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A few of you asked for the Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe about which I posted yesterday. Since I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the pumpkin bread on its own, and I was most assuredly dissatisfied with the sweetened condensed milk (the base for the caramel sauce) on its own, I hadn’t intended to post the recipe.

But you know what they say about the sum of individual parts. . . despite the haphazard way the dish came together, it ended up being a winner, so I’ll try to reconstruct the recipe here.  It was a huge hit and would make a spectacular New Year’s Eve dessert served in wine or martini glasses.

[BIG caveat:  I didn’t take notes while making this, so you may have to play with proportions a bit, particularly with the caramel sauce. Results may vary.]

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce (GF option)

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With pumpkin in both the bread and the “custard” in which it bakes, this pudding is definitely rich in pumpkin.  Lightly spiced, this moist bread pudding is highlighted with a rum-infused caramel sauce. 

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

Family and Festive Feasting

December 28, 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 on this blog than you do.”

 pumpbreadpud1

[Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce]

As I mentioned in a previous post, the CFO came to visit over the holidays, and we had a truly lovely time together, chillaxing (I can’t understand why that word has evaporated from the lexicon.  I mean, it just seems to capture so perfectly the concept its meant to convey), laughing, watching movies*, laughing, shopping, playing with The Girls, laughing, and eating far, far too much.  I’m happy to say that my sister also bonded with both of our furry babies, who have been wandering aimlessly around the house since she left this morning. 

(“Mum, what do you mean, ‘she left’? Doesn’t she live with us now?  Where did she go? And, um, who will rub my belly tonight?”)

It does seem like ages since I’ve written on this blog, when in fact, it’s been just a few days. I’m just fascinated by the science fiction-like relative quality of time at the holidays: the space-time continuum stretches infinitely as you wait for the Big Day (or Days, depending on your belief system); then, like the Big Bang, it’s over in a flash.

Not to belabor the physics theme or anything, but I think my stomach has taken over the role of a black hole this holiday season.  Truly, I didn’t know it was possible that so much food could be sucked into that abyss in so short a span. Ah, if only time could stretch as infinitely as my appetite (and if only the waistband on my pants could do the same. . . ). 

Ah, what the heck, it’s the holidays. While the CFO was here , in effect, we enjoyed two major feast meals:  the first on Christmas Day, a semi-traditional repast that blended the Judeo-Christian cuisines; then, the following night, an Indian-themed feast, because we felt like it. 

Although neither my sister nor the HH is vegan (or even vegetarian), the bulk of the menu accommodated my dietary restrictions, so that we could all enjoy freely. And despite much good-natured ribbing in both directions (the CFO pooh-poohed almost every recipe I suggested on the grounds it was “too Veeee-gan”, while I countered by calling her a “rabid anti-Veegite“), it was the dish about which she was most skeptical, the wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free pumpkin bread pudding, that turned out to be the star of the show. 

For the holiday meal, I relied on several tried-and-true recipes such as herb-roasted root vegetables, balsamic-dijon brussels sprouts and roast on the 25th, plus (in keeping with the Hannukah theme I started with those latkes the other day) an apple-noodle pudding (or kugel).  Even though this was a sweet kugel and more of what I’d consider a dessert, it did work well with the other dishes, offering a bit of luscious creaminess punctuated by tart cherries, along with the similar sweet-tart contrast in the brussels sprouts.  In fact, this noodle pudding would be perfect for breakfast, I’d venture.

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[Apple-Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries]

The bread pudding my sister so loved began with a pumpkin bread (recipe from Simple Treats), soaked in a pumpkin “custard” based on the mixture I used in my French Toast Soufflé.  I baked the puddings in individual ramekins, but you could easily do a single pudding in a loaf or square pan and scoop it from there. I topped the puddings with a homemade caramel sauce–a concoction based on a sweetened condensed milk experiment that went awry–that I’d kept warm. 

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[A bite of pumpkiny-caramelly bliss.]

The result was spectacular–warm, slightly crisp on the outside but moist and spongy on the inside, über-pumpkiny, slightly spiced, and with the smooth, glossy thickness of warm caramel blanketing the whole affair. This is a chic, stylish dessert, yet one that was really simple in its preparation.

We certainly didn’t need any additional desserts after that finale, but since I had loads of tester recipes in the house that I’d recently done up for the cookbook, I put out a tray with Glazed Almond Bars, Dalmatian Cheesecake Brownies and Hazelnut Mocha Cookies; as well as leftover Marzipan-Topped Shortbread, Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies, and Chocolate Macaroons.  All were CFO-approved, I’m happy to say.

The next night, though still full from the Christmas dinner, we managed an incredible follow-up with an Indian feast that, we decided, will go down in the annals of Most Memorable Meals in the DDD household. 

The menu included a lentil dal recipe I first saw about a week ago on Lisa’s blog; peas in a creamy sauce (adapted from a recipe I once borrowed from Gemini I); an aloo saag (well, not really–I just don’t know the word for “kale”) that combined potatoes and shredded kale in a spicy tomato sauce; coconut brown basmati rice; and homemade chickpea pancakes from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends.  I can tell you, there was a symphony of lip-smacking, lentil scooping, potato spooning, and sauce sopping going on, as well as a mellifluous refrain of friendly chatter and wine-glass clinking that evening.  Very chillaxing.

I promise to share the goodies from our Indian feast in a future post, but rather than inundate you with so many recipes at once, I thought I’d start off with the lovely Apple Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries.  This alone would make a great light mid-week  supper–and I, for one, could certainly use some lighter meals these days.

