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

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

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

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These days, I try to be a little nutty every day. 

Of course I don’t mean “nutty” as in “I missed my plane so I’m going to become a minor celebrity on YouTube” nutty.  Or  “I think I’ll switch careers at the pinnacle of my success and adopt the mien of a skid row bum from another planet” type of nutty.  And certainly not  “just drop me in the middle of the Sahara without any food, water or shelter, and see how I hold up for a week” sort of nutty. While it may be true I do, on occasion, exhibit behavior one might characterize as “nutty” (at least that’s what the HH keeps telling me), I was referring to the toothsome, bite-sized, healthy-fat-and-protein-rich kind of nutty. An “Uncle S.” kind of nutty.  

You see, I’ve had a fairly rocky history with nuts–and I blame it all on my Uncle S.  

One of my favorite relatives, Uncle S (along with Aunty M) lived upstairs in our family’s duplex during my childhood.  We kids would scoot out the door, up the stairs and into their home without a thought or an invitation, assuming it was simply the top floor of our own place.  Aunty M would greet us, hand over some homemade cookies, and then we’d go seek out our uncle.

I have to admit, I didn’t fully appreciate Uncle S’s unique charms until I was an adult.  An unrivalled prankster, Uncle S was a puckish,  Punk’d prototype whose myriad tricks were relentless.  Case in point: every Sunday, our family would pile into Uncle S’s taxi (this was before my dad acquired a car) for an outing in the countryside.  We’d drive for a while, after which, like clockwork, Uncle S would begin to hem and haw:  “Gee, I don’t remember passing that tree over there.  Maybe I took a wrong turn. You know, I’m not exactly sure where we are–maybe we’re lost.  Ricki, which way should I go?”  Given that I was only four or five at the time, I had no idea; but, also like clockwork, Uncle S’s musings sent me into paroxysms of anxiety, certain I’d be wandering forever in the woods, never to see my own home, bed or Barbie dolls again.

Once I grew older, I could appreciate Uncle S’s humor, his always jovial and somewhat michievious expression, reminiscent of the Pillsbury Dough Boy (although not in any way chubby). In fact, I’d say Uncle S resembled a cartoon character more than anything else: having lost his hair as a young man, his shiny dome was encircled with a fluffy white fringe that snaked round the back of his neck and behind his ears.  His nose, slightly bulbous at the tip, was, like his cheeks, often flushed pink,  and he wore a perpetual half-smile on his face. 

Uncle S had a favorite expression, “No Fun!”  which he used the way one would utter, “No Way!” or “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!”.  The CFO and I found this endlessly amusing. To wit:

Ricki: Uncle S, my goldfish had babies and now we have four fishies.

Uncle S:  No Fun!

[Ricki and The CFO erupt in peals of uncontrollable giggles, hands clamped over their mouths].

The summer my mother died, it seemed only Uncle S could lighten the moribund shroud of silence in the hospital waiting room where our family sat in stunned silence.  Uncle S would ramble on, his words always infused with optimism and hope.  One evening, as we all sat lost in resigned torpor, Uncle S was positioned across from me and the CFO, an absent, bemused expression on his face.  The CFO leaned over to me and whispered, “Hey, doesn’t Uncle S sort of look like Bozo the Clown?”  That smile! That fringe! That nose!  Why yes, yes he did–and with that, Uncle S unwittingly bestowed on us a truly priceless gift: the only moment of unrestrained hilarity in an otherwise unbearable summer. 

Ah, yes, you’re wondering about the nuts.

Uncle S loved to eat nuts. In particular, he was never without his glass jar of Planter’s Dry Roasted peanuts, which he carried with him wherever he went.  Another open jar was stationed on a TV tray beside his armchair so he could munch as he enjoyed the Ed Sullivan Show.  He’d pour a small mound into his open palm, then tip it into his mouth with a quick flick of the wrist as if tossing a ball for a prize at the midway. Then he’d plow ahead with whatever it was he’d been saying,  mouth open and chewing, oblivious as the ground up bits of nut began to escape his mouth in little bursts of beige spray as he spoke.  (In fact, those Planter’s nuts and an opened can of peas and carrots–spooned straight from the can, cold–are pretty much all I ever remember him eating). 

