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

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

omeletpestofront1

Now, I realize I promised a light and not-too-filling recipe today, but before we get to that, I must share something very rich and decadent and–because I ate most of it in one sitting–rather filling: the Peppermint Ritter Sport bar I won (a while ago, now) in Amey’s contest!

rittersport

I received the bar in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled to rip open the envelope and find that it reached me in perfect condition–all the way from California! While a couple of the squares had broken apart, the smooth, white, minty filling remained enclosed in the chocolate and every piece was perfectly edible.  And believe me, eat it I did (well, I shared–just a wee bit–with the HH). 

ritterpackage

I also loved that the entire wrapper was in German!  Here in Toronto, anyway, the Ritter Sports we get have multiple languages on the wrappers, including French and English.  It made Amey’s seem much more authentic.  Thanks so much, Amey!  It’s always so exciting to get something fun in the mail, and that bar is a definite new favorite.  (Wow, I think I’m a little overwhelmed with all the goodies I’ve received in the mail from other bloggers these past few months!  Have I mentioned lately that you guys are THE BEST??!)

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out for brunch with my friend PR Queen to celebrate both our birthdays, which are a month apart. (Yes, this really was the birthday that refused to surrender!)

In any case, we went to an upscale vegan resto called Fressen, where the food is stellar (and the prices are equally astronomical). I relished my fresh beet, apple and carrot juice; salad of baby greens and balsamic-dijon dressing; and stuffed tofu omelet.  But I just couldn’t see myself going there on a regular basis, mostly because (a) it’s right in the heart of the Queen West area of Toronto, just a minim too trendy, too grungy and too crowded for my taste; (b) Queen West is right in the heart of the general downtown in Toronto, a 35-minute drive away at the best of times, but more like an hour-plus when there’s traffic; (c) the prices there are, as I mentioned, bordering on the stratosphere; and (d) if I kept eating brunch there on a regular basis, I’d be denying myself the challenge of re-creating the same brunch at home.  Which, because I’m just wacky that way, I endeavored to do the very next weekend.

First, I suppose I should pause here to admit that, for most of my life, I have been severely Ovule-Challenged.  Whether soft boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, or any other way, I never did master egg cooking skills.  And omelets add yet another layer of difficulty: the perfect (egg) omelet is meant to be uniformly puffy and light, all in one piece, possessing a slightly gooey interior that I’ve always found rather gag-inducing. Even when the HH and I were first together and I attempted omelets on a regular basis, my egg oeuvres (or would that be oeufres?) would invariably crack and split and wilt like leaves on my sorely neglected ficus plant every time I tried to flip them, resulting in breakage and a pan housing three or four large, ragged-edge slabs of egg, sprawled at odd angles. I’d end up stirring the mixture furiously, ultimately transforming it into a semi-scramble and calling it frittata.  It wasn’t long before the HH took over omelet duty.  He’s never had a problem whipping one up (literally); and, to this day, he cooks an omelet for himself almost every Sunday. 

I assumed I’d have more success re-creating that tofu-based Fressen beauty (even though my first attempt at a tofu omelet also lacked that airy, pillowy texture, despite its wonderful flavor). What I loved about the Fressen version was how it seemed both moist and fluffy at the same time; while clearly cooked and browned on the outside, the inside remained soft, creamy, and light as custard. Stuffed with a succulent, rich filling of pesto, caramelized leek and mushrooms, it was a vision to behold: golden and crisp on the outside; vibrant green, tan and walnut-brown on the inside.  And the flavor!  The perfect edible mixture of woodsy, grassy, and airy. I wanted more!  

Given its ultra-light texture, I surmised that the omelet included silken tofu along with the firm. I’d already mastered pesto during the summer when my experimental home-grown basil flourished so remarkably; and while we didn’t have leeks in the fridge, we did have an abundance of onions, which served as a servicable replacement.

I created the omelet base by adapting the generic recipe in Joni Marie Newman’s  Cozy Inside, with several adjustments and additions.  I used home-made pesto, but you could just as well use store-bought.  The rest of it comes together in a flash. 

While the result wasn’t quite as fluffy as I’d hoped it would be, this did render a reasonable facsimile of the original.  Great for a brunch at home after a holiday feast, and an especially tasty way to economize and avoid those sky-high restaurant bills 🙂 .