Also:  I’m a little late jumping on this bandwagon, but wanted to mention a charity drive put on by Katie over at Chocolate Covered Vegan.  In honor of the season, Katie is offering to donate 20 cents to the Enough Project (an organization that works to counter crimes against humanity) for every comment she receives on this post.  How sweet is that? It’s incredibly easy to help out this way–just hop on over and leave a comment!

 *Christmas Day:  that classic chestnut, White ChristmasThe CFO and I, while sisters ourselves, bear no resemblance to either Rosemary Clooney or Vera-Ellen (well, perhaps my wrist bears a resemblance to Vera-Ellen’s waist).

Boxing Day:  taking advantage of the nearly-empty theaters, Seven Pounds. What I learned from watching this movie:  1) Will Smith is (still) preternaturally gorgeous;  2) Will Smith is an extraordinarily talented actor; 3) that is one whacked reason to keep a jellfish as a pet.

Yesterday: The Dark Knight. I agree that Heath Ledger deserved an Oscar for his performance.  Not only that, but also a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for being able to unravel the convoluted structure of the multi-pronged plot in this movie.  (Okay, perhaps a not-entirely fair assessment on my part, as I couldn’t bring myself to watch the violent scenes.  Which means I missed about 94% of the movie.)

Apple Noodle Pudding with Tart Dried Cherries

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Unfortunately, I can’t recall the original source of this recipe, which I copied from a magazine several years ago in the BB (Before Blog) era of my life.  Nevertheless, I’ve added several elements and changed others over the years, so I consider this my own variation on the original.

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

 

* Or, Ricki Finally Decides to Get Political

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]

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[Dig those green threads of lime zest in there!  Red and green–how festive!]

I bet you can tell from the title alone that this is a retro recipe.  For me, the name “Tutti Fruiti” brings to mind Mrs. Cunningham’s kitchen on Happy Days, or Leave it to Beaver, or Doris Day. I mean, it just sounds so Barbie doll. . .so potroast-and-mashed-potatoes. . . so poodle skirts and bobbysocks. . . so 1950s Housewife.  Or does it?

Maybe it’s just me, but just when did feminism get such a bad rap? (Oh oh–I’ve uttered the “F-Word”!! I can hear the roar of footsteps as droves of my readers hightail it for the exit).  But seriously.  I happened to grow up during a time of great social change for women, when being able to make our own choices and earn our own money was still a novelty, one that was both thrilling, and ground-breaking.  (Hmm.  Sort of reminds me of the excitement in the air over recent political developments, too).

These days, I’m sensing a backward shift in attitude all over the media. It makes me sad to think that young women today feel they can’t embrace independence and self-sufficiency without giving up everything old-fashioned at the same time.  Claims of Grrrrrrl power from hyper-sexed, no-unmentionable-flaunting, party-hardy starlets who trumpet liberation but are really just craving male attention are just one facet of the problem. You know that social attitudes have really shifted when they hit your soap opera.  As The World Turns (my own indulgence, as I may have mentioned before) may have one of the first gay story lines on daytime, but they seem to have abandoned their women back in the fifties.  

Case in Point: Jack and Carly. Here’s a sample:

Carly [to her ex-husband, Jack]: What?  You spent the $5000 intended for our son’s boarding school tuition on your new wife-to-be’s wedding dress??!!

Jack: Don’t worry, Carly, I will make sure our kids are taken care of.

Carly: I’m warning you, Jack, you’d better not squander your money on that woman.  If our kids have to suffer because you can’t pay for them. . . well, I promise you, I will make your life a living hell.

Jack: I told you I’d take care of it, Carly, and I will!  [storms off in a huff.]

Does anyone else read that dialogue and wonder, “Um, excuse me, but where is Carly’s portion of that tuition?” Why isn’t she also contributing to her son’s schooling?  And before you hurl epithets at my insensitivity to the woman’s dilemma, consider that Carly’s character is supposedly a millionaire.  That’s right: as a former high-flying fashion designer, she has way more money than her honest-cop ex-husband. Yet despite rolling in dough, she expects the man to pay for everything. Poor old Gloria Steinem (and I suppose she really is old, nowadays) is probably rolling over in her Playboy bunny suit.

I don’t see any conflict of interest in calling myself a feminist and still enjoying all the activities that take place in the kitchen (no, not those activities, people! I was referring to cooking, baking, eating and the like!)  In fact, I’ve always been proud to use the title “Ms.” (and no, it’s not just a title for divorced women).  Another shock:  I also retained my name when I got married (to the first one, not the HH). I mean, I’d had the name since I was born, didn’t I? I was pretty attached to it. My ex-husband argued that we were more of a coherent “team” with the same last name.  Okay, I countered, then let “the team” carry my last name. (I’m afraid I can’t reprint what he said in response to that.)  

And what does this sudden pro-feminist rant have to do with cookies, you may wonder? 

Well, in high school, one of the greatest feminist role models I’ve ever known was Mrs. Jennings.  Mrs. J was quite a powerhouse: she held a full-time job as a high school teacher; she was on various academic boards; she had a part-time freelance gig outside of school; and she was one all around tough cookie (no pun intended). Probably only about 10 years my senior at the time, Mrs. J certainly looked the part: she was rather strident in her manner, with a mile-high ‘do that bore a striking resemblance to a rusted Brillo pad.  Her shoes were sensible, her suits stiff and straight-cut in that “must-emulate-male-businessmen” way, and her demeanor was always entirely humorless. At the same time, she showed us girls what could be accomplished by women who were smart and self-sufficient.

