Odd. . . my Google Reader seemed to be filling up at an alarming rate, sort of like the rising waterline in The Poseidon Adventure.  Then I remembered:  Not only is October the official World Vegetarian Month, it’s also the Vegan MOFO (Month of Food)!  This is the 31-day period in which vegan food bloggers worldwide pledge to blog at least 20 days of the month about, well, vegan food.  And blog they have!

Given my vida loca schedule these days (and The Girls do make me put my clothes on and go walking in the rain), as well as the imminent festival of the harvest here in Canada, I accepted that I simply couldn’t commit to that esteemed blog event, for fear of ending up committed myself as a result.   Instead, I thought I’d bring to you some highlights of recipes I’ve tried and enjoyed from other vegan and vegetarian bloggers in the past while. 

Every now and again, I scroll through my photos and realize there are dozens of dishes I’ve cooked and photographed, but never blogged about.  It may be that they were less than stellar in their final form, or that my woeful skill as a photographer resulted in a photo that, ahem, didn’t quite do the dish justice.  More often than not, however, it’s just that I ran out of time and went on to blog about something else–and then, weeks (or, in some cases, months) later, I stumble upon the photos and rack my brains to remember what the heck it was.  And so, here’s but a brief sampling of some of the things we’ve been sampling here in the DDD household.

Happy Vegan MoFo, everyone!

Caramelized Tofu (101 Cookbooks)

As Heidi mentions in her post about this, this deceptively simple dish is incredibly addictive.  I made it once to try it out, then repeated the venture three days in a row.  Stupendous.  (And this is one of those aforementioned cases in which the photographer is not up to par with the quality of the recipe!).

Crumb-Topped Brownies, sans topping (My Sweet Vegan): 

Hannah’s Crumb-Topped Brownies are everything you’ve heard they are, and more.  As I mentioned a while back, I recently found myself with some soy yogurt in the house, so I finally had the means to try these out.  They were superb–soft, gooey, and with a moist, almost custard-like texture that literally melted in the mouth.  Even without the white sugar or flour, these were fabulous, and irresistibly decadent.

Curried Tofu Scramble (Moosewood New Classics):

My favorite scrambled tofu recipe. With just a touch of curry paste, a hit of jalapeno, the requisite turmeric–this dish provides a spicy, juicy, eggy and convenient scramble.  I could eat this every day (and I do, for about 3 days after I make it, since the HH will no longer indulge with me).

Broccoli and Rice Salad (Jean Lemlin’s Quick, Simple and Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures):

Got broccoli?  Got rice? With the addition of a tangy dressing and chopped almonds, Lemlin elevates the basic rice and veggies to a step beyond the quotidien.  And gluten-free! 

Nori Condiment-Baked Potatoes (Nourish Me):

As Lucy mentioned in her original post about this condiment, it may be just a tad too pungent for some tastes on its own; but these taste buds thoroughly enjoyed it roasted with russett potatoes. Yes, it does sound quirky, and yes, it does resemble the habitat of plankton, but it is, nevertheless, uniquely appealing!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Destiny’s Vegan Kitchen):

Rich. Chewy. Chocolatey. Totally indulgent.  All that, even though I made my usual substitutions of Sucanat for sugar, spelt for regular flour, coconut oil for margarine, etc.  The HH almost scalded his tongue eating four of these babies straight out of the oven.  What are you waiting for?  Go bake some, pronto!

And coming up. . . .got any coconut of your own?

I deliberately ended this list with these coconut cookies as a segue into my next post, which will introduce a new Lucky Comestible series–on coconut!  I’d love to include any recipes you may have made featuring this ingredient as well.  While I’m not quite ready for my own blog event, I will happily provide links to your posts at the end of each Lucky Comestible recipe in the series. 

So feel free to send along those URLs for your coconut-based recipes (and I’m already planning to feature at least 2 of your recipes in the batch. . . but you’ll have to wait to see which ones!).

Oh, Mum, talk about MoFo!  You’re so cruel to keep us all waiting. . .especially when you’re cooking all those yummy coconut dishes just a few feet away. . . *sigh*. . . “

“Chaser, don’t you use such language!  And don’t worry, when she’s done, we’ll get to polish off the extra coconut milk.” 

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.” 

 

[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."]

