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As always, thanks for reading.  Hope to see you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

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

In my short stint as a raw foodist (very different from an “in-the-raw” foodist, which, for obvious reasons, I’d never do) I was determined to try out every variation of living foods imaginable.  This meant foods I’d otherwise probably never eat, such as raw fennel (basically just don’t like it); raw cashews (okay, but too bland on their own for my taste); raw cacao nibs (not bad when ground up and incorporated into some form of dessert); and raw sushi. 

What?  Sushi is already raw, you say?  Ah, but I’m not talking about fish.  Rather, I’m talking about fish-y, or fish-like, sushi, composed of raw nuts and veggies.  And waaaay better than slimy, slippery, dead tuna!

This recipe pairs almonds and sundried tomatoes for a magical synergy that results in a filling reminiscent of saltwater and salmon without actually being salmon (or John Malkovich, for that matter).  You enjoy the essence of the sea without having to eat any fish!  How cool is that?

I have to admit, however, that I might never have ventured to try this particular dish if not for my beloved, the carnivorous HH. In fact, before we met over a decade ago, nary a nibble of sushi in any form had passed my lips.  I had steadfastly refused to join all my friends when, throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, sushi reigned supreme as the Favorite Form of Yuppie Sustenance (and I suspect that, even today, it would attain runner-up status, at least).  You see, I’ve seen raw fish; my dad used to bring home a whole fish occasionally from his butcher shop, and my mom always refused to touch it.  Me? Eat raw fish?  No, thanks. 

In Toronto, you can find a sushi bar on almost every corner of the downtown core, plus most streets in the suburbs (that’s almost as many sushi restaurants as there are donut shops!). For years, whenever I planned to meet a girlfriend for drinks after work, join colleagues for a quick bite after class, or share a dinner with my book club, mine would be the lone voice demurring across a vast sea of sushi. 

And then, the HH invited me to lunch.  Well, technically, he invited me to lunch, again. One of the more pleasant aspects of my particular work schedule is that I have the freedom to run errands, do laundry, or anything else during the afternoon and work all evening instead, if I choose.  Once a week, I exercise that freedom to meet the HH for lunch.  It’s our way of keeping the romance alive getting our 5 to 10 a day escaping the “kids” checking in and staying connected with each other. 

One particular day, after much pleading and cajoling, he finally convinced me to join him at his favorite sushi restaurant.  

“They’re bound to have vegetables, right?” he theorized.  I had to agree. “And they’ve definitely got rice.” So far, so good.  “Well, I’m sure they know how to roll it in a nori sheet, so I bet they can put together some vegetarian sushi for you.”  How could I object?

I’ve been thanking him ever since. When I explained what I wanted to the shop’s petite hostess, she cocked her head, smiled and nodded, then returned a moment later proffering a  platter of nori rolls, futo maki and hand rolls filled with various combinations of carrot, cucumber, umebosi plum, buttery avocado, and daikon.  In addition to being visually impressive–each unique spiral mosaic of orange, green, and creamy white a testament to the chef’s culinary artistry–the rolls also served up that classic melding of sweet, salty and umami, which, when accompanied by pickled ginger and fiery hot wasabi, was enough to hook me for life. How, I wondered, had I ever allowed myself to miss out on such an indulgence before then? 

 I still love vegetarian sushi, and these days, the HH and I eat it exclusively at our weekly lunch date.  Still, there are times when I’m snowed under with marking, or the HH has been summoned to an unexpected conference call, and we defer until the following week.  On those occasions, I try to make this raw version instead.  Completely grain-free, it nevertheless contains a similar satisfying blend of flavors and textures to the real thing.  And the inclusion of ground nuts here actually renders this version almost as protein-packed as its fishy predecessor. Like all sea vegetables, the nori is replete with minerals, particularly iodine, necessary for proper thyroid functioning.  It also provides Vitamin K, essential for healthy blood.

And, best of all, it’s completely fish free. 

Given that these darlings are uber-healthy, I thought they’d be a perfect contribution to Cate at SweetnicksARF/5-A-Day weekly event.  You can check out the roundup every Tuesday.

Raw Nori Rolls


I got this recipe from a raw foods class that I took a few years ago. The rolls require a little planning in order to prepare the nuts and sundried tomatoes, but once those iare ready, the remainder of the dish comes together quickly.  These are best served soon after they’re made.




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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.”]  

While I am an avid fan of most types of Asian cuisine, I have always been rather underwhelmed by bok choy.  Perhaps it’s the similarity in color and texture to celery, another vegetable I dislike; perhaps it’s that I can’t help but note how its bulbous bottom and fan-leaf top bears an eery resemblance to the comic strip Dilbert‘s eponymous character; either way, bok choy has always seemed more trouble to me than it’s worth.  Besides a bit of a crunch, really, what does it offer? An insipid, watery base and limp, lackluster leaves.  Bleh.

