DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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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.”

It’s a truism when discussing the era of flower children and Woodstock to say, “If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.”  When it comes to the 1980s, however, those of us who lived through it are more likely to lament, “I remember it all–if only I could forget!” Still, the Era of All Things Excessive (also known as the “Me” Decade) did have its touchstones.   

Let’s see: if you (a) know what a “social X-Ray” refers to; (b) can name the performers who sang “Ebony and Ivory“; (c) own one of the original Cabbage Patch Dolls; (d) know where Expo ’86 took place; and (e) have seen the only movie in which Julia Roberts was actually any good, then you, like I, were most likely cognizant of the 1980s–like it or not. 

And yet, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for those times.  I mean, how can anyone forget the heady 80s, with their typical Yuppie motto of “More is More”?  As a PhD student on her own in the Big City of Toronto, it was in the 80s that I finally became comfortable perceiving myself as an “adult.”  Working as both a don in residence and a teaching assistant at university, I supported myself while studying and carrying on an active social life, as only someone in the early throes of adulthood can do. With a built-in social network (three of my close friends from childhood had already moved here years before) and PhD seminars filled with interesting new classmates (as well as the occasional crush), I was happy to spend my time memorizing Beowulf by day, then taking on the town by night. 

80s urban professionals were regularly amused by showy sportscars, massive parties, both private and public (raves made their appearance in the 80s), big hair (remember Boy George?), big fashion (ah, yes, Amazonian shoulder pads) and even bigger earrings.  I recall encountering a colleague in the hallway at work one day, feeling pretty snappy, bedecked as I was with a pair of my favorite gold-wire earrings. He took one glance my way and sniped, “Wow, how’d you get those hamster wheels to stay attached to your earlobes?”. 

Ah, yes, pretty much everything from the 1980s was excessive and self-indulgent.  And the food?  Oh, my, the food. . . .

The 1980s were epitomized by everything rich, from Gordon Gekko to Double-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel-Cream Cheesecake.  Foods were elaborate and multi-layered, and nobody ever worried about saturated fat, cream, too much red meat, organic, or whether the tiramisu was made with whole-grain ladyfingers. No one had ever heard of Omega 3s, let alone ingested them, and restaurants were just getting their fingers wet with the new food architecture that mandated aesthetics over taste.  In those days, I’d spend hours cooking and baking for dinner parties, multiple courses and desserts that could, on their own, drain the stock of an entire dairy farm for a day.  

One of the best-selling cookbooks of the time was The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  Two regular New York gals who’d made a name for themselves by operating one of the most successful little gourmet shops in the city’s history, these women finally collaborated on a cookbook and were instantly rewarded with an overwhelming, almost cult-like following. 

Like most of my friends, I possess a well-worn copy of the maroon and white-covered tome, its edges fraying a little and pages splotched with grease stains.  From the side, my book appears to have donned a jagged, fringed winter scarf, as little strips of sticky-notes, marking recipes I wished to try, peek out from almost every page.   One in particular, Chicken Marbella, was cooked so many times that I had to replace the sticky note on more than one occasion.

Well, for some reason, while I lay supine in bed for ten days, my mind kept wandering back to that darned Chicken Marbella.  Maybe I was a little delirious; maybe the muscle relaxants brought with them delusions of poultry; or maybe I was just ravenous since I couldn’t get up to feed myself, subsisting on the meager, dried-out muffin the HH left on the bed each morning before he trotted off to work.  Whatever the catalyst, I craved that dish.  So, as soon as I was up and about, I pulled out my trusty copy of The Silver Palate, and set about adapting.

The original recipe turned out to be slightly different from what I remembered (in my idealized version, it was aromatic with a variety of Moroccan spices, rather than the lone oregano it does contain), but it was still alluring.  Certain that quinoa would partner perfectly with the other ingredients, and after a little tinkering, I came up with this recipe.

I must tell you, this was astonishingly good.  Next time, I’ll begin with a little more quinoa and chickpeas, as the original marinade was aimed at 4 chickens (I’ve adjusted the recipe, below, accordingly). As in the original dish, the unconventional combination of baked prunes and olives is spectacular, and the quinoa provides a perfect base to soak up and then showcase the flavorful marinade. Even if you’re not normally a fan of prunes, I think you will enjoy them here.

