First, the blog newsI’ve got a new blog home!  (Well, almost–we’re about 95% moved in and unpacked so far. . . we’ve still got to add a virtual top coat of paint, rearrange some html furniture and hang some digital pictures before the rest is up and running over the next week or so, but everything is on site and functional!).   Please drop by to check it out, and don’t forget to change your Google Reader, other subscription info and blogrolls  (it’s also much easier to subscribe to this new site, so hope that helps–and note that the page tabs are now across the top of the page, not on the right as in this site!). I’ll be transferring over there for good by next week.  And now–ta da!–here’s the new home of

Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

The site was set up and arranged by Blain Smith of 13 Infinite.  It’s been a pleasure to work with him on this–Blain’s communication style is easy and relaxed, yet always professional.  He’s also been very accommodating and incredibly quick about responding to all my emails regarding the site (not to mention very patient with my sometimes endless questions and requests!).  If you’re looking to set up a new blog, I’d highly recommend him.

Next, the cookbook news: my cookbook finally has a cover! 

coverpic

(I’m guessing you might recognize some of those photos?  And I know, the red, white and blue looks very patriotic,no?) 😉

Finally, the Double Giveaway News!!

I am very excited for this giveaway because it’s the perfect melding of my new blog, my new cookbook, and a product I love!

In honor of the cookbook’s cover being finalized, I decided to throw another giveaway to celebrate–add a new blog home, and it’s really a reason to party! (Get those chandeliers and lampshades ready!)

So here’s the scoop:

WHAT YOU CAN WIN

PRIZE ONE:  ANYONE IN NORTH AMERICA CAN WIN (again, a HUGE apology to my overseas readers–shipping costs prohibit overseas delivery.  BUT I DO PROMISE THAT THE NEXT GIVEAWAY WILL ABSOLUTELY INCLUDE ANYONE ON THE PLANET!)

Win a quart-sized jug of Coombs Family Farms Pure Maple Syrup! 

coombssyrup2

[This is a photo of the glass bottle I received–the quart jug prize is four times this big!]

Yes, the prize is the same amazing maple syrup I wrote about in my previous post. And when the people at Coombs Family Farms heard how much I loved their syrup, and how much my readers wished they could taste some, they said, “Okay!  Let’s give some away!”  Who am I to argue?  I said, “YEEEE-AAH.” 

With a full quart (about a liter) of pure maple syrup, you can bake every maple-based recipe on this blog, and probably all the maple-based recipes in my new book, too!  And I can’t wait for one of you to sample this extraordinary product as well, and tell me what you think!

PRIZE  TWO: THOSE IN THE TORONTO AREA CAN WIN (to ensure freshness, it has to be within the general Toronto area, or you must be willing to meet me within Toronto–I am really sorry it can’t be everywhere!  sniff!)

A custom-baked chocolate layer cake from the Sweet Freedom recipe–made to your specifications!

choccakeicingsf

After I posted about the cake I made for my friend Eternal Optimist’s birthday, I was touched by so many positive comments about the cake.  This is the same recipe I used for several years when I baked birthday cakes for kids with food sensitivities to wheat, eggs, dairy and refined sugar–and was a regular hit with the kids and adults alike (low-gluten, but not gluten free). The 9-inch layer cake serves 10-12 people comfortably.

sagebday1

Now, I’d love for a lucky reader to sample this chocolately, moist and light cake, too!  And you get to design the frosting/filling, plus whether you’d like a message on the cake as well.  (We’ll choose a mutually convenient delivery time so that you can even plan to serve the cake to family, friends, or party guests!)

bdaycakewhole2

Here’s what you can choose:

  • Chocolate layers with vanilla pastry cream filling and chocolate buttercream frosting
  • Chocolate layers with all chocolate–filling and frosting
  • Chocolate layers with sweet potato truffle filling and chocolate frosting
  • Chocolate layers with chocolate filling and sweet potato truffle frosting (the cake in the photo above)
  • Message of your choice in any color frosting (or no message–it’s up to you).

I’ll deliver the cake freshly baked and frosted so it’s ready to serve!

HOW TO ENTER:

Entering couldn’t be easier–simply click on over to my new blog home, take a look around, then let me know either:

1) what more you’d like to see on the blog (any other features you’d like me to add?  Something you’re missing from the old blog? –etc.) OR

2) what you like best about the new blog if you can’t think of anything you’d like to be different. 

FOR A CHANCE AT TWO EXTRA ENTRIES, simply mention the contest on your own blog, if you have one, and link to this very page on the new blog (ie, this page).

Don’t have a blog?  You can still earn two extra entries!  Simply browse through the Recipe Index on the new DDD and choose a favorite recipe that uses maple syrup (some of the links haven’t been shifted to the new blog yet, so you might still be in the old blog when you click on a recipe title–I’m in the process of changing them all over).  Then comment again, letting me know which one you like best, and why–and you’ll be entered two more times.

