Chinese Scallion Pancakes

January 23, 2009

[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.”]  

 

 

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Over the past couple of years, the HH and I have developed a fairly steadfast routine: every Tuesday at mid day, we connect for a hefty serving of afternoon delight. (No, no debauchery, silly! Forget the cheeesy song.  I’m talking about afternoon culinary delight).  To wit, food. To wit, Japanese food. To wit, Sushi. 

As our own unique twist on “date night,” we have “date lunch”:  at a little sushi bar near the HH’s place of employ, he feasts on various species of marine life (well, I suppose that would more properly be “marine after-life”), and I enjoy some of the best vegetarian sushi I’ve ever tasted.  While clacking chopsticks, slathering wasabi and dipping into soy sauce, he reports on his recent work projects, while I regale him with anecdotes about The Girls’ antics. We eat, we laugh, we fight over who gets the last piece of pickled ginger, and then we kiss goodbye and go about the rest of our day.  It’s a lovely interlude in an otherwise bland workday. 

Well, a few weeks ago at the habitual time and place, I was devastated to discover that the establishment had unceremoniously changed owners.  Oh, the new folks are nice enough, but the distinctive sheen of the place had definitely tarnished. (The new vegetarian option consists of 8 pieces of cucumber and avocado maki.  Now, how could they possibly think vegetarians want 8 identical pieces of a single variety, when the HH gets a full dozen varieties of raw, slimy oceanic tidbits on his plate?).  Haven’t these people heard of the expression, “If it ain’t broke. . .”?   Harrumph.

Being fairly close to Toronto’s Chinatown North, we opted that day to try one of the many Asian restaurants in the vicinity instead.  I assumed I’d have no trouble finding plenty to eat. 

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.  (No? It’s even too puerile to repeat here.  But there are plenty of others out there who’ll tell you.) I sat down feeling peckish. Perusing the menu, I quickly discovered there was precious little I could consume save steamed veggies and rice.  (Not that there’s anything wrong wtih steamed veggies and rice, you understand, but I get plenty of those at home–and certainly don’t feel like driving halfway across the city and dishing out restaurant prices for someone else to throw them on a plate for me). 

Yes, every single dish contained at least one ingredient I can’t eat. The few animal-free options all contained wheat (another no-no). Listed under “Vegetable Dishes,” we had Vegetables and Ground Beef; Vegetables and Pork Stir-Fry;  Egg Noodles with Vegetables; Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetables.  Even the “Vegetable Dumplings” contained ground pork.  Argh!  (And another “harrumph,” just for good measure. ) Would I have to sit there starving*, I wondered, while the HH gorged himself on beef, chicken, and pork-laden vegetables?

 And then, I noticed these:  Scallion Pancakes.  Simplicity itself, these pan-fried cakes studded with rings of shiny green onion were cut into four triangles, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Humble, yet divine; my mouth began to water. And then, I realized:  they were made with wheat flour.  Which I am not supposed to eat. 

True, my wheat sensitivity induces heartburn, bloating, and sometimes an achy stomach a couple of hours after ingesting it.  True,  wheat encourages my inflamed sinuses to close up shop entirely, forcing me to pant through my mouth like a dog in July.  True, any sane person in my situation would have passed on the wheat. Also true?  I was hungry.  Those pancakes were the sole item on the menu that appealed to me. I ordered them.

And, by golly, I loved them! (Well, for about 10 minutes, after which a volcano erupted in my chest, my stomach inflated like a beach ball, and my nasal passages sealed up like a mine shaft collapsing). 

After reading about Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian several times on Lisa’s blog, I finally picked it up from the library a few weeks ago.  And wouldn’t you know–right there, tucked near the back of the book, was a recipe for Chinese Scallion Cakes!  I was elated.  Since the entire recipe contains only five ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper), I felt pretty certain I could adapt these with (Ricki-friendly) spelt flour instead of wheat.  I did, and guess what?  They replicated the restaurant variety almost perfectly. 

The HH and I were so smitten with the results that we polished off two pancakes just on their own, with no accompaniments.  The second time round, we used them as a base for leftover dal, and they were spectacular.  I’m not generally a fan of salty foods, but something about the combination of salt and browned green onion (or would that be green browned onion?) is heavenly. 

I toned down the fat content by simply brushing the raw pancakes with olive oil (instead of following the original directions for filling a frypan with the stuff, as if drawing a bubble bath or something).  The results worked out pretty well, I’d say, as I couldn’t tell the difference in taste.

