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As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to hearing from you on the new site!

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

 

* Or, Give Pods a Chance!

okrabare2

[Okra pods, in the raw]

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t told you all about this yet because, quite frankly, I was afraid you’d reject me.  Move that cursor elsewhere, and click.  At best, roll your eyes.  Maybe snort in disgust.  Maybe gag, even.

But I’ve decided it’s time.  I mean, really, what kind of lasting relationship can we have without full disclosure?  

So I’m just going to come out and say it:

I love okra.

I.

Love.

Okra. 

Are you running for the hills yet? 

Oh, I know what you’re thinking:  Okra?  That polygonal pod that’s a staple in gumbo, and mostly reviled? That much-maligned member of the marrow family (but cocoa is in that family, too!) that most people reject without so much as a nibble?  That pariah of the produce aisle that’s often referred to as gluey, viscous, slimy or mucilaginous–with seeds that remind you of those bowls of peeled grape “eyeballs” we all stuck our hands into at Halloween when we were kids?

Yep. That okra.

I adore okra’s long, lantern-shaped pods, the vibrant green skins with just a hint of fuzz and the wagon-wheel innards when you cut them across. I love the mild, slightly woodsy flavor and the pop of the seeds in your mouth.  I could eat okra every day, and never tire of it.

I think it’s heartbreaking that okra gets such a bad rap.  Okra is like the pimply nerd at school–the reject, the Carrie, the Napoleon Dynamite , the Ugly Betty.  The last kid to be chosen for the baseball team.  The scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face.  The pink-and-too-frilly kid who takes her dad to the prom. The computer geek nobody wants to date so then he quits high school and starts some computer company run from his parents garage and redeems himself by becoming the richest guy in America. . . oh, wait.  That would make him Bill Gates, wouldn’t it?  And then he’d actually be much sought after, wouldn’t he? Well, heck! To my mind, that IS okra!

okraquinoa1

[A bit of spice, a bit of bite, a bit of lemon zest: an endearing combination.]

I think we should give okra the accolades it deserves. Let’s nurture its low self-esteem. Let’s compliment its grassy hue and lovely symmetry, tug its cute little tail at the narrow end and make it blush.  Sure, it was born a green vegetable (already at a disadvantage compared to, say, watermelon).  And then there’s the goo factor.  But sometimes, with a recipe that takes our humble ingredient and pushes it to be its best, well, that little green lantern can really shine.  That’s what I wish for my buddy, okra.

In these recipes, okra is elevated to something that transcends its reputation. It’s like okra gussied up for a date.  Okra getting an A+ in physics. Okra at its best self–I know, like okra after taking one of Oprah’s “Be Your Best Self” weekends!  (Just imagine the introductions at that seminar, sort of like David Letterman’s ill-fated attempt at hosting the Oscars:  “Okra, meet Oprah.  Oprah, okra.”).

Besides, okra has much to offer us.  Described by WholeHealthMD as having a taste that “falls somewhere between that of eggplant and asparagus,” it’s a good source of Vitamin C and several minerals; and the seeds offer up protein in every pod, along with 4 grams of both soluble (known to help keep cholesterol levels in check) and insoluble (great for regularity) fiber in a one-cup (240 ml) serving.

okramasalaside1

[Still slightly al dente in this photo; cook a bit longer if you’re an okra neophyte.]

These are two of my favorite okra dishes, ones that we consume fairly regularly here in the DDD household.  The first is another adaptation from my dog-eared copy of Flip Shelton’s Green, a Moroccan Spiced Okra-Quinoa Pilaf.  I’ve made liberal changes to this one, including altering the base from rice to quinoa.  The spices are subtle with a barely detectable undertone of lemon zest in the mix.  Served sprinkled with chopped nuts, this pilaf is a meal in a bowl all on its own.

