Not “Back” Yet

March 31, 2008

Hello, this is the HH. It looks like Ricki will be stuck in bed for a few weeks, at least, with a sore back. Without a laptop, that means no blogging. She asked me to let you all know she wishes she could write and will get back as soon as she can. The Girls haven’t left her side, though.


The Best Laid Plans

March 28, 2008

Well, as they say, the best laid plans of rodents and humans. . . or something like that. 

Despite my own best laid plans for quinoa today, I am myself laid up. . . with a pulled back.  And though I’ve had a bad back for years and thought I was used to the inconvenience it can bring, yesterday morning I swear I heard an audible *SNAP!* as I leaned over to  refill The Girls’ water bowls (yep, something as simple as that can throw it out). 

Well, this time, it’s a real doozy. According to the physiotherapist, at least 4-5 days’ worth of doozy.


[“Mum, why are you still in bed, and when are you getting up? What do you mean, you still need this blanket?”]

So I apologize, but I won’t be posting about the remainder of the quinoa recipes I had in mind until next week; I wasn’t able to get to the store to pick up ingredients, and there’s no chance of me cooking over the next few days (I can barely sit at the computer, let alone stand for any length of time).  Lucky for me the HH is picking up the slack by taking care of The Girls and preparing dinners (no, he hasn’t suddenly decided to take up cooking; but he does throw together a mean defrost). 


[“When will Dad be home?  When???”]

I’ll pick up again next week and regale you with multiple quinoa yummies, I promise.  In the meantime, I’ll start looking through my photo files and see if there’s anything good I can share until the back heals.

For some reason, I keep thinking of a line from the Eugene O’Neill play, The Emperor Jones.  At one point, the Emperor implores, “Feets, do your duty!”.  And I say, “Back, do your duty!” (except it’s more like, “painkillers, do YOUR duty”). 

And now, back to bed. . . .


[“Okay, Chaser, he’s coming!  Now we can finally get outside. . . “]


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 thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this second entry, I’m focusing on Quinoa. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]


Well.  So.  It snowed again yesterday.  Actually, it stormed; we got about 5 cm. (2 inches) to add to the–what?  478 cm?  792 cm?  14 kilometers?–pre-existing snow already piled in mini-glaciers beside every driveway, walkway, sidewalk, and garage.  And there I was, once again stuck in the house, avoiding the pelting flakes and ice pellets.  

I imagine this is what it feels like to live in perma-frost, constantly surrounded by the white stuff with no end in sight. I feel exactly like Captain Robert Scott must have felt on one of his forays to the South Pole, holed up with his companions in his ice-shack as refuge against the elements.  Just as he did in his famous diary, I could easily write an entry something like this:

Bitter storms accosted the crew today, forcing the team to head indoors.  We huddle by the makeshift fire and attempt to warm our weary, frostbitten hands.  Thrashing winds surround us at every turn.  All but forsaken in this frigid terrain, we have but each other and the dogs for company.  Poor mongrels, even they refuse to venture outdoors in this accursed weather. But tomorrow, if the winds permit, we shall harness them up and commence the hazardous trek anew. . . .

Okay, well, not exactly like Scott, as I’m actually writing on a computer, not by hand with pen and ink on paper in sub-zero weather.  Oh, and I’m in a heated brick house in a modern city of 5 million people, not an ice shack.  Oh, with electricity. And some organic, vegan spelt cranberry-pumpkin scones and a hot cup of mint tea beside me.  And I’m not a couple thousand kilometers from the nearest sign of civilization. 

But other than that, just like him.

What this blasted weather stirs up in me (besides the propensity to write like a 19th Century Antarctic explorer) is a longing for breakfast foods. Since my dad worked at his store 6 days a week, he was out of the house by 6:30 AM on Saturday mornings.  During the winter, The CFO and I would fend for ourselves at breakfast and let our mom sleep in (once she returned to bed after making breakfast for our father). 

