Dog Day: Happy Halloween

October 31, 2008

Possible Captions:

“”We are peasant babooshkas who have toiled in the fields and lost our fortunes, so please give us some food.”

“We are cute little homeless girls and we have lost our fortunes, so please give us some food.”

“We are (food)bank robbers here to get our fortunes, so give us some food–or else.”

“Mum, we are humiliated having to wear these costumes, so please stop this silly trick and just give us the treats.”

“Mum, we are kinda freaked out by these tight-fitting costumes, so please stop this silly trick and just give us the treats.”

“Mum, why must you anthropomorphize us and make us wear these silly costumes?  We deserve our canine dignity!  Now, give us some treats.”

“Mum, is this the best you could do for costumes?  An old hat and a scarf?  Really, Mum, this is beneath us.  I think you’d better just give us our treats.”

“Wow, look how monstrous our eyes seem with the yellow and green shiny glow in the center!  MWWHOOOHAAAA,  Scary! Okay, now give us some treats.”

“I think this brown and orange ensemble is rather fetching on me, don’t you, Elsie?” “I’ll fetch YOU, Chaser. Sure, you get the vibrant colors and I get the dowdy gray.  I think I need some treats.”

“Oooh, Mr. Demille, I think I’m ready for my close up!” “Oh, great, Chaser, now we might never get out of these horrible things. Couldn’t you just zip it? Those treats are taking forever. . .  *sigh*.”

And please feel free to add more captions in the comments section . . . .

and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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.”]

[Oh, and before I continue:  notice the photo?  Notice anything different?  Um, like, actual detail on the food?  Well, this here is my very first shot with my new, stunningly beautiful, too-complex-for-my-current-level-of-knowledge, can’t-believe-how-heavy-this-thing-is, smashing and awesome and really, you shouldn’t have but I LOVE IT camera!  It was my birthday gift from The HH last week, and  I am thrilled to bits with it! (I can’t wait to actually learn how to use it.) ;)  For now, I’m still learning, so please excuse the awkward and unretouched photos that may appear here for a while. . . but wow, just look at those beans!!]

My friend The Architect married his highschool sweetheart this past weekend. Well, not literally.  You see, they didn’t actually know each other in high school. However, she teaches high school, and she’s also his sweetheart; so, close enough.  As both of them are extremely involved in environmental issues and preserving the local habitat, the wedding was an elegant event in a bucolic setting just north of where we live.  And, true to form, the ceremony was outdoors, amid the towering maples and the burbling streams and the chattering squirrels.  Oh, and the pelting rain and the occasional snowflake and the sodden leaves being torn from the trees and whipping across our faces path.  Because, you see, it was late October.  In CANADA.  (Let’s just say, I wore earmuffs to the ceremony).*

Still, it was a joyful, enjoyable affair and the HH and I ate, drank, and danced like it was 1999.  After so much weekend revelry, I decided I wanted something simple for dinner yesterday.  

Now, it’s possible I’ve mentioned before that I am basically a lazy cook.  Extremely lazy.  And, as I (now) do with chickpeas for the occasional mock tuna salad, I also tend to keep cans of baked beans on hand for those occasional evenings when I crave their sweet, soft, quick and filling nourishment. 

I didn’t even realize there existed specifically vegan baked beans until I was an undergrad in university, when I first lived (and cooked) on my own. Because my mother was an unacknowledged vegetarian herself, the only kind of baked beans she ever used were the “in tomato sauce” flavor (naturally vegan). In university, however, my room mate was the grocery shopper.  One week, I requested canned baked beans, and she brought home the bacon beans.  I opened the can in anticipation of my usual leguminous fulfillment.  What I encountered, instead, was a single cube of pasty, greyish-white, gelatinous pork fat.  At first, I couldn’t imagine what it was, but then I read the label and. . . wow, you wouldn’t believe how those saucy beans stick to the inside of the garbage can.