These boasted a crisp and even somewhat flaky exterior, with chewy insides punctuated here and there by the partially caramelized green onion.  My only regret is not having coarse sea salt in the house to sprinkle on top, as it would have made for a more photogenic bread.  (You’re actually meant to sprinkle the salt into the batter, anyway–but I forgot, so scattered it on top once the bread was cooked).

I’ve copied the recipe exactly as written because the method is quite particular.  It appears long and complicated, but once you’ve made them once, you’ll see how easy it is to prepare these wonderful savory cakes at home. I’d even whip them up for a quick lunch–except not on the days I meet the HH, of course. 

(Oh, and I made these again this morning, in honor of Chinese New Year.  Happy New Year to all who celebrate on Monday! )

*Clearly, not literally. But in terms of gustatory satisfaction, for sure.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

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.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit the shiny new home of DDD by clicking here.

[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  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.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).]

greenswapple2

[With Collards, Chard and Red Onion]

It’s been a truly crazy past week, what with our new semester starting up today at the college and my cookbook deadline being perilously close.* (And let’s not forget the Golden Globes from last evening–didn’t B & A look marvelous amidst the hubub and Moet & Chandon? And did you hear that Tracy Morgan is the new face of the US?  But Mamma Mia, that Ms. Streep is timeless! ) With all that, there’s been no time for handiwork in the kitchen.

Instead, here’s what I’ve been eating lately–and by “lately,” I mean pretty much every day.  I’ve made this three times in the past six days: it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s delicious and it contains nature’s most nutritious vegetables, leafy greens.  And with all the deep browns, ochres, ambers and ecrus I’ve been consuming over the past few weeks, I figured it was time for some green.

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[With Collards and Yellow Onion]

Besides, I adore leafy greens and have been trying to include them in my diet more often. Jagged, zippy dandelion greens are like the tough kid in the schoolyard, the punk who wears his black leather jacket like a trophy and loiters in the corner of the schoolyard chain-smoking.  With a hard and bitter exterior, he’s really a sweetheart once you get to know him.  Collards, with their elegant, frond-like shape, are the modern jazz dancers of the group, deftly swaying side to side as they harmoniously meld the delicate and the cacophonous. And kale, my very favorite, is the ditzy neighbour, the plucky, perky best friend, the Mary Richards of leafy greens; she fidgets and bobs and sighs histrionically, clad in her ruffly collar and matching cuffs–she’s a little wacky, maybe, but always honest and reliable.  How could you not love greens?

This dish was created when I had intended to try out a recipe for brussels sprouts and apples I read about on Vegalicious a while back. When I discovered I had no sprouts, I opted for the greens instead (heck, they’re all brassicas, right?). Using the other recipe for inspiration, I threw this together.  It was ready in ten minutes, and I was left to marvel that something so simple could taste so good. 

The barely-wilted greens are chewy and toothsome, while the apples and onions, having softened and caramelized slightly, provide a balancing sweetness to the slightly bitter leaves. The addition of lemon juice here, besides imparting an appealing tang, renders the minerals in the vegetables more bio-available (and thereby more easily absorbed) so you can best benefit from their high mineral content.

* As to the cookbook, right now, it looks as if the publication date will be mid-April; I’ll report back as soon as I’m given a “firm” date from the publisher. What this means, however, is that my blogging may become slightly more sporadic over the next few weeks, as will my commenting on other blogs.  But know that I’ll keep reading and enjoying all of your blogs even if I don’t make my presence known. And I do hope that you will still comment here–I always look forward to, and read, every single comment on this site–it is truly a high point in my day! 

Sautéed Greens with  Onions and Apples

inspired by this recipe

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.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!  Please visit the shiny new home of DDD by clicking here.

* [Absolutely no relation to the reality show of the same name] ##

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[That is one MoFo huge smoothie!]

Now that the holidays are over and a new, fervently hopeful year has begun, I’ve decided to simplify my life.

It might have been the post-apocalyptic array of file folders, sticky notes, to-do lists (to-do lists ON sticky notes), drafts of recipes for the cookbook, empty interoffice envelopes, glasses (of both types), half-filled mug, pens, pencils, scotch tape, daybook, boxes of tissues, assorted and sundry notes-to-self, a stapler, checkbook and magazines and paperbacks and various other items that seem to have settled randomly, like nuclear fallout, on my desk. 

Or perhaps it was the never-quite-cleared kitchen table, the kitchen counters encumbered with bins of flour and Sucanat and oats, bottles of agave nectar, cannisters of raisins and dried cranberries, bowls and spatulas and whisks and pans and measuring cups and spoons (okay, I do have an excuse: the aforementioned cookbook).