For some inexplicable reason, I decided nuts were not my thing back then.   

I’m happy to report that my nut aversion was finally overcome when I came across Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet (geared toward people with Crohn’s, Colitis, or other bowel diseases) while studying nutrition. Her recipes employ nut flours (basically just ground nuts), and I began to experiment with them back then.  Almonds tend to be the most versatile (and mildest in flavor), but almost any nut will do–pop it in a food processor and blend to a mealy consistency.

To some extent, I’m following the ACD  for the next month or so to heal my gut and encourage a little digestive rejuvenation. This means eating less gluten, fewer grains, and more fruits, vegetables, and legumes.  These pancakes were an auspicious first attempt. 

Made mostly with almond meal and a smidge of chickpea (besan) flour, they nevertheless retain a light, airy texture and a refreshing lemon tang.  Neither the almond nor the chickpea asserts itself too prominently, so the flavor remains mild.  I served these last week (before eschewing all sweeteners) with a splash of organic maple syrup from Coombs Family Farms that I received as sample (more on that in an upcoming post) and they were, quite simply, delicious. 

I may not be nutty enough to consume a jar of Planter’s peanuts just yet.  Still, these little treats are a healthy step in the right direction.

Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes (and ACD variation)

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

 

 

Last Year at this Time: Week at Warp Speed and Easy Dinner

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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The close friendship between my buddy Sterlin and me was soldered back in high school, when we first discovered that we were the only two girls in the entire school who had never had a boyfriend (well, I guess there was “BB,” too, but we figured that sleeping with the entire senior class had to count for something).  

This revelation prompted an immediate sense of community between us, after which we spent endless hours (in the way that only teenagers can) on the telephone, musing about why we didn’t have a boyfriend, how much we wished we could have a boyfriend, what we would do if we ever got a boyfriend, and what it was other girls like BB had that we didn’t, allowing them to seemingly conjure streams of drooling boys trailing behind them like empty cans tied to a “Just Married” car bumper.  Entirely unjustly, we thought, these girls enjoyed a surfeit of boyfriends, while we had to make do with an unrequited crush on our French teacher, Mr. Krauser.

But then, we discovered historical romance novels, and our focus shifted.  You know the ones: innocent, nubile, yet spunky lass is swept away (usually literally) by swaggering, swarthy, self-assured rake with a (very well hidden) heart of gold.  Over time, he wins her devotion, while she tames his savage nature.  Well, we were spunky, weren’t we?  Sterlin and I began to daydream, starry-eyed, about meeting a similar hero (even though we never fully understood exactly what a “rake” was) and riding off into the sunset, where he’d unravel the secrets of our nascent womanhood and we would charm his wild heart.

In the books, at least, we could get close to the most desirable of men. For some reason, these novels (at least, the ones I remember) all sported titles pairing two nouns, representing male and female: there was The Wolf and the Dove,  and The Flame and The Flower (both Kathleen E. Woodiwiss masterworks) or perhaps The Raven and The Rose or The Pirate and the Pagan (both by Virginia Henley).  And let’s not forget my favorite, The French Teacher and the Girl with Braces and Long Hair Parted in the Middle Who Liked to Bake (okay, my memory may be a bit fuzzy on that one–high school was a long time ago!). 

Well, given our combined paucity of feminine wiles  flirting ability lacy lingerie boyfriend-attracting attributes, we eventually decided to woo our guys with food (the way to a man’s heart, and all that).  So Sterlin developed Date Pasta as her staple, while I attempted to perfect an ideal chocolate cheesecake, or brownie, or even muffin (since, you know, I had high hopes of my imaginary beau staying for breakfast). 

Those erstwhile romantic efforts came back to me in a flash last week after I’d been browsing through some old cookbooks. Previously, I’d had a little email exchange with Lisa (Show Me Vegan) about buying or keeping cookbooks we no longer really use, or those that contain only a smattering of recipes still relevant to our newly acquired dietary habits. 