Last weekend, however, I found myself with three of those babies (and I mean that literally:  they were baby bok choy) courtesy of our weekly organic produce box, and wondering what the heck to do with them.

Now, it’s true, a weekly delivery of assorted organic produce is normally a good thing.  For one, you get to eat assorted organic produce (and weekly!).  I love the fact that I can reduce my time in the grocery store, as the organic bag is delivered right to our door each Friday.  All I need do is haul it inside, allow The Girls  to sniff their approval of its contents (“We really appreciate that, Mum!“), then unload it onto the kitchen counter where, before depositing them in the appropriate storage bins, I might admire the brilliant carmine of this week’s pomegranate, say, the stiff, tan sheaths protecting hardy yellow onions, or the crisp, shiny trio of red and gold-flecked Gala apples I received.  

For me, one of the great pleasures of having the service is how it often introduces as-yet untried wonders from the world’s vast array of fruits and vegetables, such as persimmon (loved it) or fiddleheads (not so much). What’s not so great, however, is that we sometimes receive items that are never eaten. 

Considering that the HH is willing to try pretty much any (cooked) body part from a dead cow, he’s woefully unadventurous when it comes to the vegetable kingdom.  Offer him some parsnips, and he crinkles his nose in disgust (though he did like them disguised as oven-baked french fries–give it a try!); dish up some scrambled tofu and he shakes his head forcefully; suggest even a sprinkling of spirulina, and he clamps his mouth shut like a toddler faced with cough syrup.  He wouldn’t even take one bite of my breakfast Apple-Quinoa Cake the other week (though he did seem to enjoy the baked Tagine).  

This leaves me alone to consume all the produce the HH has spurned.  Sometimes, I just can’t eat it all before it begins to, shall we say, “mature.” Of course, the most sensible way to deal with the undesirable fruits or veggies would be to take advantage of the company’s generous substitution policy: you can replace up to two items with those of your own choosing, as long as you contact them before your delivery date.  Unfortunately, as I may have mentioned before, my organizational skills ain’t what they used to be, so I (too often) tend to forget.  And end up with feeble, neglected veggies. 

Well, this was one of those weeks.  I forgot to replace the dreaded bok choy, and it was rapidly approaching decrepitude in the bowels of the crisper drawer. Given what’s going on in the world of food these days, I simply couldn’t bring myself throw it away. But I wasn’t looking forward to yet another mediocre stir-fry, brimming with pallid bok choy and other dreary veggies in the wok, either.

Then I remembered Heidi’s recipe for caramelized tofu.  About a month ago, I had a little love-in with the sweet, crispy cubes enhanced by bits of browned, crackly, caramelized garlic and toasted pecans.  At the same time, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s called “crispy spinach” in some of the Chinese restaurants I’ve patronized. I decided to combine the best of both dishes, while avoiding anything deep-fried. 

And so, I chopped up the bottoms of the little brassicas, made chiffonade of the greens, then stir-fried both in a slightly sweet, ginger-soy base and waited until it crisped up on the edges.  The result was truly ambrosial: the white base of each stalk cooked down to something much like caramelized onions in both taste and texture; and the green leafy tops crisped somewhat along with the garlic and cashews, transforming that homely crucifer into something spectacular.  A sprinkling of sesame seeds finished it off for a passing crunch in each mouthful.  (Really, my amateur photo does not do it justice.) 

The HH adored this as a side dish and inhaled two servings.  I was rather enamoured myself, as I finished up what was left. 

Would I make this again?  Most definitely.  In fact, I may even need to order it specially with next week’s produce delivery–that is, if I can remember to get the order in on time. 

 With all the great antioxidants found in all cruciferous veggies plus the many immune-enhancing allium compounds in garlic, I thought this recipe would be a great submission to Chris’s Cooking to Combat Cancer event, over at her blog, Mele Cotte.

Caramelized Baby Bok Choy with Cashews and Sesame Seeds


Peanut Butter Biscuits

April 26, 2008



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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.”]  

Well, it’s been pretty hectic over here in the DDD household. For the past couple of days, I’ve been slogging away at course prep for a course that deals with diaries and personal journals.  (Did you know, for instance, that  the first online diary, or weblog –today known simply as “blog”–was begun in 1994?  Or that psychiatrists and psychologists often ask their patients to use free association or stream-of-consciousness in journals as a way to dredge up old, repressed conflicts or neuroses?)  Okay–enough work for now!  Time for a snack break. 

Ah, but what to eat?  Hmmm. . . .well, funny, but peanut butter popped into my head. Oh, yeah, baby–peanut butter!  I love it.  It’s creamy, it’s delicious, it’s full of–well, nuts. (Oh.  Hmmm. Is that a bad thing, that I just said “nuts”?  Really, I didn’t mean anything by it. . .sometimes, you know, a peanut is just a peanut.).  Peanut butter was one of my favorite foods in childhood.  (Not that I’m trying to re-live my childhood, or anything.) Of course, nowadays, peanut butter is quite often troublesome, potentially deadly, even–all those peanut allergies and sensitivities. . . which is quite sad, actually. All because we were fed too much of it when we were kids. And now we’re paying for it! Where’s the justice in that? I mean, HOW COULD MY MOTHER DO THAT TO ME? Oh, yes, it’s becoming all too clear: It’s all my mother’s fault!  I may never get over it. . . I think I’m getting a complex. . .   

