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 me, baking is a form of therapy and meditation rolled into one. Since it’s a long weekend here in Ontario (Happy Victoria Day!); and since I’ve been assiduously following my Total Health course guidelines up until now; and since I’ve got scads of marking to finish before Monday–I decided to take a break. In other words, I decided to bake cookies. I found the recipe for Cozy Inside’s Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and prepared to adapt the general concept to a NAG-friendly alternative.

[Brief aside: It always astonishes me how acute (and also how “cute”–don’t you just love their noses?) a dog’s sense of smell can be (anywhere from 100 to 1 million times greater than humans’, depending on whom you believe).  No matter what the statistic, Our Girls are evidently both healthy in the realm of olfactory acuity. While I pondered my recipe, I unscrewed the jar of peanut butter, absent-mindedly scooping some into the measuring cup.  Even before the PB hit the glass, I detected the patter of little paws as Elsie and Chaser sauntered nonchalantly into the room.  “Um, Mum, it appears you are scooping peanut butter.  Would any of that be directed, perchance, toward our Kongs?”]

After positioning The Girls in their usual spot just beyond the kitchen’s perimeter, I set about mixing my cookies. Maybe I was distracted by the canine audience in the peanut (butter) gallery; maybe I was preoccupied with the remaining assignments awaiting their grades; or maybe I took a subconscious cue from a fellow blogger who’s mentioned her propensity to overlook certain recipe instructions. . . but before I knew it, the cookies were mixed, they’d been popped in the oven and were baking. . .whatever the case, I was suddenly hit with the realization:

I’d omitted a MAJOR ingredient!

I mean, “Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies”–with NO OATMEAL?  (Duh–Dude, it’s, like, the first word in the title!)

That got me thinking about lies.  Lies, damn lies, and. . . biscuits. The cookies baked on; I waited, breath bated.  Would my error end up a sin of omission–or a serendipitous oversight? 

Well, I’m sure we’re all familiar with “little white lies” (To wit: “Oh, yes, your outfit is. . . really original” or “I’m so sorry to cancel at the last minute. . . must be that 24-hour stomach flu that’s going around. . . ” or “No, honey, I didn’t forget to pick up the milk on the way home, but my car was almost out of gas, so I decided to wait until tomorrow instead. . .”).  Such behavior is often rationalized on the grounds that the recipient’s feelings are spared.  Sorry, but I think that’s baloney (or, if you’re otherwise inclined, tofurkey):a  lie is a lie.

But what about those lies of omission–just “keeping mum”?  When I was in my twenties, I knew someone who used this method with stellar results.  If faced with an uncomfortable question, she simply avoided it and diverted attention to another topic, like a New York con man with a shell game. Alternately, she didn’t answer at all (in which case, technically, she never had to lie).  Here’s an example:

Mother: Are you and your girlfriends going to a rave and taking drugs tonight?

Teen:  Geez, Mom, look at what I’m wearing.  Do I look like I’m going to a rave?

Mother: Well, um. . .  [knits brow in confusion]. Well, have a good time, dear.

See how easy?  Here’s a slightly more intricate prevarication: 

Mother:  Hmm.  So you’re going to spend two weeks at your boyfriend’s apartment in Los Angeles.  Well, you know how I feel about these things. . . are you going to sleep in the same bed with him?

Daughter: [rolling eyes and grimacing distastefully] Geez, Mom.  The place has a hide-a-bed in the living room.

Mother: Um, well, okay. . . . [knits brow in confusion]. Well, have a good time, dear.

It’s like the little kid who breaks a vase while Mum is at work, then gingerly hides the shards behind the potted plant; weeks later, when Mum finally happens upon the shattered porcelain and erupts, “Why didn’t you TELL me about this?!!” the child can respond in all honesty: “Well, you never asked. . . ” 

Since this recent cookie debacle, I may need to loosen my standards on the issue. I’ve discovered that sometimes, omission can be a good thing–particularly when it involves chocolate chips and peanut butter. Those cookies were stupendous.  In fact, they are probably the best PB and chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had–and that’s no lie! 

Just barely dry and crisp on the edges, soft, gooey and fudgy in the middle, they possessed the most delightfully intense peanut butter flavor.  I loved the interplay of crunchy bits of peanut alongside the soft, melted chips in every bite.  (And believe me, many bites were had by all around here). Luckily, I halved the recipe (one of the advantages of vegan baking–no eggs to “divide,” so splitting recipes is easy), or I might have eaten even more.

