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, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

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.”

* * *

 [Yep, another raw bar. . . and so soon!  But there’s a good reason. . . ]

Well, it’s finally happened:  after years of needless anxiety before every annual medical check-up (only to be told each time that nothing’s wrong). . . this time, something was wrong.  And I must admit, I’m shocked.

When I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, she sent me off for all the standard tests appropriate for “someone my age.”  Then yesterday at the call-back appointment, I was informed that I have osteopenia.  Sounds scary initially: osteopenia is the (potential) precursor to osteoporosis, as the word means “thinning of the bones.”  Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and is a greater danger. 

Even as she was speaking, questions caromed around in my mind:  What, exactly, does this mean?  Doesn’t everyone experience thinning of the bones as they age?  How serious is my situation?–etc. Apparently, the test, called DEXA (“Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption”) works by measuring the density of my bones and comparing it against the bones of an imaginary 25 year-old woman (the “gold standard,” as my doctor says.  But hey, shouldn’t that be the “greyish-white” standard?).  Statistically, my bones were a 1.3 per cent standard deviation from that (no idea what that means).  A 2.5 per cent deviation equals “osteoporosis.”  When I asked how I compare to other women my age, she noted that I was still a bit below average.  

Now, I simply cannot express how much this news ticks me off! I mean, isn’t being fat good for anything these days?? One of the health issues I never (I mean, never) considered as a possibility was osteoporosis; you see, being overweight is actually a preventative in that area (bones rebuild and strengthen in accordance with “weight-bearing exercise,” and I have definitely been bearing excess weight the past few years.). I do, however, have some of the other risk factors (such as being female).

Well, I’m trying not to get overly stressed about this (stress, as it turns out, is one of the factors that contributes to bone loss. Bien sûr).  Even my doctor noted that, should nothing change over the next few years, she wouldn’t give it another thought; it would only be considered a problem if I keep losing bone density.

This shocking diagnosis got me moving (in the sense of “getting hyped up,” though of course also in the sense of “walking more”–gotta increase that exercise now!).  I pulled out a bunch of my old texts from nutrition school and started reading.  Seems that the absolute amount of calcium and other essential bone-building nutrients is irrelevant, if you’re not digesting them properly.  Bad digestion=malabsorption=too few minerals in the bloodstream (at which point your opportunistic bloodstream leaches them out of your bones, teeth, and whatever else it can find–the nerve!). In other words, you can consume calcium out the yin-yang, but if your body isn’t absorbing it properly, you may as well be eating matchsticks (actually, no, don’t do that–too much sulfur isn’t good, either).

A highly acidic diet (as in, “those heinous, calcium-siphoning, bone-sucking junk foods and chocolate bars that have wooed me too many times in the past”) will also cause you to lose minerals from the bone (chocolate is a particular culprit, apparently, as it contains both caffeine AND refined sugar–both mineral-leachers).  And believe it or not, meats and most dairy products are equally bad, as they are also highly acidic (too bad I grew up in a household where we ate meat every day, usually more than once).  Oh, and let’s not forget that surreptitious bone-stealer: stress.  So, in a contest to see who possesses the most negative traits contributing to malabsorption–well, all I can say is, “Yay!  I finally won a contest!”

So now I have a real reason to eat better and exercise more:  unlike my Stone-Age ancestors, I am partial to walking upright, and would prefer to retain that ability. 

For those of you who are interested, you can prevent (and some even say reverse) osteopenia with the proper diet.  This includes ingesting sufficient calcium, of course (think green leafys, almonds, legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses and, if you’re so inclined, sardines, salmon and yogurt); sufficient Vitamin D (at least 10 minutes of sunshine per day, or 1000 IU in supplement form); lots of magnesium (green leafys and beans/legumes again), and a complement of other vitamins and minerals, such as B’s, K, and boron, in smaller quantities.  Basically, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Because it’s been a while since I practised nutrition directly, I’ll be heading for a trip to my naturopath next week to see what she has to say.  And this will mean a bunch of new, ultra-healthy recipes on the blog!

All this got me thinking about Susan at Food Blogga’s Beautiful Bones” event in honor of National Osteoporosis Month. I’d actually been planning to submit this very entry to Susan.  Now, however, I’m also motivated to go make another batch, just for me. (Oh, and Susan also offers a list of calcium-rich foods on her event page.)

