Mint Smoothie

June 3, 2008

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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.” 

The home I grew up in could very well have been the original inspiration for the mantra, “Reuse, Repair, Recycle.” My dad, the quintessential progeny of The Great Depression, still saves everything from empty jam jars, to twine from UPS boxes, to old socks, to almost-moldy tomatoes, and puts them to use again in some other context (pre-Nalgene vessel to transport iced tea on a road trip; means to repair broken screen door latch; protection for hands while emptying garbage; and lunch, respectively). Seems I’ve earned my title as Femme Frugal honestly.

Besides, I’ve always considered myself pretty eco-friendly, being the bag-saver, container-reuser, water-conserver and late-night clothes washer that I am.  With all the talk of eco-consciousness, carbon footprints, 3 R’s and whatnot these days, I fully expected I’d eventually go “green”; I just never imagined it would be quite in this way. 

You see, our lives have been overtaken by green. Each time I glance out the window at the side of my house, leave via the front door, or stroll round toward the back yard, I’m confronted with GREEN. Mint green, that is. Yes, the DDD household has been invaded by rogue gangs of wandering mint, all vying for supremacy in the ‘hood.

Mint abounds. . . .Mint surrounds. Mint embraces us with its color and scent, tickles us as we tiptoe through the grass, envelops us at every turn.  We are circumscribed by mint.  Yes, dear readers, you were all so right (or, as the HH often translates it from the French, “You have reason”) about that gypsy mint! My days are now lived from within an undulating, leafy, lush sea of green.  Inhaling the verdant aroma from the garden, my mind reels with a heady intoxication (almost as intoxicated, I imagine, as Obama’s fans were last evening after that rousing, pre-victory speech).

Oh, and you know what else?  We’ve got no shortage of mint around here.

So, what to do when you’re inundated with a tasty but not overly utilized herb?  You improvise, that’s what.

Sunday morning, with the weather finally warming up, I thought I’d prepare a refreshing, cooling and nourishing drink for the HH, who was still fairly wilting from the effects of his cold (and, come to think of it, a looking a little green himself).  Fresh fruit is a great option for anyone suffering from weakened immunity, as it digests fairly easily and quickly, without taxing the system too much.  I had just the idea.

Around here, our freezer tends to house a variety of frozen fruits at any given time.  As I’ve mentioned before, even though we choose the smallest organic produce box for delivery each week, often there’s still too much fruit for two of us to consume in a mere seven days.  As a result, I end up chopping and then freezing chunks of overripe mango, pear, banana, grapes, or even (as I did a couple of weeks ago), watermelon for later use.  These frozen cubes generally work beautifully in smoothies or when I want to whip up some nearly-instant sorbet.  Sunday, I opted for a smoothie.

I had been thinking about Mojitos ever since Russ mentioned them in a comment last week, but since I have no interest in drinking alone (I know–how un-writerly of me), and since the HH wasn’t up for alcohol (unless I was going to rub it into his congested chest), I took the general concept of citrus + mint and ran with it.  Rummaging through the various containers of frozen fruit, I uncovered both pear and watermelon, which I imagined would offer a refreshing sweetness without an overpowering flavor (as banana, for instance, might).

Don’t let the intense grassy color deter you–the taste is just right, not too sweet, with a lovely minty flair. It’s refreshing and fairly light, so if you’re thinking “breakfast,” this is the type of smoothie that works as a beverage alongside  your main meal rather than as a beverage instead of your main meal. It would also make a lovely postprandial sip (and maybe even better with a splash of rum–I’ll have to save that version for when the HH is feeling better). 

And, of course, with all this mint (plus the other great fresh fruits) that it contains, how could I not submit this to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Maninas at Food Matters?

Mint Smoothie

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

 

This is a cooling, refreshing drink that would be great for a hot summer’s evening, or served in a big bowl at a Bar B Q.  (And iwhat a fun challenge to convince your friends to drink something this green!)

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.” 

 

Thanks, everyone, for all your wonderfully supportive and encouraging comments about the osteopenia diagnosis.  I’ve been boning up on the topic (sorry-ouch) and have some great recipe ideas to share in the next while (and even one today).  I’ll also get to my responses asap. . . sorry I’ve fallen behind a bit!

Last week, out of nowhere, I made a monumental resolution.  Flushed with excitement, I rushed home from work and announced to the HH, “I have a great idea. I think we should be more spontaneous from now on.”

