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* [Absolutely no relation to the reality show of the same name] ##

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[That is one MoFo huge smoothie!]

Now that the holidays are over and a new, fervently hopeful year has begun, I’ve decided to simplify my life.

It might have been the post-apocalyptic array of file folders, sticky notes, to-do lists (to-do lists ON sticky notes), drafts of recipes for the cookbook, empty interoffice envelopes, glasses (of both types), half-filled mug, pens, pencils, scotch tape, daybook, boxes of tissues, assorted and sundry notes-to-self, a stapler, checkbook and magazines and paperbacks and various other items that seem to have settled randomly, like nuclear fallout, on my desk. 

Or perhaps it was the never-quite-cleared kitchen table, the kitchen counters encumbered with bins of flour and Sucanat and oats, bottles of agave nectar, cannisters of raisins and dried cranberries, bowls and spatulas and whisks and pans and measuring cups and spoons (okay, I do have an excuse: the aforementioned cookbook).

Still, it could have been the closet full of wayward shoes, or the three distinct, mostly unworn wardrobes (that would be “slim”; “gaining weight”‘; and “fat”), assorted scarves, out of season accessories, fuzzy slippers and terrycloth bathrobe. 

No, no, no–it must have been the 14 unanswered emails, 27 unanswered voicemails, three scheduled doctors’ appointments, two scheduled vet appointments, one hair appointment, one dog training appointment, as-yet to be determined appointment to set up an appointment with myself to get it all together and finally organize all my appointments. . . .

Okay, I may be exaggerating a tad.  But just a tad.  It’s true what they say: the older you get, the more complicated your life becomes.  (Or was that, the older you get, the louder you turn up the volume on the television?  Same difference.) 

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[Simplicity at its finest.]

A while back, my friend Eternal Optimist informed me that she’d completed a total purge of her abode, sort of like an emotional smudging.  She tossed boxes of garbage, shredded reams of old papers and files, donated countless bags of clothes to charity, and repurposed old posters, kitchen chairs, picture frames, unused shelving, CDs and books, and various and sundry other long-neglected items courtesy of Freecyle. It felt great, she averred.

And while I’ve never been a huge fan of the magazine Real Simple (it seems too self-consciously austere and geometric for my taste, reminiscent of Dieter on Sprockets), I have frequently nurtured a dream of chucking it all and moving  to a one-room cabin in the woods, complete with wood-burning stove, 100 acres of surrounding forest, and plenty of space for The Girls to gambol to their hearts’ content. 

Just think of it:  freedom to do what you like, at one with nature, fresh air, green grass, no schedules, no time-stealing technology.  On any given day, I could just wake up, throw open the door and inhale a long, deep breath of unpolluted, pristine country air. . . well, after I chop the firewood for that stove, I guess.  And after I shoo the raccoons out of the food bins at the end of the cabin.  And I guess I’d have to chase a few mice from the cupboards, too, which would mean cleaning up mouse poop.  And also swat those spiders in the corner above the bed–oooh, I hate spiders!  And snakes.  I hope there aren’t any snakes out there.  And I’m scared of mice.  And don’t raccoons have talon-like claws?  I’ve heard they can be really vicious if cornered.  And I bet they don’t serve Triple Mocha Lattes at the intersection of Pine Tree and Deciduous. 

But it did make a lovely reverie, didn’t it?

(“Yes, Mum, a perfect reverie!  But does this mean we don’t get to gambol in the woods now?  Oh, and would you mind turning down the volume on that TV?“)

I also failed miserably at organizing my life over the holidays.  My initial zeal to reorganize my desk, clear out some boxes from our basement, organize the garage, draw up a Five-Year Plan, and resume my lost habit of daily meditation never materialized (oh, and let’s not forget: get my finances in order, secure a retirement plan, start a new workout regimen, finish a cookbook, and clip Chaser’s nails–nothing too onerous, you understand.  Well, excepting Chaser’s nails.).  All I managed was to clear off the desk–and that task alone took two weeks.  