Our self-sufficiency wasn’t exactly the most healthful (I seem to recall feasting on saltines, peanut butter, and chocolate milk as we watched Saturday-morning cartoons), but it was comfort food to us.  These days, any breakfast fare spells comfort to me; when it’s cold outside, I want to eat pancakes, muffins, scones, omelettes, or even baked oats

Well, these quinoa muffins, adapted from a recipe in Veganomicon, fit the bill perfectly.  Hearty yet slightly sweet, filling yet not too heavy, they are satisfying and sufficient to warm the spirit and the belly. And full of nourishment for energy to brave the elements again, when you’re finally ready to lace up the sled dogs and hit the expedition once more.

(“Um, Mum, you’re not actually thinking of hooking us up to a sled, are you? Because, you know, it’s pretty cold out there, and our paws are rather delicate. . . we really hate getting them all full of ice and snow if we don’t absolutely have to.”) 

Almond-Quinoa Muffins

Adapted from Veganomicon


I adapted these by using spelt flour and chopped dates, since I had no apricots on hand.  These are dense and pleasantly chewy; the quinoa does make its presence known, however, so beware that you will taste it in the mix.  I think these would be outstanding with the suggested apricots as well. 



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 thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this second entry, I’m focusing on Quinoa. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]


I remember very clearly the first time I tasted quinoa (pronounced keen-wah):  there was I, barely having reached the other side of twenty, at an English Department party at the University of Windsor.  As a Teaching Assistant studying toward my MA degree, I had leaped at the chance to attend, not only because this was my very first opportunity to enter the Inner Sanctum of the faculty club, but also because I’d been harboring a raging crush on my Modern American Drama professor and I knew he’d be there.

As it turns out, no, my sophomoric infatuation never made it beyond the fantasy stage; luckily for me, as John later became my beloved mentor, who (along with the wife he adored–drat!) welcomed me into his home, and spent countless hours in serious discussion with me at the local university pub, where I’d regularly spill my dreams, aspirations, academic anxieties and beer; and  he’d regularly dispense sage advice, sympathy, pedagogic pointers and beer–for the next two decades or so.

One of the other TAs, a placid, floaty woman (in the way that 1950s housewives on Valium were placid and floaty) brought two dishes to the party buffet table that day: carob brownies (though lacking any gratuitious “hippie” ingredients as you might have found in chocolate brownies of that era, if you get my drift); and a quinoa-veggie salad.  I loved both dishes as soon as I tasted them, and resolved immediately to reproduce both in the shoebox kitchen of my bachelor apartment.

The carob brownies were fairly easy to replicate (even though Ms. Floaty refused to give out the exact recipe); it was the quinoa that turned out to be the greater challenge.  Most of the ingredients were fairly obvious to the naked eye–celery, green onion, cucumber, tomato.  And I could easily approximate a similar oil and vinegar dressing.  But what had me stumped was the grain itself, the star of the salad–the quinoa.

Feeling confident that I could maneuver my way around pretty much any grain, I boiled the little cream-colored beads exactly as I would pasta, in an overabundance of fresh water. I should have known there’d be trouble when I attempted to drain the stuff in a colander, only to discover that half or more of the quinoa pearls had fallen through the holes and down the drain.  Adding insult to incompetence, when I finally scraped together the remaining 2 tablespoons of the mixture and sampled it for doneness, it unveiled a taste so powerfully bitter that I might have been chewing on a peach pit or a grapefruit peel, with a generous sprinkling of paint chip over top.  Not the most auspicious beginning.

From that unpropitious start, however, has developed an ongoing and consistent love of quinoa that persists to this day (much deeper than an undergraduate crush on a literature professor would have been). Quinoa is, by far, my favorite grain, for a plethora of reasons: I love its distinctly mild, slightly nutty flavor; its chewy, almost crunchy texture; its visual impudence–that color-contrasted spiral tail slowly unfurling as the grain cooks, like a loose stitch on your favorite sweater. 

Quinoa, like most complex carbohydrates, is a nutritional powerhouse.  Besides offering the highest protein content of any grain, this gluten-free gem also provides a nearly complete protein, as it is, unlike other grains, high in the amino acid lysine. (One reason why vegetarians are advised to combine grains with legumes, or grains with nuts/seeds, is to achieve a “complete” combination of all nine essential amino acids.)  With lysine in its lineup, quinoa doesn’t require combination with other foods to achieve complete protein status.

