[How about that red and white background?  Pretty patriotic, eh?]

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.” 

There’s an annual event in Montreal called The High Lights Festival in which (among other things) La Belle Ville invites chefs from other world-class cities to cook alongside the Quebeçois culinary masters and exchange ideas. This year (2008), the guest city was the very one yours truly calls home: Toronto. 

Toronto?  Some of the French hosts, apparently, almost refused to participate.  After all, every other location in Canada is entirely inferior to well, anywhere in Quebec when it comes to cuisine, non?  I mean, the rest of us are simply les bêtes sans a mote of culinary imagination or refinement, n’est-ce pas?

Well, it may be true that the phrases “Canadian gourmet” or “Canadian cuisine” are, like the iconic “jumbo shrimp,” simply oxymorons.  (And boo hoo, we’ve now lost one of the great comedians of all time along with the originator of that wordplay).  I mean, for most of my life, the mere idea of a uniquely Canadian cuisine was pretty much a joke.  As in so many other areas, our gastronomy is often eclipsed by that of our overseas ancestors.  Pizza?  Nope–that was Italy.  Crêpes Suzette?  France, of course.  Schwarzwald torte?  Germany beat us to it.  Haggis? Scotland claimed that one. Chocolate-covered bacon?  Well, turns out that was the creation of none other than our older and more populous neighbor, the good ole U. S. of A.

And what about us here in Canuck Country? A quick excursion to Wikipedia reveals several “Canadian-made” foodstuffs, many of which are cooked forms of indigenous plants.  There are Saskatoon berries out west, Nanaimo bars way out west, cloudberries (also known as bakeapple) and cod tongues way out east, or fine wines of Ontario (no, seriously. Apparently, the Niagara region shares the same microclimate as parts of California). 

But for truly singular creations that seem to roar “Canada,” like it or not, we’ve routinely turned to Quebec.  No wonder those guys have swelled heads when it comes to food. Quebec–where the language is different (bien sûr!), the aesthetic is different (ah, those couture‘d demoiselles!), the zeitgeist is different (4-hour dinners? de rigeur!), the beer is definitely different (um, 12 per cent?), and the cuisine is nonpareil.  

Tortière?  Quebec.  Poutine?  Quebec.  Sugar pie?  Quebec. Hamburger with truffles and foie gras?  Quebec.  Yep; they may have crazy gas prices, draconian language laws and a love-hate relationship with the rest of the country, but those Québecois sure do know how to cook!

And so, when I read about Jasmine (of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict) and Jennifer’s (of The Domestic Goddess) Mmmm. . . .Canada event  in honor of our July 1st Canada Day celebration, I knew I was in!  The event asks us to prepare something quintessentially “Canadian,” and it was Ontario’s original butter tart that immediately came to mind.  (Take that, cretons!)

According to Bill Casselman in his Canadian Food Words, “butter tart” is “a phrase and a confection that is 100% Canadian.”  He goes on to write,

There is even a proper Canuck way to ingest this northern nectar of the oven. One holds the butter tart in one hand at lip height. One does not bring the flaky-doughed cuplet with its inner pool of sugared gold to the mouth. No. One stoops slightly inward toward the butter tart, not only to take an encompassing chomp but also to do obeisance to the gooey rills of embuttered ambrosia soon to trickle in sweet streamlets down the eater’s gullet . . . .

 Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Just a couple of minor problems: (a) I’ve never even tasted a butter tart, let alone baked one; (b) with a filling made primarily of butter and eggs, they are decidedly not vegan.  What to do?

I consulted my trusty human encylopedia (that would be the HH) as well as my world’s biggest butter tart aficionado (ditto).  From what he tells me, the filling is very much the consistency of that in a pecan pie (probably why I never tasted them)–only about 1,462,873.05 times sweeter. 

I examined various online photos of the things and got a sense of the density required: a filling firm enough to hold its shape, spongy around the edges yet soft and oozing in the middle, all enclosed by a buttery tart crust.  With this exemplar in mind, I went to work in the kitchen.

The first round, with a serviceable shell and not entirely unpleasant taste, were nonetheless a wee bit too gooey and glossy–sort of like heavy, sugared shellac poured over raisins (too much like a stealth weapon in a James Bond movie, I’m afraid). Given the preponderance of eggs in the original recipe, I knew I’d have to reproduce the same airy, slightly bubbly consistency that results when whites are beaten until foamy.  A few extra filling ingredients and a pinch of baking powder later, and–zut alors!–I had it.

The HH tells me that these are extremely close to the real thing.  They’re everything you’d want in a butter tart: flaky pastry crust, with a rich, sticky, firmer-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside filling.  All they’re missing is the cholesterol, animal fat, and refined sugars (quel domage!)

I know what I’ll be baking for the upcoming long weekend, as we sit out back sipping Mojitos (decidedly not Canadian–well, except for the mint), shield the dogs from neighbours’ fireworks, hope the rain takes a hike, and enjoy our all-Ontario meal.  We’ll look up at the stars and be thankful to live in such a diverse, scenic, and placid country (and let’s not forget–“polite.”)  Now, if only the snow were a little less abundant, it would be perfect. . . ..