Still, the sense of accomplishment and buoyancy I felt prompted me to seek out other ways to simplify.  After the recent holiday excesses and toppling with a (very heavy) thud off the healthy-eating wagon, I’ve decided to pare down my diet as well.   So I’m afraid you won’t be seeing much fudge, or pecan pie, or marzipan-topped shortbread, or any other dessert that, for some strange reason, seems to spike my blog stats exponentially for a while.  The blog stats will just have to wait until I get my body stats in order. 

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  Coincidentally, over the holidays one gift I received was a book called The Healthiest Meals on Earth, by Jonny Bowden.  It contains breathtaking photographs of really healthy foods, along with pertinent nutritional information and great recipes.  This smoothie is one I adapted for breakfast the other day.  It features one of my all-time favorite foods–sweet potatoes (yes, for breakfast!), and is both simple and quick to make.  The potatoes confer a natural, light sweetness, and the oranges add a bit of tang.  I loved the cheery color and the thick, almost pudding-like consistency (I was tempted to eat this with a spoon, in fact). 

If simple living can taste this good, I may have to reconsider that cabin in the woods.

On second thought, nah.

## Well, unless you count the fact that we’ve both dated Rocker Guys (hers of the black leather punk; mine of the black leather pants).

Sweet and Simple Sweet Potato Smoothie

adapted from The Healthiest Meals on Earth

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

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Unlike many smoothies, this really does feel like a meal.  The sweet potato provides a substantial density and nutritional profile here (both beta carotene and antioxidants), along with vitamin C in the fruit.  I used eggnog flavored soymilk for a festive touch, but you can use any milk you please in this. 

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

[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."]

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What??? Another Flash in the Pan, back-to-back with the previous one? 

Honestly, I was working on a post about cookies (a Gastronomic Gift to be shared next time, promise!) when I accidentally happened upon this amazing discovery.  I was so thrilled with myself that I just had to share it immediately! (Yes, you’re right, I really must get another hobby).

And, as today’s post title implies, my life has been rather out of balance lately.  Scrambling to complete a cookbook manuscript (oh, woe, oh, woe, I fear I may miss a deadline for the first time in my life!), marking student exams, preparing for the holidays and a visit from the CFO, tending to an injured Girl, my weight hopping between lows and all-time highs like critic’s reviews of Britney’s music–well, let’s just say I needed something to balance the mood. 

And, as serendipity would have it, this recipe filled the gap.  This is my version of a creamy, smooth, spreadable, nonhydrogenated, trans-fat free, yellowish in color, firm-when-refrigerated-but-not-melty-when-room-temperature, spread-it-on-bread or melt-it-on-a-pancake, tastes-rich-and-incredible, all-purpose, homeade and waaay-cheaper-than-that-famous-brand BUTTERY SPREAD. 

Well, as you know, many a great invention has been discovered by accident.  I think most people are aware of the accidental discovery of Post-It Notes (for which, apparently, the inventor was never properly compensated).  On the other side of the sticky/non-sticky spectrum is the unintentional discovery of a new substance even slicker than Teflon (though, of course, we’re all aware that any kind of nonstick cookware can emit deadly gases, right?).  Or how about the monumental “mistake” that was the development of penicillin? My sinuses thank you, Alexander Fleming.

And yesterday, this entirely fortuitous concoction was created in my kitchen.  I was so shocked after I turned on the little food processor (I have one of those “Mini-Prep” processors for small batches) and saw the result that I did an internet search to check who else had already come up with the same recipe.  It seemed too simple!  Too easy!  Too good. 

I found lots of coconut oil-olive oil based mixes,  Bryanna’s low-fat “Corn Butter” and a great-sounding recipe in Alisa’s new book, Go Dairy Free, but nothing like this.  At first I thought the tofu in the recipe might be a problem (well, it is for those with soy allergies), but I checked out the Earth Balance website for a list of ingredients, and since it, too, contains quite a bit of soy protein, I assumed this would be fine (and that accounts for the similarity in appearance between the two, I imagine).  A little tweaking, and I found my new favorite spread!

