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.”]  

[Ooh, look at those widdy bits of black bean and sweet potato in there!  Who could resist?]

Even as I slog through my pile of assignments and tests, I’ve been sneaking in here to read everyone’s comments, with much gratitude.  Thanks so much for the “ooomph” I need to complete all this work, and your wonderful support!  You are THE BEST.

And since my willpower for staying away from the blog is about as good as my willpower for staying away from chocolate, here I am again–but only today, and then it’s back to the books.  Why am I popping in, you ask?

Well, since so many of you asked about these squares, it felt shameful to keep you waiting for a recipe that isn’t even mine!  Those Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Black Bean Bites that people are drooling over (and which I ate for breakfast the other day, heated up–divine!), are an easy-peasy adaptation of this recipe

I basically followed the recipe verbatim, though my version of breadcrumbs was a fresh piece of spelt sourdough bread ground up in the food processor (for gluten-free squares, use a piece of GF bread, or GF breadcrumbs).  I also used organic ketchup rather than tomato paste, fresh cilantro, and omitted the caraway seeds.  Other than that, I patted the mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 9 inch pan and let it bake until dry and firm on top.  Cooled it completely, then cut into little squares, which I placed gingerly on a baking sheet and re-heated until the outsides were a bit crispy.  Honestly, these are fantastic.

Now go enjoy some SPQandBB bites until I get back!

A bientôt,

xo Ricki 🙂

Hi–and Hiatus

July 27, 2008

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.” 

For those of you who drop by DDD regularly, you may have noticed that the frequency of my posts has slowed down considerably of late.  Well, once again, it’s that time of the semester when I’m deep into a marking blitz and consequently feel as if I’m neglecting this blog.  That, paired with an impromptu visit from the CFO this past weekend, and I’m more behind than I’d like to be (to say nothing of having more “behind” than I’d like to have). 

And while I find it frustrating to be sitting on a plethora of photos patiently waiting for blog entries to accompany them, rather than post in haste, I will instead reluctantly bid you adieu for a short while (to return post-haste) as I scramble to complete the work and write up several entries I’m dying to share with you all.  I’ll still be reading all your blogs, however (wouldn’t want to eliminate all my blog-related pleasures during this period!).

I can’t sign off without first sending out a huge “THANK YOU,” though, to both Katy and Destiny for nominating me for the “Brilliante Weblog” award! I am very honored and grateful to be chosen by these two personable and creative bloggers. Thanks so much, you two! 

I know I’m supposed to pass this along to 7 others, and will properly give it some thought during my time away. In the meantime, here are some visual nibbles until I return in a week or two.

For now, have a great end of July, all!

[“You’re such a spoil-sport, Mum.  Does this mean we don’t get to taste-test any more??”]

( From the recent visit with my sister)–Sweet potato, quinoa and black bean bites:

Almond-rice balls:

Gluten-free berries ‘n cream flan:

Birthday cake for a customer’s winsome daughter (sugar free cake and frosting): 

Of course, The Girls will miss you all, too, while we’re all away!

[“Mum, we’re just so bored when we can’t be in the spotlight for a while. . . “]

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[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.

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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.” 

When it comes right down to it, (and like most Canadians), I’m pretty happy living in this country.  Oh, sure, I complain about the health care system and the excessive taxes, but secretly I’m proud.  When I went to Europe, I openly displayed a Maple Leaf on my backpack (in those days, only actual Canadians did that). I don’t mind the stereotype that we’re all hockey-and-beer obsessed (both of which I can’t stand), since it seems to be balanced by another stereotype, that we’re the peacekeepers of the world

Over the years, I’ve also appreciated the fact that, as opposed to a “melting pot,” we here in Canuk Country offer a “multicultural mosaic.” Because Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, its denizens contribute generously to that multi-faceted, multi-colored variegation.  A quick mental tally tells me I’ve taught students from six continents and almost 70 countries over the years. 

In an English class a few years back, I received a collection of essays from students who’d immigrated to Canada.  They told stories about landing at the Toronto airport on December 25th, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts; or having an in-house bathroom (with running water!) for the first time; reuniting with siblings they hadn’t seen for a dozen or more years; or being introduced to “Canadian” food (ie McDonald’s).  They also told stories about the information pamphlets they’d received from the government before they arrived. 