Oh, and she taught Home Economics.

Home Economics!  Even the name sounds anachronistic.  But it was in Mrs. J’s class that I learned how to measure dry ingedients in the metal cups and wet ingredients in the glass cups; how to level my baking powder with the back of a knife; how to roll dough from the center outward; how to distinguish between a selection of six different kinds of milk**; and how to make Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. That woman really could do it all! And she taught us it was okay to be a feminist and still love all the old-fashioned female virtues, too.

Of course, the original recipe wasn’t vegan (Mrs. J wasn’t that liberated).  But I’ve retained it all these years because these were just the perfect holiday cookie in every way: they are delicious, they are incredibly easy to make (of course, any woman with all that going on had to find ways to save time in the kitchen), they travel well, and they seem to appeal to everyone.  The original recipe also contained old-fashioned gumdrops, chopped up.  Well, darned if I didn’t have the perfect substitute right on hand–the yummy gummies I got as a gift in my swap package from Neil!  The lime zest is my own addition, to round out the Christmassy colors.

Of all the fancy, frosted, cookie-cut or filled cookies I make at the holiday season, these remain my very favorites (and they’re not even chocolate!!).  Soft yet slightly crumbly with a light, citrus, almond-perfumed aroma and dotted throughout with brilliant bits of shiny color like fragments of stained glass, these cookies are a treat to eat. 

And when you don the frilly apron to serve these to friends and family, hold up your feminist head with pride! Real women bake cookies, too. 🙂

Mum, we love all the activities that go on in the kitchen, too.  And we would love to be self-sufficient with free access to our food.”

On a Final Note: I’ve also been totally remiss about a lovely award I received a while back from Georgia.    I meant to post about it then, and of course it slipped my mind until now (I may be a feminist, but my memory sucks).  Thanks so much, Georgia, for this Proximity Award!  Here are the award details:

“This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open this up to anyone who’s willing to proudly call herself (or himself) a feminist!  

** That would be whole, 2%, 1%, skim, sweetened condensed, evaporated, and dried-reconstituted. Nobody had even heard of alternative milks back then!

As a much healthier version of the original, this recipe is my contribution to Michelle of The Accidental Scientist for her Heart of the Matter “December Full of Heart-Healthy Decadence” event.  (And yes, coconut oil is considered heart-healthy!). 🙂

Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

 tuttifruitiplate

The perfect holiday cookie:  quick and easy, and with a light texture and fruity flavor, easy to eat as well.

1/2 cup (90 g.) Sucanat

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) EACH: almond extract, lemon extract, pure vanilla extract

zest of 1/2 lime

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds

1/3 cup (80 ml.) melted coconut oil (such as Omega Nutrition, which you can win through the Menu for Hope!)

1/2 cup (120 ml.) chopped candied fruit, gummy candies, chopped dried cranberries, or any other small chopped festive food of your choice

1-1/4 cups (175 g.) light spelt flour

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder

1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda

1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) fine sea salt

In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water, extracts and lime zest.  Stir to dissolve the Sucanat as much as possible.  Add the flax seeds and melted oil, then stir in the chopped fruit or candies.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over the liquid ingredients and stir to blend.  You will have a soft dough. 

Shape the dough into two logs about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.

Unwrap the cookie logs and cut them into disks about 3/8 inch (3/4 cm.) thick and place about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets. 

Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, rotating the sheets once about halfway through, until golden brown.  Allow to cool 5 minutes on sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely.  Makes about 30 cookies.  May be frozen.

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

GG III: Marzipan-Topped Shortbread **Note: the original recipe was somehow transcribed incorrectly–please use the current version with the correct amount of flour!!

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG VI: Pumpkin Butter

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]

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First, a Menu for Hope update:  As I mentioned last time, Menu for Hope is a fundraiser that continues until December 24th.  Buy tickets at $10 each, and you can bid on any of the fabulous prizes offered by bloggers from all over the world! 

The prize I’m offering, a year’s subscription to Martha Stewart Living, has just been bumped up a notch!  Since so many of my recent cookie creations feature coconut oil, the nice folks at Omega Nutrition have donated a large (one-kilo/2 pound) jar of their Organic Coconut Oil to the prize.  That way, you can convert all those butter-laden recipes in Martha’s mag to healthier versions! 

If you’d like to bid on my prize (a year’s subscription PLUS organic coconut oil), head on over to the main donation page and cite prize code CA 05.  And if you’re not keen on Martha, there are loads of other amazing prizes there as well!

And now, on to today’s Gastronomic Gift. . .

These are the cookies that inspired the creation of My Life in Balance Buttery Spread the other day.  This recipe goes way back in my cookie repertoire. . . waaaay back.  (Did anyone else just have an image of the Friendly Giant pop into their heads?  “Look up. . . . waaay up!”). 

When my sisters and I were still tweens, we’d eagerly await the holiday season because it meant an entire day bake-a-thon with my mom.  The CFO and I would usually be stationed at the kitchen table chopping nuts in an old-fashioned, spring-loaded manual nut chopper (in my twenties, I found one at a garage sale for 25 cents–twenty-five cents!–and have used it on many occasion since, with great success). There’s nothing quite like the visceral satisfaction one gets after repeatedly pumping that windmill-shaped blade up and down inside the glass jar, watching the whole nuts jump and dance like water sizzling on a hot skillet.  Looking at the tiny, uniform crumbs that are created, you can think, wow–I just made that, by hand (and also, “wow, my biceps sure are sore now.”).  And of course in those days, no one had even heard of food processors!