Given the cilantro-based pesto filling, I thought this would be a good submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the event run by Haalo over at Cook (Almost) Anything Once, and this week hosted by Scott over at Real Epicurean.

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

omeletpesto11

You can use any tofu-based omelet recipe you choose for this recipe.  While this one tastes great and the flavors are beautifully complemented by the filling, it is very fragile and breaks easily.  A more sturdy recipe is this one; or use a version of your own.

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

 

.

My American Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008

I know it’s often said that Canada is a mere appendage of the U.S., the 51st state, the spleen of the continent that no one really knows exists and seems to have no necessary function, blah blah blah.  Maybe it’s true; maybe we are like the unassuming cousin from out of town who never speaks at the holiday table, or the scrawny kid at the beach the girls never notice.  And, like many underdogs, we in Canada seem to know more about our more powerful, more popular, more infamous neighbor than they know about us (I will never forget the time, as a teen, that I visited cousins in New Jersey–about 560 miles/900 km. from where I lived at the time.  A friend of my cousin’s, learning that I was Canadian, blurted out, “Oh! I know a Canadian!  Do you know Steven Ruttenberg?”  To which, astonishingly, I was obliged to reply, “Um, why yes, yes, I do know Steven Ruttenberg. . .”–for as it turned out, he went to my high school!  And so now, for ever more, that poor girl will believe that Canada really is, after all, a pinhead of a backwater, underdeveloped country where everyone knows each other!). 

How about a little quiz?  Okay, Americans out there! Quick, answer these:  Who’s the Canadian Prime Minister?  How many provinces in Canada?  What’s our official language?*  What does our flag look like?  Pick any Canadian on any streetcorner in pretty much any Canadian city, and s/he will know the answers to all those questions as they relate to the U.S.  Why?  Because, first of all, we sort of have to (see above); but also, because those rumors are, to a great extent, true: we are influenced by the US, we do follow their culture more than they follow ours, and we really do depend on that comforting, protective, bear-paw of an embrace from our bigger, more powerful cousins to the south. 

I know this notion (that we are unduly influenced by and, to some extent even dominated by, the U.S.) bothers some of my compatriots.  For my part, I have to admit, I’ve always felt a great affection and affinity toward the States.  First, several of my relatives live in America, from California to New York and New Jersey to Massachusetts, and they are some of my favorite people in the world.  I spent many idyllic childhood summers with my Boston cousins.  Second, having completed both an MA and a PhD in Modern American Literature, I’ve probably read more American than Canadian fiction and consider many of the US authors as role models (and, for those of you who notice such things, that’s also the reason why I, a proud Canadian, use predominantly “American” spelling on this blog–writing about American authors for American professors for many years, that spelling now feels natural to me).  Third, just as the “they’re so polite” clichés about Canadians happen to be (for the most part) true, so are the “they’re so friendly and hospitable” or “they’re incredibly generous” clichés about Americans. (And, as the HH is always quick to point out, customer service in the US runs circles–CIRCLES–around its Canadian counterpart (and counter person).

And so, it made perfect sense that yesterday, on American Thanksgiving, I, too, was extremely grateful along with y’all–and, in particular, grateful for the existing U.S.-Canada connections. 

Why, you ask?  Well, I arrived home to discover that I’d received a skillfully wrapped and well-taped brown paper package in the mail (ooh, that sounds rather salacious somehow, doesn’t it?), boasting American postage and filled with amazing vegan goodies! 

I’d signed up to be part of Lindsay (from Cooking for a Vegan Lover)’s blogging Care Package Swap event and there was my box of treats!  I discovered Lindsay’s blog when she commented on mine a while back, and am so glad she did!  I’ve been enjoying the posts from Lindsay and her hubby Neil, who live and write in Vermont. They include recipes, restaurant reviews, and other foodie tidbits like CSA news and animal-friendly events.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to rip off the brown paper and tape to reveal the following:

 swappackage

Look at that haul!  Neil (my exchange partner) sent an incredible array of fantastic and organic treats–and–how thoughtful is this???–everything is wheat-free!  swaplizlovelyThe products are also made in Vermont or environs.  I literally jumped up and down when I saw the Liz Lovely cookies–I’d read so much over the years about Liz Lovely,   and finally got to sample my very own (GF) Chocolate Fudge cookie (which I did the second I opened the box, of course).  The package also included the following delectables (left to right):