 A little higher in calories than other grains, quinoa is worth it.  According to the  World’s Healthiest Foods website (maintained by the venerable George Mateljan Foundation), quinoa also provides important minerals, heart-healthy fiber, and the anti-cancer protection of antioxidants, among other health benefits. It ‘s also fairly neutral on the acid-alkaline spectrum, important because most grains lean towards the acidic side, while our blood requires a more alkaline status.  In other words, quinoa won’t mess with your body’s acid-alkaline balance the way some other foods (especially those that are processed or high in sugar) might.

If you’ve never tried this versatile and delicious ingredient, you’re in for a treat.  Quinoa can be used like oats or rice as the basis of a breakfast cereal, or in side dishes like rice or millet.  It can be baked into casseroles, sprinkled into soups, stuffed into peppers or cabbage leaves, or even blended into muffins or breads.  And it’s equally delicious hot or cold.  My HH was skeptical, at first, but he’s since become a fellow fan of this wonderful food.  (“Mum, we’re keen on quinoa, too!  We’ll share in it any time. . . . “)

To prepare quinoa, employ the standard ratio of water to grain that you would for rice: two parts water to one part grain.  Most instructions will warn that the grain’s exterior houses a naturally bitter resin, which needs to be rinsed carefully to remove before cooking (hence my bitter first encounter; I had no idea I was supposed to rinse it first).  However, in today’s marketplace, quinoa is so ubiquitous that manufacturers have begun to pre-rinse it for us.  These days, I almost never pre-rinse my quinoa (more because of laziness or forgetfulness than any determination to buck tradition), and it always turns out fine.  The stuff I buy in the bulk bins is just as reliable this way as the higher-end products, too.

To achieve a fluffy result (with grains that are clearly separated and well-cooked), I’ve found the best way to cook the quinoa is to first bring the water to a rolling boil before adding the grain; then, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes before checking the pot (resist the temptation to uncover the pot or to stir the mixture!).  If you’re new to quinoa, you might want to combine it with something else the first time; a mix of half quinoa and half rice is always a good option.  For a soupier, more porridge-like texture, pour the quinoa directly into the water before you begin to heat it; allow the water to come to the boil with the quinoa already in it, then proceed as above. 

I decided to offer this salad recipe first, as it’s always a huge hit at the cooking classes I teach, even with people who’ve never tasted quinoa before.  I’ve paired it with buckwheat here; the mild mannered quinoa is a perfect partner to the more robust buckwheat. 

Because this recipe contains both cilantro and vegetables, I thought it would be a great submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the great event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, this month hosted by Ramona at Houndstooth Gourmet 

 Quinoa Salad with Buckwheat and Cranberries



This salad makes a perfect offering to a buffet table, or a nice light supper.  The chewy, solid texture of the grains here works well with the slightly spicy, sweet dressing; the salad’s flavors develop even more and the cranberries plump a little by the second day (if it lasts that long).  When I first created the recipe  I conducted a nutritional analysis and discovered that one serving (about a cup) of this salad offers 12 grams of protein–enough for a substantial main course in anyone’s books.  


Weekend Update

March 23, 2008

I thought I’d take a few minutes before heading out for a long trail-walk with The Girls (it’s a long weekend over here, and they’re thrilled to have us both at home–ALL DAY!!) to post a few newsy notes. 

So, if you drop in only for the recipes or the witty repartee (I suppose that since I don’t hear your replies, it’s actually just “partee”), then you may wish to skip this entry and wait for the next.  But if you do, you might just miss something important. . . not that I’m saying you should stay, or anything. . . it’s entirely up to you. . .  

News Bit Number One:

For those of you who may have missed it or don’t look for such things, I recently added a Recipe Index (under “Pages,” at right).  I’ve categorized according to general food types, but if I’ve missed one you want to see, please let me know.  I must say that I was quite surprised at the number of gluten free options in the list, since I can actually eat gluten (some) without problems.  Still, I suppose a NAG diet inclines naturally toward GF foods.  (And chocolate is, after all, gluten free).

News Bit Number Two:

Next week, I’m planning to focus on another Lucky Comestible; this time, it’s quinoa.  While I’m not entirely ready to host a full-fledged blogging event, I would love to hear about your own adventures with quinoa, and any recipes you’ve made or blogged about.  You can leave a link in the comments or let me know via email and I’ll add a link to your recipe at the end of my posts.  Would love to see more quinoa in the world!

