* Or, Ricki Finally Decides to Get Political

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and she taught Home Economics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

 tuttifruitiplate

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

1/2 cup (90 g.) Sucanat

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water

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

zest of 1/2 lime

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

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

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

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

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Gastronomic Gifts:

GG I: Fudge Two Ways

GG II:  Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

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

GG IV: Jam-Filled Turnovers

GG VI: Pumpkin Butter

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jam-Filled Turnovers

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

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

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

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

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One of the blogs I read and enjoy on a regular basis is Katie’s Chocolate Covered Vegan.  The ever-adorable,  squash-loving, mulitple-meals-with-same-dish, search-term reporting, Photoshop-proficient, cupcake-baker extraordinaire blogger provides great advice on cooking up healthy, delicious meals in a snap, many of which are quick and easy to make. And if you’ve ever read her blog, you’ll also know that Katie loves to use her blender (one of which she just acquired gratis–lucky gal!!).

Well, I may be a breakfast person, but that doesn’t automatically make me a cold-cereal person. Oh, I used to be a cold-cereal person, all right; throughout high school, I think I ate a bowl of Special K, Corn Flakes, Shreddies, or Cap’n Crunch (well, I had to have some indulgence, didn’t I?) with lots and lots of skim milk (ew!), every single day (and I wondered how I turned up with IBS!). cerealbox Ever since I changed my diet, though, I’ve relied more on cooked whole grains and soy or almond milk as my “cereal.”  Constants in my diet now are steaming bowls of steel-cut oats, brown basmati rice, millet, or even buckwheat for breakfast.  (In the longstanding DDD tradition of “Ricki and the HH must be diametrically opposed on every single issue,” my Human Honey loves cold cereal. So, when I buy the mega-box of Raisin Bran that he so adores, I often pick up another carton of something wholegrain for me, for those two times a year I have a hankering).

Well, over a year ago now, I read about the recipe for Banana Bread Blender Cereal on CCV’s blog.  I thought it sounded great–the perfect way to use up that box of cereal I rarely touched–but it was cold, and I crave warm during the snowbound months.  Problem solved:  I simply warmed it up instead.  

And you know what happened?  Just as Katie predicted, the banana caramelized a bit and the blended cereal absorbed the milk, smoothing up and softening–resulting in the most delicious, pillowy, creamy and self-sweetened cereal I’ve ever eaten!  I was hooked, immediately, and have made this for breakfast countless times since.  I’ve played with the recipe a bit since then, but the basics are the same.

Here, then, is the perfect comfort breakfast for a cold, snowy morning when the chill accosts your feet as you scamper across the kitchen tiles to the coffee maker (or teapot, in my case).  It takes only a few minutes to prepare, and rewards you with a warming, soothing, sweet and satisfying meal in a bowl.  Thanks, Katie!

(Oh, and Thanks to all from Elsie (and moi, of course) for the outpouring of support over our flagrant disregard of our vet’s advice, taking that cone off early anyway (stitches are scheduled to be removed Saturday).  Oh, and yes, Scott, I guess it would have been a little more effective if our Girl had turned on the computer first.)

[“What?? You have to turn it ON??”]

CCV’s Warm Blender Cereal

adapted from Chocolate Covered Vegan

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

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

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

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

 apricotspread1

As I’m wont to do during the drive to work, I tuned in to the CBC this morning and overheard Jian Ghomeshi (isn’t he just the dreamiest??) talk about how excited we Canadians get any time we’re mentioned on American TV. Last evening, in fact, Jon Stewart satirized our impending governmental crisis (if only that were a dream!) on The Daily Show.  As a food blogger, I must admit I felt the selfsame patriotic pride last month when Susur Lee  (also dreamy) was fêted by Ruth Reichl et al in New York, for the opening of his newest resto, Shang. I mean, now that we’re all firmly entrenched in the Era of the Celebrity Chef courtesy of Food TV, isn’t it just as exciting for us Canadians to hear mention of a Canadian chef in the U.S. media?

Oh, but way back before Canadian chefs were known anywhere beyond their own kitchen walls, before the days of Yum-O or Love and Best Dishes or eponymous cookware or chefs with “peasant” kitchens invading gradeschools and  riding Land Rovers–before all that, there was Bonnie Stern.