Earlier this afternoon, the HH returned from a long dog-walk, scrounging for a cookie.  “Where are those cookies you baked yesterday?” he wondered.

“Um, there aren’t any left.” 

“What–none left?  But there were, like, six left over this morning! Where did they all go?”

“I thought you ate some,” I stammered.

“Well, I did, but. . . I mean, I. . . Hey, wait a sec.  DID YOU FINISH ALL THOSE COOKIES??”

I rolled my eyes, and grimaced distastefully.  “Now, really, HH.  Do you honestly think I would eat six cookies in one day?” 

“Well, um. . . ” [knits brow in confusion].  He wandered back into the kitchen, searching for something else to eat.

What?  Don’t give me that look.  Well, he didn’t ask.  And I certainly wasn’t about to tell. 

(“Mum, don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. Besides, six cookies in one day is nothing. . . we could eat an entire bag of dog cookies in one day, if only you’d let us. . . “)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Because I have diverged from the original recipe so much and changed multiple ingredients, I feel comfortble printing this recipe here.  Be warned: if you like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, you will find these cookies irresistible.  I’d recommend staring with a half recipe first, to test your resolve.




[Unretouched photo of unidentified, disk-like objects, hovering in the air over my kitchen table]


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.”]  

Before I metthe HH, I’d read exactly one science fiction novel (Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, when I was about twelve) and seen only the standard TV shows or movies, such as Star Trek (in all its incarnations–though Deep Space really was an inferior specimen, don’t you think?) or Planet of the Apes.  It’s not that I’m uninterested in what might be happening on other planets or other universes; it’s just that, frankly, I have a hard enough time dealing with just this one–I mean, who needs more stress? 

Still, as a huge fan of all types of film (except anything with violence–which, I suppose, eliminates just about everything on screen these days, even down to Shrek the Third or Get Smart ), I was perfectly agreeable when the HH offered to introduce some of his favorite SF films to me, shortly after we first got together (of course, I was still trying to impress him back in those days, so I was pretty much agreeable to almost anything he suggested*). 

From La Jetée (the inspiration for Twelve Monkeys, aka The Only Film in which Pretty Boy Brad Pitt was Actually Any Good) to the original The Day the Earth Stood Still to Blade Runner, I have to admit I’ve enjoyed them all.  And these days, we’re both hooked on Battlestar Gallactica,  that terrific Canadian-U.S. co-production that’s not only well written and well performed, but a fascinating allegory for today’s political and religious climates (oh, and hunky Jamie Bamber in the role of Lee Adama doesn’t hurt, either). 

It seemed fitting, then, that I’d spy a recipe the other day for something with the oh-so-clever name of Cosmic Cookies (ie, they’re “out of this world”–get it?) at the new Planet Organic store that opened recently not too far from us. This was a monumental ouverture, as it was the first Big Organic Market north of the city (Toronto does have Whole Foods, but that’s way downtown in the tony Hazelton Lanes/Yorkville area, a far way to go for those of us orbiting out here in the ‘burbs).

cosmiccookiebite.jpg Well, I couldn’t wait to amble through the aisles and explore this newfound “planet.”  The atmosphere seemed amenable: I spent about 45 minutes inspecting the inventory, from prepared foods (salads, veggies, patties, croquettes, loaves, etc.)  to vegan baked goods (the orange-cranberry muffin I bought was, unfortunately, disappointing) to pastas, produce and packaged goods. 

Pleased overall, I ended up purchasing “just a few things” (at the checkout, once I regained the ability to breathe, I calculated that my little spree worked out to approximately $1.00 per minute. Clearly, this is no impoverished planet).

Here’s my haul:

1) Veggie patties.  Fittingly alien-looking with nubby edges and a deep carmine color, these little creatures were a mélange of carrots, beets, almonds, and an array of spices.  A bit too sweet for my taste; nevertheless, good lunch food.

2) Teriyaki tofu “steaks.”  Basically the first tofu recipe I ever cooked for myself: slabs of tofu marinated in the ubiquitous mix of soy sauce, ginger, something sweet and garlic. These were fine, if less than inspired.

3) A slice of bison meatloaf for the HH.  He loved it.  Enough said.