Still, it could have been the closet full of wayward shoes, or the three distinct, mostly unworn wardrobes (that would be “slim”; “gaining weight”‘; and “fat”), assorted scarves, out of season accessories, fuzzy slippers and terrycloth bathrobe. 

No, no, no–it must have been the 14 unanswered emails, 27 unanswered voicemails, three scheduled doctors’ appointments, two scheduled vet appointments, one hair appointment, one dog training appointment, as-yet to be determined appointment to set up an appointment with myself to get it all together and finally organize all my appointments. . . .

Okay, I may be exaggerating a tad.  But just a tad.  It’s true what they say: the older you get, the more complicated your life becomes.  (Or was that, the older you get, the louder you turn up the volume on the television?  Same difference.) 

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[Simplicity at its finest.]

A while back, my friend Eternal Optimist informed me that she’d completed a total purge of her abode, sort of like an emotional smudging.  She tossed boxes of garbage, shredded reams of old papers and files, donated countless bags of clothes to charity, and repurposed old posters, kitchen chairs, picture frames, unused shelving, CDs and books, and various and sundry other long-neglected items courtesy of Freecyle. It felt great, she averred.

And while I’ve never been a huge fan of the magazine Real Simple (it seems too self-consciously austere and geometric for my taste, reminiscent of Dieter on Sprockets), I have frequently nurtured a dream of chucking it all and moving  to a one-room cabin in the woods, complete with wood-burning stove, 100 acres of surrounding forest, and plenty of space for The Girls to gambol to their hearts’ content. 

Just think of it:  freedom to do what you like, at one with nature, fresh air, green grass, no schedules, no time-stealing technology.  On any given day, I could just wake up, throw open the door and inhale a long, deep breath of unpolluted, pristine country air. . . well, after I chop the firewood for that stove, I guess.  And after I shoo the raccoons out of the food bins at the end of the cabin.  And I guess I’d have to chase a few mice from the cupboards, too, which would mean cleaning up mouse poop.  And also swat those spiders in the corner above the bed–oooh, I hate spiders!  And snakes.  I hope there aren’t any snakes out there.  And I’m scared of mice.  And don’t raccoons have talon-like claws?  I’ve heard they can be really vicious if cornered.  And I bet they don’t serve Triple Mocha Lattes at the intersection of Pine Tree and Deciduous. 

But it did make a lovely reverie, didn’t it?

(“Yes, Mum, a perfect reverie!  But does this mean we don’t get to gambol in the woods now?  Oh, and would you mind turning down the volume on that TV?“)

I also failed miserably at organizing my life over the holidays.  My initial zeal to reorganize my desk, clear out some boxes from our basement, organize the garage, draw up a Five-Year Plan, and resume my lost habit of daily meditation never materialized (oh, and let’s not forget: get my finances in order, secure a retirement plan, start a new workout regimen, finish a cookbook, and clip Chaser’s nails–nothing too onerous, you understand.  Well, excepting Chaser’s nails.).  All I managed was to clear off the desk–and that task alone took two weeks.  

Still, the sense of accomplishment and buoyancy I felt prompted me to seek out other ways to simplify.  After the recent holiday excesses and toppling with a (very heavy) thud off the healthy-eating wagon, I’ve decided to pare down my diet as well.   So I’m afraid you won’t be seeing much fudge, or pecan pie, or marzipan-topped shortbread, or any other dessert that, for some strange reason, seems to spike my blog stats exponentially for a while.  The blog stats will just have to wait until I get my body stats in order. 

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  Coincidentally, over the holidays one gift I received was a book called The Healthiest Meals on Earth, by Jonny Bowden.  It contains breathtaking photographs of really healthy foods, along with pertinent nutritional information and great recipes.  This smoothie is one I adapted for breakfast the other day.  It features one of my all-time favorite foods–sweet potatoes (yes, for breakfast!), and is both simple and quick to make.  The potatoes confer a natural, light sweetness, and the oranges add a bit of tang.  I loved the cheery color and the thick, almost pudding-like consistency (I was tempted to eat this with a spoon, in fact). 

If simple living can taste this good, I may have to reconsider that cabin in the woods.

On second thought, nah.

## Well, unless you count the fact that we’ve both dated Rocker Guys (hers of the black leather punk; mine of the black leather pants).