[Non-salsa version]

Oooh. . . I’m feeling the crunch.  I wish I could say that’s the “crunch” of a lovely rice crisp-filled chocolate bar or the crunch of ice in a gin and tonic as I lounge by a pool, or even the crunch of my feet as they traverse a lovely woodsy trail with The Girls, but no; the crunch I am experiencing is the crunch of marking as the semester nears its end.  And now that we’ve reached this critical juncture in the term, I’m afraid I won’t be able to post as often as I’d like, at least for a couple of weeks.

I did discover that I’ve got quite a few photos from previous cooking adventures, however, patiently waiting for posts, so I’ll try to clear out some old files over the next while as I simultaneously clear out that pile of marking.

First up is a recipe I remembered while reading Katy’s post yesterday, about her first-ever tofu scramble. I realized I’ve got no fewer than 4 potential posts about various tofu dishes, as the quintessential bean is a regular in our household and I’m always trying out different recipes in a quest for variety and novelty. I’ll start you off with this super-easy Flash in the Pan recipe before moving on to other favorite scrambles in the next week or two.

Like so many of you, I am a big fan of Veganomicon.  One recipe in particular calls to me over and over, sort of like Casablanca or It’s A Wonderful Life:  no matter how many times I sample Isa and Terry’s Caesar salad, I’m always excited to see it again. In fact, I do believe I’ve never tasted a Caesar dressing quite as good as that one, vegan or otherwise. (“We’re pretty fond of it, too, Mum.  We just love that high-protein, high-fat combination of tofu and ground almonds!”)

Just a wee problem:  every time the HH and I whip up a batch of that dressing for our romaine lettuce, we end up with enough silky, garlicy coating for 10-12 servings.  But we are only two.  And yes, I eat Caesar for four days in a row–but still end up with half the dressing in a jar in the fridge.  So, what to do with the leftovers?

Last weekend, I had a little epiphany:  why not COOK IT??  Yes, my friends, I heated up a Caesar salad dressing.  And not only that; I also mixed it with salsa and crumbled tofu.  Yep, life sure is wacky in the DDD household!  (“You said it, Mum! But does this mean we get to lick dressing off your fingers now?”)

And you know what?  It was fantastic!  The combination of slightly spicy (I used a medium-hot salsa), creamy and pungent was to-die-for.  The raw garlic in the dressing is cooked a bit, thereby mitigating the usual bite when that particular bulb is eaten raw.  The dressing-salsa mixture was the perfect consistency–thick enough to smother and cling to the chunks of tofu, yet soft enough to remain a bit saucy. (And we’re all for saucy here at DDD).

The second time I tried it, we were actually all out of salsa, so I just used a chopped onion sautéed in a tad of olive oil, a (large) chopped tomato and a few sprinkles of tabasco, for a very similar effect.  I think I’m addicted to this stuff now (or, at least, for the next couple of weeks, before I move on to something else. . . not only wacky, but fickle, too. I guess that’s just what life is like during crunch time.).

Mex-Ital Tofu Scramble

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

[Salsa version]

If you’re in a hurry and happen to have leftover Caesar dressing in the fridge, this is a great scramble for breakfast or lunch.  People are particular about the tofu they use for scrambles–I like really firm, solid chunks, but if you prefer the water-packed kind, go for it.  This is lovely on a piece of spelt pita.

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

*apologies to Geneen Roth

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.” 

 

[Well, I really hadn't meant to write about my mother for two entries in a row.  Maybe it was all of your wonderful comments about yesterday's "mom story"; maybe it was an offshoot of Mother's Day earlier in the month; maybe I'm just feeling all mushy and sentimental after watching the over-the-top , tear-filled finale of American Idol last night. 

Or, maybe, it's Sarah's fault. Over at Homemade Experiences in the Kitchen, Sarah is hosting a blog event called "Tastes to Remember," that asks us to write about "those tastes and smells that immediately bring you back to your childhood."  Of course, my mother came to mind once again, this time for her baking (which, unlike her cooking, was quite exceptional).  So forgive the bathos. And here's my own little contribution to this week's sappy ending.]  

* * * * * * * * * *

In the house in which I grew up, food often spoke louder than the people. When my mother was too hurt, too angry, too stubborn or simply too out of touch with her own internal landscape to speak, the dishes she cooked were imbued with their own telegraphic properties. Food could be either a reward or a weapon, and, like each of those, was often withheld until the situation truly warranted its use.   

 

On schoolday mornings, I’d sometimes wake early and stumble into the kitchen before my father left for work (he was usually gone by 6:15, off to a 12-hour day at the butcher shop to kibbitz with customers, haul sides of beef, or trim stew meat just so before wrapping it expertly, as if swaddling a baby, in waxy brown paper). Squinting and still shielding my eyes from the electric light, I’d encounter my dad hunched over his breakfast at the kitchen table. I could always sense immediately whether or not some earlier argument between my parents had been resolved overnight.

