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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.” 

Who could have ever guessed that our summer would FINALLY arrive on Labor Day Weekend?  The weather this past weekend was glorious: brilliant sunshine, sky entirely unsullied by even a speck of cloud, so blue even the dogs seemed able to perceive its piercing azure, colorblind or no.  The temperature’s been hovering at around 28C (that’s high 80s, my American compadres!), and–best of all–no humidity!  What a perfect way to usher out the summer as students prepare to get back to school tomorrow and parents prepare to shout obscenities at all the extra drivers on the newly traffic-clogged roadways. 

It does seem strange to be bidding summer adieu when it feels as if we never actually had a real summer this year to begin with.  Let’s see: before this weekend, I can recall a total of three sunny days.  And it’s official:  this summer, we surpassed every known record for rainfall in Ontario between June 1 and August 31st. 

And so, to celebrate the late arrival of warmth and to send off the season that never was, I thought I’d present this heavenly soup.  It’s one I mentioned waaaaay back when I ran the last Lucky Comestible series on avocados.  As the warm weather dissipates and the stealthy chill of autumn returns with its crisp sheets in the evenings and dewy sprays of frost on car windows each morning, this is a soup you can make to remind you that, before you know it–a mere 293 days from now–the warm weather will finally return.  That is, if there’s actually a summer next year.

The soup is creamy, rich, and very refreshing after an afternoon in the sun.  It’s also great as a quick dinner if you’ve been taking advantage of one of the rare balmy afternoons left in which you can go outside in just a T-shirt and shorts. 

So long, Oh Blazing Sol of the summer. So long, lush, humective grasses and tomato blossoms, amazonian mint, purple clover and sundry weeds in a multicolored tangle like some crazy knitting basket in my vegetable garden. So long, little Chaser slurping at the hose.  So long, G & Ts on the patio, tan lines on my shoulders, shoes slipped on casually with no socks. So long, coveted, much cherished, far too short and ever appreciated summer weather.

Summer, we hardly knew ya.  Sniff.  Boo hoo.  But now, there’s soup. . .

Oh, and for those of you returning to school tomorrow (or those who’ve just returned this past week)–welcome back!

Chilled Avocado Soup

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

This is a simple, quick and delicious soup for a summer’s evening.  Avocado offers healthy monounsaturated fats, and cucumber is cooling and alkalizing.

 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE AT 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.” 

You know, there are days when I just marvel at how much my life has been enriched by joining the world of blogging. I’m amazed at how many positive experiences this little outlet for self-expression, culinary creativity and the occasional star-struck reference to my favorite soap opera has brought my way.

At the forefront, of course, is YOU–the readers and commenters.  What an inspiring group of compassionate, intelligent, witty and loyal people you are!  Thank you for coming back here on a regular basis; thank you for your thoughtful comments (I am, literally, thrilled every time I see one appear at the end of a blog entry–and they keep me coming back here, too); and thank you for your feedback and knowledgeable advice (I’m so excited to start cooking from my recently-acquired cookbooks, courtesy of your suggestions–yay Crescent Dragonwagon!).  Truly, a blog is a sorry, desolate place without its readers.

Along the way, I’ve also discovered many other blogs and bloggers, and what a revelation that has been. I was dumbfounded the other day when I realized there are now approximately 150 blogs on my Google Reader, and I seem to discover new and intriguing blogs every day (and I promise, they will all eventually make it to my blog roll).  Where were all these talented writers hiding before the advent of blogs?  Whether primarily for the recipes or mostly for the prose, I delight in reading every one and perk up each time Google informs me of a new post by a favorite blogger. Lately, I’ve been a bit remiss with my own comments on other blogs, but please know that I do read regularly and am enjoying all your posts!