He appeared flummoxed (this happens all too often when I make my pronouncements, it seems). “Okay, so now we’re making plans to be spontaneous?” 

Hmmn.  I SO hate it when he’s right.

“Well, how about this, smarty pants?” I countered. “I went grocery shopping today and I spontaneously bought these overripe tomatoes on sale, even though I had no specific plans to cook anything with them.”  Touché!

“Oh, well, then, that settles it,” he capitulated.  “You’ve convinced me. Okay, let’s go to Paris for dinner!’ 

Foiled again. But did he have to look so darned smug about it?

Well, this past weekend, I am proud to say, I did manage some spontaneous fun.  My friend Eternal Optimist rang me late Friday afternoon with an invitation for the HH and me to attend a show at the local Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club–to which she just happened to have free passes! 

Well, without a second’s hesitation, I told her, “Um, I’ll just have to call and check with the HH to be sure he hasn’t booked anything else. Oh, and then I’ll have to walk The Girls. Oh, and feed them. Oh, yeah, and after that, I’ll just finish cooking tonight’s dinner before I wrap up a few things for work–but hey, if I can manage to get all that done before the show tonight, then heck, YEAH! I’M THERE!” Whoo-hoo!  I love this unfussy, impromptu, last-minute socializing!

Okay, I’ll concede that I may not be the most spontaneous person in the world–but with good reason.  In the faraway days of (non-alcoholic) wine and roses–in other words, high school–my best friend Sterlin was sleeping over at my house one late-October weekend when my parents were out of town.  As we sat, eyes transfixed on the TV (I think Dallas was on), our friends Gary and Jackie dropped in unexpectedly (how spontaneous of them!).  They invited us out to the local Dunkin Donuts.  It was late; we were tired; but then, they made us an offer we absolutely could not refuse:

“Okay,” Jackie challenged, “If you two come out right now as you are, the donuts and coffee are our treat. ”  Had we heard correctly? TREAT? No matter that our garb at the moment was our flannel nighties; no matter that it was 11:15 PM; FREE donuts?  FREE coffee?  We flung a blanket round our shoulders and hopped in the car!

Once there, of course, the rules changed (these were, after all, seventeen year-old boys.)  “Okay, we’ll still treat you,” Gary announced, “but you have to go in there without us and buy the donuts.” In our nighties. With a blanket wrapped around us. Would we possibly be that gullible?  Well, we were, after all, seventeen year-old girls.

I’m sure you’ve guessed the end of the story.  The second we exited the car–scree-eech!–they were off like–well, like two seventeen year-old boys in their father’s car.  And we were left abandoned, streetlights trained on us like the spotlight at a prison lineup, at 11:30 at night, in the middle of Dunkin Donuts’ parking lot, wearing flannel nighties and a blankie.

So you see why I’m perhaps a bit spontaneity-shy these days. 

Despite my adolescent trauma, I did end up joining the EO on Friday–solo, as it turned out, since the HH was felled by a major cold and didn’t feel up to it.  It was actually a most enjoyable evening: the show was hilarious and I really appreciated being able to share some long overdue “Gal Time” with my buddy.

This morning, browsing through my Google Reader subscriptions, I came across this mention of Dreena Burton’s Carob Pancakes on Trust My Intuition’s blog.  The description of these was so enticing that I decided–entirely extemporaneously!–to whip up a batch of my own devising. I vaguely remembered learning in nutrition school that carob is (surprisingly) high in calcium; so, with my newfound attraction to all things spine-supporting, I threw together a combination that was both appealing and brimming with bone building nutrients. 

The resulting pancakes were extraordinarily light and fluffy, with a cakelike texture (versus the sometimes damp, heavy griddle cakes you’re served in restaurants).  Carob on its own is slightly sweet, so you may not feel the need for maple syrup on these; in fact, we had ours with syrup, and I could easily have omitted it (if you spread with almond butter instead, you’d be adding even MORE calcium!).  The carob flavor is subtle and melds beautifully with the soft pockets of sticky, luscious date.  (and don’t worry–even if your dates are stiff to begin with, the cooking process will soften them). For nutritional info, see my calculations after the recipe instructions.

I adored these pancakes.  Made with carob, they were even safe for The Girls to taste a bite or two. (“We loved those pancakes, Mum! Let’s have pancakes every day!”) Unfortunately, the poor HH couldn’t really taste these at all, since his congested sinuses have dampened his sense of smell. (“Sorry Dad’s sick–but since he didn’t like them, can we eat his, then?”) 