News Bit Number Three:

I am just thrilled over this one!  A while back, I entered the Root Source Challenge for Maple Syrup, with my post on Maple-Walnut Cookies.  Well, my little recipe won the challenge!  I can’t wait to see my new baking book!  If you missed the original post, it’s right here.

 News Bit Number Four:


Well, now that I’ve introduced the idea of blogs being rewarded, I’m ready for the most important news bit today:  After much contemplation, I’m finally going to suggest my own “Excellence” Awards.  I was given this honor by the lovely Romina of Vegan Eating for One, and have been mulling it over ever since.  There are soooo many excellent bloggers out there, how to choose?  And, even harder, how to choose only FIVE?

Well, it was a difficult choice, indeed.  And I apologize to all of you I don’t mention here.  I regularly read ALL of the blogs in my blogroll, plus about 30-40 more at this point; I think you are all excellent, or I wouldn’t be reading! 

So I made my choice based on a few delimiting principles. Anyone who’s already received accolades for whatever reason was automatically disqualified; I want to spread the appreciation around (and if I’ve doubled up on an award, that’s my oversight; sorry!). I also wanted to choose blogs that were not necessarily recipe-based; I pinpointed those I found quirky, or undiscovered gems, or something a little off the beaten track. . . just my own little idiosyncracies there, I guess. 

So here goes.  My own choices for Excellent bloggers include (in alphabetical order):

  • Deb at Altered Plates.  I love Deb’s take on baking; Everything she does looks so delicious, I want to make all of her recipes!  And she introduced coconut flour to me, something for which I am eternally grateful 😉
  • Annie at Forest Street Kitchen.  Even though our styles of cooking may differ, Annie is a wonderful writer with a wry, satiric take on so many things.  I enjoy her perspective and she always makes me laugh.  And, now, she’s a celebrity!
  • Lucy at Nourish Me.  Her photos are awe-inspiring, her writing is poetic, and her recipes are all NAG-friendly; I always look forward to her blog posts. All that, and she writes from my favorite country on Earth. 
  • Megan at Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills.  No recipes, or much about food at all, really; just a uniquely wry, usually hilarious and slightly twisted view of the world. . . just up my alley. 
  • Lizzie at The Good Eatah.  With relatively new gluten and dairy dietary restrictions, Lizzie still manages to cook up a bunch of yummy foods, always with an upbeat attitude. And I do enjoy those pix of Henry!

Hope you all check out these wonderful blogs. As I said above, there are many more than just five Excellent blogs out there, but now I’ll have to rely on those ladies to go out and pick five of their own. 

Hope everyone’s enjoying a fabulous long weekend, whether or not you celebrate Easter 🙂 .


Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Gnocchi Who?

Gnocchi your socks off.


Gnocchi three times.

Excuse me?

Gnocchi Three Times on the Ceiling if You Wa-ant Me. . . Twice on the Pipes. . .”

Okay, I think that’s quite enough.  

You shouldn’t gnocchi a guy when he’s down. 

I said that’s it!  That’s all I’m gonna take!

Oh, come on. Be nice to me.  I went to the School of Hard Gnocchis.

All right, buddy, you asked for it– 

Look, don’t gnocchi it ’til you try it.

*    *   *   *   *   *

Now, judging by my little preamble here, you might surmise that I don’t take my gnocchi quite as seriously as I should.  I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.  I fully understand the gravitas of gnocchi, believe me; in fact, I take them just as seriously as my job (extremely); or saving for retirement (nerve-rackingly); or even the well-being of The Girls (all-consumingly). 

(“Well, Mum, you know that we both take your well-being very seriously too, right?  Because if anything ever happened to you, how would we get our dinner?”)

I am well aware that the genesis of a good gnocchi is more art than skill; and also that I am, in that particular realm at least, neither artistically inclined nor very skilled.  Because the process usually requires planning, talent, and the equanimity of a Stepford wife, I have rarely ventured to attempt the challenge.  A shame, really, as I adore gnocchi.

