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Now, I realize I promised a light and not-too-filling recipe today, but before we get to that, I must share something very rich and decadent and–because I ate most of it in one sitting–rather filling: the Peppermint Ritter Sport bar I won (a while ago, now) in Amey’s contest!

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I received the bar in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled to rip open the envelope and find that it reached me in perfect condition–all the way from California! While a couple of the squares had broken apart, the smooth, white, minty filling remained enclosed in the chocolate and every piece was perfectly edible.  And believe me, eat it I did (well, I shared–just a wee bit–with the HH). 

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I also loved that the entire wrapper was in German!  Here in Toronto, anyway, the Ritter Sports we get have multiple languages on the wrappers, including French and English.  It made Amey’s seem much more authentic.  Thanks so much, Amey!  It’s always so exciting to get something fun in the mail, and that bar is a definite new favorite.  (Wow, I think I’m a little overwhelmed with all the goodies I’ve received in the mail from other bloggers these past few months!  Have I mentioned lately that you guys are THE BEST??!)

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out for brunch with my friend PR Queen to celebrate both our birthdays, which are a month apart. (Yes, this really was the birthday that refused to surrender!)

In any case, we went to an upscale vegan resto called Fressen, where the food is stellar (and the prices are equally astronomical). I relished my fresh beet, apple and carrot juice; salad of baby greens and balsamic-dijon dressing; and stuffed tofu omelet.  But I just couldn’t see myself going there on a regular basis, mostly because (a) it’s right in the heart of the Queen West area of Toronto, just a minim too trendy, too grungy and too crowded for my taste; (b) Queen West is right in the heart of the general downtown in Toronto, a 35-minute drive away at the best of times, but more like an hour-plus when there’s traffic; (c) the prices there are, as I mentioned, bordering on the stratosphere; and (d) if I kept eating brunch there on a regular basis, I’d be denying myself the challenge of re-creating the same brunch at home.  Which, because I’m just wacky that way, I endeavored to do the very next weekend.

First, I suppose I should pause here to admit that, for most of my life, I have been severely Ovule-Challenged.  Whether soft boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, or any other way, I never did master egg cooking skills.  And omelets add yet another layer of difficulty: the perfect (egg) omelet is meant to be uniformly puffy and light, all in one piece, possessing a slightly gooey interior that I’ve always found rather gag-inducing. Even when the HH and I were first together and I attempted omelets on a regular basis, my egg oeuvres (or would that be oeufres?) would invariably crack and split and wilt like leaves on my sorely neglected ficus plant every time I tried to flip them, resulting in breakage and a pan housing three or four large, ragged-edge slabs of egg, sprawled at odd angles. I’d end up stirring the mixture furiously, ultimately transforming it into a semi-scramble and calling it frittata.  It wasn’t long before the HH took over omelet duty.  He’s never had a problem whipping one up (literally); and, to this day, he cooks an omelet for himself almost every Sunday. 

I assumed I’d have more success re-creating that tofu-based Fressen beauty (even though my first attempt at a tofu omelet also lacked that airy, pillowy texture, despite its wonderful flavor). What I loved about the Fressen version was how it seemed both moist and fluffy at the same time; while clearly cooked and browned on the outside, the inside remained soft, creamy, and light as custard. Stuffed with a succulent, rich filling of pesto, caramelized leek and mushrooms, it was a vision to behold: golden and crisp on the outside; vibrant green, tan and walnut-brown on the inside.  And the flavor!  The perfect edible mixture of woodsy, grassy, and airy. I wanted more!  

Given its ultra-light texture, I surmised that the omelet included silken tofu along with the firm. I’d already mastered pesto during the summer when my experimental home-grown basil flourished so remarkably; and while we didn’t have leeks in the fridge, we did have an abundance of onions, which served as a servicable replacement.

I created the omelet base by adapting the generic recipe in Joni Marie Newman’s  Cozy Inside, with several adjustments and additions.  I used home-made pesto, but you could just as well use store-bought.  The rest of it comes together in a flash. 

While the result wasn’t quite as fluffy as I’d hoped it would be, this did render a reasonable facsimile of the original.  Great for a brunch at home after a holiday feast, and an especially tasty way to economize and avoid those sky-high restaurant bills :) .

Given the cilantro-based pesto filling, I thought this would be a good submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the event run by Haalo over at Cook (Almost) Anything Once, and this week hosted by Scott over at Real Epicurean.

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

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You can use any tofu-based omelet recipe you choose for this recipe.  While this one tastes great and the flavors are beautifully complemented by the filling, it is very fragile and breaks easily.  A more sturdy recipe is this one; or use a version of your own.

