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

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[That is one MoFo huge smoothie!]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Simplicity at its finest.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On second thought, nah.

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

Sweet and Simple Sweet Potato Smoothie

adapted from The Healthiest Meals on Earth

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

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

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

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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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’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.”]

[Thanks to everyone who hazarded guesses about what type of peppers I’ve got flourishing in my backyard. . . I think we all agree they’re not jalapenos, but as to what they actually are, we may never be sure. They’re definitely spicy, yummy, and abundant–all I need to know, I guess!]

Another plant that grew beyond any sense of propriety in my back yard this past summer is mint.  In my eternal quest to find as many uses as possible for the wayward herb, I began to drink this refreshing, ridiculously simple-to-prepare iced tea almost daily.  I’d mix a huge batch of the beverage, pour it into a pitcher in the fridge, and just add ice whenever I felt parched, tired, or even a bit peckish.  It always worked to perk up my spirits and leave me reinvigorated.

And no wonder: mint has long been used to help soothe digestive problems, and the oils may also aid in preventing bacterial or fungal infections (perfect for someone like me, who’s been rather slack with her ACD lately).  Ginger is renowned as an anti-nausea remedy (which is why real ginger ale is so great for pregnant women). It’s also an effective anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help prevent various types of cancers while boosting the immune system. 

With all these benefits in a delicious and easy drink, there’s just no reason not to sip some every day.

Fresh Ginger Mint Iced Tea

about 2 cups (480 ml.) unpacked fresh mint leaves

2 2-inch (2.5 cm) pieces of ginger, peeled and sliced into think disks

8 cups (2 liters) boiling water

agave nectar, to taste

splash of lemon juice, if desired

Either coarsely chop the mint, or place In the bottom of a large glass or other non-reactive bowl (big enough to hold 8 cups or 2 liters) and then muddle with the end of a wooden spoon or muddler (but really, who actually owns a muddler??).  Add the ginger disks.

Pour boiling water into the bowl and stir gently to submerge all the leaves.  Cover if possible while allowing to steep (I used the lid from my wok, which was large enough to cover the entire bowl). Allow to steep 5-10 minutes, or longer if you prefer a stronger brew.  Add agave and lemon juice, if desired.  The tea can be used immediately if poured over lots of ice (the ice will cool it sufficiently).  Refrigerate any leftover tea and use as needed.  Will keep up to a week in the fridge.

Mint Smoothie

June 3, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!

PLEASE VISIT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD 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.” 

The home I grew up in could very well have been the original inspiration for the mantra, “Reuse, Repair, Recycle.” My dad, the quintessential progeny of The Great Depression, still saves everything from empty jam jars, to twine from UPS boxes, to old socks, to almost-moldy tomatoes, and puts them to use again in some other context (pre-Nalgene vessel to transport iced tea on a road trip; means to repair broken screen door latch; protection for hands while emptying garbage; and lunch, respectively). Seems I’ve earned my title as Femme Frugal honestly.

Besides, I’ve always considered myself pretty eco-friendly, being the bag-saver, container-reuser, water-conserver and late-night clothes washer that I am.  With all the talk of eco-consciousness, carbon footprints, 3 R’s and whatnot these days, I fully expected I’d eventually go “green”; I just never imagined it would be quite in this way. 

You see, our lives have been overtaken by green. Each time I glance out the window at the side of my house, leave via the front door, or stroll round toward the back yard, I’m confronted with GREEN. Mint green, that is. Yes, the DDD household has been invaded by rogue gangs of wandering mint, all vying for supremacy in the ‘hood.

Mint abounds. . . .Mint surrounds. Mint embraces us with its color and scent, tickles us as we tiptoe through the grass, envelops us at every turn.  We are circumscribed by mint.  Yes, dear readers, you were all so right (or, as the HH often translates it from the French, “You have reason”) about that gypsy mint! My days are now lived from within an undulating, leafy, lush sea of green.  Inhaling the verdant aroma from the garden, my mind reels with a heady intoxication (almost as intoxicated, I imagine, as Obama’s fans were last evening after that rousing, pre-victory speech).

Oh, and you know what else?  We’ve got no shortage of mint around here.

So, what to do when you’re inundated with a tasty but not overly utilized herb?  You improvise, that’s what.

Sunday morning, with the weather finally warming up, I thought I’d prepare a refreshing, cooling and nourishing drink for the HH, who was still fairly wilting from the effects of his cold (and, come to think of it, a looking a little green himself).  Fresh fruit is a great option for anyone suffering from weakened immunity, as it digests fairly easily and quickly, without taxing the system too much.  I had just the idea.

Around here, our freezer tends to house a variety of frozen fruits at any given time.  As I’ve mentioned before, even though we choose the smallest organic produce box for delivery each week, often there’s still too much fruit for two of us to consume in a mere seven days.  As a result, I end up chopping and then freezing chunks of overripe mango, pear, banana, grapes, or even (as I did a couple of weeks ago), watermelon for later use.  These frozen cubes generally work beautifully in smoothies or when I want to whip up some nearly-instant sorbet.  Sunday, I opted for a smoothie.

I had been thinking about Mojitos ever since Russ mentioned them in a comment last week, but since I have no interest in drinking alone (I know–how un-writerly of me), and since the HH wasn’t up for alcohol (unless I was going to rub it into his congested chest), I took the general concept of citrus + mint and ran with it.  Rummaging through the various containers of frozen fruit, I uncovered both pear and watermelon, which I imagined would offer a refreshing sweetness without an overpowering flavor (as banana, for instance, might).

