A Bowl Lotta Love

March 4, 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.”]  

[Thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking!  (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you’d be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers–hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, ’cause there’s a lengthy return post ahead–on to the food!]

1stbowl51

[Base of rice and buckwheatsautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]

I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.

Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal.  Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love.  Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following: 

  • how much I miss blogging when I’m away.  I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and  prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously.  In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away).  Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
  • how many different ways one can answer the same exam question (more than you might think, but not quite as many as the meaning of life, the universe and everything).
  • how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it!  (more on that anon).
  • how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
  • how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home).  And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
  • why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.

3rdbowl4

[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]

Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again. 

When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead.  Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.  

I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD).  I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it).  But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?). 

I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy.  So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body.  So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this:  treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.)  So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **

My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on  this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).

To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize.  After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life.  Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).

And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare.  If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.

2ndbowl21

[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]

The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next).   Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.

4thbow3

[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]

Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America.  There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.

My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies).  I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be.  The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).

In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige. 

With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy.  And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.  

The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces.  Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.   

**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be!  I have no intention of actually losing that much.  Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.

Tahini-Miso Sauce

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

4thbowl21

Almond and Curry Sauce 

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

2ndbowl1

Orange Fig Sauce

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

3rdbowl3

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! 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.” 

There are certain food combinations that strike one as just so naturally compatible, you couldn’t imagine them any other way. Consider the seminal chocolate and peanut butter, for instance: could there be a happier marriage of sweet, salty, creamy, smooth, and enticing? Or what about vodka and orange juice, or pancakes and maple syrup, or french fries and gravy, or macaroni and cheese, or apple and cinnamon or–I could go on.  On the other hand, it’s always gratifying to discover alternate matches that may seem bizarre at first glance, yet actually work once you give them a try (funny, why did the HH suddenly come to mind?)

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Windsor, my wacky room mate had a friend who ate her pizza with peanut butter where the tomato sauce should have been.  She swore it tasted great (I declined to sample a slice). During my childhood in Montreal, my friend Gemini II used to eat liver sandwiches with cream cheese (again, I believe I passed on that one).  The well-known duo of french fries and mayo always struck me as odd until I was served sweet potato fries with mayo at one of my favorite vegan restaurants  (which, of course, prompted me to head straight home and prepare spicy sweet potato fries with avocado mayonnaise, and now I’m hooked).  I’m sure you’ve got your own personal favorite fixings that, any disparaging comments aside, you adore nonetheless (and please feel free to ‘fess up in the comments section!).

Well, as some of you may recall, the HH and I have just a smidge of surplus mint around here this summer.  Yes, indeed, I’d venture to say that my garden is in mint condition!  I’ve been concocting as many beverages, appetizers, dips, entrées or desserts containing the stuff as my little hands can muster, and even thought I was doing pretty well until the other day when I stepped round the corner of our house and saw that those darned wanton herbs had been propagating over night–it appeared as if I’d used nary a leaf!

And so, by dint of mint, I was forced to come up with yet another recipe showcasing the stuff.  Which actually worked out perfectly, since Holler and Lisa’s No Croutons Required event this month requests a salad focusing on a favorite herb.  Well, if by “favorite,” they meant “so much that I could rip bagfuls from the yard and still have enough left to freshen the breath of the entire town of Gilroy, CA on July 25, 26 & 27th in the month of July”; or “so much that I will have to start using it as packing filler when I mail trunks of fine china or glassware across the Atlantic” or “so much that even the thought of mint makes me feel a bit queasy, which, as it turns out,  is actually okay, since mint helps to aid in proper digestion” or “so much that I will have to cook at least one dish with mint in it every single day for the forthcoming 11 months, until it sprouts up again next summer, just to use it up”–well, if that’s what they meant by “favorite herb,” then yes, mint is indeed my favorite, and definitely deserves to be featured in my submission to the event.  

I do enjoy a good fresh peach, but when I saw three of the fuzzy spheres nestled in our organic produce box a couple of weeks ago, I almost despaired.  A properly ripened peach is a wonderful thing, but there seems to be a terribly small window of maturity wherein peaches are at their apex of flavor and texture–firm, juicy and sweet-tart–before they quickly decline into dry, powdery mush. If not eaten precisely on the right day (sometimes the right hour), the peach becomes unappetizing at best, perhaps suitable for a sauce or baked good; at worst, it’s both tasteless and unpleasant, and destined for the compost bin.

Given the capricious nature of the downy stone fruits, I decided a salad would be the perfect context in which to combine it with other ingredients that could overshadow their potentially less-than-stellar consistency.  Mint was a given, of course, and for some reason, I felt that cucumbers would also suit the flavor palette.  The final addition was sweet corn kernels–partly because they just called, “pick me!” and partly because I thought the color would work well with all the other summer hues, which always elicit a desire in me for fresh fruits and veggies.