I may not be having dinner in Paris any time soon, but here in Toronto, these made one very delicious–and spontaneous–breakfast. One that would beat Dunkin Donuts, any day.

Carob and Date Pancakes

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

Feel free to change the fruits in these cakes if you prefer something else.  Next time, I’ll likely make these with chopped prunes, as I’ve been told they’re also good for improving bone health (thanks, Andrea!)  P.S. When I said these are light and fluffy, I meant it–that’s only 3 pancakes in the photo, above!

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

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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.”

* * *

 [Yep, another raw bar. . . and so soon!  But there's a good reason. . . ]

Well, it’s finally happened:  after years of needless anxiety before every annual medical check-up (only to be told each time that nothing’s wrong). . . this time, something was wrong.  And I must admit, I’m shocked.

When I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, she sent me off for all the standard tests appropriate for “someone my age.”  Then yesterday at the call-back appointment, I was informed that I have osteopenia.  Sounds scary initially: osteopenia is the (potential) precursor to osteoporosis, as the word means “thinning of the bones.”  Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and is a greater danger. 

Even as she was speaking, questions caromed around in my mind:  What, exactly, does this mean?  Doesn’t everyone experience thinning of the bones as they age?  How serious is my situation?–etc. Apparently, the test, called DEXA (“Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption”) works by measuring the density of my bones and comparing it against the bones of an imaginary 25 year-old woman (the “gold standard,” as my doctor says.  But hey, shouldn’t that be the “greyish-white” standard?).  Statistically, my bones were a 1.3 per cent standard deviation from that (no idea what that means).  A 2.5 per cent deviation equals “osteoporosis.”  When I asked how I compare to other women my age, she noted that I was still a bit below average.  

Now, I simply cannot express how much this news ticks me off! I mean, isn’t being fat good for anything these days?? One of the health issues I never (I mean, never) considered as a possibility was osteoporosis; you see, being overweight is actually a preventative in that area (bones rebuild and strengthen in accordance with “weight-bearing exercise,” and I have definitely been bearing excess weight the past few years.). I do, however, have some of the other risk factors (such as being female).

Well, I’m trying not to get overly stressed about this (stress, as it turns out, is one of the factors that contributes to bone loss. Bien sûr).  Even my doctor noted that, should nothing change over the next few years, she wouldn’t give it another thought; it would only be considered a problem if I keep losing bone density.

This shocking diagnosis got me moving (in the sense of “getting hyped up,” though of course also in the sense of “walking more”–gotta increase that exercise now!).  I pulled out a bunch of my old texts from nutrition school and started reading.  Seems that the absolute amount of calcium and other essential bone-building nutrients is irrelevant, if you’re not digesting them properly.  Bad digestion=malabsorption=too few minerals in the bloodstream (at which point your opportunistic bloodstream leaches them out of your bones, teeth, and whatever else it can find–the nerve!). In other words, you can consume calcium out the yin-yang, but if your body isn’t absorbing it properly, you may as well be eating matchsticks (actually, no, don’t do that–too much sulfur isn’t good, either).

A highly acidic diet (as in, “those heinous, calcium-siphoning, bone-sucking junk foods and chocolate bars that have wooed me too many times in the past”) will also cause you to lose minerals from the bone (chocolate is a particular culprit, apparently, as it contains both caffeine AND refined sugar–both mineral-leachers).  And believe it or not, meats and most dairy products are equally bad, as they are also highly acidic (too bad I grew up in a household where we ate meat every day, usually more than once).  Oh, and let’s not forget that surreptitious bone-stealer: stress.  So, in a contest to see who possesses the most negative traits contributing to malabsorption–well, all I can say is, “Yay!  I finally won a contest!”

So now I have a real reason to eat better and exercise more:  unlike my Stone-Age ancestors, I am partial to walking upright, and would prefer to retain that ability. 

For those of you who are interested, you can prevent (and some even say reverse) osteopenia with the proper diet.  This includes ingesting sufficient calcium, of course (think green leafys, almonds, legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses and, if you’re so inclined, sardines, salmon and yogurt); sufficient Vitamin D (at least 10 minutes of sunshine per day, or 1000 IU in supplement form); lots of magnesium (green leafys and beans/legumes again), and a complement of other vitamins and minerals, such as B’s, K, and boron, in smaller quantities.  Basically, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Because it’s been a while since I practised nutrition directly, I’ll be heading for a trip to my naturopath next week to see what she has to say.  And this will mean a bunch of new, ultra-healthy recipes on the blog!