Bon Fête, Canada!

(“Um, Mum, we beg to differ on the ” world’s biggest butter tart aficionado” point.  You know we’d be the biggest fans. . . except you never let us eat them.  Oh, to taste something with sugar. . .   And what was that about fireworks?“)

Vegan Butter Tarts

[Note the “embuttered ambrosia” as it trickles out, glorious and free, from the center of that tart!]

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

 [This recipe will also 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.” 

[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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible.  Today’s avocado-based recipe also happens to be quick and incredibly easy, the criteria for my Flash in the Pan recipes–so it straddles both categories!] 

 

Think smooth and creamy.  Think easy and delicious. Think sandwich spread, base for sandwich fillings, foundation for dips or savory pâtés.  Think avocado mayonnaise!

This incredibly quick and equally irresistible recipe comes from the wondrous Dr. Ben Kim’s Natural Health website.  A chiropractor and acupuncturist based in Barrie, Ontario, Dr. Kim is also a fount of information on all things holistic, and he offers incredible material about healthy eating–all for free through his newsletter, of which I am an avid fan (and no, I’ve never actually met the man, just in case you think there’s a little nepotism going on here–I just really think his info is great!).

I whipped up this mayo and enjoyed a daub on some steamed artichokes, but by the time I’d finished eating them, I knew I was hooked.  I plopped some over ripe, juicy slices of beefsteak tomato for a lunch appetizer and was enthralled.  After the first taste, I wanted to scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon (come to think of it, I did scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon).

You can use this as you would any other mayo, in sandwiches, wraps, salads (it would be heavenly thinned out just a little over field greens–turns out the recipe is very much like the avocado pesto salad dressing I posted about last March).

Avocado and Basil Mayonnaise

from Dr. Ben Kim

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

This creamy, heavenly spread can be used anywhere you’d use regular mayo.  I agree with Dr. Kim:  this is the best vegan mayo I’ve ever tried.

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.” 

[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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ] 

Summer is definitely the season of romance.  I mean, all those couples strolling along the Harbourfront, hand in hand. . . starry nights and waves crashing against the sand at the Beaches. . . candlelit dinners on the back patio under the moonlight, just you and your sweetheart. . . and the black flies. . . and the mosquitoes. . . and the spiders. . .  Hmm.  Well, all those couples strolling along the Harbourfront, hand in hand . . .

Doesn’t everyone love a little romance once in a while? I used to think that romance meant roses and chocolate, but nowadays I know better.  Now I realize it’s just chocolate. 

In my previous lifetime (long before the HH), my Starter Husband  was a natural when it came to romance; he was one of those guys who’d secretly light candles and strew rose petals around the bathtub (which was filled, naturally, with Chanel Number 5 Bubble Bath) while I was out shopping because he saw it in a movie somewhere.  Or I’d open a Christmas present to find a pair of handcrafted tiger’s eye earrings he’d bought, because I’d admired them while strolling through an outdoor bazaar the previous July.  Yes, he was a “romantic,” in the classic sense (still didn’t save the marriage, though). 

Most of us are familiar with the studies about husbands who “help out” more in the domestic areas of the home (washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning floors, etc.):  they’re also more likely to get lucky in the other areas (read: bedroom) of the home.  In those cases, romance is something else entirely:  it’s the ability to tune in to the ongoing, mundane demands or stresses facing your loved one and to help alleviate some of the pressure by reducing the workload. I mean, we all know there’s nothing quite so sexy as a guy with his hands in a sink of soapy dishes, right?  

The HH is definitley not romantic in the classic sense–I think he’s bought flowers for me twice in the eleven years we’ve been together, and those only under duress–but he sure does shine in the “sharing housework” department.  (I know, I’ve mentioned his lack of cooking prowess before, and it’s true, he loathes cooking; but he does make a great kitchen hand, and if I had to count up household chores, I’m certain he takes care of more of them than I do). 

The HH’s style leans more toward Harry’s in When Harry Met Sally–the guy you love to talk to, the one whose silly jokes make you laugh despite yourself, the one who’s steady and good natured and helpful, even if he does miss a few cues when it comes to your desire for sentiment or being sappy. 

And what prompts me to feel romantic toward my guy?  Well, seeing him on his back on the floor (really, get your minds out of the gutter, people!), rolling around with The Girls and a pull toy (well, actually, I guess that last sentence out of context could be interpreted “that way,” couldn’t it? Lord knows what search terms will lead people to this post, now I’ve written that).  Though he’d probably never admit it out loud, the HH is head-over-tail in love with our dogs.  And recognizing that devotion always sparks my own romantic inclinations towards him. (“We’re pretty cool with it, too, Mum.”)

Although it’s true I’ve bought Christmas gifts the HH had admired months before, in general I tend toward more quotidien romantic expressions such as leaving notes in lunch bags, offering to do dishes when it’s his turn, or baking things for him that I know he loves. 

Which brings me–finally–to today’s recipe. (I know, you were wondering how I’d work it in, weren’t you?)