I love this dish as a main course casserole, but the HH still yearns for the chicken and prefers this as a side dish.  He ate it, sighing, wishing aloud that if only we’d met in the 1980s when I was still throwing elaborate dinner parties with dishes like Chicken Marbella or some excessively rich cheesecake, he could have sampled the “real” recipe.

But of course, that would never have happened.  Even if, by some weird karmic commingling of our (then) diametrically opposed lifestyles, we had actually met back then, the HH would have taken one glance at my bouffant hairdo, while I took one glance at his erstwhile “business associates,” and we would both have run screaming in opposite directions. It wasn’t until the end of the 90s, after having both matured considerably, that fate ultimately brought us together with a coup de foudre. . . followed, inevitably, by our current calm, somewhat predictable, and rather domestic existence. 

Amazing, isn’t it, what changes just one decade can bring?

With its fragrant oregano, olives, and prunes, this dish is my submission to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi.

Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

Adapted from this original recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook

Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and warmly spiced, this dish is a delectable treat.  Because it is rather rich and filling, if served as a main course, a simple, light salad would be the perfect accompaniment.

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

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

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

You guys are too funny!

I would never have guessed that my silly little comment about quotation marks at the end of yesterday’s post could spark so many witty comebacks.  Well, quotation marks be damned! Now that I’m officially *back,* I’ll just have to reach waaaay %back % into my punctuation quiver and pick out a few other sharp marks and symbols.  And so, right ++BACK++ at ya! 

For now, though, I must hold myself >bAcK< and will no longer tap my spinal woes as a source of humor (though the original Spinal Tap, on the other hand, provides its own endless source of punny laughs).  And now, let’s get back  to today’s Lucky Comestible!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’re likely already familiar with my penchant for breakfast foods.  The morning repast is, unequivocally, my favorite meal of the day.  So how could I go through five different recipes featuring quinoa and NOT include at least one targeted breafast dish? 

I’ve already covered a baked good with the Almond-Quinoa Muffins; today, I’ve repurposed Lisa’s amazing Quinoa and Oatmeal Croquettes recipe for a breakfasty-sweet usage rather than the delectable savory meal (smothered in a rich mushroom sauce) that she originally wrote about. Luckily, the recipe is super-easy and employs ingredients I already had on hand, so I was able to whip these up without having to head to the supermarket, which would have undoubtedly strained my finances patience relationship  (Oh, just SAY IT:)  BACK .

I’ve always thought of croquettes as somewhat pear-shaped orbs that sit under a thick slathering of creamy sauce.  As a kid, my mom sometimes made chicken croquettes, which involved grinding, mixing, and shaping the mounds of seasoned chicken before rolling them in breadcrumbs and baking them, after which they were doused with à la King sauce (ie, canned cream of mushroom soup) that had a handful of frozen peas thrown in. Representative of the times, but hardly worth the effort, I always thought.

When I saw Lisa’s recipe, I was a little surprised at the form of these croquettes. Like that iconic fast-food hamburger, they were square rather than round; and like the proverbial bank heist-without-a-hitch, they were almost too easy: simply cook up, spread in pan, then cut into shape.  I suppose I could have used a cookie cutter to approximate a rounded shape, but why bother? Who said croquettes have to be round, anyway?

What I like about these little darlings is that the quinoa is very evident–not a co-star, but the main attraction.  The oats, while present, don’t really determine much of the overall flavor; rather, they seem to bind the croquettes together instead. The mixture reminded me very much of a polenta in texture and preparation; but the taste was, to my mind, very well suited to breakfast.

 And so, still limited by the few ingredients I actually had in the house after the GBR, I pulled out some homemade cranberry preserves as a topper and set about heating these in the griddle for breakfast.  I was very well rewarded with a nubby-textured, moist and chewy croquette highlighted by the occasional crunch, courtesy of sesame seeds sprinkled over top.  The slightly sweet, slightly tart jam was the perfect accompaniment.  These would also be divine with maple syrup, I think.  Oh, and mushroom sauce (as Lisa suggests) too, of course.  

 

Quinoa-Oatmeal Croquettes

from Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen

 

Quick, hearty, and substantial, these are the perfect breakfast bites.  If you’re in a hurry, you can even wrap them up and take them along.  And, as Lisa suggests, they make a great base for a savory sauce, too.

1 cup dry quinoa

1 cup rolled or steel-cut oats (I used rolled oats)

3 cups water

1/4 tsp. sea salt

sesame seeds, as needed

olive oil, as needed

If desired, rinse the quinoa to remove the bitter outer resin (I didn’t bother, as I assume most quinoa these days is pre-rinsed; but if you want to be safe, go ahead). Place in a glass casserole or pan along with the 3 cups water, cover, and soak overnight in the fridge.