Please be sure to include a valid email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.

That’s it! 

Please post your comments on the new site to be eligible to win (that way I can keep track of all the entries in one place).  🙂

HOW IT WILL WORK:

Once the contest closes, I’ll choose two winners from a bag of names.  The first Toronto-area name I withdraw will win the cake.  Then all the other names go back into the bag for the maple syrup draw, and the second name I choose wins that. 

DEADLINE AND ANNOUNCEMENT:

  1. Deadline for entries is midnight, March 31, 2009, Toronto time. 
  2. Winners will be announced first thing on April 2, 2009 (I wouldn’t dare post contest winners on April Fool’s Day!). 

I loved baking up a storm for the previous giveaway, and was thrilled with Lisa’s kind words about the Sweet Freedom goodies. 

I can’t wait to get baking on this cake for you this time round as well.  And even if you can’t win the cake, you’re still eligible to win the syrup–so you can then bake your own delectable treats!

HAPPY SPRING, EVERYONE!

[Okay, so the post title is a bit obscure (I was alluding to Four Weddings and a Funeral)–but with the Oscars coming up in a couple of days, and with my having seen, hmmn, let’s see–a total of “zero” of the movies, I wanted to make reference to that grand little Golden Guy in some way or other in this post. ]

bdaycakeslice

[Slice of birthday cake: chocolate layers filled with chocolate buttercream frosting, all topped with Sweet Potato Frosting]

It’s almost time for midterms at the college where I teach, so I’m afraid I’ll  be MIA from the blog for a little while (not to be confused with the recently balloon-bellied, singing-at-the-Grammys, went-into-labor-and-gave-birth-the-next-day MIA).  But before I bid you all adieu, I thought I’d mention three festivities leading up to said exams. 

Shindig One: The most recent celebration we enjoyed here in the DDD household was an intimate birthday dinner for my friend Eternal Optimist (consisting of just the EO, the HH, and me).We three enjoyed a spectacular, yet simple meal of Potato-Miso Soup (Alisa’s uniquely delicious recipe: satiny smooth, rich and slightly yeasty from the hint of miso–in fact, this was the second time I’ve made this in a week!); trusty Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes (always a hit around here); garlic sautéed rapini and collards; and a special b-day cake  (chocolate layers with sugar-free chocolate buttercream frosting (both from Sweet Freedom) and the Sweet Potato Frosting I wrote about a while back.  

potmisosoup

[Alisa’s Creamy Potato Miso Soup]

It was grand to spend a leisurely evening together fêting a dear friend. The EO also brought along her own pooch, another border collie cross, and The Girls were in heaven.  (“We love having our friends over, too, Mum!  Except next time, there should be a cake that we can eat as well.”) 

Shindig Two: In addition to the birthday, the dinner was also occasion for a spontaneous mini-celebration in honor of the cookbook finally reaching the publisher.  After numerous delays in formatting and glitches with the cover, it’s finally on its way!  My publishing rep called yesterday to confirm that she received the files and their part of the book’s production will begin next week.  YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!  (Of course, this means it will still take about three months before the book is in print, but it is out of my hands at this point).  I can’t even begin to express what a relief that is!  So we had a little toast in honor of Sweet Freedom last evening as well.

Shindig Three: Despite mountains of marking, I’ll be peeking in periodically at the Academy Awards, that shindig to beat all shindigs, that tribute to all things silicone and Juvéderm and Botox, that massive glitterati ego-massage that will take place on Sunday evening.  From the Barbara Walters interviews to the Joan Rivers gaffes to the melodramatic and slurred acceptance speeches, I love it all.  And even if I haven’t actually seen any of the movies, who cares?  That’s not what the Oscars are all about, anyway!

Before I depart on break, I thought it might be fun to leave you with a little midterm quiz of your own to ponder while I’m away (and the best part–it doesn’t matter whether you know the answers or not!).  I’ll reveal the “correct” responses when I get back (though with a bit of sleuthing, it should be fairly easy to find them before then).  

bdaycakewhole2

[Chocolate birthday cake in all its uncut glory]

A Diet, Dessert and Dogs Mid-Term Quiz

Instructions: Please answer each of the following questions.  Note that this is an open-blog test; answers can be found in previous entries.  Please double space your answers. 

1)  DDD stands for:

a) The 2009, eco-friendly version of the pesticide “DDT”

b) Pamela Anderson’s bra size (now that she’s had a breast reduction)

c) a cutsie way to refer to “3-D” movies

d) the name of this blog.