4) The pièce de resistance, the holy grail, the UFO (Unidentified Flour Object) I’d been seeking for weeks: a bag of coconut flour. I’d read about this elusive ingredient many times (it’s a mainstay in Deb’srecipes) but had never been able to find it before.  The coconut flour will provide me with hours of kitchen fun, playing with recipes for yet more cakes, cookies, bars, muffins, or pies free of wheat, eggs or dairy–and now, perhaps, free of gluten, too (it’s a GF flour).

In the meantime, I whipped up a batch of the store’s own Cosmic Cookies, a signature sweet made primarily of oats, seeds, raisins, chocolate chips and coconut.  I was so fixated on my coconut flour that I forgot to add the shredded coconut to the mix; they still came out fine. Since the store published the recipe in their own flyer, I assumed they wouldn’t mind my sharing it here as well.  

And though I enjoyed my visit to the store, I think I’ll restrict any future inter-planetary shopping to just the coconut flour. As much as I enjoyed the visit, it seems more like a special-occasion, rather than a regular, destination. Just like every other planet.

*No, nothing like that, you perverts!

Planet Organic’s Cosmic Cookies (verbatim from their flyer)



I modified this recipe ever so slightly. These are not too sweet and very filling, yet somehow, strangely addictive.  Could it be the extra-terrestrial influence?


Maple-Walnut Cookies

March 14, 2008


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, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

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


Despite my constant whining about winter (When, oh when will it finally be over?? How much longer must I endure this bleak, bleached, desolate wasteland of frigid snow? How many more days must I suffer through this torturous, crystalline hell on earth? ), I fully recognize that the season Below Zero does have at least a few minor benefits. 

For one, you get to cuddle closer to your honey while watching Battlestar Gallactica or a DVD.  You feel justified when you stay home from that excruciatingly boring dinner meeting (“but the roads were impossible. . . “).  You have a legitimate reason to cover up your all-time high weight of mumblemumbleundisclosednumber pounds and wear loose sweaters.

And then, when the season finally begins to wane, you have the opportunity to eat fresh maple syrup.

Although technically, the trees aren’t tapped until early spring, in Canada you can purchase real maple syrup year-round (yay!). When I first changed my diet and left white sugar in the dust, maple syrup quickly became one of my baking staples.  Its subtle, buttery, vaguely smoky and intensely sweet flavor is the perfect enhancement for so many foods–pancakes, of course, but also baked beans, scrambles, chocolate pudding, even some noodle dishes or casseroles.  Whether you enjoy the lighter grades that contain a higher water content (the syrup darkens in color, thickens somewhat and intensifies in flavor as it’s condensed) or the richer, darker varieties, true maple syrup is a unique and noteworthy enjoyment.

When we were kids, I never realized that what my mom referred to as “maple syrup” was actually artificially-flavored corn syrup.  My dad and sisters loved the stuff, and would slather it on a stack of pancakes so thickly that the syrup soaked right through to the cake on the very bottom of the pile, rendering them all a soggy, sticky mess. 

I could never warm up to those heavy, dense, wet cakes.  It wasn’t until I began to purchase pure maple syrup as an adult that I truly learned to appreciate pancakes.  At first, I was skeptical, cutting just a corner of the pancake and tentatively dipping it into a little pool of syrup on my plate, as if I were testing lakewater with my big toe; but once I experienced that authentic light and sugary elixir, I felt comfortable pouring it on and plunging in with gusto.

Tasting genuine maple syrup also called to mind a childhood event when I was lucky enough to sample the “real thing” away from our corn syrup-infused kitchen at home.  Once, on an extra-curricular school trip in April, our grade three class visited a maple farm north of the city.  There, we attended an event known as “Sugaring Off.”  (To this day, the term sounds vaguely like an expletive to me: “Why, you sonofa–just sugar off!”  “Oh, yeah?  Well you sugar off! And your mother wears army boots, too!”)

The maple farmers would hold these events just as the sap began to run, using freshly tapped syrup.  They’d heat it just enough so that it caramelized instantly when poured over a base of pristine, white, freshly scooped snow that had been spread evenly across a long metal table.  Immediately, the syrup was transformed into toffee against the frosted snow, and we kids wielded soup spoons, scooping in a frenzy of delight as we dug in and all shared the huge slab of sweetness. 