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

 

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My American Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008

I know it’s often said that Canada is a mere appendage of the U.S., the 51st state, the spleen of the continent that no one really knows exists and seems to have no necessary function, blah blah blah.  Maybe it’s true; maybe we are like the unassuming cousin from out of town who never speaks at the holiday table, or the scrawny kid at the beach the girls never notice.  And, like many underdogs, we in Canada seem to know more about our more powerful, more popular, more infamous neighbor than they know about us (I will never forget the time, as a teen, that I visited cousins in New Jersey–about 560 miles/900 km. from where I lived at the time.  A friend of my cousin’s, learning that I was Canadian, blurted out, “Oh! I know a Canadian!  Do you know Steven Ruttenberg?”  To which, astonishingly, I was obliged to reply, “Um, why yes, yes, I do know Steven Ruttenberg. . .”–for as it turned out, he went to my high school!  And so now, for ever more, that poor girl will believe that Canada really is, after all, a pinhead of a backwater, underdeveloped country where everyone knows each other!). 

How about a little quiz?  Okay, Americans out there! Quick, answer these:  Who’s the Canadian Prime Minister?  How many provinces in Canada?  What’s our official language?*  What does our flag look like?  Pick any Canadian on any streetcorner in pretty much any Canadian city, and s/he will know the answers to all those questions as they relate to the U.S.  Why?  Because, first of all, we sort of have to (see above); but also, because those rumors are, to a great extent, true: we are influenced by the US, we do follow their culture more than they follow ours, and we really do depend on that comforting, protective, bear-paw of an embrace from our bigger, more powerful cousins to the south. 

I know this notion (that we are unduly influenced by and, to some extent even dominated by, the U.S.) bothers some of my compatriots.  For my part, I have to admit, I’ve always felt a great affection and affinity toward the States.  First, several of my relatives live in America, from California to New York and New Jersey to Massachusetts, and they are some of my favorite people in the world.  I spent many idyllic childhood summers with my Boston cousins.  Second, having completed both an MA and a PhD in Modern American Literature, I’ve probably read more American than Canadian fiction and consider many of the US authors as role models (and, for those of you who notice such things, that’s also the reason why I, a proud Canadian, use predominantly “American” spelling on this blog–writing about American authors for American professors for many years, that spelling now feels natural to me).  Third, just as the “they’re so polite” clichés about Canadians happen to be (for the most part) true, so are the “they’re so friendly and hospitable” or “they’re incredibly generous” clichés about Americans. (And, as the HH is always quick to point out, customer service in the US runs circles–CIRCLES–around its Canadian counterpart (and counter person).

And so, it made perfect sense that yesterday, on American Thanksgiving, I, too, was extremely grateful along with y’all–and, in particular, grateful for the existing U.S.-Canada connections. 

Why, you ask?  Well, I arrived home to discover that I’d received a skillfully wrapped and well-taped brown paper package in the mail (ooh, that sounds rather salacious somehow, doesn’t it?), boasting American postage and filled with amazing vegan goodies! 

I’d signed up to be part of Lindsay (from Cooking for a Vegan Lover)’s blogging Care Package Swap event and there was my box of treats!  I discovered Lindsay’s blog when she commented on mine a while back, and am so glad she did!  I’ve been enjoying the posts from Lindsay and her hubby Neil, who live and write in Vermont. They include recipes, restaurant reviews, and other foodie tidbits like CSA news and animal-friendly events.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to rip off the brown paper and tape to reveal the following:

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Look at that haul!  Neil (my exchange partner) sent an incredible array of fantastic and organic treats–and–how thoughtful is this???–everything is wheat-free!  swaplizlovelyThe products are also made in Vermont or environs.  I literally jumped up and down when I saw the Liz Lovely cookies–I’d read so much over the years about Liz Lovely,   and finally got to sample my very own (GF) Chocolate Fudge cookie (which I did the second I opened the box, of course).  The package also included the following delectables (left to right):

  • Road’s End organic Savory Herb Gravy Mix;
  • a Cashew Vanilla WaGuRu Chew (smothered in Vanilla Caramel–doesn’t that just sound irresistible??);
  • (slightly hidden behind the shampoo bottle) Zootons Organic Gummies candy in a variety of fruity flavors;
  • All Natural Elmore Mountain Farm Lavender shampoo (smells heavenly);
  • the amazing Liz Lovely cookies, with, in the foreground–
  • a Dan’s Chocolates “The Caffeinator” truffle;
  • a bar of Montpelier Chocolate Factory’s Dark Strawberry and Coconut chocolate (strawberry!  Cannot wait to try that one!), and behind it–
  • a bottle of Vermont Pepper Works Chocolate Chipotle Pepper Sauce (rated XX Hot–will be diving into that asap!);
  • a box of Road’s End Organics Mac and Chreese–with rice pasta!;
  • a piece of Pure Vermont Maple Candy from Brookfield Sugarmakers (which, despite being raised in Quebec, I have never tried–so looking forward to this, too!); and–somehow left out of the photo (perhaps because they were already gobbled up??)–
  • two–one for each of The Girls–packs of organic, handmade dog biscuits!