Speaking of great bloggers, yesterday I had the unique pleasure of actually meeting another Toronto-area blogger, Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen .  As you’d expect from her posts, Giz is witty, sharp, and very, very funny. We chatted like two teenaged chums who meet up again at the 10-year high school reunion, gabbing and giggling and catching up on what we’ve been doing over the past decade.  In fact, our conversation flowed so smoothly and effortlessly that we were on our way out the door of the coffee shop before we realized we hadn’t even touched on the topic we’d ostensibly met to discuss–Giz’s “slimdown challenge” to me from a while back! Thanks, Giz, for a great start to my morning!

As many other bloggers have noted, blogging also forces enourages one to try out new recipes.  In her recent 100th post, VeggieGirl mentioned how each blog entry represents a new recipe (can it be that the HH and I have eaten 186 new dishes–not counting all those that don’t make it to the blog–since last October??).  And part of this impetus to cook novel food arrives in the form of blog events, another aspect of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy. 

These days, it seems there’s a new blog event posted almost daily; I sorely wish I could participate in all of them.  Unfortunately, my schedule at the moment prohibits too much experimentation in the kitchen.  It’s currently end of semester at the college and my marking, like all the ripe, luscious seasonal fruit, is at its peak.  I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just might trump the CN tower as the world’s tallest freestanding structure.  And while preparing foods for blog events is admittedly more colorful than marking essays (which involves only black and red, after all), it wouldn’t do to set aside the former for the latter (well, not too often, anyway).

Still, when I read about the Healthy Cooking: Eat Well, Live Well event hosted by Mansi at Fun and Food, I knew I had to submit something.  After all, isn’t the very raison d’être of this blog, more or less, “to create healthy, delicious foods”?  (That, and to provide The Girls a forum in which to air their observations and opinions, of course). 

(“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that.  You know we HATE having our opinions squelched.”)

I thought about what to prepare, but my mind came up blank.  Then, while attempting to clear the non-marking clutter (eg., half-filled tea mug, empty water bottle, digital camera, sticky notes with recipe ideas, cookbooks previously used for blog entries, magazines previously used for blog inspiration, my checkbook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula [the novel, not the vampire], stray Chaser hairs, my journal, an anniversary card from the HH, and my calculator) off my desk the other night, I came across June’s issue of Cooking Light.  Where have I been living, under a rock or something? I mean, I’m aware there’s such as thing as zucchini bread, the moist and delectable quick loaf that’s a staple in many a baking household. I am also aware that your classic carrot cake is often studded with bits of juicy pineapple.  But zucchini and pineapple?  Together? It just never occurred to me.  Yet there it was, staring at me from the pages of Cooking Light.

The funny thing is, the magazine’s recipe was a “lightened-up” version of an older, original recipe, that contained 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, and 2 cups sugar.  The Cooking Light version cut back to 2 eggs (plus an additional 1/2 cup chemicals made to taste like eggs), 2/3 cup oil and 2 cups (2 CUPS!!) white sugar.  Granted, the recipe yields 2 loaves, but still–an entire cup per loaf?  Seemed a bit excessive to me.

And so, I decided to lighten the already-lightened version.  (Is that sort of like asking Michael Jackson to bleach his skin?)  Seemed to me I could accomplish a fine job of it by reducing the oil even more, and most definitely by reducing the sugar and replacing it with natural sweeteners instead.  My recent avocado kick provided yet another brilliant twist.  My ratiocination went something like this: zucchini is green.  Avocado is green.  Why not add some more green to the green, and use avocado purée instead of egg in this recipe?  Along with the Omega-3’s in the flax seeds, the avocado provides a good dose of monounsaturated fats to the batter, allowing me to reduce the oil even further. And so, my own idiosyncratic variation of zucchini-pineapple loaf was born.

The bread is fragrant with cinnamon, sweet with pineapple and soft, melting bits of chopped dates throughout.  The zucchini contributes a certain depth of flavor and even more moisture–in fact, this bread treads the very limits of moistness; any more moist, and it might not qualify as a solid.  The flavors meld and intensify once the bread is cooled and rested, so it’s even more tasty the morning after it’s made.  And like blogging, it will enrich your day with a healthy dose of sweetness and discovery.

