!  Well, she’s still ace to me.  G’day!).  The recipe sounds like an incongruous combination of ingredients (though not as incongruous as radishes, olives and grapefruit), mixing pear and parsnip with sautéed leeks, but the final result is incredibly tasty.  Fragrant, slightly sweet from the pears and slightly peppery from the parsnip, with a velvety smooth, light texture.  Yum-O!

And since this soup features both fruit and, well, soup, I’m submitting it to this months’ No Croutons Required, a monthly event hosted alternately by Holler (this month) and Lisa, which asks us to cook up either a salad or soup with fruit as a main ingredient. 

Oh, and before I sign off, I really must thank all of you for being so understanding and so polite.  I mean, it’s painfully evident that I was a total bust at the ACD this time round (okay, maybe not a TOTAL bust–I did last almost 2 weeks). And yet you’ve all had the diplomacy and tact not to mention it!  For that, I am grateful. 

And while I’ve decided this may not have been the best time to embark on an even more restrictive diet (school starting up, cold weather coming, cookbook calling), I do still try to eat foods that would fit within the parameters of the diet as often as possible, perhaps minus one or two ingredients. Well, turns out this fantastic soup could easily qualify as an anti-candida meal, even without trying (if you’re following the version that permits non-tropical fruits, that is).  It’s also a very simple, very nourishing concoction that offers fabulous fiber from the pears, a hit of extra calcium from the parsnips and a satisfying early autumn tummy-warming. You may even decide to make it again and again–at least, for a couple of weeks or so.   

Pear and Parsnip Soup

from Flip Shelton’s Green

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

It may not be entirely photogenic, but this easy, quick recipe produces a satisfying soup.  The combination of slightly sweet, slightly peppery, and slightly creamy works beautifully here.

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

Banana-Berry Breakfast Cakes

September 15, 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.” 

(Quick–try saying that title out loud ten times!). 

After staying up too late watching Tina Fey’s masterwork on Saturday evening, the HH and I woke up late Sunday–perfect excuse for brunch! As I rooted through the refrigerator for inspiration, I came across a half-full container of soy yogurt.  Now, you may recall that I was all high and mighty (though not as high and mighty as Tina Fey) last week, feeling pretty darned smug about how I cook everything from scratch, would never buy anything processed, yadda yadda yadda.  Well, isn’t it ironic, then, that I happened to have this soy yogurt glaring at me from the top shelf of my fridge?  True, I bought it originally at the behest of my friend PR Queen, who’d been extolling the virtues of this particular brand to me (and it did come in very handy for my mock tuna).  In this case, I promised to try out the strawberry flavor, and while it was. . . .okay. . . . I wasn’t crazy about it. I knew I’d never consume it “straight” the way I would dairy yogurt.  So I began to wonder what else I could conjure with it.

The first item I baked was a brownie–and not just any brownie–this one was superlative, and I’ll post about it anon (Oh, vague recollection of ACD!  Wherefore art thou, ACD, and why hast thou forsaken me, and I forsaken thee?) Anyway, I thought I might combine the strawberry yogurt with sliced bananas for an ultra airy, fluffy pancake.  I imagined the yogurt would react much like buttermilk in the recipe, creating a feather-light texture and fine crumb.  I was salivating at the very thought. (“Mum, we could salivate at the thought, too, you know–we sort of can’t help it.  Just ask Pavlov.“)  

In the home of my childhood, pancakes were a big deal.  In fact, brunch on Sundays were basically sacrosanct in our house; it was the only meal of the week we could all share together as a family (my dad worked 6 days a week in his butcher shop–yep, that’s right, he was a butcher!–and generally left in the morning before we kids were awake, then didn’t return home until well beyond 7:00 or 8:00 PM, after completing deliveries. But he didn’t work on Sundays, so that day was reserved for our family meal). 

No matter what my sisters or I had planned for the rest of the day, no matter how much we’d sobbed the night before watching Susan Hayward in I Want To Live on the Late Show, no matter how much we’d shrieked and bopped and hurled pieces of toast at the screen during  The Rocky Horror Picture Show, no matter how many Pina Coladas we’d downed while dancing with our buddies at the local disco, we were still expected to be on time at the brunch table on Sunday.  And since Dad was an early riser, “brunch” might begin anywhere from 8:30 to 10:00AM.  To their credit, my parents never said a word when we stumbled to the table looking less than perky. 

Occasionally, my mother would whip up a “treat,” what she called Cottage Cheese Pancakes (no points for creativity there–they were pancakes that contained cottage cheese).  Compared to our regular brunch pancakes, which were thick, fluffy, and mile-high, the cottage cheese variety were more like a yawn than a sigh: heavier, moister, and, to my mind, far less refined.  The first time you tried them, you might even wonder whether they were entirely cooked, as the outsides appeared bronzed and dry, yet the innards never quite lost their cheesy, gooey moistness. 

