Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

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

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

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

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

cashewcaramel1

Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

tspicecakepan

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

sugarfreesugarcookie1

Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

mintchocchip2

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

cupcakegffrost

Chocolate Satin Tarts:

silktart1.jpg

Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

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

chocpecanpie

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

The Wait is Over:

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

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

Hey, have a look!

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

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

[Just look at that adorable tag!]

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

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

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

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

 

The Weight is Under

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH:  I love you, too. [Smiles]

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

HH [Looking suspicious]: What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake (adapted from Vagrant Vegan)

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

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

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

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.

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

As someone who considers herself an unabashed fan (and follower) of popular culture, I love trend-watching (and also soap opera-watching, and celebrity-watching, and style-watching. . . plus reading trashy magazines at the supermarket checkout line. . . I could go on, but really, haven’t I embarassed myself enough for one day?)

Over the years, I’ve noticed that trends in food, much like trends in fashion or architecture or music, tend to be cyclical. Something new makes a splash on the scene, there’s a frenzied public reaction, and everyone rushes to snap up the boots or to hang the accent mirrors or to buy the CDs from the stores.  Eventually, the trend fades like a tan in winter and is forgotten. . . just long enough for everyone to discard any traces of trend-related goods they may own (though I could never bring myself to part with those hand-embroidered Lee overalls from my highschool days, even though they’d barely cover my kneecaps today).

About 20 years after it first appeared, said craze resurfaces as if it’s now been discovered for the first time (to wit, iceberg lettuce.  I mean, was it even good the first time?  And then there are bell bottoms–which have seen more than one resurrection, in fact.  And Supertramp.  Oh, and Rachel’s hair on Friends. Is it just me, or isn’t that simply a revamped 1970s shag haircut?). Only problem is, this new iteration, bearing enough resemblance to the original so you know it’s basically the same concept, also exhibits just enough variation from the prototype so you’re forced to purchase it anew if you wish to hop back on the bandwagon (so those original bell bottoms you lovingly preserved in tissue paper? Sorry, now they’re just slightly too wide at the base, and slightly too low at the hip to be “fashionable” today).  

So it goes with gastronomy, as well. I am (barely) old enough to remember the first wave of hippie food that gained popularity.  The trend, I believe, started in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s.  It was the era of Jane Fonda touting wheat germ in hamburgers (and lots of aerobic exercise), and the inception of the Moosewood restaurant and (then) curly-haired Mollie Katzen as its main proprietor and artist-in-residence.  And the Seventies was when Frances Moore Lappe first publshed Diet for a Small Planet, of course.  In those days, an overabundance of grey-hued, homemade tofu and crunchy granola gave “health food” and veganism a bad rap.  Today, thankfully, the new wave of “healthy” foods can be both good for you and good-tasting.  

Luckily for me, I’ve always loved the taste of healthy foods, whether in vogue or not. (Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t also love the taste of incredibly UNhealthy foods, which, if you’ve ever read this blog before, you already know).  Still, I hold fond memories of living in my first bachelor apartment (basically, a glorified closet with a bathroom on one end) as a grad student.  A step up from most bachelor pads, it boasted a “kitchen” (the wall that had the sink and counter affixed to it) as well as a “bedroom” (the wall that had the window cut into it), separated by a waist-high partition that jutted halfway across the room.  Remember Mary’s original pad in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and how she had a semblance of space from the kitchen counter off to the side, with that lovely, bright central area flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling window, the area that featured a hide-a-bed sofa?  Well, my place was nothing like that.

One of the first things I did living on my own was attempt to expand my culinary repertoire by branching into “health” foods.  My main motivation at the time was purely pecuniary, but I now realize that my choices introduced me to vegan foods as well. In those days, single and sans wheels, I was happy to tote along a “granny cart” (basically a steel basket on wheels), haul it onto the city bus, and travel an hour each way for my weekly pilgrimmage to the one bulk store in the city. 