Stern was one of the very first “celebrity” chefs in Canada, known across the country at a time when the only viral netorking was an actual virus that networked its way through your mucus membranes and into your sinuses.  She ran a highly successful cooking school in Toronto, she owned a kitchenware store beside it, she published several best-selling cookbooks, had her recipes published in a variety of newspapers, and even tried her hand at her own cooking show for a time. 

Back in the 90s, at the apex of Stern word-of-mouth buzz, I attended one of her cooking classes; the topic was “Homemade Gifts for the Holidays.”  I was thrilled to have secured a coveted space in the always-sold-out classes, even at the exhorbitant fee of $95 (back then!). I was primed to observe the doyenne of cooking in her element, absorb every word she uttered, and finally become privy to the professinal tips and tricks she’d reveal as she prepared the most delectable and irresistible tidbits I’d ever tasted on a holiday table. 

Well, I have to tell you straight up that I was bitterly disappointed.  Sitting against the back wall of an auditorium-sized classroom (seriously, I had closer seats for forty bucks at the Bruce Springsteen concert that year), all I could see was a tiny figure in the distance that resembled the barely distinguishable collection of phosphor dot people I squinted at regularly on my (then) 12-inch television screen at home–and it wasn’t even Stern herself; it was a poor substitute, a culinary surrogate!  After whipping up a series of recipes in quick succession and without much instruction, the recipe demonstrator passed around trays of thimble-sized samples for each person to nibble upon, all fairly bland and unexciting.

One recipe, however, stood apart from the rest, and it alone was (almost) worth the price of admission:  Honey Liqueur Fruit Butter.  It was a quick, easy spread consisting of dried apricots, candied ginger, and orange liqueur.  Although I’m not, as a rule, particularly enamored of jams or jellies, I fell in love with this spread.  I swooned.  I drooled.  I surreptitiously tasted three thimbles full. 

I returned home and promptly re-created the spread, not once, but several times over the following few months.  I gave away little jars as hostess gifts; I bestowed a few jars on my sisters and close friends;  I spread it on bagels, pancakes, muffins and bread.  And then, I tucked the recipe away in a file folder and forgot about it for over a decade.

That very folder–older, grayer, fraying at the edges–has been packed up and upacked during seven separate house-moves since that time. This year, while pondering what I might cook up as holiday gifts from my kitchen, I finally remembered it.  Like the memory of a first kiss, the thought of that recipe unearthed a wave of longing and a compelling desire to once again re-create that long-ago, captivating sensation.  I dug out the file folder and cooked up a batch.  And (perhaps unlike that first kiss with your childhood sweetheart) this spread was just as good 15 years later.

I’ve subbed agave for the honey and brandy for the liqueur, with spectacular results.  This is a smooth, glossy spread that will keep for more than a month in the refrigerator, since the alcohol acts as a preservative. I love this slathered on breakfast food, but it would be a terrific filling for a danish or rugelach as well.

This recipe is my submission to Happy Cook’s blog event, Home Made Christmas Gifts, featuring home made gifts for the holidays.

(“Mum, too bad we can’t have anything with alcohol in it. . . but we’d be happy with all those breakfast foods on their own, next time you’re slathering.”)

Brandied Apricot-Ginger Spread

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

apricotspread3

My notes from the original class tell me you could also substitute dried pears for the apricots, or a combination of prunes and dried apples, adjusting the liqueur accordingly (poire William and armagnac come to mind, but any favorite will work nicely).

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

(c) Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

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

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

fudgeorangeapricot

Back in the day (haven’t you always wondered about that expression?  I mean, which day?), I used to bake entirely conventional, non-vegan, sweets and treats. As a graduate student with a job as a Teaching Assistant as well as a scholarship, I was lucky enough to have both a flexible schedule and sufficient finances to indulge my love of culinary invention.  My favorites at the time were cheesecakes, light and fluffy (and, in particular, a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake–yep, studded with globs of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough), whipped cream-topped layer cakes or pavlovas, and thick, dense, decadent brownies of all spots and stripes (top contender there was an intensely dark chocolate brownie with hidden pockets of Caramilk chocolate bar strewn throughout–cut the brownie and be treated to surprising little bursts of oozy, gooey caramel, enveloped in creamy milk chocolate. . . there must be a way to do this in a [semi?] NAG-friendly version!).

