A Bowl Lotta Love

March 4, 2009

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 to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking!  (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you'd be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers--hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, 'cause there's a lengthy return post ahead--on to the food!]

1stbowl51

[Base of rice and buckwheatsautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]

I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.

Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal.  Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love.  Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following: 

  • how much I miss blogging when I’m away.  I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and  prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously.  In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away).  Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
  • how many different ways one can answer the same exam question (more than you might think, but not quite as many as the meaning of life, the universe and everything).
  • how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it!  (more on that anon).
  • how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
  • how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home).  And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
  • why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.

3rdbowl4

[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]

Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again. 

When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead.  Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.  

I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD).  I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it).  But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?). 

I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy.  So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body.  So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this:  treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.)  So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **

My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on  this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).

To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize.  After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life.  Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).

And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare.  If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.

2ndbowl21

[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]

The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next).   Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.

4thbow3

[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]

Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America.  There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.

My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies).  I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be.  The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).

In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige. 

With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy.  And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.  

The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces.  Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.   

**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be!  I have no intention of actually losing that much.  Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.

Tahini-Miso Sauce

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

4thbowl21

Almond and Curry Sauce 

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

2ndbowl1

Orange Fig Sauce

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

3rdbowl3

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!  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."]  

polentafeta11

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

polentafeta3

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!

If you’re reading this, you’ve landed on the old site. Please come visit the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs, by clicking here.

 

sweetscrambleclose 

The close friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was soldered back in high school, when we first discovered that we were the only two girls in the entire school who had never had a boyfriend (well, I guess there was “BB,” too, but we figured that sleeping with the entire senior class had to count for something).  

This revelation prompted an immediate sense of community between us, after which we spent endless hours (in the way that only teenagers can) on the telephone, musing about why we didn’t have a boyfriend, how much we wished we could have a boyfriend, what we would do if we ever got a boyfriend, and what it was other girls like BB had that we didn’t, allowing them to seemingly conjure streams of drooling boys trailing behind them like empty cans tied to a “Just Married” car bumper.  Entirely unjustly, we thought, these girls enjoyed a surfeit of boyfriends, while we had to make do with an unrequited crush on our French teacher, Mr. Krauser.

But then, we discovered historical romance novels, and our focus shifted.  You know the ones: innocent, nubile, yet spunky lass is swept away (usually literally) by swaggering, swarthy, self-assured rake with a (very well hidden) heart of gold.  Over time, he wins her devotion, while she tames his savage nature.  Well, we were spunky, weren’t we?  Sterlin and I began to daydream, starry-eyed, about meeting a similar hero (even though we never fully understood exactly what a “rake” was) and riding off into the sunset, where he’d unravel the secrets of our nascent womanhood and we would charm his wild heart.

In the books, at least, we could get close to the most desirable of men. For some reason, these novels (at least, the ones I remember) all sported titles pairing two nouns, representing male and female: there was The Wolf and the Dove,  and The Flame and The Flower (both Kathleen E. Woodiwiss masterworks) or perhaps The Raven and The Rose or The Pirate and the Pagan (both by Virginia Henley).  And let’s not forget my favorite, The French Teacher and the Girl with Braces and Long Hair Parted in the Middle Who Liked to Bake (okay, my memory may be a bit fuzzy on that one–high school was a long time ago!). 

Well, given our combined paucity of feminine wiles  flirting ability lacy lingerie boyfriend-attracting attributes, we eventually decided to woo our guys with food (the way to a man’s heart, and all that).  So Sterlin developed Date Pasta as her staple, while I attempted to perfect an ideal chocolate cheesecake, or brownie, or even muffin (since, you know, I had high hopes of my imaginary beau staying for breakfast). 

Those erstwhile romantic efforts came back to me in a flash last week after I’d been browsing through some old cookbooks. Previously, I’d had a little email exchange with Lisa (Show Me Vegan) about buying or keeping cookbooks we no longer really use, or those that contain only a smattering of recipes still relevant to our newly acquired dietary habits. 

One such tome in my collection is called The Breakfast Book, by Diana Terry (and though I’ve owned this book since the 1980s, I never realized until today that it was published in Australia–which, I may have mentioned, is the land of my dreams, with its picturesque vistas, lush wilderness, stunning cities, enviable weather, and dashing, rakish Aussie gentelmen–all of whom just happen to speak with that sexy Australian accent). 

sweetscrambleplate

Ah, yes, well.  Pardon me: back to the book. Terry offers a sample menu for a brunch with a decidedly orange theme.  The lucky boyfriend guest is treated to Champagne with Grand Marnier, Scrambled Eggs with Wholemeal Brioches, Fresh Fruit with Ricotta-Orange Dip, and Viennese-Style Coffee.  Of course, none of the recipes would suit me in its present form, but that certainly didn’t stop this spunky gal.