Once there, I faced dozens of plastic bins, brimming with dried beans in varied shades of grey, white, brown, and green; nubby grains ranging in size from pinpoint to pencil eraser (with strange names like quinoa, teff, or amaranth); exotic flours from carob or fava beans, which I’d only just encountered; and assorted candies, soup mixes, dog biscuits, nuts and seeds–well, I could easily browse for a couple more hours before picking and choosing my purchases (not to imply that I ate dog biscuits in those days, or anything–just that they were there, laying the mental foundation for my current forays to the local bulk store, in which The Girls and their appetites always figure prominently).

This salad is from one of the first cookbooks I bought, called Horn of the Moon.  As you can probably tell from the title, it was a “health foodie” book. Most of the recipes reflect its early origins:  falafel, lentil burgers, tofu stuffed mushrooms.  Maybe it was nostalgia for those first heady days living entirely on my own; maybe it was a need for something simple, hearty, and evocative of fall; maybe it was my way to reintroduce an earlier trend; in any case, I had a craving for this salad last week and promptly pulled out my worn copy and prepped a batch.  

And while the HH found this too “plain” (seems his 2008-era palate, now accustomed to cilantro, garam masala, mysterious fiery jalapenos and the like, has rejected such rudimentary gustatory pleasures), I still loved this dish. With its chewy buds of beige-hued barley and oats, and sweet, toasty crunch of hazelnuts or crunchy bits of carrot and celery, this salad offered up a welcome mouthful of memory, warm and tingly, and a perfect way to reminisce about the past.

Barley-Hazelnut Salad

from Horn of the Moon cookbook

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

An unpretentious, hearty salad that’s straightforward and unambiguous in its nutritional offering.  It’s easy to eat a large serving of this as a meal on its own–which is a good thing, since this recipe yields a huge amount (it may be halved if you have fewer than four people in your house).

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

I’ve been plugging away at the cookbook and just wanted to post a quick update for those who are interested.  A few things:

1.  Cookbook Group: I’ve started a Facebook group for anyone who’d like to hear how the publication is progressing, learn when the book is finally out (projected publication date is early 2009), or contribute ideas, questions, comments, or photos of any of the items you’ve already tried (most of the baked goods on this blog will also be in the cookbook–so if you’ve ever baked anything from DDD and have feedback or photos, PLEASE feel free to post them on the group page, or just let me know!)  To join the group, you can go here.   Would love to see you there! 

2.  Testers Wanted:  Although many of the recipes, as I’ve mentioned before, have already been tested because they were sold through my baking company, I still have to adapt some of them for the home cook and am creating new ones as well for the book.  And so. . . I’m now actively soliciting recipe testers.  This would involve a bit of work and, most importantly, feedback to me about the recipes.  If you’ve got time to bake up a storm over the next month or so and are interested, please email me in the next few days at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom or sweetfreedomcookbookATgmailDOTcom.  Thanks!

3. To help you get in the dessert kind of mood, here are some recently baked items that will be in the book (they’ll be posted on the Sweet Freedom blog and Facebook page as well):

Coconut Cream Pie: 

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Glazed Chocolate Orange Torte:

Old Fashioned Raisin-Spice Cake:

“But Mum. . .does this mean WE can’t be your taste-testers anymore?  Because you know how much we love your baked goods. . . ”

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.” 

[Little aside that has nothing to do with the rest of this entry:  while glancing at WordPress stats before writing this post, I just realized that my previous entry was number 200 on this blog!  Where has the time gone?? I’m really amazed that I’ve written 200 whole blog entries–seems like just yesterday I started writing here (or, at least, just 306 days ago). And what better way to celebrate than with yet another blog entry?]

I’ve always thought of beets as a much maligned foodstuff. I mean, they just don’t have the glamor or charm of more popular roots like carrots or parsnips, or even the whimsical appeal of tubers, like yams or potatoes. It’s like beets are the scrawny kid on the beach who gets sand thrown in his face by the jock, or maybe the chubby kid on the baseball field who’s last to be picked for the team.  Poor, plump, unathletic beets!

It’s not just beets that evoke this reaction in me, of course. I for one have always been a sucker for the underdog. Is it because I myself have felt like an underdog much of the time?  Is it because the underdog generally tends to be the more quirky, the more multi-faceted, the more interesting and more sensitive individual in any competition?  Is it because I’ve seen Rocky too many times?  Or is it just because the last syllable in the word “underdog” is “dog”?