  • Road’s End organic Savory Herb Gravy Mix;
  • a Cashew Vanilla WaGuRu Chew (smothered in Vanilla Caramel–doesn’t that just sound irresistible??);
  • (slightly hidden behind the shampoo bottle) Zootons Organic Gummies candy in a variety of fruity flavors;
  • All Natural Elmore Mountain Farm Lavender shampoo (smells heavenly);
  • the amazing Liz Lovely cookies, with, in the foreground–
  • a Dan’s Chocolates “The Caffeinator” truffle;
  • a bar of Montpelier Chocolate Factory’s Dark Strawberry and Coconut chocolate (strawberry!  Cannot wait to try that one!), and behind it–
  • a bottle of Vermont Pepper Works Chocolate Chipotle Pepper Sauce (rated XX Hot–will be diving into that asap!);
  • a box of Road’s End Organics Mac and Chreese–with rice pasta!;
  • a piece of Pure Vermont Maple Candy from Brookfield Sugarmakers (which, despite being raised in Quebec, I have never tried–so looking forward to this, too!); and–somehow left out of the photo (perhaps because they were already gobbled up??)–
  • two–one for each of The Girls–packs of organic, handmade dog biscuits!

THANKS SO MUCH, Neil!  I can’t wait to try out all the goodies, all the while gratefully basking in the glow of my American neighbour’s generosity and hospitality. 🙂 What fun it was to participate in this swap!

elsieconehead

And Neil, Chaser and I thank you, too!  It was especially nice to have such delicious dog biscuits while I’m convalescing. . . if you were here, I’d thank you properly, of course, but for now you’ll just have to accept a virtual lick to the ear.”

* Perhaps that was a trick question.  There are, in reality, two official languages (muffle, muffle, guffaw, cackle):  English and French.

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

curriedsoupspoon

Years ago (oops, make that a decade), during the tumultuous year after my starter marriage dissolved, I lived with my friend Gemini I.  As two single thirty-somethings interested in social events or activities that might bring us into contact with eligible men, we decided to try out some cooking classes (what were we thinking?  We might as well have looked for guys in the pantyhose department at Macy’s.  .  . oh, wait a sec: apparently, in Australia, that’s exactly where you might meet some guys these days). 

In any case, we signed up for one series run by a well-heeled Toronto chatelaine who’d attended Le Cordon Bleu (it was only a weekend seminar, but she never told us that) and decided to teach classes out of her home.  It took just one evening, and I was hooked; after that, Gemini I and I attended about half a dozen more classes as well.  It’s not that I actually learned very much; and the food, while fine, wasn’t the most spectacular I’d had, either. But oh, what a house!

Oh my, how I envied her house.  Situated beside a thickly forested ravine on a cul-de-sac in the tony Rosedale area, Ms. Culinati’s residence was a massive, ivy-covered, stone-and-brick Tudor style mansion of at least 5,000 square feet, almost more like a museum than a home.  At over 100 years old, the building’s interior had been completely renovated and rendered ultra-modern inside.  The setup was perfect for cooking classes: after passing beneath the towering entryway, we participants filed across the open-concept first floor (tiled in marble), toward a state-of-the-art kitchen just off the entrance.  There were six cushy stools lined up against one side of a wide, grey and black granite peninsula, which also divided the room and separated us from the cooking area. 

Ms. Cordon Bleu held forth on the opposite side of the counter behind the built-in stainless steel stovetop, prepping ingredients and chattering about the best shop in Paris to buy Le Creuset, the plumpest, most perfect berries at All the Best on Summerhill (even back then, I recall that a pint–about  500 ml.–of strawberries cost over $4.00 at that store), or how she flew to New York last weekend to pick up the very best fleur de sel (because really, you simply couldn’t use anything less).  

Despite the fact that our personal orbits existed in completely different universes, I still enjoyed the recipes, the skillfully selected wines that accompanied them, and the stolen glances around the rest of the house as I ostensibly attended to our cooking.  And, of course, it was always rewarding to have an evening out with Gemini I.

curriedsoupclose1

Most of the dishes I encountered in those classes, I will never make again, either because they contain ingredients I no longer eat, or because they contain ingredients far too extravagant for everyday consumption (last I heard, her courses had morphed into all-out travel tours, wherein participants flew to Tuscany for a week to cook and live together in a villa.  Who are these people, and how can I be written into the will? Just asking).

