The Parable of the Steak*

October 22, 2008

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*Or, Raising the Steaks. Or, A Steak in My History. 

[No, that is NOT a real steak in the photo! Seriously, it’s a mushroom.  No, really.]

Before the days of the Great War, and yet after the infestation of the Rats (Pack), and the invasion of the Insects; when the great pioneers left this land and sought out Greene-er pastures, there was a young girl-child, and she went by the name of Ricki. And she and her sisters were raised to obey and respect their elders; and they were raised to eat with their family; and so they did.

And during that time, The Father, a Butcher, commanded his brood: “You must eat meat, for it is good.”  And so they ate meat, and they ate it every night.  And on weekends, they ate “mixed grill,” for which they sacrificed the lamb chops, and the beef liver, and the hamburger, and the pig of cloven hoof, and the steak.  And they were thankful for the bounty.  And it was good. 

But then came one day, the child called Ricki was tempted by the graven image of the Golden Arches.  And she yearned to enjoy the pleasures of this calf (meat); and she asked, “Father, may I taste a McDonald’s burger?”

And the answer came, “NO!”  And the Father said, “All restaurants are crap.  You must eat only the meat prepared by your Mother, and only that of the Home Kitchen.” 

But the girl-child was rebellious, and so when she visited the wilderness country with her friends Gemini I and Gemini II, she did eat from the Golden Arches.  And yes, she thought it was good.  And suddenly, with the flash of a thunderbolt, she was stricken down; she felt pain in the abdomen, and pain in the gut, and the burger sought revenge on her. And then, she barfed.

“It was not meant to be,” The Father admonished. “You must listen to me, my child, and never again partake of the tainted meats of the Golden Arches.”

And so the years passed. And yet once again, Ricki rebelled.  When she was three and twenty, she determined to partake once more of the fobidden meat.  And so she went, of her own volition, and sought out the great king, Harvey.  And there she found the freedom of choice, and the selection of the multitude of burgers. And she took pleasure in the ability to have it her own way.  And once again, she thought it was good. 

And lo, once again, the burger sought retribution.  And once again, she barfed.

And so the decades wore on, and grasses grew up in the wilderness, and the world saw the twinkling of stars and the rolling of stones, and the descent of fortunes, and the ascent of virgins

And then, without warning, Ricki was again struck down. And the shaman proclaimed, “We will draw your blood.” And so they drew her blood; and then they examined it.  And the shaman pronounced, “Your albumen levels are too low.” And the trusted healer commanded, “You must eat meat.”  And yea, once again, Ricki was swayed. And she and her HH sought out the vast storehouse of the cattle, and they heartily accepted the steak.  And so she ate. 

And no, this time, she did not barf; but lo, nevertheless the steak tumbled and growled and gurgled in her belly for days, like heavy sand under the turbulent waves.

No more!” she cried.  “I shall eat the meat no more!”  And she pounded her fist, and she gazed up to the sky, and she shed a heavy tear. 

And Ricki then began her quest in earnest. 

She fought mightily, and she sought out a new source of strength and inspiration.  She befriended the warrior, Kale, and she was blessed with the tint of the beet juice and the flower flour of the spelt.  And she found her salvation in the NAG, and the young bean, and the heavenly nectar of the cactus.  And she learned her lesson: while The Father’s intentions were good, Ricki could not trust the meat.  And then, she found her peace (and piece–of mushroom).  And she and her HH continued to live thus.

* * * * * * * * * *

And so (if you haven’t taken off in a huff yet), what is all this talk of steak and burgers doing on a self-proclaimed vegan blog??  

Well, I’ve mentioned before that the HH and I tend to visit our favorite restaurant once or twice a year for very special occasions.  One of my favorite dishes is the portobello “steak.”  The first time I tasted it, I fairly swooned, but was quickly overtaken by anxiety. I waved madly, summoning the waiter, to ask (in what I’m sure must have been an accusatory tone): “Are you absolutely sure this has no meat in it?” Because, really, it so closely brought to mind my recollection of the taste of steak (not to mention the Parable of the Steak). 

“No,” he assured me, “this is our vegan entrée.  It’s made without any animal products at all.” Hmm!

“Definitely no animal products?” I persisted.  At that, I think he got a bit worried.  (It’s like when the HH and I are leaving to do errands on the weekend, and just as I slide my leg into the car, he asks, “Did you lock the front door?”  Well, it might be two seconds since I withdrew the key from the lock, but the very question itself has me doubting my own memory, so I get up, go back to the doorknob, and test it again.)  “Let me go check,” he said, and trotted off to the kitchen. 

A few moments later, he returned to assure me that no, there were no animal products in the dish. Obviously, the chef had spent some time and skill perfecting this recipe, because the flavor and texture were glorious.  Intensely juicy, not in the least unyielding as some mushrooms tend to be; it was toothsome and savory, a mushroom to drool over, to rip apart with gusto, to smack your lips about. And yes, it was good.

Well, I knew I had to reproduce that mushroom.

So yesterday, I decided to cook up my own portobello steaks for my birthday dinner (I know, I shouldn’t have been cooking at all on my own birthday.  But I’d met my friend Gemini I for breakfast, and then met the HH for lunch, and I basically OD’d on restaurant food. Besides, we’ve got the “real” celebration planned for Saturday evening, and I won’t cook for that).  I recalled an inspiring portobello dish on Happy Herbivore’s blog, and thought I could begin with that recipe, then tweak it according to my memory of the “steak.” 

I added some oil to the mix (sorry, Lindsay!), more wine and some steak spice to evoke a really robust, hearty and meaty taste.  I also marinated the mushrooms for most of the day in the refrigerator before cooking, to infuse them fully with the various flavors.

We both fell in love with this dish.  We had the steaks with spanish rice and garlicky kale, and it was a perfect meal.  “Keep this one on the repeat list,” the HH directed as mushroom juice trickled down his chin.

The moral of the story?  Do not mess with the animal kingdom; but the vegetable kingdom is bountiful, and welcoming, and will bring you much happiness. 

And it will be good!