My sister and I also acted as sous pastry chefs, slicing up maraschino cherries, zesting oranges or lemons, souring milk with lemon juice or vinegar, or meting out chocolate or butterscotch chips.  Over at the counter (where the Sunbeam Mixmaster was parked), my mom would cream butter, blend eggs, stir milk and cocoa and flour and then scoop the final product onto ancient cookie sheets that looked like picture frames with their still-shiny silver centers, bordered with the charred remains of cookies past. 

When she was done scooping, Mom would proffer the bowl and wooden spoon, its buttery, sugary amber batter still clinging in spots.  At that piont, The Nurse also joined in for the Licking of the Bowl ritual.  We all agreed that for certain recipes, the raw mixture tasted even better than the final baked product; and so the yield for those cookies was always reduced by about 30% by the time the cookies were done.

When I was finally established in my own apartment some 1000 kilometers (600 miles) from home, I determined I’d uphold the tradition by making my own tins of cookies for friends and colleagues at Christmas time.  cookiebooks To amass a fresh collection of soon-to-be treasured cookie recipes, I’d scour the supermarket checkout each year to purchase the annual mini cookbooks with titles like “Holiday Baking” or “Christmas Treasures” of “101 Cookies for the Holidays”–pamphlets published by Pillsbury, Crisco (gasp!), Betty Crocker, General Mills, and the like.  I’d pore over each page and meticulously mark the recipes I wanted to try with ripped up sticky notes (I mean, why waste a whole one, just as a bookmark?). 

Then I’d set up the ingredients assembly-line style and bake away for the entire day, re-creating the buzz and activity of my mother’s erstwhile home bakery.   Unfortunately, I discovered that the yield of each recipe in my own kitchen was still reduced by about 30% before the cookies were baked (one of life’s unsolved mysteries, I guess).  

These jam-filled turnovers are one of the treats that became a holiday staple back then.  Deceptively simple to make, they embody sleek sophistication with their half-moon contour, fluted edge and glossy, drizzled glaze; and each turnover enfolds a dollop of glistening, fruity filling.  The original recipe called for cream cheese and butter, with a filling  of regular (high-sugar) raspberry jam, its brilliant fucshia glinting with each bite. I subbed coconut oil and silken tofu for the crust (that is, the prototype of the buttery spread), and used slightly less sparkly fillings of Brandied Apricot-Ginger spread or all-fruit strawberry jam.  

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Perhaps not as rich as the original, this recipe still results in a very malleable, easily rolled dough that bakes up crispy and even a tad flaky on the edges, filled with bright, sweet jam of choice. 

These treasures are really impressive when glazed, and I’d recommend doing so if you are comfortable using confectoner’s sugar.  I wasn’t happy with the agave-based version I created (it ended up with a texture like chewy candy), but would still suggest brushing these with a mixture of equal parts agave nectar and orange juice or soymilk to provide extra sweetness and a glossy finish to the crust if you don’t glaze them.

Since the cookies are baked on cookie sheets (though mine, of course, are scrubbed meticulously, even around the border), I’m submitting this recipe to Joelen’s Culinary Adventures.  The Tasty Tool she’s profiling this month is Baking Sheets.

Jam-Filled Turnovers

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

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The first word that comes to mind when you see these cookies is “dainty.”  With their fluted edges and delicate shape, these little pockets of sweetness are perfect for a holiday celebration table or as take-away gifts for guests.

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD BY CLICKING HERE.

[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]

marzipanshortbreadplate

Isn’t synchronicity the darndest thing?  You know, that phenomenon when things just seem to occur around the same time. . . because. . . well, just because.  Like when you learn a new word, and suddenly “schadenfreude seems to pop up in all the newspapers you read.  Or “pecuniary” makes its appearance in every magazine article you see about the faltering economy.  Save money with a “stay-cation”? It was mentioned at least once on every financial-advice show that aired in the past week. (And how about antediluvian, lachrymose, arachibutyrophobia?  Okay, maybe not so much.)

I love synchronicity; I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to having intuition.  Years ago, during a carefree Christmas shopping spree (entirely unlike this year, what with all the pecuniary limitations to my budget), I was meandering along a downtown Toronto street engrossed in a lachrymose daydream, probably about being bullied in gradeschool.  For some unknown reason, I remembered a former classmate, and wondered what had become of her.  In the midst of my reverie, there came from behind me a sudden, staccato warbling, like the sound an antique radio makes when being tuned: “Ricki?! Eeeeoooooouuuuwwww! RICKI HELLER, is that you–??” 

Yep, you guessed it: that very classmate, whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.  We hugged,  we excitedly exchanged updates on our lives, we traded phone numbers and swore to keep in touch–then never heard from each other again. But that sure was some synchronicity in action!

If you’ve ever thought about someone you haven’t seen in a while, only to receive a phone call from them that day; if you’ve ever had a dream about finding a $20 bill and later picked up a stray piece of paper in a parking lot that happened to be a $20 bill; if you’ve ever loved a novel by a particular author and then happened to be seated next to that author on your next flight across the country; if you’ve ever been reminded of an old love while surfing the internet only to discover the profile of said love on your Classmates page–well, if you’ve ever experienced a seemingly unrelated coexistence of two meaningfully related things in any context at all, then you, too, have experienced synchronicity.  And last weekend, there it was again!

