Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

Pre-Blog Entry Blog Entry

August 14, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

Just poking my head in now that I finally see an end to all this work.  I wish I could tell you I’ve been away so long because I’ve been galavanting in Europe, or galavanting in Australia, or even galavanting in the Muskokas–but nay. Sadly, I’ve just been entangled by a monstrous pile of assignments to mark. 

Have you seen the movie The Brother From Another Planet?  Well, right about now, think of me as that brother, at the instant he tumbles from the sky and lands on Earth. 

It’s sort of like that spacey feeling you get after shopping in a huge mall for hours at a time. You know the one:  you’re moving at breakneck speed–say, during the holidays–and you’ve been searching all afternoon but still can’t find anything for Aunt Miranda or cousin Sheila or baby Pookie. And then you finally realize you haven’t eaten in, like, four hours and your legs are weak and the air is somehow thinner than usual and it’s definitely time to sit down. 

Or how about that numb feeling you get when you’ve been sitting in the dentist’s chair for an hour and half while s/he goes spelunking in your molars repeatedly, asking you all kinds of questions which of course you can’t answer and your jaw is stiff as a rusty hinge and your saliva’s been sucked out of your mouth through a plastic tube and you no longer feel anything because the entire lower left quadrant of your face is frozen? 

Or perhaps it’s that stunned feeling you get when you’ve been arguing with the Customer Service Rep at the credit card office for more than 30 minutes in a vain attempt to find out why there’s an extra $472.06 charged on your card–which you never spent, certainly don’t recognize and don’t particularly wish to pay for–and now your throat is getting sore and your voice is getting hoarse and you simply can’t believe how dense this person is being and you’re beginning to despair that you may never see an end to this struggle (or ever see that $472.06, again, either)? 

Well, after almost three weeks (three weeks??  Where does the time go??) of absence from this blog and almost 300 assignments under my belt (it’s a pretty wide belt, in case you hadn’t noticed), that’s just about how I feel.  But since yesterday was exam day, our term is now almost over–and next week, I plan to return here, refreshed and eager to share. 

Well, The Girls are almost as excited as I am for my return to blogging–after all, this means they’ll reprise  their starring roles here at DDD, as well:

[“We’re so glad to be the center of attention again, Mum! When do we get to eat something?”]

In addition to all the marking, I’ve been devoting lots of thought to my dietary habits, inspired by Kathryn and her “31 Days to a Better Diet” series.  So there will, once again, be some changes in what I eat for a while.  I’m also excited to share news about a project I embarked on just about a year ago, even before I began this blog.  And I’ll have a book review as well–it will be a busy week!

I’ve sorely missed blog “chatting,” hearing from all of you, sharing recipes and leaving comments at all of the blogs I read.  Looking forward to getting back in the swing! 

Until then, have a great week, everyone. 🙂

Hi–and Hiatus

July 27, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almond-rice balls:

Gluten-free berries ‘n cream flan:

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

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

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

Ten Photo Meme

July 17, 2008

I must say, I never expected my little apple butter sauce to cause such a stir (no pun intended–oh, all right, pun intended).  It always amazes me which blog entries elicit a strong reaction while others, like Andy Garcia, might be on par with their (more popular) contemporaries, but for some reason still don’t garner the recognition I think they deserve.  I’m glad so many of you liked the idea of apple butter in a BBQ sauce on tempeh.  (And now the pressure’s on to create some other ostensibly innovative or creative recipe for my next blog entry. . . . collard cake? Turnip pasta? Eggplant cookies ?–oh, forgot, I actually did create that one).

Well, I’ve got nothing on the cutting board at the moment, so I’m afraid it will have to wait just a bit.