[Thanks, everyone, for all your amazingly supportive comments about my recent weight loss! Slight as it was, it does help to see the little line on the scale move in the “right” direction (that’s correct, I have a spring-loaded, not a digital, scale–call me a luddite).  Anyway, it was also my birthday yesterday, so it felt like a pretty good day all around (and wow, that Facebook is quite amazing when it comes to letting people know about significant dates–thanks for all the good wishes!) 🙂 ]

Portobello Steaks (adapted from Happy Herbivore)

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 A perfect main dish for a cold winter day when you need something robust and filling.  As long as you remember to marinate them ahead of time, these come together very quickly.

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

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Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

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

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

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

[I 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 third entry, I’m focusing on Avocados. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

Since today was the first Sunday following my Total Health course (and I promise–that’s the last time I’ll mention it!), I realized it was time to resume my regular Progress Tracker entries. 

It’s been nine whole weeks since I had a regular Sunday weigh-in, so this morning, I donned my sweats and and finally returned to the workout club (Well, hi again, Elderly Gentleman Who Always Wears Black Knee Socks! I’m back, Burly Guy Who Stares at Women’s Breasts Between Sets!  I actually missed you, Septuagenarian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts!).

After completing various stretches and weights, I performed the official post-course, ritual weigh in.  And the result?  After NINE WEEKS of eating healthfully and stepping up my exercise routine (literally–I’ve doubled the amount of walking I do each day since the osteopenia diagnosis), I lost. . . . are you ready for it?  Okay, here goes. . . . I lost. . . . FOUR POUNDS. 

Yep, four. Quatre. 4. Vier. Quattro. IV.  Tessera. FOUR!!!!  In nine weeks.

Lovely, no?  That’s just under half pound a week.  Okay, I suppose that’s not awful considering that the goal of the course was not to lose weight so much as to learn about healthy eating and to undergo an attitude adjustment in that area.  During the course, I consumed just as much (healthy) food as I wanted to and never deprived myself in any way (except during the cleanse week, obviously).  What this means is that I am now exactly back where I started when I began this blog–with 40 pounds to lose to reach my goal.  And while I do feel better since taking the course, that’s simply not acceptable.  Nope.

And so. . . I’ve decided to take up the challenge offered by Gizmar from Equal Opportunity Kitchen, who wrote in her recent comment: “Ok, I’m throwing down the gauntlet – I want to lose some weight – I challenge you to a slim down!!!”  Giz, you’re on! Ah, but how much weight?  And in what time period?  I will contact you so we can work out the details.  But for now, I’ve decided, it’s time to get serious! (Again).  Watch out, excess avoirdupois!  Take a hike, jiggly thighs! Run for the hills, cellulite!  I am  on a mission.

* Sigh. *

(Okay, end of weight rant.  We now return to this week’s regularly scheduled Lucky Comestible.)

One thing I realized while on my cleanse week is that I don’t eat nearly as many legumes as I should.  Sure, if you consider peanut butter and carob, I suppose there’s a regular intake, but in general, my diet is sorely lacking.

As a child, the only beans I was ever served were the canned variety.  Heinz Baked Beans made a quick and yummy dinner, just on their own.  (Of course, my mother bought the “in tomato sauce” flavor so she wouldn’t have to deal with that one pasty, white, slimy chunk of pork fat that always rose to the top of the can.  A few years ago, the HH and I took a course called Mini Med School at the University of Toronto. One evening, we were led down winding, clandestine hallways through an unmarked door into the actual anatomy lab, where we examined formaldehyde-infused hunks of human limbs, their outer layers peeled away to expose the muscles and bones underneath.  One thigh had a rectangular chunk of flesh carved out, the cutout placed neatly on the counter beside it like a rubber bathtub stopper.  Well, that little cube of pork fat looked just like the rectangular hunk of thigh. Good move, Mom.)

When I moved into my very first apartment the summer before my Master’s program began, my father’s housewarming gift to me was a smoked ham. (Not so strange if you consider that he owned a butcher shop–what else would he give me?).  With the help of my trusty Joy of Cooking, I ended up making split pea and ham soup (even then, I couldn’t stomach the idea of an entire piece of ham on its own).  I had just started dating my first true love a couple of weeks earlier (hey, Spaghetti Ears!  How’s tricks?) and he, along with his two room mates, kindly relieved me of any superfluous soup–which, as it turned out, was pretty much all of it.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy bean dishes, either.  It’s just that I never really think to make them.  In more recent years, I’ve amassed a fairly reliable roster of bean recipes that I use on a rotating basis.  There’s hummus, of course, but also sundried tomato hummus and roasted garlic hummus.  Oh, and I can’t forget white bean hummus or fava bean hummus or even no-bean hummus (which, come to think of it, doesn’t really belong in the “dishes with beans” category, does it?). The HH and I also enjoy lentil-spaghetti sauce about twice a year, as well as my version of Tuscan baked beans (with olive oil and sage) and a classic three-bean salad in the summertime. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much hummus all around.

Well, I decided it was time to create something new and interesting with legumes.  In keeping with the focus on avocado, I naturally gravitated toward the green legumes–or, more correctly, “legume”: lentils.  Besides being one of the quickest to cook (they’re done in only 25 minutes, with no soaking required), lentils also provide a substantial contribution to your daily mineral requirements. In addition, they’re extremely high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble, important for healthy cholesterol levels), and they’re known to help keep blood sugar levels steady. Oh, and they taste really good!

I seized the green theme and just ran with it (okay, I kind of “speed-walked” with it), throwing pistachios into the mix as well.  In these patties, the avocado acts as an egg substitute, while the nuts and beans work in tandem to provide a complete protein.  While they’re not overly “meaty” in texture (the outside is crispy while the inside remains soft), these burgers are great either baked or fried, and would probably make a tasty loaf as well.  Just for fun (and because I’m weird that way), I baked half the recipe and browned the other half in a frypan. I have to say that I actually preferred the baked version, which also held its shape better. 

These patties are a great way to subtly add more legumes to your diet. And if you happen to be watching your weight–well, as it turns out, they’re pretty low-cal, too (about 150 calories each patty).  Shall we start with these for dinner, Giz?

Lentil Pistachio Patties

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

These substantial patties offer a full-bodied flavor with a wonderful protein content, courtesy of the lentils and pistachios. The trio of avocado, olive oil, and pistachio adds richness and a healthy dose of  heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

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.” 

I can hardly believe that my Grain Drain detox week is already at an end (that, and the fact I’ve posted a measly TWO food-related blog entries about it!). 