The next day, grease a 9 x 9 inch square pan with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Pour the mixture into a medium-sized pot and stir in the sea salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until it has the consistency of a thick porridge, about 25-30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Refrigerate at least 20 minutes, to let the mixture cool and firm up (I left it for about 4 hours).  Cut the mixture in to cubes of desired size (I cut the contents of the pan into 20 small cubes).

Lightly oil a frying pan with the olive oil, and fry the cubes on both sides until golden brown and crispy on the outside.  Transfer to a plate and serve with fruit preserves of your choice.  Makes 4-5 servings.  Will keep for 4 days, covered, in the fridge.

Other Posts in this Series:

Lucky Comestible II (1): Quinoa Salad with Buckwheat and Cranberries

Lucky Comestible II (2): Almond-Quinoa Muffins

Lucky Comestible II (3): Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

Lucky Comestible II (5): Apple-Quinoa Cake

Other Quinoa Recipes:

(Got a quinoa recipe?  Send me the link during this Lucky Comestible week, and I’ll add it to the list!)

 

 

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.”]  

 Part I:  THE JUICE SEGMENT (feel free to skip to Part II)

We’re having some down time today at the DDD household, as today is the first-ever Family Day holiday in Ontario (I’ve always thought it only civilized to have a day off in February–the gap between New Year’s and Easter/Passover is just too long).  Everything government-related is closed, as are many retail establishments, so the streets are quiet and still.  Why, it’s the perfect atmosphere to reflect on my first entire day of WOCA (Week of Chocolate Asceticism)!

But since I know you’re likely more interested in the food than my self-imposed abstemiousness, I’ve decided not to dwell on my woe-is-me struggle to avoid chocolate during this time.  Instead, I’ll provide an update each day at the end of the post–following the main attraction (a new recipe!).  And one of the perfect ways to start off a shiny, new, “clean” week of eating is a delicious, cleansing, freshly-squeezed vegetable juice.

What? Juice?? But where, you may ask, are all the desserts?  Where are the cookies, the muffins, the pies, the cakes?  Where are the yummy, creative vegan dishes?  Where is the–CHOCOLATE?

Ah, yes.  Now, now, let’s all take a deep breath, count to ten, and focus on the mantra  kiss and make up reload the chamber try to calm down.  No, no, we haven’t abandoned chocolate indefinitely!  That sweet sepia beauty shall return; all in good time.  In the meantime, however, I have a party to attend in less than 2 weeks, which means I need to get my ass in gear (no, I mean that literally–I have no gear big enough to fit my–well, you get the idea). 

Despite having a well established and famous juice-bar-turned-restaurant here in Toronto, I first tasted a freshly squeezed vegetable juice in Ithaca, New York, at the famed Moosewood restaurantThe HH and I were on our way to visit my Boston cousins for a few days, and spent an evening exploring the university town.  After reading so much about the Moosewood over the years (and coveting the Moosewood cookbooks I owned), I couldn’t wait to try their food.  The juice was merely an afterthought–“Something to drink before your meal, Ma’am?”–so I ordered without really thinking about it (I was too fixated on having been called “Ma’am,” I guess). I had a carrot, beet, and ginger mix, and was immediately enamoured! The HH, not quite so infatuated, declined to even taste it (“I can smell the beets,” he pouted.  “It smells like dirt.”).

A few years later, I learned more about fresh juices in nutrition school, and was so inspired I promptly went out and bought myself a ridiculously overpriced single-gear juicer.  Freshly squeezed, juice is a detoxifyer, immune booster, and wealth of nutrition. (If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a quick and clear description of the power of raw juices in a book my friend PR Queen lent me, called Raw Food: Life Force Energy.)

As a result of that juicy inspiration, I peeled, chopped, pushed, propelled, squeezed, filtered and poured enthusiastically for the first year or so, before I grew weary of spending 15-20 minutes just to clean the mechanical monstrosity when it took me all of one minute to actually drink the beverage it prepared.  You see, juicers tend to generate an abundance of both juice AND pulp; and the pulp has a tendency to cling obstinately inside the filter (which turns out to be a good thing for the juice per se, as you really don’t want to be lapping up strings of celery fiber from your glass).  Nonetheless, juicing can be an onerous task.

juiceglass2.jpg One of my favorite juice combinations in the morning is carrots, apple, celery, beets, ginger, parsley and dark, leafy greens (usually kale), with a clove of garlic thrown in for good measure (and the anti-microbial properties in confers).  Drink one of these concoctions first thing, and you’re basically buzzing until lunch (with complimentary protection against vampires included). 