You see, I’ve been spending a lot of time at my computer recently, working on that pile of papers and online course work.  Mostly, I’ve been feeling frustrated because (a) the pile seems to be expanding of its own accord (sort of like my waistline); and (b) I’ve been spending less time focused on blogging as a result.  I’ve also been feeling a bit creeped out, as it happens, since our landlord is having the exterior of the house painted, and every time I glance toward the window to catch a thought or a glimpse of the sky outside, I’m confronted with a close-up of a man’s paint-splattered face, as if our window were a giant flat-screen TV right beside my desk. 

Well, a couple of days ago I was tagged for a meme by the lovely and talented Holler of Tinned Tomatoes.  As it turns out, I’ve already prepared and consumed my salad (twice!) for Holler and Lisa’s upcoming No Croutons Required Event; unfortunately, I haven’t yet had time to write the blog entry about it.  Instead, I decided to focus on some earlier blog photos to send Holler’s (and your) way.

The meme asks for your “top ten” blog photos.  As I mentioned in my comment to Holler, I had to laugh at that request.  As someone who knows nothing about photography and owns the cheapest camera possible (okay, a disposable might be cheaper), I never really focused that much on how I photograph the food; it’s only recently that I’ve begun to think, “hmmm, a better camera sure would make blogging easier.”  For now, a new camera will stay on the birthday wish-list.

I wondered how to select ten, when it was so hard to choose even one that I really liked. “Do I choose the top ten in terms of page hits? Or the top ten in terms of aesthetic appeal?  Or should I emulate Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe, and choose the ten photos that meant the most to me?” I decided to go with Johanna, who always seems level headed and whose logic I like.  

And so, here goes:

10) Spiced Cauliflower Soup

I usually take photos of food close up, partly because I have an extremely small surface area of the kitchen table that attracts full sunlight, and partly because the rest of my kitchen usually looks like the post-cyclone scene in The Wizard of Oz  and I’d be mortified if it got into a photo (unless, of course, I decided to show it to you myself , as in this blog entry). The cauliflower soup photo was the first time I’d consciously attempted to “style” a shot, and the feedback about the photo was so positive, I will always have a soft spot for this one.

9) A Year, Anew

flutesnewyear.jpg

Poor quality photo from a neophyte blogger, but this pic of four of my champagne flutes on December 31, 2007 has sentimental value.  Ever since I moved into my first apartment as an adult, I’ve collected individual, unique champagne flutes, and many were received as gifts (in fact, one of the first gifts the HH ever gave me was a handcrafted pewter-stemmed flute). Each glass has its particular story or background, even if the story is, “I found this for 25 cents at a garage sale!”.  I’ve sampled champagne from each and every one of the 21 in my collection, and they are all my favorites. 

8) Butterscotch Mousse Pie

This photo is dear to my heart, both because the recipe is from the first cookbook I reviewed on this site, and also because the book itself was the prize for a contest I won. I loved the actual pie as well (hmm–should really make that one again), and I know that Nava liked the photo, so it means a lot to me.

7)  Mint Smoothie

In real life, the drink in this photo was a plain, dull, swamp-like olive green. . .not the most appetizing color for a food photo. But somehow, wrapping that napkin around the stem of the wine glass elevated the smoothie to something elegant and even romantic.  And since the taste of the drink was truly sensational, I was glad I could make it seem more appealing.

6) Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

I love this recipe.  This was a dish I re-vamped from an old recipe, one I found in a cookbook I’ve had forever.  The HH and I feasted on this tagine many times over the winter, and I was happy to see that readers liked it, too. When I look at this photo, I can almost see the rich, sweet-and-savory sauce and the multiple layers and flavors in the casserole.  Comfort in a bowl! 

5) Old Reliables: Salads You Can Count On

Strangely, though I’m not really a salad person, I love this photo.  And the salad isn’t even dressed in it!  But I think the simplicity of the veggies and the bright colors allow the purity and beauty of the fresh food to shine through.  When I know I should eat salad and don’t feel like it, I just look at this photo.