All this got me thinking about Susan at Food Blogga’s Beautiful Bones” event in honor of National Osteoporosis Month. I’d actually been planning to submit this very entry to Susan.  Now, however, I’m also motivated to go make another batch, just for me. (Oh, and Susan also offers a list of calcium-rich foods on her event page.)

I came up with this recipe when I first started teaching cooking classes a few years ago. Each of the classes was assigned a theme, such as “Glorious Greens,” “Tricks with Tofu” (foods, not making it disappear), or “Great and Gluten-Free.”  One class, called “Bone Builders” (which now sounds to me more like an architectural firm on The Flintstones), was the impetus for these bars.  They were a great hit with the cooking classes, and later, a popular seller at the organic market where I sold baked goods for a few years. And since they were designed specifically to improve bone health, these treats seem the perfect contribution to Susan’s event.  

In the past few years, I’ve discovered that these are terrific as a mid-day energy booster, a great portable lunch on the go, or a substitute for trail mix.  You can keep a wrapped bar in your drawer at work for an emergency nibble, or bring it along during a walk through the woods.  Once made and wrapped, the bars will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge (they have honestly never lasted that long over here). With a texture like that of a protein bar you’d buy at the store, these are much more flavorful, with tart lemon peel, dried cherries accented by sweet dried fig, and the crackly, popping crunch of fig seeds alongside ground almonds.  They’re very filling and a fabulous bar to have on hand. 

When I first created these, I ran a quick nutritional analysis to ensure that they’d provide a meaningful boost of calcium.  Courtesy of almonds (the nut with highest calcium levels), dried figs (the fruit with highest calcium levels), tahini (made from sesame seeds–yep, the seed with highest calcium levels) and sour cherries (no slouch in the calcium department), these bars are a powerhouse of bone-building minerals. The stats confirmed my expectation: each bar offers 140 mg. of calcium per bar (about 1/10 of the daily requriement) along with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber (bonus!).  I’m not sure how much deviation that represents from the statistical norm, but no matter–they’re delicious all the same.

Raw Fig and Cherry Bars

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

These are deliciously chewy and not too sweet.  If you can find organic UNsweetened dried cherries (the kind that are very tart), they are really the best choice.  If you can’t find them, you may wish to reduce, or even omit, the agave nectar.

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

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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.” 

In the past, I’ve always thought of radishes as kind of a poor cousin to beets: smaller and more anemic, they obviously missed out on the family jewels.  Without well-heeled connections or an established vocation, they’re much like the street punk with the pugilistic attitude, slamming your jaw with a peppery punch every time you dare take a bite.

And besides, radishes seem to me more or less a one-hit wonder:  like the obnoxious neighbour (you know the guy: loud, grating voice; beer belly) who always gets drunk at the annual Bar B Q and tells the same joke every year, radishes were used for one thing and one thing only: salad.  And they were always raw.  And they were always sliced.  Not horrible, but not exactly inspiring, either.  Sort of like Julia Roberts: no matter what the context, no matter what else surrounds them, no matter what time of year, they’re always pretty much exactly themselves.  Even when carved into one of those fancy garnish “roses”–a radish is a radish is a radish.

Well, last week, I intended to change all that. 

I’ve been hanging on to this recipe, originally from the LCBO’s  Food and Drink Magazine from early 2004 (LCBO is “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”–that’s right, the government is the sole purveyor of alcohol in our time-warped province), since I first saw it. I’d kept it all this time simply because I loved the photo in the magazine so much (have you ever seen the production values of that mag?  No wonder the Ontario government is short on cash).  Well, I can thank my blogging habit once again for prompting me to finally make the dish and take my own shot of the colorful mix.

It must have been some weird synergy in the not-quite-summer air, but in the interim since I made this salad, I’ve noticed two other bloggers with radish recipes as well: Lisa just whipped up some fabulous looking Potato and Radish Salad, and Karen actually roasted the little roots, something I’ve never thought to do (she swears they’re pretty darned good that way).

This salad was deceptively simple–only seven ingredients–but it was the particular combination that sounded so enticing.  Radishes, sliced paper-thin (unfortunatelly, not in my case–must get that mandoline!), embraced by thick, juicy wedges of grapefruit; with thin rounds of young green onion and glossy olives tinted like black plums scattered throughout. Like a little dinner party with your most eclectic group of friends, all in one place!