Zucchini and Pineapple Mini Loaves

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

A healthy, hearty version of a heavier standard, this bread mixes up easily and is a great recipe for using up leftover zucchini, pineapple, or overripe avocado.  

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 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.  Today’s avocado-based recipe also happens to be quick and incredibly easy, the criteria for my Flash in the Pan recipes–so it straddles both categories!] 

 

Think smooth and creamy.  Think easy and delicious. Think sandwich spread, base for sandwich fillings, foundation for dips or savory pâtés.  Think avocado mayonnaise!

This incredibly quick and equally irresistible recipe comes from the wondrous Dr. Ben Kim’s Natural Health website.  A chiropractor and acupuncturist based in Barrie, Ontario, Dr. Kim is also a fount of information on all things holistic, and he offers incredible material about healthy eating–all for free through his newsletter, of which I am an avid fan (and no, I’ve never actually met the man, just in case you think there’s a little nepotism going on here–I just really think his info is great!).

I whipped up this mayo and enjoyed a daub on some steamed artichokes, but by the time I’d finished eating them, I knew I was hooked.  I plopped some over ripe, juicy slices of beefsteak tomato for a lunch appetizer and was enthralled.  After the first taste, I wanted to scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon (come to think of it, I did scoop this out of the bowl with a spoon).

You can use this as you would any other mayo, in sandwiches, wraps, salads (it would be heavenly thinned out just a little over field greens–turns out the recipe is very much like the avocado pesto salad dressing I posted about last March).

Avocado and Basil Mayonnaise

from Dr. Ben Kim

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

This creamy, heavenly spread can be used anywhere you’d use regular mayo.  I agree with Dr. Kim:  this is the best vegan mayo I’ve ever tried.

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 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. ] 

Summer is definitely the season of romance.  I mean, all those couples strolling along the Harbourfront, hand in hand. . . starry nights and waves crashing against the sand at the Beaches. . . candlelit dinners on the back patio under the moonlight, just you and your sweetheart. . . and the black flies. . . and the mosquitoes. . . and the spiders. . .  Hmm.  Well, all those couples strolling along the Harbourfront, hand in hand . . .

Doesn’t everyone love a little romance once in a while? I used to think that romance meant roses and chocolate, but nowadays I know better.  Now I realize it’s just chocolate. 

In my previous lifetime (long before the HH), my Starter Husband  was a natural when it came to romance; he was one of those guys who’d secretly light candles and strew rose petals around the bathtub (which was filled, naturally, with Chanel Number 5 Bubble Bath) while I was out shopping because he saw it in a movie somewhere.  Or I’d open a Christmas present to find a pair of handcrafted tiger’s eye earrings he’d bought, because I’d admired them while strolling through an outdoor bazaar the previous July.  Yes, he was a “romantic,” in the classic sense (still didn’t save the marriage, though). 

Most of us are familiar with the studies about husbands who “help out” more in the domestic areas of the home (washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning floors, etc.):  they’re also more likely to get lucky in the other areas (read: bedroom) of the home.  In those cases, romance is something else entirely:  it’s the ability to tune in to the ongoing, mundane demands or stresses facing your loved one and to help alleviate some of the pressure by reducing the workload. I mean, we all know there’s nothing quite so sexy as a guy with his hands in a sink of soapy dishes, right?  

The HH is definitley not romantic in the classic sense–I think he’s bought flowers for me twice in the eleven years we’ve been together, and those only under duress–but he sure does shine in the “sharing housework” department.  (I know, I’ve mentioned his lack of cooking prowess before, and it’s true, he loathes cooking; but he does make a great kitchen hand, and if I had to count up household chores, I’m certain he takes care of more of them than I do). 

The HH’s style leans more toward Harry’s in When Harry Met Sally–the guy you love to talk to, the one whose silly jokes make you laugh despite yourself, the one who’s steady and good natured and helpful, even if he does miss a few cues when it comes to your desire for sentiment or being sappy. 