I did convince the HH to try my juice, just once.  His response–emitted along with a fine spray of the green liquid itself–was: “Aaarrggghhhecchhh!! This tastes like A FIELD OF WET GRASS.”  (Now, don’t ask me how he knows what a field of wet grass tastes like; but anyway.)

And so, rather than impose the selfsame green terror on all of you this fine winter’s day (I’ll save that for another fine winter’s day), I thought I’d start off this week with something nourishing, something sweet and crunchy, something to suit breaking the fast in the morning:  homemade granola!  

Part II:  THE GRANOLA SEGMENT

Over the past few years (ever since I studied holistic nutrition) I’ve had colleagues and friends occasionally remark as I wax poetic about tofu or kale, “Now, don’t go all crunchy granola on me, Ric.”  But I’d never take offense at the comment; I could never comprehend why that phrase should be flung pejoratively. What is wrong with crunchy granola, anyway? 

 As far as breakfast cereals go, granola (a real, whole-foods kind, not sugar- and fat-laden varieties you find in wax-lined boxes) is one of the best.  A flavorful potpourri of whole grains with their generous mineral and fiber content, gem-like dried fruits with theIr chewy sweetness and tang (and even more of those necessary minerals), and the occasional flake of coconut or morsel of toasted nut (both providing healthy fats)–well, what’s not to love? 

Although I’m not a regular consumer of cold breakfast cereals (though I do love me some baked oatmeal once in a while), granola is one cold cereal I do fancy.  I love the mix of textures from crumbly to crunchy to chewy, all bathed in opaque milky sweetness (whichever type you choose).

This recipe is loosely based on the one in Becoming Vegetarian by Melina Vesanto, and I’ve adapted it liberally.  I’ve added more of the liquids to bind the granola into clusters, and adapted the fruits to suit my tastes (also adding a bit more than the original recipe suggests).  Here’s the mix of dried cranberries, unsweetened cherries, raisins, goji berries I used this time round. The array of dark reds and brilliant coral of the gojis nestled on top the grains creates quite a tantalizing mosaic of color.

fruitsgranola.jpg

Homemade Crunchy Granola

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

You won’t miss the usual wheat in this satisfying, healthy granola.  It is slightly less dense than store-bought, and contains less fat. This holds up well in milk and is equally good as a snack on its own. For a gluten-free version, simply use oats, buckwheat, or quinoa flakes.

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

 

granolabowl1.jpg

 

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

 

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

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.”]

When I first read about the blog event called No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen and Holler of Tinned Tomatoes, my first thought was, “Yes! I’d love to contribute my favorite soup recipe!” 

Then, quick on the heels of that thought was this one: “Hmmn.  No, maybe not.  Can’t use that one; too bland. Too boring.  Too commonplace. Too–I don’t know–too beige.” 

And yet, I love that soup.  It’s easy to make, the ingredients are staples we always have on hand, and it’s never let me down. It conjures warming memories of my childhood. In wintertime, it’s often the basis for a hearty, simple dinner in our house.  And it’s delicious!  

And that’s how I realized that yes, sometimes, beige is exactly what you want. 

You know what I mean.  Case in point:  we recently moved into this relatively new house.  The previous tenants had taken it upon themselves to paint every room according to their own eccentric tastes.  Living room:  mustard yellow, tomato red and rust.  Kitchen:  mint green and dusty rose.  Bedroom (I kid you not): DEEP PURPLE and MUSTARD YELLOW.  (Purple!  And yellow!)  Bathroom:  baby blue.  And so on, and so on. . .

Well, before we moved in, we had to have the whole thing freshly painted in a nice, neutral, beige-like color.  And while part of our choice was really just consideration for the next tenants and what they might like, that wasn’t the only reason we picked beige.  Beige is familiar. Beige is inobtrusive.  Beige is unoffensive.  And it goes with everything (unlike paisley, which, apparently, goes with nothing).

There are times in life when you could just use a little beige. 