 

Was he enjoying two soft-boiled eggs, an orange cut into eighths and his usual cup of black tea? That meant the air had cleared with the sunlit sky; equilibrium had been restored. If, instead, the plate proffered a lone slice of blackened toast, glistening with a hasty swipe of margarine; if the kettle was left boiling unattended (it was understood he’d have to go get his own), then I knew that tension had prevailed, and it would be at least one more day before détente was re-established.    

 

Food also conveyed silent, unspeakable messages of sorrow.   

 

When I was about six or seven, my mother acquired a recipe for “Potato Boats” from one of her Mah Jong friends, and they were quickly adopted as our staple Friday night dinner. Each week, Mom would cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the nubbly, steaming flesh and mash the innards with butter and milk before packing the mixture back into the empty shells, topping each with an orange haystack of grated Kraft cheese. The “boats” were then replaced in the oven and baked until the cheese oozed and bubbled, drooping over the potato edges to form charred rounds of ash on the baking sheet. We all loved the Friday suppers, and my sisters and I waited eagerly for them.   

 

Then my grandfather got sick.  As the only grandparent still alive when I was born, he’d been a fairly constant presence in our lives—living, in fact, right upstairs in the upper duplex of our house, with my aunt’s family. Diagnosed with liver cancer, Zaida was given little chance of recovery. Only two weeks after the diagnosis—on a Friday–he was admitted to hospital.    

 

That afternoon, my mother operated in a haze, her eyes perpetually wet, leaking silent rivulets down her cheeks. She moved aimlessly through the house like a fly caught in the window frame, shifting from one spot to the next as if the counter, the table, the cupboard, were each invisible barriers blocking her path, causing her to recoil and try again, over and over. She somehow still produced the requisite potato boats and salmon patties–I couldn’t understand why we were having them for lunch instead of dinner–and we ate in tense, confused silence.  The following Friday, we were served a different menu; she never attempted the potato boats again.   

 

Still, food could also project a sense of celebration and delight.
 
Shy and reserved, my mother was as soft spoken as grass. Not one to tout her own accomplishments , she relied instead on food to convey positive feelings of pride or self-confidence.  Renowned for her baking, she’d silently bask in the appreciative “ooh”s and “aah”s from friends and family whenever she served her signature creation, a towering Chiffon Cake almost a foot high.  Other times, if she felt adventurous and carefree, she’d bake up “Chocolate Shadows,” a somewhat bizarre yet beloved combination of chocolate cookie with swirls of sweet peanut-butter filling and a hint of mint flavoring.

Perhaps most of all, when Mom was feeling conciliatory and generous and filled with love toward my father, she’d bake his favorite dessert, something we called Farmer’s Cheesecake.  Unlike the rich, dense and decadent rounds  we’re accustomed to today, this homey version, based on one his grandmother had made on the dairy farm where he grew up, was set in a square pan and sported a cake-like crust both beneath, and woven in a freeform criss-cross over, a layer of puréed cottage cheese, eggs, lemon and a hint of sugar. The finished result was then cut into squares to be enjoyed after dinner or, in the case of my sisters and me, for breakfast. The cheese filling, reminiscent of that in a kolacky or cheese danish, was smooth, yet firm and not too sweet.    

On days when I arrived home from school and was greeted by the rich, eggy aroma as it sneaked out from under our front door, I’d race up the stairs in excited anticipation, knowing my mother would be in good spirits.  My sisters and I would sample the cake as soon as it was ready—only a tiny nibble was permitted—before allowing it to cool on the kitchen counter until my dad came home.    

 

When my mother placed a slice of this cake in front of my father, his face, no matter how tense or furrowed from the day’s work, would soften and a smile overtook him as he brandished his fork. He’d relish his little gift of generosity, savoring every morsel along with his cup of tea.  “Just like my grandmother used to make,” he’d murmur, grinning. Then my mother would retreat to the sink; as she passed the soapy dishcloth slowly over each bowl or plate, her face was limned with satisfaction. No words were required, as we all knew what she was feeling.  

 

So you see why I was determined to recreate that cake. I wanted to achieve a vegan version with the same harmony of cookie crust, tart, lemony filling and light, pillowy texture. It took several attempts, but I think I finally found a suitable rendition.  And while it may not quite do the original justice, but I’m still pretty happy with the outcome.  With its irregular lattice crust and home-made appeal, this cake does approximate the Farmer’s Cheesecake of my childhood.   

