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breadpud4

A few of you asked for the Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe about which I posted yesterday. Since I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the pumpkin bread on its own, and I was most assuredly dissatisfied with the sweetened condensed milk (the base for the caramel sauce) on its own, I hadn’t intended to post the recipe.

But you know what they say about the sum of individual parts. . . despite the haphazard way the dish came together, it ended up being a winner, so I’ll try to reconstruct the recipe here.  It was a huge hit and would make a spectacular New Year’s Eve dessert served in wine or martini glasses.

[BIG caveat:  I didn’t take notes while making this, so you may have to play with proportions a bit, particularly with the caramel sauce. Results may vary.]

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (GF option)

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With pumpkin in both the bread and the “custard” in which it bakes, this pudding is definitely rich in pumpkin.  Lightly spiced, this moist bread pudding is highlighted with a rum-infused caramel sauce. 

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

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[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.  ]

 apricotspread1

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

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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).

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(c) Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

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.” 

 

 

 

[NB: A huge “THANK YOU” to all of you who sent good wishes my way yesterday. I really wasn’t intending to sound so “woe-is-me” (I do that quite enough around the diet issues, thank you), but just reflecting on how the day could elicit positive vibes for all concerned.  Your comments sure worked toward that end for me, though: big hugs to all of you! ]

In my mind, here’s the perfect way to wake up on a Sunday morning: 

Outside, the weather is balmy. A mild breeze whispers through the slightly opened window, curtains undulating softly with each invisible breath.  The sun makes its presence known through the diaphanous curtain as it tickles the pillows of our bed with little sparkles of laughing light. Elsie pads quietly over to my side of the bed and, as gently as a rose petal floating to the ground, taps my open palm with her soft, moist nose. I open my eyes slowly. Glancing toward the window, I stretch luxuriously and think, “Ahh, yes! Another lovely, sunny Sunday! This is a perfect time to have. . . BREAKFAST.” 

Unfortunately, the reality yesterday morning was more like this scenario:

It’s dark; the cold, clammy night air refuses to release its death grip on the house, barreling its way into the room through the open window.  Thin and defenseless, the curtains ripple and flap, rousing me with their wistful “flltt, flltt, fllllltttt” tapping an SOS against the pane.  Chaser thumps enthusiastically over to my side of the bed and, with a serviceable impersonation of an approaching foghorn, targets my exposed ear with her wet, cold nose. My eyes pop awake and dart toward the window: monochrome grey sky, raindrops still clinging to the glass. Outside, there’s a constant flutter of leaves pelted by rain.  I jerk upright, reach for the bedside lamp and lament, “Aaarrghh!  Another crappy, rainy, gloomy Sunday.” But wait; pause. My smile returns, and I reconsider: “Oh, well.  Typical Toronto day. But at least it’s time for–BREAKFAST!”

Like bright copper kettles and whiskers on kittens, breakfast does seem to make everything a little better, doesn’t it?

Well, as soon as I read about the second Recipe Remix blog event, hosted by Robin of Made with Love and Danielle of Make No Little Meals, I knew I had to enter. The event focuses on breakfast foods, asking bloggers to “remix” a traditional food in a new way.  Admittedly, the breakfast pickings were pretty slim (ah, if only I could say as much for my thighs): six dishes, five of which contained eggs, and all of which contained wheat–both no-no’s for this brekkie lover.  Initially, I narrowed the choice down to pancakes, crepes, or French toast. 

Now, as much as I love pancakes and crepes, I’d already dealt with both of those on this blog. Time for a new challenge.  But why, oh why did it have to be French toast?  I hate French toast.  Okay, maybe that’s being slightly dishonest.  The truth is, I TOTALLY, WHOLLY, ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY hate French toast. Can’t stand it. Never touch the stuff. Blech! French Toast is my mortal enemy! And I’m really not particularly fond of it, either.