I love to eat baked beans just as they are, with a plump spelt bagel torn into pieces that I use to sop up the sauce.  The Nurse doctors hers up with kethcup, mustard, maple syrup, corn kernels (!) and hot dogs (blech); the CFO makes hers from scratch (also vegan, but that’s just a coincidence).  Lately, I’ve been trying to eat greens every day, so I thought about combining the beans with something dark and leafy.  As it happened, my mind was already on steamed greens since I read about kale boiled in stock on Orangette (but 30 minutes?  Molly, is that really necessary?) and Sally’s latest post on Beans and Greens.  I figured, why not use up some chard I had in the house?  Molly served her kale with eggs; and don’t those beans have a naturally ovoid shape?  It was meant to be(an).

You won’t believe how easy this dish is.  I loved the textural contrast of the beans’ exterior firmness and slightly creamy interior, set against the soft yet springy chard; the sweet-smoky bean sauce and the astringent bitterness of the greens, in every bite.  Of course, you could also simply toss the two ingredients together, but those beans look so much more jewel-like when nestled sweetly inside the wreath of chard, don’t you think? A perfect way to follow up that weekend of celebrations.

I’ll be away visiting the CFO this weekend, so I’m going to miss all the Halloween fun!  However, thanks to the magic of WordPress, I do have a Halloween-inspired post for y’all over the weekend. 

Have fun Trick or Treating, everyone!

Baked Beans Nested on Greens

1 large bunch of your favorite leafy greens, washed, trimmed, sliced thin (chop and use stems if possible)

about 1/2 cup vegetable stock, any type

1 can of your favorite baked beans (or homemade if you have them), heated through

Heat the broth in a nonstick frypan or dutch oven over medium heat. Place the stips of greens over the liquid, press down to cover as much as possible, and cover the pan or pot.  Reduce heat to low, and cook the greens until just wilted, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the beans according to the directions on the can.  Arrange the greens in a wreath on a plate, and gently spoon the hot beans in the center for a nested effect.  Eat.  Makes 2 servings.  (Quick.  Easy. Tasty.  So simple, a little birdy could almost make it.)

Mum, the beans look okay, but if that little birdy isn’t doing anything else, you know we’d be happy to, um, dispose of it for you. . .

* Let’s also just say, I want to move to California.  Or New South Wales.  Or the Bahamas.  But no, I’m stuck here, where I wore earmuffs, on October 26th.  The older I get, the more I realize: comfort trumps fashion, every time.  And–why, yes, I do believe this marks the official launch of my “the weather is too cold I hate it I have to move away from here somebody save me” winter weather whingeing.  And–lucky you!–it continues unabated, for the next 6 months!

Date Pasta

October 27, 2008

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

[No, not “date” as in “dried fruit with pit and high sugar content.”  I mean “date” as in the classic Saturday night event, “evening out with someone you like and with whom you might like to be, um, romantic.” ]

It’s been a whirlwind weekend, first, with a birthday dinner (THANKS for all those amazing well-wishes, everyone!) followed immediately by a wedding (the birthday dinner featured the HH and me; the wedding did not).  More on both next time, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.  Today, I’m just as excited to tell you about Date Pasta instead.

When we were undergrads in our 20s, one of the things that welded the friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was our singleton status.  No matter how many relationships and breakups the rest of our friends experienced, and no matter how many blind dates, dating services, personal ads, university parties or fix-ups we two endured, Sterlin and I somehow managed to remain perpertually alone (well, I guess technically we weren’t “alone,” since we spent most Saturday nights with each other–but you know what I mean). 

Being permanently unattached until our mid-twenties (okay, fine, late twenties) didn’t mean we ever stopped trying, however. This pasta dish was Sterlin’s go-to recipe pretty much every time she wished to impress a potential boyfriend, or every time she scored a second date.  It was quick, it was easy, it was foolproof, guys seemed to like it, and–most important–it was the only dish she knew how to make. 

The guys in question, upon being served the pasta, would inevitably utter an appropriately impressed response, then spend an engaging evening drinking wine, gobbling up the pasta, and raving about how good it was, before leaving and never calling again. (What’s up with that, anyway?  Was it something we said?  Was it our nerdy demeanor?  Were they just not that into us? Or were they perhaps paralyzed by our incomparable wit, intelligence and (reasonably) good looks? I guess we’ll never know. ) Despite its inability to produce a lasting relationship, Date Pasta was so good that Sterlin kept making it throughout our university career.  

