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alookale2

[Potato-Kale Curry]

First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year.  I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life.  But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers.  Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!

The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.”  We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009.  The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle  that’s printed in The Globe and Mail.  I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).

And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.

 Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.”  In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years.  I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months:  take a course in html; one year: design own web page). 

Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.

I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust.  Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).

Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once.  As the famous Harvard study  demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true.  For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action.  I will share the easiest goal on my list, though:  remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly.  That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!

Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time.  Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us. 

peascreamysauce2

[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]

I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges.  At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.

Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants.  Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well!  And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless.  Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets.  These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).

It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I  bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work.  In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years.  Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.

Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner.  The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.

lentildal1

[Three-Lentil Dal]

Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice.  While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.

Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year. 

One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan:  Cook Indian more often.

Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce

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

peascreamysauce1

Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries.  The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From  an unidentified cookbook–sorry!

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

Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)

adapted from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends

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

*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie  (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.

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.

chiliside

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

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

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

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

chilitop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chili to Last Through the Winter

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

chilitop2

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

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

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