After reading about the citrus-suffused eggs that were then gingerly ladled over a split brioche, its top placed rakishly askew, I asked myself:  “Who said tofu scrambles should be savory, anyway?  Why not sweet? And why must they always be one shade shy of neon yellow?  And couldn’t my own, homemade, biscuits stand in for a brioche? And just what does “rakishly” actually mean, anyway?”

So I created this scramble, which is slightly sweet and not too yellow.  And it’s very creamy.  And it has orange zest and juice in it.  And you ladle it gingerly over the bottom of a carob and raisin biscuit, the top of which is placed rakishly askew over it. 

And may I just say–I ended up loving this dish.  In fact, our affair bordered on the torrid.  Who needs a boyfriend?  I’d rather eat this*.  But if you’re feeling generous, go ahead and share it with your wolf, or your flame, or your rake.

[PS. Giveaway, as promised, will be announced in my next post--stay tuned!]

*Okay, not really. If I had to choose between a sweet tofu scramble and my sweet HH, of course the HH would win out.  But just barely.

Sweet Scramble with Carob-Raisin Biscuits

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

sweetscramble2

based on an idea in The Breakfast Book by Diana Terry

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

Carob and Raisin Biscuits

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

© 2009  Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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.

kugelwhole2

[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

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

[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."]

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What??? Another Flash in the Pan, back-to-back with the previous one? 

Honestly, I was working on a post about cookies (a Gastronomic Gift to be shared next time, promise!) when I accidentally happened upon this amazing discovery.  I was so thrilled with myself that I just had to share it immediately! (Yes, you’re right, I really must get another hobby).

And, as today’s post title implies, my life has been rather out of balance lately.  Scrambling to complete a cookbook manuscript (oh, woe, oh, woe, I fear I may miss a deadline for the first time in my life!), marking student exams, preparing for the holidays and a visit from the CFO, tending to an injured Girl, my weight hopping between lows and all-time highs like critic’s reviews of Britney’s music–well, let’s just say I needed something to balance the mood. 

And, as serendipity would have it, this recipe filled the gap.  This is my version of a creamy, smooth, spreadable, nonhydrogenated, trans-fat free, yellowish in color, firm-when-refrigerated-but-not-melty-when-room-temperature, spread-it-on-bread or melt-it-on-a-pancake, tastes-rich-and-incredible, all-purpose, homeade and waaay-cheaper-than-that-famous-brand BUTTERY SPREAD. 

Well, as you know, many a great invention has been discovered by accident.  I think most people are aware of the accidental discovery of Post-It Notes (for which, apparently, the inventor was never properly compensated).  On the other side of the sticky/non-sticky spectrum is the unintentional discovery of a new substance even slicker than Teflon (though, of course, we’re all aware that any kind of nonstick cookware can emit deadly gases, right?).  Or how about the monumental “mistake” that was the development of penicillin? My sinuses thank you, Alexander Fleming.

And yesterday, this entirely fortuitous concoction was created in my kitchen.  I was so shocked after I turned on the little food processor (I have one of those “Mini-Prep” processors for small batches) and saw the result that I did an internet search to check who else had already come up with the same recipe.  It seemed too simple!  Too easy!  Too good. 

I found lots of coconut oil-olive oil based mixes,  Bryanna’s low-fat “Corn Butter” and a great-sounding recipe in Alisa’s new book, Go Dairy Free, but nothing like this.  At first I thought the tofu in the recipe might be a problem (well, it is for those with soy allergies), but I checked out the Earth Balance website for a list of ingredients, and since it, too, contains quite a bit of soy protein, I assumed this would be fine (and that accounts for the similarity in appearance between the two, I imagine).  A little tweaking, and I found my new favorite spread!

The only caveat I’d offer with this spread is that, made from coconut oil, it is, after all, mostly fat (specifically, saturated fat). Unlike the prepared spread, though, this contains no canola oil (which can be controversial) or other additives. 

I don’t know if this would work as a butter substitute in recipes other than baked goods, but please, give it a try and let me know!  Also, since I’ve never tasted Earth Balance, I don’t know if the flavor of this spread is similar or not.  I do know that I really enjoyed it on bread (even though I was never a butter-on-bread kind of gal in the old days), and that  the HH loved this so much, he ate three pieces of bread with it and proclaimed, “Hey, this is good stuff, man!”**

It may not balance the chaos in your life, your chakras, or even your budget–but I bet you will still love this buttery substitute!

My Life in Balance Buttery Spread

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

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You can spread this mixture as you would butter on any bread, pancake, or muffin.  There are myriad possibilities  for  fruited butters, herb butter, garlic butter–use your imagination, and let me know how it turns out!  