One of the HH’s favorite flavors is coconut.  Alongside a good hunk of Decadent Chocolate Pâté, coconut cream pie is his all-time favorite dessert.  For his birthday each year, I let the HH choose any dessert on the planet and I will make it for him; among the Toffee Hazelnut Pound Cake, the Opera Cake, the Layered Mocha Mousse Cake and all the others over the past eleven years, the only repeat so far has been coconut cake.  What could be better (or more romantic), then, than a baked good that’s both healthy and coconut-based?

As I mentioned in the first post of this Lucky Comestible series, avocados can be used as egg substitutes in baking.  When I first learned of this option, I experimented with a huge variety of recipes, from cookies to cakes to muffins.  In general, the avocado isn’t detectable if the other flavors in a recipe are fairly assertive to begin with (as in the aforementioned chocolate pâté), but in lighter bases (such as vanilla), you may sense a hint of the buttery green purée. In addition, the avocado will impart a touch of color to the final product (though strangely, it bakes up more yellow than green).

The result of my kitchen playtime was these muffins, a great combination of coconut and lemon.  They’re extremely moist, both tart and sweet, and have become one of the HH’s favorites. When you mix up the batter, however, don’t be alarmed by the brilliant Day-Glo green color–the magical alchemy that is baking will transform it into a deep, rich, lemony yellow that is a perfect visual representation of the intense lemony flavor. 

Next time you want to express your love toward the object of your affection, trying baking these. . . and then, who knows what type of romance might ensue? 

I’m also submitting this recipe to A Fruit A Month, the event started by Maheswari of Beyond the Usual and this month hosted by Suganya of Tasty Palettes.  This month’s focus is coconut.  The roundup will be posted after June 30th, so head over to take a look after that!

Tropical Lemon-Coconut Muffins

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

Moist and filling, these are the perfect breakfast or snack.  And because the avocado already contributes monounsaturated fats, these don’t require any added oil! 

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.” 

[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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

Since today was the first Sunday following my Total Health course (and I promise–that’s the last time I’ll mention it!), I realized it was time to resume my regular Progress Tracker entries. 

It’s been nine whole weeks since I had a regular Sunday weigh-in, so this morning, I donned my sweats and and finally returned to the workout club (Well, hi again, Elderly Gentleman Who Always Wears Black Knee Socks! I’m back, Burly Guy Who Stares at Women’s Breasts Between Sets!  I actually missed you, Septuagenarian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts!).

After completing various stretches and weights, I performed the official post-course, ritual weigh in.  And the result?  After NINE WEEKS of eating healthfully and stepping up my exercise routine (literally–I’ve doubled the amount of walking I do each day since the osteopenia diagnosis), I lost. . . . are you ready for it?  Okay, here goes. . . . I lost. . . . FOUR POUNDS. 

Yep, four. Quatre. 4. Vier. Quattro. IV.  Tessera. FOUR!!!!  In nine weeks.

Lovely, no?  That’s just under half pound a week.  Okay, I suppose that’s not awful considering that the goal of the course was not to lose weight so much as to learn about healthy eating and to undergo an attitude adjustment in that area.  During the course, I consumed just as much (healthy) food as I wanted to and never deprived myself in any way (except during the cleanse week, obviously).  What this means is that I am now exactly back where I started when I began this blog–with 40 pounds to lose to reach my goal.  And while I do feel better since taking the course, that’s simply not acceptable.  Nope.

And so. . . I’ve decided to take up the challenge offered by Gizmar from Equal Opportunity Kitchen, who wrote in her recent comment: “Ok, I’m throwing down the gauntlet – I want to lose some weight – I challenge you to a slim down!!!”  Giz, you’re on! Ah, but how much weight?  And in what time period?  I will contact you so we can work out the details.  But for now, I’ve decided, it’s time to get serious! (Again).  Watch out, excess avoirdupois!  Take a hike, jiggly thighs! Run for the hills, cellulite!  I am  on a mission.

* Sigh. *

(Okay, end of weight rant.  We now return to this week’s regularly scheduled Lucky Comestible.)

One thing I realized while on my cleanse week is that I don’t eat nearly as many legumes as I should.  Sure, if you consider peanut butter and carob, I suppose there’s a regular intake, but in general, my diet is sorely lacking.

As a child, the only beans I was ever served were the canned variety.  Heinz Baked Beans made a quick and yummy dinner, just on their own.  (Of course, my mother bought the “in tomato sauce” flavor so she wouldn’t have to deal with that one pasty, white, slimy chunk of pork fat that always rose to the top of the can.  A few years ago, the HH and I took a course called Mini Med School at the University of Toronto. One evening, we were led down winding, clandestine hallways through an unmarked door into the actual anatomy lab, where we examined formaldehyde-infused hunks of human limbs, their outer layers peeled away to expose the muscles and bones underneath.  One thigh had a rectangular chunk of flesh carved out, the cutout placed neatly on the counter beside it like a rubber bathtub stopper.  Well, that little cube of pork fat looked just like the rectangular hunk of thigh. Good move, Mom.)