 

Tonight after dinner, I padded over to where the HH sat and, without uttering a sound, placed a big slice of the cake in front of him. At first he cut into it tentatively, sampling a tiny bite.  Then he dug in to the rest with gusto, and in an instant had already scraped the plate clean.   

 

I could tell from the smile on his face that he’d understood exactly what I meant.  

 

 Vegan Farmer’s Cheesecake

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

This is a great everyday cake, one you can easily mix up for a daily treat, but so delicious you’ll want to share it with friends.

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! TO VISIT THE NEW SITE, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

[That's our little Vanilla, in the middle]

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.”]  

So, I heard somewhere that it’s hockey season now.  Oh, don’t look so surprised: despite having been raised in Montreal (a hockey town if ever there was one), I am indifferent to the sticks-and-pucks revelry. Personally, I’d rather read about the latest face-off between, say, brownies and blondies than between the Habs and the Flyers.

In fact, I can’t say that I’m too interested in any team sports–or, come to think of it, any sports at all. Is it any wonder?  Perpetually the “anchor” in tug-of-war; too uncoordinated to hit a baseball with a screen door; lacking even the modicum of balance necessary for hockey (though I did go skating, once, when I was about 15, soley to impress a guy I had a crush on.  Oh, I made a lasting impression, all right–somewhere on the upper right thigh, just where my skate sliced through the flesh, if memory serves.)

This is not to imply that I don’t enjoy a good competition with myself every now and again, in a constant effort to improve on my own “personal best.” (And speaking of competitions, I’ve just gotta say it: time to wave goodbye to Jason Castro, don’t you think?). I’m forever asking questions like, “Can I increase my speed on the treadmill this week?”  “Can I accomplish a bicep curl with a 15-pound weight?”  “Can I use up every single veggie from our weekly organic box?” “Can I manage to sweep my kitchen floor every day three times a week monthly before the dust bunnies take up permanent residence on the living room couch?”–and so on.

(“You know, Mum, we’d be happy to chase those bunnies for you.  And while we’re on the subject, why are they allowed on the couch when we’re not?”)

As far as I’m concerned, a little healthy competition in the kitchen can only be a good thing. In order to improve a recipe-in-progress, I might tinker with it 10 or a dozen times to get it right, often in a single day (why, yes, it’s true: I don’t have anything better to do!). Is the muffin better with agave or maple syrup?–let’s bake a new batch and find out!  Should I use barley flour or oat in the apple bars?–only another round of baking will tell! Can the cashew cookies stand up to cardamom, or would ginger be better?–let’s test ‘em out and see!

This somewhat peculiar proclivity in the kitchen was the impetus behind a strange experiment last week, one I conducted after receiving my copy of Carole Walter’s James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, in the mail. As some of you may recall, my recipe for Maple-Walnut cookies won the book in a recent Cookthink Root Source Challenge for recipes based on maple syrup. (Hmm.  Yes, I suppose that made me “competitive,” though of course not in the athletic sense.)

As soon as I ripped open the package, I was charmed by the clean, clear layout, the stunning full-color photographs and the innovative, precisely written recipes (200 of them!). And even though it’s filled with traditional recipes with conventional ingredients (think eggs, milk, butter, etc.), the book focuses on homey, classic treats, which are fairly easily adaptable to NAG principles.

Virtually everything in the book appealed to me, from the Vanilla Bean Poundcake to the Irish Whiskey Cake to the Apricot and Dried Pineapple Muffins to the Fig and Walnut Loaf.  Lest you think the book is partial to goodies baked in pans, Walter also includes recipes for cookies, bars, biscuits, strudel, danish, buns and braids–plus many more treats shaped by hand.

My gaze lit upon a recipe called “Favorite Vanilla Muffins.” Vanilla muffins?  Sure, I’d sampled many a vanilla cake in my time, but never a vanilla muffin. With its denser, moister texture, might a muffin be a better foundation to showcase the fragrant, floral tones of pure vanilla extract? A competition was in order!

I thought about the differences between the two.  Like the Olson twins (though of course, in this case, actually connected to food), muffins and cupcakes are the same, but different.  Both are single-serving renditions of a larger baked good (loaf or cake); both sport domed tops, flat bottoms and angled sides often encased in frilly paper liners. To muddy the batters even further, both may (but are not required to) contain chopped fruits, nuts, or chocolate.

