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!

chaserunderbed

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:

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!

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[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 third entry on coconut.]

Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I had fried rice before I made this dish.  My mother used to cook a toned-down version of it when we were kids (basically white rice and a splash of soy sauce), and I most likely ordered some of the stuff at a Chinese restaurant back in the 1980s, but other than that, I hadn’t even thought about the concept in years–I mean, it’s called fried rice, right?  

Perhaps it was serendipity, or perhaps synchronicity–or both.  A few of weeks ago, I had bought some kale with the intention of making raw kale salad. But the avocados, despite having ripened on the counter for a few days, were still hard as baseballs. In the meantime, the kale had exhausted itself in the refrigerator and reclined at the back of the shelf, sprawled limply over the cauliflower.  That kale needed to be given a purpose, and fast.

I’d been catching up on my blog reading when this recipe , from Maureen and Aly’s blog, Mad About Udon, leapt out at me. True, the original called for collards rather than kale, but I’ve learned that most greens are amenable to standing in for their fellow leafys in most instances.

The simplicity of this dish belies its deliciousness. It’s quick, easy, and totally alluring. I realize it’s called fried rice, but, given the number of veggies in the mix (I enlisted some of that cauliflower in addition to the beans and greens), it might as well be called “Veggies with Coconut and Rice.” Whatever the appellation, it’s fantastic.  I made this three times in quick succession, and it’s now become the number one recipe of choice when we have kale in the house (having overtaken the previous frontrunner–raw kale salad). 

Thanks to Maureen for creating this masterpiece, in which coconut features prominently.  And I think it’s totally fitting that today’s recipe comes courtesy of another Canadian, since this weekend marks our Canadian Thanksgiving! if you’re celebrating this weekend, why not consider this dish as an alternative to those tired ole brussels sprouts?

To those of you giving thanks (or if you’ve simply got a day off), have a great long weekend!

Savory Fried Rice with Kale and Coconut

Adapted fom Mad About Udon

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

With just the perfect melding of salty, spicy, and crunchy, this hearty and flavorful side dish is almost a meal on its own.  As Maureen suggests, use Bragg’s instead of regular soy sauce to make this entirely gluten-free. Since I’ve altered the preparation slightly, I’m including my own version here.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

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[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 entry, 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. ]

Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household.  This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .

The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home.  Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal.  So far, so good.

As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:

Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers.  In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each.  I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began. 

“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.

“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.

“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!!  Apple-raisin??!!!  RAISIN???!!!!”  How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . . 

I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late.  They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal!  Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse.  Horrors!

In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do.  My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded. 

And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins. 

Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).

Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today.  I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series.  (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).  

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.

Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white “meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit.  In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us.  Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant,  coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems. 

In nutrition school, we learned that the saturated fats in coconut, unlike those in other foods with a high sat fat content (such as meat or butter), are considered “medium chain fatty acids,” which don’t increase cholesterol levels or contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.  In fact, most of the studies previously done on coconut oil focused on hydrogenated varieties, and hydrogenation renders any fats unhealthy

Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic). 

One thing that’s indisputable is its place as first choice when you’re seeking an oil to cook with on high heat.  Because of its saturated status, coconut oil is the oil least damaged by heat, which makes it great for frying (even though I know you never fry foods, right?) or baking.  And because it’s solid at room temperature (as long as your room is below 76F), coconut oil makes a great butter substitute, and can be used interchangeably with butter. At the organic market where I used to sell my baked goods, one of the vendors was known to eat it off a spoon.  I never quite achieved that lofty accomplishment, but do use it for stir-fries and baking.  

Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school.  An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) .  I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.

As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk?  It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce.  I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat. 

Finally, there’s the coconut itself.  Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute.  I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking.  Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar).  This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking.  For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).

Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.

According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage?  And yet, it really works.

Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.

“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”

Cabbage T’horin

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[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask?  Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow.  I did eat the T'horin with them, though.]

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

Odd. . . my Google Reader seemed to be filling up at an alarming rate, sort of like the rising waterline in The Poseidon Adventure.  Then I remembered:  Not only is October the official World Vegetarian Month, it’s also the Vegan MOFO (Month of Food)!  This is the 31-day period in which vegan food bloggers worldwide pledge to blog at least 20 days of the month about, well, vegan food.  And blog they have!