And what prompts me to feel romantic toward my guy?  Well, seeing him on his back on the floor (really, get your minds out of the gutter, people!), rolling around with The Girls and a pull toy (well, actually, I guess that last sentence out of context could be interpreted “that way,” couldn’t it? Lord knows what search terms will lead people to this post, now I’ve written that).  Though he’d probably never admit it out loud, the HH is head-over-tail in love with our dogs.  And recognizing that devotion always sparks my own romantic inclinations towards him. (“We’re pretty cool with it, too, Mum.”)

Although it’s true I’ve bought Christmas gifts the HH had admired months before, in general I tend toward more quotidien romantic expressions such as leaving notes in lunch bags, offering to do dishes when it’s his turn, or baking things for him that I know he loves. 

Which brings me–finally–to today’s recipe. (I know, you were wondering how I’d work it in, weren’t you?)

One of the HH’s favorite flavors is coconut.  Alongside a good hunk of Decadent Chocolate Pâté, coconut cream pie is his all-time favorite dessert.  For his birthday each year, I let the HH choose any dessert on the planet and I will make it for him; among the Toffee Hazelnut Pound Cake, the Opera Cake, the Layered Mocha Mousse Cake and all the others over the past eleven years, the only repeat so far has been coconut cake.  What could be better (or more romantic), then, than a baked good that’s both healthy and coconut-based?

As I mentioned in the first post of this Lucky Comestible series, avocados can be used as egg substitutes in baking.  When I first learned of this option, I experimented with a huge variety of recipes, from cookies to cakes to muffins.  In general, the avocado isn’t detectable if the other flavors in a recipe are fairly assertive to begin with (as in the aforementioned chocolate pâté), but in lighter bases (such as vanilla), you may sense a hint of the buttery green purée. In addition, the avocado will impart a touch of color to the final product (though strangely, it bakes up more yellow than green).

The result of my kitchen playtime was these muffins, a great combination of coconut and lemon.  They’re extremely moist, both tart and sweet, and have become one of the HH’s favorites. When you mix up the batter, however, don’t be alarmed by the brilliant Day-Glo green color–the magical alchemy that is baking will transform it into a deep, rich, lemony yellow that is a perfect visual representation of the intense lemony flavor. 

Next time you want to express your love toward the object of your affection, trying baking these. . . and then, who knows what type of romance might ensue? 

I’m also submitting this recipe to A Fruit A Month, the event started by Maheswari of Beyond the Usual and this month hosted by Suganya of Tasty Palettes.  This month’s focus is coconut.  The roundup will be posted after June 30th, so head over to take a look after that!

Tropical Lemon-Coconut Muffins

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

Moist and filling, these are the perfect breakfast or snack.  And because the avocado already contributes monounsaturated fats, these don’t require any added oil! 

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 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 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. ]

[Sorry about the poor focus. . . that free point-and-shoot camera of mine has been rather uncooperative lately. Maybe time to bite the bullet and finally buy a real camera?]

Well, last Wednesday evening was our final Total Health class.  As it’s been all along, the meeting was terrific, though this final gathering wasn’t about education so much as eating.  We were split into groups of three or four people and asked to cook up a couple of recipes each; then we all sat down together and devoured the feast we’d made.  It was a great way to end the course in a social, relaxed fashion.  When the end of session arrived, no one wanted to leave!  We lingered and chatted for an extra 45 minutes before finally filing out of the house (sorry about that, Caroline).  And so, the question remains: what now?  Do I continue to consume my fruit-and-vegetable, raw-leaning diet?  Or do I slide like a 300 ZX on black ice, right back to my chocolate and high-grain days? 

That, my friends, is the 64,000 Calorie question.  Only time will tell, dear readers, only time will tell. . .

But in the meantime, I sure am going to give it my best shot.  And with salads like this one, veggies and fruits never tasted so good.