In my long-ago wheat-eating days, I would snatch any opportunity to sample one of those freshly pinched and simmered Italian dumplings.  The HH and I patronized quite a range of small, family-owned Italian restaurants in our early days, and each boasted its own version of the little pasta pillows: smothered in Arrabiata with extra jalapenos mounded on the side; lightly pan-fried in olive oil, then sprinkled liberally with springy sage and dusted with freshly grated Parmesan; tossed gently in a vodka cream sauce with black olives and capers–I loved them all. I loved the slightly gooey exterior, the softly yielding chew, the smooth and subtle flavor that demanded a potato ricer to achieve.

Before today, I had yet to sample a spelt-based version of gnocchi.  (Seems they don’t serve spelt gnocchi in most Italian restaurants I’ve frequented. Quel surprise!). The few times I endeavored to cook up some of the light, spud-based morsels using a traditional recipe in the past, the result was a total flop.  Either the gnocchi were so hard and dense that they could be shot from a BB gun, or they turned out so soft and mushy that one might wonder where the pasta was hiding in this white, slushy gruel. And yet. . . and yet. . . they persisted in beckoning to me.  

So, last night, I threw caution to the winds, and allowed my passion for the little rascals to lead me into temptation.  I knew I’d likely get gnocchi’d up for my efforts, but just didn’t care.  After all, the outcome would be a bowl brimming with my delicious, darling pasta babies! Besides, I thought gnocchi would be the perfect submission to Ruth’s weekly Presto Pasta Night over at Once Upon a Feast.

I started with a fairly simple recipe for Spiced Carrot Gnocchi that I found in Gourmet Vegetarian by Jane Price, and adapted it according to my own dietary restrictions: no eggs and no wheat (replaced with silken tofu and a combination of whole spelt and oat flours, respectively).  I topped the gnocchi with a creamy, cheesy sauce of my own invention (I’ve had great luck with sauces in the past, thankfully), and sprinkled some chopped fresh parsley over top. 

How did it end up?  Well, let’s just say that the sauce was rich, creamy, and delicious, as expected.  As to my experiments with my potato nemesis? Well, I must confess that, once again, success eluded me.  Don’t get me wrong–they weren’t awful; in fact, the mildly sweet and dense chewiness was well complemented by the velvety, cheesy sauce.  Still, if you’re looking for the traditional version of this pasta, you won’t be satisfied with these. 

And I hate to admit it, I think I will finally put this kitchen quest behind me, once and for all.  That’s right–it’s time to gnocchi it off for good.

Spiced Carrot Gnocchi in Cream Sauce


The contrast between the dense, slightly chewy gnocchi and the velvety sauce is a pleasing one. These gnocchi were a little heavy and slightly sweet; if you’re okay with non-traditional pasta, you may enjoy these.

Spiced Carrot Gnocchi

Adapted from Gourmet Vegetarian by Jane Price



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, The Only Type of Chocolate I Can Effortlessly Resist

[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.”]


It seems a bit misleading to even post this recipe, since the major ingredient (chocolate) came to me straight from Ecuador (via a friend who’s in town)–which means there’s not much chance too many of you can reproduce this exactly as presented. Still, if you have access to similar types of chocolate (such as a good quality 70% cocoa bar, or these little nuggets that I’ve been getting from my friend PR Queen), I’m sure you’ll whip up something pretty darn close.  

I’ve probably mentioned before that I maintain contact with a group of four women from my nutrition school days (we were study-buddies). Every few months, we get together for a healthy meal and round of animated chat (I sometimes think of us as a latter day Sex and the City gang–except in our case, it’s more like Tex-Mex and the City).  A few months ago, we met for a pot luck dinner at my place; today was lunch at a favorite Thai restaurant.

Well, about six months ago, one of our gang, M.E., up and moved to Ecuador.  Since she was born and raised there, this was more a quest for self-actualization than the peregrinations of an adventurous tourist.  She, her husband and children, have all adjusted well to life in the eternally-warm zone (as she mentioned today, “winter” means the day is less than entirely sunny), but returned for a couple of weeks to visit.  Lucky for us!

Across the table, she doled out gifts of food to each of us; I was the lucky recipient of pure Ecuadorian chocolate, made from toasted, ground cacao beans, both grown and dried locally (in bins along the roadside, where they dehydrate under the sunshine, M.E. informed us), shaped into large flat disks and sold in bags of 250 g. each. 

