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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."]  

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You know how on Cheers, every time Norm would walk into the bar, all the patrons and wait staff would turn to look at him, and call out in unison, “NORM!” ?  I remember thinking, “Sure, yeah, maybe on teevee life is like that.” 

Ah, yes, wouldn’t it be great to be received with that kind of palpable jubilation every time you set foot in the local watering hole?  Where just walking through the door stirs up the enthusiasm like leaves on a country road, fluttering in the wake of a fast car?  Where everybody’s glad you came? When it comes right down to it, don’t you wanna be where everybody knows your name? 

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Years ago, in my twenties, I did experience that sort of instant, joyous recognition, albeit vicariously.  At the time, I lived in the same low-rise apartment building as my friend Babe.  We were sort of like Mary and Rhoda (whom  I seem to refer to rather a lot lately, don’t you think?), since my apartment was situated (literally) directly above hers . We’d often dash up and down the single staircase between floors to visit each other’s place, to share dinner or to jointly watch our soap in the evenings (at the time, Babe had both gainful employment and a VCR–both of which I lacked). 

Once in a while, we’d head out to dinner at one of the neighborhood haunts, living as we did in the part of town affectionately known as “Yonge and Eligible”, near so many good restaurants.  And no matter where we went–be it Chinese, Italian, Greek, Pastry Shop, Juice Bar–the owner of the joint would brighten visibly when my friend entered, and, wiping his hands on his apron and gesturing with a flourish, would greet her with a most animated shout of “BABE!!” before positioning us in a prime seat in the restaurant.  (Well, in the interest of verisimilitude, I should admit that he didn’t actually call her “Babe,” of course, because  (a) that would make him sound far too much like Sonny Bono; (b) this is a dramatization, and that’s not her real name, but a pseudonym; and (c) calling a woman “Babe,” even if this scene supposedly took place in the 1980s, would be horribly sexist, and we’ll have none of that type of thing on this blog.) More often that not, we were also presented with a complimenatry appetizer, or gratis aperatif, or dessert on the house . . . needless to say, I loved basking in the glow of my friend’s semi-celebrity status and thoroughly enjoyed the perks of stardom, even if only by propinquity.   

One of the places we frequented was Grazie, a compact Italian bistro with about a dozen seats, scratchy wooden floors and a jovial staff who served the best fresh pastas I’d ever had (a testament to its appeal: the place still exists–albeit in a larger and more commercial incarnation–and is still bustling and bursting with patrons each night, almost 20 years later).

When I think of polenta, I think of Grazie.  Admittedly, that wasn’t always the case; it took some convincing for me to try the cornmeal-based appetizer, as my only other experience with the stuff was a kind of gruel my mother served for breakfast when I was a kid.  Into the soft, yellow mush, Mom would swirl large-curd cottage cheese, resulting in whorls of white, slightly soured lumps distributed throughout, vaguely resembling the wiggly larvae you find in infested apples. My parents called this “Spoon Bread,” and while my dad loved it, in me it always elicited a slight wave of nausea. (Oh, wait.  Even just thinking about it–excuse me for a moment).

Ahem.

So when I learned that polenta was thick-cooked cornmeal, cooled and often cut into disks, I was a bit reluctant.  I did fancy Grazie’s fresh tomato sauce with basil mounded atop the offending polenta, however,  so I decided to give it a try anyway.  (I mean, would my friend Babe, the star customer, the very mascot of the place, steer me wrong?) Of course, I was completely enchanted. Once I realized that polenta didn’t need to be sweet, didn’t need to contain cottage cheese, and–most important–didn’t need to be soft and mushy, I was on a mission to create as many polenta dishes as I could.  And I’ve been experimenting ever since. 

It seemed the perfection occasion, a couple of weeks ago when our friends Gemini II and her husband came to dinner, to make a recipe for Herbed Polenta Appetizers from the glorious New Vegetarian Entertaining by Jane Noraika.  This is the kind of book that you want to savor, leaf ing through it slowly and deliberately, imprinting every image on your mind like the photos from your first trip abroad.  The original recipe contained feta cheese, but, since I wanted to try out the “Feta-ish” from Alisa Fleming’s new book, Go Dairy Free, I decided to use that in place of the dairy version. 

