[Okay, so the post title is a bit obscure (I was alluding to Four Weddings and a Funeral)--but with the Oscars coming up in a couple of days, and with my having seen, hmmn, let's see--a total of "zero" of the movies, I wanted to make reference to that grand little Golden Guy in some way or other in this post. ]

bdaycakeslice

[Slice of birthday cake: chocolate layers filled with chocolate buttercream frosting, all topped with Sweet Potato Frosting]

It’s almost time for midterms at the college where I teach, so I’m afraid I’ll  be MIA from the blog for a little while (not to be confused with the recently balloon-bellied, singing-at-the-Grammys, went-into-labor-and-gave-birth-the-next-day MIA).  But before I bid you all adieu, I thought I’d mention three festivities leading up to said exams. 

Shindig One: The most recent celebration we enjoyed here in the DDD household was an intimate birthday dinner for my friend Eternal Optimist (consisting of just the EO, the HH, and me).We three enjoyed a spectacular, yet simple meal of Potato-Miso Soup (Alisa’s uniquely delicious recipe: satiny smooth, rich and slightly yeasty from the hint of miso–in fact, this was the second time I’ve made this in a week!); trusty Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes (always a hit around here); garlic sautéed rapini and collards; and a special b-day cake  (chocolate layers with sugar-free chocolate buttercream frosting (both from Sweet Freedom) and the Sweet Potato Frosting I wrote about a while back.  

potmisosoup

[Alisa's Creamy Potato Miso Soup]

It was grand to spend a leisurely evening together fêting a dear friend. The EO also brought along her own pooch, another border collie cross, and The Girls were in heaven.  (“We love having our friends over, too, Mum!  Except next time, there should be a cake that we can eat as well.”) 

Shindig Two: In addition to the birthday, the dinner was also occasion for a spontaneous mini-celebration in honor of the cookbook finally reaching the publisher.  After numerous delays in formatting and glitches with the cover, it’s finally on its way!  My publishing rep called yesterday to confirm that she received the files and their part of the book’s production will begin next week.  YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!  (Of course, this means it will still take about three months before the book is in print, but it is out of my hands at this point).  I can’t even begin to express what a relief that is!  So we had a little toast in honor of Sweet Freedom last evening as well.

Shindig Three: Despite mountains of marking, I’ll be peeking in periodically at the Academy Awards, that shindig to beat all shindigs, that tribute to all things silicone and Juvéderm and Botox, that massive glitterati ego-massage that will take place on Sunday evening.  From the Barbara Walters interviews to the Joan Rivers gaffes to the melodramatic and slurred acceptance speeches, I love it all.  And even if I haven’t actually seen any of the movies, who cares?  That’s not what the Oscars are all about, anyway!

Before I depart on break, I thought it might be fun to leave you with a little midterm quiz of your own to ponder while I’m away (and the best part–it doesn’t matter whether you know the answers or not!).  I’ll reveal the “correct” responses when I get back (though with a bit of sleuthing, it should be fairly easy to find them before then).  

bdaycakewhole2

[Chocolate birthday cake in all its uncut glory]

A Diet, Dessert and Dogs Mid-Term Quiz

Instructions: Please answer each of the following questions.  Note that this is an open-blog test; answers can be found in previous entries.  Please double space your answers. 

1)  DDD stands for:

a) The 2009, eco-friendly version of the pesticide “DDT”

b) Pamela Anderson’s bra size (now that she’s had a breast reduction)

c) a cutsie way to refer to “3-D” movies

d) the name of this blog.

2) “NAG” refers to

a) the HH’s endearing nickname for me;

b) the ol’ grey girl who ain’t what she used to be;

c) a healthy way of eating that includes whole, unprocessed, organic foods.

3) Ricki’s favorite food is:

a) chocolate

b) chocolate

c) chocolate

d) all of the above

4) “LC” stands for

a) Lon Chaney

b) Lewis Carroll

c) Love Chocolate!

d) Life Companion

5) Complete this phrase:  “Rocker Guy (He of the —)”

a) broken guitar

b) off his rocker 

c) rock collection

d) black leather pants

6) Ricki loves blogging because:

a) of all the amazing people she’s “met” in the blog world

b) it’s always fun to read other blogs and learn about new foods

c) reading your comments on her blog is the high point of her day (truly)

d) YOU GUYS ARE SIMPLY THE BEST!

