Family and Festive Feasting

December 28, 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 on this blog than you do.”

 pumpbreadpud1

[Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce]

As I mentioned in a previous post, the CFO came to visit over the holidays, and we had a truly lovely time together, chillaxing (I can’t understand why that word has evaporated from the lexicon.  I mean, it just seems to capture so perfectly the concept its meant to convey), laughing, watching movies*, laughing, shopping, playing with The Girls, laughing, and eating far, far too much.  I’m happy to say that my sister also bonded with both of our furry babies, who have been wandering aimlessly around the house since she left this morning. 

(“Mum, what do you mean, ‘she left’? Doesn’t she live with us now?  Where did she go? And, um, who will rub my belly tonight?”)

It does seem like ages since I’ve written on this blog, when in fact, it’s been just a few days. I’m just fascinated by the science fiction-like relative quality of time at the holidays: the space-time continuum stretches infinitely as you wait for the Big Day (or Days, depending on your belief system); then, like the Big Bang, it’s over in a flash.

Not to belabor the physics theme or anything, but I think my stomach has taken over the role of a black hole this holiday season.  Truly, I didn’t know it was possible that so much food could be sucked into that abyss in so short a span. Ah, if only time could stretch as infinitely as my appetite (and if only the waistband on my pants could do the same. . . ). 

Ah, what the heck, it’s the holidays. While the CFO was here , in effect, we enjoyed two major feast meals:  the first on Christmas Day, a semi-traditional repast that blended the Judeo-Christian cuisines; then, the following night, an Indian-themed feast, because we felt like it. 

Although neither my sister nor the HH is vegan (or even vegetarian), the bulk of the menu accommodated my dietary restrictions, so that we could all enjoy freely. And despite much good-natured ribbing in both directions (the CFO pooh-poohed almost every recipe I suggested on the grounds it was “too Veeee-gan”, while I countered by calling her a “rabid anti-Veegite“), it was the dish about which she was most skeptical, the wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free pumpkin bread pudding, that turned out to be the star of the show. 

For the holiday meal, I relied on several tried-and-true recipes such as herb-roasted root vegetables, balsamic-dijon brussels sprouts and roast on the 25th, plus (in keeping with the Hannukah theme I started with those latkes the other day) an apple-noodle pudding (or kugel).  Even though this was a sweet kugel and more of what I’d consider a dessert, it did work well with the other dishes, offering a bit of luscious creaminess punctuated by tart cherries, along with the similar sweet-tart contrast in the brussels sprouts.  In fact, this noodle pudding would be perfect for breakfast, I’d venture.

kugelwhole2

[Apple-Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries]

The bread pudding my sister so loved began with a pumpkin bread (recipe from Simple Treats), soaked in a pumpkin “custard” based on the mixture I used in my French Toast Soufflé.  I baked the puddings in individual ramekins, but you could easily do a single pudding in a loaf or square pan and scoop it from there. I topped the puddings with a homemade caramel sauce–a concoction based on a sweetened condensed milk experiment that went awry–that I’d kept warm. 

pumpbreadpudfork

[A bite of pumpkiny-caramelly bliss.]

The result was spectacular–warm, slightly crisp on the outside but moist and spongy on the inside, über-pumpkiny, slightly spiced, and with the smooth, glossy thickness of warm caramel blanketing the whole affair. This is a chic, stylish dessert, yet one that was really simple in its preparation.

We certainly didn’t need any additional desserts after that finale, but since I had loads of tester recipes in the house that I’d recently done up for the cookbook, I put out a tray with Glazed Almond Bars, Dalmatian Cheesecake Brownies and Hazelnut Mocha Cookies; as well as leftover Marzipan-Topped Shortbread, Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies, and Chocolate Macaroons.  All were CFO-approved, I’m happy to say.

The next night, though still full from the Christmas dinner, we managed an incredible follow-up with an Indian feast that, we decided, will go down in the annals of Most Memorable Meals in the DDD household. 

The menu included a lentil dal recipe I first saw about a week ago on Lisa’s blog; peas in a creamy sauce (adapted from a recipe I once borrowed from Gemini I); an aloo saag (well, not really–I just don’t know the word for “kale”) that combined potatoes and shredded kale in a spicy tomato sauce; coconut brown basmati rice; and homemade chickpea pancakes from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends.  I can tell you, there was a symphony of lip-smacking, lentil scooping, potato spooning, and sauce sopping going on, as well as a mellifluous refrain of friendly chatter and wine-glass clinking that evening.  Very chillaxing.

I promise to share the goodies from our Indian feast in a future post, but rather than inundate you with so many recipes at once, I thought I’d start off with the lovely Apple Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries.  This alone would make a great light mid-week  supper–and I, for one, could certainly use some lighter meals these days.