When I cooked up my own cakes this past Sunday and dug into the first bite, I was taken aback by the memory of those cottage cheese pancakes.  To begin with, they weren’t quite as high and fluffy as I’d expected, more like a cross between a pancake and a crêpe (a pancrêpe?).  Not entirely flat, yet with a slightly moist interior (courtesy of the yogurt), creamy and sweet where dotted with nearly-caramelized banana, these rounds were appealing enough to munch on their own, yet not so sweet to be cloying when served with syrup or jam (such as the all-fruit strawberry preserves with which I topped them).  They were also, coincidentally, most astonishingly good, and the HH and I enjoyed a couple of them each alongside our weekend tofu scramble. 

In the end, I wasn’t sure what to call these cakes.  I decided to go simply with “cakes,” which reflects their connection to both pancakes and griddle cakes from my childhood.  A delicious combination of fruit and cake; seemed like the perfect breakfast to me. 

And since these cakes contain not one, but two whole grain flours, I’m sending this off to Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen, who’s hosting  “Grains in my Breakfast” for Weekend Breakfast Blogging (an event started by Nandita at Saffron Trail).

[Quick Cookbook Note: THANKS SO MUCH, everyone, for your wonderful comments and support regarding the cookbook!  And thanks to all the volunteers who asked to be testers. I'm wrapping up the paperwork and will contact the testers this week! I really appreciate everyone's input and feedback, testers or not--so keep those comments coming!]

Banana Berry Breakfast Cakes

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

A cross between a classic pancake and a crepe, these are the vegan incarnation of cottage cheese pancakes, with the added bonus of two types of fruit.  The strawberry may be my feeble attempt to hold onto the last vestiges of summer, but luckily, yogurt is in season all year round.

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

I’ve been plugging away at the cookbook and just wanted to post a quick update for those who are interested.  A few things:

1.  Cookbook Group: I’ve started a Facebook group for anyone who’d like to hear how the publication is progressing, learn when the book is finally out (projected publication date is early 2009), or contribute ideas, questions, comments, or photos of any of the items you’ve already tried (most of the baked goods on this blog will also be in the cookbook–so if you’ve ever baked anything from DDD and have feedback or photos, PLEASE feel free to post them on the group page, or just let me know!)  To join the group, you can go here.   Would love to see you there! 

2.  Testers Wanted:  Although many of the recipes, as I’ve mentioned before, have already been tested because they were sold through my baking company, I still have to adapt some of them for the home cook and am creating new ones as well for the book.  And so. . . I’m now actively soliciting recipe testers.  This would involve a bit of work and, most importantly, feedback to me about the recipes.  If you’ve got time to bake up a storm over the next month or so and are interested, please email me in the next few days at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom or sweetfreedomcookbookATgmailDOTcom.  Thanks!

3. To help you get in the dessert kind of mood, here are some recently baked items that will be in the book (they’ll be posted on the Sweet Freedom blog and Facebook page as well):

Coconut Cream Pie: 

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Glazed Chocolate Orange Torte:

Old Fashioned Raisin-Spice Cake:

“But Mum. . .does this mean WE can’t be your taste-testers anymore?  Because you know how much we love your baked goods. . . ”

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD 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.” 

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a “from scratch” kind of gal.  I mean, when you’ve been told you can’t eat anything processed, anything with additives, anything with coloring, anything with refined sweeteners or flours–basically, anything that’s not fresh from the vine or the ground–you learn to cook from scratch. Baptism by (Gas Mark 7) fire, and all that.

As a child, I thought “homemade” was synonymous with “bland and boring.”  (Actually, I was onto something there: my mother’s cooking actually was bland and boring).  For my sisters and me, the most exciting foods we could imagine came in a box, a jar, or a can. Perfectly round, single-serve “layer cakes” coated in crunchy, “chocolatey” shellac and packaged in individual cellophane bags; McDonald’s large fries and chocolatey “milk” shakes; soft, mushy, impossibly orange and slightly gooey Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Alphagetti; and–the best possible treat my mother could ever offer, the holy grail of convenience foods–Swanson TV Dinners.  How we loved that Salisbury Steak with the little square of blueberry cake baked into the center of the aluminum dish! 

But such rewards were few and far between.  What seemed like a rare and elusive jackpot in our kitchen was common fare for my two best friends, the Gemini twins; all the glamorous, esoteric items that were verboten at our house made regular appearances on their dinner table. I recall many a meal at their place when we kids were served a heaping portion of Hamburger Helper (with added sautéed onions for that homemade touch), along with canned chocolate pudding topped with a dollop of jam and sprinkle of walnuts (to lend some individual flair) for dessert. I loved it–and was entirely envious of their good fortune!