When I moved into my very first apartment the summer before my Master’s program began, my father’s housewarming gift to me was a smoked ham. (Not so strange if you consider that he owned a butcher shop–what else would he give me?).  With the help of my trusty Joy of Cooking, I ended up making split pea and ham soup (even then, I couldn’t stomach the idea of an entire piece of ham on its own).  I had just started dating my first true love a couple of weeks earlier (hey, Spaghetti Ears!  How’s tricks?) and he, along with his two room mates, kindly relieved me of any superfluous soup–which, as it turned out, was pretty much all of it.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy bean dishes, either.  It’s just that I never really think to make them.  In more recent years, I’ve amassed a fairly reliable roster of bean recipes that I use on a rotating basis.  There’s hummus, of course, but also sundried tomato hummus and roasted garlic hummus.  Oh, and I can’t forget white bean hummus or fava bean hummus or even no-bean hummus (which, come to think of it, doesn’t really belong in the “dishes with beans” category, does it?). The HH and I also enjoy lentil-spaghetti sauce about twice a year, as well as my version of Tuscan baked beans (with olive oil and sage) and a classic three-bean salad in the summertime. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much hummus all around.

Well, I decided it was time to create something new and interesting with legumes.  In keeping with the focus on avocado, I naturally gravitated toward the green legumes–or, more correctly, “legume”: lentils.  Besides being one of the quickest to cook (they’re done in only 25 minutes, with no soaking required), lentils also provide a substantial contribution to your daily mineral requirements. In addition, they’re extremely high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble, important for healthy cholesterol levels), and they’re known to help keep blood sugar levels steady. Oh, and they taste really good!

I seized the green theme and just ran with it (okay, I kind of “speed-walked” with it), throwing pistachios into the mix as well.  In these patties, the avocado acts as an egg substitute, while the nuts and beans work in tandem to provide a complete protein.  While they’re not overly “meaty” in texture (the outside is crispy while the inside remains soft), these burgers are great either baked or fried, and would probably make a tasty loaf as well.  Just for fun (and because I’m weird that way), I baked half the recipe and browned the other half in a frypan. I have to say that I actually preferred the baked version, which also held its shape better. 

These patties are a great way to subtly add more legumes to your diet. And if you happen to be watching your weight–well, as it turns out, they’re pretty low-cal, too (about 150 calories each patty).  Shall we start with these for dinner, Giz?

Lentil Pistachio Patties

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

These substantial patties offer a full-bodied flavor with a wonderful protein content, courtesy of the lentils and pistachios. The trio of avocado, olive oil, and pistachio adds richness and a healthy dose of  heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

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

Cookbook Winner!

June 21, 2008

Well, we have a winner of the cookbook contest! 

First, thank you all so much for your entries; it was wonderful to learn about so many new cookbooks! I’m definitely going to have to get The Passionate Vegetarian–I mean, with an author named Crescent Dragonwagon, how could I resist?  Thanks, Jackie and Astra! I think I’ll also look into The New Farm Vegetarian (thanks, Shelly); Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (thanks, Holler and Brett); ReFresh (thanks, Brandy and Debyi); The Crank’s Bible (thanks, Sue); Going Wild in the Kitchen (thanks, Cheryl); and the classic Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking (thanks, Courtney).  Oh, and Vijita–how lucky for you to have stayed at Laura’s B&B! 

Really, all your descriptions sounded so good, I think I want to go out and buy them all.  And I loved the memories brought back by Megan’s mention of the Betty Crocker book (my mom used to make cookies from it all the time), Michelle’s mention of the Silver Palate (I still love that one!), and Hallie’s mention of Joy of Cooking (it really is a great reference, isn’t it?). 

Another thing I loved about this contest:  it got so many of you commenting!  Fifty-seven entries in all–wow!  I really love hearing from you all, and hope you’ll keep on commenting now that you’ve made yourselves known, contest or no contest! Thanks, all. 🙂

Okay: so on to the WINNER!  I had thought to try the random number generator, but in the end decided to go with an old-fashioned draw from a big bowl of paper slips.  I used strips of old newspaper (so as not to generate extra garbage) and wrote the numbers on them: 

 

And then, I had my assistant help me choose one:

So, the lucky winner is number 54–Katy!  Katy, please contact me via email (at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com, or just leave a comment on this post) so you can tell me which book you’d like from the list, as well as your address so I can mail you your book.  Congratulations!

Thanks again, everyone.  This was really fun!  And most importantly, thanks for all your support over these past 230 days (now 235!), visiting the blog, continuing to read, and providing your great feedback.  What did I ever do before I discovered blogging?

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

[Sorry about the poor focus. . . that free point-and-shoot camera of mine has been rather uncooperative lately. Maybe time to bite the bullet and finally buy a real camera?]

Well, last Wednesday evening was our final Total Health class.  As it’s been all along, the meeting was terrific, though this final gathering wasn’t about education so much as eating.  We were split into groups of three or four people and asked to cook up a couple of recipes each; then we all sat down together and devoured the feast we’d made.  It was a great way to end the course in a social, relaxed fashion.  When the end of session arrived, no one wanted to leave!  We lingered and chatted for an extra 45 minutes before finally filing out of the house (sorry about that, Caroline).  And so, the question remains: what now?  Do I continue to consume my fruit-and-vegetable, raw-leaning diet?  Or do I slide like a 300 ZX on black ice, right back to my chocolate and high-grain days? 