In fact, I was also so impressed with the dish (and ever hopeful about the fact that guys seemed to like it) that I asked for the recipe, and proceeded to cook it up dozens of times myself over the years.  It wasn’t until the HH and I were happily ensconced in our current long-term relationship and sharing the same abode that I dared to cook it for him. 

And then–magically–when the HH ate it, the curse was broken; he was able to love Date Pasta, and still love me, too.  

I hadn’t eaten Date Pasta in years, though.  First of all, the HH and I no longer go on “dates” (well, I suppose you could say our weekly sushi lunch together might qualify, but still). More importantly, however, the ingredient list of the original recipe contained spicy capicola salami, cut into cubes and flash-fried along with the other ingredients.  These days, I feel about salami sort of the same way I feel about steak.  When I altered my diet ten years ago, I placed the recipe in a file folder, and forgot about it. 

This past week, the HH’s friend the Engineering Guru came over for dinner.  Could it be that he resembled a guy I fancied in high school?  Or maybe it was that he’s tall and strapping and I know he, like the HH, is an avid meat eater?  Whatever the reason, Date Pasta came to mind.  The HH even remembered it from our early days and enthusiastically coerced browbeat badgered encouraged me to whip it up again.  So I did what I often do when cooking for the HH and me: I made a huge batch of the recipe in a meatless format I could enjoy, then let the guys add their own meat to their portions. 

Why did I never think of this before?  All these years, I’ve been avoiding Date Pasta, and missing out on this remarkably easy and delicious dinner! It’s so chock full of pungent, toothsome, salty and briny add-ins that it almost doesn’t need the pasta, and certainly doesn’t require the meat.  Who knows?  Maybe if I’d made it this way from the start, I’d have had more success in those early dateless years.  (Then again, I would never have enjoyed all those Saturday nights with Sterlin).  And so, Date Pasta, welcome back (can’t say that I miss the singleton status, though).

Oh, and now that I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m happy to submit this to Melissa at The Cooking Diva, who’s hosting Presto Pasta Nights, the weekly event originated by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Date (or any other occasion) Pasta

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

While this is great as is, if you’re craving a meat stand-in, I think this pasta would be phenomenal with some cubed, smoked tofu as well.

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

The Parable of the Steak*

October 22, 2008

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

*Or, Raising the Steaks. Or, A Steak in My History. 

[No, that is NOT a real steak in the photo! Seriously, it’s a mushroom.  No, really.]

Before the days of the Great War, and yet after the infestation of the Rats (Pack), and the invasion of the Insects; when the great pioneers left this land and sought out Greene-er pastures, there was a young girl-child, and she went by the name of Ricki. And she and her sisters were raised to obey and respect their elders; and they were raised to eat with their family; and so they did.

And during that time, The Father, a Butcher, commanded his brood: “You must eat meat, for it is good.”  And so they ate meat, and they ate it every night.  And on weekends, they ate “mixed grill,” for which they sacrificed the lamb chops, and the beef liver, and the hamburger, and the pig of cloven hoof, and the steak.  And they were thankful for the bounty.  And it was good. 

But then came one day, the child called Ricki was tempted by the graven image of the Golden Arches.  And she yearned to enjoy the pleasures of this calf (meat); and she asked, “Father, may I taste a McDonald’s burger?”

And the answer came, “NO!”  And the Father said, “All restaurants are crap.  You must eat only the meat prepared by your Mother, and only that of the Home Kitchen.” 

But the girl-child was rebellious, and so when she visited the wilderness country with her friends Gemini I and Gemini II, she did eat from the Golden Arches.  And yes, she thought it was good.  And suddenly, with the flash of a thunderbolt, she was stricken down; she felt pain in the abdomen, and pain in the gut, and the burger sought revenge on her. And then, she barfed.

“It was not meant to be,” The Father admonished. “You must listen to me, my child, and never again partake of the tainted meats of the Golden Arches.”