One such tome in my collection is called The Breakfast Book, by Diana Terry (and though I’ve owned this book since the 1980s, I never realized until today that it was published in Australia–which, I may have mentioned, is the land of my dreams, with its picturesque vistas, lush wilderness, stunning cities, enviable weather, and dashing, rakish Aussie gentelmen–all of whom just happen to speak with that sexy Australian accent). 

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Ah, yes, well.  Pardon me: back to the book. Terry offers a sample menu for a brunch with a decidedly orange theme.  The lucky boyfriend guest is treated to Champagne with Grand Marnier, Scrambled Eggs with Wholemeal Brioches, Fresh Fruit with Ricotta-Orange Dip, and Viennese-Style Coffee.  Of course, none of the recipes would suit me in its present form, but that certainly didn’t stop this spunky gal.

After reading about the citrus-suffused eggs that were then gingerly ladled over a split brioche, its top placed rakishly askew, I asked myself:  “Who said tofu scrambles should be savory, anyway?  Why not sweet? And why must they always be one shade shy of neon yellow?  And couldn’t my own, homemade, biscuits stand in for a brioche? And just what does “rakishly” actually mean, anyway?”

So I created this scramble, which is slightly sweet and not too yellow.  And it’s very creamy.  And it has orange zest and juice in it.  And you ladle it gingerly over the bottom of a carob and raisin biscuit, the top of which is placed rakishly askew over it. 

And may I just say–I ended up loving this dish.  In fact, our affair bordered on the torrid.  Who needs a boyfriend?  I’d rather eat this*.  But if you’re feeling generous, go ahead and share it with your wolf, or your flame, or your rake.

[PS. Giveaway, as promised, will be announced in my next post–stay tuned!]

*Okay, not really. If I had to choose between a sweet tofu scramble and my sweet HH, of course the HH would win out.  But just barely.

Sweet Scramble with Carob-Raisin Biscuits

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

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based on an idea in The Breakfast Book by Diana Terry

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

Carob and Raisin Biscuits

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

© 2009  Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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

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

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

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

And after dessert. . . . breakfast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tofu Omelet with Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

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

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

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

 

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Banana-Berry Breakfast Cakes

September 15, 2008

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.” 

(Quick–try saying that title out loud ten times!). 

After staying up too late watching Tina Fey’s masterwork on Saturday evening, the HH and I woke up late Sunday–perfect excuse for brunch! As I rooted through the refrigerator for inspiration, I came across a half-full container of soy yogurt.  Now, you may recall that I was all high and mighty (though not as high and mighty as Tina Fey) last week, feeling pretty darned smug about how I cook everything from scratch, would never buy anything processed, yadda yadda yadda.  Well, isn’t it ironic, then, that I happened to have this soy yogurt glaring at me from the top shelf of my fridge?  True, I bought it originally at the behest of my friend PR Queen, who’d been extolling the virtues of this particular brand to me (and it did come in very handy for my mock tuna).  In this case, I promised to try out the strawberry flavor, and while it was. . . .okay. . . . I wasn’t crazy about it. I knew I’d never consume it “straight” the way I would dairy yogurt.  So I began to wonder what else I could conjure with it.

The first item I baked was a brownie–and not just any brownie–this one was superlative, and I’ll post about it anon (Oh, vague recollection of ACD!  Wherefore art thou, ACD, and why hast thou forsaken me, and I forsaken thee?) Anyway, I thought I might combine the strawberry yogurt with sliced bananas for an ultra airy, fluffy pancake.  I imagined the yogurt would react much like buttermilk in the recipe, creating a feather-light texture and fine crumb.  I was salivating at the very thought. (“Mum, we could salivate at the thought, too, you know–we sort of can’t help it.  Just ask Pavlov.“)  

In the home of my childhood, pancakes were a big deal.  In fact, brunch on Sundays were basically sacrosanct in our house; it was the only meal of the week we could all share together as a family (my dad worked 6 days a week in his butcher shop–yep, that’s right, he was a butcher!–and generally left in the morning before we kids were awake, then didn’t return home until well beyond 7:00 or 8:00 PM, after completing deliveries. But he didn’t work on Sundays, so that day was reserved for our family meal). 