Of course, these days, the practise would be banned for hygienic purposes. When I was a kid, however, no one worried about the snow harboring parasites, or fox pee, or fungus-infested decomposing pine cones. . . we just ate it.  We all double-dipped, even triple-dipped, sharing the same enormous, rectangular, metal plate. And it was delicious.  Like soft, warm, just-cooked caramel. . . . oh, how I loved it!



 So when I heard about this week’s Root Source challenge to create a recipe with maple syrup, I knew I had to participate.  Since I’ve been baking exclusively with natural sweeteners for the past few years, anyway, this task didn’t strike me as very different from what I’ve already been doing. And while I had a few maple syrup-based recipes in my repertoire, I wanted to create something original for this event.

Since I’m off chocolate for the time being, I considered other foods with which maple syrup can be paired successfully.  One of the most common combinations–walnuts and maple syrup–exists precisely because these two ingredients complement each other so well. So I decided this was no time to buck tradition; maple and walnut it is!

The result of my kitchen playtime is these Maple-Walnut Cookies.  They’re light, crisp, and really showcase the unique flavor of the syrup, especially the day after you bake them, when the flavors mature. If you prefer a chewy cookie, reduce the baking time by two or three minutes. 

 Maple-Walnut Cookies




[Ed. Note–This recipe won the CookThink Recipe Challenge for Maple Syrup, and was published on the CookThink site.  Almost as exciting as a good sugaring off party!]

[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]

Dreams of Chocolate

February 23, 2008

Nope, not one.  Not a single one.  Not even the tiniest smidgen of one. 

That’s right: for the first time ever in my adult life, I have not seen ONE of the movies nominated for Best Picture tomorrow night. (And YOU thought I was going to say “not one piece of chocolate!  Ha ha on you!! Well, I haven’t had a single smidge of that, either.)

And that is all I will be saying about the Oscars.

I’ve decided that I must have been a cacao overlord in a previous lifetime, and now as part of my atonement, I’m seeing chocolate, chocolate everywhere–just when I’m trying most to avoid the stuff (for those of you who just joined us in medias res, I’m attempting a detox to clear my body of the influence of the Devil Chocolate–and so, the Week of Chocolate Asceticism). 

As I mentioned before I began my week, I did whip up a few delectables before I started so that the blog wouldn’t be entirely bereft of the sweet stuff for the entire time.  Then, last night, I even dreamt of some new chocolate-based dessert I could make! 

And, of course, other bloggers are flinging chocolate this way and that, directly into my field of vision all this week: Eat Me, Delicious has just posted about a mouth-watering Chocolate Cookie Bark; The Good Eatah made a very rich, very creamy chocolate pudding;  Vegan Noodle of Walking the Vegan Line made some wicked-looking truffles; Hannah made her own–homemade!–white chocolate bar; that rascal, Michael Clayton, made nothing; Cate from Sweetnicks made Chocolate Pots de Creme (how did she find the time??) and Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice has even devoted an entire month to the stuff (please, somebody save me!)

And so, I decided I couldn’t escape it.  Although I am still determined not to let one mote, not one spec, not one shaving, not one MOLECULE of chocolate enter my mouth until I’ve given my system a decent break, I thought a little virtual indulgence wouldn’t do any harm.   

So here I’ll share some photos of chocolate-based recipes I’ve played with over the past few weeks, as well as some goodies I had to bake for customers.  

When I expressed some dismay that I wouldn’t be able to taste-test any of my catered goods, my friend’s very helpful teenaged daughter piped up:  “Well, you could just take a bite, chew it, and then spit it out.” Remember that episode of Sex and the City, where Miranda has dinner with an ex-boyfriend?  And they haven’t seen each other in years, and when they do, he’s lost a ton of weight?  And then they go out to eat at a swanky NYC restaurant, and he orders steak?  And then she catches him spitting a gnarly, saliva-soaked wad of chewed steak into his napkin?  Yep, that’s the one. And so you see why I couldn’t take the daughter’s advice. 

As it turns out, I’ve made most of these items several hundred times, so I didn’t have to break my WOCA and sample anything. 

The first item was a Double Chocolate Mint Explosion Cookie, part of the treats table at a birthday party.  These are fudgy on the inside, just slightly crispy on the outside–a definite winner with kids and adults alike. 