I’m not sure why I developed this bone-chilling aversion to what is, arguably, a well-loved (and certainly popular) breakfast staple.  Perhaps it was my mother’s tendency to use approximately half a tub of margarine when frying the stuff, resulting in that previously unknown breakfast delicacy, Deep Fried Brick.  Despite the slices fairly floating in grease like aging Floridians at the pool, the toast inevitably still turned out slightly scorched on the outside.  At that point, my mom would stack the slabs on a plate (no blotting on a paper towel for her!) and douse them in corn syrup. The heavy, unctuous substance would spread, a slowly oozing blob that was eventually absorbed by the top slice, leaving it wet, weighted, and about as appetizing as a kitchen sponge just lifted from the bucket of grey, murky, muddy water. Ooh, yum. French toast, anyone?

I knew had to get over my childhood toast trauma.  I decided to approach it like an episode of Iron Chef: I’d been challenged to transform the lowly pain grillé into something mouth-watering, something delectable.  Was I up to the task?  Alas, I couldn’t think of anything.  I was at a loss; I was afraid I’d blow it.  In fact, I was certain I’d be. . . well, toast.

But this blog event was called Recipe REMIX, which meant I had carte blanche to change up the dish any way I wanted.  And who ever said that French Toast has to be fried?  In fact, it was the preparation method alone that rendered the stuff unpalatable to me; change the method, change the result.  Eliminating the frying would also result in a lighter, airier product.  I decided to bake the dish instead, after breaking the bread into smaller bits so they could soak up the liquid ingredients while nestled in a single soufflée dish: a French Toast casserole.

Working with a fairly standard (egg- and dairy-free, of course) mixture for soaking French toast, I added a few extra touches, such as a splash of berry liqueur or some mixed berries as a reminder of spring, a means to elicit that sunshine I missed so much in the morning.

As the mixture baked and browned, the bits of bread continued to soak up the batter, expanding and puffing like a male dove preening for a mate.  It rose up so much, in fact, with such a fluffy and almost mousse-like texture, that I decided to call it “French Toast Soufflé.” 

We ate it warm, bites of spongy, soft bread punctuated with bursts of juicy berries; but it could easily be served cold.  And while I didn’t have time to make any soy-free whipped cream yesterday, a dollop of cream would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of this fruity, light and delectable dish. 

Go on, indulge.  Why not have a big bowl for breakfast? It will make the rest of the day seem that much better.

 French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries

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

I think this is what someone like Nigella would call a “summer pudding,” though I’ve never had one of those.  It would be a fabulous dish for a springtime brunch buffet, or even as a dessert following a light summer meal. 

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

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[That’s our little Vanilla, in the middle]

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.”]  

So, I heard somewhere that it’s hockey season now.  Oh, don’t look so surprised: despite having been raised in Montreal (a hockey town if ever there was one), I am indifferent to the sticks-and-pucks revelry. Personally, I’d rather read about the latest face-off between, say, brownies and blondies than between the Habs and the Flyers.

In fact, I can’t say that I’m too interested in any team sports–or, come to think of it, any sports at all. Is it any wonder?  Perpetually the “anchor” in tug-of-war; too uncoordinated to hit a baseball with a screen door; lacking even the modicum of balance necessary for hockey (though I did go skating, once, when I was about 15, soley to impress a guy I had a crush on.  Oh, I made a lasting impression, all right–somewhere on the upper right thigh, just where my skate sliced through the flesh, if memory serves.)

This is not to imply that I don’t enjoy a good competition with myself every now and again, in a constant effort to improve on my own “personal best.” (And speaking of competitions, I’ve just gotta say it: time to wave goodbye to Jason Castro, don’t you think?). I’m forever asking questions like, “Can I increase my speed on the treadmill this week?”  “Can I accomplish a bicep curl with a 15-pound weight?”  “Can I use up every single veggie from our weekly organic box?” “Can I manage to sweep my kitchen floor every day three times a week monthly before the dust bunnies take up permanent residence on the living room couch?”–and so on.

(“You know, Mum, we’d be happy to chase those bunnies for you.  And while we’re on the subject, why are they allowed on the couch when we’re not?”)