Ever since I first read the book Like Water For Chocolate , I’ve wondered what authentic Mexican hot chocolate would taste like, as opposed to, say, warm milk with Nestle Quik (my childhood version of the drink) or cocoa powder, agave syrup and hot soymilk (what I make for the HH when he requests same). 

I myself have never been a huge fan of hot chocolate except in theory:  it seems the perfect beverage to sip on while curled up beside a crackling fireplace, reading Little Women as you absently pat your dog’s silken ears; or perhaps a libation after you’ve shoveled the walkway, cheeks flushed and pulsing crimson, once you peel away layer after layer of woolies and finally collapse with your mug into a plush, waiting armchair. 

But reality and theory don’t always mesh; so when I received this very generous gift, my first thought was, “what can I bake with it?”  Then I remembered Esquivel’s book and immediately wanted to make it according to her recipe.  Nothing could be less complicated: simply boil water, add chocolate and sugar (if necessary), mix vigorously, and top up with milk of your choice. My version, of course, would employ a sugar substitute but be otherwise identical to the authentic Mexican version.  And now I had the perfect chocolate with which to try it!

mexicanchocdisks.jpg Since the package was covered entirely in Spanish, I asked M.E. to translate.  The ingredients read:  “cacao, dried and ground.”  The disks appeared stippled and slightly marbled where the natural fats had likely heated and then cooled; I knew the quality and flavor wouldn’t be affected by this.  I gingerly broke a tiny piece from one of the disks and laid it on my tongue; it softened and melted almost immediately, with a subtle sweetness, intense cocoa flavor and slightly sour aftertaste.

M.E. regularly whips up hot chocolate for her kids as an after-school treat, and provided simple instructions for me to follow. So I boiled, melted, and stirred, topping up the mug with a dollop of my own whipped “cream” (I haven’t forgotten, either, that I promised this recipe; I’m still working out the kinks in it–see below), and took a sip. 

Perhaps it’s because I long for the season of hot chocolate to finally end; perhaps it’s that I just can’t get used to drinking my chocolate rather than eating it.  Even though I did enjoy the drink, I must confess that it didn’t tempt me the same way a dense chocolate brownie or a mint chocolate chip cookie might.  Well, that’s a good thing. The HH, on the other hand, was smitten, and slurped up the rest of the mugful post haste.  Luckily, I was able to heat up another cup in no time.

Ecuadorian Hot Chocolate


This is an old-fashioned method to make a good cup of hot chocolate.  If you’ve never tried it this way, the richness and intensity of the flavor will be a pleasant surprise.

1/2 cup water

about 1-1/2 ounces (40 g.) good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

about 1/2 cup warm soymilk, rice milk or almond milk

Pour the water into a small pot and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, and break the chocolate into the pot.  Stir to melt the chocolate.  When the chocolate is melted, add the milk and whisk to blend well.  Pour into a mug and enjoy immediately.

[NOTE: As I mentioned, I’m still working on the whipped “cream” recipe.  It’s a fussy recipe that isn’t quite perfected yet. I’m hoping to have someone else try it out to compare results and see if I can diminish any variation.  If you’re interested in this culinary challenge, please let me know.]


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 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.


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




Cheesy Onion Potato Bread

adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe


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


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




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, it snowed AGAIN yesterday (is this grating on your nerves as much as it’s grating on mine?* I mean, it is now March 19th.  Like, what’s up with that? Snow is just. . . so. . . wrong at this time of year.  In either hemisphere). 

I am yearning for spring like the Tin Man yearns for a heart, like the artist formerly known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” (now known just as “Prince”) yearns for purple, like Hillary yearns for the nomination–but it’s all for naught.  It’s still miserable outside.  I’m still miserable inside. Oh, woe, oh boo hoo, oh woe is me (shouldn’t that actually be “woe is I”? Ach, whatever.)

Well, if I can’t have a dip in a pool, I’ve decided to just have a dip.

Dips evoke warm weather in my mind. I love me a good hummus, smoothed languidly over falafels on outdoor patios, or lolling atop baby carrots as the HH and I enjoy a relaxed preprandial interlude, watching The Girls fight wrestle frolic on the lawn during summer evenings. Traditional spinach and onion dips, bean dips, veggie dips, even sweet fruit-and-nut dips–they’re all served at outdoor Bar-B-Qs, weekend picnics, or summer wedding buffets.