Then I revisited a recent experiment with vegan chocolate-covered caramels (to which I must devote an entire post, anon):


After that, the chocolate rush subsided a bit, leaving just the chips in a Chocolate-Chip Blondie, baked for a school event (yes, indeedy, that is a kitchen towel behind the plate):


 Next up, a Chocolate Satin Tart.  These were a holiday item last year, which I baked for a vegan meal-delivery service here in Toronto to give to their customers (I hear they’re thinking of expanding to Calgary, where the Canadian Music Awards–called the Junos–are taking place this year).  A shortbread-like crust is filled with chocolate ganache, then dusted with cocoa:


And I ended the virtual pig-out with a memory of a recent experiment, with sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate buttercream frosting:


After this heady daydream, I felt prepared to snack on my lovely carob pudding, or raw fig and cherry bars (recipe to follow eventually).  And while it’s true that this No-Chocolate Land is a tough place to be (and it’s no country for old men, either, believe me),  I do feel more energetic, a bit more in balance, and happy about my healthy eating ths week.

WOCA Update:  Big, massive, seismic cravings today. And just when I thought they’d all passed!  Serves me right for being so smug about it last post.  But I shall persevere. . . I shall battle the demon with all my wits and all my inner resources. . . and I shall overcome. . . the scourge. . . that is Chocolate! Watch out; it’s possible there will be blood. (Oooh. Do you think I could maybe get away with just one little, tiny, eensy-weensy piece?  Naw, didn’t think so.)

And to those of you who watch them, enjoy the Oscars tomorrow (and sorry about that Juno reference.  It was either that or mention the mythological daughter of Saturn.)

[All of these recipes will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]


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.”]  



A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog entry about the trio of chocolate desserts I’d created for Valentine’s Day, each with at least one “secret” ingredient that conferred extra health benefits.  I promised to post the recipes for each one, starting with the Gluten-Free Brownie and followed by the Vegan Molten Chocolate Cakes. Since I’ve already posted the first two recipes of


We interrupt this blogcast to bring you this breaking news that Ricki’s recipe for Vegan Molten Chocolate Cakes has been voted the winner of the Vegetable Love contest over at Susan’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen ! (Well, okay, maybe it was by a very small margin, but we’re not complaining).  The contest asked participants to submit recipes for romantic, vegan, low-fat dishes that contained vegetables.   Skip on over and take a look at all the fabulous entries!

I have to admit that I was completely taken by surprise (thanks, Veggie Girl, for the heads up via your comment!) and absolutely thrilled.  Baking, like writing, is something I love doing so much that I’d still do it even if I weren’t being paid for it (hey! wait a second. . . I am doing it and I’m not being. . . ).  But it’s so great to have the positive feedback on this blog (Your comments are great!  Keep ’em coming!!) and to know that people out there enjoy the recipes. 

So thank you all for voting, thank you for reading, and a big thank you for encouraging me to keep on doing something I adore.  (Now, if only I could figure out how to put that cute little heart-beet icon on my blog page. . . ).


the trio, I thought today, Valentine’s Day, would be the perfect time to post the final recipe.  These aren’t exactly what I’d call “romantic” cookies (at least, not in the same way that an oozing, gooey, warm molten center might be), but they are definitely a heartfelt offering of love.

Pairing eggplant puree with chocolate and peanut butter, these cookies provide some heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated in the peanuts) and great antioxidant benefits (the anthocyanins in the eggplant, flavonoids in cocoa), plus great fiber.  They’ve also been kid-tested and approved by several of my friends’ and colleagues’ children, and I am happy to report that absolutely NO eggplant was detectable in the fudgy, peanutty, chocolatey treats.

Finally, I’m going to beg solicit plead implore ask you once again if you’ve got any neat ideas for a Valentine’s Day dinner that my HH and I will share on Saturday (we’re deferring the Big Day by two days, so you still have time!!).  Since you’ll all be done with your own dinners by then, how about telling me what YOU all had?  Then I can copy plagiarize reproduce honor your great dishes by trying some of them out at our own dinner.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  Hope it’s both sweet and loving.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudgies 



Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with the antipodes.  Well, come to think of it, that would be a one-sided love affair, since I’ve never actually been there. But hey, that’s okay.  I’m accustomed to those; my entire adolescence was flush with unrequited love.