No matter what my sisters or I had planned for the rest of the day, no matter how much we’d sobbed the night before watching Susan Hayward in I Want To Live on the Late Show, no matter how much we’d shrieked and bopped and hurled pieces of toast at the screen during  The Rocky Horror Picture Show, no matter how many Pina Coladas we’d downed while dancing with our buddies at the local disco, we were still expected to be on time at the brunch table on Sunday.  And since Dad was an early riser, “brunch” might begin anywhere from 8:30 to 10:00AM.  To their credit, my parents never said a word when we stumbled to the table looking less than perky. 

Occasionally, my mother would whip up a “treat,” what she called Cottage Cheese Pancakes (no points for creativity there–they were pancakes that contained cottage cheese).  Compared to our regular brunch pancakes, which were thick, fluffy, and mile-high, the cottage cheese variety were more like a yawn than a sigh: heavier, moister, and, to my mind, far less refined.  The first time you tried them, you might even wonder whether they were entirely cooked, as the outsides appeared bronzed and dry, yet the innards never quite lost their cheesy, gooey moistness. 

When I cooked up my own cakes this past Sunday and dug into the first bite, I was taken aback by the memory of those cottage cheese pancakes.  To begin with, they weren’t quite as high and fluffy as I’d expected, more like a cross between a pancake and a crêpe (a pancrêpe?).  Not entirely flat, yet with a slightly moist interior (courtesy of the yogurt), creamy and sweet where dotted with nearly-caramelized banana, these rounds were appealing enough to munch on their own, yet not so sweet to be cloying when served with syrup or jam (such as the all-fruit strawberry preserves with which I topped them).  They were also, coincidentally, most astonishingly good, and the HH and I enjoyed a couple of them each alongside our weekend tofu scramble. 

In the end, I wasn’t sure what to call these cakes.  I decided to go simply with “cakes,” which reflects their connection to both pancakes and griddle cakes from my childhood.  A delicious combination of fruit and cake; seemed like the perfect breakfast to me. 

And since these cakes contain not one, but two whole grain flours, I’m sending this off to Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen, who’s hosting  “Grains in my Breakfast” for Weekend Breakfast Blogging (an event started by Nandita at Saffron Trail).

[Quick Cookbook Note: THANKS SO MUCH, everyone, for your wonderful comments and support regarding the cookbook!  And thanks to all the volunteers who asked to be testers. I’m wrapping up the paperwork and will contact the testers this week! I really appreciate everyone’s input and feedback, testers or not–so keep those comments coming!]

Banana Berry Breakfast Cakes

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

A cross between a classic pancake and a crepe, these are the vegan incarnation of cottage cheese pancakes, with the added bonus of two types of fruit.  The strawberry may be my feeble attempt to hold onto the last vestiges of summer, but luckily, yogurt is in season all year round.

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 Concasse, if you prefer the more conventional term. . . but I just loved the word “tracklement” ever since I read it on Lucy’s blog, and besides, “Tomato Tracklement” is just so much more alliterative.]

Last weekend was our Canada Day holiday, and this year I learned an important lesson.  No, it wasn’t “Canada is 141 years old” (even though it was).  Uh-uh, it wasn’t “Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live” (I already knew that one).  Nope, not even “Although Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live, a summer full of rain really sucks–almost as much as a typical Canadian winter.” And finally, nay, it also wasn’t “The Girls are still scared of fireworks” (really, talk about stating the obvious). 

No, dear readers, the all-important lesson I learned this past weekend was simply this:

Never (and I mean never) attempt to drive across the province at the beginning of a long July 1st weekend.

Elementary, you say?  Well, for some reason, the HH and I, despite 10 years of trekking from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, have never traveled that particular stretch of the 401 on the long Canada Day weekend.  This year, with my dad turning 87, we decided it was a necessity.  