THANKS SO MUCH, Neil!  I can’t wait to try out all the goodies, all the while gratefully basking in the glow of my American neighbour’s generosity and hospitality. :) What fun it was to participate in this swap!

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And Neil, Chaser and I thank you, too!  It was especially nice to have such delicious dog biscuits while I’m convalescing. . . if you were here, I’d thank you properly, of course, but for now you’ll just have to accept a virtual lick to the ear.”

* Perhaps that was a trick question.  There are, in reality, two official languages (muffle, muffle, guffaw, cackle):  English and French.

I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

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Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

Recently, I was tagged by Kelly at The Pink Apron and River of Wing It Vegan to share 7 random facts about myself, and Giz at Equal Opportunity Kitchen to do a blog-related meme.

I do enjoy memes (and love reading about others through their memes), but I must admit that I am finding it more and more difficult to come up with new facts about myself.  That, and I suspect some of you are growing a little weary of reading about me and my various eccentricities, when what you’re really here for is the food! ;)

“Um, Mum, your readers may be a bit overloaded on YOUR memes, but what about us?  There are still plenty of random facts we could tell you about the two of us. . . .”

“Yeah, right! Hey, Elsie, how about that we love to play!  And that the yellow ball is my favorite!  Oh, oh, and that we LOVE to jump up on people!  And what about that we bark at cars that drive by outside!  Or that we love Greenies!  Or how about the way I pull on your ear every 30 seconds–”

“Zip it, Chaser. I am sure they get the idea. But there will be no ear-pulling for the next ten days, at least.”

Ah, yes, that reminds me: before I get to the meme, I should also mention the “Injury” referred to in the post title.  Once again, our accident-prone Elsie Girl has had a brush with the law  mortality a metal post. While frolicking with her sister the other day, sweet Elsie ran too close to a steel goal post at the park and whacked her side against it, ripping off a chunk of her haunch.  Poor baby!  And so the HH and I (and Chaser, who, after all, couldn’t be left all alone at home) spent our Saturday evening at the Vet Emergency clinic, where Elsie was treated to a bit of a shave, a cleansing of the wound, some staples to reconnect the skin, and a lovely cone on her head, which she absolutely abhors, poor thing.

Here she is, in all her misery:

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["Help. . . . me. . . . . "]

The worst part is that Chaser is terrified of the cone and won’t go near Elsie right now.  No more ear-biting, indeed.

And now, on to the meme, and seven random facts about me.  I won’t tag anyone else (it seems many of you have already done this one), but please do feel free to participate if you’d like.  

1) I didn’t learn to drive a car until I was about 30.  Well, I first acquired my license at 16 like the rest of my friends, but then moved away to university and didn’t have the opportunity to drive again until I was married.  I’d taken lessons for about a week when my husband and I decided to separate, which meant I was driving myself to work (about an hour each way) along busy provincial highways long before I felt ready to do so.  Talk about baptism by fire! (In this case, by ice, actually, as it was mid-winter when all this transpired).  A couple of dents to the fender and more than a decade later, and I’m finally comfortable behind the wheel.

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2) I collect odd cups and saucers, and champagne flutes.    When I was a kid, my mom had a collection of odd cups and saucers that seemed to exist just outside our awareness in a glass cabinet in the kitchen. When I moved out on my own, however, my sisters starting giving me similar items as gifts, and I began to really appreciate them.  I love the varying patterns one finds on the older designs, the delicate structure of the cup and saucer, the nearly transparent quality of the fine china, and the elegance they exude (I always feel I should raise my pinkie when I sip out of one of them). 

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A few years after I began to collect the cups and saucers, I was introduced to champagne (or, at least, sparkling wine) when a friend served me a glass of Segura Viudas.  Well, I was so impressed that shortly thereafter, I began to collect champagne flutes, too.  I’ll often buy them on sale at the end of the season–who wants to buy just one flute, right?–and have amassed about 3 dozen so far. 

champflute  My favorites are a couple I received for birthdays, the voluptuous pewter-stemmed one the HH gave me the first year we were together (see left), and the Waterford crystal pair the HH and I purchased for the turn of the century. 

3) I memorized every word of Beowulf in the original Old English during my PhD.  For our final exam, we were given a random passage in Old English and had to translate it.  Not wanting to take any chances, I decided to memorize the entire poem.  How much do I remember today?  This much: “Hwat! we, Gar-dena, in yeor dayum. . .”  Yep, the first five words. Well, it got me an “A” on the exam, anyway.

4) I was asked to be Valedictorian at my high school graduation, but I was too shy and said no.  Decades later, I’m still shy, but when I was given the opportunity again for my graduation from nutrition school in 2003, I decided I couldn’t pass it up twice, and said yes.  Very happy that I did!