That, my friends, is the 64,000 Calorie question.  Only time will tell, dear readers, only time will tell. . .

But in the meantime, I sure am going to give it my best shot.  And with salads like this one, veggies and fruits never tasted so good.

This is my own adaptation of a Thai-inspired salad the HH and I had many years ago at a cooking class we attended.  The class was a birthday present for my friends Gemini I and Gemini II (whose birthday, as it turns out, is on the same day!) about ten years ago.  Six of us cooked together and then shared our meal (sort of like Wednesday’s class, come to think of it, except the Thai meal wasn’t nearly as healthy).  I’m not sure why, but I still have a crystal clear vision of the HH that long-ago night, as he chopped onions, sliced mango and juiced limes. . . hmm, perhaps because that was the last time he voluntarily chopped onions, sliced mango, or juiced limes?  Oh, no, silly me–he juices limes all the time; you need those for gin and tonics. 

Anyway, the original salad didn’t contain avocado, of course, but one day I just threw it in, and it made such a perfectly compatible addition to the mix that the mangos and avocados have been keeping company ever since (they’re practically engaged by now).  I’ve also tinkered a little with the seasonings over the years to create what I think is the perfect dressing for this salad.  In fact, the combination of tastes is so summery, so refreshing and so tantalizing that I’ve even been known to eat this salad for breakfast (What? Fruit for breakfast is good for you!).  I use a combination of mint and cilantro, but if you’re not a fan of either, you can leave it out.  (And if you’re short on mint, feel free to drop by my place and grab some from the massive waves of green beside the house–see right). 

Besides tasting great, this dish offers a sweet treat for the eyes as well.

As I mentioned earlier, avocados are a fantastic source of heart-healthy monounsaturates.  But mangos are no slouch in the hale-and-hearty department, either; they’re rich in antioxidant vitamins C and beta carotene, fiber, and potassium.  With all these cardiac benefits, I’ve decided to submit this recipe to Ilva of Lucullian Delights, who is hosting her monthly Heart of the Matter event featuring heart-healthy salads this month. 

Mango Avocado Salad

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

This refreshing salad combines all five flavors common in Thai cooking: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, in perfect proportions.  Great as an appetizer or side salad, this dish is best eaten fresh–though we’ve never had leftovers to worry about in our house, anyway!

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.” 

[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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

 

Want to wow your boss?  Want to thrill your sweetheart?  Want to get addicted to something rich, dense, smooth, chocolately and truly decadent?  Well, all you need is an avocado plus 3 more ingredients, and you’re there. 

This pâté will dazzle you, seduce you (but not in the same way as Mark Bittman), soothe you and make you very, very happy.  This is my HH’s all-time favorite dessert (well, maybe on a par with coconut cream pie).

Last year, when the HH and I went out to our favorite restaurant for our 10-year anniversary, we reached the end of the meal when I found myself suddenly craving chocolate (my, how unusual!).  For some reason that night, the always-stellar dessert menu lacked anything that appealed to me.  But here’s the sign of an exceptional establishment:  when I mentioned my desire to Tony (our waiter–we were on a first-name basis by that point), he apologized profusely for the menu’s shortcoming, swiftly and deftly cleared our plates, and trotted off to get the HH’s coconut cream pie (okay, he didn’t really order coconut cream pie, but since I can’t remember what he did actually order and since I just mentioned that coconut cream pie was a favorite of his, I thought it would sound good here. . . I plead literary license).

A few moments later,  Tony returned with two plates of dessert–the pie for the HH, and a selection of three exquisitely formed chocolate truffles for me.  The chef had whipped them up with some ganache he had prepared for another dessert!  I was blown away, not only by the astonishingly good service, but also by the truffles themselves: light, smooth, and soft as a butterfly’s touch.  I savored every bite, every deep, rich, cacao-dense tidbit. 

Well, that’s what this pâté reminds me of–the filling in those truffles.

I created this recipe several years ago for a cooking class on heart-healthy foods, and was delighted to discover that both avocados and dark chocolate provide benefits to our body’s main muscle.  Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats (the same heart-healthy fat touted in the “Mediterannean diet,” also in olive oil), and chocolate contains flavonoids that can improve cardiovascular functioning by preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The taste of avocado is imperceptible in this dessert, yet it adds a rich, creamy, lustrous texture.  The orange juice provides sweetness and additional flavor to counterbalance the chocolate perfectly (hmm, come to think of it, perhaps Grand Marnier in place of some of that juice would be nice. . . ).  Once refrigerated, the pâté firms up enough to hold its shape and cut into slices, yet it remains soft and yielding, something of a cross between a fudge and a ganache. 