As far as I’m concerned, a little healthy competition in the kitchen can only be a good thing. In order to improve a recipe-in-progress, I might tinker with it 10 or a dozen times to get it right, often in a single day (why, yes, it’s true: I don’t have anything better to do!). Is the muffin better with agave or maple syrup?–let’s bake a new batch and find out!  Should I use barley flour or oat in the apple bars?–only another round of baking will tell! Can the cashew cookies stand up to cardamom, or would ginger be better?–let’s test ‘em out and see!

This somewhat peculiar proclivity in the kitchen was the impetus behind a strange experiment last week, one I conducted after receiving my copy of Carole Walter’s James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, in the mail. As some of you may recall, my recipe for Maple-Walnut cookies won the book in a recent Cookthink Root Source Challenge for recipes based on maple syrup. (Hmm.  Yes, I suppose that made me “competitive,” though of course not in the athletic sense.)

As soon as I ripped open the package, I was charmed by the clean, clear layout, the stunning full-color photographs and the innovative, precisely written recipes (200 of them!). And even though it’s filled with traditional recipes with conventional ingredients (think eggs, milk, butter, etc.), the book focuses on homey, classic treats, which are fairly easily adaptable to NAG principles.

Virtually everything in the book appealed to me, from the Vanilla Bean Poundcake to the Irish Whiskey Cake to the Apricot and Dried Pineapple Muffins to the Fig and Walnut Loaf.  Lest you think the book is partial to goodies baked in pans, Walter also includes recipes for cookies, bars, biscuits, strudel, danish, buns and braids–plus many more treats shaped by hand.

My gaze lit upon a recipe called “Favorite Vanilla Muffins.” Vanilla muffins?  Sure, I’d sampled many a vanilla cake in my time, but never a vanilla muffin. With its denser, moister texture, might a muffin be a better foundation to showcase the fragrant, floral tones of pure vanilla extract? A competition was in order!

I thought about the differences between the two.  Like the Olson twins (though of course, in this case, actually connected to food), muffins and cupcakes are the same, but different.  Both are single-serving renditions of a larger baked good (loaf or cake); both sport domed tops, flat bottoms and angled sides often encased in frilly paper liners. To muddy the batters even further, both may (but are not required to) contain chopped fruits, nuts, or chocolate.

A few Googled pages later, I discovered that the cupcake versus muffin debate was already in full swing among bloggers and other writers (two good sources are recipezaar’s concise take on the issue, and the more detailed viewpoint on Curious Foodie’s blog).

How, I wondered, would that Favorite Vanilla Muffin stand up against its cakey counterpart? I decided to bake one of each (both using my adaptations of Walter’s recipes) and compare the results. Granted, my creations (no matter how delectable) would never be exactly as Walter intended; but I was okay with that. I chose a Classic Sour Cream Cinnamon and Nut Coffee Cake (without the cinnamon/nut filling) for my cupcake, mostly because, like the muffin recipe, it called for sour cream (and I needed to use up the tofu-based batch I’d be concocting). That would leave me with one vanilla; two vanilla (any more than that and we’d have the unfortunate Milli Vanilla).

[Coffeecake cupcake–with its intended filling. Get a load of that cinnamon-pecan swirl!]

Which won the competition? As expected, the muffins were heavier and denser. In fact, apart from the shape, they were a different animal entirely. For some reason, in these particular muffins, the vanilla essence proclaimed its presence assertively, even before you bit into the soft, moist interior; the sweet, floral aroma fairly radiates. And even though I knew my “sour cream” was soy-based, there was an incredible richness to these muffins that rendered them filling and satisfying; no need for fruit or fillers.

The cupcakes, for their part, were equally delectable.  Undisputably more delicate with a tender crumb, the cakes were lighter both in texture and color. The vanilla essence here was definitely noticeable as well, though in a more understated fashion.  Like pitting Ella against Diana singing Cole Porter classics: each transformed the outcome into something unique and exceptional, though clearly hailing from the same original concept.

So, in the end, it was a tie.  Two winners–two delicious baked goods to eat.  Everybody wins!

Since the recipes highlight vanilla, I thought this would be a perfect entry for the Master Baker Challenge, hosted by Master Baker.