Well, any Freudian issues aside, I must admit that I do remain a bit conflicted about the stuff.  Although I so enjoy the flavor of it, there’s really nothing elegant about peanut butter (on its own, anyway). For many of us, it’s simply a quick, cheap, and easy base for a meal, something we rely on when either time or funds are scarce; and it’s one of the first foods we eschew as soon as we can afford anything better.  And of course there’s the allergy thing, too.

Perhaps worse, peanuts sometimes harbor potentially deadly toxins. As you probably know, the peanut is actually a legume, not a nut; and its shell, being somewhat soft and porous, functions as a perfect hiding place for a variety of molds, foremost among them something called aflatoxin.  When I first read about this particularly virulent fungus and its affinity for peanuts, I stopped eating peanut products that same day. 

And while aflatoxins are generally found only in minute amounts in peanut products (their levels are monitored, ostensibly), they are, nevertheless, twenty times more toxic than DDT, promoting liver damage and a variety of cancers. Unfortunately, organic peanut butter isn’t exempt, even though it’s free of many other carcinogens (read: pesticides, additives).

Well, after a bit of debate, I welcomed my childhood friend back into my home and diet–my feelings for it were just too deeply rooted–but in relatively small quantities.  Besides, the legendary legume still boasts many very positive attributes, and the benefits seemed to equalize the drawbacks.  For instance, peanuts also contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats; they provide just as many antioxidants as fruit (which would, theoretically, balance out some of the nasty aflatoxin effects); they contain many cancer fighting compounds (again, anti-aflatoxin), and, along with nuts in general, are said to help with weight loss (I am SO on it!).

But was there a way to incorporate the plebeian peanut into the realm of adult tastes? True, you can find peanut butter in a variety of Thai dishes, which I love, or the less-spicy Chinese sauces.  And I made good use of PB in one of my favorite soups of all time, Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup.

But today, I wanted to find something else.  Something a little more mature.  A little more sophisticated.  A little more. . .baked.

I suppose I could have taken an easy route and opted for that old standard, Peanut Butter Cookies.  With their characteristic cross-hatch and crispy bottoms, they’re a homey, cheerful and somewhat quaint rendering of PB.  And then there’s this bread, which I’ve been salivating over for quite some time.  Looks fabulous, doesn’t it?  But it requires the dreaded yeast, and I just couldn’t shake my anxiety over that one quite yet (is it an Edible Complex? Is it peanut envy?).

In the end, I decided to try something from my copy of the Damn Tasty! cookbook by Kris Holechek, which I bought some time ago and still hadn’t used. (Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print). I flipped to the recipe for Basic Biscuits–quick, easy, familiar–and made a couple of quick adaptations. 

The result was a light (flaky, almost), very appealing biscuit with the added dimension of peanut butter. At the same time, the biscuits are sturdy enough to cut in half and slather with a favorite topping (in my case–more PB!). 

Later, served with a little apple butter, they were reminiscent of those long-ago sandwiches of my childhood. 

Which is a good thing.

No, really.  

Because I used an ice-cream scoop to create uniformly sized biscuits,  I thought this would be a great submission for Joelen‘s Tasty Tools event, this month highlighting scoops.

Peanut Butter Biscuits (adapted from Damn! Tasty Vegan)


These are light and not too sweet, with a subtle peanut butter flavor. Like a peanut-butter enhanced whole-wheat biscuit, they exude nutrition, healthfulness and subconscious id-related urges.



Mock Green Papaya Salad

April 24, 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.”]  

As you may have noticed, I love blogging. When something prevents me from engaging in my (almost) daily trio of cooking, eating, and writing about it, I feel a bit deprived. The strangest triggers will spark a barrage of blogging ideas, and then I’m off. 

One of the greatest side effects of blogging is that it encourages you to try new recipes. After all, how can you blog about a novel, interesting dish every few days if you eat the selfsame foods day after day?

Still, there’s a certain built-in sense of loss in this pattern.  Often, I’ll find a recipe that’s simply spectacular, and the HH and I will devour it with great gusto and appreciation.  Then I’ll be struck with a sense of melancholy at the knowledge that I’ll likely never cook that dish again, because I must move on to the next one on my ever-expanding list.  It’s somewhat akin to taking a long, boring flight on a business trip and experiencing the serendipitous joy of encountering a soul-mate as a seat-mate; you chat for a while, a connection is made, you open up about your work, you drink three or six of those itty bitty booze bottles of vodka, you spill all about your most intimate relationships. . . and then, as the plane lands, you exchange contact information and bid each other goodbye, knowing full well you’ll never share time wtih that particular individual ever again. 