This is my own adaptation of a Thai-inspired salad the HH and I had many years ago at a cooking class we attended.  The class was a birthday present for my friends Gemini I and Gemini II (whose birthday, as it turns out, is on the same day!) about ten years ago.  Six of us cooked together and then shared our meal (sort of like Wednesday’s class, come to think of it, except the Thai meal wasn’t nearly as healthy).  I’m not sure why, but I still have a crystal clear vision of the HH that long-ago night, as he chopped onions, sliced mango and juiced limes. . . hmm, perhaps because that was the last time he voluntarily chopped onions, sliced mango, or juiced limes?  Oh, no, silly me–he juices limes all the time; you need those for gin and tonics. 

Anyway, the original salad didn’t contain avocado, of course, but one day I just threw it in, and it made such a perfectly compatible addition to the mix that the mangos and avocados have been keeping company ever since (they’re practically engaged by now).  I’ve also tinkered a little with the seasonings over the years to create what I think is the perfect dressing for this salad.  In fact, the combination of tastes is so summery, so refreshing and so tantalizing that I’ve even been known to eat this salad for breakfast (What? Fruit for breakfast is good for you!).  I use a combination of mint and cilantro, but if you’re not a fan of either, you can leave it out.  (And if you’re short on mint, feel free to drop by my place and grab some from the massive waves of green beside the house–see right). 

Besides tasting great, this dish offers a sweet treat for the eyes as well.

As I mentioned earlier, avocados are a fantastic source of heart-healthy monounsaturates.  But mangos are no slouch in the hale-and-hearty department, either; they’re rich in antioxidant vitamins C and beta carotene, fiber, and potassium.  With all these cardiac benefits, I’ve decided to submit this recipe to Ilva of Lucullian Delights, who is hosting her monthly Heart of the Matter event featuring heart-healthy salads this month. 

Mango Avocado Salad

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

This refreshing salad combines all five flavors common in Thai cooking: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, in perfect proportions.  Great as an appetizer or side salad, this dish is best eaten fresh–though we’ve never had leftovers to worry about in our house, anyway!

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 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. ]

 

Want to wow your boss?  Want to thrill your sweetheart?  Want to get addicted to something rich, dense, smooth, chocolately and truly decadent?  Well, all you need is an avocado plus 3 more ingredients, and you’re there. 

This pâté will dazzle you, seduce you (but not in the same way as Mark Bittman), soothe you and make you very, very happy.  This is my HH’s all-time favorite dessert (well, maybe on a par with coconut cream pie).

Last year, when the HH and I went out to our favorite restaurant for our 10-year anniversary, we reached the end of the meal when I found myself suddenly craving chocolate (my, how unusual!).  For some reason that night, the always-stellar dessert menu lacked anything that appealed to me.  But here’s the sign of an exceptional establishment:  when I mentioned my desire to Tony (our waiter–we were on a first-name basis by that point), he apologized profusely for the menu’s shortcoming, swiftly and deftly cleared our plates, and trotted off to get the HH’s coconut cream pie (okay, he didn’t really order coconut cream pie, but since I can’t remember what he did actually order and since I just mentioned that coconut cream pie was a favorite of his, I thought it would sound good here. . . I plead literary license).

A few moments later,  Tony returned with two plates of dessert–the pie for the HH, and a selection of three exquisitely formed chocolate truffles for me.  The chef had whipped them up with some ganache he had prepared for another dessert!  I was blown away, not only by the astonishingly good service, but also by the truffles themselves: light, smooth, and soft as a butterfly’s touch.  I savored every bite, every deep, rich, cacao-dense tidbit. 

Well, that’s what this pâté reminds me of–the filling in those truffles.