5) When I was a teen, some of my friends and I worked as cashiers at the local drugstore (called a “pharmacy” in Montreal, even though the actual pharmacy dispensary was a small space at the back of the store).  We used to call it “The Phunny Pharm.”  My friends Babe, Sterlin, Phil and Angel also all worked there, so on any given day, it was guaranteed that I’d be working alongside one of my best friends.  We often created code words to alert each other when a cute guy came in the store. The names were connected to various cigarette brands (which, in those days, were sold out in the open from shelves behind the cash).  The cuter the guy, the stronger the brand we chose for his nickname.  When we saw a REALLY cute guy, we’d call across the aisle to each other, “Hey, Ric, do you have any packs of Rothmans at your cash?” or, “Um, Sterlin, I think I’ve run out of Du Maurier over here. . . ” The men never twigged in to it, even though sometimes three of us would come running to the counter at the same time, all ostensibly “looking for a pack of Rothmans.”

6) I started smoking in my 20s and didn’t quit until I met the HH in 1997 (at which point I was smoking about 1/2 pack a day–though nothing as strong as Rothman’s, of course).  Now, don’t go thinking that he was such a great influence on me, or anything. . . I quit because of my various health issues, not for love (how very unromantic of me, I know).  When I revamped my diet, I figured I should give my lungs a break, too.  The only smoke I’ve inhaled since then is second-hand. 

7) I once got to meet Chris de Burgh in person (true, not very exciting to all of you out there too young to recognize the name!).  At the height of his popularity, some friends and I went to one of his concerts in Montreal.  Because my friend Angel had met him while traveling in Ireland and they’d become correspondents (in the days before email, folks), he arranged backstage passes for her and five of her friends.  Somewhere in a box in my basement is a wine-stained scrap of paper on which is scrawled something to the effect of, “For Ricki, With all best wishes, Chris de Burgh.”  (Hey–maybe I can sell it and become one of those mansion-people I wrote about in the last post?)

So there you go, seven random facts.  I know I mentioned yet another meme to post, but I think I’ll save that for another day and avert a real Meme Overload.  And on the subject of overloading, I’ve got a nice, light and not-too-filling post-Thanksgiving recipe for you next time round.

To those of you in the U.S., hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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["I bet all those people outside are having a great holiday weekend. . . and all I can do is stare out this window. . . *sigh*."]

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

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Years ago (oops, make that a decade), during the tumultuous year after my starter marriage dissolved, I lived with my friend Gemini I.  As two single thirty-somethings interested in social events or activities that might bring us into contact with eligible men, we decided to try out some cooking classes (what were we thinking?  We might as well have looked for guys in the pantyhose department at Macy’s.  .  . oh, wait a sec: apparently, in Australia, that’s exactly where you might meet some guys these days). 

In any case, we signed up for one series run by a well-heeled Toronto chatelaine who’d attended Le Cordon Bleu (it was only a weekend seminar, but she never told us that) and decided to teach classes out of her home.  It took just one evening, and I was hooked; after that, Gemini I and I attended about half a dozen more classes as well.  It’s not that I actually learned very much; and the food, while fine, wasn’t the most spectacular I’d had, either. But oh, what a house!

Oh my, how I envied her house.  Situated beside a thickly forested ravine on a cul-de-sac in the tony Rosedale area, Ms. Culinati’s residence was a massive, ivy-covered, stone-and-brick Tudor style mansion of at least 5,000 square feet, almost more like a museum than a home.  At over 100 years old, the building’s interior had been completely renovated and rendered ultra-modern inside.  The setup was perfect for cooking classes: after passing beneath the towering entryway, we participants filed across the open-concept first floor (tiled in marble), toward a state-of-the-art kitchen just off the entrance.  There were six cushy stools lined up against one side of a wide, grey and black granite peninsula, which also divided the room and separated us from the cooking area. 

Ms. Cordon Bleu held forth on the opposite side of the counter behind the built-in stainless steel stovetop, prepping ingredients and chattering about the best shop in Paris to buy Le Creuset, the plumpest, most perfect berries at All the Best on Summerhill (even back then, I recall that a pint–about  500 ml.–of strawberries cost over $4.00 at that store), or how she flew to New York last weekend to pick up the very best fleur de sel (because really, you simply couldn’t use anything less).  

Despite the fact that our personal orbits existed in completely different universes, I still enjoyed the recipes, the skillfully selected wines that accompanied them, and the stolen glances around the rest of the house as I ostensibly attended to our cooking.  And, of course, it was always rewarding to have an evening out with Gemini I.

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Most of the dishes I encountered in those classes, I will never make again, either because they contain ingredients I no longer eat, or because they contain ingredients far too extravagant for everyday consumption (last I heard, her courses had morphed into all-out travel tours, wherein participants flew to Tuscany for a week to cook and live together in a villa.  Who are these people, and how can I be written into the will? Just asking).

Still, almost despite herself, in one class Ms. C.B. provided us with this recipe for Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings.  And while the original soup contained chicken broth, butter and wheat flour, it was a cinch to convert.