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and began to cook for myself that I truly appreciated the home cooked dishes I’d been served throughout my youth, despite their insipid flavors. Subsequently, in my 30s, I began to realize how infinitely superior real food was to synthetic (much as SanDeE appreciates this difference in response to Steve Martin’s confused inquiry in LA Story).  Since my Great Diet Shift in 2000, I’ve been cooking about 95% from scratch.  It’s become a reflex to simply make things myself. 

So it never occurred to me to do otherwise when I encountered the famous Mock Tuna recipe for the first time. At first I wondered, how had I missed itWhere had I been living all this time?  Mashed, cooked chickpeas, mayo, chopped bits of this and thata perfect replica of that classic fishy salad, both in appearance and taste.  It looked fabulous. Sounded terrific.  With an impressive nutritional profile, too:  very high protein (11 g per 1 cup serving), high iron, 6% daily calcium–really, how could one go wrong? I knew I had to try it.

First on the ingredient list was “one can of chick peas.” Well, of course I ignored that part.  Why would I use canned anything if I could help it?  So I soaked my beans overnight, then drained, rinsed, refilled with fresh water, and boiled away.  And boiled.  The recipe instructed me to mash with a potato masher or fork, but somehow, my beans were still too hard to accomplish such a feat.  Instead, I opted for the food processor and blended the entire mound into a pulp. I ended up with little pebble-like pieces of chickpea, nothing like a “mash” at all.  I mean, they were TASTY pebble-like pieces, mind you, but pebble-like pieces nonetheless.  I liked the mock tuna well enough (even though–sorry, folks–it tastes nothing like tuna) and even made it a few more times. But let’s just say it would never achieve the same iconic status as Hamburger Helper at the Geminis’. 

Then, last week while grocery shopping, right there in the canned goods aisle, I was suddenly overtaken by an overwhelming urge, one that was completely out of character (no, nothing like that, you pervs!  Shame on you!). I had an urge to buy a CAN of chickpeas.  A can!  “Maybe, just maybe, using canned chickpeas will make a difference,” I thought.  Hard to believe, but in all my 40+ years of eating I had NEVER TASTED CANNED CHICKPEAS. Well, dear readers, the result was truly humbling. In fact, it left me feeling quite sheepish.  I’d even venture to say I was cowed (though not to be confused with “resembling a cow.”). Now, I must admit it: sometimes, convenience foods are superior.  Truly, the dish was phenomenal.  I couldn’t stop eating the stuff! 

Imagine this scene:  Dinnertime at the DDD household.  The HH sits on one side of the table, munching a slice of bison loaf (purchased at the extortionary Planet Organic, because (a) at least it’s organic; (b) the HH demands his meat; (c) the store is 80% empty most of the time and I’m afraid it’s going to go bankrupt before it’s even open a year; and (d) who feels like cooking for the HH when I’ve already mixed up a chickpea spread for myself?).  I’m on the other side, eating my delectable mock tuna on a rice cake.

HH:  What is that stuff?

Me: Mock tuna.  It’s made from chick peas.

HH: Chickpeas? Are you kidding me?

Me: Nope.  [chomp, chomp, lip-smack, lick fingertips]

HH: [Hesitantly] Can I try a little?

Me: Sure. [pushes bowl across table]

HH:  [Chewing]: Hmm.  [Chomp] That’s not too bad.  [Chomp].  Tastes sort of like potato salad. [Lip-smack]. Actually, that’s pretty good stuff. [Licks fingertips. Turns back to bison].

Me: Yeah, I see what you mean, it is sort of like potato salad. Mmmnnnmm!

HH: Hmmn. Yeah, like a very good, creamy, delicious potato salad. [reaches over to take another forkful].

Me: [clears throat] Help yourself.

HH: Thanks! [scoops half the mixture onto his plate.]

Me: Guess you like it.

HH: Yeah, this is great stuff! [Chomp, chomp, lip-smack, licks fingertips.]

In the end, the HH did finish his bison, but he also finished up the mock tuna (which was actually a good thing, as I would have scarfed it all up otherwise). He cleared the plate and asked if I could make it again sometime, because “Wow, that’s amazing stuff!”

Lesson learned: Sometimes, it’s okay to use a can for something you could also make from scratch. Oh, and you should always follow the recipe’s instructions.

Good lesson, Mum.  And if Dad ever doesn’t want to finish his bison, you know where to find us.”

And while it may not taste exactly like chick peas, those legumes in this dish make it an ideal entry to My Legume Love Affair, the event created by Susan, and this month hosted by Lucy at Nourish Me.

Mock Tuna Salad (Chickpea Spread)

adapted from this recipe

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

This spread is perfect on crackers, as a sandwich filling, or just on its own.  It’s creamy, a little spicy, and all around irresistible.

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

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