The dearth of recipes this past week was due, in part, to an incredibly hectic schedule–there was a multitude of student assignments to mark (strange how the mountain of marking on my desk seemed to keep growing of its own accord, like a bizarre form of paper parthenogenesis or something); an unexpected, last-minute baking order to fill (birthday cakes are fun, but they do take time); and my regular monthly book club a couple of nights ago (lovely, as always–such a pleasure to chat with the gals–but turns out we were all a bit disappointed with Trillin’s tribute to his wife, tender as it was.)  

Another reason for the paltry recipe output has been my own shift in appetite during the past week.  Even though I consumed three squares and several snacks a day, I was drawn to old, familiar dishes for the most part, and felt no impetus to experiment in the kitchen.  Whether this change in attitude is connected to the cleanse or not, I have no idea.  I did, however, cook up one or two worthwhile grain-free dishes, so I will definitely share those in drops and dollops over the next while.

Some of you have asked how I felt during the cleanse.  Overall, it was a success.  There were some expected–and some highly unexpected–results.

As with any cleanse, I went through a bit of a detox reaction for the first couple of days, though nothing as dramatic as my first healing crisis a decade ago.  I felt fatigued, a bit lethargic, and experienced a few mild cravings for the first day.  Then, somehow, the toggle switch governing consumption was flicked and I was able to spend the rest of the week happily ingesting only those healthy foods I’d selected for the cleanse:  fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans/legumes (or pulses, depending on your geographical location). 

In general, my diet consisted of the following types of foods: for breakfast, I might have fresh fruit and nut butter (or nuts and seeds), alternating with freshly squeezed vegetable juice or a smoothie (and the occasional Earth Bowl).  Lunches consisted of salad with more nuts/seeds if I felt hungry; snacks were fruits and vegetables or some kind of raw bar or nibble; and dinner was typically a cooked dish with vegetables and/or nuts or legumes.  I kept the meals relatively simple–perhaps my body was telling me I needed simplicity in at least one area of my life this week!

By day three, I was feeling lighter and more energetic.  Congested sinuses–a constant companion for as long as I can remember–cleared considerably, and I was able to breathe clearly for the first time in months.  (That outcome alone has got me wondering whether I’m harboring undiagnosed allergies to grains.)

Now, for the unexpected.  I must admit I was entirely amazed at how easy the process felt (and if you’ve read my blog before, you know that avoiding chocolate and sweets is generally anything but easy for me).  After the first few cravings, I was able to virtually forget about chocolate and simply eat good, hearty, nourishing foods.  At the same time, my portion size seemed to shrink all on its own volition, almost without help from me.  I feel certain I’ve lost some weight, if only a milligram (will report on the Progress Tracker at the end of the course). 

I did experience a couple of odd detox reactions, however.  According to Paul Pritchard (as well as many other holistic practitioners) in Healing with Whole Foods, the liver is the seat of anger in the body.  In other words, mess with the liver and you might just stir up some pretty unattractive emotions.  Well, I’m here to report that yes, the theory happens to be true!  As my liver was flushed of toxins, my emotional fuse shrank along with the portion sizes and I’m afraid I snapped at the poor HH on more than one occasion (The Girls, of course, were left unscathed).  Now I understand why people run off to spas to detox–at least they won’t take out their burbling anger on their families that way!

It appears that another odd effect of eating healthfully–and I’m loathe to admit this–is that my sense of humor has temporarily gone MIA.  (I know, I know; that sounds too much like the stereotypcal “grunchy granola,” dour and pasty-faced, terribly gaunt and proselytizing vegetarian that carnivores envision when they hear the word, “vegan.” Well, lucky for me, I’ll never be accused of that transgression–no one in their right mind would ever call me “gaunt”!).  I’m not quite sure where it’s hiding, but the rapier wit seems to have departed with the chocolate this past week (oh, please, please do NOT tell me there’s a correlation between the two, that one relies on the other to exist.  A choice between humor, or chocolate?  That would be a choice as agonizing as Sophie’s.)

In any case, to acknowledge my “graduation” from the cleanse, I prepared one very special raw dessert: Raw Milky Way Bars.  I first spied these on Terilyn’s The Daily Raw Café about a month ago and immediately knew I’d have to try them. They seemed the perfect finale to a great week of healthy eating–a little decadent, but still rife with wholesome raw nuts, dates, and natural sweeteners. 

And they were, indeed, thoroughly enjoyable, though I’d add a little caveat if you plan to try them.  While the flavors were astonishingly good (and very close to what I recall as the original mix of flavors in the candy bar), the chocolate coating firms up only when fully frozen–and begins to thaw immediately upon removal from the freezer (or, perhaps, this was simply a function of our humid, 31C–about 88F–temperature here today).  No problem there, as long as you eat the bars straight from the freezer. 

However, if you (as I do) prefer the nougat and caramel at room temperature, you’re out of luck; you’ll end up with a cube of yummy nougat dripping with slick, sticky chocolately coating.  In fact, I found the nougat filling, a mix of powdered nuts and agave nectar, to be so enticing on its own that I plan to use it as a filling in regular chocolates, made with a bittersweet chocolate coating.  But that’s for another day.

In the meantime, I thought I’d close with a play on the “graduation” theme and join in the fun prom meme introduced by Alicia at Grumpy Chair Dieter.  She suggests that we all pull out our prom photos and post them. 

 Well, unfortunately, I couldn’t find my prom photo (aww, gee, and I so wanted to share it!). Instead, I managed to suss out this ancient photo (taken before the advent of digital cameras–gasp!) from my “Sweet 16” party (hmm, now I wish I had found the prom photo. . . ). 

Yes, that is I, braces and all.  Dig that dress! Dig that hair!  Perhaps most shocking of all–I considered myself “obese” at the time.  These days, I’d be thrilled if my thighs were as small as my waist was then.  Thanks, Grumpy Chair, for prompting me to browse through those old photos and get some perspective!

Have a good weekend, all. And now, I’m off to go eat some grains!

Raw Milky Way Bars (from The Daily Raw Café)

 Reminiscent of the chocolate candy bar of the same name, these are actually pretty good for you.  I made 1/3 recipe (I was afraid I’d eat them all otherwise), and it worked out just fine. 