The second dish comes from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani. Again, I’ve made a few alterations to the original, which asks you to dry-cook the okra on the stovetop; I’ve found that adding chopped tomatoes and allowing the tender pods to stew in the juices produces a more appealing taste and texture. Although a masala curry, this one isn’t the least bit spicy, yet is still rife with the flavors of tomato, cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro. It’s a perfect side dish for Indian food, of course, but we also enjoy this as an accompaniment to burgers or cooked grains. 

So go ahead, give okra a try!  Who knows? You may even like it.  And don’t worry, the secret will be safe with me.

Moroccan-Spiced Pilaf with Quinoa and Okra

adapted from Flip Shelton’s Green

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

okraquinoa21

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

Okra Masala

adapted from Indian Cooking Course by Manisha Kanani

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

okramasalatop

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

alookale2

[Potato-Kale Curry]

First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year.  I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life.  But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers.  Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!

The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.”  We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009.  The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle  that’s printed in The Globe and Mail.  I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).

And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.

 Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.”  In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years.  I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months:  take a course in html; one year: design own web page). 

Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.

I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust.  Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).

Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once.  As the famous Harvard study  demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true.  For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action.  I will share the easiest goal on my list, though:  remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly.  That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!

Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time.  Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us. 

peascreamysauce2

[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]

I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges.  At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.

Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants.  Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well!  And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless.  Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets.  These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).

It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I  bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work.  In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years.  Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat.  For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.

Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner.  The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.

lentildal1

[Three-Lentil Dal]

Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice.  While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.

Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year. 

One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan:  Cook Indian more often.

Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce

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

peascreamysauce1

Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries.  The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From  an unidentified cookbook–sorry!

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

Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)

adapted from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends

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

*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie  (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

Date Pasta

October 27, 2008

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[No, not “date” as in “dried fruit with pit and high sugar content.”  I mean “date” as in the classic Saturday night event, “evening out with someone you like and with whom you might like to be, um, romantic.” ]

It’s been a whirlwind weekend, first, with a birthday dinner (THANKS for all those amazing well-wishes, everyone!) followed immediately by a wedding (the birthday dinner featured the HH and me; the wedding did not).  More on both next time, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.  Today, I’m just as excited to tell you about Date Pasta instead.

When we were undergrads in our 20s, one of the things that welded the friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was our singleton status.  No matter how many relationships and breakups the rest of our friends experienced, and no matter how many blind dates, dating services, personal ads, university parties or fix-ups we two endured, Sterlin and I somehow managed to remain perpertually alone (well, I guess technically we weren’t “alone,” since we spent most Saturday nights with each other–but you know what I mean). 

Being permanently unattached until our mid-twenties (okay, fine, late twenties) didn’t mean we ever stopped trying, however. This pasta dish was Sterlin’s go-to recipe pretty much every time she wished to impress a potential boyfriend, or every time she scored a second date.  It was quick, it was easy, it was foolproof, guys seemed to like it, and–most important–it was the only dish she knew how to make. 

The guys in question, upon being served the pasta, would inevitably utter an appropriately impressed response, then spend an engaging evening drinking wine, gobbling up the pasta, and raving about how good it was, before leaving and never calling again. (What’s up with that, anyway?  Was it something we said?  Was it our nerdy demeanor?  Were they just not that into us? Or were they perhaps paralyzed by our incomparable wit, intelligence and (reasonably) good looks? I guess we’ll never know. ) Despite its inability to produce a lasting relationship, Date Pasta was so good that Sterlin kept making it throughout our university career.  

In fact, I was also so impressed with the dish (and ever hopeful about the fact that guys seemed to like it) that I asked for the recipe, and proceeded to cook it up dozens of times myself over the years.  It wasn’t until the HH and I were happily ensconced in our current long-term relationship and sharing the same abode that I dared to cook it for him. 

And then–magically–when the HH ate it, the curse was broken; he was able to love Date Pasta, and still love me, too.  

I hadn’t eaten Date Pasta in years, though.  First of all, the HH and I no longer go on “dates” (well, I suppose you could say our weekly sushi lunch together might qualify, but still). More importantly, however, the ingredient list of the original recipe contained spicy capicola salami, cut into cubes and flash-fried along with the other ingredients.  These days, I feel about salami sort of the same way I feel about steak.  When I altered my diet ten years ago, I placed the recipe in a file folder, and forgot about it. 