I’ve loved this chowder since the first time I slurped it back in the 1990s.  It’s one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make (and while the dumplings are marvelous and do elevate the broth an echelon, you can just as easily forego the sophistication, toss in some elbow pasta, and happily spoon this up for a quick weekday dinner). Once the veggies are chopped, it’s a matter of a quick sauté, a splash of prepared broth, and a sprinkling of ONE spice: mild curry powder. It also makes use of an underused, but very tasty, root veggie: celery root.

It sounds almost too simple, I know; but believe me, the result will astonish you. The varying levels of sweetness from the different roots, along with the whisper of curry, combine for a soothing, warming and entirely captivating dish. This is one soup you’ll want to stay at home for. In fact, it’s the perfect soup to charm those eligible guys–that is, once you find them. 

This month’s No Croutons Required is asking for soups or salads with pasta.  I’m hoping these dumplings count. The event was started by Lisa and Holler and is this month being hosted by Holler.

Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings

(adapted from a very old recipe from The Art of Food Cooking School)

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

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This is the perfect soup to serve to guests; the dumplings elevate this to a fancier level, yet the soup is down to earth and very appealing.  For a gluten-free option, omit the dumplings or use your favorite dumpling recipe with GF flour.

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.

eggplantcaviarclose1

So, you may have heard: the economy is tanking.  According to retailers, we’re spending less on gifts this holiday season than we did last year.  We’re taking vacations at home.  We’re economising on everything from groceries to toiletries, and people are learning how to darn socks again, bake from scratch again, or wash their own cars.  Everybody’s worried about finances or being laid off. What to do?

Eat caviar, I say!

Okay, not really.  That would just be silly (and totally uneconcomical).  Not to mention slightly gooey, a bit slimy, way too salty, and overall, yucky.  Of course you shouldn’t eat real caviar. 

I’m talking about eggplant caviar!  I first enountered a recipe for this economical dip many years ago in one of The CFO’s Bon Appetit magazines, and was intrigued as soon as I scanned the ingredient list. Then, once I finally I tasted it, I was totally enchanted.  The blend of piquant balsamic with the moist, slightly chunky eggplant and sweet pepper was remarkably delicious.  I ended up eating half of that first batch straight off a spoon, crackers be damned!  (Well, since I was emulating a rich person by eating “caviar,” I figured I could be as eccentric as I wished).

This recipe is adapted from both this one and this, and I added another twist by tossing in some chopped olives (the salty, black chunks were the only similarity to actual caviar in the entire dish).  Have this on crackers, or spooned along the crease of a celery stalk.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet it would even be great tossed with freshly cooked penne. 

I made this last week, using two eggplants I bought in the “gently damaged” shelf of the produce section at our local supermarket (ie, the half price shelf).  It was a great way to feel both frugal and rich–all at the same time. Now I must get to work on those holes in my socks.

(“Mum, we wouldn’t mind eating real caviar! Um, and just for the record, what’s wrong with gooey and slimy?”)

I’m also contributing this to Suganya’s “Vegan Ventures, Round 2” event, requesting a favorite vegan recipe.  How could I not submit this–I mean, it’s caviar, right?

Eggplant Caviar

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

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Actually, I could never really understand why they called this “caviar,”  as, to my mind, it neither resembles nor tastes like its namesake.  In any case, though, it’s a wonderful and tasty dip or spread, and economical, too.

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

Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 12, 2008

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

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A few of you keen-eyed readers guessed that yesterday’s final “teaser” photo was of pecan pie.  But since I’m not particularly a “pie person” to begin with (I’ve posted about only one other pie in over a year on this blog–and it wasn’t even my own recipe!), and since I most definitely AM a chocolate person, I decided that my pecan pie had to include chocolate.  

Besides, La Martha’s mini-mag, Everyday Food, featured in its latest issue a recipe for chocolate pecan pie, and I’d been yearning for it ever since I saw the recipe. It looked gooey, yummy, decadent, festive, and very, very chocolatey.  Staring at the photo simply made me drool.  It was one heck of a perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

So I set about creating my own (sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan) version of this masterpiece.  The magazine’s photo was soooo enticing: meticulously arranged pecan halves baked into a slightly bubbly, sticky, engulfing ebony base of glossy chocolatey deliciousness.  I had to have that pie!

The only other pecan pie I’ve ever made was another vegan rendition, from my friend Caroline Dupont’s cookbook, Enlightened Eating.  I began with her suggestion to combine maple syrup and barley malt syrup, then played with the other elements to come up with what I thought a good approximation of Martha’s confection.  I fluted the pie crust, poured in the filling, popped it in the oven, and waited.

Remember those old sitcoms where the inept housewife (choose your favorite:  Lucy, Edith, Peggy, Marge) attempts to do the laundry for the first time, and ends up using about 4,576 times too much detergent?  And then the machine starts to rumble and wobble, and a stream of soap suds bubbles up over the washer’s lid and glides along the front of the machine and down to the floor, eventually making its way across the room in one massive, seething wave of froth? 