Big mistake.

BIG.

The 500-kilometre (about 315 mile) drive usually takes us between 4.5 and 6 hours, depending on (A) time of departure; (B) weather conditions; (C) who’s driving; (D) number of rest stops; and (E) traffic.  This past weekend, our multiple-choice answer was overwhelmingly, “E,” or really, more like, “EEEEEeeeeee!!!”  To be precise, eight hours’ worth of “E.”

As we slid out of the city and onto the highway, I sensed a barely perceptible increase in the volume of vehicles on the road.  Then, within about five minutes, it became painfully clear: everyone and their canines were heading off to the cottage for the long weekend.  And us?  No cottage; no canines (The Girls were happily ensconced at the doggie daycare for the weekend); and no discernible movement on the roads.  I’d completely forgotten our route included a short span of terrain known as “cottage country” (also known, as the Barenaked Ladies recently reminded us in song, as “Peterborough and the Kawarthas“).  And there we were, the HH and I, motionless amid all the eager, impatient, fidgety and perspiring boaters, gardeners, waterskiers and Barbeque-ers, our wheels moving barely a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so.

Even if we could afford one, I doubt we would actually buy a cottage (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the HH is a role model for “don’t do it yourself-ers”).  Still, I do treasure memories of spending summers at various country houses when I was a kid.  My parents couldn’t afford a cottage, either, but in those days, rentals were abundant and reasonably priced, and didn’t require reservations a year in advance (one summer, in fact, I clearly remember my parents discussing the possibility of escaping the city on the very evening school let out; by the following afternoon, I’d tossed my report card in the closet, pulled my collection of comic books out instead, and we were on the road toward our temporary summer home).

In those days, my parents rented a house through July and August.  They’d pack up the family (my two sisters, our cocker spaniel, Sweeney, and I) in the back of my dad’s station wagon-cum-butcher shop delivery van, and off we went to our rudimenatry cabin in the woods, sans modern amenities or TV. Along with the other husbands, my father helped us settle in the first weekend, then headed back to the city (and his store) during the week, while the rest of us hung around with the moms and kids until the men returned each Friday evening. For five days a week, the wives managed to keep things running smoothly, demonstrating both independence and resourcefulness; yet every Friday, they mysteriously reverted to squeaky voices, soft entreaties and deference, much as early feminists must have done when their soldier-husbands returned from the front.  

In the intervals free from paternal presence, we children would run barefoot along the roadside, plucking thick, flat blades of crabgrass to grip securely between tightly pressed thumbs, then huffing and blowing our makeshift whistles, our postures in supplication to nature.  We’d seek out the other kids whose parents rented homes around the same lake, for day-long games of hide-and-seek, for building sand forts at the lakeside, or for throwing sticks to Sweeney and the other dogs (who, bored with our weak attempts at “fetch,” would lope off and sleep under porches, squirrel-hunt in the woods, or, toward evening, launch a stealth attack on the hotdogs piled on plates beside the Bar-B-Q’s).

By the end of the season, we’d worn ourselves out with outdoor games, our limbs buff and bronzed in variegated strips of earthtone after two months of shifting sleeve lengths.  All the books I’d brought were read and forgotten; I’d colored and drawn and written in my journal about my adventures; my younger sister and I had picked countless plastic sandbuckets full of wild blueberries from the hill at the end of town; and we were, finally, ready to go home.

One of my fondest memories is the drive back south, passing field after field of farmers’ corn as it just approached ripeness.  The long, elegant leaves swished and swayed in the breeze like our own welcoming committee, a troupe of Hawaiian dancers greeting tourists as they disembark from the plane.  By the time school resumed, we were eating fresh cobs of corn with our dinners, juice trailing down our chins and our cheeks flecked with wayward bits of yellow like reverse freckles on our tanned faces.