When, for example, you finally break it off with that philandering Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants), and now you desire a nice, standard-issue, plaid-shirt-Levis-jeans kinda guy.  Or when you’ve already contorted your mind watching Memento, Twelve Monkeys, Adaptation, or Dogville, and now you just want simple and easy, like On the Road to Morocco or Pretty Woman (yes, I realize that last one stars Julia Roberts, but she wasn’t quite so Julia Roberts back then, so I can live with it). Or when you’ve spent a romantic evening lingering over a seven course tasting menu of exotic, geometrically spectacular dishes and a magnum of Veuve Cliquot, and now you just crave a long, cool, soothing glass of plain vanilla. 

Or this, perhaps most of all: when you’re feeling desolate because winter has just gone on far too long with its relentless snowstorms and hours of shoveling, and what you yearn for more than anything is to seek refuge inside, peel off those sodden mitts and pants, curl up with a hot bowl of potato soup, and slurp.

This is the soup my mother made regularly when we were kids.  Unlike my dad’s soup (he was the Soup Master in the house), my mother’s potato and corn concoction was a conventional recipe without bells and whistles.  I’d never tire of watching as she peeled the potatoes, their spiraling, freckled skins falling silently on a sheet of paper towelling by the sink.  After she chopped the flesh into small cubes, she’d ease them by handfuls into the pot of simmering broth. Prep time was usually fairly hasty, as my mother had other things to attend to (such as watching her soap opera) while the soup bubbled gently on the stove. She’d return to the kitchen once or twice at commericals to stir the contents of the pot, but for the most part, the soup took care of itself.

Even though it isn’t fancy or flashy, this soup was a favorite in our house. Though unadorned with dumplings, noodles, or even a dollop of cream, don’t let this soup’s unassuming appearance fool you; this still broth runs deep. Under the basic plaid shirt and Levis exterior you’ll find a sensitive stock that’s more alluring than you might expect. It offers a serious nutritional contribution of potassium and other minerals (potaotes), beta carotene (carrots), soluble fibre and anti-diabetes qualities (corn and barley), all bathed in a reliable, stable, standup broth that would never break your heart. 

Oh, and it’s unabashedly beige.

My Mother’s Potato-Corn Chowder

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

mompotatosoup.jpg

No dissembling here; this soup is just what it appears to be–hot, milky, nourishing, and quintessentially comforting.  Potatoes and corn and carrots and celery cooperate beautifully to create a classically delicious chowder. This recipe was my mother’s specialty, and like her, exudes an understated charm.  

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

[Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved!  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.”]  

 

Somewhere around the first week of December (either that or the 3rd day there’s snow on the ground, whichever comes first), I decide I’ve had enough of winter.  Bah!  Who needs lawns covered in a glistening, pristine blanket of white?  Who needs billowy undulations of snow-covered hills along the roadside?  Who needs that dainty spray of unique, lacy flakes as they gently descend from the heavens?  Not I!   

Despite all its awe-inspiring beauty, winter also brings with it a whole host of evils: treacherous patches of “black ice” concealed beneath a thin veneer of fresh white powder; knee-high snowdrifts that are agony to traverse in my ponderous, barely-warm-enough galoshes; wooly scarves pulled high over the nose (must protect my delicate proboscis from all that cold air whipping around, after all), causing impaired vision as my glasses fog up from the vapour of my heaving breath; and The Ordeal of the Walk, with its multiple layers of clothing, toque pulled low on the forehead, aforementioned scarf, earmuffs, double-layered gloves, and two wacky canines, each hauling on a leash in an attempt to leap and gambol, totally oblivious to the fact that my being upright is only a temporary state in this dreadful weather.  

Right.  For me, winter is hellish.  The only things that make it even barely tolerable are two major comforts: number one, my friend Gemini I’s country “cottage,” (a palatial residence that offers far more amenities and techno-toys than the city abode in which I normally dwell), and number two, comfort food.

Like most people, when I think “comfort foods,” what comes to mind are those dishes that populated my childhood as well as those I currently seek out when feeling blue.  These fall into two basic categories as well:  sweet, and savory.  In addition, my favored comfort foods tend to be both soft and warm.  The squishier, the better.  And if they can be cooked twice as long as the recipe suggests, well, we’ve hit the jackpot.  

Many of the savory dishes I used to eat are no longer welcome in my diet, but they are nonetheless ones that conjure fond memories (and ones my mother used to cook regularly):  salmon patties doused in ketchup; thick and hearty potato soup with corn kernels; baked beans (the canned variety), occasionally gussied up with maple syrup or hotdogs; or overcooked hamburgers alongside mashed potatoes and green beans. 