It came together in no time at all, and didn’t disappoint.  The result was unusual, yes, but oddly pleasing: tart, salty, peppery, juicy–the perfect side to a light summer dinner of lentil patties (more on those anon).

Based on this salad, I’d say the lowly radish has finally broken free from the previously predictable, nondescript dishes it’s graced in the past.  I actually enjoyed experiencing the radish in a starring role in this dish.

Now, if only I could say the same for Ms. Roberts.

Radish and Grapefruit Salad

from Food and Drink, Spring 2004

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

Crisp and light, this will remind you of summer, even though it can be prepared any time of year.  The singular mix of flavors and textures creates a uniquely appealing salad. The original instructions advise: “Do not add the dressing until just before serving or else the salad will give off too much liquid.”

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! 

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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.”]  

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  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.”

cranberryjamtop1.jpg 

One of the advantages of having a little baking business as a sideline is that you can buy some ingredients in bulk, and save a little on the price of more expensive items (such as nuts or dried fruits) by purchasing them in 2-kilo or 5-kilo bags.

At the same time, one of the disadvantages of having a little baking business is that you end up with 1.8 kilos or 4.9 kilos of leftover bulk items, such as nuts or dried fruits, when no one happens to order baked goods that contain those ingredients, and they’re left languishing in huge plastic bins in your basement, and you sometimes have to throw them away, and they end up costing you more than if you’d just bought the regular size at the retail store (and your distress over that fact causes you to write really long sentences).

A few weeks ago, I noticed some dried cranberries that, clearly, had had better days.  They were perfectly servicable if scattered in muffins or cookies (they are, after all, already preserved by dehyrdation); but they were just a little too crisp on the edges for my taste, sporting that whitish, frosty patina that figs, dates, or other highly sweetened dried fruits seem to acquire when they’ve been sitting too long.  Worse, their rimed exterior reminded me too much of winter (the agony is still too close), so I knew I’d have to find another use for them–STAT.

“Hey!” I remarked to the HH, “I could make cranberry jam out of these!”

He stood and stared at me for a second, clearly flummoxed. “Um, wouldn’t that be just the same as cranberry sauce?” he asked.  Hmm.  The guy had a point.  And while I do enjoy an occasional daub of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, I don’t really care for it very much any other time of year. 

But the idea of cranberry jam did appeal to me. With sweet-tart berries and the right cooking method, I knew I could end up with something akin to raspberry or blueberry preserves, perfect for spreading, baking, or little gift jars.  

Since the cranberries were already sweetened (pretty much all dried cranberries are), I didn’t need to add anything more.  I simply popped the contents of my bin (about 2 cups) into a pot, covered with fresh orange juice, and brought to a simmer.  Then I let the mixture bubble, stirring every so often, until the cranberries had broken down and almost dissolved into a soft, gleaming crimson, spreadable preserve. 

One that bears absolutely no similarity to cranberry sauce, I might add.

The spread is perfect on muffins, scones, or even Quinoa-Oatmeal Croquettes for breakfast.  You could also mix this with a little spicy chili sauce for a great dipping sauce (try it with squares of Nut Roast–fantastic!).

Oh, and since it did, in the end, resemble that jam I was seeking, I’m submitting this to the Putting Up event, hosted by Pixie of You Say Tomato, and Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake.

Cranberry Preserves

cranberryjamside.jpg

Quick. Easy. Two Ingredients.  Need I say more?

dried cranberries, at least one cup (but more if you like)

orange juice, enough to cover the cranberries in a pot

Place cranberries in a pot and cover with the juice.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; lower heat to simmer, cover, and allow the mixture to cook softly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the cranberries soften and begin to fall apart.  Stir to create a smooth mixture with a few chunky bits.  Transfer to a jar or other container to cool.  Will keep about a week in the fridge; or freeze for later use.

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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.”]

 

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  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 my first “Flash in the Pan.”

Speedy Fruit Sorbet

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

berrysorbet.jpg

When I crave something sweet, creamy, and cold, this is my current indulgence.  It’s made almost entirely of fresh-frozen fruit, so there’s absolutely no guilt.  And it’s ready in about three minutes.  I’m loving this sorbet!

