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!

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 [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

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

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

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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.”]  

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.

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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.”]

Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. 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.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).
     
 kalesaladclose.jpg

Well, since my back is still a bit sore, I’m opting for a “flash in the pan” today.  Hmm: sore back. . flash. . .does that make this a “flash-back”? (Ouch.  Sorry–that one hurt even more than the back injury!). 

We ate this salad the other night along with my newfound amore, nutroast (don’t tell the HH).  This is one of my favorite salads ever, and even The Girls  love it (without the onion, of course).  Oh, and there’s no strain whatsoever on your back when you mix this together.

(“Yes, Mum, this is definitely a keeper.  But what do you mean, nutroast is your new amore?  What about US? Aren’t WE at the top of the list???”) 

My only experience with green leafy vegetables prior to my year at nutrition school was the archetypal (and, oddly, newly resurrected) iceberg lettuce.  In fact, my dad still eats a salad of torn, waterlogged iceberg, chopped woody tomato, and sliced, wizened cucumber pretty much every day for lunch.  Is there any wonder I never thought to branch out?

Then, throughout that same year, I kept hearing rumblings about these mythological creatures called “green leafy vegetables.”  Armed with mighty stems; dressed with undulating green fronds;  festooned with ruffly, bi-colored leaves, these creatures seemed like a veggie version of fabled videogame heroes.  I’d read paragraphs in our textbooks and stare, entranced, at the photos, but couldn’t remember ever having tasted any. 

But wait; I did remember coming close, as a teenager when I’d visit my best friend, Sterlin.  As nerdy adolescents, we bonded over the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend throughout high school.  We’d regularly spend weekend sleepovers at each other’s houses, blabbing and gossiping and avoiding homework (and cursing the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend), until the wee hours of the morning. 

Since my mother, my sisters and I were always baking something or other, sleepovers at my house involved chocolate chip cookies, brownies, apple cake, my mom’s famous chiffon cake or my then-favorite cookie,  Chocolate Shadows (a monstronsity of chocolate, peanut butter and mint, from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook). When we bunked at Sterlin’s house, however, our  2:00 AM munchie raids inevitably led us to her parents’ near-empty freezer, where we’d find. . .boxes of frozen spinach.  I have no idea why they were always so well stocked on spinach, but since that was all we could find, that’s what we ate.  Sterlin would pull out a box, heat it up in the microwave (hers was the first family I knew to have one), and we’d munch on soggy, unevenly heated, spinach. 

Needless to say, the highschool freezer exploits didn’t exactly increase my desire to sample kale, collards, chard, or the like. But once I did discover leafy greens, years later, I was instantly smitten.  I ended up trying every green-leafy recipe I could find, and seemed to love them all.  And I daresay, this is one of the best. 

When I mention that this salad uses raw kale, I’m often met with resistance.  “But isn’t it bitter?”  I’m invariably asked. 
Well, let’s get one thing straight: buying a lottery ticket and having the guy at the kiosk check it, tell you it’s a loser, then cash in the $5.6 million jackpot himself–that’s bitter.  Bending down to pick up your dog’s water bowl and ending up spending almost two weeks in bed with an excruciating back problem–that’s bitter. Dating narcissistic Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) for three months, then having him dump you for his ex-girlfriend before you can break up with him–that’s really bitter (but am I bitter?  Why, no, no of course not, don’t be silly!)

But kale?  Nope.  Not bitter. 

This dish is well-known in the “living foods” community–so much so, that I’m not even sure to whom I should attribute it.  But a couple of years ago, I attended the Vegetarian Awakening conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan (what a fabulous experience!  Imagine my elation: three entire days, knowing I could eat every single thing available all weekend!), and one of the chefs there, Chad Sarno, demonstrated this salad, so I’m going to credit him.  There are multiple variations floating around on the Internet as well.