I came up with this recipe when I first started teaching cooking classes a few years ago. Each of the classes was assigned a theme, such as “Glorious Greens,” “Tricks with Tofu” (foods, not making it disappear), or “Great and Gluten-Free.”  One class, called “Bone Builders” (which now sounds to me more like an architectural firm on The Flintstones), was the impetus for these bars.  They were a great hit with the cooking classes, and later, a popular seller at the organic market where I sold baked goods for a few years. And since they were designed specifically to improve bone health, these treats seem the perfect contribution to Susan’s event.  

In the past few years, I’ve discovered that these are terrific as a mid-day energy booster, a great portable lunch on the go, or a substitute for trail mix.  You can keep a wrapped bar in your drawer at work for an emergency nibble, or bring it along during a walk through the woods.  Once made and wrapped, the bars will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge (they have honestly never lasted that long over here). With a texture like that of a protein bar you’d buy at the store, these are much more flavorful, with tart lemon peel, dried cherries accented by sweet dried fig, and the crackly, popping crunch of fig seeds alongside ground almonds.  They’re very filling and a fabulous bar to have on hand. 

When I first created these, I ran a quick nutritional analysis to ensure that they’d provide a meaningful boost of calcium.  Courtesy of almonds (the nut with highest calcium levels), dried figs (the fruit with highest calcium levels), tahini (made from sesame seeds–yep, the seed with highest calcium levels) and sour cherries (no slouch in the calcium department), these bars are a powerhouse of bone-building minerals. The stats confirmed my expectation: each bar offers 140 mg. of calcium per bar (about 1/10 of the daily requriement) along with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber (bonus!).  I’m not sure how much deviation that represents from the statistical norm, but no matter–they’re delicious all the same.

Raw Fig and Cherry Bars

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

These are deliciously chewy and not too sweet.  If you can find organic UNsweetened dried cherries (the kind that are very tart), they are really the best choice.  If you can’t find them, you may wish to reduce, or even omit, the agave nectar.

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! TO VISIT THE NEW SITE, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

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.” 

In the past, I’ve always thought of radishes as kind of a poor cousin to beets: smaller and more anemic, they obviously missed out on the family jewels.  Without well-heeled connections or an established vocation, they’re much like the street punk with the pugilistic attitude, slamming your jaw with a peppery punch every time you dare take a bite.

And besides, radishes seem to me more or less a one-hit wonder:  like the obnoxious neighbour (you know the guy: loud, grating voice; beer belly) who always gets drunk at the annual Bar B Q and tells the same joke every year, radishes were used for one thing and one thing only: salad.  And they were always raw.  And they were always sliced.  Not horrible, but not exactly inspiring, either.  Sort of like Julia Roberts: no matter what the context, no matter what else surrounds them, no matter what time of year, they’re always pretty much exactly themselves.  Even when carved into one of those fancy garnish “roses”–a radish is a radish is a radish.

Well, last week, I intended to change all that. 

I’ve been hanging on to this recipe, originally from the LCBO’s  Food and Drink Magazine from early 2004 (LCBO is “Liquor Control Board of Ontario”–that’s right, the government is the sole purveyor of alcohol in our time-warped province), since I first saw it. I’d kept it all this time simply because I loved the photo in the magazine so much (have you ever seen the production values of that mag?  No wonder the Ontario government is short on cash).  Well, I can thank my blogging habit once again for prompting me to finally make the dish and take my own shot of the colorful mix.

It must have been some weird synergy in the not-quite-summer air, but in the interim since I made this salad, I’ve noticed two other bloggers with radish recipes as well: Lisa just whipped up some fabulous looking Potato and Radish Salad, and Karen actually roasted the little roots, something I’ve never thought to do (she swears they’re pretty darned good that way).

This salad was deceptively simple–only seven ingredients–but it was the particular combination that sounded so enticing.  Radishes, sliced paper-thin (unfortunatelly, not in my case–must get that mandoline!), embraced by thick, juicy wedges of grapefruit; with thin rounds of young green onion and glossy olives tinted like black plums scattered throughout. Like a little dinner party with your most eclectic group of friends, all in one place!

It came together in no time at all, and didn’t disappoint.  The result was unusual, yes, but oddly pleasing: tart, salty, peppery, juicy–the perfect side to a light summer dinner of lentil patties (more on those anon).

Based on this salad, I’d say the lowly radish has finally broken free from the previously predictable, nondescript dishes it’s graced in the past.  I actually enjoyed experiencing the radish in a starring role in this dish.

Now, if only I could say the same for Ms. Roberts.