In any case, what I really loved was baking for the holidays.  Between studying for finals, I’d take breaks by whipping up assorted cookies and bars, and filling dainty, decorative tins with dozens of them as Christmas gifts for my friends and colleagues. It was a fun challenge to find 12-15 recipes for cookies in differing flavors, textures, shapes or colors, so that the varying hues and contours complemented each other visually when placed together like pieces of a mosaic in the tins.   Most years, I went so far as to draw a legend on a circle of paper (placed atop the cookies before closing the tin), like the kind you get in boxes of mixed chocolates, illustrating each different flavor and shape so people would know in advance what they chose (can you say, “anal”?).

Even though my schedule isn’t nearly as flexible any more (not to mention my hip joints), I decided that this year, I really wanted to resurrect that tradition for the holidays.  And while cookies are still on the list, I’m going to focus more on slightly less perishable items, so that I (and you) can send these goodies to loved ones far away, or as parting gifts with visitors who pop in over the next few weeks. 

One thing I’ve never made as a gift, though, is fudge.  When the HH and I were first together, we once took a weekend junket to Niagara-on-the-Lake (not far from the Canadian side of Niagra Falls) to trundle around and see a play at the Shaw Festival.  Well, I said I was going for the play, anyway.  What I really looked forward to was a visit to a little candy shop that’s become semi-famous for its fudge.  Have you ever tried fresh, satiny homemade fudge, like, 30 seconds after it’s set? 

Oh.

MY.

They say chocolate is better than sex, but really, chocolate fudge is even better than chocolate.

Still, I’m aware that no self-respecting holistic nutritionist or health-conscious foodie would foist fudge on friends (and no self-respecting writer would pen such an obviously hokey alliteration!)  Craving all that is chocolate, smooth, and fondant-like, I sought out a healthier version–but one that would still embody the same indulgent, creamy, and, most importantly, chocolate–qualities of “real” fudge.

Well, I’ve found it!  Today’s recipes are both based on a Carob Fudge I saw ages ago on Deb’s blog.  I’ve been waiting to try it since then, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  Of course, since I can’t even imagine a non-chocolate variety, I played with the recipes somewhat and created not one, but two cacao-flavored versions.  The first is orange-scented, studded with tangy bits of chopped dried apricot, while the other is draped over clusters of mixed nuts and dropped into little truffle cups to serve as individual candies.  I have no doubt that whomever you choose to bestow these upon, they will devour them most gratefully.  Perhaps best of all, this is incredibly quick to make!

Mum, we love the idea of food-based gifts for the holidays!  But why did you take out the carob–now we can’t have any. . .

I’d also love to hear what you’re whipping up this year as gifts.  Do you have any old favorites, or perhaps some newfound treasures?  Leave a comment (or a link to a recipe) so we can all increase our gift-giving repertoire!

I also thought this would be the perfect submission to the Monthly Mingle:  Low-Sugar Sweet Treats, this month hosted by Dee at The Daily Tiffin and originated by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey?.  This month, they’re requesting desserts low sugar. 

Chocolate-Orange Fudge with Apricots

adapted from Altered Plates

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

fudgeorangeapricotclose

Smooth, rich and as dense as cream-based fudge, these squares are a perfect post-prandial sweet to help settle a meal (or, in my case, the final course of the meal itself).

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Fudge Nut Clusters (variation)

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fudgenutcups

These little confections are perfect to serve at tea or on a dessert tray for a buffet celebration.

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

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

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

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

See you after the holiday!

chaserunderbed

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

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

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[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)

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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.

Holiday Bundt Apple Cake

September 23, 2008

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One of the shared quirks of most Canadians is our propensity to focus on the weather (well, that, and our internationally-recognized, world-renowned politeness. Oh, but please do excuse me for interrupting that train of thought with a parenthesis–how very rude! I do apologize). 

We tend to talk about the weather, attempt to predict the weather, fume about the weather, complain vociferously about the weather, aim to forestall the weather, dread the weather, boast about surviving the weather, try desperately to ignore the weather, occasionally (like two days a year) rejoice at the weather, discuss and ponder and ruminate about the weather. . . basically, we are obsessed by the weather. Why? 