This salad is so quick and easy, you will not believe how delicious it is.  It contains only 5 major ingredients (with optional add-ins). And because it’s so green and healthy, chock full of antioxidants, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, I’m submitting this recipe to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, originated by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Raw Kale and Avocado Salad

Kale, with its frivolous ruffles, is like a perky vegetable tutu. It’s often referred to as the “Queen of Vegetables” for its amazing nutritional profile. 

TO VIEW THE RECIPE FOR KALE AND HEARTY SALAD, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

[“We adore this this salad, too, Mum–it’s OUR new amore! Thanks for sharing.”]

TO VIEW THE RECIPE FOR KALE AND HEARTY SALAD, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

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

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

Nut Roast Extraordinaire

April 14, 2008

nutroastwhole.jpg 

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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.”]  

* * *

The first nut roast I ever made–or ever tasted–was for the romantic Valentine’s Day dinner I cooked up for the HH and me this year. Well, let me tell you, the specific holiday notwithstanding, it was definitely love at first bite (of the nut roast, that is–shame on you for thinking otherwise!  Besides, after eleven years, love for the HH had already been firmly established; no biting there for some time, now). 

And now, Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has decided to host a blogging event, A Neb at Nut Roast, to honor that venerable dish of nuts, veggies, and spices; that meal-in-a-brick; that loaf to beat all loaves: the Nut Roast!  As soon as I read about it, I knew I had to come up with something extra special.

When I first baked up the Valentine’s Day roast, I dutifully followed Johanna’s original recipe; and while it was delicious, that wouldn’t do on this occasion. As I concocted my recipe for a main course consisting primarily of nuts, I felt quite vindicated by the process.  You see, in recent years, I’ve been told countless times by friends and family alike that my atypical dietary habits are, in their opinion, a little nutty. Finally, I can confirm that they are, indeed, correct in their assessment. 

It seems some of my friends and family just can’t get past the fact that I don’t want to eat anything from fast-food restaurants any more, or that I don’t want to use little packets of “seasoning mix” for my salad dressings, or that I don’t want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies these days (Oooh.  Scratch that last one.  I really, really DO want to pig out on May Wests and Twinkies, but just can’t because (a) they spark a sugar-high gorgefest, in which I consume more in one sitting than any human should eat of them in a lifetime; (b) they cause me to me feel woozy (as opposed to tipsy, which can be pretty nice, come to think of it) and unwell; and (c) they are able to stay “fresh” for unnaturally long periods of time–say, 17 years–making me wonder whether they are animal, vegetable, or miracle-gro.)

I’m sure most vegans have shared this experience:  you’re invited to a big bash–some kind of holiday dinner, rite of passage affair (such as a wedding or bar mitzvah), or any other festive event.  The host(ess) acknowledges your “bizarre” dietary preferences and even makes a genuine attempt to accommodate.  When the rest of the gang sits down to a four-course dinner of pâte en croûte, oxtail soup, bacon, shrimp and scallops Bordelaise, and Wasabi Beef Wellington, you are the lucky recipient of a plate heaped with steamed broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and green beans. Oh, and if you’re lucky, a white dinner roll. (Well, at least it wasn’t a paper plate).

Okay, rewind and play that scene again, only this time omit wheat from the picture.  Not even the skimpy little roll, this time!  So despite my friends’ best efforts, I rarely get to socialize with them over dinner these days. (I do have to commend them for effort, though. )

This nut roast just may upset the status quo, however.  It’s a toothsome, meaty and hearty dish that can be enjoyed by virtually anyone.  For omnivores, it offers an appetizing flavor in a package resembling meat loaf.  For vegetarians and vegans, it offers a mouth-watering serving of protein that will leave you satiated. In fact, it was so tasty, so hefty and satisfying, that the HH, a tried-and-true carnivore, enjoyed it immensely and asked for seconds. I found it even more appealing the second day, after the flavors had melded and developed a bit.