Nougat Filling:

1 cup (250 ml.) raw almonds, unsoaked (dry)

1 cup (250 ml.) raw cashews, unsoaked (dry)

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) agave nectar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) water, or more if needed

Caramel Topping:

1 cup (250 ml.) dry unsweetened dates

1/4 cup (60 ml.) pure maple syrup

juice of half a lemon

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) coconut oil

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (250 ml.) water (I used much less–it would have been watery otherwise)

“Milk” Chocolate Coating

1 cup (250 ml.) pure cocoa powder

1 cup (250 ml.) pure maple syrup

1/2 cup (125 ml.) coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup (60 ml.) water

Soak the dates in the water and lemon juice for an hour.  Drain and reserve soaking liquid. Meanwhile, make the nougat.

Nougat: In a coffee grinder, grind the cashews in small batches into a fine powder. Remove. Process the almonds the same way.

Place the nut powders in a large bowl. Add the agave and water, and mix with your (clean) hands until the mixture is thick and paste-like.  (Fun to lick it off your fingers, too!)

Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board.  Form the nougat into a long rectangular bar on top of the plastic wrap.  Place the board in the freezer for an hour.

Caramel: To make the caramel, process the soaked dates, coconut oil and sea salt in a blender. Use the soaking liquid, one tablespoon at a time, to soften the mixture as you blend.  Blend until you achieve a thick creamy mixture.

Spread the caramel in a long strip on top of the nougat (use a knife or offset spatula to spread it evenly across the top of the rectangle). Return to the freezer while you prepare the chocolate.

Chocolate: In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and coconut oil together until smooth and creamy.  

Pour the chocolate over the candy pieces and freeze an additional hour or until the chocolate sets.  Use any extra chocolate to drizzle patterns over the tops of the bars.  Yields 15-20 small bars.

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, 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.”

* * *

 [Yep, another raw bar. . . and so soon!  But there’s a good reason. . . ]

Well, it’s finally happened:  after years of needless anxiety before every annual medical check-up (only to be told each time that nothing’s wrong). . . this time, something was wrong.  And I must admit, I’m shocked.

When I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, she sent me off for all the standard tests appropriate for “someone my age.”  Then yesterday at the call-back appointment, I was informed that I have osteopenia.  Sounds scary initially: osteopenia is the (potential) precursor to osteoporosis, as the word means “thinning of the bones.”  Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and is a greater danger. 

Even as she was speaking, questions caromed around in my mind:  What, exactly, does this mean?  Doesn’t everyone experience thinning of the bones as they age?  How serious is my situation?–etc. Apparently, the test, called DEXA (“Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption”) works by measuring the density of my bones and comparing it against the bones of an imaginary 25 year-old woman (the “gold standard,” as my doctor says.  But hey, shouldn’t that be the “greyish-white” standard?).  Statistically, my bones were a 1.3 per cent standard deviation from that (no idea what that means).  A 2.5 per cent deviation equals “osteoporosis.”  When I asked how I compare to other women my age, she noted that I was still a bit below average.  

Now, I simply cannot express how much this news ticks me off! I mean, isn’t being fat good for anything these days?? One of the health issues I never (I mean, never) considered as a possibility was osteoporosis; you see, being overweight is actually a preventative in that area (bones rebuild and strengthen in accordance with “weight-bearing exercise,” and I have definitely been bearing excess weight the past few years.). I do, however, have some of the other risk factors (such as being female).

Well, I’m trying not to get overly stressed about this (stress, as it turns out, is one of the factors that contributes to bone loss. Bien sûr).  Even my doctor noted that, should nothing change over the next few years, she wouldn’t give it another thought; it would only be considered a problem if I keep losing bone density.

This shocking diagnosis got me moving (in the sense of “getting hyped up,” though of course also in the sense of “walking more”–gotta increase that exercise now!).  I pulled out a bunch of my old texts from nutrition school and started reading.  Seems that the absolute amount of calcium and other essential bone-building nutrients is irrelevant, if you’re not digesting them properly.  Bad digestion=malabsorption=too few minerals in the bloodstream (at which point your opportunistic bloodstream leaches them out of your bones, teeth, and whatever else it can find–the nerve!). In other words, you can consume calcium out the yin-yang, but if your body isn’t absorbing it properly, you may as well be eating matchsticks (actually, no, don’t do that–too much sulfur isn’t good, either).

A highly acidic diet (as in, “those heinous, calcium-siphoning, bone-sucking junk foods and chocolate bars that have wooed me too many times in the past”) will also cause you to lose minerals from the bone (chocolate is a particular culprit, apparently, as it contains both caffeine AND refined sugar–both mineral-leachers).  And believe it or not, meats and most dairy products are equally bad, as they are also highly acidic (too bad I grew up in a household where we ate meat every day, usually more than once).  Oh, and let’s not forget that surreptitious bone-stealer: stress.  So, in a contest to see who possesses the most negative traits contributing to malabsorption–well, all I can say is, “Yay!  I finally won a contest!”

So now I have a real reason to eat better and exercise more:  unlike my Stone-Age ancestors, I am partial to walking upright, and would prefer to retain that ability. 

For those of you who are interested, you can prevent (and some even say reverse) osteopenia with the proper diet.  This includes ingesting sufficient calcium, of course (think green leafys, almonds, legumes, figs, blackstrap molasses and, if you’re so inclined, sardines, salmon and yogurt); sufficient Vitamin D (at least 10 minutes of sunshine per day, or 1000 IU in supplement form); lots of magnesium (green leafys and beans/legumes again), and a complement of other vitamins and minerals, such as B’s, K, and boron, in smaller quantities.  Basically, a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Because it’s been a while since I practised nutrition directly, I’ll be heading for a trip to my naturopath next week to see what she has to say.  And this will mean a bunch of new, ultra-healthy recipes on the blog!

All this got me thinking about Susan at Food Blogga’s Beautiful Bones” event in honor of National Osteoporosis Month. I’d actually been planning to submit this very entry to Susan.  Now, however, I’m also motivated to go make another batch, just for me. (Oh, and Susan also offers a list of calcium-rich foods on her event page.)