The result was a perfect finger food–a firm, smooth polenta base suffused with fresh dill and salty, briny feta, all topped with a slightly sweet, slightly sour sundried tomato tapenade.  And I should note that no one realized this was vegan.  These bites are also a feast for the eyes, with their sunny yellow, bright green and creamy white base, and mound of deep carmine capped off with a black olive slice.  The four of us had no trouble polishing off the entire tray (16 pieces!!) in no time, and probably would have eaten more, if there had been any.

Maybe the owners of the local Italian resto don’t recognize me quite yet, and maybe I’ll never acquire the mysterious allure of my friend Babe. But after the appreciative reception I got for these delectable squares, I started to feel a little bit like Norm, after all.

With all the herby goodness going on in these bites, I thought this would be the perfect submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, organized by Haalo and this week hosted by Marija of Palachinka.

Herb and Feta Polenta with Sundried Tomato Tapenade

adapted from New Vegetarian Entertaining by Jane Noraika

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

 

Last Year at this Time: Tofu Omelet with Sautéed Apples and Sweet Curry Sauce

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit the shiny new home of DDD by clicking here.

[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." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]

greenswapple2

[With Collards, Chard and Red Onion]

It’s been a truly crazy past week, what with our new semester starting up today at the college and my cookbook deadline being perilously close.* (And let’s not forget the Golden Globes from last evening–didn’t B & A look marvelous amidst the hubub and Moet & Chandon? And did you hear that Tracy Morgan is the new face of the US?  But Mamma Mia, that Ms. Streep is timeless! ) With all that, there’s been no time for handiwork in the kitchen.

Instead, here’s what I’ve been eating lately–and by “lately,” I mean pretty much every day.  I’ve made this three times in the past six days: it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s delicious and it contains nature’s most nutritious vegetables, leafy greens.  And with all the deep browns, ochres, ambers and ecrus I’ve been consuming over the past few weeks, I figured it was time for some green.

greenswapple3

[With Collards and Yellow Onion]

Besides, I adore leafy greens and have been trying to include them in my diet more often. Jagged, zippy dandelion greens are like the tough kid in the schoolyard, the punk who wears his black leather jacket like a trophy and loiters in the corner of the schoolyard chain-smoking.  With a hard and bitter exterior, he’s really a sweetheart once you get to know him.  Collards, with their elegant, frond-like shape, are the modern jazz dancers of the group, deftly swaying side to side as they harmoniously meld the delicate and the cacophonous. And kale, my very favorite, is the ditzy neighbour, the plucky, perky best friend, the Mary Richards of leafy greens; she fidgets and bobs and sighs histrionically, clad in her ruffly collar and matching cuffs–she’s a little wacky, maybe, but always honest and reliable.  How could you not love greens?

This dish was created when I had intended to try out a recipe for brussels sprouts and apples I read about on Vegalicious a while back. When I discovered I had no sprouts, I opted for the greens instead (heck, they’re all brassicas, right?). Using the other recipe for inspiration, I threw this together.  It was ready in ten minutes, and I was left to marvel that something so simple could taste so good. 

The barely-wilted greens are chewy and toothsome, while the apples and onions, having softened and caramelized slightly, provide a balancing sweetness to the slightly bitter leaves. The addition of lemon juice here, besides imparting an appealing tang, renders the minerals in the vegetables more bio-available (and thereby more easily absorbed) so you can best benefit from their high mineral content.

* As to the cookbook, right now, it looks as if the publication date will be mid-April; I’ll report back as soon as I’m given a “firm” date from the publisher. What this means, however, is that my blogging may become slightly more sporadic over the next few weeks, as will my commenting on other blogs.  But know that I’ll keep reading and enjoying all of your blogs even if I don’t make my presence known. And I do hope that you will still comment here–I always look forward to, and read, every single comment on this site–it is truly a high point in my day! 

Sautéed Greens with  Onions and Apples

inspired by this recipe

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

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit the shiny new home of DDD by clicking here.

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

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[That is one MoFo huge smoothie!]