Before cooking up the loaf, I began by leafing through my various cookbooks from the UK and Australia (since nut roasts seem to be much more prevalent there–we tend to favor patties and burgers over here in North America), just to see what the generic ingredients tend to be. As Johanna noted, most nut roasts contain a combination of nuts (duh), breadcrumbs or flour, and, most often, eggs and/or cheese. 

nutroastmeal.jpg Since eggs and dairy are out for me, I realized I was setting myself a tougher challenge than first anticipated.  What the heck, I decided, why not go whole hog (“whole tofu”?) and make it even harder–why not attempt to create a delectable, enticing, egg-free, dairy-free and GLUTEN-FREE nut roast?  Why not, indeed?!

Okay, so I was feeling a little nutty myself by that point (which, truth be told, is not that rare an occurrence). My head still reeling, I set to chopping (carefully) and processing (attentively).

If I thought I liked nut roast before, I have now developed eternal, till-death-do-us-part, adoration. This oblong object of my undying affection was robust, with a perfect combination of savory, herbed, and “meaty” tastes in a dense, slightly grainy and moist loaf with a crisped exterior.  Solid without being stiff, it easily maintained its shape when sliced; and the flavors were much enhanced by an evening in the fridge. 

I imagine you could also shape this into patties and use it for burgers if you were so inclined. We ate it with a simple kale salad, but you could, of course, serve it with the more conventional mashed potatoes and gravy for a divine meal–one you’d be comfortable sharing with just about anyone, no matter what their dietary preferences.

Nut Roast Extraordinaire

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

nutroastslice.jpg

This nut roast provides a filling, satisfying main dish to a special meal (or any meal).  The Brazil nuts and added wine contribute to the robust flavor, but if you prefer, feel free to substitute other nuts, or vegetable broth for the wine.

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

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

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

[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. This is the last entry on quinoa.]

The moment I decided to present a Lucky Comestible series about quinoa, I simultaneously decided I’d have to include at least one baked goodie.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Now, Ricki, haven’t you already included a recipe for said baked goodie?  After all, you did post about Almond-Quinoa Muffins before the involuntary GBR, didn’t you?” 

Why, yes! Yes, I did. However, technically speaking, muffins are a “baked good,” not a “baked goodie“–the latter term reserved for dessert-type treats, such as cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, or bars.  I wanted to see if I couldn’t turn quinoa into something at least quasi cake-like, despite its elevated whole grain status–something worthy of the term, “dessert”–something that even skeptics like Johanna or Wendy (who mentioned on Johanna’s blog that quinoa reminds her of worms!) could enjoy. 

So, even though personally, my favorite use of quinoa is as a base for salad (where its true essence can shine through), I let my mind wander back toward baking.  And while so doing, I remembered that, in actuality, quinoa is not really a grain–it’s a seed related to beets and leafy greens such as spinach or chard.  Well, okay, I’ve already used spinach in a previous baked goodie, so that didn’t deter me at all.  And even if my quinoa creation didn’t turn out as decadent as a molten chocolate cake, I figured I could still whip up something with both a great nutritional profile AND a sweetness rating high enough to please the kids as an after-school snack, or to serve unexpected guests, with a steaming cup of green tea.  (“And don’t forget, it’s also good enough as a special treat for your sweet and devoted Girls, Mum! We LOVE apple-quinoa cake. . .”)

Since we already had a bag of Macintosh apples withering away on the counter, I started there.  I imagined that a lightly spiced batter would work well with the sturdy taste of quinoa, which can sometimes be a bit domineering in a crowd. For some reason (perhaps because quinoa itself is gluten-free), I decided the bars should also be celiac-friendly. 