Of course, the “sweet”category still reigns during the frigid winter months:  slow cooked, (or better yet, baked) oatmeal and raisins (though I now consume the steel-cut variety instead of the instant packets we had back then); warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies; sticky, just-out-of-the-oven, tender and delicate cinnamon rolls; and the Mother of All Comfort Foods: rice pudding. 

ricepud1.jpg When my sisters and I were kids, the rice pudding my mother made most often was a baked version poured raw into a casserole dish and left in the oven for an hour.  What was supposed to end up as a homogenous mixture of custard and grains inevitably turned out as a hardened mass of uncooked rice settled below a thicker layer of eggy custard, which my sisters and I would scrape off without touching the grains. Our preferred rice pudding in those days was the canned variety, an overly sweet concoction of nearly-disintegrated rice in a suspension of various chemical compounds that approximated a pudding-like consistency.  Yum.  

These days, when I think of rice pudding, I aim for something a little more sophisticated; and I  no longer eat polished white rice in any case. So imagine my delight when I discovered a recipe for Brown Basmati Pudding, uniting brown basmati rice, fragrant spices and coconut milk, in Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz’s ReBar: Modern Food Cook Book.   The perfect combination of urbanity and unpretentious comfort, this pudding seemed the ideal contribution to the Monthly Mingle hosted by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey?.  The theme this month?  Comfort Foods. 

The final product was, after all, divine, and very grown-up.  With a smooth, creamy base cradling tender yet solid grains of rice, mingled with plump, juicy raisins, the pudding was warmed throughout by the subtle interweaving of cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Rich, sweet, soothing–warm or cold, this rice pudding is the perfect antidote to winter. In fact, it almost makes the ice and snow bearable.  

Almost.

Brown Basmati Pudding with Coconut, Cardamom and Ginger (from ReBar Modern Food Cook Book)

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Although I followed the recipe fairly closely, I did substitute ground spices for the cardamom and cinnamon, because I like my spices cooked right into my pudding.  I used 1/8-1/4 tsp. cardamom and about 2 tsp. cinnamon.

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Tofu Quiche for Thirty

January 15, 2008

The weather continues to annoy me, what with all the grey and gloom and snow and slush.  Too much shadow (and so I take umbrage at the weather. Bah.)

Consequently, I wasn’t all too thrilled when I remembered that I had to drive about 40 minutes just to teach a cooking class this evening at a local RCSS.  Besides, the coordinator had called me on Friday to tell me only six people had signed up!  I love doing these classes, and the intimate number of participants is always nice because it allows for one-on-one attention, but this darned Canadian winter just seemed too intimidating (the temperature was supposed to drop to -4 C this evening, which meant a slippery drive home at 9:00 PM). 

Well, what a surprise when I showed up to the kitchen, only to be informed that the class was fully booked, with 30 people!  Although I’ve previously baked quantities beyond that (muffins for 300, anyone?), I’ve never prepared such large quantities of food, all at one time, in front of an audience.

Luckily, the coordinator was a trained chef who could chop onions and skin tomatoes like nobody’s business.  He had the prep work done in a flash, and when the class started, all I had to do was don my chef’s cap, chat about my recipes, and basically have a good time.  The only difficulty I had was stirring a quinoa salad for 30 (I knew I should have gone to the workout club this morning!)

Even though the participants were neither vegetarian nor vegan, they arrived in such large numbers because the class was entirely gluten-free and they all had issues with gluten.  One of the dishes I demonstrated was Tofu Quiche, a big hit with my HH as well, so I thought I’d share it here.  I’ll post some of the others as well over the next while. (Sorry there’s no photo–I actually brought my camera with me to the store, then forgot to take a pic as the hungry crowd devoured the meal).

Egg-Free Quiche with Millet Crust

 This quiche is great for anyone on a gluten-free diet.  The unusual, mild millet crust is the perfect accompaniment to the smooth and flavourful quiche filling.  Vary the vegetables in the quiche according to your taste—almost anything goes!  

For the crust: 

1/2 cup dried millet

1 cup vegetable broth

pinch of sea salt 

For the filling: 

1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced small

2 roasted red peppers or 1 fresh, sliced into thin strips (or one of each)

1 carrot, grated fine

1 cup very firmly packed spinach or chard leaves, stems removed, chopped

700 g. silken or soft tofu (about 2 cups)

1 Tbsp. white miso paste

2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari 

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease a pie plate. 