I’m sure you all got an “A”!  Have a great time at the Oscars, all, and see you in a week or so! ;)

Last Year at this TimeMy Favorite Mistake:  Savory Filled Breakfast Crepes

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

[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."]  

trufflesinglewhole

Are you looking forward to V-Day next week?  Seems most people either love it or hate it.  Being from the “never too much schmaltz” school of romance, I love Valentine’s Day.  Even during all those years before I met the HH, I’d always endeavor to celebrate somehow.  I’d send cards to my friends or my sisters.  I’d invite a gal pal for dinner so we could sip Shiraz together and muse about how few good men there were out there.  One year, I think I even bought myself roses (must have been my “I am woman, hear me roar” phase).

Last year, I composed a fairly elaborate (and, as I recall, extremely disorderly) meal for the HH and me.  Given my frenetic schedule these days working on the book (the Index is done!  The book has officially moved from the “writing” to the “production” stage! Whoo!), I assumed I’d have no time to repeat last year’s amorous performance (I meant preparing the meal, silly!  You crazy romantics, you!). But then I saw Susan’s post about this year’s Vegetable Love contest, and how could I resist?  (Not that I find Fatfree Vegan Kitchen’s charms any more alluring than those of the HH, you understand). 

The contest asks you to create a romantic dish using one or more vegetables of your choice.  Last year, I came up with a Vegan Molten Chocolate Cake recipe using puréed zucchini and spinach.  I loved the taste of the cakes, but the molten filling was temperamental–sometimes it formed a lovely, floating cloud of lava in the center of the cake, as it was supposed to do; other times, the filling got sucked up by the batter and all that remained was a tiny disk of tar-like chocolate at its core.  You’d think I’d give up on sweets with veggies in them.  But no. . .

truffleinside

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, sweet potatoes are my favorite vegetable.  I love sweet potatoes in just about anything (or, as I’ve seen the phrase skipping around the blogosphere lately, I lurrrve sweet potatoes).  When I was on the anti-candida diet several years ago, sweet potatoes became my favorite veggie (and my favorite brekkie).  They’re a healthy vegetable.  They’re orange.  They’re sweet.  And their name sounds like a term of endearment:  “Oh, why so coy, my little Sweet Potato?  Come on over here and let me help you out of that peel.”  Why not use them as the basis for a sweet filling in a Valentine’s Day truffle, then?

trufflecup

This year’s recipe really should have made it into the cookbook–it’s that good.  What you’ll end up with is an insanely creamy, smooth, rich-tasting truffle filling,  vibrantly orange and steeped in citrus flavor. In fact, no one would ever guess it contained one of the world’s healthiest roots.  I fed 0ne of these beauties to the HH, and he literally licked his fingers clean, enthusing, “This tastes exactly like a really fine quality, high-end chocolate!”  This from a guy who’d normally consume chocolates with cream, butter and white sugar.  “There is no trace of sweet potato flavor in these,” he went on. “All you taste is the orange” (enhanced with a splash of Cointreau–though you can use orange juice if you prefer alcohol-free confections). 

Even if you’re not into chocolates, the filling on its own makes a fabulous, versatile frosting.  Rich and fluffy, sweetened with agave and boasting the added fiber of the sweet potato, I’m guessing that the total GI (glycemic index) of this  frosting is fairly low and could be used successfully by those on a variety of restricted diets. (See instructions in the Variation, below).

swpotfrosting

I’ll definitely be making these again for V-Day (the half-batch I concocted is already long gone). Even if you don’t celebrate the Big V, it’s worth making a batch of these.  Give yourself a little gift of Vegetable Love this year.

This is my submission to Susan’s contest.  You have until tomorrow at midnight to enter if you’re so inclined!

Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles or Truffle Cups

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

truffleplate61

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

trufflecups

TO VIEW THE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT 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] ##

swpotsmoothietop1

[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.

swpotsmoothietop2

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

latkescloseup2

Today began like most other mornings:  a wet, cold nose against my ear (that would be Chaser, not the HH) rousing me from sleep; a quick (warm, dry) kiss to the HH; and popping (okay, more like fizzling) out of bed before stretching, going through the usual ablutions and tramping over to the office to turn on the computer and check out some blogs.  For our lazy Sunday morning (after shovelling the additional 15 cm./ 6 inches of snow that arrived overnight, of course), I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast–maybe banana; maybe apple.

Then I read Ruth’s Hannukah (or, for us Canadians, Chanukah) post and before I knew it, I was craving potato pancakes (aka latkes). 

Which is weird, because I hate latkes.

Let me explain.  Over the years, I’ve sampled many different kinds of potato latkes in many different kitchens; and I can honestly tell you I haven’t enjoyed a single one. (Sorry, Mrs. D who kindly invited me to her Rosh Hashanah table back in university; sorry, all my friends who’ve been generous enough to share; sorry, Aunty M. and CBC; sorry, all those caterers whose miniature pancakes I’ve sampled at festive tables in the past). 

Given that I adore home fries and even hash browns, this latke enmity always seemed odd to me.  But whenever I’d try again, the results were the same: the pancakes in question were very heavy, very greasy, and fairly bland, with a high-gloss exterior and mushy, mealy insides.  Was I missing something?  Is there some kind of Freemason-like secret latke society that knows something those of us using the regular latke recipes don’t know? Or was I simply hanging around with horrible cooks?

Whatever; I decided to change all that this morning.  That plate of latkes (and the explanatory article that Ruth included, as well) simply caught my fancy, and I had to have latkes!

latkesplate

After a quick tour using Veg Blog Search, I uncovered a large selection of options.  There were traditional potato latkes, those made entirely from sweet potatoestraditional latkes with cool toppings, and a whole bunch of trail-blazing atypical latkes. I decided to base my own version on Bryanna’s fat-free potato and sweet potato pancakes.  I loved the combination of both types of spud, both for color and nutrition, and I thought a lower-fat version would be good at this time of year as well (I did add 2 Tbsp./15 ml. olive oil to the mixture to enhance the flavors a little).  This was also the perfect excuse to use my cast iron skillet yet once more–something I’ve been doing at every available opportunity the past few weeks as I endeavor to render it truly non-stick (so far, no luck).

I’m happy to report that the Latke Loathing has been vanquished, once and for all! (Must have been those sweet potatoes). The HH was also a fan.  We had ours with a slightly unconventional topping, a balsamic-fig sauce that was given to me a few weeks back  (more typical accompaniments include sour cream or applesauce).  What a fabulous combination!  The cakes were decidedly not mushy, as I remembered latkes of old; they were crispy on the outside and supple on the inside, the potatoes just cooked.  They held together beautifully and offered up an alluring aroma of caramelized onion and fragrant dill as they were grilled. With the sweet-tart contrast of the fig sauce slathered over the top, these were the perfect Sunday breakfast. 

Now, it seems the Sunday pancake options are limitless. So glad I start my days the way I do. 

To those who celebrate, Happy Hannukah!  (and Hanukkah, AND Chanukah!) :)

Two-Toned Potato Latkes

adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

latkescloseup

While we ate these for breakfast, latkes are more often eaten as a side dish or appetizer with savory foods.  They’re great both ways.

3 small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and grated

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated

1 large onion, grated

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (110 g.) kamut flour or (100 g.) whole spelt flour

2 tsp. (10 ml.) baking powder

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) water

1 tsp. (5 ml.) garlic powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) dried dill weed

1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) smoked paprika

Using a food processor or box grater, grate the potatoes and sweet potatoes and place in a large colander.  Squeeze the mixture with your hands as if squeezing a sponge to get out as much of the starchy liquid as you can.  Place in a large bowl.

Grate the onion and add it to the potato mixture along with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together very well, using your hands if necessary.

Heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the pan, flattening the pancakes with a spatula (they should be fairly flat).  Cook about 3-4 minutes, until bottoms are golden; flip and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so, until golden.  Keep pancakes warm as you continue to cook them.  Serve immediately with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, cranberry sauce, chutney, or other topping of choice.

Last Year at this Time: Last Minute Christmas Cookie [Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies]

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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!  And you’ll find lots more anti-candida recipes on the new site as well. :)

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.”]  

* * *

These days, I can’t think of a single person I know who isn’t stressed.  I mean, with all our modern amenities, our time-saving devices, our plugged-in technology, most of us are still plagued with a constant sense “never enough” or “not up to snuff.”  And I’m not too proud to admit that I myself am probably preternaturally sensitive to stressors in my life.  In fact, it’s possible that I react just a wee bit more forcefully to stress than the average person. Truth be told, I find it downright impossible to cope some days.  Oh, all right, fine; I admit it:  I’m basically a slobbering mass of quivering kanten who’s totally incapable of coping with excess pressure.  (I mean, do you know anyone else who had to quit meditation because it was too stressful?)

It’s not as if most of us can just take off for a few weeks to our  spectacular retreat in New Zealand when we feel overwhelmed by life’s little curve balls (how lovely for you that you could, though, Shania).  Some, like the HH, play records (as opposed to CDs) to de-stress; others play with their home décor, wardrobe or hairstyle. Some play the clarinet.  And then there are those who simply play around

Me, I like to play in the kitchen.

Throughout my recent hiatus from the blog, I kept encountering interesting recipes or ideas for baked goods and my hands would itch to get back to cooking.  There’s something immensely soothing about swishing a wooden spoon over and over through a clear, fragrant broth, or chopping mindlessly as carrots are transformed into mounds of tiny, uniform cubes on the cutting board.

But what to cook? As I mentioned last time, I’ve embarked once again on an anti-candida diet for a few weeks, which means my diversions in the kitchen will have to comply with the guidelines of that eating plan. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the anti-candida diet is basically a nutritional means to reduce the candida albicans yeast that’s present in and around us all the time, but which occasionally multiplies out of control in certain people (those with compromised immune systems, those with blood sugar issues, those with hormonal imbalances, etc.)   My personal weakness is an addiction to sweets; sugar is the number one preferred vittle for those microscopic opportunists.  

In order to reduce the number of candida organisms down to a “normal” level, the anti-candida program (I’ll just call it ACD from now on) commonly recommends cutting out any foods that could potentially feed the yeast or encourage it to grow.  In its most stringent form, the diet would eliminate:

  • anything containing any kind of sugar (cane, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.–plus fruits, fresh and dried);
  • simple carbohydrates, which convert to glucose very quickly (flours, pasta, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, biscuits, crackers, cornstarch and similar starches, and any other baked goods of any kind; candies, chocolate, ice cream, pudding, anything candy-like; white potatoes, white rice and any other white grains)
  • foods that contain mold or fungus or encourage it to grow (yeast is a fungus, after all): mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, melons, cheeses;
  • the most common allergens or foods that could cause allergic responses (which trigger the yeast): dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy foods;
  • foods that are fermented or might encourage fermentation (on which yeast feeds): alcohol, vinegars, all condiments (no ketchup, sorry); soy sauce, etc.
  • anything artificial, processed, containing chemicals or additives, imitation or artificial seasonings and flavorings and colorings;
  • pop, fruit juice, presweetened drinks, coffee, tea.

Right about now, you may be wondering, “what the heck CAN you eat??”  Good question.  The basic list of “permitted” foods is actually shorter than those that are prohibited.  Still, there’s quite a bit left that’s both tasty and nourishing:

  • all vegetables except very high-glycemic ones (such as white potatoes, corn, etc.)
  • whole, gluten-free grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, etc.)
  • beans and legumes
  • some nuts and most seeds
  • water
  • natural, cold-pressed oils (especially olive oil)
  • a bit of lemon juice
  • stevia (a natural herbal sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels)

I was leafing through the book that became my ACD Bible when I was first on the diet about 10 years ago (called The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook), and I have to admit I began to despair a little.  Life without pancakes on Sunday mornings?  Life devoid of fresh, juicy fruits? Life sans a little tipple on occasion?  How would I cope?  What could I eat when the HH and I went out to dinner?  What would I do when my friends invited me to Starbucks to catch up?  It was starting to feel mighty stressful around here.  So I exhibited my usual reaction when I’m feeling stessed:  I got into the kitchen when I couldn’t stand the yeast. 