Radish and Grapefruit Salad

from Food and Drink, Spring 2004

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

Crisp and light, this will remind you of summer, even though it can be prepared any time of year.  The singular mix of flavors and textures creates a uniquely appealing salad. The original instructions advise: “Do not add the dressing until just before serving or else the salad will give off too much liquid.”

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

 

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.”

 

(I know, “Cocoa Nibbles” sounds like a children’s breakfast cereal. . . but these are much better!)

Even though I’ve continued to bake a little during this Total Health course I’m taking, I’ve been trying to avoid consuming very much of what I do bake (my colleagues are very happy lately. . . oh, and they appear to have gained some weight).  Apart from my tumbling head first off the wagon after I baked those evil PB-Chocolate Chip Cookies, I’ve remained (more or less) on track. 

Still, even when you’re eating healthfully, sometimes (okay, all the time) you crave chocolate.  These little bites are what I whip up when I’m dying for something that’s part candy, part fudge, and part healthy.  Those of you familiar with LaraBars will recognize the ingredient list, but mine are a little smoother than the orignial, with a more intense chocolate flavor.  And so easy!

Cocoa Nibbles

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

[Get a load of that gorgeous mint garnish!]

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

In my imagination, I’d love to live on a farm. I say “in my imagination” because, in my reality, I’m actually the farthest thing from a farm type of gal (“What the-?  What do you mean, 5:15 is the normal time for the rooster to crow?!!”  OR, “What do you mean, it’s almost 2 hours to the closest Barnes and Noble?” OR, “What do you mean, ‘that’s just what manure smells like, so get used to it’???!!!”).  Um, nope, I don’t think so. 

Still, in my fantasy, I’m a latter day Lisa Douglas. Mid-afternoon, I turn to my HH Wendell Douglas and casually remark, “Oh, dahlink, what shall we have for dinner tonight?  I think I vill go out back to our vegetable patch and pick something fresh.” And then I cook it and we eat it and it’s delicious, of course.

Well, now that it’s finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas hockey season reruns springtime here in Toronto, all the gardeners are out on our street.  Our neighbours across the way have been scattering a wheelbarrow full of rich, black composted soil over their front lawn.  Everywhere I look, I see women on their knees yanking weeds out of the flower garden, others pulling up dried-out webs of branches and roots.  

And I?  Not so much.  On the other hand, the previous tenants in our house were quite the gardeners. When we first viewed the place last August, the back yard was lush with flowers and all manner of greenery, and it seemed everything was in bloom. (Bizarrely, when we finally moved in in November, we discovered that they had literally uprooted every plant, bush or tree they’d planted in the back yard, and taken everything with them to their new home. Remember that huge, gaping crater out of which emerged the creepy farmer-cum-alien in Men in Black? Well, that’s what our yard looked like, times twenty.)

As far as I could tell until yesterday, what remained in our garden was one puffy green bush near the tree in the front yard, some teeny purple flowers (or were they weeds?) and a few long, sharp green plants that look like miniature palm trees.  What they are called, or what they will sprout, I’m afraid I have no idea. My one and only previous gardening experience involves a single jalapeno seedling (I chose a jalapeno because I guessed it would require no maintenance, would self-repel bugs and raccoons, and would yield a small enough harvest that I could use it all up before it began to rot).  I was correct on most counts, though the plant, remarkably, flourished and the HH and I ended up eating jalapenos in every imaginable food, from scrambled eggs to pesto to muffins to plain ole roasted in a pan. But at least it proved I could grow a plant without killing it (or neglecting it to the point of killing it).

This year, I vowed, I’d venture into something a bit more exotic. My friend Gemini I (a gardener extraordinaire) has promised that herbs are fairly easy to grow, so I figured I’d plant some basil, cilantro, dill and sage. Then, yesterday, I was strolling past the side of our house on my way toward the back yard for some Frisbee-toss with The Girls and noticed something odd. There, spanning the entire length of the house, was a patch of earth the previous tenants had evidently forgotten–completely covered in small, green, leafy, plants in full bloom. They were a dazzling, almost translucent shade of green, lighter than grass but deeper than lime. . . the color reminded me of something, but what?  It was sort of like. . . the color of. . . the color of mint.  Yes, mint!  And I’ll be darned, when I bent over and pinched one of those verdant babies between my fingers, that’s exactly what they smelled like.

“Oh, that’s mint,” my next-door neighbour said as she sauntered over to me and The Patch.  Wow.  And so, without even a modicum of effort, I now am the proud owner of a fully formed, instant mint garden.  But what to do with it?