Well, eating this salad was sort of like that. Except minus the alcohol.

Ever since I received my March issue of Vegetarian Times in the mail, I found myself repeatedly eyeing the page with this brilliantly-colored, fresh-faced salad on it. It doesn’t hurt that Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines, and that I’ve had green papaya salad many a time (and love it).  The magazine presented a vegan version, and one that’s ready in a snap (in fact, I almost offered this as a Flash in the Pan recipe, but it’s just a hair’s breadth too complicated)–well, how could I resist?  I had to have it.  And so, my friends, I did.  And I can only say–hurray!  Spring is finally here! 

The visual mimicry of green papaya using fresh Granny Smith apples is a touch of brilliance in this salad.  And while the apples don’t really taste like papaya–a little too crisp, a little too sweet–they stand on their own as a tangy, fresh first course that’s hard to resist.  I made a half recipe (which was supposed to feed four), and the HH and I polished this off between the two of us, even before the main course. 

I’ve decided to submit this entry to the new blog event, Bookmarked Recipes, which asks that you prepare and then blog about a recipe you’ve saved from another blog, a book, or a magazine.  It’s hosted by Ruth over at Kitchen Experiments. Check for a roundup every Monday. 

Mock Green Papaya Salad

from Vegetarian Times, March 2008



This salad comes together incredibly quickly, and makes a fabulous first course that would complement almost any meal.  If you prefer, just make this the meal on its own!


Carrots Raised in Fear

April 23, 2008

Whoa.  That was some heavy-duty holistic workshop tonight.  We covered a huge array of topics, and ended the evening by packing jars with homemade cultured veggies (which, methinks, I will write about in due time, on this very blog).  Overall, I really enjoyed the course, especially since we’ll be taking the changes slowly, and one at a time.  Homework this week:  eating without distractions. 

Rather than bore you all with the minutiae of my diet/lifestyle/meditation/life overhaul program every week, I’ve decided that in future I’ll just add a little coda at the end of whichever post happens to follow my classes.  But for today, I’d like to provide a general sense of the core principles we covered.  And to do that, I’m going to tell a little story, one that spans the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Once upon a time, when I first started teaching, I knew exactly one person who was vegan.  As someone who’d done some minimal reading about different diets, I understood what “vegan” meant, but had never actually met one of the species in the flesh (no pun intended).  But Ms. X was very hip and very cool (sporting both bleached blonde, spiky hair and faux-leather corsets–those were the days just on the heels of Madonna’s pointy bra, after all), so I screwed up my courage and invited her and her dark, brooding boyfriend to dinner.

I have to give them credit for actually eating what I served.  It’s not that any of it was particularly distasteful on its own–I did know how to cook, after all–but I threw together such a hodge-podge of disparate dishes (based solely on the fact that each was devoid of animal products) that the menu was fairly, shall we say, “eclectic.”  It was a situation reminiscent of one my former friend M used to describe to me: often, when acquaintances first heard he was gay, they’d burst out, “Oh, I know another gay guy! Why don’t I fix you up with him!” (assuming, of course, that their shared sexual orientation would, on its own, give rise to an immediate and eternal love affair).   

Well, that’s how I treated my vegan dishes that evening, I’m sorry to say. Ever had kasha-stuffed samosas alongside mango and curry rice, with sweet and sour carrot/parsnip patties?  Oh, and with a side of guacamole? Well, I have.  And it wasn’t pretty, trust me.

It was during our dinner that Ms. X began to worry aloud about the direction in which she foresaw her diet heading.  No, she wasn’t fretting about the stereotypical vegan concerns, such as how to acquire enough calcium in the diet or where to get sufficient vitamin B12; Ms. X was ruminating (oops, sorry–again, no pun. . . ) about cruelty to vegetables.  After cutting out meat, then fish, then eggs and dairy, then every other non-produce foodstuff from her diet, Ms. X now wondered how she could continue to eat even vegetables and fruits. Eventually, she surmised, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep eating carrots raised in fear.”

Perhaps you need to take a moment here to compose yourself.  (The HH loves that line. . . but that’s neither here nor there.)

Okay.  To continue:

Well, apart from giving me nightmares about carrots suffocating in plastic bags, carrots crammed one on top of the other into too-small cartons, baby carrots being clubbed to death, etc.–Ms. X did introduce the notion that we could all stand to be a bit more mindful of what we put into our bodies. And during our course this evening, we discussed this very issue at some length (though not in the same terms as Ms. X’s lament). 

As we know, all living things (and this would include plants) emit an energy field; and recent new-agey theories focus quite directly on the impact our own “energy” has on the outcome of our lives (as in, “the intention you set will influence the outcome you achieve,” for those of you who’ve seen or read The Secret).  Then there are also Emoto’s amazing studies on the effects of energy on water, etcetera. 

On a more pragmatic level, is it possible the energy in our food has an impact on us?