A few Googled pages later, I discovered that the cupcake versus muffin debate was already in full swing among bloggers and other writers (two good sources are recipezaar’s concise take on the issue, and the more detailed viewpoint on Curious Foodie’s blog).

How, I wondered, would that Favorite Vanilla Muffin stand up against its cakey counterpart? I decided to bake one of each (both using my adaptations of Walter’s recipes) and compare the results. Granted, my creations (no matter how delectable) would never be exactly as Walter intended; but I was okay with that. I chose a Classic Sour Cream Cinnamon and Nut Coffee Cake (without the cinnamon/nut filling) for my cupcake, mostly because, like the muffin recipe, it called for sour cream (and I needed to use up the tofu-based batch I’d be concocting). That would leave me with one vanilla; two vanilla (any more than that and we’d have the unfortunate Milli Vanilla).

[Coffeecake cupcake--with its intended filling. Get a load of that cinnamon-pecan swirl!]

Which won the competition? As expected, the muffins were heavier and denser. In fact, apart from the shape, they were a different animal entirely. For some reason, in these particular muffins, the vanilla essence proclaimed its presence assertively, even before you bit into the soft, moist interior; the sweet, floral aroma fairly radiates. And even though I knew my “sour cream” was soy-based, there was an incredible richness to these muffins that rendered them filling and satisfying; no need for fruit or fillers.

The cupcakes, for their part, were equally delectable.  Undisputably more delicate with a tender crumb, the cakes were lighter both in texture and color. The vanilla essence here was definitely noticeable as well, though in a more understated fashion.  Like pitting Ella against Diana singing Cole Porter classics: each transformed the outcome into something unique and exceptional, though clearly hailing from the same original concept.

So, in the end, it was a tie.  Two winners–two delicious baked goods to eat.  Everybody wins!

Since the recipes highlight vanilla, I thought this would be a perfect entry for the Master Baker Challenge, hosted by Master Baker.

Vanilla Muffins and Cinnamon-Pecan Cupcakes (inspired by recipes in Carole Walter’s Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More)

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

 [Left to Right: Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcake; Vanilla Muffin; Vanilla Muffin with Cashew-Cardamom variation]

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

For the Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake Cupcakes:

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

Frugal Frittata

April 22, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

Whenever we visit my family in Montreal as we did this past weekend, I return to Toronto feeling a little discombobulated.  Since I was a callow young’un when I moved away from home (at 17), I never really got to know La Belle Ville that well before I left, so I always feel like a tourist when I return.  At the same time, these somewhat frenetic, drive-by junkets (never more than 2 days long) tend to be so micro-scheduled that our itinerary is often tighter than one of Madonna’s corsets. 

Regarding our “visits,” the HH once remarked, “I’ve been coming to Montreal with you for ten years, and all I’ve ever seen is a hotel, your dad’s house and your sister’s apartment.”  Unfortunately, too true, and this last trip was no exception.

Still, I do enjoy reuniting with family and friends, even if for a few minutes each during out revolving-door visits.  And despite my anxiety over a still-tentative back, the driving was fine.  By late Sunday, we’d arrived back in Toronto, picked up The Girls from doggie daycare (“Thank God you came back, Mum!  We thought you had abandoned us forever!“) and returned home to feed them–and us.

Striding into the empty house, setting down bags and opening windows, I felt the familiar combination of exhaustion, relief, and hunger that always occurs upon returning home after a long trip. A quick glance in the refrigerator revealed a sad inventory of the following: one carton of firm tofu; a lone zucchini (looking almost as tired as I felt); a bag of baby potatoes sorely in need of attention; a bunch of fresh tarragon (bought on a whim after I was inspired by Lucy‘s fabulous post on Leek and Flageolet Soup), and a pint of grape tomatoes, sporting an uncanny resemblance to fingertips that have lingered too long in a warm bath. (And isn’t it interesting how, even though everything here in Canada is metric and I always refer to liquids in those terms–I would never say “a quart of milk”–that I still think of those little cartons for berries or grape tomatoes as “pints”?). 

Faced with this unpromising array of tired, wizened produce, the HH responded with a characteristic reaction:  “Okay, let’s go out to eat.” 