2) “NAG” refers to

a) the HH’s endearing nickname for me;

b) the ol’ grey girl who ain’t what she used to be;

c) a healthy way of eating that includes whole, unprocessed, organic foods.

3) Ricki’s favorite food is:

a) chocolate

b) chocolate

c) chocolate

d) all of the above

4) “LC” stands for

a) Lon Chaney

b) Lewis Carroll

c) Love Chocolate!

d) Life Companion

5) Complete this phrase:  “Rocker Guy (He of the —)”

a) broken guitar

b) off his rocker 

c) rock collection

d) black leather pants

6) Ricki loves blogging because:

a) of all the amazing people she’s “met” in the blog world

b) it’s always fun to read other blogs and learn about new foods

c) reading your comments on her blog is the high point of her day (truly)

d) YOU GUYS ARE SIMPLY THE BEST!

I’m sure you all got an “A”!  Have a great time at the Oscars, all, and see you in a week or so! 😉

Last Year at this TimeMy Favorite Mistake:  Savory Filled Breakfast Crepes

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

Featured in Clean Eating!

February 12, 2009

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * *

Just a quick note to share some exciting news: my recipe for Orange-Infused Chocolate Almond Cake is featured in this month’s Clean Eating magazine! 

choctorte3

When I was asked by the folks at the magazine to create a recipe for a healthy, fudgy chocolate cake (that met the Clean Eating requirements, of course–basically the NAG diet that I follow anyway), I was thrilled and got to work!  I actually submitted the recipe last summer, but that’s how far in advance the schedule is planned. I didn’t want to mention anything until I saw it in print with my own eyes. . . and now it’s finally here–yay! Wow, did their food stylist ever make that cake look gorgeous (the pic above is mine, not theirs–the magazine version is much more attractive!)

For those of you who can get the magazine where you live, it’s the March/April issue, with a bowl of Black-Eyed Pea Stew on the cover and the banner headline, “Try Our Chocolate-Almond Cake: Enjoy a Second Guilt-Free Slice”.  And while my recipe was mentioned on the cover, to see my name credited, you have to squint really hard, then look at the teeny, tiny, teensy weensy little print along the fold to the right of the recipe (which is on the last page of the mag, in the “Happy Endings” section).

For those who are interested, the magazine is based on the philosophy/diet of Tosca Reno, who wrote the book Eat Clean.  Some of the articles in this particular issue include 5-ingredient entrées, nutritious snacks, allergy-proofing your home, risotto by Food Network host Aida Mollenkamp, and antioxidant berries, goji and acai (and no, I have no personal stake in the magazine–I’m not affiliated with them in any way except for having developed that recipe for them). 

I wish I could reprint the recipe here, but I can’t, as Clean Eating purchased the recipe rights as well.  But I think you can at least get an idea from the photo above! 

New recipe next post, I promise 🙂

PS  Vegan/Vegetarian readers take note:  while 22 of the 68 recipes in the magazine are vegetarian, most do contain eggs or dairy (mine doesn’t, of course!).

Mum, if clean eating means ‘cleaning out your bowl every time you eat,’ then I think we could write for that magazine, too.  Or maybe we could just be taste-testers. Much better than eating snow, I’m sure.”

chasersnowface

I had intended a lovely post today, in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving long weekend to the south of us.  But time constraints (read: massive, unwieldly pile of essays and assignments to mark) have prevented me from following through. So I’ll just have to wait till the next batch of holidays in December to post about some new, frost-and-snow inspired, treats.

Instead, I thought I’d pull together a few recipes from previous posts that are suitably festive for a holiday table, or the breakfast table the following day (I’ve also got a few detox recipes on the blog–I’ll let you seek those out yourselves, as required).  Most of these are fairly quick to make as well, as long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand.

Hope everyone enjoys some togetherness with friends and family, great food, and a bit of time to relax and play.

See you after the holiday!

chaserunderbed

Mum, will Elsie be able to play again after the holiday?  I mean, it’s just so boring with her out of commission. . .

Main Meal Dishes:

Side Dishes:

Desserts:

Breakfast Dishes:

Such a Tease

November 11, 2008

I’ve never been what I’d call a “good” flirt.  In high school, I hung out with the nerdy crowd (hard to believe, I know!), so there wasn’t really any opportunity to flirt.  Then, when I was finally old enough to attract the opposite sex in my 20s, it seemed too late to get the hang of it. I do remember loathing, admiring and envying (all at the same time) the most popular girls in my high school.  It seemed as if their hair, or their eyelashes, or their limp wrists somehow possessed an invisible male adhesive as they giggled and nodded and caressed the guys, just so, on their forearms; or maybe it was just the pheromones they exuded. 