Vanilla Muffins and Cinnamon-Pecan Cupcakes (inspired by recipes in Carole Walter’s Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More)

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

 [Left to Right: Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcake; Vanilla Muffin; Vanilla Muffin with Cashew-Cardamom variation]

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

For the Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcakes:

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

Polish Lemon Cake*

May 2, 2008

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*Okay, so it’s not really Polish.  But the topping reminded me of a German Chocolate Cake topping, and since (half) my ancestry is Polish, I thought I’d just use the same concept for this cake’s name. 

 

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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.”]  

Did you hear the one about the (half) Polish woman who wanted to bake a cake? 

Just kidding.

All right now! ‘Nuff of those wacky raw dishes we’ve been seeing the last couple of days!! Time for some CAKE.

One of the greatest challenges of living in a long-term, committed relationship is dealing with those areas in which you and your partner don’t necessarily mesh.  In order to coexist harmoniously and still retain one’s sanity, it’s sometimes necessary to make accommodations.  (Okay, fine; not only “sometimes,” but pretty much every day.  Okay, fine; several times a day.).

Since this union is the second go-round for both the HH and me, we no longer bristle at the petty, quotidien issues that drive some newlyweds crazy (does the toilet paper roll from the top or the bottom?  Do you re-fold the newspaper in its original configuration after reading, or leave it in separate, blowzy sections once you’re done with it? Is it okay to exchange sotto voce commentary while watching Atonement in the movie theater, or not?). Nevertheless, we do make our own concessions.  The HH prefers to play music ultra loud (beyond 11, even), whereas I prefer it as a soothing backdrop to other activities.  He takes a laissez-faire attitude toward housework and disciplining The Girls; I prefer a schedule, and rules. (“And we definitely prefer Dad’s approach. . . sorry, Mum.”)

One major difference that forces the issue pretty much daily is our respective dietary habits:  as I may have mentioned (perhaps, on occasion, in passing?) the HH loves to eat meat; I do not.

So when it comes to food, we’ve both learned to adapt. Over the past 11 years, the HH has eaten more tofu, collards, rice noodles and quinoa than he ever knew existed in the world. He’s also sacrificed some of his own cherished favorites, as when I had to cut out all alcohol (plus sugar, and fermented products, and fruits. . . don’t ask) from my diet for 2 years. He cheerfully complied and went without at home, with not a peep of protest.

So, as I browsed through my bookmarked recipes this week for something to bake, I was pleased to land on a recipe for Lemon-Coconut Bundt Cake from Deb’s great blog, Altered Plates. The HH adores coconut (whereas I’m fairly indifferent to it); coconut cream pie tops his list, but he’ll embrace cookies, muffins, bars, or any other coconut confections as well. I thought this would be the perfect cake to show my appreciation for his tolerating my (fairly) unconventional dietary habits over the years.

When I discovered that the Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe originated with Veganomicon, I wasn’t at all surprised. Seems you can’t read any food blog–vegan or not–these days without stumbling on a reference to that revered tome. I’ve tried many recipes from my own copy of the book, but none of the baked goods. In general,  Moskowitz and Romero (I like using their surnames–it’s actually the correct format when referencing other authors; and besides, it makes them sound like a comedy duo that way: “Romero & Moskowitz’s Laugh-In,” or maybe a law firm: “Moskowitz and Romero, LLP” ) often make use of baking ingredients far removed from my own kitchen cabinets:  white sugar, wheat flour, margarine, and the like. And while it’s not difficult to adapt those kinds of recipes to my own requirements, I already had plenty of other recipes lined up. 

I was definitely drawn to the concept of lemon and coconut coexisting in harmony (sort of like the HH and me!). But an entire Bundt cake seemed massive (I mean, how many extra baked goods can one bring to the office?). I decided to halve the recipe and bake it in a round cake pan.

In addition, M & R recommend serving the cake unfrosted.  Now, maybe a naked Bundt (like the Venus de Milo or Miley Cyrus’s shoulder) is sufficiently alluring on its own; but an unadorned, plain-Jane round layer, sans frosting or filling? Well, that just wouldn’t do.  Instead, I omitted the coconut from the cake itself, then added it to a a lemony, gooey topping, reminiscent of the frosting on a German Chocolate Cake, for a little more flair.