In the end, we both adored this random combination of ingredients and have now consumed it four times in the last 2 weeks.  The peaches are tart and luscious (and even the sub-par slices soak up the dressing and seem more juicy); the cucumber is cold, watery and mild; the corn is crisp and sweet; and the mint is pungent and peppery, all culminating in a perfect pastiche of color, flavor and texture.

It’s true, peaches, corn and mint may not have been born for each other; but their arranged marriage in this dish makes for one very harmonious union.  

Minted Peach and Corn Salad

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

This salad comes together quickly, resulting in a fresh, crisp, juicy, altogether irresistible side dish for almost any warm weather meal.  It’s best eaten right away, but will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

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.”]  

While I am an avid fan of most types of Asian cuisine, I have always been rather underwhelmed by bok choy.  Perhaps it’s the similarity in color and texture to celery, another vegetable I dislike; perhaps it’s that I can’t help but note how its bulbous bottom and fan-leaf top bears an eery resemblance to the comic strip Dilbert‘s eponymous character; either way, bok choy has always seemed more trouble to me than it’s worth.  Besides a bit of a crunch, really, what does it offer? An insipid, watery base and limp, lackluster leaves.  Bleh.

Last weekend, however, I found myself with three of those babies (and I mean that literally:  they were baby bok choy) courtesy of our weekly organic produce box, and wondering what the heck to do with them.

Now, it’s true, a weekly delivery of assorted organic produce is normally a good thing.  For one, you get to eat assorted organic produce (and weekly!).  I love the fact that I can reduce my time in the grocery store, as the organic bag is delivered right to our door each Friday.  All I need do is haul it inside, allow The Girls  to sniff their approval of its contents (“We really appreciate that, Mum!“), then unload it onto the kitchen counter where, before depositing them in the appropriate storage bins, I might admire the brilliant carmine of this week’s pomegranate, say, the stiff, tan sheaths protecting hardy yellow onions, or the crisp, shiny trio of red and gold-flecked Gala apples I received.  

For me, one of the great pleasures of having the service is how it often introduces as-yet untried wonders from the world’s vast array of fruits and vegetables, such as persimmon (loved it) or fiddleheads (not so much). What’s not so great, however, is that we sometimes receive items that are never eaten. 

Considering that the HH is willing to try pretty much any (cooked) body part from a dead cow, he’s woefully unadventurous when it comes to the vegetable kingdom.  Offer him some parsnips, and he crinkles his nose in disgust (though he did like them disguised as oven-baked french fries–give it a try!); dish up some scrambled tofu and he shakes his head forcefully; suggest even a sprinkling of spirulina, and he clamps his mouth shut like a toddler faced with cough syrup.  He wouldn’t even take one bite of my breakfast Apple-Quinoa Cake the other week (though he did seem to enjoy the baked Tagine).  

This leaves me alone to consume all the produce the HH has spurned.  Sometimes, I just can’t eat it all before it begins to, shall we say, “mature.” Of course, the most sensible way to deal with the undesirable fruits or veggies would be to take advantage of the company’s generous substitution policy: you can replace up to two items with those of your own choosing, as long as you contact them before your delivery date.  Unfortunately, as I may have mentioned before, my organizational skills ain’t what they used to be, so I (too often) tend to forget.  And end up with feeble, neglected veggies. 

Well, this was one of those weeks.  I forgot to replace the dreaded bok choy, and it was rapidly approaching decrepitude in the bowels of the crisper drawer. Given what’s going on in the world of food these days, I simply couldn’t bring myself throw it away. But I wasn’t looking forward to yet another mediocre stir-fry, brimming with pallid bok choy and other dreary veggies in the wok, either.

Then I remembered Heidi’s recipe for caramelized tofu.  About a month ago, I had a little love-in with the sweet, crispy cubes enhanced by bits of browned, crackly, caramelized garlic and toasted pecans.  At the same time, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s called “crispy spinach” in some of the Chinese restaurants I’ve patronized. I decided to combine the best of both dishes, while avoiding anything deep-fried. 

And so, I chopped up the bottoms of the little brassicas, made chiffonade of the greens, then stir-fried both in a slightly sweet, ginger-soy base and waited until it crisped up on the edges.  The result was truly ambrosial: the white base of each stalk cooked down to something much like caramelized onions in both taste and texture; and the green leafy tops crisped somewhat along with the garlic and cashews, transforming that homely crucifer into something spectacular.  A sprinkling of sesame seeds finished it off for a passing crunch in each mouthful.  (Really, my amateur photo does not do it justice.) 

The HH adored this as a side dish and inhaled two servings.  I was rather enamoured myself, as I finished up what was left. 

Would I make this again?  Most definitely.  In fact, I may even need to order it specially with next week’s produce delivery–that is, if I can remember to get the order in on time. 

 With all the great antioxidants found in all cruciferous veggies plus the many immune-enhancing allium compounds in garlic, I thought this recipe would be a great submission to Chris’s Cooking to Combat Cancer event, over at her blog, Mele Cotte.