In any case, the flirty girls would always be surrounded by an inverse seraglio, an ever-shifting, amorphous cloud of doting males.  The boys would fawn over them, open doors for them, carry their books, offer them lifts, or request their phone numbers in a continuous stream.  Just how did the girls manage that, I wondered?  How did they get away with teasing the guys so overtly, implying lace and perfume and breathless embraces, yet, in reality, yield nothing?  These girls were whip-smart as well as beautiful, or they couldn’t have perfected their technique; yet they appeared vacuous and helpless and fragile all at the same time, thereby rendering themselves irresistible to the guys around them.

I had the opportunity to observe a consummate tease after my divorce, when I lived in the same flat as another woman who had previously been married to two of the richest men in Canada (and she was only 32 when I met her).  She was one of the smartest cookies I’ve ever known (and funny, witty, sweet and fun to be with, too) yet, the moment she came within a few feet of any attractive male, she appeared to devolve into–how shall I say this?–a helpless, needy, pouting little girl.  She’d bat her eyelashes at the nearest specimen and feign incompetence with the lock on the car trunk, the dial on the stereo or the squeaky door on the kitchen cabinet.  Then she’d throw up her hands in mock despair and emit a giggle that resonated across the room, like the clang of forks on wine glasses at a wedding, encouraging the newlyweds to kiss. 

There must have been something to it, too, because by the time I moved out, she’d snagged yet another of Canada’s wealthiest bachelors (they’ve since divorced, but let’s just say she’ll never have to work again–no, scratch that, she’ll never even have to brush her own teeth again).  

My own efforts at flirting have produced less than stellar results. True, some playful flirting resulted in four months dating Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); as it turned out, Rocker Guy himself really enjoyed flirting, too–he enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he continued to do so throughout the time we were dating. And his definition of “flirting,” unfortunately, encompassed “sleeping with.” 

Thus ended my flirtation with flirting.

Today, however, I’m afraid I’m going to play the tease once again.  After finding out at the last minute that I’d be away at a conference all day today, I wasn’t able to photograph the dish I’d originally intended to post about. Instead, there’s a slew of goodies I’ve been working on for the cookbook, and with the holiday season almost upon us, I thought it might be a good way to get in the mood for holiday baking. (Oh, so how’s the book coming along?  Well, I’m still working on the manuscript, which should be complete in less than a month, after which the materials are shipped off to the printer.  Ultimately, I’m still aiming for a release date in early 2009–February or March.  Whoo!). 

Some of these sweets have already been published elsewhere on this blog, with recipes included. You may have also seen some on the testers’ blogs (ie, the absolute BEST TESTERS any cookbook author–or baker–could ever want). 

Following are some of my recent favorites from the book, and those that would make good holiday treats. And even if it’s not out in time for this year, you may wish to make some of these next time round.

Chocolate Covered Caramels:

cashewcaramel1

Old Fashioned Spice Cake:

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Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (plus recipe–great for decorating):

sugarfreesugarcookie1

Chocolate Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies:

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Cupcakes with Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Buttercream:

cupcakegffrost

Chocolate Satin Tarts:

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Dalmatian “Cheesecake” Brownies:

Vegan Butter Tarts: (plus recipe):

And here’s a little preview of tomorrow’s sweet treat (recipe to follow).  I know, what a tease. . . 

chocpecanpie

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 fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone.  I’ll be decorating a cake and think, “Oh, it just needs one more flower on there somewhere. . . ” until the top of the thing could pass for a Jackson Pollock with the words “Happy Birthday” meekly peeking through the splotches.  I’m like those middle-aged women (oh, wait, I actually am a middle-aged woman) who don huge, dangly earrings and then wonder if they wouldn’t be complemented by a massive pendant necklace. . . oh, and this lovely, chunky bracelet. . .and must top it off with that favorite equestrian-themed scarf–and can’t forget the cute doggie brooch, of course.  As a student, I’d sit planted at the desk and revise my in-class essays over and over, right up until the very last second when the bell rang (I mean, what if I had left early and later remembered a comma splice I’d neglected to fix?)

And then there’s that cringe-inducing conversation–you know, the one with your One and Only that goes something like this:

Scene: Evening. Ricki and the HH lounge comfortably on the sofa, engaged in animated conversation.

HH: . . . And then the guy says, ‘Yeah, maybe the sandwich on its own is good, but it’s the dill pickle that really makes it great!!”

Ricki:  Ha ha ha ha HA AHA!! Oh, HH, you are just the funniest!! “The dill pickle really makes it great!” Hee hee.  [Leans over to touch his arm].

HH:  Har har hee hee.  What a laugh, eh? Yep, the dill pickle. . . [stretches his arm around her shoulder.]

Ricki: Hee hee, soooo funny.  [Smiling with adoration]: Oh, HH, I love you.