In my previous Gastronomic Gift post last week, I mentioned a pioneer of the now-booming Toronto culinary scene, Bonnie Stern. That long-ago (seems positively antediluvian, in fact) cooking class was my only encounter with Ms. Stern in person; and her recipe for Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread was, it turns out, the only recipe of hers I’ve ever reproduced at home. 

Until now.

Why, just this past weekend, there she was again, peering out at me from the crinkled pages of our weekend National Post!  Not only that; in the photo, she proffered some startlingly attractive shortbread cookies: rich, buttery freeform mounds topped with shards of  Toblerone chocolate bars.  I decided on the spot that I had to re-create those bars, but what to use instead of the Toblerone?  I wanted something similar–a mix of chocolate and a sweet filling–but nothing quite as sticky (and nothing producing any arachibutyrophobia, of course).  Aha!  Marzipan-filled Ritter Sport!

In response to  Amanda’s comment in the last post, I used my own Life in Balance Buttery Spread in place of the butter in these cookies.  The result was a slightly-sandy-on-the-outside, slightly-chewy-on-the-inside, not-too-sweet and very decadent-tasting cookie.  And while they don’t melt in your mouth like tradtional shortbread, the combination of  rich dough and chunks of chocolate-covered marzipan is truly enchanting.  The HH said he thought they weren’t “really” like shortbread as they didn’t taste “buttery” enough, but that didn’t stop him from scarfing down three of these babies in quick succession.

And while this recipe is a bit more decadent than my usual baked good, hey, it’s the holidays!  Gotta live a little.  Which, of course, will lead to the inevitable overindulging and weight gain. . . so as you bake up your own batch of these, you can think of me, smile, and enjoy a satisfying little taste of schadenfreude.

Mum, you know your readers would never do that!  Besides, I think I’ve had enough schadenfreude to last a lifetime, what with Chaser smirking at my cone over the past three weeks.”

Oh, and since these are intended as a holiday gift, after all, I thought they’d be a perfect submission to the Eat Christmas Cookies event hosted by Food Blogga this month. There’s already a huge array of cookies posted on the site for you to check out!

And since Holler and Lisa are asking for festive photos this month for their No Croutons Required event, I’m going to submit this Santa-bordered photo as my contribution as well. 

 Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW BLOG, BY CLICKING HERE.

marzipanshortbread

You needn’t stick with marzipan chocolates for these cookies; in fact, they’d be great with many other kinds of chocolate bar–the Ritter Sport Peppermint comes to mind.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW BLOG, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

chaserunderbed

Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 12, 2008

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pieside

A few of you keen-eyed readers guessed that yesterday’s final “teaser” photo was of pecan pie.  But since I’m not particularly a “pie person” to begin with (I’ve posted about only one other pie in over a year on this blog–and it wasn’t even my own recipe!), and since I most definitely AM a chocolate person, I decided that my pecan pie had to include chocolate.  

Besides, La Martha’s mini-mag, Everyday Food, featured in its latest issue a recipe for chocolate pecan pie, and I’d been yearning for it ever since I saw the recipe. It looked gooey, yummy, decadent, festive, and very, very chocolatey.  Staring at the photo simply made me drool.  It was one heck of a perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

So I set about creating my own (sugar-free, wheat-free, vegan) version of this masterpiece.  The magazine’s photo was soooo enticing: meticulously arranged pecan halves baked into a slightly bubbly, sticky, engulfing ebony base of glossy chocolatey deliciousness.  I had to have that pie!

The only other pecan pie I’ve ever made was another vegan rendition, from my friend Caroline Dupont’s cookbook, Enlightened Eating.  I began with her suggestion to combine maple syrup and barley malt syrup, then played with the other elements to come up with what I thought a good approximation of Martha’s confection.  I fluted the pie crust, poured in the filling, popped it in the oven, and waited.

Remember those old sitcoms where the inept housewife (choose your favorite:  Lucy, Edith, Peggy, Marge) attempts to do the laundry for the first time, and ends up using about 4,576 times too much detergent?  And then the machine starts to rumble and wobble, and a stream of soap suds bubbles up over the washer’s lid and glides along the front of the machine and down to the floor, eventually making its way across the room in one massive, seething wave of froth? 

Well, that’s sort of what the top of this pie looked like after 30 minutes in the oven. The chocolate mixture bubbled and heaved and puffed like the contents of a witches’ cauldron. firstpie2 The lovely fluted crust was coated in a gleam of dark, gooey, chocolatey filling, as were a few spots on the bottom of the oven.  All my perfectly placed pecan halves had been bobbing about in the foaming liquid like castaways afloat on the ocean, tossed this way and that,  messing up my beautiful, decorative arrangement entirely.  While it ended up tasting good, the pie looked horrendous.

For the second attempt, I used less filling and didn’t worry about perfectly placed pecan halves; I simply chopped them coarsely and folded them right into the filling.  Once again, there was a filling explosion that overtook crust, pie plate, and oven.  Curses!