4) Chaser Photo: If Vodka is an Elsie, then Beer is a Chaser

chaserhotgirl.jpg

This is my favorite photo of Chaser on the blog.  This photo of her as a pup was taken on a very hot day on our old deck, after the little tornado had leapt across the lawn, nipped at the water hose, chased balls, eaten some grass, growled at Elsie, shredded a rope toy, and tried to chew the plastic chair leg before her.  She finally stopped to take a break and pant a bit–and I snapped the photo. I think the impish nature is encapsulated in her lolling tongue, the mischievous glint in her eye, and the end of her collar askew.  Is she cute, or what?? 

3) Elsie Photo: This iz not a blg entree

elsietyping.jpg 

This is my favorite photo of Elsie on the blog.  The HH and I still erupt into paroxysms of hysteria when we see this.  I was taking a break from blogging at the time, but Elsie simply couldn’t resist updating all of you.  Notice that she types with a mini dog biscuit at the ready, beside her left paw.  Really, she is such a remarkable dog!

2) French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries

This was one of my favorite recipes I’ve made so far.  Besides the intense purples and pinks being so visually appealing, the soufflé itself was easy to make and came out delicious–light, fluffy, moist, sweet (but not too sweet), fruity, and all around irresistible.  I caught this photo after the HH and I had each enjoyed a huge serving and would have liked more.  

1) Avocado Mayonnaise

I think this recent photo is my favorite so far (if you exclude the dogs’ photos), mostly because of its simplicity. I love the contrast of the green on the red, the fact that there are basically only 2 colors in the photo, and that the grounds of pepper are actually sharply visible (my cheap camera performs, for once!). I also loved the taste and texture of the mayo, and it’s become a staple recipe in our house. In fact, it makes me want to go and have some right now.

After selecting the photos and reading through this entry, it suddenly struck me:  THERE ARE NO PHOTOS OF CHOCOLATE HERE!  Astonishing, truly.  It’s not that I no longer love chocolate or that it’s slipped from Number One Food Spot in my esteem.  No; it’s just that I haven’t been able to adequately capture its magical essence in any of my amateur photos.  Gives me something to shoot for in the next 200 or so blog entries. . .

I’m not going to tag anyone specific, but I will say that it was a fun challenge to come up with the selections, so if you’re interested, please share!

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

You know, there are days when I just marvel at how much my life has been enriched by joining the world of blogging. I’m amazed at how many positive experiences this little outlet for self-expression, culinary creativity and the occasional star-struck reference to my favorite soap opera has brought my way.

At the forefront, of course, is YOU–the readers and commenters.  What an inspiring group of compassionate, intelligent, witty and loyal people you are!  Thank you for coming back here on a regular basis; thank you for your thoughtful comments (I am, literally, thrilled every time I see one appear at the end of a blog entry–and they keep me coming back here, too); and thank you for your feedback and knowledgeable advice (I’m so excited to start cooking from my recently-acquired cookbooks, courtesy of your suggestions–yay Crescent Dragonwagon!).  Truly, a blog is a sorry, desolate place without its readers.

Along the way, I’ve also discovered many other blogs and bloggers, and what a revelation that has been. I was dumbfounded the other day when I realized there are now approximately 150 blogs on my Google Reader, and I seem to discover new and intriguing blogs every day (and I promise, they will all eventually make it to my blog roll).  Where were all these talented writers hiding before the advent of blogs?  Whether primarily for the recipes or mostly for the prose, I delight in reading every one and perk up each time Google informs me of a new post by a favorite blogger. Lately, I’ve been a bit remiss with my own comments on other blogs, but please know that I do read regularly and am enjoying all your posts!

Speaking of great bloggers, yesterday I had the unique pleasure of actually meeting another Toronto-area blogger, Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen .  As you’d expect from her posts, Giz is witty, sharp, and very, very funny. We chatted like two teenaged chums who meet up again at the 10-year high school reunion, gabbing and giggling and catching up on what we’ve been doing over the past decade.  In fact, our conversation flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that we were on our way out the door of the coffee shop before we realized we hadn’t even touched on the topic we’d ostensibly met to discuss–Giz’s “slimdown challenge” to me from a while back! Thanks, Giz, for a great start to my morning!