I’ve dreamt of visiting the Land Down Under since I was about 13.  When the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks finally made their way across the Atlantic, I was first in line to buy them (favorites include Biscuits and Slices, Vegetarian, and Chocolate titles).  I’ve read The Thorn Birds and Oscar and Lucinda; I dutifully watched the Crocodile Dundee movie and delighted over Babe; I was a devoted fan of the Dame Edna show and ran out to buy the first Crowded House CD to hit our airwaves (though I never became a fan of Kylie Minogue). I adore the whole lot of Australian thespians: Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, and of course Nicole Kidman (I mean, how could you not?  She’s just so NOT Julia Roberts). 

Age and years didn’t dampen my ardor, either. While studying for my PhD, I had a searing crush on a fellow student, Charlie Ferrall (I know! Can you believe his name is a homophone for “feral”??), whose Australian accent, the same one my friend Sterlin and I tried to imitate and had decided was the most incredibly sexy sound on earth, was his natural way of speaking. (Hey, Charlie, if you’re reading, G’day! How ya doin’, mate? Ever get that dissertation finished?). 

anzactower3.jpg Then, several years ago, I managed to arrange a teaching exchange with a college professor in Melbourne.  Yippee–an entire year of Living the Dream! The arrangement had us trading jobs while still technically employed by our “home institutions”–perfect for me, considering that the Canadian dollar was worth more than the Australian dollar at the time. We got as far as the final stages of the exchange–down to specific dates, meeting places, and a steamer trunk purchase–before the other woman backed out at the last moment. 

“I’m so sorry to do this to you at such a late date,” she wrote in an email.  “But we looked into the rentals in Toronto, and simply can’t afford to live there.”  Apparently, Toronto has recently been dubbed “the New York of Canada,” and astronomical rents may be one reason why. In fact, if I remember correctly, that Australian teacher ended up in Manhattan.

In the end, all I had to cling to were my memories of my (one-sided) intercontinental romance, a bad imitation of an Australian accent, and yet another CD to sell on eBay. 

Well, I had been disappointed in love before, so I decided to stop whinging about it and just get on with it–no worries!  And since I’ve entered the blogging universe, I’ve come across several fabulous Australianauthored blogs, many of which have become bookmarked favorites, so I can at least pursue a vicarious existence across the Pacific.  If I couldn’t actually live there, I could cook as if I did.  After all, this Sheila can still bake, right? And that made me one happy little Vegemite (though I probably still wouldn’t eat the stuff; sorry).

I’d read about Anzac cookies several times over the years, and always wanted to give them a try.  A quick search on the internet turned up some interesting information. Apparently, the original cookies, baked for soldiers abroad during World War One, were created so that something nourishing (they contain whole oats) could be sent to the troops in Gallipoli without spoiling before they got there.  In order to accomplish that lofty goal, the biscuits had to be able to withstand a two month-long boat ride without refrigeration. The resulting biscuits were very dry, not very sweet, and baked within an inch of a career as Tony Soprano’s favorite footwear.   

Modern Anzac biscuits, I’ve discovered, have a bit more sugar in them than the traditional kind, but are still crispy biscuits made with only a few basic ingredients.  Every recipe I’ve seen calls for boiling water mixed with baking soda, which is then poured into the cooked sweeteners.  All the cookies contain flour, oats, and coconut, but no eggs (or salt or vanilla), so they’re naturally suited to vegans, too.  My HH adores coconut, so it was a fair bet he’d like them. 

I decided to play with the traditional recipe somewhat and add the missing salt and vanilla.  I also used a combination of brown rice syrup (to duplicate the golden syrup of the original) and Sucanat for a little more sweetness.  And, of course, I baked them a little less than the traditional kind, as I am fond of my teeth and would like to keep them. The result was a spiffy little biscuit–and that’s no skite.

Well, enough yabbering.  Time for the recipe.  You reckon?

(“Mum, you know we love you and everything, but sometimes, you can be such a whacker.”)

Anzac Biscuits (original recipe from Kitchen Classics’ Sweet and Savoury Bites, edited by Jane Price )



[Note:  mine really did turn out pretty yellow, though not quite as Day-Glo as in this photo.  I think it had something to do with the combination of brown rice syrup and being north of the equator.]


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

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


I find it fascinating how certain ideas make the rounds in the world of food, blogging or otherwise. I’ve mentioned before about how it galls me that Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld has an over-hyped, over-acclaimed, skyrocketed-to-bestseller-status cookbook in print, all because she thought to add some vegetable purees to existing recipes (Oh. And because she’s Jerry. Seinfeld’s. Wife. Right.).  No matter that otherswriters, or, naturally, vegan chefs–have been doing this sort of thing for years (and even my little baking company has been selling carob muffins with hidden spinach in them since 2004–so there!). 