I reminisced about that incomparable corn as I contemplated Pancakes on Parade, the event hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.  I had already decided (though I love sweet pancakes and make them whenever there’s an excuse) that I wanted to do something savory for this event.  Corn cakes are a long-time favorite, and they seemed the perfect choice.  And while there’s nothing quite like a plump, fresh cob of grilled or steamed corn, juicy and sweet and eaten with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for long-absent lovers, sometimes it’s just impossible to acquire the fresh kind.   That’s when frozen, or even canned (heresy!) come in handy.

The crêpes are based on a recipe I created a few years ago for a brunch event.  This time, however, I decided to pair them with a sweet and tart tomato concasse, and the combination improved the overall effect considerably.  The tracklement cooks up really quickly, in just the right amount of time to serve alongside the crêpes.  Savor these right away, or wrap up for later consumption–they’d make a great snack if you ever find yourself stuck on the highway for eight hours or so.

Corn Crêpes with Quick Tomato Tracklement

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

A savory pancake with occasional bursts of sweetness in juicy corn kernels, these are great with the accompanying tomato concasse for brunch or light dinner. Or use with other savory spreads such as hummus or avocado mayonnaise.

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.” 

 

Thanks, everyone, for all your wonderfully supportive and encouraging comments about the osteopenia diagnosis.  I’ve been boning up on the topic (sorry-ouch) and have some great recipe ideas to share in the next while (and even one today).  I’ll also get to my responses asap. . . sorry I’ve fallen behind a bit!

Last week, out of nowhere, I made a monumental resolution.  Flushed with excitement, I rushed home from work and announced to the HH, “I have a great idea. I think we should be more spontaneous from now on.”

He appeared flummoxed (this happens all too often when I make my pronouncements, it seems). “Okay, so now we’re making plans to be spontaneous?” 

Hmmn.  I SO hate it when he’s right.

“Well, how about this, smarty pants?” I countered. “I went grocery shopping today and I spontaneously bought these overripe tomatoes on sale, even though I had no specific plans to cook anything with them.”  Touché!

“Oh, well, then, that settles it,” he capitulated.  “You’ve convinced me. Okay, let’s go to Paris for dinner!’ 

Foiled again. But did he have to look so darned smug about it?

Well, this past weekend, I am proud to say, I did manage some spontaneous fun.  My friend Eternal Optimist rang me late Friday afternoon with an invitation for the HH and me to attend a show at the local Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club–to which she just happened to have free passes! 

Well, without a second’s hesitation, I told her, “Um, I’ll just have to call and check with the HH to be sure he hasn’t booked anything else. Oh, and then I’ll have to walk The Girls. Oh, and feed them. Oh, yeah, and after that, I’ll just finish cooking tonight’s dinner before I wrap up a few things for work–but hey, if I can manage to get all that done before the show tonight, then heck, YEAH! I’M THERE!” Whoo-hoo!  I love this unfussy, impromptu, last-minute socializing!

Okay, I’ll concede that I may not be the most spontaneous person in the world–but with good reason.  In the faraway days of (non-alcoholic) wine and roses–in other words, high school–my best friend Sterlin was sleeping over at my house one late-October weekend when my parents were out of town.  As we sat, eyes transfixed on the TV (I think Dallas was on), our friends Gary and Jackie dropped in unexpectedly (how spontaneous of them!).  They invited us out to the local Dunkin Donuts.  It was late; we were tired; but then, they made us an offer we absolutely could not refuse:

“Okay,” Jackie challenged, “If you two come out right now as you are, the donuts and coffee are our treat. ”  Had we heard correctly? TREAT? No matter that our garb at the moment was our flannel nighties; no matter that it was 11:15 PM; FREE donuts?  FREE coffee?  We flung a blanket round our shoulders and hopped in the car!

Once there, of course, the rules changed (these were, after all, seventeen year-old boys.)  “Okay, we’ll still treat you,” Gary announced, “but you have to go in there without us and buy the donuts.” In our nighties. With a blanket wrapped around us. Would we possibly be that gullible?  Well, we were, after all, seventeen year-old girls.