These days, they informed me, our multicultural populace is no longer referred to as a “mosaic.”  In fact, these days it seems Canada is more than just a peaceful, tolerant, polite country.

Canada, you see, is a salad.

Yep, that’s how the Canadian government, in all its gubernatorial solemnity, describes our great land.  Does this sound suspiciously like an episode of Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans?  Would that it were.  You see, a salad is presumably the perfect metaphor for our diverse population:  just as with a colorful tossed salad, people from all around the world are welcome to join us in this big bowl o’ Canada.  Once squished together in that ol’ Salad Bowl of the North, we mingle and mix, yet the separate elements each retain their individual characters, colors, and flavors–a harmonious coexistence, the sum greater than the individual parts; yet we never meld into each other.  As Doug and Bob McKenzie might say, Beauty!

So when I came up with this idea for a salad to contribute to Lisa and Holler’s No Croutons Required event, I immediately thought of this Canadian metaphor.  Not only is the salad a fusion of different colors and flavors, it’s also filled with items hailing from countries around the globe–Swiss “cheese,” mangoes from Southeast Asia, basil (originally) from India, balsamic vinegar from Italy–and perfect for a Canadian salad. In my mind, I envisioned a newfangled version of Caprese salad , except with a twist–the combination of mango and tomato offering an unexpected contrast in both color and flavor alongside the mild cheese and perfumed basil. (In this case, of course, the cheese in question would be “Un-Cheese,” the “Mostarella” from Joanne Stepaniuk’s Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook). Since Holler was asking for salads with cheese, this seemed the perfect occasion to finally try one of the “block” cheeses in the book.

The “Mostarella” started out well: I ground some oats and mixed them with nutritional yeast, soymilk, and a few other ingredients.  And while the mixture did appear a little too soft when I spread it in the mold, the recipe had cautioned that it needed overnight refrigeration to set, so I popped it in the fridge and waited. 

To my horror, the next morning it was still more like cheese sauce than cheese.  Oh, well, back to the cutting board.  Attempt number two: this time, I used a recipe for mild Swiss “cheese.”  With 5 tablespoons of agar, I had a feeling this one would set.  And set it did!  It produced a mild, firm yet soft, slightly tangy cheese with a hint of that acerbic zing characterizing most Swiss cheese.  I cut it into cubes and prepared the salad.

Based on this recipe (and switching basil for the cilantro), the salad sounded as if it would be a perfectly compatible match for the cheese.  Unfortunately, this international vegetable bowl didn’t produce the same harmonious result as a tossed Canada.  The mango and tomato competed for gustarory prominence, while the dressing seemed out of place against the sweet mango and basil.  In fact, I must admit that the only part of this salad I truly enjoyed was the “cheese.” 

I know the event asked for salad with cheese, but I just wouldn’t feel right recommending this salad recipe.  However, if you’d like to try some homemade vegan Swiss cheese, here’s a terrific choice.  I know: just eat it in Toronto, Canada, and you can pretend it’s surrounded by tossed salad.

Vegan Swiss Cheese

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

This cheese is lighter than dairy cheese, and not as filling (so you can eat more!). It holds its shape perfectly, so it can be sliced, cubed, or grated–and it lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raw Nori Rolls

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

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

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

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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.”]

onionbread3.jpg

I considered going back to basics and entitling this post, simply, “Bread and Spread,” but decided against the too-generic descriptor (even though it does offer up a lovely rhyme).  But these two foods, when eaten together, really could inspire poetry (if you’ll forgive the extended metaphor), so I opted for my slightly rhapsodic title instead.  And besides, with Easter coming up tomorrow, “pastoral” seemed like the right choice.

I’ve been hankering after this Potato Bread ever since I read about it a while back on Johanna’s blog (and originally posted on Redacted Recipes). Johanna’s version of the recipe, bespeckled with little amethyst wisps of grated purple potatoes, was not only visually beautiful, but her post also described the bread itself–its taste and texture–as veritably irresistible. 