This past week, the HH’s friend the Engineering Guru came over for dinner.  Could it be that he resembled a guy I fancied in high school?  Or maybe it was that he’s tall and strapping and I know he, like the HH, is an avid meat eater?  Whatever the reason, Date Pasta came to mind.  The HH even remembered it from our early days and enthusiastically coerced browbeat badgered encouraged me to whip it up again.  So I did what I often do when cooking for the HH and me: I made a huge batch of the recipe in a meatless format I could enjoy, then let the guys add their own meat to their portions. 

Why did I never think of this before?  All these years, I’ve been avoiding Date Pasta, and missing out on this remarkably easy and delicious dinner! It’s so chock full of pungent, toothsome, salty and briny add-ins that it almost doesn’t need the pasta, and certainly doesn’t require the meat.  Who knows?  Maybe if I’d made it this way from the start, I’d have had more success in those early dateless years.  (Then again, I would never have enjoyed all those Saturday nights with Sterlin).  And so, Date Pasta, welcome back (can’t say that I miss the singleton status, though).

Oh, and now that I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m happy to submit this to Melissa at The Cooking Diva, who’s hosting Presto Pasta Nights, the weekly event originated by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Date (or any other occasion) Pasta

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

While this is great as is, if you’re craving a meat stand-in, I think this pasta would be phenomenal with some cubed, smoked tofu as well.

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.” 

 

* [or Concasse, if you prefer the more conventional term. . . but I just loved the word “tracklement” ever since I read it on Lucy’s blog, and besides, “Tomato Tracklement” is just so much more alliterative.]

Last weekend was our Canada Day holiday, and this year I learned an important lesson.  No, it wasn’t “Canada is 141 years old” (even though it was).  Uh-uh, it wasn’t “Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live” (I already knew that one).  Nope, not even “Although Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live, a summer full of rain really sucks–almost as much as a typical Canadian winter.” And finally, nay, it also wasn’t “The Girls are still scared of fireworks” (really, talk about stating the obvious). 

No, dear readers, the all-important lesson I learned this past weekend was simply this:

Never (and I mean never) attempt to drive across the province at the beginning of a long July 1st weekend.

Elementary, you say?  Well, for some reason, the HH and I, despite 10 years of trekking from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, have never traveled that particular stretch of the 401 on the long Canada Day weekend.  This year, with my dad turning 87, we decided it was a necessity.  

Big mistake.

BIG.

The 500-kilometre (about 315 mile) drive usually takes us between 4.5 and 6 hours, depending on (A) time of departure; (B) weather conditions; (C) who’s driving; (D) number of rest stops; and (E) traffic.  This past weekend, our multiple-choice answer was overwhelmingly, “E,” or really, more like, “EEEEEeeeeee!!!”  To be precise, eight hours’ worth of “E.”

As we slid out of the city and onto the highway, I sensed a barely perceptible increase in the volume of vehicles on the road.  Then, within about five minutes, it became painfully clear: everyone and their canines were heading off to the cottage for the long weekend.  And us?  No cottage; no canines (The Girls were happily ensconced at the doggie daycare for the weekend); and no discernible movement on the roads.  I’d completely forgotten our route included a short span of terrain known as “cottage country” (also known, as the Barenaked Ladies recently reminded us in song, as “Peterborough and the Kawarthas“).  And there we were, the HH and I, motionless amid all the eager, impatient, fidgety and perspiring boaters, gardeners, waterskiers and Barbeque-ers, our wheels moving barely a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so.

Even if we could afford one, I doubt we would actually buy a cottage (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the HH is a role model for “don’t do it yourself-ers”).  Still, I do treasure memories of spending summers at various country houses when I was a kid.  My parents couldn’t afford a cottage, either, but in those days, rentals were abundant and reasonably priced, and didn’t require reservations a year in advance (one summer, in fact, I clearly remember my parents discussing the possibility of escaping the city on the very evening school let out; by the following afternoon, I’d tossed my report card in the closet, pulled my collection of comic books out instead, and we were on the road toward our temporary summer home).