Sweet and Simple Sweet Potato Smoothie

adapted from The Healthiest Meals on Earth

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

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Unlike many smoothies, this really does feel like a meal.  The sweet potato provides a substantial density and nutritional profile here (both beta carotene and antioxidants), along with vitamin C in the fruit.  I used eggnog flavored soymilk for a festive touch, but you can use any milk you please in this. 

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Today began like most other mornings:  a wet, cold nose against my ear (that would be Chaser, not the HH) rousing me from sleep; a quick (warm, dry) kiss to the HH; and popping (okay, more like fizzling) out of bed before stretching, going through the usual ablutions and tramping over to the office to turn on the computer and check out some blogs.  For our lazy Sunday morning (after shovelling the additional 15 cm./ 6 inches of snow that arrived overnight, of course), I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast–maybe banana; maybe apple.

Then I read Ruth’s Hannukah (or, for us Canadians, Chanukah) post and before I knew it, I was craving potato pancakes (aka latkes). 

Which is weird, because I hate latkes.

Let me explain.  Over the years, I’ve sampled many different kinds of potato latkes in many different kitchens; and I can honestly tell you I haven’t enjoyed a single one. (Sorry, Mrs. D who kindly invited me to her Rosh Hashanah table back in university; sorry, all my friends who’ve been generous enough to share; sorry, Aunty M. and CBC; sorry, all those caterers whose miniature pancakes I’ve sampled at festive tables in the past). 

Given that I adore home fries and even hash browns, this latke enmity always seemed odd to me.  But whenever I’d try again, the results were the same: the pancakes in question were very heavy, very greasy, and fairly bland, with a high-gloss exterior and mushy, mealy insides.  Was I missing something?  Is there some kind of Freemason-like secret latke society that knows something those of us using the regular latke recipes don’t know? Or was I simply hanging around with horrible cooks?

Whatever; I decided to change all that this morning.  That plate of latkes (and the explanatory article that Ruth included, as well) simply caught my fancy, and I had to have latkes!

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After a quick tour using Veg Blog Search, I uncovered a large selection of options.  There were traditional potato latkes, those made entirely from sweet potatoestraditional latkes with cool toppings, and a whole bunch of trail-blazing atypical latkes. I decided to base my own version on Bryanna’s fat-free potato and sweet potato pancakes.  I loved the combination of both types of spud, both for color and nutrition, and I thought a lower-fat version would be good at this time of year as well (I did add 2 Tbsp./15 ml. olive oil to the mixture to enhance the flavors a little).  This was also the perfect excuse to use my cast iron skillet yet once more–something I’ve been doing at every available opportunity the past few weeks as I endeavor to render it truly non-stick (so far, no luck).

I’m happy to report that the Latke Loathing has been vanquished, once and for all! (Must have been those sweet potatoes). The HH was also a fan.  We had ours with a slightly unconventional topping, a balsamic-fig sauce that was given to me a few weeks back  (more typical accompaniments include sour cream or applesauce).  What a fabulous combination!  The cakes were decidedly not mushy, as I remembered latkes of old; they were crispy on the outside and supple on the inside, the potatoes just cooked.  They held together beautifully and offered up an alluring aroma of caramelized onion and fragrant dill as they were grilled. With the sweet-tart contrast of the fig sauce slathered over the top, these were the perfect Sunday breakfast. 

Now, it seems the Sunday pancake options are limitless. So glad I start my days the way I do. 

To those who celebrate, Happy Hannukah!  (and Hanukkah, AND Chanukah!) 🙂

Two-Toned Potato Latkes

adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

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While we ate these for breakfast, latkes are more often eaten as a side dish or appetizer with savory foods.  They’re great both ways.

3 small white or Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and grated

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated

1 large onion, grated

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (110 g.) kamut flour or (100 g.) whole spelt flour

2 tsp. (10 ml.) baking powder

3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt

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

2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) water

1 tsp. (5 ml.) garlic powder

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) dried dill weed

1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) smoked paprika

Using a food processor or box grater, grate the potatoes and sweet potatoes and place in a large colander.  Squeeze the mixture with your hands as if squeezing a sponge to get out as much of the starchy liquid as you can.  Place in a large bowl.

Grate the onion and add it to the potato mixture along with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together very well, using your hands if necessary.

Heat a cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into the pan, flattening the pancakes with a spatula (they should be fairly flat).  Cook about 3-4 minutes, until bottoms are golden; flip and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so, until golden.  Keep pancakes warm as you continue to cook them.  Serve immediately with apple sauce, sour cream, ketchup, cranberry sauce, chutney, or other topping of choice.

Last Year at this Time: Last Minute Christmas Cookie [Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies]

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

*Or, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Now Eat Some Delicious Spread.