Still, almost despite herself, in one class Ms. C.B. provided us with this recipe for Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings.  And while the original soup contained chicken broth, butter and wheat flour, it was a cinch to convert.

I’ve loved this chowder since the first time I slurped it back in the 1990s.  It’s one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make (and while the dumplings are marvelous and do elevate the broth an echelon, you can just as easily forego the sophistication, toss in some elbow pasta, and happily spoon this up for a quick weekday dinner). Once the veggies are chopped, it’s a matter of a quick sauté, a splash of prepared broth, and a sprinkling of ONE spice: mild curry powder. It also makes use of an underused, but very tasty, root veggie: celery root.

It sounds almost too simple, I know; but believe me, the result will astonish you. The varying levels of sweetness from the different roots, along with the whisper of curry, combine for a soothing, warming and entirely captivating dish. This is one soup you’ll want to stay at home for. In fact, it’s the perfect soup to charm those eligible guys–that is, once you find them. 

This month’s No Croutons Required is asking for soups or salads with pasta.  I’m hoping these dumplings count. The event was started by Lisa and Holler and is this month being hosted by Holler.

Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings

(adapted from a very old recipe from The Art of Food Cooking School)

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

curriedsouptop

This is the perfect soup to serve to guests; the dumplings elevate this to a fancier level, yet the soup is down to earth and very appealing.  For a gluten-free option, omit the dumplings or use your favorite dumpling recipe with GF flour.

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

Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 12, 2008

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

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.

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

chiliside

The three of you who were reading my blog last year at this time may recall that I am not a fan of winter.  “What?” the rest of you ask, “and you from Montreal?” 

Well, I’m here to tell you that being born in a certain place doesn’t automatically predispose one kindly toward the weather of said location (nor does it predispose one to winter sports; in other words, no, that’s not a tatoo on my rear, but a lingering bruise from a skating accident back in 1981).  To me, the ideal climate would be temperate, neither too hot nor too cool (I’m thinking between 68 and 80 Fahrenheit, or 20 and 22 Celsius), with sun about 95% of the time (just enough rain to ensure there’s no drought) and terrain surrounded by lush, grassy, fragrant forests with treetops that sway and quietly rustle in the breeze, like Hawaiians doing the hula. Oh, and no bugs.  And no snakes.  Or spiders.  And, what the heck, may as well throw in a yellow brick road, while you’re at it.*

But here we are, too far into November to deny the imminent crystalline entombment, and I must face the fact: it will be winter soon.  And what is there to do?  Generally, when I’m feeling down, my options fall into two categories:  1) food-related; and 2) dog-related.  As I write this, The Girls are sleeping off their early walk with the HH; and so, it seems, the next step is alimentary, my dear.

While baking is always my first instinct in the kitchen, I do enjoy cooking as well.  These days, it’s rare for me to spend any more time than necessary making dinner (read: 20 minutes, tops), but yesterday, I felt the need for the extended, meditative experience of slow cooking. In the morning, I loaded the dutch oven with dried beans and water; and by 7:00 PM, we were feasting on my age-old, many-times-refined, much-tweaked recipe for chili with mixed beans and “ground turkey.” 

chilitop

[Seems I still haven’t quite mastered the focus on my dandy new camera, but you can still make out the meaty-looking crumbles in there, can’t you?]

When I was a kid, I used to think chili acquired its name because it was meant to be eaten in cold weather.  While it’s true that this soup-cum-stew is best served in cool weather, it wasn’t until I began to read up on Indian cuisine that I discovered the name actually referred to a spice blend often used in the mix. Trusty Wikipedia tells me that Chili con Carne is the official dish of Texas; and that particular bowlful, it turns out, is the version made without beans.  Most of us, I’d wager, still think of beans when we think of chili, however. 

I also think of chili as the chameleon of stews: years ago, a friend who’d just returned to Canada from three years in Mexico served me mole, another form of chili; the notion of sharp spices with just an undertone of bitterness seemed immensely appealing (don’t be alarmed at the coffee and chocolate in this version!).  And a recipe once given to me by a former student from India featured simmered, pulled beef and a variety of curry spices with lentils. 

I first cooked chili when I was an impoverished graduate student living in Windsor, Ontario.  The recipe developed over the years, and what was once a fairly basic vegetarian chili has morphed over the years into my own version of the dish.  I include frozen tofu that’s been defrosted and crumbled to resemble ground meat (in fact, the first time I made this for the HH, he assumed the tofu was ground chicken. Perfect for skeptics!). The HH and I also both agree that chili should be more of a stew than a soup, so I simmer mine until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the beans are suspended in a kind of spicy tomato sauce.  If you prefer yours thinner, simply cook a bit less or add a bit more water. 