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.

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Now, I realize I promised a light and not-too-filling recipe today, but before we get to that, I must share something very rich and decadent and–because I ate most of it in one sitting–rather filling: the Peppermint Ritter Sport bar I won (a while ago, now) in Amey’s contest!

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I received the bar in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled to rip open the envelope and find that it reached me in perfect condition–all the way from California! While a couple of the squares had broken apart, the smooth, white, minty filling remained enclosed in the chocolate and every piece was perfectly edible.  And believe me, eat it I did (well, I shared–just a wee bit–with the HH). 

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I also loved that the entire wrapper was in German!  Here in Toronto, anyway, the Ritter Sports we get have multiple languages on the wrappers, including French and English.  It made Amey’s seem much more authentic.  Thanks so much, Amey!  It’s always so exciting to get something fun in the mail, and that bar is a definite new favorite.  (Wow, I think I’m a little overwhelmed with all the goodies I’ve received in the mail from other bloggers these past few months!  Have I mentioned lately that you guys are THE BEST??!)

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out for brunch with my friend PR Queen to celebrate both our birthdays, which are a month apart. (Yes, this really was the birthday that refused to surrender!)

In any case, we went to an upscale vegan resto called Fressen, where the food is stellar (and the prices are equally astronomical). I relished my fresh beet, apple and carrot juice; salad of baby greens and balsamic-dijon dressing; and stuffed tofu omelet.  But I just couldn’t see myself going there on a regular basis, mostly because (a) it’s right in the heart of the Queen West area of Toronto, just a minim too trendy, too grungy and too crowded for my taste; (b) Queen West is right in the heart of the general downtown in Toronto, a 35-minute drive away at the best of times, but more like an hour-plus when there’s traffic; (c) the prices there are, as I mentioned, bordering on the stratosphere; and (d) if I kept eating brunch there on a regular basis, I’d be denying myself the challenge of re-creating the same brunch at home.  Which, because I’m just wacky that way, I endeavored to do the very next weekend.

First, I suppose I should pause here to admit that, for most of my life, I have been severely Ovule-Challenged.  Whether soft boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, or any other way, I never did master egg cooking skills.  And omelets add yet another layer of difficulty: the perfect (egg) omelet is meant to be uniformly puffy and light, all in one piece, possessing a slightly gooey interior that I’ve always found rather gag-inducing. Even when the HH and I were first together and I attempted omelets on a regular basis, my egg oeuvres (or would that be oeufres?) would invariably crack and split and wilt like leaves on my sorely neglected ficus plant every time I tried to flip them, resulting in breakage and a pan housing three or four large, ragged-edge slabs of egg, sprawled at odd angles. I’d end up stirring the mixture furiously, ultimately transforming it into a semi-scramble and calling it frittata.  It wasn’t long before the HH took over omelet duty.  He’s never had a problem whipping one up (literally); and, to this day, he cooks an omelet for himself almost every Sunday. 

I assumed I’d have more success re-creating that tofu-based Fressen beauty (even though my first attempt at a tofu omelet also lacked that airy, pillowy texture, despite its wonderful flavor). What I loved about the Fressen version was how it seemed both moist and fluffy at the same time; while clearly cooked and browned on the outside, the inside remained soft, creamy, and light as custard. Stuffed with a succulent, rich filling of pesto, caramelized leek and mushrooms, it was a vision to behold: golden and crisp on the outside; vibrant green, tan and walnut-brown on the inside.  And the flavor!  The perfect edible mixture of woodsy, grassy, and airy. I wanted more!  

Given its ultra-light texture, I surmised that the omelet included silken tofu along with the firm. I’d already mastered pesto during the summer when my experimental home-grown basil flourished so remarkably; and while we didn’t have leeks in the fridge, we did have an abundance of onions, which served as a servicable replacement.

I created the omelet base by adapting the generic recipe in Joni Marie Newman’s  Cozy Inside, with several adjustments and additions.  I used home-made pesto, but you could just as well use store-bought.  The rest of it comes together in a flash. 

While the result wasn’t quite as fluffy as I’d hoped it would be, this did render a reasonable facsimile of the original.  Great for a brunch at home after a holiday feast, and an especially tasty way to economize and avoid those sky-high restaurant bills :) .

Given the cilantro-based pesto filling, I thought this would be a good submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the event run by Haalo over at Cook (Almost) Anything Once, and this week hosted by Scott over at Real Epicurean.

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

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You can use any tofu-based omelet recipe you choose for this recipe.  While this one tastes great and the flavors are beautifully complemented by the filling, it is very fragile and breaks easily.  A more sturdy recipe is this one; or use a version of your own.

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

 

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DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

chiliside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chili to Last Through the Winter

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

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

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

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