[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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I know that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere (well, and the rest of the galaxy, too, come to think of it) has already made this spread.  But hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer.  And now, I’ve finally tried it, too.  And it is so *&$@!% good that I had to include it as this (penultimate) Gastronomic Gift this year.  (I’ve got one more planned, as long as we can shovel ourselves out of the *&$@!% 25 cm. (just under a foot) of snow that battered the city yesterday and I can get to the store).

Pumpkin butter is the perfect means to use up cooked pumpkin (or squash, to those of us in North America).  It’s a great nut butter substitute if you’re trying to reduce fat and calories.  Or if, like me, you’ve once again allowed the insidious holiday-time profusion of chocolate and chocolate-coated/ chocolate studded/ chocolate-molded/ chocolate-frosted/ chocolate flavored/ chocolate filled/ chocolate-related-in-any-way desserts that seem to reproduce of their own accord on countertops and dining room tables and candy dishes and office desks and buffets and coffee tables and bar tops and glove compartments and pockets and dessert menus to override your (wobbly at the best of times) self control, and you find that you’ve now consumed more chocolate in the past two weeks than the entire GDP of a small country, more than Big Brother’s secret stash in 1984, more than the exports from Switzerland at Valentine’s Day, more than the full contents of Willie Wonka’s factory–more, really than you’d rightfully expect any normal human being to ingest under any circumstances whatsoever in a lifetime, except maybe under threat of torture. 

What? You mean it’s just me?

For some strange reason, I felt the need for a break from chocolate for a while (ahem). Now that I’ve made my own pumpkin butter, I can join the chorus and say that I, too,  am  smitten.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any carbohydrate with a flat surface (or even a somewhat bumpy one–have you tried this on rice cakes? Divine.) 

But I must admit that my favorite use for the butter isn’t on toast, or a muffin, or pancakes, or any other solid food.  I think I love it most blended (using my hand blender) in a tall, cold glass of almond or soymilk.  Yum-mers!

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It also makes a fabulous hostess gift, of course, and a wonderful last-minute present; it’s the perfect way to use up that final can of pumpkin purée that’s been biding its time in your cupboard since Thanksgiving. 

This recipe (the ubiquitous allrecipes version) makes a pretty big batch, so you can scoop some away for home use and still fill two or three pretty little gift jars with the stuff to give away.   If you can bear to part with it.

Oh, and there are still four more days to bid on some amazing prizes from Menu for Hope! Hop on over to the main donation page and give it a go!

Pumpkin Butter

adapted from AllRecipes.com

pumpkinbutter

 Try this lovely alternative butter anywhere you’d spread jam or nut butter.  It’s got no fat, with the bonus of holiday spices all year round.

3-1/2 cups (about 820 g.) cooked, puréed pumpkin

3/4 cup (180 ml.) apple juice [but personally I think OJ would be great in this]

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground ginger

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cloves

2/3 cup (160 ml.) agave nectar (light or dark)

2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon

1 tsp. (5 ml.) ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring very frequently, until the mixture is thick and has darkened (the original recipe said 30 minutes, but mine took a bit more than an hour).  This might also be a good time to pull out that old splatter screen if you have one, as the mixture tends to boil and pop a bit (my walls needed a good wipe-down after I was done).

Pour into clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 cups (500 ml.). Will keep at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

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 V: Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies

GG VII: Chocolate Macaroons in a Flash

Last Year at this Time: Holiday Cranberry Chippers

© 2008 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

* Or, “Nothing Like Fried Rice, Really, But Still One Darned Tasty Cauliflower Salad”

rawfriedrice

[Sorry about the blur.  I may need to return to my old point-and-shoot until I finally read that new camera manual!]

For those of us fascinated by the topic of food, December is more or less highjacked by baking projects.  Cookies for the cookie exchange.  Bars and squares for the gift tins.  Cakes for the pot lucks.  Croquembouche for the neighbourhood party.  

Taken to its syllogistic conclusion,  the state of affairs in which many of us find ourselves this month would go something like this:

Major Premise: December is filled with many types of baking. 

Minor Premise: All types of baking require taste-testing. 

Conclusion: Therefore, December is filled with all types of  tastetesting  sampling quality control eating–something like 4,287 different sweets, types of chocolate, candy, cookies, fudge, frosting, glazed nuts, trifles, truffles, cakes and pies–thereby creating a massive spike in caloric intake for the month, which will lead to outright neglect of all other food groups and the overindulgence of rich, alcoholic and chocolate-based comestibles during the next four weeks or so, to the inevitable result of chocolate overload and the proverbial 7 pound weight gain over the holiday period. *

Well, given my own propensity to binge on sweets and carbs over the holidays, I thought I’d take some advice I heard dispensed by a dietician on a local CBC radio show the other day about “How Not to Gain Weight Over the Holidays.”