As many other bloggers have noted, blogging also forces enourages one to try out new recipes.  In her recent 100th post, VeggieGirl mentioned how each blog entry represents a new recipe (can it be that the HH and I have eaten 186 new dishes–not counting all those that don’t make it to the blog–since last October??).  And part of this impetus to cook novel food arrives in the form of blog events, another aspect of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy. 

These days, it seems there’s a new blog event posted almost daily; I sorely wish I could participate in all of them.  Unfortunately, my schedule at the moment prohibits too much experimentation in the kitchen.  It’s currently end of semester at the college and my marking, like all the ripe, luscious seasonal fruit, is at its peak.  I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just might trump the CN tower as the world’s tallest freestanding structure.  And while preparing foods for blog events is admittedly more colorful than marking essays (which involves only black and red, after all), it wouldn’t do to set aside the former for the latter (well, not too often, anyway).

Still, when I read about the Healthy Cooking: Eat Well, Live Well event hosted by Mansi at Fun and Food, I knew I had to submit something.  After all, isn’t the very raison d’être of this blog, more or less, “to create healthy, delicious foods”?  (That, and to provide The Girls a forum in which to air their observations and opinions, of course). 

(“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that.  You know we HATE having our opinions squelched.”)

I thought about what to prepare, but my mind came up blank.  Then, while attempting to clear the non-marking clutter (eg., half-filled tea mug, empty water bottle, digital camera, sticky notes with recipe ideas, cookbooks previously used for blog entries, magazines previously used for blog inspiration, my checkbook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula [the novel, not the vampire], stray Chaser hairs, my journal, an anniversary card from the HH, and my calculator) off my desk the other night, I came across June’s issue of Cooking Light.  Where have I been living, under a rock or something? I mean, I’m aware there’s such as thing as zucchini bread, the moist and delectable quick loaf that’s a staple in many a baking household. I am also aware that your classic carrot cake is often studded with bits of juicy pineapple.  But zucchini and pineapple?  Together? It just never occurred to me.  Yet there it was, staring at me from the pages of Cooking Light.

The funny thing is, the magazine’s recipe was a “lightened-up” version of an older, original recipe, that contained 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, and 2 cups sugar.  The Cooking Light version cut back to 2 eggs (plus an additional 1/2 cup chemicals made to taste like eggs), 2/3 cup oil and 2 cups (2 CUPS!!) white sugar.  Granted, the recipe yields 2 loaves, but still–an entire cup per loaf?  Seemed a bit excessive to me.

And so, I decided to lighten the already-lightened version.  (Is that sort of like asking Michael Jackson to bleach his skin?)  Seemed to me I could accomplish a fine job of it by reducing the oil even more, and most definitely by reducing the sugar and replacing it with natural sweeteners instead.  My recent avocado kick provided yet another brilliant twist.  My ratiocination went something like this: zucchini is green.  Avocado is green.  Why not add some more green to the green, and use avocado purée instead of egg in this recipe?  Along with the Omega-3’s in the flax seeds, the avocado provides a good dose of monounsaturated fats to the batter, allowing me to reduce the oil even further. And so, my own idiosyncratic variation of zucchini-pineapple loaf was born.

The bread is fragrant with cinnamon, sweet with pineapple and soft, melting bits of chopped dates throughout.  The zucchini contributes a certain depth of flavor and even more moisture–in fact, this bread treads the very limits of moistness; any more moist, and it might not qualify as a solid.  The flavors meld and intensify once the bread is cooled and rested, so it’s even more tasty the morning after it’s made.  And like blogging, it will enrich your day with a healthy dose of sweetness and discovery.