Well, said my teacher tonight, the answer is “yes.”  Hence her recommendation to eat without distractions, to notice the food we put into our mouths, and to opt for whole, organic, raw foods whenever possible. Natural nutritionists have long asserted that “dead” foods (such as highly processed or GMO products), being composed to a large degree of chemicals and non-organic materials, harbor no real, “living” nutrients, and so can’t, in any meaningful sense, nourish us.  That’s why we can gorge on various fast foods and pre-packaged foods, yet still remain hungry even after consuming massive quantities of them. 

In the end, it may behoove us to treat our orange roots with a little more consideration, but it’s these non-foods that should really incite fear instead.  

And so, my prescription from this evening’s class was fairly clear (apologies to Michael Pollan): Eat plants. Many raw. Not much else.  I’ll do my best, but I can’t promise. 

In the meantime, I’ll still be preparing “regular” dishes and will continue to post about them on the blog (and when I cook something with fearsome ingredients, I’ll attempt to restrict my intake to tiny nibbles). 

Tonight’s coda:  A few years after our inauspicious dinner, Ms. X got pregnant.  During those nine months, “for the health of the baby,” she returned to eating meat, and continued to do so after the baby was born. She was still eating animal products up until we lost touch about a decade ago. I have no idea about carrots, though.


Tonight I start my course, Total Health, and I can hardly wait.  I am truly hoping that a holistic, well-rounded approach to diet and lifestyle will put me back on the right track to improved health.  This is one area where the HH has a hard time comprehending the Herculean effort it takes to avoid certain food-related temptations, as he is naturally slim, has never had an eating disorder, and knows exactly when to stop eating, even if he adores the food on his plate. 

As I’ve mentioned before, food isn’t the only area where the HH and I differ.  My beloved and I are, shall we say, sort of like Oscar and Felix. . . like analog and digital. . . like yin and yang. . . like ice cream and tofutti. . . like Sonny and Cher. . . like Jack Spratt and–well, you get the idea.  (And, on another note: how did we ever survive without Wikipedia–seriously?).

Anyway, that got me thinking about the old cliché that says dog owners and their dogs come to resemble each other more and more as the years go by. . . I’m not sure about the looks department, but Elsie and Chaser sure do mimic me and the HH in the realm of personalities.  (I’ll leave it to you to guess who’s who).

You couldn’t invent two more polar opposites than The Girls:  while Elsie is demure, reserved and shy, Chaser is entirely in your face. 

[“Ha ha Elsie, bet you can’t catch me!” “Oh, really, Chaser, you are sooooo immature.”]

Where Elsie is timid and afraid, Chaser is “I can do it!  C’mon–let me jump out that second storey window!” 

(“Hmmm. . . all I need to do is push up that blind, then balance on the windowsill. . . yep, I’m sure I could do it. . .)

Where Elsie is polite and respectful (“Why, yes, Mum, please do go ahead of me through this doorway, I wouldn’t have it any other way”), Chaser is always pushing the envelope (“Doorbell!  I’m on it!  Let’s go!! Outta the way!  Someone’s there!!”).

(“Here is that frisbee you requested, Mum.  Where would you like me to deposit it?”)

Where Elsie is elegant, graceful, and glides silently from room to room, Chaser is the class clown, the one who lacks coordination and who’s all legs, thumping her way across a room (and, in fact, one of her many sobriquets around here is “Thumper”).


(“Chaser, you’ve got your legs in my back again.  Sheesh. Can’t a gal get any sleep around here?”)

Where Elsie is a little chubby, rounded and soft (in all the right places), Chaser is lanky, lean and lithe.


(“Mum, Elsie’s taking up too much room. . . my legs don’t fit in this space.”)

When we first got Elsie, we were afraid that she had no vocal chords.  In fact, we didn’t even know she was capable of barking until she was about 10 months old. 

(“ *Sigh* “)

Chaser, on the other hand, whined the entire way home from the first afternoon we got her.  She is also, as the HH is fond of saying, rather “lippy”:  I’ve never known another dog that yelps, whines, howls, cries, barks, growls, and basically complains as much as she does.  Oh, and she groans.  Like an old man, like a creaky rocking chair, like an exasperated audience at the comedy improv:  there we’ll be, late at night in utter darkness, trying to sleep. . . when suddenly, I’ll hear the rumble of an outboard motor–but emanating from the foot of our bed: it’s just Chaser, changing position in her sleep, and groaning.

(” *** Groan ***”)

Well, despite their differences, The Girls have managed to find a balance, to develop a true love for each other and their respective quirks and peccadilloes (as have the HH and I). 

 And anyway, what would life be without a little contrast?  

[Photo of a photo of] The HH and me dressed as Sonny and Cher for a Hallowe’en party, the year we met (and before the dreaded weight gain). Dig those wigs! .]

(“Mum, you totally embarrass us. . . no, we don’t care that people know about our cute little quirks, but how could you publish that photo of you and Dad?? Oh, cringe. . . “)

Frugal Frittata

April 22, 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.”]  