Get a load of this:  the dietician (who shall remain nameless–she probaby wouldn’t want you to know her name after this advice, anyway, but mostly because I can’t actually remember her name) said something to the effect of, “Well, I know that people are always told to eat a meal before going to a party to avoid overindulging, but I find that people will overindulge anyway.  And then they’ve basically eaten two meals, which is really not so good.  So what I suggest is, if you do eat a bit too much at a party, then–and I’d never suggest that you do this on a regular basis–but then you can just skip a meal or two the next day to compensate.  If you follow this plan over the holidays, you shouldn’t really gain any weight.”

Hallellujah!  In a nutshell, here’s December: Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out. Fast. Pig Out. Cut back a wee bit.  Pig out. Fast. Drink champagne and kiss a bunch of strangers.

Truly, I don’t think this plan is very wise, but I’m going to adapt it to my own needs, anyway.  During this festive period when I’m more likely to succumb to the siren call of chocolate, I’ve decided to deliberately make the rest of my meals as clean, simple, and vegetable-based as possible.  To wit, Raw Imitation Fried Rice.

I came across this recipe a while ago and then, a few days later, happened upon this version by Veggie Delight.  Since the dish is raw, it’s much easier to digest than a cooked meal, and won’t tax the digestive system the way heavier, fatter meals can. It’s also mostly vegetables with a hint of dressing, which provided me with yet another novel way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable I’m otherwise indifferent about, into my diet.

The salad is crunchy and even a bit juicy, with a hint of toasted sesame and just enough saltiness from the tamari to provide a satisfying contrast to the neutral cauliflower. It’s incredibly easy to make and comes together very quickly courtesy of the processor. I thoroughly enjoyed it and could even feel virtuous as I chomped away. 

And it’s the perfect light meal to help you detox between all those tastings of baked goods and treats.

*Okay, so it’s not technically a syllogism.  And the conclusion is drawn from the predicate of the premise rather than the subject (totally illogical).  And (well, according to Giz, anyway) the average weight gain is only 1.5 pounds over the holidays.  As if.

Raw Imitation Fried Rice (aka Cauliflower Salad)

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

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Asian-inspired flavors meet light and refreshing salad in this mock fried rice dish.  Makes a great side salad or raw main.  And a sneaky way to include cauliflower!

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

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Yes, it really is the pits, Mum.  It’s also very difficult to lick all the crumbs off the floor with this thing on my head.”

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

Last year at this time:  Dog Day: How Elsie Got Named

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Now, I realize I promised a light and not-too-filling recipe today, but before we get to that, I must share something very rich and decadent and–because I ate most of it in one sitting–rather filling: the Peppermint Ritter Sport bar I won (a while ago, now) in Amey’s contest!

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I received the bar in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled to rip open the envelope and find that it reached me in perfect condition–all the way from California! While a couple of the squares had broken apart, the smooth, white, minty filling remained enclosed in the chocolate and every piece was perfectly edible.  And believe me, eat it I did (well, I shared–just a wee bit–with the HH). 

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I also loved that the entire wrapper was in German!  Here in Toronto, anyway, the Ritter Sports we get have multiple languages on the wrappers, including French and English.  It made Amey’s seem much more authentic.  Thanks so much, Amey!  It’s always so exciting to get something fun in the mail, and that bar is a definite new favorite.  (Wow, I think I’m a little overwhelmed with all the goodies I’ve received in the mail from other bloggers these past few months!  Have I mentioned lately that you guys are THE BEST??!)

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out for brunch with my friend PR Queen to celebrate both our birthdays, which are a month apart. (Yes, this really was the birthday that refused to surrender!)

In any case, we went to an upscale vegan resto called Fressen, where the food is stellar (and the prices are equally astronomical). I relished my fresh beet, apple and carrot juice; salad of baby greens and balsamic-dijon dressing; and stuffed tofu omelet.  But I just couldn’t see myself going there on a regular basis, mostly because (a) it’s right in the heart of the Queen West area of Toronto, just a minim too trendy, too grungy and too crowded for my taste; (b) Queen West is right in the heart of the general downtown in Toronto, a 35-minute drive away at the best of times, but more like an hour-plus when there’s traffic; (c) the prices there are, as I mentioned, bordering on the stratosphere; and (d) if I kept eating brunch there on a regular basis, I’d be denying myself the challenge of re-creating the same brunch at home.  Which, because I’m just wacky that way, I endeavored to do the very next weekend.