Well, I suppose, it has something to do with our ancestors and early settlers whose lives really were ruled by the vagaries of snow, sleet and wind, or the whims of Mother Nature–one false move in January in Peterborough, and you ended up dead.  These days, of course, we’ve got heating and insulation during the winter months, but it seems we’ve inherited the predilection to stress about the weather all year round.

This past weekend, for instance, the air was gloriously warm but maddeningly humid.  Now, why couldn’t we simply combine the temperatures with the sunshine of a crisp February morning, and call it a summer’s day?  I’m really a warm-weather gal, despite my lack of any athletic or outdoorsy skills or prowess.  I am happy to sit outside in the back yard, read a book or magazine, or simply watch The Girls wrestle on the grass when the weather is felicitous. 

When people first find out that I was born and raised in Montreal, they inevitably comment, “Oh, well, then, you MUST be a skier, right, with all that snow you get over there?”  Sadly, no.  I do not ski.  I do not skate. I do not snowmobile on a lake. I do not like the snow on ground, I do not like it where it’s found. I do not like the cold or snow–I do not like it, I wish it would GO.  (Ah, yes, once again, I must apologize for going off on a rant.  And to Dr. Seuss, too, of course.)

Now that fall has almost arrived, the climate is beginning to evoke thoughts of cosy sweaters, fuzzy blankets, knees tucked up before the fireplace. When we take The Girls for their walks along the trails, the barren trees on either side of the paths span above our heads, branches reaching across to touch each other as if holding hands. Carpets of brown, red, and orange leaves crinkle below our feet as we stroll along. There is, I must admit, something rather appealing about it all. In addition, autumn is the harbinger of Holiday Season–for some, as early as the end of the month.

The other day, my friend Eternal Optimist asked about recipes for Rosh Hashanah.  The Jewish New Year falls on September 28th this year, and she was looking for new recipes for baked goods, as her son recently became vegan and most of her current recipes contain eggs and dairy.  I thought about the traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes focusing on apples and honey, and remembered a cake my mom used to bake when we were kids. The recipe was from a Mazola Corn Oil recipe card, and (along with a hefty portion of corn oil) featured both apples and honey in a huge bundt cake embracing thinly sliced Macintoshes between layers of fragrant, moist honey cake, so that it kind of resembled a cross-section of the Canadian Shield when cut, the strata of golden, caramelized fruit nestled between tender, tawny cake.  Well, of course, once I thought of it, I simply had to re-create that cake.

I couldn’t find my mum’s recipe, so I made one up based on a vanilla cake I created a few years ago, adding brown rice syrup as a stand-in for honey, paired with cinnamon and Sucanat-dusted apples.  Here, then, is my version of the childhood favorite.  This cake is perfect for any holiday celebration, as it could easily serve a crowd. It’s not overly fancy, so if you’d like to dress it up a bit, glaze it with your favorite glaze or dust with confectioner’s sugar, if you choose.  The fruit filling is generous and bountiful, just like the harvest in autumn, and might even make you forget the cloudy, stormy, chilly air outside while you indulge. 

Since this cake was based on one my mom used to make, I’m submitting it to the “Making History” event hosted by Allan at Recovered Recipes.  The event asks you to find (and photograph) an old recipe card and post the outcome of the recipe.  My version of the old recipe is one that my mom used to make, which I found in a handwritten baking book:

[Yep, that’s an old recipe, all right. . . ]

And here’s the updated version!

Holiday Apple Bundt Cake

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

I’ve been known to enjoy a slice of this for breakfast–add a handful of nuts and really, isn’t that a balanced meal?

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Pear and Parsnip Soup

September 19, 2008

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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.” 

It seems like another lifetime now, but the year after my starter marriage

ended, I lived in a townhouse with my dear friend Gemini I.  Shortly after the furniture was placed and the boxes unpacked, we began to negotiate the rules of housework, grocery shopping, and TV usage when we got to chatting about food.  I remember asking, “Do you like cous cous?” (In those days, I ate it all the time, though it’s pretty much verboten now since I don’t eat wheat).  I was taken aback by her answer, which, at the time, I found a little odd.