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.”]

 peardandelion2.jpg

Why, oh why did I choose Sundays? What was I thinking?  I must have been on a chocolate high at the time and totally out of it.  Otherwise, why on EARTH would any sane person choose Sunday morning to track her weight loss (which, at this point, is actually a misnomer; for, as of this morning, I am now tracking my weight gain.  Oh, woe).  

Well, I suppose I can take some small comfort in the fact that we spent all of last evening at a spectacular birthday bash for my friend Gemini I’s husband. And, given that my mouth was basically open for business between 6:00 PM and midnight last night, I’m assuming some of this is temporary (I’m hoping. . . .).  Enough self-recriminations–must move onward!  And man, that gal sure knows how to throw a party. 

For your entertainment pleasure, I thought I’d try to remember as many as I can of the continual flow of appetizers and h’ors doeuvres that floated by all evening, aloft many a wait-staff’s capable hands. In addition to a huge buffet table heaving with platters of cheese, crackers, olives, breads and spreads and cut fruits, there was also an endless array of hot and cold appetizers, including stuffed button mushrooms, garlic-stuffed olives, one-bite caramelized onion quiches, mini crab cakes with wasabi dollops, bocconcini-stuffed sundried tomatoes, mini shrimp dumplings, mini hamburgers (yes, with mini buns–looked like plastic toys, actually!), mini cold rice paper spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, and a probably six or seven other choices I’ve forgotten. 

The dessert trays were deadly, heaped with one-bite brownies in three or four flavors, double-chocolate chip cookies and plain ole vanilla ones, three kinds of biscotti, miniature individualized banana splits served in shot glasses, all topped off by the birthday cake, an enormous rectangle of vanilla sponge decked out with cream and fresh strawberries, all tied up with white chocolate ribbons and bows. 

One side of the room served as a bar station, where servers were generously dispensing custom pomegranate-blueberry martinis (I have no idea what else was in it, but it was delicious) and any type of wine or liquor you choose.  I was thrilled to see my favorite Australian shiraz in the group. . . all I can say is, good thing I wasn’t the designated driver last evening (thanks, HH!).

As it turns out, Gemini II’s daughter is actuallly a vegetarian in a highly carnivorous family, so there were lots of veggie options there–though I’m not sure whether that was actually good for me or not.  I threw WOCA to the winds and ate more than my fair share (and am paying the price for all that wheat I consumed).  

Which leads me to. . . .salad.  After that kind of indulgence, today I’m craving something basic.  A simple, cleansing salad seems in order. 

Now, I must admit that I’ve never really been a salad person.  Is it because I don’t like salads?  No, that wouldn’t be the reason; I thoroughly enjoy my mixed baby greens, for instance, whenever the HH and I have dinner at one of our local haunts.  After reading about the need to properly toss a salad on The Good Eatah’s blog recently, I thought my tossing skills might not be up to snuff.  Or maybe the idea of cold, raw veggies smack dab in the middle of a cold, raw winter is just too painful to bear? But that’s not it, either; I do still enjoy munching on my cold, raw apples and grapefruit.

Part of my aversion to salads may be rooted in the meals of my childhood, when “salad” meant iceberg lettuce, woody tomatoes, and wobbly cucumber slices, unceremoniously slathered with mayonnaise.  Still, I was confident that years of therapy had finally eradicated that association. No, I’ve decided that the reason for my anti-salad stance is actually twofold:  first, being basically lazy, I’ve always found it just so much work to wash, peel, and cut up all the veggies.  And second, my frugal (okay, downright cheap) nature has too often prevented me from taking advantage of time-saving salads-in-a-bag, as I’m unwilling to fork over my hard-earned discretionary spending money on those overinflated prices. You see my dilemma.

Still, once in a while I encounter a salad that does seem worth the extra effort, and today’s recipe came to mind.  Just like a fulfilling relationship, a bowl of delectable salad greens may take some work, but the result is eminently satisfying (hear that, HH?). Such is the case with several of our staple salads here in the DDD household, such as the Asian-Inspired Napa Cabbage Salad, the always-popular “Broccoli Delight” from my friend Caroline’s cookbook, or the super-easy and absolutely irresistible Raw Kale salad (“Ohh, Mum, that kale salad is our favorite!  Pick that one!”).  All these are delicious (and I’ll post recipes in future), but this time, I favored dandelion.