The only caveat I’d offer with this spread is that, made from coconut oil, it is, after all, mostly fat (specifically, saturated fat). Unlike the prepared spread, though, this contains no canola oil (which can be controversial) or other additives. 

I don’t know if this would work as a butter substitute in recipes other than baked goods, but please, give it a try and let me know!  Also, since I’ve never tasted Earth Balance, I don’t know if the flavor of this spread is similar or not.  I do know that I really enjoyed it on bread (even though I was never a butter-on-bread kind of gal in the old days), and that  the HH loved this so much, he ate three pieces of bread with it and proclaimed, “Hey, this is good stuff, man!”**

It may not balance the chaos in your life, your chakras, or even your budget–but I bet you will still love this buttery substitute!

My Life in Balance Buttery Spread

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 spread this mixture as you would butter on any bread, pancake, or muffin.  There are myriad possibilities  for  fruited butters, herb butter, garlic butter–use your imagination, and let me know how it turns out!  

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

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too.  ]

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As I’m wont to do during the drive to work, I tuned in to the CBC this morning and overheard Jian Ghomeshi (isn’t he just the dreamiest??) talk about how excited we Canadians get any time we’re mentioned on American TV. Last evening, in fact, Jon Stewart satirized our impending governmental crisis (if only that were a dream!) on The Daily Show.  As a food blogger, I must admit I felt the selfsame patriotic pride last month when Susur Lee  (also dreamy) was fêted by Ruth Reichl et al in New York, for the opening of his newest resto, Shang. I mean, now that we’re all firmly entrenched in the Era of the Celebrity Chef courtesy of Food TV, isn’t it just as exciting for us Canadians to hear mention of a Canadian chef in the U.S. media?

Oh, but way back before Canadian chefs were known anywhere beyond their own kitchen walls, before the days of Yum-O or Love and Best Dishes or eponymous cookware or chefs with “peasant” kitchens invading gradeschools and  riding Land Rovers–before all that, there was Bonnie Stern.

Stern was one of the very first “celebrity” chefs in Canada, known across the country at a time when the only viral netorking was an actual virus that networked its way through your mucus membranes and into your sinuses.  She ran a highly successful cooking school in Toronto, she owned a kitchenware store beside it, she published several best-selling cookbooks, had her recipes published in a variety of newspapers, and even tried her hand at her own cooking show for a time. 

Back in the 90s, at the apex of Stern word-of-mouth buzz, I attended one of her cooking classes; the topic was “Homemade Gifts for the Holidays.”  I was thrilled to have secured a coveted space in the always-sold-out classes, even at the exhorbitant fee of $95 (back then!). I was primed to observe the doyenne of cooking in her element, absorb every word she uttered, and finally become privy to the professinal tips and tricks she’d reveal as she prepared the most delectable and irresistible tidbits I’d ever tasted on a holiday table. 

Well, I have to tell you straight up that I was bitterly disappointed.  Sitting against the back wall of an auditorium-sized classroom (seriously, I had closer seats for forty bucks at the Bruce Springsteen concert that year), all I could see was a tiny figure in the distance that resembled the barely distinguishable collection of phosphor dot people I squinted at regularly on my (then) 12-inch television screen at home–and it wasn’t even Stern herself; it was a poor substitute, a culinary surrogate!  After whipping up a series of recipes in quick succession and without much instruction, the recipe demonstrator passed around trays of thimble-sized samples for each person to nibble upon, all fairly bland and unexciting.

One recipe, however, stood apart from the rest, and it alone was (almost) worth the price of admission:  Honey Liqueur Fruit Butter.  It was a quick, easy spread consisting of dried apricots, candied ginger, and orange liqueur.  Although I’m not, as a rule, particularly enamored of jams or jellies, I fell in love with this spread.  I swooned.  I drooled.  I surreptitiously tasted three thimbles full. 

I returned home and promptly re-created the spread, not once, but several times over the following few months.  I gave away little jars as hostess gifts; I bestowed a few jars on my sisters and close friends;  I spread it on bagels, pancakes, muffins and bread.  And then, I tucked the recipe away in a file folder and forgot about it for over a decade.