And so the years passed. And yet once again, Ricki rebelled.  When she was three and twenty, she determined to partake once more of the fobidden meat.  And so she went, of her own volition, and sought out the great king, Harvey.  And there she found the freedom of choice, and the selection of the multitude of burgers. And she took pleasure in the ability to have it her own way.  And once again, she thought it was good. 

And lo, once again, the burger sought retribution.  And once again, she barfed.

And so the decades wore on, and grasses grew up in the wilderness, and the world saw the twinkling of stars and the rolling of stones, and the descent of fortunes, and the ascent of virgins

And then, without warning, Ricki was again struck down. And the shaman proclaimed, “We will draw your blood.” And so they drew her blood; and then they examined it.  And the shaman pronounced, “Your albumen levels are too low.” And the trusted healer commanded, “You must eat meat.”  And yea, once again, Ricki was swayed. And she and her HH sought out the vast storehouse of the cattle, and they heartily accepted the steak.  And so she ate. 

And no, this time, she did not barf; but lo, nevertheless the steak tumbled and growled and gurgled in her belly for days, like heavy sand under the turbulent waves.

No more!” she cried.  “I shall eat the meat no more!”  And she pounded her fist, and she gazed up to the sky, and she shed a heavy tear. 

And Ricki then began her quest in earnest. 

She fought mightily, and she sought out a new source of strength and inspiration.  She befriended the warrior, Kale, and she was blessed with the tint of the beet juice and the flower flour of the spelt.  And she found her salvation in the NAG, and the young bean, and the heavenly nectar of the cactus.  And she learned her lesson: while The Father’s intentions were good, Ricki could not trust the meat.  And then, she found her peace (and piece–of mushroom).  And she and her HH continued to live thus.

* * * * * * * * * *

And so (if you haven’t taken off in a huff yet), what is all this talk of steak and burgers doing on a self-proclaimed vegan blog??  

Well, I’ve mentioned before that the HH and I tend to visit our favorite restaurant once or twice a year for very special occasions.  One of my favorite dishes is the portobello “steak.”  The first time I tasted it, I fairly swooned, but was quickly overtaken by anxiety. I waved madly, summoning the waiter, to ask (in what I’m sure must have been an accusatory tone): “Are you absolutely sure this has no meat in it?” Because, really, it so closely brought to mind my recollection of the taste of steak (not to mention the Parable of the Steak). 

“No,” he assured me, “this is our vegan entrée.  It’s made without any animal products at all.” Hmm!

“Definitely no animal products?” I persisted.  At that, I think he got a bit worried.  (It’s like when the HH and I are leaving to do errands on the weekend, and just as I slide my leg into the car, he asks, “Did you lock the front door?”  Well, it might be two seconds since I withdrew the key from the lock, but the very question itself has me doubting my own memory, so I get up, go back to the doorknob, and test it again.)  “Let me go check,” he said, and trotted off to the kitchen. 

A few moments later, he returned to assure me that no, there were no animal products in the dish. Obviously, the chef had spent some time and skill perfecting this recipe, because the flavor and texture were glorious.  Intensely juicy, not in the least unyielding as some mushrooms tend to be; it was toothsome and savory, a mushroom to drool over, to rip apart with gusto, to smack your lips about. And yes, it was good.

Well, I knew I had to reproduce that mushroom.

So yesterday, I decided to cook up my own portobello steaks for my birthday dinner (I know, I shouldn’t have been cooking at all on my own birthday.  But I’d met my friend Gemini I for breakfast, and then met the HH for lunch, and I basically OD’d on restaurant food. Besides, we’ve got the “real” celebration planned for Saturday evening, and I won’t cook for that).  I recalled an inspiring portobello dish on Happy Herbivore’s blog, and thought I could begin with that recipe, then tweak it according to my memory of the “steak.” 

I added some oil to the mix (sorry, Lindsay!), more wine and some steak spice to evoke a really robust, hearty and meaty taste.  I also marinated the mushrooms for most of the day in the refrigerator before cooking, to infuse them fully with the various flavors.