I’m happy to report that the HH was very pleased with the final result.  The cake itself revealed a cheery yellow, moist and light interior; the slightly more brash lemony topping, lush and loaded with coconut, provided a great contrast in texture and sweetness.  In fact, the HH seemed so pleased with his treat that I felt perfectly justified asking him to turn down that deafening volume on the stereo.

Since I was inspired by Deb’s adapted version, I’m submitting this entry to Ruth’s weekly Bookmarked Recipes event, over at Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments.

Polish Lemon Cake (adapted from Veganomicon)

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

This cake is very moist with a gooey, rich and intensely lemon topping.  Perfect for a dessert or an afternoon snack, it keeps well in the fridge (and is even better the second day). 

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

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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 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 second entry, I’m focusing on Quinoa. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on quinoa.]

The moment I decided to present a Lucky Comestible series about quinoa, I simultaneously decided I’d have to include at least one baked goodie.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Now, Ricki, haven’t you already included a recipe for said baked goodie?  After all, you did post about Almond-Quinoa Muffins before the involuntary GBR, didn’t you?” 

Why, yes! Yes, I did. However, technically speaking, muffins are a “baked good,” not a “baked goodie“–the latter term reserved for dessert-type treats, such as cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, or bars.  I wanted to see if I couldn’t turn quinoa into something at least quasi cake-like, despite its elevated whole grain status–something worthy of the term, “dessert”–something that even skeptics like Johanna or Wendy (who mentioned on Johanna’s blog that quinoa reminds her of worms!) could enjoy. 

So, even though personally, my favorite use of quinoa is as a base for salad (where its true essence can shine through), I let my mind wander back toward baking.  And while so doing, I remembered that, in actuality, quinoa is not really a grain–it’s a seed related to beets and leafy greens such as spinach or chard.  Well, okay, I’ve already used spinach in a previous baked goodie, so that didn’t deter me at all.  And even if my quinoa creation didn’t turn out as decadent as a molten chocolate cake, I figured I could still whip up something with both a great nutritional profile AND a sweetness rating high enough to please the kids as an after-school snack, or to serve unexpected guests, with a steaming cup of green tea.  (“And don’t forget, it’s also good enough as a special treat for your sweet and devoted Girls, Mum! We LOVE apple-quinoa cake. . .”)

Since we already had a bag of Macintosh apples withering away on the counter, I started there.  I imagined that a lightly spiced batter would work well with the sturdy taste of quinoa, which can sometimes be a bit domineering in a crowd. For some reason (perhaps because quinoa itself is gluten-free), I decided the bars should also be celiac-friendly. 

What I ended up with was a light and moist cake, studded with raisins and sunflower seeds alongside thin shreds of apple and grains of quinoa.  The cake is slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, with a tender crumb and pleasing spice.  And because it’s fashioned from leftovers of both quinoa and apple, I thought it would be a perfect submission to the Leftover Tuesdays event, hosted by Project Foodie

Mum, you disappoint us.  Raisins?  You know we can’t eat raisins.  But maybe you could pick them out for us. . . “

 Apple-Quinoa Cake

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

Next time you cook up some quinoa and find yourself with leftovers, try this great snack cake. Without being excessively sweet and boasting sunflower seeds, two fruits and two whole grains, the cake is nutritious enough to eat for breakfast, though still light enough for dessert.  The subtle apple and trio of spices is a tantalizing combination–you may have to stop yourself from having more than one piece!

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

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Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with the antipodes.  Well, come to think of it, that would be a one-sided love affair, since I’ve never actually been there. But hey, that’s okay.  I’m accustomed to those; my entire adolescence was flush with unrequited love.