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


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. 


Five Things

April 21, 2008

Well, the HH and I just returned yesterday from a quick weekend jaunt to Montreal to visit with family and friends (more on that next time), which means I haven’t had time to cook over the past few days.  A food post will have to wait, and so. . .  

Since I was tagged recently by the lovely A-K of Swell Vegan to tell 5 things about myself, I thought I’d share those those today instead.  Spending 6 hours in the car yesterday did afford some time to think of new things to include (which seems to be getting harder and harder, as the blog itself more or less broadcasts such info daily!).  Here goes:

1) Even though I was born and raised in Montreal, I am one of those few ex-Montrealers who prefers Toronto to my native city.  I moved here in 1983 and feel as if Toronto is where I really grew up and developed an adult identity.  I love that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world; that it’s number three in the world (only after New York and London) for live theater; that it hosts the “premier[e] film festival in North America” as well as North America’s largest literary festival; that it’s the original home of comedic greats like Mike Myers, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Jim Carrey; that is has fantastic, world-class restaurants, as well as personal favorites like this and this and this. So come on, visit!  I’d be happy to show you around when you’re here. 🙂 (And no, I don’t work for the tourist bureau!)

2) I am a real sucker for sappy movies and even some television commercials: like every female character in Sleepless in Seattle who was confronted with that scene in An Affair to Remember, I turn on the waterworks if I watch anything sentimental (and especially anything with sad puppies. . .*sigh*).  When my sisters and I were kids, we’d tease my mother mercilessly about her “soft” streak.  For years, I was mortified to have inherited her mushiness; more recently, however, I’ve just come to accept it.  So, I’m a sap; what the heck.  (The first time the HH observed this trait in me, he had glanced over as we sat beside each other in a darkened movie theater; there I was, silently watching the film, my cheeks streaming with tears. At first, he found this odd behaviour a bit alarming; nowadays, he just rolls his eyes and hands me a tissue).

3) Some people are ocean people; some are woodsy-forest people.  I’m in the latter group (it’s one of my “dog-like qualities,” the HH tells me).  One of my friends was literally so drawn to the ocean that she quit her job and moved across the country to live near it.  My own dream home would be situated smack in the middle of a huge forested lot, surrounded by meadows and trees of every kind and trails along which The Girls could gambol to their hearts’ content. I love the smells of the forest–pine trees, damp mossy patches after a rainfall, maple sap, fresh grass and even the scent of dandelions.  And since walking is my favorite form of exercise, I love a good walk through the woods (though am not a huge fan of the creepy creatures who inhabit it–viz, bugs, snakes, spiders, etc.) This isn’t to say that I don’t wish to remain close to civilization, of course–just that I want enough space around my home to see trees and green in every direction. 

[“Love to gambol, Mum! Yes, please, go ahead and get that property!”]

4) I wrote my PhD thesis on a little-known American short-story writer named Katherine Anne Porter.  I read her novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, as an undergrad, and felt such a strong connection to it that I immediately went out and devoured the rest of her works; I decided then and there that I’d have to write about her.  While researching my thesis, I discovered that I was even more entranced by her astonishing life–much stranger than fiction–than her writing.  To learn more about her, you can go here.

5) Even though I studied English literature and psychology in university, in a game of Trivial Pursuit, I’d excel most at the category, “popular culture.”  I thoroughly enjoy most movies, television, and trashy magazines.  I am addicted to a soap opera  (thankfully, only one)–something else I inherited from my mother–and I watch faithfully while plodding along on my treadmill.  If I ever won one of those contests to have a cameo role on my soap, I’d be in New York City before you could say “Procter and Gamble.”  In fact, I once created a course at the college where I teach, called “Serialized Fictions,” which dealt with Victorian serial novels, radio serial dramas, serialized comic books, and, yup–soap operas.

Well, for this one, I think I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open up the fun anyone who’d like to play along.  Consider yourself tagged!

 [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.”]  


True confession (of the culinary kind): 

Even though I stopped baking with refined sugar almost a decade ago and never keep it in the house, there are times when I cave.  On occasion I’ll purchase a sugar-laden product, either because (a) it’s something new and fabulous and I feel I MUST try it, or (b) it’s something not normally available to vegan eaters and I want to taste-test, to see if I can conjure up a healthier version of my own.  Sometimes, it’s both.

That was the case when I bought my first–and only–can of Soyatoo a couple of months ago.  My friend PR Queen and I attended a health food fair where they were hawking selling the product tax-free (which–as those of you who’ve ever shopped in Canada will know–is, like, 85% off).  I couldn’t resist.

And so, feeling oddly like Sethi in the movie The Ten Commandments (though not at all regal, of course), I broke my own vow, and uttered the name of. . . Roses!  Soyatoo-based roses, to be precise.  And rosettes.  And swirls. And squiggles.