That very folder–older, grayer, fraying at the edges–has been packed up and upacked during seven separate house-moves since that time. This year, while pondering what I might cook up as holiday gifts from my kitchen, I finally remembered it.  Like the memory of a first kiss, the thought of that recipe unearthed a wave of longing and a compelling desire to once again re-create that long-ago, captivating sensation.  I dug out the file folder and cooked up a batch.  And (perhaps unlike that first kiss with your childhood sweetheart) this spread was just as good 15 years later.

I’ve subbed agave for the honey and brandy for the liqueur, with spectacular results.  This is a smooth, glossy spread that will keep for more than a month in the refrigerator, since the alcohol acts as a preservative. I love this slathered on breakfast food, but it would be a terrific filling for a danish or rugelach as well.

This recipe is my submission to Happy Cook’s blog event, Home Made Christmas Gifts, featuring home made gifts for the holidays.

(“Mum, too bad we can’t have anything with alcohol in it. . . but we’d be happy with all those breakfast foods on their own, next time you’re slathering.”)

Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

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

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My notes from the original class tell me you could also substitute dried pears for the apricots, or a combination of prunes and dried apples, adjusting the liqueur accordingly (poire William and armagnac come to mind, but any favorite will work nicely).

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

(c) Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

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.

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

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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.

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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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.” 

I’ll never forget the phrase that haunted me for months when I was about 16: delivered in a low, undulating murmur heard through the telephone receiver, a deep, throaty male voice posed a simple question:  “Have you checked the children?”

Anyone who recognizes that line is familiar with the horror movie When a Stranger Calls.  The premise is simple:  a young woman is babysitting.  Repeatedly, a strange man calls to ask if she’s checked the children.  Eventually, she twigs in that this guy might just spell trouble, so she contacts the police to report the caller.  “No problem, Miss,” the helpful lieutenant replies. “We’ll just trace the call and see where it’s coming from.”  You can guess what’s next, right? When the subsequent call arrives, it’s the frantic police officer, warning the young woman to hightail it out of there: “It’s YOUR telephone number!  The calls are coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!!” 

Egads.  I still get chills when I think of that scene.

I know that horror movies are immensely popular, but I must admit that I don’t exactly, um, cleave to the genre very much (which, I suppose, would more appropriately be “cleaver,” in this case, anyway).  I find nothing causes the blood to drain from my face and a gut-churning queasiness to overtake my innards quite so easily as the image of Jack Nicholson’s unctuous, demented grin poking through that ravaged pane in the door, drawling, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” .  Or how about the eerie, portentous silence that precedes the faceoff between Ripley and the alien in the original Alien?  (Let’s just say I’m hoping those nail marks I dug into the the HH’s forearm will fade eventually). 

I must confess, after seeing that last film, I finally swore off this type of movie for good. As a consequence, I have yet to see the original PsychoI’ve also forfeited a good excuse to sidle up to the HH on the couch as we watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and I will remain forever ignorant of other modern classics such as Hallowe’en, or Se7en, or Shaun of the Dead. I mean, seriously, are 90 minutes of spectacular, digitally-enhanced bloody geysers, headless torsos and disembodied entrails really worth 48 hours of elevated blood pressure?

Now, you may ask, just why am I rambling on about horror movies at this particular juncture? It’s not that I’m no longer traumatized by them, or that I’ve recently relented and watched one. No, nothing of the sort. The reason I’ve got horror movies on the brain is an innocuous Middle Eastern sweet pepper dip (if anything that’s brilliant red can be considered innocuous when discussed in the context of horror, that is). 

You see, when the CFO visited a few weeks back, we had a lovely dinner with my friend The Eternal Optimist and her beau.  The menu included all manner of delectable dishes as well as a fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc (oh, to sip on a little sauvignon blanc these days!  Damn you, ACD!).  As I mentioned in a previous post, we enjoyed quinoa and black bean bites, rice and almond balls from Laura Matthias’ ExtraVeganZa, the ubiquitous (in this house, anyway) Caesar salad from Veganomicon, Nutroast Extraordinaire, spiced sweet potato fries, and a gluten-free berries and cream tart for dessert. The third appetizer, at my sister’s suggestion, was muhammara.