Zucchini and Pineapple Mini Loaves

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

A healthy, hearty version of a heavier standard, this bread mixes up easily and is a great recipe for using up leftover zucchini, pineapple, or overripe avocado.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here’s what I’m proposing: 

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

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

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

Here are the possible prizes you can choose:

* Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (Burton)

* ExtraVeganZa (Matthias)

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

* ReFresh (Tal and Houston)

* The Gluten-Free Vegan (O’Brien)

*  Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles (Bennett)

* Vegan Express (Atlas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Things

April 21, 2008

Well, the HH and I just returned yesterday from a quick weekend jaunt to Montreal to visit with family and friends (more on that next time), which means I haven’t had time to cook over the past few days.  A food post will have to wait, and so. . .  

Since I was tagged recently by the lovely A-K of Swell Vegan to tell 5 things about myself, I thought I’d share those those today instead.  Spending 6 hours in the car yesterday did afford some time to think of new things to include (which seems to be getting harder and harder, as the blog itself more or less broadcasts such info daily!).  Here goes:

1) Even though I was born and raised in Montreal, I am one of those few ex-Montrealers who prefers Toronto to my native city.  I moved here in 1983 and feel as if Toronto is where I really grew up and developed an adult identity.  I love that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world; that it’s number three in the world (only after New York and London) for live theater; that it hosts the “premier[e] film festival in North America” as well as North America’s largest literary festival; that it’s the original home of comedic greats like Mike Myers, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Jim Carrey; that is has fantastic, world-class restaurants, as well as personal favorites like this and this and this. So come on, visit!  I’d be happy to show you around when you’re here. 🙂 (And no, I don’t work for the tourist bureau!)

2) I am a real sucker for sappy movies and even some television commercials: like every female character in Sleepless in Seattle who was confronted with that scene in An Affair to Remember, I turn on the waterworks if I watch anything sentimental (and especially anything with sad puppies. . .*sigh*).  When my sisters and I were kids, we’d tease my mother mercilessly about her “soft” streak.  For years, I was mortified to have inherited her mushiness; more recently, however, I’ve just come to accept it.  So, I’m a sap; what the heck.  (The first time the HH observed this trait in me, he had glanced over as we sat beside each other in a darkened movie theater; there I was, silently watching the film, my cheeks streaming with tears. At first, he found this odd behaviour a bit alarming; nowadays, he just rolls his eyes and hands me a tissue).

3) Some people are ocean people; some are woodsy-forest people.  I’m in the latter group (it’s one of my “dog-like qualities,” the HH tells me).  One of my friends was literally so drawn to the ocean that she quit her job and moved across the country to live near it.  My own dream home would be situated smack in the middle of a huge forested lot, surrounded by meadows and trees of every kind and trails along which The Girls could gambol to their hearts’ content. I love the smells of the forest–pine trees, damp mossy patches after a rainfall, maple sap, fresh grass and even the scent of dandelions.  And since walking is my favorite form of exercise, I love a good walk through the woods (though am not a huge fan of the creepy creatures who inhabit it–viz, bugs, snakes, spiders, etc.) This isn’t to say that I don’t wish to remain close to civilization, of course–just that I want enough space around my home to see trees and green in every direction. 

[“Love to gambol, Mum! Yes, please, go ahead and get that property!”]

4) I wrote my PhD thesis on a little-known American short-story writer named Katherine Anne Porter.  I read her novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, as an undergrad, and felt such a strong connection to it that I immediately went out and devoured the rest of her works; I decided then and there that I’d have to write about her.  While researching my thesis, I discovered that I was even more entranced by her astonishing life–much stranger than fiction–than her writing.  To learn more about her, you can go here.

5) Even though I studied English literature and psychology in university, in a game of Trivial Pursuit, I’d excel most at the category, “popular culture.”  I thoroughly enjoy most movies, television, and trashy magazines.  I am addicted to a soap opera  (thankfully, only one)–something else I inherited from my mother–and I watch faithfully while plodding along on my treadmill.  If I ever won one of those contests to have a cameo role on my soap, I’d be in New York City before you could say “Procter and Gamble.”  In fact, I once created a course at the college where I teach, called “Serialized Fictions,” which dealt with Victorian serial novels, radio serial dramas, serialized comic books, and, yup–soap operas.