In those days, my parents rented a house through July and August.  They’d pack up the family (my two sisters, our cocker spaniel, Sweeney, and I) in the back of my dad’s station wagon-cum-butcher shop delivery van, and off we went to our rudimenatry cabin in the woods, sans modern amenities or TV. Along with the other husbands, my father helped us settle in the first weekend, then headed back to the city (and his store) during the week, while the rest of us hung around with the moms and kids until the men returned each Friday evening. For five days a week, the wives managed to keep things running smoothly, demonstrating both independence and resourcefulness; yet every Friday, they mysteriously reverted to squeaky voices, soft entreaties and deference, much as early feminists must have done when their soldier-husbands returned from the front.  

In the intervals free from paternal presence, we children would run barefoot along the roadside, plucking thick, flat blades of crabgrass to grip securely between tightly pressed thumbs, then huffing and blowing our makeshift whistles, our postures in supplication to nature.  We’d seek out the other kids whose parents rented homes around the same lake, for day-long games of hide-and-seek, for building sand forts at the lakeside, or for throwing sticks to Sweeney and the other dogs (who, bored with our weak attempts at “fetch,” would lope off and sleep under porches, squirrel-hunt in the woods, or, toward evening, launch a stealth attack on the hotdogs piled on plates beside the Bar-B-Q’s).

By the end of the season, we’d worn ourselves out with outdoor games, our limbs buff and bronzed in variegated strips of earthtone after two months of shifting sleeve lengths.  All the books I’d brought were read and forgotten; I’d colored and drawn and written in my journal about my adventures; my younger sister and I had picked countless plastic sandbuckets full of wild blueberries from the hill at the end of town; and we were, finally, ready to go home.

One of my fondest memories is the drive back south, passing field after field of farmers’ corn as it just approached ripeness.  The long, elegant leaves swished and swayed in the breeze like our own welcoming committee, a troupe of Hawaiian dancers greeting tourists as they disembark from the plane.  By the time school resumed, we were eating fresh cobs of corn with our dinners, juice trailing down our chins and our cheeks flecked with wayward bits of yellow like reverse freckles on our tanned faces.

I reminisced about that incomparable corn as I contemplated Pancakes on Parade, the event hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.  I had already decided (though I love sweet pancakes and make them whenever there’s an excuse) that I wanted to do something savory for this event.  Corn cakes are a long-time favorite, and they seemed the perfect choice.  And while there’s nothing quite like a plump, fresh cob of grilled or steamed corn, juicy and sweet and eaten with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for long-absent lovers, sometimes it’s just impossible to acquire the fresh kind.   That’s when frozen, or even canned (heresy!) come in handy.

The crêpes are based on a recipe I created a few years ago for a brunch event.  This time, however, I decided to pair them with a sweet and tart tomato concasse, and the combination improved the overall effect considerably.  The tracklement cooks up really quickly, in just the right amount of time to serve alongside the crêpes.  Savor these right away, or wrap up for later consumption–they’d make a great snack if you ever find yourself stuck on the highway for eight hours or so.

Corn Crêpes with Quick Tomato Tracklement

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

A savory pancake with occasional bursts of sweetness in juicy corn kernels, these are great with the accompanying tomato concasse for brunch or light dinner. Or use with other savory spreads such as hummus or avocado mayonnaise.

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

Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup

December 6, 2007

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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.”]  