Also:  I’m a little late jumping on this bandwagon, but wanted to mention a charity drive put on by Katie over at Chocolate Covered Vegan.  In honor of the season, Katie is offering to donate 20 cents to the Enough Project (an organization that works to counter crimes against humanity) for every comment she receives on this post.  How sweet is that? It’s incredibly easy to help out this way–just hop on over and leave a comment!

 *Christmas Day:  that classic chestnut, White ChristmasThe CFO and I, while sisters ourselves, bear no resemblance to either Rosemary Clooney or Vera-Ellen (well, perhaps my wrist bears a resemblance to Vera-Ellen’s waist).

Boxing Day:  taking advantage of the nearly-empty theaters, Seven Pounds. What I learned from watching this movie:  1) Will Smith is (still) preternaturally gorgeous;  2) Will Smith is an extraordinarily talented actor; 3) that is one whacked reason to keep a jellfish as a pet.

Yesterday: The Dark Knight. I agree that Heath Ledger deserved an Oscar for his performance.  Not only that, but also a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for being able to unravel the convoluted structure of the multi-pronged plot in this movie.  (Okay, perhaps a not-entirely fair assessment on my part, as I couldn’t bring myself to watch the violent scenes.  Which means I missed about 94% of the movie.)

Apple Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries

kugelslice

Unfortunately, I can’t recall the original source of this recipe, which I copied from a magazine several years ago in the BB (Before Blog) era of my life.  Nevertheless, I’ve added several elements and changed others over the years, so I consider this my own variation on the original.

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

latkescloseup2

Today began like most other mornings:  a wet, cold nose against my ear (that would be Chaser, not the HH) rousing me from sleep; a quick (warm, dry) kiss to the HH; and popping (okay, more like fizzling) out of bed before stretching, going through the usual ablutions and tramping over to the office to turn on the computer and check out some blogs.  For our lazy Sunday morning (after shovelling the additional 15 cm./ 6 inches of snow that arrived overnight, of course), I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast–maybe banana; maybe apple.

Then I read Ruth’s Hannukah (or, for us Canadians, Chanukah) post and before I knew it, I was craving potato pancakes (aka latkes). 

Which is weird, because I hate latkes.

Let me explain.  Over the years, I’ve sampled many different kinds of potato latkes in many different kitchens; and I can honestly tell you I haven’t enjoyed a single one. (Sorry, Mrs. D who kindly invited me to her Rosh Hashanah table back in university; sorry, all my friends who’ve been generous enough to share; sorry, Aunty M. and CBC; sorry, all those caterers whose miniature pancakes I’ve sampled at festive tables in the past). 

Given that I adore home fries and even hash browns, this latke enmity always seemed odd to me.  But whenever I’d try again, the results were the same: the pancakes in question were very heavy, very greasy, and fairly bland, with a high-gloss exterior and mushy, mealy insides.  Was I missing something?  Is there some kind of Freemason-like secret latke society that knows something those of us using the regular latke recipes don’t know? Or was I simply hanging around with horrible cooks?

Whatever; I decided to change all that this morning.  That plate of latkes (and the explanatory article that Ruth included, as well) simply caught my fancy, and I had to have latkes!

latkesplate

After a quick tour using Veg Blog Search, I uncovered a large selection of options.  There were traditional potato latkes, those made entirely from sweet potatoestraditional latkes with cool toppings, and a whole bunch of trail-blazing atypical latkes. I decided to base my own version on Bryanna’s fat-free potato and sweet potato pancakes.  I loved the combination of both types of spud, both for color and nutrition, and I thought a lower-fat version would be good at this time of year as well (I did add 2 Tbsp./15 ml. olive oil to the mixture to enhance the flavors a little).  This was also the perfect excuse to use my cast iron skillet yet once more–something I’ve been doing at every available opportunity the past few weeks as I endeavor to render it truly non-stick (so far, no luck).

I’m happy to report that the Latke Loathing has been vanquished, once and for all! (Must have been those sweet potatoes). The HH was also a fan.  We had ours with a slightly unconventional topping, a balsamic-fig sauce that was given to me a few weeks back  (more typical accompaniments include sour cream or applesauce).  What a fabulous combination!  The cakes were decidedly not mushy, as I remembered latkes of old; they were crispy on the outside and supple on the inside, the potatoes just cooked.  They held together beautifully and offered up an alluring aroma of caramelized onion and fragrant dill as they were grilled. With the sweet-tart contrast of the fig sauce slathered over the top, these were the perfect Sunday breakfast. 

Now, it seems the Sunday pancake options are limitless. So glad I start my days the way I do. 

To those who celebrate, Happy Hannukah!  (and Hanukkah, AND Chanukah!) :)

Two-Toned Potato Latkes

adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

latkescloseup

While we ate these for breakfast, latkes are more often eaten as a side dish or appetizer with savory foods.  They’re great both ways.