Well, for this one, I think I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open up the fun anyone who’d like to play along.  Consider yourself tagged!

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

*Or, It’s a Long Road “Back”

*Or, Things You Think About While Lying Flat on Your Back for Ten Days

Well, I may not be completely “back” just yet, but I am at least vertical once again–if only for a couple of hours a day.  YIPPEE!  Talk about an ordeal. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, nosirree.  Not even the nastiest bully from grade school.  No, not even the most loathed former boss.  Not even the rudest clerk at the video store.  Or even the most reviled ex-boyfriend (He of the Black Leather Pants).  Yes, it was that bad!

And I am thrilledl to finally return to the world of blogs and blogging!  It feels like eons since I’ve written on (or even looked at) this site, or any of the other blogs out there I so enjoy reading. I promise to catch up on them all over the next week or so.  But before I even begin to write about my unanticipated interval of Great Bed Rest (aka Grevious Back Relapse)–or GBR, I want to share a recipe I discovered as soon as I returned here:

Blogger Twice Marinated in Wet, Salty Broth

1) Get Ricki to hurt her back, badly. Result: first marinade in wet, salty broth (also referrred to as Crying Jag Number One).

2) Get the HH to write a short note explaining her absence (no easy feat, considering the blog-shy HH).

3) Have Ricki return to the blog about 10 days later, read the parade of amazing, supportive and sympathetic comments from readers and other bloggers. Result: second marinade in wet, salty broth (also referred to as Crying Jag Number Two).

4) Allow Ricki to marinate for about 5 minutes before she returns her attention to the blog.

5) Accept her heartfelt gratitude for your wonderful, generous outpouring of good wishes, which is appreciated beyond words.

6) Wrap carefully and store in a safe place.  Will last indefinitely.

In other words, THANK YOU ALL for your comments and kind thoughts while I was away! I have missed you all, and am very, very happy to be “back.”

And so. . . what the heck happened, anyway??

Well, the official diagnosis is a one-two punch of, first, a bulging disk (sometimes erroneously called a “slipped disk”), followed almost immediately by an inflamed facet joint (the latter occurring due to an overly strenuous exercise regimen prescribed by a zealous physiotherapist, only ONE DAY after the original injury! Definitely a no-no).

I had thought the initial pain was pretty bad, but the second injury catapulted it into the realm of “no adjectives available.”

It’s true, the HH and I have no children, so I never had the experience of childbirth as a reference point for that particular brand of agony.  Nevertheless, I can only attempt to express the depths of physical torment inflicted by this back attack:  for the first three days or so, each time I even ATTEMPTED to get off the bed, I would be overcome with an immediate draining of blood from my face and I’d begin to black out. If not for the deft and sturdy embrace of the (relatively) strapping HH, I would have surely ended up in an unconscious heap on the floor.  And though he’s not especailly musclebound, the HH was, thankfully, still strong enough to lift my mumblemumbleundisclosednumber-pound frame back onto the bed.

[“I really hated it when you were sick, Mum.”]

As it turns out, the word “vacation” in this blog entry’s title, above, is not merely a euphemism.  You see, here in Ontario, colleges run year-round, offering three full semesters (including one through the summer months).  I happen to be one of those weirdos trailblazers quirky teachers who prefers her holiday in the winter, and who teaches all summer. Given my oft-declared abhorrence of winter, being able to curl up by the fireplace, hunker down, and just do nothing when the snow makes its unwelcome appearance is a privilege I truly appreciate.

And while I did spend the last 10 days or so lazing around, reading, sleeping as much as I felt like (more than I felt like, actually), and being waited on hand and foot (I am eternally in your debt, Oh Great HH), it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, akin to a “vacation.” Being stuck in bed with nothing to do but follow the aimless peregrinations of my (painkiller-enhanced) thoughts did, however, allow me to formulate some interesting observations.