I created this recipe several years ago for a cooking class on heart-healthy foods, and was delighted to discover that both avocados and dark chocolate provide benefits to our body’s main muscle.  Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats (the same heart-healthy fat touted in the “Mediterannean diet,” also in olive oil), and chocolate contains flavonoids that can improve cardiovascular functioning by preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The taste of avocado is imperceptible in this dessert, yet it adds a rich, creamy, lustrous texture.  The orange juice provides sweetness and additional flavor to counterbalance the chocolate perfectly (hmm, come to think of it, perhaps Grand Marnier in place of some of that juice would be nice. . . ).  Once refrigerated, the pâté firms up enough to hold its shape and cut into slices, yet it remains soft and yielding, something of a cross between a fudge and a ganache. 

Because it actually provides most of the substance of the pâté, be sure to use a good quality dark chocolate here.  If you’re feeling extravagant, you might try Vogzes.  I’ve used Green and Black’s, Dagoba, Endangered SpeciesLindt, Vivani, and even President’s Choice in a pinch (can you tell we like this dessert in our house?), all with delicious results.

Want a little preview of life beyond the pearly gates?  Go make this.

(Since this pâté is my very healthy version of a traditional chocolate pâté made with sugar, cream, eggs and butter, I’m submitting this to Giz and Psychgrad’s event, Tried, Tested and True II, over at Equal Opportunity Kitchen.  They’re asking for surefire hits that are made healthier than original versions.)

Finally, thanks to everyone who’s entered the Cookbook Contest so far.  And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for??  It’s open to everyone, and you can win one of eight cookbooks! Just go here and enter!

This pâté tastes incredibly rich, but is actually good for you.  A little goes a long way, so I’d advise cutting into thin slices. . . otherwise, I can’t be responsible for what happens.

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!  PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this 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. ]

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.” 

Some foods are just acquired tastes–sort of like scat, living in the suburbs, or Quentin Tarantino films.  I know that avocados work that way for many people, but that wasn’t my experience.  Like eggnog or chocolate, avocado was one food I knew intuitively that I’d like, even before that first buttery, golden slice ever slid across my tongue. 

In my teens, I used to walk to high school each day with my friend Phil.  We’d meet at her place (about halfway between my house and our school) where she’d usually invite me in for a breakfast bite. It was in her mother’s white and gold formica-clad kitchen that we learned to love coffee together (stage one:  1/2 cup coffee, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup cream and 5 sugars.  Stage two: 4/5 cup coffee, 1/5 cup cream, 1 teaspoon sugar.  Stage three: eliminate sugar.  Stage four: Congratulations; you’re hooked for the next 30 years, until that ulcer/heart condition/high blood pressure diagnosis, and then you go back to “no coffee”.)

While at Phil’s place after  school one day, her mother (who was born in Belgium, and was therefore very glamorous) introduced me to avocados.  The rough, gravelly exterior, greenish black skin and ovoid shape all seemed very exotic to this apple-and-banana gal.  But as soon as she cut the fruit open, removed the glossy pit, and proffered a halfmoon slice, I was forever hooked on the smooth, velvety texture and slightly nutty, slighty sweet flavor. 

(Apart from foodstuffs, Phil and I also learned to smoke cigarettes together, two giggly fifteen year-olds strolling round deserted parks after dinner, attempting to inhale, and–between fits of sputtering coughs–singing, “They. . . asked me how I knew. . . my true love was truuuuuue.  .  .”  But that’s another story).

To me, avocados are a nearly perfect food.  Technically a fruit (sometimes called the “alligator pear”), they are used more often as a vegetable, and almost always raw.  A few years ago, though, I read a magazine article about authentic Mexican cuisine. I found out that, in addition to being tossed into pretty much every salad or salsa, the avocado is also used sometimes in that country in cold soups and even cakes.  Wow, I thought, what a great ideaWith the extra healthy fats (and monounsaturates can stand up to low heat pretty well) as well as the fiber, avocados would make a terrific egg substitute in baking! 

So I started playing and came up with a few baked goods (and I promise to share later in the series) as well as a cold soup–perfect for summer (recipe to follow as well). If you feel like playing with avocado as an egg substitute, use it the way you would tofu (1/4 cup avocado purée = 1 egg).  Or simply add about 2 tablespoons puréed avocado to any baked good for added moistness. 