What I ended up with was a light and moist cake, studded with raisins and sunflower seeds alongside thin shreds of apple and grains of quinoa.  The cake is slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, with a tender crumb and pleasing spice.  And because it’s fashioned from leftovers of both quinoa and apple, I thought it would be a perfect submission to the Leftover Tuesdays event, hosted by Project Foodie

Mum, you disappoint us.  Raisins?  You know we can’t eat raisins.  But maybe you could pick them out for us. . . ”

 Apple-Quinoa Cake

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

Next time you cook up some quinoa and find yourself with leftovers, try this great snack cake. Without being excessively sweet and boasting sunflower seeds, two fruits and two whole grains, the cake is nutritious enough to eat for breakfast, though still light enough for dessert.  The subtle apple and trio of spices is a tantalizing combination–you may have to stop yourself from having more than one piece!

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

[Warning: this post contains material that some might find offensive.  That’s right–I’m going to be serious for once.]

 

Last evening, the HH and I went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary (eleven years since we met—can it be possible??).  Actually, our true anniversary was last Sunday, but given the unexpected GBR that had me stuck in the house, we deferred until yesterday (sort of like we did with our Valentine’s Day dinner, celebrated on February 16th—guess we’re just wacky that way).

 

As we always do on this milestone date, we splurged and went to our favorite restaurant (something we do about twice a year—any more, and we probably couldn’t afford regular food!).  Even though it’s outrageously expensive, the place does deliver, and consistently: great menu, great service, great atmosphere. It’s never a problem to find a meal that suits my dietary restrictions (there’s often a tempeh option!), and even if there’s nothing suitable on the menu, they’ll whip something up on the spot—and it’s always absolutely spectacular (how does a starter salad of Belgian endive stuffed with puy lentils, candied pistachios and dried cranberries, topped with a pouf of lentil sprouts and misted with a light champagne vinaigrette sound?).

 

As usual, I enjoyed the meal immensely; as usual, I ended up consuming too much (how does a heaping plate of fresh potato gnocchi—nothing at all like my own feeble attempt a few weeks back—graced with a saporous, light and meaty wild mushroom sauce and laced with caramelized leeks and occasional hints of thyme sound?). 

 

Well, everything was fine and dandy while we were still celebrating, cleaning our plates and draining our champagne flutes, feeling pretty good about our decade-plus-one status.  But then, this morning. . .

 

Ah, this morning.  

 

 

When I first started this blog, I designated Sundays as “Progress Tracker” day, when I’d weigh-in (at the Workout Club), then record my weight as I lost it. Which means that this morning was weigh-in time. Needless to say, I haven’t been to the club since I hurt my back; but worse, today’s eye-opener was that my weight has now surpassed the original number when I started the blog!

 

 

Do I capitulate, and remove the “diet” from the blog’s title?  Do I keep mum and pretend that the pounds are melting away when they’re not?  Do I forget about the whole thing and just eat whatever the heck I want??

 

No, I decided, I can’t do any of those. Besides the fact that I am still a firm believer in the notion that healthy eating, even without counting points, calories, or carbs, will eventually lead to natural weight loss and health, I don’t feel good this way. I am still able to remember those days when I maintained a healthy weight, and how everything–from walking up the stairs, to getting out of a chair, to playing Frisbee with The Girls, even to pulling on my socks in the morning–was so much more free and easy.  And so, even before the anniversary dinner yesterday, I had decided that some drastic measures are in order.  Time to get some help with this quest of mine. Time to call in the Big Guns.

 

As serendipity would have it, I received an email from my friend and former teacher at nutrition school last week. She’s offering a nine-week course called  ClearBeing Total Health, aimed at one’s overall lifestyle. I registered immediately! The plan focuses on more than just diet alone, and that’s exactly what I need.  I’m also hoping this will be the necessary impetus for me to renew the habits that were already so natural when I studied nutrition a few years ago. 

 

Best of all, this approach is totally compatible with the kinds of food I’ve been highlighting on this blog. The only difference is, I’ll be eating less of them.  In fact, this may actually be the first time in my life I’m looking forward to starting a “diet.”

 

Wish me luck!  I’ll be keeping you posted.