Now, I’m not a huge fan of bread per se (I rarely, if ever, eat sandwiches–though I made an exception for a Tempeh Ruben a while back).  If I do eat bread, I want it to be the dense, dark, whole-grain kind that originated in an anonymous Eastern European country.  This sounded like just the ticket, so I set about altering the ingredients to render them a bit more NAG-friendly.

onionbread4.jpgIn the end, I baked this bread three times (I forced myself to stop at three, because I also ended up eating most of each one!). Because the original recipe contained cheese, I substituted nutritional yeast to provide a similar flavor.  My first effort (right) contained a bit too much yeast, I’m afraid, and the sharp astringency was a little overpowering.  With attempt number two, I halved the yeast, but added diced avocado to emulate  chunks of soft feta cheese scattered throughout the bread (photo below). 

onionbreadslice3.jpg (Ehm, er. . . wouldn’t recommend this one.  I might try the avoca-cheese again in future, but I’d use much less and definitely cut the chunks very small; that way, it might just work). 

Third time was definitely the charm:  I introduced chopped roma tomato and subbed fresh dill instead of thyme.  Number Three (photo below) was, by far, my favorite.

 oniontombreadslice.jpg

As Johanna attested, this bread was fantastic.  Even though mine isn’t quite as pretty to look at as hers, the moist, dense interior and perfectly balanced flavors of the green onion, cheesiness, and potato worked in agreeable harmony.  Each bite provided a slightly different mosaic of flavors, each with its own unique configuration and gustatory sparkle. I, too, had to stop myself from consuming too much of this delightful loaf at one sitting.

And while it was stellar all on its own, the bread also made a perfect base for a favorite spread of mine, Carrot Pâté. I created the latter recipe about five years ago (when I first started teaching cooking classes), as a way to veganize a fabulous pâté I’d been preparing for over 10 years before that (back when favorite recipes had to be clipped from magazine pages and preserved in file folders).   

Most of the carrots we consume around here tend toward the pre-peeled, miniature variety (aka “baby carrots”). Those are what we feed The Girls as treats, and, equally often,  as “dessert” after dinner.  And although Elsie adores the minis (and will even occasionally bare her teeth at Chaser for the culinary privilege), she turns her wet, black nose up with disdain at the regular, full-sized kind.  (Once, I ran out of the miniatures, and tried feeding her ordinary organic carrots. I took great care to cut them into strips approximately the same size as baby carrots. She examined my offering like a mortician views a corpse, let out a little contemptuous snort, and walked away.  Huh?)  Have you ever known a DOG that’s a picky eater? And not only that–this is a dog whose puppyhood was characterized by eating poo for dessert! But no; no regular carrots for this Prima Donna.

Um, excuse me, Mum, but if I might just interject to point out that the baby carrots are harvested much earlier in the growth cycle and are, therefore, significantly sweeter?  And also that you didn’t peel those big ones, either, Mum.  So they still retained all those little bumps and ridges on the exterior, which was rather irritating to my sensitive gums and teeth.  Just saying.”

carrotpateslice1.jpgAnd while it’s technically a  pâté, I actually prefer to eat this for breakfast.  With the sweetness of carrots and light, custardy texture courtesy of silken tofu, it’s a perfect morning accompaniment.  Along with the bread, you’ll be getting your morning serving of protein, veggies, and carbs, all in one delicious repast.  In fact, this would be an ideal pairing for a leisurely Easter Brunch, if you haven’t got your entire menu set already.

I thought this meal would be a great submission to Weekend Breakfast Blogging, which was created by Nandita at Saffron Trail and is being hosted this month by Mansi of Fun and Food.  The theme this month is “Balanced Breakfast Meals.”

(“Actually, Mum, I love this pâté even when you make it with “those” carrots. Pureeing the carrots makes them so much more palatable. So please feel free to share.“)

And to those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter, all!

Cheesy Onion Potato Bread and Carrot Pâté

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

carrotpatewhole.jpg

 

Cheesy Onion Potato Bread

adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

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

You will quickly become addicted to this hearty, moist, and filling bread–be warned!  I’ve included my own adaptation of the recipe here. 

Vegan Carrot Pâté

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

If you consider carrots as mundane, plain-Jane, plebeian roots to be served only when drenched in sweet glaze or when playing second fiddle in a duo with peas, you’re in for a real treat with this pâté

 

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

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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.”]