Whether your preference is the crinkly Haas or the smooth-skinned Fuerte variety, an avocado is ripe when it “gives” slightly to soft pressure with your thumb or finger (be sure to press at the top of the fruit to avoid bruising the flesh). Most avocados are sold before they’re ripe and require 2-5 days at room temperature before they’re ready to eat. 

Once ripe, however, they don’t last long–a day or two at most–before they reach the overripe, slightly fermented, stage (you know an avocado is past its prime if it starts to smell a bit like wine).  If you can’t consume them once ripe, they’ll keep another 2-3 days, unpeeled, in the refrigerator.  When I find myself with an overabundance of ripe avocadoes, I simply peel, purée, and freeze in one-cup containers for later use (frozen pulp is perfect for future dips and spreads, those baking experiments, or even added to pasta sauces later on).  Frozen avocado should keep up to five months.

Avocados are also incredibly healthful–they aren’t a staple of Mexican cuisine for nothing!  Brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated oils, they are a good source of fiber, potassium (great to counteract high blood pressure) and vitamin K, essential for blood and (of particular interest to those of us with osteopenia) bone strength.  They also contain a good dose of lutein, an antioxidant found mostly in green leafy vegetables that’s been shown to contribute to eye health and even help reduce the effects of macular degeneration (a disease of the eyes in which central vision is slowly erased).

And today’s recipe?  Well, guacamole is one of those iconic foods that regularly makes an appearance at end-of-semester pub bashes, summer Bar B Qs, surprise birthday parties, or work pot lucks; I simply couldn’t do a series on avocados without including this classsic dip.

The first time I tried guacamole, I was at an end-of-semester party thrown by my friend Carol, a legendary hostess known for her ability to draw crowds of disparate personalities who, for the course of an evening (and often into the wee hours of the morning), all got along over beer, wine, and literary discourse.

Carol and her husband always included their two children (then aged 9 and 11) in every social activity, so the kids would meander quite comfortably among the professors and graduate students, stopping every now and again to chat with the bearded hippie sucking back a Becks or the the raven haired T.A. in the inappropriate tank top who was hitting on our Drama professor.  Completely unfazed, the children might stop for some corn chips and guacamole, then move on. Around 10:30 or 11:00, they’d wander upstairs to their bedrooms, where they’d doze entirely undisturbed by the din beneath them, like babies in the neonatal ward who can all sleep through their own wailing.

Carol’s guacamole that night was spectacular, and I knew I’d have to make it again.  I clipped this recipe from an old Chatelaine magazine from the 1990s, and I’ve never even tried another since.  I do realize that everyone and their hairstylist has a fabulous recipe for guacamole, but this really is the best one I’ve ever tasted.  The unusual step of rinsing the onion (which removes any pungency that might linger on the palate hours later), elevates this version to one of the all-time best recipes I’ve ever made. 

With its prominent use of cilantro, this is a great entry to Kalyn‘s Weekend Herb Blogging event, this week hosted by Joanna at Joanna’s Food.

Oh, and there’s still time to enter the contest for a new cookbook–which might just contain a new recipe for guacamole!

The Perfect Guacamole

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

I used to think that guacamole required garlic to taste this delicious, but this recipe proved me wrong.  The contrast between the chunky tomato and smooth, rich avocado is stellar.  Add more cilantro if you’re a fan.

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.”]

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).
     
 kalesaladclose.jpg

Well, since my back is still a bit sore, I’m opting for a “flash in the pan” today.  Hmm: sore back. . flash. . .does that make this a “flash-back”? (Ouch.  Sorry–that one hurt even more than the back injury!). 

We ate this salad the other night along with my newfound amore, nutroast (don’t tell the HH).  This is one of my favorite salads ever, and even The Girls  love it (without the onion, of course).  Oh, and there’s no strain whatsoever on your back when you mix this together.