HH:  I love you, too. [Smiles]

Ricki: [Pause].  Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something.

HH [Looking suspicious]: What?

Ricki: Well, you know, I’ve just noticed that I’m always the first one who says, “I love you.” Why is that?

HH [No longer smiling]: Well, that’s not true.

Ricki: Really? When’s the last time YOU said it first?

HH: Um, I dunno. . . last month, probably.

Ricki: No, honey, I’m sure it wasn’t last month. Because remember our anniversary?  And remember when the next weekend, we went out with Gemini I and her hubby?  Well, when we got home, we were sitting on the couch like this, and–

HH:  [Heavy sigh] And you know, we were having such a nice moment there.  I guess you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?

Hmmm.  This irresistible tendency to push the boundaries manifests itself in my prowess in the kitchen as well (no, no, I’ve moved off that scene of me and the HH now!  I’m talking about cooking, silly!).  I love to tinker with recipes and will frequently alter them considerably, even without trying them in the intended form first.  After a lifetime of baking (okay, minus the first 6 years of my life), I’ve more or less discovered what works and what doesn’t.  And if I attempt something creative that doesn’t quite meet my expectations, I don’t take it personally (unlike my reaction to the HH’s lack of amorous expressiveness). 

One of the issues that’s come up in discussions with the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook is the matter of substitutions in the recipes. Of course, when the testing process began, I assumed everyone would follow the recipes to a “T.”  However, in reality, it’s not always possible for everyone to acquire the exact ingredients; or they might not have everything on hand; or they might not own the perfectly-sized pan.  It got me thinking, “how often do I follow a recipe exactly?”  The answer?  To quote the infamous book title, less than zero.  (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration; maybe it’s just a little less than less than zero, more like a little more than never). 

But you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  Really, if you feel comfortable with cooking or baking and want to introduce minor alterations, that’s terrific; the result may in fact be something even better than the original.  The trick is knowing what to substitute, and when it will work.  Spelt for all-purpose?  No problem.  Agave for sugar?  Fine, with adjustments.  Cherry for pumpkin?  Probably not.  And chocolate for eggplant?  Well, that’s just wrong. (Though, of course, you might like to actually combine the two for a terrific result instead).

When I read about Claudia’s tantalizing Strawberry Coconut Coffee Cake on Vagrant Vegan, I knew immediately that I had to make it.  True to form, I adapted the recipe to my own needs and on-hand ingredients, using Sucanat instead of sugar, spelt instead of wheat, and so on. I also decided to bake the cake as an 8 x 8 inch square instead of a 9 x 13 rectangle, as it’s just the HH and me here (and we don’t give The Girls anything too sweet). Then, when I finally went to bake it, I realized strawberries were already out of season–but I had frozen raspberries in the house; why not use those? (and besides, don’t cooked raspberries just impart the most sensational fuchsia hue?).  

In the end, my version isn’t exactly like the original, but this cake still turned out spectacular.  I think the base is a perfect coffeecake batter, one that can handle many deviations and still taste great (which is, after all, the mark of a winning recipe).  The cake itself isn’t too sweet, and it offers up a juicy burst of tangy raspberry in every bite.  Since coconut is one the HH’s favorite foods, he was drawn by the aroma as it toasted in the oven, and couldn’t wait for his chance to taste it. The verdict was unequivocally positive–he gobbled up a piece and then asked for another.

“That was delicious,” he enthused.  “Maybe the cake on its own is good, but it’s the coconut that really makes it great!”  I could have kissed the guy.

He smiled.  “I love that cake!” he said.  What?  Did he say, “love”?

“Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something. . .” I started.  But then I quickly shoved a large chunk of cake in my mouth and swallowed it.

With all of the pink in this recipe, I’m submitting this post to the Power of Pink Challenge for breast cancer, hosted by Jen of the Beantown Baker.  Having recently learned that someone I care about is battling breast cancer, I’m happy to be able to contribute.  The challenge is on until the end of the month if you’d like to submit something pink.

Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake (adapted from Vagrant Vegan)

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

Like most coffee cakes, this one can serve as both dessert or part of a quick breakfast.  The cake is good on its own, but the coconut really makes it great.

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

Holiday Bundt Apple Cake

September 23, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE, BY CLICKING HERE.

One of the shared quirks of most Canadians is our propensity to focus on the weather (well, that, and our internationally-recognized, world-renowned politeness. Oh, but please do excuse me for interrupting that train of thought with a parenthesis–how very rude! I do apologize). 

We tend to talk about the weather, attempt to predict the weather, fume about the weather, complain vociferously about the weather, aim to forestall the weather, dread the weather, boast about surviving the weather, try desperately to ignore the weather, occasionally (like two days a year) rejoice at the weather, discuss and ponder and ruminate about the weather. . . basically, we are obsessed by the weather. Why? 