I’m sure you’ve guessed the end of the story.  The second we exited the car–scree-eech!–they were off like–well, like two seventeen year-old boys in their father’s car.  And we were left abandoned, streetlights trained on us like the spotlight at a prison lineup, at 11:30 at night, in the middle of Dunkin Donuts’ parking lot, wearing flannel nighties and a blankie.

So you see why I’m perhaps a bit spontaneity-shy these days. 

Despite my adolescent trauma, I did end up joining the EO on Friday–solo, as it turned out, since the HH was felled by a major cold and didn’t feel up to it.  It was actually a most enjoyable evening: the show was hilarious and I really appreciated being able to share some long overdue “Gal Time” with my buddy.

This morning, browsing through my Google Reader subscriptions, I came across this mention of Dreena Burton’s Carob Pancakes on Trust My Intuition’s blog.  The description of these was so enticing that I decided–entirely extemporaneously!–to whip up a batch of my own devising. I vaguely remembered learning in nutrition school that carob is (surprisingly) high in calcium; so, with my newfound attraction to all things spine-supporting, I threw together a combination that was both appealing and brimming with bone building nutrients. 

The resulting pancakes were extraordinarily light and fluffy, with a cakelike texture (versus the sometimes damp, heavy griddle cakes you’re served in restaurants).  Carob on its own is slightly sweet, so you may not feel the need for maple syrup on these; in fact, we had ours with syrup, and I could easily have omitted it (if you spread with almond butter instead, you’d be adding even MORE calcium!).  The carob flavor is subtle and melds beautifully with the soft pockets of sticky, luscious date.  (and don’t worry–even if your dates are stiff to begin with, the cooking process will soften them). For nutritional info, see my calculations after the recipe instructions.

I adored these pancakes.  Made with carob, they were even safe for The Girls to taste a bite or two. (“We loved those pancakes, Mum! Let’s have pancakes every day!”) Unfortunately, the poor HH couldn’t really taste these at all, since his congested sinuses have dampened his sense of smell. (“Sorry Dad’s sick–but since he didn’t like them, can we eat his, then?”) 

I may not be having dinner in Paris any time soon, but here in Toronto, these made one very delicious–and spontaneous–breakfast. One that would beat Dunkin Donuts, any day.

Carob and Date Pancakes

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

Feel free to change the fruits in these cakes if you prefer something else.  Next time, I’ll likely make these with chopped prunes, as I’ve been told they’re also good for improving bone health (thanks, Andrea!)  P.S. When I said these are light and fluffy, I meant it–that’s only 3 pancakes in the photo, above!

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.” 

 

 

 

[NB: A huge “THANK YOU” to all of you who sent good wishes my way yesterday. I really wasn’t intending to sound so “woe-is-me” (I do that quite enough around the diet issues, thank you), but just reflecting on how the day could elicit positive vibes for all concerned.  Your comments sure worked toward that end for me, though: big hugs to all of you! ]

In my mind, here’s the perfect way to wake up on a Sunday morning: 

Outside, the weather is balmy. A mild breeze whispers through the slightly opened window, curtains undulating softly with each invisible breath.  The sun makes its presence known through the diaphanous curtain as it tickles the pillows of our bed with little sparkles of laughing light. Elsie pads quietly over to my side of the bed and, as gently as a rose petal floating to the ground, taps my open palm with her soft, moist nose. I open my eyes slowly. Glancing toward the window, I stretch luxuriously and think, “Ahh, yes! Another lovely, sunny Sunday! This is a perfect time to have. . . BREAKFAST.” 

Unfortunately, the reality yesterday morning was more like this scenario:

It’s dark; the cold, clammy night air refuses to release its death grip on the house, barreling its way into the room through the open window.  Thin and defenseless, the curtains ripple and flap, rousing me with their wistful “flltt, flltt, fllllltttt” tapping an SOS against the pane.  Chaser thumps enthusiastically over to my side of the bed and, with a serviceable impersonation of an approaching foghorn, targets my exposed ear with her wet, cold nose. My eyes pop awake and dart toward the window: monochrome grey sky, raindrops still clinging to the glass. Outside, there’s a constant flutter of leaves pelted by rain.  I jerk upright, reach for the bedside lamp and lament, “Aaarrghh!  Another crappy, rainy, gloomy Sunday.” But wait; pause. My smile returns, and I reconsider: “Oh, well.  Typical Toronto day. But at least it’s time for–BREAKFAST!”