Make the crust:  Pour millet into a small pot and add water.  Bring to boil over high heat, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes.   Uncover and stir.  The millet should be a bit mushy, with some moisture still in the pan. 

Immediately pour the millet into the pie plate and, using the back of a spoon or wet hands (and being careful not to burn yourself!), press the millet into the pie plate to make a “crust.” (Dipping the spoon or your hands in water helps). Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes until slightly dry to the touch. 

Make the filling:  Heat oil in a large frypan and sauté onions for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft.  Add the pepper, carrot, and spinach, and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and other ingredients begin to soften.  Cover and turn off heat. 

In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu, miso, tahini, and soy sauce until very smooth. Pour the mixture over the vegetables in the pan and stir to combine well. Turn into the crust in the pie pan. 

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until top is light golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving (the quiche firms up as it sits–it’s actually better the next day!).  May be eaten hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Makes 8 servings. 

Quick and Easy Tofu Masala

December 20, 2007

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed today, what with an order for 56 frosted cupcakes due by noon, as well as an article on cooking with avocado expected by this afternoon.  Yikes.  Therefore, today’s Holidailies post will be short and sweet.  Or, in this case, short and spicy.

This recipe for Tofu Masala is quick and easy, despite the long list of spices that need to be ground into a curry. I’ve adapted the recipe from the fabulous cookbook, Green, by Flip Shelton.  When I saw it in Chapters, I loved the modern, clean look of the book and bought it on impulse, but must say it’s become one of my favorites because of the recipes. 

Maybe it’s my lifelong enchantment with Australia (and New Zealand) that drew me to it, but the book itself is a definite winner, filled with fresh, delicious, quick dishes that have, so far, always come out just right.

This recipe was one of my first ventures into homemade curries, and I was a bit intimidated by all the spices the first time I made it; my mother’s spice cupboard, in contrast, contained exactly one jar each of garlic salt, paprika, onion salt, and white pepper.  All I knew about fenugreek at the time was that it’s commonly used in Ayurvedic cooking, and is supposed to help keep blood sugar levels even (enough of a reason right there to try it, I guess).  But the spice mixture here–and it’s a powerfully hot mix, so beware if you’re timid about hot spice–is the perfect blend to offset the otherwise bland tofu, the al dente vegetables, and the brown basmati rice. 

Sorry I don’t have a photo of this one; we made it at my last cooking class and consumed it before I remembered to snap a picture.  I’ll add one in next time we eat it over here at D,D & D. 

Easy Masala Curry with Veggies and Tofu

This dish is truly a snap to make, despite the long list of spices.  And you can alter the mix of vegetables to your taste, or according to what’s on hand in the fridge!

1/2-1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

 4 cloves garlic, chopped

1-inch piece of ginger, minced

2 T. chopped cilantro

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. ground turmeric

1 tsp. Sucanat or 5 drops stevia

Pinch sea salt

Juice of one lemon

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

About 400 g. (1 lb.) firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed

1 cup green beans, cut in half, or green peas

1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 small Japanese eggplants, cut in disks

1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

4 medium tomatoes, chopped 

Place the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cilantro, spices, sucanat, salt and lemon juice in a small food processor or coffee grinder and blend until you have a paste.  Set aside. 

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the onions.  Saute for two minutes, or until just soft. Add the chili paste and stir until the onion is well coated. Add the tofu, and stir to coat.  Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve over brown basmati rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

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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.”]  

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After a rollicking time last evening (it was my Human Honey’s birthday, so we splurged ridiculously at one of our very favorite restaurants), I woke up, late, this morning and decided that it was time to return to the pleasures of baking.  After all, I haven’t baked anything in seven whole days!  Can it be only seven days since we left the old place??

 The first challenge to address was “what to bake?”  Then it hit me that I’m scheduled to teach a cooking class on Tuesday, and desperately needed to re-test one of the recipes I’d dashed off so cavalierly before the move.  With the class looming, I figured it best to try out the recipe before sending it in print to the cooking class coordinator.  Besides, I had all the ingredients on hand, I was sure I could locate all the necessary equipment, and–most important of all–I was really hungry for something real, something freshly baked, something–well, something not chocolate.

The perfect recipe?  My old standard, Orange-Oatmeal Muffins. 