Well, I suppose, it has something to do with our ancestors and early settlers whose lives really were ruled by the vagaries of snow, sleet and wind, or the whims of Mother Nature–one false move in January in Peterborough, and you ended up dead.  These days, of course, we’ve got heating and insulation during the winter months, but it seems we’ve inherited the predilection to stress about the weather all year round.

This past weekend, for instance, the air was gloriously warm but maddeningly humid.  Now, why couldn’t we simply combine the temperatures with the sunshine of a crisp February morning, and call it a summer’s day?  I’m really a warm-weather gal, despite my lack of any athletic or outdoorsy skills or prowess.  I am happy to sit outside in the back yard, read a book or magazine, or simply watch The Girls wrestle on the grass when the weather is felicitous. 

When people first find out that I was born and raised in Montreal, they inevitably comment, “Oh, well, then, you MUST be a skier, right, with all that snow you get over there?”  Sadly, no.  I do not ski.  I do not skate. I do not snowmobile on a lake. I do not like the snow on ground, I do not like it where it’s found. I do not like the cold or snow–I do not like it, I wish it would GO.  (Ah, yes, once again, I must apologize for going off on a rant.  And to Dr. Seuss, too, of course.)

Now that fall has almost arrived, the climate is beginning to evoke thoughts of cosy sweaters, fuzzy blankets, knees tucked up before the fireplace. When we take The Girls for their walks along the trails, the barren trees on either side of the paths span above our heads, branches reaching across to touch each other as if holding hands. Carpets of brown, red, and orange leaves crinkle below our feet as we stroll along. There is, I must admit, something rather appealing about it all. In addition, autumn is the harbinger of Holiday Season–for some, as early as the end of the month.

The other day, my friend Eternal Optimist asked about recipes for Rosh Hashanah.  The Jewish New Year falls on September 28th this year, and she was looking for new recipes for baked goods, as her son recently became vegan and most of her current recipes contain eggs and dairy.  I thought about the traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes focusing on apples and honey, and remembered a cake my mom used to bake when we were kids. The recipe was from a Mazola Corn Oil recipe card, and (along with a hefty portion of corn oil) featured both apples and honey in a huge bundt cake embracing thinly sliced Macintoshes between layers of fragrant, moist honey cake, so that it kind of resembled a cross-section of the Canadian Shield when cut, the strata of golden, caramelized fruit nestled between tender, tawny cake.  Well, of course, once I thought of it, I simply had to re-create that cake.

I couldn’t find my mum’s recipe, so I made one up based on a vanilla cake I created a few years ago, adding brown rice syrup as a stand-in for honey, paired with cinnamon and Sucanat-dusted apples.  Here, then, is my version of the childhood favorite.  This cake is perfect for any holiday celebration, as it could easily serve a crowd. It’s not overly fancy, so if you’d like to dress it up a bit, glaze it with your favorite glaze or dust with confectioner’s sugar, if you choose.  The fruit filling is generous and bountiful, just like the harvest in autumn, and might even make you forget the cloudy, stormy, chilly air outside while you indulge. 

Since this cake was based on one my mom used to make, I’m submitting it to the “Making History” event hosted by Allan at Recovered Recipes.  The event asks you to find (and photograph) an old recipe card and post the outcome of the recipe.  My version of the old recipe is one that my mom used to make, which I found in a handwritten baking book:

[Yep, that’s an old recipe, all right. . . ]

And here’s the updated version!

Holiday Apple Bundt Cake

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

I’ve been known to enjoy a slice of this for breakfast–add a handful of nuts and really, isn’t that a balanced meal?

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

Hi–and Hiatus

July 27, 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.” 

For those of you who drop by DDD regularly, you may have noticed that the frequency of my posts has slowed down considerably of late.  Well, once again, it’s that time of the semester when I’m deep into a marking blitz and consequently feel as if I’m neglecting this blog.  That, paired with an impromptu visit from the CFO this past weekend, and I’m more behind than I’d like to be (to say nothing of having more “behind” than I’d like to have). 

And while I find it frustrating to be sitting on a plethora of photos patiently waiting for blog entries to accompany them, rather than post in haste, I will instead reluctantly bid you adieu for a short while (to return post-haste) as I scramble to complete the work and write up several entries I’m dying to share with you all.  I’ll still be reading all your blogs, however (wouldn’t want to eliminate all my blog-related pleasures during this period!).

I can’t sign off without first sending out a huge “THANK YOU,” though, to both Katy and Destiny for nominating me for the “Brilliante Weblog” award! I am very honored and grateful to be chosen by these two personable and creative bloggers. Thanks so much, you two! 