Like bright copper kettles and whiskers on kittens, breakfast does seem to make everything a little better, doesn’t it?

Well, as soon as I read about the second Recipe Remix blog event, hosted by Robin of Made with Love and Danielle of Make No Little Meals, I knew I had to enter. The event focuses on breakfast foods, asking bloggers to “remix” a traditional food in a new way.  Admittedly, the breakfast pickings were pretty slim (ah, if only I could say as much for my thighs): six dishes, five of which contained eggs, and all of which contained wheat–both no-no’s for this brekkie lover.  Initially, I narrowed the choice down to pancakes, crepes, or French toast. 

Now, as much as I love pancakes and crepes, I’d already dealt with both of those on this blog. Time for a new challenge.  But why, oh why did it have to be French toast?  I hate French toast.  Okay, maybe that’s being slightly dishonest.  The truth is, I TOTALLY, WHOLLY, ENTIRELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY hate French toast. Can’t stand it. Never touch the stuff. Blech! French Toast is my mortal enemy! And I’m really not particularly fond of it, either.

I’m not sure why I developed this bone-chilling aversion to what is, arguably, a well-loved (and certainly popular) breakfast staple.  Perhaps it was my mother’s tendency to use approximately half a tub of margarine when frying the stuff, resulting in that previously unknown breakfast delicacy, Deep Fried Brick.  Despite the slices fairly floating in grease like aging Floridians at the pool, the toast inevitably still turned out slightly scorched on the outside.  At that point, my mom would stack the slabs on a plate (no blotting on a paper towel for her!) and douse them in corn syrup. The heavy, unctuous substance would spread, a slowly oozing blob that was eventually absorbed by the top slice, leaving it wet, weighted, and about as appetizing as a kitchen sponge just lifted from the bucket of grey, murky, muddy water. Ooh, yum. French toast, anyone?

I knew had to get over my childhood toast trauma.  I decided to approach it like an episode of Iron Chef: I’d been challenged to transform the lowly pain grillé into something mouth-watering, something delectable.  Was I up to the task?  Alas, I couldn’t think of anything.  I was at a loss; I was afraid I’d blow it.  In fact, I was certain I’d be. . . well, toast.

But this blog event was called Recipe REMIX, which meant I had carte blanche to change up the dish any way I wanted.  And who ever said that French Toast has to be fried?  In fact, it was the preparation method alone that rendered the stuff unpalatable to me; change the method, change the result.  Eliminating the frying would also result in a lighter, airier product.  I decided to bake the dish instead, after breaking the bread into smaller bits so they could soak up the liquid ingredients while nestled in a single soufflée dish: a French Toast casserole.

Working with a fairly standard (egg- and dairy-free, of course) mixture for soaking French toast, I added a few extra touches, such as a splash of berry liqueur or some mixed berries as a reminder of spring, a means to elicit that sunshine I missed so much in the morning.

As the mixture baked and browned, the bits of bread continued to soak up the batter, expanding and puffing like a male dove preening for a mate.  It rose up so much, in fact, with such a fluffy and almost mousse-like texture, that I decided to call it “French Toast Soufflé.” 

We ate it warm, bites of spongy, soft bread punctuated with bursts of juicy berries; but it could easily be served cold.  And while I didn’t have time to make any soy-free whipped cream yesterday, a dollop of cream would be the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of this fruity, light and delectable dish. 

Go on, indulge.  Why not have a big bowl for breakfast? It will make the rest of the day seem that much better.

 French Toast Soufflé with Summer Berries

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

I think this is what someone like Nigella would call a “summer pudding,” though I’ve never had one of those.  It would be a fabulous dish for a springtime brunch buffet, or even as a dessert following a light summer meal. 

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