Given my vida loca schedule these days (and The Girls do make me put my clothes on and go walking in the rain), as well as the imminent festival of the harvest here in Canada, I accepted that I simply couldn’t commit to that esteemed blog event, for fear of ending up committed myself as a result.   Instead, I thought I’d bring to you some highlights of recipes I’ve tried and enjoyed from other vegan and vegetarian bloggers in the past while. 

Every now and again, I scroll through my photos and realize there are dozens of dishes I’ve cooked and photographed, but never blogged about.  It may be that they were less than stellar in their final form, or that my woeful skill as a photographer resulted in a photo that, ahem, didn’t quite do the dish justice.  More often than not, however, it’s just that I ran out of time and went on to blog about something else–and then, weeks (or, in some cases, months) later, I stumble upon the photos and rack my brains to remember what the heck it was.  And so, here’s but a brief sampling of some of the things we’ve been sampling here in the DDD household.

Happy Vegan MoFo, everyone!

Caramelized Tofu (101 Cookbooks)

As Heidi mentions in her post about this, this deceptively simple dish is incredibly addictive.  I made it once to try it out, then repeated the venture three days in a row.  Stupendous.  (And this is one of those aforementioned cases in which the photographer is not up to par with the quality of the recipe!).

Crumb-Topped Brownies, sans topping (My Sweet Vegan): 

Hannah’s Crumb-Topped Brownies are everything you’ve heard they are, and more.  As I mentioned a while back, I recently found myself with some soy yogurt in the house, so I finally had the means to try these out.  They were superb–soft, gooey, and with a moist, almost custard-like texture that literally melted in the mouth.  Even without the white sugar or flour, these were fabulous, and irresistibly decadent.

Curried Tofu Scramble (Moosewood New Classics):

My favorite scrambled tofu recipe. With just a touch of curry paste, a hit of jalapeno, the requisite turmeric–this dish provides a spicy, juicy, eggy and convenient scramble.  I could eat this every day (and I do, for about 3 days after I make it, since the HH will no longer indulge with me).

Broccoli and Rice Salad (Jean Lemlin’s Quick, Simple and Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures):

Got broccoli?  Got rice? With the addition of a tangy dressing and chopped almonds, Lemlin elevates the basic rice and veggies to a step beyond the quotidien.  And gluten-free! 

Nori Condiment-Baked Potatoes (Nourish Me):

As Lucy mentioned in her original post about this condiment, it may be just a tad too pungent for some tastes on its own; but these taste buds thoroughly enjoyed it roasted with russett potatoes. Yes, it does sound quirky, and yes, it does resemble the habitat of plankton, but it is, nevertheless, uniquely appealing!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Destiny’s Vegan Kitchen):

Rich. Chewy. Chocolatey. Totally indulgent.  All that, even though I made my usual substitutions of Sucanat for sugar, spelt for regular flour, coconut oil for margarine, etc.  The HH almost scalded his tongue eating four of these babies straight out of the oven.  What are you waiting for?  Go bake some, pronto!

And coming up. . . .got any coconut of your own?

I deliberately ended this list with these coconut cookies as a segue into my next post, which will introduce a new Lucky Comestible series–on coconut!  I’d love to include any recipes you may have made featuring this ingredient as well.  While I’m not quite ready for my own blog event, I will happily provide links to your posts at the end of each Lucky Comestible recipe in the series. 

So feel free to send along those URLs for your coconut-based recipes (and I’m already planning to feature at least 2 of your recipes in the batch. . . but you’ll have to wait to see which ones!).

Oh, Mum, talk about MoFo!  You’re so cruel to keep us all waiting. . .especially when you’re cooking all those yummy coconut dishes just a few feet away. . . *sigh*. . . “

“Chaser, don’t you use such language!  And don’t worry, when she’s done, we’ll get to polish off the extra coconut milk.” 

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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

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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).

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“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.

Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad--recipe below.]

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.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

July 14, 2008

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Tempeh

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

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm Dandelion and Potato Salad

from The Greens Book by Susan Belsinger and Carolyn Dille

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

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

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

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