(“We love dips too, Mum.  Especially skinny-dips. How long till we can play in that wading pool again, Mum?”)

As soon as I began to search for dips on other food blogs, I was rewarded with a treasure trove of recipes. A few that intrigued me included Kalyn’s Slow Roasted Tomato Hummus ; Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen’s Shiny Happy Hummus; Farmgirl Fare’s Hot Artichoke-Chard Dip (how can you go wrong with chard?); Green Gourmet Giraffe’s Spiced Carrot Dip; and  The Good Eatah’s Super-Simple Magic Bullet Bean Dip (partly because I’ve been fascinated by that Magic Bullet ever since I first saw that cheesy infomercial starring Mimi and Mick, at home with their annoying, hung-over friends).

Still, the dip that beguiled me the most was the Creamy Aspara-Dip from Chocolate Covered Vegan.  Brilliantly green and smooth; glossy, even–how could I resist that emerald harbinger of springtime after all these months of desolate winter wasteland?

“The Ugliest Food You’ll Ever Love,” trumpeted the blog entry, and “If you aren’t a vegan, this dip will most assuredly NOT convince you to become one.” I remained undeterred, and not just a little entranced by the radiant, grassy hue. Katie promised to share the recipe with those who asked, so I asked away. 

I should pause at this juncture to explain something.  I feel extremely fortunate to have begun cooking and baking quite early on, and equally fortunate to have developed a concomitant ability to virtually “taste” a recipe just by reading the ingredients.  This sense comes in handy when I want to decide whether or not to try something I’ve never eaten before (pears and balsamic vinegar?  Yes.  Smoked tofu?  Yes.  Kale and seaweed salad?  Okay. Goji berries and mint?  Not so much.)

The HH, on the other hand, was not blessed with this particular brand of sensory imagination.  On Sunday mornings (okay, more like afternoons), we’ll sit across from each other at the brunch table, leisurely perusing the National Post, Globe and Mail  and Toronto Star as we sip on our respective hot beverages (his: hazelnut-flavored coffee with 10% real cream; mine: Krakus coffee substitute with chocolate flavored almond milk–like a mochaccino!). We’ll occasionally pause to read something of interest to the other across the plates and mugs.  

Mostly, the HH reads me stories from the Business section, about how an economic disaster (the likes of which we’ve not seen since 1929) looms, say, or where to find the latest ultra-exclusive audio gadgets (did you know you can buy stereo speakers that cost over $100,000, for instance?).  I read to him from stories in the Arts and Life section, about how workplace bullying is more harmful to employees than sexual harrassment, say, or how women who rate their relationships as happiest are the ones whose spouses share at least 50% of the household chores.

Every once in a while, though, I’ll forget that he lacks an ability for conceptual cooking and may emit a remark such as, “Oooh, listen to this: watermelon and basil salad.  Doesn’t that sound fantastic?” To which he’ll counter with a response such as, “Bwwwffffzztttt!” (that’s a spontaneous spraying of hazelnut-flavored coffee and 10% real cream over the Business section of the newspaper). Of course, he simply can’t imagine it.

Well, as soon as I read the list of ingredients in Katie’s dip, I knew I’d enjoy it, despite her dip-deprecating comments.  And it was, indeed, lip-smackingly, lick-the-spoon delicious: creamy, with a citrusy tang and sweet, green undertones.  Though he couldn’t imagine it beforehand, the HH was happy to consume a hearty portion.  And it provided us both with a little dip into virtual springtime.

Because this recipe contains not one, but two veggies, it’s the perfect dish to submit to Cate’s weekly ARF/5-A-Day event, over at Sweetnicks.  She posts the roundup every Tuesday evening, so feel free to check it out then!

Katie’s Creamy Aspara-Dip



This dip is quick, easy, and, as Katie wrote, “this stuff tastes terrific.” While it’s great on crackers or crudités, I bet it would make an excellent pesto-like dressing for a summer pasta salad as well.  If summer ever arrives, that is.


Spiced Cauliflower Soup

March 17, 2008


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.”]