“Want some?”  I asked her.

I am still planning to plant the cilantro and basil, as I can never get enough of either.  But I have to admit that, much as I enjoy mint as a flavoring, I’ve never really been forced to make use of this much of it before.  Something tells me I’ll be drinking my share of mint juleps over the next few months–though, even once I’ve given much away to friends and colleagues, I’ll still have more mint than could possibly be consumed even by Daisy and Tom and Jordan and Gatsby during a long, hot, humid summer.  (I see much green in my future: chocolate-mint cookies, mint smoothies, mint ice creams, mint salads and all manner of mint drinks, alcoholic and otherwise. . . ).

There was one high point to the discovery, however. Just around dinnertime, I glanced at the swath of green running across the side of my house and said, to no one in particular,  “Why, I think I’ll step over here to my herb patch and pick some fresh herbs for dinner tonight.”  And I cooked something, and we ate it, and it was delicious. (“Mum, why are you talking with a Hungarian accent?  And, come to think of it, why are you talking to yourself?”)

We had planned to have a favorite Indian-spiced potato dish called Aloo Masala, but the recipe didn’t call for any mint.  No matter; I threw some in anyway. Along with the complement of other spices, it made for a delightful, slightly sweet and slightly peppery bowl of spuds.  The HH had these with an organic chicken breast (on which he piled even more mint), while I was happy with a simple bowl on its own.  

Well, that took care of about 1/85th of our mint.  Any suggestions for tomorrow?

Aloo Masala (Potato Masala Curry)

adapted from Complete Indian Cookbook, edited by Meera Budhwar

These potatoes come together very quickly and offer a spicy, smooth and comforting side dish to pretty much any main.

3 or 4 medium potatoes, cubed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) turmeric

salt, to taste

2 green chilies, chopped (or 1/2-1 jalapeno)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) garam masala

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) shredded or dessicated coconut, unsweetened

1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) olive oil

1 tsp. (5 ml.) glack mustard seeds

4-6 mint leaves, finely shredded

leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, finely shredded

Cook the potatoes in just enough water to cover with half the onion, the turmeric and the chilies until about half cooked, about 8 minutes  [note: next time I do these, I will omit the onion here and simply fry it all together at the end–I think the potatoes would have a better flavor that way, infused with the caramelized onion].

Meanwhile, blend the garam masala, coconut and ginger in a coffee grinder or miniature food processor. Add to the potato and continue to cook for a further 8 minutes, until tender but not soft, and most of the water has evaporated.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds.  Let them sizzle for a few seconds until they have popped, then add the onion and fry until deep golden brown. Stir this into the curry in the pot.

Add salt to taste and sprinkle with the mint and cilantro.  Makes 4 servings.

*apologies to Geneen Roth

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

 

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

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

 

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

 

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

 

Food also conveyed silent, unspeakable messages of sorrow.   

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 Vegan Farmer’s Cheesecake

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

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

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

*Or, Mastering the Legacy of Mush and Goo

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.” 

When I was a kid, my mother was a fairly conventional 1960s housewife (well, except for the Valium) whose cooking style, too, adhered to convention; she’d cook pretty much the same seven dinners every week, according to the day: Mondays were hamburgers and mashed potatoes.  Tuesdays were veal chops and green beans.  Wednesdays were franks and beans. Fridays were chicken soup or roast chicken (but this changed to salmon patties and twice-baked potatoes, after one of her Mah Jong friends clipped a recipe from Good Housekeeping and passed it along). 

Only on the very rare occasion did Mom diverge from the predetermined pattern, if she saw a particularly intriguing recipe in Chatelaine, perhaps, or if my aunt cooked something she tasted and really liked.  Then Mom would pick up the ingredients during that week’s grocery shopping, and we’d have something new for a change.

One week, she decided to tackle homemade lasagna.  Never mind that she had never made it before. Never mind that it was a multi-step, fairly complex process. Never mind that my aunt–the inspiration for this experiment–was a professional caterer and could make a lasagna with one hand tied behind her apron. My mother decided we were going to have lasagna, and, dammit, that’s what she made. 

Well, sort of. 

I returned home from school that day to a scene worthy of the set of Psycho:  kitchen walls splattered with thick, wayward splotches of red, the stovetop covered in equally abundant patches of tomato sauce that had spewed from a teeming pot of sauce; topless, half-emptied cartons of cottage cheese and grated mozzarella littered across every surface, and detritus of carrot shavings, onion peel, and celery stalks strewn over and beside the wooden cutting board. 