Because it actually provides most of the substance of the pâté, be sure to use a good quality dark chocolate here.  If you’re feeling extravagant, you might try Vogzes.  I’ve used Green and Black’s, Dagoba, Endangered SpeciesLindt, Vivani, and even President’s Choice in a pinch (can you tell we like this dessert in our house?), all with delicious results.

Want a little preview of life beyond the pearly gates?  Go make this.

(Since this pâté is my very healthy version of a traditional chocolate pâté made with sugar, cream, eggs and butter, I’m submitting this to Giz and Psychgrad’s event, Tried, Tested and True II, over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen.  They’re asking for surefire hits that are made healthier than original versions.)

Finally, thanks to everyone who’s entered the Cookbook Contest so far.  And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for??  It’s open to everyone, and you can win one of eight cookbooks! Just go here and enter!

This pâté tastes incredibly rich, but is actually good for you.  A little goes a long way, so I’d advise cutting into thin slices. . . otherwise, I can’t be responsible for what happens.

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!  PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

[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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

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.” 

Some foods are just acquired tastes–sort of like scat, living in the suburbs, or Quentin Tarantino films.  I know that avocados work that way for many people, but that wasn’t my experience.  Like eggnog or chocolate, avocado was one food I knew intuitively that I’d like, even before that first buttery, golden slice ever slid across my tongue. 

In my teens, I used to walk to high school each day with my friend Phil.  We’d meet at her place (about halfway between my house and our school) where she’d usually invite me in for a breakfast bite. It was in her mother’s white and gold formica-clad kitchen that we learned to love coffee together (stage one:  1/2 cup coffee, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup cream and 5 sugars.  Stage two: 4/5 cup coffee, 1/5 cup cream, 1 teaspoon sugar.  Stage three: eliminate sugar.  Stage four: Congratulations; you’re hooked for the next 30 years, until that ulcer/heart condition/high blood pressure diagnosis, and then you go back to “no coffee”.)

While at Phil’s place after  school one day, her mother (who was born in Belgium, and was therefore very glamorous) introduced me to avocados.  The rough, gravelly exterior, greenish black skin and ovoid shape all seemed very exotic to this apple-and-banana gal.  But as soon as she cut the fruit open, removed the glossy pit, and proffered a halfmoon slice, I was forever hooked on the smooth, velvety texture and slightly nutty, slighty sweet flavor. 

(Apart from foodstuffs, Phil and I also learned to smoke cigarettes together, two giggly fifteen year-olds strolling round deserted parks after dinner, attempting to inhale, and–between fits of sputtering coughs–singing, “They. . . asked me how I knew. . . my true love was truuuuuue.  .  .”  But that’s another story).

To me, avocados are a nearly perfect food.  Technically a fruit (sometimes called the “alligator pear”), they are used more often as a vegetable, and almost always raw.  A few years ago, though, I read a magazine article about authentic Mexican cuisine. I found out that, in addition to being tossed into pretty much every salad or salsa, the avocado is also used sometimes in that country in cold soups and even cakes.  Wow, I thought, what a great ideaWith the extra healthy fats (and monounsaturates can stand up to low heat pretty well) as well as the fiber, avocados would make a terrific egg substitute in baking! 

So I started playing and came up with a few baked goods (and I promise to share later in the series) as well as a cold soup–perfect for summer (recipe to follow as well). If you feel like playing with avocado as an egg substitute, use it the way you would tofu (1/4 cup avocado purée = 1 egg).  Or simply add about 2 tablespoons puréed avocado to any baked good for added moistness. 

Whether your preference is the crinkly Haas or the smooth-skinned Fuerte variety, an avocado is ripe when it “gives” slightly to soft pressure with your thumb or finger (be sure to press at the top of the fruit to avoid bruising the flesh). Most avocados are sold before they’re ripe and require 2-5 days at room temperature before they’re ready to eat. 

Once ripe, however, they don’t last long–a day or two at most–before they reach the overripe, slightly fermented, stage (you know an avocado is past its prime if it starts to smell a bit like wine).  If you can’t consume them once ripe, they’ll keep another 2-3 days, unpeeled, in the refrigerator.  When I find myself with an overabundance of ripe avocadoes, I simply peel, purée, and freeze in one-cup containers for later use (frozen pulp is perfect for future dips and spreads, those baking experiments, or even added to pasta sauces later on).  Frozen avocado should keep up to five months.

Avocados are also incredibly healthful–they aren’t a staple of Mexican cuisine for nothing!  Brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated oils, they are a good source of fiber, potassium (great to counteract high blood pressure) and vitamin K, essential for blood and (of particular interest to those of us with osteopenia) bone strength.  They also contain a good dose of lutein, an antioxidant found mostly in green leafy vegetables that’s been shown to contribute to eye health and even help reduce the effects of macular degeneration (a disease of the eyes in which central vision is slowly erased).

And today’s recipe?  Well, guacamole is one of those iconic foods that regularly makes an appearance at end-of-semester pub bashes, summer Bar B Qs, surprise birthday parties, or work pot lucks; I simply couldn’t do a series on avocados without including this classsic dip.

The first time I tried guacamole, I was at an end-of-semester party thrown by my friend Carol, a legendary hostess known for her ability to draw crowds of disparate personalities who, for the course of an evening (and often into the wee hours of the morning), all got along over beer, wine, and literary discourse.