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

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

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

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

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

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

swppotsmoothieside1

[Simplicity at its finest.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On second thought, nah.

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

Sweet and Simple Sweet Potato Smoothie

adapted from The Healthiest Meals on Earth

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

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

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit us at the shiny new home of DDD, by clicking here.

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. 

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[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.

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[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.

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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 come visit the shiny new home of DDD by clicking here.

 

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.

Family and Festive Feasting

December 28, 2008

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

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

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

 pumpbreadpud1

[Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Apple-Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries]

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

pumpbreadpudfork

[A bite of pumpkiny-caramelly bliss.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries

kugelslice

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

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

*Or, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Now Eat Some Delicious Spread.

[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.  ]

pumpkinbutterplate1

I know that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere (well, and the rest of the galaxy, too, come to think of it) has already made this spread.  But hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer.  And now, I’ve finally tried it, too.  And it is so *&$@!% good that I had to include it as this (penultimate) Gastronomic Gift this year.  (I’ve got one more planned, as long as we can shovel ourselves out of the *&$@!% 25 cm. (just under a foot) of snow that battered the city yesterday and I can get to the store).

Pumpkin butter is the perfect means to use up cooked pumpkin (or squash, to those of us in North America).  It’s a great nut butter substitute if you’re trying to reduce fat and calories.  Or if, like me, you’ve once again allowed the insidious holiday-time profusion of chocolate and chocolate-coated/ chocolate studded/ chocolate-molded/ chocolate-frosted/ chocolate flavored/ chocolate filled/ chocolate-related-in-any-way desserts that seem to reproduce of their own accord on countertops and dining room tables and candy dishes and office desks and buffets and coffee tables and bar tops and glove compartments and pockets and dessert menus to override your (wobbly at the best of times) self control, and you find that you’ve now consumed more chocolate in the past two weeks than the entire GDP of a small country, more than Big Brother’s secret stash in 1984, more than the exports from Switzerland at Valentine’s Day, more than the full contents of Willie Wonka’s factory–more, really than you’d rightfully expect any normal human being to ingest under any circumstances whatsoever in a lifetime, except maybe under threat of torture. 

What? You mean it’s just me?

For some strange reason, I felt the need for a break from chocolate for a while (ahem). Now that I’ve made my own pumpkin butter, I can join the chorus and say that I, too,  am  smitten.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any carbohydrate with a flat surface (or even a somewhat bumpy one–have you tried this on rice cakes? Divine.) 

But I must admit that my favorite use for the butter isn’t on toast, or a muffin, or pancakes, or any other solid food.  I think I love it most blended (using my hand blender) in a tall, cold glass of almond or soymilk.  Yum-mers!

pumpkinsmoothie

It also makes a fabulous hostess gift, of course, and a wonderful last-minute present; it’s the perfect way to use up that final can of pumpkin purée that’s been biding its time in your cupboard since Thanksgiving. 

This recipe (the ubiquitous allrecipes version) makes a pretty big batch, so you can scoop some away for home use and still fill two or three pretty little gift jars with the stuff to give away.   If you can bear to part with it.

Oh, and there are still four more days to bid on some amazing prizes from Menu for Hope! Hop on over to the main donation page and give it a go!

Pumpkin Butter

adapted from AllRecipes.com

pumpkinbutter

 Try this lovely alternative butter anywhere you’d spread jam or nut butter.  It’s got no fat, with the bonus of holiday spices all year round.

3-1/2 cups (about 820 g.) cooked, puréed pumpkin

3/4 cup (180 ml.) apple juice [but personally I think OJ would be great in this]

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground ginger

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cloves

2/3 cup (160 ml.) agave nectar (light or dark)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring very frequently, until the mixture is thick and has darkened (the original recipe said 30 minutes, but mine took a bit more than an hour).  This might also be a good time to pull out that old splatter screen if you have one, as the mixture tends to boil and pop a bit (my walls needed a good wipe-down after I was done).

Pour into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 cups (500 ml.). Will keep at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

GG III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread **Note: the original recipe was somehow transcribed incorrectly–please use the current version with the correct amount of flour!!

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG V: Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Holiday Cranberry Chippers

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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