“Well, I suppose I do,” she responded.  “There are times when I’ll cook it every day for two weeks, but then I might not touch it or even think of it for 8 or 9 months.”  I couldn’t imagine ignoring a food I actually enjoyed for that long (and chocolate? Well, that one would be calculated in hours–nay, minutes–rather than days or weeks). 

These days, though, I understand exactly what she meant.  When one maintains a food blog, the quest for the novel and atypical dish never ends.  This pursuit sometimes leaves old favorites languishing in the dust–or at the back of the cupboard (or both, in the case of our cupboard).  On the other hand, I might whip up something new from a recipe I found on another blog, and enjoy it so much that the HH and I will feast on said dish several times during the next week.  And the following week.  In fact, we might just consume that comestible every second or third day for two to three weeks (which does provide several useful photo-ops, after all)–and then dump it unceremoniously, just as Chaser dumps her squeaky ball (ad nauseum, I might add) at my feet.  Once I’ve gotten my fill, I move on, seeking the next culinary encounter.

Well, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I often find myself with a surplus of overripe pears in the house, as I did a couple of evenings ago. Since the HH refuses to share in the burden of eating fruit (hey!  That could be the title of Michael Pollan’s next tome:  The Burden of Eating Fruit: An Exposition on Overripe Organic Produce), I’m always on the lookout for tasty recipes with pears, before they become too soft and squishy, too oozy, too yellow-flecked-with-brown.  Our freezer is already bursting with chopped, frozen pears, so I needed to cook up these babies–and fast.

It was then I remembered an erstwhile favorite, one that we consumed for a spell and then promptly forgot. It’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Green by Flip Shelton. From what I understand, Shelton is kind of like an Aussie Rachael Ray, and isn’t taken very seriously as a chef (what’s that bogan doing cooking biscuits on the barbie? What a dag!  Well, she’s still ace to me.  G’day!).  The recipe sounds like an incongruous combination of ingredients (though not as incongruous as radishes, olives and grapefruit), mixing pear and parsnip with sautéed leeks, but the final result is incredibly tasty.  Fragrant, slightly sweet from the pears and slightly peppery from the parsnip, with a velvety smooth, light texture.  Yum-O!

And since this soup features both fruit and, well, soup, I’m submitting it to this months’ No Croutons Required, a monthly event hosted alternately by Holler (this month) and Lisa, which asks us to cook up either a salad or soup with fruit as a main ingredient. 

Oh, and before I sign off, I really must thank all of you for being so understanding and so polite.  I mean, it’s painfully evident that I was a total bust at the ACD this time round (okay, maybe not a TOTAL bust–I did last almost 2 weeks). And yet you’ve all had the diplomacy and tact not to mention it!  For that, I am grateful. 

And while I’ve decided this may not have been the best time to embark on an even more restrictive diet (school starting up, cold weather coming, cookbook calling), I do still try to eat foods that would fit within the parameters of the diet as often as possible, perhaps minus one or two ingredients. Well, turns out this fantastic soup could easily qualify as an anti-candida meal, even without trying (if you’re following the version that permits non-tropical fruits, that is).  It’s also a very simple, very nourishing concoction that offers fabulous fiber from the pears, a hit of extra calcium from the parsnips and a satisfying early autumn tummy-warming. You may even decide to make it again and again–at least, for a couple of weeks or so.   

Pear and Parsnip Soup

from Flip Shelton’s Green

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It may not be entirely photogenic, but this easy, quick recipe produces a satisfying soup.  The combination of slightly sweet, slightly peppery, and slightly creamy works beautifully here.

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

Banana-Berry Breakfast Cakes

September 15, 2008

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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.” 

(Quick–try saying that title out loud ten times!). 

After staying up too late watching Tina Fey’s masterwork on Saturday evening, the HH and I woke up late Sunday–perfect excuse for brunch! As I rooted through the refrigerator for inspiration, I came across a half-full container of soy yogurt.  Now, you may recall that I was all high and mighty (though not as high and mighty as Tina Fey) last week, feeling pretty darned smug about how I cook everything from scratch, would never buy anything processed, yadda yadda yadda.  Well, isn’t it ironic, then, that I happened to have this soy yogurt glaring at me from the top shelf of my fridge?  True, I bought it originally at the behest of my friend PR Queen, who’d been extolling the virtues of this particular brand to me (and it did come in very handy for my mock tuna).  In this case, I promised to try out the strawberry flavor, and while it was. . . .okay. . . . I wasn’t crazy about it. I knew I’d never consume it “straight” the way I would dairy yogurt.  So I began to wonder what else I could conjure with it.