I know I’m supposed to pass this along to 7 others, and will properly give it some thought during my time away. In the meantime, here are some visual nibbles until I return in a week or two.

For now, have a great end of July, all!

[“You’re such a spoil-sport, Mum.  Does this mean we don’t get to taste-test any more??”]

( From the recent visit with my sister)–Sweet potato, quinoa and black bean bites:

Almond-rice balls:

Gluten-free berries ‘n cream flan:

Birthday cake for a customer’s winsome daughter (sugar free cake and frosting): 

Of course, The Girls will miss you all, too, while we’re all away!

[“Mum, we’re just so bored when we can’t be in the spotlight for a while. . . “]

Mrs. K’s Date Cake

July 20, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT THE NEW SITE 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.” 

Recently, the HH and I spent a couple of evenings with my old friend Phil, first in Montreal and then again here in Toronto.  It was wonderful to see an old friend with whom I share so much history (we’ve known each other since we were both 15).  She’s supported me through high school angst, sweet sixteens, no date for the prom, moving away to attend university, my first real boyfriend, moving to Toronto to attend graduate school, my starter marriage, my traumatic divorce, my first house purchase, and finally, meeting the HH and “adopting” The Girls.  The list of events on her side to which I was witness is similar (minus the divorce and plus a couple of children).  And yet the strange thing is, when we get together, we rarely talk about the past.

It’s more than just deference to the two men in our lives (who weren’t around when we experienced the early Phil-and-Ricki escapades, and who only made each other’s acquaintance at the tail end of the 20th century). No, it’s just that life keeps changing, and we always seem to be facing new work dilemmas, self-identity crises, weight roadblocks, or relationship worries (the last not discussed with the guys present, of course).  So there’s no dearth of topics to keep us gabbing. 

This last visit, however, we did ease into some reminiscenses about our high school days.  I was kidding Phil about her teenaged quirks, and we replayed some of the times whiled away in her mother’s kitchen, sipping coffee and eating avocados.  And, of course, we couldn’t forget her mother’s cakes.

Mother Phil had two sweet specialties.  Well, I guess I’d characterize them as “two standards.” Actually, they were more like “two reliable standbys.” Okay; they were the only two desserts she knew how to make.  Still, they were both terrific and I never tired of tasting them.  The first was called “Pistachio Cake,” and it was, I later discovered (once she revealed the recipe after I’d moved away from home and had my own kitchen in which to bake) comprised of one box of yellow cake mix, a box of pistachio pudding mix, and some Hershey’s chocolate syrup.  The result was a bundt cake round and high and light as a drizzle in July, with a meandering brown swirl throughout.  As with most cake-mix cakes, the texture was impossibly airy and seemed so insubstantial as to require at least 3 servings before one felt even mildly appeased.  In our case, Phil and I could polish off half the cake ourselves before even having to pour a second cup of coffee. 

The other confection was a from-scratch affair that Mother Phil called, simply, “Date Cake.”  Brimming with chopped, softened dates and just a whisper of cocoa, the resulting deep brown batter transformed into a dessert that, on first impression, impersonated chocolate very nicely.  I’d always thought the cake was, indeed, a cocoa-based one until I was finally privy to the recipe and found that it contained only one tablespoon of the rich, dark powder.  The rest of the intense flavor came courtesy of moist, sweet dates.

As someone who’d never tasted a dried (or fresh, for that matter) date before this cake, I wasn’t prepared for the level of sweetness imparted by the dates.  Nowadays, I value dates for their natural sugar content (the highest in the fruit kingdom) and use date purée frequently, both for its added sweetness and moisture content.  But in those days, dates, like Mrs. Phil herself–a stunning, accented import from Belgium–were considered exotic.  I was jubilant the first time I attempted to recreate the cake on my own and it came out almost exactly as the original. 

As Phil and I reminisced, I began to wonder whether I could reproduce the cake still, given my inflexible dietary restrictions.  I dug up the recipe, which I’d scribbled hastily in pen across the faint turquoise lines of an old spiral notebook. The page is now torn along the spine and dotted with irregular, amoeba-like tea stains and little splotches of oil that render the paper transparent in spots. But the recipe appeared fairly straightforward and seemed to lend itself quite easily to adaptation.  And even with the sprinkling of chocolate chips over the top, it seemed like a fairly healthy indulgence. 

After a couple of attempts, I managed to reproduce something akin to the original.  This cake would make a perfect snack, moist but not too sweet, with the pièce de resistance in the topping: the crunch of golden toasted coconut contrasted with the crackly, caramelized Sucanat and soft, melty chocolate chips.  The HH pronounced this cake “Just like Duncan Hines!”–meant as a compliment, to be sure, but not an endorsement I’m sure I’d embrace.  As for me, the dessert transported me back to Phil’s high-school era kitchen and the original cake of my adolescence.  That memory alone is sweet enough for me.  