(“Yes, Mum, this is definitely a keeper.  But what do you mean, nutroast is your new amore?  What about US? Aren’t WE at the top of the list???”) 

My only experience with green leafy vegetables prior to my year at nutrition school was the archetypal (and, oddly, newly resurrected) iceberg lettuce.  In fact, my dad still eats a salad of torn, waterlogged iceberg, chopped woody tomato, and sliced, wizened cucumber pretty much every day for lunch.  Is there any wonder I never thought to branch out?

Then, throughout that same year, I kept hearing rumblings about these mythological creatures called “green leafy vegetables.”  Armed with mighty stems; dressed with undulating green fronds;  festooned with ruffly, bi-colored leaves, these creatures seemed like a veggie version of fabled videogame heroes.  I’d read paragraphs in our textbooks and stare, entranced, at the photos, but couldn’t remember ever having tasted any. 

But wait; I did remember coming close, as a teenager when I’d visit my best friend, Sterlin.  As nerdy adolescents, we bonded over the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend throughout high school.  We’d regularly spend weekend sleepovers at each other’s houses, blabbing and gossiping and avoiding homework (and cursing the fact that neither of us had a boyfriend), until the wee hours of the morning. 

Since my mother, my sisters and I were always baking something or other, sleepovers at my house involved chocolate chip cookies, brownies, apple cake, my mom’s famous chiffon cake or my then-favorite cookie,  Chocolate Shadows (a monstronsity of chocolate, peanut butter and mint, from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook). When we bunked at Sterlin’s house, however, our  2:00 AM munchie raids inevitably led us to her parents’ near-empty freezer, where we’d find. . .boxes of frozen spinach.  I have no idea why they were always so well stocked on spinach, but since that was all we could find, that’s what we ate.  Sterlin would pull out a box, heat it up in the microwave (hers was the first family I knew to have one), and we’d munch on soggy, unevenly heated, spinach. 

Needless to say, the highschool freezer exploits didn’t exactly increase my desire to sample kale, collards, chard, or the like. But once I did discover leafy greens, years later, I was instantly smitten.  I ended up trying every green-leafy recipe I could find, and seemed to love them all.  And I daresay, this is one of the best. 

When I mention that this salad uses raw kale, I’m often met with resistance.  “But isn’t it bitter?”  I’m invariably asked. 
Well, let’s get one thing straight: buying a lottery ticket and having the guy at the kiosk check it, tell you it’s a loser, then cash in the $5.6 million jackpot himself–that’s bitter.  Bending down to pick up your dog’s water bowl and ending up spending almost two weeks in bed with an excruciating back problem–that’s bitter. Dating narcissistic Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) for three months, then having him dump you for his ex-girlfriend before you can break up with him–that’s really bitter (but am I bitter?  Why, no, no of course not, don’t be silly!)

But kale?  Nope.  Not bitter. 

This dish is well-known in the “living foods” community–so much so, that I’m not even sure to whom I should attribute it.  But a couple of years ago, I attended the Vegetarian Awakening conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan (what a fabulous experience!  Imagine my elation: three entire days, knowing I could eat every single thing available all weekend!), and one of the chefs there, Chad Sarno, demonstrated this salad, so I’m going to credit him.  There are multiple variations floating around on the Internet as well.

This salad is so quick and easy, you will not believe how delicious it is.  It contains only 5 major ingredients (with optional add-ins). And because it’s so green and healthy, chock full of antioxidants, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, I’m submitting this recipe to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging event, originated by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Raw Kale and Avocado Salad

Kale, with its frivolous ruffles, is like a perky vegetable tutu. It’s often referred to as the “Queen of Vegetables” for its amazing nutritional profile. 

TO VIEW THE RECIPE FOR KALE AND HEARTY SALAD, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

[“We adore this this salad, too, Mum–it’s OUR new amore! Thanks for sharing.”]

TO VIEW THE RECIPE FOR KALE AND HEARTY SALAD, PLEASE VISIT 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.”]