After consulting with a few classmates currently practising as holistic nutritionists, I was reassured that the ACD diet had been revised in recent years.  Considered unduly restrictive (you think??) it’s since been amended to better reflect current trends in the fields of nutrition and scientific research.  Apparently, some sweet foods can now be included as long as they’re low on the glycemic index or GI (which means they don’t raise blood sugar levels very quickly). A low GI denies the yeast its main source of nutrition–glucose. In other words, this time round, I can include most nontropical fruits (such as apples, some pears, berries, or peaches) in my menus, as well as minute amounts of agave nectar, a natural sweetener that’s also low-glycemic. 

Scanning the ingredients of my refrigerator for inspiration, the first thought that occurred to me was to cook up some kitchari.  This Ayurvedic cleansing stew is a flexible recipe that always features rice, mung beans, and certain spices; beyond that, anything goes. It seemed perfect for that little flock of cauliflower florets waiting patiently to make themselves useful. There was also a lone sweet potato perched on the counter (the only survivor of the Sweet Potato and Ginger salad I made the other day), so those were my veggie choices, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. The HH thinks this dish bears an unfortunate resemblance to Klingon gach, but I love its mushy, nubby base and nourishing, comforting broth.

The stew simmers gently for almost an hour, infusing your entire home with the fragrant, soothing aromas of Indian spices as it bubbles.  It may have been intended as a cleansing stew, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of flavor.  One serving of this, and your stress will evaporate, right into the swirling plumes of steam emanating from your bowl. 

Since the mung beans feature so prominently in this dish, I’m submitting it to Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook for her second My Legume Love Affair event.

Kitchen Sink Kitchari (loosely adapted from this recipe)

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

I soaked the rice and beans overnight before cooking, but that step is optional.  If you don’t soak your beans overnight, use the quick-soak method:  cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, and let sit, covered, for an hour.  Then drain and cook as you would pre-soaked beans.

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

Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad--recipe below.]

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.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now go enjoy some SPQandBB bites until I get back!

A bientôt,

xo Ricki :)

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.”

 

 

 

 

Years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching for three semesters at Toronto’s renowned Ontario College of Art and Design (affectionately known as OCAD–or, when I taught there back in the Paleolithic, pre-”Design” era, simply “OCA”).  I loved teaching at a place so much the antithesis of the college I’m now at, with its focus on technology, science and computers (not, as Jerry might say, that there’s anything wrong with that).

But as someone who’s drawn to art in all its iterations–and cake decorating, as we’ve seen in recent years, is also a bona fide art–and considering I find creativity in any form pretty much irresistible (at times to my detriment–to wit, three months with Rocker Guy*), I had a blast at OCA. 

The students I taught at OCA were often just as embellished as their canvases, some with tatoos adorning every exposed patch of flesh, others with rainbow-striped hair in asymetrical spikes; some with handcrafted jewelry dangling from neck, waist, or ankles, and others bedecked in outfits so bohemian they practically carried their own passports. The students were also eccentric in the way only artists can be eccentric, asking questions and writing essays that, precisely because they were “out there,” elicited my utmost affection.

During those years, I had the great fortune to meet Morris, a faculty member who took me under his wing and later became a dear friend. Sweet, erudite, and the very embodiment of integrity, Morris helped me navigate the otherworldy campus politics and academic wranglings that were about as intelligible to me as a Cubist landscape. And because he was also a vegetarian, Morris introduced me to one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city–and one I haven’t been to since I left OCA. 