This recipe is one of the very first I ever created with alternative-to-wheat flours, and it remains one of our favorites here in the house.  (“Yes, we love it, too, Mum!”) I’ve given it out to scores of friends, acquaintances, and cooking class participants, and everyone has been amazed at how simple the recipe is to prepare, how moist and dense the texture, and how generally yummy the result.

When I was first told not to eat wheat, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.  I’ve since learned that spelt (especially light spelt) flour is more or less a one-for-one replacement for wheat, and we have come to prefer its subtle, slightly nutty, slightly sweeter taste.  (Once, when I was baking “regular” vegan muffins–ie, choc full o’ sugar, white flour, and margarine–for a vegetarian restaurant, my H.H. and I felt the need to taste-test them to ensure they’d come out right before I dropped them off at the restaurant.  But by then, we’d been eating spelt- and kamut-based baked goods for three or four years already.  We took one bite of the pallid, unremarkable little quick bread and immediatley spat it out.  “It has no flavor!” we cried, and “this tastes like styrofoam!” we exclaimed. (Though how we’d recognize the taste of styrofoam, I have no idea.) We’d become so accustomed to eating food that has real depth, real substance, real nutritional value,  that the old, conventional baked goods tasted sickly and bland to us.) Nowadays, I think of spelt as a fraternal twin, rather than a distant cousin, of wheat.

When experimenting with muffin recipes back then, I wanted to create something with only natural sweeteners, preferably fruit-based, both for the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties, as well as for the fiber and stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels compared to refined sweeteners. I opted for a bit of maple syrup (for its intense sweetness) paired with blackstrap molasses (for the incredible nutritional punch, the calcium, iron, and other trace minerals). Back then, flush with my newfound natural-nutritionist zeal, I was determined to include as many whole grains as possible in each recipe, so threw in three.

 While considering which fruits to include, I was struck by a childhood memory of a strange habit my mother had had.  On afternoons when she wasn’t working, after setting up whatever dishes she’d be preparing for dinner, she’d retire to her bedroom (where the only TV in our house was located), tote along a fresh orange, and sit watching her soap opera while she munched on it.  What made her practice unusual (besides sitting on the edge of a bed to watch TV at 2:00 PM) was the way she consumed the fruit:  she’d wash the orange, then bite into it the way one usually tackles a fresh apple–chomping straight through it, skin and all.  The juice would squirt, the flesh would fly a little, and she’d chew with a slightly squishy, slightly crunchy sound as she slurped, munched, and spat out the seeds onto a paper towel (we never seemed to have paper napkins in our house). 

I thought about my mother’s odd approach to oranges as I set about creating this recipe.  Why couldn’t I include the whole orange here, too, skin and all?  After all, much of the best nutritional value in the orange actually resides in the skin and pith, the slightly bitter white lining just under the orange peel. Antioxidants, bioflavonoids, cholesterol-lowering properties–I could include all of these.  I decided to give it a try, guessing that the combination of sweeteners and slight bitterness from the full orange would complement each other beautifully.  I was right!

Similarly, the combination of spelt and kamut allows a mix of hard and soft flours for a solid, but not too heavy, texture, and the oats provide a bit of chewiness and dimension. 

These are definitely not conventional muffins.  They’re low in fat, full in flavor, dense, and very moist.  You’ll find little flecks of orange peel and date scattered throughout. I love these muffins for breakfast, warm with a little almond butter.  You’ll need a food processor for this recipe.

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Wheat-Free Orange Oatmeal Muffins

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.

Baked Oats

November 5, 2007

 

I’ve been craving my favorite baked oats ever since writing about them the other day on this blog.

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The recipe is actually from the Moosewood Classics cookbook, but I’ve made it so many times and adjusted the amounts and ingredients to my own liking so much over the years that I’m not sure how closely it resembles the original anymore. 

In any case, this recipe provides the creamiest, richest-tasting, most delicious bowl of stickin-to-your-ribs-for-the-entire-morning oatmeal that you will ever eat.  It reminds me of an old-fashioned rice pudding, with a similar texture and creaminess, but made without refined sugar, and with lots of fibre from the apples and raisins (not to mention a whole whack of minerals!).  And oats are a terrific source of phytoestrogens and soluble fibre. . . great for those mid-lifers like moi.  

Another fabulous plus to this breakfast is that it’s wonderfully convenient.  What I usually do is whip up the oat-milk mixture first thing and pop it in the oven, then go shower and get ready for work.  By the time my hair is done, so is the oatmeal, and I can happily spoon it up as I read the paper.

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