[Note to readers:  Please permit me this puerile rant.  It’s January 28th, it’s been snowing and way below 0 degrees C for weeks over here, and there is no end to winter in sight.  I am grumpy.  I hate ice and snow.  I have been consuming highly insalutary amounts of chocolate. But I assure you, this is just a rant. It will pass and I will be better tomorrow.] 

Well, when I was asked a while ago by VegFamily magazine to come up with a trio of chocolate desserts for Valentine’s Day, I decided to jump on this veggies-in-sweets bandwagon.  Maybe MJS has dumped some veggies into regular recipes, all full of eggs, refined flours and white sugar.  But has anyone seen vegan versions, and without wheat or refined sweeteners?  Gotcha!  And so I had my angle.  

 I had been working for some time on a brownie recipe gfbrownie2.jpg made with pureed white (navy) beans, and decided to include this in the VegFamily piece by stretching the original concept somewhat.  Then, the other morning, I took a peek at Celine’s fabulous blog and–voila!–there is a recipe for Black Bean Brownies, based on a still-earlier version from Activist Mommy.  See what I mean?  It’s that 100th monkey effect (or, in this case, 100th black bean effect. And that’s not just a lot of hot air, either.  Unless you eat too many, of course.). 

Next up, I wanted to do something really decadent, and also really romantic.  One of the most romantic desserts of all time is the Molten Chocolate Cake, so I was determined to re-create a healthier, vegetable-rich, vegan version. 


First of all, regular molten chocolate cakes rely on lots of eggs, and the batter is only partially baked to ensure a soft, oozing, chocolatey centre.  I solved this problem by including two mixtures: one for the cake, and one for the centre, then combining before baking.  The result was a rich, gooey, warm and definitely decadent treat.  Oh, and just for fun, it has hidden zucchini and spinach in it! I’m happy to say that the result was enthusiastically “HH Approved.”  He’s even asked for them again, on the real Valentine’s Day.

The last item was a very fudgy, very peanut-buttery, chocolate-peanut butter cookie.  These were an immediate hit with Gemini I’s kids as well as my colleagues at the college.  And because they’re all used to my weirdo creations already, nobody batted an eye when I told them the cookies incorporated eggplant puree in the batter.


I’ll be posting all three recipes on this blog after the article is published.  If you’d like to check out the recipes before then, head on over to VegFamily once their February edition is up on the site.

Wishes for a Wonderful Day

December 25, 2007


Whether you’ve just woken up to find the Big Guy has already arrived, or whether you’re spending your day in some other way, here’s wishing you a day filled with fun, happiness, and the love of friends and family.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it’s wonderful. 

If not, enjoy the nearly empty movie theatres today.

Last Minute Christmas Cookie

December 24, 2007


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.”]  

* * *

Talk about under the wire.  Here it is, the LAST DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and I’m still experimenting with baking cookies (and still posting to Holidailies).  And guess what?  I think I’ve hit on something.

I’ve been wanting to do a Christmas sugar cookie for years.  Ever since I had to alter my diet and cut out wheat and refined sugars, it’s been a bit difficult to bake traditional treats (though there are so many great cookbooks out there, not to mention a whole lot of blogs using all-natural ingredients, which makes it easier and easier). 

agavecookietray.jpg After baking with agave nectar for the past few years, I felt pretty good about that.  But a sugar cookie?  Wouldn’t it be kind of heretical to take the sugar out of it?  (And what would I call it, anyway–“agave cookie cutouts”?). 

But recently, I also started baking chia seeds (yes, those selfsame seeds that used to grow into little animals in pottery shapes for kids), only edible.  One could say that “chia is the new flax,” since it contains the same healthful Omega 3 fatty acids, only more so than flax.  Further, chia is lighter in color and texture–perfect for a creamy white, snowy “sugar” cookie.

Sugar cookies are also, traditionally, rolled and cut.  When baking with agave, however, the cookie dough is more often soft and most suitable for scooping or smoothing into pans, to be cut later into bars (since agave is a liquid sweetener, after all).  So what to do?  I decided that the combination of coconut butter instead of butter (since it’s also solid at room temperature), and chia as an egg substitute would work best, since the chia would absorb some of the excess moisture in the agave. That way, I would be able to use almost the same ratio of flour to sweetener in a “regular” sugar cookie.