It did smell heavenly, though.  My sisters and I waited patiently, watching Happy Days reruns, as we dreamt of thick, saucy hunks of lasagna, the long, ruffled noodles padded with meat, cheese, and my mother’s own sauce. But any aspirations of heavenly hunks were quickly dashed when my mother cut in to the first piece. The noodles (having been parboiled according to package directions, before being layered with the sauce and cheese) had practically disintegrated in the casserole dish, leaving only a mass of mushy, oozing goo.  She didn’t attempt lasagna again for quite some time.

When I finally got my own apartment as an undergraduate, I was determined to conquer the fractious pasta.  I cooked up a huge batch of my favorite spaghetti sauce with ground beef, chopped celery, peppers and carrots, accented with oregano and lots of basil.  I had my cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan) at the ready.  And, unlike my mother, I was savvy enough to take advantage of modern conveniences: I purchased pre-parboiled noodles, so that they could be laid, stiff and uncooked, right into the casserole dish with the sauce and cheeses.  I layered, I smoothed the top, I popped it into the oven, feeling pretty satisfied with myself.

About an hour later, I was drawn by the heavenly smell.  But any aspirations of success were quickly dashed when I cut into the first slice. . . which was a mass of mushy, oozing goo.  Needless to say, I had no desire to cook lasagna again for quite some time. 

One of the imperatives of my “Total Health” course is to eat more greens (and more on the course, below).  In searching the Internet for greens recipes, I came across the ubiquitous Potato and Kale Enchiladas on the Post Punk Kitchen discussion forum.  Now, I know it must seem lately that I’m shilling for Moskowitz & Romero (no, not the Las Vegas act; the vegan cookbook authors) given how many times I’ve mentioned their recipes on this blog recently.  But since kale is my favorite leafy green, and since the recipe was right in front of me, I decided to use it–sort of.  Having no tortillas in the house, I dug out a box of rice lasagna I’d bought on a whim months ago. Did I dare to try another lasagna experiment?  What the heck; I decided to live on the (stiff, ruffled) edge. 

Potatoes and noodles?  Yes, it’s an unconventional twist on that traditional dish. But I’m here to tell you, it worked.  Not only was the kale-potato filling hardy enough to support the layers of noodles, the lasagna itself complied and baked up perfectly; firm, cooked throughout, with neither mush nor goo anywhere in sight. It cut beautifully into semi-solid, clearly defined squares.  And the combination of potato, kale, tomato sauce and pumpkin seeds was a delightful, unusual and winning carnival of tastes.

This was a terrific dinner, one that would satisfy even the most avowed lasagna-lover.   The HH thoroughly enjoyed it (I believe his exact words were, “hmmmn, not so bad for vegetarian lasagna”), and The Girls were happy to help with the leftovers (“It may not be steak, but it was still good, Mum! And you might recall that we love kale.”) Next time you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, I recommend giving this this one a try.

And since I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m submitting this to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, for the weekly Presto Pasta night roundup.

 Potato and Kale Lasagna (based on PPK recipe)

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

As much as I love modern technology, I still believe there are times when good old fashioned paper-and-pen are in order.  For instance, I always buy a “real” card (versus an e-card) for birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions (graduation, etc.), even if I send along an e-card as well.  I make an effort to write thank-you notes by hand after being invited to someone’s home for a dinner party, or to thank someone for a special gift. 

So please, for today, think of this blog entry as being on paper, and written with a beautiful, elegant antique fountain pen.  That’s how I’d express my gratitude for the “Nice Matters” blog award I received yesterday from Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook.  Susan’s recipes are mouth-watering, her photos are breathtaking, and she writes with a relaxed, friendly style that feels like you’ve been invited over to your best girlfriend’s for a coffee and a cookie bake-off. 

Thanks so much, Susan! (I’ll take a day or two to ponder the award so I can then forward it to other bloggers.)

But another card goes out to all of you who regularly stop by, read, and comment on this blog. In the (fairly) short time I’ve been blogging, I’ve come to understand why so many of you out there do this on a regular basis.  Sure, I love writing, and sure, I love food.  But what makes the endeavor truly gratifying, and what makes it feel most worthwhile, is hearing from all of you, knowing you are visiting, and the exchange and support that goes on via this wacky, wonderul medium that is the Internet. 

So thanks, as always, for reading and for your wonderful feedback–it would truly not be the same without you!