The first item I baked was a brownie–and not just any brownie–this one was superlative, and I’ll post about it anon (Oh, vague recollection of ACD!  Wherefore art thou, ACD, and why hast thou forsaken me, and I forsaken thee?) Anyway, I thought I might combine the strawberry yogurt with sliced bananas for an ultra airy, fluffy pancake.  I imagined the yogurt would react much like buttermilk in the recipe, creating a feather-light texture and fine crumb.  I was salivating at the very thought. (“Mum, we could salivate at the thought, too, you know–we sort of can’t help it.  Just ask Pavlov.“)  

In the home of my childhood, pancakes were a big deal.  In fact, brunch on Sundays were basically sacrosanct in our house; it was the only meal of the week we could all share together as a family (my dad worked 6 days a week in his butcher shop–yep, that’s right, he was a butcher!–and generally left in the morning before we kids were awake, then didn’t return home until well beyond 7:00 or 8:00 PM, after completing deliveries. But he didn’t work on Sundays, so that day was reserved for our family meal). 

No matter what my sisters or I had planned for the rest of the day, no matter how much we’d sobbed the night before watching Susan Hayward in I Want To Live on the Late Show, no matter how much we’d shrieked and bopped and hurled pieces of toast at the screen during  The Rocky Horror Picture Show, no matter how many Pina Coladas we’d downed while dancing with our buddies at the local disco, we were still expected to be on time at the brunch table on Sunday.  And since Dad was an early riser, “brunch” might begin anywhere from 8:30 to 10:00AM.  To their credit, my parents never said a word when we stumbled to the table looking less than perky. 

Occasionally, my mother would whip up a “treat,” what she called Cottage Cheese Pancakes (no points for creativity there–they were pancakes that contained cottage cheese).  Compared to our regular brunch pancakes, which were thick, fluffy, and mile-high, the cottage cheese variety were more like a yawn than a sigh: heavier, moister, and, to my mind, far less refined.  The first time you tried them, you might even wonder whether they were entirely cooked, as the outsides appeared bronzed and dry, yet the innards never quite lost their cheesy, gooey moistness. 

When I cooked up my own cakes this past Sunday and dug into the first bite, I was taken aback by the memory of those cottage cheese pancakes.  To begin with, they weren’t quite as high and fluffy as I’d expected, more like a cross between a pancake and a crêpe (a pancrêpe?).  Not entirely flat, yet with a slightly moist interior (courtesy of the yogurt), creamy and sweet where dotted with nearly-caramelized banana, these rounds were appealing enough to munch on their own, yet not so sweet to be cloying when served with syrup or jam (such as the all-fruit strawberry preserves with which I topped them).  They were also, coincidentally, most astonishingly good, and the HH and I enjoyed a couple of them each alongside our weekend tofu scramble. 

In the end, I wasn’t sure what to call these cakes.  I decided to go simply with “cakes,” which reflects their connection to both pancakes and griddle cakes from my childhood.  A delicious combination of fruit and cake; seemed like the perfect breakfast to me. 

And since these cakes contain not one, but two whole grain flours, I’m sending this off to Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen, who’s hosting  “Grains in my Breakfast” for Weekend Breakfast Blogging (an event started by Nandita at Saffron Trail).

[Quick Cookbook Note: THANKS SO MUCH, everyone, for your wonderful comments and support regarding the cookbook!  And thanks to all the volunteers who asked to be testers. I’m wrapping up the paperwork and will contact the testers this week! I really appreciate everyone’s input and feedback, testers or not–so keep those comments coming!]

Banana Berry Breakfast Cakes

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

A cross between a classic pancake and a crepe, these are the vegan incarnation of cottage cheese pancakes, with the added bonus of two types of fruit.  The strawberry may be my feeble attempt to hold onto the last vestiges of summer, but luckily, yogurt is in season all year round.

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