Carol and her husband always included their two children (then aged 9 and 11) in every social activity, so the kids would meander quite comfortably among the professors and graduate students, stopping every now and again to chat with the bearded hippie sucking back a Becks or the the raven haired T.A. in the inappropriate tank top who was hitting on our Drama professor.  Completely unfazed, the children might stop for some corn chips and guacamole, then move on. Around 10:30 or 11:00, they’d wander upstairs to their bedrooms, where they’d doze entirely undisturbed by the din beneath them, like babies in the neonatal ward who can all sleep through their own wailing.

Carol’s guacamole that night was spectacular, and I knew I’d have to make it again.  I clipped this recipe from an old Chatelaine magazine from the 1990s, and I’ve never even tried another since.  I do realize that everyone and their hairstylist has a fabulous recipe for guacamole, but this really is the best one I’ve ever tasted.  The unusual step of rinsing the onion (which removes any pungency that might linger on the palate hours later), elevates this version to one of the all-time best recipes I’ve ever made. 

With its prominent use of cilantro, this is a great entry to Kalyn‘s Weekend Herb Blogging event, this week hosted by Joanna at Joanna’s Food.

Oh, and there’s still time to enter the contest for a new cookbook–which might just contain a new recipe for guacamole!

The Perfect Guacamole

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

I used to think that guacamole required garlic to taste this delicious, but this recipe proved me wrong.  The contrast between the chunky tomato and smooth, rich avocado is stellar.  Add more cilantro if you’re a fan.

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

Well, I’ve now been writing this blog for 7-1/2 months (that’s 230 days)–I really can’t believe it! Seems like just yesterday I started on my diet and cooking journey, with 40 pounds to lose.  (Oh, wait.  As of yesterday, I still had 40 pounds to lose.  Hmm.  Better keep blogging). 

I know that most people publish some kind of celebratory blog post at the one-year mark, but after completing this recent Total Health cleanse, I’ve decided that life is too short to wait for all the things we really want.  We have to relish each moment! We must grab every opportunity for happiness that comes our way! (Tempeh fugit, and all that–so seize that tempeh!)

And really, what makes people happier than free stuff A CONTEST?

Yes, dear readers, it is finally time I leapt into that most sacred of blogger activities: the contest.  I’ve decided to buy a new cookbook, and I thought, “heck, why shouldn’t one of YOU have a new cookbook, too? ” Really, for no other reason than I like you.

I’ve recently come across a few references to I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan, and thought I’d like to have it.  And then I thought, well, just because I want that book, does it mean YOU want the same book? No, of course not!

So here’s what I’m proposing: 

1. Enter the contest: Leave a comment at the bottom of this post, telling me about your favorite cookbook, and why you love it.  It can be an old book, a new book, a vegan book, an omnivore book, a diet book, an allegen-free book–whatever.  ANYONE CAN ENTER, whatever your diet, as long as the aim is to be healthy. I’m open to any and all of your endorsements!  Leave your comment by midnight, Friday, June 20, 2008. The contest is open to everyone, anywhere (welcome, crew of Battlestar Gallactica!). 

2. I’ll (randomly) choose a winner.  After the 20th, I’ll pick a winner at random from the list of comments (if I can figure out how to use the random number generator, I will; if not, I’ll just put all the numbers in a hat and pick one).

3. You (not so randomly) choose your book. Because not everyone likes the same thing, I’m offering a selection of potential prize books here. Why these books?  Well, they’re all (relatively) recent publications, and they all lean toward healthier, fewer-refined-fewer-processed ingredients. That way, I can feel comfortable giving them out as prizes. These are all books I own or would like to own. 

Here are the possible prizes you can choose:

* Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (Burton)

* ExtraVeganZa (Matthias)

* Fresh: The Ultimate Live-Food Cookbook (Boutenko)

* ReFresh (Tal and Houston)

* The Gluten-Free Vegan (O’Brien)

*  Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles (Bennett)

* Vegan Express (Atlas)

* You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan  (Sher and Doherty)

4. I Send You Your Prize! Once the winner lets me know which book s/he would like, I’ll mail it to you, wherever you may be.  And then we can both enjoy our new cookbooks!  (I’d love to share recipe notes. . . .). 

Good luck, everyone.  I can’t wait to hear about the cookbooks you already love–so be sure to leave those comments!

“This is my favorite cookbook, Mum.  It’s very soft and cushy.”

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.  THANKS, EVERYONE, FOR ENTERING!

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.”

* * *

 

[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 was seduced by Mark Bittman last week.

Now, hold on a minute–before you go and call the authorities, I should clarify: I’ve never even met the man. I was speaking in the Platonic sense; it was more the ideal of Mark Bittman that seduced me. 