 

asparadip2.jpg 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie’s Creamy Aspara-Dip

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

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

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

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[This week’s Lucky Comestible is sweet potatoes; here’s part 2 in the series. ]

A few weeks ago, I hosted a potluck for friends and promised to provide all of the recipes from the evening on this blog.  And while I’ve done pretty well on most of the others, I hadn’t supplied this one for sweet potato “fries,” partly because it’s so simple I feel it doesn’t require its own recipe (just instructions).  However, this past weekend when The CFO came to visit, we had brunch at a local haunt and ordered the sweet potato fries with miso gravy.  Well, I was determined to reproduce that gravy! So I’m posting my own version, with not one, not two, but THREE variations on the fries.

I first tasted sweet potato fries (real ones–literally fried, in fat, and lots of it) many years ago, before I hit my 4th decade and, therefore, before I knew the true meaning of the word, “heartburn.”  Nowadays, deep-fried anything is anathema to me, because hey, as someone born in the Year of the Dog, I can easily be classically conditioned.  All it took was one or two repetitions of the stimuli “deep fried” and “one portion ingested by me” paired with the response “mega heartburn,” and it was sayonara to fried foods in my diet. 

These oven-baked “fries” are much lighter (which means you can eat more!) and, if baked correctly, still provide the exterior crunchiness and interior smoothness that is characteristic of the traditional sweet potato fries.  Most of the time, I just toss these with a combination of olive oil, garlic salt, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and curry powder, for a sweet/spicy mix that’s divine (and is Version One).  When paired with the miso gravy, however, something a little more demure is called for, as the gravy is quite assertive on its own.

Given all the amazing health benefits of sweet potatoes (more of which I discussed yesterday), I’ve decided to include this recipe as part of Sweetnicks‘ ARF/5-A-Day Roundup this week.  (In fact, I was sure they’d be on her list of top-20 antioxidant-rich foods, but was surprised to find they’re not!  Won’t stop me from eating them, though. . . ).

Sweet Potato “Fries” with Miso Gravy

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

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These are quick, easy, and great as a side dish or appetizer.  Either version works well with the gravy; if you’re more of a ketchup lover, try the spicy ones, mentioned above.  In any case, make more than you think you’ll need–they shrink a little while baking, and you’re going to want seconds.

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

Raw Almond-Veggie Pate

January 17, 2008

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.”]  

 

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When I was in nutrition school, one of the alternative diets we learned about was the raw food diet, also known as the living foods diet.  The diet consists only of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains (such as your garden-variety bean sprouts), as well as the occasional raw milk, cheese, or yogurt.  “Living” is defined as anything not heated above 118 F (some adherents say 115 F), as that is the temperature at which the foods’ enzymes are denatured (and why pay for denatured milk when you can still get some raw milk for free?–or something like that).

I was not immediately drawn to this diet, as it does present some difficulties for me. First, and most important, eating a “living” diet 100% of the time is somewhat unrealistic in a Canadian climate, as an abundance of locally-grown raw foods is not available all year; further, your body craves warm foods in a cold climate.  It’s also not varied enough for my personal palate.  I have my favorite raw dishes, and I try to eat them as much as I can, along with the usual array of fruits, salads, and any other uncooked goodies I can find (some dried fruits also qualify here), but I don’t believe it’s necessary to do so all the time.  And finally, I have an aversion to trying out anything completely “in the raw” (what with my 36.5 pounds of excess avoirdupois–I’m sure you understand).  

Well, after learning about some of the principles behind the diet and the theory as to why it’s healthy, I was intrigued enough to sign up for a “cooking” class that featured entirely raw dishes.  Everything was astoundingly delicious–I could barely contain myself from slurping up the velvety carrot and cashew soup, munching on the brilliant red peppers perfectly contrasted with the deep, glowing emerald of the broccoli florets in the “Pad Thai,” gobbling up the juicy, smooth and tangy apple pie with crushed nut crust–it was enough to make me wax poetic about produce, even.