We both fell in love with this dish.  We had the steaks with spanish rice and garlicky kale, and it was a perfect meal.  “Keep this one on the repeat list,” the HH directed as mushroom juice trickled down his chin.

The moral of the story?  Do not mess with the animal kingdom; but the vegetable kingdom is bountiful, and welcoming, and will bring you much happiness. 

And it will be good!

[Thanks, everyone, for all your amazingly supportive comments about my recent weight loss! Slight as it was, it does help to see the little line on the scale move in the “right” direction (that’s correct, I have a spring-loaded, not a digital, scale–call me a luddite).  Anyway, it was also my birthday yesterday, so it felt like a pretty good day all around (and wow, that Facebook is quite amazing when it comes to letting people know about significant dates–thanks for all the good wishes!) :) ]

Portobello Steaks (adapted from Happy Herbivore)

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

 A perfect main dish for a cold winter day when you need something robust and filling.  As long as you remember to marinate them ahead of time, these come together very quickly.

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

I know, that title sounds like something straight out of my Post-Modern Literary Criticism class (oooh, I shudder just re-thinking it!).  But both bits of news cheered me so much that I wanted to share them in the same post!

The Wait is Over:

Just when I thought I could wait no longer, I received my prize, as one of the winners in Shellyfish’s great 100th Post (Felty Love) contest!  Those of you who’ve read about this here will recall that I’m not the luckiest person when it comes to randomly selected contest winners (another way to say I could buy 50 tickets for the [1-in-3 chances to win] the Heart and Stroke Lottery, and still not win–then again, I suppose that means I’ll probably never be struck by lightning, either).  So this prize was doubly delightful:  not only was it a first-ever win for me, it was also awarded by one of my favorite bloggers, Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl!  I received my prize package in the mail on Friday.  And what a package it was! 

I ripped the parcel open and was immediately touched by the remarkable care and attention to detail taken in choosing the items, packaging them, and mailing them (all the way from France to Canada!). 

Hey, have a look!

[Top row (left to right): Postcard of the Château de Fontainbleau; Felty Love pouch; hand-crafted card emblazoned with maple leaf and ladybugs. Bottom row (left to right): box that contained vegan chocolates, from Chocolaterie Bruyerre–from Belgium; dark truffle square; dark liqueur-infused (I think) round truffle; dark mocha truffle square.]

First, the main prize: a sleek, fuzzy and cozy, handcrafted azure felt change (or whatever else you choose to put in it) pouch.  I loved the hand-embroidered leaf motif when I first saw it on Shelly’s blog, and it was even more impressive (and cute!) in person.  But the finishing touches tickled me the most; to wit, the ribbon trim, the whimsical orange and white lining and–the pièce de résistance–the little custom “shellyfish” tag sewn into the seam!  Now I will remember the source every time I use this sweet little change purse. 

[Just look at that adorable tag!]

Shellyfish also sent along a box of vegan Belgian chocolates! (she really knows how to steal a gal’s heart).  Now, I do love me some chocolate, and have even been known to munch on it daily for extended periods of time. . . .well, let me tell you, these were exquisite.  Each one contained a velvety truffle filling coated with rich, smooth and glossy bittersweet chocolate.  I knew I’d devour the whole set myself and so offered a bite of each to the HH, who noted that they were the best chocolates he’d ever eaten.  And–miracle of miracles–they made it across the ocean intact!  Not even a scratch. I’m planning a vacation to France at this very moment, just so I can sample some more of those babies.

In addition to the pouch and chocolate were a hand-made card with the cutest little ladybugs and maple leaf imprint (thanks for the nod to Canada, Shelly), as well as a postcard of the Chateau Fontainbleau, a lyrical castle in Shelly’s neighborhood, where she lives alongside snippets of history every day (lucky duck!).  

All in all, it was a perfect way to end the week, or start the weekend, and flooded me with memories of my own long-ago stay in Bandol as a teenager. It also made me long for another visit now, as an adult!