This simple, appealing salad accompanied our highly successful Savory Stuffed Crepes, which the HH and I enjoyed for brunch the other day.  Originally, this recipe called for the duo of pears and dandelion, but once, when I ran out of pears I subbed apples, and have now come to prefer the latter combination. 

I first tasted dandelion greens during my year studying nutrition, but had been daydreaming about them since my early twenties, when I read the novel The Bone People by New Zealand author Keri Hulme. In the book, the protagonist (an eccentric hermit whose lifestyle I sorely envied at the time) produced her own dandelion wine.  Well, if I can’t have the wine, I suppose the leaves will have to do. . . .but I would still love to sample that fermented version one day.

The salad marries a subtle, slightly sweet and creamy dressing with the bitter gusto of the dandelion.  Being high in calcium and other minerals, dandelions are a natural health food.  They’re also a great liver tonic, stimulating that all-important organ to filter the “bad” cholesterol out of the body.  And after all that booze last night. . . .well, come to think of it, I could have used a fresh juice with some dandelion leaves in it, too!

The recipe produces an abundance of fresh dressing that pools gently at the bottom of the bowl, perfect for sopping up with scraps of bread or for treating The Girls to a dressing-topped dinner. (“Um, Mum, did we hear that correctly?”) Overall, the salad is crisp, light, and very refreshing.  (“Didn’t you just say, ‘dinner,’ Mum?”) And it offers a fabulous array of minerals and vitamins. (“We were sure we heard ‘dinner.’ Isn’t that right, Mum?”)  And, as dandelion is both a high-antioxidant food and a leafy green, I’m submitting this recipe as my contribution to Sweetnicks’ weekly ARF/5-A-Day roundup (check it out on Tuesday evenings). It would make the perfect accompaniment to a healthy dinner.  (“Knew it!  Is it time yet?  So, when do we get some?“)

 Bittersweet Salad with Apples and Dandelion Greens

adapted from Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont

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

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The recipe was created by the exceedingly talented Jennifer Italiano, owner of Toronto’s first all-raw restaurant and one of my personal favorites, Live Organic Food Bar (they’ve now expanded the menu options to include macrobiotic and some other cooked items). 

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

Turnip and Pear Soup

January 29, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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

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

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

 

How can someone, especially someone who purports to be interested in healthy eating and vegetables, reach the ripe old age of 40-something and still never have tasted a turnip?  Shocking, I know; but yes, indeed, that someone is moi.  

I blame it all on Modern American Drama. One of the first courses I took as a university student, it was taught by my mentor, John Ditsky , for whom I harbored a 20 year-long crush (but that’s neither here nor there).

Truly, since my undergrad days, whenever I’d think of turnips, all that came to mind was that scene in which Estragon asks Vladimir for a carrot but gets handed a turnip instead–and the turnip, having resided in his filthy coat pocket for who knows how long, is not exactly an appetizing substitute.  So, for many years, just the thought of turnips would throw me into a bout of existential angst. I believed turnips to be the unwanted progeny of carrots.  Or perhaps parsnips. Or, on the other hand, just anything.  But then, I thought, what is anything, anyway?  And aren’t we all just nothing waiting for something? It was just a turnip, after all, no more than that.  Nothing to be done, nothing to be done. . .oh, when will He arrive?  When?? Must. . . take. . . off. . . this. . . .boot! [She exits.  End of Act I.]

Soooooo. . . . back to the turnips.  When our organic produce box arrived this past week and I spied a kilo bag of turnips, I was thrown into a panic.  What to do, what to do? Would there be a way out of this mess? (“Yes, you had us rather worried for a bit, Mum.  And why do you keep talking like that? Who is this Godot person, anyway?”). 

Well, I decided it was time to Confront the Turnip.  Like it or not, I was going to cook with these babies! In order to survive the ordeal, I decided to start small, something easy and relatively foolproof.  Soup!

One of our favorites here in the DDD household is a fabulous Parsnip and Pear soup from Flip Shelton’s Aussie cookbook, Green (and since turnips are the illegitimate offshoots of parsnips, it gave me an idea . . . ).  I had been both surprised and delighted by the fabulous melange of smooth, sweet, spicy, and savory in that soup. Shelton’s recipe was extremely simple, yet the final result exalted the lowly roots and fruit to a level beyond the sum of their parts. I thought, what about a similar recipe for turnips with pears? 

As usual, we had a bunch of overripe pears in the house, so there was no problem finding the fundamental ingredients. And it also occurred to me that this would be a very suitable entry to Sweetnicks‘ weekly ARF/5-A-Day  roundup, so it will also be my contribution to that event this week.