3 small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and grated

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated

1 large onion, grated

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (110 g.) kamut flour or (100 g.) whole spelt flour

2 tsp. (10 ml.) baking powder

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) water

1 tsp. (5 ml.) garlic powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) dried dill weed

1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) smoked paprika

Using a food processor or box grater, grate the potatoes and sweet potatoes and place in a large colander.  Squeeze the mixture with your hands as if squeezing a sponge to get out as much of the starchy liquid as you can.  Place in a large bowl.

Grate the onion and add it to the potato mixture along with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together very well, using your hands if necessary.

Heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the pan, flattening the pancakes with a spatula (they should be fairly flat).  Cook about 3-4 minutes, until bottoms are golden; flip and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so, until golden.  Keep pancakes warm as you continue to cook them.  Serve immediately with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, cranberry sauce, chutney, or other topping of choice.

Last Year at this Time: Last Minute Christmas Cookie [Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies]

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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* Or, “Nothing Like Fried Rice, Really, But Still One Darned Tasty Cauliflower Salad”

rawfriedrice

[Sorry about the blur.  I may need to return to my old point-and-shoot until I finally read that new camera manual!]

For those of us fascinated by the topic of food, December is more or less highjacked by baking projects.  Cookies for the cookie exchange.  Bars and squares for the gift tins.  Cakes for the pot lucks.  Croquembouche for the neighbourhood party.  

Taken to its syllogistic conclusion,  the state of affairs in which many of us find ourselves this month would go something like this:

Major Premise: December is filled with many types of baking. 

Minor Premise: All types of baking require taste-testing. 

Conclusion: Therefore, December is filled with all types of  taste-testing  sampling quality control eating–something like 4,287 different sweets, types of chocolate, candy, cookies, fudge, frosting, glazed nuts, trifles, truffles, cakes and pies–thereby creating a massive spike in caloric intake for the month, which will lead to outright neglect of all other food groups and the overindulgence of rich, alcoholic and chocolate-based comestibles during the next four weeks or so, to the inevitable result of chocolate overload and the proverbial 7 pound weight gain over the holiday period. *

Well, given my own propensity to binge on sweets and carbs over the holidays, I thought I’d take some advice I heard dispensed by a dietician on a local CBC radio show the other day about “How Not to Gain Weight Over the Holidays.”

Get a load of this:  the dietician (who shall remain nameless–she probaby wouldn’t want you to know her name after this advice, anyway, but mostly because I can’t actually remember her name) said something to the effect of, “Well, I know that people are always told to eat a meal before going to a party to avoid overindulging, but I find that people will overindulge anyway.  And then they’ve basically eaten two meals, which is really not so good.  So what I suggest is, if you do eat a bit too much at a party, then–and I’d never suggest that you do this on a regular basis–but then you can just skip a meal or two the next day to compensate.  If you follow this plan over the holidays, you shouldn’t really gain any weight.”

Hallellujah!  In a nutshell, here’s December: Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out. Fast. Pig Out. Cut back a wee bit.  Pig out. Fast. Drink champagne and kiss a bunch of strangers.

Truly, I don’t think this plan is very wise, but I’m going to adapt it to my own needs, anyway.  During this festive period when I’m more likely to succumb to the siren call of chocolate, I’ve decided to deliberately make the rest of my meals as clean, simple, and vegetable-based as possible.  To wit, Raw Imitation Fried Rice.

I came across this recipe a while ago and then, a few days later, happened upon this version by Veggie Delight.  Since the dish is raw, it’s much easier to digest than a cooked meal, and won’t tax the digestive system the way heavier, fatter meals can. It’s also mostly vegetables with a hint of dressing, which provided me with yet another novel way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable I’m otherwise indifferent about, into my diet.

The salad is crunchy and even a bit juicy, with a hint of toasted sesame and just enough saltiness from the tamari to provide a satisfying contrast to the neutral cauliflower. It’s incredibly easy to make and comes together very quickly courtesy of the processor. I thoroughly enjoyed it and could even feel virtuous as I chomped away. 

And it’s the perfect light meal to help you detox between all those tastings of baked goods and treats.

*Okay, so it’s not technically a syllogism.  And the conclusion is drawn from the predicate of the premise rather than the subject (totally illogical).  And (well, according to Giz, anyway) the average weight gain is only 1.5 pounds over the holidays.  As if.

Raw Imitation Fried Rice (aka Cauliflower Salad)

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

rawfriedricetop

Asian-inspired flavors meet light and refreshing salad in this mock fried rice dish.  Makes a great side salad or raw main.  And a sneaky way to include cauliflower!

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

elsieconeheadbed

Yes, it really is the pits, Mum.  It’s also very difficult to lick all the crumbs off the floor with this thing on my head.”

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

Last year at this time:  Dog Day: How Elsie Got Named

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!

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

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

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

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth 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).  

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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

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

[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.

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