Now, I do believe that anyone who knows me well would never describe me as “extravagant.”  In fact, I am rather moderate in my spending habits. Come to think of it, I am extremely economical as a  rule.  Well, actually, I’m even what you might call unbelievably frugal most of the time.  Parsimonious, even.  Oh, all right, fine, I admit it!  I am stingy!  I’m a tightwad!  I’m a total cheapskate

Really, I hate spending money unnecessarily. I will do my darndest never to pay a higher price for an article I KNOW costs less elsewhere. I actually find it fun to plan out a budget; I get a kick out of (literally) saving my pennies; I thoroughly enjoy scanning the grocery flyers so that I can plan out a shopping route worthy of a military operation. As a shopper, I experience a little frisson of pride every time I nab one of those funky sweaters I’ve ogled in the store window all season, now at 50% off (even if I don’t actually need a funky sweater and only manage to wear it once before stumbling upon it again years later, abandoned at the bottom of a drawer, at which time I pack it up to send to Goodwill).

As a result, there’s no greater crime in our house than spending money on a restaurant meal if it means throwing away otherwise perfectly good food.

And so, after having just spent a small fortune on travel, boarding The Girls, AND an opulent dinner last week, I was faced wtih my mission, and I chose to accept it: make use of all those leftovers in the fridge–even those shrivelled, elderly tomatoes. 

“No way,” I responded, “I can make something out of this.  No sense in wasting it.” (Yep, if ever there were a couple who embodied the phrase, “opposites attract,” the HH and I would be it).

Cooking tofu for the HH has become quite a challenge of late, as there are very few tofu-centric meals he’ll deign to eat.  And while he did adore my tofu omelette a while back, the prospect of cooking and flipping four of them just then was beyond the bounds of my remaining energy. 

I decided to try a frittata.  I love fritattas, and hadn’t had one in ages.  Besides, like George and Jerry propounding on salsa, I may like the final product, but love the sound of the word even more:  free-TA-ta.  Like some rollicking anthem a group of suffragettes might have sung as they turned on their heels and sashayed off into the sunset. 

My only real problem was the pile of slightly shrivelly tomatoes, too old to attract a suitor, yet still too fresh to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren.  Then I remembered a great recipe from Martha Stewart (who is, herself, still rather spry looking–even though, in fact, old enough to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren) for oven-roated tomatoes.  The slow heat renders them no longer really juicy, but not dry, either, dehydrated just enough to intensify the natural sweetness of the fruit. And with grape tomatoes, the oven time could be cut down considerably.

So, while the red grapes roasted, I parboiled the potatoes and zucchini, sliced into rounds.   For the base of the fritatta, I employed a variation of my original omelette mixture with a few modifications to create a more savory, firmer texture.  I added the chopped tarragon, which brought it all together with its intense grassy color, light flavor and slightly flowery aroma.

Overall, this was a perfect homecoming dinner:  simple, satisfying, evoking springtime and–much to my delight–highly economical.  And since this is so chock-full of veggies, I’ve decided to submit it to the weekly ARF/5-A-Day event, hosted by Cate at Sweetnicks.  You can check the full roundup every Tuesday!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Tofu Frittata with Potatoes, Zucchini and Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes

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

Hearty and colorful with healthy veggies, this dish makes a wonderful light dinner or showpiece for a brunch table.  Of course, you can vary the veggies to your taste (just keep the basic volume about the same).  If you don’t feel like roasting your tomatoes, just cut them in half and use them as-is. 

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.”]

onionbread3.jpg

I considered going back to basics and entitling this post, simply, “Bread and Spread,” but decided against the too-generic descriptor (even though it does offer up a lovely rhyme).  But these two foods, when eaten together, really could inspire poetry (if you’ll forgive the extended metaphor), so I opted for my slightly rhapsodic title instead.  And besides, with Easter coming up tomorrow, “pastoral” seemed like the right choice.

I’ve been hankering after this Potato Bread ever since I read about it a while back on Johanna’s blog (and originally posted on Redacted Recipes). Johanna’s version of the recipe, bespeckled with little amethyst wisps of grated purple potatoes, was not only visually beautiful, but her post also described the bread itself–its taste and texture–as veritably irresistible. 

Now, I’m not a huge fan of bread per se (I rarely, if ever, eat sandwiches–though I made an exception for a Tempeh Ruben a while back).  If I do eat bread, I want it to be the dense, dark, whole-grain kind that originated in an anonymous Eastern European country.  This sounded like just the ticket, so I set about altering the ingredients to render them a bit more NAG-friendly.

onionbread4.jpgIn the end, I baked this bread three times (I forced myself to stop at three, because I also ended up eating most of each one!). Because the original recipe contained cheese, I substituted nutritional yeast to provide a similar flavor.  My first effort (right) contained a bit too much yeast, I’m afraid, and the sharp astringency was a little overpowering.  With attempt number two, I halved the yeast, but added diced avocado to emulate  chunks of soft feta cheese scattered throughout the bread (photo below). 

onionbreadslice3.jpg (Ehm, er. . . wouldn’t recommend this one.  I might try the avoca-cheese again in future, but I’d use much less and definitely cut the chunks very small; that way, it might just work). 