Finally, it occurred to me:  let’s just take another look-see at Martha’s ideal recipe, why don’t we?  The pecans in her photo remained perfectly in position, nary a drop of filling even touching their sides.  On second thought, they were too perfect (sort of like Martha herself, no?): they were pristine and unscathed in their nakedness.  I re-read the recipe, and came upon this throwaway instruction:  “The pie filling puffs up dduring baking but settles as it cools.” AHA! Clearly, the photo did not represent this reality; like most food-styled pictures, this one had been assembled after the pie was baked, the raw pecan halves carefully placed atop an already-cooled pie!  Clever, Martha; very clever.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, I say, then do them one better.  I revamped the recipe completely so that a pre-baked crust is subsequently filled with an unbaked filling.  Once the filling rests securely in the crust, then top with your perfectly formed, deliberately placed pecan halves, as decoration.  I proudly held up the finished product for the HH’s approval.  He took one look at my painstakingly positioned pecan halves and remarked, “It looks vaguely insectoid, don’t you think?”  Hmm. 

Despite the nutty carapace, this pie was heavenly.  Keep it cold for a dense, thick, toffee-like filling; or bring to room temperature for a softer, more gooey result.  Either way, it’s one perfectly baked, perfectly decorated, perfectly chocolatey Perfect Pecan Pie.

With its glossy, black, rich chocolate filling, I thought this would be the perfect submission to this month’s Sugar High Fridays, the event started by Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess, and this month hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.  The theme this time round is “All That Glitters.” 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

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

pecanpieslice6Thick, rich, and toffee-like, this slightly non-traditional pecan pie is great for a holiday (or just your everyday) table. 

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

Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

I’ve never been what I’d call a “good” flirt.  In high school, I hung out with the nerdy crowd (hard to believe, I know!), so there wasn’t really any opportunity to flirt.  Then, when I was finally old enough to attract the opposite sex in my 20s, it seemed too late to get the hang of it. I do remember loathing, admiring and envying (all at the same time) the most popular girls in my high school.  It seemed as if their hair, or their eyelashes, or their limp wrists somehow possessed an invisible male adhesive as they giggled and nodded and caressed the guys, just so, on their forearms; or maybe it was just the pheromones they exuded. 

In any case, the flirty girls would always be surrounded by an inverse seraglio, an ever-shifting, amorphous cloud of doting males.  The boys would fawn over them, open doors for them, carry their books, offer them lifts, or request their phone numbers in a continuous stream.  Just how did the girls manage that, I wondered?  How did they get away with teasing the guys so overtly, implying lace and perfume and breathless embraces, yet, in reality, yield nothing?  These girls were whip-smart as well as beautiful, or they couldn’t have perfected their technique; yet they appeared vacuous and helpless and fragile all at the same time, thereby rendering themselves irresistible to the guys around them.

I had the opportunity to observe a consummate tease after my divorce, when I lived in the same flat as another woman who had previously been married to two of the richest men in Canada (and she was only 32 when I met her).  She was one of the smartest cookies I’ve ever known (and funny, witty, sweet and fun to be with, too) yet, the moment she came within a few feet of any attractive male, she appeared to devolve into–how shall I say this?–a helpless, needy, pouting little girl.  She’d bat her eyelashes at the nearest specimen and feign incompetence with the lock on the car trunk, the dial on the stereo or the squeaky door on the kitchen cabinet.  Then she’d throw up her hands in mock despair and emit a giggle that resonated across the room, like the clang of forks on wine glasses at a wedding, encouraging the newlyweds to kiss. 

There must have been something to it, too, because by the time I moved out, she’d snagged yet another of Canada’s wealthiest bachelors (they’ve since divorced, but let’s just say she’ll never have to work again–no, scratch that, she’ll never even have to brush her own teeth again).  

My own efforts at flirting have produced less than stellar results. True, some playful flirting resulted in four months dating Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); as it turned out, Rocker Guy himself really enjoyed flirting, too–he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he continued to do so throughout the time we were dating. And his definition of “flirting,” unfortunately, encompassed “sleeping with.” 

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

Today, however, I’m afraid I’m going to play the tease once again.  After finding out at the last minute that I’d be away at a conference all day today, I wasn’t able to photograph the dish I’d originally intended to post about. Instead, there’s a slew of goodies I’ve been working on for the cookbook, and with the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be a good way to get in the mood for holiday baking. (Oh, so how’s the book coming along?  Well, I’m still working on the manuscript, which should be complete in less than a month, after which the materials are shipped off to the printer.  Ultimately, I’m still aiming for a release date in early 2009–February or March.  Whoo!). 

Some of these sweets have already been published elsewhere on this blog, with recipes included. You may have also seen some on the testers’ blogs (ie, the absolute BEST TESTERS any cookbook author–or baker–could ever want). 

Following are some of my recent favorites from the book, and those that would make good holiday treats. And even if it’s not out in time for this year, you may wish to make some of these next time round.

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

cashewcaramel1

Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

tspicecakepan

Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (plus recipe–great for decorating):

sugarfreesugarcookie1

Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

mintchocchip2

Cupcakes with Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Buttercream:

cupcakegffrost

Chocolate Satin Tarts:

silktart1.jpg

Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

And here’s a little preview of tomorrow’s sweet treat (recipe to follow).  I know, what a tease. . . 

chocpecanpie

I know, that title sounds like something straight out of my Post-Modern Literary Criticism class (oooh, I shudder just re-thinking it!).  But both bits of news cheered me so much that I wanted to share them in the same post!