Well, that’s sort of what the top of this pie looked like after 30 minutes in the oven. The chocolate mixture bubbled and heaved and puffed like the contents of a witches’ cauldron. firstpie2 The lovely fluted crust was coated in a gleam of dark, gooey, chocolatey filling, as were a few spots on the bottom of the oven.  All my perfectly placed pecan halves had been bobbing about in the foaming liquid like castaways afloat on the ocean, tossed this way and that,  messing up my beautiful, decorative arrangement entirely.  While it ended up tasting good, the pie looked horrendous.

For the second attempt, I used less filling and didn’t worry about perfectly placed pecan halves; I simply chopped them coarsely and folded them right into the filling.  Once again, there was a filling explosion that overtook crust, pie plate, and oven.  Curses!

Finally, it occurred to me:  let’s just take another look-see at Martha’s ideal recipe, why don’t we?  The pecans in her photo remained perfectly in position, nary a drop of filling even touching their sides.  On second thought, they were too perfect (sort of like Martha herself, no?): they were pristine and unscathed in their nakedness.  I re-read the recipe, and came upon this throwaway instruction:  “The pie filling puffs up dduring baking but settles as it cools.” AHA! Clearly, the photo did not represent this reality; like most food-styled pictures, this one had been assembled after the pie was baked, the raw pecan halves carefully placed atop an already-cooled pie!  Clever, Martha; very clever.

Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, I say, then do them one better.  I revamped the recipe completely so that a pre-baked crust is subsequently filled with an unbaked filling.  Once the filling rests securely in the crust, then top with your perfectly formed, deliberately placed pecan halves, as decoration.  I proudly held up the finished product for the HH’s approval.  He took one look at my painstakingly positioned pecan halves and remarked, “It looks vaguely insectoid, don’t you think?”  Hmm. 

Despite the nutty carapace, this pie was heavenly.  Keep it cold for a dense, thick, toffee-like filling; or bring to room temperature for a softer, more gooey result.  Either way, it’s one perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

With its glossy, black, rich chocolate filling, I thought this would be the perfect submission to this month’s Sugar High Fridays, the event started by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, and this month hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.  The theme this time round is “All That Glitters.” 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

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

pecanpieslice6Thick, rich, and toffee-like, this slightly non-traditional pecan pie is great for a holiday (or just your everyday) table. 

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

Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

I’ve never been what I’d call a “good” flirt.  In high school, I hung out with the nerdy crowd (hard to believe, I know!), so there wasn’t really any opportunity to flirt.  Then, when I was finally old enough to attract the opposite sex in my 20s, it seemed too late to get the hang of it. I do remember loathing, admiring and envying (all at the same time) the most popular girls in my high school.  It seemed as if their hair, or their eyelashes, or their limp wrists somehow possessed an invisible male adhesive as they giggled and nodded and caressed the guys, just so, on their forearms; or maybe it was just the pheromones they exuded. 

In any case, the flirty girls would always be surrounded by an inverse seraglio, an ever-shifting, amorphous cloud of doting males.  The boys would fawn over them, open doors for them, carry their books, offer them lifts, or request their phone numbers in a continuous stream.  Just how did the girls manage that, I wondered?  How did they get away with teasing the guys so overtly, implying lace and perfume and breathless embraces, yet, in reality, yield nothing?  These girls were whip-smart as well as beautiful, or they couldn’t have perfected their technique; yet they appeared vacuous and helpless and fragile all at the same time, thereby rendering themselves irresistible to the guys around them.

I had the opportunity to observe a consummate tease after my divorce, when I lived in the same flat as another woman who had previously been married to two of the richest men in Canada (and she was only 32 when I met her).  She was one of the smartest cookies I’ve ever known (and funny, witty, sweet and fun to be with, too) yet, the moment she came within a few feet of any attractive male, she appeared to devolve into–how shall I say this?–a helpless, needy, pouting little girl.  She’d bat her eyelashes at the nearest specimen and feign incompetence with the lock on the car trunk, the dial on the stereo or the squeaky door on the kitchen cabinet.  Then she’d throw up her hands in mock despair and emit a giggle that resonated across the room, like the clang of forks on wine glasses at a wedding, encouraging the newlyweds to kiss. 

There must have been something to it, too, because by the time I moved out, she’d snagged yet another of Canada’s wealthiest bachelors (they’ve since divorced, but let’s just say she’ll never have to work again–no, scratch that, she’ll never even have to brush her own teeth again).  

My own efforts at flirting have produced less than stellar results. True, some playful flirting resulted in four months dating Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); as it turned out, Rocker Guy himself really enjoyed flirting, too–he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he continued to do so throughout the time we were dating. And his definition of “flirting,” unfortunately, encompassed “sleeping with.” 