With school just around the corner again (really, where HAS the time gone??), all this thought of underdogs reminded me of my own first week as an undergraduate at university. Knowing absolutely nothing about football but eager to take part in orientation activities, I attended the first intercollegiate football game on campus. Okay, actually, I had no interest whatsoever in being part of orientation, but I was pretty sure there might be some guys at the game.  And I did want to meet guys.

Anyway, our team (“The Lancers”) were suffering a royal pummeling from the opposition (the celebrated Toronto team, if I remember correctly). Every time our guys messed up and fumbled the ball or narrowly missed a touchdown, they’d be greeted with fervent, ear-shattering boos and a chorus of hisses.  Except for one guy, that is. 

This one guy, a lone figure in the crowd, kept leaping to his feet after each mistake, punching his fists into the air above his head and bellowing, “Great effort, guys!  Good for you!  Way to go–great try!!”  Talk about supporting the underdog! In fact, I was transfixed by this bizarre fellow. I mean, rooting for the losing team?  I couldn’t help but think, “Wow. That is really admirable.  I’d love to meet that guy some time.  Actually, I’d like to date that guy*.” In the end, our team still lost, but at least they felt appreciated.

These days, I’m a lot more willing to stand apart from the crowd and actively support a less popular concept or foodstuff (it’s pretty much the status quo whenever I eat with my family, anyway, given my oddball dietary restrictions). I tend to harbor the same overprotective feelings for foods I believe are unappreciated.  Like beets.  Even though the HH thinks they taste like dirt most of the time (never did ask how he’d know that fact), these earthy roots are one of my favorite foods. They’re loaded with folate and potassium; they have some powerful antioxidant properties and are known to help tone and cleanse the liver; they can reduce inflammation in some chronic conditions; and they double as a nifty lipstick in a pinch (thanks for the tip, Cleopatra!). And ever since I learned to roast instead of boil them, I’ve been entirely enamored of these beautiful burgundy bulbs.

If you’ve never been a fan, I’d highly recommend trying this recipe.  After being roasted to bring out their natural sugars, the beets are cubed and tossed with quinoa, toasted walnuts, and a lemony, garlicky, tangy dressing.  The recipe is a favorite of mine, and one I’ve been preparing regularly since the very first cooking class I taught back in 2003.  If you’re avoiding fermented foods (as I am supposed to be doing now), simply omit the balsamic and use a bit more lemon juice instead; use dried mustard instead of dijon; and sweeten slightly with a few more drops of stevia.

Since we received both golden and red beets in our organic produce box last week, I made the salad with both types this time, but the results really are much more visually impressive made entirely with red beets, as they infuse the quinoa with a brilliant crimson hue that’s quite arresting. (I’ll include an updated photo next time I make it the usual way).

“Mum, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m the underdog in this house.  I mean, I’m always under Elsie when we fight.  And don’t you always tell me I’m underfoot, too?  So I guess this means you think I’m ‘more quirky, more multi-faceted, more interesting and more sensitive,’ ? And aren’t you supposed to feed the underdog extra treats, too? “

Since it stars quinoa, I’m submitting this recipe to Melissa of Baking a Sweet Life for her Let it Grain Blog Event (this month’s edition is Quinoa).

Quinoa, Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

 

* Or, Dream a Little Dream of Rich, Creamy, Delectable Frozen Desserts

[Dried Apricot Pistachio Ice Dream]

When I was contacted about a month ago to see if I’d be interested in examining a review copy of the upcoming The Ice Dream Cookbook by Chef Rachel Albert-Matesz, I have to admit I was a bit hesitant at first.  Despite my weak-kneed response to most sweets, I’ve never been terribly smitten with frozen desserts, though I do enjoy a scoop or two every summer (and used to LOVE those chocolate-dipped soft-serve cones we get here from the ice-cream truck that jingles along the streets in summertime). 

Then I found out that Rachel is a natural foods chef whose recipes are very much in line with my own and the NAG diet.  When I asked whether there were enough vegan recipes for me to try, she responded that virtually all the recipes in the book were already vegan or easily adaptable.  In addition, all were gluten free and naturally sweetened. Well, how could I resist?