While I’m a fan of many types of Middle Eastern dishes from baba ghanouj to hummus to halvah, I had never heard of muhammara (and yet, a Google search on the dip yields a multitude of entries–this stuff has been around for eons!).  Every time my sis uttered the word, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Vincent Price’s classic, villainous laugh, Baby Jane’s self-satisfied cackle as she serves up that dinner surprise, or even Count Floyd’s satiric rendition in Monster Chiller Horror Theater.

Here, try it yourself:  “Mmmmwoohhhaaaaahaaahaaa–marra!!”  Heh heh.

So you can see why, from that moment onward, the eternal pairing of muhammara and horror movies was born. 

Yesterday, as I was musing about what I can eat on this cleanse (actually, I muse about what I can eat most days, cleanse or no), I remembered the muhammara.  Could it be that following the ACD is beginning to feel like a horror movie?  Perhaps.  In any case, the dip’s ingredients are all fairly antagonistic to candida: it’s really just a puréed veggie spread made primarily of roasted red pepper, walnuts, garlic and olive oil. The only questionable items were the pomegranate syrup and bread; and I figured that if I made my own sugar-free syrup (without added sugar) and omitted the bread, this would loosely qualify for my new, “more flexible” form of the ACD.  The result, even without the bread, was still entirely appealing, and made a wonderful dinner with baby carrots and a rice casserole.   

This recipe, which I adapted from here, is so simple it almost qualifies as a “Flash in the Pan.”  However, since the peppers must first be roasted, peeled and seeded, and since it requires pomegranate syrup (essential, but not hard to make your own), I decided it was a bit too much work for that category.  On the other hand, it’s definitely not too much work to whip up in the afternoon as a pre-prandial appetizer if you’ve been dreaming of smooth, creamy, slightly sweet and slightly tangy flavors during the day.  It’s also perfect as a light meal before a night out (just be sure to choose your babysitter wisely).

And since the predominant ingredient in the muhammara is red peppers, I’m submitting this recipe to Sunshinemom at Tongue Ticklers, who’s hosting the “Food in Colors” event.  This month’s theme is “red” (as in, “blood.”  As in, “slasher movie.”  As in, “Have you checked the children. . . ?”)

Muhammara (adapted from Cooking with Amy)

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

This was a lovely, satisfying precursor to our dinner last night (a simple steamed veggie affair), that allowed me to indulge the need for something tasty without completely abandoning my ACD resolve. And with the hefty portion of walnuts included, it provides both a source of protein and heart-healthy Omega 3 fats.

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!  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.”]  

[Ooh, look at those widdy bits of black bean and sweet potato in there!  Who could resist?]

Even as I slog through my pile of assignments and tests, I’ve been sneaking in here to read everyone’s comments, with much gratitude.  Thanks so much for the “ooomph” I need to complete all this work, and your wonderful support!  You are THE BEST.

And since my willpower for staying away from the blog is about as good as my willpower for staying away from chocolate, here I am again–but only today, and then it’s back to the books.  Why am I popping in, you ask?

Well, since so many of you asked about these squares, it felt shameful to keep you waiting for a recipe that isn’t even mine!  Those Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Black Bean Bites that people are drooling over (and which I ate for breakfast the other day, heated up–divine!), are an easy-peasy adaptation of this recipe

I basically followed the recipe verbatim, though my version of breadcrumbs was a fresh piece of spelt sourdough bread ground up in the food processor (for gluten-free squares, use a piece of GF bread, or GF breadcrumbs).  I also used organic ketchup rather than tomato paste, fresh cilantro, and omitted the caraway seeds.  Other than that, I patted the mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 9 inch pan and let it bake until dry and firm on top.  Cooled it completely, then cut into little squares, which I placed gingerly on a baking sheet and re-heated until the outsides were a bit crispy.  Honestly, these are fantastic.

Now go enjoy some SPQandBB bites until I get back!

A bientôt,

xo Ricki :)

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