I came up with this recipe when I first started teaching cooking classes a few years ago. Each of the classes was assigned a theme, such as “Glorious Greens,” “Tricks with Tofu” (foods, not making it disappear), or “Great and Gluten-Free.”  One class, called “Bone Builders” (which now sounds to me more like an architectural firm on The Flintstones), was the impetus for these bars.  They were a great hit with the cooking classes, and later, a popular seller at the organic market where I sold baked goods for a few years. And since they were designed specifically to improve bone health, these treats seem the perfect contribution to Susan’s event.  

In the past few years, I’ve discovered that these are terrific as a mid-day energy booster, a great portable lunch on the go, or a substitute for trail mix.  You can keep a wrapped bar in your drawer at work for an emergency nibble, or bring it along during a walk through the woods.  Once made and wrapped, the bars will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge (they have honestly never lasted that long over here). With a texture like that of a protein bar you’d buy at the store, these are much more flavorful, with tart lemon peel, dried cherries accented by sweet dried fig, and the crackly, popping crunch of fig seeds alongside ground almonds.  They’re very filling and a fabulous bar to have on hand. 

When I first created these, I ran a quick nutritional analysis to ensure that they’d provide a meaningful boost of calcium.  Courtesy of almonds (the nut with highest calcium levels), dried figs (the fruit with highest calcium levels), tahini (made from sesame seeds–yep, the seed with highest calcium levels) and sour cherries (no slouch in the calcium department), these bars are a powerhouse of bone-building minerals. The stats confirmed my expectation: each bar offers 140 mg. of calcium per bar (about 1/10 of the daily requriement) along with 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber (bonus!).  I’m not sure how much deviation that represents from the statistical norm, but no matter–they’re delicious all the same.

Raw Fig and Cherry Bars

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

These are deliciously chewy and not too sweet.  If you can find organic UNsweetened dried cherries (the kind that are very tart), they are really the best choice.  If you can’t find them, you may wish to reduce, or even omit, the agave nectar.

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 was organizing my photos this weekend, I came across a fair number that I’ve never used in blog posts. Not sure why; maybe it’s that my (relatively new) blog-related compulsion to photograph virtually every dish I cook, bake, or eat has produced a backlog.  It also struck me that I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers  to provide inspiration, unique recipes, or novel combinations of ingredients that often direct me in my cooking and baking exploits. And what better way to acknowledge their inspiration than to showcase some of these photos–and their recipes–here?

Since I began my “Total Health” kick just over a week ago, I’ve steered clear of most sweets, including my greatest desire, chocolate. I have to admit that the restriction feels a tad less torturous this time than during the WOCA, when I would have hopped on the nearest streetcar named “Chocolate” and happily gone wherever it took me. Well, as it turns out, most of my photos depict desserts–how perfect for a sultry Sunday evening!  So here are some of the lost treasures that have been baked in the DDD household over the past few months:

These chocolate-cranberry biscotti, adapted from a recipe in Patricia Greenberg’s Whole Soy Cookbook, were my first attempt at these crisp coffee-dunkers. I wish I’d read Romina’s post about her own version before I made these, as I definitely baked them too long. While visually appealing, they were probably more useful as paperweights or doorstops than cookies.  After a long soak in a hot tub cup of tea or coffee, though, they were just fine.

Next up were Vegan Magic Cookie Bars from Susan’s blog. When I was a kid, we called these “Hello Dollies” in our house (Why “Dolly?”  No idea.). Susan warns that these are definitely not fat-free.  Having said that, they were gooey, rich, and deliciously decadent. I had to give the rest away or I would have consumed them all.

These speckled darlings are Lemon-Zucchini Poppyseed Muffins adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Laura Matthias’s Extraveganza. With a tender, ethereal lightness, these muffins seemed almost too fragile for this world. Didn’t stop us from eating them, of course.

These gorgeous, golden beauties are Sweet Potato and Cranberry Scones, a test recipe for Anne-Kristin at Swell Vegan.  I adored these–juicy with tart cranberries, a base that’s satisfying, lightly spiced and not too sweet, with the expected heft you’d get from a conventional biscuit.  The HH and I thoroughly enjoyed these for breakfast (oh, and a few snacks). 

Another recipe courtesy of a fellow blogger: this Raw Carrot Cake and Cashew Cheeze Frosting hails from Lindsay over at Day to Day Vegan.  I’d been wanting to try this cake ever since Valentine’s Day, when we both participated in the Vegetable Love contest! My version came out a bit softer than Lindsay’s, so I just popped it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before unmolding and frosting.  Raw, with a mysterious magnetism. . .  This was yummy!

Finally, here’s a photo of the Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies from Ellen Abraham’s amazing cookbook, Simple Treats.  These are, quite simply, one of the best brownies I’ve ever baked or eaten.  See those chocolate chips gleaming in the sunlight?  These are so good, I have to show them again.  From another angle: 

Everyone I’ve ever served these to has flipped over them.  Aren’t they just stellar??  In fact, they might make you want to rush from the apartment, down the fire escape to the sidewalk below, and bellow at the top of your lungs, “STELLA-R! HEY, STELLA-RRRRRRR!!!!!!”

(Well, you just knew that’s where I was going with this one, didn’t you?).

Thanks to all my baking muses! Now, back to reading more blogs for new ideas. . . 

On Being Mindful

May 1, 2008

I know I said I’d relegate comments about my Total Health program to a coda each week, but last night’s class spurred such a barrage of ideas that I wanted to set them down (despite last week’s blathering about eating styles–we all know how well that one went over). So be warned:  this entry features no recipe, and it’s about dieting.  Please feel free to skip if that’s not of interest!

When I first started this blog back in late October (six months yesterday!!), I wrote quite frequently about my diet and (tenuous) attempts to lose weight.  I actually never intended it to morph into a food blog, but once I started reminiscing about different recipe origins, preparation methods, ingredient sources, etc., it seemed to move naturally in that direction (at least, most of the time). I preferred to write about the dishes themselves rather than my reactions to, or feelings about, them.

Well, one of our “assignments” last week in my Total Health course was to “eat without distractions.”  From what I gleaned from our instructions, this meant virtually the same thing as “eating mindfully.”  For any of you who’ve read Jon Kabat Zinn’s seminal book on mindful living, Full Catastrophe Living, this concept is familiar.  In the book, Zinn suggests eating a raisin with full attention to its shape, color, texture, smell, size, mouthfeel, taste, and effect on your emotional or psychological state.  Giving that wrinkled grape your full awareness while consuming it takes several minutes at the least, and you’d presumably experience every nuance, every physical reaction, every sensory impact of consuming that raisin.