The Ice Dream Cookbook is actually Albert-Matesz’s second book, on the heels of The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet and Cookbook (2004), which won both the USA Book News for “Best Cookbook 2004” and the Glyph Award for “Best Cookbook” 2005. She’s also written for the likes of Natural Home, Living Without, Yoga Journal, Oxygen Women’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Veggie Life, Vegetarian Times, Vegetarian Journal, and  Macrobiotics Today, among others.  Both a cooking class instructor and a faculty member at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona, she also hosts a healthy food segment on the show “Your LIfe A to Z” in Phoenix.  Clearly, this woman has had quite a bit of experience developing recipes, so I had very high expectations for the ice dream creations in her book.  I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint.

The book is more than just a collection of recipes, however.  Starting with the introduction in which Albert-Matesz outlines her path toward healthy cooking and how she came to write a frozen dessert cookbook, The Ice Dream Cookbook offers a wealth of information for anyone who’s interested in making frozen desserts–or any desserts, really.  Chapter One (“Essential Ingredients and Shopping Tips”) outlines the dangers of sugar and (for some) gluten as well as other questionable foods, along with an exhaustive glossary of preferred ingredients and shopping tips.  In Chapter Two, she describes the equipment you’ll need to make your own ice dream, from the many varieties of ice cream maker (electric or manual), right down to the bowls and knives that are best. The following chapter covers techniques for measuring and mixing to ensure your success when you whip up the frozen desserts.  From there, it’s on to the multitude of flavors–and recipes!

Starting with basic varieties such as vanilla, chocolate or cinnamon ice dream, the book then moves on to more exotic fare such as Avocado, Macaroon Madness, Lemon Cookie Crumble, Green Tea, Chunky Chestnut, Carob Banana, or Mango Orange flavors, among others.  I couldn’t resist trying one from almost every section (and it was a difficult choice, indeed).  The book wraps up with three additional chapters, with recipes for accompaniments to your ice dream: Sauces, A La Mode (pies, tarts, etc.) and Additional Indulgences (cookies for ice dream sandwiches and other confections). 

Overall, I was immensely impressed with the book and really enjoyed whipping up the frozen treats.  Because I use a Donvier hand-cranked (non-electric) ice cream maker, my only frustration was having to re-freeze the ice cream container between batches!  With all these recipes for amazing desserts, who wants to wait 24 hours before trying out another flavor?

Read on to see what I tried* (and for a sample recipe!): 

Dried Apricot Pistachio Ice Dream

This was the first recipe I attempted, and I was amazed at how soft and scoop-able the dessert was, even days after being placed in the freezer.  In this case, I used the lowest proportion of sweetener suggested in the recipe (a range is given), and while we certainly enjoyed the result, I think I’d opt for more sweetener next time (the recipes all include some stevia–I assume to reduce the amount of agave or honey–so I might just play with using all-agave instead of the stevia next time).  The combination of tangy apricot and chewy pistachio is brilliant here.

Avocado Ice Dream

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I love avocado (and even devoted an entire Lucky Comestible series to it!), so I found this recipe irresistible.  The avocado lends a creaminess and silkiness to the dessert, and with the combination of chocolate chunks (one of the variations provided), it’s truly addictive.  This one didn’t last long!

Cocoa Ice Dream (with candied ginger)

Not wanting to neglect the “basic” flavors, I chose (of course) chocolate.  This recipe is made with cocoa (there’s another made with dark chocolate) and was just delicious.  By this time, I was feeling pretty confident, so just threw in my own addition of chopped candied ginger, for a truly winning combination. 

Graham Crackers

Given my limited experience with gluten-free flours, I thought it would be fun to try out one of the baking recipes in the book.  These crackers were easy to prepare and baked up beautifully.  Mine came out a little too crispy to eat on their own, so I’m wondering if I overbaked them (the recipe does caution against letting them crisp too much in the oven).  The flavor was lovely, though–just like “regular” graham crackers.  And they’d be perfect for an ice dream sandwich, in which they’d absorb some of the moisture from the filling without becoming mushy.