When I got home, I pulled out my newly purchased raw foods cookbook and set about reproducing the veritable feast I’d enjoyed in the class.  Once I got to work, I quickly realized, however, just how much work was involved.  Regular vegetarian cuisine can be challenging enough, requiring several slots on your daytimer just for the peeling, washing, coring, seeding, slicing, dicing, chopping and grating–not to mention all the other prep–but at least you’re able to do up huge batches at at time and freeze the leftovers for later consumption.  With raw cuisine, you have to eat it all within 4 or 5 days, or it spoils.  Darn that oxidation!

Still, there are other benefits to eating raw.  The major draw, for me, was the fact that raw foods actually aids the digestive process by providing a certain percentage of digestive enzymes needed to break food down in your body.  When you consume cooked foods, your pancreas must produce the enzymes to break it down to its most basic parts–glucose molecules in carbs, fatty acids with fats, amino acids with proteins–so they can be easily absorbed through the small intestines. 

Raw foods, on the other hand, already contain some of these enzymes, so your pancreas can relax a little.  I’ve read that, when eating a completely raw diet, the body produces something like 60 percent fewer enzymes than when eating entirely cooked foods (which amounts to several cups’ worth in one day).  Accordingly, with raw foods, your body will then have more energy to focus on other functions, such as maintenance, strengthening the immune system, or going to see Bruce Willis in Die Hard 27.   

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This recipe is one that I made at a recent cooking class.  The participants loved it, and were even adventurous enough to try the sweet potato “crackers” (thin slices of peeled raw sweet potato) on which it was served.  

(This is just a regular rice cracker in the photo, but do give the sweet potato ones a try; they are really good.  Seriously.)

(“Mmmm, Mum, we love this raw pate!  And, as you know, we always eat in the raw.  You should try it some time, really.  It’s very liberating.”)

Raw Almond-Veggie Pate

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

The recipe is incredibly easy–just toss all ingredients into a food processor and blend to a spreadable consistency–and it provides excellent protein through the soaked raw nuts and seeds (and soaking also renders them more digestible than dry raw versions).  You can also play around with the veggies in this pate to suit your own taste.  I like to include something juicy to help thin out the consistency, but if you prefer to omit the tomato, just add a little water or extra lemon juice to the mix.

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

A Joy: Pot Luck Club

December 28, 2007

emptytable.jpg I’m still quite new to blogging, and I certainly proved it last evening.  At my house was a group of six amazing women–three whom I met at my nutrition school, one from a long-ago volunteer gig, and the last as a participant in one of my (now defunct) cooking classes–and each brought at least one fantastic, high-saliva inciting food to the table.  And I?  Yes, I, too contributed to the culinary canvas.  In fact, I added not two, not three, but four delectable dishes to the cornucopia.  But did I remember to take a photo of said table, overflowing with the bounty of our kitchens?  Uh, no.  I was so engrossed in the captivating conversation, so distracted by the eye-catching textures and colours, interesting ingredient combinations and seductively wafting aromas that I, like everyone else, simply dug in and enjoyed. 

By the time I remembered this blog and the fact that I was supposed to chronicle the evening in photos (and post it to Holidailies), it was too late.  By then, only a few solitary dregs of each food lay wilted and soggy in the bottoms of platters, bowls, and casserole dishes, far too sparse and too exhausted to submit to a photo op.  And for that, I hang my blogging head in shame.

As an attempt to make amends for my lack of forethought when it came to the buffet table, I will here recreate the menu for you, and even supply recipes!  I did, thankfully, take a couple of photos of my own contributions before the crowd arrived, so you can have a glimpse of those.

First, the menu.  What a great bunch of gals–this is the Vegan assortment they (and I) co-created:

Appetizers:

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  • * Garlicky Black Bean Dip
  • * Chickpea-mint Spread
  • * Mushroom and Walnut Pate (from Veganomicon), photo left
  • * Assortment of wheat-free crackers
  • * Homemade Veggie Spring Rolls with Asian Cranberry Dipping sauce (to die for–will definitely see if I can cadge the recipe)

Salads/Sides:

  • Caesar Salad (from Veganomicon, with a twist–see below)
  • Edamame-Cabbage and Sesame Slaw
  • Stir-fried Mixed Veggies

Mains:

  • Smoked Tofu and Veggie-Lentil Stir-Fry with Zucchini “Pasta”
  • Mushroom, Potato and Tempeh Stew (a twist on recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Desserts:

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  • * Vegan Tiramisu (recipe follows!)
  • * Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Loaves
  • * Chocolate-Cashew Bark (homemade and easy–see below)

Doesn’t everything sound amazing?  And with people just coming off all that holiday excess, this healthy yet delicious meal seemed almost ascetic.  Well, except the tiramisu, of course.