Caramelized Baby Bok Choy with Cashews and Sesame Seeds

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

Pudding is a Virtue

February 21, 2008

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 cashewpudding.jpg

Both our dogs contain a generous sprinkling of Border Collie, a breed known for its patience. As a working breed, BCs were meant to guard sheep all day; and since sheep are not exactly what you’d call wild and crazy guys, the BCs must be willing to sit still for a very long time. Moreover, they exhibit what’s known as the “Border Collie Stare”–that steely gaze that bores right through you  and makes even the most obstreperous mutton acquiesce to their wishes.

I’ve been the object of that stare, more times than I can tell you. You see, the house we live in is an “open concept” design, so the living room opens on to the kitchen, which opens on to the rest of the house.  After many hours of sweat (mine) and a lot of practise (theirs), I’ve trained The Girls to “stay out of the kitchen” on command.  Basically, this means they are not allowed to put paws to tile (but wood or carpet–the floor coverings of the living room–are acceptable) while I’m cooking.

Chaser learned fairly quickly by emulating Elsie that, if Mum’s cooking, it’s time to “take up the position.”  Situated at the border between living room and kitchen, they are willing to lie for hours–literally–until I finally finish my culinary experiments and reward them with a morsel of whatever I’m cooking, or a treat, depending on what’s in my pot or pan (no chocolate or onions, obviously, for them).  Now, that’s what I call patience.

And what has all this talk of breeds and patience to do with food? Well, when I started my Week of Chocolate Asceticism, I knew it would take no time before I craved something sweet and soothing.  And since I’ve also vowed to avoid added sweeteners–or pretty much anything baked or sweet–my options are severely limited.  But then I remembered:  Raw Pudding!  Cashews and carob and dates–oh, my!!  And for this recipe, despite its matchless simplicity (only 3 ingredients), patience is definitely required.  The Girls, however, never mind waiting for this one. (“Oooh, Mum, is this that date and carob thing you make?? We love that thing!! Can we have some?? When will it be ready?  Now?  WHEN???”)

Even though my One True Love will always be chocolate, I am a big fan of carob as well.  And I have nothing but admiration for fellow bloggers like Deb at Altered Plates and Veggie Girl, who regularly choose to bake with carob instead of chocolate. In fact, carob even made a chance appearance this week over at another blog, Have Cake, Will Travel.  So I felt it only fitting that I grace the blog with Raw Carob Cashew Pudding.  (“Oh, it IS that carob-date thing you make!  Is it ready yet, Mum?  Can we have some?  When??”). 

I was first introduced to carob years ago when I was a Teaching Assistant, at a university English Department party.  Another one of the TAs, a quintessential Child of the ’60s,  brought along two hippy-dippy dishes, quinoa salad and brownies made with carob.  She was one of those graceful, ethereal women who seems to glide effortlessly just above the ground as she moves, skirts undulating softly behind her (quite a feat, actually, since she was wearing a miniskirt, as I recall). 

Ms. Flower Child also spoke with the lilting, velvety voice of FM radio, the kind of voice that causes you to crane your neck and focus intently on her lips so you won’t have to repeat, “Pardon?” after every sentence she utters. So when I asked about the recipe for the brownies, and what was in them, I never quite caught the entire answer.  All I knew was that they tasted good, and I liked this newfangled ingredient, and I’d be using it again.

I ate quite a bit of carob over a two-year span several years ago, when I followed an ultra-strict, sweetener and fruit-restricted diet. I discovered that carob is naturally sweet (it’s also low in fat and surprisingly high in calcium).  At a local organic grocery store, I happened upon whole, dried carob pods. Resembling brown pea pods, they conceal diamond-hard (inedible) carob seeds inside.  But if you gently warm the whole pods in the oven for about 5 minutes, they soften, become pliant and chewy, almost like fruit leather.  Delicious!

 So, back to the pudding (see, I told you you’d need patience for this recipe).  This is actually a variation on a simple cashew cream, cashewcreamspoon.jpg a vegan cream substitute that’s perfect over pies, cookies, fruit, or other sweets.  I’ve taken the concept just a step further, using raw cashews (which produce a creamier product) as well as dates for sweetness, carob, and optional vanilla.  Three main ingredients–four if you add the vanilla–and the result is so rich and creamy, you’d swear it took hours to make.  (Oh, wait.  It sort of does take hours to make–but only the soaking part).

Oh, and The Girls like it, too. (“Okay, so does that mean we can have some now?  Can we? How about now? MUM??”)

Raw Carob-Cashew Pudding or Mousse

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

The hardest part of this recipe is having enough patience to blend the mixture thoroughly, until it’s sufficiently smooth and creamy. When I’m feel that gnawing impulse for something sweet, I’m tempted to dig in early, but I’m always sorry if I do. So don’t skimp on the blender time with this recipe–you’ll be rewarded with a truly rich and celestial pudding. 

girlsgetsomeyum.jpg

[The Girls, finally rewarded for their patience.]

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