First, I suppose I should pause here to admit that, for most of my life, I have been severely Ovule-Challenged.  Whether soft boiled, sunny-side up, over easy, or any other way, I never did master egg cooking skills.  And omelets add yet another layer of difficulty: the perfect (egg) omelet is meant to be uniformly puffy and light, all in one piece, possessing a slightly gooey interior that I’ve always found rather gag-inducing. Even when the HH and I were first together and I attempted omelets on a regular basis, my egg oeuvres (or would that be oeufres?) would invariably crack and split and wilt like leaves on my sorely neglected ficus plant every time I tried to flip them, resulting in breakage and a pan housing three or four large, ragged-edge slabs of egg, sprawled at odd angles. I’d end up stirring the mixture furiously, ultimately transforming it into a semi-scramble and calling it frittata.  It wasn’t long before the HH took over omelet duty.  He’s never had a problem whipping one up (literally); and, to this day, he cooks an omelet for himself almost every Sunday. 

I assumed I’d have more success re-creating that tofu-based Fressen beauty (even though my first attempt at a tofu omelet also lacked that airy, pillowy texture, despite its wonderful flavor). What I loved about the Fressen version was how it seemed both moist and fluffy at the same time; while clearly cooked and browned on the outside, the inside remained soft, creamy, and light as custard. Stuffed with a succulent, rich filling of pesto, caramelized leek and mushrooms, it was a vision to behold: golden and crisp on the outside; vibrant green, tan and walnut-brown on the inside.  And the flavor!  The perfect edible mixture of woodsy, grassy, and airy. I wanted more!  

Given its ultra-light texture, I surmised that the omelet included silken tofu along with the firm. I’d already mastered pesto during the summer when my experimental home-grown basil flourished so remarkably; and while we didn’t have leeks in the fridge, we did have an abundance of onions, which served as a servicable replacement.

I created the omelet base by adapting the generic recipe in Joni Marie Newman’s  Cozy Inside, with several adjustments and additions.  I used home-made pesto, but you could just as well use store-bought.  The rest of it comes together in a flash. 

While the result wasn’t quite as fluffy as I’d hoped it would be, this did render a reasonable facsimile of the original.  Great for a brunch at home after a holiday feast, and an especially tasty way to economize and avoid those sky-high restaurant bills 🙂 .

Given the cilantro-based pesto filling, I thought this would be a good submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, the event run by Haalo over at Cook (Almost) Anything Once, and this week hosted by Scott over at Real Epicurean.

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

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You can use any tofu-based omelet recipe you choose for this recipe.  While this one tastes great and the flavors are beautifully complemented by the filling, it is very fragile and breaks easily.  A more sturdy recipe is this one; or use a version of your own.

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

 

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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!

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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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Years ago (oops, make that a decade), during the tumultuous year after my starter marriage dissolved, I lived with my friend Gemini I.  As two single thirty-somethings interested in social events or activities that might bring us into contact with eligible men, we decided to try out some cooking classes (what were we thinking?  We might as well have looked for guys in the pantyhose department at Macy’s.  .  . oh, wait a sec: apparently, in Australia, that’s exactly where you might meet some guys these days). 

In any case, we signed up for one series run by a well-heeled Toronto chatelaine who’d attended Le Cordon Bleu (it was only a weekend seminar, but she never told us that) and decided to teach classes out of her home.  It took just one evening, and I was hooked; after that, Gemini I and I attended about half a dozen more classes as well.  It’s not that I actually learned very much; and the food, while fine, wasn’t the most spectacular I’d had, either. But oh, what a house!

Oh my, how I envied her house.  Situated beside a thickly forested ravine on a cul-de-sac in the tony Rosedale area, Ms. Culinati’s residence was a massive, ivy-covered, stone-and-brick Tudor style mansion of at least 5,000 square feet, almost more like a museum than a home.  At over 100 years old, the building’s interior had been completely renovated and rendered ultra-modern inside.  The setup was perfect for cooking classes: after passing beneath the towering entryway, we participants filed across the open-concept first floor (tiled in marble), toward a state-of-the-art kitchen just off the entrance.  There were six cushy stools lined up against one side of a wide, grey and black granite peninsula, which also divided the room and separated us from the cooking area. 