Eventually, my own additions became so numerous that even my enormous dutch oven was barely adequate to hold the stew, and I had to stop adding ingredients.  As a result, this makes a huge batch, and enough to freeze in single-serve containers that will sustain you through the winter.  While you slurp it up, just imagine that you’re somewhere warm, and green.

Oh, and with all these legumes in here, I thought this would be the perfect submission to My Legume Love Affair, the monthly event started by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook and this month hosted by Simona at Briciole. 

Chili to Last Through the Winter

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

chilitop2

This chili provides a thick, spicy, filling and very substantial meal. Don’t let the long ingredient list deter you—this recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze for later, and it’s definitely worth the effort!

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

I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly, or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required.  Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.”]

[Oh, and before I continue:  notice the photo?  Notice anything different?  Um, like, actual detail on the food?  Well, this here is my very first shot with my new, stunningly beautiful, too-complex-for-my-current-level-of-knowledge, can’t-believe-how-heavy-this-thing-is, smashing and awesome and really, you shouldn’t have but I LOVE IT camera!  It was my birthday gift from The HH last week, and  I am thrilled to bits with it! (I can’t wait to actually learn how to use it.) 😉  For now, I’m still learning, so please excuse the awkward and unretouched photos that may appear here for a while. . . but wow, just look at those beans!!]

My friend The Architect married his highschool sweetheart this past weekend. Well, not literally.  You see, they didn’t actually know each other in high school. However, she teaches high school, and she’s also his sweetheart; so, close enough.  As both of them are extremely involved in environmental issues and preserving the local habitat, the wedding was an elegant event in a bucolic setting just north of where we live.  And, true to form, the ceremony was outdoors, amid the towering maples and the burbling streams and the chattering squirrels.  Oh, and the pelting rain and the occasional snowflake and the sodden leaves being torn from the trees and whipping across our faces path.  Because, you see, it was late October.  In CANADA.  (Let’s just say, I wore earmuffs to the ceremony).*

Still, it was a joyful, enjoyable affair and the HH and I ate, drank, and danced like it was 1999.  After so much weekend revelry, I decided I wanted something simple for dinner yesterday.  

Now, it’s possible I’ve mentioned before that I am basically a lazy cook.  Extremely lazy.  And, as I (now) do with chickpeas for the occasional mock tuna salad, I also tend to keep cans of baked beans on hand for those occasional evenings when I crave their sweet, soft, quick and filling nourishment. 

I didn’t even realize there existed specifically vegan baked beans until I was an undergrad in university, when I first lived (and cooked) on my own. Because my mother was an unacknowledged vegetarian herself, the only kind of baked beans she ever used were the “in tomato sauce” flavor (naturally vegan). In university, however, my room mate was the grocery shopper.  One week, I requested canned baked beans, and she brought home the bacon beans.  I opened the can in anticipation of my usual leguminous fulfillment.  What I encountered, instead, was a single cube of pasty, greyish-white, gelatinous pork fat.  At first, I couldn’t imagine what it was, but then I read the label and. . . wow, you wouldn’t believe how those saucy beans stick to the inside of the garbage can.

I love to eat baked beans just as they are, with a plump spelt bagel torn into pieces that I use to sop up the sauce.  The Nurse doctors hers up with kethcup, mustard, maple syrup, corn kernels (!) and hot dogs (blech); the CFO makes hers from scratch (also vegan, but that’s just a coincidence).  Lately, I’ve been trying to eat greens every day, so I thought about combining the beans with something dark and leafy.  As it happened, my mind was already on steamed greens since I read about kale boiled in stock on Orangette (but 30 minutes?  Molly, is that really necessary?) and Sally’s latest post on Beans and Greens.  I figured, why not use up some chard I had in the house?  Molly served her kale with eggs; and don’t those beans have a naturally ovoid shape?  It was meant to be(an).

You won’t believe how easy this dish is.  I loved the textural contrast of the beans’ exterior firmness and slightly creamy interior, set against the soft yet springy chard; the sweet-smoky bean sauce and the astringent bitterness of the greens, in every bite.  Of course, you could also simply toss the two ingredients together, but those beans look so much more jewel-like when nestled sweetly inside the wreath of chard, don’t you think? A perfect way to follow up that weekend of celebrations.