The Wait is Over:

Just when I thought I could wait no longer, I received my prize, as one of the winners in Shellyfish’s great 100th Post (Felty Love) contest!  Those of you who’ve read about this here will recall that I’m not the luckiest person when it comes to randomly selected contest winners (another way to say I could buy 50 tickets for the [1-in-3 chances to win] the Heart and Stroke Lottery, and still not win–then again, I suppose that means I’ll probably never be struck by lightning, either).  So this prize was doubly delightful:  not only was it a first-ever win for me, it was also awarded by one of my favorite bloggers, Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl!  I received my prize package in the mail on Friday.  And what a package it was! 

I ripped the parcel open and was immediately touched by the remarkable care and attention to detail taken in choosing the items, packaging them, and mailing them (all the way from France to Canada!). 

Hey, have a look!

[Top row (left to right): Postcard of the Château de Fontainbleau; Felty Love pouch; hand-crafted card emblazoned with maple leaf and ladybugs. Bottom row (left to right): box that contained vegan chocolates, from Chocolaterie Bruyerre–from Belgium; dark truffle square; dark liqueur-infused (I think) round truffle; dark mocha truffle square.]

First, the main prize: a sleek, fuzzy and cozy, handcrafted azure felt change (or whatever else you choose to put in it) pouch.  I loved the hand-embroidered leaf motif when I first saw it on Shelly’s blog, and it was even more impressive (and cute!) in person.  But the finishing touches tickled me the most; to wit, the ribbon trim, the whimsical orange and white lining and–the pièce de résistance–the little custom “shellyfish” tag sewn into the seam!  Now I will remember the source every time I use this sweet little change purse. 

[Just look at that adorable tag!]

Shellyfish also sent along a box of vegan Belgian chocolates! (she really knows how to steal a gal’s heart).  Now, I do love me some chocolate, and have even been known to munch on it daily for extended periods of time. . . .well, let me tell you, these were exquisite.  Each one contained a velvety truffle filling coated with rich, smooth and glossy bittersweet chocolate.  I knew I’d devour the whole set myself and so offered a bite of each to the HH, who noted that they were the best chocolates he’d ever eaten.  And–miracle of miracles–they made it across the ocean intact!  Not even a scratch. I’m planning a vacation to France at this very moment, just so I can sample some more of those babies.

In addition to the pouch and chocolate were a hand-made card with the cutest little ladybugs and maple leaf imprint (thanks for the nod to Canada, Shelly), as well as a postcard of the Chateau Fontainbleau, a lyrical castle in Shelly’s neighborhood, where she lives alongside snippets of history every day (lucky duck!).  

All in all, it was a perfect way to end the week, or start the weekend, and flooded me with memories of my own long-ago stay in Bandol as a teenager. It also made me long for another visit now, as an adult!

Thanks so much, Shelly.  I will treasure my pouch and the cards. . . and my memories of that insanely rich-tasting chocolate! 🙂

 

The Weight is Under

And what about the “weight is under,” you wonder? (No poem intended, there, though I created one nonetheless–must be that literary influence again).  Well, I haven’t written a blog entry related to the “Diet” portion of my blog’s title in quite some time.  Partly, I’ve felt there was no sense in rehashing old news (I mean, how many times can one re-start a weight loss plan?).  About three months ago, I gave up tracking my weight on a weekly basis, and decided that, given the achingly slow progress of my quest, I’d post an entry no more than once a month.  Well, in the interim, something seems to have shifted.

What’s the best way to stop craving sweets all the time?  Write a dessert cookbook, that’s how, and bake three or four test items perforce each day! 

Have you ever walked into an ice cream parlor, or chocolate shop, or patisserie, and marvelled at how slim the counter folk were?  Countless times in my  life, I’ve asked the shop person, “How do you stop yourself from eating everything in sight?”  I’d usually add, sheepishly, “If I worked here, I’d weigh 300 pounds in no time.” 

“No, no, you wouldn’t,” they’d inevitably respond.  “If you work with it all day, you just get sick of it.”  Well, sorry to say, when I ran my little bakery, I was surrounded by baked goods for 16 hours a day–for two years.  My taste for sweets never waned during that time, and my weight began its ugly ascent during those years as well. 

This time, however, something is different.  I’m testing recipes in my home; I’m basically forced to eat at least a mouthful of each one (to ensure quality, you understand); and somewhere along the line, I became indifferent to the piles of bars, cookies, cakes, tarts and whatever else positions itself alluringly on the counter.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve retained a desire to taste everything, and I’ve definitely indulged.  But for some unknown reason, the impetus to keep going even after the first two or three tastes (or two or three brownies, cookies, slices of cake, etc.) has more or less vanished. 

Why has this miracle from heaven been bestowed upon me?  I have no idea.  How can I ensure that this state of affairs never changes?  Again, I’m stumped.  Will I manage to stay the course this time and keep losing weight?  Beats me.  All I know is, I am unspeakably grateful, I embrace this current reality, and I am ecstatic to be experiencing it. The greatest mystery of my life so far seems to be, “why have I been able to exercise “willpower” and lose weight at certain periods of my life, but not others?”  And so far, like the secret location of Atlantis, like the methods of building the pyramids, like where Sasquatch is really hiding–like the reason for Julia Roberts’s popularity–the answer has eluded me (and all of civilized humanity).

If anyone out there has insight into this particular conundrum, please do let me know.

Mum, it’s easy to exercise willpower when someone else feeds you.  Just get an owner to dole out the food. Oh, and it helps if you learn to raise a paw when asked.”