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

Today, however, I’m afraid I’m going to play the tease once again.  After finding out at the last minute that I’d be away at a conference all day today, I wasn’t able to photograph the dish I’d originally intended to post about. Instead, there’s a slew of goodies I’ve been working on for the cookbook, and with the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be a good way to get in the mood for holiday baking. (Oh, so how’s the book coming along?  Well, I’m still working on the manuscript, which should be complete in less than a month, after which the materials are shipped off to the printer.  Ultimately, I’m still aiming for a release date in early 2009–February or March.  Whoo!). 

Some of these sweets have already been published elsewhere on this blog, with recipes included. You may have also seen some on the testers’ blogs (ie, the absolute BEST TESTERS any cookbook author–or baker–could ever want). 

Following are some of my recent favorites from the book, and those that would make good holiday treats. And even if it’s not out in time for this year, you may wish to make some of these next time round.

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

cashewcaramel1

Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

tspicecakepan

Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (plus recipe–great for decorating):

sugarfreesugarcookie1

Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

mintchocchip2

Cupcakes with Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Buttercream:

cupcakegffrost

Chocolate Satin Tarts:

silktart1.jpg

Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

And here’s a little preview of tomorrow’s sweet treat (recipe to follow).  I know, what a tease. . . 

chocpecanpie

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chiliside

The three of you who were reading my blog last year at this time may recall that I am not a fan of winter.  “What?” the rest of you ask, “and you from Montreal?” 

Well, I’m here to tell you that being born in a certain place doesn’t automatically predispose one kindly toward the weather of said location (nor does it predispose one to winter sports; in other words, no, that’s not a tatoo on my rear, but a lingering bruise from a skating accident back in 1981).  To me, the ideal climate would be temperate, neither too hot nor too cool (I’m thinking between 68 and 80 Fahrenheit, or 20 and 22 Celsius), with sun about 95% of the time (just enough rain to ensure there’s no drought) and terrain surrounded by lush, grassy, fragrant forests with treetops that sway and quietly rustle in the breeze, like Hawaiians doing the hula. Oh, and no bugs.  And no snakes.  Or spiders.  And, what the heck, may as well throw in a yellow brick road, while you’re at it.*

But here we are, too far into November to deny the imminent crystalline entombment, and I must face the fact: it will be winter soon.  And what is there to do?  Generally, when I’m feeling down, my options fall into two categories:  1) food-related; and 2) dog-related.  As I write this, The Girls are sleeping off their early walk with the HH; and so, it seems, the next step is alimentary, my dear.

While baking is always my first instinct in the kitchen, I do enjoy cooking as well.  These days, it’s rare for me to spend any more time than necessary making dinner (read: 20 minutes, tops), but yesterday, I felt the need for the extended, meditative experience of slow cooking. In the morning, I loaded the dutch oven with dried beans and water; and by 7:00 PM, we were feasting on my age-old, many-times-refined, much-tweaked recipe for chili with mixed beans and “ground turkey.” 

chilitop

[Seems I still haven't quite mastered the focus on my dandy new camera, but you can still make out the meaty-looking crumbles in there, can't you?]

When I was a kid, I used to think chili acquired its name because it was meant to be eaten in cold weather.  While it’s true that this soup-cum-stew is best served in cool weather, it wasn’t until I began to read up on Indian cuisine that I discovered the name actually referred to a spice blend often used in the mix. Trusty Wikipedia tells me that Chili con Carne is the official dish of Texas; and that particular bowlful, it turns out, is the version made without beans.  Most of us, I’d wager, still think of beans when we think of chili, however. 

I also think of chili as the chameleon of stews: years ago, a friend who’d just returned to Canada from three years in Mexico served me mole, another form of chili; the notion of sharp spices with just an undertone of bitterness seemed immensely appealing (don’t be alarmed at the coffee and chocolate in this version!).  And a recipe once given to me by a former student from India featured simmered, pulled beef and a variety of curry spices with lentils. 

I first cooked chili when I was an impoverished graduate student living in Windsor, Ontario.  The recipe developed over the years, and what was once a fairly basic vegetarian chili has morphed over the years into my own version of the dish.  I include frozen tofu that’s been defrosted and crumbled to resemble ground meat (in fact, the first time I made this for the HH, he assumed the tofu was ground chicken. Perfect for skeptics!). The HH and I also both agree that chili should be more of a stew than a soup, so I simmer mine until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are suspended in a kind of spicy tomato sauce.  If you prefer yours thinner, simply cook a bit less or add a bit more water. 

Eventually, my own additions became so numerous that even my enormous dutch oven was barely adequate to hold the stew, and I had to stop adding ingredients.  As a result, this makes a huge batch, and enough to freeze in single-serve containers that will sustain you through the winter.  While you slurp it up, just imagine that you’re somewhere warm, and green.

Oh, and with all these legumes in here, I thought this would be the perfect submission to My Legume Love Affair, the monthly event started by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook and this month hosted by Simona at Briciole. 