I’ll be away visiting the CFO this weekend, so I’m going to miss all the Halloween fun!  However, thanks to the magic of WordPress, I do have a Halloween-inspired post for y’all over the weekend. 

Have fun Trick or Treating, everyone!

Baked Beans Nested on Greens

1 large bunch of your favorite leafy greens, washed, trimmed, sliced thin (chop and use stems if possible)

about 1/2 cup vegetable stock, any type

1 can of your favorite baked beans (or homemade if you have them), heated through

Heat the broth in a nonstick frypan or dutch oven over medium heat. Place the stips of greens over the liquid, press down to cover as much as possible, and cover the pan or pot.  Reduce heat to low, and cook the greens until just wilted, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the beans according to the directions on the can.  Arrange the greens in a wreath on a plate, and gently spoon the hot beans in the center for a nested effect.  Eat.  Makes 2 servings.  (Quick.  Easy. Tasty.  So simple, a little birdy could almost make it.)

Mum, the beans look okay, but if that little birdy isn’t doing anything else, you know we’d be happy to, um, dispose of it for you. . .

* Let’s also just say, I want to move to California.  Or New South Wales.  Or the Bahamas.  But no, I’m stuck here, where I wore earmuffs, on October 26th.  The older I get, the more I realize: comfort trumps fashion, every time.  And–why, yes, I do believe this marks the official launch of my “the weather is too cold I hate it I have to move away from here somebody save me” winter weather whingeing.  And–lucky you!–it continues unabated, for the next 6 months!

Date Pasta

October 27, 2008

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

[No, not “date” as in “dried fruit with pit and high sugar content.”  I mean “date” as in the classic Saturday night event, “evening out with someone you like and with whom you might like to be, um, romantic.” ]

It’s been a whirlwind weekend, first, with a birthday dinner (THANKS for all those amazing well-wishes, everyone!) followed immediately by a wedding (the birthday dinner featured the HH and me; the wedding did not).  More on both next time, once I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.  Today, I’m just as excited to tell you about Date Pasta instead.

When we were undergrads in our 20s, one of the things that welded the friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was our singleton status.  No matter how many relationships and breakups the rest of our friends experienced, and no matter how many blind dates, dating services, personal ads, university parties or fix-ups we two endured, Sterlin and I somehow managed to remain perpertually alone (well, I guess technically we weren’t “alone,” since we spent most Saturday nights with each other–but you know what I mean). 

Being permanently unattached until our mid-twenties (okay, fine, late twenties) didn’t mean we ever stopped trying, however. This pasta dish was Sterlin’s go-to recipe pretty much every time she wished to impress a potential boyfriend, or every time she scored a second date.  It was quick, it was easy, it was foolproof, guys seemed to like it, and–most important–it was the only dish she knew how to make. 

The guys in question, upon being served the pasta, would inevitably utter an appropriately impressed response, then spend an engaging evening drinking wine, gobbling up the pasta, and raving about how good it was, before leaving and never calling again. (What’s up with that, anyway?  Was it something we said?  Was it our nerdy demeanor?  Were they just not that into us? Or were they perhaps paralyzed by our incomparable wit, intelligence and (reasonably) good looks? I guess we’ll never know. ) Despite its inability to produce a lasting relationship, Date Pasta was so good that Sterlin kept making it throughout our university career.  

In fact, I was also so impressed with the dish (and ever hopeful about the fact that guys seemed to like it) that I asked for the recipe, and proceeded to cook it up dozens of times myself over the years.  It wasn’t until the HH and I were happily ensconced in our current long-term relationship and sharing the same abode that I dared to cook it for him. 

And then–magically–when the HH ate it, the curse was broken; he was able to love Date Pasta, and still love me, too.  

I hadn’t eaten Date Pasta in years, though.  First of all, the HH and I no longer go on “dates” (well, I suppose you could say our weekly sushi lunch together might qualify, but still). More importantly, however, the ingredient list of the original recipe contained spicy capicola salami, cut into cubes and flash-fried along with the other ingredients.  These days, I feel about salami sort of the same way I feel about steak.  When I altered my diet ten years ago, I placed the recipe in a file folder, and forgot about it. 