Third time was definitely the charm:  I introduced chopped roma tomato and subbed fresh dill instead of thyme.  Number Three (photo below) was, by far, my favorite.

 oniontombreadslice.jpg

As Johanna attested, this bread was fantastic.  Even though mine isn’t quite as pretty to look at as hers, the moist, dense interior and perfectly balanced flavors of the green onion, cheesiness, and potato worked in agreeable harmony.  Each bite provided a slightly different mosaic of flavors, each with its own unique configuration and gustatory sparkle. I, too, had to stop myself from consuming too much of this delightful loaf at one sitting.

And while it was stellar all on its own, the bread also made a perfect base for a favorite spread of mine, Carrot Pâté. I created the latter recipe about five years ago (when I first started teaching cooking classes), as a way to veganize a fabulous pâté I’d been preparing for over 10 years before that (back when favorite recipes had to be clipped from magazine pages and preserved in file folders).   

Most of the carrots we consume around here tend toward the pre-peeled, miniature variety (aka “baby carrots”). Those are what we feed The Girls as treats, and, equally often,  as “dessert” after dinner.  And although Elsie adores the minis (and will even occasionally bare her teeth at Chaser for the culinary privilege), she turns her wet, black nose up with disdain at the regular, full-sized kind.  (Once, I ran out of the miniatures, and tried feeding her ordinary organic carrots. I took great care to cut them into strips approximately the same size as baby carrots. She examined my offering like a mortician views a corpse, let out a little contemptuous snort, and walked away.  Huh?)  Have you ever known a DOG that’s a picky eater? And not only that–this is a dog whose puppyhood was characterized by eating poo for dessert! But no; no regular carrots for this Prima Donna.

Um, excuse me, Mum, but if I might just interject to point out that the baby carrots are harvested much earlier in the growth cycle and are, therefore, significantly sweeter?  And also that you didn’t peel those big ones, either, Mum.  So they still retained all those little bumps and ridges on the exterior, which was rather irritating to my sensitive gums and teeth.  Just saying.”

carrotpateslice1.jpgAnd while it’s technically a  pâté, I actually prefer to eat this for breakfast.  With the sweetness of carrots and light, custardy texture courtesy of silken tofu, it’s a perfect morning accompaniment.  Along with the bread, you’ll be getting your morning serving of protein, veggies, and carbs, all in one delicious repast.  In fact, this would be an ideal pairing for a leisurely Easter Brunch, if you haven’t got your entire menu set already.

I thought this meal would be a great submission to Weekend Breakfast Blogging, which was created by Nandita at Saffron Trail and is being hosted this month by Mansi of Fun and Food.  The theme this month is “Balanced Breakfast Meals.”

(“Actually, Mum, I love this pâté even when you make it with “those” carrots. Pureeing the carrots makes them so much more palatable. So please feel free to share.“)

And to those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter, all!

Cheesy Onion Potato Bread and Carrot Pâté

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

carrotpatewhole.jpg

 

Cheesy Onion Potato Bread

adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

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

You will quickly become addicted to this hearty, moist, and filling bread–be warned!  I’ve included my own adaptation of the recipe here. 

Vegan Carrot Pâté

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

If you consider carrots as mundane, plain-Jane, plebeian roots to be served only when drenched in sweet glaze or when playing second fiddle in a duo with peas, you’re in for a real treat with this pâté

 

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.”]  

 

 

Love never ceases to amaze me. 

 

In the halcyon days of our relationship, when my HH and I were still in early stages of romantic life, I was sideswiped with a doozy of a diagnosis that caused me to change my diet drastically for what turned out to be quite a long time.  

 

Still fiercely besotted back then, my HH was perfectly willing to accommodate my strange and singular dietary restrictions: no sugar, no wheat, no eggs, no dairy, no anything fermented (which included my half of those bottles of wine we’d grown accustomed to consuming with dinner), no caffeine, and on and on—for about three more paragraphs.  