It occurred to me yesterday that the last three food posts on this blog have all been desserts.  Is this my chocolate withdrawal talking?  Well, maybe so, but that means a contrapuntal savory dish must make its appearance today.  No; more than just savory–we need something spicy.  No; more than just spicy; we need something SPICE-EEEE!  Aye, Carumba!! And I have just the thing. . . .

One of the aspects of blogging I love is reading about others writers’ food adventures.  By reading food blogs, you can vicariously cook and eat almost anything, without lifting so much as a measuring spoon. Another great byproduct is how blogging encourages you to try cooking something new almost daily, stretching your culinary muscles and gustatory acumen. Would I naturally think to peruse my cookbooks in search of a novel pasta dish every week?  Not likely.  Would I ordinarily wax poetic about rice pudding in any other context?  Negative.  Would I customarily resurrect old standards that I haven’t thought about in years?  Certainly not. And yet, today, that’s exactly what I’ve done!

When I read about this month’s No Croutons Required challenge hosted by Holler at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen, I immediately decided to rummage through my old recipes to locate this particular soup. Back when we were first together, the HH and I would devour this soup at least once a week for several months at a time.  In those days, the HH pounced at the opportunity to share dinner prep (what we won’t do in the first flush of a new relationship!).  At that time, we cooked together almost every evening. These days, on the other hand, after the HH arrives home from work and we’ve walked  The Girls  we often embark on a game of verbal ping-pong:

Me: “What should we do for dinner?” (Subtext: I don’t really feel like doing anything for dinner.)

HH: “I dunno.  Um, did you cook anything yet?” (Subtext: What the heck were you doing here all day?”)

Me: “No.  I was waiting for you to get home from work before deciding.” (Subtext: I’ll be damned if I lift so much as a finger without your help, buster! Just because I work at home doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, too, you know. I’d appreciate just a little acknowledgement of what I do, if you don’t mind.)

HH: “Hmm.  How about pizza?” (Subtext: I am lazy and don’t feel like cooking.)

Me: “You know I don’t eat pizza!” (Subtext: How could you forget that I don’t eat wheat, or cheese, or sugar-laden pizza sauce??? Don’t you pay attention to what’s been going on here for the past eight years?  Don’t you ever notice what I do or do not eat??  Don’t you ever think of anyone besides YOURSELF??  Oh, I see what’s going on here. I see now how little you appreciate me.  Oh, don’t try to deny it.  It’s clear that you’ve never really cared for me!  You’ve never really loved me at all!  Otherwise how could you even suggest–)

HH: “Are you sure?  Well, okay, sweetie, if that’s what you want, that’s fine with me. (Subtext: Great. I really would prefer to go out.  Man, she’s the greatest.  Man,  I love this woman. )

Okay, maybe that wasn’t exactly our daily conversation, but we did go out to dinner a lot in those days.  

These days, on a slightly tighter budget after my two years away from work, we tend to throw together something quick and easy, or something I’ve come across in search of blog recipes.  The HH plays sous-chef and chops or slices according to my directives.  He sets the table and plays with The Girls while the dish finishes cooking.  And gee, he doesn’t even mind waiting for me to photograph our daily dinners.  (Man, he really is the greatest.  Man, I love that guy!)

Okay, sappy interlude is now over. Back to the soup.

This is one of the first Indian recipes I ever tried, shortly after I went off wheat, eggs, dairy, etc..  I discovered fairly quickly that my dietary restrictions could be met easily in Asian restaurants, primarily Indian or Thai.  As we visited one after the other restaurant in our neighbourhood, I also quickly discovered that I adored Indian food–and that I wanted to learn how to make it myself. 

This soup comes from the first Indian cookbook I bought, The New Indian Cooking Course, by Manisha Kanani and Shehzad Husain.  It is incredibly easy, quick, and delicious.  Not overpowering, there’s still enough zing in the soup to imprint its spicy tingle on your tongue after the bowl is emptied–perfect for the No Croutons Required event. 

(PS  I’ve finally posted a photo for another fantastic spicy soup, the Moroccan Tomato Soup that I wrote about back in December (and which the HH and I enjoyed again recently).  If you like spice, head on over and take a look! )

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Adapted From The New Indian Cooking Course



This soup is a great way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable that isn’t particularly exciting on its own. For a more powerful spice, increase the amount of ginger and cumin accordingly.