I had visions of light, fluffy peaks of the white stuff adorning cream pies and tarts; high, shimmering towers of it piped over fresh berries; or amorphous, cloudlike mounds of it perched atop steaming mugs of hot chocolate.  All these images whirled in my head as I forked over the cash and embraced my can of white, wondrous whipped “cream.”

The second I got home, I pulled some frozen raspberries from the freezer and hastily spooned them into a bowl so I could test out my cache. I followed the directions on the can–exactly–and pressed the button.  There was a hissing sound, a slight whoosh, and then–ah, sweet mystery of compressed edible oil product!–out came a rosette.  One. 

And then, all was silent. 

I shook the can.  I pressed again.  I shook again.  I placed my mouth over the nozzle as if performing some grotesque, otherworldly mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and sucked out the excess topping before trying again.

Nothing. Nada. Not even the slightest sibilance. 

And so, there went my can of Soyatoo–straight in to the garbage.*

Well, there was one favorable outcome from that failed experiment: I decided then and there to create my own, much healthier,  non-dairy whipped cream.  I fully realize that there are other similar creams already posted on the Internet (thanks, Hannah, for this recipe), but my needs were very specific.  I wanted mine to (1) be soy-free; (2) avoid the waste of using only part of the can of coconut milk;  (3) contain no sugar, and (4) be simple enough that it could work without a candy thermometer or any other special equipment.

Well, I came up fairly quickly with what I considered to be a servicable product, and one that was soy-free, to boot.  I even piped it onto Nava‘s Butterscotch Mousse Pie that I wrote about a while back, and the HH and I enjoyed that batch immensely.  Here’s what it looked like:

Before posting my recipe, however, I knew I’d need to test it out numerous times to ensure it was sound and that the results were consistent. I even enlisted two others (thanks, Sally and Alice) to help out as recipe testers.

Well, sorry to say, the results weren’t stellar. While the testers’ feedback was very positive regarding taste,  they both said the cream was a bit too soft and not fluffy enough.  I found my own results to be frustratingly inconsistent, even though I thought I was following the exact recipe each time.

And then, it hit me:  I was using coconut milk, but not the identical coconut milk for each and every trial!  Once I discovered which brand worked best, I tried again–and again, and again–with (qualified)  success. It wasn’t perfect, but the outcome was similar each time.  And so, I’ve decided to post the recipe as it now stands despite the imperfections, in the hopes that some of you might try it out and report your own findings.

The cream is rich-tasting, light, and can stand in very effectively for dairy cream atop desserts (I have no idea how it would work, say, folded into a chocolate mousse, however). 

Here are some important notes before you begin: :

  1. The recipe uses agar, an ingredient I’ve found to be tricky in the past.  Moreover, since I couldn’t find agar powder here in Toronto, I bought flakes and then ground them up myself in a coffee grinder.  So I can’t vouch for results if you use regular agar powder or agar flakes. 
  2. After trying several brands of organic coconut milk and finally moving to conventional coconut milk, I found the only brand that seemed to work consistently was Rooster Gold Label brand (I know it’s available at all Loblaws stores, but have no idea about stores outside of Canada).  I checked labels, and the brand I used contains a whopping 22% total fat content.  I’d think that if you use a milk with a similar fat content, it should work just as well.
  3. This is a very fussy recipe.  You need to cook the mixture, blend it, cool it a bit, blend again, cool some more, then whip with electric beaters–not for the faint of heart.  That said, once it’s whipped, it will retain its shape for several days.
  4. If it doesn’t work out perfectly as a whipped topping, it is sensational to eat on its own–rich, smooth, not too sweet, and very creamy.

I’d love to hear from those of you brave (foolhardy?) enough to try it out, and see if we can’t refine and perfect the recipe!

Coconut Whipped Cream


This is a great topping for fancy desserts.  To make the cream, you will need a hand (immersion) blender (a regular blender won’t work for this) and electric beaters.



And here’s a slightly firmer version:


Despite the fussiness of the recipe, I’d definitely make this again for special occasions (it was great on Nava’s Butterscotch Mousse Pie, as well as the Coffee “Cheesecake” Tart, above–recipe from Laura Mathias’s Extraveganza). 

Though perhaps not for a while. . . after more than 15 trials, the HH and I are maxed out on cream for now!

Don’t worry, Mum, we’d be willing to help you out with any extra cream. . . 

For those of you who celebrate, Happy Passover!  (I think this cream would be allowed. . . ).  And happy weekend to all!

*Addendum:  I’ve since learned from other bloggers that Soyatoo is unreliable for them, too.  Thanks to Chocolate Covered Vegan for the suggestion to open and try out each can in the store–if it doesn’t work, they should want to return it to the manufacturer, anyway; and if it does work, you’re buying it, so what would they care?

[UPDATE, December 2008:  I’ve been tinkering with the recipe and have finally come up with a much less fussy and much more reliable recipe!  The revised version will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]

[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.”]  

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta

April 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.”]  