I was a little hesitant to embrace this homework, as my schedule these days is beyond hectic and I feel I barely have time to heave a heavy sigh before the day is over.  But I did it.  Breakfast became a private communion between me and my oatmeal (or scone, or almond butter-topped apple, etc.) as I cleared the table and sat and ate. . . mindfully. 

And what did I discover?  That my mind didn’t have very much to contribute to the exercise.  That I didn’t like it. Not one bit.

For me, trying to focus exclusively on my food as I observed, smelled, tasted and then mused upon it was like “torture lite”–maybe not a figurative year in a Medieval prison, but more like recess trapped in the corner of the schoolyard with the class bully.  As with meditation, my mind kept wandering, I found myself scanning the rest of the room as if searching for a deus ex machina to release me from my penance, and I twitched and evaded and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Me?  Wishing EATING would be over??  It’s unheard of!

In our class last evening, I raised the issue.  Was I the only one who’d had a hard time with it?  Apparently, yes.  For the rest of the class (to be fair, not everyone actually did the exercise, so I don’t know about those few who didn’t), eating with no distractions was like an oasis of peace and calm in an otherwise crazy welter of their days.  One woman even said that she’d come to rely on her breakfast ritual, in particular, as a way to start her morning on the right note, and felt unmoored without it. 

According to our instructor, sitting one-on-one with your food and forcing yourself to focus exclusively on it accomplishes a few things.  First, you are more aware of the quality of the food itself.  As she mentioned last week, it’s virtually impossible to plunk yourself down and devour a cannister of Pringles mindfully.  I found that to be true as well (not that I’ve eaten Pringles in the last decade or so):  once you know you must to sit and attend to every puff of popcorn, or every corn chip, or even every goji berry, one at a time, over and over, the idea of grabbing a quick snack between writing assignments doesn’t hold the same allure.  Similarly, if you’re eating food that is of poor quality, paying close attention to every sniff and bite will only highlight that fact, and you may find you’re not as inclined to scarf down that McDonald’s burger and fries quite so often.

In addition, eating mindfully slows down the process of how you select, bite, chew, and swallow the food, so bingeing is virtually eliminated.  When I succumb to a chocolate binge, I’m not paying very close attention to the quantity I ingest.  Basically, I eat as much as there is, until it’s gone (which is why I try not to keep it in the house).  With mindful eating, however, I realized very quickly that I didn’t need all that much to fill my belly.  After one apple (cut in segments and smeared with about a tablespoon of almond butter) for breakfast, I realized I’d had enough.  Maybe I wasn’t used to this bizarre new physical awareness, and it made me uncomfortable.

Finally, I realized that this exercise simply highlighted for me how much I’m overstuffing my schedule as well, and how I usually attempt to fit in too many items in a day; so many, in fact, that taking an extra hour or two to consume meals in isolation throws off the rest of the itinerary.  As I sat chewing my apple with awareness, I was also painfully cognizant of the newspaper draped across the opposite corner of the table, and that my solo meal meant I wouldn’t have another moment to read it that day (well, my teacher would say, you shouldn’t be reading the paper anyway–too much negative energy).

I’m going to try to stick with the practise, despite my discomfort.  For one thing, it’s helped me to determine whether or not I really want to eat something before I dig in; if it’s worth stopping my current activity to sit down and spend some alone time with a food, then I figure I must really feel like having it at that moment. Our instructor promises that the purpose of the exercise is to create a greater appreciation of what we eat, and, ultimately, a greater enjoyment of the food.  I’m waiting for that to happen.  In the meantime, I am glad for the decreased caloric intake.

This week’s homework:  incorporate greens into the diet once a day, along with cultured veggies.  Recipe coming up!

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

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

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

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

*Or, It’s a Long Road “Back”

*Or, Things You Think About While Lying Flat on Your Back for Ten Days

Well, I may not be completely “back” just yet, but I am at least vertical once again–if only for a couple of hours a day.  YIPPEE!  Talk about an ordeal. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, nosirree.  Not even the nastiest bully from grade school.  No, not even the most loathed former boss.  Not even the rudest clerk at the video store.  Or even the most reviled ex-boyfriend (He of the Black Leather Pants).  Yes, it was that bad!

And I am thrilledl to finally return to the world of blogs and blogging!  It feels like eons since I’ve written on (or even looked at) this site, or any of the other blogs out there I so enjoy reading. I promise to catch up on them all over the next week or so.  But before I even begin to write about my unanticipated interval of Great Bed Rest (aka Grevious Back Relapse)–or GBR, I want to share a recipe I discovered as soon as I returned here:

Blogger Twice Marinated in Wet, Salty Broth

1) Get Ricki to hurt her back, badly. Result: first marinade in wet, salty broth (also referrred to as Crying Jag Number One).

2) Get the HH to write a short note explaining her absence (no easy feat, considering the blog-shy HH).

3) Have Ricki return to the blog about 10 days later, read the parade of amazing, supportive and sympathetic comments from readers and other bloggers. Result: second marinade in wet, salty broth (also referred to as Crying Jag Number Two).

4) Allow Ricki to marinate for about 5 minutes before she returns her attention to the blog.

5) Accept her heartfelt gratitude for your wonderful, generous outpouring of good wishes, which is appreciated beyond words.

6) Wrap carefully and store in a safe place.  Will last indefinitely.

In other words, THANK YOU ALL for your comments and kind thoughts while I was away! I have missed you all, and am very, very happy to be “back.”

And so. . . what the heck happened, anyway??

Well, the official diagnosis is a one-two punch of, first, a bulging disk (sometimes erroneously called a “slipped disk”), followed almost immediately by an inflamed facet joint (the latter occurring due to an overly strenuous exercise regimen prescribed by a zealous physiotherapist, only ONE DAY after the original injury! Definitely a no-no).

I had thought the initial pain was pretty bad, but the second injury catapulted it into the realm of “no adjectives available.”