 

As a couple who habitually dined out 2 or 3 times a week plus brunch on Sundays (one advantage of meeting when we were too old for kids is the increased discretionary spending), this new diet forced us to alter our regular routine, um, considerably.  All this, and my HH was still happy to comply, and even join me as I consumed cooked amaranth and tahini, tamari-marinated tofu, kamut pasta sprinkled with nutritional yeast, kale and arame salad, and every other manner of organic, whole, vegan foodstuff.  

 

Yes, for a time, life was good in the DDD household.  

 

After a couple of years of this regime, however, the cracks began to appear.  I detected quiet rumblings of protest, as when I’d serve up my favorite tofu-veggie stir fry in almond-curry sauce:  “What?” my HH would say.  “This, again?” He’d eat it, but he wasn’t happy.   

 

Soon, he imposed a veto on seaweed (unless, of course, it was wrapped around a hunk of raw eel or salmon at his favorite sushi bar). “It’s actually kinda slimy and gross when it’s marinated like that,” he’d remark of my kale and seaweed salad. Next, he tired of tofu. “That tofu stir-fry was okay at first,” he admitted, “But I think I’m maxed out on tofu for a while.” Before I knew it, he was once again craving caffeine.  Up came the coffee maker from the basement, where it had been relegated for over a year, amid the piles of as-yet unpacked boxes from our previous house-move.  

 

Almost imperceptibly, more changes took place.  Stealthy, small cartons of half-and-half cream began to make their way back into our fridge. At first, they lay low at the back, behind the cartons of soymilk; later on, they declared their presence boldly, at the very forefront of the shelves. Eventually, there came the final affront: last year, the HH rekindled his mania for meat. No more pasta with veggies and walnuts for dinner, no sir; from now on, he wanted steak.  

 

Well, what’s a vegan-loving gal to do when her HH suddenly reverts to his Neanderthal, bachelor appetites (for foods, that is)?  These days, most of the time our dinner table is graced with a dual repast: a vegan main course for me, which cheerfully serves double duty as a side for him, nestled next to his hunk of animal protein. I love the guy, and he cooks his own meat, so I can live with it. 

(“Steak ?  Did someone say ‘steak’? But Mum, we think you should be the one to cook it.  Dad never gives us as many leftovers as you do. . . oh.  Sorry to interrupt.”)

 

This past weekend, however, I decided to whip up a tofu omelette for myself for brunch. I also thought it would be the perfect contribution to Nandita’s  Weekend Breakfast Blogging event, this month hosted by  Rajitha at Hunger Pangs 

 

I’d been reading about these omelettes ever since coming across Cozy Inside, Joni Marie Newman’s blog for her cookbook of the same name (which I promptly ordered after reading the recipe). I also found a great recipe for a tofu omelette on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s page,  which was subsequently extolled by  Don’t Get Mad, Get Vegan  . And Vegan Ronin served up her own version back in 2006.  

 

omelettesmall.jpg I had tried both the Cozy Inside and Fat Free Vegan Kitchen omelettes and enjoyed them immensely. This morning, however, I was aiming for something a little richer and a little more gussied up, something I could serve to friends as the centerpiece of a brunch buffet.  So, using these three for inspiration, I played with the various elements of the recipes and devised my own concoction.    

An old recipe for a regular, egg-based omelette that had always intrigued me since I first read about it years ago is a sweet version, with an apple-cinnamon filling.  So that the flavors in the base wouldn’t clash with the sweetness of the filling, I decided to make the omelette itself as plain as possible, omitting any strong seasonings such as garlic, paprika, or chopped veggies.    

 

While cooking it up (and as you’ll see, the process is surprisingly easy), it still felt as if the dish needed something more than just apples to finish it off properly. I remembered a curried cream sauce I’d created to pour over broccoli raab, as a slightly sweet contrast to the bitterness of the greens.  I thought that would be the perfect accesory for this omelette, and stirred some up while the apples cooked.  The final product was a delicious and filling brunch. 

 

Once everything was completed and plated, I tentatively asked the HH if he’d be willing to taste it.  

 

Surprise number one:  “Sure,” he said. He took a big forkful. 

 

Surprise number two:  “This is delicious!” he proclaimed, and then: “Can I have half?”  Well, I’ve never been so happy to share. 

 

With great enthusiasm, he proceeded to eat it all, and practically lick the knife clean. Perhaps the tofu embargo has come to an end. 

 

Yep, love never ceases to amaze me. 

 

Tofu Omelette with Sauteed Apples and Sweet Curry Cream Sauce

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

omelettefinal1.jpg

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

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