Mrs. K’s Date Cake–2008 Edition

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

This is the kind of cake you like to have on hand as an after-school snack, or when you’re feeling peckish mid-morning.  Baked in a square pan, it will keep, covered on the counter, for up to 4 days, longer if refrigerated (though bring to room temperature before indulging).

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

[Red plums, white(ish) cake, blue(ish) other plums–Happy 4th of July!]

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.” 

 

Our recent visit to Montreal last week, like most of our road trips, involved a hamper of food to stave off starvation en route.  As is my wont, the night before travelling, I basically ransack the kitchen and tote along anything that’s hardy enough to last the voyage. The list of provisions usually includes any leftovers from the previous two days, a stash of homebaked scones/muffins/bread, a container of homemade trail mix and any transportable fresh fruits or vegetables that would otherwise transform themselves into unrecognizable mush, green fuzz, or oozing fermentation if left to their own devices while we’re away.

Well, since Fridays mark our regular organic box delivery, and since we departed on a Saturday morning, there was plenty of produce to accompany us.  We returned the following Monday to a near-empty refrigerator.  I was poking around for a snack that evening when I first noticed it:  a plain brown paper bag propped on the counter, its wrinkled top curled under in a makeshift closure.  Feeling fairly certain that the HH hadn’t ordered something untoward off the Internet (or at the least, that he wouldn’t leave it on the counter in plain view if he had), I headed over to peek inside.  And then, with a pang of remorse, I remembered:  it was the bag of fresh plums from our organic box!

I’d completely forgotten the shiny, plump and purple spheres before we’d left, and they had started to wither a bit inside the paper bag (which, as you know, actually encourages fruit to ripen faster). They appeared to be nearing the end of any period of natural firmness left in them (sort of like Madonna’s face these days). What to do?

I could no longer eat them raw, but I was darned if I would toss them, either.  Our first plums of the season–I knew I just HAD to find a good use for them!  Besides, neither the HH nor I are huge plum fans, so we most likely wouldn’t have consumed them all in any case.  I figured I could make jam, but that seemed like a cop-out.  I could dehydrate them and convert them into prunes (the better for my recent diagnosis), but I’d just bought a 500-gram bag of the things the week before. 

I thought about it for a moment.  Then, as I tend to do when faced with most quandaries in my life, I opted for my usual course of action:  bake something.

I was sure I’d seen a recipe on one of the blogs I regularly frequent (the list now tops 150–must update that blogroll!), but when I did a Food Blog Search, I couldn’t find it again (though Dorie Greenspan’s version made several appearances). I had some extra cornmeal in the cupboard from another recipe I’d made (more on that in a later post), so decided to combine the two and form a hybrid of sweet cornmeal muffins and plum cake. 

I was very pleased with the final appearance of the experiment, sort of like a coffee cake studded with mounds of gorgeous, glossy purple and garnet fruit-gems.  Well, the cake looked pretty, but how did it taste?

I cut a huge hunk of the still-warm confection for the HH and trotted outside, where he sat, dogs panting at his feet on our patio, reading the outdated newspaper we’d forgotten to cancel before the trip.  

“Whoa, I can’t eat all that!” he wailed when he saw the size of the slice. “That’s way too much for me.”

“Don’t worry, that’s fine,” I acknowledged, “I’ll share it with you.  Just let me go inside and get my book.”

 I headed back inside to retrieve my latest read, Shopgirl by Steve Martin (Steve, man! There’s a reason for all those creative writing class clichés.  “Show, don’t tell. Show, don’t tell.” Did you miss the intro lecture or something?). By the time I returned to the yard, the HH’s plate was empty.   All that remained of the cake was a subtle smudge of pink juice and a few errant crumbs, the only evidence that the plate had ever held anything at all.

“Where’s the cake?”  I asked.  He shrugged a little, looking positively sheepish.

“It was so good, I just ate the whole thing,” he said.    

Now, how could I possibly balk at that?  Even as I headed back in a second time to rustle up my own slice, I was smiling. And I felt no regret whatsoever about forgetting those plums at home, after all.

Since Sia over at Monsoon Spice is asking for breakfast dishes with fruit for Weekend Breakfast Blogging (the event originated by Nandita at Saffron Trail), I’m sending this off to her.  (And I can assure you, this makes a wonderful breakfast!). 

Rustic Plum-Topped Cornmeal Breakfast Cake

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

Neither too sweet nor too delicate, this cake is perfect for breakfast or brunch as well as a summertime dessert.  If you prefer muffins, simply chop the plums after removing the pits and fold into the batter before spooning into muffin tins instead of the flan pan (and bake for slightly less time).

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