Truth be told, I was already harboring a little crush. You see, a while back when Bittman’s new tome, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian first hit the cookbook scene, the entire blogosphere (and pretty much any place else people consume food) was abuzz about it.  That book was the latest, greatest thing to hit our kitchens!  I had previously whiled away about an hour leafing through Bittman’s earlier oeuvreHow to Cook Everything, during one of my Sunday-morning bookstore browses with the HH.  That day, I lingered between “Cookbooks: General” and “Cookbooks: Heart Healthy” for ages, slowly caressing the pages and batting my eyelashes longingly at every enchanting chapter. I really couldn’t take my eyes off it. 

In the end, I gave myself over to the enticing reviews and alluring recommendations, dove right in and ordered the darn thing straightaway, sight unseen, from amazon.ca.  I mean, how could I not be seduced?

As I discovered during our first meeting (once the book arrived in the mail), it is a very attractive volume (well, more like the entire encyclopedia, actually, at 996 pages long).  The fresh lollipop-lime cover conveys a light, whimsical feel, while the choice to forgo photos (there are detailed line drawings) and expanses of text lend more a of a Joy of Cooking vibe. As many reviewers have remarked, it is a terrific, all-encompassing introduction to the basics of vegetarian cooking: with lengthy lists and detailed instructions, it covers a huge array of basic ingredients, basic methods and basic recipes. But would this be sufficient to sustain a relationship?  Would the recipes have enduring appeal?  And were they recipes I would actually use and enjoy over the long term?

Well, almost immediately, I started having mixed feelings. Because I’m already familiar with vegetarian basics and techniques, I wasn’t much interested in the generic versions of dishes (leek and potato soup, caramelized onions, refried beans, or scrambled tofu.)  However, it was the seemingly endless variaitions on each theme ( eleven rubs and 17 sauces for grilled tofu; or 15 toppings for baked potatoes), as well as some of the more unusual or ingenious combinations, that intrigued me.  Recipes such as Green Tea Broth with Udon Noodles, Nori Chips, Beets with Pistachio Butter, Quinoa and Parsnip Rösti or Chickpea Fondue each scored sticky-note bookmarks, denoting plans for a future kitchen rendezvous

One major beef (if I may use the term) I had about the book, however,  was its treatment of desserts: there isn’t a single vegan baked good in all 996 pages. The more indulgent, original dessert recipes (such as Chewy Almond Cherry Cookies, Caramel Walnut Bars, or Boozy Apple Cake) all contain eggs, cream or butter; the vegan desserts, on the other hand, are entirely uninspired offerings like No-Bake Granola Bars (hmm, bet they’re crunchy, too); jellies, or rice pudding. Maybe I’ll need to hold out for How to Cook Everything Vegan for those treats.

The first tête-à-tête with my new beau was a heated encounter in which I cooked Millet Mash, a combination of millet simmered with cauliflower florets, then puréed with roasted garlic to mimic mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, the resultant side dish, while fairly tasty, was a wee bit watery, slightly bland, and almost airy (you can see what it looked like as a side dish to a recent BBQ tempeh I made, at left–tempeh recipe to follow in the near future).  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong; but sparks didn’t fly.   

When this first date didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I decided to seek my own satisfaction in the kitchen (hey, I’m an independent feminist) and created an original version of mock mashed potatoes.  As I was still following the Grain Drain (grain-free detox diet) at the time, I opted for a slightly different blend of ingredients.

I suspected that boiling the cauliflower with the millet had produced those waterlogged florets, so I roasted them this time.  I also discovered one forlorn parsnip in the crisper and roasted it as well, along with 2 cloves of garlic.  Finally, I puréed the resultant mash with some cooked white beans, and ended up with a mixture that was thick, creamy, and richer both in color and flavor than the original combo. Topped with a sprinkling of gomashio, this was truly an irresistible dish. 

Call me fickle, but I fell in love with that cauliflower-parsnip mash on the spot. I scooped up two servings the first night, then returned for more mash passion the next.  And then I cooked it up once more three days after that. 

Another reason to love this dish: it’s actually good for you. Cauliflower is a little-known source of vitamin C (one cup provides 91.5% of the daily requirement!) and parsnips kick in the remainder.  In addition, the white beans I used (Great Northern Beans) are an excellent source of calcium, a mineral I’m seeking these days.  All in all, this was a fabulous dish–and incredibly easy.

As for Bittman, I haven’t broken it off entirely, though I’ll admit the infatuation for my acid-green beau may have abated just a little.  Our short-lived fling wasn’t quite as disappointing as the one with Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants), but for me, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was a bit of a tease in the recipe department; it just didn’t provide enough exciting, novel, or foolproof recipes to snag my eternal devotion. 

Despite our rocky beginning, I’m sure we’ll remain good friends. This is still the kind of book I can rely on as a solid kitchen companion, full of serious instructions, reliable tips and honest information. At the same time, I’m keeping one eye open for the next recipe-filled rake that will really take my breath away.  

Oh, and speaking of true loves. . . Happy Father’s Day to all the loving dads out there (“Yes, we second that, Dad!“)

Cauliflower, Parsnip and Bean Mash with Gomashio

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

This recipe is easy to throw together and produces a smooth, comforting and delicious side dish.  While it does need take time to roast, you can use the extra half hour to attend to other matters, like reading some of the 996 pages in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

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