Thanks so much, Shelly.  I will treasure my pouch and the cards. . . and my memories of that insanely rich-tasting chocolate! :)

 

The Weight is Under

And what about the “weight is under,” you wonder? (No poem intended, there, though I created one nonetheless–must be that literary influence again).  Well, I haven’t written a blog entry related to the “Diet” portion of my blog’s title in quite some time.  Partly, I’ve felt there was no sense in rehashing old news (I mean, how many times can one re-start a weight loss plan?).  About three months ago, I gave up tracking my weight on a weekly basis, and decided that, given the achingly slow progress of my quest, I’d post an entry no more than once a month.  Well, in the interim, something seems to have shifted.

What’s the best way to stop craving sweets all the time?  Write a dessert cookbook, that’s how, and bake three or four test items perforce each day! 

Have you ever walked into an ice cream parlor, or chocolate shop, or patisserie, and marvelled at how slim the counter folk were?  Countless times in my  life, I’ve asked the shop person, “How do you stop yourself from eating everything in sight?”  I’d usually add, sheepishly, “If I worked here, I’d weigh 300 pounds in no time.” 

“No, no, you wouldn’t,” they’d inevitably respond.  “If you work with it all day, you just get sick of it.”  Well, sorry to say, when I ran my little bakery, I was surrounded by baked goods for 16 hours a day–for two years.  My taste for sweets never waned during that time, and my weight began its ugly ascent during those years as well. 

This time, however, something is different.  I’m testing recipes in my home; I’m basically forced to eat at least a mouthful of each one (to ensure quality, you understand); and somewhere along the line, I became indifferent to the piles of bars, cookies, cakes, tarts and whatever else positions itself alluringly on the counter.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve retained a desire to taste everything, and I’ve definitely indulged.  But for some unknown reason, the impetus to keep going even after the first two or three tastes (or two or three brownies, cookies, slices of cake, etc.) has more or less vanished. 

Why has this miracle from heaven been bestowed upon me?  I have no idea.  How can I ensure that this state of affairs never changes?  Again, I’m stumped.  Will I manage to stay the course this time and keep losing weight?  Beats me.  All I know is, I am unspeakably grateful, I embrace this current reality, and I am ecstatic to be experiencing it. The greatest mystery of my life so far seems to be, “why have I been able to exercise “willpower” and lose weight at certain periods of my life, but not others?”  And so far, like the secret location of Atlantis, like the methods of building the pyramids, like where Sasquatch is really hiding–like the reason for Julia Roberts’s popularity–the answer has eluded me (and all of civilized humanity).

If anyone out there has insight into this particular conundrum, please do let me know.

Mum, it’s easy to exercise willpower when someone else feeds you.  Just get an owner to dole out the food. Oh, and it helps if you learn to raise a paw when asked.”

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

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone.  I’ll be decorating a cake and think, “Oh, it just needs one more flower on there somewhere. . . ” until the top of the thing could pass for a Jackson Pollock with the words “Happy Birthday” meekly peeking through the splotches.  I’m like those middle-aged women (oh, wait, I actually am a middle-aged woman) who don huge, dangly earrings and then wonder if they wouldn’t be complemented by a massive pendant necklace. . . oh, and this lovely, chunky bracelet. . .and must top it off with that favorite equestrian-themed scarf–and can’t forget the cute doggie brooch, of course.  As a student, I’d sit planted at the desk and revise my in-class essays over and over, right up until the very last second when the bell rang (I mean, what if I had left early and later remembered a comma splice I’d neglected to fix?)

And then there’s that cringe-inducing conversation–you know, the one with your One and Only that goes something like this:

Scene: Evening. Ricki and the HH lounge comfortably on the sofa, engaged in animated conversation.

HH: . . . And then the guy says, ‘Yeah, maybe the sandwich on its own is good, but it’s the dill pickle that really makes it great!!”

Ricki:  Ha ha ha ha HA AHA!! Oh, HH, you are just the funniest!! “The dill pickle really makes it great!” Hee hee.  [Leans over to touch his arm].

HH:  Har har hee hee.  What a laugh, eh? Yep, the dill pickle. . . [stretches his arm around her shoulder.]