After the initial squeals of joy at seeing each other again, and the introductions (the nutrition crowd wasn’t yet familiar with the other two), we settled in to some wine or mineral water and the appetizers.  Since I’d promised at least one main and one dessert, I hadn’t planned to contribute to this particular course. But I had a surfeit of mushrooms after preparing the stew, so decided to browse my new copy of Veganomicon and came up with the Walnut Mushroom Pate.  I followed the recipe verbatim and was thrilled with the result–smooth, savory, and very rich tasting.  I seem to recall a similar reicpe from my childhood, when my mother experimented with “Mock Chopped Liver” (see, I told you she was an unwitting vegetarian). 

The other dip and spread, a chunky, minty chickpea mash and a smooth, slightly sweet black bean spread, were both delicious, but I think all the other appetizers were trumped by the absolutely mouth watering veggie spring rolls with Asian cranberry dipping sauce.  A succulent mix of veggies in a filo crust, baked to flaky perfection, then dipped in a slightly spicy, tart sauce brimming with cranberries–it was divine. 

By the time we’d cleared the buffet table of appetizers and moved to the main course,  we were all anticipating the treasures this group had brought to the table.  We began with a zingy vegan Caesar, also from Veganomicon (getting a lot of press in this post!).  I made just one adjustment to the already more or less perfect dressing recipe, mostly to accommodate my own peccadilloes and because I felt it would taste more authentically Italian this way:  I substituted roasted pine nuts for the almonds in the recipe.  Like the almonds, the pine nuts offered a slight graininess to the otherwise perfectly creamy dressing, approximating the texture of grated parmesan.  I loved, loved, loved the garlicky creaminess of the dressing, though I must admit it was a bit too pungent for most of the crowd, and that was with only 3 of the 4 recommended cloves! 

Guests also provided some sensational stir-fried veggies and Smoked Tofu mixture with veggies, lentils, and zucchini “pasta.”  The raw “pasta” is actually zucchini that’s been cut into long thin spaghetti-like threads using a Spiral Slicer.  You can approximate this idea by repeatedly grating the zucchini along its length with a carrot peeler (as if you were peeling the zucchini–but keep going even once the peel is gone).

My own addition to the menu was the savory Tempeh Stew, a variation on Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Tofu, Mushroom and Potato stew from her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance.  mushiesinpan.jpg I won’t repeat the entire recipe here, but I will tell you the changes I made:  first, instead of using exclusively cremini mushrooms (which looked a little drab and tired at my local grocer’s), I used half portobello mushrooms, for their meaty flavor and texture, and half regular button mushrooms.  This is a quick pic of the mushies after they’d been sauteed.

The combination seemed to work pretty well, allowing for a substantial chewiness along with an earthy flavor.  I also substituted tempeh for the tofu, as we were having quite a lot of tofu in other dishes and tempeh is my preference in any case.  I steamed the tempeh first in a mixture of vegetable broth and a splash of Bragg’s aminos (like soy sauce) before adding it, chunked, to the pot. 

The resulting mixture, right before it was covered for the final simmer, looked like this:

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Simmering for an additional 30 or so minutes allowed the tempeh to absorb much of the flavor, and the potatoes to soften and soak up much of the sauce.  The final product was a thickly sauced, rich tasting and lip-smacking stew that I served with some whole spelt biscuits I whipped up at the last minute–great for sloshing in the gravy.

[Later insert:  This is what it looked like, reheated the following day for lunch–mmmnn!]:

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We reveled in both the feast and the confabulation for about an hour before venturing to dessert–itself enough to fill the table with platters and bowls! 