It’s true, the HH and I have no children, so I never had the experience of childbirth as a reference point for that particular brand of agony.  Nevertheless, I can only attempt to express the depths of physical torment inflicted by this back attack:  for the first three days or so, each time I even ATTEMPTED to get off the bed, I would be overcome with an immediate draining of blood from my face and I’d begin to black out. If not for the deft and sturdy embrace of the (relatively) strapping HH, I would have surely ended up in an unconscious heap on the floor.  And though he’s not especailly musclebound, the HH was, thankfully, still strong enough to lift my mumblemumbleundisclosednumber-pound frame back onto the bed.

[“I really hated it when you were sick, Mum.”]

As it turns out, the word “vacation” in this blog entry’s title, above, is not merely a euphemism.  You see, here in Ontario, colleges run year-round, offering three full semesters (including one through the summer months).  I happen to be one of those weirdos trailblazers quirky teachers who prefers her holiday in the winter, and who teaches all summer. Given my oft-declared abhorrence of winter, being able to curl up by the fireplace, hunker down, and just do nothing when the snow makes its unwelcome appearance is a privilege I truly appreciate.

And while I did spend the last 10 days or so lazing around, reading, sleeping as much as I felt like (more than I felt like, actually), and being waited on hand and foot (I am eternally in your debt, Oh Great HH), it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, akin to a “vacation.” Being stuck in bed with nothing to do but follow the aimless peregrinations of my (painkiller-enhanced) thoughts did, however, allow me to formulate some interesting observations.

Here’s what went through my mind as I contemplated my lot over the past fortnight or so:

  1. Never begin an exercise routine for a sore back the day after you first injure it.  Never.  NOT EVEN IF THE ZEALOUS PHYSIOTHERAPIST TELLS YOU TO.  You will regret it.  You will rue the day.  So, never!
  2. Dogs are strange and wonderful creatures, and I love them more than ever. Throughout the Great Bed Rest, every day and all day, Elsie and Chaser held vigil at the foot of my bed. Not quite close enough for me to touch them, but close enough so that I knew they were there. Eventually, we three began to sigh, heave, and sleep along the same diurnal pattern, until the HH came home.  (“Um, don’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything, Mum, but we were actually just worried that we might not get fed any more–not that we weren’t concerned about you, too, of course.”)
  3. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for over a week, the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow.
  4. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for a week and the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow, the actual snow outside will melt, and so when you finally get up again, it will be spring!
  5. The HH is one helluva good sport.  Can’t cook worth a dime, unfortunately, but nevertheless one very sweet guy. He took care of daily housework and chores, walks for The Girls, feedings (theirs and mine), hairwashing (mine), as well as other less appealing ablutions. He came home from work at lunchtime each day to ensure I had food and a break, and also to confirm that the house hadn’t burned to the ground in his absence (an outcome I would have been helpless to prevent, in any case).
  6. Finally, I came to the clear realization that this GBR would never have occurred at all, had I not gained all the weight I’ve been earnestly trying to lose since I began this blog. And so, this latest episode has prompted a reaffirmation of my resolve:  I must get healthy! 

It’s with renewed determination that I return here to focus on all three: DIET, dessert, and dogs.

And, of course, all of you.  Thank you all for continuing to visit, for reading, and for commenting (I love hearing from you!). 

And while the latter part of the Lucky Comestible posts will have to wait until I can stand a bit longer, I’m looking forward to scanning my files and posting about some previous exploits in the kitchen as the back continues to heal. 

Yes, it’s great to be “back”!

(Oh, and I promise never to write the word, “back,” in quotation marks, ever again.)

[“Glad you’re feeling a bit better, Mum!”]

Weekend Update

March 23, 2008

I thought I’d take a few minutes before heading out for a long trail-walk with The Girls (it’s a long weekend over here, and they’re thrilled to have us both at home–ALL DAY!!) to post a few newsy notes. 

So, if you drop in only for the recipes or the witty repartee (I suppose that since I don’t hear your replies, it’s actually just “partee”), then you may wish to skip this entry and wait for the next.  But if you do, you might just miss something important. . . not that I’m saying you should stay, or anything. . . it’s entirely up to you. . .  

News Bit Number One:

For those of you who may have missed it or don’t look for such things, I recently added a Recipe Index (under “Pages,” at right).  I’ve categorized according to general food types, but if I’ve missed one you want to see, please let me know.  I must say that I was quite surprised at the number of gluten free options in the list, since I can actually eat gluten (some) without problems.  Still, I suppose a NAG diet inclines naturally toward GF foods.  (And chocolate is, after all, gluten free).

News Bit Number Two:

Next week, I’m planning to focus on another Lucky Comestible; this time, it’s quinoa.  While I’m not entirely ready to host a full-fledged blogging event, I would love to hear about your own adventures with quinoa, and any recipes you’ve made or blogged about.  You can leave a link in the comments or let me know via email and I’ll add a link to your recipe at the end of my posts.  Would love to see more quinoa in the world!

News Bit Number Three:

I am just thrilled over this one!  A while back, I entered the Root Source Challenge for Maple Syrup, with my post on Maple-Walnut Cookies.  Well, my little recipe won the challenge!  I can’t wait to see my new baking book!  If you missed the original post, it’s right here.

 News Bit Number Four:

excellentblog-award.jpg

Well, now that I’ve introduced the idea of blogs being rewarded, I’m ready for the most important news bit today:  After much contemplation, I’m finally going to suggest my own “Excellence” Awards.  I was given this honor by the lovely Romina of Vegan Eating for One, and have been mulling it over ever since.  There are soooo many excellent bloggers out there, how to choose?  And, even harder, how to choose only FIVE?

Well, it was a difficult choice, indeed.  And I apologize to all of you I don’t mention here.  I regularly read ALL of the blogs in my blogroll, plus about 30-40 more at this point; I think you are all excellent, or I wouldn’t be reading! 

So I made my choice based on a few delimiting principles. Anyone who’s already received accolades for whatever reason was automatically disqualified; I want to spread the appreciation around (and if I’ve doubled up on an award, that’s my oversight; sorry!). I also wanted to choose blogs that were not necessarily recipe-based; I pinpointed those I found quirky, or undiscovered gems, or something a little off the beaten track. . . just my own little idiosyncracies there, I guess. 