Ricki: Hee hee, soooo funny.  [Smiling with adoration]: Oh, HH, I love you.

HH:  I love you, too. [Smiles]

Ricki: [Pause].  Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something.

HH [Looking suspicious]: What?

Ricki: Well, you know, I’ve just noticed that I’m always the first one who says, “I love you.” Why is that?

HH [No longer smiling]: Well, that’s not true.

Ricki: Really? When’s the last time YOU said it first?

HH: Um, I dunno. . . last month, probably.

Ricki: No, honey, I’m sure it wasn’t last month. Because remember our anniversary?  And remember when the next weekend, we went out with Gemini I and her hubby?  Well, when we got home, we were sitting on the couch like this, and–

HH:  [Heavy sigh] And you know, we were having such a nice moment there.  I guess you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?

Hmmm.  This irresistible tendency to push the boundaries manifests itself in my prowess in the kitchen as well (no, no, I’ve moved off that scene of me and the HH now!  I’m talking about cooking, silly!).  I love to tinker with recipes and will frequently alter them considerably, even without trying them in the intended form first.  After a lifetime of baking (okay, minus the first 6 years of my life), I’ve more or less discovered what works and what doesn’t.  And if I attempt something creative that doesn’t quite meet my expectations, I don’t take it personally (unlike my reaction to the HH’s lack of amorous expressiveness). 

One of the issues that’s come up in discussions with the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook is the matter of substitutions in the recipes. Of course, when the testing process began, I assumed everyone would follow the recipes to a “T.”  However, in reality, it’s not always possible for everyone to acquire the exact ingredients; or they might not have everything on hand; or they might not own the perfectly-sized pan.  It got me thinking, “how often do I follow a recipe exactly?”  The answer?  To quote the infamous book title, less than zero.  (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration; maybe it’s just a little less than less than zero, more like a little more than never). 

But you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  Really, if you feel comfortable with cooking or baking and want to introduce minor alterations, that’s terrific; the result may in fact be something even better than the original.  The trick is knowing what to substitute, and when it will work.  Spelt for all-purpose?  No problem.  Agave for sugar?  Fine, with adjustments.  Cherry for pumpkin?  Probably not.  And chocolate for eggplant?  Well, that’s just wrong. (Though, of course, you might like to actually combine the two for a terrific result instead).

When I read about Claudia’s tantalizing Strawberry Coconut Coffee Cake on Vagrant Vegan, I knew immediately that I had to make it.  True to form, I adapted the recipe to my own needs and on-hand ingredients, using Sucanat instead of sugar, spelt instead of wheat, and so on. I also decided to bake the cake as an 8 x 8 inch square instead of a 9 x 13 rectangle, as it’s just the HH and me here (and we don’t give The Girls anything too sweet). Then, when I finally went to bake it, I realized strawberries were already out of season–but I had frozen raspberries in the house; why not use those? (and besides, don’t cooked raspberries just impart the most sensational fuchsia hue?).  

In the end, my version isn’t exactly like the original, but this cake still turned out spectacular.  I think the base is a perfect coffeecake batter, one that can handle many deviations and still taste great (which is, after all, the mark of a winning recipe).  The cake itself isn’t too sweet, and it offers up a juicy burst of tangy raspberry in every bite.  Since coconut is one the HH’s favorite foods, he was drawn by the aroma as it toasted in the oven, and couldn’t wait for his chance to taste it. The verdict was unequivocally positive–he gobbled up a piece and then asked for another.

“That was delicious,” he enthused.  “Maybe the cake on its own is good, but it’s the coconut that really makes it great!”  I could have kissed the guy.

He smiled.  “I love that cake!” he said.  What?  Did he say, “love”?

“Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something. . .” I started.  But then I quickly shoved a large chunk of cake in my mouth and swallowed it.

With all of the pink in this recipe, I’m submitting this post to the Power of Pink Challenge for breast cancer, hosted by Jen of the Beantown Baker.  Having recently learned that someone I care about is battling breast cancer, I’m happy to be able to contribute.  The challenge is on until the end of the month if you’d like to submit something pink.

Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake (adapted from Vagrant Vegan)

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

Like most coffee cakes, this one can serve as both dessert or part of a quick breakfast.  The cake is good on its own, but the coconut really makes it great.

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 SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the fourth entry on coconut.]

 

Remember the Ziggy cartoon character from the 80’s? (Well, I suppose that only applies to those of you already born in the 80s. . . sheesh, am I old, or what??).  One of my favorite strips involved the Rotund One scrabbling across the surface of a globe and yelling at the top of his lungs: “Stop the World! I Want to Get Off!”  At the time, with my typical adolescent insouciance and belief in my own immortality, I saw the cartoon as an amusing, wry comment on the state of my (then) parent-dominated existence.  (It may be true, youth is wasted on the young. . . or was that just “youth are wasted”? I can never remember.)

These days, I’m as old as my parents were then, and it seems there’s no stopping the world; I’m sure ol’ Ziggy would be itching to jump. I certainly don’t need to enumerate all the lovely global challenges and crises we’re facing; I’d guess you’ve got your own list of woes (and top of the list for us Canadians: it’s our election day today, and, given the choices we’ve got, it doesn’t look like things will be picking up any time soon). 

This past weekend, as fellow Canadians know, was our Thanksgiving.  At first, I felt a little downcast about it all; suffering with an impertinent and intrusive cold (courtesy of the HH–that guy’s just just gotta share everything), I was moping after we canceled our trip to my friend Gemini I’s cottage for the holiday.  I’d been looking forward to spending time with good friends, clinking glasses in front of the fireplace as The Girls romped and gamboled outside in the woods. Instead, I spent the day in my jammies, semi-comatose in front of the television, while the HH and The Girls romped and gamboled without me at the nearby trail.

But you know what?  The weather was glorious here in Toronto, gifting us with just the kind of Thanksgiving weekend for which I always long: temperate, radiantly sunny, clear as the squeals of pure delight you’ll hear when you tickle a baby’s belly.  Knowing that the dank, icy winds and pelting snow of winter will pounce upon us before we can even holler, “Hey, pass the pumpkin pie!” made me realize: instead of being under the weather, I should appreciate the weather; in fact, I ought to appreciate all the good things in my life right now.

Wait. . . am I being too maudlin?  A bit too mushy?  Too. . . Oprah?  Yet there really is so much to be grateful for, from the HH (11 years and counting) to The Girls (five treats so far tonight and counting) to a steady job (far too many years. . . I’ve stopped counting) and many dear friends with whom I’ve shared the best and worst of all of the above. 

In the end, it turned out to be a very thankful Thanksgiving.  As I approach my one-year blogiversary, I’m perpetually grateful that I discovered this world of food and writing and wit and fellow bloggers. It’s truly a privilege to be able to choose any recipe I wish, then simply go to the store and purchase the ingredients so I can whip it up, photograph it, and write about it. And if the dish doesn’t work out, I can draft an amusing post about the kitchen calamity, or a cautionary tale on what not to do–or I can simply throw it away.

If you’ve been preoccupied by the woes of the world lately, try this dish.  No, of course it won’t actually change anything. But it’s warm, it’s comforting, it’s hearty, it’s nourishing, and it’s delicious, all in one.  A little forkful will make you feel cosy and content, at least for an instant.  Then, you can dig in, spoon it up, and repeat as many times as necessary.  

Mum, we’re thankful for all those pats and treats you give us.  But of course, six would be better than five.”

Given the high legume content in this dish–both from the chickpeas and the tofu–I thought it would be the perfect submission to Susan’s event, My Legume Love Affair, this month hosted by Sra at When My Soup Came Alive.  This month’s prize is Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook–so if you’re interested, get those entries in!  You have until October 31st.

Balti Tofu and Chickpeas in a Thick Creamy Coconut Sauce

adapted from The New Indian Cooking Course

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

The recipe is my adaptation from my first cookbook on Indian cooking, The New Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani and Shehzad Husain.  As a newbie in Indian cooking, I bought the book because of its step-by-step instructions and accompanying step-by-step photos.  The dishes in it have all been spectacular, too.

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

 

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