This past week, the HH’s friend the Engineering Guru came over for dinner.  Could it be that he resembled a guy I fancied in high school?  Or maybe it was that he’s tall and strapping and I know he, like the HH, is an avid meat eater?  Whatever the reason, Date Pasta came to mind.  The HH even remembered it from our early days and enthusiastically coerced browbeat badgered encouraged me to whip it up again.  So I did what I often do when cooking for the HH and me: I made a huge batch of the recipe in a meatless format I could enjoy, then let the guys add their own meat to their portions. 

Why did I never think of this before?  All these years, I’ve been avoiding Date Pasta, and missing out on this remarkably easy and delicious dinner! It’s so chock full of pungent, toothsome, salty and briny add-ins that it almost doesn’t need the pasta, and certainly doesn’t require the meat.  Who knows?  Maybe if I’d made it this way from the start, I’d have had more success in those early dateless years.  (Then again, I would never have enjoyed all those Saturday nights with Sterlin).  And so, Date Pasta, welcome back (can’t say that I miss the singleton status, though).

Oh, and now that I’ve finally made another pasta dish, I’m happy to submit this to Melissa at The Cooking Diva, who’s hosting Presto Pasta Nights, the weekly event originated by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Date (or any other occasion) Pasta

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

While this is great as is, if you’re craving a meat stand-in, I think this pasta would be phenomenal with some cubed, smoked tofu as well.

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD 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 entry, 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 second entry on coconut.]

First:  thank you all, most sincerely, for all your kind words regarding The Girls and the Ordeal of the Raisins. Both dogs are fine (my bank account, on the other hand, will suffer for some time–but that’s my penance, I reckon).  And I’m also glad that the post seems to have provided some new information to some of you, who may not have been aware that raisins are often poisonous to the canines in our lives. 

In fact, I was so rattled the other day that I neglected to mention something really great:  I won a contest!  And this time, folks, I truly felt the love! The eloquent, clever and enormously crafty Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl recently conducted a contest to win one of her handcrafted felt change purses, and my comment was (randomly) chosen to win!  Whoo-hoo!  I am utterly thrilled and cannot wait to receive my prize in the mail.  I will, of course, blog all about it when it arrives. 🙂 Thanks, Shellyfish!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled Lucky Comestible!

You know how some people are just so eccentric, so outré, so larger-than-life that they may as well be a caricature of themselves? Think Jack Palance at the Oscars.  Think Richard Simmons.  Think my mother’s old friend Ms. Gabor.

Say what? 

Ms. Gabor (a pseudonym, bien sûr) was one of my mother’s regular Mah Jong ladies who came to our house Thursday afternoons. Long before the era of elective plastic surgery, Ms. G managed to appear entirely plastic most of the time, all on her own. Likely in her 50s back then, she balanced under a towering, shellacked and elaborately braided beehive hairdo, pinned in place with a network of rhinestone-studded hair clips. She wore eyeliner too heavy, décolletage too revealing, and an attitude far too abrasive.  But what I remember most about Ms. G was how she coped with summer.  Because in the summer, our house–lacking any air conditioning–was not just hot; it was “feels-like-Vesuvius” hot; “the-smoke-detector-is-shrieking” hot; “someone-call-Denis-Leary-to-Rescue-Me” hot. 

On those blistering summer days when my mom and her friends played “Maj,” we kids would return home from school to a tableau of four women, reposing in a haze of smoke (everyone except my mom smoked cigarettes) and humidity, most of them dripping sweat and fanning themselves with handkerchiefs or napkins. And Ms. G, elbows on the table, calmly studying her tiles and wearing a black bra.  Yes, you read that correctly; it was not her black bra as seen through a sheer blouse; no, no; it was her black bra as seen on her torso because she had taken off her blouse and placed it on the back of her chair

Dahlink, vould you be so kind as to get me a glass of soda?” she’d inquire in her heavy Hungarian accent, as soon as I entered the room.  Then I’d be forced to march to the fridge, pour the club soda, and hand her the glass while pretending that I didn’t notice she was wearing nothing more than a bra!  Seeing this vision on a weekly basis may have, I suspect, traumatized me just as much as did seeing The Girls eating raisins the other day.