I’m happy to report that the dough came out beautiful!  It was a teeny bit softer than expected when first mixed, so I split it in two parts, and scooped the first half (at room temperature).  These cookies came out just barely golden on the bottoms, uniform in shape, with a beautiful, tender crumb and delicate flavor.  Truly, they were delicious–a great plain all-occasion cookie that’s not too sweet. 

I put the second half of the dough into the fridge to sit for an hour or two and firm up.  I’m going to roll it out later, cut it into shapes (should be interesting, as we haven’t yet unpacked all my baking supplies, and I’ve got neither a rolling pin nor my cookie cutters), and bake it that way; I’ll post those photos as soon as they’re ready.

[Edit, December 2008:   The dough was perfect once chilled–firm and easy to roll.  Here’s what the cookies look like rolled out, and cut with cookie cutters:]


In the meantime, I’ll share this recipe for those of you who may want to play around for next Christmas!


Ricki’s Sugar Agave Cookies



Every year, when my sisters and I were kids, for our birthdays we each got a made-from-scratch, personally decorated birthday cake for our party.  One year it was Little Bo Peep, another it was Barbie, still others it was a pretty array of colorful frosting flowers splashed across a chocolate rectangle.  Cake, always cake; but never can I recall having cupcakes for my birthday.

Well, times have changed. In just a few years, cupcakes have become all the rage.  Little cupcake-only shops have sprouted in every major city; and my friend Angie tells me that, in Dallas, they’ve reached a peak of price and exculsivity. One might even say that cupcakes are poised to take over the world!

And so, this season, though I’ve been asked to bake for several children’s parties and an at-home Christmas celebration, in every case I’ve been asked to bake up a batch of cupcakes. 

As a vegan baker who uses neither refined sugar nor margarine, I can sometimes find it incredibly difficult to come up with substitutions that will approximate the same look and taste as conventional recipes (even though I own, and have carefully persued, every page of Isa and Terry’s phenomenal book, and send major kudos their way–especially for the agave-based vanilla cupcakes).  I find it fairly easy to substitute organic coconut butter for margarine, but sugar really is one of a kind, especially when you’re talking buttercream.

So, while I continue to experiment with an agave-based buttercream frosting (and to post to Holidailies), I am left with my old standby, agave fudgy frosting, for cupcakes.  Though delicious and thoroughly chocolatey, it’s not airy in the least, and not as easy to pipe into ruffles or scallops or drop flowers. It tends to sport a high-gloss finish, and can be a bit stiff, sometimes firming up so much that it won’t agree to be piped at all.  When the vanilla version is colored for decorations, it resembles the type of gel-like icings you buy in little tubes in the grocery store–not much fine detail to work with, there. 


[cupcakes with a scoop of frosting, waiting to be transformed. . .

So, when I received an order for some last-minute cupcakes decorated with a holiday theme, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Without any formal training in cake decorating (which, I’m fairly sure, wouldn’t be much help with this type of frosting, anyway), I had to improvise.  So I thought about simple line drawings of bells or bows that I could pipe onto the cupcakes, or how I might fill in an outline with colored frosting, which would then be smoothed flat, with something like a stained glass effect.


[The blank canvas waiting for inspiration] 

Well, in the end, I would say the experiment was a semi-success.  You can tell what I was trying to achieve, but the icing just wouldn’t smooth out, so my holly leaves have little bumpy ridges on them.  Still, they tasted great (what? I couldn’t very well give them away without sampling to ensure quality, now, could I?), and I know that the kids who’ll be eating them will be thrilled. 


[chocolate and agave holiday cheer] 

With precious little time left before the holiday and so many people on the lookout for Christmas recipes, I’ll contribute one more festive cookie.  These are a dense, chewy round that combines a peanut butter base with chocolate chips and cranberries.  If you bake them the full suggested time, they’ll be crispy on the edges and soft but dry inside.  Bake a little less, and they’ll cool to a moist and chewy goodness.  These are actually better the second day, as the PB flavor intensifies.

Hmm.  Peanut butter, chocolate and cranberries. . . I may just have to bake some of these myself. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that sugarless vegan buttercream.

Holiday Cranberry Chippers