I’ve dreamt of visiting the Land Down Under since I was about 13.  When the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks finally made their way across the Atlantic, I was first in line to buy them (favorites include Biscuits and Slices, Vegetarian, and Chocolate titles).  I’ve read The Thorn Birds and Oscar and Lucinda; I dutifully watched the Crocodile Dundee movie and delighted over Babe; I was a devoted fan of the Dame Edna show and ran out to buy the first Crowded House CD to hit our airwaves (though I never became a fan of Kylie Minogue). I adore the whole lot of Australian thespians: Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, and of course Nicole Kidman (I mean, how could you not?  She’s just so NOT Julia Roberts). 

Age and years didn’t dampen my ardor, either. While studying for my PhD, I had a searing crush on a fellow student, Charlie Ferrall (I know! Can you believe his name is a homophone for “feral”??), whose Australian accent, the same one my friend Sterlin and I tried to imitate and had decided was the most incredibly sexy sound on earth, was his natural way of speaking. (Hey, Charlie, if you’re reading, G’day! How ya doin’, mate? Ever get that dissertation finished?). 

anzactower3.jpg Then, several years ago, I managed to arrange a teaching exchange with a college professor in Melbourne.  Yippee–an entire year of Living the Dream! The arrangement had us trading jobs while still technically employed by our “home institutions”–perfect for me, considering that the Canadian dollar was worth more than the Australian dollar at the time. We got as far as the final stages of the exchange–down to specific dates, meeting places, and a steamer trunk purchase–before the other woman backed out at the last moment. 

“I’m so sorry to do this to you at such a late date,” she wrote in an email.  “But we looked into the rentals in Toronto, and simply can’t afford to live there.”  Apparently, Toronto has recently been dubbed “the New York of Canada,” and astronomical rents may be one reason why. In fact, if I remember correctly, that Australian teacher ended up in Manhattan.

In the end, all I had to cling to were my memories of my (one-sided) intercontinental romance, a bad imitation of an Australian accent, and yet another CD to sell on eBay. 

Well, I had been disappointed in love before, so I decided to stop whinging about it and just get on with it–no worries!  And since I’ve entered the blogging universe, I’ve come across several fabulous Australian-authored blogs, many of which have become bookmarked favorites, so I can at least pursue a vicarious existence across the Pacific.  If I couldn’t actually live there, I could cook as if I did.  After all, this Sheila can still bake, right? And that made me one happy little Vegemite (though I probably still wouldn’t eat the stuff; sorry).

I’d read about Anzac cookies several times over the years, and always wanted to give them a try.  A quick search on the internet turned up some interesting information. Apparently, the original cookies, baked for soldiers abroad during World War One, were created so that something nourishing (they contain whole oats) could be sent to the troops in Gallipoli without spoiling before they got there.  In order to accomplish that lofty goal, the biscuits had to be able to withstand a two month-long boat ride without refrigeration. The resulting biscuits were very dry, not very sweet, and baked within an inch of a career as Tony Soprano’s favorite footwear.   

Modern Anzac biscuits, I’ve discovered, have a bit more sugar in them than the traditional kind, but are still crispy biscuits made with only a few basic ingredients.  Every recipe I’ve seen calls for boiling water mixed with baking soda, which is then poured into the cooked sweeteners.  All the cookies contain flour, oats, and coconut, but no eggs (or salt or vanilla), so they’re naturally suited to vegans, too.  My HH adores coconut, so it was a fair bet he’d like them. 

I decided to play with the traditional recipe somewhat and add the missing salt and vanilla.  I also used a combination of brown rice syrup (to duplicate the golden syrup of the original) and Sucanat for a little more sweetness.  And, of course, I baked them a little less than the traditional kind, as I am fond of my teeth and would like to keep them. The result was a spiffy little biscuit–and that’s no skite.

Well, enough yabbering.  Time for the recipe.  You reckon?

(“Mum, you know we love you and everything, but sometimes, you can be such a whacker.”)

Anzac Biscuits (original recipe from Kitchen Classics’ Sweet and Savoury Bites, edited by Jane Price )

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

anzacs1a.jpg

[Note:  mine really did turn out pretty yellow, though not quite as Day-Glo as in this photo.  I think it had something to do with the combination of brown rice syrup and being north of the equator.]

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

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