Ms. Cordon Bleu held forth on the opposite side of the counter behind the built-in stainless steel stovetop, prepping ingredients and chattering about the best shop in Paris to buy Le Creuset, the plumpest, most perfect berries at All the Best on Summerhill (even back then, I recall that a pint–about  500 ml.–of strawberries cost over $4.00 at that store), or how she flew to New York last weekend to pick up the very best fleur de sel (because really, you simply couldn’t use anything less).  

Despite the fact that our personal orbits existed in completely different universes, I still enjoyed the recipes, the skillfully selected wines that accompanied them, and the stolen glances around the rest of the house as I ostensibly attended to our cooking.  And, of course, it was always rewarding to have an evening out with Gemini I.

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Most of the dishes I encountered in those classes, I will never make again, either because they contain ingredients I no longer eat, or because they contain ingredients far too extravagant for everyday consumption (last I heard, her courses had morphed into all-out travel tours, wherein participants flew to Tuscany for a week to cook and live together in a villa.  Who are these people, and how can I be written into the will? Just asking).

Still, almost despite herself, in one class Ms. C.B. provided us with this recipe for Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings.  And while the original soup contained chicken broth, butter and wheat flour, it was a cinch to convert.

I’ve loved this chowder since the first time I slurped it back in the 1990s.  It’s one of the easiest soups you’ll ever make (and while the dumplings are marvelous and do elevate the broth an echelon, you can just as easily forego the sophistication, toss in some elbow pasta, and happily spoon this up for a quick weekday dinner). Once the veggies are chopped, it’s a matter of a quick sauté, a splash of prepared broth, and a sprinkling of ONE spice: mild curry powder. It also makes use of an underused, but very tasty, root veggie: celery root.

It sounds almost too simple, I know; but believe me, the result will astonish you. The varying levels of sweetness from the different roots, along with the whisper of curry, combine for a soothing, warming and entirely captivating dish. This is one soup you’ll want to stay at home for. In fact, it’s the perfect soup to charm those eligible guys–that is, once you find them. 

This month’s No Croutons Required is asking for soups or salads with pasta.  I’m hoping these dumplings count. The event was started by Lisa and Holler and is this month being hosted by Holler.

Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings

(adapted from a very old recipe from The Art of Food Cooking School)

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This is the perfect soup to serve to guests; the dumplings elevate this to a fancier level, yet the soup is down to earth and very appealing.  For a gluten-free option, omit the dumplings or use your favorite dumpling recipe with GF flour.

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

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So, you may have heard: the economy is tanking.  According to retailers, we’re spending less on gifts this holiday season than we did last year.  We’re taking vacations at home.  We’re economising on everything from groceries to toiletries, and people are learning how to darn socks again, bake from scratch again, or wash their own cars.  Everybody’s worried about finances or being laid off. What to do?

Eat caviar, I say!

Okay, not really.  That would just be silly (and totally uneconcomical).  Not to mention slightly gooey, a bit slimy, way too salty, and overall, yucky.  Of course you shouldn’t eat real caviar. 

I’m talking about eggplant caviar!  I first enountered a recipe for this economical dip many years ago in one of The CFO’s Bon Appetit magazines, and was intrigued as soon as I scanned the ingredient list. Then, once I finally I tasted it, I was totally enchanted.  The blend of piquant balsamic with the moist, slightly chunky eggplant and sweet pepper was remarkably delicious.  I ended up eating half of that first batch straight off a spoon, crackers be damned!  (Well, since I was emulating a rich person by eating “caviar,” I figured I could be as eccentric as I wished).

This recipe is adapted from both this one and this, and I added another twist by tossing in some chopped olives (the salty, black chunks were the only similarity to actual caviar in the entire dish).  Have this on crackers, or spooned along the crease of a celery stalk.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet it would even be great tossed with freshly cooked penne. 

I made this last week, using two eggplants I bought in the “gently damaged” shelf of the produce section at our local supermarket (ie, the half price shelf).  It was a great way to feel both frugal and rich–all at the same time. Now I must get to work on those holes in my socks.

(“Mum, we wouldn’t mind eating real caviar! Um, and just for the record, what’s wrong with gooey and slimy?”)

I’m also contributing this to Suganya’s “Vegan Ventures, Round 2” event, requesting a favorite vegan recipe.  How could I not submit this–I mean, it’s caviar, right?

Eggplant Caviar

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

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Actually, I could never really understand why they called this “caviar,”  as, to my mind, it neither resembles nor tastes like its namesake.  In any case, though, it’s a wonderful and tasty dip or spread, and economical, too.

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