Banana Daiquiri Ice Dream

This last recipe was hands down our favorite here at the DDD household–even The Girls got a teeny lick off my fingers (“Thanks, Mum!  Say, is there any more of that stuff around?”). The combination of creamy coconut milk, smooth and velvety bananas and tart lime was incomparable.  And with banana and a dash of rum in the mix, the dessert never freezes to the point of solid, so it’s soft and easy to scoop no matter how long it’s stored.  Which was a good thing, because we scooped aplenty.

Rachel was kind enough to provide the recipe for this lovely treat, so you can help yourselves to a sample dessert from the book as well. 

What a fabulous way to cap off the summer!

  The Ice Dream Cookbook is available through Rachel’s blog.

Banana Daiquiri Ice Dream

© Copyright 2008 Rachel Albert-Matesz , The Ice Dream Cookbook (www.TheHealthyCookingCoach.com)

Hands On: 30 minutes / Churning: 20 to 25 minutes / Yield: 4 to 5 1/2 cups; 8 servings

Here’s a grown up version of banana ice cream that I almost left out of the book. Don and I weren’t impressed with it, but we didn’t want to toss it.  So I gave it to a few friends. They raved about it. In fact, two little boys wouldn’t let their parents have any of it. Banana lovers, judge for yourself. If you don’t like liqueur, try the variation with rum flavoring or try the Roasted Banana Ice Dream.

Note: If using bottled lime juice, taste it before you use it. If left to sit too long in the refrigerator, lime juice (as well as lemon juice) can develop a strong bitter flavor.

Garnish with coarsely chopped macadamia nuts and fresh or frozen (but thawed) sweet cherries or the Cherry Sauce.    

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon lime zest (finely grated lime peel; colored part only)

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin or agar agar powder (not the flakes)

3 tablespoons honey or agavé nectar; additional 2 tablespoons as needed

1/8 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (start with less; add more only if needed)

2 cups unsweetened, preservative-free coconut milk (regular not lite), mixed well before measuring

2 cups packed ripe bananas, sliced (2 large, or 3 to 4 medium)

2 tablespoons coconut rum or dark rum or 1 teaspoon natural rum flavoring

1/4 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts for garnish, optional 

1. Grate the zest from the limes using a microplane or the small holes of a cheese grater. Set aside.

2. Juice the limes and add to a small saucepan. Slowly sprinkle with gelatin or agar agar powder. Let stand for 2 minutes until it softens and dry spots disappear. Warm over medium-low heat, without stirring, until gelatin or agar agar dissolves. Scrape the mixture into a blender, Vita-Mix, or food processor. Cover and process until smooth.

3. Add the honey or agavé, sea salt, and stevia. Blend. Add the coconut milk, banana, lime zest, and rum, or rum flavoring. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides with a spatula. For a sweeter taste add an additional 1/8 teaspoon stevia and/or 1 tablesppon honey. Blend, taste, and repeate if needed.

4. Pour into one or more wide mouth jars.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before churning. 

5. Scrape the chilled custard into the canister of your ice cream maker.  Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

6. Serve immediately, or spoon into several 8- to 16- ounce freezer-safe containers. Cover and freeze for 3 or more hours for a firmer texture.

7. Soften solidly frozen dessert in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes before serving [note: I found this step wasn’t necessary with this particular recipe]. 

1 serving (regular): 234 calories, 2.5 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 56 grams fat, milligrams sodium

1 serving (half lite): 299 calories, 2 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fat, 47 milligrams sodium

Variations:

Lite Banana Daiquiri Ice Dream: Replace half of the coconut milk with lite (reduced fat) coconut milk. Alternatively, use 100% lite coconut milk, but plan to use the batch immediately or within 24 hours before it becomes hard and icy. 

Strawberry Daiquiri Ice Dream: Replace bananas with fresh or frozen (but thawed), unsweetened strawberries and their juices. Adjust the sweetness with 1 or 2 more more tablespoons honey or agavé nectar as needed.

 

 

* For those who might be wondering, yes, I tried all these sweets before I started my current ACD!

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.