Here’s what went through my mind as I contemplated my lot over the past fortnight or so:

  1. Never begin an exercise routine for a sore back the day after you first injure it.  Never.  NOT EVEN IF THE ZEALOUS PHYSIOTHERAPIST TELLS YOU TO.  You will regret it.  You will rue the day.  So, never!
  2. Dogs are strange and wonderful creatures, and I love them more than ever. Throughout the Great Bed Rest, every day and all day, Elsie and Chaser held vigil at the foot of my bed. Not quite close enough for me to touch them, but close enough so that I knew they were there. Eventually, we three began to sigh, heave, and sleep along the same diurnal pattern, until the HH came home.  (“Um, don’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything, Mum, but we were actually just worried that we might not get fed any more–not that we weren’t concerned about you, too, of course.”)
  3. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for over a week, the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow.
  4. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for a week and the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow, the actual snow outside will melt, and so when you finally get up again, it will be spring!
  5. The HH is one helluva good sport.  Can’t cook worth a dime, unfortunately, but nevertheless one very sweet guy. He took care of daily housework and chores, walks for The Girls, feedings (theirs and mine), hairwashing (mine), as well as other less appealing ablutions. He came home from work at lunchtime each day to ensure I had food and a break, and also to confirm that the house hadn’t burned to the ground in his absence (an outcome I would have been helpless to prevent, in any case).
  6. Finally, I came to the clear realization that this GBR would never have occurred at all, had I not gained all the weight I’ve been earnestly trying to lose since I began this blog. And so, this latest episode has prompted a reaffirmation of my resolve:  I must get healthy! 

It’s with renewed determination that I return here to focus on all three: DIET, dessert, and dogs.

And, of course, all of you.  Thank you all for continuing to visit, for reading, and for commenting (I love hearing from you!). 

And while the latter part of the Lucky Comestible posts will have to wait until I can stand a bit longer, I’m looking forward to scanning my files and posting about some previous exploits in the kitchen as the back continues to heal. 

Yes, it’s great to be “back”!

(Oh, and I promise never to write the word, “back,” in quotation marks, ever again.)

[“Glad you’re feeling a bit better, Mum!”]

The Best Laid Plans

March 28, 2008

Well, as they say, the best laid plans of rodents and humans. . . or something like that. 

Despite my own best laid plans for quinoa today, I am myself laid up. . . with a pulled back.  And though I’ve had a bad back for years and thought I was used to the inconvenience it can bring, yesterday morning I swear I heard an audible *SNAP!* as I leaned over to  refill The Girls’ water bowls (yep, something as simple as that can throw it out). 

Well, this time, it’s a real doozy. According to the physiotherapist, at least 4-5 days’ worth of doozy.

chaserstealblanket.jpg

[“Mum, why are you still in bed, and when are you getting up? What do you mean, you still need this blanket?”]

So I apologize, but I won’t be posting about the remainder of the quinoa recipes I had in mind until next week; I wasn’t able to get to the store to pick up ingredients, and there’s no chance of me cooking over the next few days (I can barely sit at the computer, let alone stand for any length of time).  Lucky for me the HH is picking up the slack by taking care of The Girls and preparing dinners (no, he hasn’t suddenly decided to take up cooking; but he does throw together a mean defrost). 

elsieatdoor3.jpg

[“When will Dad be home?  When???”]

I’ll pick up again next week and regale you with multiple quinoa yummies, I promise.  In the meantime, I’ll start looking through my photo files and see if there’s anything good I can share until the back heals.

For some reason, I keep thinking of a line from the Eugene O’Neill play, The Emperor Jones.  At one point, the Emperor implores, “Feets, do your duty!”.  And I say, “Back, do your duty!” (except it’s more like, “painkillers, do YOUR duty”). 

And now, back to bed. . . .

elsieatdoor.jpg

[“Okay, Chaser, he’s coming!  Now we can finally get outside. . . “]