Sometimes it’s best not to complicate matters.  

Even though I am well aware of this principle, I’ve never been the kind of gal who naturally embraces “simple”: no scoop of vanilla ice cream for me when double-fudge-cookie-cream-caramel-swirl exists in the world; no blue wooly socks if I can wear my favorite pair emblazoned with frolicking brown and green puppies; no simple sentence when a complex, adjective-crammed, three-clause phrasing can be used instead. 

In terms of this particular trait, the HH and I are polar opposites. Unlike me, he invariably takes the path of least complication.  In fact, he’s frequently reminding me that, in his opinon, I tend to overcomplicate matters. 

Scene One: I’m worried about Elsie. Just look at her!  She’s terribly lethargic, sleeping on her pillow all afternoon.  She didn’t even come into the kitchen when I started baking.  Could she be sick? Maybe we should take her to the vet.  Maybe she’s got Distemper!  Or Lyme Disease!  We have to go to the after-hours emergency clinic!  RIGHT NOW!!

HH:  “Sweetheart, please don’t overcomplicate this.  Elsie’s just tired, that’s all.  I took them for an hour-long walk along the trail this afternoon.  She swam and she ran for an hour.  See?  Chaser’s exactly the same way.”

Me:  “Oh.  Yeah.”

Scene Two: I’m sure my sister is mad at me.  I mean, she got off the phone so abruptly, and she didn’t even ask about The Girls.  She definitely sounded upset.  Hmmn.  What on earth did I do to offend her this time?  Hooboy.  Now I’m going to have to apologize for some slight I can’t even remember committing. . .

HH:  “Honey, you don’t need to overcomplicate this. She probably had a bad day at work and just doesn’t feel like talking about it.  Didn’t she have some big meeting coming up. . .?”

Me: “Oh.  Yeah.  Now I remember. . . she had to fire someone today and felt terrible doing it.  Oh, gee, I guess I should have asked her about it. . . “.

Scene Three: That HH is so infuriating!  Why won’t he tell me what he’s really thinking? He just won’t share.  Men are so emotionally stunted!  They are so out of touch with their feelings!  All I asked was a simple question, and he can’t even give me a straight answer. . .!

HH:  “Ricki.  Please.  Do not overcomplicte this.  I really meant it when I said that I have no preference.  I don’t care whether you wear the flats or the heels. Please, just pick one.  We’re going to be late for the wedding.”

Hmmm. Okay.  I see his point.

Thankfully, when it comes to cooking, we are in perfect agreement: the less complicated, the better.  And this pasta dish fits the bill beautifully.

When I’m looking for something to whip up on weeknights if we’re headed out after dinner and need something pronto; or for indolent Sunday evenings when we’ve spent the weekend engaged in errands or household chores and feel too lazy for anything more elaborate, I turn to this pasta. It’s proof positive that sometimes, indeed, simple is best.

The recipe, I’ve discovered, is a slight variation on a standard Italian pasta dish:  spaghetti or linguine tossed with roasted red peppers, garlic, and a bit of chili.  The combination of sweet (the peppers), hot (the chilis), and pungent (the garlic) is truly inspired. My handwritten version was jotted on a piece of scrap paper several years ago, and I no longer recall the original source; but since I’ve adapted it to our tastes here in the DDD household, I’m setting this down as my own adaptation. 

And the preparation, as promised, is truly simple: the final product is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta.  You can create any number of variations on the base recipe by adding your own choice of dense protein (the HH likes sausage and parmesan cheese; I like chopped or ground almonds, or nutritional yeast). 

Because it’s both quick and appealing, I’m submitting this recipe to Ruth’s weekly Presto Pasta Night, over at Once Upon a Feast.  Look for the roundup after Friday evening!

Spicy Red Pepper Pasta

Simplicity itself is transformed into a satisfying, filling dinner in this pasta.  You can use either fresh or jarred peppers here;  I prefer a combination of both for the different textures and levels of sweeteness.

1 pkg. (about 350 grams) long, thin pasta (I use kamut linguine)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 red peppers, either fresh or roasted and jarred (the ideal mix, I’ve found, is 2 of each), cut in long strips

4-6 cloves garlic (or more, if you like), coarsely chopped

1 tsp. chili flakes

other toppers of your choice:  parmesan cheese, chopped or ground nuts, faux cheese, etc.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  If it’s ready before the pepper mixture, drain, reserving about 1/4 cup liquid; cover, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and fresh peppers (however many you’re using), and cook until the garlic begins to brown and the peppers are wilted.  Sprinkle with the chilis and stir to combine.  If using prepared roasted peppers, add them now, and mix together. 

Once the pasta is ready, add it along with the 1/4 cup water to the pepper pot (always wanted to say that!).  Toss until the pasta is coated with the garlicy oil and the peppers are well distributed.  Stir in your optional extras and transfer to serving plates.  Sprinkle with more cheese or nutritional yeast, if desired.  Makes 4-6 servings.