In the heart of Toronto’s downtown shopping strip, Le Commensal peeks unassumingly from the ground floor entrance of a towering office building.  Inside, this Montreal import offers a huge, buffet-style, culinary Disneyland for vegans.  Glass cases overflow with platters of every conceivable delectation from colorful, glistening salads to grain pilafs to an ever-shifting assortment of seitan stews, skewers, casseroles, or steaks.  And it attracts customers with all dietary preferences, not just the crunchy-granola set.

I can clearly remember one of the first lunches Morris and I shared there.  While he attempted to explain the concept of “artist’s statement” to me, I chowed on a plate of roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, salad, and a sizeable slice of something I’d never had before, Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Shepherd’s pie. The combination of meaty, nutty toasted buckwheat set against the smooth, sweet and creamy potato was a heavenly match.  And while I promptly forgot what an artist’s statement was (if I ever really knew it), that Shepherd’s pie, with its magical pattern of ochre potato and sepia buckwheat, was etched permanently in my memory.

Imagine my surprise when, a couple of weeks ago, I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers while flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, one of the first I bought when I started experimenting with vegetarian cuisine: Nettie’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Nettie Cronish.  The book contains one of my all-time favorite recipes, Almond-Curry Tofu Stir-Fry . In fact, I was so taken with that recipe once I discovered it that I proceeded to cook variations of the dish at least twice a week for the following six months or so (at which point the HH tersely informed me that he would never eat a single MORSEL of tofu EVER AGAIN, as long as he LIVED. Odd, since I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have had the same reaction to, say, steak a couple of times a week for six months. . . but I digress.)

Steak?  Did someone say ‘steak’?  Ooooh, we haven’t had steak in ages. . . years, maybe. . . “

Elsie, what’s steak?”

I couldn’t believe my luck: the recipe featured that elusive duo of sweet potato and buckwheat! I knew I had to try it.  And just what made this particular pattie so special, you ask? Well, it seems to me that in any duel between veggie burgers, you have your tofu-based on the North American side, and you have your nut-based on the UK/Antipodean side.  But Nettie’s burger–while still a realistic, objective representation of “burger”–featured neither of these.  The patties are based on the combination of grain and tuber, with a dash of almond butter as a binder.  I have to admit, I was initially doubtful and wondered if they’d hold together, but they worked beautifully.  Even the HH, with his skepticism for any non-meat proteins, enjoyed them immensely. 

Mum, I’m quite sure I heard you say ‘burger”! You know we’re always happy to help out with meat of any kind. . . Oh, Chaser, you’ll love burgers!  They’re sort of like steak.”

I served this hearty dish (substantial enough to eat sans buns) alongside a favorite recipe for spring salad. The interplay of colors on the plate struck me as so artistic, in fact, it made me immediately nostalgic for those artsy days back at OCA.   

Since these burgers were the cornerstone of a delectable vegetarian meal, I’m submitting this post to Eat the Right Stuff’s blog event, Vegetable, Beautiful Vegetables

* he of the black leather pants. . . of course.

Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers

adapted from Nettie’s Vegetarian Kitchen

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

Surprisingly hearty and filling, these burgers are quite easy to throw together and offer a savory, almost smoky flavor.  Leftovers stored in the fridge will firm up even more overnight. I halved the recipe with no problems.

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

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.”]  

 

 

 [This week's Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes.  Here's the last part in the series.]

swpotpancakegd4.jpg 

Okay, everyone, pour yourselves a glass of wine.  Now, raise it with me and yell, “Pancakes!  Pancakes!”

 No, I haven’t reached that breaking point where I’m finally guzzling alcohol at breakfast.  The reference above is one that comes courtesy of The CFO, and one I always think of when I eat those delectable breakfast cakes. 

 Here’s the story:  when The CFO graduated from college, she and her best friend decided to take a summer off and backpack it across Europe (My!  What an original idea!).  And, like so many other 18 year-old women on their own across Europe for the first time, they had a blast, meeting other young people from various countries and doing things that make them cringe today.

At one point, they found themselves in a tiny Greek village, at the local bar, imbibing far too many drinks while surrounded by a group of eight or so young, virile, 20-something local males. After a couple of hours and several pitchers of beer, one young lad decided to toast the two nubile lovelies. “Geiá mas!” he cried, hoisting his beer stein aloft.  Told that the words meant “Our health” in Greek, the women remarked how health seemed to play a role in most toasts. 