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 fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone.  I’ll be decorating a cake and think, “Oh, it just needs one more flower on there somewhere. . . ” until the top of the thing could pass for a Jackson Pollock with the words “Happy Birthday” meekly peeking through the splotches.  I’m like those middle-aged women (oh, wait, I actually am a middle-aged woman) who don huge, dangly earrings and then wonder if they wouldn’t be complemented by a massive pendant necklace. . . oh, and this lovely, chunky bracelet. . .and must top it off with that favorite equestrian-themed scarf–and can’t forget the cute doggie brooch, of course.  As a student, I’d sit planted at the desk and revise my in-class essays over and over, right up until the very last second when the bell rang (I mean, what if I had left early and later remembered a comma splice I’d neglected to fix?)

And then there’s that cringe-inducing conversation–you know, the one with your One and Only that goes something like this:

Scene: Evening. Ricki and the HH lounge comfortably on the sofa, engaged in animated conversation.

HH: . . . And then the guy says, ‘Yeah, maybe the sandwich on its own is good, but it’s the dill pickle that really makes it great!!”

Ricki:  Ha ha ha ha HA AHA!! Oh, HH, you are just the funniest!! “The dill pickle really makes it great!” Hee hee.  [Leans over to touch his arm].

HH:  Har har hee hee.  What a laugh, eh? Yep, the dill pickle. . . [stretches his arm around her shoulder.]

Ricki: Hee hee, soooo funny.  [Smiling with adoration]: Oh, HH, I love you.

HH:  I love you, too. [Smiles]

Ricki: [Pause].  Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something.

HH [Looking suspicious]: What?

Ricki: Well, you know, I’ve just noticed that I’m always the first one who says, “I love you.” Why is that?

HH [No longer smiling]: Well, that’s not true.

Ricki: Really? When’s the last time YOU said it first?

HH: Um, I dunno. . . last month, probably.

Ricki: No, honey, I’m sure it wasn’t last month. Because remember our anniversary?  And remember when the next weekend, we went out with Gemini I and her hubby?  Well, when we got home, we were sitting on the couch like this, and–

HH:  [Heavy sigh] And you know, we were having such a nice moment there.  I guess you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?

Hmmm.  This irresistible tendency to push the boundaries manifests itself in my prowess in the kitchen as well (no, no, I’ve moved off that scene of me and the HH now!  I’m talking about cooking, silly!).  I love to tinker with recipes and will frequently alter them considerably, even without trying them in the intended form first.  After a lifetime of baking (okay, minus the first 6 years of my life), I’ve more or less discovered what works and what doesn’t.  And if I attempt something creative that doesn’t quite meet my expectations, I don’t take it personally (unlike my reaction to the HH’s lack of amorous expressiveness). 

One of the issues that’s come up in discussions with the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook is the matter of substitutions in the recipes. Of course, when the testing process began, I assumed everyone would follow the recipes to a “T.”  However, in reality, it’s not always possible for everyone to acquire the exact ingredients; or they might not have everything on hand; or they might not own the perfectly-sized pan.  It got me thinking, “how often do I follow a recipe exactly?”  The answer?  To quote the infamous book title, less than zero.  (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration; maybe it’s just a little less than less than zero, more like a little more than never). 

But you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  Really, if you feel comfortable with cooking or baking and want to introduce minor alterations, that’s terrific; the result may in fact be something even better than the original.  The trick is knowing what to substitute, and when it will work.  Spelt for all-purpose?  No problem.  Agave for sugar?  Fine, with adjustments.  Cherry for pumpkin?  Probably not.  And chocolate for eggplant?  Well, that’s just wrong. (Though, of course, you might like to actually combine the two for a terrific result instead).

When I read about Claudia’s tantalizing Strawberry Coconut Coffee Cake on Vagrant Vegan, I knew immediately that I had to make it.  True to form, I adapted the recipe to my own needs and on-hand ingredients, using Sucanat instead of sugar, spelt instead of wheat, and so on. I also decided to bake the cake as an 8 x 8 inch square instead of a 9 x 13 rectangle, as it’s just the HH and me here (and we don’t give The Girls anything too sweet). Then, when I finally went to bake it, I realized strawberries were already out of season–but I had frozen raspberries in the house; why not use those? (and besides, don’t cooked raspberries just impart the most sensational fuchsia hue?).  

In the end, my version isn’t exactly like the original, but this cake still turned out spectacular.  I think the base is a perfect coffeecake batter, one that can handle many deviations and still taste great (which is, after all, the mark of a winning recipe).  The cake itself isn’t too sweet, and it offers up a juicy burst of tangy raspberry in every bite.  Since coconut is one the HH’s favorite foods, he was drawn by the aroma as it toasted in the oven, and couldn’t wait for his chance to taste it. The verdict was unequivocally positive–he gobbled up a piece and then asked for another.

“That was delicious,” he enthused.  “Maybe the cake on its own is good, but it’s the coconut that really makes it great!”  I could have kissed the guy.

He smiled.  “I love that cake!” he said.  What?  Did he say, “love”?

“Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something. . .” I started.  But then I quickly shoved a large chunk of cake in my mouth and swallowed it.

With all of the pink in this recipe, I’m submitting this post to the Power of Pink Challenge for breast cancer, hosted by Jen of the Beantown Baker.  Having recently learned that someone I care about is battling breast cancer, I’m happy to be able to contribute.  The challenge is on until the end of the month if you’d like to submit something pink.

Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake (adapted from Vagrant Vegan)

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

Like most coffee cakes, this one can serve as both dessert or part of a quick breakfast.  The cake is good on its own, but the coconut really makes it great.

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