Don’t let the intense grassy color deter you–the taste is just right, not too sweet, with a lovely minty flair. It’s refreshing and fairly light, so if you’re thinking “breakfast,” this is the type of smoothie that works as a beverage alongside  your main meal rather than as a beverage instead of your main meal. It would also make a lovely postprandial sip (and maybe even better with a splash of rum–I’ll have to save that version for when the HH is feeling better). 

And, of course, with all this mint (plus the other great fresh fruits) that it contains, how could I not submit this to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Maninas at Food Matters?

Mint Smoothie

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

 

This is a cooling, refreshing drink that would be great for a hot summer’s evening, or served in a big bowl at a Bar B Q.  (And iwhat a fun challenge to convince your friends to drink something this green!)

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.”]

*Or, The Only Type of Chocolate I Can Effortlessly Resist

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

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It seems a bit misleading to even post this recipe, since the major ingredient (chocolate) came to me straight from Ecuador (via a friend who’s in town)–which means there’s not much chance too many of you can reproduce this exactly as presented. Still, if you have access to similar types of chocolate (such as a good quality 70% cocoa bar, or these little nuggets that I’ve been getting from my friend PR Queen), I’m sure you’ll whip up something pretty darn close.  

I’ve probably mentioned before that I maintain contact with a group of four women from my nutrition school days (we were study-buddies). Every few months, we get together for a healthy meal and round of animated chat (I sometimes think of us as a latter day Sex and the City gang–except in our case, it’s more like Tex-Mex and the City).  A few months ago, we met for a pot luck dinner at my place; today was lunch at a favorite Thai restaurant.

Well, about six months ago, one of our gang, M.E., up and moved to Ecuador.  Since she was born and raised there, this was more a quest for self-actualization than the peregrinations of an adventurous tourist.  She, her husband and children, have all adjusted well to life in the eternally-warm zone (as she mentioned today, “winter” means the day is less than entirely sunny), but returned for a couple of weeks to visit.  Lucky for us!

Across the table, she doled out gifts of food to each of us; I was the lucky recipient of pure Ecuadorian chocolate, made from toasted, ground cacao beans, both grown and dried locally (in bins along the roadside, where they dehydrate under the sunshine, M.E. informed us), shaped into large flat disks and sold in bags of 250 g. each. 

Ever since I first read the book Like Water For Chocolate , I’ve wondered what authentic Mexican hot chocolate would taste like, as opposed to, say, warm milk with Nestle Quik (my childhood version of the drink) or cocoa powder, agave syrup and hot soymilk (what I make for the HH when he requests same). 

I myself have never been a huge fan of hot chocolate except in theory:  it seems the perfect beverage to sip on while curled up beside a crackling fireplace, reading Little Women as you absently pat your dog’s silken ears; or perhaps a libation after you’ve shoveled the walkway, cheeks flushed and pulsing crimson, once you peel away layer after layer of woolies and finally collapse with your mug into a plush, waiting armchair. 

But reality and theory don’t always mesh; so when I received this very generous gift, my first thought was, “what can I bake with it?”  Then I remembered Esquivel’s book and immediately wanted to make it according to her recipe.  Nothing could be less complicated: simply boil water, add chocolate and sugar (if necessary), mix vigorously, and top up with milk of your choice. My version, of course, would employ a sugar substitute but be otherwise identical to the authentic Mexican version.  And now I had the perfect chocolate with which to try it!

mexicanchocdisks.jpg Since the package was covered entirely in Spanish, I asked M.E. to translate.  The ingredients read:  “cacao, dried and ground.”  The disks appeared stippled and slightly marbled where the natural fats had likely heated and then cooled; I knew the quality and flavor wouldn’t be affected by this.  I gingerly broke a tiny piece from one of the disks and laid it on my tongue; it softened and melted almost immediately, with a subtle sweetness, intense cocoa flavor and slightly sour aftertaste.

M.E. regularly whips up hot chocolate for her kids as an after-school treat, and provided simple instructions for me to follow. So I boiled, melted, and stirred, topping up the mug with a dollop of my own whipped “cream” (I haven’t forgotten, either, that I promised this recipe; I’m still working out the kinks in it–see below), and took a sip. 

Perhaps it’s because I long for the season of hot chocolate to finally end; perhaps it’s that I just can’t get used to drinking my chocolate rather than eating it.  Even though I did enjoy the drink, I must confess that it didn’t tempt me the same way a dense chocolate brownie or a mint chocolate chip cookie might.  Well, that’s a good thing. The HH, on the other hand, was smitten, and slurped up the rest of the mugful post haste.  Luckily, I was able to heat up another cup in no time.

Ecuadorian Hot Chocolate

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This is an old-fashioned method to make a good cup of hot chocolate.  If you’ve never tried it this way, the richness and intensity of the flavor will be a pleasant surprise.

1/2 cup water

about 1-1/2 ounces (40 g.) good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

about 1/2 cup warm soymilk, rice milk or almond milk

Pour the water into a small pot and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, and break the chocolate into the pot.  Stir to melt the chocolate.  When the chocolate is melted, add the milk and whisk to blend well.  Pour into a mug and enjoy immediately.

[NOTE: As I mentioned, I’m still working on the whipped “cream” recipe.  It’s a fussy recipe that isn’t quite perfected yet. I’m hoping to have someone else try it out to compare results and see if I can diminish any variation.  If you’re interested in this culinary challenge, please let me know.]