“And how do your people say it a toast in your country?” the swarthy young fellow inquired.  

At this, The CFO and her friend exchanged a quick glance.  These country bumpkins had no concept whatsoever of Canadian mores, Canadian culture, or Canadian colloquialisms.  Without skipping a beat, The CFO responded, “Pancakes!”

And so, dear readers, that is how a packed table of raucous, muscular and very self-satisfied young Greeks whiled away the evening with two cute Canadian gals, repeatedly raising their glasses and shouting out, “Pancakes!” at the top of their lungs, till the wee hours of the morning.

Now, I may have mentioned before that breakfast is my favorite meal (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Enough with the breakfast already!”).  But have I mentioned that pancakes happen to be my favorite breakfast food? And with sweet potatoes as my favorite vegetable–well, it was bound to happen.  Sweet potato pancakes. 

 When I went searching for a sweet potato pancake recipe, Google was happy to oblige, and served up quite a collection.  Most of these, however, turned out to be a sweet potato-based version of regular potato pancakes, or latkesswpotpancakesingle.jpg Now, I have nothing against latkes, but that just wasn’t what I had in mind.  Then I remembered a post I’d seen on Tummy Treasure, in which Erika played with a recipe from the ubiquitous How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. (Seems Mr. Bittman’s book is so ubiquitous, in fact, that a copy has now made its way into my own collection!)

 The basic ingredients are very simple, and Erika suggests playing with the recipe to suit your own tastes.  Using Bittman’s generic proportions, I substituted sweet potatoes for the pumpkin that Erika used, and added a bit of extra flour for a fluffier interior.

 The result was a light, airy, absolutely irresistible cake.  The sweet potato added body and substance to create a filling breakfast, which was perfect with a little 100% fruit jam or maple syrup on top.

If you’re in the right mood, you might even have them with a glass of white wine or champagne Mimosa.   Oh, and hey–”Pancakes!”

swpotpancakegd3.jpg

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! TO VISIT THE NEW SITE, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 4 in the series. ]

Finding recipes that use familiar ingredients in new ways is almost as much fun for me as finding completely new ingredients.  For instance, I loved it when I started to bake with all kinds of veggies in cakes, cookies, or other desserts (I’ll be writing more about that on Monday).  The first time I tasted sweet cashew cream (a vegan substitute for dairy cream), I was immediately enraptured (I mean, a cream redolent of cashews and maple syrup? Talk about a no-brainer!).  And don’t even get me started on olive soup.

So when I discovered that sweet potatoes made an excellent base for a salad (true, I was a little late coming to that realization; I’ve always been somewhat of a late bloomer), I was thrilled to be able to use one of my favorite vegetables at room temperature as well as in cooked foods and soups. 

I’m already a great fan of a Sweet Potato-Ginger Salad recipe that I found in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.  Then, by chance the other day as I avoided marking browsed some blogs, I came upon an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato-Cranberry Hash from new blogger Karen at Test Drive Kitchen.  With the post title, “My Favorite Side Dish of All Time,”  how could I resist?

The recipe looked easy to make, and, as Karen mentions, contained gorgeous, brilliant autumnal colors courtesy of sweet potatoes, cranberries, and glossy green onions (and–bonus!–I got to use up the cranberries I had from yesterday’s scones). 

I set about baking the potatoes only to realize I had no green onions in the house, so I used a regular onion and sauteed it along with the cubed apple.  To compensate for the lack of green, I added some chopped parsley at the last minute.  The result was an equally brilliant palette of colors.

The hash/salad turned out yummy, though my personal preference would be for more spice.  And I do think it would have been better with the original green onions, which would have added a flavor kick that was lacking in sauteed one. 

Sweet Potato and Cranberry Hash (adapted from Test Drive Kitchen)

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

swpothash.jpg

This is an easy-to-prepare, visually stunning dish that tastes great.  It’s a wonderful side dish for any holiday meal, or, in our house, a main course on its own.

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

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