 

 

As promised, I’m going to supply the recipes from the cooking class I taught last week—my last ever in my home (sniff!). 

moroccantomatosoup2.jpg

But first, I must interrupt today’s entry because I’ve been tagged for a meme! Annie over at Forest Street Kitchen kindly included me in the game.   Considering that up until yesterday I didn’t even know what a meme was, this should be fun. Can I offer this as an open invitation to other readers/bloggers to answer as well?  I’d love to hear from you. And I’ll tag Deb. Here goes: 

FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD: 

  • Telephone salesperson selling wholesale frozen sides of beef (even funnier once you know that I grew up with a father who was a butcher AND that I don’t eat meat any more).
  • Writer for local entertainment magazine geared at American tourists (MAN do I miss those complimentary tickets to theatre, museums, launch parties, etc.!!)
  • Size 9 dress model (Yes. True. Very long ago. Ah, how the mighty’s weight has risen).
  • Baker for vegetarian restaurant (totally serendipitous, result of a friend with a big mouth—and how I will always love her for getting me involved in this world!).

FOUR PLACES I’VE LIVED: 

  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Born and raised there.  No, I am not a Francophone, though I went to French immersion school and visited France as part of a school trip (it was fantastique!).
  • Framingham, Massachusetts.  Home of the famous heart study.  Also home of (some of) my American cousins, with whom I spent a teenaged summer.
  • Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  Location of the first university I attended (University of Windsor), southernmost city in Canada, actually SOUTH of Detroit.  Where I rediscovered the exquisite joy of reading literature, where I met my beloved mentor (the recent loss of whom I deeply mourn), and where I finally grew up (a bit).  
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Current home, where I’ve been since coming to do my PhD in 1983, where I married and divorced, subsequently met my HH and adopted my cherished Girls, and rediscovered my childlike tendencies (not to be confused with childish, mind you).

 FOUR PLACES I’VE BEEN ON HOLIDAY: 

  • California: with my best friend A. Three weeks of hysterical laughter, amazing sights, meeting great people, feeling totally independent.
  • London: 30 years after California, two more weeks with A, this time at her home in England, having a riotous time with her and her adorable new hubby.
  • Bandol, France: three weeks as a French immersion student (see above), nerdy enough to actually attend the classes they’d scheduled instead of wandering around the South of France by myself (I did attend scheduled tours, though, which were lovely).
  • Newfoundland, Canada: Two weeks with my Honey, our first “real” vacation together, as we discovered the beauty and bounty of our very own country, and how it is so vast that a short flight east can feel like visiting another continent. 

FOUR FAVORITE FOODS: 

  • Chocolate.  What else?  All intensities, all shades.  Best when organic, when somehow connected to caramel, but always welcome in any form.
  • Spicy Penang Fried Keow Tow noodles from our favorite Malaysian restaurant. Must order with at least 2 other people present, or I eat the entire platter.
  • Almond-Curry Stir Fry with tofu, from my friend Nettie’s cookbook. The combination of curry and almond butter in the sauce is startling and delectable.
  • Simple, raw Kale and Avocado Salad. Fresh, crunchy, creamy—the perfect way to consume kale.  Not bitter!  Not bitter! (recipe in a later post). 

FOUR PLACES I’D RATHER BE:

  • With my HH, somewhere warm.
  •  With my sisters, somewhere warm.
  •  With my girlfriends, somewhere warm.
  •  With my Girls, somewhere warm. 

Whew!  That was actually lots of fun. Thanks, imagineannie, for including me!  Looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

 Now, on to today’s NAG-friendly recipe. . . .  

This recipe for Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup was originally given to me by a former office mate, who eventually became a close friend. At the time (late 1980s), I was perpetually in awe of her, as she was somewhat of an anomaly among our colleagues:  the first bona fide vegan I ever knew, she was both incredibly intelligent and incredibly beautiful. Amazonian in height (over six feet tall), she still had something of an ethereal nature about her, with cropped ashen hair and a model’s grace. She spoke with a calming, velvety voice and I loved spending time with her and soaking up details about her alternative (extremely alternative, at the time!) lifestyle.  Although she and I have lost touch over the years, my HH and I still enjoy this soup every winter.  It’s one of our favorites as a hearty and warming dinner.  

Don’t be put off by the ostensibly bizarre inclusion of peanut butter here.  It virtually disappears into the soup and effectively simulates the addition of thick cream.  

Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup

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

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 The combination of creaminess, spices, and tomatoes provides the perfect comfort food for a cool evening, or after you’ve just finished posting your Holidailies entry.  This is a quick and fabulous soup. Pair with corn bread or a crusty french loaf for a complete meal.  [Note: this soup can easily be made gluten-free with GF ketchup.]

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

Mediterranean Tofu Scramble

November 29, 2007

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I have to admit, it took me a long time to warm up to tofu. 

When I first revamped my diet in accordance with the NAG principles, I had never eaten tofu, let alone familiarized myself with the many varieties in which it’s available.  My naturopath touted the truism you hear so often:  “It’s basically flavorless on its own, so it absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with. ” Great!, I thought, I’ll make some tofu tonight! , and went out and bought some. 

Back then, I didn’t know about the importance of buying organic tofu, or which type to buy, so I just got any old extra-firm.  Went home, and created some kind of pseudo-stew (the ingredients of which elude me now) and tasted it.  Bah!  Feh!  Ptewie!  I couldn’t even eat one full mouthful.

No taste, you say?  Absorbs the flavors of whatever it’s with?  Uh, sorry, no.  Tofu tastes exactly like what it is: cooked, compressed soybeans.  Ugh.

It took me several months of experimentation, some great cookbooks, and a dogged determination to finally hit upon a few recipes I could actually eat and enjoy.  Over the years, tofu has become one of my very favorite foods, a staple in our home, despite the many controversies swirling round it.

The trick, I’ve found, is to use assertive flavors that can complement and conceal it.  Pressing the tofu helps considerably, as that causes the water to exude, thereby leaving little gaps for the sauce to sneak its way in and become absorbed.  Baking firm or extra-firm tofu in a hearty sauce is useful, too.  (Now, desserts are a whole other matter, and they most often require aseptically-packaged silken tofu.  But depending on the dessert, you can choose anything from Soft-Silken to Extra-Firm Silken. Occasionally, cheesecakes are good with Chinese-style, water-packed firm tofu. Some souffle-type desserts are best made with medium tofu.  Okay, got all that? Quiz to follow).

I’ve said this before, and it truly bears repeating: I’m a very lazy cook.  Not the best trait for someone whose dietary restrictions require that everything be made from scratch.  Consequently, I try to find shortcuts where I can.  Use the food processor instead of the hand grater; make up huge batches and freeze for later re-heating; or, as in the case of this morning’s breakfast, recyle up leftovers whenever possible.

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[Yesterday's Simple Sauteed Greens] 

I enjoyed some simple sauteed greens for dinner last evening (yes, that’s all I even wanted, after a mid-afternoon chocolate frenzy), and so had a container of pre-sauteed broccoli rabe hanging out in the fridge.  The saute was super-easy:  sliced garlic, olive oil, chopped rabe.  That’s it.  I also noticed some leftover canned crushed tomatoes being stored in a glass jar.  I’d been hankering after a tofu scramble for several days, so thought this would be a great opportunity to whip one up (no matter that the house is still not unpacked, and I’m hosting what will probably be my last-ever at home cooking class tomorrow evening–none of which is prepared yet).

Tofu is a wonderful scrambled egg substitute, I find, especially when it’s crumbled (as here) rather than cubed.  This dish provides complete protein courtesy of the tofu, high-protein pine nuts, and the greens.  You’ll also be acquiring a surfeit of minerals here, due to the many trace minerals in the greens and the high iron in the raisins. Garlic and tomato round out the dish for antioxidant benefits–and the many anti-bacterial, anti-viral qualities of the garlic are a true boon this time of year (at least, for those of us enduring a cold, wet winter, such as we get in Ontario). 

You’ll find this dish is still quite saucy, so decrease the tomatoes if desired.  The combination of herbs works wonderfully with the pine nuts and raisins, the sweetness of which act as a perfect counterpoint to the bitter greens and slightly acrid tomato.  If you find broccoli rabe too bitter, I think chopped chard would be excellent here, too.

As I said, I ate this for breakfast, but it seems to me most people would find it suitable as a dinner dish or even a side dish.

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Mediterranean Tofu Scramble

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

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