Absolute bedlam ensued at one point while Barb recounted a visit to an alternative energy worker, the methods of whom were new to most of us (Barb included).  While treating us to her vocal imitation of the healing chant she’d heard (somewhat like the scene in When Harry Met Sally, now that I think of it), she became so animated that The Girls, who’d been sleeping peacefully in opposite corners of the living room, immediately leapt to their feet, hackles up and tails erect,  snapping and growling as they dashed to the front door to see who was there.  Much like the prophet Elijah at Passover, the poltergeist evaded their detection, and they circled the room, roused and disoriented, until we gave them each a treat to calm down, poor things.  (“It was pretty startling, you know, Mum.  She did sound rather distressed.  And we just wanted to protect you all in case someone was trying to steal the food, that’s all.”)

My friend Michelle graciously brought two treats, a container of the Mocha Hazelnut cookies I previously posted on this site, as well as some delicious Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip loaves, another recipe of mine that I will post here anon. 

I provided a variety of the Mostly Raw Chocolate Truffles from an earlier post as well as a dish I’d created for a customer’s Christmas party last year–Vegan Tiramisu.  I got the idea from an old recipe in Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan, and adapted it with my own cake and filling.  I’ll explain what I did differently from Dreena’s recipe, so you can recreate it yourself if you wish.

Dessert brought more sharing of stories and howls of laughter before everyone dispersed around 11:30 (on a school night!).  It was the most fun I’ve had in ages.  Thanks, ladies, for a great evening, filled with your talented culinary creations, thoroughly delightful conversation, and generous spirits. 

Vegan Tiramisu

This is a dish I created for a customer last Christmas, and I’ve used it many times since.  It may be vegan, but it is definitely not virtuous.  A very rich, very luscious and velvety cream filling oozes between layers of light vanilla cake drizzled with spiked coffee. The entire affair is topped off with a light whipped “cream” and then sprinkled with chocolate curls.  My HH practically swooned over this one (and let me tell you, the last time he swooned over anything I did probably dates back to the Paleozoic era, just to give you a yardstick on that).

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Ingredients:

  • one baked and cooled 9 x9 inch single-layer vanilla cake (I used my own recipe for a spelt and agave-based cake, but I think the agave cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World would work well if baked in a square pan as well).
  • Filling (recipe follows)
  • Whipped “cream” (I use a double recipe of the soymilk-based whipped “cream” from How It All Vegan, with the following changes:  I use 1 Tbsp. Sucanat instead of dry sweetener, and add 1 Tbsp. light agave nectar.  The texture is very light and quite irresistible.)
  • Chocolate curls (made by melting dairy-free chocolate chips, spreading on a plate lined with plastic wrap, and allowing to cool; then use a carrot peeler to grate along the side and the chocolate will form little curls, as you see in the photo).
  • about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cold, very strong coffee or coffee substitute, mixed with an equal amount liqueur (either coffee liquer, creme de cacao, or, as we did last evening, hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico).

Filling: I altered Dreena’s original filling recipe in the following way.  My version is really a combination of a cooked “pudding” blended with silken tofu. 

2 packages extra-firm silken tofu (aseptically packaged, such as Mori-Nu)

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup Sucanat

1/4 cup soymilk (either vanilla or plain)

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup organic cornstarch

In the bowl of a food processor, whir together the tofu and vanilla until perfectly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, Sucanat, soymilk, salt and cornstarch, and whisk to blend.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil softly.  Continue to stir or whisk constantly, cooking for one minute. 

Pour the hot mixture into the food processor along with the tofu and blend again until perfectly mixed and smooth.  Pour into a large bowl and place in refrigerator until cool, at least two hours. 

 To Assemble the Tiramisu:

In a large decorative bowl, spoon some of the filling and swirl to coat the bottom of the bowl.  Cut or tear the cake into thin strips or squares and lay down in a single layer over the filling.  Drizzle with about 1/3 of the coffee/booze mixture.  Cover with about 1/3 of the filling, and repeat with more cake, drizzle, filling, cake, drizzle and filling again, until all the filling, liquid, and cake are used up (you should have about 3 layers of each, and end with a layer of filling). 

Top the last layer with a thin coating of the whipped “cream,” ensuring no filling peeks through.  Sprinkle with chocolate curls.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours to allow cake to absorb the liquid and for flavors to meld. 

To serve, spoon into individual serving bowls, or– just to use them and because they look pretty–pull out that old set of martini glasses and use those for a decorative presentation.  Makes at least 10 servings, more if your crowd is able to exercise restraint.