After a bit of digging around for some kind of turnip and pear soup recipe, I found something that sounded appealing in my old Sundays at Moosewood cookbook, called, oddly enough, Turnip and Pear Soup.  The challenge began!

The soup was ridiculously easy to prepare, and took only about 30 minutes from start to finish (including peeling and chopping).  It was warming and really quite tasty.  While I know that turnips are not to everyone’s taste, if you’re feeling adventurous (or existential–I mean, who knows when we’ll next have the chance to taste a turnip?), then go ahead and give this one a try. 

And, well, if it turns out you don’t like it, I suppose you could always serve it to Pozzo and Lucky.  They’ll eat anything. 

Turnip and Pear Soup (adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant)

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

Smooth Operator

January 10, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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

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

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

 

Way back in my salad days. . . . (Come on, now, who am I kidding? Okay, let’s start again): 

Way back in my cake-for-breakfast, Snickers-bar-for-breakfast, leftover-nachos-for-breakfast days, I was seemingly able to get it all done:  work at a burger joint until 1:30 AM, sleep five hours, get up and make it to school for an 8:30 class, get my groceries done, clean my apartment (ah, the days of the bachelorette apartment–only one set of dishes to wash!), pay my bills, wash out 44 pairs of socks and have ‘em hanging on the line! Starch and iron 2 dozen shirts before you can count from one to nine! Cause I was a woman–W-O-M-A-N–I’ll say it again!. . . . oh, wait a sec, wrong memory.  Excuse me. 

What I mean is, I was able to get everything essential done, eat whenever I wanted, and still remain relatively healthy.  Of course, in those days, I didn’t appreciate how resilient my body was (looks like George Bernard Shaw had a point), and never worried about consuming a “healthy” breakfast.  Or a healthy any other meal, for that matter.

These days, I am living proof of the adage that one really must have a good breakfast.  On the days I don’t, my day is off to a horrendous start and I feel lethargic for the next 15 or so hours.  What to do, then, when you’ve got papers to mark, classes to prepare, blogs to write, dogs to walk, HH’s to hug, dinners to cook, 44 pairs of socks. . . etc.?  (Actually, one thing I don’t have to do any more–hallelujah!–is my laundry; as Elizabeth Gilbert marveled at the beginning of Eat, Pray, Love, I, too, am blessed with a guy who does the laundry in our house, skivvies and all).

As I may have mentioned before, breakfast is actually my favorite meal of the day.  Something about breakfast foods just appeal so much:  they jump start your day, they’re cakelike or crunchy, they’re either sweet or fruity-tart or scramble-spiced, it’s bright and sunny out, you’re well rested, the birds are twittering in the trees (well, in another 8 months they will be, anyway). . .  and so, I love breakfast.

I’ve got a fairly large repertoire of morning “regulars” I rely on to break my fast, all of which are quick and easy.  One of my favorites is a smoothie.  So versatile, you can throw anything in a blender and just whizz away; then, presto, change-o!, a delicious, nutritious breakfast magically appears.  And it doesn’t hurt that it resembles a milkshake in taste and consistency, either.

Today’s recipe is what I called a “Mystery Smoothie” when I taught it in my cooking classes. These days, what with Jessica Seinfeld’s bestselling cookbook (I’m not even going to link to it; she’s got enough attention already), the concept of spinach in a smoothie is oh-so-passé, but for many moms who are new to alternative or vegan cooking, adding hidden spinach in a sweet and kid-friendly breakfast drink can be a revelation.  It’s a great way to infuse your drink with vital minerals and protein, as well as Omega 3 fats (yes, in spinach!).  Which, of course, makes it the perfect recipe for me to submit to Cate at Sweetnicks ARF/5-A-Day Roundup on Tuesday.

In addition, it’s infinitely variable according to your own tastes, since you can substitute pretty much any greens for spinach and add any other fruits.  I’d recommend still leaving the blueberries in, though, unless it’s St. Patrick’s day, Halloween, or your kid thinks s/he’s a Martian.

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Mystery Smoothie

This smoothie can be served as a full meal or a dessert/snack–it all depends on the quantity. This smoothie combines the rich nutrient content of spinach with its creamy, fruity base.  No one will ever know!

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

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You know we love this smoothie, Mum.  Can we help clean up the leftovers?”   

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

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