So here goes.  My own choices for Excellent bloggers include (in alphabetical order):

  • Deb at Altered Plates.  I love Deb’s take on baking; Everything she does looks so delicious, I want to make all of her recipes!  And she introduced coconut flour to me, something for which I am eternally grateful 😉
  • Annie at Forest Street Kitchen.  Even though our styles of cooking may differ, Annie is a wonderful writer with a wry, satiric take on so many things.  I enjoy her perspective and she always makes me laugh.  And, now, she’s a celebrity!
  • Lucy at Nourish Me.  Her photos are awe-inspiring, her writing is poetic, and her recipes are all NAG-friendly; I always look forward to her blog posts. All that, and she writes from my favorite country on Earth. 
  • Megan at Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills.  No recipes, or much about food at all, really; just a uniquely wry, usually hilarious and slightly twisted view of the world. . . just up my alley. 
  • Lizzie at The Good Eatah.  With relatively new gluten and dairy dietary restrictions, Lizzie still manages to cook up a bunch of yummy foods, always with an upbeat attitude. And I do enjoy those pix of Henry!

Hope you all check out these wonderful blogs. As I said above, there are many more than just five Excellent blogs out there, but now I’ll have to rely on those ladies to go out and pick five of their own. 

Hope everyone’s enjoying a fabulous long weekend, whether or not you celebrate Easter 🙂 .

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[“Can you guess why I’m so happy?”] 

Last week, we took Elsie for her annual checkup at the vet (a place she absolutely loves–go figure).  At the end of the appointment, the vet pronounced her an ideal specimen of canine health.  Not only that; Elsie had lost nine pounds since her previous visit.  Nine pounds!  That’s, like, 63 in dog pounds!  She’s been hanging on to that excess weight for a couple of years, at least. 

This was quite the contrast to our first vet appointment, back in 2002, when she was both underweight and unhealthy. We got Elsie from a Rescue Mission here in the city, because  I was keen to save a little pup that would otherwise face certain death.  But there was also a monetary consideration, as the mission charged only $200 versus the $1200 or so we’d have to dish out for a purebred pup.

I remember the event perfectly: it was a blustery, snow-swept Saturday in February (a day very much like most of last week, come to think of it–except THIS IS MID-MARCH), and we were assured that our little 12-week old fuzzball had received all the pertinent shots, was proclaimed worm-free, and had been given a clean bill of health by their vet. 

As he shoved her into my eager embrace, the scuzzball “attendant” behind the counter drawled, “Waell, you just take her in to your vet on Monday morning, and if there’s any problem, you can bring her on back.”  (Right.  Quick inventory: cramped, smelly, fecal-encrusted and rusty cage in dingy, musty basement; approximately 50 clamoring, whining, unkempt pups crammed into it shoulder to shoulder; Elsie, sweet, reticent, timid, hovering in the back corner, eyes pleading as she silently implored me, “Please!  You must help me! Get me out of here!  Pleaaaassseeee. . . . “). Return her to that torment, under any circumstances?  Um, I don’t think so.

Needless to say, when Monday morning rolled around and we  made it to our regular vet, we were hit with this diagnosis:  worms (yes, the scum-bag guy lied!  Imagine that!), fleas, mange, parasites, broken tooth, and your garden-variety malnutrition. To look at her, you’d never have known; she was nonetheless alert, frisky, and exhibited a voracious appetite (which remains to this day).  We embarked on a series of medications, unguents, and shots to rid her of all the vermin.  Ultimately,  we calculated, restoring Elsie’s health cost us about the same as if we’d purchaed 2.7 purebred pups instead.  Of course, by then  we already loved her so much that there was no question–it was worth it. 

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[Elsie, pre-weight loss]

So, now that she’s svelte and healthy, how did Elsie achieve this amazing feat? The same one, I must admit, that’s been eluding me since I started this blog back in November? And, more important, what can I learn from this?

First and foremost, Elsie now has a new sibling to share her time and energy. Ever since little Chaser Doodle arrived on the scene, Elsie has spent most of her time warding off the “let’s play” advances of her baby sister.  Chaser attempts any tack to entice Elsie to play: tug a little on the ear, nibble a little on the collar, poke a bit at the bum, taunt ceaselessly with the Nylabone, or nudge repeatedly with a paw. Sometimes, Elsie just gives in and plays. And play means exercise.

Human Counterpart: Seems I need a new baby or a new playmate. Hmmmn.  Baby may pose a challenge, as both the HH and I have passed our best-before dates for procreation (together, we must be something like 4,732 in dog years). And a new “playmate?”  Well, I’m not sure how the HH would like that one, either. But I do think a dieting buddy is a workable option; most of the women I know are watching their weight, too, so it would make sense to team up. 

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[The new, svelte girl]

Second, I’ve cut way back on the treats I offer The Girls, compared to the quantity Elsie received before Chaser’s arrival.  Partly because current dog-training philosophy advises against treats, and partly because I no longer require treats to engage Elsie’s attention (since she’s got another dog to play with now), the number of daily biscuits has diminished by half at least.  That’s like cutting out snacks during the evening, or reducing your meals by 25%.  No wonder she’s lost weight!

Human Counterpart: Cut down snacks.  I may need to establish nap-time between 2:00 and 3:00 (when my blood sugar crashes) for a while, but that, too, shall pass. And fewer snacks means fewer calories.

The Girls also spend a lot of time romping outdoors, running off leash for a minimum of 45 minutes per day. Before Chaser’s arrival, Elsie was walked for the same length of time each day, but never felt the urge to run (or even walk very fast).  Obviously, having a playmate has made a difference.

Human Counterpart: Take a daily romp in the woods.  Well, if I translate this into human terms, what I really need to do is more exercise.  I’ve read that in order to lose weight, the average person must exercise ninety minutes a day.  Ninety!  And once women reach perimenopause (and after), they require an hour a day just to maintain weight.  So if I tally up the hour or so I walk The Girls each day, plus whatever extra I add on with the treadmill or the workout club, I should realistically be able to reach that goal. 

Why haven’t I incorporated any of these tricks yet?  Maybe I needed Elsie as my inspiration. I know it’s worth a try. I mean, Elsie does look marvelous, and, even better, she seems to have more energy these days for frolicking and gamboling.  And lord knows I could use more frolick and gambol.

Yes, Mum, I’d highly recommend it.  I do enjoy my frolicking.  But now, can you do something about getting Chaser off my back?”

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