Chili to Last Through the Winter

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

chilitop2

This chili provides a thick, spicy, filling and very substantial meal. Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you—this recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze for later, and it’s definitely worth the effort!

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

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This past weekend, I took the train to Montreal to visit with the CFO (unfortunately, the HH stayed at home on dog duty, as our regular doggie daycare was closed and it was too late to find an alternative).  Just before I left, though, I was delighted to learn that I’d been awarded the “E for Excellence” award by Misty over at Mischief blog!  Misty is also the owner of 2 adorable dogs (check out their Halloween duds!) who often appear on her blog (plus lots of yummy food, of course).  Sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge this, Misty, as I ran off on Friday and just returned yesterday evening.  It’s much appreciated and I’m so glad you think my blog is excellent!  Thanks so much. :)

 

While lovely nonetheless, the visit was over in a flash, filled with a cocktail party, brunch with the family, a birthday lunch with friends, and a stroll through the area known as the Plateau (fascinating, isn’t it, how 90% of social activities revolve around food?  Sorry, what’s that you say? What do you mean, it’s just me–??).  Since my birthday (sort of) coincided with the CFO’s annual cocktail party, we combined celebrations. As the HH remarked before I left, this year I seem to be enjoying The Birthday That Wouldn’t End.  But who am I to argue?

Let me tell you, that CFO sure knows how to throw a party! The menu featured several vegan options, as well as a few gluten-free choices (though, if I remember correctly, the two never overlapped in a single hors d’oeuvre). Still, there was plenty for me to eat and drink, such as tapenade-topped mini-toasts; an apple-pecan butter-cracker combo; crudités and spinach dip; thai rice salad with peppers, cilantro and mango; spanakopita; plus a few others I’ve forgotten (and don’t even get me started on the desserts).  Saturday afternoon was reserved for a leisurely lunch with my old buddies Phil, Linda and Babe, and on Sunday morning, my family brunched at a restaurant I’d not heard of before, called Orange, where they offer the most astonishingly boundless bowls of steaming, perfectly creamy yet nubby oatmeal, capped with your choice of imaginative toppings, from fresh berries to cinnamon-apple pie filling to walnuts and coconut doused in maple syrup.  

Still, it was good to be home. That final stretch of the journey always seems to elicit in me a certain psychic restlessness, the desire to stretch, stand up and stroll the length of car as the train approaches Toronto. No matter how many times I leave and return, I still experience that familiar ripple of excitement and anticipation, the tingle in the chest, when I first catch a glimpse of city life twinkling in the distance beyond the blanket of black outside the window.  Slowly, the number of flickering lamps or silhouettes in apartment windows multiplies, then the glaring neon billboards make their appearance above highway overpasses, and cars’ flashing headlights join the symphony of movement and glitter. Before I know it we’re within reach of the CN tower and the station beneath the Royal York Hotel, the buzz of the downtown humming up through the rails.  Toronto, with its denizens crowding the streets at 11:00 PM, knots of taxis and buses jammed in front of the station, the clang of the train and roar of the subway and yips emanating from staggering groups of twenty-somethings as they exit the bars after midnight. . . yep, it’s good to be home.

As it turned out, we didn’t “do” Halloween this year.  Due to both my absence and The Girls’ xenophobic reaction to strangers at the door (read: frenzied barking and growling, at a volume of around 120 decibels), the HH chose to forgo the treats.  Still, like many of you, we do have a surfeit of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left in the house.  I remembered this recipe and thought it would be a perfect way to use the pepitas.

I call this mixture “pesto,” but it can also be used on its own as a spread for crackers or bread.  In fact, the inspiration came shortly after I sampled roasted garlic for the first time and was immediately transported. As I recall, the HH and I were served an entire head of garlic once at a restaurant, the top sliced clean across and the pudgy exposed cloves baked to a rich, earthy mahogany, glistening with a sheen of olive oil.  We squeezed the garlic from the papery casing like toothpaste from the tube, spreading the softened, caramelized pulp on fresh slices of bagette.  It was heavenly, and we polished off the entire thing in minutes.

Garlic smell?  Yes, heavenly. When baked, its scent is subdued, sweet, and alluring. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I use it as often as I can.  In this pesto, the garlic adds richness and a smooth base for the grainy pumpkinseeds, contrasted perfectly with the cilantro and citrus tang of the lemon zest and juice.  You can use this spread directly on crackers, as I like to do, or toss it with pasta (save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thin it out a bit and create a slight creaminess to the mix). Or, hey–I bet it would even be great as a snack while you mull over some election results!

Since this recipe uses both garlic and cilantro, I thought it would be perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, newly managed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once).  This week’s host is Wiffy of Noob Cook.

Roasted Garlic and Pumpkinseed Pesto

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

This dish is great for your heart, and also terrific for flu season: both garlic and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, and the pumpkinseeds contain zinc, essential for fighting viruses and bacteria.  

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

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