Well, my mother regularly made a dessert for the ladies that was her one coconut-based specialty.  She called it “Roly Poly,” and it was basically a layer of oily, dense dough rolled out to a rectangle, topped with (in this order) a thick slather of strawberry jam; sprinkles of toasted walnuts; a smattering of raisins; randomly scattered chunks of chopped Turkish Delight, and a final light shower of shredded coconut.  The entire monstrocity was rolled up jelly-roll style, sliced into pinwheels and baked.  It’s possible that the Turkish Delight, with its vaguely floral, vaguely alcoholic smell, is what pushed the roly poly over the edge from the “yucky parental dessert” category to the “makes me want to vomit” category, but I have an inkling it was more closely connected to the image of Ms. G munching mindlessly on a slice, crumbs floating gently into the cleavage on her black lace bra.

I did, eventually, get over my coconut aversion, once I met the HH and found he adored the stuff. But the inspiration for today’s recipe was neither Roly Poly nor the HH; it was two of the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook. (By the way, have I mentioned lately that I ADORE my cookbook testers??)

Since these two women are gluten intolerant, I assumed they’d attempt the GF recipes exclusively (about 30% of the recipes will be gluten free).  What I’ve found, instead, is that these two have willingly adapted some of the original recipes to render them gluten-free!  I’ve been amazed at and inspired by their ingenuity, and decided I had to dive in and finally start creating more gluten-free goods myself. This coconut series seemed the perfect place to start out; I already had a recipe in mind that met my NAG requirements, so converting it to gluten-free was the next logical step.

Originally given to me by a friend in university, this recipe was titled, simply, “Coconut Loaf,” and called for eggs, butter, white sugar and white flour.  Using gluten-free flours and finally trying out some xanthan gum as a binder, I came up with this combination.  I’m happy to say that the resultant loaves were just as light as–if not lighter than–the original, with a tender, delicate crumb and ethereal coconut flavor. The HH pronounced this a hit as he bit into his second loaf, remarking, “The texture is so light, it reminds me of a Twinkie.”  (To the HH, this is the highest praise one can confer on a cake.)

I, too, was very pleased with the result, and would certainly make these again, gluten free or not. Even if you are able to eat gluten, you might want to try these out as an alternative to your usual cupcakes; the preponderance of legume flour (from the beans and chickpeas) makes these an abundant source of both protein and fiber, more so than most other baked goods. I’m sure the Maj ladies would approve.

I’m also contributing this post to the Living With Food Allergies blog carnival that takes place every month and is hosted by Rational Jenn.

Finally, if you’ve recently posted any coconut recipes you’d like me to share, just leave the link here in the comments or send it via email, and I’ll add it to the list below!

Gluten Free Coconut Mini Loaves or Cupcakes

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

These are light and not too sweet, with a pronounced coconut flavor.  For fancier loaves, drizzle with your favorite glaze.

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

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE BY CLICKING HERE.

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth entry, 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. ]

Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household.  This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .

The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home.  Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal.  So far, so good.

As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:

Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers.  In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each.  I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began. 

“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.

“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.

“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!!  Apple-raisin??!!!  RAISIN???!!!!”  How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . . 

I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late.  They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal!  Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse.  Horrors!

In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do.  My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded. 

And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins. 

Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).

Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today.  I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series.  (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).  

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.

Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white “meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit.  In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us.  Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant,  coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems. 

In nutrition school, we learned that the saturated fats in coconut, unlike those in other foods with a high sat fat content (such as meat or butter), are considered “medium chain fatty acids,” which don’t increase cholesterol levels or contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.  In fact, most of the studies previously done on coconut oil focused on hydrogenated varieties, and hydrogenation renders any fats unhealthy

Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic). 

One thing that’s indisputable is its place as first choice when you’re seeking an oil to cook with on high heat.  Because of its saturated status, coconut oil is the oil least damaged by heat, which makes it great for frying (even though I know you never fry foods, right?) or baking.  And because it’s solid at room temperature (as long as your room is below 76F), coconut oil makes a great butter substitute, and can be used interchangeably with butter. At the organic market where I used to sell my baked goods, one of the vendors was known to eat it off a spoon.  I never quite achieved that lofty accomplishment, but do use it for stir-fries and baking.  

Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school.  An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) .  I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.

As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk?  It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce.  I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat. 

Finally, there’s the coconut itself.  Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute.  I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking.  Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar).  This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking.  For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).

Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.

According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage?  And yet, it really works.

Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.

“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”

Cabbage T’horin

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

[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask?  Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow.  I did eat the T’horin with them, though.]

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